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Archive for November, 2007

MacKathy

I can hear Bruce hammering out in the shed in the back. He’s hanging ladders from the side of the shed. Last week he was out there changing around some old shelves for a new purpose and also converting a wooden firewood rack into a potting bench.

I’m frugal. I admit it. If something can be converted to a new function, why not? When I throw things away, I need to be sure that it absolutely can’t be used again. Very old, unrepairable, ugly, worn-out. However, it seems silly to pay good money for any item if you already have something else that will work just as well. Small pieces of usable wood? Don’t pitch them. Sooner or later you’ll need a small piece of wood for some purpose!

Bruce used to tease me about saving things. That’s when I earned the name “MacKathy.” On the other hand, we all know we need to clean out and pitch the junk. We have to. Because Bruce moved so frequently in the military, he can weed through stuff in a heartbeat. I found that out early on when he helped me clear out Christine’s house after it had been sold. The closing date was looming. I was working full time. Her house was still full. With help from Betty and Costa, we did it all in a day and a half. Sorted through, moved out, cleaned up.

Perhaps you don’t have to have a branch of your family from Scotland, like I do. But it helps. Or maybe this happens through association. Ask MacBruce.

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Dancing with Nana

Last Sunday I took my five year granddaughter, Emily, to see the Nutcracker ballet. She started taking dance classes this year and seemed quite excited about it. This, of course, was her first ballet and I hadn’t been for some years. I remember taking my sister after she moved to Augusta so that would have been in the 90’s. I knew Emily would sit quietly and enjoy it; that’s just Emily. She laughed especially at the dancing mice and the sheep. Her eyes got big when Clara and the Prince “flew” down in a balloon basket. I quietly named the dancers as they came out — the toy soldier, the Flowers, the Snowflakes. She would turn to me and say, “Hmmm?” before I named them. After a bit, I realized I didn’t remember all their names. (I had already bragged to her that the Sugar Plum Fairy was danced by Julia Morgan, a former colleague from Davidson, and another dancer was Jessica Cohen, a former student from Davidson.) Nana Kathy hadn’t boned up on the ballet! So I stopped naming the dancers, hoping she wouldn’t notice.

I realized years ago that God in His mercy — knowing I was going to teach for many years — allowed me to forget parts of the literary works that I taught year after year. That way there was always a sense of re-discovery that made my teaching fresh and fun. Sure I knew the works but, looked at them with new eyes too. It worked for me.

On our way home I said, “Emily, who was your favorite dancer?” “My friend, Isabelle” [from her dance class].

Next time we do something like this, Nana will study up.

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Trees

The picture of the trees for this blog is taken from the deck of this house when Bruce was test driving his new digital camera last summer. That reminded me of the tree saga here.

When we moved here in 1984 from the wilds of Northwestern Kansas we left a house and property that had three — yes, count ’em – three — trees. One provided shade for our house, one for the backyard and one for our neighbor’s house. I always resented that we had to share one third of our rather scant shade with the Becks. They could get their own shade, thank you very much.

However, here it was the exact opposite. Trees here, there and everywhere. They were mostly pine but they, as evergreens, were fragrant and gave us all this lovely pine straw and pine cones. People in the Midwest would pay perfectly good money for those. We were rich! I felt like I was in Colorado and it took at least a month before I stopped feeling like we were in a vacation house in the foothills of the Rockies. One day, while Dale was waiting on a phone call, he stepped outside and counted 60 trees on our one third acre property. I never questioned that number. It seemed quite reasonable.

Storms were cause for alarm as the pines would swing and sway in the wind. I thought for sure they would fall on the house and smash it to smithereens. However, none of the neighbors seemed worried and the house had been left standing for a good many years. Other than raining pine straw and pines cones and a few dead branches, we survived. No huge limbs came crashing though the roof. The trees would just dance.

The first autumn came. Since we still had two able bodied sons at home, we rounded them up and raked up pine straw in the lower yard. We soon had a big pile. Dale, without a word, reached in his pocket, pulled out his matches and tossed a lit one on the pile. Swoosh! Our first encounter with the volatility of pine resin was scary. Especially since the pile was about ten feet from the gas meter to the house. Silly Midwesterners from the semi-treeless plains, we hadn’t even racked a fire break around the huge pile. We grabbed our racks and pulled the flaming fluff away from the meter. When the flames died out, we trudged back to the house and never again thought we needed to rid the entire yard of pine straw. It could go in piles in a corner, under a bush, around the base of a tree, in the back of someone’s pickup. Wherever. Any further burning was carefully controlled in a small pile in the back with a dirt circle around it. We learned our lesson. We adapted.

Four years ago I had six pine trees removed to make room for the new 300 foot driveway. I even had the huge, messy oak taken down as it was going to interfere with the blessed new driveway that was long overdue. I barely missed them. Last year we had two big pines removed that were very dead and too near the house. The dogwood by the deck succumbed to old age last summer. On the other hand, Bruce found a new magnolia sapling down by the street. There are still lots of saplings in the back lot. We’ve planted a ginko in the back. We always have lots of kindling for the fireplace. We burn those “expensive” cones. We add pine logs to the hardwood we burn as part of winter fires. There is still an abundance. The earth provides.

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From my head to your eyes

I have been reading my sons’ blogs for several years and enjoyed them. It was always a unique way to know what they were thinking about topics that we would not necessarily discuss. Parents need to remember their children are no longer 8 or 18 or even 28. So I have enjoyed them and when Bruce started about a year ago, I read his with interest too. I tend to want to edit/proofread his — a holdover from the two and a half year stint in that capacity while he finished college. Add 25 years as a high school English teacher, and the editor/proofreader role becomes second nature. I always have ideas floating around that I discuss with myself, some I share with my beloved husband, Bruce, who thinks everything I do is wonderful (“Thank you, Heavenly Father for sending me such a man!”) and some ideas stay dormant. My point is — I think the ideas of other people are fascinating; maybe they’ll think mine too are worth a couple minutes of their time. Either way, it’s a way to keep in touch.

I love to write, however, years of time crunches, had pinched that. I realized that especially last year when I wrote a long email letter to my dear friend, Connie, back in Nebraska. It was my birthday gift to her. Gift? Wow! That seems odd. But think about it. How often have we said, “I have more money than time.” So we pay for the things that we don’t have the “time” to do. My number one motto is: we value what we pay for. Our time is valuable and we need to spend it wisely because it is such a precious commodity.

I thought that I would have all kinds of time when I retired. And in some ways, I do. I now can sleep until 7 or 8 or even 9. However, my days seem just as busy as always, just with different activities. No more alarm clocks or bells. No papers to grade, no lunch duty or hall duty to do or lesson plans to turn in. My meetings are few and far between and generally involve me and a member of the medical community. All it used to take to ruin a perfectly lovely day was one lazy student and one whining parent (so that’s where they learn that?). Now almost nothing ruins a day; there’s too many other good things happening to offset it. Sometimes the meals I fix aren’t as wonderful as I would like, however, there’s always another day to try again. Additionally, my husband is not a fussy eater. He and I, from the same generation, enjoyed the same types of meals growing up. We also both came from the Clean-your-plate-there-are-children-starving-in-Asia/Africa/South America generation. Except for me growing up in the Mid-West and him in the South, I sometimes think we might have lived next door to one another. Just now, when I realized that we had used all the carrots and I was making pot roast, Bruce jumped up, grabbed his hat and was out the door to the grocery. What a guy! When we started going together, I told several friends that he washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. Really? was their reply. I could see the envy. I was proud. What a catch!

So what does blogging and writing and time and meals and dish washing have in common? Nothing except the diversity of ideas. Our thoughts make those leaps. I used to think there was something wrong with me, however, I now realize some people are divergent thinkers, others are linear thinkers. That’s okay. Vive la difference!

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