Launch

The boy is propelled toward adolescence like the bottle rocket he has just launched into the trees. With a whoosh, whistle, pop, and a burst of light, the pre-pubescent boy is in constant motion, loud, and bursting with self-discovery. And, like the bottle rockets blasting every which way or zipping dud right into the ground, the boy is aimed in the most general of directions.

It wasn’t so long ago that he drove the little battery-powered tractor across our yard and through the next to visit his great-grandparents.  With faces peeled to the kitchen window, we watched attentively through the trees for his arrival at Nana’s door. Today, in a new step toward manhood, he drives the zero-turn mower to the same door. And back.  In circles and zigzags and, rarely, a straight line.  It’s not that he can’t drive in a straight line.  He won’t.   Who wants to drive a straight line in a zero-turn?  His controlled zig-zagging holds some promise that he could actually mow the lawn. And his reverse slide into the mower’s parking spot is reminiscent of his aunt’s impressive eighteen second parallel parking of the minivan for her driver’s test. But what he really wants to do is drive round and round in tight little circles.  I suppose one could get the grass cut that way, leaving our Google Earth image looking like so many teeny-weeny crop circles.

His visit to the great-grands has netted him a marble chess set worthy of the budding chessmaster. Zig-zag crop circle boy is impressively analytical.  Next week is chess camp and, after that, PopPop, who first taught him the game,  will never beat him ever again.  This week PopPop lost to the boy, checkmated fair and square. “I can’t even blame scotch,” he sighed.  

The boy is in his element now that his grandfather is home from work.  Helping his grandmother harvest peas and beans was ok for about twenty minutes, but not nearly as adventurous as finding a turtle.  Unfortunately, finding a turtle requires a full day of outdoor wandering (preferably with another pre-pubescent boy) and a good dose of luck.  What he got from teacher/grandmother was a gentle suggestion to find something to read.  That suggestion went over like a wet firecracker.  The middle school has recommended a soul-crushing twenty-five books to read over summer vacation.  He is doomed to fail, so why even bother when he could make ingenious Lego creations from watching YouTube videos.

But PopPop is home and that means the boy can light a bonfire and ride the zero-turn and shoot bottle rockets while his grandparents sip adult beverages.

Meanwhile, inside the house, cell phones ping with un-answered texts from Mother of Boy.  

“Hellooooooo where is my child?”

He’s outside by a fire playing with explosives with his grandfather. The boy moving toward manhood and the man regressing into boyhood.  Controlled danger.  It’s all good.

Cue female eye-roll.

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Three Things I Would Bottle

Three things I wish I could bottle for later: summer sunshine, the restorative powers of vacation sleep, and the energy of a child. Probably in that order.  I crave sunlight. I love sleep.  And with  every passing year, it takes more energy than I naturally have to carry me through the day.

I don’t want the constant energy of a child. I’m not really a high energy person.  I just want to bottle their non-caffeinated all natural enthusiasm so I can partake of  little sips when this dilapated body needs some.  An infusion of kid energy combined with the wisdom of years of experience would possibly enable me to complete everything that my caffeine-hyped morning self put on my to-do list.  

Yesterday, three grandkids paid a brief visit while desperate momma bought groceries.  In anticipation of their visit, I stopped my activities early to put my feet up with an iced Kahlua coffee and a couple of non-pareils.  (French note: non-pareil means “no equal” and I’m telling you there is no equal to one or two quality dark-chocolate non-pareils with a tall iced coffee laced with a splash of Kahlua.) Life got even better when hubby walked in early from work.  Back-up. 

See, the eleven-year-old has two speeds: hypnotic, technology-induced coma and hyper-adrenaline laced activity, which usually involves adult supervision and/or tickets to a theme park, but can be temporarily assuaged with a fidget spinner.  Prior to PopPop’s arrival his choice of activity was going to be a new book I bought.  He actually flipped through it and grunted tentative approval. Actual reading will likely require a sleep-over which he not so subtly hinted at.  But PopPop introduced a new level of engagement: driving lessons on the zero-turn mower. Do you want to see a fidget spinning kid toss aside the fidget spinner? Put him on a piece of heavy machinery and let him drive. He was in seventh heaven.  The trick will be to channel his enthusiasm into mowing all the grass.  I’m pretty sure money will be involved.  The kid is a mercenary when it comes to money.

Meanwhile, his three (and a half!) year old sister watched from the screen porch, dying to drive the kiddie tractor.  There was no way I was letting her out in the yard to get run over by her brother, so she had to content herself with non-stop storytelling to her captive audience (me) while  17 month old  brother busied himself removing everything from the kitchen cabinets.  His favorites: the salad spinner and crab mallets.  Lucky for me he didn’t use the crab mallets on the salad spinner.  Big brother eventually heeded sister’s sporadic cries to “Stop! Please stop! Stop now!”  Her interest in driving the battery-powered kiddie tractor lasted about three nanoseconds.

Since we were now all outside and little brother was investigating the human-powered toddler tractor, I took the talkative one over to the Big Hill so she could practice rolling down it.  Once upon a long time, her mother and aunts sledded down this hill (her mom sledding right into a tree that is no longer there). Now on a glorious sunny afternoon, the hill is cushy with thick zoysia grass.  I get her lined up perpendicular to the hill (she expected to “roll” with her feet facing downward as for sledding), I tuck her arms in, and cry, “Go!”  Silly me expected her to roll like a log down the hill.  That’s how one rolls, right?  In a sort of straight line, maybe veering off to the left or right?  

No.  This girl meanders down the hill like a child going from Point A to Point B in “Family Circus.”  It’s sort of a cross between a roll and a crab walk, limbs flapping and body flopping all over the hill in any direction but down.  I’m not going to tell her it’s wrong because she is delighted.  And if I tell her how to do it “better” I will have to demonstrate.  I am half tempted because the day is just that nice, but the fact that my knee is in a compression bandage from getting awkwardly into a car keeps my enthusiasm in check.

But oh, to have the energy of a kid!  I would sail through a teaching day with a three (and a half!) year old’s  energy and delight! I could tackle the biggest projects if I had the enthusiasm of an eleven year old on a zero-turn.  And my kitchen cabinets would look great if I tackled them with the reckless abandon of a toddler.  Add a splash of summer sun and some stored up slumber, I could take on winter.

Well, that’s not going to happen.  The best I can do is store up memories. Consider it done.  

Long live the queen

Getting a new hive of honeybees established is exciting but sometimes exasperating.  Lately it has been more exasperating.  Last year was so exasperating that not one of our new hives managed to survive even the summer.  We strongly suspect the problem was the queens.  When they arrived last year, the queens were so small we could barely distinguish them from their attendants. (Yes, queen bees have attendants.) In hindsight, we question the regal stature of those “queens.”  So this year, we ordered three new bee packages from a different supplier.

Two months after installation of this year’s packages, two hives are ready for second hive body boxes.  The third hive shows very little activity.  Mr. Beekeeper inspects the hive and finds very little brood and a dwindling number of bees. Exasperating.

But lo and behold! A queen cell!  How exciting!

The hive has recognized its problem and has chosen to raise a new queen. Why last year’s hives did not do the same is a question worth pondering. Why this hive needs to re-queen is another question.  Did the queen die?  Was she ill? Was she…gasp…old? Was she just a poor lay-er?  (This reminds me of my sister and her poor laying hens.  She shrieked death threats at them and the very next day, they resumed laying.)

Queens cells take eight days to hatch from the time the cell is capped.  About ten days after spotting the capped queen cell, we take a peek inside.  The queen cell is now empty.  We look for the queen.  This is sort of like Where’s Waldo–find the one bee that is longer than the hundreds of other bees.  Fortunately, the bees are only on a couple of frames, one of those frames is exclusively capped honey, and the other frame is where the queen cell was.  And we find her!

Now we wait.  The new queen needs two weeks to get established.  She must exit the hive for mating flights with drones.  There are drones visible in the hive and a few drone cells waiting to hatch.  There are also plenty of drones buzzing around the other two hives.  Our queen will not lack opportunity. And then she must get busy laying eggs.  In about three weeks we will peek inside again, hoping to see lots of new brood cells.

Here’s hoping we will still be excited in three weeks.

Summer Time

With the school year over, my To-Do List looks a little different:

1. Wake up to daylight.

2. Have a second cup of coffee.  Finish the coffee while it is still hot.  

3. Pee whenever I want to.

4. Hydrate.

5. Repeat item 3.

6. Be outside.

7. Eat when I am actually hungry.

8. Think about things.

9.Drink more coffee later with ice cubes because it is a choice, not because it is what sits before me from morning.

I am pleased to report that on Day 3, I am wildly successful in completing this To-Do List.  Not that it has been easy. Take item 4, for example.  Whoever decided that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water a day must also have invented water-boarding as a form of torture.  I do love my chilled water (infused with natural flavors), but by ounce 48 I’m drowning.  However, I have flushed 2 lbs out of my body, so I will Keep Hydrating and Carry On.

The real struggle is with my addiction to To-Do Lists. I have other Lists for this summer.

  • All the things I need to do to be better prepared for the next school year. (As though,after 33 years in the classroom,I am unprepared.  Still…)
  • All the things I need to do around the house because it fell into near total chaos during the school year.  Only the bi-weekly sprint to tidy before the cleaning ladies arrived saved us from total disaster.
  • All the things I need to do to be the perfectly healthy individual that everyone else I know is.  Or at least so I can visit the doctor for a checkup and not cringe.
  • All the people I am going to invite over because I don’t have the overstimulation of the work week as an excuse and because introverts love to spend their vacation hosting events.  (FYI, for an introvert, hosting more than 2 people is an event.  So if I invite just two of you over,  consider than an act of love.  More than two, I am sacrificing myself on your behalf.)
  • All the summery fun things I need to do to feel like I had a vacation.

So, yeah, the list of Lists is fraught with opportunities for failure.  There is no way to do this.  And each of these Lists comes with Sub-Lists.  And yet I need the Lists or I will do nothing.  It’s like my WeekSheet of lesson plans.  I may not get everything done by Friday,  but I come a whole lot closer if I work to the plan.

A missionary to Cameroon shared at church last Sunday his struggle with being back in the States for a year.  The Africans have a saying, “Westerners have clocks; Africans have time.” It is hard to shift from one timeframe to another.  That really resonated with my launch into summer.  I have a “need” To Do while simultaneously desiring a break from the tyranny of doing.  I long to discern the difference between maximizing my minutes and fully living in time. I long for a compromise between the list the top of this page and the List of Lists lurking beneath it.

For the moment, my compromise is looking like this:

  • Look at each day as a day of possibilities. What can I do as opposed to what ought I to do? (Being the first-born that I inescapably am, my “can-I’s” will surely contain enought “oughts” to keep me from sliding into total slothful irresponsibility.)
  • Follow the nudges of the Holy Spirit and be open to divine appointments.

And for the immediate moment, I am behind on my water intake and I have to go to the bathroom.

THE END

Slightly Off the Grid

Dueling blog posts, that’s what I’m envisioning.  My sister-in-law and I will  be in France for two weeks, and I just know that all the amazing décor over there will inspire endless blog posts from her over at Now That You are Home.  But someone has to chronicle the other side of the trip.  For instance:

  • Will we get to France on the Air France operated Delta flight or the Delta operated Delta flight?  The next 24 hours will tell whether the Air France pilot strike is affecting our direct flight to  Paris.
  • Will the Seine recover from its 32 year high flood levels in time for us to take our deposit-paid dinner cruise?
  • Will there be gas in gas stations to fuel the two count-em two rental cars we reserved to get us to and around Normandy?
  • Will Paris clean up the strike-induced piles of uncollected garbage before we arrive?
  • Will the Tour Eiffel be safer from terrorists with all the extra security for the Euro Cup or should be stay clear of the humongous fan zone set up on the Champs de Mars?
  • Will it stop raining?
  • And the big question: will the Wilson siblings be able to use normal people indoor voices for two whole weeks?

Inquiring minds want to know.  My mom wants to know.  I want to know.  And I don’t want to constantly re-tell the stories when we  get back home, because there is usually one version that is the best.  The others are boring repetitions.  I hope I can get the best one recorded here.

So, after a year of non-blogging, it is time to resurrect this thing with a fresh identity.  My cousin suggested the new name.  It was he who thought Maywood Living was a retirement home and said that I was neither a true pioneer nor all that reluctant, but I am slightly off the grid in many ways.  Ok.  I agree.

This not so reluctant non-pioneer is leaving the slightly off-MapQuest-grid house for adventures abroad with spouse and siblings.

Let the blog-fest begin.

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This is not a stock photo!  I took this my very own self in 2010.

Behind Closed Doors

It’s another snowy day and, while Maywood Man braves the elements to keep tractors running, slays a tree for firewood, and plows us out, I need to do something more than read by the fire to justify my existence.

Pumpkin soup, venison chili, and fennel tea cookies are not sufficient offering. No, I must do something truly sacrificial.

I will clean out the bedroom closets.

Saturday while the snow pours down, I tackle my closet.  All I do is remove hangers that have nothing hanging on them.  The floor is covered with hangers.  I separate them into three piles:

  • Tangled wire dry-cleaner hangers that date to when Julie worked at a dry-cleaners and got free dry-cleaning and I sent sweaters regularly to be cleaned instead of washing them on “delicate” and spreading them out on towels on the floor to dry where the (now-deceased) cat could pee on them.
  • Plastic hangers that once hung in perfect uniformity on store racks but hang at an annoying variety of heights in the home closet.
  • Color coordinated hangers that I actually bought from Target.

The Target hangers go back in the closet.  The other hangers–just from my side of the closet–fill two paper grocery bags. (You can’t dispose of wire hangers in a plastic bag or they–the hangers– will kill you.)

Down on the floor, I say farewell to backless shoes that are no good to walk in, orthopedic shoes that supported me in my pre-bionic hip days, and any shoe that would make me cringe in shame if I were standing next to my sister-in-law Eileen.  So that clears out some space. I even have some shoes left in the closet.

I lift a pile of old sweaters, thrust once upon a time into the closet in a tidying fit and then abandoned. I discover evidence of a mouse.

Just for the record…don’t ever offer me food with black sesame seeds on it, ok?

The floor must be vacuumed. I haul the vacuum up from the family room where John used it to vacuum the filthy bits of log debris by the fireplace.  It won’t even suck up a little piece of thread.

I don’t care that John slayed a tree to keep me warm by the fire.  He busted the vacuum with wood chips.  He must fix it.

And he does.

Back in the closet I turn on the now functioning vacuum, move the suitcase, and scare the MOUSE who was hiding under it and who now scurries around the closet trying to flee the vacuum and the crazy screaming woman.

I slam the closet doors and position the running vacuum in front of them to scare the mouse from coming out.

John investigates and can not find the mouse.  I vacuum the closet. He sets a trap. I call it quits for the day on closet cleaning.

A few hours later, I send John to check the trap.  He returns with the snapped mouse.

“Is this him?”

Probably.  But how would I know if it were the country mouse or his cousin from town?

So now it is a new day.  A bright sunny above freezing day.  And John’s closet awaits.  Oh, Lordy, who knows what lurks behind those closed doors?

Fine…really

Every now and then I wake up and feel…fine.

No complaints.

Quite satisfactory.  (To some Brits that means “deliriously wonderful” but I do mean “quite satisfactory.”)

This naturally involves waking up to  daylight.  (It is never fine to wake up at 5:30 a.m.) And it may coincide with not having to hurry up to be anywhere. (Like work.) It helps to have an absence of family drama like births, deaths, and changes in marital status.  Maybe it’s the 5000 units of Vitamin D the doctor has me taking.  Maybe it’s the cortisone shot to the knee.  Whatever.  It is fine to not feel any particular body part announcing a new breakdown.

I feel fine.

On such a fine day…9 degrees with a wind chill of a gazillion… I am not plagued by “shoulds” and “musts” and “have-to’s.”   It’s just a day.

A fine day.

To clean out cupboards.

Sometimes you just need to clean the cupboards. I’m not being metaphorical or talking about massive decluttering and redoing a closet with a cool idea gleaned from Pinterest. I’m just talking about a fine day with nothing on the agenda but taking things out of cupboards, wiping them down, and putting everything back in.

A fine old ordinary day to do ordinary things.

I’m not even doing it in a panic over the possibility of my mother seeing my household organizational disaster. Well, ok, there was a certain level of “no one must ever see this!” when I discovered evidence of mice in the powder room cabinet.  And, yes, that’s why I tackled the cupboards, but it’s not why I keep on doing more cupboards.

I am enjoying it.

Oh my gosh, I am still turning into my mother.  Not my young mother who exclaimed, “Eat it or wear it!” to a her tableful of children.  Not my older mother who berated her teenagers, “How can you live like this?” as dust bunnies rolled like tumbleweeds down the stairs. No, this is my older mother, who has her advance directive hanging on the fridge “just in case” paramedics might need to find it.

Oh, it’s ok.   Not deliriously wonderful, but it’s fine.  Really.  Quite satisfactory.

No complaints.

But enough of this.  My shoe closet is calling me.  It’s a fine day for organizing.

 

 

All that glitters

All that sparkles is not glitter

All that sparkles is not glitter

That extra sparkle about me this season? It ain’t Christmas cheer. It’s that daggone glitter on the wrapping paper.
Seriously, wrapping paper with glitter on it should come with a warning label. CAUTION: Contents of this shrink-wrapped tube of paper contain microscopic bits of green sparkles that will stick to every surface they contact, including your clothes, hair, and under your fingernails.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about twinkling and shining. My collection of silver bells gives me great joy. Twinkly lights adorn cabinets tops, mantles, and doorways throughout the house. Candles glow everywhere. I love light and sparkle and shine and all the brightness of Christmas.

I just think that there should be a special place in hell reserved for the inventor of glitter. I have wrapped one gift and already I’m blinking like a Christmas tree. The Scotch tape has so much glitter dust on it, I’m surprised it even sticks to anything. The countertop has a green hue to it. Every single gift I wrap, no matter how plain the paper, will now have glitter on it. My daughter, recipient of the afore-mentioned glitter gift, will take glitter home with her and it will stick to everything in her home. That’s after it sticks to everyone who comes to my home for Christmas.

Why isn’t there some environmental commission investigating this??? Surely glitter does not decompose. Apocalyptic films have completely ignored this environmental disaster. When the planet has been nuked and life as we know it has disappeared, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and…that’s right, glitter.

‘Nuff said.
Ho! Ho! Ho! May your Christmas be merry and bright.

Appropriate twinkles

Appropriate twinkles

Where’s Mom?

Having problems trying to post this to Facebook…

Slightly Off the Grid

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been…

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The Reluctant Pioneer

Hear ye, hear ye!  I’m changing the name of this blog from Maywood Living to The Reluctant Pioneer.

(I’ll make the switch after I post this, so you dear subcribers don’t get all confused.)

Why the name  change?

A cousin once told my mother that he didn’t read the post she sent him because he thought it was an ad for a retirement home.  To be honest, I wish it were my retirement home.  Alas, we have many miles to go before retirement.  My in-laws are next-door, though, living at Maywood in their eighties, so it is a retirement home for some of us.  Still…

Maywood Living bores me.  It bores me so much I don’t want to write posts.  It makes me feel like I have to be posting cute little crafty things for Pinterest. Occasionally cute and/or useful information does appear here, but, more often than not, living at Maywood involves giant mutant pumpkins, attacks by carpenter bees, and invasions of hunters, grandchildren, or Asian students.

I’m not a Martha Stewart wanna-bee.  Or even The Pioneer Woman.  (I would have taken that name, though.)  My husband calls me his Pioneer Wife, but I am a reluctant pioneer.  I regularly look around and think, “How the heck did I end up here?”

Reluctantly.

But I take a second look and think,”How cool is this?”

So, the beekeeping and the mutant pumpkins and the invasions of critters and people continue… but alongside all the other pioneering aspects of life that have nothing to do with country living, like teaching in a Cloud or learning new software updates to my phone.

Now let’s see if I can manage this switch without deleting everything.