And now the serious: “Lest We Forget.”

The entryway, just below the Liberty Memorial.

The entryway, just below the Liberty Memorial.

We are very lucky here in my home town to be the home of the only WWI museum in the U.S. It’s on the site of Liberty Memorial, the first national monument to WWI, and the only place where the five supreme commaders of the Allied Forces ever met together, in 1921. The museum has only been here since 2006, and it is truly a world-class experience.

My daughter and I have been wanting to tour the museum again all year, it being the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war. I’ve been hearing about a new exhibit in honor of that anniversary, “Over by Christmas.” This area includes displays commemorating the initial months of the war; the fervor and intense patriotism that led so many unsuspecting young men to enlist, believing they would fight in hand-to-hand combat battles and be able to declare victory by the holidays.  It’s painful to reflect on just how wrong they were. Having toured the bulk of the museum previously, Middle Sister and I chose to begin our visit here this time.

After passing under Liberty Memorial and entering through imposing, 10-foot doors, visitors are greeted by a glass bridge under which is a field of poppies, immediately recalling the bloody fields of poppiesFlanders. It’s a sight that brings tears to my eyes no matter how many times I see it.

After crossing the poppy field and entering the museum proper, visitors choose to begin either with the 1917-1918 section (American involvement) or 1914-1917, the first years of war. There’s also the option of beginning with a documentary outlining the social, technological, and political history leading up to the Great War. Though we’d seen it before, it was worth another viewing to refresh our memories.

We then started at the chronological beginning, the first years of the war. All the typical museum fare is there: propaganda posters, uniforms, weapons, displays of statistics, artifacts. But what hits the hardest are  the re-created trenches. They’re surrounded by 12-foot tall “mud” walls, with numerous peepholes where we looked through to see what the soldiers would have seen, and listened to recorded diary entries and letters home from the troops – whose suffering and trauma are nearly unimaginable.

trench sillhouettesThe link between the “early years” and “American involvement” wings is a panoramic video display of another documentary describing the events and political climate that led to U.S. finally joining the effort. Below the 50-yard wide screen is another re-creation of a trench, and between showings of the video, a haunting scene of soldiers’ silhouettes is displayed.

A highlight of the “American Involvement” wing is a replica of a bomb crater, which visitors can enter and view from all sides. While inside, one listens to more diary entries and letters home, written by bomb cratersoldiers, nurses, drivers, and other participants.

Near the end of this wing is an exhibit about emergency medical care in the trenches, in nearby hospitals, and in longer-term hospitals further away from the front lines. Here one reads statistics about casualties and deaths before moving on to the displays and video about Armistice Day – the eleventh statisticshour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Visitors leave the museum contemplating the far-reaching implications of the terms of armistice, including the creation of various spheres of influence in the middle east, the beginnings of an Israeli state in Palestine, and punitive settlement against Germany. Which of course, soon led to the declaration of revenge that was World War II.

It was a a sobering afternoon, this “last hurrah of summer” for my daughter and myself. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to reflect and remember.

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For now, the silly. Later the serious.

My day started out with a gross little adventure that will be quick to tell, and I’m really wiped out by my afternoon adventure (a trip with my darling daughter to the National World War I Museum, here in K.C.). So a brief summary of the morning bit, and then I’m done for today…

I was eating breakfast on the back patio, as is my wont (points for me for using a weird word!), and noticed that my finger was rather sticky.

“I must have some jam on my finger,” I said to myself, completely ignoring the fact that all I was eating was a fried egg. No jam.

Without thinking, I licked what I thought was jam off that finger and immediately gagged. Definitely not jam.

Then I looked at the table.

Right where my finger had been resting was a puddle of squirrel pee. “How does she know what squirrel pee looks like?” you may be asking yourself.

We have a lot of squirrels. They hang out on our patio table after we’ve filled the bird feeders and have spilled seed. I’m well-versed in the telltale signs of their presence.

There was a whole lot of spitting and groaning. I dashed into the house to rinse my mouth out. Thought about using soap, but didn’t.

That was bad enough, but something possessed me to share this anecdote with one of my co-workers (the senior pastor, to be precise) later in the morning. He about fell over, laughing, and then he went back to the main office.

An hour later, this was in my inbox – from our associate pastor, no less, so I then knew that the whole office had heard my tale of woe.

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These are the people I work with. :)

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Little Free Library, here we come!

I don't know what mine will look like because the LFL folks are building it for me, but this is a nice example.

I don’t know what mine will look like because the LFL folks are building it for me, but this is a nice example.

A few months ago I wrote about applying for a grant to place a Little Free Library in our front yard. A few days later the news broke about a boy in a suburb near us who was forced to remove his LFL after complaints from some nasty, snobby neighbors.

About a month ago I got the word from the LFL folks that my grant was on a “wait list,” which I took to mean I was turned down.

But today – and I don’t think my keyboard has enough exclamation points to display how I feel about this – I got another email from LFL, saying that they’ve received more grant money and that I am “well qualified to receive a gift library.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It may take up to 12 weeks for my already-built library to arrive. And then I’ll be responsible for getting it placed in my yard. And then the fun begins – registering the site, advertising, and SHARING BOOKS WITH THE WORLD FROM MY FRONT YARD!!!!!!

Hmmm…I believe I’ve been looking for ways to fill an enormous hole left in my life due to empty nest Part II.

I’m just a little excited.

photo credit: ali eminov via photopin cc

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So many choices…

cattle pensI’ve been wanting to get a photo of this sign for years. We pass it every time we drive through the Flint Hills to get to Wichita, which we were doing at least once a year even before The Boy started college there.

It’s pretty likely I have a really stupid sense of humor…but here are just a few of the questions/comebacks that run through my mind when I see this highway sign:

  • All the cows I know prefer pencils.
  • Cattle can’t even read. How are they supposed to know where to go to get their pens?
  • Cattle have terrible handwriting – there is no sense making a special place for them to get pens.
  • There’s no way cattle can  hold pens –  they don’t even have opposable  thumbs!

There. I’ve got it out of my system.

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One of these days…

garrett on WSU mailingThis fine arts promotional catalog from our son’s university arrived in our mailbox today. Middle Sister texted me the photo while I was at work, because she immediately noticed that the guy in the high white wig and silly pants on the top is her brother, from his role last spring in “Die Fledermaus.” It wasn’t even a big part – just chorus, for his freshman year.

And Middle Sister and I texted each other at the same time: “The kid continues to live a charmed existence.”

Just some of the evidence for this unison statement:

In grade school he won a county-wide essay contest that got him a big gift card to Toys R Us.

He enrolled in choir on a whim in 8th grade and was shortly named to the all-state middle level choir.

Because our boy was the lead in every show in high school his last couple of years, his picture was on our district website repeatedly.

He won a nice scholarship in the “classical voice” category in a county-wide (and very competitive) arts program.

He (following in his two sisters’ footsteps) was a National Merit Finalist and (unlike his sisters) translated that accomplishment into a full ride for college.

Throughout high school he repeatedly was given solo performances in important choral venues.

Great jobs fall into his lap all the time – like the fact that just as he was heading back to school the bakery he works for decided to start selling in his college town. So he’ll be able to do well-paying sampling gigs while he’s away at school. Like the fact that he was asked to get PAID to sing in a church choir during the school year. Fifty bucks a week, no less.

For years I kept thinking that one day his luck would run out. If the law of probability holds out, one of these days his luck really will fail.

But – holy cow! It’s nice while it lasts. :)

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A holding-my-breath kind of week

So. We have The Boy moved in and he’s dealing with all of his stuff quite nicely, as always.

I got through the HUGE work day yesterday, with five successful meetings and lots of enthusiasm for the coming program year. The only glitches were technical: some incorrect email addresses so a few people hadn’t even gotten the word they were supposed to be here; a curriculum website that won’t allow my teachers access to their lessons; an A/V system that didn’t work for a presentation. We coped.

And now I’ve got a weird in-between week. Learning all over again to live in a boy-less house is rough. But starting next week, Middle Sister will be back in her classes, and working a couple of small, very part-time jobs. When she is home she’ll be swamped with her reading- and writing-intensive courses.

So she and I are planning some fun, last-hoorah-type stuff to do this week, before life does its next morph.

Plenty to do at work still – there’s another huge event coming right around the corner. That will help some.

Planning and anticipating my trip to see Oldest in a month will help, too.

A writing project with my favorite neighbor and co-author will help me occupy my time.

At some point The Husband will complete his initial driver training period and we’ll settle into the rhythm of his new schedule.

But still, I’m holding my breath. Because (SILENT GROAN) this new life promises to be hard.

 

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Things I learned on move-in day

Yesterday, move-in day for youngest in his second year of college, felt long enough to be at least two days. On the three-hour drive home I thought of something that I was pretty sure happened at breakfast, but it seemed like so long ago it truly felt like it had to have been at least the day before.

So, what I learned yesterday:

1. I don’t know as much as I think I know about my kids (okay, that’s not exactly a huge surprise). First news of the morning was that The Boy and his very nice girlfriend had broken up. Weird.

2. My aging butt does not like driving six hours in one day. Ouch!

3. When planning for hundreds of college students to move into a brand-new dorm (which took the place of the biggest parking lot on campus), do NOT make this the plan:

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In this picture you can see a few of the EIGHT lines of cars stretching across the parking lot at the stadium. We moved three car lengths every 20 minutes. Thankfully our time slot was at 10:00 am when it was still slightly cooler and shady, so we missed the 97 degree Fahrenheit temps that people had to sit through in the afternoon.

4. Though the crews of moving helpers stationed right outside the dorm are very fast and friendly, don’t give them charge of anything you’re really fond of. A nice chrome and canvas three-drawer cart The Boy brought along to store his linens arrived in his room looking like it had been dropped from the top floor.

5. On move-in day in a college town, Target is a good place to avoid. We did actually find everything there that we needed to complete his dorm room, though. Because – surprise! – even when it’s your second year and you make lists and plan everything carefully, there’s still at least $100 worth of stuff you’ll need once you get into the room.

6. The Smoothie King you stop at on the way back from Target because it’s a very long, hot day and you all deserve a little treat…has an appalling lack of chocolate on the menu. If chocolate is required, go for the DQ next door.

7. I knew this one already, but it was nice to see evidence again – Middle Sister really loves her little brother. She wasn’t paying attention and we almost pulled away without her saying good-bye, so she made me stop the van. Then she ran back to him and gave him a big hug. That made him roll his eyes in embarrassment, so I told him it was not okay to be annoyed just because his sister likes him a lot. That put a big smile on his face, which was the last thing I saw as I drove off.

8. It’s not until I finally got home to a quiet and empty house that I felt the worst stab of empty nest pain. The silence is overwhelming. My beloved bird feeders, which The Boy loved to watch with me, and which he kept filled all summer, were empty when we got home last night. That sight hit a little too close to home. And the vacant bedroom across the hall haunted me every time I woke up in the night…which was a lot.

Well, there you have it. On almost the first anniversary of Mom Goes On, I’m struggling with the same empty-ish nest stuff I was dealing with a year ago. Now I’ve got to figure out what “going on” is going to look like this year.

Trying to create a game plan for what to do with all of The Boy's stuff.

Trying to create a game plan for what to do with all of The Boy’s stuff.

The room in the new dorm is costs more, but it's worth it for the large, airy, bright feel. Much better than the dark, claustrophobic hole we had to leave him in last year.

The room in the new dorm costs more, but it’s worth it for the large, airy, bright feel. Much better than the dark, claustrophobic hole we had to leave him in last year.

 

 

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Moving day

Well. Things happened yesterday.

On a day when my to-do-list included: five loads of The Boy’s laundry in preparation for his move back to school, trips to Costco and the grocery store for many items that needed refrigerating, and paying bills online…guess what? The power was out for three hours.

It came back on literally 15 seconds after we’d gone to all the trouble to put our vital refrigerated items on ice.

So that happened.

The Boy and his girlfriend spent the entire day packing, labeling, and loading his stuff. My van and his Jeep were completely ready to go before dinner.

imageAfter dinner The Boy gave his sister and me an inservice on checking the fluids and tire pressure in our vehicles. I was forced to learn all that stuff many years ago before I was allowed to drive my first car, but that was…many years ago. With the husband traveling and son away at school I have to deal with these things again. Bleh.

And The Husband called from his overnight-in-a-truck-sleeper-cab location and we had our first good, long, phone visit in over a week. Boy, would I hate, hate, hate, the over the road life. But he’s having a ball, and it was great to hear all about it.

So yeah, that stuff happened, too.

This morning I was wide awake at 4:00 am. I’ll get up in a few minutes to shower and make a nice breakfast for the three of us – my last hurrah of mom-cooking.

We’ll hit the highway about 7:00 for what promises to be a hot, sticky, physically/emotionally exhausting day.

Here we go…

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No lasagne, please.

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I’m part of a group at church that provides meals when we have a new baby or someone who’s sick long-term, in the hospital, etc. I mostly help out when there’s a new baby because…BABIES!

So I glanced at my work email today (I know that’s a bad idea on your day off, but considering all I’ve got going on at work just now it really was necessary) and there was a call for meals for a family who just had their first baby. I read through the details, figuring I’d sign up for a day next week.

The notes read, “two adults, nothing too spicy, NO lasagne, please.”

I laughed out loud. I totally get that.

When Middle Sister was just about to join the family, I made a pan of lasagne and cleverly froze half to eat once we were home from the hospital and WAY to busy to cook.

I only had an overnight stay at the hospital, and of course they served lasagne for my one evening meal. Okay, I could live with that.

And then we got home and friends started very kindly bringing meals by. TWO different friends brought lasagne.

What I wouldn’t have given for a “NO lasagne, please” notice on our front door. <

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Hanging tough…sort of

This week is one of those crazy times we all encounter sometimes.

It is perhaps my busiest time of the year at work. The marathon day of meetings I’m responsible for on Sunday looms in the back of my mind constantly, even though at this point I’m as prepared as I possibly can be. Whatever happens Sunday just has to happen because…

Today and tomorrow are completely filled up with packing and moving The Boy back to college. Which, of course, entails several shopping trips to make sure he has all the supplies he needs to stay alive until he comes home again.

And then there’s the normal weekend stuff that absolutely has to be done – grocery shopping, paying bills…yuck.

All while trying not to be an emotional wreck.

One year ago almost to the day it was even worse. Moving The Boy away for the very first time. Moving Oldest 17 hours away for the next five or six years.

I’ve gotten over that initial shock of emptyish nest (for the most part). But this year, even though moving my boy away isn’t quite such a wrench, there’s the added weirdness of having The Husband on the road for who knows how long.

This saying as always cracked me up, but it really fits how I’m feeling just now: “I don’t know how to act.”

This morning I was trying to make out a grocery list for today’s trip, but I was stumped. I asked Middle Sister to help me figure out what we needed to buy for feeding just the two of us in the coming week. I could hardly get the words out without tearing up. Not sure why this aspect of empty nest hits me so hard, but it does.

Sigh.

I guess I’ll just do what I always do when everything seems completely overwhelming. Put my head down, take a deep breath, and plow through.

And hope I don’t make a fool of myself by breaking down and blubbering as I walk away from The Boy’s dorm tomorrow.

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