Progress Report: Little Free Library

Here’s where we stand -

  • Reinforced post built by kind and helpful woodworking friend at church – check.
  • “Call before you dig” process initiated – check.
  • Old and supportive family friend recruited to show up with a post hole digger and install the post this Saturday morning – check.

So things are well underway. Still on the to-do list:

  • Collect books. This part will be so fun I’m saving it for last, though I have some on hand that I’ve picked up at books sales and which friends have already donated for the cause. Still, time for a visit to Half Price Books – always a favorite.
  • Figure out advertising. I reached out to the librarians at both of the nearby schools and received DEAD SILENCE in return. Very disappointing, but I figure they’re the ones missing out. Doesn’t exactly improve my opinion of the staff at these two schools, I’m afraid.
  • A little decoration repair on the library itself. Some of the interesting embellishments that were attached to it fell off in transporting it out of the living room for temporary storage. And SHHHHH I think a little color change is in order so that it will coordinate better with the paint colors on our house.  This, too, will be lots of fun – I love a decorating project, and Middle Sister will be invaluable here – she’s the artist in the family.

Our home continues to be way too quiet way too much of the time. I’m thankful to have this project to distract me from the emptiness.

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ABC’s of Parenting Grand Finale: Z is for zip, zoom, zest, and zeal

I conceived the ABC’s of Parenting series back in March. It’s taken awhile, but now we’re at the end. (I can hear the sighs of relief from those of you who even realized that was a thing.)

Outdoor summer events have always been a family tradition for us. On one lovely summer evening when our three were tiny, we had them at an outdoor concert when a grandmotherly type stopped by our picnic blanket for a chat. “Cherish these days when they’re young,” she said.  “They’ll go by all too fast.”

"A Flower Fairies Alphabet" was a perennial (see what I did there?) favorite read-aloud for our kids.

“A Flower Fairy Alphabet” was a perennial (see what I did there?) favorite read-aloud for our kids.

I appreciated her words of wisdom, but honestly she didn’t have to tell me. From day one I was acutely, painfully aware that our time with those three amazing creations of ours was precious and all too short. Over the years while they were growing up I could never allow myself to imagine the time in the too-near future when they’d be heading off in their own directions. The stab to my heart was too much – it took my breath away.

And sure enough, the years zipped and zoomed by with horrible speed. One day we were up to our ears in diapers and baby food. The next day we were chauffeuring them around to activities from dawn to dusk. In the next minute they were out the door to college and new lives.

One of the things that makes this zipping and zooming bearable is the fact that we truly did experience our babies’ childhood with zest and zeal. We threw everything we had into loving them, helping them grow, turning them into responsible, amazing people. Sure there were plenty of times when I would have loved to just escape for a bit of peace and quiet. There were times when misbehavior made me despair of my parenting skills. But the overwhelming balance of our time together as a family was full of laughter and joy. And I’m thankful that we can look back over those zipping, zooming years knowing we lived them with zest and zeal.

In the words of Cicely Mary Barker of “Flower Fairies” fame, “Now the alphabet is said, all the way from A to Zed.”

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Memory Monday – Nancy Drew, Girl Detective

I’ve been nuts about books for as far back as I remember. And mystery has always been my favorite genre.

brass bound trunk

Holy cow, Bess is wearing GLOVES in this cover illustration. SO dated, but I love it.

My love of mysteries began with the famous girl detective, Nancy Drew. She tooled around in her blue roadster, having grand adventures all over the world, with all the freedom of an adult. Only occasionally did she need to check in with her dad, renowned lawyer Carson Drew. She had a boyfriend who was IN COLLEGE! (Though now I wonder why on earth the Nancy I read about didn’t go to college herself…). She had two sidekicks, Bess and George, who backed her up in her dangerous exploits. Two cousins who also, apparently, had no aspirations beyond high school and who were allowed to roam the nation at will. Nancy and her pals were this young girl’s dream.

Nancy (and Carolyn Keene) taught me some interesting vocabulary:

  • sleuth – Wow, how cool it must be to have a title like “sleuth!”
  • intrigued – Nancy was constantly intrigued by mysterious clues
  • chafe – Any time Nancy came upon someone who who was passed out (a common occurrence), she chafed their wrists. Probably not a Red Cross-approved technique. I imagine rather than actually being therapeutic it just pissed off the chafe-ee so much they woke up.
  • Titian-haired – In the earlier volumes, Nancy’s hair is described as being Titian. With no Google to back me up all those years ago, I had to ask around to find out what on earth this term meant. And thus learned about an Italian painter who tended toward models with red-gold hair.

My mom was not a Nancy fan. She argued, quite reasonably, that Nancy Drew is not literature. The early mysteries were riddled with ugly stereotypes of women and minorities. Mom preferred for me to read Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. Which I did, over and over and over again. I loved both authors.

nancy drew 2014But there was something about Nancy that intrigued me. Every time I could get to a bookstore I’d search for the latest in the series. Each of the books had a listing on the back of every story, in order. My friends and I swapped so we could come closer to reading the entire series.

Nancy’s look has been updated over the years. Nowadays she doesn’t tramp through the woods wearing heels and a blue suit, carrying a demure purse. She’s a lot more practical now in jeans and tennies. I’m guessing she drives something other than a roadster these days, too. That’s all to the good – much more inviting for the modern young lady. (Here I have to mention, though, that of our three kids neither of the girls read any of the books. Our son read quite a few, however. He loved the mystery aspect.Thank goodness he also read a lot of really good literature.) I did manage to get all three of them interested in Nancy, though, through the awesome computer games by Her Interactive. Best way ever to spend a slow, rainy Saturday – playing “Curse of Blackmoor Manor.”

One thing I’ve always appreciated about the girl sleuth, even in her more old-fashioned incarnations, is that she’s a model of daring and independence. That has to be a good thing.

Long live Nancy Drew!


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Still slogging through the emptyish nest thing.

Today it was time to update calendars. I had a bunch of events swirling around in my head; things I don’t want to miss by double-booking myself or by just plain forgetting about them.

The calendar consolidation thing used to be an enormous task, with various concert schedules, recitals, plays and musicals, rehearsals, school meetings, and then the odd grown-up event stuck in here and there.

Today, though, I stared at a comparatively blank calendar. There were still concerts, recitals, and musicals. But some of The Boy’s events at his university are on a week night and I won’t be able to get to them. For the first time ever I’m going to miss some of his performances.

Life is just so different now.

In the last year since the Big Leave (my name for the week when we moved Youngest three hours away and two days later moved Oldest 17 hours away) my skin has grown just a bit thicker. I haven’t had a full-blown crying jag over missing them for a long time. Saying good-bye at the end of a visit makes me choke up, but I try to focus on the next hello.

This year is different, too, in that The Boy hasn’t been home since school started and is unlikely to be here until Thanksgiving break. Last year, due to a number of circumstances (including the tragic death of a friend from high school) he came back for a quick overnight several different times in the fall. What this really means is that he’s a lot more plugged into campus activities this year, and that’s a very good thing. But oh, my goodness do I miss him.

imageBringing me great joy this weekend, though, was a happy yet unexpected visit The Husband was able to make to The Boy’s college town. The Husband needed to get a load on his truck from northern Kansas to Oklahoma. He arranged his schedule to stop last night in Wichita, so he and The Boy have had a great couple of days together. The pictures they sent warmed my heart. And I can’t believe how grown up my baby looks. It’s partly the sideburns (over which there is a lot of disagreement among his friends and family). In general he just looks more grown-up all of a sudden. And yet I still see his boyish enthusiasm shining through.

Heavy sigh…Thanksgiving seems a very long way off.





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Death by Testosterone

One evening this week I went along with The Husband on a shopping expedition and I came close to being suffocated by machismo.

He was looking for a plug-in cooler for use in his truck as he traverses the highways and byways of this great land of ours. This particular appliance is pretty hard to find at this time of year, so we were forced to cross the thresholds of two establishments I would normally avoid.

First we tried Dick’s Sporting Goods (I will avoid the glaringly obvious joke that immediately springs to mind here). Wall-to-wall day-glo couture for your average Olympic wannabe, sold by attractive teens and college kids who looked like they just stepped off the cover of “Runner’s World,” but for whom the concept of customer service was entirely alien. We tracked one of these “sales associates” down amongst the miles of racks and displays when we couldn’t find the item we were searching for on the shelf. Asked him to please find out whether any of the other Dick’s locations in town had one in stock. The young Adonis’ response: “Yeah, it would be best if you just call the other stores and ask them.” Nice.

As we left, swearing we’d never darken the door again, I conceived a new advertising campaign for Dick’s: “Catering to the discriminating playground bully.”

imageAnd then it was on to Bass Pro Shop. Disney World for bubbas, complete with arcade games, taxidermy, and an indoor waterfall. I had to steel myself to enter, but by this point I really needed to pee, and I figured they had to at least have a pit toilet for camping enthusiasts. We were greeted by an older gentleman stationed at the door. Here’s how our interchange went:

Greeter: “Welcome to Bass Pro Shop. Can I help you find something?”

Me: “We’re looking for two things. The restroom and…”

Greeter: “Guns? That’s the most popular request.”

Me (scraping myself up off the floor): “DEAR GOD, NO!”

Bad-Ass Pro shop did have the cooler, and we made it home just in time for me to light a Yankee Candle and recover from these two cojones-saturated businesses.

But it was a narrow escape.


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Hummingbird to the rescue.

It’s been a frenetic week of transition:
•Coming home late Monday evening, still in vacation mode, and having to turn back into regular me overnight in order to function at work the next day.
•Enjoying a few days with The Husband home, but feeling my head spin as he dashed from one unfinished task to another in his race to catch up with things and then organize himself and his belongings so he can head out on the road.
•Guiding Middle Sister through a decision to drop a class (going from 19 hours to 16) before she dropped over in exhaustion and took me with her.
•Dealing with some bizarre and dysfunctional %*$# that came up at work and took up a lot of emotional energy for a 24-hour period.

Early this morning I stood on our back porch for a bit of fresh air (and a phone conversation that was required to deal with the aforesaid bizarre and dysfunctional %*$#), something happened that I almost missed.

IMG_1497I was standing about 30 inches from our hummingbird feeder with the phone to my ear when a tiny, green and black hummingbird appeared about a foot from my face, hovered for a moment staring me in the eye, and then proceeded to take a good, long sip of syrup from the feeder.

A tiny miracle and a moment of peace.

Sometimes something very small can provide some much-needed perspective.


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Who am I? Who are you?

I am not a 20-year-old hipster. I am undeniably a mid-life suburban mom.

This fact was driven home on Monday while I was still hanging out with Oldest in her very trendy, hipster neighborhood. We walked to the coffee shop around the corner, and I realized I must be sticking out like a sore thumb. Mom jeans, mom hoodie jacket, mom jewelry, mom comfy shoes.

cat mirrorIt wasn’t like I was way older than anyone else there. But the others my age hanging out in this coffee shop definitely looked a lot more interesting than boring old, suburban me. Long hair. Long beards. Birkenstocks. Torn jeans. Concert tee shirts.

Here’s the thing: I FEEL like a 20-year-old hipster. I have a feeling that when I’m 75 and wearing a track suit and orthopedic shoes every day (But NOT a plastic rain bonnet. NEVER a plastic rain bonnet) I will still feel like a 20-year-old hipster in my own mind.

This realization reminds me of a poem in a book our kids and I loved when they were little. From “Soap Soup and Other Verses” by Karla Kuskin (and I’m probably remembering this verse slightly wrong, but it was along these lines):

The me that is inside of me

Is not the me that you can see.

I can’t help but think that if I feel this way about the inner me and the outer me, other people probably feel it about themselves, too.

What might happen if we all considered this possibility and looked for that “me that is inside of me” in each other?


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Signs of the times?

Two items seen while on the east coast with Oldest. Not that you couldn’t see this sort of thing anywhere. But these really caught my attention.

no profanity

The above was posted regularly along the boardwalk in Ocean City. Good suggestion at all times, really.

This next one, however, made me ill. It was on the back of an enormous pickup truck (as Shrek said, “Do you think he’s compensating for something?”) that also had: a big sticker about the driver being a member of the Patriot Guards, multiple NRA stickers, and a truly tasteless bumper sticker about President Obama.

bumper sticker insanityWhen I see something like that I fear for our future.


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I do like to be beside the seaside.


We had a good day at Ocean City. We enjoyed each other’s company, we found plenty to laugh about. But, as Oldest pointed out last night as we were posting our pictures on FB and phoning our family back home, the photos look as if we had a long, joyous day on the shore. In reality, all the really good stuff happened in the space of about half an hour and the rest was stupid.

imageGood stuff:
+No seagulls pooped on us.
+The kite festival was interesting.
+Oldest saw the ocean along a U.S. coast for the first time.
+It was actually pretty clean.

imageStupid stuff:
+If I wanted to walk past piercing parlors, t-shirt shops, candy stores, and souvenir stands, I’d go to a trashy carnival. I do not.
+Food: expensive and quite nasty. Even though we chose a sit-down place billed as “Maryland’s Best Irish Pub.” I feel sad for the state of Irish pubs in Maryland.
+Traffic on the way there and especially on the way back was painful. We’re accustomed to wide open spaces. Our highways at home have a speed limit of 65-75, and don’t have stoplights on them every few miles.

Redeeming the outing somewhat was a quick side trip to Assateague Island. We just drove around, and we did actually see some wild horses (though they were close to a parking area and some imageoutbuildings, so the effect was as if they were domestic and they’d just escaped from their paddock). A friend tells me her family camped there every year when she was young and she still has wonderful memories, so I’m sure it’s a great place. Probably here again it’s a matter of what you’re accustomed to. Horses aren’t a big deal at home. We have friends who own them, and we see them all the time when we’re driving anywhere on the highway.

Truly, it was the differences between this area and our home in the Midwest that I found most interesting. Being around people for whom boating is a life skill. Repeatedly coming upon bodies of naturally occurring water. Inviting, well-kept farm produce stands every few hundred yards along the “highway.” Oh, and along those “highways,” the lack of derelict barns, outbuildings, and grain silos. Apparently people in this part of the world very cleverly take down their old, collapsing farm structures – as opposed to our part of the world, where to see the proliferation of ancient, crumbling barns and farm houses you’d think an apocalypse must occur every 50 years or so. It does have the effect of making an attractive, scenic drive through rural Maryland/Delaware.

Coming up on the last day of this trip: Oldest has a lab TA meeting during which I’ll visit the campus bookstore. We’ll hang out together a little more and squeeze in a few more games of Bananagrams before I head to the airport. Then a long flight that diverts to Tampa (what was I thinking?!) and finally home just before dark, to be picked up at the airport by The Husband. First time I will have seen him in two months, so it’s a joyful ending to a lovely long weekend away.

Good-bye east coast, hello Midwest.


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A day in Baltimore

Things I’ve seen today running around in Baltimore with our oldest:

•The Black and Decker world headquarters (this would have been very exciting for The Husband and The Boy)
•Pimlico race course
•The building from which the Hubble telescope is controlled
•Carnegie Institute

After a morning of shopping and walking around in Towson to find an interesting place to eat (we ended up with Vietnamese), we spent the afternoon at the street fair right in Oldest’s neighborhood. Picked up some excellent, one-of-a-kind souvenirs and Christmas gifts. And got to see this:

Found outside "Cafe Hon," where we ate Friday night. I thought Oldest was saying "Cafe Hun." Either way, I had a great burger there.

Found outside “Cafe Hon,” where we ate Friday night. I thought Oldest was saying “Cafe Hun.” Either way, I had a great burger there.

and this:

An annual event at this festival: toilet racing. The rules seem to be limited to having one or more toilets (or urinals) mounted on a human-powered cart.

An annual event at this festival: toilet racing. The rules seem to be limited to having one or more toilets (or urinals) mounted on a human-powered cart.

It’s only 4:30 and we’re already done with the scheduled events for the day. Tonight it’s just card games, leftover chicken noodle soup from last night’s dinner, and the final episode of Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts.” My kind of vacation.

And tomorrow, Ocean City!


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