Sunday, May 29, 2011

Remembering other people and times on Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend I'm having trouble keeping myself cheerful because, compared to other times of my life, especially when I was surrounded by little children, I feel so alone....Yet, tucked down deep in my heart are so many memories of other places and other times. When I feel all alone, I know that I'm not really alone, since God is there, and since all these other loved ones are still deep inside and have become part of me, as I have become part of them. I also know that the day is coming, fairly soon, when I will once again be surrounded by a community, as ARCHERs proceeds with its plans for developing a rural conference center.  Today, though, I will have to be content with my plans, as well as my memories.

To start with, there was my father, a veteran of World War II, a casualty of the Great Depression, who never really found himself after all he went through...Still, I know I got a lot of my intelligence and curiosity from him, and, in a round about way, I even developed a lot of my spirituality through him, even if it was just noticing the mistakes he made along the way.  I can still see him walking up a ladder with two piles of shingles on either shoulder.  He has been gone from earth for almost 40 years, but his presence is still with me every day.  So glad I was able to forgive him long ago....or the memories would have ruined my life instead of helping me grow.

Three years ago, my mother died...Wish I could be up there at her grave this weekend putting flowers on it, but I can't run up to Wisconsin whenever I feel like it, especially with gas prices what they are.  She will always be a part of me, the little voice inside my head that keeps me on track, both encouraging me and telling me when I am messing up. Most of my personal strength comes from knowing that I  came from a line of strong women, starting with her mother, who raised five children (and lost 3 others) in a house with no indoor plumbing or electricity, up in northern Wisconsin where heat is not exactly optional...I think of my grandmother every time I go out to garden.  I have the privilege of doing it for fun, and not worrying about who gets to eat it, me or the rabbits.  If her garden didn't grow, her family starved.

When I think of my own mother, I am so grateful that I didn't let minor things, like her disapproval of our homeschooling, or her efforts to prevent me from publishing a particular book, get in the way of our continued relationship. It would have been so easy to just get angry and turn away sometimes...but we both persevered and manage to retrieve our joy, despite several angry and hurtful moments.  In the end, we parted the best of friends, the kind of friendship that can only develop out of the early mother-daughter relationship.

More than anything, this Memorial weekend, I am missing my daughters.  I'm used to having kids run off to places like Korea and Thailand, but before this it was always for a limited time.  Now my youngest daughter has left to get married in England, and there is no guarantee she will ever again live nearby.  My oldest daughter is now living in Portland, Oregon, but in two weeks we get to see each other in Virginia at the home of a friend....sure looking forward to that! 

As women, we find that we are always going into or out of some phase, and always needing to reinvent ourselves.  I believe women do that much better than men, and are capable of being flexible and going with the flow more than men, too.  In order to be happy for Laura, I have to once again reinvent myself.  Up to this point, I have been out of the country three times. Once was when I was 12, and went on a trip with my drill team up to Canada.  The second time was a trip to Kenya to speak at a homeschool conference, and the third time was a trip to Korea to see my kids who lived there and to speak at a large workshop.  They were all fun times, but they all seemed like aberrations, way outside my comfort zone.  Now I have to actually become a world traveler.  Next year, I have two trips scheduled, one to Thailand to see my son who works at an international school, and one to England to attend Laura's wedding.  

I know I'm just rambling today....but I wanted to thank all the dear ones I've mentioned, as well as the people I don't even remember, who have influenced my life and touched me all these years.  I wish I could be with every one of you this weekend, but instead I will have to hold your memories in my heart and make some plans to look forward to, while doing a good job at whatever God puts in my hands today.

Have a good Memorial Day with your friends and families!  For all you homeschooling moms out there, enjoy the time together with your little ones...the best times of your life are the ones you are going through right now, even if it does feel overwhelming at times!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rabbits and squirrels and deer...oh my.

It's gardening time again in the deep south.  Just went to "customer appreciation day" at Pike's Nursery and came back with three new rose bushes to plant.  I've always loved gardening, but I could have done without the little rabbit sitting there looking right at me while I was setting my new little tomato plants and eggplants over by the garden. I'm surprised he waited until I got in the house to chow down.

Last year the deer got my corn, the raccoons took the tomatoes and watermelons every time one got ripe, the squirrels dug up my corn (while I was planting it) and the rabbits ate all the beans. I got one pepper and a couple of eggplants to eat out of an entire summer of getting up early to water. 

What does this have to with education, which is usually the point of this blog?  Just this....I can't get angry at the little critters, and, in fact, am purposely planting the food knowing they are going to eat it. Why?  Because I read one too many books about little animals and gardens, both when I was a child and when my kids were little...from Beatrix Potter to Thornton Burgess to Robert Lawson...these authors affected me more than almost any other experiences in my life.

Read to your kids....its a whole lot more lasting than anything else that might look more educational...and while you are at it, plant a garden this spring....Even if you, like me, wind up getting very little food out of it, you will learn an immense amount just by having the experience of digging in the dirt. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saluting all single moms (or those temporarily single)

Today I'm saluting all of you who are either single moms or feel like it sometimes when your husband is away....This past year my husband has been away a lot...right now I'm going on four days here by myself.  Even though my kids are grown, three of them are here right now.  There is just so much to do that it can't possibly get done.  I feel like I just keep running from store to home to work and never have a single moment to myself!  This morning, for example, I got up and went downstairs and one of the dogs had "done his thing"  on the new tile floor my son and I just finished laying.  So I wound up not only cleaning that, but the entire downstairs plus the bathroom before I had even done my exercises or eaten breakfast. Of course by then the dogs and cat were all starving and they had to be fed before I could eat, and then some phone calls came in, and then my son needed to talk to me, so it wound up being about three hours into my day before I had the time to eat a bowl of cereal.

I don't have any great words of wisdom for y'all...I'm just appreciating your struggles right now. I will say that it has been important to me to celebrate my own little successes rather than focusing on what is not getting done...It would have been tempting to come back up after cleaning the whole downstairs and start beating myself up about the upstairs being a mess. But I chose to enjoy the clean downstairs for awhile instead.

Anyway, my hats are off to those of you who have to do this all the time...keep your priorities straight and try to stay balanced...and don't hesitate to ask others for help when you need it!