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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life As I Know It - The Sequel

Today was the prologue for the next chapter in my life. I'm retiring from the classroom and today Shellie and I drove to the retirement office in Jefferson City to sign the official paperwork. Yes, I could have just sent them in, but we decided to make a day of it. After a very satisfactory and encouraging meeting with a young lady named Susan, papers all signed, we headed downtown for lunch. Shellie treated me to a delicious Thai meal at Chim's and then we decided to walk the area. We found shops, bookstores, and toured by the river, capitol, and governor's mansion. We saw bus load after bus load of children in the area. But as we weren't responsible for any of them, we could just smile and watch them having such a good time. It was a windy, cool, and thoroughly enjoyable day. On the road home, we stopped at a small town eatery for coffee and pie (peach cobbler, actually, with vanilla ice cream).
The apostle Paul writes that some have the gift of singleness. I guess I'm not one of them. I can't imagine entering into this next phase of my life without Shellie by my side. How often I see or hear something and just can't wait to share it with my wife. The joy shared isn't divided, it's multiplied. Just as we strolled the streets of the state capitol, so I plan to embark on the second half of my life, hand-in-hand with my partner, my love, and my friend.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I planned it beautifully:  a simple brunch for my family and mid-morning worship.  I hadn't thought much beyond that which is most uncharacteristic of me.  I'm a planner from way back.  It was that lack of planning that lead to one of the most restful days in years of memories.

Because it's been so rainy (if you hadn't seen a weather map to know it) and because we had groceries enough for the week and because the house was clean (ah, something I forgot to pay tribute to Bruce for - when I got home from my conference a week ago the house was spic-n-span) and because we had books to read, but mostly just because we must have needed the break, we truly rested.  Bruce napped on the couch and Natalie napped next to him while I read.  Then, getting sleepy watching them, I decided I should nap, too.  I went up to the bed to stretch out and Natalie followed to sleep by me.  When we all three finally woke, it was mid-afternoon and we spent the rest of the day and evening just lazing around listening to music and reading and chatting and being us.  We even went to bed early and slept through the night.

Don't you love the comforts of home?  The ease of a day with no demands?  A day of rest every week might be a good thing.  Now, why didn't someone think of that before?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Yesterday was my 43rd birthday.  I had bunches and bunches of happy wishes from family and friends and former students.  I received some very sweet, unusual, thoughtful gifts.  It was a good day.  A very good day.

But, last night was wonderful.  We started the evening with dinner at Farmers Gastropub, a local restaurant featuring locally available foods and, a rarity in Springfield, I'm afraid, one that offers actual vegetarian meals (by that I mean they are vegetarian on their own - not just something with the chicken left off of it).  I had the Vegetarian Cassoulet with crusty, crunchy baguette and a salad with homemade honey dijon dressing.  As a special treat, Askinosie's Chocolate Gatte for dessert.  It was luxury on a plate.  Decadent.  Divine.

The Jane Monheit concert was fabulous.  Ask Bruce and he can tell you without batting an eye that my favorite music is jazz and my favorite combination is a trio of piano, bass and drums.  He also knows I'm a sucker for words - lyrics, poems, monologues - whatever.  Words, words, words.  Ms. Monheit's vocals were sultry, spunky and sumptuous.  She performed many of the standards with her own personal style and plenty of scat.  There was nothing I didn't love about the concert.  The sweet swelling music and the sweeter still sentiments brought tears to my eyes there in the darkened theatre and I felt very much alive and so grateful for life and love and the thrill of romance.

I'm a fairly well disciplined person.  I watch my diet, I exercise, I am faithful to my Creator and faithful to my spouse, loyal to my family and friends.  I am careful to be temperate in all things.  But, once in a while, indulgence in the sensuousness of rich food, sweet song, and soft kisses stolen in a lingering note sung on stage is. . . perfection.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tired, but Inspired

My time at Missouri Association of School Librarians Spring Conference was inspiring on several levels.  Professionally, I got to hear about the latest great things going on in school libraries across our state and, more importantly, had time to brainstorm with my colleague who shares charge of our school's LMC with me.  I got that little extra jolt of excitement one needs to carry through the end of the school year and the inspiration to begin planning for the next.

Personally, I have to say that being present for the awarding of the Show-Me, Mark Twain, Truman and Gateway awards to the authors of the winning titles was a mixed bag for me.  I admit it.  I was jealous.  I've had success of a kind with my books (how many people who want to write novels actually do write them, let alone see them published by a commercial publisher?) and am very proud of them.  But, I have to wonder what it would be like to have children and young adults reading my books because they were written, as Jay Asher put it in his acceptance speech, with them in mind?  Teenagers figure into my stories as secondary, albeit well-drawn secondary, characters.  I'm so used to having teenagers in my life, I can't imagine writing a story without a few hanging around the pages making life more colorful for my heroines and heroes.  But maybe, just maybe, I should consider (seriously consider) writing for them rather than around them?  I am proud of the work I do every day with young adults.  I love them!  I love their energy, their zeal, their curiosity, even their innocent brand of cynicism.  Could I people the pages of a novel with them?  Could I write them genuinely with the affection I feel for them without imposing my own adult frame of reference on them or judging theirs?  Am I willing to venture out of my version of reality and validate theirs?  Can I treat a single teen aged character as an individual rather than a type?

Let's just say, the challenge has been issued and I'm considering whether or not I am called to meet it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Random Bursts of Excitement

Last night I saw a news clip about the Aurora Borealis.  I'm hoping so hard that we'll see it this summer, going farther north into Minnesota as we are.  That and a moose - at a distance, mind you.

Those northern lights?  They are kind of like the random bursts of excitement I feel when I realize Love Under a Dark Sky will be out there for people to read in just over a month.  I forget about it because I'm working at Glendale, writing grant applications, trying to build collaborative relationships with colleagues, all the while keeping up housework, menu planning, grocery shopping, yoga practice, and on and on and on.  Then, once in a while, my mind and heart just light up with the realization of the great blessings I've been given and that this, realizing the dream of being a published author, is one.  And I'm renewed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There's a lot to be said for the familiar.  When you find your niche, the place in life that fits you like a glove, why would you want to go looking for something else?

I don't believe in telepathy or psychic energy, but I do believe in familiarity.  It's a beautiful evening at the end of a beautiful, if long, work day.  There are a week's worth of menus (including cookbook names and page numbers) on the freezer door and the ingredients to prepare them in the refrigerator. On the way home, I thought, "I sure don't want to cook."  I thought dinner at our little neighborhood Italian restaurant sounded nicer.  When I walked through the door, Bruce said, "How would you like to dine on the patio at Bambinos?  It's so pretty outside."  So, we did.

Familiarity.  I'm with Dorothy on this one - I don't need to search any further than my own back yard to find what really matters and what really makes me happy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Silly (Not Dirty) Dancing

I'm not a dancer.  I'd love to be.  I admire the grace and beauty of couples floating in an embrace over the dance floor.  I took ballet when I was a little girl.  I took tap for a while, too.  When I was in elementary school and my uncle was in junior high, disco was in fashion.  I remember Marty trying to teach me some of those moves from Solid Gold in the living room while the record albums played through on the stereo.  It was fun.  As I got older, it was enough to be able to pony and I was glad of that.  Still, inside me is the girl who wants to be gliding effortlessly around the room, skirts swirling, head laid to the side, every move fluid and feminine; I want to feel the music as my own heartbeat.

We dance in my house.  All THREE of us.  It used to be that Bruce and I would dance to a favorite 1940's tune (usually in the threshold of the room - I don't know why, and usually on a very squeaky floorboard so that the giggles set in before the song was through).  These days, we have to watch out for four little furry feet dancing around just inches away from us.  Sometimes one of us even scoops Natalie up into arms to be right in our embrace.  And, as always, there's that squeaky floorboard.  Our dancing is romantic in its own silly way - cheek to cheek to cheek.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Holding Hands

I love holding hands.  I have to admit, sometimes I feel a bit silly when I realize someone has noticed we're holding hands.  They smile when they see they've been caught in the act of staring and they always have that "Awww - isn't that sweet" look on their faces.  But, then I realize I should be (and am) very proud that I have a husband who is willing to hold hands in public.  Of all the things our hands are busy with during the day - sorting papers, shelving books, hooking a leash, folding clothes, steering the car, swiping debit cards, tapping keyboards and keypads, and preparing meals, the simple gesture of offering one's hand in friendship, comfort, affection, and love is second only in significance to hands folded in prayer.

So, today, tickle your fingers together, clink those wedding rings, give in to the luxury of the touch of your true love's hand on your own.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thank You, Charles M. Schulz

When I met Bruce, the first thing I noticed about him (besides the fact that his last name was the same as someone I knew from college - but, that's another story) was that his shirt, a hunter green button-up, had a small, embroidered Joe Cool on the pocket.  I didn't know he was an elementary teacher.  I just knew that any man who could proudly wear clothes with the Peanuts characters on them had to be someone with an appreciation of the whimsical.  Knowing him as I do now, that was an under-assumption of colossal proportion!  Bruce not only appreciates whimsy, he creates it - every day.  The joy of life surrounds him.  He is amusing, light-hearted, quirky, clever (remind me to tell you the "As for me and my mouse" story sometime), and downright funny.

Me?  I was always a very serious girl.  I grew up with the tendency to smile easily and to get tickled at things I found really and truly funny; but a return to tears, worry, and sadness was just as quick.  My imagination tended toward the serious rather than the silly.  Because of this I could cry at the drop of a hat, fail to see any humor in a situation that had a hint of sadness in it, and get angry at people who didn't treat things I cared about with the same gravity I thought they deserved (okay, I still do that sometimes).

Knowing this, you might wonder how we ever got together.  In answer, I refer you to Charles M. Schulz, creator of The Peanuts.  (Are you seeing a trend here?)  Come on, now.  Two people, ages twenty-nine and thirty-nine respectively, who have had their shares of life's sorrows and come out on the other side a bit lonely, perhaps, but wiser for the trouble, who have managed to retain the joy of watching Charlie Brown try to kick that football year after year after year and who still laugh at lines like, "Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest" and scenes depicting a beagle boxing with lawn chairs belong together?  It was meant to be!

I laughed at something today that I might not have laughed at years ago.  I can thank my husband for encouraging that lighthearted spirit in me to grow.  His humor has tempered my seriousness over the years.  Yes, I still cry when I watch Snoopy, Come Home ("No dogs allowed. . .").  I'm not ashamed to say it.  But, Bruce has lightened my load in life by leading me to laugh more easily and more often.

So, in tribute to the guffaw, I challenge you:  find someplace private and do something utterly silly!  Make a face.  Sing a goofy song you remember from childhood.  Put on a ridiculous outfit and parade up and down the room.  Reenact a miserable scene from your workday with the part of you being played by Robin Williams or one of the Stooges or Carol Burnett.  Let your snicker become a chuckle become a giggle become a chortle become a laugh!

And, if that doesn't work. . . start small.  Check out Donald O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh" routine from Singin' in the Rain.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't Let it Pass Unnoticed

Spring is here.  In case you hadn't noticed, the birds have returned.  They twitter and chirrup and flutter about in my back yard, hop-hop-hopping from one corner to another, fluttering up unexpectedly.  Over the top of the fence they go and down again like a clean sheet blown from the clothesline to land on the neighbor's lawn.  Or, hadn't you noticed?

The forsythia, dogwood, tulip tree, privet, tulips, crocus, daffodils, and redbuds are brilliant along house fronts and curbs, ringing around the bases of trees and adorning walkways.  I am anxious to take off my shoes and feel the grass underfoot again, soft and tender and cool; I want to walk across it in a slow zigzag and then loop around the tree, feeling the bark rough and wonderful under my hand.

I want to breathe it in, drink it up, give myself over to its luxury.  I envy my little dog - she is so close to it all.  The ant hill I may trample is not beneath her notice; she can chase a squirrel and not look a bit silly; she can stick her nose down into the grass to discover its scent and register the fragrance of the dirt.  She can taste the rainwater that's collected in a low spot on the walkway without fear.

But, I must find my own ways to mark the season.  To admire it, embrace it, celebrate it.  I have no intention of letting a bit of it pass unnoticed.  Spring is a poem sprung to life, God's coloring book, a grace note in the orchestration of seasons.  It is feathers and fancy and freedom and finery.  It is lace and luxury and lingering and love.  Oh, let it be spring!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Love Potion #?

In the comic opera L'Elisir d'amore ( The Elixir Of Love) much of the humor is derived from the supposed existence of a powerful love potion. Of course the mixture is phony and only as effective as the faith of the believer. Yet this is a popular theme in stories, second only to perhaps the fountain of youth, and many even today persist in relying on a so-called "love potion."
The slow food crowd would probably lean toward some variety of tea as their beverage of choice. There's something to be said for drinks such as hot cocoa during certain seasons of the year. Those of the health persuasion might select a vitamin water. Of course there are always advocates of something in the alcohol line.
But for Shellie and I, our magic potion would have to be coffee. Woven into the fabric of our day are steaming mugs of java. In fact our day usually begins when I wake Shellie with her first cup. Then we sit together with more coffee over breakfast and still another cup if time permits. As she goes out the door for work, Shellie has her to-go mug.
We've had many deep discussions and solved myriad problems around the table set with cups of coffee. Because good coffee is always hot, it makes it necessary to sip, pause, and perhaps think before speaking. I believe this has often kept us from haste that might later be regrettable. For us, coffee slows us down, makes us concentrate on the time at hand, and ultimately draws us together. Our long standing "place" continues to be the Mudhouse. There, even in the buzz of commotion, we can find time for each other. In such a crowded, hurried world, only a true magic potion could do that.