Father, I know — theoretically — that both pumpkins and grandsons grow. But OMG, this big? REALLY??
Father, thank You for interior decorators, for those who beautify so many inside spaces for us. But, OMG, how thankful I am that You are the Master Exterior Decorator — and You do it all for free!
The calendar gap spanning Halloween and Thanksgiving gives me that between-holidays feeling.
Many, craving Christmas, skip it.
Me? I want to slow down. With no more scary skulls, spider webs and zombies, why not continue the fun of pumpkins, cute scarecrows and gorgeous leaves?
Another cause for celebration: colder weather brings comfort food — though the official Comfort Food Day is December 5. Do holiday authorities really think I’ll wait that long for chicken and noodles?
Fortunately, this influx of calorie-rich food is accompanied by baggy sweaters, lifesavers until New Year’s resolutions ruin everything.
Not all between-holiday positives are unhealthy. Though the growing season is finished, carrots, still residing in our garden, will bless our table. Tomatoes and peppers rescued from frost glow in golden and red splendor before patio doors. Why my parents ripened garden produce on paper grocery sacks, I don’t know. But following suit recalls their love of autumn and determination not to let food go to waste.
Rescue efforts during this between season include the migration of shivering, potted plants from porches to places inside. For plant lovers like me — and my longsuffering husband — this can prove challenging:
Me: I can’t let this begonia freeze. It started blooming again. My zinnias. My herbs —
Husband: How many pots have you brought in?
Me: So far, only 37.
Hubby: Where will you put them? What will we do with them at Thanksgiving? You know Tate [our toddler grandson] loves plants.
Me: Let’s hide them in our room.
Hubby: (resignedly) Gives a whole new meaning to “flower bed,” right?
Sadly, this between season doesn’t preclude yardwork. Not only should I trim perennials and compost withered annuals, but thousands of leaves wait to pounce on us. No raking deadlines are etched in stone, but this must be accomplished by Thanksgiving, right?
As should major indoor cleaning. My chaotic office — drafted as a “spare bedroom” during the holidays — couldn’t provide overnight accommodations for a visiting chihuahua. Our neglected home dictates a major cleanup. However, we have six grandsons, ages 3 to 15. Given Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings, why would anyone possessing a brain cell perform such an exercise in futility?
I, too, have shifted to pondering the holiday season. Thoughts of cooking, shopping and wrapping cram my mind like too many ornaments on a gaudy Christmas tree.
Friends who are aliens already have completed shopping and wrapping. They’ve designed and frozen perfect cookies for Santa — plus enough for the entire state of Indiana.
But I still sip pumpkin spice lattes when I can find them. Savor that rare, soon-to-vanish feeling of having some money.
Let’s enjoy between-holidays feelings while we can.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you in a hurry for Christmas?
This post first appeared on October 11, 2017.
My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, read James Whitcomb Riley poems, along with other Hoosier literature, after noon recess every day.
She brought poems and stories to life in a way that made my ears and mind tingle.
However, she enforced “rest time.” We had to lay our heads on our desks while she read, an indignity that smacked of kindergarten naptime. After all, we were nine-year-olds, soon to reach double digits.
We didn’t need any dumb rest time.
Decades later, I realized that after policing a playground resembling a crash derby without cars, then facing a similar classroom scenario, she might need the break.
Not all of Riley’s poems topped my “favorites” list. Braver classmates asked Mrs. Baker to read “Little Orphant Annie.” Why did they like those repeated references to “gobble-uns” that would get us if we didn’t shape up?
I already slept with my knees near my shoulders to avoid giant spiders lurking at the foot of my bed. Adding gobble-uns to my nighttime freak-out list didn’t induce much sleep.
Even more frightening, Little Orphant Annie had to do lots of housework.
The James Whitcomb Riley poem I liked best was “When the Frost Is on the Punkin,” which celebrates autumn in Indiana. That poem tasted good, like tangy cider, and still does:
“But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”
However, James Whitcomb Riley never would have received an A on a grammar test. He would have been the very first down in a spelling bee.
Mrs. Baker and other teachers deluged us with homework, tests and even demerits to ensure my classmates and I spoke and wrote correctly.
Yet my teacher read us his poems almost daily.
Grown-ups never made sense.
Despite my confusion, James Whitcomb Riley’s magic sang in my head and heart. A Hoosier like me, he wrote about the land and life I knew and loved. He instilled pride into us for who we were — kids in a country school in a county where farmers helped feed a nation and the world.
His poems still resonate with me, especially on a crisp, fall Indiana morning with a shimmer of silver on my lawn, and gold, russet and scarlet leaves flying in the chilly, sunny breeze. James Whitcomb Riley still reminds me of all I cherish in my native state.
Even if he didn’t know how to spell.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did your childhood teachers read to you? What was your favorite read-aloud story or poem?
This post first appeared on October 4, 2017.
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So, I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees solely so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
All mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
Apple trees, however, awaken my laid-back senses. Loaded with plump fruit, they tempt me to borrow just a few.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots — their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both . . . in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects and, on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?
O Lord, I don’t need a newsflash to realize I’m past the green-leaf season of my life. I blossom only in ways and places I don’t want to. But thank You that our autumn years do not have to be blah. OMG, really? These can hold the richest colors of our lives?
O Lord, it’s that time of year in Indiana when summer and Indian summer engage in a polite tug of war. Windows open or shut? Air conditioning or heat? Ceiling fan or extra blankets? Though when it comes to falling temperatures, OMG, the seasons might prove more polite than we are.
O Lord, part of me longs for the return of autumn’s regular schedules and button-down “Let’s do this!” Not to mention, pumpkin pie and hot cider.
But OMG, when crazy August’s heat wears on me, please remind me that ice cream and other summer delights don’t.
O Lord, I love Christmas, with its sparkly red and green. But OMG, can’t we enjoy orange a little longer?
O Lord, You know that as a tall middle-schooler, I sneaked Mom’s coffee, trying to stunt my growth. Gag! It tasted awful! Yet decades later, a steaming mug of coffee blesses my day. OMG, maybe Your gifts to us are often an acquired taste?