Monthly Archives: May 2010

Random thoughts about raising daughters

Oh my. It occurred to me this morning while walking with my oldest daughter, that she’ll turn 28 on her next birthday. We’ve had countless discussions during our walks over those 28 years. Our walks have morphed from the early practice of taking along a bag in which to carry the treasures she found along the way, to cautioning her to stop at the next intersection and not cross the street until I caught up, to our present-day routines of walking as fast as possible.

The important thing, though, is the conversation. Which, as I understand, is something many parents don’t do often enough with their children. Maybe they don’t have the time, or don’t take the time,  or think they have nothing to talk about. An old friend once told me he hoped he would someday have the same kind of relationship with his daughters than I have with mine. I just wanted to say to him that it’s all about respecting his daughters and encouraging them to be individuals. If they make choices that differ from what he wants them to make, he shouldn’t criticize them. Don’t expect perfection. Let them make mistakes and allow them to learn from them. And tell them how much he loves them and is proud of whatever they do. I don’t think I said any of that. I’m not sure he’d have gotten it.

My friend, JP, and her daughter were weeding my garden recently, when she came into the house to tell me how much fun she was having. It wasn’t about the weeding. It was about the conversation that the two of themf had; she didn’t give any details but simply said how much she had learned from her college-age daughter while they worked side by side.

This is something I learned long ago. If I want to really engage in a conversation with one of my daughters, I have to find some alone time with her. The interesting stuff really comes out when you’re doing something together like walking or gardening. Don’t interrupt. Just let them talk. Don’t laugh at them, but laugh with them. If they say things that shock you, let them keep talking…keep the criticism to yourself.

Admit your own mistakes. Come on, you made them. You know you did. As they grow into adulthood, you have to treat them as such. They’ll appreciate knowing you weren’t perfect and did some silly things along the way. Do things with them even if you have other plans.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, my husband’s office pool of OSU games produced for him the tickets of the decade: the OSU-Michigan game when they were 1 and 2. I was finally going to go with him — he’d always taken the girls to those games. We were in the car with our youngest daughter when she asked if he still wanted to go to the Doo-Wop show of some of their favorites (i.e., The Drifters), and then named a date. Same date as the game. Suffice to say that he sold the game tickets at a hefty profit. We went to the concert.

Moral of the story: Listen to your kids. Really listen.

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Bicycles R Us

Some families have lots of cars and a few bikes. We have lots of bikes and one car. Well, technically we have three cars but two of them have decamped for Kent and Cincinnati. In the worst of winter, we have to shuffle the bikes to make room for the car which most of the time resides in the driveway.

We (technically, just I) ride a bike year round — when possible. The other person in this house is more of a fair-weather rider. So when fair weather arrives, we begin the ceremonious “opening of bike season”.

This is a bigger deal than you might think. For starters, we begin pulling them out for inspection. Suddenly, it occurs to both of us that it is entirely possible we have acquired too many bikes so we speculate on what to do. This is where the arguments start. Which to get rid of? Which to keep?

Understand that I am protective of my bikes. So what if I can only ride one at a time and quite honestly, I really only use two of them anymore. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to pitch them. So…here we go with another list…

Bike number 1: My Suntour recumbent trike. This is a no-brainer. It stays.

Bike number 2: Dad’s 12-speed Concord. It stays because it is now the husband’s. In fact, we finally got it fixed and it’s rideable. The bike guys couldn’t figure out how to fix it because a part wasn’t available. Then a salesman walked in…turns out he knows exactly what to do. A whack to the gear something-or-other and bingo! It’s fine.

Bike number 3: Anne’s old mountain bike, which is in mint condition but is too small. She says it feels like she’s sitting on the ground. Needs a new home. Somehow it just hasn’t found a new owner.

Bike number 4: This is a found object. It’s a faded blue 10-speed of indeterminate origin. This is also the product of my bad habit of finding things. We saw it propped up against a power pole along the road when we trekked the National Quarry trail. It looked sad and forlorn. It also had a set of red mesh LL Bean panniers attached to its rack. Which I wanted. So we took it. Some well-worded cursing accompanied the detachment of the panniers.

Bike number 5: Another of my dad’s bikes. Apparently, he shared my bike disease.  This is a beautiful turquoise road bike, bought after the 12-speed threw him. It’s a hybrid of Concord frame, Sakae parts and some other brand. Next to my Raleigh 5-speed, it has the best seat for bony butts. This is the one I most hate to part with because it makes me feel closer to my dad. Maybe I can convince one of my brothers to take it.

Bike number 6: The tandem. Every time we ride it I’m reminded of Kate Patterson teaching us “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true…” Of course, I’m also singing to cover up my terror. The husband — he who knows no fear — is in control. As a back seat rider, I have no control. He literally rides by the seat of his pants. Just watch next time. As we careen around corners, that smile on my face? Look closer. It’s a grimace. Still, I have to thank my brother and SIL for giving it to us. James plopped it on the rack of his Volvo sedan, drove through the mountains of VA and West VA, and delivered it to my front door.

Bike number 7 — My Raleigh 5-speed women’s touring bike. Dad bought it used for my mom about 25 years ago. She rode GOBA on it (in her 60s); the sticker is still on the frame. The seat is the cushiest — better than the new gel seats.

Bike number 8 — This is by far my most valued bike — even more so than my beloved recumbent. It’s the vintage 1938 balloon tire, coaster brake cruiser that my grandparents gave my mom on her 16th birthday. There is nothing like a slowwwww cruise around the neighborhood. Very slow. And no, it is not for sale.

There you have it. Bicycle City. The only person who can match me is my neighbor, Mitch, whose wife once begged me not to tell him about another sad, forlorn bike just waiting to be rescued.

So my garage is crowded? In the long run, I figure I’m way ahead of the game, as far as the environment is concerned.

What writer’s block has in common with being tone deaf

Two of my favorite persons called to make sure I was okay because they noticed I hadn’t blogged in awhile. I almost claimed “writer’s block” until I remembered telling my students that there is no such thing. In actuality, I simply haven’t felt inspired. And yes, I know that’s no excuse.

Anyway, telling me that you have writer’s block is like telling my mom that you can’t play piano because you’re tone deaf. It just ain’t gonna fly. Sorry. There is no such thing as writer’s block, just as my mother would say no one is tone deaf.

One can always write something, although it may not make much sense. So, taking my own advice, I began freewriting in my head. This is what I do while I’m running. Problem is I can’t always remember this stuff when I get home.

This time, though, my head was full of random thoughts. Aha, I thought, a list of random thoughts. So…here goes…

1. I’ve seen my husband REALLY angry about five times in 30 years. The first time involved the phone company on the day we moved into our first house. It wasn’t pretty. The most recent outrage occurred during last Saturday’s arts and crafts show, which is his responsibility as Chamber CEO. His explanation is that he’d been up since 5:30 a.m. and 6 hours later, had not yet eaten. Basically, a certain organization chose to air its political agenda during the a & c show, without asking permission or paying a vendor’s fee. Words were spoken, arguments ensued, and the husband’s appetite and mood was shot for the day. Suffice to say that next year’s rules and regulations will guard against this.

2. Chronic pain sufferers should give a TENS unit a try. It might help. Might not, too, but at least you’ll have tried. A word of caution: Do not suddenly increase the strength of the electrical stimulation from 5 to 10 unless you want your hair to stand on end. Trust me on this. Oh yeah, and be sure to turn off the current BEFORE you ask your husband to remove the electrode patches. He’ll be much happier.

3. We were (as usual) late to church on Sunday. As we sped around the corner, I made the astute comment, “We’re late (duh).” The driver’s response was something to the effect of “A thousand years in human time is but a glimpse in God’s time.” Okay, that’s not exactly how he worded it  — and certainly not the correct theological reference but you get the idea. The last time I was recognized for my Biblical memorization skills was in 6th grade and that was LONG ago. (Minor factoid: I still have the plaque I earned for that from Dick and Corrinne Boehr.)

4. Sometimes I ask silly questions. Well, at least I think they’re silly. Like, for example, what color are the yolks of blue chicken eggs? I got a blue one recently from my friends, Elizabeth and Ray, and discovered that the yolk is yellow. For some reason, I thought it might be different, so I asked my SIL, who raises chickens (and ducks, goats, turkeys — but that’s a different blog). She laughed at me (which she can do, because I love her). But still. Didn’t you ever wonder what color robin’s egg yolks are? My husband claims that he and his brother once fried a starling egg. It stunk. I still don’t know what color the yolk was.

5. I get to have another MRI this week. That part doesn’t bother me — open, closed, whatever — it’s a good excuse for a nap. But what bothers me is my insurance company and their tendency to do the usual runaround with prior approval which, as it turns out, is not required. But it took them five days to determine that. Go figure.

 6. Online shopping has it’s advantages, but yeah, there are obvious disadvantages. Choosing the right size is challenging. This is especially problematic when ordering swimsuits. Which, as any woman knows, is just not fun. My husband doesn’t get this. He thinks I’m the only person who orders multiple sizes and then returns the ones that don’t fit. Heck. I’m going to send him four houses east to talk to Mary Edmiston. She’ll set him straight.

So now you know what kind of random thoughts race through my mind. Tell me about yours. I know you have them.

It takes a passel of women to raise a child

In some corners of the world, it takes a village to raise a child. In my world, it takes a whole passel of women — pseudo moms to my daughters. Yes, I know I’m their mom and technically, I am the one who raised them. Okay, sure, their dad had a little to do with it. But it’s Mother’s Day. He’ll get his own day in June.

So okay, today is Mother’s Day and since I’m a mom, I’m celebrating. But I’m also keenly aware that there are a lot of women I should be thanking today for their contribution to my daughters’ lives. Without those women, they’d never have become the hard-working, caring, socially responsible young women that they are.

Reflecting on this thought during my morning trek around town, a list of names began to form in my mind. Lists are dangerous — one always forgets someone important. But still. A list is the easy way out. So here goes.

1. My mother. Grandma P. spent countless hours with the girls — beginning in their pre-school years — teaching them to play piano. Under her patient instruction, they learned to read music, whole steps and half steps, sharps and flats, notes and beats. She introduced them to classical music, but encouraged them to play whatever they wanted — including the popular stuff they sometimes preferred. And when their lessons were over, she helped them sew and bake surprises for us.

2. My mother-in-law, Grandma S. retired from her nursing career to care for the girls so we could work. She read to them, sang them to sleep, made sure their favorite snacks were ready when they got home from school, and proved that even octogenarians can be feminists.

3. Babysitters. There were a lot of them over the years, like Jane Amstutz and Brenda Byers — busy moms with their own children. For the most part, though, they were high school and college students. Like Caroline (Kruse) Dawson, who gave her entire set of Barbie blow-up furniture to the girls — Anne was convinced she had the best collection in the world because it was vintage.

4. Reema Bazzy. Their “godmother”. (Yes, I realize Mennonites don’t have godmothers but if we did, Reema would be it.) Reema introduced the girls to the international world, making sure they spent time with her college friends — Pramesh was a favorite. Like Grandma S., she represents feminism and individuality at its best. When Reema took off for her first law position, she made sure her two sisters — Lubna and Adla — would keep the Steiner girls on track.

5. Teachers. There were so many, beginning with Mrs. Jordan in nursery school — she of unending patience and kindness. Mrs. Jacoby, Mrs. Ault, Mrs. Riffle, Mrs. Garmon — all of whom shared one common trait — each recognized from her own parenting experiences that sisters are very much different, and made every effort to encourage each one to follow her own path.

6. Susie Stratton. Our connection goes way back to pre-child days. Susie was my own mentor when she was my so-cool resident advisor during college. When we had boyfriend problems, it was she who taught us a song that put men in the proper perspective. So when the girls were ready for their first real jobs, there was no one I’d trust more that Susie. She mentored them, introduced them to marketing, retail, and the importance of knowing one’s product. More importantly, she listened to them. And worried about them. Still does, I imagine.

So there you have it. I could keep going but if I do, Mother’s Day will be but a blip on the horizon when I finish. Suffice to say…it does take a passel of women to raise a child.

Honey milk balls: good-for-you sweets

Kids aren’t the only ones who balk at eating something new if you tell them it’s good for them. Adults are pretty much the same way. In fact, we (the elders) can be downright suspicious about new foods.

Of course, we like to blame that on our parents, who we claim “made” us eat cooked spinach because it tasted yummy and because it was good for us. Note to kids: This is a lie. No parent — at least none with whom I am acquainted — ever forced a child to eat cooked spinach because (a) they also did not like it; or (b) they wanted to save it all for themselves because for some unfathomable reason, they really did like it.

That brings us to liver. And yes, I do realize there is little connection between liver and spinach, aside from the fact that both are sources of iron. Most kids — no, make that most humans — do not like liver and cannot be enticed to try it no matter how many onions are smothering it.

Here’s the thing. I love liver.  In fact, I requested it for my birthday dinners, which is why my brothers were often absent those evenings. They conveniently developed the one-hour flu. Unfortunately, while liver not only is a good source of iron, it also ranks way up there on the cholesterol scale. My daughters are still thanking my doc for having discovered my high cholesterol before I subjected them to liver.

Before I lose you, let me make my point. Food should not only taste good, it should look appealing. Ah, and yes, it should have some redeeming value. About 30 years ago, I received my first copy of Doris Janzen Lonacre’s More With Less Cookbook (Herald Press). Hidden among its pages of amazing recipes is one for Honey Milk Balls.

The name itself is intriguing. Honey and milk in a ball? How is that possible since both are (somewhat) liquid forms. But they’re delicious. Kids love them. Adults love them. I was reminded of this again when I made them for my adult students. All I had to say was peanut butter and they were snatched up.

The ingredients are honey, peanut butter, powered milk and oats. That’s it. No baking, no cooking. Mix, stir and roll into little balls. Kids love to make them because kids love any reason to get their hands into something mushy. Adults not so much.

High in protein, fiber and calcium, they are actually good for you. They’re easy to make. What more could you want? Aside from a bigger bowl to make a triple recipe. Get a big one. You’re going to need it.

Honey Milk Balls
1 c. oats
1 c. powdered milk
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
Mix in a large bowl (you may have to finish the mixing with your hands, which is okay because you can just lick your fingers. Form into small balls and eat. If you don’t eat them right away, store them in an airtight container.

Victory finds sweet victory at the trout derby

Raymond Victory arrived at Bluffton’s annual trout derby at 8:15 a.m. — much later than usual, but still nearly six hours before the 2 p.m. starter’s gun would sound. He was carrying two poles — one with which to fish, the other to lay on the ground to stake off his three-foot section on

Raymond Victory

the quarry’s bank.

As the derby began, Victory announced to those nearby: “That guy (the number one tagged trout) is in this area. One of us will catch him.” Victory was joking, but just 15 minutes later, that joke turned into reality.

Victory felt a catch as his pole bent a bit, so reeled in his line. He’d left his reading glasses at home, but thought he saw the number “1” on the tag. To be certain, he asked a guy sitting nearby to read the number. “Congratulations,” said the other fisherman.

Knowing that the prize for his catch could increase over the next few hours — it’s based on a raffle — Victory waited another hour before reporting in with his tag. His prize amounted to more than $1,000. But for Victory, that was just money. As far as he was concerned, he was celebrating much more.

A native of Bluffton, Victory has been fishing the derby since childhood. He and his brothers would sell bait in the morning and when they sold out, they’d head over to fish. For him, it was a way to spend the day with his brothers — especially his older brother, Jim.

In November, Jim asked Victory to take him shopping to buy a new pole. They returned home with a Shakespeare Ugly Stik, a favorite of the Victorys because of the pole’s flexible bend.

Sadly, Jim died in January. His wife gave the pole to Victory, knowing it would be in good hands. It is the pole with which Victory caught his prizewinning trout.

“Jim was with me today,” says Victory, a smile crossing his face.

After catching the trout, he continued to fish but purely for the pleasure of the sport. In fact, a little boy fishing nearby kept tossing his line over Victory’s. His mother apologized repeatedly for her son’s ineptness.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Nothing’s going to ruin my day,” said Victory. Later, he realized the boy was not catching any fish, so Victory quit fishing to give him a better chance.

Asked what he intended to do with his prizewinner, Victory laughed. When he caught it, he pulled out the tag and threw the fish right back into the water. “It was still alive and looked pretty good.”

From tricycle to tricycle, coming full circle

Recumbent travel

New Year's Day 2009

Technically, we own three cars. All three are paid off. Each one has at least 130,000 miles on it. Oddly, each one looks much younger than its age and mileage might suggest — especially considering that for the most part, they have lived their lives outside our garage. Today one lives in Cincinnati, one in Kent, and one in Bluffton.

Open the door of our unattached single car garage and you’ll find the reason that the cars sit outside. Bicycles. A lot of them. Too many of them. They outnumber the members of the family. I’m really not sure how this happened, except for the fact that we’ve inherited most of them.

There’s the tandem, a hand-me-down from my brother and SIL, who discovered that tandems don’t work well in the mountains of Virginia. It made the trip from VA to Ohio on the back of a Volvo sedan, and somehow made it in one piece despite the fact that end to end, it was slightly longer than the width of a car lane. We ride it regularly, but that’s another story…the husband is not the most careful rider.

Next to that is a 12-speed Concord touring bike that belonged to my dad. It had a little gear problem recently and we thought it was headed to bike heaven since the guys at the bike shop discovered the part was no longer available. Lucky for us, a salesman showed the guys how to wrangle the thing back into gear. He gave it a kick and it clicked back into place. Or something like that.

One of my favorites — partly because it was my dad’s and partly because I love the turquoise color — is another Concord, this one a fat-tired mountain bike that he bought after wrecking the 12 speed (above). It spent a few years in Kent, but recently returned to join the bicycle brigade.

Hanging from the wall is the little Huffy mountain bike we bought for daughter number 2 in her tween years. It’s now too small for anyone to ride unless a niece or nephew comes to visit.

Parked toward the rear is a somewhat dilapidated but serviceable 10-speed that we found propped up against a telephone pole near the National quarry. After a week of passing it, we decided the owner no longer wanted it, so we rescued it. Here’s the thing. I really didn’t care about the bike — I wanted the LL Bean mesh bike bags that were attached to it. We gave the bike to our then son-in-law-to-be. It’s moving to Cincinnati soon.

You think that’s it? Wrong. There are more. Three more, to be exact. Two of them were gifts from my mother, who had to give up biking. One, a 40-year-old Raleigh 5-speed, joined my mom touring with GOBA about 20 years ago. It’s my favorite, except I can no longer ride it thanks to the stupid shoulder.

The other, an antique balloon tire one-speed cruiser with pedal brakes, was my mom’s gift from her parents on her 16th birthday. That makes it 72 years old. A friend renovated it a few years ago, so it’s now a sporty navy blue with white stripes. It’s not ridden for speed, but for simple pleasure.

Finally, there’s my recumbent tricycle, now my favorite mode of transportation. Which, if you think about it, indicates that I’ve come full circle. I started on a child’s tricycle. Fifty years later, I’ve gone from a trike to a boy’s bike to a women’s 3-speed to a unicyle to countless 10-speeds and now…I’m back on a trike. And what fun it is. Who needs a new car?