Category Archives: Random musings

Changing direction and setting off on a new adventure

I’m pretty sure that Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu had me in mind when he said, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Here’s the thing. I didn’t know where I was heading. I only know that I no longer felt good about wherever I might end up, and it was clear that change was needed. But getting to that point wasn’t easy. It took a lot of reading, reflecting, talking, searching, whining.

And then there was yoga. I entered into that with typical skepticism, not sure whether it would help with calming my racing thoughts. But somewhere along the way, over a period of about nine months, it suddenly occurred to me while focusing on breathing through a pigeon pose, my mind had quieted. The wildly racing ping-pong motion of my mind had stilled.

And that was when I realized I’d settled on making a change. After more than 18 years of working in higher education, it was time to give myself a chance to explore something else, to assure myself of the time and energy I had been lacking so that I could put more of myself into our home-based businesses.

It had been a wonderful 18 plus years, and part of me wondered how I could leave that behind. After all, working with adult students carries with it a certain sense of satisfaction – seeing 40- and 50-year-old working adults realize that they can return to school and earn a degree, and knowing the sense of accomplishment they feel when they walk across the stage at graduation, makes for a very fulfilling career.

So the thought of doing something very different but working in a familiar setting, sparked my interest. Using some of my skills in different ways, and tackling some new challenges was appealing – albeit a bit daunting.

Change is good. Change is hard. Change is scary. Changing direction has become a positive movement and after a short week, that yellow brick building with the beautiful stained glass windows already feels
like home.

And as one of my students said, “… it is time to open the next chapter of your life!”

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Whether from the Atlantic or Sea of Galilee, shells produce sense of tranquility

Long before cell phones, there was my dad’s conch shell. He knew how to blow through the hole at the end to produce a very loud, distinct sound that would call us home from wherever we were playing.

That shell and Dad’s love for all ocean life instilled in me a similar love for shells and the ocean. But living in Ohio, far from the ocean, it’s often difficult to remember the peacefulness that comes from an early morning stroll on a deserted beach, bag in hand, eyes on the sand, in a search for the perfect shell.

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It helps to surround myself with those shells in various locations around the house and in a small glass jar of sand in my office. photo(14)

 

 

 

 
But my most recent shell acquisitions have a special meaning. While others have come from various vacation spots on the eastern shores of the United States, these come via a friend serving with Christian Peacemaker Teams. He found them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the largest freshwater lake in Israel, located near the Golan Heights. photo(13)
Though every shell looks different, and though some originated in a place of great renown and others on obscure beaches, each has its own beauty and produces the same sense of calm and tranquility.

 

 

 

Letting go: Saying goodbye to an old friend

Two days before Christmas we said a sad goodbye to an old friend. Truthfully, it was really just me who was sad. No one else seemed even mildly perturbed.

But really. She’d been a part of our family since 1997, carried loads of kids to various locations; created peace on long trips with each daughter claiming her own seat; later ferried clothing, furniture, and other items necessary for college apartments; and trucked leaves, branches, and weeds to the local dump.

She was an apple-red Dodge Caravan with seats as comfortable as a favorite recliner. Despite her age and nearly 200,000 miles, she was still as shiny as the day we’d picked her up.

0226121329_0001But with more replacement parts than original ones, she began making noises that suggested she was in need of yet another repair. Around Thanksgiving, she sprung a leak, and left puddles of antifreeze on the driveway.

Our local mechanics who’d babied her along for the last few years finally delivered the bad news. It was, they informed my husband, time to stop putting money into her.

For a few weeks, though, we were in denial, or maybe it was just me who was  me who was in denial. A large jug of antifreeze became a permanent fixture in the car…in case of emergency.

While I dragged my feet, hanging on to Red and my memories, my husband began the search for an appropriate used car. With some wheedling, he convinced me to test drive first a Honda Civic and then a Toyota Camry. In the end, the Civic won out.

On Dec. 23, we took a final drive in the van, ending at its final destination — the auto recycling center. But before we weighed it and let the attendant take over, we had an important task. I needed a memento. Turns out it’s pretty easy to pop off the radio controls.

photo(12)Oddly, black dials conjure up a CD of 16 years of memories. If I turn them just right, those memories keep playing loud and clear.

Sights, sounds, and colors of fall

What was with that whacko weather last Saturday? If — like me — you live in Northwest Ohio (or happened to be visiting), you were probably wondering whether you’d been teleported ahead or back to March. It was cold (30s and 40s), windy (40 mph gusts), and dreary. The vendors at the final farmers’ market of the season were bundled up in parkas and the customers zipped through their shopping. But..to make up for it, Sunday arrived in full fall bloom — one of those beautiful crisp, sunny days that are the perfect setting for the gorgeous changing colors of the trees.

tree

Saturday’s long run was a battle with the elements — with the wind, it was fine, but against the wind, not so fine. As if to make up for that, Sunday was the perfect day for a long walk. At the     quarry, we were entertained by the usual ducks and — surprise — two herons in the same location!heron2

heronUnlike Saturday’s run, today’s was perfect — clear, calm and starry — with the smell of fall in the air.

Early morning runs in a small town are usually quiet with limited traffic. But in late October the quiet is often interrupted by the sound of farm tractors pulling wagon loads of corn to the local elevator. Here is one of today’s early arrivals — I suppose an eery site to those unaccustomed to rural life.

photo (10)This guy was one of only two farmers waiting for the elevator to open this morning, but a few weeks ago, the picture was different. The line was long and moving slowly. No one seemed antsy or in a hurry — clearly, they were happy for the chance to talk.

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Weekend sightings: snapping turtle, geese and — maybe — blackberries

Yesterday before the onslaught of rain arrived, the water in the creek near our house was still low enough to see whatever creatures were swimming. That’s when I saw a HUGE snapping turtle, his lumbering body swimming upstream. Of course, I had no camera, not even my iPod, but the body (not including the neck and head) was roughly the size of the horseshoe crab I found on Tybee Island earlier this summer.IMG_0514[1]

Later we went by to see if he might be hanging around but the creek was full of muddy, rushing water. We did see a cute little frog who appeared to be riding the rapids on his back.

Today, I was ready with my iPod. No turtle, but the geese that hang out at the local quarry seemed to tolerate my presence far longer than usual. One of them began a halfhearted attack but even he seemed to agree that a Sunday morning stalemate was called for. Phew. Hissing geese can be a little scary!
IMG_0162[1]IMG_0163[1]
Leaving the geese to hiss at the next innocent passerby, I headed off to check on my blackberries. Here’s the thing. They’re not really mine and I’m not really sure if they’re blackberries. Are they black raspberries? I’m not sure…maybe someone out there can identify these for me. They grow wild on low-growing bramble bushes and are just slowly turning black.
Oddly, I’ve never like raspberries or blackberries until recently when I discovered some wild patches  on one of my running routes. I brought some of the raspberries home and my husband — who likes them — was hesitant to eat them. I think he thought I was trying to poison him.
Anyway, last year I decided to try the blackberries, which are huge and tart. I love to eat them off the bush — especially when I’m really thirsty on a hot, sweaty run.
So…who knows what these are? Please tell me!
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Three men and a lawnmower

Guess what happens when you pair a nurse anesthetist, a lawyer, and a journalist with a lawnmower whose adjustable wheels have a mind of their own. Surgery.

I’m serious. I know this because I witnessed this in action. One minute, there’s said journalist happily trotting around the backyard, creating neat rows of mowed grass.  The next minute? Silence. No mower engine to be heard.

At first, I ignored the silence. After all, I was busily working away in my sewing room, hoping the funny sounds from my serger didn’t mean another trip to the fix-it shop. Besides, the mower started back up pretty quickly. And stopped again just as quickly.

After about 10 minutes of these fitful stops and starts, I peeked out the window. There were the journalist and the lawyer crouched over the now-silent and upturned mower. A few minutes later, the nurse anesthetist  — black bag in hand — joined them.

Here’s the problem. My little voice told me to stay out of this. But then, I’ve never been very good at listening to my little voice. By the time I got outside, the three of them were on their way to the anesthetist’s shop where, they informed me, they would be performing some sort of surgery on the wheel lever.

At first, there were just two heads bent over the mower….IMG_0478[1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and then there were three….IMG_0480[1]

 

 

 

 

 
And then somehow, as if by magic, the surgery was over and the journalist happily trotted off to level off the grass. The other two? Deliriously happy at having been able to perform a successful procedure, they retreated to their respective shops to take on the next project.

The journalist is a lucky guy to have two such good friends with mechanical expertise.

 

What tennis golf and spring have in common

Yep. Spring is here. Skeptics will argue the point that this can’t be true because of the weather — snow flurries one day, 60 degrees and sunny the next, tornado watches another day, and so much rain that even the ducks are complaining.

And yes, all that is true. But really, aren’t those all just signs of spring…at least in Ohio?

But here’s the thing: I work at a university and there is one sure sign of spring that overrides all others. The tennis golfers are out in full force. That resounding THWACK of the ball being smacked across the campus green, followed by cheers of “FORE! clearly suggests one thing: spring has sprung. That and the fact that you might want to wear protective headgear.

There are, of course, other sure signs….

Flowering pear tree

Flowering pear tree

Hellebores

Hellebores

Miniature daffodils

Miniature daffodils

Hyacinths

Hyacinths

Parsley survived the winter!

Parsley survived the winter!

Early morning sun glinting on the National Quarry

Early morning sun glinting on the National Quarry

Peach-center daffodils

Peach-center daffodils

Lovage

Lovage

Peacefulness of early morning runs marred by thoughts of violence

In 35 years of running, my early morning runs have provided me with much time to think, to pray, to meditate, to plan, to talk (and not just when I have a running partner because who better than oneself to talk to), and to completely lose myself in memories.

Tuesday morning’s run was in many ways like every other run. The early morning quiet was welcome, broken only by birdsong and the occasional car passing by. But the peacefulness of the early hour was marred by conflicting thoughts of sorrow and anger as memories of the horrendous bombing at runnersMonday’s Boston marathon.

As I ran, I reflected on all of the finish lines I’ve crossed, happy in knowing that my family was often waiting to cheer me on. It never once occurred to me that I could be putting them in danger, that there might be someone angry enough at the world that he or she would set off a bomb at a road race.

Even as this thought crossed my mind, a distant rumble of thunder broke into my reverie, sending chills down my spine. It reminded me of the old lady in “Under the Tuscan Sun” who agrees to sell her crumbling villa when a bird defecates on Frances’ head. “Le signe, le signe!”

If that thunder clap was a sign, it was perhaps more a sign that we all need to remember that we Americans aren’t the only ones facing acts of violence every day. Even as the bombs exploded in Boston, there were about 20 separate car bombings in Iraq that killed at least 37 and injured more than 140 people, all in one day.

I’m reminded of a statement by a cousin — “We are not alone in our grief.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/16/world/middleeast/attackers-strike-across-iraq-as-elections-approach.html

In the weeks to come, those early morning runs will serve to remind me of our shared grief the world over. I’m sure I won’t be alone in my thoughts.race

 

 

 

 

With 3/5ths in their 60s, we’re still just Mary and the boys

As my family’s “middle child” turns 60 today, 3/5ths of us are in their seventh decade. That leaves two of us still in the baby stages of the 50s. This, of course, is of no special significance except to we five and maybe to our mother. I sometimes wonder if she looks at us and thinks we’re still just kids. After all, she still refers to my four brothers as “the boys.” Which, of course, they are. Boys.me and the boys

For some reason, I don’t remember my parents turning 60. It must not have been a big deal because we didn’t have any major parties. There was no sobbing, no gnashing of teeth. Life just carried on except Dad may have baked cinnamon rolls for his students and Mother may have given her students extra stickers.

As far as I know, none of my brothers have had big whoop-de-doo parties on their 60th. Does that make us boring? Or does that mean we don’t put great stock in celebrating? My husband would say — not unkindly — that we aren’t sociable.

So…just to prove him wrong, I have big plans for 2016, which will be my year. I’m having a pool party at the local swimming hole. And my big brothers had better be there because there will be a giant ice cream cake roll. Because that is what our mother made us every year for our birthdays.

My mother? I have no doubt she’ll still be around and she’ll still be referring to us as Mary and the boys. NFS_0184After all, we’re still just kids.

 

What questionable leftovers have to do with being buried “in straight lace shoes”

My husband and I have a recurring conversation when we eat a leftover that is a bit past its time or if we are about to have a medical procedure we think we may not survive. Actually, I’m the only one who worries about not surviving the medical procedures but that’s probably because I’ve had more experience with those…like emergency surgeries.

Anyway, this is how the conversation starts:

“If I die, do you promise to…?”

Okay, so I admit it’s a bit morbid, but we share a rather warped sense of humor and sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps us sane. The upside of this is that we both usually end up laughing so hard we forget why we were worried in the first place.

Last night, we were each fixing something for supper. He held out some potatoes and asked if I thought they were safe to eat. They were a little on the green side, which I always thought meant they weren’t really ripe. Still, they weren’t sprouting and they looked okay when he cut them, so we figured they were okay. Just to be on the safe side, I posed the “What do you want me to do if you die?”

His response was classic. “Dress me in straight-laced shoes.”

After 33 years, you’d think I’d have heard all of his responses, but this was a new one. He caught my doubtful expression and (acting stunned) said, “C’mon, you know that one, don’t you? You know (cue the trumpets)…The St. James Infirmary?”

He knows perfectly well that I did not grow up on the jazz music that he did. So our supper prep morphed into a quickie lesson on yet another Louis Armstrong  classic…”I went down to St. James Infirmary, saw my baby there, sat down on a long white table, so sweet, so cold, so fair…When I die I want you to dress me in straight lace shoes…

I must have looked completely clueless, because he insisted on playing the song for me. I mumbled something about it sounding like one of those New Orleans jazz funeral marches, which apparently is exactly what it was.

Seems I have learned something after 33 years of listening to his jazz lectures. Oh and by the way, no one died from eating the potatoes.

Curious enough to hear the real thing? Here you go…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-hIplBbiCc