Tag Archives: Family

The Vase



The bell above the door jingled.  They stepped over the threshold and into the shop.

“Get whatever you like,” Walter said cheerily.  “I’m good for it.”  He wanted to give her a special gift for her birthday, and he knew she loved flowers.

A smile lit up Hazel’s face.  Her eyes sparkled as they flitted from flower to flower before resting momentarily on an apricot mum.  This is it. So full and beautiful.  Her hand reached out and her fingers gently grasped the stem as she gently pulled the chosen flower from the bucket.  Continuing, appraising flower after flower, she considered the size, color, shape, and texture of each. The bouquet in her arms grew.

Shyly, she turned to Walter.  He nodded.  Years of marriage made words, at times, unnecessary.

Relief flooded over Hazel’s features.  Then, turning back to the task at hand, she joyfully pulled flower after flower from their buckets and added them to her bouquet-mums, roses, fern, daisies.  The bouquet was glorious.  It’s perfect!  It will set-off the vase perfectly. The vase was beloved because it reminded her of her wedded, far away daughter.

“Get a few more if you want,” Walter said as he looked over at her sunshiny smile.

“No.  It’s perfect.”

Walter and Hazel stepped toward the counter and handed the bouquet over the counter to the middle-aged sales lady.  She took the flowers and began to ring up each flower, chattering all the while.  “That will be $42.83,” she announced finally.

Walter’s eyes grew as big as saucers, and his mouth dropped open.  Hazel turned, eyes wide,  and looked up at Walter.  Without uttering a word, Walter opened his wallet again, pulled out two more twenty dollar bills.  He handed it to the outstretched hand of the clerk.

“Here is your change:  $7. 17,” she said as she handed it to Walter.  Then, wrapping the blooms carefully in white butcher paper, she put them gingerly in a brown paper bag.  “I know you’ll enjoy these for years!  They are beautiful. Isn’t it wonderful how lifelike these flowers are?  Nothing like the plastic ones we used to have,” she added, holding the bag across the counter.

Hazel reached out and grabbed the handles on the bag.  “Thank you.” Then, he and Walter turned and walked out the door.  Walter took the doorknob and pulled the door closed with a click.  Jingle! The bell echoed after them.

Years afterwards, the vase stood prominently on the table in the foyer of my grandparents’ house.  The flowers were as glorious and proud as they were on the day they were purchased.  The story was told and retold so many times that it went down in the annals of family lore.  Sadly, a few years ago, the handle broke off the vase; I haven’t had the heart to throw it away.  (Happily, the vase came to live at my house when my grandparents passed away.)  I still hear my Popa’s rich voice retelling the story and the merry laughter that always accompanied it. I still see the twinkle in my Popa’s eye as he speaks.  I still feel love surrounding me like a warm shawl on a chilly evening every time I see…the vase.


A Vacuum, a Mouse, and a Boy


It’s funny to me to think how long-forgotten memories slog out from my mind like a Creature from the Black Lagoon, emerging from murky waters.  Today,  a conversation-the retelling of a surprised teacher who screamed long and loud when an equally surprised mouse discovered he unintentionally had wandered out of the protection of cover into a big, scary classroom- became a key, unlocking a sequestered, cobwebby memory.  A memory of a vacuum, a mouse, and a boy…

Bong. Bong. Bong.  “Seven o’clock already,” I thought as I rinsed the suds from the boy sitting in three inches of water in the “duck bathroom” tub. “There’s still so much to do.”

“Time to get out,” I said cheerily to Johnny.  

“Mommy, I want to play boats,” came the reply.  “Vrmmm,”  a plastic motor boat swished through the bubbles.

“O.K.  Just a couple more minutes.”

Knowing I had to run the vacuum in the hall outside the bathroom door, I turned and tripped quickly down the stairs to get it.  Opening the door that led into the garage, my hands grabbed the handle of the old “hundred pound” Kirby and pulled it upward.  Klunk!  It landed on the 80s-style gold and brown linoleum in the foyer.  “Darn,” I said to myself, “I forgot to change the bag.”  Bending down, my fingers grabbed the zipper. Zip!  My fingers reached down to pull out the inner vacuum bag.  Suddenly, a startled, small gray mouse flopped ungracefully on the floor.   

“AAAHH!” I screamed, jumping back.

The tiny creature frantically looked around and, lickety-split, tiny mouse feet raced toward the open door.  Out he scurried, into the blackened garage.  

Bang!  I slammed the door shut.

Pitter-patter.  I turned toward the sound.  Down the steps hurried my butt-naked, dripping-wet son. “What the matter?”

“A mouse!  A mouse jumped out of the vacuum cleaner.”

Running toward me, eyes wide, he jumped up into my arms. I could feel his heart pounding a million times per second.  “I protect you, Mommy!” he promised.     

A Little Bit Fit


It all started December 25, 2015.  Christmas morning.

“A Fitbit!  Wow, Davey, thanks.”  One by one my children opened their present from their youngest brother.  They were pumped!  Each had received a Fitbit.  Even I had gotten one, but Santa brought mine.    

Now in our family, everything is a competition.  Who can win at mini-golf?  Who is the tallest?  Who had the fastest time in the 50-yard fly?  Who will win croquet?  Who can burp the ABC’s the best?  So, with the introduction of this best gift ever, a whole new level of competition was about to begin.  If you don’t have a Fitbit, you may not know that you can challenge your “friends” to competitions to see who gets the most steps.  You can invite others  or be invited, to compete in Goal Day, Workweek Hustle,  Weekend Warrior, or Daily Showdown.  Push the accept button, and you are in! On your mark, get set, go!

Well, I am competitive, too, (I wonder where they got it from?) even though I am their mother.  I like to try to stay in shape as much as the next one, but this has gotten more challenging as the years have slipped by.  I used to jog everyday…between pregnancies and sick children and life’s hiccups.  Now there are other challenges.  There is the job change challenge-interventionist/Reading Recovery teacher to Literacy Coach with all the additional training at Ohio State University.  That became a black hole where there was no light or fun or exercise or life for a year and a half. Then, there is the doctor’s challenge, “No more running.  Your knees can’t take it.  Try cycling.”  Now, there is the challenge of slicing.  Slicing sounds easy,  let’s face it, how hard is it to SLICE a piece of cake?  But, stories don’t just bubble out my fingers like water bubbles from a spring.  I have to painstakingly coax the slices out, word by word, sometimes letter by letter.   However, I digress.  

Back to the Fitbit.  I accept these challenges, and I still want to win.  Remember, my kids are all young adults-in college or working.  None have children yet.  Most have more freedom in their days than I do.  But, when I am invited, or invite them, to a Fitbit challenge for the day or week or weekend, I accept. The problem is that they run; I walk.  Classes take them all over campus; meetings keep me in a chair.  They have freedom in their schedules; I don’t.  But, that doesn’t really matter.  In spite of my handicaps, I still want to win the challenges.  I’m “in it to win it” so I am creative in getting a little bit fit.  In the morning, I put on my sneakers and walk to work.  (How do you carry all your teacher gear?  Ha! Ha!  My sweet hubby drives my briefcase and bags to school and drops them off for me!  I know, amazing!)  Even though one way only logs about 1800 steps, it’s better than nothing.  I have taken the doctor’s advice about riding bikes, and now, in summers, my husband and I easily rack up 100 miles a week on our bikes. (The wind in my hair and the “need for speed” is exhilarating!  I’m hooked.)  In the long and dreary winter, spinning is a sloppy second to riding outdoors, but I do it anyway.  The unfortunate Fitbit reality is that spinning doesn’t give me any steps.  Even though I leave class with wobbly legs and sweat-soaked clothes, I don’t earn any  steps.  NOT ONE!   Yoga is the same story. Warrior one, warrior two, up-dog, down-dog, pretzel positions, you name it-nothing.  No steps.  

So what’s a gal to do?  Give up?  No way!  A gal’s gotta get up and go, go, go.  Now, I spin and walk on the treadmill.  Now, it’s yoga and  a walk after school.  Now, I park in the back forty and walk a little farther.  Now, when Nature calls, I go to the bathroom by way of a lap around the school  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get a little bit fit.

By-the-bye, I occasionally win!  My kids are keeping young and a little bit fit.

Sunrise, Sunset



Everyday, the sun rises on beautiful, bright possibilities.  

On one such day, March 11, 1984, before even the sun rose

and greeted the morning, contractions woke me from a fitful sleep.

It’s too early.  Three and a half weeks.  Just false labor. Don’t worry.  

John was worried, “We have to go to the hospital!”

It’s too early.   It’s too early.

But our daughter thought it was just the right time to come!


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?


I held my beautiful baby in my arms, so perfect, so pink.

Little miniature fingers grasped mine.  Tiny toes-ten in all-

wiggled as I tickled them.  Blue eyes, blue like John’s,

Blue like a July sky, looked up at mine, so seriously.  

How can I love someone so deeply that I just met?   

Is this the little girl I carried all these months?


I don’t remember growing older

When did they?


My little “squirt” toddled over to me, a happy grin lighting

her face.  One arm outstretched toward mine, the other

carrying Strawberry Shortcake  by her red hair.  

Then, her little hand in mine.  My mother-heart so full

of love for this little life I thought it would burst.


When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he grow to be so tall?


Is that my darling daughter,

cheerily singing,  singing, singing,


twirling, twirling, twirling around the room?

Is that my darling daughter in her Jasmine pajamas?

Is that my sweet girl giggling her little girl-dreams?


Wasn’t it yesterday

When they were small?


Joyous strains drift out the open window,

float on the summer breeze and

fill the neighborhood with song.  Even the

birds turn to listen.

My heart dances in time to the rhythm of the

refrain of the daughter so dear to my heart.

Who is this girl, this daughter-mine, with

the voice of a nightingale?


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset


Laughter, love, dreams mingling, swirling,

intertwining each day, each moment as my days

are blessed with this daughter-friend.


Swiftly flow the days

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as they gaze

My laughing lassie, sunlight on her chestnut tresses

and stars in her eyes, waves to me.  

Then, with casual  backward glance, turns toward the dorm,

turns toward her life,

the beautiful path unfolding before her.

She joyful, me conflicted: Gladness, sadness, dreams.


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset


A girl with sparkling eyes swiftly crosses the stage,

Her hand reaching out to take her diploma.  

The future a door opening widely before her.


Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears

Tears stream down my face as I hug my dear, dear

girl at O’Hare Airport.  

Am I really telling her that she will be a

wonderful teacher in China?  

Tears in my eyes as I wave good-bye.  

She turning at the security check,

turning with casual backward glance,

with one brief wave and a wobbly smile,

walks into her future.

With a prayer in my heart and tears in my eyes,

I turn toward home.


One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears


Tears stream down my face as I hug my dear, dear

girl at O’Hare Airport.  Am I really hearing that she is

back to stay?  An I really hearing that she is

going to live in Wisconsin?  Am I telling her how proud

I am of all she did teaching in China?

With a prayer in my heart and a tear in my eyes,

we turn to go home-together.


Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset


How swiftly the years have flown! 

How did she become the talented, gifted young

woman of whom I am so proud?

The road is still unfolding into the distant unknown, but

the horizon is bright with the woman dreams in her heart.

How blessed I am!


Happy birthday, dear daughter, dear Emily.


Lyrics from “Sunrise, Sunset”



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Read more: Perry Como – Sunrise, Sunset Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Changing Plans


It is amazing how the day starts out just like any other day and then, bang!  Your plans totally change…

       After a late meeting in Milwaukee, I called my college-aged son, Jimmy, to see if I could buy him food before heading home.  Usually this is a sure-fire way to have one-on-one time with him.  

       A groggy, “Hello,” came over the phone. “What’s up, Mom?”

       “Do you want to go get some food before I head home?  I don’t have a lot of time, but we could drive through somewhere.”

       “Naw, I’m sick again, Mom.”  Jimmy had been sick the week with gastrointestinal flu.  Really sick.  The sick for which a 20-something kid calls his mom and says, “Can I come home?”

       My brows knit together.  “Are you OK?  Do you need anything? Have you kept anything down?”  I could feel the tension growing in my shoulders.

       “Yes, but I haven’t really eaten anything all day.  I’ve just been laying in bed.  It was too far away. I haven’t been able to make anything.”

       “Do you need anything?” I asked.  “You don’t sound very well,” I added,hoping my anxiety wasn’t creeping into my voice.

       “Could you bring me some Gatorade?  Yellow,” he added.

       “Sure,  I’ll run to the grocery and then drive back down to Milwaukee.”  Turning the steering wheel to the right, the car veered onto the exit ramp…

       “Twenty, five, and 47 cents,” the clerk at the Piggly Wiggly said, handing me my change.

        Beep!  Beep!  Beep!  Digging in my purse, my fingers grabbed my phone.  “Hi, Jim.  I’m almost done.  I bought applesauce, bananas, Tylenol, frozen waffles…”  I bought anything I thought a touchy stomach could handle and that was ready-made or easy to make.

       “Mom, can you come get me?” asked his gravely voice.

       “I’ll be there in about 10, 15 minutes.”

        As Jimmy emerged from his apartment doorway, I gasped.  The big, black shadows under his eyes were in sharp contrast to his pasty-white face and red lips.  My heart squeezed in my chest.  Oh my gosh, he looks terrible, way sicker than I thought.  When he was settled in the car, I kissed his forehead.  This is my very reliable mom-thermometer.  He’s burning up.  “You need to take these Advil right now,” I said, handing him his yellow Gatorade and 3 pills.   Swallowing them, he put his head back on the headrest.  In a few minutes, I heard deep breathing.  

So today, putting the dishes in the rack, I thought, “Routines are comforting.  Only, this isn’t a Thursday routine, this is a Saturday routine.”  Instead of a faculty meeting, coaching visits, writer’s workshop, and answering a never-ending string of emails, I am nursing my son, scheduling appointments, chauffeuring to the doctor’s office, picking up prescriptions, and having the blessed opportunity to love up on, to mother, my almost-grown son.
Postscript:  Jim has Influenza A.

Jump Out and Run In


       Jump out and run in.  This could be our family motto.  With six children, 1 dog, 1 cat, and 1 husband, it seems we often are running late-for some reason or another.  It doesn’t help that I like arriving on the dot, not early and not late.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t follow a perfect timetable.  The doorbell rings, someone forgets their backpack, the keys are missing.  Those little last minute interruptions put us a little behind schedule.  Of course, this is not too bad unless other complications occur, such as on-the-way delays.  The light turns red, the traffic is heavier that usual, the gas tank is empty, it starts snowing.  You get the picture.  Murphy’s Law states that the later you are running, the more things will go wrong.  So true.  If we are running ahead of schedule, the lights are all green, the gas tank is full, the sun is shining, and so on.  In spite of cutting it close, I put a high premium on being on time.

However, over the years the following scenario played out over and over again…

Pulling the steering wheel to the left, the car veers into the parking lot. Moving cautiously through the parked cars, the tan-and burgundy Suburban comes to a stop in front of the entrance.  (This could be the Boy Scout House, church, school, a house where a birthday party will be hosted, or wherever.)  Turning my head toward the back seats and with a smile on my lips, I cheerfully call out, “Jump out and run in!”  Doors fly open; passengers pile out like circus clowns out of a VW bug.  A stream of children of varying heights trot up to the entryway.

        As I mentioned earlier, this happened quite often over the years: Arrive in the nick of time,  Jump out and run in,  children racing up to the door.

       Finally one day, my oldest daughter, Emily, declared,  “I just want to get out and walk in!”