Category Archives: family

My first day at college

I went to college for the first time this week. Got really nervous in the car, and was shaking by the time we arrived on campus. Maybe we should have walked – it’s so much more enjoyable. Next time we go in a car, let’s make sure the windows are down so all of us can enjoy plenty of fresh air.

My friend let me hang out while he made phone calls and did other work in his office. I was still pretty wound up and excited, and (being very curious by nature) began nosing around the building. One of his co-workers was especially welcoming and talked to me as though we were old friends; he didn’t seem to mind me wandering in and out of his office.

Just as I was beginning to relax, one of my very best friends showed up. I was speechless, as we hadn’t seen one another for some time. She embraced me warmly and showered me with kisses; I responded with my own affectionate gestures at every opportunity. We went for a short walk to enjoy the autumn sun and stretch our legs before she left for her next class. I had forgotten how beautiful this woman is, and how my heart leaps at the sight of her.

Nothing was on the schedule until mid-afternoon, so I settled into a comfortable corner and closed my eyes. Never really fell asleep, however, as for some reason I felt obligated to go out and meet each person who came into the building.

My friend came back after her class and escorted me to what I assumed was our afternoon meeting. We headed to her dorm instead. I wondered if there might be any concerns about having a male in her room, but she assured me she had checked it out with the residence life staff.

We’d only been in her room a few minutes when she partially undressed and got into bed. She invited me to crawl in with her and I did so without thinking; actually, we’ve done this hundreds of times. I listened to her talk as we snuggled under the covers. We dozed occasionally, each appreciating the warmth of the other’s body. Nothing else happened, and that’s just as well. My breath wasn’t fresh, and I wasn’t particularly well-groomed that day. At dusk she walked me back to my friend’s office where we bid each other a fond farewell.


I’ve been scratching my head over why that day was so baffling and exhausting. I couldn’t make heads or tails of conversations, and can’t really picture myself in classrooms or the library, or handling books and computers, or writing papers or lab reports. There’s a lot to chew on, but at this point I’m not at all sure college life is for me.

Here’s a pic of me with my lady friend:

Odie and LOL


Stupid parents

I have two teenage kids, so couldn’t stop laughing when I saw this on someone’s wall earlier this year:

Tired of being hassled by stupid parents?
Move out, get a job, and start paying all of your own expenses.
And do it now, while you still know everything!

That shoe doesn’t fit all of the time, but it fits like a glove some of the time!

O Christmas tree…

2012 Charlie Brown tree

The last time we brought a fresh Christmas tree into the house, both kids started sneezing their heads off, and stopped as soon as we removed the tree. Since then we’ve had a fake, sneeze-free tree.

This year Susan noticed a Douglas fir in the backyard that was already about ten feet tall. Left on its own, it would become a beautiful, spreading tree completely overwhelming the yard and blocking neighbors’ views. One neighbor planted their Christmas tree years ago; it’s now more than 50 feet tall.

We decided to harvest the tree in back and give the fake one a year off. But when I put it up in the living room, it revealed big bare patches, a heavy circle of spiky branches around the top, and a general lack of the symmetry we usually associate with Christmas trees. It was not beautiful.

We appreciate how Lauren’s taken ownership of getting lights and ornaments on the tree and putting up many of the household decorations in recent years. When she saw this year’s tree, however, she announced that she wouldn’t decorate such an ugly one. When Lauren lobbied for getting out the fake tree, I was ready to deliver a mini-lecture and then argue with her. Thankfully, Susan stepped in to save the day: she suggested that each of us put three ornaments on the tree before watching a movie. How sensible. How thoughtful. How manageable. We did it, and not too long afterward the decorated tree didn’t look quite so bad.

I’m learning to recognize teachable moments when I see them, and this one has to do with more than one way to think about a set of circumstances:

  • It’s the freshest tree we’ve ever had.
  • It’s locally grown.
  • Dad cut it.
  • It’s green – he dragged it all the way home without using a car.
  • It’s a Charlie Brown tree.

That’s this year’s story, and we’re stickin’ with it. And even though we’ve often left our tree up until the twelfth day of Christmas (Jan 6), it’s already down. The kids were sniffling and sneezing (though not as much as before), and none of us were too sorry to get it out the door.

* * * * * * * * * *

Around Christmas we can load ourselves up with expectations for welcoming our perfect families and friends into our perfectly-decorated homes to serve them perfect meals and exchange perfect gifts. But once upon a time, people expected the arrival of a Messiah who would be a conquering hero and a political leader. The Messiah came instead as a baby, the weakest and most dependent of creatures, and there wasn’t even a clean or comfortable place where this little one could be born. I’m beginning to understand that when my expectations are turned inside out or upside down, it may announce the arrival of something bigger and more wonderful than I could begin to imagine.


I plucked this beautiful thing from one of the Momotaro vines in our garden today.  Edgar said it best in Act V, Scene II of King Lear:  “Ripeness is all.”


Daddy’s little girl…

Doesn’t seem like that long ago that we brought her home from the hospital as a baby…   Our friend Nathaniel Solis took these photos.

Plan C

Plan A was not to have a dog.

As a little girl, Lauren became something of an expert on dogs.  She pored over gigantic books from the library, and could rattle off origins and personality traits of species I’d never heard of.  Her powers of persuasion were (and are) formidable, but The Meanest Parents In The World were unyielding in their practicality:  two working adults, two school-age kids, early morning walks, some allergy issues, other responsibilities…  The topic came up now and then but we stayed the course for more than a decade.

Fast forward about ten years.  Lauren (17) and Zack (15) are very good friends with each other.  While she was in France this Spring, we were touched to see how much he missed her.  Zack then started his own research on dogs and made some initial contacts.  He also walks a neighbor’s dog regularly, which creates a credibility problem:  he has more.  Plan B took shape calling for an older, mellow, mostly indoor dog with short hair or no hair.

Plan C arrived a couple of weeks ago in the form of a 1-1/2 year-old Sheltie and Corgi mix.  “Odie” (his formal name is Otis; his really-formal name is Odysseus) is sweet, cute, mellow, and long-haired.  He follows Zack around like a shadow, and their mutual affection is of the classic boy-and-his-dog stuff.

We’ll have to empty the vacuum canister more often, but for a family that resisted a dog for so long, it’s been a pretty smooth transition to loving this little guy.

Making ice cream

Although this happened many years ago, we still laugh every time we recall the story, as we did again last weekend…

Lauren’s first grade class had an end-of-the-year party on the last day of school.  One of the traditions was having ice cream for the kids, and Susan and another mom volunteered to help out.  “We could do something like popsicles,” Susan suggested.  “That’d be simple and easy.”

The other mom was more enthusiastic.  “Let’s not just serve ice cream to the kids.  Let’s have them make it!  That would be more memorable and fun for them.”  The moms had heard about making ice cream in coffee cans, which sounded easy.  It’s just ingredients sealed inside a smaller container and rolling around in a larger one full of ice and rock salt.  They decided that zip-lock bags could accomplish the same thing and eliminate the need to round up that many coffee cans.  Good thinking.

Doubling the zip-lock bags, the outer ones were filled with ice and rock salt, and gallons and gallons of half-and-half were poured into the inner bags with sugar and vanilla.  The kids were seated at their tables and one sealed bag was given to each of them.  No one was left out, and every kid was eager to make his or her own delicious little batch of ice cream.

The moms demonstrated how to hold a bag and how to shake it up and down.  Nothing too complicated.  They explained that when the ice cream was ready, the kids could pour it into bowls and eat it.  OK, kids, start shaking your bags!  Before you know it, we’ll have ice cream.

So much activity!  Isn’t this fun?  Burn off some of that excess energy.  Get their minds off being out of school.  But then kids’ hands started to get cold.  Some of the outer bags leaked and salty ice water ran down the kids’ arms.  And despite considerable shaking, the ingredients only got about as thick as tomato soup.

“My arms are getting tired.”  “How much longer do we have to do this?”  The activity was quickly losing its intended appeal.  Then about six bags burst open, disgorging thin, cold ice cream and ice water in every direction.  Kids were crying.  They were wet and cold from the ice cream eruptions, and salt water was stinging their skin.  When the bell rang, all of a sudden kids were out the door heading for their buses.  What about that ice cream they were supposed to get?  Hey, feel free to lick some up on your way out.  Wow – that’s a fun way to end the school year.

Now it was time to start mopping up the gallons of ice water and soupy ice cream that covered the tables, chairs, and floor.  There were no real towels, only those non-absorbent school paper towels that pushed the mess around.  Just the help the teacher was looking for, especially on the last day of school.  Well, one of the hoped-for goals was realized:  the kids weren’t likely to forget this party.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lessons for the grownups:

Enthusiasm is overrated. The word is derived from the Greek “en theism” (in God).  It means literally “to be inspired by or possessed by a divine presence.”  I greatly appreciate the many gifts that come to us through inspiration, but enthusiasm should probably be taken with a few grains of [rock] salt.

Volunteers are awesome, but you don’t always get the help you need.

Sometimes it’s a good thing when ‘simple’ trumps ‘memorable.’ The wise person is the one who can tell which is which ahead of time.

Lessons for the kids:

Grownups don’t always know what they’re doing.  This is why learning
1) how to forgive, and 2) the importance of a good sense of humor is essential, even in first grade.