Sunday, July 19, 2009

My mind to your mind...

Here's a photo of Mark and me at cub scout day camp, 2008.

Cub scout day camp begins tomorrow, and I can't go. I'm working in Salem for Oregon Dept of Ed for the next four days. Sweet Mark has agreed to go all week. I am really grateful for this, because I know from experience that it makes all the difference in the world for the boys to have a consistent leader there throughout the week. Mark is patient and he has tons of scouting experience, so he's a natural for this "opportunity."

But there are SO many details that go into organizing a pack for day camp! Our pack has been growing by leaps and bounds. When I first became involved with cubs in our ward about 5 years ago, we had only 3 boys going to day camp. This year we have 13, organized into 2 dens! Along with the 13 boys, nineteen different adults are going up on various days to lend Mark a hand. It's been a major pain organizing who is driving each day, determining which den they will help supervise, collecting 32 different health forms (kids & adults), procuring 14 different t-shirts, helping boys make 2 different den flags and den yells, etc, etc.

And now I need to transfer all this info to Mark, so it will all be successful without me there. I've made a notebook for him with list after list, printed out the huge email I just sent to all the parents, inserted copies of the den rosters and the late registrations and the camp receipt and...

He has the coolers and the ice packs and the den flags and the water bottles and the t-shirts all in a pile. I've told him about the new cub scout with food allergies (wheat & milk), and what to do if the boys get too over-stimulated (take them for a walk), and how to contact the parents if there's a problem.

How did the world manage cub scout day camp before I came along? How will Mark do this week? Worry, worry, worry. Silly me, he'll be fine of course. It's not that hard after all. Take a bunch of 8-, 9- and 10-year olds, add in some really super parents, head off to a beautiful, well-run day camp, and voila! I'm sure they'll have a wonderful time.

And not only that, I've transfered my mind to his's all in the notebook...list after list after list after list...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blueberry Wealth

I was out early this morning, picking blueberries again. I stood in the same spot for nearly an hour, and still couldn't get all the blueberries from just that one side of the bush picked. The bushes out front are only 2 years old; their trunks are no bigger around than my thumb. These bushes in the back were old when I moved here 30 years ago. The trunk of the largest bush is as big as my thigh (unfortunately, that's a goodly size...). Could they be as old as the house? 100-year-old bushes?

I don't know the lifespan of a blueberry bush, but I do know that I am wealthy in blueberries. Already I have nearly 40 cups in the freezer, and there are at least 20 more left to pick on the bushes. I was contemplating blueberries as I stood and picked this morning... hard they work to convert sunshine into sugar for all those berries. Berry after berry after berry, loaded with sugar and antioxidants.

...sweet memories of picking blueberries year after year. I remember picking blueberries when Kendra was a newborn. I would put her in her little carrier chair and sit her under the blueberry bushes. Birds sing and the shade flickers overhead when I stand and pick blueberries.

...speaking of birds, the last time I was picking, a hummingbird flew near and hovered about 2 feet away. He zoomed away, and then came back to hover again a few minutes later. Was he checking me out? I don't think hummingbirds eat blueberries; I think they only drink nectar, although if he wanted some blueberries he could have them. There are plenty of blueberries on my bushes to share a few with the birds.

...if Mark and I ever build houses on our back property, maybe I'll build the handicap-access "grandma house" in the back corner near the blueberry bushes. That way, when I can't manage the big house any more and I move into the little cottage out back, I'll still have blueberries.

Here's another photo from the yard. Early in the morning, the bumblebees are still asleep in the lavender bushes. This bumblebee was still dreaming lavender dreams when I snapped this photo early yesterday morning. (It's fun to click on the photo and see the bumblebee up close in the middle of the lavender. And no, I didn't take the blueberry photo. That's an image I found on Google.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Real Age

Have you ever checked out the Real Age website? It asks you a bunch of questions about your health and lifestyle, and then it emails you with your "real age."

I took the survey this evening, and my real age came back as 49.8 years! Not bad for a 55-year-old.

Some of the positive factors in my "real age" are beyond my control - my parents are still alive and still married to each other, I don't have a family history of breast cancer, etc. But some of them are completely within my control - taking vitamins every day, getting enough sleep.

With the negative factors, though, I have control of everything. My negative factors include: I don't have a dog, I'm not getting enough whole grains, I'm neglecting my muscles, and I have a high body mass index (BMI - in other words, I weigh too much). I got dinged for having a lot of stress in my life, too (adding a child to the family, worrying about my job situation, etc.).

Gee, how much younger would I be if I lost weight, got a dog, and ate more whole grains? The world might never get rid of me, so it's a good thing I'm not that perfect. We all need to take our turns here on Earth.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's a privilege...

Years ago, when I had a houseful of children, on an evening when the kids were especially wound up and noisy and disrespectful. I got angry, as moms sometimes do, and made the mistake of trying to threaten them into better behavior. "If you kids don't calm down," I yelled, "you'll be outside sleeping in a tent tonight. It's a privilege to sleep in the house!"

The kids gaped at me, open-mouthed, and then burst into guffawing laughter. They poked fun at my short-term rage and my ridiculous threat. After a bit, I grinned and backed down, defeated by my own self-righteousness. They knew I wouldn't drive them out into the dark, and they were right.

Over the years, given my love of camping and backpacking, my family has turned that memorable faux pas into an inside, teasing joke. "Remember," they'll tell me from time to time, "it's a privilege to sleep in a tent."

Yesterday I had a rough day. I worked all day in Salem, came home briefly, then went out to Scouter's Mountain for a day camp meeting to wrangle the t-shirts that should have been ordered and hadn't been, then cried on the way home about another sadness. I went to McDonald's and bought a hamburger and a milkshake and ate them by myself, still teary, at Clackamette Park. Finally got home at 8:00, spent another hour tracking down day camp details, and then Maleena came downstairs, hurting from her Tuesday surgery, wanting something to eat. Mark was at a meeting; I'd hardly seen him all day, and come to find out he hadn't picked up any groceries earlier in the day. So I went to the store, resentful because I wanted a little time for something I chose to do, not something I was expected to do by others. Driving home 15 minutes later, my cell phone rang; Maleena was calling to tell me that Mark was home and he'd gone to the store on the way home from his meeting.

Something in me snapped. I dumped the groceries on the counter and went upstairs to start a load of wash - I wanted a shower and I was out of clean underwear because I'd been working all week and hadn't done any wash - but the washer and dryer were full of Julia & Mike's laundry. Went into my bedroom, which was still a mess from the wall-painting project Mark had undertaken last week, and things still weren't put back where they belong. I was mad and tired and sad and sweaty and I didn't want to deal with anyone.

So I did what any self-respecting backpacking grandma would do under those circumstances: I went and grabbed my backpacking tent and a Thermarest and a sleeping bag out of the basement, and stomped out to the orchard, where I set up my tent and sleeping gear. I cried a while, then pulled out my headlamp and my book and read for a while. Maleena came out to apologize for making me go to the store, and Mark came out to check on me, but he didn't try to talk me into coming back inside. So I read a while longer and then slept until 4:00 am, when I had to go to the bathroom, so I went back in the house and slipped into bed next to Mark, who was awake waiting for me. We talked for a while and went to sleep until morning, when I went out to put the tent away.

I sure don't want to get all emotional like that very often, but yes, it's a privilege to sleep in a a tent.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thumper's Rule

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," was Thumper's etiquette advice.

I think my version of this would be: "If I can't say it to someone's face, don't say anything at all."

Avoiding gossip? We all know that's what we're supposed to do. And yet for years I have meddled in the lives of my children, trying to help them get along, trying to help smooth things over, sympathizing here, explaining there.

I don't want to do this any more. Interfering between adult children is a bad idea, because mediating a relationship means there's not really a relationship. Although it hurts my mother heart when my children are in conflict, I need to get out of the way and allow my children to be honest and real with one another, instead of avoiding issues. My children end up negotiating around the elephant in the living room, because they're trying to keep me happy.

Joseph Smith said, "I teach my people correct principles, and let them govern themselves." If my family members aren't governing themselves very well, I still need to get out of their way. I have taught them the best I can, and I will continue to offer encouragement (always) and counsel (when they ask for it), but I will stop talking out of two sides of my face, stop trying to agree with everyone, stop trying to make everyone happy.

I will be honest. If I can't be honest and kind, I will be quiet. I choose love, I choose kindness, I choose to not take sides.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Right Kind of Cancer

Survivors' Lap - Relay for Life

Mark wanted to walk in the Survivors' Lap at the Relay for Life on June 27. He walked a lap at Clackamas Community College with a bunch of other cancer survivors. When he was actually walking with all of them, I was more moved than I had anticipated. I think I've kept the reality of his cancer at arm's length for a long time, and this made it all more real. Kind of funny timing, since he already had the surgery, and the biopsies are all negative. As his doctor said when he told us the news, "If you're going to have a cancer diagnosis, this is the one you want - stage 3 and completely operable." I am so grateful that he is cancer-free. Four weeks today since his surgery.

A Work in Progress

The back yard is coming along. I am still working on convincing Mark that it really is important that we get the rest of the swings installed. The barkdust is all in place, and the steps are almost finished. Nate has been doing a super job getting them built for us. They are strong to stand on and attractive to view. I am thrilled to finally have use of this access to our back yard!

100 Years

The house was built in 1909, and we are gearing up for the birthday party on the 4th of July. We'll have 40-50 people here for an afternoon picnic, and an on-going circus here at the house as we enjoy time with Polly and her 3 kids (Eric stayed in California to work on his doctoral dissertation), Kendra & Chris and their 2 kids, my parents, Mark's mom, and the local families: Greg & Cheryl, Julia & Mike & Josh/Sarah/Kat/Maddy, Nate & Ashley & Blake, and David & Holly & Arora. More family arriving today and tomorrow: Mark's brother Mike & wife Julie, Mike K's daughter & granddaughter Christina & Kaitlyn, and Cousin Eva.