Saturday, September 26, 2009

O vs. E

I'm sure everyone has noticed that by changing just one letter you can change a word (and its context) immediately. Lover becomes Lever, Both becomes Beth, and Moss becomes Mess. But there's one O vs. E exchange that not only changes meaning, it changes attitude: Got vs. Get. As in "I've got to wash the dog" (making it a chore) vs. "I get to wash the dog" (making it a privilege). I had a "got" vs. "get" experience this week, and I'd like to share it with you.

Wednesday night Hannah came home from school and said, "Hey Mom! Guess what! The DeWitt marching band is coming to our game Friday and they're going to play with us! It's gonna be so cool!" She was excited. However, this Friday was the one where I'd volunteered to organize the after half-time meal that the band eats, so I asked her, "Are we feeding the DeWitt kids too?" "I dunno," she said. So I sent an e-mail to the band director and sure enough, we were going to feed the DeWitt kids, too.

Now, this is where "got" vs. "get" comes in. I could have gotten upset and grumbled, "Great. I've got to organize this, too." But I didn't, no way! This was an "I get to!" moment. I had the privilege of sending out a mass e-mail asking our Benton Band Boosters for extra food at the last minute, and I was overwhelmed by the response. By noon Thursday I had almost all of the food lined up, and by 4PM I had everything. Thanks to Amy Mihm, Carol Nulty, Amy Knaack, Mary Horst, Kathy Gage, Nancy Veldhuizen, Sue Harthoorn and Kristi Wibe, we doubled the amount of sandwiches and desserts we usually have, plus we had cut fresh fruit, and bottled drinks. The DeWitt kids were delighted. The comment I heard most was, "I want to come back here and march every weekend!" They obviously enjoyed themselves and thanked us over and over and over again. It was neat to see the kids, theirs and ours, happy. It was also neat to be involved in making it all happen. It was a pleasure to get to do this, to be a part of this organization. I'm fortunate to be a Benton Band Booster. I get to be included in helping out the band, and it's great. I love it! Honestly! I'm not just saying that because this blog will wind up on Facebook and I have Facebook friends who are Boosters and who therefore might read it. I'm not trying to be patronizing. This is the first time I've been part of a group where everyone who wants to help out gets to help out. It's wonderful, and I can't wait for the next "I get to!" moment. In the meantime though, there's one more thing I want to say....


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted.....

When I was a kid, our family had a motto: "Why waste a perfectly good vacation having fun when you could be working?" We usually did end up working, whether it was one of my parents taking "vacation" from their job or it was a calendar holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas being the exceptions). My Dad had a perpetual to-do list in his head, and when vacation time came around one of those projects was tackled. We only went on a real vacation twice (that I can remember): one was to the Ozarks when I was about nine years old (had a great time but got a horrible sunburn) and the other was to Nashville when I was in high school (I think my folks had fun even if I didn't). I know my family took trips to South Dakota and Wisconsin, but I was really little at the time and don't remember them.

Anyway. The point I'm getting to is that I just spent three vacation days working around my house. Mary was away at diabetes camp, so I took advantage of that time to clean up and clear out. I got alot accomplished:
  • I thoroughly cleaned Mary's room, and moved alot of her toys to the basement. I also threw out a big black plastic garbage bag full of junk, mostly paper and cardboard. This kid never throws ANYTHING away.
  • I cleaned and sorted through the east half of the basement. I shuffled stuff around so that the northeast room, which used to be storage, is now set up for the girls to recreate in. They had been using the "sewing" room (aka the fourth bedroom) but I cleared all of that stuff out and took it downstairs. Hannah, bless her heart, help me carry stuff, and she sorted through all of the toys and put everything back in order. I couldn't have done the basement without her help.
  • I turned the sewing room back into the sewing room. We had been using the dining room, but once the sewing room was cleared out I took all of the sewing stuff upstairs and got it arranged and ready. Now I can help the girls tackle their projects.
  • I turned the dining room back into the dining room. Now all is right with the world.

In clearing out stuff I boxed up all kinds of things that hadn't been used in a long time and gave them to Brianna Scott, a young lady in our church who is holding a garage sale at the Novak's house (Steve and Corie Novak are youth sponsors) to raise funds for a local homeless shelter. The timing couldn't have been better. I was able to get rid of stuff without Mary raising a fuss over what was going, and I didn't have to store the stuff somewhere, either. If Brianna's happy with the donations, I'm happy because she helped me clear out my house. Thanks to Brianna, Steve and Corie!!! Whoo-hoo!!!!!!!

Meanwhile, Carl and Hannah went to pick up Mary from camp this morning. I didn't go along because I had an extremely important meeting at church, but Carl called a little while ago and said that they should be home in about an hour. They were just finishing up "lunch" at the Dairy Queen in Toledo (the lucky skunks) so I had better go prepare for the inundation of dirty camp laundry.

I mean, why waste a perfectly good Saturday having fun when I could be working!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Driving Miss Hannah

It's my fault, really.

When Hannah was 12, she was (in my opinion) tall enough to start learning to drive. We were at Loren's farm (Loren is Carl's brother) so I drove Hannah up the farm lane, turned the pickup around and put her behind the wheel. I had her drive down the lane, but towards the end she mixed up the brake and accelerator, and she accidentally gunned it. Fortunately we weren't going too fast, and I was sitting next to her, so I reached down with my left hand and slammed on the brakes. I reached up with my right hand to put the truck in park, and sat up. Right in front of us was the old chicken house. A few more feet and we'd have been part of the structure. Carl, who had been sitting on the back steps watching, ran over to us. Needless to say he looked rather pale. And poor Hannah was terrified to the point that, when she turned 14, she refused to get her permit and start driving. And that's my fault.

Well, along came Hannah's freshman year and with it immersion into extracurricular activity. Involvement in marching band, jazz band, pit band, honor band, mixed choir and set crew meant being at the high school both early and late. For early morning obligations I was able to get her rides with a senior who was also in band (I helped pay for his gas) and for late obligations she was usually able to ride the 6PM shuttle bus. However, things didn't always work out and sometimes Carl or I had to drive her there or pick her up. Every time this happened we'd say, "You know, you could avoid this problem if you'd get your license." Usually she'd give us her annoyed teenager vulture stare, and then she'd pout a little. Oh, well.

Next week, though, Hannah turns 15. She's beginning to understand the need for a driver's license, but we need a way to teach her to drive without wrecking a vehicle or a barn. So we've discussed getting a golf cart. Golf carts are legal to drive without a license in Atkins as long as you stay off Park Ridge Road (the main drag through town) and have a Slow Moving Vehicle sign on the back, plus an orange safety flag mounted six feet above the ground. Golf carts don't go fast, so they're the perfect thing for Hannah to learn the basics on. We've been looking for a while, and last night we found a cart we like. It's copper colored, and Craig (the seller) needs to mount the roof on yet, but the tires are good and batteries are only a couple years old and in great condition. Carl and Hannah test drove it last night. Carl says Hannah over-corrects when she steers and she takes corners too fast, but with a few lessons and some practice Carl seems to think she'll get the hang of it pretty quickly. And since there's no age restrictions Mary will be able to drive it, too. Then I can take Mary to Loren's and give her a driving lesson.....

Or, maybe not.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wish List

This blog post will be an ongoing project. I'll be adding more wishes as I think them up. But for starters - I wish.....

  • that I knew how to fish. I love to go fishing, and so does Mary, but I don't know how to catch the little buggers. I'm absolutely clueless about what kind of bait to use and when, how deep to let the bait fall into the water, where the best place to cast is, and so forth. I have lots of nice gear, but I don't know the best way to use it. If I did know, I'd take Mary fishing with me and we'd go more often.
  • that I knew how to whistle loudly with my fingers in my mouth. My dad could whistle - he'd be outside in the field, far from the house, and when he whistled you could always hear him, even with the windows closed. I want to learn to whistle like that.
  • that I could play guitar or piano. I can't, because I have a minor learning disability. I'm a "method learner" which means I can't read and process more than one line of notes at a time, nor can I coordinate several fingers over frets and strum at the same time. It stinks.
  • that Hannah would learn to drive. It would solve alot of our transportation coordination problems, especially the school related ones.
  • that I knew how to build a house. I want to understand the ins and outs of framing, wiring, plumbing...all that sort of stuff. I also wish I knew more about landscaping and gardening. I'm cursed with a black thumb, and Carl and I want to landscape in front of our porch this spring. I need to move some plants that I have, and maybe break them up, but I don't know how or where best to plant them. That they've lived this long is a miracle.
  • that I could do a better job of styling my hair in the morning.
  • I knew how to fast-yodel.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What Should I Do?

This Wednesday, March 11, the Benton Community boys basketball team will be playing in the State Basketball Tournament. This is the first time any high school I've ever been affiliated with has gone to a post season tournament, so I'm excited. Not only for the team, but also for Hannah. She gets to go to the game as a member of the Pep Band, and as a proud band mom I'd like to go and see her play. School has been cancelled for Wednesday so as many kids (and parents) as possible can go to Des Moines and cheer on the team. School being cancelled and Hannah being gone means that Mary has no one to stay home with her during the day. I don't mind her being home alone for an hour or so, but not all day. I'd really like to go to the tournament game and take Mary with me, but I hesitate. For one thing, I don't know that I can afford the time off. I don't know what kinds of projects are due at work (last week was super-quiet) and I don't know if I'll be able to save 40 hours of vacation for this summer if I go. For another, I feel a little silly wanting to go. I don't have a son on the team (I don't have a son, period) and I wonder if I'm living vicariously through Hannah by going to these types of events. I don't want to be pedantic, but I would like to experience the excitement of being at a tournament game and cheering on my school district's team. So what should I do? Should I go to the game or not? I need to make up my mind soon so that if I do try to go I can ask for the day off without leaving my fellow drafters buried in excess work. Is my desire to go to the game an immature attempt to recapture my youth, or am I overanalyzing myself? Having never been in this situation before I'd like to get your opinion. What do you think? Should I go?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

3AM And All's Well

It's Tuesday. Nothing monumental happened today. It's supposed to snow tonight, but not too much.

It snowed last Friday night into Saturday morning, making the rural roads icy in spots. That's not so bad during the day when you can see the slick spots ahead, but driving at night can be tricky. I happened to be out Saturday night - no, wait, it was actually Sunday morning at 3AM. Our high school's music department hosted their annual show choir competition, "Touch Of Class" and I volunteered to help. I signed up to lend a hand in the kitchen starting at 6PM. I was a food server - they put me in charge of the ice cream machine. All night, until the kitchen closed, I dispensed soft serve ice cream into little cups. Not an unpleasant job to say the least. I also signed up for clean-up and tear down. Now that was a job! Again, not unpleasant, but man oh man is the equipment they use ever complicated! Lights and curtains and risers and platforms and chairs and speakers and so on and so forth. The gentleman who brought in the equipment really knows his stuff (I think he's from Kansas - at least the license plate on his truck was) and he handled the organized chaos beautifully. Speaking of beautiful, the show choir competition was spectacular! High school choirs from all over Iowa (and one from Nebraska) put on shows that were colossal and over-the-top impressive. From the sets (which their crews had to put up and tear down in minutes) to the music and choreography it was an incredibly dazzling experience. The music department brought in a video company, and they were able to show the performances over televisions that were set up all around the cafeteria. Not only that, but the day before the competition a group of volunteers came in to set up and decorate, and they made the high school look fabulous. One of the kids said it looked better than the decorations for Prom, and I believe him. Everything I encountered made me wish I'd been there all day, and I plan to volunteer for even more time next year. I hope to be able to be there all day doing whatever jobs need done. However, I think I'll leave when they start tearing down the gym. I'm getting too old to be driving home at 3AM.

That reminds me - the music teachers who ran the event are truly heroic people. I can't imagine the work and organization that goes into an event that big, but I think that they all deserve a ginormous reward for their extensive exertion. I'm pretty sure they were all there somewhere, but I only saw Ms. Stoddard, Mrs. Lampkin and Mr. Hayden. (It was Mr. Hayden who stayed with the tear down crew until 3AM Sunday morning. He still seemed energetic at that hour - how I don't know. He must be nuclear powered or something.) Anyway, volunteering was thoroughly enjoyable, and I can't wait to help again next year. I really admire the work and dedication of our high school's music instructors. They put the class in "Touch Of Class".

Monday, January 26, 2009

To Schnorg Or Not To Schnorg

A couple of months ago, I had to take Judah to the vet. He was wearing his prong collar so I could control him - a prong collar is like a choke collar except it has wide prongs that spread out the pressure so it's not too strong in any one place. Now, I can control Judah with that collar, but the vet couldn't. He suggested I get something called "The Gentle Leader" which is kind of like a horse halter, but you fit it to your dog so that he can still open his mouth to eat, drink and pant. The collar works by putting pressure at the base of the skull instead of on the throat (like the prong did) and the vet said it's a good collar for a dog as large as Judah. However, I managed to amaze the vet by getting Judah to sit and stay while I put my gloves on. Basically, I gave the leash a yank and said, "Judah, I need to put my gloves on. Once they're on, then we can go, not before!" And he sat there until I had my gloves on, then he lunged for the door. The vet was shocked: "If you'd have told me mid-afternoon that he'd behave like that I wouldn't have believed you!" "That's because you're not Mommy!" I said we tumbled out the door.

But I really didn't like the way the prong collar make Judah hack and choke, so for Christmas I bought him a red Gentle Leader collar, and tonight I fit it on him. He didn't like it at first, but after I took him around the house a few times he seemed to get used to it. Of course, I bribed him with a few treats to make things easier. I still need to work with him on that lead, but by spring we should be ready for long walks outdoors.

The cats were none too amused with Judah romping around the house. Even on a leash, he romps. But then they realized that Mom was giving That Dog treats, and they gathered around the pantry door looking for their handout. They're like little kids - you can't give one something without giving the same to all the rest. And they know that Mom is a sucker for a furry begging face. All four of them have the old soulful eye routine down pat.

I really want it to warm up soon. I want to get outside and walk, with or without the dog. Carl wants it to warm up so he can re-banish Judah to the backyard "where he belongs". It's been so cold this winter that Judah's taken up residence in our dining room, and at night he occupies our furnace room in the basement. The cats want it to warm up, too, so Judah will get out of their house and they can stare at him through the back door, giving him little kitty sneers and sticking their tongues out at him. You know they do that - they're spiteful little monsters with innocent looking faces.

I wonder what the "cat language" word is for "Neener!".