Dear Doctor, if you are listening…

When I went for my annual physical, I lamented a bit to my doctor some of the maladies of the past year, joint pain being the biggest issue. He said, “Stop getting older.” I love my doctor.

I told him I was a little concerned about my mental state. My creativity has taken a vacation, I told him. I can’t write. He asked me what I write. I told him that I am a blogger. He wanted to know what a blog is. I said, “It is kind of like a column in a newspaper.” He told me that he is going to check out my blog as soon as he remembers to do so and he has time and said he’d leave a comment.

No comment yet, but he got me thinking about what I’d want him to come to the day he pulls my blog up on his computer. For sure, I want him to think of me as intelligent, thoughtful, and witty, traits that never come out during a pelvic exam.

As you might guess, I wrote a blog the next day after my exam and the next one after that.

I don’t know if my writer’s block has ended. But he reminded me that envisioning one’s audience can help stir ideas. I have written blogs hoping that certain members of my family would read them or factions of the community. I have written political blogs in reaction to something posted by a friend to either support their point of view or offer another. I have written opinion blogs that I hoped would sway people who were stuck in a particular way of thinking that I thought to be harmful. Sometimes, I look at the number of visitors I have on a particular day and wonder what these folks are thinking. and whether they include members of my target audience.

Thanks, by the way, to any of you who have let me know what you think, whether in agreement or not. When people disagree, it allows an opportunity to say more about some topic and I pride myself in handling controversy in a respectful manner. Peace, after all, is the theme of my blog and making peace has as much to do with how one speaks as it does with what one speaks.



Up Over IV

Yesterday at the Jeub home we celebrated a birthday. Isaiah, the oldest of the kids still living at home, turned 19. It was expected that he get breakfast in bed and be presented with his gifts. Then he got to choose the birthday dinner and desert. He chose Chinese food including egg rolls and wontons and egg drop soup with rootbeer floats for desert. I was inclined to order out, but Bernie wanted home-made. A new Bernie has emerged since retirement. He really likes to cook. The challenge has been for me to keep him from dragging me into the kitchen with him. While I don’t mind putting on a decent meal, I hate the mess and expense of gourmet cooking. In recent years, I am even losing interest in the former. So yesterday I found several ways to extricate myself from the kitchen. I took a much needed nap and then took a few of the kids to the library. Bernie worked with some of the olders making the egg rolls, wontons and soup.  He loved it and I loved not being in the kitchen.

In my son’s home, it is common for the littlest kids to have a hand in the food preparation. I know this is good parenting…I really do…but I have never had the patience for it. When my kids were little, I tended to take care of the kitchen food prep myself. Having the help of the littles seemed like too  much extra work to me. As a result, they had to figure cooking out for themselves when they left. We baked cookies together…when I was in the mood.  I am not proud of this aspect of my parenting but I am not ashamed either. I think there were some redeeming qualities and I did other things with my kids that I hope they appreciate today. Parents are all different.

I was dragged into the kitchen to make a stir fry dish to be the main dish. I had already served stir fry since I’d been her but, this time I added extra green pepper and canned chunk pineapple, but I still relied on frozen mixed vegetables and bottled Teriyaki sauce. Asian food is just to fussy for me to make it from scratch. No one complained.

At the end of the day, everyone seemed to think the food was great. The level of dirty dishes was off the charts (another reason I resist scratch cooking). I ended up doing the dishes because I felt sorry for anyone else doing so many messy dishes including just about every pot in the house. I would rather do dishes than cook, by the way. But I would much rather do laundry than do dishes.

Most importantly, Isaiah liked his birthday dinner. When it came time for the rootbeer floats, we realized that the icecream Micah had reported seeing in the freezer was really an icecream carton filled with leftovers, so he and Bernie went out into the night to get ice cream. Meanwhile the birthday boy/man realized he could not find his wallet. He did some serious searching with no success. We know what this means with Bernie and I the only ones in a house full of socially engaged children with licenses. My plan today after the kids get up is to order a serious search…and cleaning is the best way to do a serious search, right? Last night I offered an unspecified reward for anyone who finds Isaiah’s wallet…Bernie added, “To be determined by how much money is in Isaiah’s wallet when it is found.” And the finding of the wallet was among the prayer petitions before the kids bedded down. my faith is rather weak. I hope the kids are more spiritually enlightened than myself.

We keep reading about Chris and Wendy in Australia. I am especially pleased that I have yet to see any serious home-sickness for mom and dad. Once in a while a kids will say they miss them. I like to think they are comfortable with grandpa and grandma, but I know they are a comfort to one another, too. I see the older kids helping the younger all the time and the peers engaging one another in play.

The dawn has arrived; Bernie is up chatting with 6-year-old Zech who has consistently been the earliest riser among the kids. The day of half-way has begun.

Up Over – Part II

I have been journaling this babysitting adventure but have trouble finding time to turn my writings into a post. So what I share at this point won’t be timely. A problem may be sufficiently solved by the time I post so, Mom and Dad Down Under, don’t worry.

I wasn’t sure about posting about the kids, but I have done it back in Minnesota about my grandchildren there and found they rather liked it, self-centered little beings that they are. And I promise redemption of some sort before the end of this visit.

Up Over – Part II

One part of orientating was Chris instructing me at how he does laundry. He keeps the loads going through the wash and drying and daughter Keilah is in charge of folding and getting the loaded baskets to the  various kids’ bedrooms where they are supposed to put their clothes away. He complained about the kids throwing their clean clothes in the laundry instead of hanging them up. As a result, he said, he finds himself washing clean clothes. He also complained that they don’t turn their clothes right side out as he wants them to. I had that sort of self-satisfied feeling a parent gets when one of their adult children experiences the same frustration they felt in raising them. Chris must have seen a certain look on my face because he named it. “You know all about this, I know.”

The sad thing is that there was a miscommunication between Chris and I about the various piles and baskets of clothes. I took the clean clothes and sorted them in with the dirty clothes and started washing the whole bunch. Remember, 14 people live in this house so, at first, I didn’t question the volume. In addition to the clean clothes, a couple of baskets of socks had been dumped into the pile, it seems by some activity of the dogs. (In their family, all socks are thrown in baskets and anyone who wants to wear matching socks has to go hunting for them.) It was the huge abundance of socks that clued me into the mistake I’d made. Last night I threw in the last of these mixed loads. I felt sorry for the overabundance of folding dumped on Kaelah. She has already delivered full baskets to the kids rooms. I told her last night that she could pick a buddy to help her finish up and then she will be on her own again.

Now for the reason horns are starting to sprout on my head. The next stage of the laundry process after Kaelah delivers the baskets to the bedrooms is for the kids to put away the clothes and return the baskets to the laundry room. When I found myself without baskets, I investigated the bedrooms and found not only that the clothes had not been put away, but they were starting to ooze all over the floors like volcanic lava. At the nightly debriefing session, I impressed upon the dirty dozen that I expected the clothes to be put away by morning. They all agreed showing the beautiful respect they’d been taught.

The next morning, breakfast behind, and the kids  getting ready to leave for the co-op, I walked into room occupied by the younger boys to find the basket still overflowing all over the floors. Smoke started to come out of my nose. They must have seen it because they boys started scrambling like ants when hearing the march of the grasshoppers. After they left, I took a look into their room and felt a sense of power when I saw their room cleared of clothes. But then I walked into the two oldest boys’ room. Their basket still sat there, untouched. They were gone, of course. I could have sent a mean text but was afraid they would never come home.

Then I thought of the time Jesus told the story of the two sons. The father went to the older one and told him to do his chores. “I don’t want to,” the son said, but being the one with a conscience, he later went and did what he’d been told to do. The father told the second son the same thing and he said, respectfully, “Yes, sir.” Then Jesus asked, “Which of the two did what the father wanted?” Of course, they said, “The older one.” I know he was talking to his disciples and this story was intended to hit the slackers among them right between the brows. “Genius,” I thought. I put a book mark in the bible and thought I would read it later during the debriefing.

Well, when debriefing came around, said offenders were still out. Micah is 17 and Isaiah 18. Eight-thirty is a little early for them. With the exception of Noah, the one other teen brother, the rest of the children were in bed by the time they walked in. They were so sweet. Micah, even gave me a hug when they came in. I said, “There are two things I want to talk to you two about.” I made sure they were both listening. Micah was already texting his girlfriend. I thanked them for all the arranging they were doing so Grandpa and I didn’t have to do so much running to get them from one activity to another. Then I told them about the basket of clothes sill untouched in their bedroom. I didn’t use the bible story…that would have been really, really weird at his point.  I just told them that, here they are the oldest of the kids, and they are the only ones who didn’t put their clothes away. I wanted them to do it before they would be leaving again the next morning. I loved the fact that they both looked kind of sheepish. They agreed to do what I asked. I am writing this in the early morning of the next day. I have yet to see their room. I think they will put the clothes away.

I know that I will have to do a lot more reminding as the days go by. I know I have an advantage over a parent who has to be on them all the time. The cartoon of the mother lecturing the kid and the kid just hearing, “Waa, waa, waa…” is pretty true to life. A new voice can often be better heard. I play the grandma card, too.  I try to look a little feeble like the kids expect a grandma to look. I limp a bit. I huff and puff when I get to the top of the basement stairs. I look confused. So far it is working pretty well, but not quite well enough.

Later:  As most parents reading this blog post knows, the two infamous ones left the house without attending to the basket of clothes. I immediately began brainstorming about what to do. How do I reach these boys where they hurt?  They men, for-cryin’-out-loud. They are constantly primping their feathers and they practice their prince charming techniques on any woman around, including moms and grandmas. You might call it manipulation but it is really preparing for the future when they will be mating and settling down.  Then I got it: appeal to their hormones.  “To a married woman,” I will them, “Foreplay is washing dishes and doing the laundry.”

Ponderings from Up Over

Bernie and I are in Colorado babysitting my son’s children. Before my son Chris and his wife Wendy left on their trip to Australia to see their daughter, he told me he’d keep us posted through Facebook and his blog. I told him I, too, would be posting from the other side of “down under”. I was up at 4 am this morning after lying awake for an hour.  This is not unusual for me but back in Minnesota napping is easy in our retired, quite home. But, after only two days on the job, I realize that there will be no writing unless I am up before any kids get up. This might be my last chance, in other words.

There are 12 kids still at home out of Chris and Wendy’s 16. So far, my years of being a parent and my education as a parent educator have come through for me. Today is only day three, of course.

I am realizing that I am a tough grandma. Being a grandma can be a good thing. The older kids buy it when I tell them it is not a good thing to make a grandma worry. The oldest boys have been adamant about letting me know where they are and when they will be home. I am grateful for this because a scared grandma is like a wicked witch and spells will be cast. I haven’t told them yet that I have such powers.

The day before Chris and Wendy left, there was a lot of orientating to do. We have lists of phone numbers and all sorts of arrangements have been made to make this as easy as possible for Grandpa and I. There are about 15 people we can call on for various reasons. Two women offered to bring over a prepared supper whenever we set it up with them. There is a woman who will step in to do baby sitting or taking care of the dogs if we need them. One mom will keep me posted about home school happenings and will take a couple of kids off my hands now and then just to lower the chaos level in the house. Wendy arranged to have a gal come 4 or 5 times to clean so I don’t get overwhelmed. They set up a break for next weekend. One family is taking on all of the 12 while Bernie and I regroup and do what we want for a couple of days. Yesterday, which we thought would be a day from hell with all the running, one of these friends filled in for us at the coop by being the required present adult which allowed Grandpa to come home instead of hanging around for the day. She even brought the kids home after classes were done. The day from hell turned out to be pretty relaxing.

It is the start of day three. The sky is just starting to lighten. I have a lot more to share, but Bernie and I have to get to making bacon and pancakes soon. I should guess there won’t be much philosophizing or theologizing or politicizing in this blog for a while. The only world that exists right now is the one I am sitting in right now waiting for the sun to rise.

Everyone is a Genius

Posted on Facebook today:

“Everyone is a genius.
If you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Spoken by Albert Einstein.

I wonder when and why he said it.

Was he defending someone from a comparison being made to his own genius?
“Why can’t you be more like Albert?”

Was he defending himself?
“Why can’t you remember to put your pants on before you leave the house like other people?”

Either way, I take it quite personally.

I don’t need ever to explain why I am not as attentive to my house as other women –
to myself or to anyone else.

I don’t need to explain why I keep writing stories of Jesus but never publish them.

I don’t have to explain why I let Bernie do all the work making our yard beautiful.

I don’t have to explain why sports bore me.

I don’t need to explain why I don’t dig gourmet cooking and why I like spam.

I don’t need to explain why I don’t wear make-up or jewelry or the most fashionable clothes.

I don’t need to explain any of these things because…

My genius lies elsewhere.

If I Die Tomorrow

The older I get the more I think about death. I don’t fantasize about what it might be like nor do I fret. It is just that 70 is old.  It wasn’t until I turned 50 that it occurred to me that I’d probably passed the midpoint of my life, unless I happen to be like my friend Rita’s mother who said goodbye to her earthly life at 103.

I have heard the question “If you knew that you were going to do tomorrow, what would you do today?” Martin Luther King said that he would go plant a tree. I don’t know if he ever got around to doing that but I know he planted a lot of seeds that germinated, grew and continue to bear fruit. You might say that my own commitment to peace is a fruit of his work.

I have less than half this day yet to go. So far today, I accomplished two things I’d set out to do: I did some writing and I switched out my summer clothes. Not on my list were a Skype call from my granddaughter and an old-fashioned phone call from an old friend. These are two things that I’d not planned for sure outshined the two I did.

Considering the possible event of tomorrow’s death, I may have to reconsider the other two tasks on my list. One is to go with Bernie to pick up my car that just had new tires put on it. The other is to go out to dinner with Bernie to celebrate our 49th wedding anniversary. I think I will stick to the list. If I die tomorrow, who will go with Bernie to fetch the car? And if we don’t go out to dinner, Bernie for sure will have to face the dishes in the sink in the morning alone. He’d be grumpy about that.

Many people who have been asked this question say they would tell their family members they love them. If my memory is correct, I think I have said that to every family member I have talked to in the last month. To any whom I have missed or to any of my dear friends, let me tell you now: I love you.

Down the Path of Oz

Another one of those days when I started on a path I thought I’d planned
and at each turn something popped up that made me turn down another.

I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

I get a little frustrated when this happens.

On the other hand, one cannot deny Dorothy’s Technicolor life.

It seems this is the life God has for me.

I do better when I just go along for the ride instead of resisting at every turn.