Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cut 'n Curl

It's amazing what a haircut does for me -- not just to my appearance but also to my mood.  I have always loved getting my hair cut.  Getting into the chair, tilting back to have my hair washed and scalp massaged, and then the sculpting sensations of the scissors and razor are such a treat that I almost hate to get out of the stylist's chair when it's all done.  Thankfully, I wear my hair short, which requires more frequent cuts.  When I was a little girl, it was a very big deal that I was allowed to walk the few blocks by myself from my elementary school to the hair salon, which was called "Betty's Beauty Bar."  Even at a young age, I would anticipate having Betty cut my hair.  In between those professional cuts, Mom would trim my bangs, which meant placing a strip of tape over them, then cutting below the tape to get a straight line.   I had more than one school-year photo taken, sporting very, very straight bangs, thanks to Mom's skilled work.  I went through a period a couple of years ago when I thought I could cut my hair myself.  However, after one episode when I thought I was going to have to color my scalp with dark marker (like I did to a doll when I was child because I went crazy with the scissors), I decided that professional hair cuts are a gift I can give to myself.  I'll count the days till the next one.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Cleaning and Greening

For the past couple of weeks, I've been spring cleaning indoors and spring "greening" outdoors.  I've cleaned kitchen cupboard surfaces, swept the garage, dusted ceiling fan blades, wiped out bathroom cupboard drawers, cleaned carpets and wood laminate floors, and swept away salt and other winter debris from the inside of my car.  I've trimmed back the hydrangea, removed last fall's leaves from around the shrubs, and returned my sedum pots to their familiar spots along the front sidewalk.  When you live in a condominium, there isn't as much to do outdoors, but the weather's been so grand that it's been hard to decide if I should be devoting more energy to the abundant tasks of indoor cleaning or the limited tasks of outdoor greening. I've dabbled in a little of both most weekend days.  The potted sedums were an experiment this year.  I wanted to see if I could winter over last year's plants, simply by placing them in the garage.  I'll give them a few weeks to see if they revive and green up or if they need to be replaced by new plants.  Spring is filled with great energy.  I can feel it in and all around me.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friendly Feuding

My husband is a McCoy, but there aren't any Hatfield-McCoy types of feuds in my world. Our home is rarely ever a contentious place. The other night, however, Larry and I did experience feuding -- a fun and friendly kind.  The good people in my work place planned an employee party where the main entertainment was a team sport, similar to the "Family Feud" game show.  Six teams of five, each with silly names pertaining to their work, engaged in some friendly competition.  Not planning to be part of a team, I got drafted at the last minute to replace a nurse unable to be present.  Consequently, I became one of the "Flaming Nightingales" (named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale). Alas, we Nightingales didn't win, but we had a great time trying.  Larry and I laughed at the antics, the good-spirited showing off, and the surprising -- and often hilarious -- answers from some of the teams.  Our "feuding" ended up being a great laughter-filled experience.  I highly recommend an evening of such good feuding!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


We have sadly become a world of sound bites.  If you can't say something brilliant in as few words as possible, we no longer want to listen.  While watching Bill Moyers on PBS the other night, I was grateful for his ability to ask a question and then sit back and listen with his full attention.  He made eye contact: Not once did he appear to be looking at his notes to prepare for the next question.  He didn't fidget: Not once did he interrupt the other person.  He didn't grow restless:  Not once did he interject a sound or word that would tell the person being interviewed to wrap it up.  Mr. Moyers' listening behavior seems to be the exception instead of the rule in today's media world, and, unfortunately, in real life, too.  I have witnessed real-life situations where people expect others to speak in sound bites, as if to say, "Hurry up, make your point, move on because I'm too busy to listen."  We can all hone our listening skills so that we honor the other person and what he or she is saying.  Communication is not sound bites.  It is the elegant dance of talking and listening, honoring the intimate process of sharing thoughts and information. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pasty Pleasures

Our church women raise money for local, regional and global mission work by making pasties semi-annually and they're a huge hit with our congregation.  Based on the Cornish pasty (pronounced past-tee), our church specializes in two kinds, one filled with meat and potatoes and the other with vegetables.  For both kinds, the filling is placed onto a pastry circle. The whole thing gets folded in half, edges crimped and then baked.  I had not been in the habit of buying the church women's pasties previously because Larry and I eat meat-free meals at home.  However, the new vegetarian version was attractive to us, so I bought four -- enough for Larry and me to have two suppers.  What a delicious treat!  Our vegetarian pasties were chock-full of squash, carrots, potatoes, peppers, onions and black beans.  After we polished off our pasties, we both had that look of wanting more.  We exercised restraint, however, saving the other two pasties for another meal.  These precious treats won't come around again for another six months.  I've already got the next pasty sale date on my calendar.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Acrobatic Antics

While in the dentist's chair recently, I had the opportunity to look out the window and watch birds flitting to a large feeder nestled between some of the trees that surround the clinic.  All of a sudden, the birds scattered.  A fat gray squirrel had come onto the scene.  He (or she) dashed up a nearby evergreen, walked gingerly onto a supple branch that waved vigorously under each step, and made an acrobatic leap onto the bird feeder's ample edge.  There, the squirrel dined and dined and dined, until an afternoon snack had turned into a feast and grabbing just a nibble had led to gorging.  I wasn't in the dentist's chair long enough to see how the squirrel got back down but I'm sure it hobbled away, stuffed with birdseed.  The amazing part of the encounter, however, had been the sheer courage and elegance with which the squirrel had taken its acrobatic leap onto the feeder.  With the Circus World Museum being in our community, I think the squirrel could find a dandy summer job displaying its acrobatic talents!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Last Sunday, the quiet stillness of our church service was punctuated by the sound of a tiny child in the throes of hiccups.  Rather than finding it a distraction, however, I thought about the joy of being surrounded by people of all ages and how the littlest among us have much to contribute to the meaning of our church experience.  That particular service was led by what we call "chouth," the children and youth of our congregation.  They led us in readings, quoted Scripture, played tone chimes, read blessings, acted out a skit and shared with us their joyful energy.  The lone little "hiccupper" added to the wonderful experience.  As a child, I recall being told to drink a glass of water, to down a spoonful of sugar or to hold my breath in order to end my hiccups. Often one or more of these methods worked.  Then again, if I'd waited long enough, those involuntary spasms of my diaphragm likely would have gone away on their own.  But being told that I "should" down a spoonful of sugar made it worthwhile to have hiccups!  How fun it was last Sunday to rekindle the child/youth in me and to think back to even the joys of having hiccups.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Making Memories

The other night while Larry and I were walking at Devil's Lake State Park, we encountered family after family making memories together.  Our first encounter was with a man tossing a football to a little boy.  The football was nearly as big as the child but he was certainly having fun, based on his giggles.  Next, we encountered a mom with her preschool daughter, appearing to have made a day of their Devil's Lake experience.  They had brought a picnic meal and a tricycle and other paraphernalia, but they were busy blowing bubbles with soap and a wand when we came upon them.  They were busy watching the bubbles float on the breeze.  Next, we saw a little blond girl with a big pink sunhat, dancing in a carefree fashion while her nonchalant older brother looked at her only on occasion.  My favorites, however, were a mom, dad and two little girls.  The girls were preschoolers, nearly the same age, each with cascading blond hair.  The parents sat on a picnic table lodged in the sand while the two little girls, stark naked, skipped about the beach without any self-consciousness, happy as can be.  The weather, some 40 degrees warmer than normal, had brought out families, communing together in nature, making memories to last a lifetime.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gentle Rain

Today was one of those lovely days when the sky is quiet and the rain is gentle.  I awoke to a thunderstorm, the kind that makes you want to stay tucked in.  But as the morning progressed, the gentler the rain became. As I drove to a conference in a nearby community today, a song ran through my head that my good friend Charlene and I sang at church a couple of years ago.  The piece of music was written to sound like gently falling rain, especially when two voices sing it in a cappella harmony.  As much as I love the vibrancy and get-up-and-go quality of sunshine, I need an occasional gentle-rain kind of day when my words become more reflective and thoughtful and my demeanor more quiet and reserved.  I think I listen more on rainy days, for there's just less to say.  Today's rain has made the grass even greener, the tulip heads pop up, and the young leaves on the trees unfurl just a little more.  One bit of sadness, though -- A beautiful magnolia tree I have so enjoyed the past week lost most of its ephemeral translucent, white blossoms in the rain and those that are left on the tree look wilted.  A pool of spent white petals surround the tree's base.  Despite the disappointment of the falling magnolia petals, today's gentle, falling rain brought a much-appreciated peace and contentment to my being.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


After 2 1/2 months of holding worship services in our church basement, our congregation moved back to the first-floor sanctuary.  We celebrated its renewal with new plaster, paint and carpet.  Our old church has a lovely sanctuary, with a soaring domed ceiling, elaborate architectural features and daylight that radiates throughout from giant stained glass windows. Last Sunday, the sanctuary shone, and I was reminded of how much that space means to me and how much it has been important in my life.  From my days in the children's choir and getting confirmed to getting married and saying goodbye to my precious parents, our church's sanctuary has been just that, a sanctuary in which to celebrate and to grieve, a place to pray, to listen and to meditate, a space in which we can leave our everyday concerns behind and find peace.  Last Sunday at church, we heard the message that God is always with us and loves us as we are.  In an age when everyone expects an increasing amount from us and judgment abounds, the message that we are OK as we are and that we are all welcome in our church resonated with me as I sat in that place called sanctuary. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mind Your Manners

I must be showing my age.  It seems as if there isn't a week that goes by when I'm not grousing about the lack of civility in our society today.  From the rancorous political environment to rude media pundits to reports of cyber-bullying to uncivil gestures from road-raged drivers, I wonder what has happened to us.  As much as I benefit from technology, I believe it is a reason for our incivility.  With the advent of email, texting and the like, we have become less personal in our communication, which I believe has opened the door to stating things you normally wouldn't say in person or even over the telephone because you're shielded by the cloak of remoteness and even anonymity.  Our rapidly changing technological advances have turned us into an instant-gratification society where patience is allowed to run thin.  What lessons are we teaching our children when we aren't kind, polite, patient or respectful, especially with those whose opinions may differ from our own?  How do we find common ground in an increasingly divisive society?  I think we take responsibility for our own actions, demonstrating that our differences can be addressed respectfully without succumbing to low behavior.  Perhaps it's as simple as practicing patience, thinking before speaking, trying to understand the other point of view, and, best of all, minding your manners.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Ahead

Today is the vernal equinox and I am thrilled to be "springing ahead," just as our clocks did a week ago.  We have had temperatures in the 60s and 70s - 20-plus degrees above the norm, providing us with a real spring for a change, not the overnight change from winter to summer that seems to have been more our pattern in recent years.  I really love the dramatic change of seasons.  In summer, all I want to do is be outside.  In the fall, I begin to "nest," preparing for the next big change, winter.  Then, there is spring -- that sigh of relief that we've managed to survive the harshness of winter and that there is increased light, warmer temperatures and the return of color (especially green) to our landscape.  I walk with a lighter step.  I feel more optimistic.  Everything seems right with the world when it's spring.  So, I celebrate this change in life's rhythm, ready to spring ahead!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Everyday Goddesses

Larry and I spent St. Patrick's Day evening at a feed mill-turned-restaurant in a nearby community.  There, we heard a Celtic and Irish music concert presented by an enchanting vocalist named Celia.  From clever little Irish ditties to more soulful Gaelic tunes to her own compositions inspired by life experiences and trips to Ireland, Celia moved effortlessly from one song to another, all the time holding the audience in the palm of her hand.  Her pure voice needed little, if any, accompaniment, but Celia proved to be skilled at both the guitar and an Irish bodhran drum.  One of her songs had to do with everyday goddesses and it got me to thinking about the women I know who amaze me with all that they do.  They have husbands, families, homes, jobs and hobbies.  Many volunteer in their churches, communities and kids' schools. Some are doing all of that and going back to school at the same time.  As the song from an old TV commercial used to say, these women bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.  Today's everyday goddesses are often the glue that holds their families together, making sure that everyone in their households are clothed and fed, school assignments completed, and extra-curricular activities attended.  I salute all of the amazing, empowered everyday goddesses I know who make our world a better place every single day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beautifully Stated

The red-breasted robin is our state bird.  For the past week, it seemed that everyone I'd encountered had seen at least one robin but I had yet to see my first one of the year.  Then, lo and behold, as I was heading back to work from my lunch break on Friday, a solitary robin was at the foot of our driveway!  According to the State of Wisconsin's official website, this welcome sign of spring became our state bird after having been selected by school children in 1926-27.  The robin joins such other Wisconsin symbols as milk (the state beverage), the badger (the state animal), Forward (the state motto), "On, Wisconsin!" (the state song) and red granite (the state rock).  The sugar maple is our state tree and the wood violet our state flower.  How fortunate we are that children from 85 years ago had the vision to select the red-breasted robin as our state bird, for its presence brings beauty in both color and song.  Within a few weeks, we'll see an abundance of robins.  But last Friday, that single robin's welcome migration to our yard was a beautifully stated sign of spring. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Grandpa Saw Green

'Tis St. Patrick's Day and I find myself thinking about my grandfather, who may have had a touch of blarney in him!  Although I understand that his ancestors came from England, Grandpa liked to say that he had some Irish in him, as well.  Grandpa had a keen wit and a twinkle in his eye, so I never knew if he really meant it about his Irish heritage or if it was just his way of being a wee bit of a leprechaun and having fun with me.  I read that 34 million Americans claimed on the 2003 census to have had Irish ancestry -- nearly nine times Ireland's population. Every St. Patrick's Day, I think it would be nice to be Irish.  On the other days of the year, I'm content to be my usual mutt-mix of Bohemian, German, English and whatever.  I should probably do some genealogical digging, but for today, I'll wear green. I'll think about cabbage (without the corned beef, though), and I'll raise my "tankard" of water as a toast to Grandpa, who just might've been Irish after all. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Takin' It Slow

Last evening, I did exactly what I said I wasn't going to do any longer -- I hurried.  In an attempt to capture too many good things in one evening, we walked at Devil's Lake, ate a sub sandwich and attended a lecture.  To accomplish all of this, I hurried home from work.  We shaved three minutes off of our lake hike.  We chowed down our subs as if we were starving.  We hurried to the lecture hall right behind a vehicle taking its time.  And then, panting from the experience, we collapsed into our chairs to listen to the speaker.  The funny thing was that the topic of the lecture was slow money and slow food.  Lyrics from a Simon & Garfunkel song kept going through my head as I sat there, "Slow down, you move too fast."  And indeed I did move too fast.  There was no way that I was "feelin' groovy," as the song suggested.  How can you experience the subtle nuances of life or contemplate slow-anything when you're scurrying around?  The good thing is that I am gifted another chance to slow down, do one thing at a time, resist over-scheduling, and enjoy the subtle nuances of this glorious day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dropping Off to Raindrops

It rained again the other evening.  As I listened to the drops strike our windows and skylight, I couldn't help but smile.  There is nothing so delightful as to fall asleep to the lullaby of a spring evening rain.  Before I headed to bed that evening, I opened the front door a crack and took in a deep breath of the damp, warm spring air, rich with the aroma of the earth.  I reached my hand out, just to feel the gentle raindrops landing on it.  It's early for us in Wisconsin to have such warm temperatures and rains that smell of spring, but it has been a winter like no other I can remember.  I've been taking advantage of the unseasonable weather to indulge my serious case of spring fever.  The winds have been warm.  The sun has had a particular brilliance. The grass has been turning green. Tulip and daffodil leaves have been erupting from the soil.  The birds have been singing and singing!  I haven't been able to stay inside -- The outside has beckoned me for many a delightful walk.  Soon, we'll see robins, the true harbingers of spring.  What joy to think about spring's blessings while falling asleep on a rainy March night!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Be Still My Heart

Larry and I enjoyed an after-work walk at Devil's Lake State Park last evening.  I needed to spend time in that sacred place that holds healing for me.  At first, I used the time to talk about missing Mom (who had passed away six months ago that day) and to work out the kinks of my work day with Larry.  Then, all of a sudden, my thoughts halted.  I was hearing the jubilant chorus of red-winged blackbirds, spring peepers and large frogs!  Be still my heart!  The song of spring was all around us!  How could one have any problems, concerns or quandaries when these magnificent creatures were lifting our spirits with their song?  Their chirruping preceded the sight of them, but Larry finally spotted a red-winged blackbird on a reed, head lifted, trilling loudly. I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face.  There was just too much joy around us to not smile.  By the time we returned to our car, my longings for Mom and the cares I'd had from my day were long behind me. Mom was with us as we enjoyed that magical evening. I had found peace and joy and the healing I needed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thoughts of Mom

My mom passed away six months ago today, Tuesday, September 13, 2011.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't still shed a few tears thinking about her lovely, gentle but profound presence in my life.  Today, I think back to my childhood growing up in the country and Mom's many ways of celebrating spring.  Mom had never lived in the country before she married my dad but she fully embraced the experience.  She loved nature and she found many ways to honor the rhythm of the seasons by bringing elements of nature indoors. In spring and early summer, you couldn't enter a room in our home without getting a heavenly whiff of blossoms. For weeks, Mom would fill antique pitchers and vases with a rotation of sprigs of forsythia bush, flowering current, lavender and white lilacs, and the vintage pink roses of my paternal grandmother's bush from our yard.  Right around our May birthdays (which were four days apart), we would pick big bouquets of lilies of the valley, which I believe produce one of the loveliest of all scents. In the early spring, Mom and I would explore our big backyard for signs of wood violets.  We didn't like to mow until the carpet of purple and white had been spent.  Spring days were also made for searching for the first signs of asparagus on our property.  On a day like today -- warm and sunny -- Mom would wash, press and rehang curtains.  Linens would hang on the clothesline.  Windows would be opened to bring fresh air in. And then there would be time for play, as she would swing one end of a big rope tied to the fence, so I could jump and jump and jump.  Mom was a spring person in every way.  I miss her light heart, easy smile and soothing voice.  Mom, this lovely spring-like day was made for you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musical Memories

Larry and I spent a recent evening watching several public television programs pertaining to music -- from Doo-Wop to Rock, from Big Band to Singer-Songwriters.  It was delightful to become engrossed in so many musical styles at one sitting.  I couldn't help but think how music defines us and how we often associate eras in our lives with particular pieces of music, especially from our youth.  During the Doo-Wop and Rock 'n Roll show, audience members were interviewed, sharing stories about first loves, school dances and other memorable moments.  The years shed away and those gray-haired folks suddenly became young again, singing along with the musicians, remembering every word.  When I hear "The Way We Were," I think of prom.  When I hear Tom Jones sing "She's a Lady" or The Partridge Family sing "I Think I Love You," I smile from memories of fun Friday night sleepovers with my best friend Pam.  When I hear anything from "Saturday Night Fever," I think of dancing under mirror balls on my college campus. Time is a precious, funny thing.  When we're young, it seems as if it'll go on forever. But as we age, we know better.  It becomes special to reflect on what was.  Music can be that conduit to our memories.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kid Crafts

While removing the last of the farmer's market red potatoes from a mesh produce bag the other night, I recalled having to take such a bag to elementary school many years ago.  We were going to make some type of craft project out of it, though the nature of the project is lost in the recesses of my mind.  On another occasion, we had to bring a cottage cheese container for a project.  Again, I don't remember what the project was, but I do remember having to bring a cottage cheese container for it.  Isn't the memory a strange thing?  Why would I, after all of these years, remember being asked to bring a mesh produce bag and a cottage cheese container to school but can't remember the projects for which I needed them?  Those projects didn't stand the test of time but a couple of them did.  Until a year or so ago, my mom still had a basket I had made of Christmas wrapping paper-covered cardboard pieces held together by red and green yarn.  I found among Mom's belongings a few other items I'd made in elementary school, items that Mom found too precious to discard, no matter how tattered they had become over four-plus decades.  In the complexity of today's world with its rapid change, it's nice to think about those simpler times every now and again, when yarn, mesh bags, cottage cheese containers and other everyday items could become something special.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Birdies, Bogeys and Breaks from Winter

I have never played golf.  However, on mid-winter Sunday afternoons, I like nothing better than to watch men's golf on television.  The golf pros are usually seen playing in beautiful, warm places filled with green grass and blooming flowers and dotted with gently swaying palm trees.  The commentators don't yell; they whisper. The crowds of fans stand or sit off to the side of the green, applauding and cheering, but with civility.  Those who have been golfing for years still have a place on the green and they are honored and respected for their accomplishments of yesterday and today.  All of my comments seem somewhat funny from one who has never swung a golf club nor even really understood the game.  Yet, there's something about golf with which I really resonate: Sunday afternoon respites from cold, snowy Wisconsin weather.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Keen on Quinoa

I've fallen in love with quinoa (keen-wah), a tasty, nutty grain that is a great source of protein and essential amino acids, and is fast and easy to fix.  I also enjoy millet, couscous, barley and hard red winter wheat berries. These grains all go beyond the brown rice that I had typically prepared for years.  I can buy each in bulk at our local health food store, The Grainery.  I rotate grains, refrigerating batches to heat up throughout the week as my hot breakfast "cereal" in place of the more traditional oatmeal or cream of wheat.  In addition to providing diversity to our diet and exposure to a variety of nutrients, these great grains inspire some fun, new recipes, becoming the stuff of soups, side dishes and cold salads throughout the year. And to think that I've only discovered what has been around since ancient times.  Indeed, everything that's old is new again.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Raindrop Lullaby

We had our first evening rain a few nights ago. Although I pride myself in being a sound sleeper, I awoke about 3:00 AM from the patter of the raindrops striking the bedroom window.  It had been months since I’d heard that sound.  The mesmerizing beat was comforting and it lulled me back to sleep.  What a difference from the silent storms of winter when snow accumulates rapidly overnight but without a sound to identify its presence.  In contrast to snow’s stealth, rain seems to come with fanfare – the sound of pounding drops, and if that’s not enough, thunder to really capture your attention.  But on that recent night, it was just the patter of the raindrops and me, thinking spring. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Now that March has arrived (and it did so like a lamb until the snowstorm on March 2!), I've been thinking a bit about lambs and sheep.  I even read a book recently in which the author talked about sheep, sheepdogs and spinning wool.  I know nearly nothing about sheep and lambs and I've never spun any type of wool.  However, when March arrives, I resonate with lambs, their softness and their perceived gentle personalities, and I'm grateful when the month arrives with that same meekness.  So, March is here:  The days are getting longer, the average daily temperature is rising, and the lion-like winter world is giving way to the lamb-like loveliness of a gentler season.  I'm not going to feel "sheepish" over this next statement:  Spring is not a  baaa-d time of year to be alive!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

College of Letters

Have you noticed how many times these days our sentences are swirling in acronyms?  What happened to speaking in real words instead of a series of letters?  I work in an industry that is fraught with complex terms that are often reduced to their essence in acronyms -- not too unusual in most industries today.  People in my workplace can be heard including numerous acronyms in one sentence with great ease and there is common understanding by all involved.  What makes it more complicated for me, however, is that as I move in and outside of my work setting, I discover that different groups use the same acronyms but the letters stand for different words and have distinctly different meanings.  I'll never forget my first meeting after making the leap from tourism public relations to health care.  Everyone was talking about WHA.  In my previous world, WHA stood for the call letters of the local public television station.  As the discussion proceeded, I became more and more confused, for there was nothing talked about that seemed to match up with the WHA I knew.  Fortunately, someone kindly explained to me that it stood for the Wisconsin Hospital Association.  I now proceed with more caution when using or attempting to understand acronyms.  I'm more willing to ask for clarification.  Call me old fashioned, but I really like real words.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I thought I was dreaming.  As I awoke the other morning, the sky still indigo, I could hear birdsong outside -- through the closed bedroom window!  I could barely believe my ears.  That long-awaited "alarm clock" was back again and I was overjoyed.  I threw off the covers and jumped up with a big smile -- not my usual way of getting up in the morning.  I've had birdsong on the brain lately.  While recently watching the hilarious "Napoleon Dynamite"(for the zillionth time), I found myself focusing on the many times throughout the movie when birdsong could be heard in the background.  I've been wearing my late mom's pewter swallow pin even more than usual.  And I listen intently to the sparrow choir as I walk past the healing garden each morning into the hospital where I work.  I am so ready for birdsong to start my day, uplift my spirits and propel me into spring.  What a welcome reveille!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Answer, My Friend

It's that time of year when the wind kicks up and the land begins its transition from frozen to ready for new growth.  We had a "blowin' in the wind" type of day recently when I could hear it moaning around our home, tree branches dancing and the wind chime outside of our kitchen window responding to the gusts.  The sun shone brightly and everything seemed alive and energetic.  It's on days like that one when I recall Mom anticipating that first spring day when she could hang freshly washed clothing and sheets out on the clothesline to dry. There was nothing like having a bed made with fresh linens that had been dried outside on the line.  Our towels and clothes might have been a tad stiff from the experience but they always smelled so good that we didn't care.  Mom would begin by wiping a damp rag along the clothesline to remove any dirt.  Then, she'd hoist the wicker basket of damp clothes outside, along with a heavy vinyl bag of clothespins. As a little girl, my job was to hand Mom the wooden clothespins as she clamped the clothes onto the line.  Sometimes, Mom and I would paint little faces on the ball-like heads of those clothespins and make clothes to put on their straight, wooden little bodies.  The types of clothespins with the spring clips were handy but not nearly as interesting to my little-girl imagination. Our backyard neighbor, an active woman in her 90s, still hangs her clothes and linens out on the line, and I welcome the sight.  While we know that we'll still have some late-winter storms of one kind or another, our recent bright and breezy day was truly a breath of fresh air, heralding the warm, delightful days of spring ahead.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Something Fishy

Larry and I reserve our once-weekly meal out for Friday nights, and that usually means "going out for fish," as we did on a recent Friday night with friends.  That's because, in Wisconsin, nearly every restaurant, country club and tavern serves fish on Friday night.  If you mention "going out for fish" on Friday night to someone from outside of the state, you'll likely get a blank stare.  In Wisconsin, however, it's a weekly staple, and everyone knows what it means to "go out for fish."  The choices usually include cod or perch, broiled or batter-fried (if it's beer-batter, then you're really in Wisconsin).  Other options include plated entrees, buffets or all you can eat; baked potato, french fries or hash browns; salad bar or coleslaw.  I'm not sure where and when the Friday night fish fry began but I would believe that it has religious connections for those from the large ethnic groups that settled in our state's eastern communities and who maybe could not consume meat on Fridays during specific religious seasons.  They had easy access to fish, living along Lake Michigan.  Whatever the true origins, "going out for fish" has become a tradition in our state that people like Larry and me perpetuate every Friday night.  Yum.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Way With Words

Do you drink from a bubbler?  If you have the vaguest idea what I'm talking about, then you're likely from Wisconsin.  I read recently that the gargantuan project of assembling words that are unique to particular regions or states has been published by Harvard University Press in the five-volume Dictionary of American Regional English. The dictionary features words and phrases that are regionally understood, but perhaps inexplicable elsewhere.  As a child, I recall my first encounter with the quirkiness of regional language when I asked for the whereabouts of a "bubbler" to someone from outside of Wisconsin. The person didn't have any idea what I was talking about until I further explained that I was looking to get a drink of water and the person responded, "Oh, you mean a water fountain."  While we like to think that if we speak English, there's homogeneity in the experience, the truth is that there is variety based on where we live.  I am grateful to those who have assembled this voluminous dictionary to document our colorful and regionally significant words and phrases, and to validate that when I want a drink of water, I head to a bubbler!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Kind of Squirrelly

Today is first of March, that glorious month when spring officially arrives.  Spring has been in the air for a bit, despite a few days of cold temperatures and "wintery mix" weather, as the meteorologists say. Granted, in this part of the country, winter sort of slid through without any major hiccups this year but, still, there is nothing as hopeful as having the calendar page turn and, with it, the arrival of signs of spring everywhere.  I read in a recent newspaper article about this being the mating season for many animals.  The author cited squirrels in particular, so I must now watch our neighborhood's squirrel population to see if anyone's acting amorous.  As I read the article, I thought back to last year's squirrel family that resided in the mature arbor vitae that divide our backyard from our neighbor's.  Larry and I enjoyed countless early-summer hours sitting in our sunporch, watching the young squirrel siblings dashing from branch to branch, chasing each other up and down the tall evergreens.  In a few months, we may have a new family of squirrel offspring to entertain us.  When spring is in the air, perhaps we all act a little squirrelly, and that's just fine with me.  I see it as a sign of gratitude for surviving another long winter and of celebration for the renewal of life.