With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Poem for August

Coming up to the last two weeks of summer, and feeling the days shorten and the birdsong start later each morning. As we studied sonnets in my poetry class a few weeks ago, I found one that was appropriate for this summer's shift toward middle age:


A Calendar Of Sonnets: August
Poem by Helen Hunt Jackson

Silence again. The glorious symphony 
Hath need of pause and interval of peace. 
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease, 
Save hum of insects' aimless industry. 
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry 
Of color to conceal her swift decrease. 
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece 
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty. 
Poor middle-aged summer! Vain this show! 
Whole fields of Golden-Rod cannot offset 
One meadow with a single violet; 
And well the singing thrush and lily know, 
Spite of all artifice which her regret 
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go! 


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Presence

It's no coincidence that many birthday invitations read "No presents - just your presence!"  Though most of my peers would agree that the gift of someone's time means more than any dollar amount, it's still helpful to be reminded of the value of a friend.

On Friday night we celebrated the 50th birthday of a good friend whose wife had gone all out to make sure he didn't know about the party. In the row of friends and family holding the S-U-R-P-R-I-S-E signs was a college friend who flew in from upstate New York to visit the birthday boy, whom he hadn't seen in decades.  When we blocked the road with our signs and released the balloons, the honoree smiled and looked grateful and certainly surprised, but when he saw his dear friend holding up the second R, his face just morphed into a beautiful expression of shock and love and gratitude. All of us who saw this recognition and their ensuing embrace teared up, men and women turning aside to dab at their eyes and wave their hands in that helpless, mid-life expression which signifies "I don't know why I'm crying but dammit, here I go again!"

Rob also celebrated his birthday yesterday. Since it wasn't one of the "big ones" we had a quieter family day at home, but it was lovely to watch him read the cards from parents and his grandmother and brothers and the kids, and to remember what a gift his life is to all of us. Without Rob, the kids wouldn't be here, and I would be in a radically different place. We are blessed by each other, that's a fact, and we don't need to be You Tube sensations, Facebook fanatics, or Instagram addicts to know that our presence is a gift and the people in our lives are gifts to us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tail End of Summer

Clutching the tail end of summer as it swings around like a wild cat and heads into the teeth of the school year. Emails come every day from elementary, middle and high schools (yep, a kid in each this year) urging me to fill out forms and calendar all registration days. We've barely finished spring cleaning and have numerous projects going . . . but the fate of such aspirations hangs in the balance of fading energy and desire to laze in the sunshine while we still can.

Last weekend we broke free of the calendar and camped with friends at a delightful locale called Spillway Camp. Third time's still a charm, and the kids ran and played with as much abandon as on our first two yearly outings at this lovely, rock-pile-strewn riverside camp. The stars on our first night were absolutely breathtaking; William and I thought the little dipper would pour a cup of warm milk right into our hands.  We saw a bald eagle, a fox, hawks, and many chipper-munkers, as well as the most amazing sight of all - kids of all ages getting along for the better part of three days.  William wore his high-top hiking boots and scrambled over boulders without re-injuring his ankle and Aden and I wrote poetry during the rains to make up for my missed seminar.

This week William is off to camp at Eagle Lake, I'm working, and Daniel has nature camp every morning. Aden finished her math packet for high school and I am trying to arrange an tour for her at the high school where she will be a freshwoman. Thank goodness for our village here in Willow Creek - the carpools, pet-sitters, package-picker-uppers and reminders from our neighbors have saved our bacon numerous times over the past weeks. We're blessed beyond measure to be reminded daily that our friends and family matter most - that long afternoons in conversation and long walks and even short group texts tie us all together on a emotional-spiritual life raft to carry us from season to season.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Summer Swimming Finale

Four days of swim meets this week - two days of cold, drizzly weather and two days of blistering sun. Tiny figures in Speedos shivered their way to the blocks and through their 25's and 50's, while the older girls in bikini tops chatted with school friends between their 100's and 200's. We spent approximately $853 at the concession stands, and Daniel became a connoisseur of breakfast burritos and cheese pizza. More sugar was consumed per capita than anywhere else in Colorado, and purple tongues bespoke sticky spray candy and snocones. Moms and Dads staggered from tent to pool deck, carrying the bags under their eyes as well as towels, water bottles, goggles and heat sheets. All in all, an epic week.

Aden raced on a cool Tuesday with the 13-14's and 15-18's, swimming her best times in the 200 free, 100 breast and 200 IM.  She placed 9th in the breast to qualify for finals and later was bumped up to 8th as someone in front of her scratched (whoopee!). Both of her relays also qualified and ensured that the day of finals would be full of friends. Today she improved her time by another second and both relays moved up in the standings. She also swam a blistering 50 free to anchor the free relay and it was her best time in that race, as well.

Daniel raced on another cool day that turned rainy and colder. He swam two relays and a 50 backstroke, cutting six seconds to race to his best time in that race. He also spent time at both his brother's and his sister's prelim days, putting in nearly as many spectator - hours as his mother.

William battled through his badly sprained ankle, removing the air cast for the first time to kick at prelims on Thursday, and squeaking into finals in his 50 fly and 50 free despite adding between two and three seconds in both races. His relays also made the championship heat in finals and all of the boys ensured their return trip today. When the day of racing did not cause further injury or additional swelling to the ankle, we decided to proceed with finals today and William shook off any concerns of readiness and pushed himself, dropping 3.5 seconds in his 50 fly and 1.7 seconds in his 50 free (from Thursday!) to do best times and improve his standing in both races. The relays also improved, and we're hoping his 11-12 boy teammates brought home the trophy for C division once again.

So now we're sunburned and bleary - eyed, resting up before the season-ending banquet and awards ceremony. As usual, the time has gone too quickly, and we'll hang up goggles for a while before jumping back into the pool again to train or race. So sorry to see the season end but grateful for good health and good friends, and the kids' internal drive to do their best.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Days

Independence Day in our neighborhood rivals Christmas for its party atmosphere and joy. The morning begins with a bike parade from the elementary school to the closest pool, a tidal wave of children and adults in red-white-and-blue. The middle school kids usually take the lead, careening around the first corner in a tipsy scrum that barely stays upright. Younger kids next, with parents jogging alongside to shout warnings or grab an errant handlebar. Then teens stroll by with dogs on leash, kids and dogs all spray painted in the colors of the flag. Adults stop by a certain driveway for a 10:00 beer, all ending up at the pool where lifeguard distributes otter pops and occasionally the fire truck stops by to squirt everyone with a hose.

Next stop the pool. We go home and change, fill the cooler and lube up with the sunscreen before heading out to relays and games at Mineral. With the shade tent in place from an early morning scramble to save seats, we kick back with friends to watch the kids dive for coins and soda cans, their goggled faces nearly split with glee. The kids get kicked out for the 21-and-over beer can grab, and our youngest danced with excitement to see Rob jump in and take part. Moms, Dads and grandparents grabbed a beer and snapped the tab immediately to the lifeguards' great dismay. "No beer in the pool!" they shouted.

Our family relay made the final heat but then placed fourth, after a valiant effort from William on his sprained ankle. I blew the inner tube relay for our team trying to loop it around my foot in an awkward backstroke, and was barely forgiven in time to purchase a hamburger and chips for lunch. A visiting man in bright pink trunks won the big splash contest by sacrificing his body for heroic belly flops. After the kids' water balloon toss we made our escape to veg out at home for a few hours. In the evening, a barbecue with friends and fireworks in the cul de sac topped off the exhilarating and exhausting day.

After a day of recovery we're embarking on the final week of swim team, with prelims for our kids on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The jury's still out on how much William will swim and on how many events the kids might have to re-swim at finals. Certainly no rest for the weary!


Friday, July 3, 2015

A Pneumonic for sIn

Aden and I attended a beautiful Catholic wedding service yesterday. The young bride was radiant on the arm of her tall groom and the wedding party was wonderfully global, with family members from Argentina and South Africa in attendance. The priest spoke with a Spanish accent -appropriate for the bride's bilingual family - and delivered a good sermon, though I had my doubts when he dove into the topic of sin on such a happy occasion.

His message was unexpectedly simple and appropriate for the newly wedded couple. "Sin should be spelled with a little s, a big, BIG I, and a little n. That's what happens when the egoic "I" gets in the way of our savior and our neighbor.  We have to work very hard to take that big I and bend it, force the ends together, round it out and change it's shape.  When we're done we have a circle, an 'O' and the word now is 'son,' as in the son of God."  Easy to remember, hard to do, but always helpful in a marriage, a family, a community.

Wishing everyone a blessed Fourth!