Top 10 Summer Time Killers

I can remember the countdown to the last day of school like it was yesterday! We waited in anticipation for the coveted summer break to arrive. There were end of school parties, desk clean out days and extra recesses since there was, in all reality, nothing to do but be physically present so the school could collect state funding for the day. Ah, summer.
In summer, you could have sleepovers with your best friend ANY day of the week, not just on Friday.
You could sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.
You could play outside for hours only to be greeted by your mom delivering ice-cold RC cola and grilled cheese sandwiches served with crunchy Cheetos around noon.  You might be treated to a trip to the pool.  You could count on Dairy Queen numerous times, but especially on the way home from Grandma’s house on those hot sticky nights.  There were strawberries and blueberries to pick and be made into jam.  A trip to your grandparents’ home in Tennessee was always on the agenda.  There was the annual outing to a Cubs game which involved going into downtown on the train- a treat indeed.  Bible school marked the end of summer.  It was usually held in late August.  I always suspected this was to get us ready for “school mode” again.  But the best part of summer, was the laid back, less harried lifestyle we leisurely enjoyed.   I hope my kids get some of that.  I was blessed with a mom who got to be at home until I was in high school.  I have to juggle work and summer vacation- no easy feat.  We will see what happens this year.

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School Supply Addicts Anonymous

I am Just Me, and I am a school supply addict.  There!  It’s out in the open!   

I just love this time of year!!!!  It’s like New Years, only warmer and without the football.  Well, sort of without football.  It’s the beginning of the season.   At any rate, it’s a new start.  It looks like this:

You’re wandering the aisles at your local Target, when suddenly, it hits you. That smell!  That heavenly, wonderful aroma of fresh crayons and paper and pencils and plastic!  It’s mesmerizing.  You abandon everything on your “To-Do”  list, ignore your hungry, thirsty children, your ringing cell phone and follow your nose until you find it-The School Supply Aisle! 

I love school supplies!  I love office supplies!  I get so excited!!  It’s like all these new opportunities right at your finger tips!

Notebooks are my weakness.  I’m sure it has everything to do with the fact that I like love to write.  I mean, really, when I was in school, notebooks came in a few primary colors and composition books came in that odd black and white pattern.  You know the one I mean.  Blah.  Now, there are all these choices and patterns and colors and wow!!!!!  It’s SO exciting!!! The kids choose the ones they need for school and I always buy several new ones for me.  My kids don’t understand what in the world I’m going to DO with them, and, truth be told, I don’t know either.  I just know I need them. They’re so cute!   They call out to me and I MUST buy.  And, hey!  At fifty cents, or less, I can afford them!  Eventually, I find a use for them.  I have one for “Things I Want to Try”, one for “Topics I want to Write About”, one for “Recipes I want to Try”, one for “Favorite Quotes”, etc.  I just love paper and pencils. 

Paper.  Ahhh, blank sheets of wide ruled notebook paper.  What could possibly be any better than that? Whole, big packs of lined paper just waiting to be filled with new knowledge, new ideas, thoughts, notes to friends, etc. 

 Then, there are the folders and binders and three-ring notebooks with dividersLove, love, love these too!  They are all about organization and I am all about that!  Oh!  And don’t forget planners! Everyone needs a new planner at this time of year!  I KNOW I have one on my phone, and believe me, I use it.  However, I am nothing if not a visual learner, so see, I need one of the paper and pencil variety as well.  My all time favorite is the one produced by Mary Engelbreit, but that’s a post for another day.  (LOVE her too).  I love to see everything all organized and reduced to little inch by inch squares.  It seems so doable that way.  Not at all overwhelming like my life actually is most of the time. 

 I’m also a sucker for erasers.  I know, right?  It’s just that with erasers, there’s room to change your mind and make mistakes and revise your ideas.  Ink is so, . . . permanent.  There is a place for ink, but not in my journals/notebooks.  I need “wiggle” room there.  I especially love the pencil top erasers.  They are quite functional.  While I really like the big pink ones, I can’t seem to keep up with them, so pencil tops work best for me. 

 Brand new markers and so much fun!  It’s like buying a pack of opportunity or potential.  It’s like inertia. All that energy in one place!  Just waiting.   And, they now come in every hue known to man.  When I was in school, there was the 8 pack of primary color Crayola markers and that’s all.  Now there are choices and creativity abounds!  Love it!  Plus, they make that really cool “clacking” sound when they bump into each other in your brand new pencil box.  

 And then, (drum roll please)  . . . there are the CRAYONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I LOVE crayons.  I love the smell.  I love the look.  I love the feel.  To this day, I love to color.  I know, I know.  I will cry when my daughter is no longer interested in coloring.  Right now I have her as my “excuse” to color.  Fortunately, she also shares my passion for organizing and likes to arrange her colors according to hue.  So, all the yellows are together, all the reds and blues, and, well, you get the picture.  I told you I have issues. 

It’s a great Mom/Daughter activity. No?  Works for me.

 Yep, total addict.

(sigh)

 So, now you know.

Where I Come From

I am from photo albums, from Kodak and Polaroid and big square Sylvania flashbulbs.  From sharply squared off corners and gently rounded ones mostly arranged in chronological order in tacky albums with faux tapestry covers, and from the ones placed carefully in a shoe box awaiting assignment.

I am from the simple one level ranch style home on a typical middle class, paved, side-walked street of suburbia.   I am from the two kids, one dog, one bathroom, nicotine infused house with the pink bedroom at the end of the hall. 

I am from the red petunias and geraniums in the planters out back, the forsythias and yew in front with the rose bush that just wouldn’t die and a large flowering crabapple too. I am from black top driveways and rusty swing set, from sandbox and child-sized picnic table and wade pool to small to accommodate all the kids in it. 

I am from black-eyed peas for good luck in the New Year and brunch on Christmas morning,  from white-collar and blue-collar, educated and simply, life-experienced.  I am from pasta and garlic, Coq au Vin and creamed chipped beef.

I am from the gap between your two front teeth that takes an orthodontist to repair and crooked index fingers, from short stature and freckles and ugly feet. I am from determined, strong-willed, kind, honest, hard work.

From “always do you best no matter what it is you’re asked to do” and “treat people the way you would want to be treated”.  From “right is right and wrong is wrong” and “life isn’t fair”, but “what goes around comes around”.  I am from “If you can’t look yourself in the eye, nothing else really matters”, and “Your character is showing”.

I am from a deep Baptist tradition of faith handed down from generation to generation and the Salvation Army Band.  From Deacons and Sunday School teachers, from Church Training and Monday Night Visitation.  From salvation by grace and forgiveness that’s a free gift.  I am from Victory in Jesus, Because He Lives, At The Cross, In the Garden and Moment By Moment.

I’m from Illinois and Tennessee,France, Ireland, Sweden, the Cherokee tribe and Italy.  I am from sweet corn, brats and pork tenderloins, from biscuits and gravy and greens. I am from decadent chocolate mousse and baked brie, corned beef, lingonberry jam and lasagna.

From, “I can’t hold the umbrella, my rain bonnet and ice cream at the same time” and “Hey, look at those candles!  They re-lit themselves!  What about that?”, and “I thought that was lemon Jell-O!” I’m also from, “What night does Saturday Night Live come on?”, lung cancer, and melanoma that goes to the brain, fifth grade educations that were acquired by walking two miles up hill both ways in the rain, bagnacauda and a deep abiding faith.

 I am from cedar chests and treasure boxes, jewelry, well stored, handed down from generation to generation, and china cherished, polished and used only for holidays.  I am from depression era pink glass and Jewel Tea earth ware, from railroads and grocery chains, dietary departments and large commercial kitchens, RC and Pepsi, innocence and simplicity, difficulty, hardship and make-a-way for yourself in spite of life. 

It’s truly a colorful heritage with an interesting cast of characters.  I got a little from all of them.  I think I did well.

The Mulberry Bush

When I was little, my grandma lived in an apartment in town. Unlike many apartments, this one had, not only a front porch (which will no doubt be the subject of another post) but also a small yard! Actually, for an apartment, it was a rather large yard. In the center of the yard was a gigantic Mulberry Bush/Tree.
I’m sure it was once a bush, but it was so overgrown it had become a tree in its own right. Even as a child, I realized that no one had ever, intentionally, planted such a large tree in such a limited amount of real estate. Yet, there it was- a veritable feast for human and bird alike!

 The apartment had been a boarding house many years ago as evidenced by the abandoned hinges that adorned the frame of each doorway. At some point in its past, that building must have been “high-class living”. The mulberry bush/tree even had a concrete sidewalk running from the back door to the tree. It then circled the tree and made its way, leisurely, past the black- eyed- susans and daisies to the alley, where it ended amid lilac bushes and a long ago dilapidated fence and arbor, that, no doubt, used to welcome friends and tenants alike.

 

Even in its worn state, I thought it was magical! I imagined parasoled, gloved ladies sitting in the yard sipping iced tea and enjoying a small bowl of the sweet/tart berries while engaging in the gossip of the day. Perhaps the berries were even used in a pie or cobbler! Maybe they were for wine or tea.  Grandma said you could take them and use the juice as a dye for material.  We even painted pictures with it one time!  Whatever the reality had been, I was certain it was magnificent!

 However, for me,  the Mulberry Tree simply signaled spring and the upcoming summer and many lazy nights with my Grandma. We would sit outside or take a walk down to the water front to escape the heat of the one bedroom apartment. In those days, Grandma was still “old school”, which meant no air-conditioning. Upon our return trip, we could cut through that same alley and walk down the sidewalk towards the tree. I would ask to pick and eat some and Grandma would always “happen to have” a butter dish carefully hidden under the back steps for just such an occasion.
Exhausted from the exercise or the heat, or both, we would hike the two flights up to her apartment to carefully wash, and ever so slightly sweeten our find!  Then we would sit, both of us, cross-legged, on the porch, or better yet, the two large rocks out back and savor each berry.

Lazy Sunday Afternoons

Growing up, every Sunday afternoon was spent at my aunt and uncle’s house with all the rest of the family who also “happened by”, as expected.  Italian families have strict codes of conduct. They are the unwritten “rules”  that everyone knows and abides by despite any personal inconvenience. 

We laughed and ate.  The adults played cards, discussed business and gossiped.  The kids, and there are MANY in an Italian family, played and watched TV and generally tried to stay out-of-the-way. 

There was always the smell of some version of sauce brewing and brewing until just the precise moment that my Uncle declared it finished.  Then, it was a “first  come – first served” stampede!  You better hurry up because NO ONE was watching out for you, making sure you ate.  When it was gone, it was gone.  Hope you liked it.

Then, there was more card playing and talking and, well, a kid could get pretty bored.  If you had not yet reached the age of card playing ability, but were too old to want to swing or ride a bike, you were pretty much stuck.  What to do? 

Somehow the TV always found its way to –  now get this-Italian family –  the God Father right?  No, oh, that we were so lucky!  No, what the older kids who controlled the dial gravitated to was:  The Beverly Hillbillies.  And, thus, began my education of all things Southern.  We did, with the advent of the VCR, eventually come to know and quote the GodFather by heart, but in those formative years, it was all hillbilly!

So, there we sat, all 15 of us, gathered around a 27 inch console TV with a color tube ready to go out at any moment, soaking up all of the Ellie May we could digest.  In the midst of the culture that ensued was always a candy dish.  There are two flavors of candy in Italian homes- anise and lemon.  Everyone I knew growing up had a candy dish and that one was ALWAYS full of anise candy.  Sometimes it was the hard red kind and sometimes, the black mints, but always anise. 

  

In my mind I can still smell the distinct sharpness of the dark red pieces.  It was so pretty, all wrapped in red cellophane, like Christmas all year.  Anise is an acquired taste.  My own children have probably never had it.  It’s licorice, but not exactly, and dark cherry, but with a peppery bite to it.  The smooth, tongue numbing square was exactly enough to get you through a thirty minute episode as long as you sucked on it and never crunched it up.  We ate a whole dish each week and had contests to see who could make their piece last the longest.  I could beat them all! 

As I sat writing this Sunday night, I so wished I had a piece, but there is none to be had here.  I’ve looked.  Add it to the list of groceries I need to pick up next time I’m “home”.  

Maybe what I really wanted was just a piece of that family time.  Although it was simple, and  I didn’t understand it at the time, it played a large role in making me who I am today.  Add it to the list of things that are Just Me.