Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coming soon to a town near you . . .

This is a scene that plays out Friday nights at high schools across the country. Starting at the beginning of the school, marching bands take to the field. Last Friday night was our homecoming.

Watching the Penns Valley marching band brought back a flood of memories! The weight of the band uniforms, our mandatory white bucks, the smell of metal of the instruments, the autumn air so crisp that it seemed it would shatter. I can still hear our band director, Mr. A's, commands to keep in step, stay in line, keep it straight. He may have been small in stature but he was a giant in his love of the band and his dedication to making us the best we could possibly be--or at least have straight lines.
There were so many of us - all the instrument groups were represented--at least it seems now anyway. We had a head majorette who threw (and caught) flaming batons along with at least 10 other majorettes in their sequined brown and gold leotards, we had flags, we had pompoms--the Rockettes who, if I remember correctly were at least as large in number as the band. We knelt poised at the side of the field just waiting for the seconds on the scoreboard to wind down--and then we would run out onto the football field to present our halftime show. Mr. A must have spent hours crafting our shows and then drafting them so that they were easy for use to follow. Proud Mary and Smoke on the Water were our standards and to this day, whenever I hear either of those songs I am transported back 30 plus years. Our band was proud of the show formations and manuevers we practiced and practiced throughout the season. We were something.
Marching bands are quite noticeably smaller these days. The band for the visiting team at the football game last Friday had only a handful of instrumentalists--barely enough to be heard in the stands. They had 2 flags and no majorettes at all. The bands are shrinking each year due to lack of interest in the arts, lack of funding, lack of parents to drive the kids home from practice and maybe, a lack of the popularity associated with other activities.
Back in the 70's, playing in the band was a surefire route to being called many things - none of them compliments. My kids now are way more strong than I was at their age - I caved to the pressures of high school and dropped out of the band. I am so happy that I have two aspiring marching band members who are old enough to know that playing in the band may not be the path to popularity but love music enough not to care.

At our homecoming game, the junior high kids including my daughter were able to join the marching band on the field for the pregame show. I watched my daughter walk with pride out onto the field in front of hundreds of football fans. This really mattered to her. You could see the concentration on her face--so careful not to walk too fast, or too slow, glancing left and right to stay in line.

Mr. A would be proud.


Sometimes when you look at something in the flash of a moment it can appear to be one thing, when really, it is something else.

If at first you only notice ugliness, blink and look again--you may just see something beautiful. Snap judgments can be deadly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My running buddy would cry

Hanging up my running shoes. Thinking of it. My knees ache and grind and sometimes when I’m sitting for a while it is all I can do to straighten my legs. I’m just wondering how much of an impact not running would have on my life. I’ve run for the past 17 years: 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons……..with an ultra as my goal for my 50th birthday. To stop running would require redefining who I am. I've always been a runner.

It feels like I’ve always run. Somedays I’m running toward something, other days I’m running away. Running makes me special. It keeps me healthy- mentally and physically. It makes me a good role model for my kids. It is my one redeeming quality and the only proof that I am visible in a sea of invisible middle-aged women. I’m a runner.

If I quit running, what will I do? When my husband and I argue, he always tells me to ‘go for a run’. What will I do then? I can’t run away! Whenever I need to plan something or practice a presentation, I practice to the beat of my feet hitting the ground. I enjoy all four seasons on my runs. Some of my best memories are of runs I’ve taken: the first snow, the first robin, the flocks of gobblers right before turkey season that I told no one about, the fields of daylilies that are blindingly beautiful when open on a bright, summer morning, the hidden secrets I’ve noticed out in the woods: foundations of old homes, barns, bridges. . . . I would miss all of this. And I just can’t get the same satisfaction out of a walk.

How can I give up running? It’s like giving up a best friend! I don't think I can give up running – but I think a compromise is in order. Jeff Galloway has an excellent plan to ‘run until you are 100’. I own the book – I think I own most all books written about running and the lore of running. What if I walk a bit? But mostly run? And on days I don’t feel it, mostly walk. Chirunning is also an option – and I have spent a small fortune of DVDs, books, tapes showing me how to perfect my posture and running position so that I am eliminating the strain on my hips, back, and knees. I will do this. There is no need to give up running.

Am I still a runner?

I am.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Squeezing the life out of summer

One of the last dips in the creek for my lab, Sebastian; some last rides through the woods without warm jackets; meeting a new farmyard friend hiding in the hay bales; finding some ripe apples that Dolly hasn't already claimed is a treasure; and spotting the first glimpse of fall colors!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Of cows and kids

This weekend was the culmination of months of work. All the kids who had placed in the first and second place of the district dairy shows came together for the PA State Competition. As dairy cow newbies, we had no idea what we were getting into.

Cows were washed more that day than the kids had been washed in a week! Snipping, clipping, combing, and primping took up most of the day. Words being tossed around like throating, topline, for which I had no idea of the meaning: an entirely new lingo of which my kids were familiar, but I was just plain ignorant.
All in all they had a great time! For months, the kids have spent endless hours caring, leading, and setting up their calves. Although most of them (cows or kids) didn't place high enough to move on in competition but that didn't matter.
True... there were tears - some of the kids had to contend with heifers who were just kids themselves. And although I am naive to the bovine culture, I believe it is difficult-if not impossible-to train a calf to walk, stand, and pose reliably.
But I think the kids--even the seasoned veterans--came away from the experience with feelings of accomplishment. After all, they made it this far.
And they should be proud. They have committed themselves to a noble cause, continuing a time-honored tradition of dairy farming if only for a year or two. Even though they may choose as adults not to pursue this career (it may not even be an option by then), they will understand exactly what is involved in the day to day operations of a dairy farm. Because they have been there and have done the work, side-by-side with the farmer.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Tidy. Clean. Not me. I guess I whirl through life like a tornado—constantly doing and not spending too much time backtracking. Or cleaning up after myself. In addition to being a bit odd, I am a notoriously poor housekeeper. It seems preposterous to me to pick up stuff that should have never been placed in a certain spot in the first place.

I have some definitely theories on this subject. First of all, I don’t keep crap. And by crap, I mean stuff that has no use or sentimental value. Things just for the purpose of having them are a waste of space. Towels, for instance, are used to dry one’s body. Does it really matter if all of my towels match? Or if they are in pristine condition? It doesn’t matter to me. If I spent a great deal of time in the bathroom, it might make a difference because I do like lots of bright colors in areas where I spend a lot of time. But not the bathroom.

Second, I feel like I am wasting time when I am cleaning. I could be spending my time living instead of cleaning. There are kids to play with, dogs to walk, trees to climb, creeks to photograph and if I am spending my time cleaning, how am I going to get my fill of all this other stuff?

Last, anyone can tell anything about us by looking at our kitchen and our living room. It is quite obvious the things we value. For me and the kids, its books – there are books everywhere! Magazines, library books are strewn throughout both rooms, stacked on shelves, on virtually every flat surface. There is yarn on the table – because one of my daughter’s has been very busy with knitting projects. My son’s quilt in the hoop which I’m handquilting…..all within easy reach.

Seriously, I have 6 dogs and 2 cats living with me in my house along with 3 kids and a mate. My house is very small and we heat with wood, cook with gas on an antique stove. We are very, very close—my kids and I. Both in proximity and in heart. Granted, it does get a little congested in there sometimes. It gets a bit irksome when you need to shimmy around the island in the kitchen, jump over 2 dogs, sidestep a cat, just to get to the bathroom but we all know what each other is doing, we are all connected.

Whenever anyone comes over, I feel as if I should prepare them for the clutter or, at least, apologize in advance for the general state of the house. But I don’t rush around and clean everything up. I hope that there are other things that visitors appreciate about me/us: good company, good cooking, good coffee.

I certainly do appreciate those people in my life for which a clean, tidy home is of utmost importance. They provide me the bit of guilt that motivates me to do the little cleaning that I do.

I want to use up my life with experiences. Not with housekeeping. I appreciate those people who are able to make a home spotless in minutes – but I am not one of those people. I am so easily distracted that the last time I cleaned a room from top to bottom, it took me an entire day. I don’t have that kind of time. I want to use the time I have doing fun things with my kids and enjoying them. Someday when I have nothing better to do, I’ll give the house a good cleaning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bliss . . .

Oh! to be so uninhibited that wearing your two-sizes-too-small Buzz Lightyear jammies, your favorite sweatshirt, and wielding your biggest, bestest sword while dancing in the wind brought, not embarrassment, but sheer joy!

My goal for the weekend: search for my inner 4 year old!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gone visitin'

All of our neighbors know me. Take that anyway you want. I'm especially known to be, well, eccentric, a little touched, a bit flakey. This is true.

I think I scare some of the newer people that have moved into the valley.

Sometimes it bothers me but not too much.

People are polite to me (and I to them). But sometimes I would enjoy having a clutch of people with whom to chat. But I never have to worry that my house isn't clean enough because no one comes to visit. Except for Daisy and Donald - the ducks next door.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Views from a run

Autumn is my most favorite time to run. After the sweltering heat of summer--whether running in the morning or the afternoon--the cool, brisk days full of color are so welcome! Although these photos were taken on a bike ride across campus, I often run here as well. Such a far cry of the hustle and bustle of campus - many times my path does not cross with anyone else's.

I feel so alive when I'm running through scenery like this - the forgotten dirt paths, the rails-to-trails paths, the backroads to the fields where the horses graze - all so breathtaking in the morning light.
Every once in a while a mystery is uncovered - like this small field of sunflowers that I must have passed several times a week -
Seeing the beauty of nature upclose and personal is one of the many reasons I love to run and bike. It makes me happy being a part of this world, to be able to find these little hidden treasures of places just so tucked away in plain sight.
But while I enjoy a slow, long distance run . . . .

Casper just wishes I would run a bit faster.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ghost Run

I have been down this gloomy road
The haunted house, its haunted
I have seen the ghosts float down the stairs Forever moaning
their despairs I have lived in the haunted house's bedrooms Chamber for me, for
the dead their tombs I have slept through attempts to spook me away But with
nowhere to go, I'm forced to stay Shadows and echoes from no living soul Created
by demons whom I have no control I might be the only one with a heartbeat But I am
not the only one here to great Poltergeists and phantoms, spectres and ghouls Of
deceased warriors, politicians and fools There are many apparitions living
here But as strange as it sounds it's me that they fear The dead come to play in
the midnight hour Turning on lights and running the shower Entering my bedroom
through the stone wall But these things do not frighten at all What frightens me,
is to be here alone For it's not just the ghosts that you can hear groan All I
want is someone's hand to hold So I'm not left alone with the ghosts growing
Matthew Densley

I had a chance to run in the fog this morning……I’ve always cherished early morning runs. This wasn’t exactly early morning – I ran after the kids got on the bus. But all was still, peaceful, and quiet. And foggy. Ghostly. There is something about the fog—especially the autumn (or near autumn) fog that reminds me of Halloween.
Halloween has always been my favorite season not only because of the fall weather but because there are no expectations. No gifts. Nothing but candy if you wish to share. It is perfectly fine to decorate for Halloween in September because fall and Halloween are one and the same.
I love running by myself. Well, kind of by myself – I had Casper with me. He’s kind of like a ghost himself. Are ghosts real? Or just what we think or hope is real. Ghosts are memories, for me. I see and feel the ghost of my aunt all of the time. I’ve felt the ghost of my grandfather a few times but he hasn’t visited me in years. I run into the ghost of myself every so often. The me who dreamt of a farm, of spending hours quilting, of a fulfilling job, of someone to love me, of chrysanthemums and daisys and huge gardens overloaded with vegetables of all sorts.
Occasionally the ghost of me who wanted goats to milk visits – she was here last night. So sad. I wish she would stay.

Like a will-of-the-wisp, my ghostself flits away before I can snatch her.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A storm inside . . .

For the second Sunday in a month, I bailed out of church after the second hymn--right before the passing of the peace. As I was standing in the pew, trying to sing - I could feel the panic setting in. The fear of going around saying good morning to everyone, shaking hands, sometimes hugging. For me, it should be called Passing out in peace. It's not that I don't like to meet and greet people, I do. But there are so many people milling about. Even in our little church, there seems to be so many people during this passing of the peace ritual that I can't breathe, can't move, can't think. I say good morning to everyone before church and after church when it isn't so rushed. Apparently my body goes on overload when there is so much human action in such a confined space. And it makes me sad because I wasn't able to stay for the sermon, the steeple dedication, the family meal. But I can't stand the thought of trying to talk to people and then breaking down in tears, which is what I do when stressed.

Must be why I prefer the company of nature.

Some more signs of the season . . .

You can be sure it is nearly fall . . the sunsets are incredible, Tipper is burrowing deeper into the blankets, girls soccer has started and they have already played their first tournament, Lunchbox is growing and growing, and the sunflowers are bowing their heads. I'm feeling more in tune with autumn and every day, I miss summer less and less. Autum for me is a like a warm pair of slippers - a pleasure to slide into and a warm memory of winters past. We still are trying to figure out what to do for the Summer into Fall celebration - for sure, start it with a high school football game. Soon it will be time for the yearly hayride with the church with hotdogs and hot chocolate afterwards. t, Fall - I love you!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Heart's Desire

It is not too often that I get to help someone's dreams come true. I am truly savoring my daughter's utter delight in her horse.

It is funny: a girl wanting a pony is a cliche. And seemingly like every other girl, my daughter has wanted a horse since she was old enough to know what a horse was. A few years ago, my husband surprised with an old white horse from the local auction.
I'll never forget that night and I'm sure that Haley will never forget it either. It was the end of December. We never spend too much on Christmas gifts so we did have a little extra that year. My husband and daughter went to the auction and came back and told me they bought a horse. I had heard so much negativity regarding auctions--I was very concerned that the horse that he bought was damaged or ill.
Snowball was delivered to us in the dark of the night in a swirl of wind and snow. The sellers parked in the lot of the little country church across the road. It was a beautiful scene - it took my breath away. Although he was at a new place and had been moved around from home, to the auction barn, and finally, to us, Snowball exuded calm and peace. It was as if he knew that he had come home.
Snowball and Haley have been in love ever since. We gave Haley a used saddle last Christmas but it still hasn't been picked up from being repaired. Hopefully we can get it soon. But in the meantime, Haley is taking lessons to learn how to properly ride and care for a horse. She knows that we will be able to pay for her weekly lessons throughout the next month or so but once harvest is over, she will be babysitting to earn money for lessons.
While I wish she stilled played the sports she has played since pre-school, I am happy that she has seemed to find her desire. She is focused and determined to learn all that she can and to some day be an equine veterinarian. She decided on a pair of riding pants and half chaps instead of some extra shirts for school. She is busy putting together a poster that she can put on the bulletin board at church advertising her babysitting services.
She has found her heart's desire.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Legs pumping,
chest thumping,
running feeds my soul.

I haven't been nearly as diligent with my running since we returned from vacation as I should have. I have run fairly regularly throughout the week and did some biking too. But no long runs on the weekends and boy-oh-boy do I feel it! When I don't run or bike at least every other day, I can feel it in every part of me. Right after vacation, I was busy getting back into the real world and I didn't make time to run except for my lunchtime. During the fair, there just wasn't anytime to run except during my lunch hour and some of those days were incredibly hot. Over the past few days, we've been dealing with some little critters at home which has taken way more time than I feel it should. My body--digestive tract, knees, neck, a morale--has taken a hit by not being active. But today, I ran. And it was wonderful seeing the trees and the forest behind my work building being poised to jump into the fall. I likely won't run tomorrow due to my daughter's soccer game and needing to work through my lunch. But on Friday, I'll run.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The beginning of a new school year . . .

the excitement could be felt the minute we walked through the gate leaving the fair - school starts next week!!! Well today was next week! And today was the first day! My daughters have been looking forward to catching up with some of their girlfriends they haven't seen all summer as well as connecting with their teachers from last year.
And for some reason, my son has been extremely excited for the new school year to start. He had a horrible year last year - for the first year ever (out of all five of my kids), we experienced huge problems with a teacher. My little guy hugged me the other night and told me that this year was going to be great! He just knew it! And when he came home today, he said that all indications were that his prediction of having the best year ever would be realized!
How can you argue with a positive attitude like that!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goodbye, Summer, goodbye

It seems as if it was yesterday that we were celebrating the last day of school;

that I placed the first seeds in the ground; the that we celebrated Independance Day with the crew at the lake;

that we explored waterfalls--the whole family for once;
that we hiked the rocky coast of Maine.

It is hard to believe that soon I'll be complaining about the bitter cold, the snow mountains piled outside the door making the trip to feed the animals a treacherous feat. It is hard to believe that soon my world will look like this:

A torrid love affair

 I've written about the ducks quite a bit. It's a little like Peyton Place around here I think. A couple of months ago, the male d...