Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rob and Mr. Neopoli

Both sets of my grandchildren have attended church with me and met Rob, the kid magnet. One of the kids in our congregation called the church “Rob’s house.” Rob carries a plastic bag with candy in it, and the kids flock around him. He tells them that the orange ones are carrots and the green ones, peas. What mother could argue with that? 

When he taught my granddaughter in Vacation Bible School her brother was jealous, “because she got Rob!” I can’t think of another man, besides my husband, that I would rather have teach my precious grandchildren. He teaches in words, and in his actions. 

When I was a child I occasionally attended  large church in St. Louis. In the 1950’s it was quite formal, I had to wear a dress, white anklet socks and black patent leather shoes. I carried a little purse and wore white gloves. 

photo from
The church entrance rose from the street in grand, steep stairs, and we entered into the lovely narthex under a high ceiling. Every time, we were greeted by Mr. Neopoli, a short man who carried gum in his pocket for all of us kids. I had to shake his hand and greet him by name. Etiquette reinforced with a treat! 

I don’t remember a thing about the actual Sunday service, except for Mr. Neopoli. (That and the way Grandma could take a hankie, fold and roll it to create twin babies in a blanket.) 

My grandkids don't know the hankie trick, but maybe they’ll associate church with a kind man who showed an interest in them. That's a good place to start. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sprigs: Feathered Fighter Pilots

My granddaughter and I made sugar syrup for the hummingbirds and hung the feeder above the deck. It didn’t take long to catch their attention, and the bickering began.

I don’t understand why delicate, tiny helicopterish hummers turn into feathery fighter pilots around a feeder.  Whenever one came to feed, another challenged it. I read on one site that they are extremely territorial, and will even attack artificial hummingbirds! 

Their maneuvers were remarkable. High above the feeder two lunged, swerved, feinted, parried, and finally parted. Did they establish who was the alpha male? (or female?) 

Between battles they managed to empty the feeder, and I packed it back into the shed. 

I enjoy them much more when they peacefully work over my flowers. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vegetative Vigor

Everyone who grows 
squash has one that escapes 
notice and becomes an exemplar for the word vigor. This plant is producing fruit at an unbeatable rate. It's formidably potent.

It makes me want to shout “Stop, little pot, stop”,  like the magic kettle over-running a village with porridge. 

Instead, I throw the monsters into a brush pile and leave them to decompose. 

Consider, too, mental vigor. I met a friend’s Uncle Harry when he was 96. We grinned at his unintentionally retro look, wearing summer duds from an earlier decade. But he was mentally sharp and talked about current affairs. He was still serving on boards of nonprofit organizations and participated in a longevity study at a major hospital.

Finally, there is spiritual vigor. St. Paul doesn’t use the word vigor, but he describes it when he exhorts us to “run in such a way that you may win.” He uses the metaphor of a trained athlete, competing for the highest prize, the imperishable wreath of a life lived for Jesus. 

So, even though I’m not going to eat those yellow squash, I appreciate their vigor.

May God grant us all fruitfulness, physical strength, mental acuity, and spiritual vitality. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

summer at the arboretum

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

NC Arboretum near Asheville

Recently hubby and I headed west to Asheville and revisited the North Carolina Arboretum. Last time was in early April, no leaves, no flowers, but we enjoyed the empty limbs as we walked through the woods.

This trip, we hiked the Bent Creek Trail. And the rhododendrons were gloriously blooming.

All stages of development were evident. The pink buds swell, and the color fades to white as they open. 

Once the bloom ebbs, the individual flowers fall off.  For the first time I noted that each of the hundred flowers that make up the full blossom have five petals

From the cafe's screened porch, we watched construction on some new addition and munched a delicious apricot chicken salad sandwich. 

But the biggest difference between trips of course, was the flowers. I loved the pots in the water feature, and the simple repetition in the design of the wall behind the feature.

The quilt garden flouted common species, but some unusual forms and cultivars. I imagined turning a particular bothersome section of my garden into a mini-quilt next year. 

Like an umbrella in a beach drink, there was another excellent art display.  I was captivated with the images Barbara Sammons created using a photographic scanner instead of a camera. Be sure to use the link to see her stunning images of flowers, some manipulated electronically.

If you haven't been to the Arboretum recently--you really need to go. You wouldn't want to miss the gem. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The disappearance of "you're welcome."

Even very small children are taught to say please. A little later, we teach them to say thank you, and eventually, you're welcome. 

But I notice lately that the adult media world has quit using the latter. 

A news caster interviews some expert. At the end of the dialogue, the correspondent says "Thank you, Ms. Expert."

And Ms. Expert responds, "Thank you."

Wasn't she supposed to say, "you're welcome?"  I mean, she's just shared her expertise with the reporter, and the network is grateful. Her "Thank you" indicates that they've done her a favor. She appreciates the platform? a boost to self-esteem? 

Eventually the traditional call-response will become "thank you" “thank you".  "You're welcome" will drop out of usage, as the use of sir and ma'am have nearly disappeared. 

I see a parallel to our shrinking written communication. I haven't scripted a letter in years. I prefer email. Thank you notes, birthday cards and post cards are about the only time I set pen to paper. 

However, as radical as it seemed in 1995, I understand that most millenials think it's outdated, too slow, and opt for text messages instead. 

Which shrank written communication. Texting spawned a condensed lexicon of abbreviations and symbols. The jargon hampers vocabulary and depth of meaning. As an example, imagine how you'd feel if a relationship ended with a brusk "ILUAAF" (I love you as a friend.)

18-24 year olds text an average of 67 times a day. I imagine they get their point across, but without nuance, like a dinner without seasoning. 

In my opinion truncated communication stunts our ability to express our emotions and fully-developed thought.  Both are necessary foundations for healthy relationships.
Teachers report that their students prefer to sit together, but text each other instead of chat. Can Generation Z (2000 and up) transition from informal chatting to formal discussion? Is that going to effect their ability to read and write academic English?

I’ve already had to set strict guidelines for electronics with my grandchildren, all under 10. On the other hand, I know that as they get older, I will have to change how I engage them. 

Nonetheless, I'm taking a stand against shallow communication on two fronts: 

1) I will engage my grandchildren in F2F conversation. 

2) I will continue to say YW when someone says TX.

To which the young texter might respond, meh?*

Don't text me your response! 

*meh a sound of indifference, who cares, whatever 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Road kill

Road kill is a fact of life for those of us who drive narrow, twisty roads that border woods and fields.

When I first moved here I cringed at carrion, and closed my eyes. 

wikipedia creative commons
Then ground hogs marauded through my garden like swooping Vikings. I craved revenge.  I grunted with satisfaction every time I saw one lifeless beside the road. At least that one won't despoil anymore green beans. 

For the same reason, I'm tempted to play "chicken" with the bunnies pillaging my vegetables and flowers.  I cheer for Mr. Mac Gregor against Peter Cottontail.

Since a pesky squirrel pulled off a home invasion last year, we've trapped and released him three times. We discussed shooting him but we're unreliable with firearms and squeamish besides. 

Today I spied a mysterious erect wisp rising straight up from the pavement. My brain fumbled to identify the waving plume until I got closer. It wasn't a feather, but a tail. Maybe that smacked flat squirrel kyarn was our pest.

 I laughed out loud.