July already. And busy. And happy. And gratitude.

There’s a little chalkboard in my kitchen. I originally bought it with the idea that it would be the place where we’d leave notes for each other; something to replace our habit of leaving sticky-notes on the kitchen door frame.

But… the sticky notes continue to be the method of communicating such things as, the dog’s been fed or If I’m not awake by 5, please get me up.

One day, not long after the kitchen became home to the chalkboard, I stumbled across an inspirational quote that I really wanted to remember. I wrote it on the chalkboard. And it remained until another quote struck my fancy and replaced it. Kacey joined the movement and periodically adds words of wisdom that she finds along her reading travels.

There’s almost always something on the chalkboard to remind me to have gratitude. Deep, down inside, gratefulness has not often been my focus. I’m focusing on it now, and sometimes it’s an effort. Passing by those dusty, white words each day, and stopping to think about them helps.

Hazy morning sun

Hazy morning sun

This time of year, it’s easier to have gratitude. My daughter is home for the summer and I’m just so thrilled to have her near me every day. Her bubbly attitude about life in general inspires me.

The longer hours of sunlight, warm weather, and the colorful, seasonal landscape give me frequent reasons to stop and feel appreciation. As summertime brings people outside, we often find ourselves spontaneously gathering with the neighbors. I sometimes forget how much good it does me to interact with others and just relax for a while.

The birds have moved out of the house on our deck. I thought I’d be thrilled, but was surprised to find myself feeling a little sad that they’d gone without saying goodbye. Shortly afterwards, I was checking out the growth in our vegetable garden down in the yard and realized as I heard their familiar song, that they were hanging out in the pine trees just outside the back fence. All is right in their world and I was relieved to know they are thriving.

Logan next door is growing up before our eyes. Having firsthand experience with the fact that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, I’m reminded what a privilege it is to be in Logan’s circle. Last night while putting away a few groceries after a visit to Sam’s Club, I heard his voice trailing behind Mark as he helped carry some things up the stairs to the kitchen.

“Here, Terri,” he said in that sweet, little boy voice, as he reached the upper level and handed me a package of lunch meat. While he still calls me “Tee” sometimes, that habit seems to be fading away.

“Thanks, Log,” I said. He proceeded to tell us about how he’d gone fishing earlier in the day. His arms and hands gestured wildly, and his story was sprinkled with lots of wells, as in “Well, I didn’t get any fish. They wouldn’t come out!”

He’s getting talkative, and his words are easier to understand. After the food was put away, he hauled me out to the driveway where we, of course, played chalk. Logan usually tells me what to draw, but now he’s creating more of the artwork himself. He was thrilled when I made one of his shapes into a fish. From this little boy who was previously very shy about expressing affection, I was rewarded with a full-frontal, tackle-hug! Then came a game of hide-and-seek, where Logan would tell me where to hide. He counted while I attempted to hide from his peeking eyes. He helped me water the pots of flowers, and then just before it was time for him to go home to bed, we played “bad guy.” Logan was the bad guy, and he said I was the fire truck. (?) I guess fire trucks chase bad guys until they capture the bad guy and pick him up, swinging him in a circle and make him giggle.

It’s been a busy summer, but mostly in a fun kind of way. We’ve been invited to several graduation parties this year, chances to gather with friends and family, and reasons for my oldest son to come home for a weekend visit. I love to see the way my grown-up kids now appreciate each other so much more than they did when they were younger. They have so much fun together, and truly seem to have become friends. Makes my heart just want to burst.

Last weekend, I tried something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Cheers Pablo. Have you heard of this? It’s a sort of painting class. You pick a session in which you’ll get to create a specific painting, show up, and everything you need is ready and waiting for you. And if you like, you can purchase drinks to sip on while you paint. Hence the cheers. My niece invited her mom, (my sister,) and Kacey and me to go. We each painted our own barn scene, following the instruction of a fun, young twenty-something girl who kept getting paint in her long dark hair! And while my first impression was that the result was rather elementary, I had so much fun painting it! The more I look at mine, the more I think I’ll hang it up somewhere in the house. And I totally want to do it again. Maybe in another class. Maybe on my own.

Today I’m enjoying a holiday from work. There’s a long weekend ahead in celebration of our country’s independence and nothing too spectacular in my next few days. The kids all have fun plans of their own and Mark has to work on the fourth. So I’ll do a few things around the house, spend a little time with extended family and just savor these summer days before Monday rolls back around again.

Dang Birds

The days are gone when our bird family would share the deck in harmony with us, serenading us with their beautiful melodies.


Since the babies arrived, there is no more music. No more happy songs. And definitely no more living harmoniously with us, the ones who graciously provided them a home for their family! We’re no longer welcome to sit outside under the canopy while the birds are around. Now that the babies are here, everything’s changed. Honeymoon’s over.

Feeding the babies seems to be a 24/7 job. And the parents don’t want us people anywhere nearby when the feeding is happening, which, as I mentioned, is an all day, every day thing. When we do dare to sit outside and enjoy the summer weather, we just get yelled at. Lucy too. They don’t want her sitting anywhere near their house while it’s feeding time. Which, as I mentioned, is always!

I’ve begun to think of their scolding as “chittering.” Every time I set foot on my deck. Chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter! Every time I even open the door to let Lucy outside. Chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter! 


One day, Papa Bird (I’m just going to say it was Papa Bird because I don’t really know if it was Papa or Mama. But the behavior seemed very father-like, so I’m going with Papa.) One day, Papa Bird sat on the hanging feeder across the deck from his house full of babies. He had a spider in his mouth and refused to carry it across to the babies as long as Kacey and I were sitting there. With his body lunged in our direction, he began to scold again.

Chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter! Chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter! 

This went on until he scolded just a bit too intensely. The spider dropped from his mouth and escaped to safety for another day. We could feel the scorn Papa Bird’s glare as his bird shoulders slumped and he went off to find something else to feed the kids.

He soon returned with something that to me, seemed much more likely to fill the bellies of his obviously large family. We were tired of getting yelled at. And besides, we didn’t want the babies going hungry simply because their parents don’t trust us, so we conceded and went inside.


We’ve since completely given up on any attempts to relax out on the deck. Last night, Kacey was trying to read and enjoy a beautiful summer evening. The birds made it impossible to focus on the words, so she gave up.

I hope those babies grow up soon!

Rolling into Summer

I’m off work today. Weeks ago, I’d scheduled this as a vacation day because Mark and I were planning to go out of town for the weekend. Those plans fell through, but I kept the time off and I’m glad. I have nothing in particular in mind for this day, but it’s shaping up to be a beautiful one. We’ll see what it brings, and if that’s nothing more than getting a jump-start on the weekly chores so I’m free to enjoy Saturday and Sunday, I’ll take it.

Summer seems to be well on its way and I’m loving it! There has been a good balance of rain and sun lately. We’ve had several days with temperatures in the eighties and one day reached up into the nineties already! On weekdays, I’ll take a break from work to walk around the pond outside of the office. It’s good to get away from the computer screens and corporate environment to stretch my legs. The turtles have already returned to their sunning spot on a particular log. And this time of year, I’ll often notice the sweet scent of various plants and flowers blooming along the path. One day, a couple of guys dressed in business casual were traipsing around in the trees between the walking path and the water. They were both bent over, closely scrutinizing the ground. I asked what they were looking for. One held out his hand to show me the Morel mushrooms they’d discovered and were busy collecting.

At home lately, we’ll often enjoy dinner out on the deck under the canopy, or just relax there in the evening while watching the sky for storms rolling in.

Storms Coming

2015-04-25Our deck is becoming somewhat of a wildlife sanctuary lately. Remember the chickadees that had taken up residence in the bird house not long ago? Remember how we were saddened to see that some other creature had destroyed the nest, smashed the eggs, and chased the chickadees away? Remember how Mark suspected the sparrows? Well, there’s a new bird family in there now. Wrens. They seem pretty relaxed with the frequent human and canine presence in their neighborhood. And in the mornings, they sing beautifully (and loudly!) For weeks, every time I’d hear them, I’d think, “So pretty!” Until one day I found myself thinking, “Enough already!” Still, the wrens are pretty cute, even though I was mildly disturbed to learn that it was likely they who evicted the chickadees. (Sorry for blaming you, sparrows!)

Birds aren’t the only creatures getting comfortable on our deck. Lucy spends a great deal of time snapping at and chasing flies and various other winged insects. And one day, I almost stepped on what I first thought was a little wood chip. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a tree frog. He wasn’t the least bit bothered by me putting my phone up close to his face to snap a photo.

Tree FrogUnder the deck, the rain has been good for the hostas. They’re getting out of hand early this year!


In packing news, we continue to sort through my parents’ accumulation of fifty plus years together, in preparation for their move to the town house they’re purchasing. We’re getting better at throwing and donating things, but plenty of stuff is still finding its way to my house, at least temporarily. Kacey is now the proud owner of a GPS, and Jake, a small cooler to keep his pop and water cold while he’s out on a job site.

Earlier this week, we came across the bowling balls. My parents, of course wanted to know if I, the family bowler, would want them. I didn’t. I have two of my own bowling balls and the main one is weighted so I can throw a hook. These were your standard spare balls for throwing a straight shot. And although Mom’s is a pretty, swirly, green one, it’s not heavy enough for me. Dad’s is too heavy.

Dads bowling ball

The bowling bags were water damaged, so they’re getting thrown away. Mom’s bowling shoes are long gone and Dad’s are curled up and dried with age, so they can be thrown away too. But I wasn’t sure what to do with the balls. I’m sure I could just drop them off at the Goodwill, but was hoping I could put them to better use. I asked at the bowling alley when I was there on Wednesday, but was told they wouldn’t take them.

In a last-ditch effort to figure out the best thing to do with old bowling balls, I stumbled across a Pinterest page. Now I know what to do with the balls!

Mom and Dad’s new place has a few small garden areas. Maybe they’ll get their bowling balls back as a housewarming gift. :-)

In Logan’s World

It was gorgeous outside today. The weather pendulum swung back toward summer again.

I was just winding down after dinner when I heard a little boy voice right outside the open living room window. I peeked down from the window sill and saw our next-door buddy, Logan contemplating our concrete bird bath. He likes to throw the landscaping rocks in there. Let’s them plop in the water and then giggles at the resulting splash. If his mom doesn’t stop him sooner, he’ll fill the thing right up before he runs off to find something else exciting to do.

“Logi!” I called out the window. He looked over one shoulder and then the other, but not up. He didn’t seem to realize I was talking to him through the window screen. And he’s so bashful! The sound of my voice so near sent him running back to his own front yard where he face-planted himself between his mom’s knees as she stood talking with Mark and Logan’s dad.

I wandered barefoot outside to join them. Logan cast me a shy smile and then craned his neck, looking up at his mom.

“Mommy! Wann get me?” he pleaded.

“Okay,” she said and he took off running around the locust tree. Logan’s mom, Susie chased him around a couple of times before the game ended and she came back to join the adults. Logan continued to hang on his mom’s legs, stealing shy glances at me now and then. Finally he worked up the courage to ask me to play.

“Tee! Wann get me?” I was surprised. Logan likes us, but he likes us to keep a respectable distance. He usually doesn’t invite me to get too close. Except for that time he threw a tennis ball at my head when I didn’t realize he was playing catch with me! Good thing my reflexes were quick that day!

“Sure, I’ll play,” I agreed. Logan giggled and began to circle the tree again, checking over his shoulder to be sure I was chasing. He hadn’t gone far when he dropped to the ground and rolled forward in the grass, his toddler legs and feet curling up in the air behind him with the momentum of his fall.

“Whoa!” I said. “You okay, buddy?” I asked as I scooped him up by the armpits and set him upright again. He giggled and said, “yeah” and was off and running again in a split second. He hadn’t gone maybe fifteen feet when his body dropped and rolled in the grass a second time. This looked suspiciously intentional and I scooped him up again, this time swinging him high up in the air before standing him up in the grass once more.

Over and over we chased and there was no doubt in my mind now that Logan was purposely hurling himself on the ground so that I would scoop him up and swing him around. Eventually I wound up swinging him higher and higher, and twirling him in circles until we were both dizzy and he began to tire out. He feigned an injury after one fall and I picked him up and held him in my arms, him facing me so he could point out his owie. And “anahr one” and “dis one” and so on before he wriggled out of my arms and back to the ground.

I tried to join the adults again when Logan was done being chased and done pointing out all of his owies, but soon he was beckoning me again.

“Tee! Wann draw chalk wif me?”


Google Images

He scampered into the open garage and soon returned with his bucket of sidewalk chalk. Next, I was being directed to make a rainbow, a fish, a jack-o-lantern, flowers and a tree. The driveway was quickly covered with colorful chalk drawings. He’d watch me create and then he’d add his own flair of colorful lines and circles to my etchings. The fish needed pink eyes, he said. The rainbow needed white lines. The tree needed to be circled. Every drawing became a combined effort between Logan and me.

The sun began to set. Logan stopped chalk-drawing abruptly and stood up straight like a little tin soldier. He pulled his shoulders back, puffed his chest out and beamed at the sky.

“Tee! Iss dark!

“It is getting dark,” I agreed. “Logi, do you like this jack-o-lantern?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he sang, agreeably, then ran to his front door where a big orange pumpkin sat on the front step.

“I got punkin!” he exclaimed, waving his arms toward the pumpkin with a dramatic flourish.

“It’s a good one,” I agreed.

Logan continued to dance and skip around me, running on his tippy-toes, clutching a wedge of chalk in his little fingers. He pointed out the solar lights along the sidewalk beginning to glow. “See dis one? See dis one, Tee?” He reminded me several more times, “Iss dark!

The mosquitoes were beginning to bite and the ground was getting cold beneath my bare feet. Susie told Logan it was time to go inside. As usual, he resisted her. He wanted to play more. He wanted to show me the dark and the solar lights again. I could still hear him chattering happily to us, even as Mark and called out good night to him, and headed back inside our own house.

Dancing in the Grass

Labor Day weekend … a time to celebrate the culmination of days of hot sun and rain showers, t-shirts and shorts, barefooting and cooling off in the lake. Yeah, we still have a few weeks to enjoy full leafy trees and colorful flower gardens, ice cream and cold drinks outside on the deck, but it will all soon come to an end. School days have begun. The sun goes down earlier in the evening. The skies stay dark until later in the morning and the sun sinks below the horizon earlier in the evening.

Summer is winding down. I’ll surely miss it, but I took the chance to throw it a party this weekend and tell it to hurry back soon!

Actually, I didn’t throw the party. My sister and brother-in-law did. I just contributed some food and helped bid the passing season a bon voyage.

My brother-in-law, Kevin is a talented bass player. At 23 years old, he picked up a bass and said to himself, “I think I’ll learn to play this thing.” And then he did. Not too many years later, he found himself in a band, called Unsung Heroes. They were good. (You might think I’m prejudiced in that statement, being related to Kevin and all, but they really were good!) My sister, Cori took notice of them while out with some coworkers after work one day and that’s how she met Kevin. Eventually, she married him and the rest is history!

I’m sorry to say that Unsung Heroes are no longer together. Marriage, growing families, and life took precedence over playing in bars every weekend. But Kevin continued to play his bass. His passion for music didn’t fade away. He and Cori passed on their appreciation and talents to their two boys. Over the past few years, as their kids grew older, Kevin got back in the band scene. He plays at church. He plays in a rock cover band. He plays in a Christian rock band and he plays in an Elvis tribute band. His music keeps him very busy, but it’s what he loves to do.

Kevin’s musical connections made for a great party this weekend. He invited all of his musician friends along with all of his non-musician friends and family for an afternoon of fun and food in the back yard. The various bands played their own stuff and also mixed it up and played with each other for a great afternoon and evening of tunes.

Here’s Tom, a talented lead singer, with his Unsung Heroes drummer, Gordy, Kevin on bass and Mike of Millie and the Misfits on guitar.

And here’s Art a.k.a. Elvis with some of his band mates and Tom.

As the sun (and a few more drinks) went down, the guests began to dance. Neighbors strolled over and joined the party in the back yard. A bunch of us ‘girls’ formed a circle on the ‘dance floor’ and shook our groove thangs! The lawn was taking a beating in ways that my husband would never allow to happen in his yard. But no one seemed to mind here. The condition of the grass was the furthest thing from anyone’s thoughts.

I requested My Sharonaa throwback to the Unsung Heroes days and the band belted it out loud and proud. As happy energy flowed through my veins, I could feel the dewy grass beneath my bare feet and the cool, damp brush of the nighttime air on my skin. I had that rare sense of throwing caution to the wind and just living in the moment. My niece, sister and I laughed at and with each other as we danced and jumped around until we were breathless, not caring what we looked like. We were having so.much.fun! 

We’d given summer a proper send-off and the party ended with promises to do it again soon.


Summer Days

Quiet morning around here.

Kacey’s gone with Connor to his grandpa’s cabin up north, celebrating one last summer weekend on the lake.

Jake is still sleeping, having gone to the races at Cedar Lake with his buddies last night. He came home long after I’d fallen asleep.

I checked in with Brad yesterday to see what his weekend plans were. He told me hunting season opens this weekend. Just last weekend he was here with us. Now I have hunting season to contend with if I want to see my oldest son over the next few months. But hunting season is Brad’s happy place. I wouldn’t deny him this time each year.

The past week felt like a long one. Things at work are hectic. Good, but sometimes overwhelmingly busy. One of my work friends was out all week on vacation and I realized how much she and I tend to bounce our stresses off of one another. I really felt the impact of her absence this week. On more than one occasion, I found myself looking ahead to the end of the day, wishing the hours would pass by more quickly. Not only the hours, I wished entire days would sail by so the weekend could be here sooner. And by five o’clock on Friday, I saw how easy it is to just wish time away. Soon a whole week is gone. A whole summer. Months and years.

In just seven days, my baby heads back for another year of college and the house will be too quiet again. Soon the sun won’t burn so hot.  Leaves will begin to change and fall from their branches. The taste of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers will become just a memory. The grass won’t need to be mowed so frequently, and then the plush greens will change to brittle browns. My jean jacket will come out of the front closet again.

I love fall and I look forward to fresh apples, the reds, golds and burnt orange hues in the trees. I can almost smell cookies and sweet breads baking in the kitchen again. We’ll leave the windows cracked at night and sleep with a cool breeze drifting in through the screens. These are some of my favorite things. But they’ll get here soon enough. I don’t want to miss what’s right in front of me because my eyes are already looking ahead to what’s next.

So when Lucy’s cold, wet nose swiped across my face early this morning telling me she was ready to go out for our morning trek, I didn’t roll over in favor of another hour of sleep. I changed into shorts and a t-shirt and laced up my new running shoes. We went out into the still quiet morning and greeted the hazy summer sky. We filled our lungs with the sticky summer air. We stretched our muscles as I took in the summer scenery, listened to the songs of birds, welcomed the sweat running down my face and back, and counted my blessings . Lucy tried to chase a black squirrel while I did my best to rein her in and keep my shoulder in its socket.

Upon our return home, it felt so good to come back into the air-conditioned house and gulp down a big glass of icy cold water. As I did, I noticed again the crazy sun flowers in the back garden.


How quickly they’ve grown, starting out only from seeds tossed into an empty space in the garden as an afterthought. The tallest ones seem to be competing with the nearby pine trees to see which can reach higher into the sky. But like all of the plants in our garden, they’ll reach their peak and eventually begin to fade away. They reminded me to embrace the here and now. In spite of the fact that the laziest of days are behind us, there is still plenty of summer left to enjoy before it fades away into fall and then winter. I’m gonna squeeze every last drop out of it.

First Summer Tomato

Maybe because I’ve taken a more active role in the garden this year, I’ve been keeping a close watch for the fruits (literally) of our labor.

There seem to be hundreds upon hundreds of cherry tomatoes. We’ve enjoyed the first of these sweet, red-ripened baby tomatoes. It’s been a good summer for the garden, with just the right amount of rain and sun. We already have more cherry tomatoes than we can possibly consume. Kacey brought some to Connor’s grandma, who lives in a townhouse and only has one or two tomato plants growing in containers on her deck. They don’t seem to grow as well when they’re confined like that and Grandma is always a willing recipient of our extras.


There have been a handful of sweet bell peppers and cucumbers too.

20140802 veggies

But what we’ve really been anticipating are the first “real” tomatoes. The vine-ripened varieties you can buy at the grocery store aren’t bad, but there is nothing like a home-grown, summer tomato. We’ve had varying success in the past and last year, while the tomatoes were delicious, they didn’t get very big and weren’t all that plentiful.

This year, whether it was the rotation of our back yard crops, or the abundance of rain and cooler temperatures, the tomatoes are coming in big and bountiful. Some are baseball sized, some even bigger! The plants have grown so tall and full, that I have to search carefully through all the foliage to see what might be growing in the under-reaches of our garden jungle. Most are still a light shade of green, but I caught a hint of pink last week and have been keeping an eye on it as the color finally morphed into red. Yesterday, the first tomato of the summer was finally ripe for the picking!

20140802 tomato

That baby was lunch! I rinsed it in the kitchen sink, sliced it thin and spread the juicy slices on a piece of wheat bread with some mayonnaise. Added a sprinkle of seasoning salt, a slice of provolone cheese, and topped it with another slice of bread. Then I brushed the outsides of my sandwich with a little olive oil, tossed it into the Panini maker and a few minutes later … YUM! When Kacey came home from work some time later, I made one for her, this time with a slice of roasted red pepper cheese instead. She agreed that I’m a sandwich genius.