Everything I ever learned about blueberry picking, I learned from …

Blueberry season is over now, but I managed to squeeze in a little last minute blueberry picking a couple weeks ago.  And good sport that he is, hubby agreed to come with so that we could make shorter work of those end-of-the-season slim pickings.

I say good sport because we were both required to pick blueberries with our moms as kids and it was (for both of us) anything but the idyllic Blueberries for Sal type of experience with ninety Blueberries For Saldegrees and Mom wanting to fill yet another  bucket. No, it’s hot. Sticky. Mosquito-y. Booooooring.

Let’s just say when I turned twelve and was designated Official Blueberry Picking babysitter for my brother and cousin and I could stay home—even with a seven-year-old and a two-year-old—I was thrilled. I was never. picking. blueberries. again.

But when the time came, I loved reading Blueberries For Sal to my littles all those years ago. The classic is the story of a young girl and her mother, and a baby bear cub and her mother, who are all four of them out on the same mission: finding blueberries. Because of that book, the memory I cherish about blueberry picking now comes from that one story which (in true McCloskey fashion) elicits a longing for a time and place I’ve never even experienced.

Blueberry picking
A perfect summer’s day

I learned everything I ever needed to know about blueberries from Robert McCloskey. “Kerplink kerplank kerplunk” became the sound blueberries always made in my kitchen. I’d even measure them out in my stainless mixing bowl so the kids (and I!) could hear the real deal. I once shocked my husband when on a lakeshore hike I bent down and popped some wild blueberries in my mouth. “You just can’t go eating berries in the woods without knowing what they are!” he said, alarmed. Oh, but I did know what the berries were—I had looked at those pictures in Blueberries For Sal over and over again.

Raspberry picking
A delight!

Now truth be told, the ten pound box at the farmer’s market did me just fine for many years. And then I got all nostalgic. (Maybe it’s an age thing.)  My daughter and I went raspberry picking. I survived! And then I returned to pick blueberries—not so bad at all. Much more like the Blueberries For Sal now that I was a sentimental old gal.

How life changes us.  A walk through the raspberry canes with my daughter and grandson is a delight, and blueberry picking on a Saturday morning is the perfect way to start a summer’s day.

Kerplink. Kerplank. Kerplunk.

Lawyer For the Dog: review

Lawyer For the Dog
Lee Robinson
Thomas Dunne Books

DogThis was probably one of those times when I did choose a book by its cover. Take a look—how can you resist that little guy’s face?! (My first dog was a schnauzer, so that didn’t hurt either!)

Lee Robinson’s Lawyer For the Dog is pretty simple to summarize. It goes like this:

Main character is a woman of a certain age–finally a love interest who’s not a millennial! (check)
Said character is single and ready for love  (check)
Add a tangle of past love, regret and self-doubt  (check)
Enter a winsome schnauzer who is the center of a custody battle  (check)
Bonus: the knight in shining armor has grey hair! (check)

Sally Baynard is a family lawyer in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s been divorced and single for almost two decades, but her ex-husband has decided he’s still in love with her. So Judge Joe Baynard decides to insinuate himself into her life again by assigning Sally as lawyer—and ultimately guardian— for a dog in the center of a nasty divorce case where both parties demand that Sherman the pup live with them. Sally is not too sure about Joe’s unexpected declaration of love, but she is attracted to the dog’s vet, Dr. Tony Borden. Complicating matters is the fact that Sally’s ailing mother (she has Alzheimer’s) lives with her, so a love interest seems like just one more hurdle.

Shall I mention again that it was incredibly refreshing to read some chick lit where nearly all the characters all had grey hair and experienced the pangs of middle age?!

This quick and easy summer read would please any hopeless romantic or dog lover—especially those over forty. The story might not be complicated, but it is delightful.

7 things Grandma learned in 7 months

I’m new to this grandma gig—only seven months into it, to be exact. And while I was once a stay-at-home-mom who raised three kids (pretty successfully, most people would say), the new littles in my life (J, seven months, and L, 5 months) made me wonder whether or not I still had my mojo. I’m watching my grandson J a day each week this summer while his momma (who works nights) sleeps. But my worry was a waste of time because it’s like riding a bike, I’ve discovered. And because these baby days will pass by in a blink, I’ve started a Things I’ve Learned list. Here’s round one:

EAT BREAKFAST* before baby arrives. The first couple times I didn’t, thinking, “Oh, I’ll eat something during his nap.” Yeah, right. Those were the days J napped for 30 minutes. And then there was play time. Then puffs and a bottle. A walk around the block. More playtime.  By the end of the day I hadn’t eaten—unless you count sharing his puffs. I. Was. Famished. Babysitting just might be a new weight loss breakthrough.
*And the closely related: do my MAKE UP before baby arrives—for all the reasons above. Except instead of dying of hunger, I looked washed out, wrinkled, and old. Kinda like a grandma.

Battling DOG HAIR AND Grammy and JGERMS is a losing battle I stopped trying to fight. I didn’t have any pets until my youngest was 2 (when I simultaneously potty-trained and housebroke both critters, I might add), so I didn’t really have to deal with this when I had crawling littles. Now we share our home with four hairy beasties. I vacuum before J comes, I wash the floors. And then I put him on a quilt to play, where he does not stay for long. By the end of playtime, he has fur and fuzz (and since it’s summer and humid) stuck to every little crease and roll, in places I’d never expect it. Ugh. I briefly did battle with a wash cloth and finally surrendered and just gave his little mitts a rinse-off under the faucet.

SIMPLE IS BEST when it comes to toys. When “watching” an oversized box—“Fisher Price Lil’ Zoomers Safari Sounds Jungle”—is as fascinating as a big screen TV and playing smack-the-toy-off-Grammy’s-hand can go on and on (and on!) and measuring spoons are every bit as entertaining that expensive Brio rattle.

You need a Masters in engineering to use this NEW-FANGLED BABY STUFF, or, that time when Grammy couldn’t use the stroller because I couldn’t figure out how to unfold it. Or, when terror struck my heart as I watched my son-in-law snap the car seat out of the car!!! instead of just unhooking Baby and carrying him in. I could hardly manage buckling him into the five point harness, let alone worry about latching the seat into its base. (Cut to a slow-mo of me running down the driveway, waving my arms, and yelling, “Noooo …”)

GRANDPAS ARE MORE FUN—it’s true. In he pops in for a few minutes, sits across the room, working at the computer, and what does J do? Everything in his little arsenal of cuteness to get Grandpa’s attention, despite the fact that Grammy has spooned yummy carrots into his little mouth, and watched the birdies outside at the feeder, and listened to Toddler Radio on Pandora, and changed the mother of all diaper blowouts … nope, it’s still Grandpa and his cell phone and computer and flying around the living room business that wins the prize. *Sigh*

I need a BABY MONITOR. The pack ‘n play is upstairs in our spare bedroom. I put J down and let him talk a while. (Momma says let him go for ten minutes, even if he ”complains” a bit.) I listen in the hall for a feIMG_1700w, but “This is ridiculous—go downstairs!” So I sit at the bottom of the stairs. “Don’t be silly—go do something!” But while I’m wiping down the high chair tray or picking up toys, I realize I don’t really know if he’s sleeping yet, do I? I creep upstairs and peek through the crack in the door. He’s quiet, but his legs are still pedaling. Back down I go, repeat the above—and you get the picture.  Grandma was tired enough without having to deal with that nonsense! Time to check Craig’s List again …

Everything runs on BABY TIME when littles are involved. I learned pretty quickly to adjust my plans for a walk, for carrots instead of applesauce, for reading instead of rolling cars … and just go with the baby flow. When J or L come play at my house, everything else comes to a halt—my full attention for playtime or cuddles is theirs. Because that’s really what grandmas do best. Mommas and daddies juggle Baby, work, house, and still have places to go and people to see. Me? Not so much. Grammy’s time is only Baby’s.

I ♥ Poetry: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and seeing how we’ve only three days left, posting about poetry is either now or never! Although I was an English major and always bookish, poetry was quite another thing. In short, I just didn’t like it. A fantastic poetry prof in college helped open my mind a bit, but I just couldn’t get excited over the stuff.

I was always intrigued by Emily Dickinson’s poems, but truthfully, I think the bleak romance of her life story is what drew me initially, not her language. But after faithfully reading the three volume Letter s of Emily Dickinson edited by Thomas Johnson (Harvard Press), I bought her complete works and was hooked. Dickinson’s poems are some of the few I’ve memorized and if I was a few years younger, I’d probably get a tattoo based on this (yes, really):

Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Fast forward to teaching the Odyssey to high school freshmen—I know, to some a fate worse than death—and I found myself (finally, English teacher that I was) truly appreciative of the imagery, the word play, the cadence, probably because I read so much of it aloud to the kids.

And that’s, I think, the hook to falling for poetry. You must listen to it read by expert readers. Like poets …  My husband and I had the serendipitous opportunity to hear poet laureate Billy Collins and poet Naomi Shihab Nye read at a local college nearly. The notice was in the Sunday paper, it was small, but we thought, “Wow! Poet laureate—let’s go” not even knowing Collins’ work at the time.

Oh. My. Goodness. We were smitten. Reading Collins—and especially listening to him—I discovered poetry could be not only insightful and musical, but witty and droll. The poet laureate was down-to-earth, humble, and oh-so-fun.  Here’s the first poem Collins read that evening:

See what I mean?!

You may be one of the lucky ones who has always had a love for poetry, but I came to my appreciation late. If you’re still reluctant, try a little Dickinson or Collins. Go to Youtube and listen to Sara Kay and Taylor Mali’s spoken word.

Don’t worry about being serious; don’t think you’re not sophisticated enough. Just let yourself be delighted.

Erin Condren Planner ♥

Several years ago, my husband converted me to Google calendar (which I still love, by the way, for our shared family planner), and when that happened, I gave up my circa 1998 black leather Day Runner  without looking back. All that time spent transferring phone numbers and birthdays every January—who needed it? Not me! I was a citizen of the Digital Age.

Erin Condren planner
Isn’t she pretty?

But this January I got a hankering again for one of those little bundles of organization. You know, the tabs for notes, the address book, the nifty little slots for business cards, and the cute zip lock pouch. I couldn’t put my finger on why, exactly, I wanted to go retro, but there it was. Unfortunately, the pickins’ were slim Office Max in that beloved 5X7” size I loved so well. In fact, I don’t even think they had a Day Runner. I contemplated a Filofax from Amazon. I even looked at printables on Etsy. Bah.

About the same time, a couple of the vloggers I follow unboxed their Erin Condren planners and I think I can safely “blame” Michele1218’s video for pushing me over the edge. (I knew a teacher who used one of EC’s teacher planners, but I didn’t know about her Life Planners.) So I stalked the site online for a few days and joined a couple Facebook groups just to see what the fuss was about.

What I liked about this new wave of paper planner addicts was their penchant for embellishing their weeks, very much like the scrapbooking I do. Now, some of it is a little overboard for my taste, but it looked fun, all the same. I also liked their DIY spirit–all these women laminating scrapbook paper to make something called a dashboard; cutting the Life Planner apart and re-punching it to fit a Filofax; making their own customized stickers, for goshsakes (and buying $150 Silhouettes to do so!); runs to Target to see if the Dollar Spot had added Easter post-it flags; back and forth flurries of RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) in which planner junkies send a small package of planner goodies to surprise another junkie.

I was in.

Ten days later I had my very own Ready to Ship Life Planner, complete with a some extra doo-dads: a few cards and stickers, a couple of paper clips. And that much talked about coupon code I needed to customize a cover of my very own.

I love it. Like I said, my tastes run to the understated. I had a couple early mis-buys:  shiny vinyl stickers in bright primary colors, some pastel Sharpies that just aren’t me. But a couple hours of browse time later (and a quick run to Hobby Lobby) and I found my look in the sticker line Sn@p by Simple Stories—they’re  happy, but not cutesy, in muted colors that are a perfect complement to the Erin Condren palette.

What’s this craze all about? Let’s face it, life is hectic. I’ve got appointments and shopping lists and work outs and school deadlines and birthday parties and church … you get the idea. All that hectivity can sometimes whorl around me, kind of like the cloud that surrounds Charley Brown’s Pig-Pen character. Putting it down on paper gets it out of my head–it’s a physical way I can control the, well, uncontrollable.

So that’s the fancy pants reason for you–but it’s also plain old fun!