Teaching the first few dance classes of a term feels like stepping onto a tightrope on a blustery day. Much hangs in the balance, but it’s almost impossible to know ahead of time how to adjust for the environment. The first steps are rough. A few tries are required to get a feel for the needs of the students, and judge their abilities and personalities. I must work to earn their trust and find the balance between criticism and praise for each of them.
New faces line up towards me. Some eyes timid, others wander. One girl is focused, another restless. Sometimes a furrowed brow questions and and challenge. “I don’t understand. You are asking the too much of me!” I work with the dancer for a moment, with several explanations, but nothing works and frustration grows.
I step into another class, and a different group of students. These are much younger, and I find them squealing with glee as their skirts twirl. I smile, but we must train as well as spin. I line them up for exercises, but immediately they lose interest. Summer classes are especially difficult, full of first-time ballerinas.
I’m almost desperate, and we sit on the floor to stretch, always a useful activity for refocusing. I stretch tiny ankles, and something pops in my head I’ve never tried before. In a sing-song voice, I say “Banana feet!” as I stretch the child’s toes into an impressive point. A giggle is the response. “Banana feet!” I sing again
An empty patio at a local ice cream shop, ten empty minutes waiting for our order, and an overhead radio playing thirties swing music – ingredients, as anyone can see, for a spontaneous dance party.
The evening was calm and quiet, as it was only ten minutes till closing. Maria, John and I started the festivities with a Jitterbug step, and it didn’t take long to draw in the younger siblings. Landon, Maria, and I have been ballroom dancing for a years, taking lessons with our homeschool group. Johnathan is much more recent learner, but already is able to hold the rhythm and spin his partner like a pro. The younger children are good imitators and the resulting scene looked like an organized dance floor. We even caught the attention of a few of the other customers-and spied few a trying to imitate our moves.
Sweltering heat and humidity set in at the beginning of the week, setting the mood for the transition into late summer. Another month and I’ll be making final preparations for the school year, a fact I’m trying not to think about longer than needed. For now, I’m relishing every minute of watermelon, campfires and summer sun-when I’m not occupied by waiting tables.
I started as a waitress all the way back in January, but I’m only just beginning to be really good at it. I am learning that most things are harder than they look, and I’ve been amazed by the amount of multitasking skills required. Balancing a thousand tasks at once is definitely not one of my strengths, but I have been slowly improving in ways to remember and organize multiple areas.
Interacting with so many people has also presented new challenges. I have had to focusing on ways to make quick connections and conversations with total strangers from every background imaginable. Now I am starting to build a stockpile of topics (Are you from town? Busy day?) and tricks (I will stare directly at you until you finally make eye contact with me, and then I will smile so cheerfully to find out if you are friendly, so I can chat with you, or if you want me to leave you alone, and I will go away as soon as possible).
The family is bustling with even more activity than usual, between ongoing construction projects and trying to keep up with the baby and two puppies (a seven month old collie and a three month old Golden Retriever) who seem to spend most of the day trying to outdo each other in their escapades. Benjamin is also on his way to setting the record for earliest talker in the family, even thwarting attempts to teach him sign language. I once demonstrated the the word ‘outside’ when he was waiting by the door, and after a few moments of thought, said “out-ite” with a twinkle in his eyes.
One of my favorite things about my studies as a nursing student is how frequently I am able to apply what I’m learning to my daily life. There’s not a lot I can do for serious medical emergencies. I have been developing a step by step checklist in my head of everything that can go wrong or needs to be monitored, so I know what needs to be done.
Nurses specialize in easy interventions that don’t require a doctors prescription, so that we can handle as much of what we can on our own. Most of what a nurse does is common sense remedies, except studied, rehearsed and systematized, for every sort of health situation possible. Nursing also is about learning to stay calm and take action when everything is spinning out of control.
My year behind the books is completely unsupported by experience my own, so I’m not always positive I’ll be able to do much when the need for medical attention arises. When we got the call this summer that Alexander had seriously hurt his leg, I got a chance to see just how much I knew, as I was the first family member on the scene.
First, assessment. Vitals first, always, and they mostly fine, though respirations are high. cause: pain and anxiety. Leg bone integrity visibly altered, skin integrity intact. Then circulation? Leg color pink, skin warm. Nerves intact? Sensation felt and able to move toes.
Then time to act. Leg elevated above heart? Check. Antiinflammatory for swelling and pain: given, 400 mg of ibuprofen. Breathing techniques for pain implemented. Full report of everything that has happened and occurred to health professionals in emergency room. Completed. Nursing care delivered.
How does your garden grow?
The vegetable garden is looking very promising this year, despite my one month delay in planting this spring. Ever dependable cucumbers are sprawling and setting fruit, and two out of three sweet potato plants (this year’s latest experiment) are spreading vines in all directions. The tomatoes are flourishing in 5 gallon bucket pots, the only way I have found to grow them successfully in our harsh clay soil. Thanks, Landon, for cutting the bottoms out of the buckets!
This year I tried three different varieties of the ‘Boy” tomato plants, and all of them are large and setting fruit. I miss having a Brandywine plant, my favorite flavored tomato, but the smaller fruit of the ‘Better Boy’ plants have avoided bug and animal damage much better for several years in a row. I’m hoping for a few more than five tomatoes this year, since we no longer have tomato-snatching chickens around. They went to live on a friend’s acreage earlier this year.
Last month young rhubarb plants were large enough for a small harvest. Daniel and I made a small crisp, which received very good comments from the family food connoisseurs. Grapes vines are another experiment I began last spring, when I planted three bare root plants. One thriving plant is twice as big as the others and now has a few grape clusters hidden among the leaves.
Not to be outdone by the culinary garden, the summer flowers are in their finest.
Coneflowers and sedum:
This little flower was a surprise-I planted a whole package of bachelor’s buttons in spring, but didn’t see any of the plants come up.
A red peony from earlier in the summer:
Miniature lamb’s ears and balloon flowers:
…when they scream and then shush themselves. In quiet places like church, of course.
Yes, sshhh, Benjamin.
Our world is again in mourning, the memory of one horrific and unexpected tragedy barely fades before a new atrocity occurs.
Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man. For Thou, O God, art my strength: why hast Thou cast me off? Why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me? ~Psalm 42
This psalm, 42 or 43 depending on the translation, formed the prequel to the Extraordinary form of the mass until the changes in the 1900s. The English words of the mass are now true to the words of the old Latin rite, used since the standardization at Trent in the 1500s, thanks to the re-translation of the holy Mass several years ago. However, the ‘prayers at the foot of the altar’ are still missing.
…why hast Thou cast me off? Why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me?
I have occasionally found a strange preface to the Mass, the re-celebration of our salvation. But the more time that passes, the more I feel the echoes of the psalmist’s cry. The work of evil is clearly visible, showing itself brazenly in the recent tragedies of Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, and Orlando to name a few. And again at the latest atrocities at Nice, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. Words are insufficient for the sadness that these lives were ripped away so prematurely, and the grief of families mourning tragic deaths.
The psalmist concludes:
Send forth Thy light and Thy truth: they have led me and brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into Thy tabernacles. And I will go in unto the Altar of God: unto God, Who giveth joy to my youth. I will praise Thee upon the harp, O God, my God: why art thou sad, O my soul? and why dost thou disquiet me? Hope thou in God, for I will yet praise Him: Who is the salvation of my countenance, and my God.
The psalmist is not afraid to express his longing for God’s presence, especially when faced with temptations to despair under the attack of enemies both physical and spiritual. Yet he does not dwell long on these thoughts and immediately points to God’s Truth as the source of light and joy. This Truth is active, leading him forward to the Altar of the Lord, and there he finds joy, hope, and salvation. This is the prelude to the Holy Mass, an invitation to God’s people to draw near His tabernacle, a source of hope amidst the tribulations of the life.
Adjutórium nostrum in nomine Dómini qui fecit cælum et terram.
Our help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Look at this child.
The toddler twinkle in his eyes catches me off guard. He seems to be saying, “Here I am, World! Just wait, I am coming.”
Nothing draws my awareness to the passing of time as much as a child’s first year of life. Somehow, the even rhythm of days and nights has changed my tiny newborn brother into a this adventurous tike. This little boy, who mastered walking months ago, and is trying out new words every day. An adventurer, ready to explore, who seems to find trouble around every corner. Just a year ago, his only view of the world came from over someones shoulder. And he didn’t mind-he was too busy sleeping to think about adventures. Has so much time passed since then?
I have been thinking a lot about time of late. It’s so much harder to find time for everything I would like to do than when I was in high school, or even in the first two years of school. And yet, how time is used determines so much. What a priceless commodity! Nothing is easier than letting it slip by, but there is so much responsibility in using it wisely.
I was spending some time enjoying the sun with Benjamin, who knows that being outside is ever so much more fun than staying in. There, his favorite pastime is to run to the far side of the trampoline, lifting his chubby feet high with each step, then turn and run back towards me. Then he presses his nose into the netting to leave me with a sticky kiss before he squeals with glee and runs away to repeat the sequence again.
When he finally tired of this game, we spent the last minutes until supper wandering the edge of the garden. I was trying to persuade him to use sign language for the word flower, but without luck. We will work on that one later. So we just looked at the flowers and tried not to pick too many. I took a deep breath as I felt the glowing warmth of the sun against my face and watched the clumsy baby fingers fingering leaves and petals. I knew there was no better way I could have spent those thirty minutes of precious, precious time.
Books for boys can be hard to find, but when I asked the young men in our family which ones they couldn’t put down, here were their answers:
My Grade School Brothers’ Favorite Books
- Redwall Series
- Boxcar children
- Hardy Boys
- My Side of the Mountain Series
- Ranger’s Apprentice Series (very popular for many years at home)
Middle School Brothers’ Favorite Books
- Trumpeter of Krakow
- Outlaws of Ravenhurst
- The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
- Ransom of Red Chief (short story)
- The Purloined Letter
- The Black Pearl
- King Solomon’s Mines
- Johnny Tremain
- The Princess Bride
- The Candy Bombers
- Legend of sleepy hollow
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Around the World in 80 Days
My High School Brothers’ Favorite Books
- Great Expectations
- Old Man and the Sea
- Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkein
- 20,000 leagues Under the Sea
- Sherlock Holmes
- Les Miserables (This one surprised me, but Landon was a big fan)
- The Virginian
- The Count of Monte Cristo
- Screwtape Letters
- Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Murder on the Orient Express
- 11th grader cheekily recommends the dictionary
Slowly, gradually, I am growing accustomed to my new surroundings. The transition to life on my own is going smoothly. It helps that home is still very near, and I don’t have to go far to the familiar garden or squeeze little siblings tight. Periods of homesickness are very brief. Glancing at the calendar, I just realized that a full three weeks passed since my move.
I am starting to fall into a routine of sorts as well. Time passes with much more deliberation when I am alone, forcing me to consciously find a way to put it to use rather than stare at the walls wondering what to do next. I know I will appreciate this in the school year as I have essays to write and clinical paperwork to fill out, but in the meantime the empty hours are a challenge to fill. Boredom does seem to be the mother of task invention, though, and I’ve gotten to several activities that I’ve been postponing for a quite a while. For example, last week I took Maria out for a photography lesson-one I’ve been promising since early spring.
Overall, I think the change has been positive, and it brings me to look ahead. The next year is full of changes- I will wrap up school, graduate, and take my nursing board examinations to become a certified RN. I will look for and accept a job, and start work as a nurse full time-without worrying about writing graded reports at the same time. I will leave the classrooms I’ve frequented for four full years. My hearts drops for a moment. So many transitions, so many endings!
But endings which will give way to beginnings.
My family is not known for being particularly artistic. I don’t believe there is one of us that can wield any of the usual tools of creativity, such as colored pencils, paint, or clay. Occasionally though, one individual displays a small glimpse of normally dormant talent. This caught me off guard when I came upon into this sight:
Landon sewed this Gandalf costume for Halloween two years ago, but it rarely emerges from its protected hiding place. So I was a little confused to find Landon staring at me calmly in full wizard garb.
“Care for something to drink?”
I gave him a blank look, then thought I knew his plan. “Oh, you made coffee?” I asked hopefully.
“Just tea, thank you,” he replied, (I realized he was quoting the Lord of the Rings), and held out this:
The Tolkein-esque lettering on the front explain the Gandalf costume. The day before I had hinted to Landon that he should try to make a second tea bag organizer. He made the first a while ago, when he was more of a beginner at wood work, and it was unfinished and risked being ruined by any moisture. I knew he had been practicing his carpentry skills lately, but didn’t realize he was quite this handy in the shop.
It started with a mug. Orange, red, and avocado green-it caught my eyes as they drifted across the thrift store shelves last fall. I instantly liked the playful design of vines and butterflies, and the $1.50 price tag sealed the deal. When I brought it home I decided to stow the find deep in my closet rather than add it to the collection of tea cups in the family cupboard. This one, I thought, I’ll keep for when I’m on my own.
I had never had the slightest inclination to move before this year, but as the junior year unfolded I began to realize it was almost time. Then shortly before Christmas break I discovered a fellow student was looking for a roommate. The opportunity turned out to be better than I had ever hoped for, and worth rescheduling my tentatively planned move in the fall (When I chose to commute to a school in my hometown, I set a goal of making the jump to independence at the beginning of my senior year). Two months ago I signed my first lease, almost wondering if it was real. Today I find myself writing at the kitchen table-but as I gaze out the windows the view is entirely new.