Monday, January 16, 2017

Bored to Creativity

Scouts on Mondays, piano lessons Tuesdays, bar mitzvah studies Wednesdays, ski cadets Thursdays and Saturdays, religious studies and services on Saturdays -- not to mention piano practice, violin practice, a monthly camping weekend. My son's extracurricular activities can become quite the treadmill. So when he declared he was spending Sunday inside and in his pajamas all day, I was pleased at his self-proclaimed need for a break.

By late afternoon however -- even after a trip outside, in snowpants over his pajamas, to work on his snow fort -- he declared he was bored. He implored we move to another neighborhood so he could be near his friends who "all live near each other and never get bored." I suggested he go read a book, play with some of his toys or play a computer game. When he continued his boredom rant, I responded with a list of thank yous he could write and chores he could complete.

He finally went upstairs, taking along a copy of "The Pocket Guide to Mischief." He returned a couple hours later with a big bag of rubber bands. By the final minutes of the Packers-Cowboys playoff game, he had made a rubber band ball and a list of materials he'd like to get from Michael's and the Dollar Tree.

Having Martin Luther King Day off from school, we made the trip for craft supplies then went for lunch at his grandparents'. They supplied an old skillet and heat gun so he could begin making this Army man clock, as well as some flour and Elmer's glue for making a stress ball. He and his Dad finished putting the hands and timer on the clock this evening.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tis the Season

A friend shared this photo of a ham that's on sale at Walmart for the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. For Jews, eating ham or pork any time of the year isn't kosher. Linking ham to the the upcoming Jewish holiday is totally inappropriate, even offensive.

Was this a gag, a major faux pas on the part of some ignorant store employee -- or is there a tinge of anti-semitism in the corporate culture of Walmart? Trouble is, we don't and won't know -- for sure. 

This morning, I had to move a Christmas tree lamp out of sight of my teachers and students. It had been placed on a desk in our synagogue's main office. Most Jews don't celebrate Christmas, unless they are in a family of mixed religious observance or they shirt-tail in on the holiday of extended family or friends. 

To see a Christmas tree decoration in my synagogue -- the one place we, especially our children, should be free from or shielded from the bombardment of the major Christian holiday of Christmas -- is totally inappropriate and offensive.  

Once again the same questions apply: Was this a gag, a major faux pas on the part of an ignorant employee -- or passive-aggressive anti-semitism coming out in a Jewish workplace. No matter how this is resolved, I and others who are subjected to the lamp won't know -- for sure.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I just returned from walking to the end of the block with my son as he headed out to his middle school bus stop this morning. When I sat down at my computer, I found this in my file of blog posts I never posted. I wrote it in June of 2015. And I wish I could share it with Dara and Bryan, but I seem to have lost them as Facebook friends. 

With the end of the school year, I’ve been particularly reflective on the evolving and transient nature of “community.” 

For the past five years, we’ve enjoyed the company of a wonderful family at my son’s bus stop. The location of the stop has changed three times. (One year we were even at a different stop but could wave to each other when we headed downhill for home and they headed uphill for home.) Other children came and went for various reasons – moved from the neighborhood, changed schools, used a different mode of transportation. But this family with three girls and my family with one boy remained.

Although a year apart, Sam regularly sits with Stella, or instigates a chase with Ruby or Elsa by swiping their backpacks, or plays whatever game evolves during the wait for the bus each morning.

I knew the dynamic would change next year. Stella would head off to middle school on a different bus. Sam will be getting rides to school for safety patrol. But we’d all still see each other in the neighborhood. 

I learned yesterday, we won’t. Stella’s Dad got a job in Pennsylvania, actually a couple of hours from my mother’s home. They’re moving this summer. And our bus stop community will be no more. I’m happy for the family – better job, better opportunities. But I’m sad. We will miss them.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Karma on the race course

Sam wasn't quite tall enough to drive a go-cart at the Minnesota State Fair last year. Which is why it was first on his list of things to do this year. He had a great time and drove quite well despite the "accident."

An adult apparently didn't comprehend -- despite the signs on the track and list of rules at the entrance -- that the go-carts are not bumper cars. The man rear-ended Sam, causing his cart to spin around and crash onto the guardrail. The man drove off laughing and shouting, "got you."

Karmic justice was swift. Two ride workers ran out onto the course, stopping traffic right in front of the man as he completed a lap around the oval. They pulled Sam's car off the guard rail, turned it around and got Sam back on course right in front of him.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Still Letting Go

It’s a beautiful hand-painted box, given by my mother-in-law’s friend, a tole artist, as a wedding day gift. I had planned to keep family photos in it. Instead it holds the mementos of our son Cameron’s life.

I reached in for the white baby blanket embroidered with his name and date of birth -- the standard baby gift from my workplace at the time. Our son Sam received one like it a couple of years later.

I never used either blanket. As a baby, Sam couldn’t tolerate polar fleece. I’d slip him into a fleece sleeper and even in the middle of a northern Minnesota winter he’d wake up an hour later, crying, his face and hands beet red, his body soaked in sweat. Cameron never had use for a blanket.

I’d been meaning to do this for a long time.

“If I ever get a sewing machine,” I’d tell myself, “I’ll sew the embroidered corners, cut them off as keepsakes and donate these perfectly good blankets to Goodwill.” Then, it was, “If I ever get that sewing machine up and running…”

Today was the day. I took the blanket downstairs to the machine. I sewed off the corner, then cut it off the blanket. I went upstairs to my closet for Sam’s blanket and repeated the actions.

I told Tom I’m going to save Sam’s corner for a memory quilt I plan to make. I’ve already planned themes for some of the squares: Thomas the Train, his three favorite super heroes, little league baseball, soccer, running, Cub Scouts.

But do we need to save Cameron’s? I asked. Not knowing the blankets existed, he didn’t think so.

I put the now plain white blankets in a bag and set them in the Goodwill pile. I stowed Sam’s corner in a box with his baby quilt. I gathered the remaining scraps to throw away.

I fingered the other corner: Cameron Lloyd, August 6, 2002. Fourteen years and a day, I noted ruefully. I returned it to the box. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reliving my childhood summers

Our annual visit to West Virginia resembled my childhood summers in many ways:

  • Riding bikes in the early morning or late evening to the John Marshall High School tennis courts (freshly resurfaced with new nets and fence this year) to play a few sets.
  • Swimming or just cooling off from the hot mid-day sun in Glen Dale's municipal swimming pool.
  • Biking out Little Grave Creek Road or into town. (The bike trail along the Ohio River between Glen Dale and Moundsville didn't exist back then.)
  • Checking out a big stack of books from the Moundsville Public Library. (They didn't have movies on DVD back then.)
  • Gathering with the cousins to play cards at my Mom's house. (We played sports and games outdoors instead of Canasta at the dining room table.)
  • Reconnecting with my brother Mike and my best friend from high school Letitia.

With my mother's pronouncement that she will be ready to sell the house in two years and move to Duluth to be near me, my opportunities to "go home again" are nearing an end. Mom may change her mind several times between now and then. At 86, we all know maintaining the house and acre of land with it has become "too much" for her.

 I'll be happy to have her nearby rather than 1,000 miles away. But I will miss recreating my childhood summers for my son. We have been blessed to be able to do that for 11 years and --  hopefully -- a couple more.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Schooling for life

During our visit to West Virginia, my brother Mike gave my 11-year-old son some tips on shooting pool. He also introduced him to two-handed euchre and "Shut the Box," a traditional English pub game of dice and numbers.

I must mention that after 10 rounds of Shut the Box, Sam wanted to modify the rules to include the use of subtraction in eliminating the numbers. By the following day, he was advocating the use of algebraic formulas. None of which his Uncle Mike would allow.

Obviously, my son doesn't yet understand the importance of keeping your drinking games simple.