« May 2012 | Main | July 2012 »

June 28, 2012

Living With A Teenager

It is fun to teach Child Development to college students. You can spout off on this and that -- the research on how parenting styles correlate to certain behaviors, the effects of puberty on a teen body, how certain growth patterns are gender specific, how the teen brain is still developing and the effects of an underdeveloped frontal lobe. None of this is as exciting as actually living with a teenage boy.

Let's take bath towels! The guest bathroom upstairs has been in some stages of remodel for a very long time. I won't even go into the reasons for the delay in finishing, but people visiting usually trek to the basement to use the one really nice bathroom in the house. James shares my bathroom. I certainly do not mind that -- but no matter how much I remind, plead, implore, entreat, he continues to grab my towel when he takes a shower. Perhaps he is not quite awake when he is wet or perhaps he is some kind of teen cyberspace. So, I have come up with a solution. I have hidden my towel. I have picked his towels up from the bed in his bedroom and hung them where my towel normally hangs. So far, it has worked. He continued to take the towels off of the same rack -- but now they are his towels and my towel is safe for my own use.

Then, there is timing. He is absolutely wonderful to volunteer to do anything I need him to do. But, there is a definite lag time. After asking him, I sometimes have to wait. And wait. He gets involved in whatever he is doing, and it is hard to extract him at the moment. After very kindly mowing the lawn, I asked him to help me pick up some debris that I caused by trimming some branches. I was getting more and more tired of waiting for him since he had said he was coming. I finally came into the house and he was doing his homework. I told him that I didn't mind him not coming immediately. I minded not knowing that he wasn't coming immediately. He told me he would do the whole job himself and would come when he was able. "Don't worry, grandma. It will get done.' And, he was right, it did. He always comes through in the end. I just have to learn some patience.

He is in summer school and has been working to get his class done in record time. He wants to complete two semesters of English during the summer term. It is online but with a teacher present to help. He has also signed up for the YMCA so he can work out and he's signed up for a rowing class in July. Last week he went through some jet lag, but seems to have bounced back. He apologizes when he is crabby, but I frankly don't see much crabbiness at all. He is pleasant and fun to be with.

When James was two and living in Vietnam, Dani used to describe how they would be driven around on a Cyclo and little James would be singing at the top of his lungs. He sang his way through the streets which caused people to look and smile. I'm not surprised that he is a musician. He is presently singing his way through my house, and although he has no training, he is also playing the piano daily. His voice has dropped considerably since those Vietnam days, but it is still as robust as ever. The wonder of all this is that he loves the old jazz tunes and plays songs from my era. I can't even complain about his music! I join in singing almost all of his songs, so we both sing our way around the house or driving in the car. I told him it was just an extension of when he was a little guy and I would sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little..." And he would sing the "Star!" right on tune. He, however, has taken the lead.

He is so grown up in so many ways, it is difficult to remember that he is just a teenage kid. He is trying so hard to please, that it must take a toll. In fact, he is happily making his own breakfast every day, and he is washing his own clothes. He walks the three miles to school and back. He is also reconnecting with old friends and making a fresh beginning -- that isn't always so easy. He's caught between two cultures -- who he was in Hong Kong and who he is in Bellingham. He is that wonderful specimen called a teen boy. What a joy to live with a perfect example of the unfolding of a man. His parents should be exceedingly proud!

He will probably hate these pictures because they were taken in November and he is taller and very slim -- but I still like them. And, besides, he gave me permission to write this and said that it was my blog so I could do what I wanted.

James and Dani in Hong Kong After Our Dim Sum Luncheon

James and Nico on Lamma Island, Hong Kong

James Choosing A Drink in Hong Kong Before His Birthday Dinner

Posted by Marilyn at 9:29 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2012

Summertime???? Dare I hope?

The last few days have been lovely. I do hope it continues this way. I might even gain some energy and do some gardening. Yesterday, after feeling a bit off in the morning due to something I ate, I took James over to Eliott's house and stopped by Trader Joe's on the way home. There is a cute little nursery behind the store so I picked up a few potting plants and finally changed out two of my weedy pots. That is about the amount of energy I had. But, later, after reading for too long and watching a bit of television, I even took Lucy for a walk.

Lucy! The McClellan/Wheeler dog is staying with us for a week. Fortunately, it coincided with James's return from Hong Kong to stay with his grandma while he makes up his sophomore English credit. He took school online this past year and is missing only English to begin fall as a junior. The Wheeler grandparents have had Lucy all year in Leavenworth -- a lovely setting for a busy dog. More than that, however, is that they have been training her to actually behave! She is no longer a puppy and has mellowed. Wheelers are on vacation for a week but intend to pick her up again and keep her until Dani and Charles and the boys are in their new house. In the meantime, James has lost about 50 lbs. this year and is really in great shape. He is happy to take her for a run every morning and is planning to sign up for the Y (so he can rock climb) and the rowing team on Lake Whatcom. Nice for me to have two good reasons to make healthy meals! He is also walking back and forth to school each day and is delighted to be able to cook -- so I'm not sure what I even need to do for him. Maybe a bit (quite a bit) of listening and lots of grandma TLC. He's even doing his own wash because he's afraid I will put something in the dryer that simply cannot shrink! Oh my, it's sorta fun being bossed around by a 16 year old.

Now that I have time stretched out before me which is not filled to the brim with activities, I have to decide what I want to concentrate on this summer -- writing, house repair, walking, and gardening are my priorities for sure. I need to devise a good plan so that I can pay attention to some of each every day. If I'm getting up early and going to be earlier than normal since I have James here, I may be able to begin the day writing and then plan to get outside for an hour or two and then have a project that I work on daily inside as well. I'll have to think this through. It is nice, however, to have some time to organize my life.

I do love summer!

Posted by Marilyn at 9:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2012

Exciting Days

Just got home from an exciting two days in Seattle. Tuesday morning I left Bellingham, delivered all my final projects to Skagit College which finished off the last bit of business for my class, and drove to have lunch with Jeni in Redmond. That afternoon we trekked over to Key Arena at Seattle Center for Allie's graduation. This was a huge event in our family since Allie missed quite a bit of high school due to her back problems which were finally fixed by an operation. She's been playing "catch up" ever since by going to Bellevue College for Running Start. But, she made it! We were proud as she walked across the stage with her class. It was her goal for the past few years. Afterwards the we all went to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Redmond -- Allie's friends, the Craswells, Jeni & Ron and Nicole and I. Then I stayed in Seattle.

My cousin Karen's son, Darryl, lives in Redmond with his family and his son, Cody, graduated with Allie. At the graduation ceremonies, we ran into them and I found that Karen was up from California for the event. So, this morning, Jeni and I went over to their house so I could visit with Karen and catch up with my side of the family. Karen and her two siblings were a big part of my growing up years. Her mom was my mom's sister and our families spent almost every weekend together and certainly all the holidays until we all got married and life got more complicated. It was fun to visit with her and hear about everyone.

I left Darryl's house and headed for SeaTac to welcome James home from Hong Kong. He's staying with me this summer and taking summer school to catch up with his credits for fall. He was short an English credit after being in Hong Kong. His other grandparents joined me at the airport and we took him to lunch and over to his father's brother's house to pick up Lucy, James's dog, who is staying with us for a week while his Wheeler grandparents go on vacation to California. They'll come back and get Lucy until Dani and Charles are back in their house.

Lot of excitement for two days. I've just said goodnight to James who has had almost no sleep in the past 24 hours and I'm not long to go myself. Here's two pictures for you.

Allie and sister, Nicole

Three generations of McClellan women

Posted by Marilyn at 8:58 PM | Comments (2)

June 16, 2012

My Kindle

Martin bought me a Kindle for my birthday. I've rarely used it until recently when I bought a novel that Dani mentioned on GoodReads. I didn't particularly want to own the book, but I wanted to read it, so I bought it for the Kindle. I can see why Kindles are popular - after all, they are easily carried on a plane or on vacation where you can read several novels with little weight or space taken up in your luggage. They slip easily into your purse and, except for recharging every so often, they are very compact and accessible.

But, they are not a book. At the bottom of the Kindle is a little percentage indicator. I can see if I am 10% or 50% through the novel. Of course, I normally can do that by looking at the pages I have read. It may not be precise, but if I'm reading a book for my book group that is not tantalizing me, I glance every few pages to see if the pages to come are as equal in thickness than the pages I've read which tells me that I am finally half way through the damn book. Then, I sigh and keep reading. Or, I gauge if there are 3/4 of thickness to 1/4 of thickness and so on (I'm especially good with 5/8th since I am a recovered seamstress).

This book I'm reading has one character per chapter. In a normal book, I sometimes flip back through the pages I've read to see if this is the same character that did such and such in perhaps the second chapter. It is more difficult on a Kindle. I am both a tactile and visual person. Flipping back through the Kindle, you can't easily tell how many physical pages you have passed; you can't frown at the little coffee smudge on the bottom of the page you are looking for; you haven't got the same kind of reference points -- everything looks exactly the same except for the words on the page. It's just a bit sterile for me.

I'm grateful to Martin for my little Kindle. Really, I am. It's is simply not the same as reading a book. Caressing all those lovely words in your hands; turning the deckled pages gently one by one; holding it carefully over the hot, steaming, water while resting your elbows on the sides of the tub; and trying, not always successfully, to avoid getting peanut butter or tea stains on the page during meals. I don't know about you, but when I see someone reading in a restaurant, I always glance from afar at the color of the cover, the thickness of the book, and I fantasize about what that person might be reading. I'm even curious enough to ask which has led to some great conversations with strangers. I'm not drawn towards people reading on machines.

I love colorful books on shelves. With a glance at my kitchen cookbooks, I am transported back to Vincent Price's spinach salad, Betty Crocker apple pies, Barefoot Contessa shrimp cocktail, and a myriad of other favorite recipes, hence favorite dinners, hence favorite people gathered to share a meal. In my study, I am surrounded by my favorite mysteries. In the upstairs bedroom, many of my favorite novels. I mean, come on -- do you think of Jane Austen when you look at your Kindle? That machine just gobbles up history as if it didn't exist.

If I only had a Kindle, I would have to throw away all the wonderful quirky bookmarks that I have collected over the years. if Kindle took over the world, Lionel couldn't sit on my lap and open the flaps of a colorful book and look for his mama or a little lamb or a yellow ducky. If Kindle took over the world, it would be dreary indeed. So, I'll probably get a novel or two for my Kindle. But, receiving a new book zapped through the internet into my little grey rectangle will never make me as happy as opening a package from Amazon or walking out of Village Books with an armful of wonderful adventures ahead.


Posted by Marilyn at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 5, 2012

Church Groups and Such!

I don't know how I got so involved with various church activities when Don died. In fact, I was never as involved while he was alive. Church was his thing - and mine was mostly going to worship (most of the time) and conducting first the folk and then the men's choir. Of course, there was always circle.

The moment I arrived in Bellingham, some members of Pilgrim Circle took me to lunch and told (not asked) me that I was going to be in their circle. Stubbornly, I still visited all the other circles, but they were right - I really belonged in Pilgrim (and not just because they took me to lunch). The members were my age and many worked in the school district. Thirty-three years later, I'm still active in Pilgrim Circle. And, we're still going strong. I made the right choice (or they did!)

But, at the moment, I'm immersed in lots of church activities. I'm organizer of the Hospitality Committee that plans and serves at memorial services and I'm a teller with my friend, Barb, for two months of the year. I've been on the Adult Ministries board, chaired the Pearson scholarship committee, and I'm now the co-chair of a new Restructure Committee. And, then there are personnel matters!

I serve as scribe to the Conference Personnel Committee which meets about 6 times a year in Seattle. This is absolutely the most fascinating experience I've ever had. I've served on a variety of committees in my life (especially in the school district) but I've never ever had an experience where I was at a loss for words and understanding. This committee, which oversees the conference minister's position and by default the rest of the staff because he is their boss, was made up of two HR people, a lawyer, a pastor, and me when I first joined. The conversations were heady and full of rules and regs that had to do with hiring and contracts. Now, in my second year, I have become more sophisticated with the language and the concepts, but I am still in awe of my fellow members who are so knowledgeable about hiring and firing and all the WA and ID state employment rules. One of our church camps is in Idaho. I've become so fond of this group of people that I wouldn't miss a meeting if you paid me.

Our church is going through some discernment of the way we do business and that is the purpose of the Restructure Committee. It has been a big job, meeting twice a month, again with a small group of amazing and dedicated people. We're finishing off a year of talking to boards and committees, council, leadership, pastors, and now the congregation at large to determine what we do well and what we can do better. I have just launched a blog off of our church website so that people can give us even more feedback. We are seeing themes arise out of the conversations. Our next task is to find how other churches have addressed those same concerns. It's exciting business, but the best has been to get to know my co-chair, Anna, who is a wonderful person.

So, besides my CU and Skagit employment, I keep really really busy. One of the things we are finding in our task force is that people who serve the church through committees or boards seem to feel more connected than if they just attend worship. I certainly think that is true. There are always lots of ways to volunteer your time, and sometimes you get back much more than you give.

Before Don died, he asked the church leadership if I could continue to be at the church. If he had retired, we would have attended another church for a matter of years. But, he wanted to make sure I could stay in a place that had become our community and family. They readily agreed that it would be wise. I did not take part in any decision making for several years, but instead just involved myself in service here and there. I stayed away from annual meetings. There are still things I choose not to do because when I speak, it brings Don into the mix. Although this is slowly fading, I still have people coming up and mentioning this. Mostly the church is in a good place with talented pastors. But, I still miss Don's talents and perspective so I don't always trust my judgement. I try to be careful and realize when this happens and understand that I can't always be objective.

In any case, church is certainly part of my daily life -- and sometimes too daily. I'm grateful for all it gives to me and for the opportunity to surround myself with caring and talented people. My oldest Bellingham friends are in our church. Going to monthly circle meetings for 33 years, my dinner group of over 20 years who originally got together to talk about stewardship, most of my book group and birthday group that meet monthly -- most of these folk are good and faithful members of the First Congregational Church of Bellingham -- a lovely place to have one's membership and heart!


Posted by Marilyn at 11:54 AM | Comments (0)