Midpoint Musings

Midpoint Musings

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrating the Season

Christmas comes around again. With four children, their spouses and their children, scheduling a Christmas gathering becomes a little more complicated with each passing year. We want to do all of the gatherings we have always had, plus we need to fit in one for our immediate family. It is tricky at best, and demands a little effort, both in scheduling and understanding why our gathering often takes on a secondary importance.

Most of the Christmas Eves since 1982, at least, have been spent with our dear friends who years ago became the people who founded with us French Creek Valley Christian School. Snacks, visiting, and wonderful singing of almost every Christmas song and carol rounds out the evening. Over the years, as our children have grown and become independent, the gathering has grown as they have found spouses and significant others to bring into the circle. This is an event we anticipate and want to include in our holiday plans.

Christmas day is generally spent at my mom's with my siblings, their kids and their kids, as well as my special aunt and uncle. Christmas evening was generally spent with my husband's five bothers and sisters and their spouses and off-springs. It used to be 24 hours, minus time for sleep, of visiting, eating, gift giving and receiving. But as the children have grown another factor has crept in, one that requires our attention, but over which we have little control. And that is, our kids' spouses have families and grandparents, too.

Add to this mix, our third-born son's pending divorce, and an entirely new dimension has ensued: when he can have the children. Some of my kids have remarked that they are tired of the soon-to-be x-wife planning our Christmases for us, they are right. But, our desire to keep a working relationship with her (lest she threaten to keep the grandchildren from us because we have no real legal right anyway) usually means we agree to her dictates.

Further complicating the mix is our son and his family who live in Florida, whom we never see at Christmas unless they come here, which has happened twice, actually. This year, we almost made it down, but alas, it's just not practical for all sorts of reasons.
So, our gathering will be on Monday, December 27, because I am a negotiator, and seek the middle ground. It generally means less stress, but always requires a new paradigm of thought. Although my husband is disappointed, our one daughter-in-law lost her grandmother a month ago, and for her, spending Christmas with her dad is important. Our daughter was married in August and now that they are living with us, so we also desire to make some personal space for them. With my father's passing, we all feel it necessary to support our mom in her hosting of Christmas dinner. And, finally, because our son's children and their availability, and for all of the reasons above, our celebration is postponed. It does give us a little longer to prepare: that extra time, I'm sure will be used.

I'm trying, as always to move to the middle and strive for contentment during this happy and peaceful season. Whatever contemporary philosophy applies, minimizing expectations, and allowing oneself to be surprised by the many blessings of the season, seems a reasonable position to take.

Whatever the outcome, one overwhelming fact remains: my father is not with us physically this year. It is incredibly painful, truly, and those of you who have experienced the loss of a parents know this. So, as we did with Easter (the first holiday without him), and Memorial Day, Father's Day, July 4th, Kim's wedding, his October birthday, and mom's, too; we will laugh and cry, and laugh and cry, a most complex state of emotion.

Merry Christmas, Dad. I miss you, and love you always.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Living in the Midst of Transition-a Lifestyle

My daughter and her new husband are in the middle of house hunting. They were married in August and promptly had to find other housing. They found temporary housing and have several houses they are considering, but it looks doubtful they will close any time soon, so for the a few weeks, and the Christmas holidays, they are moving in.

Our soon-to-be-divorced son has lived here for a little over two years now, having been forced out of his own home. With the unemployment situation and support payments for the children, he had few options for housing. His three little girls visit very frequently, so much so that they have everything they need here, including beds, clothes, bikes, and toys.

Our doors are always open to our family. It gives my husband and I a good feeling to know that we can still provide stability for our ever expanding family. The up-side of all of this flux is as we have to move, reorganize, reposition our own possessions and clothing, we are able to avoid the pile-up of needless material things that gets other people in trouble. (My mother has a basement, storage room, garage and two sheds out back of her house, and every bit of it is full! Consider that since my father has died, she had given away/sold a considerable amount of this stuff.) Suffice to say, we will never be hoarders!

We have lived in our house since August of 1982. We moved in with three little boys, 2, 4, 6, then added a little girl in 1986. She is about to turn 25 years old on her New Years Day birthday. Two years after she was born we decided to get her out of our bedroom, so we built an addition to our house. At the time, we thought we had the most grand house. Needless to say, the house feels very small lately. But, as long as we can keep stuff from piling up, we'll always have room.

Today's objective was to make room for the Christmas tree! We will have a full house for the holidays.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Less Deer Hunter

My father died last February. He could have died many times due to chronic heart difficulties. I had imagined that he could die many times, I think, in an attempt to prepare myself for the eventual and inevitable. However, he did not die of heart problems as it turned out but rather a rampant, stubborn infection which led to kidney and liver failure. He lived much longer than the doctors predicted, though, allowing us a little more time for goodbyes and saying last things, expression of love and endearments.

I could write a book about him, my mom, and the life they built for us children. What kid couldn't? But, it is always late when I think of him, most often at day's end when I begin reflecting. For now, I will just say that every holiday since February 24, 2010, has been bittersweet, even this evening, Sunday, the eve before the opening of buck season.

In Pennsylvania, the day rivals Christmas, and in my house growing up, there were three major days of the year: Christmas, half-price ride day at the Cambridge Springs Fireman's Festival, and the first day of deer season. My mother would man the telephone, collecting the reports of success and passing them onto the rest of the family. For my brothers, in fact, the only thing about Christmas that could rival the thrill of the first day of buck, was the prospect that Christmas would bring a new gun or some kind of hunting gear.

My husband and boys all hunt, except for the son who now lives in Florida, but it's still a big deal as the uncles and cousins plot and plan.

As my dad aged, he ceased going into the woods. Blood thinning medications caused him to get cold quicker and the arthritic joints protested the bumpy frozen mud and brush of the fields and woods.

But, I will think of him in the next 24 hours, remembering his love of the hunt, the outdoors, the time spent with those he loved, and the scavenging of limbs and trees available for firewood all winter.

I hope the guys remember to call Mom with their reports of deer kills.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Venango Bridge is "Falling" Down

An historic bridge is coming down this week. Not a heavily traveled bridge, mind you, but a link to rural roads, community and personal memories. It is known as the Venango Veterans Memorial Bridge and it spans French Creek in the borough of Venango. 

French Creek, at the site of the bridge is quite wide, shallow, and ripply. When my brothers and I were small we would play in the creek, walk across it, sit in the middle on a hot summer day, catch mussels and crabs, study dragonflies, etc. We could see the bridge from our property along the creek, blue-green and shining inthe sun. It was a favorite fishing spot for many people. Our daughter loved using the bridge for some of her recent photo shoots of graduating seniors.

When I was 16 and began dating my husband, we took many-a-walks across the bridge, some evenings, pausing just beyond the reach of the streetlight where we would steal a few kisses and gaze at the ripples below reflecting the light of the moon. We would ride our bicycles up the steep hill on the far side of the bridge where the road met yet another bridge that spanned the gulf created by the railroad tracks below. The tracks follow the creek. 

(Interestingly enough, the railroad bridge was also closed due to disrepair, although to see it now, and the way the deconstruction crew has reinforced it in order to take out the pieces of the creek bridge is quite amazing.)

The bridge has not been kept up by the highway department in the last decade or two, and for quite sometime has been in disrepair up to the point where it was no longer safe. That was several years ago. There was some talk of fixing the bridge, but "officials" decided against it when they were confronted with environmentalists crying that the work would destroy the mussels below: apparently they are endangered or something! We think, however, it was just an excuse to not spend the money.

The irony of the project is that workers fully expect the bridge--at least parts of it--to end up falling into the creek, although they are going to take precautions not to have that happen, but no doubt in the end, a few mussels will end up being sacrificed. 
I will really miss the bridge. Even though we have all known it was coming, I think we are in that first stage of grief right now: disbelief that it is really going to happen. For Venango residents my mom's age and older, it is much harder. It is a sign to them that the good old things really are being lost day by day: a world, changing, in spite of their difficulty adjusting to the changes.

The plaque commemorating the construction of the bridge will be saved for posterity's sake. It and the pictures people have taken of the bridge over the years will be all that remains in a one week's time - a cloud on our otherwise thankful Thanksgiving.

If you follow the link below you can visit the bridge in pictures. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why I Teach, Produce, Direct . . .

In less than two weeks, I will present, with the help of 53 middle school students, a middle school musical at the school where I teach. So, yes, I am in the middle of the effort to push it over the top. My mother frequently asks me when I am at this point in a production; still making costumes, advertising, intense rehearsals, and the inevitable messy condition of my house; WHY I do this. In fact, I actually had a seventh grade student ask me WHY I teach.

I actually don't have a simple answer to either question. And just like following childbirth, one often utters to oneself, "never again," I know that I will continue to produce shows,and aim for the most dynamic lessons I can create, even if in the middle of it all, I actually want to run in another direction.

Still not satisfied that I have adequately answered why? Well, I suppose it is because being in the thick of creative activity and expression is to me the abundant life. Unfortunately, one cannot realize or experience this abundance without diving into the midst of the task, and, it is also in that place one is refined and inspired for the next time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Driving in the Middle

Many of the newly surfaced roads in Northwestern Pennsylvania have received an annoying application of the the apparent latest safety feature. After the road is laid, a mean-looking digging vehicular machine goes up the middle of the road on each side digging evenly spaced ruts all along the edge lines and up the middle. A dump truck follows the machine collecting the chunks of pavement scooped out. The end result is a ridge system not unlike the lines on many interstate highways. These ridges warn drivers who venture too far beyond the side of the road.

But the ridges I drive across everyday are much worse. They are ON the white lines, not 12 inches to the side. And, if your car tire but touches the white line, a frightening rumbling sound results. If you want to pass a driver on a dotted line, it makes no difference, the gouges are twice as wide in the middle of the road. That sound is shocking, causing one to rethink the need for passing. 

On the way home from work a couple of days ago, I ventured onto the white line while taking a curve. The roadway was wet, and as I fought my way back onto the solid surface, my outside tires slid which felt like hydroplaning. 

The majority of highway I travel everyday also has tire ruts; low places where the majority of vehicles pass. When it rains, these create little shallow troughs of water. Having a small car, I have often sought the higher ground of the roadway. Where might that be, you ask? Along the white line, of course.

If you live along a road filled with these gouges, you are regularly shocked by the sound of cars who dare venture onto the white line as well as those who legally pass. I honestly cannot think of one good thing about these gouges.

Keep in mind, now, that PENNDOT spends countless, painstaking hours every year filling little road cracks with liquid tar attempting to prevent the crack filling with water in the winter, freezing and melting into bigger pot holes in the spring.  In spite of this, Pennsylvania is well-known for it's record-setting pot holes. It defies logic that chuncks of the asphalt would be removed to invite the wet/freezing/thawing/heaving process.

What I think happened in this case is something like this: some friend of a friend's brother-in-law's step-son invented this really neat machine that puts the same kind of gouges used on interstates into common roadways. He is a friend of a cousin who is a Pennsylvania politician, who's father is a big wig at PENNDOT. It was simply a case of 'you scratch my back; I'll scratch yours.'  Another way your tax dollars are wasted in Pennsylvania.

What does all of this have to do with Midpoint Musings? It's my life, now, trying to stay in the middle, to avoid the rumble bumps and the troughs of water. So if you come upon a little red Toyota going slower than the speed limit, it's only me--trying stay out of the water and avoid the rumble bumps in order to make my way to work and back.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What is Harmful About Politics

It is obvious to me that elected officials who push extreme agendas with no intention of cooperating with each other will do more harm than good for their electorates and Americans' general faith in their government.

Talking news heads do not help as they seek to offer sensationalistic "reporting" in order to attract a viewership.

A fairly recent exception to all of this would have been NCLB (No Child Left Behind), a bipartisan education act which started out being a good thing, but now is not. Unfortunately, our government's preoccupation with power has not motivated anyone to examine the law which needs tweaked at best.

It truly feels like it is all nothing more than a game to these elected officials. I hate it. 

How could our legislators' working together for the good of its citizenship be a bad thing?

And what about us? We get to ride the seesaw and hope for better days.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Source of the Search

I just showed my new blog to my husband. He was amused. He didn't say much. He usually doesn't. He is what Tim LaHaye calls phlegmatic. I am not phlegmatic. I used to be sanguine. When I was younger and raising three very active boys (before the Baby Princess arrived), I could be very choleric, just trying to keep ahead of them. During midlife I was quite melancholic, being at the mercy of pending menopause, I think. Now, I don't know what I am. 

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't fit personality categories very well. I have often felt either too much of this or not enough of that. 

I do have a Savior: Jesus Christ. But, I'm not a very good Christian. Once I heard a quote by a Christian college professor who said, "It is much easier to move to a logical extreme than to remain at the midpoint of Biblical tension." True; and so it is in life.

I have very deep and raw emotions to some things, but I often hide them thinking it is best for the time being, to ignore them. But, unfortunately, I do have a breaking point, and all too often, the hidden things surface at inopportune times, causing me regret or embarrassment. 

I think by nature I am quite impatient, and this causes internal strife that I am constantly trying to understand. I absolutely hate it when my mother reminds me of what a difficult child I was; especially how she never understood what I wanted. She only knew it wasn't what she was offering. 

All of this background, has me, lately, contemplating the wisdom of looking for a middle ground. I find myself seeking the midpoint, constantly. I know I've always been very sensitive to criticism, ashamed of poorly-timed comments that were not meant to harm. I have lived a little over a half of a century. That's in the middle, isn't it? But whatever the cause, I think I'm going to try to middle.