Get Your Green On

The Winter snow is melting and this Illinois girl is pampering anything green she can find. At night I mist my indoor plants and sweet talk them into full lush. I smile at the new leaves sprouting from the bamboo plant I have on my office desk.  Plants do thrive under those fluorescent lights, hmm..

Every year around this time I listen to the students’, parents’ and co-workers’ Spring Break plans of trips to warmer climes; knowing I’ll be left behind here in the north still weeks away from the tulips popping up through the soil, lilacs budding on bushes, and yards of greening grass.

March is the time to start thinking  green; as spring then summer gardening plans come to mind. My home faces north and the mature trees in my yard provide a nice amount of shade in the summer.  The lack of full sun is a challenge–but I have learned to love ferns, hosta and other shade-tolerant treasures.   What I really miss is the chance to grow something I could eat.  Sure I have a few chives that come up every year  and once was able to coax a leggy plant to yield cherry tomatoes; but I have always wanted to grow herbs, and other vegetables.

Last week I saw seed packets on display at the grocery store and because I am on a limited budget right now I bought a few packets thinking they would make a good birthday present for a friend.  You know something like: Have a Great Thyme Celebrating your Birthday!

Thank goodness I changed my mind and my friend was spared that goofy gift because I now have a new plan for the seeds– An Office Herb Garden! Fluorescent lights are installed right over the top of two flip-top cabinets behind my desk and the entire space is just begging for some greenery!!  I can just see letting co-workers snip some basil before they leave work for the day.  Maybe even an Herb Sale for the PTSO instead of a Bake Sale.  The earthy aroma will be the talk of all who walk by my desk.  Now off to Home Depot for some potting mix and planters.






The Beauty in the Blur

I have never had an easy time putting together outfits for work.  I have read fashion articles, subscribed to this fashion blog , organized clothes according to style and color; but the one trick lately that seems to have really helped is what I call:  dressing while blurry.

I am quite myopic and have been wearing glasses since I was in the second grade, and contacts since high school.  Every morning I wake up and start the day without using my glasses or putting in my contacts right away.  The routine has always been  first take a shower, then put in contacts before I get dressed for work; but for the past few months I have been delaying putting on my contacts until after I pick out my outfit. Believe it or not,  I have gotten more compliments from co-workers and friends than ever before.

How does dressing while blurry help?

Reading fashion blogs has taught me that the proportion of your outfit is more important than the color and style of each individual piece of clothing. My blurry image reflected in the dressing mirror highlights the proportions not the details.  It is easier to “see”  for example when a top is too long for the waist-line  or fullness of the pants.

Picking out colors that look good together is easier too. Maybe again it is because I can only see the general outline of the colors being worn and how they flow together. Detailed vision is important when it comes to accessories: jewelry, shoes, and makeup; so the contacts go in before choosing those “looks” for the day.

I  often take breaks in my vision correction just because I want to decrease the hours I wear my contacts for the health of my eyes or take a break from the weight of my glasses on my nose, now I see an added benefit, and that there can be beauty in the blur.



A Toast to Frances Willard

Every fall I  chaperone around 125 middle school students on an educational tour of  Washington D.C.  It seems inevitable that the young docent taking us on a guided tour of the U.S. Capital which includes the national statuary hall, will stop in front of the statue of Frances Willard representing Illinois.  Here the docent asks anyone in the group to raise their hand if they have heard of Frances Willard, and every year I am the only one raising a hand.

I guess growing up in Evanston Illinois, like I did,  you at least are exposed to the name:  Frances Willard Home on Chicago Ave., Willard Hall on Northwestern’s campus.  You know that she led the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and that they were anti-alcohol.   You think it sounds like a pretty uptight group of righteous bores. This I’m afraid  is why most Illinois students don’t know her name.

Should she be there representing Illinois if nobody knows her?

I learned after watching Ken Burn’s Prohibition that the WCTU movement truly believed that alcohol was evil and led to women being beaten and men losing their jobs.   I believe you should always judge historical figures by empathizing with the position they were in their time in history.  Frances watched her brother succumb to alcoholism and saw how it destroyed his life.

Frances was an awesome activist for women’s rights. In fact, she helped the movement that ultimately led to ratifying the 19th amendment giving American women the right to vote.   So with Illinois’s primary a week away, spread the word that we have Frances Willard to thank.



Forcing the Hand that Fed Me


My eighty-nine year old father suffered a stroke four years ago leaving him without use of the right side of his body. Since then he hasn’t been able to stand or walk on his own. Nurses use a lift device with straps that fit under his arms to raise him out of his bed and into his wheelchair every day.  He is one of the lucky ones: he can still talk, eat, think… Cognitive skills like friendliness, name recognition, the ability to request what he needs, and wonder where his wife is when she leaves the room are a blessing.

Often confused, he lost his ability to read the great books he once cherished. Now he finds a sense of accomplishment just reading the signs he’s wheeled past in the nursing home hallways.

I am in the process of mourning that he is no longer our family’s voice of reason.  Gone are the conversations about current events, sports stats, and history’s significance.

My father’s cerebral approach to life and parenting kept a household full of five daughters, one son and one wife under a dome of tamed drama.

Most times I am very unrealistic about his cognitive abilities. When his voter registration card came in the mail the other day, I talked to him about voting, hoping to rekindle my dad’s interest in politics, particularly with this year’s presidential election.

While I was growing up, my parents were very civic minded, and taught me the importance of exercising my right to vote. They made certain I was sent an absentee ballot while away at college.  Election judges always knew my name when I showed up to vote at my hometown’s polling place.  My parents were involved in the process: hosting meet-the-candidate parties, posting signs in the yard, and participating in their local political party’s club.

When I explain to my dad that he can still vote even though he resides in a nursing home, he nods his head yes he would like to vote. Still  I wonder how this is going to work as he no longer follows the issues or knows the candidates names other than Trump and Clinton. Neither of whom he would like to vote for.

I express to my dad why I think he would like John Kasich: his experience, that he is the most moderate of the candidates running, and on a superficial note, that he is the Governor of the “great state of Ohio” where my dad was born.  The only response I get is an apathetic maybe.  Can I possibly cast his vote for him based on a maybe?

My dad no longer possess the skills to make the choice, so even with my hand forcing his hand together we could fill in the bubble, or check the box, or tap the screen…

but the answer is:  his voting days are over.