To the HeadGirl

Happy Birthday to the HeadGirl!

~Pipsqueak

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The Gift of Unplanned Blessings

A life planned out to the last detail seems somewhat sterile to me. We have a schedule, but it’s a schedule for what to do when we’re not doing anything else. Mostly, I drift down the stream of serendipity, dabbling my fingers in its pleasant waters and thanking God for the grace and blessings I little deserve:

Flowers blooming where you planted no seeds
Friends calling when you expected no calls
Money found in pockets while doing the laundry
Leftovers combined to make soup or a casserole that turns out to be delectable
Potlucks where everything fits together nicely without planning it in advance
Spontaneous romps on the bed when the progeny wake one up earlier than planned
The sight of a bluebird, or the sound of sandhill cranes overhead
The song of the Eastern Meadowlark drifting in through the car window as you drive down a country lane
A butterfly on the windowpane
Arriving at the grocery store just at the moment they are giving away bananas
Singing a hymn together on the way to church and finding out that the song leader was going to lead just that hymn
sunsets
startling a pheasant on a walk

Children…

We are the recipients of many unplanned blessings, and children are not the least of them.
In this post I want to tell you about two special “unplanned” additions to our family who were adopted. We had three children, had just had a miscarriage, the headmaster was enlisted in the AF, and I was a sahm (this means very little money). We weren’t seeking adoption at all, but we heard of two little girls who needed a home together, and we just couldn’t come up with a good reason to say no. There was an announcement in our church bulletin asking for prayers for the caseworker who was placing them. I had miscarried only one or two weeks prior. When we came home I asked the headmaster if he’d seen it, and he said yes, and asked if I’d seen it, and I said yes, and we looked at each other. He made the phone call.

One of the children was severely handicapped, and it was unlikely anybody would take on both of them (nearly 4 and 6 at the time) because of the severity of those disabilities. The birth-mother did not want them separated. And so, over the objections of everybody sensible that we knew, we opened our home to this unplanned blessing.

It made no logical, financial, or even emotional sense since I was still
recovering from the grief of a miscarriage at 16 weeks gestation. By the time I had the D&C; I needed (often not required, but in my case I had to have it), we had already met the children. In fact, the children arrived the same month our baby would have been born.

It’s funny to call an adoption unplanned, but it really was. What little planning we were able to do came to naught. We were supposed to take the children for weekends for a period of a few months so they could get used to us. Instead, before they ever had their first weekend and just two weeks before Christmas the birth mother called we were told to come get them the next day. She had her reasons, and I won’t go into them here, but she did have their very best interests at heart.

So… we went to bed with three children and the next morning suddenly gained two more children who came to us with nothing but the clothes on their backs and some immediate and distressing but treatable medical problems, and some longterm and severe medical problems- again, just two weeks before Christmas. We had no clothes for them, no beds, no presents; nothing was in readiness for them, except our hearts (and even those needed some sprucing up).

There were plenty of the super planners in our congregation and others where that same bulletin announcement appeared. They had more financial ability, more space, fewer children, were probably better parents in many ways, had greater nest eggs, more maturity, more wisdom, and certainly better organizational skills than I did. They had the option to adopt these kids, but they didn’t because it didn’t fit in with their plans. We have two more warm, wonderful, loving, fun, delightful, precious, precious children. They have their nice plans and their nice uninterrupted lives.

I won’t say the adjustment period was all sweetness and light and trouble free. It wasn’t, of course. We all, the children and their new family, had some adjustments to make and the children had some healing to do. It was hard, and it was busy, and it was often exhausting. But somewhere along the way the hard parts were overwhelmed and outnumbered by the joy, and the children are blended so well and so fully ours that I have actually had to stop and think for a moment about why I can’t recall their birth stories. Then I remember that I wasn’t there for their births. I can’t imagine life without them. We received so much questioning of our decision and we are so blessed by all our children that it’s hard sometimes not to feel just a little bit smug about how happy we are*, but I do realize that is an unworthy feeling. Happiness and gratitude are more appropriate, and truly, more common.

Incidentally, I was an unplanned baby, too, a honeymoon child. My mother returned from the honeymoon to her doctor who groaned, “Didn’t you do anything I said?” She had followed his advice because they had plans. God had different plans. Had I not been born when I was, I would certainly not have been in the right place and time to receive these other two unplanned, but very much wanted, blessings.

Sometimes the best things in life are NOT planned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*I do not want to make a fairy tale out of parenting a disabled child. The Cherub is a joy, but she is sometimes also a sad trial. The point of this post is not, however, about her disabilities, nor is it my intention to pretend that parents and children never have rotton days when one or the other or all of them are out of sorts and quite obnoxious- but that is another post. This one is about those blessings that come to us that are not planned.

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Poetry Snack for the Domestic Divas

April continues, therefore, so does National Poetry Month. Carmon, that delicious Prairie Muffin, has been sharing poetry at Buried Treasure Books, and she recently turned to more modern works, in particular a poem by Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens’ poetry is intellectual stuff, requiring strong thought and hard work of the reader, so some discussion followed. I thoroughly enjoyed that discussion of The Woman That Had More Babies Than That– it worked upon my brain like a brisk walk. My brain and myself are out of shape and flabby, so it doesn’t take much to put either rather out of breath and panting on the sidelines.

From my little spot on the sidelines, I thought I’d share a light poetry snack with you. We shall be nibbling upon the works of another modern poet much less famous than Stevens. Her name is Phyllis McGinley and she has been one of my favorite authors since I first read her children’s story The Plain Princess when I was about 8 years old. She remained one of my favorite authors over the next two or three hundred times I read The Plain Princess.

The plain princess is plain, and this is a tragedy for the kingdom. Her eyes don’t sparkle, her nose turns up instead of down, her mouth turns down instead of up, and she simply has no friends. The King and Queen offer a reward to anybody who can help her overcome her difficulties.

A widowed mother of five daughters takes on the task, taking the Plain Princess home with her to work her own magical cure, which involves working with her own hands, climbing tress, and thinking of others instead of herself.

McGinley is witty, and even though it sounds like dry bread moral tale, it is in fact a sweet and frothy mixture of love, lessons and laughter. I cherish my copy, and searched for years to find a replacement of my old one.

I was a grown up when I learned that McGinley didn’t just write children’s books. I discovered A Sixpence in Her Shoe, and promptly scoured used book stores for all the copies I could find to give them to my friends.

Later still I learned that Phyllis was a Pulitzer prize winning poet. She was the first to win the Pulitzer for a light verse collection.

According to World Book:

McGinley praised the virtues of the ordinary life with affection and humor, and she celebrated but also satirized life’s absurdities. She defended femininity, morality, and domestic and suburban living in Times Three and in two books of witty essays, The Province of the Heart (1959) and Sixpence in Her Shoe (1964). McGinley summed up her point of view by quoting a man who said he had failed as a philosopher because “cheerfulness was always breaking in.”

It is light verse, friendly verse, sometimes slyly witty, but never cruelly harsh. Most of her poems are ultimately domestic- not about housekeeping, but about the kinds of things one might speak of around the domestic hearth or in the Common Room. Sometimes there is a domesticity of the Leave it to Beaver sort, but nearly all of it charms me, amuses me, or gives me something juicy and tart to savor. Tart, oh, yes, she can be delightfully, deliciously, and wickedly tart, but she is never vindictive, hateful, spiteful, or too full of herself and her pretensions to be understood.

W. H. Auden said of her poetry that if a Ph.D thesis were ever written of it, t’would be in an alien tongue and an alien alphabet.

The Head Girl recently picked up a copy of Times Three (the 1961 Pulitzer Prize winner for verse) to sell, and I recently snitched it from her bookshelf to savor a little myself. But poetry isn’t something to keep to yourself, so I’d like to share one or two with our guests in the Common Room:

Reflections at Dawn
by Phyllis McGinley

I wish I owned a Dior dress
Made to my order out of satin.
I wish I weighed a little less
And could read Latin,
Had perfect pitch or matching pearls,
A better head for street directions,
And seven daughters, all with curls
And fair complexions.
I wish I’d tan instead of burn.
But most, on all the stars that glisten,
I wish at parties I could learn
To sit and listen.

I wish I didn’t talk so much at parties.
It isn’t that I want to hear
My voice assaulting every ear,
Uprising loud and firm and clear
Above the cocktail clatter.
It’s simply, once a doorbell’s rung,
(I’ve been like this since I was young)
Some madness overtakes my tongue
And I begin to chatter.

Buffet, ball, banquet, quilting bee,
Wherever conversation’s flowing,
Why must I feel it falls on me
To keep things going?
Though ladies cleverer than I
Can loll in silence, soft and idle,
Whatever topic gallops by,
I seize its bridle,
hold forth on art, dissect the stage,
Or babble like a kindergartn’er
Of politics till I enrage
My dinner Partner.

I wish I didn’t talk so much at parties.
When hotly boil the arguments,
Ah! would I had the common sense
To sit demurely on a fence
And let who will be vocal,
Instead of plunging in the fray
With my opinions on display
Till all the gentlemen edge away
To catch an early local.

Oh! There is many a likely boon
That fate might flip me from her griddle
I wish that I could sleep till noon
And play the fiddle,
Or dance a tour jeteĀ“ so light
It would not shake a single straw down.
But when I ponder how last night
I laid the law down
More than to have the Midas touch
Or critics’ praise, however hearty,
I wish I didn’t talk so much,
I wish I didn’t talk so much,
I wish I didn’t talk so much
When I am at a party.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Independent

So open was his mind, so wide
To welcome winds from every side
That public weather took dominion,
Sweeping him bare of all opinion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Angry Man
[this poem was written in the fifties- DHM]

The other day I chanced to meet
An angry man upon the street–
A man of wrath, a man of war,
A man who truculently bore
Over his shoulder, like a lance,
A banner labeled “Tolerance.”

And when I asked him why he strode
Thus scowling down the human road,
Scowling, he answered, “I am he
Who champions total liberty–
Intolerance being, ma’am, a state
No tolerant man can tolerate.

When I meet rogues,” he cried, “who choose
To cherish oppositional views,
Lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
Till they cry mercy, ma’am.” His blows
Rained proudly on prospective foes.

Fearful, I turned and left him there
Still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
“Let the Intolerant beware!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anniversary

In garden-colored boots he goes
Ardent around perennial borders
To spray the pink, celestial rose
Or give a weed its marching orders.

Draining at dawn his hasty cup,
He takes a train to urban places;
By lamplight, cheerful, figures up
The cost of camps and dental braces.

And warm upon my shoulders lays
Impetuous at dinner table
The mantle of familiar praise
That’s better than a coat of sable.

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From the book Times Three, published in 1960, with a foreword by W.H. Auden

Let me know if you would like another serving.

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Pretty flowers

Pretty picture of what we first thought were apple blossoms from what turns out to be our hawthorn (I think) tree:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

They smell good, too. Or maybe that’s our supper I’m smelling… *follows the aroma into the kitchen*

[notes the dhm: the speckles on the picutre are bits of pollen and other debris that fell from the flowers onto the scanner. Picture was enlarged for detail.]

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Recent Speakings in the Common Room

*The HeadGirl is driving through a parking lot*

Equuschick, in the passenger seat: Don’t hit any mean old ladies.
The HeadGirl: I don’t know any mean old ladies.
Equuschick: You will when I’m old.

~

*First Year Boy being too noisy with his marbles after being told to quiet down*

DHM: You have just lost your marbles for quite a while.

~

The HeadGirl: Oh, dear. I left a Connecticut Yankee downstairs.

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