Camp Colombo

It's all about organized chaos

Changing My Corner of the World

Everyone talks about winning the lottery and what they would do with the money. Big dreams, expensive trips, no bills, it’s all In there. Some talk of building schools that are run by teachers, others will give to their churches and communities.
I am a giver. Sometimes to the point that I overload myself with giving and honestly get so immersed I forget to let others find the same joy by giving to me. I make it hard for them and I regret those moments, days, and sometimes years. I let my need to be independent and invincible overcome.
If I had a million dollars (thanks Barenaked Ladies) I would want to do something that makes a difference. Something I could get right in the middle of and face the disappointments, tragedies, joys, and triumphs first hand. I want to change a little piece of the world. To give some hope where it is missing. To show my little piece that what society and the media offer are not the only choices. That they can have a better life than the one they Are currently living. That they don’t have to face it alone.
Recently my community and I experienced a loss. A good person who worked at making his little piece of the world a place that people came for help and healing. I watched him bring kids alive, the kids no one else could get to share. He wasn’t Superman, but he was always trying to save us, even when none of us realized it.
A year and a half ago, another friend passed away. At the funeral home I kept waiting for him to walk in the door, smiling from ear to ear, hugging everyone in sight. It never happened, he wasn’t coming in the door again, but I try to remember his joy in life and find the moments (and sometimes they truly are just moments) to hold onto when life gets dark and dreary.
I want to be a person like that. Who changes her small corner of the world somehow. Who helps change others by dropping the pebble into the pond and watching the ripples spread.

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There and Back Again, 2014

2014 is over tonight.  It’s hard to believe another year has ended.  Time just keeps flying by and I keep looking around wondering where it went.

We celebrated Christmas several times over the last week and I was back in the photo business with my new camera.  (Thanks family for the early Christmas gift!)  Putting together yearly photo calendars for both grandmothers, and working on a photo book for 2014, caused some nostalgia as I looked through photos of the last year.  Having the time to hang a bit with my kids added to it, especially when my 13 year old slept until after 8:00 Christmas morning.  I was the only one awake early, with just George the cat for company.  What happened to waking my parents with the phrase, “We can’t hold them back much longer”, as the kids hovered at the top of the stairs?  It all changed this year.  But that wasn’t all that changed.

  Look at these two.  They are so tiny.royals

And willing to wear matching jammies for their mom.  matching

They used to both fit in my

Now the matching pajamas are just a memory.


And socks are not as exciting as they used to be.


But they are still silly and like to laugh with and at each other.


Christmas 2005, nine years ago.  Bitty Baby had to be in the photo, Coach and I had more hair and less of it was gray, and JMumbo still fit on his dad’s lap,

family 05

Christmas 2014.  The prodigal daughter has her learner’s permit (which she never uses), George the cat is a permanent fixture in the family, and they are all as tall as Coach and I.  Soon JMumbo will shoot past us.  M&M never will, but that means she can wear heels and not tower over her dates.


I tried to get JMumbo to sit with  me in the big chair last night and watch a movie like we used to.  I even made popcorn to bribe him with.  He wandered into the kitchen, stole the big bowl of popcorn leaving me with a little one, and headed back upstairs to the gaming world he likes to spend time in.  Thank goodness for George, he spent some time with me, filling the empty space.  JMumbo was always the one willing to snuggle with his mommy and hang out.  Now his legs and arms hang over the edges of whatever he is sitting on.

2015 will bring more changes in physical size, interests, and aptitudes.  It will be a year where the prodigal daughter starts to narrow down college choices and JMumbo enters high school.  Time will keep moving forward and I will try to keep up, remembering what Bilbo Baggins said, “It’s a dangerous business going out your door.  You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”  I’ll try to keep my feet in 2015.

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Mad Woman – for Stacie

I have been watching the series “Mad Men” on Netflix.  You have to excuse me, I tend to be a few years behind on the TV series trends, but it works for me because I can watch it in one giant stream instead of weekly installments.  I watched “Friday Night Lights” the same way and it is still one I return to, but I don’t think it would have the same impact if I had watched it week to week.

In “Mad Men”, the men are in charge, it is the 60’s, but Gloria Steinem would be okay with it because the women are strong and making headway in the man’s world.  Unfortunately, one of the themes I see that may not have been in the producer’s minds is the idea of balance for women.  Being a working woman, and a mom, and a wife is a juggling act that looks a lot easier than it truly is.  And no offense, but men don’t have it.   There are great dads out there, who help out their wives, look after their kids, do the dishes.  But those dads don’t have the generations of guilt behind them.  No one compares them to June Cleaver who vacuumed the house in her pearls and heels.  And although no  one compares me to June either, I do enough comparing for everyone.  Why don’t I have the warm cookies on a plate when the kids get home from school?  Why isn’t everything homemade and served at a perfectly set table?  Why does my house have stuff ( and I mean stuff – most doesn’t even have a designated space) sitting around it all the time?  Why can’t I get it all together and decorate for Easter on top of that?  What is wrong with me?!?

Nothing.  Not a damn thing.  I just have too many titles and expectations for myself.  I am still a mom and housewife, but have added breadwinner and corporate diva to the title.  (Well maybe not corporate diva, I am not that driven)  It rips me apart.  It creates a situation where I am grateful for my parents because they remember and retell stories from my kid’s childhood while I listen and think, “When did this happen?  Was I there?’.  I don’t remember because I was so busy wearing all the hats, I forgot to pay attention.  And sometimes it really pisses me off. (Sorry mom, not a great word choice, but it does piss me off)  Actually it pisses me off a lot.  Now they are teenagers and don’t want to play Shoots and Ladders or Sorry! with me. They want to hide in their rooms.  Away from me.   And I feel like I missed it.

This is for Stacie because she posted today that she was not going to let herself be overcome.  I know what she means.  She has an incredible husband.  He’s my brother and I know from experience that he is an excellent roommate and caregiver.  He loves watching their daughter grow up, because he really did miss his older daughter hit various milestones.  That’s what divorce does.  So it isn’t that relationship she is fighting against.  I think it is just life.  The overwhelming mess that is being a woman in the 21st century.  Nike did not help women out with the “Be All That You Can Be” slogan.  They just made it harder.  They added more expectations.  Live up to your potential!  And it can’t be to learn to vacuum the living room in high heels like June, it should be more, it should make a difference.  What we have missed is that June Cleaver made a difference.  I am using her as a reference.  You don’t use nobodies as reference points.  And what was wrong with creating a home, a place that people could feel safe and loved?  It doesn’t seem enough anymore, but maybe the real issue is that the simple things aren’t complicated enough.  If you don’t work hard at it, it must not be worth anything.

Stacie, we all work at letting go.  Not getting worked up about the fact that dinner isn’t perfectly balanced with carbs, protein, and fruit or vegetable.  Letting the laundry sit one more day because you still have some clean underwear.  Ignoring the dust bunnies that chase you out of the bedroom.  Because to ignore them, to let go of the perfect housewife routine means that you have time to watch your kids play ball, or dig in the dirt, or pick dandelions.  It means you can relax and have your cup of coffee, truly enjoying it and that quiet moment when there are no expectations, without the guilt.


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My heart is full

I try not to get too mushy and sentimental on here.  It’s just not who I am.  I tend to look at life a bit sarcastically and work on finding some humor because it makes the whole thing a bit easier.  But I can’t walk away from saying this.

Last night my church sponsored a musicale, a musical review showcasing the many talents of its congregation.  Instruments were played including an amazing cello and piano piece by a mom and daughter duo, and a concertina, which is a small accordian.  There was an appearance by the Blues Brothers and the mysterious musician Clyde Waterloo who claims to live in the boiler room.  There were silly songs and the return of a young lady with a beautiful voice, who inspired my daughter yet again with her singing.  It was such fun, complemented by and MC who wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself and scrumptious desserts.  If the music began to overwhelm you, a silent auction was going on in the room next door, where you could bid on everything from beautiful knit and embroidered pieces, a handmade quilt, dinners (including a gourmet feast), a sailing excursion, and riding lessons.  It was a pretty incredible spread.

Yutes 8Yutes 5

Why did this fill my heart, cause me to get all gooey inside?  Because I had always wanted the chance to bid for my husband to sponsor a spring clean up in our yard?  No, it was the kids.  The kids I have had the privilege of spending time with for many years.  The kids the church community entrusted to me all those years ago when they asked me to step in on a temporary basis.  Nine years later, that temporary position has become one of the most important pieces of my world.  Last night they were in the spotlight.  The proceeds from the evening were being donated to their summer mission trip.  As always, my co-coordinator Karen put together a brilliant musical performance with them, and Don documented the experience.  They tell me I do things too, but I am not always sure that I give as much as I get.  The songs the kids sang, Short People and You’ve Got a Friend in Me by Randy Newman prompted discussion about first impressions and stereotypes, then showed how a bit of understand can change everything.  The Honorable Judge played an impressive rendition of the first song on his tiny pipe and the audience loved it.  But this wasn’t where I lost it.

Yutes at Musicale2

There was a moment in the program to share what the mission trip was and why we were doing it.  We hadn’t thought about this piece and we certainly didn’t practice anything.  In fact, we had forgotten about this piece until intermission.  I huddled with groups of kids as they manned the dessert table and came up with a plan.  If they would just follow directions, I would do all the talking.  The moment came and I was alone on the stage.  Bit by bitI brought them to the stage.  Soon it was full and I stepped off.  This wasn’t about me, it was about them.  At one point, I looked over toward the dessert table where one of our newest members was standing and smiled as I watched him bounce with excitement, waiting for his chance to join us.  Did I say much about the mission trip?  Probably not as much as I should have.  Did I say what was in my heart about the kids?  Absolutely.  

Yutes at Musicale

They brighten my day, they gave me a purpose at a time when I felt like I didn’t have one.  They are always up for any crazy scheme we throw their way.  They ad-lib during the Christmas pageant and give sermons after being up all night for a lock-in.  They sing and play instruments while eating package after package of Oreos.  They care deeply about each other and pretend to help clean up.  They play and laugh with each other.  And it makes me smile.  It brings me joy.  It fills my heart.

Yutes 7

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You can’t make this stuff up.

You can’t make this stuff up.

I went to the seasonal pancake house yesterday with the Youth Group and various other pancake lovers.  While finishing up our pancakes, one of the waitresses was alerted to the wasp that was buzzing around the room.  (I would guess they live in the wood paneling and wake up when the restaurant opens.)  The waitress disappeared for a brief moment, only to reappear armed with a hand vac.  Wielding it like a gunslinger from the Wild West, she proceeded to suck up the wasp.   Several others were pointed out to her and she quickly met the challenge, climbing over the backs of booths to reach her targets.

I kept waiting for Candid Camera to show up.

Someday I am going to write all this into a sitcom and become a millionaire.  You can’t make this stuff up.

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Crocheting Lobsters

Our school is getting prepared for our spring musical.  One of the props needed are lobster hats.  The director found a photo of a newborn set on Pintrest, but no pattern.  After looking at the photo for a bit, I knew I could create the hat and set to work.

Here is the finished product:

Lobster hatPlease excuse the tea maker it is displayed on.  I needed to show the shape.  🙂

I am posting the pattern for the local volunteers who want to help us create these beauties, and for anyone who always wanted to wear a lobster on their head.  Enjoy!

Lobster Hat for Elementary Age Child

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The Best Kind of High School Drama

In the last three weeks I have attended 3 different drama productions.  All were high school musicals or plays and I enjoyed each for different reasons.  I dragged a group along with me each time and it has made me smile thinking about the fun we had, even when I was listening to the other kind of high school drama at my job and combing my hair up into a crazed rooster comb.

Last summer our church’s youth group went on a mission trip.  The difference in how the kids interacted as a result of the trip was evident from this before and after photo:

Before and AfterBecause they are spread across five different schools and a majority of them involved in the arts, we were able to fill the month with drama by attending all the performances.  The first was Grease and one of our kids was the percussionist in the pit band.  He had a solo during Hand Jive and we filled two auditorium rows as we cheered the whole cast on.  The set was incredible, spelling out the word GREASE with each letter turning into another setting for the story.  Inventive and fun, it made me want to recruit their designers.grease

Our school’s straight play was next and close to ten were able to make it to the Saturday night show.  They sat up front and laughed at the jokes and gags (even the impromptu add ins by our kids), loved and understood the Steampunk theme, then chatted with all of them afterwards.  The prodigal daughter introduced the show and worked backstage while JMumbo made 3 costume changes and tried not to grin while being robbed.


Thursday we filled two cars with kids and met another family at the last show.  The Wizard of Oz was up and we were ready to follow the yellow brick road with a whole bunch of our favorite people.  The Wicked Witch stole the show (she was a very talented young man who nailed the part), Toto had his own personal wrangler, Dorothy sang like Judy Garland, I wanted to squeeze the Lion, and the Tin Man tapped his way into our hearts, while the special effects lady rocked our worlds incorporating cool video of the great and powerful Oz.  But one of our favorite guys was the Scarecrow and he stumbled and bumbled his way through, a perfect mix of physical wobbles and spectacular singing.  Once again a reunion commenced in the lobby and more kids made connections.  One of my favorite friendships was captured:

Mary and CamiThe prodigal daughter and her friend, two girls who knew very little about each other before last year, but act like they have been together forever.

This is the kind of teenage drama I love.



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The Teenage Twilight Zone

I have few fond memories of being 15, I think I blocked most of them.  One of the main things I remember is sitting behind the fish tank in Biology class.  The teacher was punishing my father, an administrator, but little did he know, I loved my seat.  In fact it raised my popularity a few points because I had one of the best seats in class.  I remember hanging out with certain kids, but not much else.  I was transitioning from glasses to contacts at the end of my sophomore year (see post titled Don’t Cry For Me Middle School) and trying to figure out how to fit in.  I made it through HS, but would never go back.  I’d redo college in a heartbeat, but all those movies about going back to high school?  NO WAY!

Imagine my joy at getting to relive it in a manner that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud.  It is surreal having a 15 year old daughter.  First, she is much prettier than I ever was in school.  No dorky glasses to push up helps immensely.  She gets along with people like I did, but sometimes just seems to be searching for where she fits.  I get it, the social hierarchy in high school is cut-throat.  And I know it is just a stepping stone for the prodigal daughter.  But getting her off this stone and onto the next one is killing me.  When she shares a story with me I hear the music from Twilight Zone in my head.  The monologue goes through my head with a few changes.  Here is my version:

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to adults. It is a dimension as vast as a school hallway and as timeless as a yearbook. It is the middle ground between sports and academics, between popularity and geekdom, and it lies between the cut of a teen’s hair and the cost of their clothes. This is the dimension of high school. It is an area which we call the Teenage Twilight Zone.

This is where I live.  And I am just waiting for the birds to show up, but that’s story for another day.

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Morning Visitors

A strange sound greeted us this morning, the honking of a goose standing in our yard.  I headed onto the porch with my camera to get a better look, and this is what I found.


A goose was hanging out, looking around.  Geese usually travel in pairs or groups, so a single goose is unusually.  This particular goose had quite a bit to say, especially when I showed up on the porch to take its photo.  It began to meander across the backyards of the neighborhood, squawking away.  Its squawks echoed back, creating the illusion of a flock getting ready to land.

About this time one of the neighbors called over from his front porch.  Apparently this goose was not alone and the echoes were actually another goose answering the first.


The second goose was on the peak of a house farther up the road.  My goose was working its way across the lawns toward this house, but not joining its rooftop companion.  Instead my goose continued to call out, while the rooftop goose stopped answering and turned its back.


What was going on here?  Were the geese a couple who were having a spat?  The one on the ground a mom-to-be who wanted to find a place to nest and lay some eggs, while the roof sitter was surveying the landscape for the perfect piece of grass?  Or maybe it was the other way around and the guy was on the ground apologizing for some affront to his wife, who stood with her back to him, ignoring his feeble efforts at making up?


Either way, it was an incredible way to start my morning, standing on the porch watching these two, one waddling across the grass and the other keeping watch on the rooftop.

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Boston Bombings should be a call to action

I would like to say I am amazed by the people who rushed to help in Boston yesterday, but I am not.  Humanity rises to the surface when catastrophe occurs, as it did in Boston, and it strengthens my belief that we want to be a society that cares and takes care because it is the best way to live our lives, not for personal gain.

When asked to pray yesterday for Boston one word entered my head, “Peace”.  Peace for the people injured in the explosions, peace for the people who ran to help and take care of them, peace for their families, and peace for the bombers.  Yes, for the bombers, who probably need the prayers most of all.  Think of how far these people have strayed to believe this is the best way to be heard and noticed.

I know what will happen, the debate over violence will escalate and knee-jerk decisions will be made to prevent other incidents.  And then we will move on to the next tragedy or scandal.  We need t0 take a step back, take a deep breath, and look for the root cause of the problem and it is buried deeply in the psyche of American society.  The desperate need to be noticed in a society that perpetuates bigger and more is better.  We have a black, rotten spot in our core and it is growing.  Let’s take the opportunity to look inside ourselves and focus on what is important; family, community, and health among others, not wall-sized televisions, reality shows, SUV’s, and enormous homes.  The material doesn’t last, Boston proved that yesterday, but the people and the compassion do.

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