Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Living in a Bottle Full of Wishes

The '60s "I Dream of Jeannie" TV show turned 50-years-old earlier this month, and I was a fan.

My childhood friend Gail Piper and I enjoyed turning her family's corner couch into the bottle that Barbara Eden's character lived in. 

Joyce, Gail's mom, let us pull her high-back dining room chairs near the couch. Somehow we put up sheets over the couch to the windows so we could get in and experience that rounded house feel. Is this why I have a fascination with the tiny house movement

Jeannie's apparel and hairdo fascinated us. Gail and I took empty tubes from wrapping paper supplies (because the cardboard was stiffer and the circumference bigger than paper towel rolls) and assembled bee-bop ponytails on top of our heads.

Did we take the bottom of our button-down shirts and tie the ends to show our belly buttons? Maybe. 

We even had bottles that we affectionately dubbed our genie bottles.

Here is mine. 

Yes, I still have it.

This was one of my mom's perfume bottles—and it was emptywe didn't drain it. Now the bottle houses a dried-up rose on a shelf near my jewelry box.

When I stumbled upon "The Today Show" interviewing Barbara Eden about the anniversary of the show, I frantically searched for the hand drawn picture of Jeannie that Gail's mom Joyce drew for me. 

See it there over on the left? I've cherished it all these years. 

I snapped a picture of it and tweeted it. And guess what? Barbara Eden starred it! Well, whoever runs her page did if she didn't.

Now that's a wish that was granted without a request.

What television characters did you act out in your youth? Did you ever wish, that just for a day, a show would be true? Do you have any mementos from your childhood make-believe play time?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Piece of Furniture Finds its Forever Home

A piece of furniture that used to hold oil cans in my dad's garage now sets inside my house.

It's filled with books, items from my childhood, and other things I packed away in tubs when I needed to make room for a husband and step-daughter.

My crafty friend Valerie Shellhammer helped me refurbish this jewel.

at home in the house

When my brother-in-law Jeff saw it earlier this summer, he said, "It was a pie safe." He pointed to the screens on the top doors. "Flies wouldn't get in the pies that way," he added.

So that's what I'm calling it. The pie-safe bookcase.

Here's its story.

Dad said, "Are you sure you want that thing? It's really oily." 

I did. I had magazine pictures from years ago of what I wanted to turn it into. 

Dad didn't know that as a little girl, I had an entire plan of how to turn that yucky garage into a studio apartment. That bookcase was a key component of the design.

Yes, I have quite the imagination. Maybe when I'm 90 like he is, and if the garage is still standing, I'll renovate that garage into cottage I dreamed it could be.

Anyway, he let me have this cabinet, and that's when I learned there were doors for it. The top had that chicken wire, but the bottom doors were solid. Dad cleared out his stuff and packed it up for the trip from South Dakota to Kansas.

My brother-in-law Rick used my brother Elliott's pick-up to haul it down here. He brought a couple more items from the farm too.

The bookcase, a two-piece outfit, sat in my shed except for the times I took it out to scrape it.

I remember my friend and colleague Tim Hiebert bringing me, a relatively new home owner, a weed eater he'd picked up from a garage sale. That was somewhere in the mid to late '90s on Labor Day weekend.

Why do I remember that? Because he startled me when he walked into the backyard while I was scraping it. Tim said it looked like I had my work cut out for me.

And I remember the weekend because I thought I could get the thing completely scraped and done in a few days.

Work it was. Lots of elbow grease. 

What I found underneath was shocking. 

Red. Red paint.

Grandma Elizabeth, who no doubt had this in her house, must have painted it red. (Read "Namesake" by clicking here to know more about her.) Oil also seemed to seep from one corner. 

I decided I'd better measure the thing. It was too tall for my house­—if I was going to use both parts. I have low seven-foot ceilings, and this thing was nearly 10 feet tall.

My dream project went back in the shed to be infested with wasp hives and bird poop. Not much different than its life on the farm in the garage.

That was around 15 years ago.

After I got married in 2006, we moved the bookcase from the shed to our newly built garage, so the bookcase got cleaned up a bit for that. It stored lots of stuff on its open shelves with the doors setting on top collecting spiders. I still had dreams of it being inside the house some day though.

One summer my husband Chris bought me a hand sander, so I could use electric power to continue to clean up the thing. It worked. I went through a lot of sandpaper, but it worked.

A couple more years passed.

Brittany moved on to college and then out on her own. Her teenage room got redesigned back into a guest room. Here was my chance to get that thing in the house.

Valerie and I checked out vintage stores in Wichita for ideas. She snapped pictures. I bought paint. We had good intentions. But life happened.

And so it remained.

In the garage storing golf balls, flower vases, sander equipment, old yearbooks—not what I had envisioned for the thing years ago.

One day, Valerie said, "Let's get your bookcase done.

So on November 6, 2014, our first cold day of the fall season, we painted it with white chalk paint in the garage.

My husband had to cut off about two-and-half inches from the bottom, so it would fit in the house when finished.

Val finished up the doors at home.

Months pass.

Then finally in May, the entire thing was done. We put some sort of glaze on it. Smooth surface now.

Val found new hinges, but we saved the original clasps.

Oh, if those clasps could tell me the hands that have touched it throughout the years.

Finally, my dream piece had its new home inside the house.

I had fun arranging the items in it on my first full day of summer vacation. It took me all afternoon, but I wanted to make it look inviting to the point that if you came to my house, you'd love snooping around in the thing.

You'd figure out a lot about me through the book titles, the cups filled with bookmarks, the newspaper clippings and pictures arranged in boxes by year or topic. If my memory ever starts to fade, this will be my go-to place.

Sentimental me sure enjoys going in there, pulling out a box, reading through old notes.

After 26 years of teaching, I have a lot of notes from students—and I believe I have kept every one.

My Cousin Cynthia gave me Aunt Mary Ruth's notes from the state quilt she made me when she finished the embroidery squares that Mom had started. Precious to see her handwriting and planning.

Letters from my sister-in-law Doris when I first attended college. I've always loved her fancy cursive writing. And letters from Mom too. Kept in the envelopes with the dates stamped on them.

Notes from college pals. Homemade cards from my eight nieces and nephews who are now all adults. The vocabulary list of a made-up language my niece Jessica and I tried to invent one summer.

Notes from Steve Elliott and his mom about how thankful they were for the connections we made while I student taught at Halstead the fall of 1988. I would not have stayed with teaching if it wasn't for Steve, but that's a story for another post.

Material things. Yes. But things from events, students, and people that matter. This bookcase keeps them safe. Just like it did Grandma's pies.

Have you ever taken on a project that spanned two decades to complete? Have any items from an earlier time that you wished could be at your fingertips? Any family heirlooms in your home?

Friday, July 3, 2015

5 Simple Ways To Teach Patriotism

 Please welcome Elizabeth Tatge as a new guest blogger. Elizabeth left the Air Force after a four-year tour of duty to work for Air Traffic Control. She held stints in Las Vegas, Denver, and Wichita. After 20 years, she retired. Elizabeth is active in whatever church she attends. She's directed drama, organized women's retreats, and volunteered to help with VBS. She has two adult children. Elizabeth doesn't refer to herself as a writer, but I hope to change that. She's read to me from her journals. She's a thinker. A reflector. A writer. This is her first post for the blog.

5 Simple Ways To Teach Patriotism by Elizabeth Tatge

After serving a four-year tour of duty in the Armed Forces, in my case the United States Air Force, I came out with a strong sense of patriotism. In Basic Military Training School, aka boot camp, we were taught respect for our country and how to honor the flag.

For me, the American flag translates over to America itself. Love of our great country and patriotism must not be forgotten when it comes to teaching our children the basics of life.

Here are my five tips for raising patriotic children.

One: eyes on the flag

When my children were small, whenever the National Anthem would play on television, I would have them stand in our living room with their right hand over their heart. They kept silent until the song was over.

When I was in the Air Force, we were taught to visually seek out the American Flag whenever the anthem was played. We were to turn toward it, remove our hat, and keep our eyes directly on the flag until the song was overor, if a parade, wait until the flag passed by.

Teaching children how to behave during the National Anthem or when our flag passes by is a simple way to teach a child patriotism. Our actions show children that the flag is important to Americans, and that it deserves these moments of silence, awe, and respect.

Thirty-plus years later, I still practice this respect of our flag. Every time.

Two: attend patriotic ceremonies

Often times, small towns will hold a ceremony at the local cemetery. By attending this and similar events, such as a Veteran's Day parade, your child will learn through others that country and military service is important, and that those who have served, should be honored and rememberedespecially those who lost their lives in the line of duty to their country.

Attending events that honor our military will show your child that it is important to you, and it will become important to them as well.

Three: display the flag

Display an American Flag on the outside of your house or in your yard. If not continuously, then at least on patriotic holidays. Ask your child to help you put up and take down the flag. Children love to help, and this is one way to teach them how to handle the flag. Follow the basic rules of etiquette for handling and displaying the American Flag and talk about them with your children. They will understand the importance of something that is to never touch the ground. That one simple thing is very much on their level. If you treat the flag with reverence, your child will also.

Four: participate in a patriotic parade

Buy all kinds of red, white, and blue paraphernalia. Have your kids decorate whatever they want and march or ride in the parade. Do it every year until they won't do it anymore!

One year, my kids put the bunny cage in their little red wagon, decorated it, and along with the bunny (poor guy) headed off down to Main Street in Cheney, Kansas, to march in our small town parade. They were proud as could be! 

Five: teach patriotic songs

Teach your child the National Anthem and patriotic favorites like Yankee Doodle. When on vacation in a vehicle, sing these songs together. Make it fun! Ask your child to participate whenever there is an opportunity to sing a patriotic song. Encourage your school's music teachers to sing patriotic songs and have patriotic programs, and send them thank you cards when they do.

How do you celebrate our Independence Day? What displays of patriotism or the flag exist in your life? Any favorite July 4th memories?

Credits: all pictures courtesy of Chris Harris of Kansas Wildlife and Nature Photography. Picture 1: Lower Fox Creek School House at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Picture 2: A country barn in the Haverhill area of Kansas. Picture 3: Milkhouse Barn near Clearwater, Kansas. 4. Lake Afton Car Show in 2014. Chris' photography can be purchased on Fine Art America.