Okay, I admit it. I was trying to rush the season last week. The temps went down ten degrees for a few days and nights and I started writing about fall. With glee, I might add. But alas! Today, it’s back in the nineties. Woe is me!
What can I say? It can’t be long. There are other signs that fall is breathing down our necks besides the changing temperatures and the missing fireflies. For one thing, the position of the sun has changed. Even my cat notices the difference. The big splashes of sun on the kitchen floor that she used to stretch out in for mid-morning naps are no longer there!
But Liza Jane, like me, isn't quick to accept things she doesn’t want to be true. So she stares longingly at those used-to-be havens that once kept her warm and cozy for hours. It’s as if she expects them to reappear if she stares long enough.
I noticed this afternoon that she’d moved to the family room where I have thrown down a soft afghan for her lounging pleasure – assuming she’s in the mood. Today she was.
I once read that you know
you're getting old when you talk more about the past than you do the present.
By that definition, I'm there! It seems that everything I see, everything I
hear, and everything that happens brings to mind a story from the past. It doesn't
bother me. Remembering is therapeutic. But I don't want to bore others
with my continuous stories.
My grandson and I were
playing a game the other evening when I started to recall something from my
past. He said, "We could stop playing so I can listen to your life
stories." He's fifteen years old and I suspected that was a sarcastic
comment, but didn't pursue it. Why ask for a blow to my ego?
It's not a want as much as a
need, this reliving the past. I'm sure that my stories are not very important
to others, but for me, it's as if I must hurry as fast as I can and record them
for anyone who cares enough to listen or read them. While I haven't found a
cure for cancer or written a best selling novel (tho' it's not too late), I
have lived! And it's been a good life. I will leave behind several children and
grandchildren. Perhaps one of them will do something great. And if they don't,
it's okay. I encourage them to be the very best they can be, but most of all to
live one day at a time, gathering as much joy as possible from each one!
I wonder... do all aging people feel this
way? Or am I unique?
The cooler weather we’ve had the past few
days brought back memories of a trip we took a few years ago. My husband
and I, along with one of our daughters and her two kids joined another daughter and her
family at a cabin in the North Carolina mountains for a wonderful weekend. When my daughter first suggested it, I
wasn’t sure about roughing it at a cabin in the woods, especially since my
husband is a TV addict and I wasn’t certain he’d be able to watch his shows
there. But we were pleasantly surprised.
This cabin in the woods had
everything! It was fantastic! The word "cabin" makes me think
of rustic – logs in the fireplace, perhaps no indoor plumbing – ha!
Not this cabin. It was
absolutely beautiful, with all the comforts of home.The young people were
generous enough to let my husband and me have the master bedroom suite
upstairs. So we had our own private bath and were away from the noise if we wanted to sleep a little later. There was a game room downstairs where the kids played most
of the time... when they weren't in the hot tub.
On Saturday, we visited a quaint little town with a carnival-like atmosphere just for fun. There was one main street lined with specialty shops
and places to eat and drink all along the way. We stopped at an ice cream
shop and indulged ourselves with large cups of ice cream and went to a
little park right in the center of town and ate it while sitting on a bench in
the sun watching the kids play. It was nice. Later, my daughters and I
got hot spiced cider to warm us up. About six o'clock, we finally ordered
pizza and took it back to the cabin. It was a most enjoyable day!
The only thing that would have made
it better was if we could have stayed a couple more days. Like most good things, it just didn’t
last long enough!
Have you ever noticed that the first of everything is better? The first few moments after you awaken in the morning, your first sip of coffee, the first crocus of springtime, the first rose of summer, the first frosty morning in autumn, the first snowfall, your first kiss.
Remember how you felt the first time you looked upon the face of your newborn baby and the first time you heard him/her cry – his first words, his first steps, and his first day of school.
Perhaps that’s why children are always happy and full of energy and excitement: Their lives are a series of new and “first” experiences; they are always feeling the joy of discovery. Most of us were children when we took our first ride on a roller coaster. What an unforgettable thrill that was!
The list is endless. How about the first time you saw the ocean? A young writer I know was so taken with its magnificence that she penned this vivid description of a sunrise and sunset: “Very early in the morning, the sun rises right up out of the water and is such a bright yellow that it hurts your eyes to look at it; in the evening – just like magic – it disappears back into the water again. It is soon replaced by a luminous moon whose bright light shimmers across the water leaving me just as awed by its incredible beauty as did the sunrise." Then she said, “I wonder how God does that.”
First thing each morning, I like to take a few moments of rest from all activities – and become still. I do not talk or think about what I should be doing. The less I focus on myself and my surroundings, the more at peace I am. Maintaining awareness of the present moment, I refuse to give in to distractions. This is my time alone with God. I talk to Him. Sometimes I hear the still small voice and know that He is talking to me. The peace I experience in the quiet of these few moments brings respite and renewal and I am ready to go on with my day.
You can put your own desires first or you can put God “first." But when you put Him first in everything you do, your life changes drastically for the better!
Yesterday's blog brought back memories of how important music has always been in my life. In my first years of school, I was taking dancing lessons, gymnastics, and piano. When it became apparent to my mother that I was tired all the time and my school work was suffering, she put the skids on. As school was the most important, I could only have one outside activity for a while and see if it helped me feel better and make better grades. "You can choose whichever one you want, and drop the others. I don't care which one you keep," she said. It was no contest! I chose piano.
I loved music. Nobody ever had to make me practice, but I'm sure sometimes my parents wanted to pay me to stop! Right after dinner every evening, I'd sit at the piano for an hour or more practicing. By the time I was fourteen, I was playing for children to sing at Vacation Bible School. Once a year I was in a recital and, at sixteen, I was teaching beginners at my home after school and on Saturdays.
When I'd gone as far as I could go with local teachers, my mother was told that she should find a teacher with more education and allow me to continue taking lessons. She took the advice and went on a search for someone prepared to instruct me further. She finally found an elderly gentleman who, fortunately for us, had one opening. His lessons were expensive, but after my mother considered his credentials, she grabbed the opening.
I'm glad she did, because this man made a lasting impact on my life! He was a well-known teacher of German descent. For three years, I saw him every Saturday, rain or shine. Just spending time with this man was an education in itself. He related many stories about his childhood and the famous people with whom he had come in contact as a boy living inGermany. He was in his seventies and a colorful character to be sure.
When I was only fifteen, he invited me, at Christmastime, to go “on a date” to a concert at a local auditorium. I will always remember that night. I dressed up in a nice wine colored velvet dress, black patent shoes and a white faux fur coat. My mother fixed my hair in a special way, adorning it with a glittery bow. I felt very glamorous. And as I watched others drift into the auditorium in their evening finery, I was proud to be seen with this distinguished man, who was wearing a tuxedo.
The symphony orchestra was extraordinary, transporting me to a temporary fantasy world from which I was not eager to return. After the concert, Mr. Schultz took me to a restaurant for a light meal and I was, once again, spellbound by fascinating stories about his life experiences. It was truly an unforgettable evening! Every young girl should be exposed to one just like it.
I can't help but wonder... does everyone have someone in their past that made such an impact? Or am I just very lucky?
A few months ago, I was asked to speak at a large church in our city. Just the thought of doing it made me so nervous that I asked the nice lady who called if I could have a little time to think about it, and she graciously granted my appeal. For the next few days, I discussed the possibility with my family and friends. Every one of them said I should do it... except one. My son, who is very plain spoken, simply said, "If you're not comfortable speaking, then don't do it. Just say no!"
Part of me said "Do it.. it would be good experience..." but the part that was scared to death said, "You can't do it. You'd just embarrass yourself."
I'll have to admit, it was an attractive offer. After all, as a writer, I'd certainly like to add to my resume for future use, and I'd been told that one speaking engagement would almost certainly lead to others.
It was one of those things that, down deep, you really want to do, but fear overcomes the desire. Yet one thing kept eating at me. I always tell my children and grandchildren that there is no such word as "can't" in this family's vocabulary. So I was faced with a big decision: to either make an acceptable excuse for not doing it, or grit my teeth and practice what I preach. As I pondered what topic I might be able to speak about, it came to me. Recalling one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, I wondered if I might use it to my advantage.
Many years ago, when I was in a piano recital - in this very church - my name was the last one listed on the program, signifying that it was my graduation recital. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of the family were present. I had been in many recitals before and had never made a noticeable mistake, but this time was different. When I was three-quarters of the way through the piece that I had practiced for more than two months, my mind went blank and my hands would not do what they were supposed to! Everyone told me later it was only seconds, but it seemed to me that the silence lasted for an eternity! Looking off-stage where my teacher was standing, I saw him smiling sweetly and motioning for me to leave the stage. My stubborn streak kicked in and I vehemently shook my head NO. My hands went back to the keyboard, found the right notes and finished the piece with vigor! I got a standing ovation and my teacher appeared with a bouquet of red roses and a kiss on the cheek. That was a great lesson in persistence!
I had just about made up my mind to accept the speaking engagement, but just to be safe, I was praying that the lady would forget my telephone number; I mean I was praying hard! Don't ever think that prayers aren't answered, because they are... not always in the way we want them to be, but always for the best.
When the lady finally called, she said that, due to some problem with church personnel, they'd like to reschedule me for a month later. I quickly agreed.
I haven't heard from her since!
I wonder... Did they decide they didn't want me to speak after all, or did she actually forget my number?
By the time I was twenty-eight years old, I already had five kids. I got married right after high school graduation. Nobody thought it would last - especially my parents. Like most parents, they didn't want me to get married so young and it almost seemed they didn't want it to work. But we fooled them and everyone else. I'm not telling my age, but this marriage has lasted a l - o - n - g time!
In those days, most women stayed home with their children and men made the living. That was fine with me. I loved being at home with my kids. After they started school, I loved summer vacations, Christmas and Easter holidays and just any time that the kids were at home with me instead of out there in the great big world. They loved it, too.
Times were certainly different then. During the summer months, we'd get up, get dressed, have breakfast and then the kids - the ones who were old enough - would go outside and play. They'd meet up with other kids in the neighborhood and entertain themselves until lunch time. During this time, I was able to do laundry, straighten the house, and accomplish other things that needed doing. Sometimes I'd do bills or talk to a friend on the phone. Other times, I'd bake a couple of pies or a cake for the family to enjoy later.
It was the best of times! Children obeyed and respected their parents; there was no back-talk, no tantrums if one didn't get his way and there was no such thing as a "time out." There was no need for it. That's just the way it was! Our parents raised us to be respectful and we passed it on to our children. As a result, they're now adults, and still respectful! I would never have heard one of my children speaking to me the way I hear some little ones talking to their mothers in the grocery store and other shopping places today. At least, I wouldn't have heard it more than once. Why? Because there were immediate consequences for bad behavior. Not so today. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, "You do that one more time and I'm gonna wallop you!" I always think, "Well, why give him one more time? Wallop him now and he's not likely to do it again."
Trouble is... the child knows he's not gonna get walloped. He just keeps doing what he's doing and finally the mother ignores him. He wins! And he knows it. The more of these battles he wins, the less respect he has for his mom's authority. Or Dad's or Grandma's... whoever is in charge.(?)
I recently had an experience with a fourth grade child - about nine, I'd guess. I remarked to his grandmother that he'd proudly pointed her out to me across the room. Before she could speak, he looked at me and asked belligerently, "Do you have a problem with that?" No doubt, some of you young people will find that amusing. Call me old-fashioned, but I was mortified! To make matters worse, the grandmother just smiled at the boy and patted him on the head as if he'd done something wonderful. I managed a weak smile and walked away.
One of my children, in the same scenario, would have been forced to apologize on the spot... and the subsequent lecture would have ensured that he'd never disrespect an adult again.
I learned about respect very young. Even before I started school, my mother was drilling these words into my head, "Always respect your elders!" My mother had quite a bag of tricks, too. One of them was: when we'd be out shopping together and meet up with someone she knew, she'd take one step closer to me and grab my hand. The other adult would invariably ask me a direct question... something like, "How old are you?" or "What grade are you in?" If there was so much as a hesitation before I spoke, my mother would squeeze my hand so tight that I knew if I wanted to keep the use of that hand, I'd better answer soon and the answer had better be to her liking! All the time she was doing this, she was smiling! You just had to love my mother's way of disciplining! It worked.
I wonder... would today's kids be better behaved if their mothers were like the one I had?
Most of us
know someone we think of as ditzy or scatterbrained. These people aren’t unintelligent—they
just see things differently. I’ve been
told there’s one in every family. Mine
is no exception.
the third of five children… the first girl, which netted her extra attention
for a while… but when our family was complete, she was right in the middle with
two older brothers and two younger sisters.
For some reason, that position generated a lot of teasing from both
sides – especially when she began to earn the title “airhead.”
children were young, we were driving through South Charleston one evening and had to stop
at a red light at the corner of “A” Street.
Studying the sign carefully, Terri piped up, “Why did they put a sign up
that says that’s a street? Everybody
knows that’s a street!” The laughter of
her brothers and sisters continued for quite a while… though Terri honestly didn’t
know what was so funny.
occasion, one of Terri’s brothers came running into the house with news that
our neighbor had been the victim of a minor crime. He said, “Mr. Bailey’s car got broken into
last night!” Looking puzzled, Terri
said, “How do you break a car in two?”
Her brothers rolled on the floor laughing.
wintertime when it was dark early, the five of them would go to the playroom
after dinner, turn out the lights and play hide and seek. For a while, they couldn’t understand why it
was so hard to find Terri. Then they
discovered she had a most unusual hiding place.
She was lying flat on the back of the sofa – hiding in plain sight, you
Terri certainly wasn’t dumb. She made excellent grades in school; always acing
the “A” or “B” Honor Roll… and she had an incredible knack for taking care of
money. She was once bragging to her
siblings at dinner that she had some money saved and was thinking about what
she might buy with it. When they all giggled,
Terri said, “Don’t laugh; you’ll see.”
Her sister said, “Okay, how much do you have?” Terri answered, “Three.” Everyone hooted wildly, but became suddenly
quiet when she clarified that she meant three-hundred
dollars! It was difficult for any of us
to believe that she’d saved up that much money.
She got only a small weekly allowance and received gifts of money from
grandparents and other relatives occasionally, as did the other children. At any rate, Terri had three hundred dollars
to spend and her siblings were green with envy.
These are just
pleasant memories now. The children are
married and have blessed us with seven grandchildren. We gather regularly for special occasions as
other large families do and make many wonderful memories—and Terri continues to
entertain us now and then with one of her gaffes.
delivered her most recent howler a couple of years ago at Christmastime. One of her children had received a gift of
jeans that didn’t fit. We were telling her
and her husband that they could probably exchange them on their way home at a
store. I told her, “They have a large
selection. You probably won’t have any
trouble.” Then, looking at another
daughter, I said, “We bought you jeans there last fall, remember?” Hearing this,
Terri, looking baffled, asked, “Who’s Eugene?”
stood looking at each other for a few moments, mouths agape, before bursting
into laughter. Some things never
change—and, in this case, we are so grateful they don’t!
Yesterday, I spent the whole afternoon in my Ophthalmologist's office. I go every few months for checkups due to the eye problems that run in my family. It's never been a big deal before, but this time, I felt that more than two hours to get the job done was a little unreasonable, especially since most of the time was spent waiting in one place or another.
First came the usual visual check - reading the eye chart - then the doctor said it was time for my yearly dilation. This is very uncomfortable for me, but since it's necessary, I grin and bear it. Yesterday was no exception. Drops were put into my eyes and I was taken to a dark room where several other people were sitting, eyes closed, waiting for their eyes to dilate also. I was left there for a full thirty minutes - longer than usual - but was still determined to get through it with a smile. When my name was finally called, I followed the technician to another small office where I was given a test. I was to look into a machine with one eye at a time and follow the little green light around. No problem.
All finished with that, the tech led me to another office and told me the doctor would be with me in a few minutes to discuss the test. Well, that few minutes turned into another thirty and I was starting to get a little irritable! My husband was waiting in the waiting room and I suspected he was, too.
When the doctor finally appeared with one of his assistants by his side, determined not to be nasty, I said in the most pleasant voice I could conjure up, "I see you're having an unusually busy day!"(Smile). To which he replied, "It's not unusual at all."(No smile). I couldn't help but answer, "Well it seems so to me. I've been coming here for fifteen to twenty years, and I've never had to wait this long before!"(Still smiling). The doctor didn't reply, nor did he smile or apologize, but merely explained my test results, then told me he'd see me in five to six months... and walked out. I felt that I and my feelings had been dismissed like a child!
I wonder... as we age and aren't quite as perky as we once were, do younger people just naturally assume that we've lost our intellect and common sense?
I get up every morning and say, "What good things are in store for me today?" I wasn't always so positive. I grew up with a very negative mother. When I'd say, "It's a beautiful day!" She'd answer with, "Yeah, but it's gonna rain after while."
As you might guess, living with someone like that all your life sort of rubs off on you, but somewhere along the line, I started to think differently and, to my surprise, my life started to go in a new direction. It seems that we are what we think! If you sit around thinking bad things all the time, then bad things are likely to happen, but change those thoughts to good ones and it's just the opposite.
The change in me didn't happen overnight, but it did happen. I now find myself smiling and expecting good things much more than I do bad. It's so liberating - just to let all your worries go and imagine only good things happening. You smile more, you like people more and life is just so much better all around. I know people who haven't learned that yet. Nothing ever pleases them. They only see the negative in every situation... as my mother did. My faith plays a big part in my attitude. I'm convinced that the only way to be truly happy is to believe in a Higher Power. Otherwise, you have nothing to live for. Your significant other, just like you, will gradually grow older losing his/her physical beauty and faculties. Eventually, one of you will die leaving the other to carry on alone. Your children will grow up and leave you to make lives of their own. This is as it should be. Even your pets will die. The only thing that never changes is your God. This is where true happiness and contentment begin. Think about it.
Many years ago, my eldest son and I went to Paris, France. We were both taking classes at WV State University and when we heard that credits would be given to those who took the trip with the French teacher and her students, we jumped at the chance. I had always wanted to go to Paris. It had been a lifelong dream. Even though my son, Lee, had been once before with the Foreign Study League when he was only sixteen years old, he was delighted to go again!
From start to finish, it was a wonderful trip - one of the highlights of my life! Aside from the two French teachers, I was the oldest person in the group. That didn't bother me, especially when several people we met in Paris remarked, when seeing me and my son together, that we must be on our honeymoon. I was only thirty-six at the time. The two of us escaped the others a couple of evenings and went to this little restaurant close to the hotel. It was small and quaint, the service impeccable!
The very first time we walked inside and were escorted to a booth, there were knowing smiles on the faces of the staff. We saw them, knew what they were thinking and chuckled a little - behind our hands, of course. We were given special attention and, tho' we didn't understand all that was being said, it was easy to see by their expressions that they thought they were serving newlyweds. It was amazing... and a little embarrassing for my son and me, but we went with it and had fun.
We visited the Louvre, where we saw famous art such as the Mona Lisa, Whistler's Mother and Venus de Milo, ate lunch on the beautiful Eiffel Tower, took a tour of Montmartre and I was drawn by a good looking young artist there (picture above), enjoyed a train ride to Versailles where we spent the afternoon touring the chateau and the spectacular grounds, took a cruise on the Seine, and though I missed it, the others enjoyed the dinner show at the Moulin Rouge.
No wonder my son was delighted to take a second trip. There is so much to see and do in Paris that it would take much more time than we had. Even this time, he left wishing he'd been able to see more, and says he hopes to go back one day.
I'm sure I will never return, but it will always remain one of my favorite memories - one that makes me smile every time I think of it!
Have a wonderful day!
This story also appears in my book, Somewhere in Heaven My Mother is Smiling~
Appeared in the Charleston Gazette, July 15, 2007
When our granddaughter, Danielle, was in the second grade, her Physical Education teacher asked her students to invite a parent or grandparent to come and participate in a PE class with them. Since her mother couldn’t get away from work, Danielle pestered me until I agreed to go.
I was reluctant because this event was scheduled for —and I don’t do mornings! I often stay up until the wee hours and then sleep until the “crack of .” So, 8:30 a.m. is the middle of the night for me. However, this was my precious granddaughter, and I would grin and bear it, just this once, for her.
To make matters worse, when I got up on the appointed morning, it was pouring rain and foggy. I dislike rain almost as much as I dislike mornings. Together, they are intolerable.
I barely made it to the school on time, but there was no place to park. After driving around the block a couple of times, I finally found a space, but it was close to a fire hydrant. Since I was running late, I maneuvered my car into it anyway… mumbling to myself that I’d probably have a parking ticket when I got back.
I got inside just in time to find Danielle and her classmates heading for the gym. I was invited to join them, along with other parents and grandparents. We sat down and waited while each student proudly introduced his or her guest.
Then the teacher told us to stand up and form a large circle. First, we did some stretching exercises, which were easy even for us older folks. Then she said, “Now we’re going to play a game. How about Simon Says?” The kids squealed with delight.
The teacher started: “Simon says, ‘Clap your hands’.” Every hand clapped.
Then: “Simon says, ‘Stomp your feet’.” All feet stomped.
“Simon says, ‘Stick out your tongue’.” Right on cue, every tongue was out.
“Touch the top of your head.”
Suddenly, everyone was staring at me and more than a dozen small index fingers pointed in my direction. I felt my face redden as the sound of raucous laughter filled the room! I had been the only one tricked.
The teacher clapped her hands loudly to calm the children and said, kindly, “Now, children, don’t laugh at her. She’s new.”
“Let’s continue”, she said, and thankfully, the room became quiet again.
“I can do this.” I thought, determined to pay closer attention.
“Simon says, ‘stand on your right foot’.” Good!
“Simon says, ‘stand on your left foot’.” Check!
“Simon says, ‘touch your nose’.” Done!
By this time, Danielle was watching me closely and I smiled letting her know that I had things under control.
Still smiling and feeling very confident, I heard….
“Turn around”…and was more than halfway through a 360-degree turn before it occurred to me that Simon didn’t say…and I was the only one turning.
The laughter was even louder than before, and the fingers pointed more accusingly. Danielle put her hands on her tiny hips, glared at me impatiently and shouted, “Maw-Maw!” I wanted to crawl under the bleachers and hide.
The teacher halted the confusion by saying, “Alright, children, line up and we’ll get a drink of water.” The class was over. I said “good-bye” to Danielle and started toward the door, hoping to slip out unnoticed, but the other parents and grandparents rushed toward me—smiles flashing—offering comments like, “Don’t worry about it.” And, “We all make mistakes.” (Although I could swear some were smirking).
I finally walked through the big front doors into bright sunshine, which lifted my spirits…as it had the fog. Reaching my car, I was happy to find that there was no parking ticket. I slid in under the steering wheel, started the car, and burst into laughter. In spite of everything, I had enjoyed myself.
I sincerely hope that Danielle forgave me for embarrassing her. She must have—because she never mentioned it again—but on the other hand, she never invited me to another school activity either.