Saturday, October 29, 2011

Not A Hint Of Sunshine

A friend sent me an e-mail this morning with a picture attached. Caption: Summer and fall... come and gone.  Her note read: “Look what I woke up to this morning.” And there in the picture was her deck and two chairs covered with snow. It was a gray day – not a hint of sunshine – the kind that depresses me.

I love the snow, but I’m not quite ready for it. It's too soon!  I’m sitting here enjoying a sunny 49º afternoon. From my windows, I can see many colors remaining on nearby mountainsides~ enough to make one say, “Ahhh! and Oooo!” and wish autumn weren’t so close to being over for another year.

This lovely season comes and goes too quickly, doesn’t it?  Don’t you sometimes want to shout at Mother Nature, “Hey, slow it down just a wee bit so we can enjoy it?” It’s hard to keep up. Just when we get used to one season, another one pushes it out of the way and takes over. We have no choice but to adjust... like it or not.

Long before the sweltering days of summer are over, stores are filled with Halloween paraphernalia, turkeys, gourds, and all sorts of Thanksgiving gear. Closeby, we find Christmas cards, trees and other decorations for adorning our homes and surroundings to make ready for the most important holiday of the year.

When we were kids impatiently waiting for Christmas to come, the days passed by like a slow, boring parade, but now that we’re grown, it seems we no sooner get the decorations put away until it’s time to take them out again.

I wonder... Could that be the reason some people leave their outside lights up all year? 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Say Something Nice

Gossip, or idle rumor, is rampant in today's society. Gossip is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, but also has a reputation for introducing errors and misinformation. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of élite members of certain communities, and with the advent of the Internet, gossip is now widespread instantly, from one place in the world to another. What used to take a long time to circulate is now far-reaching in a second.

I recently read about a business place that has a zero-tolerance policy for gossip. If employees are caught gossiping, they are reprimanded, and if they continue, they’re fired. They’re encouraged to confront each other with any problems they have instead of gossiping behind each others’ backs. Idle talk that spreads malicious rumors about another person is strictly forbidden!

How unique!

Speaking badly of others betrays confidence, separates close friends, and causes shame or a bad reputation. People rarely can undo the damage their untrue words have done to a neighbor.

Many things that others say aren’t meant to be repeated. But there are times when some of us just can’t resist being the first to share a bit of juicy gossip. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always followed the rule our mothers taught us: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all?”

I know someone who actually lives that way. Whenever you say even the slightest negative thing about someone, this friend always comes back with something good. It never fails! He absolutely will not listen to anything unflattering about another person. According to him, "The best way to deal with gossip is to ignore it. A person who gossips is looking for a reaction, but if he gets none, it loses its appeal."  

I’m guessing that those who work for the business place that forbids gossip quickly discover that, if they want to keep their jobs, they must learn to say only nice things about their co-workers.

Perhaps this policy should be universally adopted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Cold, Gray Day

My daughter, Toney, and I used to go to a nearby gym and work out three times a week. We had a great time on those days. Life was good. But, as everyone knows, when it’s too good, something is bound to happen. I think it’s a law!

One fall day, after we’d done our workout and were on our way home, she said, “Let’s stop for yogurt.” There was this doughnut place on the way home that had frozen yogurt in many flavors. Assuring each other that a cup of it would not diminish the effects of the workout we’d just done, we stopped.

We got our yogurt and sat in a booth. It didn’t take long to learn that my daughter had another reason for this stop. She had something to tell me that she feared would cause a bad reaction and she wanted to be in a public place rather than at home – just the two of us. Smart girl!

“Mike has been transferred to Michigan,” she said. She and Mike had been dating for several months. We liked him fine, but I wasn’t ready for her next announcement. 

“He asked me to marry him and go with him,” she managed to get out in a meek little voice.

Feeling like my world had just crashed, I said, “What did you say?”

“I told him to give me a few days to think about it. I don’t want to leave my family and go that far away to a strange place where I don’t know anyone, but I’m not ready to give Mike up either.” She looked like she was going to cry – and I felt sick!

This was my eldest daughter. We were close. Very close. She had never been away from home except for short visits with friends. I hated the thought of her living that far away, but knew I had to let go no matter how much it hurt.

Mike had to leave for his new job the first week in January, so we had a beautiful, small church wedding on New Year’s Eve. The guests were family and very close friends.

It was a cold, gray day when the young couple packed up the car and started out on the eight hour drive to Flint, Michigan, a long way from West Virginia! I fixed a nice lunch for everyone and, when it was time to go, the family walked to the car with them. Her younger sister, Tish, was as heart-broken as I was watching her sister leave. The two of them hugged right before Toney got into the car, and it was a touching sight. Embracing each other for several seconds, their bodies quivered as they struggled to hold back tears.

When the car carrying my beloved daughter pulled out of the driveway, taking a piece of my heart with it, we waved until it was out of sight, and then went inside. There are no words to describe what I felt. If I had been a child, I would have sat in the corner, sucked my thumb, held my blanket and twirled my hair!

They left on Saturday and by Monday morning, I was missing her terribly. As I sat by the window staring at the dreary January day – watching the snow fall and wiping tears from my eyes, the phone rang. It was her!  How good it was to hear her sweet voice!  I could tell she was shedding a few tears, too. She tried to be cheerful, but it was impossible to hide her homesickness from me, the mother who knew her so well. 

That was almost twenty-three years ago. Toney and Mike are still married. They have a son and a daughter. They never got transferred back to West Virginia, but they’re only four to five hours away now. They come home for special holidays and we visit them occasionally. It’s not so bad. One gets used to changes, I suppose.

But still, sometimes I daydream about the many good times we had together when she lived close.

That's a mother’s prerogative.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quit Lollygagging

In a return e-mail today, a friend, who is taking a short trip this weekend, wrote, “I already have my clothes laid out. Typical.”

Her remark brought back memories that made me giggle as I thought about how different we all are. I never would have clothes laid out on Wednesday morning for a Friday trip! I’d be lucky if I knew what I was going to wear when I got up on Friday morning. I’ve always been that way. Sometimes we visit my daughter and her family in North Carolina and I usually pack the morning we’re leaving. How does one know for sure what the weather will be like, or what her mood will be until the very day—the very hour?  If it’s a rainy, dark morning, I’ll probably want to wear something bright, like red or yellow to cheer me up. But if it’s a sunny day, I can tone it down with softer colors.

My daughter, Toney, is just the opposite; she’s like my friend. We call her “Miss Efficiency.” When she’s going on a trip, she’s packed at least a week ahead, and everything is done that needs to be to make for a smooth departure. Nothing to worry about... but wait! She has a daughter just like me!

Uh-Oh! Jourdan inherited her grandmother’s worst traits. First, she doesn’t want to get out of bed. And when she does, she yawns, and groans and lingers over bed-making until Toney yells, “Quit lollygagging like your grandmother and get ready!” She’s usually the one who just has to have a particular pair of jeans washed at the last minute or must shampoo her hair. This drives Toney crazy!

Jourdan loves to spend a week with me in the summertime. We stay up late playing games, watching TV, or just talking. We eat too much, sleep as late as we want, and if she doesn’t make her bed, I close the door. We have fun! One summer, when I took her home, she slept late for days. Toney thought she was sick and took her to the doctor. The doctor didn’t find anything wrong. She was just very tired. Toney said she couldn’t come anymore. But she did.

They say history repeats itself. I suppose it does. My mother was efficient, like Toney. I drove her crazy, too. She often said to me, “You’re just like your dad,” who was easy-going, too.

I think hard-working, efficient people must live longer, considering my mother lived to be 85, and in good health until the last three years, while my father died at 63 after suffering five heart attacks. Perhaps I’d better change my ways. Nah! You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Besides, I’m having too much fun!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Just like every other little girl in the world, I really loved my daddy! He's been gone many years, but I thought about him a lot today. It’s his birthday!

He was a special man! I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again: he loved God, his family, and baseball! In that order. Oh, I suppose if I were honest, I’d have to say he wasn’t perfect. After all, he went through the same growing up process that we all do. I’ve heard many stories from him and others, about when he was a young lad first getting to know about life’s ups and downs.

One often told tale was about the first time he came home drunk. Possibly the only time! Everyone didn’t have a car in those days. Those who didn’t, either walked or rode the bus, depending on how far they were going. The bus stop was about a quarter of a mile from my dad’s home. When his father, my Grandpa, realized how late his son was out on this particular Saturday night, he headed for the bus stop to meet the last bus of the night. Sure enough, when it stopped, my dad got off, reeking of alcohol. When he saw his dad, he knew he was in a heap of trouble. Trying to smooth things over, he said, “Hi there, Pop! How ya’ doin’?” Well, Grandpa wasn’t so cheerful. He grabbed him by the shoulders, spun him around pointing in the direction of home and said, “Let’s go, boy!”

As my dad started walking, every time he took a step, Grandpa kicked him in the seat of the pants. By the time they got home, he could barely sit down. As I grew up, my dad laughingly repeated this story many times; and the way he remembered it, the soreness lasted for days.

It appears he had his wild days like most young men do. There were many tales about his strict father struggling to keep him in line. But those are just stories to me. It seems as if those swift kicks did what my grandfather intended. What I remember is a responsible father who worked hard and provided for us and played with me and took me places. A dad whose smile is etched in my brain and whose goodness will live forever in my children, upon whom he made a lasting impression!

October 16th, will always be a special day on my calendar!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The First Day Of School

This evening, for no apparent reason, my mind drifted way back in time to the day I took my eldest child to school for his first day. He had been a rather clingy child, always hugging me and saying, “I love you, Mum.” I was pretty sure that leaving me for several hours a day was going to be hard on him. He also enjoyed playing with his younger brother and sisters. I knew he’d miss them. And they, him.

But first grade beckoned – like it or not – and nothing could change that. In those days, kindergarten was optional, and I certainly had no desire to push my children out of the nest any sooner than absolutely necessary; so all five of them waited until first grade to enter school. It didn’t hurt them either. All were good students throughout school. We were proud of them!

And so... we were up early on that September morning, Lee and I. He didn’t seem nervous, which was more than I could say for myself. He had breakfast and got dressed in new clothes and shoes that had been purchased just for that day. I took pictures, of course, and off we went, Lee waving goodbye to his siblings who were lined up on the front porch to see him off. My mother stayed with them, so they had fun, too.

I parked close to the school, then got out and opened the door for Lee. Smiling and perky, he jumped out appearing eager to begin his new life as a student. But I was certain it was a façade. He’d cry when it was time for me to leave him. I just knew he would!

We had done the paper work earlier, so now we just had to find the room to which Lee had been assigned. Inside, the teacher welcomed us and told Lee where to sit. I was to stand with the other mothers around the outer walls of the room while she made a nice little speech about what the children would be doing that day, talked about the lunch schedule and other tidbits of information. Lee was on the opposite side of the room from me and I was still watching for tears to form or some sign of fear or reluctance to stay in this unfamiliar place. But none of that occurred.

Finally, the nice teacher said, “All right mothers. You may go now. You may pick up your child promptly at three o’clock." I looked at Lee, still expecting tears, a fearful expression, something... but what I saw instead was a big bright smile and a little hand waving goodbye.

Of course I was pleased that he was so happy; glad he didn’t cry or beg to leave with me. As I walked to the car, I told myself that this meant I had done something right. He was ready to go to school. Well adjusted. And that was a good thing.

I got in the car, started it, pulled out into traffic...

         ... and boohooed all the way home!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sometimes We Cry

A friend sent me a rather touching video this afternoon. It brought tears to my eyes. And I had to confess that I seem to be crying much more often these days than I did in the past. In fact, I was considered a little hard-hearted when I was younger.

My friend, Carol, and I enjoyed going to the movies together when our children were small. Luckily, we both had agreeable husbands who’d watch the kids while we had an occasional night out.

If the movie we chose happened to be the least bit sad, Carol couldn’t hold back the tears. One, in particular that had her bawling like a baby, was Imitation of Life. When we left the theater, her eyes were swollen and red and her nose was beginning to look a little bulbous from all the wiping she’d done.  She got very angry with me because I didn’t shed a tear. Actually, it was all I could do to keep from laughing at her. To me, movies were just make-believe. Good acting; that’s all. But Carol lived it! She still gets sad when I mention that movie today – many years later.

But as the years have passed, the tables have turned and she’s had a few chances to laugh at me. I told her recently about crying while watching a TV movie and she giggled. “I’m so happy to hear that,” she said. “It’s about time I get to call you a crybaby.”

I’d say it must have something to do with getting older, but Carol’s getting older, too, and she’s not crying anymore!  So what’s wrong with me?

Sometimes, I hear a song and get teary-eyed; think about someone who died a long time ago and start sobbing; watch a patriotic video and have to wipe the tears away; hear about someone suffering with a terminal disease and get very sad, and don’t dare show me pictures of homeless animals from the animal shelter or tell me an animal cruelty story! That one puts me right over the edge! And I avoid the part of the newspaper like the plague that has pictures of the sad little faces of dogs and cats who want to be adopted!

I’ve been reading a book that makes me cry. It's a wonderful book. Just sad in places. I should have finished it days ago, but when I start feeling too sad, I know it’s time to stop and do something else, like a workout or a walk.

My son says it’s an issue of “mind over matter.”  Perhaps he’s right.

But there’s another theory I like better: Tears are good for us – therapeutic! So I checked it out and found an article that listed seven reasons that crying is good for us:

1.    Tears Help Us See
2.    Tears Kill Bacteria
3.    Tears Remove Toxins
4.    Crying Can Elevate Mood
5.    Crying Lowers Stress
6.    Tears Build Community
7.    Tears Release Feelings

So you see, when I cry, my body is doing something good for me!

I wonder... If crying is good for me, why does it make me feel so bad?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No Ducks Allowed

It's one of those “glowing” October afternoons. The oranges and yellows are projecting themselves through my windows and delivering a glow throughout the house. I wish there were a way to capture it so I could enjoy it on the grey days of winter. But I fear its ethereal beauty is not easily snared. So I’ll just have to drink it deeply into my senses, and recall it in the coldest and bleakest part of winter when the snow is falling.

With only twenty-five days left of the month I love most, I should be outside – soaking up the sunshine, but here I sit inside writing about it instead of experiencing it. What’s wrong with me?

Last October, on a day just like this one, my sweet daughter invited me to go to a nearby lake with her and her two children to enjoy the sights, smells and sunshine. I took her up on the offer and it was one of the most pleasant days I’ve ever had.

The lake is a 27 acre impoundment with a wooded hiking trail surrounding it. It is stocked with trout in January and March. Ducks glide gracefully on the water, enhancing its beauty year around. But it is especially lovely in autumn. There are also picnic facilities and drinking water.

On that radiant October day, we followed the trail around the hillside that overlooked the lake. The leaves were a multitude of colors. Many of them lay on the ground, some clung tenaciously to tree branches and others fell all around us as we walked. The path was narrow, so we walked single-file, the four of us. It was wonderful!

When we came out from under the trees into the sunshine, we walked to the other side of the lake to partake of the sandwiches we’d brought with us. We had worked up an appetite, but, as much as we wanted to eat, it was difficult fighting off the ducks. They came out of the water en masse quacking, snapping and following us around. There was no way to escape them. Just one piece of bread didn’t satisfy any of them either; they wanted all we had!  I, having a lifelong fear of winged creatures, finally threw my sandwich down and ran to the car. Laughing, the others stayed and fed the ducks bite by bite until their sandwiches were gone. By this time, we were all tired and ready to go home, especially since we were hungry and thirsty.

I came home, cooked dinner and settled down to rest. I was tired. But it was a special kind of weariness... the kind that makes you smile when you think about what caused it. I must contact my daughter and set up a time to repeat that special October afternoon. Soon!

But this time, we’ll eat somewhere else. No ducks allowed!

If you'd like to read my newest duck post, go here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Beloved October

While I was passionately professing my love for October to a friend, she said, “Talk about waxing eloquent!  I thought I was listening to Elizabeth Barrett Browning for a minute there.”

I told another friend I felt a “stirring” inside, and she asked, “Are you expecting?”
Giggling, I answered, “Of course not! It’s October!"

Perhaps I am a little too exuberant about fall. But after a long, hot summer of watching those around me juggle already overloaded schedules in order to pack in more summer fun—I’m tired and ready to relax.

Today, it is 69 degrees and sunny with clear blue skies and a slight breeze. Leaves of all colors are beginning to decorate my front yard and a tall maple tree is rapidly turning orange, casting a warm glow throughout my house. In the evening, the scent of autumn is distinctive. The moon is surrounded by a hazy glow. It is a restful time.

Trees and plants prepare to rest… and while they are resting, their underground roots will prepare for a rebirth and the flourishing of new growth in the spring. 

My husband, who does not share my passion for fall, declares that there will be no rest for him until the leaves are raked. I appeal for a little more time to enjoy them, but it is to no avail. He will dispose of them long before the last one falls, leaving in their place a dull, colorless landscape.

But I can’t worry about that today. My beloved October has returned—with its brilliant colors, cool temperatures and sunny, cloudless, azure skies, and I must enjoy it before it escapes for another year.

Fall is so beautiful, yet so fleeting. I never understand those who say they hate it because it is the forerunner to a long, cold winter. I think there is a lesson to be learned here about “being in the moment.” Many wonderful things are missed by worrying about what is coming later instead of enjoying what is now.

“Let me stay in this moment... forever!” I said aloud, as I drove home from an appointment this afternoon. The hills are speckled with color. Dazzling reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

I think about how the changing seasons remind me of the cycles of life. Spring’s awakening, summer’s bounty, autumn’s harvest and winter’s rest… each one a beautiful experience.

I liken springtime to childhood and youth. With the support of a loving family, we learn about life, acquire our values and begin to venture out and explore things on our own. In time, we break away from family and enter into our summertime. There, we may establish a career, get married and raise a family—or both. Perhaps we meet God in this season. Ultimately, we find our own special identity and make our mark on the world. Our lives are so busy that we are unaware of how quickly time passes and, before we know it, we move into the autumn years.

Autumn—the harvest time of life—when all that we have done during spring and summer comes to fruition. We reap the rewards of a successful career, or the years we spent raising children. We may begin to come to terms with our mortality. Like plants in fall, we start to prepare ourselves for a well-deserved rest. This can be the most fulfilling season. Almost unnoticed, winter occurs. We continue to enjoy life. We grow spiritually. This, too, can be a rewarding time if we keep a positive attitude and resolve to live each day to the fullest.

This is October for me. Withdrawing into my own world, blocking out everything except the beauty of the season, my reflections, and my relationship with God, I find that this is enough to sustain me through the long cold winter, and beyond….

Monday, October 3, 2011

The First Olive

While I was talking to a friend today who had just attained something she’d been waiting a long time for, I said, “Maybe that’s ‘the first olive out of the jar.’” My friend laughed, commenting that she liked the expression, which she’d never heard before. I told her I’d heard my mother say it all my life. That started me to thinking about other sayings I'd heard growing up, and I’ve attempted to list some of them here. It’s a shame that our relatives die before we get all of these oddities down. Most of us seem to start thinking about them only after it’s too late. Therefore, some are lost forever.

Here are only a few I remember:

Ø  “The first olive outta the jar.”

Ø  I can’t wear that dress anymore; “it’s as tight as Dick’s hatband.” (The first time I said this to my daughter, she dropped to the floor, laughing!)

Ø  I’ll do it if it harelips the governor!

Ø  Well, I swannee!

Ø  There’s a special place in Heaven for her.

Ø  That’s just too much sugar for a dime.

Ø  I don’t know that man from Adam’s housecat

Ø  She was as naked as a boiled chicken!

Ø  My grandmother used to say, “Go play, kids. You’re codding me!”  When I was older, I saw this one used in a book that was set in Ireland. My grandmother was Irish. Makes sense now.

Ø  It’s your little red wagon, now pull it.

Ø  She could waste more than three good men could ever carry in.

Ø  Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then.

Ø  Scarce as hen’s teeth

Ø  If if’s and but’s were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.

Ø  Don't take any wooden nickels.

Ø  He’s as poor as Job’s turkey.

Ø  A guilty dog barks the loudest.

Ø  Good fences make good neighbors.

Ø  Normal is whatever you want it to be.