Monday, May 28, 2012

Who Wants Ice Cream?

It was a balmy 89ยบ this evening when my husband and I left to run an errand.

It’s odd how something as simple as a soft, warm breeze can trigger memories you thought were gone forever. As we got into the car, I had a sudden flash-back of long-ago summer evenings just like this one. When our children were young, they’d be outside after dinner taking advantage of the last remnants of daylight and we’d decide to surprise them.

“Who wants ice cream?” one of us would ask as we stepped outside. “I do! I do!” was the lively reply we heard several times... along with some hand clapping and jumping up and down. So we’d all pile in the station wagon we had at the time and head for the nearest ice cream shoppe.

How they loved this simple pleasure! They’d be as dirty as little piglets from playing outside all day, and by the time their ice cream melted and ran down to their elbows, it was definitely time to march them straight to the bath tub the minute we got home! Sometimes there’d be a board game or story before bed, but they were tired, happy kids ready for a night of battery recharging before waking to another busy day.

It was so easy keeping kids happy in those days – even without I-pads, I-phones, or computers. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how contented children were who had less to entertain them.

They had to entertain themselves. What a unique concept! And they managed it beautifully. I used to think it amusing that my children hated going to school, yet, during summer vacation, “playing school” seemed to be great fun.

Our neighborhood was loaded with kids. They gathered in the evenings and played outside games for hours. When it was almost dark, porch lights began to dot the neighborhood, signaling the kids that it was time to go home. It was a memorable time for our children! I love hearing them reminisce about the summers of their childhood when they get together.

I wonder what today’s children will reminisce about when they’re older.

Somehow I doubt that it will have anything to do with getting ice cream cones on summer evenings – or going home when the porch light comes on.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Growing Pains

Another month is almost gone and we will soon observe Memorial Day, an American holiday that honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, many Americans decorate the graves of their loved ones and hold family gatherings to celebrate the holiday that unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

This year, school is already out where I live and children are looking forward to all of the fun activities of summertime, especially swimming.

My twelve-year old granddaughter got into a little mischief, just today – very early into her summer vacation. The temperatures were in the high eighties and she and a friend thought it would be refreshing to jump off a boat dock and take a dip in the Kanawha River. It was only the two of them, with no adult anywhere within hearing distance... but somehow, her mother found out what she’d done, resulting in Granddaughter losing some privileges in her first week of freedom from school. Not only did her mother feel it was a dangerous thing to do, but also, was concerned because the river is known to be full of chemicals which could be harmful.

Ah, to be young again! I remember doing many things at her age and older that I shouldn’t have. My parents found out about some... but not all... and I have great memories of my childhood and early teens.

In the small town where I grew up, there was this mountain that had to be climbed. It was an unspoken dare. You were considered a coward if you didn’t climb it by the time you were thirteen or fourteen years old. It took a couple of hours to get to the top, tramping through a densely wooded area – some of it very steep. One wrong step resulted in a downward slide for yards before you could stop and gingerly climb back up again. When you finally reached the top, you were standing on a huge rock cliff from where you could see the whole town. It was a beautiful sight, but strictly natural. There were no fences or railings of any kind to keep you from falling, which would have been deadly.

My parents surely would have had heart failure if they’d known I was ever on that mountain. But, of course, I was.

Like my granddaughter, I couldn’t stay away from the river either. Didn’t matter how many times I was threatened or punished, I kept going when I thought my parents wouldn’t find out. Somehow, the lure of the river was more powerful than the threat of punishment.

I climbed trees, although tree climbing was forbidden, ventured farther from my home than my parent's boundaries allowed, and fought with anyone who dared disagree with me. Somebody’s mother was always phoning mine to tell her what I’d done to her sweet daughter or son. I was punished. A lot.

But I grew up in spite of it all. Fairly well-adjusted, I think.

Granddaughter will, too.

She reminds me a lot of myself at her age. It’ll be interesting - and a little painful - to watch her grow and learn all her lessons the hard way as I did. And hopefully, she, too, will look back one day and remember these days with fondness.

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Time

What an oppressive day! It’s not even the end of May yet and I’m already sick of hot weather! While running an errand this afternoon, I found it difficult to breathe. I suffer with allergies at least three-quarters of the year. When the air feels heavy and stagnant, I try to stay in the air-conditioned house most of the time, but, of course, can’t all of the time.

What’s more, when I came home today, I had to plant a few flowers that my son bought me for Mother’s Day, and it was torture staying outside that long. I’m not a gardener. I love flowers! Just don’t like being responsible for making them grow. 

You grow ‘em and I’ll swoon over them – even take pictures and share them on Facebook and elsewhere... but Please! Please! Please! Don’t ask me to plant them, fertilize them and water them all summer long!

I grew up beside the river. My yard was a child’s paradise! We had all kinds of fruit trees that bloomed in the spring, plus lilac bushes, snowball bushes (Viburnum), irises, lilies, daisies, and red, yellow and white roses. There was also a long grape arbor.

Guess what? They took care of themselves! My mother loved flowers, but although she often cut bouquets of lilacs and roses to decorate and perfume the house, I can’t remember ever seeing her watering, fertilizing or pruning outside bushes and flowers. 

All of this beauty appeared every spring and summer, without any help from anyone except the Good Lord, and it was a beautiful yard! I guess I grew up thinking that was the way it was supposed to be. Flowers just naturally grew in your yard.  

But, of course, sometime after I was married and had my own house, I discovered it doesn’t work that way. I joined everyone else in the neighborhood for a while, planting a flower garden and taking proper care of it, but after a few 90+ degree summers of watering plants every evening, weeding and fertilizing, and having to go straight to the shower when I was finished because I was drenched with perspiration - and exhausted, I decided this was not “my cup o' tea!” Not the way I wanted to spend my evenings!

I didn’t stop all at once; it was sort of a gradual process. I gave perennials a try and they’d re-emerge for a year or two, and then disappear. Then I was told that, even they have to be dug up and separated every few years. Ugh! I have no time or energy for that!

I haven’t resorted to plastic flowers yet (not out of the question), but I do have a lot of ivy-like evergreen plants that grow and multiply whether you shower them with TLC or not. In fact, it’s almost impossible to kill them.

All of my flowers aren’t gone yet though. Each spring, I have at least three purple tulips that have come back every year for many years. There were originally six. And I had two lovely irises this year. We originally enjoyed dozens. But I was grateful for my two – standing tall and proud in all their purple glory for a few weeks. I also have some bright orange lilies, which I love, outside my back door. The only time they get water is when it rains, but they defy the odds and just keep on keepin’ on.

And then there are the Mother’s Day impatiens (orange, of course) and geraniums that my eldest son presents me with every year. I believe he still has hope that I'll become an avid gardener, as he is. He spends every spare moment working in his yard from late March until frost finishes everything off in late fall or early winter.

Oh how I love the sound of those words – late fall or early winter.

A time when I will finally breathe without difficulty, curl up in the evening with a good book and a cup o' hot apple cider – my cat napping at my feet – and not worry about whether the flowers need watering or not.

My time!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

So Peaceful!

A few days before my mother died, I walked into her hospital room to find her sleeping. She wore a light blue satin gown. Her hair was as white as snow – her skin, flawless. At 85, there were few wrinkles. She looked so peaceful! I wished I could hold onto that picture forever.

I whispered to the quiet room, “This is the way I’ll remember her.”

Today is her birthday.

I miss her!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Unforgettable Memories

When I was a child spending summers with my grandparents, my Aunt Betty and I made the most beautiful memories scampering around in the West Virginia hills that surrounded the coal camp where they lived. My grandfather worked in the mine.

My grandparents had five children. My mother, the eldest, was the reason I was there. She had a job and couldn’t leave me alone. Betty was the youngest – only three months older than I. We were not only playmates, but also best friends!

Because I spent so much time with them and because Betty and her brothers called my grandmother “Mom” – so did I. It seemed only natural.

It was at least a lifetime ago, but those beautiful summer days are as clear in my mind as they were then.

Evenings were the best. After playing all day, having a warm bath and one of Mom’s home-cooked meals, we were exhausted. Mom would say, “Come on girls. Let’s swing for a while.” We looked forward to those evenings. Mom was as round as a balloon and as soft as a down pillow. I’d snuggle close on one side and Betty, on the other. Mom would start by telling stories about her past, like the time her brother accidentally cut off her finger with an axe while chopping wood. We’d also sing silly songs – songs that we’d remember forever and pass down to our children and grandchildren. We gathered many precious memories on that long porch swing while nestled in the safety of my grandmother’s cushiony body.

During the day, we’d ramble on the hillside behind the house; pick blackberries or splash around in a small creek that ran through the tiny community. We were never at a loss for something to do. Sometimes we’d go to the company store that was owned by the coal company that employed my grandfather. We never had money but it was fun to look around and dream of what we would buy if we actually did have the funds.

When I think of those wonderful summers of my early childhood, I feel sorry for today’s children. Some of them may never know a grandmother who has the time to spend evenings telling stories and singing songs. Most won’t have memories of spending long summer days in nature because they’re inside playing with their I-pads or computers – or watching TV. They think they’ve got everything.

Ah, but they’re missing so much!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Strongest Person I Know

My daughter, forty-something, is the strongest person I know.

She is a divorced mother of two who has a very demanding job and often goes to work when she doesn’t feel like it. She starts very early and finishes late. Besides that, she home schools her eldest child, helps the younger one with homework and sees to all the other needs of a twelve year old daughter and a sixteen year old son. She keeps house, does the shopping, laundry and taxis the children to and from their various activities.

Unfortunately, busy people often fall into bad habits that hurt them. For the past several years, being so active and on the go most of the time, she rarely took the time to eat right, but always had a bottle of coke in her hand or sticking out of her large purse. Her dentist said the acid in the coke literally ate the enamel off her teeth. So she is slowly losing them.

I was up at six-thirty yesterday morning getting ready to drive her to the office of an oral surgeon where she would have seven teeth extracted.

It always seems to be raining when I have an early morning appointment, especially one that is not the least bit enjoyable? We drove the 10 miles or so via interstate, windshield wipers going full blast. She was nervous; I was sleepy, having had only about three to four hours sleep. It was not a pleasant morning, by any means.

Even though the waiting room was full, we didn’t have to wait long. There are two doctors and things moved along pretty quickly. Once they took her inside, I pulled my kindle out of my purse and attempted to read Daleen Berry’s book, Sister of Silence. Although it’s a compelling book, reading only made me sleepier, so I finally closed the kindle – and my eyes. At least I can rest them, I thought. But after 45 minutes, I was starting to worry that something had gone wrong. That’s when she opened the door... mouth full of gauze... and motioned for me to bring her purse in so she could pay for the surgery.

It was raining even harder, but sharing my umbrella, we ran for the car and headed toward home, stopping by a pharmacy to get her pain pills and a grocery store for jello, pudding and chicken broth – essentials for after oral surgery. She had printed instructions from the doctor to rest today! Do absolutely nothing, the paper read.

When I dropped her at her house, the gauze in her mouth was already soaked with blood. She always bleeds badly so we expected more of the same. I figured she’d sleep the rest of the day.

Not my daughter!

Almost as soon as I was out of sight, she got in her car and went to work. “It was not an option,” she told me when I scolded her a few hours later. “I had to be there!”

“Do you need anything?” I asked – a little miffed.

“No, I’ll be just fine!” she insisted.

And so... Tuff Daughter worked until six p.m., then went home and prepared to rest – at long last! But a while later, she discovered she did need something after all.

My phone rang about 9 p.m. “Mother,” said this weak sounding voice.

“Yes,” I answered. “Is everything okay?”

“I’m hungry,” she said.

“What about your jello and pudding and broth?”

“I had that, but I need some of your good scrambled eggs with cheese,” she said. I smiled. “I’ll be right there.”

“No, I’ll drive to your house,” she said. 

Funny that a gal who worked four hours just after having seven teeth cut out, wasn’t able to scramble eggs!

I had them almost ready when she arrived. She devoured them, had some milk and even a little peach cobbler. I can’t imagine eating like that under the same conditions.

I feel sure it was not food she needed as much as a little of her mother’s pampering – the kind she got when she was a child. We never forget the special things our mother does for us, do we?

I never got too old to need my mother when I was sick. I’d get on the phone and call her looking for sympathy and it almost always resulted in having a pot of fresh potato soup delivered right to my door. Nothing was quite as healing as Mother’s potato soup and loving attention.

Tuff Girl was back up this morning and off to work by 7:30. When I talked to her later in the day, she said she was doing alright. I’m grateful for her strength. I think she must have inherited it from her father. I admit it. I’m a wimp!

But then... wimps get more pampering.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Writer's Block

I write about whatever strikes my fancy on any given day—from the weather to my fear of birds. I have a large family and no one is exempt from my musings: husband, children, grandchildren, my cat, Liza... nor friends and acquaintances.

But lately, I’ve had a touch of writer’s block. I can’t seem to come up with things to write about the way I could a few months ago. I suppose I’ll get over it. I’m told that everyone is plagued with it at one time or another.

Last year, I was in sync with all the holidays, sending an essay about each one to the newspaper in plenty of time for it to be published on or around the special day. This year is different.

I completely forgot that Mother’s Day was near when I sent my column to the paper last week! Instead of writing a lot of heart-warming thoughts about mothers, I struggled until I came up with something else I hoped might touch people’s hearts. But when I realized what I’d done – after it was too late – I was angry with myself!

How could I forget about Mother’s Day? I think of my mother every day, even though she’s been gone for almost eight years. You never forget a mother's influence.

Nor her love.

I’m a mother myself. That should have made me remember – especially when one of my sons called a week early to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day! He was embarrassed to find out it wasn’t until the next Sunday until he did some checking and learned that the Nitro city calendar had marked May 6th as Mother’s Day. He felt vindicated! I was happy for him.

My daughter, who lives in NC, always sends a nice package. Early. She knows that, like a child, it’s almost impossible for me to wait until the day of the occasion to open the gift. I think she does it to taunt me!

At one time, I didn't give it a thought. I’d just go ahead and open the box as soon as it arrived, even if it was three days early! When she found out, she complained, but I didn’t care. I just promised to do better the next time. However, a few weeks ago, on my birthday, I finally did it! My birthday was on Monday. The package arrived the previous Thursday. Four days early!

Determined to at least try, I immediately took the box to an unused bedroom and placed it in a spot where I wouldn’t easily see it when I passed that room. Once or twice, I admit, I sneaked into the room, picked up the package and, biting my bottom lip, tried to imagine what might be inside before putting it back down.

My daughter is such a wonderful gift buyer. Her boxes are always chock-full of goodies. Never just one thing, but one main item and then about a half dozen little things: lip-gloss, body lotion, nail polish, earrings, perhaps a book – you know, lots of little fun things. Waiting four days was difficult for me, but guess what? I made it!

When I told her, she said, “See. You do have will power. I knew you could do it.”

And so... my Mother’s Day package came today. Two days early. I’m not sure I can pull it off this time. My mood is different. Being a bit stressed about my writer’s block and all, I may need a little pick-me-up.

Besides, my bottom lip is already sore and I still have another whole day to go!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Whatcha' Doin' Mr. Herman

The first noise I heard this morning sounded like the tap-tap-tapping of hammers on nails you hear when one of your neighbors is having a new roof installed. But my initial thought was, I knew it! Someone’s building an ark!

Why wouldn’t that be my first thought?

It’s rained off and on for days. The ground is saturated and there’s still no sunshine. Oh, we’ve been teased with a few rays here and there, but they only stay long enough to get us excited and then disappear again. I’m bored with it!

When I said, “Is someone getting a new roof or building an ark?” Mr. H., accustomed to my inane sense of humor, said, “Neither. It’s those teenagers a few houses over playing their drums outside on their driveway.”

With no pressing reason to get up, I lay there listening to the beat - beat - beat - of the drums and drifted back in time. Mr. H. had owned a heating and air conditioning business. He stayed busy summer and winter. Most of his work came from home builders who contracted him to install heating and air conditioning units in the new homes they built. But he also did service work on existing homes and had many calls to replace old units as well.

He met a lot of people and had many stories to tell. One of my favorites was about a little boy, about four, who lived at a home where he was doing a replacement job. The first day on the job, Steven was curious about what was going on and stayed nearby to inspect the tools and equipment that were being brought into his house. His mother introduced him to my husband. “Steven, this is Mr. Horton. You need to stay out of his way so he can work."

The next morning, Steven greeted my husband at the door, “Hi, Mr. Herman,” he said. My husband laughed, unable to hide his amusement with the mispronunciation of his name, and said, “Good morning, Steven.”

Each morning, the little boy appeared soon after my husband arrived. He watched everything he did. My husband was afraid he’d get hurt and gently urged him to keep his distance. But Steven was too inquisitive.

“What’re you doin’ now, Mr. Herman?” he'd inquire. My husband had the patience of Job and tried to explain to this four-year-old exactly what he was doing, but then Steven would say, “Why are you doin’ that, Mr. Herman?” It was never-ending!

Although it seemed to take longer than usual, the job was eventually completed.

My husband had, of course, related Steven’s antics to me and our children every evening at dinner and, by the time the work was finished, the whole family was calling him Mr. Herman. Sometimes we still do.

Realizing I couldn’t lie there daydreaming all day, I sat up and lowered my feet to the floor. “I’ve been thinking about Steven and Mr. Herman,” I said. A smile that warmed my heart slowly crept over my husband’s face.

Isn’t it wonderful that one pleasant memory from long ago can bring sunshine back to a cloudy day and change our whole attitude?

And the entire day.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You Can Do Anything You Want

“I’m tired of being me," I say. "I’d like to be someone else for a while.”

My husband says, “Who do you want to be?”

“I don’t know. Someone different.”

“Aren’t you happy?” he asks.

“Yes... basically. It’s just that I’m not doing anything worthwhile. I'd like to leave something important behind when I die.”

“What about the kids? And grandkids? Aren’t they important?”

“Sure, of course they are, but you know – something super important – like a cure for cancer or a piece of music that'll be enjoyed forever. Maybe a book that'll be required reading in schools for generations to come.”

“Well, you don’t have to be somebody else to do something super important. You can do that being you.”

“No I can’t!” I whine.

“What makes you think you can’t?” says Mr. H.

“What makes you think I can?” I say, hands on hips.

“I’ve lived with you for a lot of years and I know you can do anything you want when you set your mind to it.”

“It’s nice of you to say that, but I'm not so sure. I might still like to trade lives with someone else.”

“Don't be ridiculous," he says. "You can't trade lives with someone else!"

“You just contradicted yourself,” I tell him. “You said I can do anything I set my mind to do. Did you mean it or not?”

He looks toward the ceiling, mutters something inaudible and leaves the room.

Men... poor things! They get so confused sometimes.


Women get the last word in every argument. Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument. ~Author Unknown

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Merry Month of May

Well, here we are on the fifth day of the fifth month of the year. How time flies! It seems only yesterday we were celebrating the New Year.

Some think May is the most beautiful month of the year, but I'm not one of them. October holds that distinction in my book! However, May has its merits. My mother was born in May. We also have a grandchild born in this lovely spring month.

Wild flowers are blooming, and the trees and grasses have turned green. Wild flowers that bloom in different parts of America are forsythia, dogwood, violets, and jack-in-the-box. Many birds have built their nests, and mother birds are sitting on the eggs, which will soon hatch.

We observe several special days in May. Mother’s Day is celebrated in honor of Mothers on the second Sunday of May.

Armed Forces Day is celebrated the third Saturday of May. The United States honors the men and women of the military services.

The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky. It is the most famous horse race in the United States.

Many Mexican Americans celebrate what they call Cinco De Mayo, on May 5th. It is the anniversary of the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862. It is a national holiday in Mexico.

  • Emerald is the birthstone for May.

  • Hawthorn and Lily of the Valley are the flowers for the month of May.


I suppose the best thing about May in our part of the country is the mild weather. It's sunny most days, but rains a lot, too, which is good for the grass and the multitudes of flowers yet to come. Those who like to garden are in Heaven during this month.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Sacred Promise Broken

I once went to a concert with a friend, and, while we were standing in one of two lines leading inside, I spotted a good friend whom I hadn't seen in years, in the other line. I was stunned to see him showing shameless affection for the attractive woman beside him.

When he saw me, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I smiled. He got out of line and came over, leaving his friend behind. After our greeting, I asked, “Is Linda with you?” Linda was his wife of twenty-five years. We had once been neighbors. Obviously a little uncomfortable, he said simply, “No.”

He and Linda were pillars of the community. Good people. He owned a profitable neighborhood business while she kept a lovely home and grew beautiful flowers in her yard. They attended church every Sunday and were admired by all who knew them. They had no children.

After politely inquiring about my family, he said, “It was nice seeing you,” and hurried back to his line, never looking back. Once we were inside, I lost track of them.

I never felt quite the same about this friend after that.

A few years later, we had occasion to be with him and Linda at a birthday party for a mutual friend. His concern was evident. I’m sure he feared I’d mention seeing him at the concert. But, of course I wouldn’t do that; it would hurt Linda and she didn’t deserve to be hurt.

Why do loving couples stand before a minister or a judge and promise “Till death do us part,” and then break that sacred promise?

Many men and women cheat on their spouse at one time or another. When found out – and they always are – everyone involved is hurt, but invariably, the injured partner forgives the wanderer and life goes on. Why? Because it’s easier than starting over.

Consider this Thomas Merton quote: “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.”

I think that’s what people do when they take back a deceiving spouse as if nothing ever happened. Most never feel the same about their companion again. They settle. But unfortunately, settling for too little lowers self-esteem.

Everybody loses.