Monday, July 30, 2012

Freedom From What?

Yesterday, while standing in line at the grocery store, I overheard two young women talking.

“It's only a few weeks until the kids’ll be back in school,” one said.

“Whoo-hoo!,” said the other. “I can’t wait! Free at last!”

“I know what you mean," said the first. "This hot, rainy summer we’ve had made it worse than usual. My kids sit around in the house all day doing nothing but watching TV, surfing the net, eating and making messes.”

“Same here. I'll be glad to get them out of the house.”

Driving home, I thought about the conversation and the glee with which those two women were looking forward to getting their children back in school.

From that quiet corner of my mind where beautiful memories dwell – I recalled the happy times when my children were young. I enjoyed summer vacation as much as they did. I loved Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Spring break. And snow days. Any reason for my kids to stay at home with me was a good thing!

Other mothers thought I was crazy. Most of them were like the young women I heard talking yesterday. Eager for freedom. Freedom to go shopping, bowling, play bridge, or just lounge around watching soap operas.

I was the only mother I knew who cried on the first day of school.

We had such wonderful summers together – my kids and I. During the day while I cleaned, did laundry, and cooked, they were outside with friends. There were no computers or I-pads to occupy their time in those days. And TV was for early morning kids’ shows like Captain Kangaroo or something special in the evening – certainly not for wasting away their days!

Kids were always active then. That’s why childhood obesity was almost nonexistent. Their days were spent riding bicycles, playing basketball, or climbing mountains. Even after dinner, they hurried back outside to get in the final remnants of the day’s play before porch lights started dotting the neighborhood. That was their signal to go home.

For my kids, it was time for a bath, a snack and a little fun before bedtime. And it was the best time of the day for me. I cherished those evenings with my children.

Sometimes we engaged in a lengthy Monopoly game that kept us up way too late, but it didn’t matter because we could sleep as late as we wanted. Other times, Yahtzee was the game of choice and occasionally, the older ones and I played Scrabble. When there was a good movie on, or some other favorite show, I popped a huge bowl of popcorn and we settled down in the family room to watch TV. No matter how we chose to spend the evenings, there was always a lot of fun and laughter.

But all good things must end and much too soon, it was the first day of school. After they had breakfast and were ready to go, I stood at the door and hugged each of them as they left. When I closed the door behind the last one, I rushed to the window with the farthest view and watched them until they were out of sight.

And then I dried my tears, poured a cup of coffee and watched Captain Kangaroo.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lost In The Woods ~ Part Two

Mom was waiting on the porch. I couldn’t tell if the look on her face meant she was mad or scared. Probably a little of each. But she did seem glad to see us. She hugged us both, and thanked Mr. Pittman for bringing us home, then rushed us into the house.

Supper was waiting and, as we ate, Mom lectured us about how bad we were, “You scared me half to death! I tell you the truth; I don’t know what keeps you girls from getting your killin’ done! God must have a band of angels watching over you! After you finish eating, I want the two of you to go sit on the porch swing and don’t move a muscle until bedtime.”

As we swung back and forth listening to the screeching of the old swing, somehow I knew Mom wasn’t going to come and sit with us like she usually did after supper – letting us cuddle up to her plump sides while she told stories and sang songs – I just knew it!

“I’m glad Mr. Pittman brought us home,” I said.

“Me too.” Judy agreed.

Finally, the screen door opened and Mom said, “It’s time for bed, girls.”

After tucking us in and kissing us on the forehead, she said, “Good-night. Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Then she closed the door.

Snuggled deep into the billowy feather mattress, I said, “I don’t understand why Mom was so upset with us. We would’ve found our way back sooner or later."

“I don’t know...” Judy said. “If you hadn’t got scared and wanted to go home, we might have wandered around in the woods past dark and then who knows what would have happened to us?”

“I told you, I was not scared – just hungry. Now don’t say that again!”

“Then why’d you take off running when you thought you heard a rattlesnake?” Judy jeered.

“Well, you did, too. Besides, Pop warned us about snakes. I’m not gonna just stand there and let one bite me.”

“But we didn’t even find any blackberry bushes, so there was nuthin’ to worry about.” Judy said.

“Oh, Judy – you just want to argue. Go to sleep.”

“You were really afraid when I told you Jack said there’s bears in the mountains. That’s when you said, ‘Let’s go.’ Remember?”

"How many times do I have to tell you? I was not afraid! Now you stop saying that; you're making me mad."

"You were, too, afraid! You were about to cry. I saw tears in your eyes."

“Okay, you asked for it. I told you to stop it!” Jumping up in the middle of the bed, I began pulling her hair and hitting her as hard as I could.

“Stop!” she squealed. “That hurts!” But I didn't stop.

About that time, the door sprung open and Mom said, “What’s going on in here?”

“She jumped on me for no reason,” Judy told her, rubbing her head.

“I warned her but she wouldn't shut up,” I said.

“All right, Judy,” Mom said. “You go upstairs and get in bed with Grandma. Patti can sleep here by herself.”

“Okay, but I bet she’s gonna be real scared all alone in the dark!”

The last thing I heard as the door closed was her giggling.

And I yelled, “Just you wait till tomorrow, Judy!”

Lost in the Woods - Part One is here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lost In The Woods ~ Part One

When I was young, summers at my grandmother’s house were full of fun and surprises. My aunt Judy and I were the same age and there was no end to the things we could get into as we played in the mountains and on the creek banks of the little coal town where my grandparents lived.

Each morning after breakfast, when Mom said, “Okay girls, go outside and play,” Judy and I scrambled out the back door letting it slam just as the words; “Don’t slam the door!” came out of her mouth. We usually didn’t come back until we heard the mine whistle blow. That was our signal that Pop was on his way home from the mine and it was suppertime.

Today was a little different.

“What do you wanna do?” Judy said.

“Let’s walk up on the hill behind the house and find some berries,” I said. “Maybe Mom’ll make a cobbler.”

“Okay, but don’t forget what Pop said about rattlesnakes liking blackberries, we’ll have to watch out for them.”

“Okay. C’mon let’s go.”

After roaming around in the mountains for a long time, all we saw were a couple rabbits and several squirrels. No berries. Of any kind. When we got tired, we sat on a big rock and talked a while. But when I thought I heard a rattlesnake, I said, “Hear that? Let’s get outta here!” and we took off running.

“My brother, Jack, claims there are bears living in these mountains,” Judy declared. “Big black bears!”

That’s all I needed! “I think it’s time to head home," I said. "Maybe supper’s ready.”

“The mine whistle hasn’t blown yet,” said Judy. “It can’t be suppertime. But if you’re scared, we’ll go.”

“I’m not scared!” I insisted. “I’m just hungry and ready to go home.”

“Okay. We’ll go then.”

The trip back to where we came up the mountain seemed longer than usual and when we realized we’d gone farther than we thought, we stopped to rest. “This doesn’t look right, Judy. I think we’re lost,” I said.

“No, we’re not.” She said. “It just seems longer ‘cause we’re tired. C’mon, let’s keep going.” We finally found a clearing and were able to go down the mountainside easily. But at the bottom, everything looked different. Our house was nowhere in sight and it was starting to get dark.

“See, Judy; I told you! It’s past suppertime.” I said. “We are lost and we didn’t hear the mine whistle ‘cause we’re too far away to hear it.”

Up the road a little ways, we could see a man sitting on his front porch. He saw us, too, and called out, “Are you girls lost?”

“Maybe,” Judy said. Walking toward us, he asked, “What’s your name?”

“Judy Williams.”

"John's daughter?" he said. Judy nodded. 

“I’m Mr. Pittman," he said. "I think my wife is related to your family. You’re quite a distance from home.” I was about to cry, but Mr. Pittman kept talking.

“When people go up into these mountains, they often come down far from where they went up. Come on; I’ll take you girls home.”

~Check in tomorrow evening for Part Two~

Note: I called my grandmother, "Mom," because that's what I heard her children call her. Seemed natural to me.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What Is All This Mess?

One of the many things I inherited when my mother passed away was a beautiful mirrored tray. While admiring it one day, I decided to place it on my dressing table and set some of my most often used cosmetic items on it, thereby, displaying its beauty as well as its usefulness.

Humming a happy tune, I carefully wiped off each bottle and arranged them on the tray in a manner I considered pleasing to the eye. There were several bottles and jars of creams and lotions that I use every day, a small jar of cotton pads, and my favorite cologne. When I had finished, I stood back and admired my new display, feeling it was an attractive addition to the room. And practical.

A few days later, my young grandson – five or six at the time – came to visit. He walked into my bedroom, surveyed the dressing table, O-ed his mouth in surprise and said, “Oh, Maw-Maw! What is all this mess?”

Shocked, I said, “What mess?” He pointed to my tray and said, “All this stuff. You need to clean this up!”

There was no convincing him that this “stuff” was an attractive display on a beautiful tray that belonged to his great-grandmother. He insisted it was a mess!

After he went home, I thought about his reaction. How odd for one so young to be that affected by what he sees as messy. Oh, well, he’ll change when he gets a little older, I decided.

But guess what? He’s 17 now and, if anything, it’s worse! He’s happiest when everything around him is neat and clean. Germ-free, if possible!

I can’t wait to meet the girl he chooses to marry one day.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Miracles Come in all Sizes

Is it possible you just turned thirteen? You – my youngest grandchild – now a bona-fide teen-ager? The last child of my last child.

Wasn’t it just yesterday we waited in a hospital room for you to make your appearance? Your mom was so excited. I was nervous. I always get nervous. It’s my MO. I get nervous at births, graduations, weddings, communion, and funerals. Especially funerals. I often feel it’s a dress rehearsal for my own; I keep looking around to see who’ll be there when it really is. Sometimes I’m surprised at who isn’t!

When you finally decided to come, you wasted no time. You didn’t even wear your mom out. You just slipped right on into this great big world as if you knew it was waiting for you with outstretched arms. It was.

I took one look at your sweet little face and tiny six pound body and tears tumbled from my eyes leaving shiny rivulets as they traveled down my face. Looking at your mom, I could see that her face was wet with tears, too.

A few feet away, a team of nurses waited to clean you up all pretty for company. Their odd stares hinted that they’d never seen a mother and grandmother cry before. Surely we weren’t the first to display such emotion at the birth of a baby.

Perhaps, to some, bringing a baby into the world is all in a day’s work—but, to us, it's a miracle each time it happens!

One we never stop celebrating.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Little OCD?

When I was a young girl, my friend, Carol, often phoned to ask if I wanted to go for a walk. “Sure,” I’d say, “as soon as I wash my feet.”

“Okay, meet me half way?” She’d ask.


That was always the plan, but she usually made it to my front door just about the time I was opening it to leave.

Why did I have to wash my feet? A little OCD? Perhaps. Though we went barefoot all summer, I felt compelled to start out with clean feet! Carol was used to it. Youngsters don’t question things like that. It is what it is.

Many years have passed since those days, but I’ve realized along the way that I have more than “a little” OCD! I suspect many of us do.

I can’t get into my bed at night without looking under the sheets to make sure there’s nothing in my bed that shouldn’t be. I’ve never found anything, but I keep looking just in case.

When I’m ready to leave the house, I go back to the kitchen at least three times to make sure I didn’t leave a stove burner on. I once phoned my daughter from Kentucky while Mr. H. and I were driving to Louisville, because I couldn’t remember if I’d turned off the burner I’d used to boil water for my tea. She drove out of her way to go to my house, check it out and call me back so I could relax.

Occasionally, my husband dusts the furniture for me, but he’s aware that I’ll go back and rearrange everything he moves to get the job done... even if it’s only a quarter of an inch.

And every night, I check my doors several times to make sure they’re locked before going to bed.

It seems to run in the family. My grandson washes his hands constantly and carries a bottle of hand sanitizer with him at all times to use when he can’t wash. He also cleans the table before he sits down to eat – even if it’s just been cleaned by someone else! When in public places, he goes to great lengths to keep from touching door handles or anything else that might have been touched by others. A real “germophobe,” that one!

One of my daughters is always cleaning her kitchen counters. She has a cleaner in a spray bottle and that’s the first thing she does every morning. Throughout the day, she sprays and wipes constantly, especially if there are several people in and out of her kitchen.

A son-in-law, whose job requires him to travel a lot, must be miserable staying overnight in hotels because he absolutely will not take off his clothes to sleep in a strange bed! He stays covered from head to toe – wearing a hoodie with long sleeves, pajama pants and socks. And, according to my daughter, he sleeps on his back so his face doesn’t touch the pillow.

How do normal people deal with those who have these disorders?

Unfortunately, most don’t see OCD as a serious disorder and, therefore, aren’t very supportive. Instead of helping the person learn to cope, they get angry or make fun of his ritualistic lifestyle.

Pointing out the humor and absurdity in some OCD symptoms might possibly help the sufferer become more detached from the disorder. But a situation is only humorous if the victim finds it funny, too.

If he doesn't, making fun of him could make matters worse.

The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.
~ Alfred Adler

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer: Forced Merriment

I hate summer!

Sun worshipers think I’m a little loony and fling all sorts of insulting remarks my way. So be it! It doesn’t change my mind one iota.

It seems to me that everyone tries too hard to enjoy the summer months. They run around frantically, planning vacation trips, shopping for bathing suits and other scanty summer attire – making hotel reservations. Almost every person you meet is excited about an upcoming trip – most often, to the seashore. They seem to love lying on hot sand in intense sunshine for days, baking their bodies to a crisp. Why? Because they think it makes them look healthy. More attractive.

Never mind the damage to their skin. We’ve all seen sun worshipers in their 30’s and 40’s who look 50 or 60 because their skin is wrinkled and leathery.

Lizard skin!

Not attractive.

Some I know are having skin cancers removed regularly because they baked in the sun all of their lives. They thought it made them more appealing. Or would that be a-peeling?  I suspect that some, who, like me, hate summer, just go along so they won’t appear “different.” It’s what I call forced merriment! But I don’t mind being different. In fact, I prefer it when it comes to summer. I choose soft, white skin over leathery tan skin.

I hate bugs, too! But it’s impossible to avoid them during hot weather. No matter how cold the winter, they find someplace to survive until it’s warm enough to come out of hiding and stalk their prey – which is often a succulent human body! They invade your house through the tiniest openings no matter what kind of bug spray you use. And just try to stay outside on a summer day for more than ten minutes without getting bitten by a mosquito or a sweat bee.

I was talking to my friend, Carol, on the phone today when she suddenly squealed.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Something just stung my face,” she said. “I’ll call you back.”

She’d been sitting by her pool, enjoying the sun, even though she’s had at least a half dozen squamous cell skin cancers removed in the past few years. I often tell her she shouldn’t be baking in the sun and she agrees, but keeps doing it anyway. I don’t get it!

We’re not all alike. Guess it would be a boring world if we were. Carol lives in Florida because she prefers heat, snakes, bugs, and hurricanes to cold weather!

I live in West Virginia because I love mountains, snow and the changing seasons. It really would be “Almost Heaven,” as John Denver's song suggests, if there were only three seasons:

Spring, fall and winter.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Summer Of The Derecho

Last Friday’s classic derecho, a fast moving line of severe "straight-line" winds associated with a squall of violent thunderstorms, travelled close to 700 miles in 10 hours.

The storm system brought 91 mile per hour winds, rain and lightning, disrupting electricity for as many as 4.3 million customers from North Carolina to New Jersey. The widespread blackouts are the worst in the U.S. since Hurricane Irene struck in August. Utilities said the effects were equivalent to a hurricane. The storm came in with no warning; no one had time to prepare. At least 23 people were killed, the Associated Press reported.

As I read the newspapers, watched weather reports on TV, and surveyed the devastation wreaked by this storm around the country, I couldn’t help but think that every so often, God lets us know that He is still in control! We have no power over whatever He sets into motion.

We are totally helpless!

As the tempest raged outside my home and huge trees bowed into semicircles, I felt vulnerable and terrified! My husband and I watched in amazement as a number of enormous limbs were ripped from a large tree and flung several yards away like small sticks. If you are a God-fearing person, you were probably on your knees praying, as I was, while forceful winds threatened your home, those of your neighbors and loved ones – and your very lives.

Our old house creaked and moaned. It was difficult not to worry that the 48-year-old structure might be reduced to smithereens by the tremendous force this monster was applying. But thank God, it was not!

When the winds began to subside and we assessed the damage, we realized that we were lucky compared to many others. We lost part of a tree, a few shingles from the roof, and had a lot of tree branches and other debris scattered about our property. But, thankfully, we didn’t lose our electricity! Two of our children did. And both of them live only a short distance away. The outages were “spotty.” One person would be without power while his neighbor across the street wasn’t. It was uncanny.

The next morning, Saturday, my son called and asked if I’d take him to get ice for his cooler so he and his wife could at least have cold drinks. His car was low on gas and a friend had already told him that he should wait a few hours before trying to get it because there were long lines at the pumps.

Indeed, there were!

And there was no ice to be found. We spent two hours driving in all directions hoping to find it somewhere, but there was none! Every service station lot was jammed with cars bumper to bumper waiting for gas. It was a mess! I felt like we were in a time warp.

Five days later, the Fourth of July, more than 1.37 million customers remained without power as utility companies struggled to respond to unexpected damage across 10 U.S. states.

It will take a while to set everything straight again. I suspect the summer of 2012 will long be remembered as, “The Summer of the Derecho.”

And I am given yet another reason to dislike summer and yearn for the freshness of fall and winter as I always do!