Monday, December 28, 2009

Review of 'The Road'

I read the novel The Road by Cormack McCarthy while visiting Sarah and Ned over Thanksgiving. It was a kind of default choice; I just happened upon it in a box of books Sarah and Ned were moving out of the nursery. The movie, based on the book, finally opened in Memphis and I saw it yesterday afternoon with two friends who were probably humoring my interest rather than their own.

All of us found the film well done, hard to watch, but fascinating. I found both the book and the film to contain much more of a message of hope than most others I’ve talked with seem to find.

Watching a man and his son traveling and living off the land in seach of food and safety in a post-apocalyptic world is grim. There were many frightening images during their fight for survival, but I came away from the film feeling that there were also several important messages. The first is how deep mankind’s desire for survival must be. The second how very, very necessary it is to pass along our ideals of protecting and conserving our planet and helping others to our children if we expect our species to survive. These ideals are tempered with a strong dose of reality that there are “good guys and bad guys” and that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, but we can decide to be the good guys no matter what.

Sally and Aleine and I differed on whether we’d recommend the movie to a friend. I vote yes, because it is beautifully and artistically done and because I saw a message of hope for mankind.

In these frightening times it’s sometimes hard to stay focused on making choices for good. I hope I do a better job of it in the coming year.

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Greatest Gifts

It’s the time of year when the family is asking what I want for Christmas, and I’ve cooperated this year by having a few simple wants on my list. But when I really, really think of what I want, aside from World Peace, I’m acutely aware that I have basically everything I could possibly need and most of what I want.

The gifts I treasure most, though, are not things, but the people in my life who make a difference.

Parents who gave me a good education and lots of love, even when I didn’t deserve it.

A husband who notices when the gas tank is low and fills it up, especially if it’s raining or freezing, and warms my backside on a cold night.

Daughters who want to know how to cook some of my favorite recipes, even if they’re full of fat and sugar.

Daughters who know that going to a live performance of “Wicked” or having food prepared for me is infinitely more exciting than more stuff.

A son who never forgets to take out the trash on garbage night, helps clear the table when we have guests, and gives me a hug and a nuzzle when he gets home from work.

A brother who shares my interest in books and always has time for me.

A sister who lavishes me with love and special treats.

Nieces and nephews who stay in touch and even drop in for a visit sometimes, always being patient with my stories of the old days.

Son’s in Law who carry on conversations with me as if I have some sense and make me laugh until I hurt, and who love my daughters as much as I do.

In Laws who are thoughtful and fun to be around.

Lots of “cuddin’s” who are also friends.

A friend who calls regularly to say, “What’s goin’ on?” and listens and cares when I tell her.

Friends who include me in things, even if it’s been a long time since I’ve reciprocated their invitations.

Friends who trust me with their secrets, even though I’m notorious for flubbing up and letting them out of the bag.

A friend who remembers selling lemonade, smooshing buttercups on noses, catching fireflies and putting on plays in the front yard.

An aunt who has known me since birth, and remembers it.

A guy at Amazon.com who never makes a mistake and always delivers on time.

A paperboy who rarely misses the driveway.

A guy friend who marvels at how I keep looking young…even if I don’t!

Women who are willing to read books and share their thoughts on them with me and affirm my opinions when they are right and challenge them when they’re wrong…all in the nicest possible way.

Neighbors who share their “helper” list with me.

Old friends who reconnected on Facebook and comment or send me cybertreats or funny forwards occasionally.

Medical professionals far and near, especially a wonderful orthopedist and chiropractor who gave me the gift of mobility…whether I wanted it or not.

Someone who cuts my hair consistently and makes me feel more attractive after.

People, apparently from some far away places, who read my posts

A dog who loves me and kind of minds me…especially if treats are involved.

Grandsons who like to sing and play games or discuss life in general with me and sometimes ask if they can live with me.

A granddaughter who loves to play with my old Ginny and Madame Alexander dolls as much as I did at her age and still snuggles up when we watch a movie or read.

A tiny baby boy, hovering on a cloud somewhere, waiting for just the right time to enter my world and confirm once more that life is really, really good.

Blessings,
Janie

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let There be Peace

"Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." - Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President


I was going through the mail today when I picked up a copy of a Pottery Barn magazine aimed at "tweens" and noted as I showed it to Becket that the back cover was filled with items featuring a peace logo. As I looked further, there were also polka dots, and camo, and lots of girly stuff, but it's the peace logo that has me thinking.

I almost wrote about peace for Veteran’s Day, but just couldn’t sort out all the jumble of thoughts in my mind.

Walker and I attended Grandparent’s Day at Presbyterian Day School to see our kindergarten aged grandsons in their debut performance in the big church. The bi-annual performance always has a glorious focus on patriotism and hearing a chorus of little boys sing many of the same patriotic songs I sang as a youth initially made me beam.

The performance began with an ROTC color guard from one of our local high schools, and as these fine very young men entered I suddenly teared up. The reality that many of these young men might actually volunteer to face real battle in the next few years contrasted starkly with the innocence of the beautiful younger boys singing battle songs. When they played the Army anthem, my husband stood along with a decreasing number of veterans honoring the corps. A bit of tear crept down my cheek as he stood beside me. (Okay, I’m kind of weepy lately…so sue me!)

I was born to a “war bride”, and served three years as a military wife. One of those years was spent anxiously awaiting news of my husband who was flying a little plane, not much bigger than a bicycle, over Viet Nam, being shot at in his tent at night and adjusting artillary to get the bad guys by day. I can still remember holding back my heaving stomach as I boarded a plane in San Francisco just before Walker’s deployment, cuddling my five week old baby, and knowing that I might never see her father again.

I watch the military families on the news or in airports as they adjust to holidays, feeling the absence of one parent or the other, for now many of our servicemen are women, and grieve for every one of them. I don’t care how patriotic you might be, every mother and wife and every child grieves seeing loved ones off at war.

On the other hand, I know that I never want to feel the alarm and fear that followed September 11, ever again…but I do. There are actually people who want to kill me because I’m an American who believes in a God of Peace. I’m glad there are brave men and women willing to give up their holidays, and perhaps their lives, to keep me safe.

Peace to me is not just the illusion that we experience in the U. S. all because there’s no active conflict here. Peace is something that the world deserves to enjoy.

Peace means that we all respect each other, regardless of how we look or worship. Peace means that no women live in terror of the men in their world, are not beaten, or even killed, for an indiscretion. It means that all the citizens of the world have enough to eat and productive jobs to do. It means that we don’t take things from each other, even when the temptation is great.

Peace means that those who disobey these standards spend their lives isolated so they can do no harm, but that vengeance does not lead good people to do violence even when it’s for the right reason.

I’m not sure whether Peace requires men to stop lusting after their neighbor’s wives or coveting his ox and ass...honoring our parents is nice…up to a point. I’m not going to go through all Ten Commandments, you can look them up if you like. I don’t set a really high bar…just don’t hurt others deliberately.

For now, I hope I live to see some semblance of world peace. In the meantime I give thanks for those who fight for it, celebrate those who fought to earn the degree of it we enjoy today,  and hope for peace in my own heart, my family, and my community. That would be a great start. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO5CqyMPL8Q
for my favorite song about peace, or just listen to your radio, the Christmas Carols are full of the most important message of all. Peace.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, November 16, 2009

Road Trip

Sorry for the cliff hanger in the last post. Walker's trip went just fine. He appeared to bond with some of the kids and handled the responsibilities given diligently...sometimes too diligently, I'm afraid.

Darlene asked Walker to be in charge of making sure everyone was up for the early call...at 6:30 a.m. They made some attempts to set an alarm on his watch, unsuccessfully. Seems like the fancy watch his dad handed down to him had so many time zones on it that no one could figure out how to set an alarm. The next morning, Walker pounded on every door on the floor making sure all the dancers and helpers, and a few unsuspecting hotel guests were up and at 'em. I never did get a straight answer as to how he managed to wake up on time himself, but he did.

At the end, Darlene asked if Walker would like to be her permanent "roadie". He squirmed a bit, then answered that he'd have to think about it. A couple of days later, I suggested that he write a thank you note to Darlene, and he said emphatically, "and to the dancers". He wrote a lovely note in which he commented to Darlene that he would be "honored to be a part of Company D in the future."

We are gearing up for our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to California. I'll be gone nine days, a VERY long time for me. The Walkers will come out for part of the time. I'm so thankful to all of you for being my readers. I hope I can organize something worth reading when things settle down.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best Buddies

We have attended a number of interesting events this Fall. One of the most uplifting was participating in a humongous Buddy Walk sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association. This annual event attracted almost 5,000 participants this year.

Sarah’s friend, Gwen, first introduced us to Best Buddies and the Buddy Walk while she was a student at the University of Texas. Gwen has known Walker most of his life, and during the years she has lived in Memphis she has invited him to be her Buddy at the walk several times. Gwen majored in Special Ed and is now a great mom to three adorable children…and is back in Memphis where I hope she stays!

Steffen and Walker attend this walk every year, because they’re definitely Best Buddies. This year, at Gwen’s prompting, I formed a team of Walker's Walkers and ended up having a wonderfully warm crowd of supporters attend, including Gwen and her children. Many thanks to those who donated and/or walked with us. These are the friends and family who walk with us most every day, our Best Buddies, and for them we are truly thankful.

As I surveyed the crowd I saw families of all kinds with children and adults with Down Syndrome. I could relate to every one of them, because at one time or another I was that new mom with her baby in a stroller walking with her husband, checking things out. I was that mom chasing down her toddler with Down Syndrome while carrying a newborn baby in her arms. I am that mom of a young adult, still hoping he'll show good manners and be cordial to our guests. I don't think I realized how many of us there were until I saw so many at the park that day.


One of the best parts of the day was seeing Company D perform. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZxEgS_2MZA

Darlene Winters, who was Walker’s speech teacher and drama coach at Madonna Day School for a number of years, directs Company D, and has has been trying for quite a while to get Walker to participate in the group. Between work, the time demands of being a member of the performance group, and Walker's total lack of interest in dancing in public, this just didn't seem to be in the cards.

Last week Darlene sent me an e-mail asking whether Walker would like to go to Dollywood with the troupe. He could be her assistant and provide tech support and he would travel on a bus with others his age, spending two nights in a hotel. I knew what his reaction would be…”No way!”…but I signed him up anyway. He’s off on Thursday for his first outing with friends in his adult life, and he’s actually beginning to be excited about it.

He has been reassured that taking a day off work isn’t a big deal because his spending money won’t be decreased. He has agreed to do his laundry and get his cell phone charged on Wednesday night instead of Thursday. He has been reassured that he won’t miss Halloween. He’s ready to go!

I will say a little prayer for the safety of the group, and hope that it leads to Walker realizing that having Down Syndrome isn’t always a bad thing…sometimes it leads to Dollywood! Perhaps he’ll come home with a whole group of new Best Buddies. I'll let you know.

Blessings,
Janie

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Want to Retire Too

During a recent family dinner son in law, John, came to the table where big Walker and I were seated and told us he had a message from Walker III. “He says to tell you that it’s too hard being an uncle and working full time, so he wants to retire like Da.”

I called Walker over, and his eyes were teary. “I was afraid to tell you, but it’s just too hard,” he said with a definitive tone to his voice. I never pursued why he had trusted John, his greatest nemesis most of the time, with his concerns, but he did and I was glad. I'm not sure what had been going on that made being an uncle a particularly demanding job at that moment, but he does take his responsibilies very seriously so we just dealt with the employment issue. I'm still not sure whether something at work might have precipated this meltdown or if it was the chaos of living in a house with five kids for a few days, but something had definitely blown his world apart.

I had recently been notified that Walker’s income needed to be reduced by about 50% or about half of his gross pay would have to be paid to the State of Tennessee. If he worked two less days a week the net loss in income would be zero. That fact, coupled with my increasing uneasiness about the nature of his job requiring him to battle the heat and cold and rain and wind on a daily basis made me much more open to his idea than I might have been a couple of months ago.

However, I still don’t think it would be healthy for Walker to spend every day sitting in his room sorting his Polaroids or trying to recapture his childhood with watching old television shows and eating junk food. He’s not a child anymore. His fitness level at the moment is as good as any person with Down Syndrome I’ve ever seen, and I know that would not be the case were he any less active. The other reservation about allowing him to become a hermit totally dependent on the public dole was the lack of social stimulation he would experience. His dad and I are pretty boring pretty much all the time.

Walker and I visited a really nice day activity center recently in hopes of finding a social outlet, but after we left it, he said, “I really don’t want to go here.” He would have adjusted if I had insisted, but the truth is that he really doesn’t need that kind of activity.

I find us now at a bit of a crossroads with no direction markers. I’m not sure I know what he needs.

More discussion has followed.

We left open the possibility of cutting his hours and talked about other job opportunities, perhaps a more indoor kind of job. “Would you want to be a stocker,” I asked? He declined immediately. “I wouldn’t make as much money.” True, his tips and salary exceed even the slightly higher pay rate of a stocker. I pointed out how flexible the grocery had been about his scheduling (11-6 four days a week) and that another job might mean an earlier start, or working at night. “Un uh, No Way! I’m not doing that.”

On Monday he went back to work after a long weekend vacation. He announced yesterday that he was keeping his job, at least for a week or two.

The matter has been tabled for a while, but I know it’s something that we need to really stay on top of.

I hope Walker builds confidence in his voice when it comes to his needs. I hope we’ll always allow him as much freedom to make decisions as he’s capable of handling. I really hope another opportunity for a safer, indoor job, might materialize. It’s always liberating to have choices.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Occupation Worrywart rerun


When I began approaching my birthday this year, I received daily reminders from the Feds and every insurance company in the USA of that fact. I will be sixty five on October 1st or 2nd, depending on which version of my birth certificate you choose to acknowledge. (For the Feds, it’s the first, but for the family, it’s really and truly the 2nd…and that’s the day my namesake grandchild was born! I’m still debating which my tombstone will carry.)

I’ve never had many jobs where you actually gave your social security number and got a paycheck with deductions for FICA and all those other things that we passively allow to reduce our take home pay. Many of my jobs were under the table in one way or another. I taught sewing in my home, made a number of fine crafts for sale, had garage sales, and was the resident real estate expert in the family allowing our net worth to grow every time I decided the time was ripe for a move.

My main job all these years, however, has been to be the family worrywart. The job didn’t pay much, but it put a roof over my head. I have been in charge of making sure there was milk in the fridge, peanut butter and jelly and bread in the pantry, pampers in the nursery, shoes that fit everyone and weren’t in need of polish…yes, we actually polished shoes back in my day...and that my husband and children and I didn't go out in public looking too weird.

I noted who needed their fingernails cut or a new hair style, although some of those in the 80’s were disasters! I'm down to only worrying about those things for the Walkers and myself now, and that's great by me. I sometimes have to do some convincing of Walker the dad when it's time to turn a nice polo into a farm shirt and replace it at the outlet mall, but basically they don't care because I do.

Through the years, I worried about which schools and camps for the kids to go to. When college came, I made sure the applications had all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed and that the girls all had a safety school, a fun school, and a stretch school to choose from. I had the privilege of worrying about how the tuition and mortage were going to get paid, what kind of car we could afford, and who had hamburger meat on sale. I worried about everyone’s health and happiness and probably always will.

Now I sometimes think I want to retire from my position. I’ve earned it and I deserve it. I just don’t quite know how to go about it.

I put more of the choices in somebody else’s court nowdays and let them figure out where to cut corners. If the budget won’t allow for a larger beach house if it’s actually in sight of the beach, whoever cares the most gets to figure it out. I only want a room with a king size bed and not to have to cook much.

My computer does a lot of our reminding now. It tells us which night is garbage night and when the pets need their flea medicine. It keeps up with the the doctor’s appointments and haircuts and social events. If the grandkids have sports and school events, they get covered if I know about them in time. I don’t worry quite as much about no showing things as long as I don't have a crash...yes it does happen, and I'm not at all good about backing up.

I will probably always be the one who notices whether the silver needs polishing or there are enough matching napkins and towels clean for company. I’ll be the one who cares when the upholstery needs to be replaced or the bushes need pruning and whether there’s really enough in the bank account to cover an unexpected expense. It’s my job.

I hope I see doing my job as a privilege for as long as I can do it and that when I really can't anymore I hope I'll cut the ones who do the worrying for me as much slack as they do me.


Blessings,
Janie

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Flashback to Happy Days


This morning Walker brought down some old newspaper clippings he had found and as I was tucking them away in the box that holds my treasured memories, The Yellowstone Cub newspaper caught my eye. As I browsed through it I was reminded of one of the happiest summers of my life.

It was the summer I stayed up all night for the first time in my life and saw the sun rise over Old Faithful with some guy I no longer remember the name of. It was the summer my roomie, Marilyn Coon, and I hitch hiked over a thousand miles through Yellowstone, generally about 100 miles each time we had a day off, which was once a week. It was the summer I worked as a maid, waitress, and part time ironer (for 10cents per shirt) to make ends meet on the starvation wages we were paid.

I did not starve. In fact, they fed us entirely so well that when I arrived home, Mama commented, “You’ve gotten a little hippy while you’ve been gone.” I had discovered the yumminesss of Boysenberry Pie with full fat vanilla ice cream, sundaes with Marshmallow whip and chocolate fudge, and the joy of the restaurant cooks presenting me with a delicious meal every single night and a bagged sandwich for taking along on my adventures on my day off. Those Yankees used butter on their ham sandwiches, which was foreign food to me, but I got used to it.

The memory of trudging through the snow with a huge wooden cart loaded with linens into the never really clean Camper’s Cabins and smelling the remains of the wood from the stoves in the cabins comes back to me now and then. Every once in a while I’ll hear some old folk song like “This Land is Your Land” or “Blowin’ in the Wind” and sing along at the top of my voice and remember what it was like that summer. When I heard that Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary had died yesterday, I was reminded of a summer of enthusiasm for what I was doing.

I found friends from all over the United States that summer, and kept up with a few of them for a very long time. I lost track of most of my favorites, including Marilyn, though. She went back to Stanford, and I went home to marry Walker.

My friend, Kitty Nunn, brought her Western boyfriend back home to Alabama and they reared their family there. I wonder whether she and Brian ever realized that that summer would lead to a lifetime together. I don’t think I did.

I hope I manage to find time for the things that are fun more often and remember that someday these will be the good old days too. Walker would love to drive out West, and I’m at least considering it.

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stuff and Nonsense rerun

Walker got a nice bump in his take home pay not too long ago. Not sure why, but I’ll happily give the democrats credit if it’s due. The “raise” was only about twenty dollars a week, but it was enough to make him feel rich. I suspect it means his tax refund will be smaller or non-existent this year, but he doesn’t know or care about stuff like that. He now doesn’t have to decide which CD or DVD he can afford anymore…he just buys both.

We’ve ended up having repair men in and out for several days associated with getting Tivo for Walker. It’s still not operational, and he’s still wanting to know how we got those programs inside ours. Somehow, coincidentally, our machine died suddenly.

I’m kind of hating losing all those episodes “Calliou” I was saving for the kids and I’m really hating losing all those episodes of “Mad Men” I was planning to watch until the new TV season begins. I lost a couple of clips of Sarah too. Bummer.

They say it’s all free, because we’ve been such good customers, but my mind keeps wondering how much it will eventually cost me to have a guy here for going on six hours and still not finished hooking up a new dish capable of handling five…yes five!...recordings at once.

I really don’t look forward to getting to know the replacement. It’s been my experience that the new stuff that replaces the old stuff never seems quite as good. I only hope the print on the control is large enough to see and that the off button is in an intuitive place. I hope that being able to fast forward through the commercials gives us a little more time for something other than watching the TV. I don’t have the nerve to tell the guy, “STOP, I really don’t think we need this!” I wish I did.

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Aw Mom!

“No sprinkles?”

I got up early and slipped into my clothes and ran around the corner to the best donut shop in Memphis. I got three chocolate and three glazed, because last time I didn’t get enough glazed and that’s what everybody wanted. I stacked them up and put a candle on them and called Walker down for an early breakfast. The Tivo guy was due any minute and we needed to get in his room. I had forgotten that vanilla with sprinkles was his new passion.

Eventual lecture on the only response to a gift being “Thank You!” ...yet once again. A grumbling apology. Grumpy settling into the donuts, and a little conversation about the placement of the Tivo and an offer for onsite training from mom, the Tivo master.

“Where’s the Ghostbuster Trap?” Another failure by Mom.

I remembered the Tivo request Walker made a few months ago because I thought it meant a real change in his habits. He has a lovely “den” intended for his use upstairs, but chooses to hole up in his rather small room, sit on his bed, and spend all his waking hours watching TV or sorting his Polaroids. (Yes they’re still around, and he never leaves home without them either. They accompanied us on our recent trip to California.) The idea that he and a friend would sit in the comfortably appointed den, have some privacy, but not too much, watching a movie sometimes, sounded good to me. Big Walker dealt with the ordering. The additional cost to our satellite bill is minimal. Everybody wins.

But I forgot about the Ghostbuster Trap. It’s available on E-Bay, for only $79, new in box with all the required stickers. If it’s what he wants, I’ll order it for him and let him pay me back with part of the generous birthday money he received from friends and family. Is it a good idea? Probably not. But, heck, it’s his birthday.

The Michael Jackson CD and Tee were much more to his liking…probably because Sarah and Ned are way cooler than Mom. Oh well.

I hope Walker learns to be more gracious this year. I hope he might outgrow the adolescent stage we seem to be stuck in. I hope I learn to live with it if not.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Milestone

As I write this, I’m aware that it will probably be the post viewed by the 10,000th click on my blog. Wow! I have no idea who you are, but you are so gracious to have shared my life with me over the past year plus, and I am truly grateful.

My creative energies have been inconsistent at best, and I’m wondering if I ought to just delete all the drivel and see what’s left. Nah…drivel is in the eye of the reader not the writer.

The past week was surreal.

On Wednesday, the Walkers and I headed for LA to visit with Sarah and Ned as they has graciously invited us to be present at the ultrasound of their new baby. I’m not telling what it is until they do, but it is a beautiful baby. A framed picture of the prenatal self is sitting next to my bed in a frame surrounded by four tiny angels who remind me to continue to pray for all those unborn angels out there.

The visit included a very cool visit to the location set of Ghost Whisperer where Sarah is shooting a guest appearance. Initially, Walker resisted going to the set, remembering that he was corralled and stifled on the set of Brother and Sisters where he wanted to just wander around and check things out. This was a whole nother ballgame. The episode is for Halloween, and there were lots of scary, but not terrifying, touches. There were costumed extras including a Dracula and a mermaid, modestly covered up, at the Craft Services chow table across from us. He got a picture taken with Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was most gracious. It was a beautiful day to visit the Saddleback Mountain Ranch/Winery, which boasted acres of grapes almost ready for harvest, horses, a buffalo, a camel, and a mama and baby zebra. Wow! It was definitely Walker’s favorite part of the trip.

Sarah got a very long afternoon break and we were able to go to a beachfront restaurant and have a leisurely lunch and walk on the beach. It was surreal.

How amazing to go from the putridity of the city I live in and love and hate to all the amazing wonders of California and then be back home in my own bed a few days later. Nothing had changed much. Our mayor is still threatening to run for the seat he just resigned from in the upcoming million dollar election for his replacement. My plants looked a bit neglected, but survived. The alarm had gone off a couple of times, but the neighbors dealt with it.

But things feel different here too. Unseasonably cool weather reminds me that fall is around the corner. The kids are back in school, and Walker is busy working on the farm in preparation for his annual dove shoot. Walker III is making menu plans for his upcoming birthday celebration. He inquired as to whether Chic Fil A does catering. It will on Sunday. Life goes on…thank goodness.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Summer Vacation

I miss the rhythm of going to school for nine months and then being gloriously free for three. At least as free as a child can possibly be.

Free to play in the yard with my friends from the time I woke up and went across the street to find Florence and get her mother to button my dress. Mama was not an early riser, and Mrs. Denio was. Free to float in the lake for hours on end on a big black innertube with my friends talking about boys and who likes who. Free to ride my bike to the shopping center just to browse and then come home begging Mama to go back and buy some Bermuda shorts. Free to ride the bus to the library and check out the maximum four books, read them non stop and then go back in a couple of days to get more. Free to walk to the museum in Anniston and hang out in the air conditioning looking at the mummy. Free to sit in the front porch swing and watch the convoys heading to and from Fort McClellan. Free to buy one admission to the movie, but sit through it two or three times.

I’m actually pretty free all the time now, but it doesn’t always seem quite so special. I do like getting up at my leisure, although it’s almost as early as I did when I had to set an alarm. I really enjoy my first glass of iced tea every morning and being in my robe until I decide to get dressed most mornings.

I actually did get some things done this summer…some of which I’m really excited about.

I made blackberry jelly for the first time in a long time. It all started with getting a bargain price on a whole flat of berries and then remembering my vow to waste less. I don’t know that it tastes any better than bought jelly…I rarely eat jelly anyway…but it does give me a sense of accomplishment to see the jars sitting on the shelf. John and Becket were very taken with the idea of a jelly sandwich, and each went home with their own jar.

I cooked and froze a lot of corn and peas and peaches and berries. I ate a lot of tomato sandwiches and a few popcicles.

I’ve almost finished a quilt I started for Becket five years ago.

I sat on the screened in porch and watched a lot of sunsets at Moon Lake.

I took Walker III shopping for a bathing suit.

I read a lot of good books.

I reconnected with some old friends via Facebook. I wasted a good bit of time reading about people I didn’t know existed this time last year. I also connected with some distant relatives on Ancestry.com, and found a possible link between Johnny Cash's family and mine. Might explain my daddy's obsession with a guitar he couldn't play.

I saw some swim meets and tee ball and soccer games.

I found a pair of shoes that fit and don't look too bad. Ditto on a few clothes.

I went to a wedding and a mini family reunion. I visited my brother and spent some time with the housekeeper who raised me.

I saw William learn to ski and heard funny stories about Robert chasing girls at the beach.

I hooked the ring on the ring toss game, but not as often as Robert or Walker III did. I played a silly game with William and Owen involving poker chips and my sandwich plate and a deck of cards.

I survived the attack mouse in my bed and went back to sleep. I did not weep when we found him in the trap the next weekend.

I also survived a tree limb falling just a few feet from where I was sitting chatting on the phone. It did some major damage to the AC, pool heater, and roof, but all got dealt with reasonably quickly thanks to my husband's making calls for repairs before the sirens stopped.

I'm about to leave for a visit to Sarah and Ned in Los Angeles and get to see my expected grandchild on ultrasound.

I had a great summer vacation.

I can't wait for school to start again. Wonder who my teachers will be and who will be in my class.

Blessings,
Janie

Friday, July 31, 2009

I'm Not Patty Duke


I spent the morning at the Social Security Office with young Walker. It seems that my trying to conserve your tax dollars by not letting the State of Tennessee pay for Medicare Part B on Walker’s behalf because we had perfectly good insurance coverage for him already through the airline may mean that he will enter a period of not having any insurance coverage at all when I turn 65 in October.

It’s complicated, but it seems that even though the airline insurance benefits for him extended until I turned sixty five, he should have gotten part B within eight months of his dad’s last “employment.” He is eligible to apply between January and March of next year for coverage, at a penalized rate, (10% for each of 6 years) to begin in July of 2010.

Our state, like many states, is cutting funds for services to those with disabilities, called TennCare, and a review of Walker’s earnings showed that his income (minimum wage, plus a dollar or so) is too high to qualify under the new guidelines. The person who called to inform me of this on behalf of an agency I didn't get the name of advised me to "just get him Part B." I wish it had been that easy.

What I thought would only require a phone call to Social Security led to my having to come in and prove guardianship/conservatorship although I had been listed as his conservator since he turned eighteen and became eligible for SSI on his own behalf. I provide him with a full time, although apparently inept, full time social worker on site.

Walker has a job because most adults have a job and pay taxes and part or all of their living expenses, and we thought he should too. He has worked at the same job, happily for the most part, for over eleven years. He receives minimal services from the State or Federal Government, only a fraction of what he qualifies for.

Anyway, we ended up at the Social Securty office along with all the other needy and unwashed and ineligible for phone or internet sign up. While we waited, an endless loop of promotions was playing on a television. With no other options for entertainment, I soon found myself watching Patty Duke reprising her role of "identical cousins" encouraging those awaiting services to consider using the internet to sign up for Social Security and Medicare.

In my humble opinion, by the way, Patty and her identical cousin look WAY older than I or any of my friends. Maybe she qualified several years back…like maybe ten or so. When I got home, I actually did take her advice and got myself enrolled with three months to spare. Here’s hoping I wasn’t unknowingly supposed to have done that six years ago when my husband retired from the airline, because if I was, I didn’t. You for sure don’t want to see what happens to me minus medical coverage.

I hope my panic today is totally unwarranted. I hope that people like Walker won’t have to rely on dummies like me to make sure their needs are met. I hope my next effort to save taxpayer dollars doesn't turn out quite so badly.

Blessings,
Janie

Sunday, July 5, 2009

History


I read the paper this morning, doing my usual haphazard job of scanning for articles and editorials that might have some relevance to my life. I read all the scathing letters to the editor about the unfortunate recent events of local politics in which our mayor called our District 9 representative to congress an a___hole. I scanned the advice columns for tips on mental and physical health which didn’t offer any diagnosis of illness in anyone I know. Then I read the comics, my favorite way of taking the temperature of the populous, which seems locally to be made up of animal lovers and Neanderthals in various settings.

Then big Walker got up and began his tedious perusal of the same paper that I had read in about fifteen minutes. Within a few minutes he had carefully read a full page ad posted by Hobby Lobby with various historical tidbits in honor of Independence Day. One statement popped out for Walker. There were only two signers of the Bill of Rights, John Adams and another unnamed person. Who was that person, and why only two signers?

Half an hour later, with our household at a complete halt, we had Googled the subject to death and finally found the name of the second guy after several false leads. It was Frederick A C Muhlenberg, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I suppose he was the Nancy Pelosi of his day.

We found out that the original Bill of Rights written by James Madison was debated for quite a few years, then finally approved by the House and Senate, minus the first two items of the original twelve.

After we put that question to rest, I resumed making a dessert, the only thing I really like to cook, for a potluck going away party for dear friends. The gathering reminded me of when we were young…same friends, different location. It was a bittersweet acknowledgment that we’re all moving on whether we want to or no..

The timing of our party resulted in little Walker being given coveted tickets to see Wicked compliments of another friend, making one of his most recent dreams come true. By the time he had mentioned wanting to see it, scalper prices for nosebleed seats were out of the question. He has already written Bonnie a thank you note, declaring it the best celebration of the Fourth of July in America…ever! Not sure what he and Theresa, who had never seen a play before, did after, but he came home a happy guy.

I love some things about my life…wondering about something and finding the answer, spending time with old friends, having a great dinner that I mostly didn’t cook, and my children being happy. I hope to remember those things always.

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ring Toss

Not unexpectedly, son-in-law John gave me grief about both of my last posts. Since I believe him to be one of my two "followers", I'll forgive him and try to clear up any misconceptions about how important my writing is...at least to anyone but me.

I seem to have set to high a bar for my little musings as being "worthwhile". I suppose that worth must certainly be in the eye of the beholder, and John did not think my panning of "Netherland" to be in that category. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. Opinions are subjective things, and mine was probably a bit too emotionally based. I might do better in the future. I'm not a book critic, though, only a casual observer.

We had the whole family at the lake last weekend. Sarah and Ned were home for a too short week. If we are all flexible, we can all bunk in the same house at the lake, and it's fun, at least for a few days.

Walker was unusually sociable during the weekend. I don't think he had the television set on even once, although he did devote some time to sorting his Polaroids. But the new thing was having him take part in some of the competitive jockeying for Ace of the Ring Toss game. This game is basically a stainless steel ring with a string attached so that if you arc it just right, it will grab a hook on the wall. Some friends gave it to us recently, and I've found it somewhat difficult. Not Walker, though. I gaped at the number of hits he had, with his percentage being somewhat higher than all the other adults. "Well, I was champion of the ring toss at MARC Camp," he told me with a sassy hand on his hip. MARC camp has not existed for about fifteen years. The kid can remember stuff.

Eventually, Walker hit a dry streak, and couldn't make the thing hook for nothin. "Sweet Niblets!"

Seems that Hannah Montana says something like that, and he muttered that and other pseudo curse words every time he missed for a while. Then he got over it.

The first couple of days at the lake, Walker absolutely refused to go outside in the daylight as the result of a somewhat nasty sunburn at some point. Finally, Molly convinced him, and I promised him, that he wouldn't get burned with her sun block. He didn't.

I'm glad Walker wanted to play with us. I hope he remembers that happy time just as he does MARC Camp. I know I will. Hope I get better at ring toss and that my posts are worthwhile. I'll be out of town for a while at a family wedding, but I'll bet I'm back soon.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Thoughts Netherland

I was beginning to believe that my ability to discriminate between books was lost. I seemed to like everything I read for a long stretch there. Then I decided to read Netherland because Barack said that was his current read, and I was curious. I can't imagine why he was reading it, and wonder whether he actually finished it. I did, but just barely. I guess it was kind of typical of life. Sometimes there can be a huge build up to something that kind of fizzles, but I didn't really appreciate the long journey to not much of anywhere. I had even splurged to get a hardback before the paperback was released. I read an article soon after I placed my order that they were releasing the paperback early, in response to increased demand. I guess some others were curious about the kind of book our president might read.

I didn't even like Netherland well enough to pass it on, although I probably will, just so I'll have someone to talk about it with.

I hope there are always books for me to read, one of my favorite luxuries of life. I hope I like The Book Thief better.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wicked and Good

My vow not to write anything unless it seemed to be worthwhile has given me a little slack to catch up on some family things, get a bit more exercise in the pool, and read.

I’ve been reading a lot, screening books for our book group for next year. The ones I’ve read and just couldn’t put down are “Wicked”, “Four Spirits”, “March”, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”, and “The Help”. I still have several on my list, but these are my favorites so far this summer. (All these are readily available on Amazon.com by typing in the titles, so I’m not going to go hunt up the authors right now.)

The biggest surprise for me was how much I loved “Wicked”. My girls gave me tickets for the touring production that we’ll go see together in July. Katie provided me a CD so I’d get familiar with the music, which I’ve really enjoyed. But the book...oh MY!

I generally don’t like fantasy or allegories or fables, especially those with important underlying themes, because I spend half my time trying out to figure out who the characters really represent. I’ll have to admit that I did some mental gymnastics with “Wicked” too, but it was so worth it. It’s a beautifully written book with just the right blend of familiar and unfamiliar for me. I can’t wait to see how they edit the story, and am already imagining the costumes and sets.

I worry about being wicked a lot, because I’m not naturally very good. I eat too much, talk too much, watch too much mindless television. I fail to call or write people when I should too often to be comfortable with. I don’t pull the weeds or stop to pick the flowers that bloom. My closet is the main evidence of my slovenly streak. I HATE exercise.

Last weekend, I had an overnight at the lake with Molly’s family, plus little John (Becket was otherwise engaged.) and the highlight of my weekend was after most everyone went home, but John and William stayed on with the Walkers and me. When William and John asked for a snack, I rummaged around and found fruit snacks for William, and John asked for potato chips. A few minutes later, William requested chips too.

“Okay.”

“Grammy, you always say yes!”

I like to say yes, to others and even to myself. I hope I’ll do more good in the coming months, but I hope my friends and family will forgive me when I’m wicked...God too.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thanks for Serving

I, like my mother before me, was a war bride. Walker and I jumped right from college to marriage in thirty days time. The necessity for a commitment seemed more urgent to us because of the inevitable prospect of him heading for Vietnam sooner rather than later if he remained single. During Vietnam the prospect of not returning at all loomed large in all our minds. After forty three years, and four children, I’m thinking we acted wisely, if in haste.

Unlike during World War II, having a wife and expecting a child provided some reprieve from overseas duty in Vietnam for a while. Daddy left for the Phillipines before I was born, and then was gone for a year and a half or so. Walker left when Molly was five weeks old, eighteen months after our wedding, and returned a year later to resume our life as a family.

Although serving in the military provided both Daddy and Walker with leadership skills they might never have realized otherwise, I’m truly grateful that my sons-in-law avoided carrying on that family tradition. They have been around to form a loving bond with all their children as infants, while they're still adorable!

My heart aches every time I see young soldiers bid their families good-bye for a tour of duty. It’s really surreal for me to see mothers leaving children behind in order to assure a better world for children half way across the globe. I can remember holding my sobs in so tightly that my heart truly ached when Walker put Molly and me on the plane in San Francisco to return to Fort Sill. I navigated the unknown task of being a single mom with the support of my friends and family while he endured the jungles of Viet Nam with his squadron. I can't imagine how hard it would have been if Molly had been old enough to realize how much she missed her Daddy.

I can remember Walker’s attitude being, “Somebody’s got to do it.” while mine was “But what about US?” (Molly and me) He could understand the honor in serving much more than I, who would have happily escaped to Canada given the choice. His was the honorable choice for sure.

Yes, I’m thankful for their service and proud of the sacrifices they made. I do hope that history will prove that those wars and the ones we fight today had to be fought to change the world into a better place. My greatest hope, however, is that the day will come when nobody has to do it. A day when all people can respect the rights of others to believe as they wish and recognize the futility of trying to please God by oppressing others. That day surely must be around the corner. I’ll never be Miss America, but I too hope for World Peace on this Veteran's Day.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why Not?

Walker doesn’t want to go to camp this year. This had come up for discussion in years past, but had never gotten to the point where I really gave him much choice. Camp was as much for me as it was for him. It was a time to escape even the minor duties involved with caring for my man-child. But this year he was mildly adamant. He really doesn’t want to go.

I don’t think anything has happened to make him feel this way, he loves the leaders and always seems to come home happy, but somehow he knows he has outgrown the little crafts and dress-up nights, and the heat and mosquitoes, and most of all, the long week without his cell phone or his diet cokes. At least that’s the litany of reasons he gave me, which was pretty logical.

I struggled a bit with whether it was okay to allow him to choose not to go, because camp does provide at least some peer interaction. Walker has tended to want to hang with the counselors more than his cabin mates, though, so not sure that's a good reason. I finally decided to just let him choose to do as he pleases with his vacation this year. He's making some progress with making friends with his co-workers, has a couple of social outings a month, and goes out with his attendant, Theresa every week. If staying home sorting his polaroids is how he wants to spend his vacation, I can live with that.

He asked me a couple of days ago whether Nikki, the camp director, had called and had I told her he wasn’t coming. I explained that she wouldn’t be expecting him since I hadn’t sent in his application. “Well, if she calls, tell her I’m very sorry. Maybe next year.” Somehow, I don’t think so.

Giving Walker the right to make this decision comes after over forty years of mothering in which I have mostly gone along with my kids choices, unless there was really good reason not to. In this case, diet cokes and cell phones trumped everything else, so why not let him choose. I know I would want to if I were in his shoes.

Blessings,
Janie

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day





I know… it’s a Hallmark holiday, not really worth spending money on in hard financial times.

Two of my daughters are now mothers themselves and certainly more in need of a bit of affection and pampering on this day than I, who always feel pampered with small luxuries, the most precious of which is time to do as I please. I absolved my husband of honoring the day years ago, because the last thing in the world I want to be is his mother, but today he had a funny card and flowers.

I had saved Sarah’s card to open this morning, and as much as I might dis the holiday, opening a card with exactly the right words on it still brings tears to my eyes on Mother’s Day more than any other occasion. It means that someone gets it. They get what it means for them to recognize that I’ve done at least a passable and sometimes commendable job of the only career I ever knew for sure I’d want to climb the corporate ladder of.

I had slipped back into an early morning nap when John and Becket greeted me a few minutes past seven with “Happy Mother’s Day, Grammy…What’s for breakfast?” And after a short cuddle, I was up flipping pancakes and gulping my morning iced tea, hoping to mainstream enough caffeine to keep me on my feet until their dad picked them up to go home and “surprise” their mom with breakfast in bed. I suspect something similar happened at Molly’s house.

I’ve already luxuriated in the New York Times and what passes for our local paper. Perhaps I’ll go to church with the Walkers and think about what a great Mama I had to teach me how.

We going to gather here tonight for food I mostly didn’t cook, and celebrate Robert’s thirteenth birthday, Mother’s Day, and a visit by my oldest nephew.

It’s going to be a great day. I hope all the Mamas, Mommy’s, Moms, Mameres and Madears are equally blessed.

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Praying and Serving

When “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks came up as the May selection for our book group, I needed to read it again with an eye for the discussion. And what a discussion we had!

I’m sure that a book about the plague set in 1666 is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and this book is not without it’s flaws. It does, however, pose some interesting questions of how a variety of people face a crisis of unimaginable proportions and how it affected their faith.

This story is based on limited documented facts about the residents of a small village in England who were convinced by their priest to quarantine themselves in order to prevent spread of the plague to other parts of the country. The priest seemed to intuit that people who were already infected, but not yet ill, would spread the disease in trying to escape from a truly horrible and almost certain death. This notion was a bit of a leap considering the lack of scientific knowledge about the source of The Plague (fleas!), but also plausible, as there is documented evidence available.

The underlying differences in belief systems within the small community were laid out. As the plague affected many families with various religious practices, they often abandoned their faith for more magical and questionable beliefs, hoping to save themselves and their families. It soon became apparent that the relative “holiness” of any one religion, or even lack of religion, provided no more protection than the other from the plague. The righteous were no less affected than the sinners. Plague affected almost every family in the town, leaving the survivors scarred in various ways.

Eventually, nature ran its course. About half the town survived and the plague faded away and people once again went about the business of living.

I still pray. I pray for myself, my family, and for those I know only slightly. I pray for my country and the world. Do my prayers make it to God’s ears and change the course of nature? I don’t know, but they make me feel better.

I’m thinking I need to get back to following the example of the most admirable characters in “Year of Wonders” and actually offer others more of my services along with my prayers. The effect could be far greater.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swinging Moods

Last week was a busy one opening up our shared lake house for the summer, preparing food for a weekend with friends, and a few spurts of baby sitting sprinkled in. It was all worth it when the weekend turned out to be a glorious one in lots of ways.

Then Monday got here.

The recent rains had had Walker’s farming bogged down in knee deep Arkansas mud, and he bolted out the door early Monday morning, anxious to get his crops in the ground to assure having a good place to hunt doves in September and an ample supply of sweet corn for the summer.

I knew it was going to be a busy day, but it all seemed manageable until I got to the bank.

I had allotted almost an hour to deal with getting a cashier’s check between dropping little Walker off at work and picking little John up after kindergarten. I actually thought I’d have time to putz around some of the neighborhood shops or the Williams Sonoma Outlet in between.

When I got to the bank it looked promising.

I rarely go inside the bank anymore, doing most of my business online or at the drive through. When I looked a bit bewildered at where to go, deskside or the teller window, a matronly manager spotted me, introduced herself, and put me in a line with no other customers. Piece of cake…

The teller, Tamicka, was professional in appearance, but her manner was less than welcoming. Never a smile, flat tone of voice, just a series of questions that I strained to hear through the tiny crack. Did I know that it cost $7 for a cashier's check? No your account does not provide them free anymore. The total would be ______. Yes, that does include the $7. I could almost swear that I could hear her mutter under her breath, "idiot". I carefully wrote out a check for a number considerably larger than the ones I usually write, and I got it ALL right without having to start over and I slipped it through the slot to her. She eyed it suspiciously.


Then the real trouble began. Tamicka required assistance/approval of some sort from the manager, went to the vault, brought back a stack of blank cashier’s checks about an inch thick, recorded the beginning and end numbers, and put them in the copier. When she printed mine out something wasn’t right.

Thirty five minutes later, neither she nor the friendly bank manager had explained the problem to me. A line had formed behind me and extended almost out the door. The drive through teller was alternating between cars and the line. My back was killing me from standing at the window. I spotted a chair nearby, and feeling uncomfortably like a suspect in a robbery awaiting the cops to arrive, I sat and watchfully waited while they conferred.

I did hear the drive through lady apologize for the delay to the waiting customers, as had I.

Forty minutes after my arrival, I went back to the window and asked Tamicka what the problem was. She still offered not one word of apology, but held my check out and said there was a problem with the printer and that I might want to go to another branch. The manager was on the phone with the copy company. I told her I had a few minutes left, and would prefer not to have to drag a hungry five year old grandchild back to the bank, so I would wait. When I finally gave up after another ten minutes, just in time to pick John up, I still didn’t have a cashier’s check. After more discussion, I was given a phone number I could call to see if the check was ready on my way back home after carpool.

I called. It was not ready, so I asked the Ever Not-helpful Tamicka to just call me at home to let me know when it was ready.

After John and I downed McDonald’s, I realized that I’d actually save time and relieve my mind about making my appointment to close on our refinance if I did go to a branch nearer my home without back tracking to the branch closer to his school. So he and I loaded up and went to the bank.


Again, I got in line, and the Oh So Helpful LaShandra processed my cashier’s check in less than three minutes.

I hope I’ll be able to blank out the Tamickas in the world and find more LaShandras this week. I hope I’ll be thankful for the rain and the sunshine that brings the fruits of our labors in the fall. I hope I’ll remember that technologies like copiers actually save time most of the time.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Biggest YES!

Like many of you I have watched with amazement as a potsie little lady from Britain has charmed the world, providing inspiration for all of those that have their gifts bundled in modest packaging. Molly sent me this link and I have listened to it several times now, and it never ceases to bring tears to my eyes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PPlkOyaqaQ

The most amazing thing was not what Susan Boyle herself did. I know of many older people who enjoy performing, some who didn’t get their start until their late forties or early fifties. (Including myself, who got roped into a small part in an independent film when I was sixtyish.) What was amazing to me were the comments made by Piers and Amanda. The obvious astonishment on the faces of the audience and the judges was a telling sign of what they had expected.

Who knows who will “win” this competition? Who cares? The inherent error of judging people by appearances has been heard by millions already. Seeing Susan’s modesty and uninhibited delight and grace overwhelm the natural tendency to say, “I told you so!” was a true inspiration to all.


I hope I’ll remember the message of Susan Boyle every time I walk into a group and discount those who don’t look very interesting on first glance. My mama used to say “pretty is as pretty does” and boy is Susan beautiful!

Blessings,
Janie

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flashback Friday Things That Begin With R

This post is written for Flashback Friday over at My Tiny Kingdom. Link on the right side of this page.


In our family we have a real understanding of the big R word--retarded. It was the hardest word for me to get comfortable with after Walker was born. There had been quite a step up from “Mongolian Idiot” to “Downs Syndrome”, but deep down, I knew that whatever they called it, it was difficult to get through life with it.

For more thoughts on the current terminology go to
http://onlycasualobservations.blogspot.com/2008/09/names.html .

I’m not sure when the first time I heard perfectly normal kids call each other “retard”, but I think it was when Sarah was in Junior High School in the 80’s. One of my proudest moments as a mother was when she told me she had confronted her friends about using the word, explaining that it was hurtful. I think it made different people out of her friends, several of whom now work with “Special Populations”. I’m glad she had enough self confidence to be able to sound off without worrying about losing friends.

I hope things have improved with mainstreaming and the educational advances made for those with special needs. The comment made by Barack Obama, however unintentional, making light of the talents of those who participate in Special Olympics gave me pause though.


I hope that everyone who reads this will pass it on to a friend who might share it with their children. Words can hurt. Even if they don’t break your bones…they hurt.
Blessings,
Janie

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Alleluia!


Easter season is a barrage of ancient symbols: rabbits and eggs and bonnets and hams and lilies, most of which seem to me to have more to do with natural springtime events than Christianity. In the South we also have the legend of the dogwood blossom which definitely seems to connect springtime to the cross.

There’s another symbol of Jesus and Christianity I had never thought about much about until recent years—the butterfly. In fact I never considered it an Easter or Christian symbol at all until three years ago when I was in a discussion group that read Sue Monk Kidd’s “When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions” in which there is a great deal of butterfly imagery. ( Actually, way too much for me, but sometimes things come together and make sense later on.)

Soon after we discussed the book, a week or so before Easter, I had a day with grandson William, then two and a half. I made a copy of a page out of a lovely “adult” coloring book with magnificent butterflies and gave it to him to color. He scribbled a bit then held it up for me to see, “Look, Grammy, William color JESUS…Alleluia!”

Naturally, his Grammmy decided he was a spiritual prodigy, at least until I found out that he had recently begun attending a “Little Lambs” Sunday School class taught by his mother. Little Lambs get to color, something he immediately associated with Sunday School and Jesus and Alleluia. I still think it was advanced for his age.

Walker and I happened to be celebrating our fortieth anniversary on Maui that Easter. It was my first Easter ever to celebrate away from my home church, but I was thrilled to be somewhere warm and sunny. Things didn’t seem so great at my home church anyway because we were “in transition” after the loss of our priest. Since I don’t ever feel quite comfortable with the unfamiliar, I was a little anxious too. Would it be too weird?

We scouted out a church on the beach not too far from our hotel and showed up for Easter Services. It was a traditional building with a steeple and a Celtic cross. Their sign had the familiar red white and blue shield of the Episcopal Church. Okay so far. Along each side of the building, windows without any screens tilted out creating a completely open air environment. You could hear the waves crash and smell the salt, and an occasional sea bird screeched. Just outside the windows, but within sight and hearing distance of the sanctuary, there were extra chairs set up for the overflow crowd.

Then we walked into the sanctuary, and the first thing I saw was the banner. It was a large one, obviously hand made, and it shouted what all Christians shout on Easter morning, ALLELUIA! It was covered with butterflies.

We sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and “Hail Thee Festival Day”. The cross, the altar, the priest, and the choir members were draped with orchid leis. Different, but in a wonderful way, and familiar at the same time.

Easter Sunday in a far away place reminded me once again that Easter is really about more than the symbols. It’s about resurrection. I hope we all find our faith resurrected once again on this Holy Day. Alleluia!

Blessings,
Janie

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday


Walker talks a lot  about the Easter story. He can come close to reciting it verbatim from any of the four gospels.  As we rode along together to get Steffan for the new Hannah Montana movie today, Walker reminded me that it was Good Friday, when Jesus died on the cross.



“Um..hmm.”

I was feeling mildly guilty for not attending a service. I’ve had priests who have proclaimed that they didn’t want to see us celebrating on Sunday if we hadn’t mourned on Friday. As a kid I used to like being an Episcopalian because we, along with the Catholics, could skip school to go to the three hour noonday vigil.

“I told Julia about it. And tomorrow is Holy Saturday, when He was put in the tomb, and then comes….wait, don’t say it yet!........You know what Sunday is….. EASTER! When Jesus rose from the dead to save us from our sins. Just like we read on Palm Sunday. So we would fear no more.”

“Um..hmmm. Yeah, that really is what Easter is about. That's why we shouldn't be afraid of dying because that means we’ll have eternal life.”

“Oh no. Not me. I’m not dying. No way!”

“Well, everybody dies. It’s just like being born, it’s part of living.”

.....................“Yeah!....Only BACKWARDS!”

A little more questioning and I discovered that this enlightened idea came from the movie Casper the Friendly Ghost starring Christina Ricci, among others he cited. Her character was named Kat Harvey, you know, because it was published by Harvey comics for many years.


 I never know what my man-child will teach me.

I decided that I wouldn’t challenge this concept. Walker seemed comfortable with it. Whatever helps you deal, I guess. I think I want to watch Casper tonight while I stuff eggs. Might learn something.

Blessings,
Janie


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Faith Symbols

When son-in-law John stopped by to pick up John and Becket Sunday morning, I was getting ready for church. I offhandedly commented that I like Palm Sunday then qualified my statement with, “Well,sort of...”

John immediately asked what I think Jesus would think about us picking the cross as the main symbol of Christianity.

“I’ll bet he wouldn’t have liked us symbolizing the worst day of his life. He liked fish and fishermen. I’ll bet He’d have liked the fish better.”

I assume that John had been thinking about this for a while. I had not.

I wonder how our Christianity might be different without the emphasis on the cross? Would our faith have survived 2009 plus years, give or take a few? Is the story of Jesus dying that we might have everlasting life the only way to get the point across that following his teachings is really, really hard, but necessary?

The message Jesus brought was not very different from the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament, and is even more simply stated. According to Matthew, Jesus was asked which is the greatest Commandment. He offered this Summary of the Law. “ 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (King James version)

Pretty simple, huh? But people are still killing each other over the details of how to carry out God’s will. Some of our neighbors in far away lands are still starving to death as we sit here. We still haven’t gotten it right.


The News is telling us that there are more people with doubts about their faith than in a very long time. The more I read about injustices sanctioned and sometimes carried out by officials of the church in God's name, the heavier the bag of doubts on my back begins to be. I'm apparently not alone.

I’m glad John asks me outrageous questions. I hope somebody knows the answers.
I’m thinking right now that maybe the world needs more loaves and fishes and fewer crosses.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Holy Week

I decided to go back to church yesterday because I have a thing about C&E people, and I had become one of them—plus one, I guess. Big Walker was in Montgomery hunting, and Walker III really likes to go to church. It felt good to be there, although financial constraints and a balanced budget meant that Pedro the donkey wasn’t tethered outside awaiting a grand entry as we waved palms this year.

The Palm Sunday sermon challenged us to do something really difficult in our lives this week, and I’ve been mulling over how easy it is for me to dismiss the significance of sacrifice. I’m not quite as bad as my husband thinks I am. I do not consider staying in a Holiday Inn “roughing it”, but I do avoid pain and sacrifice a bit more than I'm comfortable with. I think I’m going to do one thing every day this week that is hard for me though.

After church Walker was unusuallly chatty about the significance of Palm Sunday and Easter Day. He went through the sequence of expected events of Holy Week, getting all the events correctly, and then related the Gospel reading to something he knows and loves—Godspell. His theology is a combination of Catholic schools, Episcopal Sunday Schools and Broadway, but what the heck, he gets it, maybe better than I do.

I’m glad I went to church with Walker.

Blessings,
Janie

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flashback Friday Sixth Grade Graduation

This post is part of Friday Flashbacks sponsored by my friend Anne Glamore over at My Tiny Kingdom. The link to her blog is http://www.mytinykingdom.com/

My grandson, Robert, is graduating from sixth grade this year. It’s a big deal to him and his buds because they will be scattering to go to different schools, different sports teams, and probably different social activities, ones that include girls.

A couple of years ago, I tackled the task of sorting through reams of memorabilia from my parents house, and uncovered a number of things that I hadn’t even remembered existing. This picture of my sixth grade class was among the debris. My mother saved everything, but preserved almost nothing, but this reminder of my prepubescent self survived.

Graduation from sixth grade didn’t involve a major change for my class; I don’t even think there was any kind of celebration. We would move into the newly opened Bellingrath High School, but it was simply an extension of the building where most of us had attended elementary school. There were lockers and we changed classes, something Robert’s class has probably been doing since kindergarten, but it was more of the same. We had always been schooled with both sexes, something that began to cause chaos about sixth grade.

Miss Hunnicutt was a stern taskmaster, and our interests and libidos were beginning to run rampant by Spring of sixth grade. That was the year we discovered….fireballs! One classmate’s father owned a drug store, and Seabie had a small enterprise bringing candy to school and selling it to the rest of the class. Miss Hunnicutt definitely did not approve.

I was not a frequent customer of Seabie’s, but fireballs were very cool, and if you had a stash, you had friends. One day I placed an order for fifty fireballs and gave Seabie my dollar in payment. The next morning Miss Hunnicutt was on a rampage. There would be no more candy of any kind allowed at school. Oops…I had just tucked the crumpled paper bag with my treasure under my desk. I had visions of friends gathering round me on the playground to share, and I wasn’t giving those visions up easily.

As we flowed out of the classroom for recess, Miss Hunnicutt caught me red handed with the fireballs. I probably gave a smart reply, and the double whammy earned me a great big U in conduct for the term. My mother was not pleased either with the U or my smart mouth or my social interests. Back then, we got in much more trouble at home than ever at school.

I know Robert is a much better student than I ever dreamed of being, because I actually never dreamed about being a good student and he does. He will receive some honors at graduation as he does every year because he’s truly a wonderful young man. I hope he doesn’t discover temptations out there more dangerous than fireballs, and if he does, I hope his parents will give him more trouble than the school does.

Blessings,
Janie

Monday, March 30, 2009

Color in heaven

I took my two middle grandsons to “Chickalay” for lunch today. The conversation went kind of like this.

William: Edward’s with his grandmother too…Look John.

John: Theres lots of grandparents here today. There’s one, two, and there and there…Lots of old people…

Grammy: Do you think I’m old too?

John: Yeah you’re old…. Do you know where Grandaddy is now?

William: In heaven!

John: Do you know what color he is now……BLUE!

William: Well I think he’s white in heaven… Don’t you think he’s white Grammy? Blue would be scary.

Grammy: Um…hmmm.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what color people are lately, and shortly before I picked up the kids for lunch I had done a little research on my daddy’s place in Alabama History. My interest had been piqued by an old newspaper from article from the 50’s that we had found lining a trunk brought home from Grandaddy’s house. One Google led to another and soon I was deep into the archives of the State of Alabama.

Names like George Wallace and Bull Connor were there alongside my daddy’s. Not a pretty trip through the past.

I don’t really care what color people are when they get to heaven, I just hope for all our sake that they are all the same. Even if they aren’t I hope you’ll be able to see what’s inside them instead of their color or the shape of their eyes or their figure. I’ll bet we’d all be nicer to one another if you could do that.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Round Tuit

I once saw a hand painted disc of wood about the size of a salad plate in a gift shop with “Tuit” written on it. It took me a minute, and an explanation from a clerk to get it…but it was exactly what I needed. Instead of calling myself a procrastinator with grandiose plans that seldom get completed, I call myself a wonderful prioritizer. I fight the brushfires that might cause great damage first, and then get around to the others when I have time…which sometimes is not at all.

The current economy, and my new knee giving me more mobility than I’ve had in years, has led me to do some long neglected tidying up and cleaning out and throwing away. I’ll never make the pages of the organization magazines, but at least I’m thinning out my stuff so that I know what I have and where it is so I won’t buy something that’s already on the shelf throwing good money after bad.

This burst of organization has led me to realize how wasteful I’ve been through the years. I’ve always loved beautiful things, and done a fair job of copying expensive clothing for my children, and now my grandchildren. Turning me loose in a fine fabric shop with a Visa was like bringing an alcoholic to a wine tasting. I just couldn’t resist. Consequently, I have yards and yards of beautiful, and mostly expensive, fabric sitting on a shelf. I also owned a fine used sewing machine which I bought on Ebay three years ago and had never even threaded. Last weekend, I got Walker to remove my worn out machine and help me figure out the new one. It took both our brains, we use opposite sides for every imaginable task, to get me going, but today, I began sewing an Easter dress for Becket on my new machine.

This dress will make her feel beautiful because she’s still thrilled to dress like an old fashioned doll, at least for another year or so. It will make me feel satisfied because I will have used something that was wasting away. My copy of a dress that sells for a couple of hundred dollars probably won’t be perfect, but it will be good enough. That dress is my round tuit. I hope there will be many more!

Blessings,
Janie

P. S. I just found a site in Great Britain that offers accessories for Round Tuit types. Cute idea. http://www.quantumenterprises.co.uk/roundtuit/gifts.htm

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wait a Minute

If you are a regular reader or a member of my family, you know that I am a news junkie. I had kind of weaned off MSNBC after the election, but the whole AIG scandal has got me hooked again. This situation totally stymies my ability to make sense of it. How could we have gotten ourselves into this mess? For one idea, see my previous blog on this subject http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=508545331300613340&postID=4297475162414127431

Lately, I've watched totally bewildered like the rest of the modern world as Trillions…Trillions!!! of dollars are being printed and scattered like dry leaves on the world economy apparently never to be seen again. Like the rest of you, I wonder when one of those trillion dollar bills might land in my driveway alongside the morning paper. It hasn't happened yet.

The current strategy seems to be to print more money, give it to lending institutions, and encourage everyone to go further into debt as our patriotic duty to spend in order to save various institutions and businesses from demise….maybe.

What??? We’ve all dug ourselves into a hole, and they want us to keep digging? Digging for what? I know.... maybe... China! Every kid knows that if you dig deep enough, you’ll eventually get there. Only when we do get there this time, we’re most likely to going to find out that we are expected to pay up for all the junk we already bought that we didn’t really want or need.

That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

How about we play Actions Have Consequences instead? You know how to play that don’t you? The basic rule is that once you make a choice you’re more or less stuck with it until it’s your turn to make a new choice. There are a few wild cards in the game, but not many. Some good wild cards are having your Pop give you a few dollars if you make the honor roll or finding a five in the pocket of your jeans that you haven’t worn all summer. A bad wild card might be if Auntie Jane gets Alzheimers and mails you a check for ten cents instead of ten dollars. That kind of sucks.

In Actions Have Consequences, if you decide to turn right at the corner to stop at the playground, but your brother sneaks around through the bushes, he will probably beat you home and get to eat the left over brownie on the counter. If you spend your whole Christmas Check on a Wii, you can’t also get the new tennis racquet you wanted or be able to buy Hannah Montana tickets at scalper prices.

If you want more stuff than you can afford, you have several options. You might have to wait till your next birthday or sell some cans and bottles for scrap, or maybe do a few chores for a neighbor. If that Hannah Montana concert is a few days before your birthday, maybe someone else would get the tickets for you and let you pay them back when Auntie Jane’s check comes, but you can’t get more junk until you do pay for those tickets. You also have the option of trading some of the stuff you already have to someone who might really, really want it for some cash, but sometimes no one wants what you’ve got, so that plan won’t work and you have to come up with a different one.

What if none of those options work? You talk to the other players and hope they have enough kindness in their heart to let you keep the things you really need. They can give you food or a blanket or a ride to work, but only for a while. Eventually you are going to have to do with less stuff or find work.


The truth is that anyone reading this probably has enough stuff to survive comfortably until they can find some sort of work that will make it possible to get by. I hope we'll all wake up soon and realize that we've been on a crazy drunken spending binge and know that once we sober up, life can be better than ever.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Luck of the Irish


This morning I ran across a copy of my maternal grandfather's application for the draft completed in 1917. On it he accurately describes his stature as “short and stout”. That tendency, along with a little bit of a dour outlook on life, seems to be what I got from him. But I also got his love and adoration until I was eight years old when he died of a sudden heart attack at sixty-four, a loss I still feel to this day.


Popo ended up getting a deferment from the draft because he listed himself as the sole support of his wife, although Mamo never gave any indication whatsoever that she couldn’t support herself perfectly well, thank you.

I knew Popo was home from work by the smell of his cigar and the small bag of chocolate covered peanuts always stopped at Kresses to buy. He usually left them where I could find them, beside the crystal candy dish on the living room table which was usually filled with some sort of awful crème filled chocolates. I would follow the smell of his cigar to give him a hug, often finding it smoldering in the ashtray on the mantle. A whiff of a cigar can transport me instantly back to his lap, which was ample, as is mine at sixty-four.

Popo was the kind of grandfather who mowed down their entire crop of oxalis when I came in crying after stepping on a bumblebee minding his own business. He was the kindest man I ever knew.

Yesterday when Walker got in the car after work, the kind security guard chucked him on the shoulder and reminded him to wear green tomorrow. He and I pondered what in the world he might own that was green. I suggested checking for a green ball cap, but before I went to bed, I put a bit of green ribbon and a safety pin at his spot where he eats his breakfast.

This morning Walker came down decked out in green socks, green gingham shorts, and his usual work shirt over a green camo tee. That boy doesn’t really need his mom worrying about silly things like wearing green for St. Paddy’s Day. Maybe he got Momo’s sense of being perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I hope so.

I think I'll buy a pot of oxalis today, just a small one, not large enough to tempt the bumblebees.

Blessings,
Janie

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Friday Flashback Cheap Chick

I’ve never really been fashionable. My short stature and curvy body made most clothes off the rack look ridiculous on me, and for most of my life I made do with whatever I could find or make that made me sort of fit in. Mama and I made the ballgown in the picture; I think I felt pretty.

My mother and grandmother lived through the last depression. Although my grandfather had a steady job, Mamo was an entrepreneur before that name was even coined. She ran a beauty shop, a boarding house, and sold her fabulous cakes from her back door. She always seemed to have plenty of money, but she shopped wholesale in Birmingham.

My mother, on the other hand, lived on a small allowance from my daddy, and it was point of pride for her not to have to ask him for extra money. I didn’t realize until I was grown that Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and all our clothing had to be paid for out of Mama's meager funds. So she sewed and shopped discount...really discount.

I can still remember the stench, and not fondly, of the old Belk-Hudson store in Montgomery where my mother dragged me to a fire sale hoping to find something to suit a miniature and very surly teenager. We did not. I began sewing for myself and by ninth grade shopped for fabrics and patterns and created passable imitations of the clothes my friends wore.

My wedding dress was one of the first and last store bought and full price items I'd ever owned, and we bought the first one I tried on while being treated like a princess at a high end shop. Mama beamed and even paid extra for alterations.

Wouldn’t Mama be tickled to know that thrift is finally in style again, certified by no less than the New York Times!
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/us/10reset.html?hp

I hope I'll remember how lucky I am to want for very little in this life, and I hope that someday someone decides to make somthing I can afford at full price that makes me feel pretty again. In the meantime, I'm going shopping in my closet.
Blessings,
Janie