Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Very Brady Christmas

I'm afraid to say that gift giving has become more of a chore than a pleasure for me in recent years. Not because I don’t enjoy buying things for others, but because personal experience has taught me that guessing what might be a welcome addition to someone else’s possessions is not only difficult, but sometimes impossible.

The current economy has meant that there is less money for things we don’t need or want, and we’ve all become more aware of being selective about the burden of possessions in our lives. After my parents died I discovered innumerable gifts sent to them, mostly opened, but obviously unused, stuck in various drawers or on closet shelves. It really depressed me to see that something that I had squeaked out of a tight budget was neither returned for something more desired or passed on to someone who needed it.

We’ve defaulted to asking our children for very specific requests, including links to order what they want online, or giving gift cards or checks for something they need. I’m happy to see my gifts being appreciated, but somehow the pleasure of seeing someone open a surprise and be truly delighted just isn’t there when you’re being practical.

Walker III has become quite a nostalgia buff as he has matured. I think his “collectibles” are simply a way of recapturing what was apparently a really happy childhood with his sisters. He has been on a quest to re-purchase every single toy he remembers from his earlier days, most of which I sold in a garage sale or gave to the Alliance for the Mentally Ill when they called seeking donations. Sometimes he comes home from his treasure hunts to the antique malls with a small item he’s paid several dollars for that I recognize as a McDonald’s toy. I never complain, though, because these trinkets bring him pleasure and it's his hard earned money he's spending. I do complain about the condition of his room on occasion, however, so he’s learned to make room for his new things by sorting out some less desired least sometimes.

Over the last couple of years Walker has come to rely on the Ebay fairy (Mom) to help him locate things he remembers but can’t find locally, but for quite some time we’ve been unable to find a video or dvd of a short lived series he remembers, The Brady Brides. We looked and looked, but it apparently just didn’t exist. This year I hit the jackpot. I found what appears to be a bootleg copy from a secret source in Canada. Once I did, I put together a whole box of Brady memorabilia to go with it, as did his sister Sarah who provided some magazine pages and clippings along with other goodies that are probably truly collectible.

The look on Walker’s face when he opened the box was one for youtube, only none of us thought to capture it, but I do have one still shot courtesy of son in law Robert. “Oh my God! How did you find it? I though you said you couldn’t find it? How did you find it?” His reaction made my Christmas Eve the best ever. I hope I hit the jackpot with a gift again sometime in my life. It was well worth it.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Gifts and Presence

A while back my eldest niece sent me an unexpected present. When I thanked her for it, she said it wasn’t a present at all, it was a gift. Puzzled, I asked for more info, and she explained that presents are things you feel at least somewhat obliged to give, but that gifts are something that you neither feel required to give nor expect thanks for. Well, my mama taught us to thank people for things no matter what you called them, and I have some thanks I’d like to share on this Christmas Eve before we delve into the pile of presents under the tree.

This year has been abundant with gifts, but the ones I’ve treasured most involved the presence of the giver in some way. I'm at a stage in life where I have less and less of other things to give, but my time is available. But I realize that that is not true of everyone, so their gifts are doubly precious.

There have been my internet friends that have reconnected and shared their lives with me from afar and my friends around Memphis that take time to play Mahjongg with me or go to lunch or dinner on the spur of the moment.

There are the times my family and I enjoy around the pool or at the lake, not doing much except being together. The little kids indulged my whim to make concrete stepping stones for my new “fairy garden” (dubbed by Becket) and spent a lot of time on the design and then execution. They are true works of art and gifts of time shared.

My sons in law all have wicked senses of humor, and their gift to me is always laughter...mostly at my expense, but welcome whatever the cost in dignity.

The thirty minutes little Walker and his dad and I spend together watching Wheel of Fortune every night is one of the gifts we give him. Up until we discovered that he had a knack for solving problems, sometimes faster than either the contestants or his parents, the announcement of that program was almost immediately followed by my husband shouting, "Change the channel!" Now we all gather around the television during pre-dinner time, engaging in a little friendly competition. Sometimes this leads to more discussion over dinner, although not always.

Big Walker doesn’t realize that I don’t just appreciate the labor he puts in in our yard to indulge my whims and need for beauty and order, but I really appreciate the rare times he’ll sit back with me and let me gush on over how beautiful it is and enjoy the sun setting and night sliding over the garden.

Friends have invited us to spend weekends with them and we’ve returned the favor, loving the luxury of an extended visit and musing over good times we’d mostly forgotten. Sometimes there’s something splendid to do like Lessons and Carols or perhaps an easy hike at Sewanee, other times, it’s just visiting.

Last summer while I was visiting friends in her vicinity, my sister give me the greatest gift of our lives, although she’s given me some pretty fabulous presents through the years. She insisted on spending some time with me, and we giggled together as we went to the pamper parlor and I got the best eyebrow waxing ever…her gift to me was not only a brighter, somewhat prettier countenance, but of herself.

My brother took time to send me a note about how much he enjoys the eclectic assorted collection of reading material I send him, mostly things he would not have read.

At Thanksgiving this year, my girls knew that I really wanted to put up our Christmas tree while Sarah was home with the baby. It was to be his first official Christmas Cousins photo, and I wanted it to be festive. After a little grumbling, and a lot of yeoman’s work from our husbands, the tree was up and decorated before I got the dishes in the dishwasher. Two hours later, we had a photo. What a gift!

I treasure the old friend I found recently after a long search who told me that once we reconnected he went through and read my whole blog. My goodness, that is a gift of presence…even I don’t want to read all about me in one sitting. But if you’re reading this, you’re giving me a gift too. So thanks for being there for me.

When I was doing Pastoral Care, one of the training guides advised being “fully present” for those we visited in times of need. I never felt like I was really good at that, preferring to organize the visits and send others to sit and listen. Perhaps next year I’ll make more time to be fully present for someone who needs it whether it might be a friend or stranger or member of the family. I know how much I’ve appreciated all the gifts of presence this year. Maybe some of you will choose to do the same. Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year too!



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mary Knew

I attended the most insightful Sunday School class this morning, and the most interesting part of it was that it was taught by one of my best friend’s daughter. The Reverend Katherine McQuiston Bush was born just a few months before little Walkerand I held her when she was only weeks old. She has grown into a beautiful young woman…a wife, mother, and priest and fabulous speaker.

Kate talked about Mary this morning in a way I couldn’t have imagined. She gave Mary flesh and bones and an intellect and spunk and a heart that had the capacity to break. On top of all that, she pointed out to me something that might have never occurred to me otherwise…somebody had to teach Jesus to be the man he was and that person was probably his Mama. (I would add that she probably had some help from both his earthly and Heavenly Father.)

On the way home from church, coincidentally I’m sure, one of my favorite Christmas Songs broke through my reverie. I’ve blogged about this one before, but it deserves another listen.

Part of the lesson this morning was that each of us has the capacity within us to share God’s gifts. This is my gift to you on this winters day.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Magic Words

"Please and Thank You, They're called the magic words..."
Being around little kids videos can be a reminder of how important those words really are...especially where family is concerned.

There’s no telling how many times a day I say “Thank You!” to someone and really mean it. It even seems that I’m much better at prayers of Thanksgiving than any other kind. It’s hard not to feel thankful when the seasons are changing and all is well in my world. And yet, it’s kind of nice to have a special day to be specific about the things we really are thankful for.

I am not so good about saying, "Please", though. It just doesn't come as naturally to me. Part of that is that I value my independence immensely, and having to ask someone, even God, for help is kind of contrary to my nature.

We’ve had a complicated orchestration of our holiday this year. Trying to accommodate everyone’s preference and schedules hasn’t been as easily accomplished as we all would have liked, but that’s what happens when numbers increase and lives get more complicated. Babies need naps and unexpected things happen.

Monday night, the arrival of the LA crowd coincided with young Walker getting off work and my class which is somewhat mandatory attendance. Our second car is a truck…which I only ride in when absolutely necessary and NEVER drive. I was pretty sure that Sarah and Ned wouldn’t much like being chauffeured in a Dodge Ram either, so figuring out the logistics required my asking for a ride home from class, “Please!”, from some people I don’t know all that well and none of whom actually live near me. It all worked out,as most things do, and for that I am truly thankful to Debra who gave me a ride and the others who offered, even if it would have been out of their way.

I did a good bit of cooking in advance of the holiday this year, having had a pretty good stretch of feeling better than usual…probably the thing I’m most grateful for. It was wonderful to be able to pull homemade soup from the freezer and pop a batch of cornbread in the oven and invite a few extras over for a simple supper last night. Ditto on Lasagne tonight and some of the main side dishes for the big day, leaving only the turkey for me to deal with tomorrow with my daughters doing the things I like to do least.

Young Walker will be in charge of unloading the dishwasher, for which I’m truly grateful. He’ll happily bring extra chairs to the table and fill the water glasses. His dad has already done some yeoman’s work with pots and pans and grocery shopping for just one more thing again and again.

I hope I was polite enough to ask for help from my family with a “please”, but since I tend to be much more direct than polite society requires, I probably didn’t. I promise there will be many “thank yous” tomorrow, but mainly a huge one to God for my family and friends both near and far.


Sunday, November 7, 2010


A couple of people noticed that I changed my profile picture on Facebook and this blog last week. Son in Law John, who notices everything, took a couple of days to comment on it, and wanted to know what prompted it. I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I changed it partially because I was sick of seeing a picture of me made fifteen years ago in a house I don’t live in anymore.

The old picture was one of the few pictures of me that I ever kind of liked. It was made when I had to have one for a brochure when I worked at the church, and I've used it a few times. When I was getting my affairs in order before a kind of scary surgery, I decided it would be my obit picture, and have had it in a convenient folder on my desktop ever since.

Well, I didn’t die, so we haven’t needed the picture. I haven’t liked the way I look all that much lately, and most of my pictures in recent years are made at birthday events, surrounded by grandchildren, so I just hadn’t gotten around to a newer profile picture of me as I really am, one that people who actually know me would recognize.

Another sidelight to this has been my recent reconnection with old friends on Facebook, and I kind of worried that if I ever again meet one of them in person, which I hope to do at my 50th high school reunion, they would think I had misrepresented myself….something I would be loathe to do. So I had Walker take a bunch of snaps of me as I am now with several more pounds and lots more lumps and bags and wrinkles and strange brown spots on me, sparser eyebrows, and perhaps a less full smile, but as I am. (Except I chose a version without my glasses that made a wacky glare.) I picked the shot I disliked least and put it out there for anyone and everyone to see without any embellishments.

If I ever lose that twenty pounds, I plan to have a really good one made, but for now, what you see is what you get.

Tomorrow, I have to give a personal profile of myself at my Education for Ministry class. It’s a combination personal history and faith journey. I’ve been working on it for a while, trying to condense my sixty-six years into twenty minutes of things I’m okay sharing with people I don’t know very well. I guess I’ll present myself pretty much as I am…warts and all…and hope they care for me anyway. They seem like good folks, so I think they will. If they want more than a profile, though, they'll have to slog through two years of this blog.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Silly Stuff

I’ve been reading some articles about the current economy lately, and one of my least favorite gurus is a guy named Paul Krugman. Now I’m certain that Mr. Krugman has a wall full of certificates and diplomas documenting his ability to advise the nation on what we need, but the guy’s ideas make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

I’m not even sure what Mr. Krugman is actually proposing that sane Americans should be doing at this point, but it seems that he and some others are unnaturally afraid of “deflation”. Like most of you over forty, I can remember the runaway inflation of the 80’s and I’m absolutely certain that it was a really bad thing. It was the only time in my adult life that I could imagine needing help feeding my children. Of course, that didn’t happen, but the fear was there just the same.

Creeping inflation, on the other hand, has reached the point that taking my grandchildren to a movie takes a huge bite out of a hundred dollar bill, and is even more insidious. I feel like an old codger complaining that in the “good old days” I could buy a really nice lightly used car for $20,000, but that same car now would cost nearly $40,000. The truth is that I can fairly confidently predict that our budget will probably never allow for a really nice car again. I’m not whining about it, it’s just a fact of life, if the economy continues to inflate while our income doesn’t.

Could we just try a little deflation for a year or two, Mr. Krugman, and see where things settle?

I’m not an economist, but I do believe in the laws of Supply and Demand. Supply me with quality goods at a reasonable price and I’ll probably buy them when I need them. I might even buy a few things I want now and then, but only if I can afford them. If this leads to deflation, so be it. It probably means that the goods and services were being hawked at inflated values to begin with. This not an un-American idea, it’s only common sense.

The problem as I see it is that there are huge inconsistencies in our economy. Value and usefulness have been divorced from cost and it’s like Wonderland out there in Shoppinghaven.

My grandsons were dying for some sort of souvenir bands recently, and on a recent outing I bought them some. They amount to rubber bands in various shapes and themes, and they cost upwards of $5 a pack. They probably cost pennies to produce, and they break and soon become useless. I bought them, they were only $5 and I don't indulge the grandchildren often, but before the day was over there were tears over the silly things.

On the other hand, I can buy a comfy pair of well made everyday pants at Walmart for $10 which will probably last me several seasons. I couldn’t possibly buy the fabric and make them myself at that price. I would probably happily pay $20 for the pants, possibly even more, because they have value…and pockets!...but won’t pay even $1 for the silly Silly bands again…and I don’t think the kids will either. I know that by my spending money on that product, someone will reap some income from it...but at what real cost to our economy? We can't just keep printing and wasting money on things we don't need forever.

I hope our economic ship sets itself aright again, but I know it won’t happen by just printing more money for people to buy silly bands with.


Monday, September 27, 2010


Today is the tenth anniversary of the rebirth of my grandson Robert thanks to the generosity of the donation of a portion of his liver by his uncle, John Monaghan. Rejoice with us as I recap the story for those who haven’t heard it before. To offer congratulations to John and Robert, click “comments” below.

Molly and her family recently returned from the Transplant Games in Madison, Wisconsin. Robert, now a handsome young man of fourteen, competed against transplant survivors from all over the United States, perhaps the world. He was once again a gold medal winner in both tennis and swimming. What I’d really like to give him a gold medal for, however, is being a super great kid. Watching him guide his two little brothers through life, providing just enough excitement, torment, and hugging to make them men is my real delight. He is an excellent student, a wonderful friend, and a joy to be around. He has his Dad’s lanky frame and quick wit, and his mom’s diligent work ethic and an affable nature that both shared in providing.

Robert’s life is the gift of not only his biological parents, but also of his uncle, John, who is married to Molly’s sister, Katie. When Robert was four years old, he became really, really sick, really, really fast. He went from being a toddler with a tummy ache to a dying child on life support in less than a week. On the night before he was to receive his liver transplant, I was certain that if I left his side I might not feel his chubby little hands again till they were cold.

I walked over to the hospital where John was being prepped for surgery, just to touch base with him and let him know that we were praying for his safety. I confess, though, that my heart was still at the hospital with Robert, my first, and only, grandchild at the time. I was certainly much less certain than his mother that Robert was going to survive the surgery.
That was before I got to John’s bedside.

I’ve known John since he was in grade school, a classmate of Molly’s. He was always cute, full of energy, and often in trouble. Now he was married to Molly’s younger sister, Katie. I’m sure some eyebrows were raised when they became engaged, questioning the ability of this rebel to settle down and be a family man. I never really had those thoughts, though, because I knew that he loved Katie. The signs were all there. From the time they met, he drove back and forth to Louisville almost every weekend until she moved back to Memphis. He had fit into our family gatherings and brought me to tears laughing at myself and my family on many occasions.

Now, John and Katie were expecting their first baby in a matter of weeks, and John was lying on a gurney joking with the hospital staff like they were family.

The transplant doctor had told us that he selected John partly for his fit body and robust health, but more for his daring, no-big-deal attitude. John told Dr. Grewal that “the kid will never make it to an Ivy League school without my liver”, and that sealed the deal. Now we were just waiting for the results of blood tests to tell us what diseases John might have dormant in his body that could be potentially fatal to my grandson. When I mulled over his former rather wild lifestyle, I wondered whether he would be cleared.

John’s bloodwork was pristine. He had never had ANY diseases, not even ones that Robert had had at age four. When I left John’s bedside, I went home to the first peaceful night’s sleep I’d had in a week. It was all going to be fine. John had enough vitality to share with Robert, and with all of us.

Robert’s recovery was a textbook case. He was the first child recipient of a portion of an adult living liver in Memphis, and within a couple of days he was up in a rocker, albeit with many, many tubes coming out of his small body, and asking for a sip of Grammy’s iced tea.

John struggled a bit more. After emerging from a hellacious dose of sedation for the long surgery, he began bleeding, and had to undergo a similar experience all over again. Through it all, John’s parents and a very pregnant Katie were right there with him, while the rest of us reveled in the miracle of Robert’s recovery. A few weeks later, John and Katie’s precious baby girl arrived. Other than fussing a bit about some stitches working their way through, John has never seemed to be anything other than gracious and modest about this greatest gift. He is still “Peck’s Bad Boy” at times, teasing and playing with all of us, but he is the most generous person I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

I like to hope that I could be as brave as John, but in my heart, I know I would have been too terrified even to offer to undergo the surgery. I kind of secretly thanked my lucky stars that I was too old. John had been a multi-gallon blood donor for many years before he volunteered to be Robert's liver donor, and who knows how many others are out there because of his gift of life. His generosity has influenced many others to sign those driver’s licenses or donor cards in his honor…including me.

Most of the family and many friends gathered to participate in the Liver Foundation’s 5 K. on Saturday. I didn't try to walk the whole 5 K, just enough of it to say I was there. Seeing Robert, now almost as tall as John, standing by his benefactor was a reminder to all of us to Give Life…it’s really worth it. So sign your donor card and be a hero like my hero, John Monaghan.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let There be Peace on Earth

September 11….We’ve gotten through nine of these now, and none of us are the same, are we? I guess that’s not surprising, but the changes this year kind of jumped up and grabbed me.

I did the same things I did on that day, got up, ate a bite of breakfast, read the paper….Only today was a weekend, and I wasn’t on my way to work. Walker was lazing around with me, no longer off flying the skies as he was that morning. But there was a hummingbird on the feeder when I went out to water my plants this afternoon, just as there was on that awful day. I could feel fall approaching that day too, but today the roar from the television was that of SEC football, not an endless reel of those planes crashing into the towers.

Our family now includes four more grandsons born since that day. The landscape around the house has matured providing more privacy. My waistline and my mind have both expanded, hopefully one a bit more than the other. My computer has had several reincarnations, some loved ones have also moved on.

This year, though, there is a different spirit in the air in our country. There is more unrest and anger toward those who damaged our world than I’ve seen in all the nine years since it happened. Fortunately, some of the more radical voices have been moved to a lower timbre by the more reasoned ones. But it’s like our society has collectively entered a new phase of grieving, the phase when you’re really angry at someone…anyone…you’re just plain angry.

Every year when I attend the Grandparents Day program at our grandsons’ school, I am swept away with patriotism inspired by the recognition of grandparents who have fought for our country, recitation and singing of patriotic songs and verse, a presentation by a color guard of ROTC students from a nearby public high school, and an inspirational speech, usually given by a celebrity with some connection to our community. For the past several years, I’ve been struck by the contrast between the assembly of fresh-faced elementary school boys who will almost to a man have a choice about whether they serve their country and the young men who could be on the front lines within the year, some from choice, others because of lack of choices.

Every year, tears come to my eyes when I realize how much I don’t want any of these young folks to fight any kind of a war, no matter how sterile it might become. I don’t want any of them to have war stories tucked away inside their heads for the rest of their lives that are too painful to unpack. While I feel a pride when I see my husband rise when the Army guys are recognized, I know that in my heart of hearts I don't want any of my grandsons, or my grandaughter, to have to ever have to agree to kill or be killed.

Today, like on that day nine years ago, the song rattling around in my head as I puttered around in the yard was “Let There be Peace on Earth”. (For an outstanding rendition go to )

I know that my most basic desire is for Peace because peace means that my family will be safe. I’ll bet there are some mothers of would be terrorists who have the same desire. I’m going to pray for all the mothers and grandmothers of the world to join me in making this song our goal. Let us work to influence those young minds to find ways to share in all the generous gifts of a gracious God…whatever his or her name might be.


Monday, August 30, 2010

The Comfort Zone

I realized as this year began that I’d gotten entirely too comfortable with my life. Too many things were entirely too predictable. What I ate for breakfast, how I fixed my iced tea, how much I didn’t exercise, but mostly how seldom I tackled anything new anymore. Being the fearful person I am…afraid of change, but mostly afraid of failure and disappointment…I had settled for a comfortable, but not entirely fulfilling life.

So…I began the new year with a challenge to myself to do something challenging at least once a month. When I shared some of my ideas with family members, some eyebrows were lifted because the things I considered challenging weren’t exactly what they had expected.

In January, stepped outside my comfort zone at Chucky Cheese on an icy evening to celebrate William’s birthday and had a ball, just playing like a kid. The grandchildren were wide eyed when Grammy handled the gun in a shooting game like a gangster and won lots of ticket prizes. Later that month I tackled learning about my new iPod. I am happy to say that I have a pleasing assortment of dorky and cool music, all to my liking, up and working, and I even became so fond of iTunes that I began downloading audio books. Not a bad start to the new year.

February led me to California for Emmett’s birth. The set of small challenges surrounding that event eventually led me to return to help the new parents and soon I found myself off to Albuquerque with a seven week old infant and his mom. While Sarah worked, I kept Emmett in her trailer. This excursion wasn’t an overwhelming success…the pilot she worked on didn’t get picked up…but it definitely qualified as being outside my comfort zone.

March brought a different challenge. I don’t know whether clothes shopping should count, but it was probably the most difficult thing I did all year. I revamped my wardrobe a bit, cleaned out most of the clothes in my closet and can finally feel like I have choices…even if they’re not all wonderful.

In April I took a watercolor class, in hopes of redeeming my ego which was bashed soundly in “Creative Art” at Auburn. I managed to pass that course only by producing prolific pages of “wall paper designs”, each of which raised my grade by a point or two. Never did figure out what that teacher meant when she assigned us to “fill the page with a single line”. Huh??? The watercolor class went much better, and I’m ready to expand my experimentation this fall.

May led me to the mountains where I reentered a world I once enjoyed, nature walks with friends, and in June I reunited with my sister after five years. She arranged for me to get my eyebrows done at her club spa, and we giggled like girls. The walk to the waterfall added to the accomplishments of that trip.

July led to my new passion, Mah Jongg. With some encouragement from a few good friends, I am learning the game and now have a group of friends who meet weekly to play together.

August was another physical challenge. I really wanted to ride our Seadoo by myself, something I would have not thought twice about as a teenager who lived for speeding around the lake, but now it really seemed so scary. Grandson Robert was enlisted in this endeavor, and was an excellent instructor on a loop under his supervision, and then he turned me loose to solo. I even docked the thing without too much trepidation. Not sure how often I’ll be revisiting that trick, but I know I can if I want to.

September is already planned and I’ll be beginning a four year study of the Bible at our new church. I’ll be almost seventy by the time I complete the course, and am not sure whether I actually have any more ministry to be educated for, but I think it will be good for me.

Now…there are three months left…what shall I do? Wish I thought it would involve serious diet and exercise, but probably not. Any suggestions?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Family Matters

After a break from blogging to deal with the birth of my new grandson, end of year activities for the grandchildren here, and a fabulous trip to The Smoky Mountains, I’m back with a whole list of thoughts to share about the importance of family and friends, which, in my case, are many times one and the same.

Our travels began with an invitation from Molly’s in-laws to bring “all the Morrises” to their get away in Sewanee, Tennessee. We’ve done this sort-of annual event several times since our families were forever bonded by marriage then later on the liver donation. Watching your mutual grandson, the one and only for both of us, lie near death for a week then be saved by another in-law can do that to you.

Throwing all these folks together in the same house, adjusting to each other’s quirks, and laughing, hiking, and playing together was kind of like being in one of those rock tumblers kids sometimes enjoy. (You know the ones, an electrical thing you throw a bunch of driveway stones in, turn on the tumbler, and after a while you have beautiful treasures uncovered.) We’ve learned which of us don’t eat tomatoes, which ones don’t really like potato or egg products, who likes to hike, and who would rather shop or read or play games. There has rarely been much pressure to be other than who you are from the other adults on the trip, and the acceptance of little Walker’s quirks, especially by our hosts, has been much appreciated.

With my new knee finally healed, I knew I could do the easy walks for sure this year, and with some support and encouragement from Molly and Owen I joined the group on a short hike to Foster Falls. I felt no shame in not going to the bottom the falls, just walking along the rim at the top, catching glimpses of the falls, letting Molly help me just as she did Owen when the going got a little rougher. Little Walker joined the adults and older children on the longer hike, and got some great pictures of the falls from below.

At the end of my hike, I waited on a bench listening to a “Praise the Lord” preacher deliver a fairly memorable sermon at an open-air gathering. At a table next to me was a very large family of Muslims who were surreptitiously watching the preacher with some interest also.

Soon both our family groups were ready to move on, but not before one of our group had wangled an invitation to a taste of their elaborate middle-eastern spread. Part of their group had been at the foot of the falls and the ladies had all waded in, completely robed in fancy saris, enjoying the cool water along with all the other families on a hot afternoon.

As we sampled their fare and headed on home for some sandwiches ourselves I thought about how like our family theirs seemed to be. Relatives…you gotta love ‘em cause you can’t shoot ‘em…a wise man said to me once upon a time.



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Welcome to America!

I listened with interest to President Obama’s speech on immigration this week. His intentions seemed sincere, but his excuse that those mean old Republicans are responsible for the mess in our immigration system without offering any reasonable way to break what appears to be an impasse really bothered me.

From my limited, but close and personal, experience with a number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, I believe that the vast numbers of them arrived by one means or another during the Clinton years. Our nation welcomed them with open arms to clean our houses, mow our lawns, do our nails (but probably not our hair), and other jobs that they developed skills and interest in. If we felt slightly uncomfortable when “Nannygate” occurred, it didn’t stop most of us from ignoring the status of those we found to be above average providers of various services.

Most live in fear of getting caught without a driver's license, health insurance, or papers. Their children, mostly being citizens, fear their parents being taken away for a minor offense. In a way they are like slaves in their chosen country, although all seem to find that preferable to returning to dismal conditions in their own country.

We are already educating their children born in America, many of whom are excelling in school and now reaching college age. As they do, the schools are beginning to realize that their valedictorian might not be eligible for college, because his parents brought him here as a very small child, and he is not native-born.

We are already providing some hospital care, generally only in emergencies because most of the ones I know pay their own medical expenses in cash or do without needed services for fear of being deported.

Now for my solution, which might even to appeal to the mean old Republicans.

We could most likely reduce taxes for many of the rest of us by simply providing a reasonable path to citizenship for the population who is non-native born American, but who have been in the country long enough to accumulate some assets, educate their children, and learn English. If they were offered the same obligations as privileges that other Americans enjoy (except on April 15 every year) everybody wins.

What might these immigrants consider a reasonable “bribe” to pay the United States Government for legalization? I’m guessing that for most of them, somewhere between $500 and $2000 per adult family member for citizenship would be a realistic fee. Some have probably paid some black market person at least that much for fake identification that does not assure their protection from deportation. In addition to the fee or penalty, these new citizens could sign an agreement to pay Social Security, Medicare, and Income Taxes in the future and join some sort of medical plan. (Perhaps all this could be regulated by requiring them to have some sort of bank account for all earnings and end the underground economy for good.)

With the enactment of the new policy, additional legislation could end the practice of declaring all born on our soil automatic citizens.

Voila, our problem of what to do with all these families where children are citizens and parents are illegals would disappear along with at least some of our budget problems. Their taxes would help to care for them in their old age and in case of illness.

It’s not that hard! President Obama and all you others that hold the keys to freedom for this underground community, let’s get going and do something about it, and finally welcome these potentially very productive citizens to America and ask of them the same things we ask of all citizens, that you pay your fair share.

I hope that the priviledges that I enjoy as a citizen will one day be available to all people worldwide. Until that day, I hope I have empathy for those who flee abuse and hunger and welcome them as children of the world.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Just Me, Myself, and I

After enjoying a considerable amount of family time this month, I discovered that today is a rare opportunity to be absolutely alone in my house, and today I’m giving myself permission to just do what I damn well please. No nagging guilt today, just indulgence. I’m getting more adept at doing that as I grow older and recognize that I need some nurturing myself, and that the very best person to give it to me is me.

I did the usual things, got dressed, ate breakfast, read the paper, tidied the kitchen a bit, checked e-mail, and drove Walker to work. Then the fun began. I played my favorite solitaire game (Penguin) until nearly lunchtime, ate just what I wanted (an orange and some chex mix), and changed to my bathing suit. Nobody was going to see me, so no need to shave my legs or hold in my tummy.

I started reading a new book (“The Elegance of the Hedgehog”) as I sat by the pool for a while. When I got hot, I swam granny style, floated on a noodle, exercised most of my body parts, and finally gave in to my urge to completely submerge myself in the tepid water, hoping a breeze would come along to cool me off if I had wet hair. I felt like a teenager again.

I’m amazed at how a little guilt-free indulgence has invigorated me.

I’m so grateful for the privilege of indulging myself. Perhaps I’ll make sure that someone else enjoys the same pleasure this week.


Friday, June 11, 2010

What is a Marriage?

I had every intention of writing about all the wonderful family time we enjoyed on a brief vacation, but I'm going to delay those posts for a while. At the risk of offending some of my favorite people, I'm going to write about gay rights and marriage. If you can deal with the subject in a rational way, keep reading. If not, check in another time.

I have the pleasure of a free New York Times newpaper on my computer every morning. They haven't noticed that I'm getting it for free, even though I completed a survey saying I would be happy to pay a reasonable amount for a quality newpaper, so I just enjoy. Today's editorial piece sparked a passion in me that I thought might have been lost. A passion for equal rights. To read the article, hopefully for free, go to

I have long been in favor equal rights for all humans on the planet, and in my book that includes homosexuals. My moral character, however, still struggles with sexual freedoms, particularly ones in which there might be a victim...pedophelia, un-safe sexual practices, etc. But there's no slippery slope in my mind at all. In my opinion, a committed relationship between two consenting adults is one deserving of honor and celebration, and in most societies we call that a marriage.

Wedding ceremonies in most cultures involve a commitment for life to another person. We promise to love, honor, and cherish or obey, "for better or worse,till death us do part". It's not easy, and most of us have no idea how awful the "worse" part is going to be until it happens, but most of us steel ourselves and charge ahead because of our commitment to that promise.

The bibical passages that have been used by some to campaign against same-sex marriages are part of an antiquated code that was useful in the past in order to ensure the survival of civilization. I could liken them to Jewish dietary laws and keeping Kosher. That was necessary to prevent bacterial contamination in ancient days, but is no longer necessary, and hence an optional part of being a Jew.

I could be mistaken, but I believe that the passages forbidding lying with a person of the same sex were originally intended to ensure the growth of the tribe or family. Lying with a person of the same sex did nothing to increase population, which was the key to survival. If you fast forward about two thousand years, an increase in numbers of the human race has become something we should probably be interested in curtailing, not promoting. I often wonder how many of the poor children in the world would be less so if they were born into smaller, self-sufficient families. So marriage doesn't necessitate procreation in order to be a valid institution any more.
Many of the marriage laws were designed to ensure inheritance by "legitimate (usually male) heirs". In today's environment, DNA tests pretty much preclude the necessity for rules prescribing virginity of the bride and assumption that all children born to the union are from her husband. I'm not saying that these ideals don't serve any purpose anymore, just that they may not serve as the only means to an end. Many children today are born out of wedlock, but there are ways to ensure that those children are provided for by their parents.

In the families that do exist, two loving parents are pretty much universally acknowledged as the ideal in almost all cultures. In the modern family, the caregiving obligations increasingly fall on either male or female parent, depending on who is better at it or has time for it. My sons in law have given many a bottle and bath and read bedtime stories ad infinitum. Those were all mommy duties when I was a child. But times change. Today, the gender of the parent doesn't matter as much as the loving care given.

So, why can't we all take a giant step forward into the twenty first century, assure all people regardless of gender equal rights, including marriage should they choose. And while we're at it, let's celebrate that choice with a wedding and call it a marriage, which is what it is.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Loving, Honoring, and Obeying rerun anniversary

Not too long ago Walker had some “issues” with his brother in law, John. He talked to me about them; he talked to his dad about them; he even talked to his speech therapist and physician about them. He just couldn’t get the problem solved. He called Molly, who suggested that he talk to John’s wife.

“Hey Katie, You know how at your wedding John promised to love, honor and obey?”

That wedding was at least ten years previously. A puzzled Katie replied, “Uh…I guess so.”

“Well, I want you to tell John to cut it out. Okay.”

Problem solved.

Forty four years ago today, I promised to love, honor, and obey my husband for better or worse. I had no idea what I was saying…does anyone? Visions of bridesmaids in pink and white and groomsmen in crisp black tuxedos and the prospect of happily every after had me drunk with joy, if not champagne.

Today, I recognize what that promise meant and all the complications it entails.

Walker and I chucked the obey part first. Our family just couldn’t function with a husband and father being gone about forty percent of the time and me not have a little…okay, a lot…of decision making power. The first time I picked out a piece of furniture, a $60 chair, without consulting Walker, I was extremely anxious about it. Forty four years later, I might ask whether he likes one chair better than the other, but he rarely cares one way or the other and I deal with that kind of thing.

There are days when the honor part comes harder than others, but I still think that one is really important. We have totally different skill sets, and most of the time they complement each other. I don’t deal with mouse traps and he doesn’t worry about what’s for dinner most nights. I truly honor the things my husband does that are so far beyond my ken as to be from a foreign culture.

The one part that has remained constant, however, has been the love part. No matter how frustrated or angry we get, that love has weathered the worst times. The better times are always just around the corner.

Tonight we'll grab a bite to eat and see a movie...our favorite date night. Tomorrow night we'll go to a fancier restaurant with friends to celebrate. Love it!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Finally! Some Thoughts I Need to Share

I’ve been busy with one thing or another, including the birth of a new grandson (Emmett Andrew Brower, 8# 4 oz, and beautiful and healthy!) so just hadn’t felt the need to write very often. Today I do.

It’s still winter here, always a time for reflection for me, and the beginning of Lent. (Which I'm not really very good at observing, but I'm going to try to do better this year.)

My mother died in late February, 2001, after a blessedly short battle with colon cancer. I was always grateful that she died in winter, because today, as I did the day of her funeral, I noticed my bulbs peeking out to remind me that the joy of a southern Spring will definitely be arriving before too many more weeks.

The afternoon Mama died, my good friend Kate arrived at my house with food and condolences before I actually got home, and gave me the best indication of how significant this loss was going to be to my life. “My mother died years ago, and never a day goes by that I don’t miss her, ” Kate mused as she hugged me.

The depth of that missing still kind of caught me by surprise, because Mama and I were really rather contentious for most of my life, but Kate was absolutely right: I miss my mama every day, but especially this time of year.

Daddy died a few years before Mama did, and I was sad, just not too sad. After a childhood of him coming and going, it didn’t seem all that unusual for him to be gone. In my family of origin, Mama functioned perfectly well as both mother and father, so I was used to that.

When I was young, anytime Mama made up a new rule to enforce, she always introduced it with, “Your daddy thinks you should/shouldn’t do…………..

Whatever it was I was forbidden or charged to do, I eventually figured out Mama’s ruse. Daddy really wasn’t all that concerned with what we children did, but she didn’t want to be the bad guy. She didn't hesitate to be the enforcer of some of those rules, though, and she enforced with enthusiasm when it suited her.

I instinctively find ways to comfort myself when I miss Mama and Daddy.

When I convince myself to buy something a little bit extravagant that I really “want”, not “need”, that’s Daddy giving me whatever made me happy at the time. He somehow taught me to carefully choose those splurges, although I never remember him saying no to me.

When I miss my mother, particularly late every afternoon, I call one of my daughters or a friend who is generally happy to talk to me. Maybe they're not invariably overjoyed to hear from me as Mama always was, but they're usually willing to lend an ear. And if not, there’s always Caller ID.

Sometimes a manicure or getting my hair done feels more satisfying than like a chore, because it reminds me that Mama always made me look prettier than I really was… even if she did keep me dressed in little girl clothes way beyond what pleased me.

I love that I have all Mama’s recipes and a lot of her cooking utensils, because one sure fire way to deal with missing her is to cook, okay BAKE, something yummy, and give myself permission to lick the spoon and then have the first bite when it comes out of the oven. I made a lemon ice box pie for little Walker today, and who do you think got the first bite?

I definitely am not off to a good start for Lent.

The church seasons and going to church usually makes me feel closer to Mama. I can still her slightly off, but still sweet, soprano when I sing her favorite hymns, also slightly off but with gusto. I had debated whether to go to Ash Wednesday services today, but somehow I think that it might make me miss her less.

I'm grateful to have my mama and daddy still in my heart. I hope I live my life so that others will hold me in theirs too.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Loose Ends

I've had a couple of questions from friends about some things I’d left hanging this year, so I thought I'd try to tidy things up a bit.

Polaroid Film: Definitely no longer available.

This has been a mixed blessing indeed. Walker now has more spending money than he has wants. He has socked away a good bit in his secret hiding place in his room but still carries too much around with him to suit me. He mentioned repeatedly over the holidays that he might find Polaroid film somewhere, but when I reminded him that it was no longer made, he posed that “Christmas wishes come true.” That one did not, but he has not lost hope.

He’s using his digital camera regularly and brings his chip down for me to zap to be printed at Walgreens, usually on Friday night. He and Theresa pick up the prints while they’re running errands on Saturdays. The pictures are spectacular, provided the copyright police don’t come after us.

Walker III and Retirement:

That has been placed securely on the back burner. Even in this blistering cold weather, he hasn’t complained. There was one minor incident with a customer after he loaded her bags too heavy, but it was settled with his manager without them calling us. It took me about twenty minutes to drag what details I have about the incident out of him because he didn’t want to spoil Christmas. He didn’t.


Walker took a lovely young lady to his annual Christmas Dance at his old school. She is his age and new to Memphis and they seemed to have fun, but both made it clear to their respective parents that they are staying single. He showed impeccable manners, but I suspect that this young lady was a bit surprised at his version of dancing generally being to play air guitar.

My knee: It took almost a full year for me to say that I am thrilled with my new knee. I can still predict a storm long before VIPER radar, but generally I can walk as much as I want to without significant pain.

My Resolutions 2009: I’ve read a lot and watched political pundits less, unfortunately I’ve also played a LOT of video games. We’ve found another church, and still are not very faithful in our attendance, but when I’m there I’m glad. We worked in the yard less, but I enjoyed the seasonal changes immensely, especially the beautiful Spring day when John and Becket played Princess and the Frog with a real frog. We have spent more time with friends and I’ve found that the more we have small, casual get togethers, the easier it is. I even tried out some new recipes and they weren’t disastrous, and Margaret A. has generously shared two more that sound easy and good.

My Resolutions 2010: The usual about living healthier, eating more vegetables (which I know I won’t do), getting more exercise (which I might do since my AARP Medicare supplement will pay for me to join a gym or Curves), and being more generous with my time and money and kind words. I hope to learn to be a good long-distance grandmother in the next few weeks and continue to spend quality time with the five local grandchildren, an increasingly difficult task now that most are in school all day every day.

I hope I can look back this time next year and say that I actually did some of these things. I hope I keep on hoping just like Walker.