Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I was asking Walker III for some Christmas gift suggestions, and got limited response from him. I assigned his attendant to take him shopping and provide me with suggestions…still nothing that sounded like much. The list was: A digital coin counter and two videos, both of which he had also asked for from his sisters. Back to the drawing board. I picked at him a bit more, and he finally got fed up with me.
“Mom, you know when we were little and we always got lots of stuff?”

“Um hmm.”

“Well, I’m thirty six now. Don’t do that anymore.”

Lesson learned, although he may still get three packages like the rest of the kids, large and small.

I remember those days, slogging around looking for a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas Eve, (which turned out to be perfect, because I found one!), getting up in the middle of the night to stuff stockings, check to see if the rolls were rising, turn on the oven for the turkey, hoping my husband didn't get called out to fly (only happened once)...wanting perfection.

The picture below was the beginning of my feeling like everything must be perfect, especially me, and the knowledge that I had a long way to go. Walker’s birth was probably the end of it. Believe me, I still try to do things well, but now I truly believe that good enough is truly good enough, so when things get to good enough, I relax…a lot.

This year we’ll have Sarah and Ned and Emmett for a whole week. That’s just about good enough for me. The new puppy will add to the fun, and Walker wants to get out the electric train from his childhood. What could possibly go wrong?

Just about everything.

The shopping I haven’t done yet just won’t get done. Dinner will be kid friendly, and perhaps not the sophisticated dinner that I have always started out with a vision of. There may be green beans on the floor and more than a few tears between all the little kids…hopefully none from the big ones! The gifts may not all have wrapping paper on them, or if it is it may be a little crooked like my hands in the picture, (look closely, and you’ll know which one I am) but it will be perfectly perfect.

I hope each of you have a perfect holiday celebration too. Tomorrow means that we’ve made it past the longest night of the year, and things will be brightening up in very short order. What a comforting thought.


P.S. This picture was taken in about 1948 or '49 at Church of the Ascension.  If anyone can identify any of the participants, it would be a gift to me if you'd make a comment or e-mail me with names.  The only person I remember for sure was Mary, who was Ann Weisenberg.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is it Real or is it _____________?

Most people who watched any television at all in the past thirty years will remember a commercial for a product in which a glass is shattered by a soprano hitting a high note. The ad then cut to “Is it real or is it ______ (Memorex).” We also remember the little lady who confronted the fast food clerk with “Where’s the ____ (beef)”… an ad so memorable that there is discussion of reviving that commercial some twenty or thirty years later.

A walk down memory lane for those over a certain age can be a delightful exercise for most of us as we flip through old annuals and can call the names of most of our classmates, although we might not recognize them today. Even looking at kindergarten pictures, our friends faces and names are linked in a way that no present day friends and acquaintances are. These memories, even painful ones, can prove to be a comfort and a delight as we age, allowing us to burnish the unpleasant ones with a glow that comes from having survived even the hardest times. We’re still here.

But memory can be a tricky thing.

We mostly laugh when we go into a room and wonder what in the world we wanted there. We grasp for a word or especially a name that is right below the surface. We’ve discovered that if we quit chasing it, it usually surfaces with a pop. Then we might blurt out whatever it was to whoever happens to be around, delighted with the retrieval, but confounding our conversation partners with the suddenness and randomness of discovery.

I find it hard to return to once familiar places and find that they have changed so much that I don’t recognize them, sometimes in what seems like a blink of the eye. A store that always had ____ is no longer in business and large houses have replaced the bungalos that populated our old neighborhoods. It’s comforting to find something that’s still the same after a long period of time. A recent trip back to our childhood lake house was so reassuring to me, because so little had changed.

The confusion change brings may even be pronounced even in a city you’ve never left because of all the “clone neighborhoods” that have appeared nationwide. Each one sports the same mix of shopping choices… Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid, a big grocery store, a nail parlor probably staffed with Asian ladies anxious to make you “look like lady” and a unisex hair salon. There’ll probably be a dry cleaner, perhaps a sub shop, but basically all these strip malls look the same. The houses around them don’t differ much in these new areas either. The roofs are all a tasteful shade of greige; there are identical mailboxes, generic plantings which are sometimes prescribed by the Homeowners Association, and not much differs from block to block. There’s not much to hook a memory to in these neighborhoods.

I always hope the folks inside them exercise a bit of originality and have some customs of their own that will provide something memorable for the inhabitants.

Memories differ among me and my siblings, even though we grew up literally side by side, three to a room, for the first eleven years of my life. We all remember the crazy trip to California with my mother and an aging sorority sister and her daughter for a national convention, but Jack remembers the events from a nine year old’s seat between the two ladies in the front seat, Kitty from her perch beside Helen in the middle seat, and I from my mostly lone lounge in the “way back” of the station wagon reading about Al Capone.

We all remember there was no AC in the car, and that our goal was to find a suitable motel at each stop that had air conditioning and a swimming pool for less than ten dollars a night. I remember a golden week at the Huntington Sheraton where I lounged around the pool and delighted the life guard by reading out loud in my southern accent. The details differ, but the memories are there. Who knows if they’re real. It doesn’t really matter, they’re ours and we will always treasure them.

I’m making more of an effort to make memories with my grandchildren, and so far it feels successful. I’d love to hear their account of the trip to the Native American ruins on the Friday after Thanksgiving about thirty years from now.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

What's for Breakfast?

Some of my long-time readers know that I originally wrote a lot of stories about what it was like to live with a person with Down Syndrome, and some have even commented that they really miss my “Walker Stories”. Well, life settled down to a fairly predictable boredom over the past several years, so I branched out and rattled on about anything and everything.

My recent surgery, however, precipitated some ripples at home, and I’m back to my primary concern…living with Walker.

After two knee replacements and a few out of town trips, Walker had gotten used to coping with his predictable world being a little less so for short periods of time. I usually make sure that his needs are covered and have plans in place to make sure he will be safe and well cared for. I noticed a difference in Walker just before our last trip, a short one to Montgomery a few weeks ago. The night before we left he questioned me repeatedly about what he would have on hand to eat, who would be covering for me, etc. I realized that I probably hadn’t left enough microwave ready food that would appeal to him, so found myself flipping burgers to leave in the fridge at bedtime the night before we left. After I showed him his choices, he seemed to relax about everything but breakfast, which has become a bit of an issue in the past year.

For a long, long time, Walker’s preferred breakfast was two Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits which he microwaved for himself and went off to work with something in his tummy that would last till his rather late lunch break. Then one day he noticed that the package described the biscuits as “snack size”. They were the same biscuits, just as greasy and cholesterol filled as before, but now they were declared not to be suitable as breakfast. We reached a truce about my being a short order breakfast cook, and I agreed to fix him something two or three days a week while we looked for a suitable breakfast that he could fix for himself. (Cereal does not suit him…so don’t even suggest that one.)

Then I ended up having kidney surgery last week, and being kind of under the weather even after I got home. He has questioned me daily about what I might feel like cooking, which was actually not very much, but I did put some blueberry muffins in yesterday, and there were enough left over for today. Not acceptable…he really was craving waffles. He settled for a couple of Pop Tarts. It wasn’t a work day, and he’ll eat lunch at a normal time, so I kind of forgot about it.

A little later he came down and asked, “Which knee is it?” perhaps trying to figure out if I’d grown a third leg. I told him it wasn’t my knee this time, but that I had a kidney cancer removed, and it left my tummy pretty sore. “Cancer?’ he commented, looking a bit alarmed.

“Yeah, but it’s all gone now, and I’ll be fine. I just need some time to get better.” With a shrug he was gone again.

All this has led me back to being concerned for his welfare when the time finally comes that I don’t dodge the bullet. How do I prepare him for the likelihood that I might not always be around to fix his breakfast without scaring him to death. We’ll figure it out, I’m sure, but I realized that my boy-man still needs his mama right now. Maybe I’ll make those waffles tomorrow. I feel privileged to be able to do it for now.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You Can Go Home Again

Since my mother died, my trips back to Sweet Home Alabama have been few and far between. I guess the pain of losing her and all my connections at one time seemed to just be too much. Without a bedroom and bath awaiting me anytime I happened to have a whim to visit, visiting now required making arrangements and imposing on others that might not find my spontaneity charming, just inconvenient.

A few years ago I made some tentative connections with a friend from school and we’ve kept in touch. When Fran found herself chairing the fiftieth reunion for our high school class, I somehow got involved too. Now I had a purpose in going home, at least occasionally. Fairly nice hotels aren’t too expensive, and it would be a chance to visit my brother and his family and my oldest and dearest friend. So, I agreed to attend a meeting of the reunion committee, and ended up with a nice invitation to stay with my friend…and her new husband…so we planned a weekend visit. My brother and his wife were free, so we scheduled a day with them at the lake and an evening of college football.

I can’t remember when I’ve been so blissfully happy.

Montgomery has changed. The action is primarily in a part of town that I didn’t even know existed when I left there fifty years ago. There were nice restaurants I’d never visited, new developments designed for empty nesters, and it seemed like a great place to be.

I found our old lake house mostly unchanged, and the changes that my brother and his wife have made have enhanced enjoyment of the beautiful clear lake without losing the charm of an early 1950’s style cabin. We rode around and looked at all the fabulous mansions sprawling around the lake, but when I arrived back at the cabin and sat on the screened porch overlooking the tranquil lake, I hoped it would always be home to me.

My meeting with old classmates to plan the reunion had created a bit of anxiety on my part. I had not seen most of them in at least thirty years, some in nearly fifty. I was never really a leader in my class, and kind of hung out on the fringes of the action, usually unaware of how hard those leaders worked in extra-curricular activities because I spent most of my free time either with my nose in a book or on the phone with my boyfriend. Would they recognize that I’d found some gifts of my own as I matured? Would they discount the possibility of a dumpy little housewife being able to make a contribution? Would we even recognize each other or have memories? All those fears vanished as we greeted each other with hugs around mostly well padded bodies, shared a sandwich and a glass of wine, and got down to business.

My contribution to the meeting was warmly received, and I got more positive strokes in that one night than I often get in a whole year. It was blissful!

Part of my time in Montgomery was spent getting acquainted with Florence’s charming new husband, Howard. We laughed and told stories and got to know each other. We shared some delicious meals, and began a new kind of friendship as adult couples. I also squeezed in brief visit to her Aunt Ruth, who lives in the house where my mother spent her last couple of years, and one with my oldest nephew on his thirtieth birthday.

I can’t wait to go home again!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Our family seems to exhibit a number of mostly minor obsessions…some compulsive, some sporadic, but mostly productive. I wish I had my sister’s passion for diet and exercise, but my own passions wax and wane. I’m always excited about a new project, and then can’t wait for it to be over so I can begin something else. I’m about to put the final stitches in a needlepoint stocking that has been my companion for almost a year now. It was a great diversion as my knee healed, but now it’s getting in the way of more active pursuits.

My great passion this summer has been beginning work on a video presentation for the fiftieth reunion of my high school class next spring. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with people I hadn’t heard of, or in some cases even thought of, in fifty years. I’ve found a few friends lost through the vagabond lifestyle with many changes of address that we have lived through at time. And then came the internet….

After seeing the presentation of last year’s class, I began investigating how difficult the process might be, and found out it was probably manageable. There have been some hurdles, and there may be more, but learning new things is still exciting for me, and I’m just tickled to death with myself for managing to do it. My first project was a short DVD of our family Christmas, and I know I’ll do more in the future.

When I agreed to take on the project, I saw it as my gift to my class, but in the process, the gift has actually mostly been to me. I have received pictures from long lost friends and acquaintances, and to my delight I’ve been able to fill in some empty spots in my memory book. I will always treasure a photo sent from Mike’s six year old birthday party where we are all dressed up for tea in our mother’s clothes. I had no record of that party, or much of that period of my life, and when I got them printed and into my memory book, it really felt like I’d gotten a birthday gift from Mike.

They say that the task of our later years is that we look back and reflect on our lives and appreciate our successes and forgive ourselves our failures and feel content with what we accomplished. When that stocking is on the mantle and the DVD is given to my classmates, I hope I’ll be able to say…you did just fine, old girl.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Birthday Wishes

I haven’t written much about Walker lately, mostly because our life together has settled into a mostly predictable routine. We see each other more often for breakfast lately, because his tastes are maturing and the two sausage biscuits he has made himself for breakfast for years no longer appeal to him. That’s a good thing…we’re both eating more healthy choices now. After work, he spends a little time with us before dinner, and religiously watches Wheel of Fortune while it’s cooking, solving way more puzzles than his dad or I do. But then, he disappears upstairs until the next morning. Today was a bit different.

A couple of months ago I got all excited about Polaroid offering a new portable printer that turned digital photos into old timey Polaroid prints, something Walker still grieves for after their discontinuing production of his favorite, and very expensive film. I showed Walker a small article about the device from the Sunday paper months ago and he excitedly shared the news with his sisters and brothers in law, and anyone else who was around. Last week, as his birthday approached, I began letting my fingers do the walking and shopping. Well, Amazon had what looked like the same device, but there were precious few reviews, and all of them made me doubt my choice. So back to square one.

Walker usually has a list made by the 4th of July with explicit expectations from each family member as to what they are supposed to find for him. Sometimes the searches are time consuming and the found items too expensive, so he ends up getting gift cards, which he accepts with gratitude, if not a whole lot of enthusiasm.

For some reason, the pattern was altered this year, and this morning I had to remind him that we really needed a list. As he walked off from me, he muttered something I didn’t understand, and I began my usual somewhat preachy plea for a repeat, this time facing me, so I could understand him. Walker absolutely hates it when anyone does that, but in spite of years of really good speech therapy, his speech is only completely intelligible when he focuses and projects carefully…which is still only about half the time.

I went back to the topic of gifts while he waited as I cooked his requested scrambled egg, this time within hearing distance of my aging ears and facing me. “How about the gift of understanding,” he replied with a sassy look on his face and his hand on his hip. Going into mom mode, I reminded him that understanding was a gift for him to give the rest of us…that we can only understand if he helps us out. An impasse with Walker is usually handled with a shrug on both our parts, but this time he made me start thinking about my responsibility to understand others.

I try, I really do try, to understand people who irritate me, and the older I get and the grumpier I and the world becomes, it seems that there are more and more of them. I look for an innocent reason the sales clerk is on her cell phone while the line builds behind me and I stand there tapping my credit card, but often the evidence is that he or she is simply chatting and trying, unsuccessfully, to do their job while maintaining social contacts. I try to understand why the used paperback I ordered on Amazon is packaged in such a way that multiple implements are required to get into it. I know, the people are afraid you’ll make a negative comment if it’s not packaged sufficiently to prevent damage. I try to understand when I am required to navigate an endless phone tree to reach a person who called me to begin with, and whose business probably isn’t of concern to me anyway. I try, I really do try.

But today, I’m wishing I could require of others the same things I require of Walker, that he make more effort and accept some responsibility for making our interaction a positive one. If he can do it, I think others can too. In the meantime, I hope I’ll be able to give the gift of understanding to Walker and others.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Great Grammying

I remember when I first became a great aunt, about eighteen years ago. I was waiting in carpool lane for one of multiple pickups of the afternoon when I glanced at myself in the side mirror and thought,”I don’t look like my great aunts…they had blue hair!” Thank goodness for that one.

That great niece graduated from high school this year with some nice honors, and is going to Florida State University on a cheerleading scholarship. My sister, her grandmother, is really proud of her…as are we all.

Last night I enjoyed hearing William’s original song that he and his band mates created for “Rock and Romp” camp. Seeing five to ten year olds rocking on was quite an experience…one I never had the pleasure of as the mother of girls who were more into musical theater, ballet and opera.  Not sure how my grandmother and mother would have suvived the noisy rock scene, but I did with most of hearing intact.

This morning, I saw Becket in the title role of “Charlotte’Web”, and it took me back to those theater days…only this time I didn’t have to feel responsible for hauling her to rehearsals but one time, and didn’t have to run all those lines. All I had to do was show up and enjoy and clap.

Tonight a couple of them will spend the night. We’ll eat Fajitas and they’ll swim and watch mindless videos, probably stay up past their bedtimes and eat waffles with whipped cream and strawberries in the morning.

I still don’t feel as old as my grandmother must have been by the time she had teen aged grandchildren…and I definitely don’t have blue hair, but I do have a round little tummy and an ample bosom to hold babies to, and I'm beginning to look more like my grandmother all the time. Wouldn't it be nice to be around long enough to see the next generation arrive and be able to tell them about the good old days when great grandmothers had blue hair.


Monday, July 11, 2011

I Been Searchin'

I spent the better part of last night tossing and turning, trying to turn my search for my beloved tiny digital camera over to my unconscious mind. Part of me knew exactly where the darn thing was supposed to be…in my purse after taking it to a friend’s house on July 4th. Beyond the fact that it obviously wasn’t in my purse, I hit a brick wall trying to retrace where it could be. One of my final thoughts before finally settling into a fitful sleep was that it might be back in my needlepoint bag, where it had ridden home from the lake. I had discarded that notion, because the thought of taking it to my friend’s house was so clear. Maybe it was in the cup holder of the car. Maybe it was still at her house. I almost got up and searched those places and sent Ann an e-mail to see if she’d found it.

I awoke and went straight to the needlepoint bag, and voila, nestled into the Christmas stockings and ornaments I’m working furiously on was the little camera.

It wasn’t the camera that I hated losing so much, it could be replaced, but the card held memories of a happy time with my grandchildren at the lake that would not ever be replaced. I thought about snapping pictures of Becket (10) and Owen (4) learning to canoe as we devised ways to get back and forth to the swim dock now that our pier is a shambles from wind and flood. There was a snap of happy faces of a teenaged grandson and his younger cousins and siblings all piled on the swing also missing.

Well, they’re not lost and gone forever, as my husband used to accuse me of claiming every time I couldn’t find my keys. He also says that if I always put things back where they belong, I wouldn’t be forever searching for something. His gibes have taught me to be more methodical in my ways, and I spend less time frustrated with things that are lost…they’re usually in one of two or three places rather than most anywhere.

Some things from our past really are lost and gone forever, though, and those things plague me to this day. A uniform shoe…only one…missing since the 80’s. Our wedding album and my grandfather’s childhood chair…lost in a move. Most of the valuables my husband inherited from his mother…stolen in a home invasion while we were on vacation at the Transplant Games. But I keep telling myself they were only things.

Worse is losing people you love. There are the inevitable losses to illness and old age, hopefully only a few losses due to differences, and a host of losses due to negligence in keeping up with people through the years. Working on my upcoming fiftieth high school reunion has reconnected me with many classmates that I truly enjoyed once upon a time, but in the days before the internet, if you lost someone who moved away and weren’t diligent about writing or calling, they could truly go missing from your life. I’m loving finding some of these folks again…memories truly are forever, even if you don’t have photos of them.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Presumed Innocent

Okay folks, it’s time to take a deep breath and realize that the jury verdict in the Anthony case was probably not the worst outcome of the trial. How much worse could it have been if they had convicted one member of that whole dysfunctional family of a crime when it became evident that any or all of them might in fact be lying about their knowledge of the circumstances?

We know the mother is a liar. She eventually recanted most of what she initially claimed. The grandmother appears to be a liar either to her employer or in her claim that she did the search for Chloroform as I don’t believe she could have possibly been in two places at once on that day. The grandfather’s statements were similarly inconsistent, and my gut feeling tells me that he’s the primary culprit.

No, I don’t like the mother either. If, in fact, she had knowledge that her child had died in whatever tragic manner, and then went on about her rather irresponsible lifestyle as if nothing had happened she is at least guilty of having no heart…or perhaps access to enough pharmaceuticals to obliterate her pain and allow her to party on. Somehow, though, the videos of mother and daughter that have run in a loop for months now, don’t show the kind of person that the prosecutor was prosecuting.

We can’t blame the jury for doing their job. The evidence was too full of inconsistencies for them to have made any other choice.

Will we ever know the details of this case for sure? Probably not. Our crime solvers are not nearly as lucky in real life as they are on formulatic cop dramas where it all fits neatly together at the end and the first, and most obvious, person suspected is never guilty.

I hope the Anthony family makes peace with their lies and deceit and mourns the loss of a precious life as I would have expected the young mother I saw teasing and laughing with her daughter to do. And they are not, by the way, obliged to share their grief with us in the process.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Give Me a Break

Is it just me, or has the whole world gone absolutely mad? A news story a couple of weeks ago showed video of a wheelchair bound woman, age 100, being frisked by airport security even to the point of having to remove her adult diaper. What's worse, TSA officials think that's perfectly okay. http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-26/us/florida.tsa.incident_1_pat-down-tsa-pat-downs-tsa-officer?_s=PM:US

Today, a Nigerian man who was the epitome of a profiler’s depiction of possible terrorists, was arrested after he had used a ticket with a totally different name from his own to board a plane at JFK yesterday, and then today was caught just as he was about to make it onto yet another flight out of Los Angeles with another ticket with a different name. He was found to have several other tickets or boarding passes in his possession.  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/06/30/authorities-investigate-security-breach-at-jfk-airport-after-man-flies-to-los-angeles-without-ticket/

Every time I go through security, I have to explain that I have knee replacements and go through what has become an increasingly invasive pat down. Small children are exposed to the same indignities.

Someone has got to blow the whistle on this nonsense and get real about what a possible terrorist looks like. Yes, someone might be offended when more people who are over 75 and under six are passed through without a blink, but I’d be willing to be that airport security wouldn’t show a great jump in incidents if a common sense policy were established.

I hope some heads roll over these incidents, and I’m not just talking about sending a few security personnel back to school for training.



Friday, June 17, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I got a note from a grammar school classmate recently citing his memory of my being picked up on the lawn of our elementary school, dear old Bellingrath, by a helicopter. It was 1954 and Daddy was running for governor of the Great State of Alabama in a crowded field of candidates. There were no Republicans to speak of in Alabama at that time, so the Democratic Primary winner was the de facto winner of the Governor’s mansion.

Part of the program was travelling to small towns throughout Alabama, gathering a crowd at a VFW hall or on a town square and giving a speech. Presenting an intact, typical American family was essential…hence the helicopter trips. There wasn’t a lot of difference between the candidates from what I can tell from reading old newspaper accounts. All were staunch segregationists, and all were promising things they probably couldn’t deliver. Daddy campaigned as a veteran and a man of integrity, with several years of experience in State Government. He promised to eliminate corruption in State government. People probably remember the helicopter more than what he had to say.

At that time, I was eight years old, and I had no idea what a Governor did although I knew the present Governor on a first name basis. He was Gordon to me, and sometimes took us for a boat ride at the lake and offered us the use of his beach house. I remember visiting the mansion a few times and being entranced by two things…a beautiful blue tile bathroom and an impressive gun collection that included a gun not as big as a matchbox that was said to shoot straight pins and was used for suicides. I knew the gun collection was Gordon’s personal one, but I wanted that beautiful blue bathroom for my own after his daughter graciously showed me around.

Daddy was never elected Governor of Alabama, although he ran twice. I didn’t love those campaigns. I was slightly mortified that Daddy was an also ran in such a public manner, but I did love those helicopter rides. It never occurred to me to be frightened, I was with my Daddy and the pilot, a handsome fellow named Joe Suttle, had me smitten even at age eight.

I never told Daddy how proud I was of his ambition, which was even more admirable because of his very humble beginnings as the son of a poverty ridden coal mining family who often didn't have enough to eat. Someone must have seen something in him at an early age, though, because he had the determination and courage to work his way through college and to have an exemplary career as a bomber pilot in the Marines while stationed in the Phillipines. I did realize that I was more like him than I ever imagined once I was an adult, and appreciated the lively discussions we shared on current events and financial matters.

I hope cyberspace is available in heaven, and that Daddy knows how proud I am to be his daughter today.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back to the Fifties

I’ve been doing some preliminary work on a video I’m going to compile for my fiftieth high school reunion. Yes, I’m really that old...I can't believe it either. In the process, I’ve contacted former classmates and requested pictures and have spent this afternoon listening to the number one songs of the fifties and sixties.

I don’t often long for those days…the ones before air conditioning (at least at my house), color television, nearly free long distance, cable television, video recorders, and cell phones. The days before mortgages and 401 K’s occupied my mind. The days when taking a trip on a plane was a rare luxury, but one to look forward to, not an experience almost as invasive as the dreaded “complete physical” I had to have for college.

Today, for a little while, I longed to reclaim that simpler life where my visions of the years ahead were mostly rosier than those days actually turned out to be. But then I realized that some things I never would have imagined have also brought more joy into my life than my rosiest scenario concocted on a sweaty afternoon listening to my favorite 45s play an endless loop of love songs while hoping a breeze would flutter the organdy curtains in my bedroom .

Instead of lolling around my back yard pool, one of my lifelong desires, I enjoy watching little boys do cannonballs and crazy flips while shouting , “Watch this one, Grammy!” Instead of bouquets from a florist, I have cut flowers and fresh vegetables from my own back yard. Instead of elegant dining at fine restaurants, I actually enjoy back yard cookouts and homemade ice cream…and an occasional nice meal out too. I have all the books I can read and the love of two guys who basically treat me pretty darn well. I’m a lucky lady.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer School

After ending the “school year” of studying the Old Testament, I’m veering of in a new direction this summer. I’m taking an art class designed to teach me to “Draw on the Right Side of the Brain”. Sounded good to me. I love to paint, really dabble more than paint, but couldn’t get structure to my paintings without some ability to draw. Since I didn’t seem to be born with that ability, I decided to give a class a try.

The teacher says she can teach anyone to draw, but after my first class, I’ve got my doubts. The first assignment was to do some drawings without any instruction to see where we were skill-wise. Well, my self portrait looks like I have a beard…something I’m very careful to avoid. The sketch of a folding chair resembles anything you’d dare to sit on only vaguely. The sketch of my hand was a bit better, but my ring looks like it’s about a four karat not one. Then we got to drawing an outline picture of a face, then the reverse of it opposite. Well my brain just wouldn’t compute. After about forty tries at home, I can approximate it sometimes, but not consistently.

I’m not giving up yet. It was only the first class, but I’m prone to assess my abilities and move onto something else if one doesn’t work out. I’m afraid this may be one of those. We’ll see.

The last thing I tackled that was difficult was learning to play Mahjongg. I kind of got roped into learning when houseguests insisted, and was quickly hooked. I’m not all that great at that either, but the companionship of gathering weekly with friends for a bite of lunch and a long afternoon of a challenging game seems to be more productive than playing Video Solitaire, which I am pretty good at, during the same time period. Studies have shown that keeping your mind active with new and different activities seems to offer some protection against mental deterioration, and being with friends adds to your life expectancy. I want to keep my faculties if I’m going to be around a while.

During the years my life was so full of children and grandchildren, I never imagined the amount of leisure time I seem to have now. I’m so thankful I have the opportunity for piddling around with things that interest me. That alone should be reward enough for my leisure activities. I think it may just have to be, at least where the drawing is concerned.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Honoring Mama

Ahhh…Mother’s Day…that Hallmark Holiday that nudges us to do what we should do daily…appreciate our mothers. I truly wish I had done more appreciating and less chafing while my mama was still with me. I never really saw that her constant efforts to “improve” me were her way of showing love until she was gone. For most of my life I thought that there must be something terribly wrong with me if she had to fuss over me so.

Mama said just before she died that the happiest day of her life was the day I was born, and after thinking about it, I realized that it was simply because I made her a mother...the most important role in her life and mine.

 I heard a sermon at one of our baby’s baptisms that pointed out that the infants being brought to the font to be blessed and accepted as Christ’s own had done nothing at all to deserve being quite as beloved as they certainly were, each all dressed up in their baptismal finery and held in loving arms. They had simply been born. As I look at the picture attached, I can see that that belovedness was in my mother from the early hours of my birth. I didn’t earn it; I didn’t have to appreciate it; I didn’t even have to reciprocate it…but I did.

 I suppose the greatest honor my sister and I ever paid my mama was wanting to be just like her, only maybe a bit better. We learned the lessons she taught us well, and as I see our girls being an even better version of Mama than we were, I know that her lessons will live on.

I was so lucky to have Mama for as long as I did, and as a good friend told me I would, I still miss her everyday. But this Mother’s Day my children and grandchildren will come over for a swim and bring a meal, and my greatest delight will be in honoring my daughters as mothers.


Monday, May 2, 2011

New Age

I heard the news just before bedtime last night.  We had eradicated Osama Bin Laden.  This morning the details of a carefully planned and executed attack are still emerging.  The reaction in Washington and other major cities is one of jubilation.

It’s hard for me to celebrate the taking of anyone’s life, even someone so evil that most of us still have an indellible vision of the damage that resulted from Osama Bin Laden’s fanatical crusade to destroy our beloved country.

My husband, whose idea of law and order is similar to that of a posse in an old western film, and I, who cherish life even when it is twisted and distorted, will disagree on many things, but will agree that no tears will be shed for the monster who orchestrated the event that has given all Americans a different idea about how secure we might be. The very idea of convincing young men in the prime of their life that they would be rewarded with dates and virgins for performing such a vile act is beyond my comprehension.

Who knows what new despot will emerge from this mess, but I’m beginning to see a glimmer of hope for civilization, although the prospect for it still seems somewhat distant. That hope eventually may lie in the ability to communicate freely and peacefully.

Maybe this is the beginning of a new era, perhaps even the hoped for Messianic Age when we’ll all live in harmony. Maybe the voices of hope and love will become louder than the voice of revenge and evil. I don’t know that I actually believe in that possibility completely yet, but I can imagine it happening, and that’s a start.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Stormy Weather

This has been a rough year for storms in our area. It seems that every few days we’re blasted again by ever more powerful wind, lightning, and occasionally even hail. These are not the April Showers that merely promise May Flowers. These are damaging storms, and no one is more aware of it than son Walker. He watches the weather news like a hawk, partly so he’ll dress appropriately for work should there be a change in the weather, partly because he is afraid.

Walker remembers acutely every power outage we’ve suffered through. He even stood up to his boss about going out in thunderstorms with lightning to retrieve carts, something I had warned him about after the death of a schoolteacher running to her car across a parking lot. He always has a flashlight within reach of his bed, and if the lights go out, he’s the first one downstairs with a way to see to get candles lit.

I’m not crazy about storms either. The worst I can remember happened one weekend at our lake house. The cabin sits on pilings right out in the lake; only the front room is on solid ground. The lake can flow with a dangerous speed and the pilings creak and moan even on relatively calm days. The storm in question came up just at dusk, and by dark, which was early because of the dark clouds, we had lost power. The wind was ferocious, and I was jittery.

My fears were increased by the fact that we had no news communication with  the power out. No battery powered radio. Nothing. The only thing we could see was an ominous dark veil of rain coming across the lake when the lightning flashed bright enough. I studied those flashes looking for a funnel cloud for a while.

“Where’s the safe spot in this house,” I asked my husband, confident that he would make me feel safe.

“Well, there really isn’t one. If the house goes, I plan to hold on to the pilings,” he replied in his usual untroubled and at that moment annoyingly detached manner.

I took one look at the large pilings that come up through the floor in the den and support the second story of the house. They are bigger around than I am, and my arms probably wouldn’t even wrap securely around them. I knew that was not the solution for me. I simply wasn’t strong enough to hold on against the storm. It was too late to get in the car and leave. I was stuck there.

Somehow that knowledge calmed my fears rather than increasing them, so I sat down in the stairwell, my version of a safe place, and just waited. In an hour or so, it was all over, and we went to bed, and somehow my sleep was quiet and untroubled. The power came back in the wee hours of the morning which dawned bright and clear, and I drove down the road to survey the damage. About a quarter mile from our house, there was a large aluminum grain storage bin, tossed and crumpled like an aluminum can and thrown across the road. We didn’t miss getting hit by much, but we were safe.

Not all storms are weather related.  Sometimes all of us have a family or health or employment crisis, and sometimes there's nothing much we can do about it except ride it out.  It can be productive to just wait, but only after we've explored our options. Initially it's really annoying, but once we settle into it, there can be a kind of peace to the waiting too.  I hope I become better at it.


Monday, March 21, 2011


My grandson, John, almost eight, and his sister spent the night with us Saturday night. John is adept at conversation and commented to me that his mom has an app on her computer that “goes right to your blog! That blog sure has a lot of words on it, Grammy.”

I was pleased to know that my family checks out what I write occasionally and a bit ashamed at how long it’s been since I added any words to my friends out there in the blogosphere.

 There’s not a whole lot about knee surgery that’s clever or uplifting, and pain and the drugs that manage it have kind of numbed my desire to do much but play solitaire or watch the disaster reel on the news. But now it’s tomorrow, and I’m back.

The day I got home from the hospital some friends were visiting when Walker got home from work. I was enthroned on my usual chair, dressed in street clothes, and looked pretty normal. When Walker realized I was here, he rushed in, hugged me passionately and commented, “You’re home! My song must have worked.”

I immediately knew this was Walkerese for something tender, so I questioned him about which song he might be referring to. I actually thought he had followed a pattern of turning to “Amazing Grace” for comfort in a troubled time, but his repertoire has expanded.

“You know, the one from ‘Annie’…”

Ah…I did know.

“Tomorrow?” I queried.

“Yep, I sang it last night and now you’re home…”Tomorrow, Tomorrow…I love you Tomorrow…” Tears misted both his and my eyes and those of our friends.

I love you tomorrow too, buddy!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Last Words

Most people don’t really like to think about, much less talk about, the fact that the day is going to come when we all leave our earthly bodies.  When I worked at the church it became a joke among the staff that the most likely person to come to discuss prearrangements for funerals would be in his eighties and wanted to put something in writing "in case I die".

I’ve found, however, that for legal reasons one may not pretend that one will live forever in a medical setting. For even the most minor procedures you are required to sign off that you understand the most remote and dire consequences that could result… up to and including death. Most of us sign the papers, because we have no real choice if we want to receive medical care, but most of the time we don’t think too much about the possibility of that 5% of bad outcomes being ourselves.

A few years ago I had a benign, but fairly serious adrenal tumor. It was affecting my overall health, and it really needed to come out. My surgeon lacked basic common sense, and repeatedly badgered me...including as I was being wheeled into surgery...with whether I understood that the procedure could kill me. I did. He operated and I didn’t die.

That experience did lead me to think about any small legacy I’d like to leave. I got my funeral plans in order and filed them with the church. I got all the legal papers signed giving various people the right to decide when my life is over and what comfort care I preferred. It gave me something to do while I awaited the date with the doctor.

As I played with the idea of being remembered when I’m gone I also decided that I’d really like to change my relationships with people so that whenever that inevitable day might come the final words I exchanged with all those I love would be more loving.

It took a while to get the hang of it, but I do think my sharp tongue has softened a bit. I’m afraid I still occasionally snipe at my husband when he forgets something he’s been asked to do repeatedly, but I think the snipes are more gentle than before and often tempered with humor. He is thanked profusely for all the many kindnesses he does for me every day and in the process of voicing these thanks, I’ve found a new appreciation for the things he does do and do well.

I learned in some of my Social Work classes that one person’s small change can change a whole family group, so perhaps that’s what happened in our case. I didn’t tell my children or husband of my thoughts, and I’m not sure whether that decision changed our family dynamics or what, but it’s been a good long time since I made it, and the number of ugly squabbles in our family (and there have been some doozies!) have diminished to almost zero. Maybe we’ve all just grown older and wiser and more tolerant.

I hope that everyone I care about will remember their last encounter with me as being a positive one. It’s not even all that hard if I stay focused.

We’ll all gather for a family dinner Sunday evening, something that’s increasingly hard to schedule with so many kids schedules to consider. Here’s hoping that our damage free record stands after it’s the dishes are cleared away, and that any tears are the result of laughing too hard at my sons in law making fun of me.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Winter To-Do Thing

When I made the list published previously, I was just musing and trying to motivate myself to get moving. In a prime example of how things can change overnight in the course of events, I find myself with one big item on the list of what to do this winter…get my knee replaced. A false step on some stairs and an injury that just isn’t getting better took me to my favorite ortho.

Owen, who was a classmate of Molly’s and the best ortho in the world, in my humble opinion, told me almost eight years ago that both knees were awful and needed replacing, but I had things to do and babies were coming along, so I ignored him as long as possible. By the time I got my left knee done, I had wasted four or five years dragging the thing around and living on pain killers. ( Not hard core…mostly just NSAIDS, but I’ve discovered recently that they are not totally benign either.)

This time I am not as foolish. I’ll have a new knee before Valentine’s day, and if the process goes as well as the last, be walking the neighborhood by Spring Break.

One of my favorite things about recuperating from anything is how magnificent it is to watch God finish man’s work. After the surgeons send you home and the therapists give up on making you into an athlete, God finishes the healing. The only problem I’ve found with this is that it’s on His schedule, not necessarily mine. It does seem to happen, though, with astonishing predictability.

Healing doesn’t just apply to physical damage, either. Looking back over a lifetime of having my heart and ego wounded in various ways, I can truly recognize that God healed those wounds too. Sooner or later, something came along to distract me and lift my spirits and focus my attention away from the hurt while it healed. Oh, the scars are still there, and on a bad day I can identify every one of them, but scars don’t usually hurt…they just are.  Maybe some of you have noticed that too.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

None of Your Business???

In listening to the news accounts of the Tucson shooter, I am confounded by the very difficult position faced by those who were close enough to know something was just not right with this kid. As one who lives with a disabled adult, I face much more minor issues daily about what is my business and what is Walker’s business, and just what to do when I feel the need to intrude into his “space”.

I finally decided that Walker is indeed an adult, but since he lacks the ability to manage some parts of his life the way most adults do (manage his medical needs, pay bills, drive) he doesn’t exactly have full decision making power. I feel lucky that reasoning usually works with him, and when it doesn’t bribes or threats do. He is pretty much a model citizen at home because I made it clear to him during one unpleasant episode years ago that living with us is a privilege. I suppose the idea of getting kicked out was enough to assure compliance with a few household rules, because there has never been another really serious episode.

I realize, though, that mental illness is not as easy to predict as mental retardation, so we’re kind of comparing apples and oranges.

Schizophrenia is a particularly insidious disease because it usually doesn’t manifest clearly until late adolescence or early adulthood, although there may have been earlier behavioral indicators that were ignored or explained away. It must be terribly baffling to watch an adolescent veer off into insanity just at the time you expect him to be maturing and moving into independence.

 Walker’s friend Steffan is a living example to him of what happens when your offenses toward your family are serious enough to get you kicked out of the house…although the social workers involved would probably call Steffen’s alternative living arrangements a “plan of care to assure the well being of Steffan and his family”.

Steffan doesn’t appear to be a dangerous sort, most schizophrenics are not, but his mother stated that he was a threat to her safety when she had him arrested and committed into state custody. I welcome him into my home periodically because he seems to understand the importance of his meds and is conscientious about taking them and his behavior has always been exemplary.

But what if he weren’t? What if I noticed him deteriorating as I did several years ago when he let his hair grow matted and unwashed for months? Should I respect his right to have control of his appearance, assuming that he simply wants to fit in as he hangs around backstage at concerts, hoping to be given some access to rock stars? . What if his suspicious nature escalated into a manifestation of true paranoia? What if some of the stuff he accumulates indicated an unnatural interest in occult matters? What if he purchased a gun?

 You’d better believe I’d get involved. I’d contact someone in the tree of providers that provide his services and give them some evidence to support my hunch that something is amiss. I’m not sure anyone would listen as HIPPA laws might even prevent them from acknowledging that Steffan is a client, but I would know I’d done all I could.

 According to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, author of “The Insanity Offense” about 1 per cent of mentally ill individuals are violent and that half the rampage murders in the United States are commited by that population.

I hope that next shooter can be stopped by some friend or family member or acquaintance who isn’t too worried about whose business it is. Safety in public places is all our business.

 Perhaps a public awareness campaign of the early signs of mental illness accompanied by an action plan to give those around the subject some idea of what to do could make life happier and safer for all of us, including the mentally ill.

Until then, perhaps we’ll all be a little less polite about minding our own business and think carefully about whether odd behavior constitutes a warning sign.


Monday, January 10, 2011

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

Okay, so technically it’s not yet midwinter. According to my calculations that will be on or about January 25, but we had our first snow day of what will hopefully be a mercifully short winter today, and I decided to make a survival plan to get me through till Spring.

If you can think of something to add to what is obviously an incomplete list, please click comment at the bottom of the page, and I’ll update the list periodically.

Some things to do on a cold winter’s day:

1. Throw something away...anything...everything.

2. Mend something.

3. Iron something.

4. Make sure you’ve gotten the dregs of the Christmas stuff put away.

5. Write those thank you notes.

6. Call somebody you haven’t talked to in a long time.

7. Send a card just to say you care about someone.

8. Sit in the car with the bun warmers on and listen to your favorite music.  (Per my son in law, this could be suicidal if you run the heater...recommended only in ventilated garage for a short while.)

9. Build a fire and keep it going all day.

10. Enjoy some candles even if the lights don’t go out.

11. Cook something that takes all day and sop up the gravy with bread.

12. Have breakfast for dinner.

13. Make some cider with mulling spices and add something to give it a kick.

14. Take a long hot bath and climb up in your bed with the down comforter.

15. Let your dog or cat cuddle up with you….all night.

16. Order prints of last years pictures and put them in an album or a frame.

17. Hang up the clothes lying on the exercycle and get on it.

18. Copy some CDs on to your ipod.

19. Use some gift cards online.

20. Organize your receipts and be ready to do your taxes.

21. Look over last years checks and credit card bills to see where some of your money escaped.

22. Make a grocery list and download some coupons to use when you send your hubby to the store.

23. Make dinner from something in the freezer every night for a week.

24. Make a cake from scratch.

25. Wash the cushions on the bar stools.

26. Wash something that hasn’t been washed in a year.

27. Throw your bed pillows in the dryer with a fabric softener sheet to fluff.

28. Get rid of make up that’s past its prime. Ditto spices, although I keep mine for years sometimes.

29. Start a donation box and look for things to put in it.

30. Make a new folder on your desktop—real or virtual-- to save all pictures from 2011.

31. Walk from one end of the house to the other returning things to the rooms where they belong…repeat until all are at home.

32. Check out the sunset.

33. Make snow ice cream with the not-yellow snow.

34. Make an igloo out of snow blocks.

35. Slide down a hill on something slick…not your bottom.

36. Don’t crash into anything in your car.

37.  Make a tropical drink with umbrella and watch "South Pacific".

38.  Take the Christmas CDs out of your car till next year.

39.  Make a snow angel!

Note after talking to son in law, John:  This list is random in nature.  Purely stream of consciousness.  It will be added to at the whim of the writer and/or others.

40.  Fill bird feeders and check on that pretty bird you can't identify. (slate junko)

41. Stay up late watching your alma mater WIN the National Championship while curled up on the sofa in front of that fire.  War Eagle!

42. Bundle up and go somewhere...anywhere.

43.  Check periodically for first signs of spring bulbs sprouting.

44. Call some friends and play a game of Mahjongg or Bridge or Poker...or whatever.