Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Of all the things I miss about the time in which I grew up, I miss the packaging most. Yes, the packaging. In simpler times, we didn't wrestle with childproof caps, tamper proof shrink wrap, vegetables and foods sealed into bags that would withstand rocket re-entry from a moon voyage. No! Caps twisted, popped and bags zipped open with ease....sigh.
This all came to a head this morning as I struggled to open a bottle of rice vinegar. The screw off cap seemed to be quite enough protection to me. (After all, the terrorist warning codes for vinegar haven't been elevated in months.) The inner plastic block with a round rubber pull-ring seemed over the top. It is, after all, vinegar. Of course, the pull ring broke, leaving me with two options. One: find a very sharp, thin bladed knife and dig the whole thing out or, two: get dressed, get into the car and drive to one of our local football-field sized grocery stores to look for more. I opted for the first, all the while cursing the people who work overtime to come up with the impenetrable packaging that protects us all from those who would foul our vinegars.
These small aggravations always make me think how unnecessary this stuff was in my youth. I guess one might glean from todays security measures that people are more inclined to tamper with food or steal things nowadays. I've read a few stories about tampering with food and OTC drugs, and I understand the bulky, uncooperative packaging of so many items is to make theft more difficult. This wasn't something necessary to keep me on the straight and narrow when I was a kid, because I had the greatest deterrent to theft ever known to the world....a fully engaged mom.
I am not looking back at my childhood with rose colored glasses, lots of kids has "sticky fingers" back then, too. I remember some girls bragging about shop lifting; they considered it a sport. I asked one girl, sporting a freshly acquired cashmere sweater, how she accounted for a stack of things that didn't belong to her. Her response was her mom didn't pay any attention, and if she did notice the girl just said she had borrowed it from a friend. No problem.
Here is just one of the ways my life was different from those gals: boy did my mom did pay attention! If, on some sunny Monday afternoon, my mom had been filling my dresser drawer with freshly washed, Montgomery Ward cotton underwear and her fingers had struck a vein of cashmere she would have investigated immediately. Her mom-radar would have locked onto anything that had not come through our front door under her watchful eye. She knew what I owned, how much it cost, and what my babysitting money had been used for. In true Mom fashion, could also detect a lie before it crossed my stuttering lips; if she had identified a stolen item I guarantee the woman would have marched my shameful butt right back to the store to return it. It never would have crossed her mind that I might have been embarrassed and scarred for life; no excuse would have changed my fate. In addition, I'd have been grounded so long she might have missed out on grandchildren altogether!
We certainly weren't rich, but I had the luxury of a stay-at-home, dinner-on-the-table, full-time parent. She wasn't Donna Reed or Harriet Nelson....but she did her job so well I was shocked to discover how tough her career choice had been when my own kids came along. We need more fully engaged moms and dads today, an army of parents armed with love and expectations!
Next time you're struggling to open a vinegar bottle, or free a cd case from its three-foot square, shrink-wrapped block of plastic, or locate someone in the store who can open a locked case so you can buy a phone cord, remember this: When we don't have the security of enough fully engaged moms and dads, we must make up for it in other ways.
It's a different time and a different world, but the need for parents who pay attention has never been greater. Hold your kids accountable...and hold them close to your heart. Let them know you’re on the job, because it's the only way to teach your kids the things that stay with them for a lifetime.
Life is Good
Monday, July 24, 2017
This morning, like most Monday mornings, my husband and I met a group of neighbors for breakfast. Although we’ve moved from our old neighborhood, these are people with whom we keep in touch because we like them.
Like most weeks the discussion eventually wound up on politics. Understand, this is a diverse group. We have feminists, democrats, republicans, concealed carry advocates, vegetarians, and one person who is politically confused…that would be me.
Sometimes the discussion gets lively. Other times, like today, the conversation might be full of dismay. It’s never dull, it’s hardly ever shrill, and it sometimes changes the way I look at things because I come away with someone else’s viewpoint to measure against my own. In short…it’s healthy.
As the coffee pot made the rounds we talked about how politics had become so volatile, severing friendships and dividing families. For me, I can honestly say many of my long-term friends have been in my life without my ever knowing (or caring) what their politics are. Every now and then a badge or bumper sticker might show up, there might be some ribbing associated with it, and then the subject was dropped to discuss more important things like kids, house repair and vacations. I don’t attribute this to the fact that I only associate with politically and intellectually lazy people, I know it to be quite the opposite.
Today it is so easy to be angry; each television channel and radio broadcast is filled with political rants and venomous attacks on every political figure and everyone with whom they’ve ever had a conversation. The internet is filled with misinformation, ugliness and hatred. People aren’t just convinced they’re right, they are foaming at the mouth right! Do unto others has been amended to ‘do it to them first’. As we left the restaurant I had to pause and wonder how such a group as ours could meet each week and not end up in a food fight.
Somehow our little group does okay, and I think I have it figured out. I like these people, and I know them. Despite any political differences we have I believe I could ask for help from any one of them and they would reach out a hand just as I would for them. I believe when they make a decision it is based upon a good moral character and a kind heart. We have a great deal in common; love of family, home and community. The fact that we may differ politically does nothing to convince me that these are anything but good people. I respect their right to disagree with me, and their opinions more than anything I see on Face Book, in a right/left wing newscast, and more than any political ad. For the most part we listen to one another, and while we haven’t had an “conversions” we sometimes leave the table with more than we had.
Unfortunately, our breakfasts won’t cure the problems of this shaking, quaking country or calm the nerves of its citizens. But, for half a dozen people enjoying breakfast and conversation, it gives us a look into the thoughts and lives of neighbors with whom we may not always agree, but always welcome with care and respect. It’s a start.
Life is Good
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Having a good Mother is a wonderful thing...being a good mother is quite another. My children are grown and I am watching them raise families of their own now. Each of the three is half of a team of very good parents...two of the three are mom's. This particular blog posting is to remind them what good mothers they are in spite of the very "I'm only human" woman who raised them.
I married quite young; it seems to me I went from cuddling a Betsy Wetsy doll to the real thing over night. We had three babies in three years, and overwhelmed became my middle name.
Our son was born April 24th of our second year of marriage. The middle daughter was born August 27th of the following year, and a second baby girl arrived November 26th the year after that. At least I think so.
While everyone was tiny I managed with a production line approach to most things. Like three little ducklings they followed me from room to room, and when they didn't I knew they were conspiring against me and destroying property. Feeding, bathing and dressing were all done together...keep the line moving, was my motto.
The real tricky thing became finding time for each child, just 'me and thee' time to do some important parental bonding. And of course, we always made each one feel special on his or her birthday.
The birthday boy or girl got to choose their favorite meal for dinner, and there was always a special birthday cake, and ice cream, and gifts, and doting grandparents. Birthdays were a very special day, indeed.
Eventually everyone was in school and life with little ones slowed a bit, but now a full time job in addition to family life kept the pace healthy. At some point our middle daughter needed her birth certificate for a long forgotten reason, so I went to the family album to fish it out. To her horror (and my embarrassment) we had been celebrating her birthday on the wrong date for years. The August 27th And November 28th..or was it November 27th and August 28th? Whatever...I had been doing it wrong. That means the piñata had been hung on the wrong date, the Barbie doll cake devoured at the wrong time. Even the cupcakes had gone to school for the class treat on, you guessed it, the wrong day.
In my defense, I'm not a total wash out....I get their ages right and the month is solid. It's just that stinking 26-27 or 28 that gets me every doggoned time.
The years have passed and I'm happy to say my daughter has forgiven me. The whole family was together to celebrate her brother's birthday last month, and she made it a point to tell me I should just forgive myself for my birthday date faux pas. "After all, mom...it was only the first eight or ten developmental years of my life," she reminded me. Such a sweet girl! I'll have to come up with something really special for her birthday this year...on a date in August that will be announced later.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Just this past weekend I had the honor of doing an interview with a vibrant, interesting woman who hiked the Appalachian Trail. (The article will appear in the July/August edition of Heart of Ohio Magazine.) She completed the over 2,000 mile hike and has been sharing her story with groups and in articles written by wimpy people like me who enjoy spending a couple of hours living vicariously through her experiences. Talking with her about her four and a half month meander through the wilderness made me think seriously about what it would take to do something like that.
In truth I think I'm roughing it if I find I've arrived at the grocery store without my cell phone. The thought of hiking over rocks, up mountains and down into ravines...of traversing narrow trails and watching for bears without a weapon (or an armed guard) is more than a little unnerving. As the story of this woman's adventure unfolded I realized I will am much better off staying in my comfortable seat and be part of the admiring audience. I'm just a city girl.
Think for just a moment of four and a half months without a chair to sit in, a bed to sleep in or a refrigerator to rummage through. Ten days between showers, wearing the same clothes for days on end and knowing everything you have with you fits into your back pack requires a self confidence I can't seem to muster. I carry more stuff in my handbag when I go to the movies than this woman carried into the wilderness; the more she talked the more I felt like Private Benjamin. (Goldie Hawn: “I wanted to join the other army, the one with the condos”)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not helpless. I can fix a kitchen sink with a nail file...but if I break a nail in the process I'm down for the count. Four and a half months without a hairdresser is cruel and inhuman punishment and, while I don't consider myself to be high maintenance, I think all that time without a facial would be pretty rough. After a day of walking twenty miles through the hill country, munching on beef jerky and trying to avoid being downwind of your companions, I would need more than a sleeping bag in a three sided shelter or a pup tent to prepare me for the next day.
I really was mesmerized by her story, and I listened intently as she spoke about the beauty of the countryside, the joy of discovering the great outdoors and the feeling of self sufficiency that was so satisfying. I am totally in awe of her tenacity and fortitude and, for just a little while, I felt inadequate when I measured myself against the yardstick of her courage and strength. Fortunately, that didn't last long.....
There is a place in this world for each of us. Her place is the brave female explorer who seeks to understand what she is made of. Mine is the bespectacled writer who takes her story to people who will also enjoy hearing about her adventure. I admit it, I'm a woosie whose biggest energy expenditure occurs on the stationary bike at the gym while listening to an audio book. At the end of the day I look forward to a glass of wine and a memory foam mattress...snap on the ceiling fan and life gets even better. Most of my enjoyment of the great outdoors comes from watching the Smithsonian Channel; it's likely to be the closest I'll ever get to a mountain trail or an ancient ruin. So be it.
Thank you Patty Stechschulte for sharing your story with me and allowing me to put it on paper to share with our readers. You keep exploring and I'll keep writing...your personal rewards will be great, but I get to wear prettier shoes.
Life is Good
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
It was late and I was locking up, getting ready to head off to bed. As I snapped the lock on the basement door I heard a kitten crying. I opened the door, snapped on the basement light; hearing nothing I decided it must have been outdoors.
My regular morning rush consists of packing my lunch, raking a comb through my hair and getting my third cup of coffee into a travel mug. I stood by the basement door, ready to launch, when I heard it again. A kitten mewing…but this time I knew it was in the basement.
This is the point in my story that I have to confess to being a dog person. There are cat people, dog people, and a variety of other types; I am a dog person. The only Cats I've ever enjoyed I saw on Broadway.
I put down my lunch bag, my travel mug, my huge purse and a slice of toast. Tiptoeing to the basement door I eased it open; the stairwell acted as the sound conductor for a series of tiny mews. There was a cat in the basement…there should not be a cat in the basement of a dog person.
I called to my husband aand proceeded to head downstairs to look for the source of the sound. Quickly I discovered the cat was litter trained. A box of white sand I brought back from Florida to put around some houseplants had served the purpose. Drats!
Searching for the cat, Larry went one way and I the other. Finally I saw something move, then jump to the window sill.
A kitten, probably two or three months old, was pressed against the glass trying to escape. It was black as coal, its eyes were matted closed and it definitely had not had an easy life so far. This was the offspring of one of the literally more than a dozen feral cats that roam the area. Our neighbor thinks she is being kind, feeding the legion of strays that people drop off in our country setting. The numbers have continued to grow to an overwhelming wave of stray cats.
Now I stood trying to decide what to do about this one. It was small, very likely sick, and wild. I went for my trusty broom, a plan to sweep it out the door forming slowly in my head.
Larry chased the terrified cat behind a stack of picture frames, “Can you grab it from there,?” he said.
“Uh….noooooooo,” I replied. I mean really…who grabs a stray cat?
The cat darted under the basement stairs and I swished at it with the broom. From the laundry room I heard, “Get this off me!” Larry emerged from a corner with the cat hanging from his right hand!
I grabbed the cats back legs as they flailed around, trying to connect with his arm.
“Let’s work toward the door, when I get it loose toss it out the door,” I said.
In an “I Love Lucy” shuffle side-step movement we inched our way to the outside door. I let go of the cat’s legs and pried open his jaws, Larry flung it out the door! Blood dripped from his hands and seeped from scratches and bites on my own.
Without even seeming to touch the ground the cat shot off into the back yard and never looked back. Two other large cats stood watching us curiously, then turned their backs and sauntered off into the woods.
As soon as the cat hit the ground I realized we hadn’t thought this through very well. The cat could have been rabid; at the very least it looked sickly. Uh-oh.
We trooped upstairs to scrub with antibacterial soap and pour alcohol into the teeth marks and scratches. I called our family doctor for advice; the nurse agreed that someone should check us out, so we headed to the emergency room.
I felt pretty silly walking into the hospital emergency room to explain we had been attacked by a kitten. It crossed my mind to embellish my description of the animal, but I thought better of it.
The PA who tended to us explained that a cat bite/scratch is much more serious than a dog bite. In addition to the worry of rabies, there is catch scratch fever and some unpleasant infections that can follow an episode like this. More people are hospitalized from infections from cat bites/scratches than from dog bites/scratches. Who knew?
Two hours later, antibiotic prescriptions in hand and our freshly administered tetanus shot sites band-aided, we left in search of lunch.
A week later we’ve talked to the health department, they wanted to put an APB out on the black cat……good luck with that. They also say we might want to consider taking a series of rabies shots; we’re still kicking that around.
Like all experiences we have learned something from this….or at least I have.
1. Never grab a cat. Never. Ever.
2. Nothing in this experience changes the fact that I am a dog person.
3. If you’re in a tough situation with someone, get your plan straight.
4. Never use your hands for something you can do with a broom.
Life is Good
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
At no time in our history has communication been easier. Cell phones, texting, email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype.....and on and on. It seems to me that my purse is always ringing, and at home I may have two phones demanding my attention at the same time. Communication...non stop communication.
While most of us generally appreciate the contact with family, friends and acquaintances there is another communication that has taken an ugly turn, and that is with your health professionals. Oh how I miss the days when I made an appointment and never heard another word till I walked through the door of the office.
Today in the world of medical and dental care time is king. It seems we are allotted less and less time with our professionals, more and more time with surrogates. Nurse practitioners, dental hygienists and medical assistants fill the void that now exists as the doctor or dentist moves through his day of fifteen minute appointments at the pace of someone walking a five K with a storm blowing in. Because of this time compressed workday everyone associated with the practice shudders to think you might forget your appointment. This is where the desire for a non-stop system of “communication” comes from.
Last month I had an appointment with my nameless professional, a standing six month check up that has become routine...at least for me. I've grown accustomed to the day before reminder; I've always appreciated that. Unfortunately my health care provider seems to have been introduced to some cutting edge technology, and the whole thing has changed.
Two weeks before my scheduled appointment I received a “robo-call” instructing me to push 2 if I planned to keep my upcoming appointment. I pushed “2”, and went on with my life.
The next day I received an email telling me to respond if I planned to keep my scheduled appointment. I ignored this because I had just informed the nice robotic voice yesterday of my commitment by pressing 2.
Three days later I received the same email. I responded “yes” this time since ignoring the last one only got me more email.
Now we are in the week of my scheduled appointment and the whole system steps it up a notch. I received yet another canned phone call telling me if I needed to reschedule my appointment to please do it now. The auto caller went on to explain the financial penalties for missing an appointment without 24 hours notice. Feeling as if I had just been subjected to the Vulcan mind meld, I decided 24 hours notice was probably unnecessary. This system seemed to be tracking their patients with everything except ankle bracelet monitors, so I'm pretty sure they could fill my empty fifteen minutes in record time. Anyway, since I had already tried to reassure everyone by phone (please press 2) and by email (please respond in the positive) that I DO plan to make the appointment and did NOT need to reschedule, I reluctantly hung up on the robot.
Next day I get another email....which I also ignored.
Not to be outdone, the day before my actual appointment I get a reminder call from a real person. I assured the nice young lady that I really, really planned to be at my appointment the next day. I also told her that they could call off the robots, shut down the email blasts, and call back any drones they may have sent out searching for me. I would be there. I hung up convinced there are people being stalked who hear from their tormentors less frequently than some poor schmuck with a medical appointment.
I guess technology has taken over every corner of our society, however I personally I think this intensive system of “reminding” needs to be reserved for husbands who forget anniversaries and deadbeats who owe you money.
Press 2 if you agree with me......
Life is Good
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Here we are, starting another brand new year. Some of us look ahead with dread, after all it's been a tumultuous year politically and every other way. Still, some look ahead to what they believe will be better times. Either way many of us march into the New Year with a list of personal changes tucked firmly under an arm. Ladies and Gentlemen….I give you the dreaded New Year’s resolution.
Like every adult in the U.S.A. I’ve made more than my share of them, and my New Year’s resolutions have included but are not limited to:
I will lose ten pounds (or twenty or fifty)
I will stop smoking (which I did many years ago without the help of a New Year’s resolution)
I will be more patient (generous, tolerant, attentive, etc)
I will work harder (or not as hard)
I will learn to ski (or roller skate, or sing, or play the harmonica or something)
I will stop swearing (cough)
I will spend more time with (put the name here of someone who drives me nuts and I consciously avoid a minimum of 364 days each year) and I will be kind.
That's certainly not a complete list, but you get the picture because like every single adult in America you’ve made them too.
Having shared that list with you I have an important announcement to make:
I NO LONGER MAKE New Year’s resolutions. Not one….nada….zip….zilch.
I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you it’s because I believe I’ve reached perfection. I only know that for years now I have gone into the New Year with one thought…..I am enough. Perhaps this epiphany has come to me in the form of wisdom at this later stage of life, or perhaps it’s just fatigue, but it’s what I know.
New Year’s resolutions are a search for perfection after we have compared ourselves to others and have been found wanting. Over the years I’ve gotten past that and I’ve given myself permission to be who I am...a woman aware of her shortcomings and quite comfortable with them, thank you very much. After wishing to be taller, smarter, more attractive or to find some previously undiscovered talent, I have finally come to this understanding: I can wear high heels to feel taller, I can read more to learn more, I can comb my hair more often, and I can admire other people’s talents….but I am who and what I am.
Over the years I’ve come to the gradual realization that I am “hard wired” in some areas of my personality, and my belief system has evolved through my life experiences. I think I have always tried to be the best “me” possible, but trying to be someone I am not is a waste of my gradually diminishing energy.
Who wants to be perfect anyway? The Kardashians are perfectly famous. Caitlyn Jenner is perfectly beautiful. Donald Trump is perfectly ready to be president. I wouldn’t want to trade places with any of them….would you?
I know I’m flying in the face of tradition here, but I think you should consider joining me in my “no change…no way” mind set. Check your emotional “basement” to make sure the foundation is secure, and then forget about the rest of it. Maybe we’re not perfect, but then who is?
Be who you are….because you are enough.
Happy New Year... Life is good
Sunday, December 18, 2016
One thing is for sure in this great country of ours....if you live a long time you accumulate a lot of stuff. Hence the explosion of places where you can rent a space, store your junk, then lock it up and forget about it. Then, after paying some ridiculous monthly fee for a couple of years you can revisit your junk...now mildewed, melted and unrecognizable...and arrange for the dumpster you should have ordered two years ago. It's the American way.
When we moved last year I was forced to take a look at my own accumulation of stuff. It also gave my husband a chance to view my previously hidden stash of scented candles, paper napkins and other things I had squirreled away. It was not quite ready for an episode of Hoarders, but moving in that direction. Being the good Mother that I am I filled the cars of my children, giving them the chance to stash more stuff in their own bulging storage rooms. It's Moms way.....
It was during this soul-searching purge that I discovered two items that needed to be "re-gifted" to people who didn't know the items existed. Neither was worth much in the way of money, but both had sentimental value that I wanted to share.
The first item is a small table that belonged to my Mother. Her brother, my uncle, made the table in a shop class at school before I was born. It was one of only a few things mom held onto her whole life. When she died two years ago it was one of only a few things that survived when her house burned after her death.
My uncle preceded Mom in death by a year or so; eventually his oldest daughter purchased and settled his house. I thought about her often as her financially and emotionally draining work on the house progressed. By that time I was going thru my own painful process with mom's belongings, and the little table stared at me from the corner of the basement.
My cousin seemed pleased when I told her about the table; it seemed things had come full circle to have it find a place in my uncle's former home. It took a while to get it to her because we live in different states, but I happily delivered it to her last fall. I know she will enjoy having it for years to come...the little table is really home now and my mom would be happy about that.
My second re-gifting was just this week. As a little girl I was always bugging mom's girlfriends for their "old jewelry". Broken earrings, beads and anything that sparkled filled a little jewelry box I carried around constantly. It's likely because I badgered her relentlessly, but one of mom's friends, Dorothy, gave me a bangle bracelet with her "D" initial engraved on it. It fired a love of monogrammed things I've carried all my life! I must have been about seven when the stainless steel bracelet joined the treasures in my little jewelry box.
Mom and Dorothy remained friends for the remainder of their lives. When both could no longer drive they talked on the phone, finally their failing hearing made that impossible, too. I took Mom to her friends 90th birthday party...Mom being the younger gal by a couple of years.
Suddenly both of these good women are gone, with the two remaining daughters becoming friends on Face Book. Now, looking through things I rediscovered the bracelet Dorothy had given me over sixty years ago, and I knew it also needed to go home. This week we got together and I passed the monogrammed bracelet on to Dorothy's daughter, Denise.
To my way of thinking this is the best kind of re-gifting. These items have gone thru many hands, but they are tied right back to the original gift giver by a ribbon of love. They will rest happily in their new homes, the memories they have accumulated passed on to their new owners.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays....Life is Good
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Today I attended the celebration of life service for a long time friend and mentor...the city of Mansfield said goodbye to Virginia Imhoff, who had just turned 90 in January.
When I was a teenager Mrs. Imhoff was my guidance counselor. To my teenage eyes she was elegant, educated and intimidating. So intimidating, in fact, that when I told her I wanted to drop out of school she verbally wrestled me to the ground and scared that thought right out of my head. It's something I've never forgotten and for which I've always been grateful.
Working in radio over the years I wrote commercials and did voice work for some of Ginny's campaigns as she moved through the chairs at city council, eventually becoming president. She was involved in so many things, always working tirelessly in the community.
This summer it was not unusual to drive along Marion Avenue and see Ginny walking her dog...always a boxer. From time to time I'd stop in and visit, only being allowed to enter the house after a good snuffle inspection from the dog. There were hundreds of former students that she referred to as “my kids”....I was lucky enough to be one of them.
Just a few months earlier our community lost yet another role model when Marilou Schwan died. She was 99, and until Swan Cleaners closed the year before her death she was behind the counter every day with her hair done, her heels on and dressed to kill. It was a pleasure to drop off dry cleaning just to get to talk to her.
Our community lost two amazing women when these two passed away. In a world where role models are in such short supply Ginny Imhoff and Marilou Schwan were examples of lives well lived.
A few years back Ginny was walking her dog along Marion Avenue when a mugger grabbed her. When she realized she couldn't out-muscle the guy, Ginny faked a heart attack and dropped to the sidewalk like a cement block. When the guy let go of her and took off Ginny ran into the street and flagged down a car for help. She simply out foxed the guy; I'm sure he never knew what happened. In any event he sure didn't have any bragging rights after that episode.
Years ago, on a work day just like any other day, a guy came into Swan Cleaners with a gun and took everyone hostage. Marilou, at the counter as usual, was forced to round up all of the employees and bring them to the front counter. Without any thought to herself she talked the guy into releasing the whole staff while she stayed as his hostage. After several hours she talked him into surrendering to police. No one was hurt because she took control...but if a fight had broken out my money would have been on her.
Working in what was really a man's world back in the day didn't cost these women their femininity. Both gals were always perfectly coiffed and stylishly dressed as they spent day after day in the work force. Their humor and intellect was always evident, and they were both admired by so many of us. I feel lucky to have known them, and in their passing they've left some really big high heels to fill.
Today's memorial service has made me think about the quality of the memories I want to leave behind; there's no doubt these two long time friends are a tough act to follow. How fortunate we are to be left with the memory of two strong and capable women who were always young at heart, always ahead of their time....and gone too soon.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
One year after moving in we are finally making some headway in our new home. It is, for the most part, just about the way we want it. The only remaining work to be done is in the basement, and that's all on me.
Everything we moved that didn't fit upstairs is now lurking in the corners of our huge basement. Finally I'm at the point where I need an organized space to work in. I need a place to write, a place to work on crafts and a spot to sort, scan and maybe scrapbook some of the thousands of pictures I've saved over the years. It's a tall order for one space but I've made some progress.
If there is one thing I've come to understand about myself it is that I have an abstract mind. Give me a concrete function and I'm bored in an hour...which also describes my reaction to getting organized. I'm a creative person who resents wasting time putting things on shelves, in drawers and wrestling stuff to the dumpster, but that is the task at hand.
Today, working toward some of that much-needed organization, I popped the tape on a big box that lurked under a table and, when opened, was found to be chocked full of things I've kept over the years. I dug through pictures and napkins and matchbooks and news paper clippings. A thick stack of greeting cards was held together by a rubber band that broke as I clumsily worked it over the edge of the big bundle. I discovered dozens of cards from my (first) retirement, their handwritten notes made me smile and remember how much I enjoyed working with this terrific staff of broadcasters. Out tumbled Valentines Day cards from my husband, anniversary cards, thank you notes, Mothers Day cards from the children and hand made cards from our grand kids. Goodness! I realized I must never have thrown anything away in my whole life!
Digging deeper into the box I found a large manila envelope that I really didn't remember, but then I hardly remembered keeping any of this stuff. I dumped the envelope into my lap and out tumbled a bunch of birthday cards from my mother. Each envelope, some to me and some to my husband, was addressed in my mother's elegant handwriting. Inside each card was a personal note; I read each and every one, hearing them in my mother's voice. I remembered chiding mom for being so particular about the cards she chose. No “grab any card under $3.00 and run” for my mother. Oh no...she would spend hours, sometimes in several stores, until she found just the right verse. Mom didn't keep a diary, but each carefully chosen card spoke for her just as plainly. I sat really reading the cards, likely for the first time, and I knew she had carefully chosen this just for me or for her much loved son in law. After penning her own message to the inside of the card she would always tuck a crisp dollar bill, fresh from a special trip to the bank, inside. When our children were little mom always gave them a gift, but she also tucked a dollar into their birthday cards. My husband jokingly said he wanted his dollar, too! It became our joke and forever after every one of us got a dollar in our birthday cards.
Mom never handed us our birthday cards; she always mailed them as if handing one over diminished it's worth. She took such pains with cards, and I now realized these really were my mom's expression of how much she loved us. After reading each one I carefully put them back into their envelopes, the dollar bills still tucked inside each card, and tied them with a red ribbon before I slipped them back into the larger manila envelope.
Greeting cards have always seemed to me to be a product trumped up by the card companies. I've always sent cards out of obligation, almost never because I truly wanted to. Now it occurred to me in the hurry of my younger day to day life I had missed the beautiful verses, had not thought about my mom making a trip to the bank for a crisp new dollar, and over looked the carefully addressed envelope when it arrived in the mail. Of course I was busy with work, with children, with a house and the myriad of other things that kept me occupied. And there was always next year, the next birthday, the next card....wasn't there?
In spite of the fact that it is completely against my nature I will continue to try to organize my house, my space, my life. I learned something today that might make it a bit more palatable: I learned that we do not know how many tomorrows we have, but if we do the little things today with great love they can speak for us long after we are gone.
Thank you mom...it was great being with you today.
Life is Good
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Life is full of anniversaries, the yard sticks against which we measure the advancement of the years. This week is a special anniversary for me, the one year mark for my hip replacement.
It seems just yesterday I was sitting in the office of a very nice young doctor who makes his more-than-adequate living from replacing the worn out hips and knees of people in my age group. Since most professionals now look like “kids” to me, I found it reassuring that this young man wore a suit and put forth some effort to look like a grown up. I'm pretty sure I have handbags older than he is...so I really appreciated the effort.
After a perfectly dreadful summer I got my nifty new hip on July 27, 2015. I came home determined to be back on my feet in record time, only to discover that you can't “out stubborn” a joint replacement. Subscribing to the “I'll bring this body to its knees if I have to” school of thought I pushed my exercises to the limit as I forced myself to do more, more, more. Five weeks into my recovery my new hip came out of its shiny new socket, necessitating an unbelievably painful return trip to the hospital to have it put back where it belonged. My well dressed surgeon then sent me to have a brace fitted. This uncomfortable monkey suit was to be worn 24/7 for a couple of months. I hobbled around in my white plastic shell looking for all the world like an injured Star Wars Storm Trooper. I found it to be a great conversation starter...
While my original plan was to be a shining example of joint replacement success, I turned out to be a cautionary tale. My healing process was slow and tedious, but with the exception of the joint displacement there was surprisingly little pain. Cussed impatience was my worst enemy, but as is always the case time marches on. I marked the three month, the six month and now the twelve month anniversary with something akin to happiness. It took nine months to be able to walk any distance comfortably; now at the one year mark I sometimes forget, if only for a moment, that I've had anything done. There is no feeling of having a foreign object in my body, and my movement isn't restricted by anything; I hope to be back in yoga class this fall and I've already returned to kayaking.
When I visited my surgeon for my final visit this week I was walking without a cane or a limp; on my first visit I arrived as a sullen mess in a wheel chair. The doctor originally told me I'd be feeling pretty well in six weeks, but that it would take a year to a year and a half to be fully healed. Although I was in a cast by the six week mark, he was right about the year to a year and a half healing period. He thought therapy was a good idea, but I stubbornly put it off because I thought I could do this on my own. When I finally realized I was wrong the therapy helped enormously.
My husband and I celebrated my “anniversary” by going to the Y for our regular work outs, a routine that helps both of us keep moving. I am so thankful to live in a day when joint replacement is so routine as to be boring. Like replacing the tires on a car, I feel as if I'm good for a lot more miles now.
Since my surgery I've talked to so many people who have had or are facing joint replacement and I always give them the same advice:
Be patient...it's going to take a year of your life to feel better so get on with it.
Be careful...don't push your body beyond its limits; you'll pay for it if you do.
And finally, listen to your doctor. Chances are he's actually been to school for this and knows what he is talking about. You may think he looks like a sixteen years old who just passed his driver's test, but my bet is the hours he just recently spent playing video games is now paying off in terrific eye/hand coordination that serves him well in the surgical suite.
My nattily dressed young doctor and I now have an anniversary that won't make either of us misty-eyed with remembrance, but it's likely one I will never forget.
Life is Good
Thursday, July 7, 2016
We stood on the tarmac, probably two to three hundred people watching the sky as the rain and two C-130s advanced on the airfield. Finally an airplane broke through the cloud cover; a cheer went up as it flew over our heads. As the happy crowd watched the impossibly big plane dipped it's wing in a salute to its own homecoming. The last of the deployed 179th was home after four long months in the war torn middle east.
Looking around the crowd I watched wives and children and parents and friends of all ages waving signs and cheering as the planes taxied to their final positions. Flags flapped, children danced with impatience and relatives carried home made “welcome home” signs. I looked around me and thought about the sacrifices some these families had made over these long months; the babies that had been born and the problems that had been solved while these young men and women were in a foreign country doing jobs I don't understand, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. I imagined I could hear a collective sigh of relief as the plane's precious cargo came down the steps and finally into the arms of their loved ones.
My son in law was one of those returning young men who was met by a thankful family. The look of relief and love on the faces of our family and the faces of so many others was beautiful to see. The young people strode across the tarmac to calls of “daddy....daddy!!”....and “over here!” My eyes welled with tears and feelings of patriotism and pride filled me to the brim while words like honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery, and devotion ran through my head. I was unashamedly proud of these young people and America.
Later that evening I turned on the evening news and was assaulted by the now constant stream of murder, mayhem and ugliness. The never ending political coverage, the shooting and killing and threat of terrorism poured out of the flat black screen until I switched it off. I returned to thoughts of the plane breaking out of the clouds and the happy faces and cheers that had surrounded me. We can argue later about whether we are the greatest nation or just a war machine, about gun control and politics and the psychology of killing that seems to grip these times in which we live. For this one day I chose to be a proud American and celebrate the return of the fine young men and women who give so much to this country.
Looking back on that amazing afternoon I have a suggestion for the next president of the United States. I only ask that you stand on the tarmac on any military base in the country and watch our young people return from their assignments. Look around you, Mr. or Mrs. President, and hold on to those words that will undoubtedly run through your head as you watch the planes land and the flags wave. Honor, duty, sacrifice, bravery...the words that describe what our country should always be about. Look at the faces of the waiting loved ones, they don't care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, but not one of them wants to hear what pours out of our televisions any longer! We are the people you are elected to serve, and we expect you to do your job with the same dedication our military shows as they serve this country. That is your mission. It's been a long time...and we all want to come home again.
Life is Good