Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Old Courtyard

This is another writing exercise for Days of Grey.

This image is courtesy of bcnbits on Flickr, share through a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license. If you reshare/repost this image, please keep the attribution info with it.

She walked through the courtyard towards the stairwell with a song on her lips.  She was going home--back to her roots.  It had been a long time since she'd last been home.  An exciting job in America had enticed her, and she had left this place long ago. She had always meant to come back for a visit, but pressing matters had kept her away far too long.  Now she was coming home for good.

The loss of her job in America had been devastating for a time. She tried to recoup her life, but to no avail.  Then she had the dream--the one that would send her packing.  She dreamed that her grandmother was lonely and calling her home.  When she awoke, she knew in an instant what she was meant to do.  She needed to go home.  As soon as she made the decision, her heart was happy.  She longed for the musty smell of that ancient courtyard, the weathered old planters, and the damaged cement from World War II.  Her grandmother was a child then, living in this same old place.

As she walked toward the stairs, she marveled at the history this old courtyard had seen.  Her heart was full.  She was home now, and grandmother needn't be lonely any more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Can't Tell Them

We were watching "Blue Bloods" tonight, and the Police Commissioner was talking about raising children.  He said, "That's the hard part -- all the things you do for them that you can't tell them about."  That's profound!  He hit the nail square on the head!

My husband and I were talking about the hundreds of conversations we had about our kids when they were growing up  -- the strategies that were mapped out to make sure that each child had the best opportunity to be the person they were meant to be.  They are all adults now, and I'm quite certain they all think they need therapy because we were such lousy parents.  Head bang!  So I'm giving them some advice while their children are still young.  TAPE RECORD THOSE STRATEGY SESSIONS FOR YOUR OWN KIDS!  Twenty years from now, they won't believe how hard you tried to be a good parent.  You need proof!

Countless discussions occurred for our oldest daughter.  She had lung surgery when she was born, which caused her to have very low endurance for exercise.  We decided to treat her as if nothing was wrong.  She is a very intelligent person (grew up to be a rocket scientist -- no joke), and we were afraid that if we coddled her, she would just give up on herself.  Year after year we took her to swimming lessons because the doctors said that was the best form of exercise for her lung.  When she had trouble making it from one side of the pool to the other, we didn't tell her anything except to keep trying; practice makes perfect.  I remember going outside the pool area at the opposite end of the pool, standing behind a tree where she couldn't see me, and crying when I could hear her struggling for breath.  We didn't tell the swim instructors there was a health issue either, because we didn't want them to coddle her.  This was not easy, folks.

There were literally hundreds of conversations about our children's education.  Teachers wanted us to put the kids in special advanced programs, but we wanted them to be kids, while still getting a good education.  With each child, the discussions were repeated because not every child is the same.  None of my children are alike.

Our second daughter is only 20 months younger than the first. We agonized to make sure that she didn't feel overshadowed by the first.  Our first has a very strong personality, and our second is very laid back and easy going.  We knew she would have to stand up for herself and be counted, even at the risk of the parents having to adjust to constant familial bickering.  We wanted to make sure that our second child developed self-esteem.  Again, this was not an easy task.

Our third child was a boy, who would later be followed by another girl.  Our son needed lots of male role models in his life to counteract growing up with sisters.  We had strategy sessions to pull males into his life.  We surrounded him with men.  When we had a choice, we requested male teachers at school.  We were blessed that he had several male teachers in church.  We put him in Little League baseball.  I even had a coed Camp Fire club and took on a father as my co-leader.  We made sure he had options for socializing with boys--like a basketball hoop that we couldn't really afford (and which eventually put a leak in our garage roof from the bolts).  That Christmas we spent more on the basketball hoop than we did on the three girls combined, but they had more gifts to open, so I tried to even things up.  He had a couple of bells that he liked, so I went to thrift stores and found various bells for him so that he would have gifts to unwrap.  To this day he thinks all he got for Christmas was bells.  Head bang!

Hundreds of sessions focused on our youngest.  We were older when she was born, especially my husband. We worried that she would feel she was being raised by old people.  We tried very hard to stay young for her in spirit.  She had a health problem that we dealt with, which was the source of countless sleepless nights of worry over whether we were doing the right thing.  Self-esteem was a huge issue with this child, and we did everything in our power to let her know she is a good person, at the same time making sure the boundaries were clear.  This was also a child that absolutely no form of discipline would phase.  More strategy sessions.  How do you give a child self-esteem when you're always yelling because that's the only thing she comprehends?

So, yes, Mr. Police Commissioner on "Blue Bloods," that's the hard part -- all the things you do for them that you can't tell them about.  They don't have a clue.  If you told them, they wouldn't believe it anyway.  No matter what you do, they are going to be in therapy anyway, and you're going to be a lousy parent.  It's a thankless job, but somebody has to do it, right?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Long Road

Note:  This is another Days of Grey writing exercise.

Today's prompt comes to us from rxmflickr on Flickr by way of a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons License. If you repost or reshare this image, keep the attribution info intact.

We've been down this road before, you and me.  We walked through the tunnel of courtship.  Love shone through the branches and kept the naysayers away from us -- those who said we'd never make it.  It seemed like we would walk forever, but we reached the end of the tunnel and began our life as one.

Remember how dark the tunnel was the next time we walked this road?  Our first born was lying on a table in the nursery intensive care unit.  It seemed so far to walk before we reached the light. We caught only glimpses now and then of faint light in the tunnel which caused creepy shadows that gave me goosebumps.  Then we reached the sun which seemed more bright than we had remembered.

Many more times we walked down the road.  Sometimes we would barely reach the warmth of the sun and we would be hurled back through the shadows.  The roar of the animals around us were often deafening to the ears.  Make it stop!  Just make it stop! Then in that moment that we thought we couldn't stand it any longer, we would find the least little glimmer of hope, and then finally the bright sunlight.

The path seems different today.  The walk is much more pleasant. The tunnel is bright, and the birds are singing to us.  As you hold my hand, I realize there is nothing we have to fear as long as we walk together.  We've walked to hell and back several times. Maybe we're finally on the road to heaven.

LaurieBee's Family Hive is found on Brand Yourself here:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Things I Learned from My Mother

Think outside the box.  I learned this from Mom.  She never told me that, but I watched her do it.  When she discovered that my brother was so social that he couldn't stand to be alone, she used it to her advantage. The worst punishment she could administer was the silent treatment.  He would clean his room, mop the kitchen floor, or anything else to get back in her good graces.

My personality is the opposite of my brother's, and I tend to be an introvert.  I don't need much conversation, and can spend hours alone as long as there is music or noise around me.  The older I get, the less noise I need.  Mom worried for a long time, I think, that I would end up in some log cabin in the back woods by myself or something.  Mom was very modest -- okay, she was a prude. She would blush at the mention of the word belly button.  Thinking outside the box, however, she bought me a halter top in about 1972.  Apparently, she thought I needed to spice up my life a little and have people notice me.  It worked.

Sometimes go with the fad and it will go away.  The summer before I went into Junior High School Mom knew that the kids in Junior High wore makeup.  She didn't like makeup at that age, but was wise enough not to force rebellion.  So she went with it.  She bought me makeup.  She showed me how to use it.  I played with that makeup all summer.  By the time school started in the fall, I was over and done with it.  Problem solved.  (I used this on my own kids, too, and it worked like a charm.)

Don't be a wuss.  Mom never backed down to anyone if she thought she was right.  Considering this woman lived between 1921 and 1991, that's pretty impressive.  She went toe to toe and eye to eye with the best of them, including Joe Conforte's body guard who wasn't going to let her park in her regular parking place at my Dad's office.  She won that argument, by the way.

Know when to speak up and when to wait.  Mom and Dad always told us that if a teacher said white is black, white is black. They would stand by our teachers even if they were wrong, until the last day of the school year.  Mom waited patiently all year, and then she would write a note to the teacher explaining any injustice that we had suffered during the school year.

Major injustices, however, were dealt with swiftly.  My fifth grade teacher should have been teaching in a prison.  To say she was strict would be the understatement of the century.  If she caught a child yawning in her classroom, the whole class stayed after school 45 minutes.  Mom tolerated this for several months without a word.  Then one spring day there was a radio announcement to pick up your children from school instead of letting them walk home.  Wind was upwards of 90 miles per hour, and there were downed power lines all over town.  I was supposed to walk home, but Mom came to pick me up.  She waited the full 45 minutes after school was out.  When I reached the car, she said, "Wait here." She got out of the car and marched to the office.  Suddenly, 30 other parents fell in line behind her.  I don't know what she said, but the teacher was fired at the end of the year, and word on the street was that Mom did it.

Take your time, make small stitches, and make the back look as good as the front.  She taught me this when I learned to do embroidery work, as well as when I learned to hem dresses and pants.  I was doing some embroidery work today, and I'm happy to say that I kept checking the back to make sure it was neat.  This applies to all aspects of life.  Nobody ever looks at the back of an embroidered dish towel to see what it looks like -- except the person who did the work.  I'm not going to lift the hem of my friend's pants to see if it is neat.  It's a matter of pride in workmanship.  When I became a legal secretary, back in the days of the typewriter, I took great pride in the caption page of all my documents.  It took time to do this:

John Doe,                )      Case No.:  12345
     Plaintiff,             )
  vs.                       )      Motion for Summary Judgment
Mary Smith,             )
     Defendant.         )
Mary Smith,             )
     Cross-Plaintiff,     )
  vs.                       )
John Doe,                )
     Cross-Defendant. )

(By the way, it took time in this format!)  I took pride in that caption and having every ) in the right place and all the spacing perfect.  The judge isn't going to care if there is one extra space before an ), but I cared.  I'm sad that technology has changed that whole process because we lost so much of our sense of ownership in the work product.  Mom taught me work ethic and pride in the final product.

Be a strong and loyal wife.  Mom never said a bad thing about my Dad, even when he was wrong.  She was loyal to him forever. This is not to say that they didn't have arguments, because they did, but they were a team.  Whatever they decided at the end of that argument was law, even if she lost the argument.  She would stand behind the decision.  She was strong in other ways.  Dad was a salesman, a World War II and Korean War veteran, and prone to occasional depression.  She took whatever measures necessary to get him out of the doldrums, even if it meant dragging him up in the mountains for several weeks of camping and R&R.  The last few years before Dad passed away, he was quite ill. Mom had not worked for many years, but she worked as his secretary to keep an eye on him so if he fell ill, she was at his side.  When he could no longer work, she found a job -- which isn't easy to do when you haven't worked in 20 some odd years.

Don't be afraid to learn.  When Mom went back to work, the computer was just becoming an office staple.  She learned computer programs before I did, and convinced her boss to send her to Texas for a week of computer classes.  Mom was learning new things until the day she died.

Mom taught me many more things.  I've written more about Dad in my blog than I have about Mom because Dad was such an eccentric guy that there always seems to be a story to tell. Mom's lessons have not escaped me, though, and I want my posterity to know about this great woman and her great pioneer spirit.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

I was thinking about the world my grandchildren will live in.  They will have to be incredibly strong.  I hope it is really true that Heavenly Father saved his strongest children for the last days.  I believe my children are stronger than I am, and I see great strength in my grandchildren even though they are very young.

The world has become a very complicated place in which to live. While technology brings us closer together in some ways, in other ways it seems to split us apart and accentuate our differences.  I hope we can learn to appreciate our differences while standing true on moral decisions.  I don't know how to accomplish that, so I hope our progeny will figure it out.

Even the United States of America seems to mean something different today than I remember as a child.  I grew up in a land that respected and reverenced the almighty God.  Freedom of religion was constitutionally protected (well, with the exception of that little mishap of an extermination order in Missouri).  The idea of home and family used to be special and mean something.  The vote of the people was irrevocable law.

Reading the Book of Revelations, I know this was prophesied long ago.  There is nothing that can stop it.  The wheels are already set in motion.  The train wreck will happen.  We don't know exactly when, but we know it is soon.  We also know that it will take time.  That's the frightening part to me -- time.  How long will righteous people have to abide in such an evil world?  How long will my grandchildren be targets for the fiery darts of Satan's followers?  How much persecution and evil will they have to endure before the end?

I pray they are strong.  I pray they are much stronger than me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Second Hand Shop

Note:  This is a Days of Grey writing exercise.

This photo comes from brandoncwarren on Flickr through a Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons license. If you repost/reshare this image with your response, please keep this attribution intact.

The mental list of things to look for in the second-hand shop is short these days, but more fun than it was when my kids were at home.  I walk through my favorite thrift stores looking for things to stir my memory.  Today there is no milk glass to catch my eye, but an old radio jumps out at me.  I remember listening to Gunsmoke with Dad on an old radio, though not like this one. Mom and I listened to baseball games on the radio together.

There was a time when I kept a tape measure in my purse to make sure that furniture I found would fit in a certain location in my home.  I knew which shop had a boat load of National Geographic magazines for a dime to help the kids with school reports, and which one had the best children's clothing, and where to go for the never ending need for bookcases.

As I wander down the aisle today, I see things that I would not have passed up five years ago.  Suddenly, they are unimportant to my life.  Maybe I'll buy this radio just for the memory.  No, that would be silly.  I'm much to practical for that, but I think I'll stand here for just another moment or two.  I wonder if the shop down the street has milk glass today?  Or maybe NASA memorabilia for my daughter?  I suppose I should pick up a couple extra little toys for Granny's toy box.  The grand kids are getting a little bored with the current selection.

It's so peaceful this trip to the thrift store.  When did that happen?  There are no children under foot, and I don't hear cries for lunch.  The old days were fun, and I'm sure that eventually I'll miss them.  Today, though, is too soon.  For now I'll relish in the peace from being recently childless.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Carpet Swirls

 Note:  This is another writing exercise for Days of Grey.

The picture comes from arenamontanus of Flickr via a Creative Commons attribution license. If you reshare/repost this image, please keep the attribution intact.

As I gaze at the swirls in the carpet, memory flashes to a different time, a different place.  Time stops as faces, colors, and feelings wash over me.  The carpet swirls today are golden earth tones, but long ago they were pink. I close my eyes and feel the rough fibers on fingers of long ago.  I hear laughter of those who were much older than me, and I see siblings and cousins roughhousing and giggling.  Someone is playing chopsticks on the old piano. Funny, I don't ever remember anyone really playing that piano, but maybe that's because there were always so many of us when we were there.

Mystery envelopes this house, as this is where my father lived as a child.  I can't picture my father as a child, but I know he must have been one.  He must have been an old child, with an old soul -- but a happy one.

With eyes still closed tight, I'm suddenly very warm -- overly warm.  I remember always being hot in that room long ago where we gathered too many bodies in small quarters.  My mind takes me outside the old house where a cool spring breeze ruffles my hair on the screened in front porch where my father slept, even on snowy winter nights.  I wish I had known him then.

I hear stories and laughter.  I wish I had paid more attention to the stories of long ago, but then again, I wouldn't be able to separate truth from fiction.  Fish stories were prevalent in that old home.

My name is called, and I jump.  As suddenly as old sensations flooded my world, they are gone.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wings to Fly

Note:  This is another writing exercise for Days of Grey.

Today's prompt comes from 4nitsirk on Flickr via a Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons license. Per the license, if you repost/reshare the photo, please keep the attribution intact.

"Daddy, I'll be lonely.  Can't I go with you?"
"No, little bird.  You're on your own now."
"If I had wings, I could fly with you.  Please, Daddy, can't I have wings?"
"I'll give you wings, but you can't fly with me little bird."

As the light grew bright, the shadows grew long.  She ached to go with him, and tried to focus on staying with him, but he gently moved farther from her.  The rain tapped on the window pane, yet there was light.  The tapping grew loud and more steady, drowning out the other voices in the room.  If she could just concentrate hard enough, she could wish herself to go with him.

"Daddy, you're walking too fast.  The song, remember the song we used to sing when you walked too fast for me? It's playing on the radio."

He was suddenly close again and squeezed her hand to let her know he remembered.  He would always remember.  He didn't want to leave her, but it was time.  He needed to go.  How could he leave her like this?

In the fogginess of her brain she heard a buzzer, which someone quickly turned off.

"It's okay, Daddy.  You can go.  I love you.  We'll take care of Mom."

The tapping on the window faded to a gentle rain.  Sunshine filled the room.  He heaved a gentle sigh, flew away, and there was peace.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One Day

Note:  I'm participating in an on-line writers exercise.  Each day we are given a picture to prompt us to write something. Yesterday's picture of a teapot was easy for me, as it immediately brought fond memories to mind.  Today's picture is more difficult for me and actually required me to use my brain.

Today's prompt comes from images_improbables on Flickr, via a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons license.

Unfortunately, (technologically challenged that I am) I can't figure out how to load the picture so that it's not blurry, but you can pull it up from the link.


One day the gates will open.  One day.  My soul waits for the great resurrection day.  I've waited so long for my body to reunite with my soul.  There was such a long wait to receive it, and then in a flash it was gone again.  I didn't take care of it, or even appreciate it.  There were so many imperfections that I didn't see the whole picture.  I forgot to look forward to eternity when all will be perfected.

One day the gates will open.  One day.  I'll not take my body for granted again.  I'll cherish my perfected body.  I'll hold my head high and remember who I am.  I'll walk with God and angels.  One day.

One day the gates will open.  One day.  I'll reach down and summon, and it will follow.  Clouds will part and make way for the great resurrection day.

One day the gates will open.  One day.

We're In the Big Time!

It doesn't take much to amuse or make me happy.  We moved into our little neighborhood almost 35 years ago.  It's a cute little neighborhood, but the streets are narrow.  I can live with narrow streets, but parking is a bit of a bear.

It was pretty difficult all those years ago to drive our neighborhood at night.  There were no street lights.  That problem was solved 5 or 6 years after we moved in.  A couple of years ago extra fire hydrants were added.  Unfortunately, one of them is in front of our house -- remember narrow streets and lack of parking. I didn't think our house insurance company would appreciate us complaining about a fire hydrant, so we deal with it.

Sidewalks, though, were sparse.  We had a sidewalk in front of our home, but a lot of people didn't.  Apparently, each homeowner installed their own sidewalk if desired.  We were fortunate to have one when we moved in.  The City is finally installing sidewalks for those homes that don't have them.  Finally, after all these years, we can actually walk all the way up and down the street without having to walk on the street or on a neighbor's muddy grass!  Our street is now complete, and they are working on the other streets in the neighborhood.  It won't be long before we will actually be able to walk all the way around the block!  How cool is that?!

Yep, it doesn't take much to make me happy.  Or maybe it's just sweeter after the long 35-year wait.