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Did You Love Me?

Did you ever love me? How would I know? You never told me. These past years have left me with more questions than answers.

Why did you always choose jobs that kept you away? Did you realize that absence didn’t “make the heart grow fonder?” It just meant there was another sheriff in town until you left again.

A few words of encouragement would have gone a long way. I was told that I had food on the table and a roof over my head and that should suffice. It didn’t for me. This was before all the self-help books and Psych 101. Our generation reacted the only way we knew how₋₋driven by our emotions. My emotional need was to be loved.

You called me boy crazy. What a laugh? I went with two boys my four years of high school. Did you ever notice I chose males that were a foot taller than me? Boys that wrapped their arms around me and made me feel safe and loved like a father might embrace a child.

After you died did you look back and see that none of us cried. My sister said when we got home from the funeral, “Well, it’s not like I’m going to miss Dad. When I came home for a visit he’d give me a hug, grab a cup of coffee, and spend the rest of my visit in the TV room watching whatever sport was on. It’s not like we ever had a conversation.”

It was true, but the timing was poor.

I take something back. I did cry. At the funeral home, I listened as your high school buddies talk about how much fun you were. They marveled at your sense of humor. I cried because they were talking about a stranger I never met.

Through the years since you left, I have continued to find a place for you in my heart. Sometimes things are better left unsaid, but I still wonder, did you love me, Dad?

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Since Herb and I hadn’t had a picture taken together since 1999, Christmas 2016 seemed a great opportunity to order photographs for our family. I called and made an appointment with a local photographer, sent the blue dress I loved to the dry cleaners, and pondered what else I could do for a fresh new look.

With immense trepidation I walked to the bathroom. The mere act of examining my face in the ultra-magnifying mirror that lunged in my direction from a cold metal arm bolted to the wall near my sink, tortured my very soul. (Warning: This in-depth examination is not recommended for pre-teens or females under the age of thirty as it destroys a fragile self-image.) Every line or blemish shown twenty times its actual size, which is still a good 10 times smaller than it appeared in my mind. (In your mind it is the size of a saucer and a flashing red light draws everyone’s attention to the imperfection.) A simple answer lay in the bowels of my computer, UTube.

I have used Merle Norman cosmetics since I was nineteen year old and although I have used many other eye makeups, I still use Merle Norman foundation and blush. My color is so “fair”, a polite way to say anemic, that they don’t carry it in stock and it has to be special ordered. (How white are you? Well, remember in the 1980’s when we went to the consultant to have our color done. You wore no makeup and covered up your hair and then she told you what “season” you were. She told me, “Honey, there’s so little color you could be anything.” I digress.)

UTube provided several resources on how to reshape my eyebrows. “Choose the shape closest to your own.” That was easy. Each time I had my make-up professionally applied the makeup-artist chose “oriental.” (Why are they called artist? Is our makeup really troweled on as thick as a Picasso?) As a teen, my mother did not allow me to shape my eyebrows. We had to go “natural”. In my own mind my brow beheld a hairy earthworm reclining across my forehead. While I had tweezed my brows before, they were in sore need of attention. As the UTube lady suggested, I got out my longest eyebrow pencil and marked where the brow should start, arch, and end. Yahoo! Just connect the dots.

I chose to forego the cat eye or Smokey eye fads and just stay with the “I’m way too old for that” look. (We did the cat thing back when Liz Taylor was Cleopatra and we called it “the Cleopatra.” Sorry, I digress again.) Dust the lid with powder. Shadow should be light and contouring as dark would only make them appear smaller. Since my husband already referred to my green orbs as “beady little eyes”, smaller was not the look I was going for. Eyeliner needed to be thin lines on the lid so once again I made dots and connected them.  (Notice a trend there.) A little mascara  and a quick crunch of the eyelash curler, and I was done. A Q-tip took care of any imperfections. Actually, it took me a couple swabs, because too much came off and I had to reapply. You know what I mean.

It was time for me to master the art of face sculpting. It started with concealer. I’ve used this many times before under each eye, but they suggested a large swath going from each corner of my eye and down to mid-cheek. And speaking of my checks, until I sucked in my cheeks like the lady in the video, I didn’t’ realize how high my cheekbones really were. Bones appeared above full creamy cheeks that had filled in my barely visible dimple. With a steady hand I daubed on the Sugar-Melon blush. Since this was just a practice round and I didn’t have any contouring makeup I used my taupe eye shadow and filled in along my jaw. Then the UTube lady said, “Use your sponge and blend to define and accentuate your features”. You can see from the photo of me, I certainly needed something to finish my “new look”. I chose instead of a makeup sponge to use Dial soap and a wash rag. Rub, rub a dub, dub.

On the day of our appointment, I wore my new eyebrows and left the “new me” as just a humble memory. They can all love me just the way I am.

 

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A Reflection

school-lettersThe crisp feel of fall is in the air. It nips just enough that a light jacket or sweater is needed as the sun abandons the blue sky on the horizon. Cool evenings prompt the change from green to brown or burning crimson and the carroty orange that are seen swaying in the trees. Tourist come on trips to the Cape to view the leaves before they drop from the vegetation and become mulch for next year’s floras.

What does fall mean to you? I remember getting dressed up in my best slacks and jacket to go to our high school football game. Go Red Raiders! Our team seldom won, but the game provided a social gathering with our peers. Cheerleaders dressed in white letter sweaters with a large red “B” in the middle and short red skirts kept the fans in the game with loud raves: Go, Win, Fight! Regardless if the Red Raiders were four touchdowns behind.

Our band consisted of twenty-six musicians. A student really wanted to play an instrument to put up with the teasing they were pelted with in the halls.

After the game everyone cruised main or met at an ice cream parlor in Centerville, The Four Seas. Girls flirted and boys leaned against their cars laughing and showing how cool they were. Our generation really had the coolest cars. Most guys had cars at least ten years old. My boyfriend had a ’53 Merc. In the winter the heater didn’t work and in the summer it came on and wouldn’t turn off. Funny how something so silly can make a great memory.

Those were the days before cell phones, drama and drugs. The only thing being passed in school hallways were notes, which teachers confiscated if they saw them. We respected our teachers. They didn’t want to be our friends. They had a role in forming us as adults. Our principal, Mr. Connors, couldn’t have been more than 5’5”, but he had the respect of even the largest student. He didn’t have to demand respect. It came with the title “adult.”

How do we establish a learning environment for our kids? We can’t turn back the clock, nor should we, we do need to think about reviewing curriculum so American school don’t fall behind other nations. Ways must be established so students are safe. It’s so easy to list things that need to change and so hard to list how those changes are to occur. Adults can’t refuse to fund measures to provide quality education for our children and expect to graduate students that can compete with surrounding states that have made education a priority.

Christmas is upon us. How much will you spend? That would have bought a computer for a high school lab. Just saying.

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A recent exchange on Facebook reminded me of a fond memory. Although my parent’s bedroom was their inner sanctum, sometimes after knocking, I was allowed in to drape across their bed and look through my mom’s pink jewelry box. It sat in a nook on her headboard.

Our family had been part of the Army of Occupation in Japan following World War II. Being a member of the Air Force, Dad flew all over the Far East and brought Mom home lots of wonderful jewelry from India, Siam (Thailand), and Hong Kong. Dad replaced Mom’s original wedding band, which had been purchased from Woolworth’s Five and Dime, with a band that sparkled when the light hit the row of shiny diamonds. Mom laughed when she told me the history of her original band, “I bought my own ring so people would know when I started showing “there was a bun in the oven”, that I was a married woman.” Mom promised I could have her ring when she was gone. “Don’t bury me with anything of value.” She urged.

Another ring captured my interest. A piece of carved jade about 1½” long a beautiful shade of green. My imagination worked overtime envisioning a Chinese carver searching for just the right s002-2tone to make this exotic ring. One day while strolling through the Perkasie flea market I found its twin. I bought it and grinned like a Cheshire cat.

***

Dad had passed away thirty years earlier so it was time Mom downsized from her farmhouse. I arrived three days early to help her get organized. On arrival I was flabbergasted. She hadn’t done a single thing.

“I mentally know what I want to save.” She replied.

“That won’t help the auctioneers when they arrive and they have nothing to hold up for bidders.” I replied more in frustration than anything else.

Soon she left for the supermarket to get every box she could fit in her van. Van? Yes, the lady sold on the flea market and to antique dealers. Her home consisted of a farmhouse with a basement and three floors, a barn, milkhouse, and several out buildings jammed with her stock. Friday night I collapsed on the sofa with a glass of ice tea.

Mom asked, “Do you want your dad’s coin collection?”

That jade ring visualized in my brain. I replied, “No, I would like a piece of jewelry.”

“Get something out of that drawer.” Dang! That drawer was where she kept her flea market scraps, with an accent on “crap”. A lot of the pieces were gold, but the majority of the items were pieces no one would buy so she kept them to sell the gold wholesaler. There in a box I found her wedding band. Two of the diamonds had fallen out and not been replaced.

“Mom, why is your wedding band in here.”

“It’s not.”

I showed it to her then climbed the stairs and put it in her pink jewelry box with the jade ring. That’s the last time I saw them. I took a piece of costume jewelry from the 1950s and a faux pearl necklace.

The years went by and Mom and I each had our own health challenges. Mom needed twenty-four hour care. My brother found a wonderful place for her. They allowed residents to bring their own furniture and what was left my brother stored in his basement.

Years later on a visit he asked me to see if I wanted anything from the basement. “No one else wants this junk so it’s going to be dumped.” He stated. There sat a cardboard box full of what appeared to be odds and ends. I begged my husband to make space for it in the car so I could take it home and look through it.

Six months later I had time to get into that box. What joy! Yes, the jade ring and Mom’s old wedding ring were thrown into an old mess of junk jewelry.

There were WWI letters from my great-uncles to their mother and an old postcard that my Great-aunt Margaret received from her beau, my Great-uncle Leo. He said he “loved” her. At a time when no one made public their feelings, Uncle Leo addressed his love for her. Being a postcard you know everyone in the county knew Leo loved Margaret before the postcard reached her. A stack of old pictures sat at the bottom of the box.

It’s funny but I never saw Mom wear any of the jewelry Dad brought home. An ivory set of a ring and bracelet from India and a silver belt with Siamese dancing girls on enamel went to my niece. Another niece had the same initials as my mom and my Great-great-grandmother Emma L. Thorn. Erin made the gold brooch into a necklace.

My daughter will inherit Mom’s two rings when I’m gone. Since I now had two jade rings that were twins, I took them to the jeweler’s to have them sized and the missing diamonds replaced in the band. He mentioned the stone I was sending to Trish had a better quality of jade. No matter. The one I kept Dad bought for Mom.

Some ancient Chinese carver picked out just the right stone for this striking ring.

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When the project started I really had no idea how it would morph into a binder containing over 600 pages, most double sided. It started innocently with a conversation with my grandson over American History being his least favorite subject. Horrors! My favorite subject. American History and PE were always an easy “A.” I heard myself saying, “Memorizing names and dates is not the way to learn history. I’ll put something together for you that shows how our family played a part in the history of our country.”

Since I am a member of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), I knew I had lots of ancestors that served in the Revolutionary War. Being obsessed by genealogy I knew that one of their fathers had also served in the French and Indian War. After researching this branch I found their line fought in King Phillip’s War in 1675-1676.

Massachusetts has such wonderful records that I found the name of the militia group my ancestor fought in. This helped me determine the information to be contained in each chapter. First, a couple of pages on the causes of the war. Service units and battles they fought in followed. Some general information, like who started using gas warfare first or the occupation of Berlin and Japan after the war, which would probably not be taught in a classroom. At the end of the chapter was a genealogy report from that 8th great-grandfather down to my grandsons.

As you may guess the American Revolution and the Civil War were the easiest to write. During the Revolution we had people from New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Georgia, just to name a few. Each soldier had a very different experience. All went to war to claim bounty land in a country they were risking their lives to establish.

During the Civil War we had relatives on both sides. One Yankee died at the Battle of Chickamauga, while a Reb survived the North’s death camp, Camp Douglas, Illinois. He and two other grandfathers left Georgia after the war and came to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Granddad Elder survived a POW camp to be shot in the back of the head by a neighbor and her brother in Chickasha, OK.

Not surprising the hardest for me was Vietnam. It’s hard to be neutral in the telling when it was a defining moment in my life. I still cry when certain events are shown on television. Volunteering for the National League of Families by selling POW/MIA bracelets still means a lot to me. As of this date my MIA has never been found. I often goggle him to get an update. John McCain is a hero in my mind. Jane Fonda will always be “Hanoi Jane.”

My brother and his wife supported Iraq. Yes, his wife. Women played an important from that point on. Ellen juggled serving while also being ‘mom” to a toddler. Sacrifice has many faces.

Our society has a way of re-writing history. Take a moment and write down your impressions and experiences for your family. There’s nothing like a first-hand account.John Owens

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It’s hard to believe that’s it has been eight years since that day; the day that God changed my life forever. I died. HE wasn’t ready for me and sent me back. The essay below placed 2nd at the DAR National Convention in Washington D.C. last year.

 

PT Wrecked 3

 I’m A Work In Progress

Ding! Ding! Ding!

The irritating alarm sounded. Time to leave my warm cocoon.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

I set the clock where I couldn’t reach out to hit the snooze button.

Okay. Okay. It’s done its job. My feet hit the floor and I’m up. March 8th was just another day. I took a shower, ate some oatmeal, fixed my lunch, and was ready for another day at work. Later, I would wonder what I had worn for underwear and had I shaved my legs.

My husband, Herb, walked me out to my car. He placed my small blue and white lunch cooler on the back seat of my PT Cruiser. He leaned in and gave me a goodbye kiss. We both wished each other a good day at work and went our separate ways.

He headed north on Highway 69 and I turned south. It was really cold and dark that morning. I remember I heard the radio announcer say there could be ice on bridges and overpasses. I slowed down from the posted speed of 70 m.p.h. to 50 m.p.h. In my only other memory of that morning, I existed in a black fog from which I heard someone ask, “Are you all right.” “Yes. I’m okay,” I answered.

But I wasn’t okay. My car had hit the ice and rolled. Two men approached to help me. Instead they had just enough time to jump out of the way as a pickup truck slammed into my Cruiser, leaving everything except the driver’s seat a tangled mass of metal.

The First Responders from the local volunteer fire department arrived within minutes. An E.M.T. peered into the wreck and observed a knife embedded in the headrest. The paring knife I had packed in my lunch to slice an apple appeared to have pierced my skull. He reached over and found no pulse. The first responders contacted the McAlester Fire Department and requested the jaws-of-life be sent to the site to remove a dead body. When the McAlester Fire Department arrived, they removed me from the wreckage and laid my body on the ground so another E.M.T. could confirm my death. He found a pulse. A helicopter was called and air lifted me to Tulsa.

Up north as my husband greeted a co-worker, his friend relayed the information that he’d seen six car wrecks near Crowder; three on each side of the highway. One was really bad. He’d seen a helicopter leaving with a victim.

Herb called my office phone to make sure I had made it to work. No answer. He tried several more times before someone answered it and transferred him to the manager. The manager gave him the news he dreaded. One of my co-workers thought he’d seen my car on the side of the road at the scene of a wreck. He suggested Herb call the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The Highway Patrol confirmed that I had been taken to a hospital in Tulsa. He immediately drove there.

When my husband arrived at the ICU, he hardly recognized the body in the bed. Bruised and swollen, I barely resembled the wife that kissed him goodbye only hours before. I remained in a coma. There was nothing he could do but pray to our Heavenly Father.

McAlester is typical of a small town. It only took a couple of hours and word spread. A friend of mine and our pastor were soon at Herb’s side. His youngest son drove from Dallas and spent the first week comforting his father. My husband rented a room available in the hospital and vowed to stay at my side. Weeks became months. Many prayer groups added my name to their roster. I experienced their warmth even in my semi-conscience state. I felt loved.

My first recollections of being in the hospital were in mid-May. I woke to find I wore a stiff brace to heal my broken neck. It rubbed my chin raw. Like a child, I tugged on it constantly. Massive head injuries caused my left eye to have double vision. It soon became apparent that I had lost the use of my left arm and hand. Two nerves that controlled the arm had been torn out of my spinal cord. Even in my hazy state I knew it would take more than a Band-Aide to recover.

I was ready to let the rehab begin. It seemed odd to have someone ask you if you wanted to “try” to walk. Try? I’ve been walking since I was a year old. Within two days the physical therapist was satisfied that I would be able to get around in a satisfactory manner.

Things did not go smoothly with the second therapist. She sat me at a table with a 350 piece puzzle and requested that I put it together. I reminded her I had double vision and couldn’t see the pieces clearly. After several attempts, I felt I was being asked to accomplish something that I was sure to fail. What was I supposed to learn from this exercise? On the fourth day she took me to a kitchen to bake a cake. She explained that I would not be able to do the things I used to do and needed to recognize my limitations. Normally, I strive to be the best patient in the hospital, today was an exception. “You’re wasting my time. I won’t be back tomorrow.” And I wasn’t. I embraced our conversation and used it as a challenge.

Three months after being admitted, I was released. That October nerve reassignment surgery on my left arm resulted in only a minimal change.

My therapist, Valerie, recognized I needed more therapy then my insurance would allow. She showed Herb how to do simple exercises that would tone and strengthen my arm muscles. Valerie also forced my stiff fingers to bend to see if I could regain their use. This was very painful. I never complained, but I held my breath and sat straight up in the chair as each finger was bent. Herb continued to exercise my arm and hand every day for two years. After his manual manipulation he attached me to a TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) for electronic muscle stimulation or EMS. He never complained. I often teased him that he loved torturing me. Through his efforts I have regained the use of my left hand. Although at times that hand seems to type in some East European language that uses very few vowels.

A year after the accident I went back to work and resumed writing. My first novel was published and received four major awards. Along the way I was reminded that we can’t let other people set our goals, define who we are, or determine our future. I come from stock that sailed the Atlantic to settle a colony. My ancestors traversed the mountains and prairies in Conestoga wagons. I am the mistress of this battered vessel. God is the keel and the wind in my sails.

This year is the eighth anniversary of my accident. I would not change one day. I have received limitless love. I can never express how it has filled my heart and warmed my soul. HE told me it was not my time. HE had wonderful plans ahead for me that I could not have foreseen, and HE’s not done yet. I’m a work in progress.

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Motivated!

TMaidhis morning, following breakfast, I felt a surge of energy to clean house. It wasn’t a real surge it was more of a guilt trip kind of self-motivation. You know, “you better get your butt moving or someone will catch you with dust devils in the back hall”. Dust devils-the horror. Like some man is coming here, wearing his pressed white gloves, to check the dust level of my furniture before he sits.

I know that sounds far-fetched, but this did happen to me on Okinawa. My Okinawan maid was a miracle worker. I normally cleaned before she came so she wouldn’t think bad of me. Yet, she made floors sparkle using the same cleaner and rags I used with less dramatic results. One of my hobbies at the time was throwing ceramics. When cleaning the green ware before painting the dust in our abode resembled a wind storm in the Sahara. A couple, new friends, dropped by unexpectedly, and found me resembling a recently unearthed mummy. Her husband took one look and they never came back.

I digress.

Now you would think that being retired, I would have a spotless house where guests could eat off the floor and I could flaunt a pantry arranged in alphabetical order. No, that was when I worked a full time job.

Saturday mornings I hit the floor running to get the house work done, clothes washed, dried and put away. And a habit I developed in childhood, I baked something sweet for the family to munch on for the next week. While at the time it was a sign of love, now the modern woman would mention it sets someone up for high cholesterol and diabetes later in life.

Being retired I should be relaxing in front of the television, eating chocolates and laughing. Instead I put pressure on myself that my current writing venture isn’t progressing like I would like. Worry. Rewrite. Worry.

Being laid back just doesn’t seem to be in my DNA. I do still like to bake, sometimes after an afternoon nap. Okay, so I’m working on being laid back.

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