A Glance Back

Trying to measure where the last two years have disappeared is like trying to hug a passing cloud.  I could no more complete an after action report accounting for the time than I could return to working full time every day.

Often, an inner voice urges me to accomplish more than I have done, yet another voice reminds me that I have crossed off a few bucket-list items.  Sometimes I yearn for more, but today, I choose to focus on those things that have brought me pleasure and a sense of fulfillment.

Writing tops my list of achievements.  No, I cannot proclaim a best-seller, but I did publish my first book, Peaks and Valleys.  The non-fiction memoir begins in the 50’s in my childhood hometown of Pine Lawn, Missouri.  As indicated by the title, many of the tales brought a smile to my face as I wrote them.  Some of them were written as tears fell from my eyes.  Revisiting the happy, and sometimes painful, times of my life had a therapeutic consequence.  When I finished, it brought me peace, comfort and an appreciation for the experiences that made me whom I am today.  The journey is worth taking, for everyone.  I hope others will be inspired to follow my path and clean out a few of their own closets along the way.  The book is available through Amazon.com and Kindle.

I also wrote a second book, Burning Embers, for which I am currently searching for a publisher.  Writing a romance/suspense novel in thirty days was not on my original bucket list, rather it was a challenge introduced to me through a writing club that I joined named Pen to Paper Writing Club.  I found the experience so rewarding that I drafted an outline for my next novel which I will begin shortly.  Who knew I had an imagination?

The poet in me continues to surface whenever I cannot find the words to speak directly to friends and family.  I have contemplated publishing some of my poems, but finding gratification in the positive effect the words provide the person for whom they were written is enough for now.

As a multi-tasking person, all that writing wasn’t quite enough to keep me busy, so I began this blog.  My social media skills are limited and until one of my fellow writers encouraged me, I had never visited a blog site.  Now I follow a few that tickle my interests or touch my soul.  I’m still in the beginning stages, but I find it another way to release the writer in me. (http://authordianemhow.com)

More recently, I began volunteering with VITAS Hospice Care as a Story Keeper.  This rewarding opportunity entails recording life stories of patients who are in hospice care so that they may leave a treasure for their loved ones and future generations.  I wrote about my first visit in one of my blogs.  It is amazing how God directs us on our journey to the right place at the right time.  If you have any doubts about following His lead, read When you volunteer are you giving or receiving?.

Every day has not been as uncomplicated as this post makes it sound, but as I said, today, I am sticking with the positive, happy times.  My husband and I have found time to fish, gamble and spend time with our daughter and her boyfriend.  We’ve even managed to get in a few short trips to Branson, Lake of the Ozarks and Georgia.  Lunch and dinner dates fill a few of the squares on my calendar and provide me with the chance to catch up with family, friends, former co-workers and my wonderful Girl Scout buddies.

I yearn to know what memories filter through when you look back a few days, months or years.

Crazy Family Traditions: A Dime a Dozen or a Dozen Dimes?

Over the years I’ve heard many stories about pennies from Heaven or a penny for your thought.  I’ve heard Don’t take any wooden nickels on more than one occasion.  In our family, the coin of choice seems to be a dime.

Who knows how it started, but my grandfather, who had a delightful sense of humor and seemed to always find a way to make a buck, would tell anyone who asked to use the bathroom to leave a dime, followed by one of his hearty chuckles.  I don’t remember ever seeing a dime on the commode, perhaps because back in the fifties, 10 cents could actually buy a bottle of coke or some other necessity. (yes, a bottle of Coke is a necessity when the temperatures exceed 100 degrees for more than a week!)

Sometime this past year, a family member decided to dust off my grandfather’s urging and take it to another level.  I began finding the small shiny coins accumulating whenever the culprit visited.  Others decided to join in the fun.  It wasn’t long before a pile formed.  It became a nuisance to clean around them, but I didn’t feel right putting them in my purse and spending them.

While I appreciated the humor and generous donations, I needed to find a way to dispense of the silly deed before it became a new tradition.  I decided to post a little ditty on the wall above the dimes.  It goes like this:

We’ll always remember that our Grandpa once said

Please leave a donation if you’re using the head

But traditions have changed along with the times

You’re no longer required to leave a few dimes

Now here’s the dilemma, there’s been overflow

Someone too generous and not in the know

Please take back your donation; now don’t make me frown

And remember the seat should always be down

Thanks, The Establishment

So does your family have any silly family traditions that have gotten out of hand?  I’d love to hear about them.

Joy, joy, joy

Sometimes joy spills over from one day to the next, like a baseball winning streak.  I love when that happens.

The abundance of springtime pleasures, like sunny skies, luscious green lawns and trees that are cloaked with leaves, helps to keep my mood elevated.

Thursday evening my husband and I had dinner with my daughter, her boyfriend and his three members of his family, who were visiting from South Carolina.  We tried a new barbeque place that came highly recommended.  It turned out to be a shack, literally.  Fortunately, everyone accepted the accommodations without complaint.  Good food and good company made for a pleasant evening.

Friday, the plans were to visit the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis with the visiting family.  Storms rolled in from the west and we cancelled those plans.  Instead, we all met at a large nearby nursery where we spent an hour or two enjoying the abundance of flowers and plants.  The pleasant substitution fulfilled my urge to see mother natures’ bountiful display and to purchase a few additions for our garden.

Saturday morning I sat at the computer, frustrated that I had not found words to fill the pages of the document on the screen.  For three weeks, I tried to compose a poem to present to my brother-in-law at his eightieth birthday party.  Suddenly, my fingers began pecking at the keyboard and words appeared, as they often do.  I have found that I just need to receive them when God is ready to send them my way.

In the afternoon we attended a wonderful outdoor party for the octogenarian.  The temperatures neared 100 degrees and the humidity left everyone drenched, yet visiting with extended family on such a joyous occasion made the conditions bearable and well worth the brow wiping.

When I returned home Saturday night, I delighted in reading a post on Facebook announcing the husband of a dear friend received a phone call for a life-saving liver transplant that he desperately needed for months.

An email from my brother informed me that another relative had made significant advances in recovering from a debilitating illness.  I believe it is a sign that prayers are being answered, even if the message came with a cautiously optimistic warning.

By the time I attended church on Sunday, my cup overflowed with blessings.

I hurried home from church anxious to get an update on the condition of the liver transplant recipient.  Much to my dismay, our internet service did not work.

Computers are my nemesis.  I have a love/hate relationship with them.  My ignorance consumes many frustrating hours when something goes amiss.

I don’t really understand the difference between a router and a modem; much less know how to make them function properly after a glitch occurs.

After trying the standard options of disconnecting and restarting the pc and laptop, I turned to my husband for help.  Understanding that he shares the same limited knowledge, I watched as he completed all the familiar procedures that I performed.

He successfully restored the internet access on his personal computer.  Relieved that I could get an update on the condition of my friend’s husband, I could sleep peacefully and tackle the rest of the problem on Monday.

Unfortunately, the wireless access continued to elude my laptop.  Rain dripped down from the cloudy skies, threatening to dampen my spirits, but I am not one to lose my patience easily.

My frustration level did not rise until I realized that I could not print from my laptop without the internet connection.  On my umpteenth try, I decided to move a few wires to another port and managed to restore the connection.

After cheering and exchanging a high-five with my husband, I tried to contain the feeling of superiority that overcame me momentarily.

Life regained momentum in a positive direction.  Now, if the clouds part long enough to get a walk in, I’ll continue the winning streak.

Humor Wins

Humor has a way of creeping into my brain at the most inopportune times.  I like to think that I display appropriate behavior most of the time, but on at least one occasion, I embarrassed myself and my daughter with uncontrollable giggling.  In order to understand how a visual memory made me look like a fool, I have to share a story.

My husband and I were visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Georgia.  On a whim, we decided to visit Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of Cabbage Patch Kids, in Cleveland, Georgia.  Yes, there really is such a place, complete with nurses, doctors and orderlies.

The dolls born in this unique location are hand-made of cloth.  They have fat faces and and wide-opened arms.  Some are born bald and some have curly or wavy heads of hair.  They originate in a large cabbage patch under the Magic Crystal Tree.  When a family decides to adopt one of the kids, a nurse announces “Cabbage dilation; all staff on standby.”

The contractions are timed and when the birth is imminent, a doctor appears and listens to the cabbage with a stethoscope.  He or she then injects it with “Imagicillin”, yanks the nude baby from the patch and cameras flash, recording the remarkable event.  (Really, I’m not making this up.)

The newborn birthed on our visit that day had exaggerated dimples, much like the Pillsbury dough boy, and a full head of bright, red hair that looked as if someone pressed their fingers firmly on the baby’s head to make ripples that were evenly distributed on both sides of the head.  The bizarre and funny experience apparently burned an image in my subconscious only to manifested itself later.

Fast forward a few days after vacation.  My daughter, in the process of selecting a realtor to sell her home, invited me join her when a potential broker made his pitch to her.  I stood in the living room when Laura answered the door to let the agent in.  In walked an adult version of the Cabbage Patch Doll birthed during our visit to Georgia.  The man had plump, peach cheeks with huge dimples and red wavy hair split down the center of his head.

My mind immediately revisited the process of his head being yanked out of the cabbage patch.  I felt the strong urge creep from my stomach and nearly escaped my mouth before I excused myself and rushed to the bathroom.

I turned on the water in hopes that it would drown out the uncontrollable laughter.  I tried to compose myself with little success.  After five or ten minutes, I exited the bathroom and took a seat next to my daughter as she sat listening to the man explain why the company he represented should list her home.

Unable to look directly at the realtor without losing control, I tried to focus on a picture hanging on the wall, sucked in my cheeks and clenched my jaw in hopes that I would not repeat my inappropriate behavior.  The second the interview was over and Laura escorted the man out the door, I fell to the floor in hysteria.  To this day, I cannot think about the face without breaking into unconstrained laughter.

I’d like to think I am not alone in having such an embarrassing moment.  Sometimes humor takes control and can’t be quieted.  I’d love to hear from you if you can relate.