Click here to read my post for OdysseyOnLine at Clemson
“I took a quick step back in order to take a second look. I was shocked to see a rat in the bushes. It was not a cute rat like the one I used for this article. That was simply a ploy to encourage you to click and read the article. No, it was a dead rat – yes, dead as a doornail rat.”
My life has always involved changes. I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them. There was a lot of loss this year, too. However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me. Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.
My brother and I were separated when we were very young. I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas. That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow. We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times. We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.
This will be an exciting time. I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time. We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble. His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out. She will have to separate us when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG! We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years. All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.
This will be a huge change for me. For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast. We then return home for gift giving and fun. The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing. This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family. For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.” The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper. There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together. The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.
Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun. It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me. Usually my mother would call, but never my father. We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it. I have written some other posts about all of this. As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children. I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays. There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.
Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents. It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far. I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.
I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.
I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.
Summer was a great adventure growing up. I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC. I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge. It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood. There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood. We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river. The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.
I was almost 8 when we moved to that house. There was only one other family with children at the time. Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I. We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day. Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood. Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.
The tides played a big part in planning our day. At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs. The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat. High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal. We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner. In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock. A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle. We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.
Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots. There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit. Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose. We would sit and talk for hours. We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.
We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines. We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue. We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot. We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats. The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems. We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them. We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies. We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth. We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.
We had a small store not far from our neighborhood. It was also home to the post office. Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand. We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week. We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home. After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river, pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts. We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts. After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle. The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.
When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share. Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house. Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood. Those summer days gave me hope for something more. Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died. I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times. We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
Last week I embarked on what seemed to be a rather innocuous journey, and I shared a post here about it. The challenge was to post a picture every day for 100 days of something that made you happy. I started well, but floundered around day four. In the eleven days since I accepted the challenge, I have posted only seven pictures, and truth is one of them was an old picture.
I tried to take pictures of things that made me happy, but soon came to the realization that not too many things really make me happy. Well, I meant to say things I could photograph, that is. Don’t misunderstand me; I have many things in life that make me happy, but I just couldn’t find a way to make it work in this challenge.
Of course, things like the beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the color of fall leaves or spring flowers, spotting a deer in the woods, and more all bring happiness into my life. However, it is a bit of a drive to the beach or the woods, and I am often not in a place to photograph those other things on a daily basis.
Yet, what really makes me happy is sharing that experience with people in my life. I don’t have to physically share the experience, but I find such joy in sharing the story with a friend or family member. Even better is when the person with whom I choose to share the experience gets as much joy or excitement from it as I did.
I grew up as an only child in a home where talking, touching, and sharing life experiences were non-existent. I had very few friends and often felt alone. As an adult, I have come to cherish the people in my life. I sometimes share my experiences with the exuberance of a young child, bursting with excitement to tell my story. I imagine that I can be a bit overwhelming to those who know me best. However, they usually smile and say something encouraging.
I have decided that I am not going to continue with #100happydays challenge, but I am going to continue to look for things every day that bring happiness into my life. If something captures my attention, and I can take a picture, I will still share it on Instagram. Keep watching! The next picture you see may just be of a donut!
I have been watching my friend Abby, from the infamous Abby Gabbs blog, posting pictures with the hashtag #100happydays. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I loved the pictures. Today, Abby posted that she had completed the challenge, and I finally understood what it meant.
It is a very simply challenge- every day submit a picture of what made you happy! Post the picture to your Instagram or facebook and tag it. At first it seemed to be a rather Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver look at your life. Yet, the more I read, the more I realized that some days I only focus on the fear or the negative. Every day has something that brings happiness. Every day I can chose to be grateful for something. I know this is pretty simple, and I know it won’t change the circumstances of daily living, but it might just change my attitude a bit.
The challenge says, “#100happyday challenge is for you – not for anyone else. It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.
I decided to take the challenge. I won’t be posting to facebook every day, but my Instagram will be updated daily. I will post again in a couple of weeks, and let you know if my attitude has changed. I hope I don’t have to buy too many donuts!
“Happy old age” was always an enigma. I didn’t know any “old people” who seemed happy. Bitterness, anger, and loneliness seemed to be the destiny for anyone that lived past fifty. I will admit that perhaps my vision was a bit skewed.
From the time I was four, I lived with my grandparents and my great grandmother. Vacations each summer were spent with another set of grandparents. Each of them was miserable in their own way. None of them showed any signs of a happy old age.
When I think about each of them, I remember the frowns and downward pointed eyebrows. None of them had that sparkle of joy or peace in their eyes. Their voices were dull and mean. Yes, that is the word I needed to find-mean. Perhaps all of that anger, bitterness and loneliness had poisoned their spirit to the point that their words and actions spewed meanness.
This seemed to be such a contradiction since all of them (except my grandfather) talked about loving God and hoping for the glorious day when they would see Jesus in Heaven. My grandfather was a drunk, so his meanness came straight from a bottle. Grandmother took me to church every Sunday morning and then again on Sunday evening. When I was younger, she would take me with her to her church group “circle” meetings. The old women sat in a circle and talked about a Bible verse of two for a while, and then went directly into bashing anyone not there, as well as other church folks. Time for refreshments meant time to discuss the terrible state of the world, the disappointing youth of today, and to ask the host for the recipe of the treat of the day. Of course, they chatted amongst themselves as they left about “those treats she made” and the recipe was thrown out at home.
At church I heard sermons from an amazing pastor about God and his love for us, but at home Grandmother told the story of a different God. Her God was vindictive and just about as mean as she was. God was clearly judgmental, and perfection was required for His love. I never measured to the standard my Grandmother set for God to love me. He was just another grey haired, white bearded, crotchety, mean old man in my mind. When I was in my late 30’s I left the church, and after 25 years I felt drawn to return. I attended a variety of churches and denominations looking for a place to call a church home. One Sunday, I was looking for a church and “accidentally” found a different one. It was the farthest thing from anything I would ever have considered, yet it was where I was supposed to be-for many reasons.
The congregation is an older one with some of the most beautiful grey haired, faces with wrinkles, older women you will ever meet. I come complete with tattoos and ever-changing hair styles and colors, and they have accepted me without question. Many of them have been friends for years, and they truly love and cherish each other. The ages range from 70 to well over 90. Every Sunday and often at Wednesday prayer lunch, I look forward to seeing these special women. Their faces show wrinkles and eyes are often clouded by cataracts. They may have to use a cane or walker. Yet, all I see are sparkling eyes and beautiful smiles. I listen as they willingly share stories of the church, their childhood, marriages, families, and more. Laughter often accompanies their stories. When one is sick or has to be away, you can feel the sadness from the others. These women all love God and Jesus, but they don’t have to tell you that. You can see it in the love they have for each other, their church, their lives, and the way they welcome anyone who enters the doors of the church. I can clearly see the God of love that the pastor of my youth shared with us.
I used to be afraid of growing old. I worried that I would become a bitter, angry, lonely old woman just like my mother and grandmothers. I’m not afraid any more, in fact, I look forward to watching my children, my grandchildren, and yes, even my great-grandchildren as they grow and change. I have some very special friendships that I cherish and plan to take them with me as I journey towards old age. My prayer is that I may be just as precious and joyful as the women at my church.
Although I may be inconsistent in posting on my blog at times, I traditionally post on New Years, March 7th, my birthday (both belly button and recovery), Thanksgiving and Christmas. Remembering the past year, I am reminded to “be careful what I ask for”, because 2013 brought many lessons about trust. As I began this post, I read the post for New Year’s 2013. This is what I wrote:
A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing. I have several words that seem appropriate, but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me. I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad, yet much of it good. I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust into my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself. I survived the end of the world in 2012, so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!
I began the year trying to recover from the flu, and in spite of getting the flu shot, it was my Christmas day gift. For the next few months, I would battle one round of bronchitis after the other. Breathing treatments, antibiotics, injected and oral steroids became constant companions. I would battle each round coming ever so close to victory, only to find myself pushed back into a corner once again. In May, only two days before I was to take my grandson to the live auditions for X-Factor complete with Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
All of these battles with bronchitis occurred as I prepared to begin my lifelong dream of going to college. I stepped onto the College of Charleston campus in early January not sure if I would be able to survive as a college student. I can now tell you that I not only have survived, but I have done well. I have enough credits to apply as a degree student instead of a “non-traditional” student and I am only a few credits away from being a sophomore. Did I mention that I have a 3.82 GPA?
Being sick for so long took a financial toll since I wasn’t able to work during that time. The cost of COBRA for me to keep my insurance was over $500 a month, and I still had deductibles and copays. In October, the biggest financial hit came when my car blew the transmission. Being without a car for close to two months was devastating, but I managed to finish school for the semester and keep my part time job.
As summer approached, I was healthy again and was able to start a new fitness program. It was another step in learning some great ways to exercise without a gym, and it was a thought-provoking experience in learning balance. I was reminded that fitness goals and healthy living are a work in progress, not something to achieve overnight.
I managed a couple of very short trips this year. Jan, Anna, and I took a day trip to Savannah. We laughed, talked, shopped, discovered “Your Pie Pizza”, and walked all around Savannah even though it was still a bit cool that day, and had a great day. I had to take a trip, have an adventure, and see a play for my three of my classes, so a short weekend trip with Ginger, Sassy, and Jerome made getting an A on all three papers easy. Jan and I continued to have Friday adventures including doing some genealogical research, climbing an old haunted staircase in a house that was built in early 1800, and visiting a couple of library archives. We did manage to find some great food along the way, as well.
So, what does all this have to do with trust? If you look at most of last year, you may begin to see that I wasn’t able to do things for other people the way I usually do. Money, health, and time took away my ability to take care of others and do things for the people in my life. All that was left for me to give was myself. I have always been sure that “I” was not enough. Last year, I had to trust my friends and my family with my vulnerability. Every time they stayed by my side, supported me, bought me lunch, visited me, called me to make sure I was OK, took me where I needed to go, went beyond everything I expected, I thanked God for showing me what trust and love are really about.
I didn’t learn to trust anyone as a child. I didn’t understand love until I had children of my own. I did not trust God, and I was not convinced that God would or could love me. I do not believe God sends catastrophes, broken cars, financial problems, etc. into my life, but I do believe God has used all of these things to help me learn about love and trust. God continues to be patient and understanding with me.
I do not think I am going to choose a theme for 2014, but I will be writing to tell you about my year. I will give you one sneak peak at the upcoming year. The “three stooges” (we must think of a better name) are going to see JILLIAN!
I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year!
It is close to midnight on Sunday night and I am sitting in an empty office room. During the day, the room is filled with volunteers and staff talking on phones and with each other. But, at night there is only one person covering the phones, and tonight it is me. I work for local hotline crisis center. I have done this for over 13 years now. We talk to people who are in pain, hurt, scared, angry, lost, and sometimes suicidal.
I chose this work because without a line just like this one, I might not be here today. In March of 1987, I made a call to a local crisis line because I wanted to die. I thought I could no longer handle the pain and guilt that ruled my life. I felt that God had long since given up on me, as had everyone else. A wonderful woman spent a long time on the phone with me that night and kept me safe until morning. In my post on Christmas past, I shared some of the things that lead me to that night.
Just the other day I was talking with my friend Jan, and I was shocked to hear that she had never seen “A Wonderful Life.” This is the movie when life takes a devastating turn for Jimmy Stuart, so he stands on a bridge thinking that his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead. He is contemplating suicide when a guardian angel named Clarence comes to his rescue. Clarence shows him what life would be like if he was never born. Stuart’s character comes to realize the impact his life has had on all those in his life, and realizes that he does indeed, have a “wonderful life.”
As I prepare to share this Christmas with my family and friends, I wonder what might have happened if I had succeed that night. I would have missed an amazing life, and the opportunity to share my hope and faith with others. I wouldn’t be here for this Christmas. This year, I will spend time with my church family as we host several services leading up to the Christmas Eve candle light service. I will spend time with my friends Anna, Jan and her kids. Christmas day, I will be blessed to share the day with both of my children, their spouses, and my three amazing grandchildren. If I had succeeded that night, I would never have known the joy of sharing my life with all of them.
I won’t be able to buy gifts as I did last year. I had the most fun shopping last year, but some financial setbacks including a bout with pneumonia in spring and having my car breakdown beyond repair, make it impossible to give the way I did last year. I have been fortunate to find a car I can afford with some serious budget cuts. I have made peace with the situation and believe that Christmas will still be special this year.
Christmas this year will be about sharing special times with those I love and care about the most.It will be remembering the true gift of Christmas was the gift of Jesus It will be enjoying the sounds of Christmas music and singing along to carols as I drive down the road. It will be finding those special small gifts to give to others. I love seeing the Christmas cards and greeting on facebook from all those in my life. Phone calls with people I should talk to more often will add to the holiday excitement. I will of course eat too much chocolate and other baked goods, in spite of Anna telling me how much sugar, gluten, and other harmful things fill my plate. I promise to listen more after the first of the year.
When Christmas day is over and everyone heads to bed, I will log into a computer, pull out my headset, and cover the crisis hotline. Maybe, I will talk to someone who feels lost and alone this Christmas. Whenever I talk to someone like that, I remember the night I made that call and the person on the line that gave me hope. I think of the life I have today, and like Stuart’s character I can say, “It is a wonderful life. “
If you don’t have cable TV, visit retail stores from Walgreens to Ace Hardware, or talk to other human beings, then you may have missed a phenomenon called Duck Dynasty. You have missed getting to know the Roberston family including three brothers named Jase, Willie, and Jep who run the family company “Duck Commander” in Louisiana. The company makes hunting products and are most known for making duck calls with the same name as the company. The fourth brother Alan is a preacher. The family leader is the father, Phil along with mom, Kay. Si (Silas) is Phil’s brother. All the men, except for Alan, are known for their long beards and country living and values. The show also includes all the wives and children of the brothers. A&E reports the show has broken many rating records and in the fourth season has over 11 million viewers.
Si is one of the most interesting characters on the show. He is never without his pitcher of tea and Tupperware tea cup. He starts every sentence with “Hey” and ends most with “Jack.” He is also known for off the wall comments and an odd sense of humor.
I recently passed a mobile home sales lot and saw the newest Si-Pad advertized with large banners. The Clayton Homes description of this home says, “Camouflage wall panels. Check. Si Security Locker for your hunting gear. Done. “Si’s Stash” safe for valuables. You bet. It’s an affordable, quality home designed with the needs of “the outdoorsman” in mind, inspired by Duck Dynasty® star, Si Robertson. Robertson has endorsed Clayton Homes as a “good call.”
You can find almost anything that uses the cast of Duck Dynasty including T-shirts, jackets, hoodies, bandanas, tea cups, calendars, fake beards, posters, watches, coffee mugs, hats, booble head dolls, DVDs of all seasons, and last, but not least, and most surprising…books. It seems almost all of the cast have written books. As someone who strives and longs to have a book published someday, it makes me take a deep breath and wonder if there is hope when I see the Duck Dynasty books on sale at every book store and Amazon.
You will find a book by Si called “Si-cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle.” Does that mean there will be a Si-cology 2? Other titles include, “Happy, Happy, Happy”, “The Duck Commander Family-How Faith, Family, and Ducks Built a Dynasty”, “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen: Faith, Family, and Food–Bringing Our Home to Your Table”, “The Duck Commander Devotional”, “Duck Dynasty: Family, God and Guns”, “Faith in the Duck Blind”, “The Women of Duck Commander: Surprising Insights from the Women Behind the Beards About What Makes This Family Work”, and we are assured that there will be more.
A friend recently pointed out that Mama June from the show Honey Boo Boo (another interesting reality TV show) got married, and Si Roberson and the rest of the family have published books. She also pointed that neither of us were married nor had we published anything. I shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and really couldn’t think of anything to say.
I won’t give up, however. I look at it from a different perspective. If Si Robertson and the Robertson family can write and publish books, then certainly a smart, talented, amazing person like me can make it happen. Right? Maybe, I just need a new Si-Pad as to “relax” and write. So, in the words of Si Roberson, “This thing is gonna be a humdinger. I’m talking ’bout this thing is gonna be a pants-off dance-off, Jack. We fixing to have a hootenanny like you ain’t had in your lifetime. Hey, this is going to be like the wedding from Deer Hunter. Hey, this thing is gonna be good.”
“Mom, this came in the mail. A real card, in an envelope, in the mailbox!”
No one in our family or circle of friends does that anymore. Occasionally we buy a an honest to goodness, hold in your hand, made of recycled paper card, but more often than not, we send an online card, post happy birthday wishes on facebook, send a text message, or if they are special enough, we will call and talk to them. The card was from my daughter’s aunt, who lives in our town. However, she chose to mail it. She knew my daughter would not receive the card in the mail from her Grandmother that year. She passed away only months before my daughter’s birthday.
I remember watching the mailbox every year for birthday or other special holiday cards. I loved seeing the cards, but more importantly, the accompanying note or letter from the person sending the card. Over the years, I have saved letters or special cards from family and friends. I pull them out from time to time, remembering the people and events of my life. I lost an entire box cards and letters when I moved from Nevada, but I managed to save one small box. I have added to the collection over the past 16 years, but I rarely receive cards or letters anymore.
I have been helping my friend Jan with searching for stories about her ancestors. We have been to historical archives, libraries, and old houses in our search. In online programs for recording family trees and genealogy as well as in archives, letters have been an amazing source of family history. I love reading about the people and their lives. Letters have been part of our history since there was pen and paper. We would be missing a great deal of our New Testament in the Bible were it not for letters. Novels and poetry books are about or taken from letters. We had songs growing up about letters. “Take a Letter Maria”, “Please Mr. Postman”, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (a Letter From Camp)”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, and more. Of course, we can’t forget the yearly letter to Santa.
I pulled out some of my letters this morning and as I read the words of encouragement and support from my friend who passed away five years ago, I felt her presence and smiled. I read about her fear when the Beltway Sniper shootings were happening in the Baltimore/DC in 2002. I laughed as I read the things she shared about her family and friends. I still have copies of the letters from my mother when she left my father, my brother, and me. The words helped me understand her and the decisions she made at that time in her life. Another letter she sent much later explains more about her life.
I love being able to keep up with friends and family, who are spread across the country, on social media. Of course, we can always call and talk but it seems that we are often doing other things while we talk. Writing letters requires time and attention. When I sit down to write a letter, I am focused on that person for the time I am writing. When I read a letter I am connected to someone in a different way than any other. I miss cards and letters.
No, I am not a postal employee trying to encourage you to buy more stamps. I am challenging myself and all of you to write a letter or card to someone special. In fact, why not pick several people and write one card or letter each week for the next few weeks. I have a feeling that once we start, we won’t want to stop. Once you do, write a blog post about it. Let’s save an empty mailbox today.