A Simple Thanksgiving

I am enjoying this stage of my life, trying to age gracefully by not complaining and being grateful for everything in my life.

I do have one regret, though. I miss not being able to cook for my family at Thanksgiving; basting the turkey, mashing the potatoes, and fixing all of their favorite dishes. But, what I really miss is baking pies, have made them for more years than I can count.

Yesterday, I had a chance to do it again, in a new way. My granddaughters came and made the family favorite, butterscotch cream pies, and a strawberry cake for good measure.  It was such joy watching them roll out pie crust and make the pie filling. It means the tradition will continue. Beautiful memories of making pies with my mother came to mind.  She had started early teaching me the fine art of baking pies.

I was about five or six when she let me kneel in a kitchen chair to roll out my first pie crust. Loved being in the kitchen with her, made me feel learning to make pies was important. Who knows, maybe it is an art. One that should be passed on to a new generation.

Learning to cook and bake with my mother are some of my favorite memories. She was a country cook, never measured anything. It was always a pinch of this, a tad of that. She would say about pies, “People don’t care if they look perfect, just want ‘em to taste good.”

It was a wonderful afternoon. I shared a few stories of my mistakes while learning to make pies, threw out a few hints of how to hide the mistakes, and tried to explain knowing by the smell that the pie crust was done. The hardest thing I did all day was put together a recipe for Jenna and Jess to follow.

Our apartment was filled with the unforgettable aroma of yesterdays. Memories of getting up at the crack of dawn, working non-stop to get the meal on the table, watching everyone eat too much, finally finishing the dishes, sitting down for the first time all day and feeling every bone in my body ache. Usually just in time to get somebody another piece of pie. I loved those days.

Several years ago, my daughter took over my job. I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Today, my son-in-law and his brother deep-fried the turkey. The entire meal was absolutely delicious. My daughter had everything so organized, one would think she had been doing it for twenty years.

Dessert was pumpkin pie, my granddaughters’ pies, and strawberry cake. Their pies passed the picture test and the taste test with an A+.

Of course, there was lots of football. A few people nodded off for short naps, including the dogs. After the kitchen was clean and leftovers were packed into the fridge, Stacy sat down to look through all of the Black Friday ads. Even though my Christmas shopping was completed, I sat with her at the kitchen table and we caught up on a little mother-daughter talk.

Today is a milestone Thanksgiving. I have been replaced. The baton has been passed. Accepting change can be hard, but today I’m okay with letting go. I’m proud of my daughter and granddaughters for a job well done.

My only regret today was not being able to help Stacy clean up the kitchen. Oh, and sorry I forgot to snap a photo of the girls hard at work yesterday. But, I did find the above photo of a pie crust from some years ago.

It was a wonderful, laid-back Thanksgiving with family. Now all I have to do is thank the Lord for His goodness and many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Ending on a Positive Note: I hope wherever you are today, whoever you’re with, you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

 

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Posted in Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Letting Go | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving Kindness

Anyone dislike Daylight Savings Time, besides me?

Looking at the rain coming down in buckets, watching the wind strip the leaves from the tree right outside my office window, it seems to go from daylight to darkness in a nanosecond.  Looks like bedtime and we hadn’t even eaten dinner yet.

Happy I didn’t have to get out tonight. As W. C. Fields once said, “It ain’t a fit night out for man or beast.”

The weather has been like this all day. Today was supposed to be an errand day, but it didn’t take much to persuade me to stay inside where it was warm and dry.

I am grateful for my walker which allows me to get out and about, do things I can’t do without it. But rainy days are difficult, especially when the wind is blowing like it was today. I’ve found maneuvering one’s walker while holding an umbrella is nearly impossible. Storing the walker in the back seat of the car and trying to get into the front seat always ends up with me looking like a drowned rat.

Didn’t really need an excuse to stay in, but I had a good one anyway. Groceries ordered from Kroger Click List were coming between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.  The delivery option is a wonderful thing for people like us.

At 1:20 pm, the phone rings. It is Trish, our favorite delivery lady saying she just pulled into the parking lot. Tom took off down the hall to let her in. Minutes later she was in our kitchen. Placing bags of freezer and refrigerator items on one side of the counter, canned goods on the other, and bags of miscellaneous items such as Kleenex, toothpaste, paper towels at the far end of the counter closest to the bathroom, and opening the pantry doors to put my soft drinks away. She has it down to a science.

As I sit on my walker in front of the fridge, she hands me my orange juice, milk, and ice cream. She is so friendly, so easy to talk to. Given the season, our conversation naturally turns to Thanksgiving. I asked if she had anything special planned.

“No, everyone in my family is gone. I’m the only one left so it’s not really special anymore. In fact, I am working half a day on Thursday. I have been doing it for several years so fellow employees can be at home with their families.”

My eyes teared up. What a thoughtful thing to do. I thanked her for displaying such kindness to her co-workers. Life can be hard, every family struggles with different complications on holidays. What a wonderful gift she was giving to others.

We drifted from Thanksgiving to pets. Her face lit up when she was talking about her dogs and cats, explaining how she obtained each of them.  Saying she would be lost without them.

She then told me a sweet story about recently pulling over to the side of the road of an extremely busy intersection to rescue a little dog. The little guy was standing in the middle of the street with traffic whizzing by. He was shaking like a leaf as she put him into her car. After reading the information on his collar, she immediately drove to the address. The lady answering the door burst into tears when she saw the dog. She was so grateful that she offered Trish a reward. “I didn’t accept it, just told her to pay it forward.”  

Pay it forward. Isn’t that what we all should do? Random acts of kindness are so easy to do and so appreciated, sometimes even lifesaving. I have been blessed to be on the receiving end so many times throughout my life, especially in the last few years.

When we moved from our condo to our little apartment in 2015, our lives shifted into an overwhelming, crazy existence beyond our control in a heartbeat. I had everything planned, everything under control until Tom had a heart attack and I had a stroke. And we were trying to move?

Thank goodness our family always comes through for us, but so many wonderful people came out of the woodwork to step up and help us get through a really stressful time. We will be forever grateful.

A wonderful neighbor from my old community hired her cleaning lady to clean my condo after we moved out knowing I couldn’t do it. My daughter wouldn’t even let me go back to double-check that we didn’t leave anything behind. She reported it was so clean it looked brand new. It was one of the nicest things anyone ever did for us.

Kindness can be shown in millions of ways, can be as simple as opening a door for someone, smiling at a stranger, saying hello to others, giving a compliment, calling or sending a card to a shut-in, writing a note to let someone know how much they mean to you, letting another car merge in front of you, stopping to let a pedestrian cross the street, or holding the elevator.

You get the idea. Let your imagination run wild or just do what comes naturally. Doing kind things when no one is looking makes a person feel better, brings such joy.

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My heart if full during this time of thanksgiving. Thank you to the readers who take time to read my blog, sign up to follow me so my posts are delivered directly to your emails, and care enough to share your comments.

                                 You have made me believe in myself, and my writing.                                   I am truly grateful for your kindness.

Ending on a Positive Note: Never doubt there are many good people in the world spreading kindness every day. Never doubt the kindness we share with others will always find its way back to us.

 

Posted in Friendship, Gratitude, Holidays, Life Changes | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Place Called Home

 

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Tom and I attended a pre-Class Reunion on Friday night. The get together was not for either one of our high school classes, but for our younger brothers’ era – a combined 1967-1968 reunion. We had the best time, saw friends who were much younger than we are. Some of these folks didn’t just go to high school together, they went back to grade school, some all the way back to kindergarten.

When you grow up in the kind of community we did, it’s okay to go to the reunions before and after your own. In fact, you get invited. Makes a person feel loved.

Getting there a little early to find a seat is a necessity for us. Remember the little wooden people who wobbled, but never fell down? Well, that’s us nowadays, the Weebles. We grab a seat and stay there until it’s time to go home.

The only chairs open were at the name tag table in the corner, which turned out to be a smart place to sit. Everybody eventually finds their way there as name tags prove useful, especially at fifty-year reunions.

The evening was informal. The kids Tom and I remembered were now grown up; adjusting to retirement, slowing down to enjoy life a little more, and loving their new role of grandma and grandpa. It sort of felt as if we had slowed down and allowed them to catch up with us.

Got a bunch of hugs from the folks in attendance, had a little time to get caught up. Well, as much as you can at a fifty-year reunion. But, it sure did my heart good to see all of them.

The most fun was just sitting and watching the smiles, the hugs, the laughter as classmates started every other sentence with, “Remember when we ……., or I’ll never forget the time.”

I bet everyone’s face hurts after this weekend from all of the smiling. The smiles and the laughter proved their memories were still alive after so many years. This group could still finish each other’s sentences. It was a beautiful thing to see.

Today, there were tons of photos on Facebook from the Friday and Saturday night events, and also from the tour of the old high school, the fieldhouse and Alumni Room. People were still smiling. It was obvious everyone had enjoyed their milestone reunion.

Class reunions are quite extraordinary. They allow us to see old classmates, sometimes for the first time in decades. Allow us to relive the memories of some of the best days of our lives. Special memories that remain because a bit of Norwood is still within all of us.

Our lives have changed considerably since 1967-1968. Back then we didn’t realize how our childhood and coming to maturity would affect the rest of our lives and shape us for future years.

Although our lives may have taken different pathways, we all are blessed with having an unusual connection, a common bond. Of living in a more innocent time, growing up in a wonderful community, and attending great schools. In a place where so many happy memories started, in Norwood.

Hope everyone enjoyed the reunion and coming back, even if just for a weekend, to the special place that all of us at one time called home.

Ending on a Positive Note: Several years ago, I wrote a book for Norwood High School’s 100th anniversary. I was amazed at how many alumni wrote me to say how lucky they felt growing up in Norwood, saying the schools and the community had truly helped shape their lives.

There is an old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” which simply means it takes more than parents, family, or one person to teach a child the ways of life. In Norwood, we may have called those people teacher, principal, coach, choir director, park leader, scout leader, Y-Teen or Hi-Y leader, dance teacher, chaperone, minister, neighbor, upperclassmen, underclassmen, or friend; people who were there when we needed someone to believe in us. People who helped us grow and gain confidence in ourselves. Those people made a difference in our lives and helped us to become who we are today.

Posted in home, values, friendship, memories | 2 Comments

Celebrating Connection

I sit preparing a short agenda and notes for facilitating the two-month-old discussion group in our apartment complex. Community Connection is a fun afternoon, sort of like a book club, only with a twist!  Sort of like a Meet-n-Greet, only a little bit different!

We hope by discussing interesting topics, sharing thoughts and experiences, neighbors will enjoy spending a little time getting to know each other better. The goal is to talk about things that make us think, tickle our funny bone, or inspire us in some way. Just in case, we also offer a cup of coffee and maybe something chocolate! Who can turn down chocolate?

Working on a few icebreaker questions to jump-start the conversation and get people talking, I review the last two gatherings in my mind. Attendance has been good and people are sharing interesting stuff. We are getting better acquainted, finding it easier to talk with each other.

I don’t mind planning topics and will always be prepared with things to discuss, but hoping the group will begin to suggest things THEY want to talk about. Actually, one person did just that, last month. I was so excited.

While considering potential materials for November, my mind jumped to a recent conversation I had with my daughter. While listening to her talk about her new job, I realized so many changes had occurred in the workforce within just a few short years.

Since I retired seven years ago, technology and the work environment have drastically changed. Not sure I could survive in today’s workforce, or even want to.

Technology is wonderful, but it moves so rapidly. Am I the only one that struggles to keep up?

While I respect those who can function at today’s lightning pace, I sometimes wonder how people remain constantly plugged-in to technology, never taking time off to chill.

Suppose it’s understandable when you consider an iPhone can function like a mini-computer, with the capability of storing one’s life all in one sleek little phone. It really is quite amazing.

Maybe I’m just too old school. I still like to dream, let my mind wander, discover tranquility that helps me find clarity.

My observations may be off base, but technology appears to have a few flaws.

I prefer the slower pace of the world; miss the face-to-face interaction with other people. I worry that when people spend so much time alone with their iPhone, even in a crowded room, it might be too easy to become distracted, or feel unfulfilled.

Wonder if this time that seems to offer so much freedom through technology might be an addicting environment created for us. I sometimes feel a bit manipulated after checking out an item online, only to have it pop up a few minutes later on my Facebook. Accident? Don’t think so.

Maybe it’s time for me to wave the white flag, admit to being the first casualty.

Hey, I admit to being old, but I like this stage in my life. After years of performing like the energizer bunny, periods of quiet solitude are like a soothing balm.

It has taken me several years to slow my life down. Admit some physical issues out of my control have required me to redesign my environment; create a comfortable space that suits my behaviors, goals, and values.

My life is not for everyone, but I like where I am.

I won’t be around in a hundred years, but can’t help wonder what historians will say about this technology growth age we are living in. Will the new and innovative technologies, seemingly offering unending choices, be seen as an age that enhanced or altered the world’s human connection?

Ending on a Positive Note: *My hope for the future is that people don’t fade into a world of isolation. I hope kids will still read real books, play sports, sing, dance, sit and dream about what they want to do when they grow up. I hope people will spend quality time with their family and friends, live positively, be kind to one another, and remember that smiling, laughing, hugging, and the human touch are all vital. I hope that kids will still listen to old people tell stories about the ‘good old days’ and know the joy and fascination of learning about a different era of life.

*Above excerpt is taken from 2014 Centennial book, Norwood High School, 100 Years of Educating and Shaping Lives

Posted in Choices, Life Changes, Working together | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Someone to Listen

Sliding into the driver’s seat, I realized it had been over seven months since I had been behind the wheel of my little green Toyota. My husband had an eye appointment, was getting his eyes dilated, so I had to drive. By the time we reached the Optometrist’s office, my confidence was beginning to peek out.

In the waiting room, I handed Tom an updated medication sheet to add to his new patient paperwork. Before I opened my Kindle to start a new book, I asked if he needed any other information. He told me he was a big boy and could handle it.

Five seconds later, he was asking for our new phone number. I laughed, teasing him that the number had been brand new in July, it was now November.

He ignored my comment and continued filling out his paperwork. Then I hear, “What kind of question is this? They want to know what language I prefer. Well, I think French. I don’t speak it, but it is my preferred language.”  

Rolling my eyes, I heard laughter coming from the lady sitting right across from my husband. She was cracking up. Catching my eye, she said, “You are lucky to have someone who makes you laugh.”

While telling her I indeed was very lucky, her name was called. We smiled and wished each other a good day.

A few minutes later, Tom’s name was called. He disappeared into the inner sanctum for his eye exam.

The front door opened, an elderly gentleman entered. His head was covered in flaming red hair, curling ringlets sticking out every which a way. Dressed in a beige suede jacket, white shirt, and dark dress pants, his wobbling feet were encased in dark gym shoes. He shuffled across the carpet to the receptionist desk. He was alone. His face etched in a permanent frown.

The old Willie Nelson song about a red-headed stranger flashed in my mind. I don’t remember the words, just something about sad eyes and the red-headed stranger losing his wife.

As he signed his name, the receptionist asked if he still had Anthem insurance, told him she would need to see his card. He answered yes in a booming voice.

His answers were a question behind, and each time his voice became a little louder. A lady sitting two seats away leaned toward me, whispering, “I just love the way old people answer questions.” I smiled back and we had a brief conversation about the joy of old age bringing freedom to our lives. I commented it must be AARP Day at the eye doctor because everyone in the waiting room was seventy or older. She laughed when I said maybe Tom would get a discount.

As the red-headed stranger was locating a seat, he shuffled past me. I smiled and pulled my walker closer, out of his way. He glanced at my walker and then at me, saying, “Guess that thing helps you walk better.” I smiled and answered, “Yep, it sure does.” Looked up, hoping a smile had replaced his frown. No smile. His eyes were still so sad.

At that moment, a staff member called my name saying my husband needed help. Holding the door, she told me Tom had requested his beauty consultant. Tom was sitting at a small desk with four pairs of frames lying in front of him. “They all look the same to me, hon. I just don’t know which frame to get.” I had him put each pair on, chose the one I thought looked best, and he told the young lady the order was a go.

He still needed to complete one more test, so I went back to the waiting room.

As I sat waiting for my husband, I looked at the red-headed stranger and wondered if he still had his wife? Was losing her what caused his face to look so void of emotion?

A sadness settled over me. I remembered when my mother died; my daddy told me he felt so lost without her, saying, “I just miss sitting with her, talking with her.”

Four days later, I still can’t stop thinking about the stranger with his red hair and sad eyes. Hope he has someone in his life that has time to listen to his stories.

Turned on my computer this morning to learn that today is National Love Your Red Hair Day!

Mr. Red-Headed Stranger: I hope someone is celebrating you and your curly red hair today, making you smile all the way up to your eyes.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” – Ronald Reagan

Ending on a Positive Note: I’m thinking of the people I know that live alone. Gonna make a list and reach out. Call ‘em on the phone to see how they are doing. Bet I won’t have to talk much, probably all they need is someone to listen.

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A Bridge to Connection

A bridge was dedicated in memory of Gayle Faulkner Lawson today in Harlan, Kentucky.

The event will not be covered on the world evening news, but I bet it is big news in Harlan. It should be.

This morning, the Kentucky General Assembly named the bridge on new U.S. 119 near the Harlan County line in Gayle’s name, recognizing her lifetime of community service.

Sometimes, dedications of this kind tend to honor famous people. Politicians. Celebrity types. Often, the structures have nothing to do with the person being honored.

Today they got it right. They are honoring the right person.

Although well-known throughout southeastern Kentucky for years of diligent community service, Gayle Lawson would be quick to tell you she was just an ordinary person.

I knew her before her hair turned white and she updated her hairdo. As Kentuckians say, let me tell ya, “She was not ordinary. She was really quite extraordinary.”

Words like persistent, determined, stubborn, obstinate, pushy, and tenacious were often used to describe her. She was feisty, which made her a worthy opponent. People learned to do their homework before tangling with her. Highly intelligent, she had a good memory and was always prepared for any meeting. Her daughter, Doris, told me people often dreaded seeing her name on their calendar.

Doris tried to describe her mother before our first meeting. “Ag, she will wear you out. She talks all the time and sometimes is downright nosey, so be prepared for inappropriate questions.”  Gayle and I hit it off immediately. Doris told me her mother approved of me saying I was easy to talk to and because I loved volunteering. I think she was a sucker for people born in Kentucky. Besides I could talk almost as much as she could.

Gayle and I often talked about the importance of volunteering and community service. I once asked her secret for dealing with elected officials at the state level. Her answer, “I always go in knowing more than they do.”

I drove to Lexington to visit her in the hospital a few weeks before she died. When I entered the room, the nurse was trying to get her to eat, with no luck. When Gayle smiled at me, the nurse handed me the spoon and said, “Maybe you will have better luck than me.”

Gayle was extremely weak, unable to say much. She did allow me to feed her a few bites of her soup and a few sips of her drink. She smiled as I talked to her for a few minutes. Then closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Sitting, watching her sleep, a stack of get-well cards on the windowsill crashed to the floor. Picking them up, I started to organize them so they wouldn’t fall again. There were lots of cards, many on engraved stationery with the State Seal of Kentucky on the front, from senators, even the governor. I began to truly understand the scope of her volunteer work.

Gayle had told me once the seal was surrounded by goldenrod, the state flower.  Not sure she appreciated my comment that I thought goldenrod was a flowering weed. With her eyes flashing, she set me straight; telling me goldenrod was a weed and a flower. Laughing, she added someone who had been born in the Great Commonwealth should have known that.

Her thirst for learning and her love of teaching was inspirational. But, her exemplary community service, outstanding leadership, and working to better her community had been her true legacy.

Gayle was dedicated to her causes, worked tirelessly, and never gave up on the projects she believed in. She believed a lot of her success came from bringing the right people together to get the job done. I think her exceptional patience and boundless energy probably didn’t hurt. The driving force behind important projects that changed the lives of so many, she was a remarkable woman who had a huge impact on her community.

She bought her Ford Bronco so it could get her to meetings and conferences all over Kentucky. I think of the phrase of putting your money where your mouth is because she always traveled at her own expense.

In some ways, Gayle was sort of old school. She liked her information to be printed on paper once telling me, “Agnes, can you believe the College is switching their records over to the computer. I have half-a-mind to bring home the paper records so they will be preserved for the future.”

Gayle was always telling me how she admired my organization habits. She never threw anything away and often asked for tips to help organize her substantial amount of paper files. Once inviting me to come spend a few weeks with her and help get her organized. In the next room, Doris overheard her invitation and yelled, “Mother, really!” Gayle calmly said, “Doris Jean, I wasn’t asking her to do it for free. I plan on paying her.”

In the early 80s, we moved just around the bend from Doris and Jerry. After my brother finished remodeling our kitchen, Doris brought Gayle over to see it. Learning the old cabinets were still on the back porch, she turned on the porch light to see them. She shouted, “Doris Jean, these cabinets are in good shape. They would be perfect in your basement.” Doris finally took a corner cabinet to her station wagon to make her mother happy. That memory always makes me smile.  It was so Gayle.

Her grandson called and invited me to go to the dedication. I thought about it a long time, thinking it would be nice to be there, for Gayle. And Doris.

But, today is a proud day for her family. A time for her son and daughter-in-law, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren to witness what one person can do with their life when they decide to become a champion for good.

I liked Gayle because she was a good person, outspoken, funny. I respected her for tirelessly working to make an area she loved a better place for people to live and work. I loved her simply because she was my best friend’s mother.

Gayle was a trailblazer, someone who got her hands dirty, worked in the trenches. Her passion for projects that connected people made life better for those in her community, and in Kentucky, was her legacy.

I am grateful she was my friend.

Ending on a Positive Note: Gayle Faulkner Lawson was one of a kind. Don’t see many like her anymore. I hope the people at the dedication realize her true value.

 

Posted in Awareness/Action, Friendship, Gratitude, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Love, Value | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

A Single Conversation

On March 15, 2017, I wrote a post called Everyone Has a Story about a chance meeting with my neighbor, Bert.

A loner, he didn’t come out of his apartment much. It was difficult for him to get around. He was on Hospice and had people who checked on him.

Bert died yesterday. I cried.

He wasn’t a friend. Only met him one time, but a single conversation can reveal a lot about a person.

Having retired many years earlier, one only had to watch his face to see how much he had loved his former job. Reporters didn’t specialize as much in his day. “My beat was pretty general, so I covered happy stories, sad stories, interesting stories all over Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.”

Never knew what he would write from one day to the next. He said it was a good life. I bet he was a good reporter. I can only imagine the knowledge that lived inside of him.

His love of the Cincinnati Reds went way back to the Crosley Field days. He spoke with admiration of the players he had known personally. “Good players who loved the game; played before money took over baseball.”

He was a nice guy with good manners, obviously had been raised to respect others.

I learned that books were a vital part of his life. Anyone who calls their extra bedroom a library is intelligent, has stories to share. His library had books all over the room. Some neatly arranged on bookshelves, others stacked on top of his desk, a little table across the room, and one small stack on the floor next to a comfy chair.

So many people only see their value in their profession, especially as they age. Bert was so much more than his former profession.

I’m sorry we never got to talk again.

Ending on a Positive Note: Our eyes cannot see the stories people carry inside. There has to be a conversation. Sometimes one is all we get.

Posted in Life Lessons, Relationships, Value | Tagged , | 8 Comments