Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, April 26, 2010

C: Isn’t It All About Me? or The High Cost of Summer Blossoms

Recently I had a family in my office, gathered around my young-father client who was experiencing marital difficulties.  This son of the family was going through a divorce he did not want, and his parents were present because they are loving, involved grandparents. 

Sometimes I see parents of my grown clients who are really running the show behind scenes; and I have to separate them, visiting with my client alone, guiding him or her notwithstanding the parents’ inappropriate input. 

But I did not sense that situation here.  No, these were sane, ratibroken homeonal grandparents who were present because the breakup of their son’s marriage was a family tragedy, and there are young children involved. 

These grandparents were focused on the children; they were not bashing the young wife who was intent on leaving; they were not jockeying for financial position.  They were worried, sincerely, about the kids.  They were saying things like, “We wish she would go to marital counseling, but it seems she won’t…we want to keep a relationship with our daughter-in-law; we want to be able to know what the kids need and how we can help her with them.  We don’t want those kids to do without simply because our son and their mother cannot get along…”  This was rather refreshing after my usual day full of clients bent on revenge and self-dealing. 

rvpark During our conference late-50ish grandfather (I’ll call him “Bill Fisher” here)  related a story of his first encounter with sex.   (Yes, I hear it all…).  According to him, it was in his 17th summer.  His parents ran a campground where folks passing through could hook up their RV’s.  It was in a resort area of our state, so some of the visitors would be there weeks in the summer, enjoying the nearby lakes and other attractions.  Bill had a summer job mowing and such in the campground.  This made for interesting summer romances, one of which appears to have “blossomed,” as it were…

But, alas, summer blossoms fade, if not by simple attrition, then by her summer romance parents pulling the RV out and turning to home several states away!

One day in the fall, Bill was called into the office by his father.  It seems that father had received a phone call from another father about his pregnant daughter.  Bill had been named.  And, when confronted by his father, Bill had to admit that he could, indeed, be this baby’s father.

Bill then said, “My life began crashing down over my head.”  Bill’s father told him these things:

Well, Son, if this is your baby, your life has just changed.  You may want to think about quitting school, because you will soon be married and in charge of seeing to this baby and a new wife.  You will need a full time job, and I don’t know how you’re going to manage—we’ll help, but when a man starts a family, it is primarily his responsibility.”

Bill recalls protesting, “But, Dad!  What about college?  Where am I going to get that kind of job? I need to finish school!  And, besides, I don’t think I really love this girl!  I hardly know her!”

You’re right, Son.”  Dad continued.  “You do need to finish school; you do need college, and maybe you can manage that somehow while bringing this baby up.  Others have managed.  And, as for you not loving this girl, well it’s no longer about you, is it?  It is about a baby to raise, and I’ll say this: This is a Fisher baby.  No Fisher baby is going to be brought into this world without the Fisher name and without the family he or she deserves to get a start on life.  As for you and it’s mama, well you’ll just have to learn to get along.

Bill knew his father meant this.  And he knew the die was cast.  He had already transgressed, having to confess his moral failure.  To refuse to accept responsibility for a baby he had created would be to incur his entire family’s deep disappointment and disapproval. 

He knew he would have to accept this responsibility; it was how he had been raised.  He said it was a sobering moment to think that his entire life course was now altered—and he could see that it was going to be difficult. His father’s conversation put the responsibility squarely where it belonged: on him.

Biwagonsll’s dad was circling the wagons, putting the innocent babe at the center, insisting that Bill take his place on the protective outer rim, where he belonged, to fend off the world’s woes from his unborn child.  To them, this is how families behave.  Bill, now moving into fatherhood, had to move from the center to the difficult edge.

By his decisions, Bill had given up his place in the center of the circle.  As a soon-t0-be father, his own father was insisting that he come out of that shelter and be responsible.  Instinctively, Bill’s father knew that the baby was not the only person disserved by Bill’s evading responsibility—it would not serve Bill well, either, to allow that evasion.

And Bill’s dad knew that his son might have to take an arrow or two out on that perimeter, such as putting off college and having to work.  But that’s what parents do for their young.  Chances are the arrows would not be fatal; Bill had his family there with him, watching his back, shoulder-to-shoulder with him—not doing it  for  him—but helping stand guard over the most defenseless of their members.  It was, definitely, Bill’s place to be there.

Word soon came that this pregnancy ended in early miscarriage.  There would be no baby.  His life could go on as planned.  Very bittersweet news.

Bill talked to me about the impact that this episode played on the rest of his life.  For one thing, sex was never again treated cavalierly.  Second, it had caused him to ponder his own moral fiber and standards.  And he found them strengthened by this experience.

I could see what kind of man this kind of raising had forged: one who could sort through his own son’s trouble, two generations removed from his stalwart father, and—once again—put first the children of the family, in spite of the difficulties their parents found themselves in. 

This grandfather could clearly see where he needed to focus—on those children.  His goal was to spend time with these grandkids, make the most of their parents’ situation, to see that these kids have everything they need and all the support they could have in order to better face the world from a broken home. 

I have to credit Bill’s father with shaping a man who can maintain that kind of focus through the emotion which surrounded the painful breakup of his Son’s marriage.  So, I’ve thought about that story a lot in the context of the usual advice given today:

I’ve not been a big fan of “shotgun weddings.”  “Don’t get married just for the child.”  I’ve given this advice, and I hold to it in most cases.  Manshotgun_wedding_black_tshirt-p2359642145426189994eba_400y is the time expectant mama is pregnant by a bum, with whom a legal union would spell doom, not only for her but also for her baby.  I have ranted against this situation in a recent post, and still say  (can I say it enough?) women have a responsibility to prepare a safe nest for their young, and I see that failing all the time.

But don’t think I haven’t considered the view of, “Why not? Why not be required to stand up for providing this child with two parents?  Why tolerate anything short of that?”   I know that there is no formulaic, “one size fits all” answer to this situation, but I sure am taking notice of Bill’s father’s attitude.

And all around me I see the travesty of not letting our children grow up; of not backing off and saying to them, “This is your responsibility, and it’s time you were an adult.”  I see grown “children” all the time whose parents are there still shouldering responsibility that should have long ago shifted.  It does no good for either the parent or the “child” to refuse to move the fledglings from the nest and let them fly on their own.

To Bill’s father, ignoring the responsibility to put an unborn child first was unthinkable.  To Bill it was unthinkable not to follow through on that responsibility all those many years ago.  And, while he had hinted at not marrying because “I don’t love her….” his father never let him rest on that “Me-ism,” but just said, truthfully, “It’s no longer about you and what you want.  You have made a choice in life which relegates your desires to a position much lower than the needs of this innocent child.  Own it.”

Where has that attitude gone?  Can we get it back?  The US is facing nearly a 40% unwed birth rate.  This places these children at risk—cold statistics prove it.  So much about our society’s attitude would have to change for us to get to the place where Bill’s father was.  Is it possible?  C

Friday, April 23, 2010

V: The Sweet Faces of "J" -Happy Birthday!

Earlier this week I posted about my special granddaughter, "J", and the wonderful day we had with our little picnic at the park. There wasn't time to tell about all the things that make her special, but on the occasion of her birthday, I wanted to take the time now to write about just that!

I've often lamented to my family that my dad isn't alive so he could have known "J". I just know that he would have loved her and appreciated what is so unique about her. "Some people are just naturally funny", he would say. And "J" fits that bill! Like the image ingrained in my memory of two and a half year old "J" standing on a chair at the kitchen sink, washing dishes in a sink full of bubbly suds. She was wearing a purple fairy costume with sequins, topped by a purple cone hat with flowing purple scarves (vision a damsel in distress costume)! She scrubbed those toy dishes over and over!

Two years later, I see her kneeling at the bathtub, pushing her sleeves back to her elbows in a practiced move, to wash up her grubby little brother.

Fast forward to age five. Oldest daughter delivers "J" to kindergarten readiness testing. Parents can't stay, but when daughter arrives to pick "J" up and see how she fared on the test, the teachers are laughing. Seems when "J" was instructed to hop on one foot five times, she stated that she had "better hop only once, because five times might be dangerous"!

The first week of first grade when the teacher was passing out the new reading primers, "J" raised her hand. "J" said: "Mrs. H, I can't read". The teacher responded: "You can't read? Not at all"? "No, "J" assured her. "I can't read at all". Mrs. H said she was wondering if some important information concerning "J" had been omitted from her files, but she held the book out to "J" and opened it. "See if you can read any of the words, "J". Any words at all". "J" proceeded to recite the entire page effortlessly. "Why "J", you CAN read", the teacher exclaimed. "You read this entire page perfectly"! "J" put her hand up to face with astonishment; "Why, I had NO idea"!!

Five year old "J" is watching television with her brothers when she reaches up to adjust the volume. The 26" television topples off the chest and falls on her. Her parents rush her to the emergency room, but she appears to be only bruised. The ER instructs them to follow up with a visit to her doctor the following day. Her father takes her to the doctor who informs "J" that he has seen lots of kids who have had a television fall on them. "Oh, I am so glad to hear that"!, "J" says with no hint of guile. "That makes me feel SO much better"! Dad said that the doctor glanced over his shoulder with a quizzical expression, probably wondering if this kid is for "real" or a little sparty pants! "J" complains that her back hurts. Dr. P says, "You know, "J", even though I'm a doctor I have problems with my back too. I'm going to give you some exercises that might help". "Did you hear THAT Dad?", "J" exclaimed. He's an EXPERT"!!! Dad reported that Dr. P's back was turned, but he looked over his shoulder, and realizing that she was sincere, he burst out laughing.

Here is "J" with her mom, step-dad and brother. She loves to blow bubbles!

Daughter drops "J" off in front of the school and waits for her to go in. Brothers rush on ahead, but "J" lags behind, as usual on her own time, bending down to pick wildflowers, then twirling and blowing kisses to her mother while parents waiting in their own cars to drop off children watch laughing.

So birthday wishes and blessings for this most special girl!

Here is "J" at her birthday celebration last year! Happy tenth birthday, "J"!

P.S. Woops! "J"'s Aunt Mary left this comment!
"You left out the part where the sun was shining, umbrella was out, late to school, picking flowers, blowing kisses, all with her skirt stuck up in her Disney princess underpants!!

Or the time when she was going to learn how to play her "My Little Pony" guitar and take that and a harmonica onstage to be in the school talent show. Within about two weeks, I wanna say? And then, when asked what song she was going to sing she said, with a shrug, "I dunno, I'll just make it up when I get up there"!

Does this family love this special little girl, or what?!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

C: The Really Important Stuff

Keep your friends close.  I mean it!  Those who have been reading this blog for very long know that V and I are close.  We talk almost everyday.  cindybirthdaypartyWe go way—waaaaay—back!  That picture on the right is my fourth birthday party.  That’s V on the left with me, the birthday girl, in the light-colored frock, both of us blowing party noise makers.  She and I can both describe my birthday cake to you—it was a circus “Big Top” cake, and we were so very impressed with it.

Because of our long history, V knows things about me I’d rather you didn’t—no matter, I know some things about her, too, so my secrets are safe!  And she is a loyal, wise friend; I never doubt that.

I don’t know what I’d do without V; she has been unbelievable support through the trials of my last couple of years.

And she’s non-judgmental, too!

Take  the other night.  On a whim and at last minute, I decided to have MIL and V and her husband, R, to dinner.  Must try out that new grill, you know!  Son and I began spiffing up the house and working some outtractortireside to prepare for guests, and everything went wrong.  I have a Kubota tractor and two riding lawn mowers.  MIL has a new fancy lawn mower.  N.o.t  o.n.e  s.i.n.g.l.e.  o.n.e.  of these pieces of machinery would  work!  I had banged up MIL’s mower blade by hitting a hidden log.  The other two won’t start, having yet to be fixed up after the winter. The tractor has a direly flat tire which won’t inflate.  Got to figure that one out, both budget-wise and getting the tire replaced or fixed.

Therefore, we were having guests with overgrown yard, front and back.  Oh, well.

I set about getting ready for dinner.  We had purchased a rotisserie for my new grill.  The plan was to poke that sucker through some Cornish hens and roast them, along with ears of corn.  So, I hosed the considerable pollen off the back porch, cleaned up the tables and chairs out there, and squirted the grill really well, too.  I had not purchased a cover yet, so it gas grillwas “pollinated,” too.

I went to get the rotisserie and could not locate it.  I recall that it was in  the back of that Home Depot truck that was used to deliver the grill home.  I asked Son.  He helped me search…not on the front porch…not on the back porch…we looked everywhere.  Finally, I decided I had left it at the store.  No rotisserie chickens for us…never mind, I’d just grill them.

I went to light the grill with the auto-light feature.  No dice.  Over and over I tried.  I stooped to figure out the problem—not rocket science.  The guts were dripping with water.  I had apparently drowned the grill in my zeal to get it clean.


cornishhens So, it was back to oven-roasted.  I got the chicks ready, the table set, and all went well.  The hens were coming done just as our guests arrived.  We visited a few minutes and pretty much went straight to the table.  It was as we were sitting down that I noticed that R had to squeeze between the table and the standing ironing board and iron which I had meant to put away and had not quite gotten to it…

give thanks And, you know, as we bowed our head to give our thanks for our food, I found myself saying to God (to my guests’ chuckles), “And thank You for friends and mothers-in-law who will come to dinner and not care one whit if the lawn is mowed or the ironing board is put up!”

We had a grand time!  The food was good, Son had someone to go shoot with him a few minutes outside, and the company and conversation was stellar.  Not a tense thing about it.

All because of good friends.

As I closed the front door, having bid my friends “Good Night,” I sighed with contentment as I turned on my heel to head to bed…and spied the rotisserie leaned up in the corner of the dining room.

Ah, well; maybe next time!  C

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stickhorse Cowgirl V: The Golden Rule

Several weeks ago on a beautiful Saturday morning, hubby and I picked up our only granddaughter "J", from a birthday slumber party. We took "J and our dog, Dudley, to a local park to have a little fast food picnic! "J"'s mother, our eldest daughter, had just gotten out of the hospital for pregnancy complications and had undergone an ultrasound revealing the gender of her unborn child (YAYYYY, it's a GIRL!!!!!!),due this July.

Granddaughter "J "and I had shopped for the birthday gift; hungry, tired and cranky kindergarten brother in tow! Wasn't I just doing this myself for my own three kids a few years ago?! Anyway, the gift was chosen, wrapped in the parking lot, card signed and we delivered "J" to the party just in time!

The next morning, after picking "J" up, off to Pinnacle Mountain Park we went --yes, it is a "little" mountain as mountains go, but hubby and I climbed to the top summer before last which was quite a feat at our age!!! Here we are at the summit!

Granddaughter "J" and Dudley running in the park at the base of the mountain.

"J" flew through the air on the swings! She ran through the grass with Dudley on his leash. We had a great time! I was glad to see "J" having such fun with a smile on her face. She is a precious girl and life hasn't been completely fair. She has the most optimistic happy outlook on life, but sometimes things happen that are beyond one's control - like divorced parents, several moves in the past two years, longing for what seemed safe and secure and forever in the past. As I've grown older, I've learned that "forever" doesn't exist in this present life. "J" is now in a stable, happy home, looking forward to a new sister ( she is SO excited), having been the only girl with two brothers and two little stepbrothers she loves! And that is what is so special about "J" - she loves! She is the most loving child with such a sweet spirit towards her friends and family. That's why I was so upset when eldest daughter revealed to me that when "J"'s father picked her up from after school care recently, she was in tears because the three other girls who also go to after school care, were all picked up together for one of the girl's sleepover party. "J" was left alone. Now, I know she is well liked by her classmates and I'm sure the mother of the girl having the party had no idea that a child was going to be devastated by being left out, but it sure makes me want to do something-- so no other child has to go through this. I know it's not possible to invite every child over for a sleepover. I realize that you can't protect a child from every sorrow and heartache in this life. A favorite pastor once said that if we had no struggles or resistance in our lives, we would become weak and flabby in spirit--- like lifting weights with feathers.

So I pray for "J" that the Lord would bless her, protect her from evil, and guide her steps. And I rejoice with "J" that her prayers have been answered for the sister she has so desired.

I'm just wondering, friends-- do you have a memory of being left out or not chosen? If so, how do you think it affected the person you are today? If there were any silver lining in this dark cloud, perhaps it would be the lesson of empathy; putting yourself into another's shoes. Never forgetting how it feels to be left out. In essence, the golden rule.

Monday, April 19, 2010

C: Comfort food

What is your comfort food?  (I have, oh, so many).  Mine tend toward the mac and cheese heavy-carb side: mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken and dumplings, you get the drift.  But it has occurred to me recently that sometimes comfort food is defined not so much by the food itself or its taste, but by comfort associations with that food. 

We  have a Brazilian restaurant near our office, one of our favorite places to eat.  Occasionally (verrrrrry occasionally) we will send out for lunch there.  It is way too pricey to make this place a lunch (or even dinner) habit.  But the food is stupendous.

It has some fancy-schmancy dishes on the menu—heck, they all look fancy-schmancy to me—but one that I love for lunch is a lovely chicken salad type of thing they call SALPICAO.  It is a warm dish, not the cold Southern chicken salad.  The menu describes it as: Finger-shredded chicken breast, Fuji apples, carrots, sweet peas, fresh herbs batata palha (potato shoestrings) served over rice.  $13.95. 

So, you can see that I don’t send out for lunch at that price very often; only when I need, well, comfort or if I feel especially deserving.  Still, it is one of those dishes that I frequently get a hankering for, whether or not I give in on the budget considerations.

The Salpicao and rice combine as you eat, the savories salpicaoof the shoestring potatoes, the chicken and  mayo foil the sweetness of the apples and peas.  And the rice is just a wonderful, bland carrier for it all!  It is delightful, and I find on the internet that it is a traditional Brazilian recipe.

But rolling around in the back of my pea brain was the idea that this food reminds me of something I know; that I enjoy it, not just because of the taste, but because of some association…it reminds me of something, but what?  No chicken salad I’ve ever made has been warm or served over rice.  That combination just would not occur to me. 

Does your brain continue to work on things even when you are not aware of it?  Mine seems to.  One day I was doing something entirely unrelated to food and the puzzle pieces snapped into place!  I knew, at last: Salpicao reminds me of a chicken casserole my mother used to make.  We’re talking real comfort food, here.

Again, remember, that it is not so very much about taste, here.  The reminiscence has to do with the combination of textures, the chicken plus the rice; oh, I don’t know what all goes into making this association.  My rational brain picks apart the comparison, saying “there is no sweetness in the casserole like in the Salpicao…yadayadayada…” But, the association for me is there, strongly.  So, I offer you the following comfort recipe: Mom’s Chicken and Rice Casserole.

Now, recall, that this is not HEALTH food—it is heavily processed.  Nor is it haute cuisine, coming right out of cans and boxes, as it does.  But for me, it is pure comfort, recalling a Mom who always tended her children, making sure we had filling, delicious meals.  And it harkens me back to the comfort of my childhood under her watchful care.chickenrice

Think of this recipe as a blank canvas, because it is fairly bland.  Mom used to add slivered almonds (mmmmm) and sometimes a sprinkle of pimientos  for color.  You could sauté some celery and bell pepper to go it it, and I’ve thought about doing something crunchy for the top (batata pahla, maybe??).  But I love it just like this:

Mom’s Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 cup of Minute Rice                   1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup

2 - 5 oz. cans of chicken       1 Soup can full of milk

a little butter to dot over the top

Mix it all up and put it in a greased casserole dish.  A 9 x 13” pan works fine.  Bake at 350 degrees until the rice has absorbed the milk and it begins to get crunchy around the edges.  About 30 or 40 minutes.

I have done this in the microwave, but the texture changes.  It becomes almost like a savory rice pudding rather than rice casserole.  While this presentation has its own charms and I do this when I am in a hurry, I prefer the conventional oven.

Now, you know ingredientsand I know we could recreate this recipe in a healthier, fresher way.  But, as for me, I’m thinkin’ I’ll stick to this original comfort food.

It is nice to have ingredients in the pantry so you can whip up a hot meal in a pinch.  I have even used powdered milk and can tell no difference, so it is possible to keep all on hand.

So, there’s my comfort food thought for the day…what’s yours?  C’mon!  Share!  C

Saturday, April 17, 2010

V: A Faithful Man Who Can Find?

If you've been reading for a while you know that "C" often writes about the plight of divorce, and especially how it affects women and children. Sadly, this is because she sees the wreckage in her family law practice everyday. I have to admit that I've become somewhat discouraged lately. Who could avoid hearing daily of the rampant infidelity in the lives of the rich and famous. Are we so desensitized that we just don't care anymore? Have we become completely apathetic regarding the breakup of the family?

C" informed me recently that her estranged husband has been extending requests for "friendship" on Facebook to old friends and relatives. He also sent Christmas cards with a photo of him, his girlfriend and new baby (his new family as he calls them), to friends and relatives of his wife! Remember "C" is still legally his wife! These actions were deliberately cruel. A close mutual friend of ours called me the other day to tell me that she had received one of these requests. "No way am I interested in being his friend on Facebook", she stated emphatically. "C" was relieved to hear this because that's one of the statements her straying hubby goaded her with. "No one really cares", he told her. "People will get over it and everything will go back to normal." In other words, he believes that there are no real consequences for him. Do people really not care anymore when an individual turns his back on his family. This man was an elder in his church, counseled others, was a loving husband for over 35 years. Their marriage was a harmonious relationship and "C" was an exemplary, supportive wife, sometimes setting aside her own career to prop up his new inventions and ideas. He led a faith based community group for several years, opening their home to friends and strangers, leading Bible studies and classes. Many people, including several families, lived in their home for months at a time. He graciously extended hospitality and friendship to many in his community. So how does someone just change suddenly and give up family, honor and reputation? Was he an impostor or did some organic change occur affecting his personality and judgement? There is much more that I wish I could divulge, but it would not be appropriate. The deception in his life involves many other areas and has caused pain and loss to friends and family.

As a father, "C"'s husband was totally involved as soccer coach, scout leader, etc. So this hypocrisy has left us shaken to the core and puzzled as to how he could turn his back on his family and friends, without seeming to have any remorse. When someone rejects their entire family, even their family of origin, you have to wonder what went wrong. Innocent children have also been hurt. "C"'s nieces and nephews adored their Uncle C who indulged them with his time and attention, and to have him turn his back and leave the family has caused confusion and hurt. "C"'s 8 yr. old niece recently asked her mother, "So when do you just stop caring? When is your family no longer your family"?

My heart goes out to "C"'s mother-in-law who is a strong woman of faith. She wrote about her feelings concerning her son recently at Immigrant Daughter. I have also been the mother of a prodigal child, so I can relate to the deep feelings of pain and sorrow. Several months ago over lunch, we talked about how you can never give up on a prodigal child. You MUST persevere in prayer for them and trust the Lord to bring them to their senses. I strongly believe in continuing to love and pray for the prodigal, while not condoning their behavior. When confronted with a defiant, unrepentant attitude, I believe there is a responsibility to NOT give tacit approval to their choices which hurt innocent people. My friend who refused to accept the "friend request" on Facebook, felt that by "accepting" the invitation she would be giving unspoken approval to his behavior. I believe she is right.

Several years ago my own sister, faced a similar situation. Her husband of 25 years waited until their son turned 18 yrs. of age to announce his leaving. Of course he insisted that there was no other person involved. This turned out to be a lie. He even had the audacity to bring this "other woman" to a Christmas party that their Sunday School class had while still married to my sister. It was a couples class that they had been members of for ten years! The pastor and one member of their class did privately confront him, but for the most part many people really didn't seem to care that much. One person even said to my sister "well, at least they are in church". Can you imagine how that made her feel? She soon felt compelled to leave her own church. Her ex-husband and his girlfriend still attend that church.

In Proverbs 20:6, Scripture says: "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find"? When everyday we hear of a new celebrity breakup it seems that there are few faithful men. We live in a society that has chosen for the most part to "look the other way" concerning infidelity. "C"'s husband now proclaims that "God wants him to be happy", and therefore he has done nothing wrong. The human heart is never more resourceful than when it seeks to justify it's own selfish desires. It is interesting to note that is exactly what my sister heard from her ex-husband who sought to excuse his actions.

As I read over my words, I feel that they may seem harsh and judgemental to some. Some may feel that by being his "friend" on Facebook that they would be leaving a door open to have positive influence. Sorry, but I do not agree with that opinion! "C"'s husband said himself that people don't really care and so that is how their acceptance would be interpreted by him. I've chosen to remain silent until now concerning my friend's marital situation. Please indulge my anger over this most recent transgression by "C"'s remorseless husband. Sometimes you just have to speak up for what is right! My own grandchildren have suffered the sorrow and devastation of divorce. God hates divorce. I hate divorce. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary. May we lend our love and support to the victims.

Monday, April 12, 2010

C: Information, Please!

I am really about to demonstrate my age, here.  Remember that phrase (those of you who are old, like me) “Information, please?”  Do you  remetelephone operatormber calling the operator by dialing “O,” and saying, “Information, please” to get to what is now called “directory assistance?”

Gee, this is stirring up memories….remember calling long-distance with help of an operator?   “Station-to-station” was cheaper because it meant that you would speak to whomever answered the phone.  “Person-to-person” meant that you designated the recipient of the call, and you were not charged if you did not get your person, which meant it was more expensive when you did  get your party.

A long-distance call was reason for urgency.  I can remember hearing: “Hurry, it’s long-distance!” when someone would call from out of town. 

Collect meant that the person on the receiving end of the call would accept the charges.  We still do this today, however, mostly the collect calls we receive at our office are from the jail…

There was a “trick” that was played on the Ma Bell system to escape long-distance charges.  When family members had a journey to make, such as leaving Grandma’s house for out-of-town home after a holiday celebration, it was customary to call and let your family know you “made it home.”  To spare the phone bill, sometimes one could call “person-to-person” or “collect” for an imaginary person back at Grandma’s.  Of course, she would not accept the call, but knew that her family had arrived safely.  Voila!! Free of charge!

And, do you remember “party lines?”  We never had one in my memory, but I knew people who did, and I believe they remained more prevalent in rural areas, where the lines were not so numerous.  I’m not sure how they worked, but it seems that several homes would share the same lines. 


Each number had a different “ring,” so each family knew when a call was meant for them; but anyone else along the line who wanted could eavesdrop on the conversations going on at the other numbers.  There were those I knew who became adept at slowly lifting up the receiver, while holding the button down with a finger.  That finger would then slowly let the button up, so that the listener could hear the conversation going on without being detected.  Privacy just could not be had on a party line.

And, then, came the new-fangled “direct dial,” where you just dialed 1+the area code+the phone number.  No operator required!  In my childhood, our entire state had only one area code, so there was not need to dial the area code within our state borders.  We now have four state area codes.

And, telephone styles!  I’ve been through many in my lifetime.  I remember this black number from my early childtelephone blackhood.  The last person I remember having one was MIL, who refused to pay the premium price for the colored version.  I don’t blame her, really, why pay extra for different-colored plastic.  And, remember, we did not own the telephones….Ma Bell did.  There was no such thing as going to Target or Best Buy and picking your phone up.  The “telephone man” would bring the equipment with him(they were always men in those days… “operators", however, were always women, as I recall) .  I still remember watching an installation man unpack the phones, pulling the curled cords out of clear plastic and snapping them together.

phonewall Our family was even more stylish when we were able to have a tastefully-colored  phone—my mother chose “beige,” but ours was a wall phone, located centrally in the hallway of our smallish home.

Only later did we add a matching “extension” telephone in the master bedroom. 


Extensions were becoming fashionable in the early 60’s—I can recall as a young child being impressed with families who had more than one telephone in the home.  These would be extensions, only, and I knew of no family who had more than one phone line (more than one number) in the home until I was in my teens.  And those tended to be “rich” folks, whose listings in the phone book included the added listing, “Children’s Phone.”  Wow!  What luxury! 

Extensions, however, proved the same privacy danger as party lines.  If one was having a “private” conversation on one phone, it was possible to slowly join in from the extension, sometimes undetected. 

And, by the way, I still remember which phone number “prefixes” (the first three numbers) were the ritzy parts of town.  In my town, if your number began with 2dial25-XXXX, then you were definitely more uptown than that indicated by the numbers V and I had, which began, 565-XXXX which were distinctly middle-class.  

Originally, those prefixes actually had “names” to help us remember them.  These coordinated with the alphabet letters shown on the particular number.  Our 565 prefix was “Locust,” to correspond with the “L” and “O” on the 5 and the 6 of the dial.  225 numbers were “Capital,” while 665-XXXX  would have been “Mohawk 5-XXXX.”

When I was a teenager I was granted my wish for a pink “Princess” telephone in my bedroom (the dial lit up!).  V had one, too, and I can’t recall which of us got her princess phone first.  She and I spent many hours on the telephone.  What did we have to talk about?  Heck, I don’t know, but talk, we did!  It became a lifelong habit.    Because it was only an extension, and not a separate number, we were often shooed off the phone by soprincess phoneme other family member who had the nerve to want to make a call.  I still speak with V most days by telephone, and sometimes we stay on waaaay too long.  She is the only person I really do that with.

Cell phones just pretty much revolutionized life.  In my profession, I spend lots of time on the telephone, so much so that I used to dread hearing it ring when I came home.  I can remember when cell phones first became available for one’s car and thinking, “I’ll never have a car phone…I need to escape that phone someplace!”  Now, of course, it is required equipment—I would not think of leaving my home without my cell phone.

And, on top of that, I require a “smart phone” with internet access. Sheesh! What have I come to?I-phone

And, more and more, I am finding that my clients and friends have only cell numbers, dispensing completely with a land line.  I can’t do that.  In my country home, there is no cell reception, so I remain tied to the land line.  To tell you the truth, I don’t think I really want to give it up, even if I get reception here.  I don’t know what it is, but it just seems like one ought to have a “home phone” number.  And, of course, there is the listing in the phone book that would be missing if you go with cell service only.  At least for now.  I never use the phone book anymore, turning to the internet, instead.

pay phone So, one wonders: Will we still have paper phone books with our friends’ numbers and addresses listed in ten years?  What about pay phones or “phone booths,” which used to be on every street corner but are now disappearing.  I remember in my dating years that it was standard advice that girls keep a dime in their purse just in case they needed to make a call home from the pay phone.  Nowadays, pay phones are few and far between, and a dime won’t cut it—I don’t even know what a phone call from one costs!

And, if you are wondering what spurred this trek down telephone-memory lane, let me just say: “I’m not sure.  It’s in the middle of the night, and this is just where my mind wandered.”  Go figure…insomnia does strange things.  I’m just glad I have this blogging outlet!!  C

Friday, April 9, 2010

C: Every Day Ordained?

This is a post about a post.  My mother-in-law posted the other day at Immigrant Daughter, and in it she revealed something I only just discovered while reading it.  She did not make much of this in her post but, as you will see, I have been pondering it ever since I read it. 

carlandcat Here’s the much-shortened version of the back story:  My father-in-law (now gone from us for two years) was born out of wedlock in Indiana in 1924.  He was raised in foster homes, and his story is one of extremes: tragedy and redemption. 

This is one of my favorite pictures of him, in my breakfast room, holding my cat.  You can read more about him on Immigrant Daughter.  He married MIL in 1949.

When he was grown, with his own family (maybe in his 50’s??), he found his blood family.  After he was given to the foster system as an infant, his parents had married and had two sons—his full brothers.  His parents had both died by the time he located the family.

In that research he came in contact with his aunt by marriage who had been married to the then-deceased Alfred, FIL’s mother’s brother.  And during the course of the research to find his family, a publication about Alfred surfaced.  Alfred was a candidate for governor in his home state of Indiana.  This was a message to his voters back home from his Army post in Camp Llano Grande, Texas.  It was written on September 15, 1916, and the gist of it is that Alfred, serving the Army on the Mexican Border, was for prohibition.  Here is a scan of it:


Now, switch attention over to MIL.  She grew up on the East Coast, born into a Greek family in 1930.  In her “archives,” she found a similar publication about her father’s brother, Charlie.  This was also called “A Message from the Border.”   Here is a scan of it. 


It is an article informing Charlie’s union local (Union of Operating Engineers, No. 542) back in his home state of Pennsylvania  about Charlie’s service to the Army on the Mexican Border.  The article speaks of Charlie’s earnest work against prohibition.  The date?  September 15, 1916.  It is also from Camp Llano Grande, Texas.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  (hum “Twilight Zone” music twilightzone here).  Let’s see. 

  • MIL’s uncle from Pennsylvania and FIL’s uncle from Indiana
  • both in the Army at Camp Llano Grande
  • at the same time
  • feature in articles on prohibition
  • on the same, exact date
  • And MIL just happens to have both of these in her possession???!!!!

I don’t know about you but this seems like an awful lot of coincidence to me.  Of course, we have no idea that these men ever met—Alfred was an Officer who later retired as a Colonel.  Charlie was a private at the time of this article, and returned to his civilian life later on. 

Certainly, they could have no idea that Alfred’s nephew (born some 8 years after these missives were written) and Charlie’s niece (born 14 years later) would later marry.  They probably were not even aware of each other’s articles on prohibition being generated and set back to their respective homes on the same day

I just think it is weird as all get-out that these traces of by-gone folk converged in this way.

I told this to one of my associates this morning, and she puzzled, quiet for a moment.   “I’m trying to find the meaning of this,” she said.  Me, too.  I have thought a lot about it. 

For me, it is like some kind of message of hope through FIL.  It seems to tell me that the craziness, uncertainty and trouble of life does, indeed, fit into some scheme and some plan.  It feels like a message crafted for me back in 1916, as if God knew that in 2010 C would need a little communication that He is in control—beginning to end—and that it will be okay, no matter how it seems at the moment. 

And, believe me, C does, indeed need to believe that the insanity of her last three years is in the hands of Someone Who Knows What He’s Doing.  For sure.

And I can’t keep from thinking about this:

All the days ordained for me

       were written in your book

       before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:16

Yes, I know I over think, but that is how it feels…. C

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

V: Pure Grace and a Child of God

lamb I love the concept of covenant. I truly believe that when the Lord enters into covenant with us, He never breaks that relationship. I'll probably never have the theological debates over free will and the gift of faith figured out, but I'm glad that I don't need to understand exactly how it all works to have the faith which has been granted to me, for even faith itself is a gift. Pure Grace - unmerited favor.

Our family had the delight of our newest member, Jack, wearing his great-grandfather's Christening dress that he wore in 1907, receive the gift of pure grace this Easter. If only he will grow up to be half the man his jack's baptis-easter 2010 012great-grandfather was, I would be happy. My father-in-law was such a man of unfailing love for his family and honest, kind, and faithful. These are all  praiseworthy attributes which I hope little Jack inherits! So here is a photo of Jack trying on this lovely hand-embroidered dress which is now 103  years old!

Youngest daughter and I took Jack on a visit several states away earlier last week to meet his great-grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. We had a nice visit, but my mother isn't doing well. I always thought that it was a blbaptismessing that Alzheimer's patients at least didn't realize what was happening to them. This is NOT true!! My mother is very aware that something is wrong with her. She paces the floor with anxiety every evening.

For several years she has complained that her head feels funny. Not a headache, but a strange feeling. The struggle to remember names and events and now even words, frustrates her no end.

So as this Easter season concludes, I remember that the promischurches for Jack for a hope and faith, also stand true for his great-grandmother. Although she is failing mentally and physically from age-related illness, the promise for new life from the One who created her and  who's shed blood is pure grace, still holds true.

I love this third stanza of an old hymn by Edward Mote "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand".

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood.
When every earth prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

C: Do I Need My Own Blankety-Blank Truck??!!

pickupt For weeks I have been needing a pickup truck.  I bought a daybed—need a mattress.  Am fixing up my bedroom porch—need wicker chairs.  Ditching my old, ratty BBQ cooker—need a new grill.  How do I get these things to my home?

Living in the country I am surrounded by helpful neighbors, almost all of whom have a pick up truck.  But I am working sunup to sundown through the week.  And last weekend it rained and I’m never able when they are…besides all the hauling I need requires several stops.  I hate imposing on people.  I just could not bring myself to call sometrucksone to lend me their truck for half a day.

All week I have been fuming…scheming to buy myself a work truck, knowing that if I did it would be outside something I really can afford.  Still, I live in the country; doesn’t that require a truck?  I’ve looked in the paper; I’ve gone on line at local car lots; I’ve even looked at the credit situation to check out monthly payments.  But I resisted, worrying about a looming tax payment.

So, today, the dadepottrucky before Easter, MIL, Son and I hoofed it to The Home Depot where we purchased a pre-assembled grill and rented one of their  pick up trucks.  This picture is not ours, but looks pretty much the same.

It was a doozy of a day.

First of all, I think everyone in our city was at The Home Depot, eager to fix up their homes for spring.  It took me half an hour to arrange for the truck.  Really, in the broad spectrum, this isn’t much of a wait.  But I was in a hurry!

We got the truck, loaded the grill and headed for Garden Ridge for two  wickerwicker rocking chairs I had spotted for $80 apiece.  When we got there, they had gone “off sale,” and were $100 each.  I dithered but in the end went on and purchased them.  When can I count on another day with a truck?

Next stop: Sam’s, where I had seen a twin-sized mattress for $98.00.  Just the thing.  But, OMG!  Do you know what Sam’s is like on the day before Easter?  You don’t want to know… We gave it a pass.  I decided to pay a bit more another day and have it delivered.

We headed home, dropped MIL off at her house and headed to mine.

Pull around the house,” Son instructed. “Back up to the porch, and we won’t have to lift these things—they will just slide right off onto the porch.”

Sure thing! But I couldn’t get the angle right and pulled down into my meadow to re-adjust.  My Son yelled, “Noooo!  Waaait!”

Too late.  The momentum was too much, and I realized too late that I was sitting in the middle of standing water.  When I tried to move forward or backward the mud wheels spun, sending mud everywhere.  I was stuck good.  It probably wasn’t as bad as this picture looks, but I’m telling you, we covered the truck with mud and ourselves to boot.

Son calmly got boards and put them under the tires.  Eventually I freed the truck, we got the goods unloaded and I turned the truck toward town to return  it, leaving Son to work around the place.

I went to the do-it-yourself carwash to get the truck clean of the mud we had plastered on it.  As I was there, my phone rang.  It was Son.  “Mom, where are you?   You’ve left the keys to your car, and you won’t be able to get home!” (We had left my car on the Home Depot parking lot).

Thank God I was only 5 miles down the road.  And Thank God he spotted my keys.  I think that getting into town (20 miles) without the keys would have caused a meltdown of monumental proportions.  Son averted disaster by delivering the keys to me while I was washing the truck down.

I returned the truck, got my car and realized it was 1:00 and I was feeling a little dizzy from not eating—not even breakfast.  I pulled into Sonic (strictly forbidden but rationalized that I deserved it for all the trouble I have had today.)

After lunch I took myself to the Kroger store (mud and all) for a few final things for Easter dinner.  And, of course, I ran into someone I knew, looking a total mud wreck.  But it was only V’s eldest daughter and husband.  They hugged me anyway…being like family.

sonic As I entered the car after loading the groceries, I was still carrying the illicit Sonic coke…which collapsed in my grip as I slid into the car, spewing Coke and ice all over the driver’s seat.  I had an afghan in the back seat, thank goodness, so was able to soak it up and make it home.

And the house is still not in order for my family tomorrow.  I’ll be up late tonight getting there.  But, you know, all-in-all I suppose I have had more disastrous days.

The Home Depot truck cost me $36 (not counting the carwash…).  I think that’s a pretty good deal.  I’m thinking I’ll nix the idea of purchasing a truck and just use theirs instead.

And, as for  tomorrow, it is my usual circle, and they’re used to me and my housekeeping by now.  We’re looking forward to a wonderful Easter Day!  Hope you have one as well!  C

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