Journey from the Green Room

Van Gogh's Room

I have always been one to thank God every day for my many blessings. At the end of the day I like to look back and think about how I was blessed in so many simple ways.  Yesterday I had an interesting reflection.  I am preparing to attend a Gala fund raising event later this month and have been dress shopping, of course.  Our local YWCA has a bridal shop where they sell used formal dresses at a reduced price.  The money is then reinvested into the operation and maintenance of the building and programs provided by the Y.

On Wednesday, my friend and I went there to dress shop. She found a number of dresses that fit and all at great prices, plus they had a sale that if you bought one, you got two dresses for free.  I tried on dress after dress, looking for just the right thing at the right price.  The only, and I do mean ONLY dress in there that fit was a lovely navy blue Kleinfield for $200.  Very much a “Audrey Hepburn”  kind of dress  (For the men out there reading this, Kleinfield is a big deal in the bridal/formal wear world.  Their dresses even have a special number sewn into the hem)  I never owned a dress that had its own serial number before.  Well, I decided that $200 was just too much to pay for a dress and left without purchasing anything.  My friend Sally hit the jackpot and got three dresses for $52!!

Women out there will know what I mean when I say; I just couldn’t get that dress off my mind. I kept having visions of wearing it and knew what necklace would be perfect with it.  But, wow, $200…heavy sigh.  No, must be strong.  Well, by Friday, my strength totally disappeared and Friday morning I told my husband that after work, I wanted him to take me to the Y to get that dress and hoped it would still be there.

Flashback forty years ago to when I was newly divorced with a five year old child. I was working in a beauty shop as a shampoo girl and trying to make a life for us.  I guess I wasn’t a very good shampoo girl because they fired me and of course this meant I could not pay my bills which resulted in me getting evicted from my apartment.  My daughter and I packed up and moved in with my mother until I could decide what to do.  The decision was made that my daughter would go live with her father until I could get back on my feet.  It broke my heart, but it had to be done.  I left my mother’s house and moved into the YWCA while I looked for a job and a place to live to get my daughter back.   My room was on the fourth floor, overlooking the phone company building.  In my room I had a bed, a dresser, a desk and a chair.  All the furniture was painted intuitional green, as were the walls.  Oh how, I cried, and cried each night in that dreary room, alone without my child with me.

God’s blessings lifted me to new opportunities and I found work and moved out of the Y into a furnished apartment near my job.   Baby steps, I was moving upward.  The blessing continued and after two years, I found a house to rent and my daughter came back to live with me.  A few years later I met the man who is now my husband.  We just celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary!

Wednesday was the first time I had been back in that building since I lived there in that dreary green room. I felt a twinge of sadness when I first walked in and flashed back forty years. Friday when my husband (my wonderful Prince Charming) took me back to get the dress I had a much deeper reaction.  Yes, the dress was still there and I took it to girl and gave her my card and dropped $200 for a dress!!!  She made the comment about how the money would be going to support the Y and I told her that I had once lived on the top floor and a quickie version of how that came to be.  She said, what a blessing it is that I can come back and with this purchase give back to the Y.

For an instant, that’s all it took, my mind became a kaleidoscope of forty years of images that carried me from that green room at the Y with nothing to eat and flashed through all the blessing of each job I found and each home I had and all the people that God placed in my life so that here, on this day, with my husband and my life as it stands, I could give back something to my past. Suddenly, I wasn’t just buying a dress; I was using God’s blessings as a thank you.  So last night as I had my special time with God, instead of reflection on just the blessings of the day, I took a little extra time to thank him for all the blessings of my life.

The journey from my green room at the Y to where I am today has been amazing. I have not forgotten a single tear I shed and all the heartbreaks and pain I endured as I faithfully followed the path God put before me.  Faith is that thing we hold on to that gets us through.  There is the comfort in knowing that no matter how hard the times are, God will give you the strength you need to see you through. I don’t ever want to forget my green room at the Y because it reminds me just how far God has brought me.

Hymn by By Johnson Oatman, Jr., (1897)

 Count your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done

Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one,  And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold. Count your many blessings, money cannot buy Your reward in heaven, nor your Lord on high.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end

.Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one,  And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

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So Glad We Had This Time Together…

angel

I’m getting way to much practice at this grief thing. Yesterday I lost another dear friend.  We meet about 30 years ago when she became a volunteer at the arts center where I worked.  We hit it off immediately and add to the mix our husbands had been good friends from years ago when they raced go carts together.  Jan had colon cancer and fought a long and brave battle.  I often told her that if I’m ever faced with such a trial she will serve as my role model.  I never saw anyone who handled such a thing with more grace, dignity, and held so strong to her attitude and faith in God.

Since 2012 I have seen the passing of my beloved nephew Mike, my sister Shirley, my BFF Zuby, my cousin and genealogy partner Vic, and another favorite cousin Peggy. These have been strong blows. Each year to loose someone who was a part of me was like seeing a bit of me dying away.  They left voids that just can never be filled.  However, I find that the voids do fill, somewhat, when I put precious memories in the empty places.  When I think of all of my loved ones that have passed on, I think of all my special  angels in heaven that are watching over me.  I know they are still with me and at my side.  Now, I have one more.  I am so blessed that each one was a part of my life and help to shape the person I am.  They each added a dimension of me, a gift of the part of themselves they shared.

Today, I’m a little weepy for the loss my friend Jan. Monday I will go to Book Club and her chair will be empty and I’ll be weepy again.  But, I will not see the empty chair; I will see the spirit of her and the ever present smile that blessed my life for over 30 years.   I’m beginning to dislike the word “lost” when I speak of my loved ones.  Yet, there is no other word.  I lost Jan yesterday, but not really.  I know where she is, so she is not really lost and most of all I’m ever so grateful and so glad we had this time together.

Carol Burnett would sing this at the end of her show.  I couldn’t find who the copyright belongs to, so the best I can do is (C)

I’m so glad we had this time together, Just to have a laugh, or sing a song. Seems we just got started and before you know it Comes the time we have to say, ‘So long.’

There’s a time you put aside for dreamin’, And a time for things you have to do. The time I love the best is in the evening – I can spend a moment here with you.

When the time comes that I’m feelin lonely, And I’m feelin’ ohooooo – so blue, I just sit back and think of you, only, And the Happiness still comes through.

That’s why I’m glad we had this time together, ‘Cause it makes me feel like I belong. Seems we just got started and before you know it Comes the time we have to say, ‘So long

PS:  About the time I wrote this yesterday, my cousin Johnny died in a car crash.  He was 67 years old and a man of God. He answered the call to preach when he was fairly young and has served the community well.  So, his work on this earth is done and God called him home to become, I’m sure, one of his special angels.

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How Did We Manage?

How Did We Manage?

Challenge

I was born in another time, before television. I grew up in the country on food that we mostly grew. Our meat came from my uncles farms that raised pigs and cows. Of course this meant I was raised on lots of fried pork, fresh eggs, freshly churned butter and fresh milk.   I don’t recall we ever discussed nutrition, cholesterol or if butter was good for us, all we knew was what tasted good and we heartily ate to our hearts content (well, maybe our hearts were not really so content, but we enjoyed it)

We also lived in a time before gadgets. I was five when we got our first television; it was black and white and got three channels. That was it. No IPods, Smart phones, computers, 24 hour news channels, 24 hour weather channel or 24 hour food channel.   How did we manage???

For Christmas my husband gave me a Jawbone UP2 activity tracker. Here comes the fun part, you have to have an app to make it work. Well, my IPod was a 4th generation and very outdated. Yes, that’s right; I had to go buy a new IPod 6th generation so I could make my new gadget work.   What I am saying is I had to buy a gadget to make my gadget work.   What???? Really????   Well, this thing tells me how long I slept and if it was a light sleep or a sound sleep. It tells me how many times I got up to go to the bathroom during the night. Actually, what is says is “you woke up three times during the night”, but what it really means is “What, you have to pee again?” My UP2 tells me how many steps I make in a day and my smart coach is there to say either “Good girl” or “You can do better that this; you need to try harder tomorrow.” How did I manage without this knowledge before? I mean, I don’t need a gadget to tell me that I had to pee three times last night!

I have to admit I really do get a kick out of seeing how many steps I took. Of course, Granddaddy knew when he had walked a mile, because he knew how far it was from the house to the stables. I have found that I tend to compete with myself on seeing if I can beat yesterday’s record. Gotta get those steps in!!!! It’s fun challenging myself.

I can also record what I eat and it tells me how many calories I have burned, and when I have reached my limit and should not really consume any more calories that day. Hummm, is this a good thing? Not sure, but I have lost 3 pounds and that’s a good thing. But, really, did I need a gadget to accomplish this or could I not have just buckled down and decided on my own exercise more and eat less? True, but having a gadget to play with is just plain old fun.

I have to admit, I’m glad I have lived in two centuries and enjoyed all of the pleasures of natural God-given gifts and plain county living.   It was a great way to grow up and I gleaned wonderful values and treasured memories from those years. I also enjoy being a modern woman; yes you could even say a renaissance woman.  I like being a geek. I embrace all of my gadgets and take great pride in being a tech savvy senior citizen. I love the challenge of learning new things and listening to new ideas.   Yes, we managed back in the day but, isn’t managing kind of like settling for just what is without wondering what could be? It’s like that that saying “But we have always done it this way.” Personally, I think we should keep wondering, learning and always challenge ourselves and enjoy the gifts life has to offer, be it a new gadget or a new idea.

How did we manage…pretty well I would say and still going strong.

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Happiness is…

Happiness is…

As I pondered my last post about the things I live with and the happiness I gain from them, I got to thinking; is it really Grandpas rocker, or Aunt Lacie’s table that makes me happy? What I realize is these things have become touchstones for the memories they hold.   If they went away, my memories would remain and I’d still be happy embracing them.   So the question becomes, what is happiness to me?

Happiness is: (in no particular order)

  • Holding hands with my husband at Communion alter each Sunday
  • Holding hands with my husband every day
  • Seeing my children happy
  • Laughter
  • Sitting on the porch in the summer time and watching nature
  • Reading by the fire with the cat in my lap
  • Old movies
  • Doo Wop Music
  • Cooking a feast for my family
  • Shopping with my daughter and granddaughter
  • Special quite time with my daughter; mother-daughter days
  • Lunch with a friend
  • My job
  • Family reunions
  • Warm sunshine and cool breezes
  • …and the list goes on and on.

Humm, it would appear that happiness to me is God, family, friends and life.

Happy

 

 

 

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What Goes????

My daughter is constantly reminding me I have way to much stuff and that when I’m gone she will have to deal with it. I asked her if she had any idea how all that “stuff” happened. When I was married to her father we didn’t have that much stuff and when I divorced him, I had very little, the basics.  This was true until I remarried and acquired not only a new husband, but all of his stuff too.   Now this blended family has all sorts of family things that, hopefully, will mean something to the children one day.  I have the doll my husband’s great-grandmother brought with her when she came here from Germany.  There is the washstand that belonged to my great-grandparents that ended up in my father’s room when he was a little boy.  It later served as storage and workspace in my mother’s kitchen and now it is in my bathroom.  I can’t let that go.

In our bedroom there is the cedar chest that my husband grew up with as well and parts of his bedroom suite. In the basement is a twin bed that my husband grew up sleeping in.  When his ex-wife was getting rid of things he wanted that back.  We have no place for it now.  One day when our granddaughter takes her bed from the guest room we will replace it with his childhood bed.  Until then, it’s in the basement. He can’t let that go.

In the guest room, where my daughter sleeps when she visits, is the bed my parents shared and became her first “big bed”. At the foot of that bed is a table my mother had when she first set up housekeeping.  Also in that room is the cradle my Aunt Lacie had for her son (1920).  He was killed in World War II, and his cradle stayed in the storage house loft with no hope of a grandchild sleeping in it.   She gave that cradle to me when my first grandchild was born and all four of them have slept in it.   Aunt Lacie would be pleased. I can’t let that go.

I have two tables in my dining room, I only need one.   The round table was a family piece that came from my Aunt Bessie to my father and lived on the back porch of the house I grew up in.  I gave it to my daughter and she lent it to her former mother-in-law and then it came back to me.  Then it found a happy home with my nephew in his new home until he suddenly died 74 days after moving into his home.  The table came back to me.  So, it became a good size table that holds dessert at Thanksgiving.   I can’t let that go.

My main dining room table belonged to my Aunt Lacie. She and her husband bought it when they got married in 1919 and I grew up seeing the table and matching pieces (a sideboard and buffet table) on a regular basis and seeing them on a daily basis brings back so many special memories.  My Aunt would let me do jigsaw puzzles on the buffet table.  I can’t let them go.

Dishes…oh my, the dishes I own.   Well, let’s see.  There are my grandmother’s, my mother’s, my husband’s grandmothers and my set of Blue Willow that was a gift for my first mother’s day as a new mom. My mother’s bowls, including her special potato salad bowl.  I can’t let them go.

Hanging in my kitchen from a pot rack are my grandmother’s frying pans that were also used by my mother.   When I look at them, I can see Mama frying chicken and stirring up some wonderful food.   We eat on a daily basis at the table my mother bought when I was three years old.   Most of my family is gone; all I have is memories and some of their “stuff”.   I really can’t let them go.

We were ok with all of these things until we moved from an eight room house to a six room house and then things started to get cramped.   Our house is full of family pieces, very little of what we have has been purchased.  If you go room by room there are no more than two or three pieces in each room that we bought.    In our bedroom we have one side table  and a wardrobe I bought, the rest is all family pieces.  In the den, we bought a chair so a third person could join us and as it was my office it has four filing cabinets (they can go, but where do I store all my files???)  Purchased stuff I can let go.  But I need my sofa, so that’ can’t go.

The pleasure and warmth that I get from using the things that belonged to my family are truly priceless. I understand my daughter’s plight and really will try to downsize best I can.  But what she does not realize that by asking me to let go of “stuff” she is asking me to let go of part of my life, part of me, and part of my family, my heritage.  These are such precious memories.

Because the children don’t see what I see in the things that fill the house and because we are a blended family, much of the history of things will be lost. I have taken pictures of each item of importance and family heritage and attached them to a word document that gives the provenance of each item.  I created folders for each child with a description of the items they may be interested in.  One day, hopefully, they will come to realize the value of some of this “stuff”, if not; they will have one hell of an estate sale.

I realize that one day my age and health may take this decision from me and reduce me to a single room with just a handful of treasured trinkets. I will mourn the passing of the fullness of my home at that reduction.

I know when my daughter looks around my house she only sees the “stuff”, she doesn’t see my grandfather as he rocked me in the chair that lives in my living room. She doesn’t see Aunt Lacie as let me churn butter from the paddle churn in my kitchen. She doesn’t see my mother putting her things in the drawers of the dresser that I now use and on occasion, get a whiff of her as I open a drawer.  When I touch these things, it’s like I’m touching their hands. But, I see all of this and so much more.

So, I hope my daughter will bear with me while I fill myself, and my heart, with the fullness of my home.

Rad's Chair

 

 

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My Christmas Santa

As I decorate the house for Christmas, my mind revisits the Ghost of Christmas Past. I have snippets of childhood memories of my mother decorating the tree and packages waiting under the tree to be ripped open and the room being filled with sounds of delight.  I remember the sounds of laughter that filled the house when my aunts and uncles come on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Mama always made fried oysters and oyster stew on Christmas morning.  I loved the stew, but refused (and still do) to eat the oyster.  I could eat the fried ones, but there is something, well, yucky, about that oyster floating around in the stew.   We didn’t have stockings, but a box filled with hard candy, a apple, a orange and a tangerine.  I later found out the box was a Christmas tradition in my father’s childhood.

When I was about ten I saw a doll on the very top shelf of Williams’s Hardware store. She was so pretty, had reddish blonde hair and a green dress. Santa heard my pleas and she was there Christmas morning. I managed to keep her until I was well into my thirties when sadly my box of dolls was lost in a move.

Each year as I go through the Christmas totes, my favorite moment is when I open the one with my Santa doll. I always pack him on top so he’s the first thing I get to. I was eight years when I got him, a gift from my big sister.   (That would be 1955, just in case you are wondering)

There was this huge box under the tree with my name on it. I would pick it up, shake it and wonder what it could be. Just before Christmas, my parents and sister went to a dance and left me in the care of our neighbor/babysitter. She was a sweet little old lady in her early 70s. We came up with a sneaky plot to solve my curiosity.   My co-hart in crime, deftly removed the paper so we could peek into the box to see my special present, it was a  Santa doll. I was thrilled and solemnly swore never to reveal our secret and I gave him one last hug before she put him back in the box and carefully rewrapped the present.  I gave my word I would be appropriately surprised on Christmas morning, and I was.

My sister was working in a restaurant at the time and Santa was part of a Coke Cola promotion. He had a coke bottle in his hand, sadly, long ago lost. He now holds a replacement. He’s starting to show his age just a bit, but he’s hanging in there. Each year, I pick up Santa and give him a big hug. In that hug, I’m eight years old again and the magic of Christmas still in my heart. Now that my sister has passed, it’s also my special moment of being with her again. As long as I have my Christmas Santa, I’m forever eight years old and filled with the magic of Christmas.    Well, actually, truth be known; I always try to keep the little girl in me alive. Keeps you young you know.

I wish that each of you never lose the eight year old that lives within you. Remember the Reason for the Season, but also remember ….there really is a Santa Claus.

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Mama’s Apron

Mama's Aprons

As I prepare to cook the Thanksgiving feast for my family I can’t help but think of my mother and remembering her in the kitchen.   She would first grab her apron, tie it on and her hands would smooth down across the apron as if to say, “Ok, let’s start.”

I’m old school enough that I actually use an apron every day in the kitchen. I have a several cutesy aprons (I like the pink and white one with shoes on it that says “I’ll cook for shoes”), one has cats all over it, one had watermelons (that’s for summer) I have holiday aprons with gingerbread men and one my Aunt Lacie made with poinsettias coving it, but my favorite are my mother’s aprons. I can’t wear all of her aprons because she was five foot nine and thin, me, I’m five foot three and not so thin. I do have a couple of hers that I do wear on a regular basis. I like the one with the stains that never go away just like she never really is gone, a bit of her soul is still in that apron.

When I put on one of her aprons, I’m truly wrapping myself in her. I also know that if I’m wearing one of her aprons and cooking one of her dishes, it better be right or surely an angelic hand will reach from the heavens and thunk my head.

Mama usually wore a bib apron or one that fully covered her from neck to waist. Rarely did she use a waist apron. Personally, I always go for the bib type because all of the mess I make is from the waist up, the bottom part is where I wipe my hands.

I’m sad to see aprons become a part of the past. Oh I know we still have aprons in the market, but for the aprons I speak of you either have inherited them from your mother or grandmother or they were purchased in an antique store of estate sale.

These are the aprons that had a special life back in the day when every housewife wore one. They weren’t always pretty, but they served a purpose.  One of Mama’s was made from an old flour sack. Many of the women in my family would put on their apron in the morning to prepare breakfast and it stayed on all day until after the kitchen was cleaned from supper. (Yes, supper…I’m from the South, remember)  These aprons were practical and performed many duties. The most obvious is to protect your clothes as you cook.   Here is a list of things I remember growing up and the many uses the women in my family found for their aprons.

This is my paternal grandmother feeding the chickens.

Nannie Jamerson & Chickens

  • Served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
  • Feeding the chickens
  • From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs
  • Carrying kindling into the kitchen for the wood stove
  • Bringing vegetables fresh picked from the garden
  • Shelling beans and using the apron to throw out the hulls
  • Bring in apples
  • Giving furniture a quick dusting
  • I remember seeing women in the country go out in the yard and wave her apron to let the men in the field know it was time for lunch
  • I’ve had more than one flowing of tears wiped with mama’s apron

When I go into the kitchen and put on my apron I’m ready to get serious about cooking. I’m one of those “from scratch” cooks and need the protection from flying flour and splashing ingredients. For Thanksgiving day I will make sure I wear one of Mama’s aprons for a special day with my so very special family.

 

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