Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Gatherings

We're not the kind of family that draws together very often. Mostly for funerals, sad to say. Once in awhile for a wedding, or a big birthday, but mostly for funerals. 

But Daddy is turning 90 this year, and that's a big deal in anybody's book. So we're coming in from all corners, to make a honkin' big deal of this one, for him.

I've been working on a memorabilia book, based on a journal he filled out for me 12 years ago. Sidenote: do it now, have those older members of your family write down their memories. You'll want to know later, to share the stories. I'm so glad I even thought to do this awhile back.  I took the book to the printer and had 20 copies made, for him, for us kids, for grandkids, and a few extras for him to hand out as he pleases.

Here are a handful of photos from his life's journey book:

This man - Jessie Calvin Boaz,

and this woman, Frances Levador Seago,
met. He was 32, she was 16. He needed some sons to work the farm. They married. That was the way they did it back then.

My father, sitting on his mother's lap, when he was two years old, in 1931. 

This is my grandmother's house, the one I remember. She got indoor plumbing a few years before she died.
My father met my mother, and they married when he was 23 and she was 15. He said she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen, so he married her. 
Within 7 1/2 years all six of us came along. Here we are in birth order.  Barb, Jerry, Gary, Bev, Dwain, Derrell
Another of our family, sometime in the 1960's. We drove, all 8 of us, in that dinky station wagon.

This was taken in 1965, the one family vacation we ever went on, to Estes Park, Colorado. 
My parents on our Colorado vacation. I love how young they look here.
Daddy worked a lot of jobs, often more than one at a time, but the one he did for the most years, the one he retired from was as a mailman. I don't even know how many times he was bitten by dogs. 

The four boys who survived to adulthood. One died from pneumonia when he was 4 years old. 

My Dad and his big sister, Jessie Mae. He said they fought like cats and dogs when she bossed him around. 

My father and his brother, Dorman. He was 20 and Dorman was 22. 

Here they are many years later. Both have / had a life-long love of gardening. 

My father and his second wife, Mary. They were married 12 years before she died of cancer. 

The second family Mary gave my father. Dad still lives in Kansas with his step-daughter, Sharon and her gang, all nearby. 

Dad started playing golf in his mid-50's, and still, at 90 years old, plays 18 holes 3 days a week. 
Dad and Mom when they remarried about 12 years ago. Sadly, they didn't stay married, but they did remain life-long friends. 

So we've got big doings planned. An open house for family and all the friends Daddy has made in the years he's lived in his small town in Kansas. Then we'll all head to the fairgrounds for a carnival, watermelon eating contest, a country band, and finally fireworks. It happens to be Mom's 82nd birthday that day, so we'll have two birthday cakes to celebrate both of them. 

Daddy will be seeing his one surviving brother, who he hasn't seen in a good number of years; also grandchildren he hasn't seen in two decades, and he'll meet for the first time many spouses of grandkids and great-grandkids he's been sending birthday cards to for years and years. All in all we are so excited to have this day to celebrate a remarkable man, one whose only goal in life was to have all six of his children graduate from high school, own his home and be able to pay his bills. 

Well done, Daddy. You make us awfully proud. 

I'll be back in a few days with photos from our big day of celebrating. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Some things never change, others do

In a constantly changing world, I find comfort in the fact that some things never change. It doesn't matter if it was 100 years ago, or 50 or 20 or now, you can count on it that little boys don't like to have their hair cut. 

What has changed is that we appeal to their inner child more, and maybe that's good. 

My parents just told me to sit still and stop crying. 

We did tell him that. Be still, not stop crying. He didn't cry, although he may have considered it a couple of times. We told him if he moved too much he'd have a bald spot like his Grandpa Chester, which his mama would not love.

Little boys don't like their hair cut because the buzz of clippers and snippy noises of scissors scare them. 

Mothers, on the other hand, don't like their little boys'  hair cut because when the deed is done anyone can clearly see what they'll look like in the not too far off future.  


Sunday, June 28, 2015

an ordinary Sunday....

“Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life.” 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

If Fishes Were Wishes....the World Would Be an Ocean.

We pilfered from Papa's bank, grabbing handfuls of pennies, and headed to the nearest fountain.

Conversations were had on penny throwing etiquette. Close your eyes, make a wish, never say it out loud, then throw high and hard.

Unfortunately, this particular fountain was designed more for safety than penny pitching. The net worth of those shrubs went up considerably.

 Then conversations were had that even Grammy doesn't throw the big, silver coins into bushes.

Perhaps next time we'll find a fountain less safety conscious, or wear life jackets and get closer to the edge.

For today, though, it's likely nobody is going to turn into Simba or a unicorn. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Necessary Endings

I had a friendship die last week. It was a long-term one, almost 20 years.  A relationship that spans about one third of my life is too many years to say goodbye to lightly.

About twenty years ago, when this friendship was in its baby stages, actually for me it was the 'teenage-crush, hope she likes me' stage, there was an evening. I still remember sitting at her dining room table, working on scrapbooks, and I naively told her, 'I can't think of a single thing I don't like about you." She said, without hesitation, 'there will be.'

And of course there were. On both sides. But we never spoke of them. At least not to each other, which is a much worse evil. Sitting here now, at this point, I wonder if it would have done any good to have a regular meeting-of-the-minds. Keep the air clear between us. That takes two, and I'll never know.

Over thirty-four years into a marriage, I know that airing works for us. We spend at least thirty minutes every single night talking. Sometimes it's fun and light-hearted, sometimes we dream together, and sometimes we sit there wanting to wring each other's neck. But we talk, and we keep the air clear. So I have to wonder - would that have helped keep the friendship alive?

As time went on, lives got busy, kids grew up, interests came and went, and we drifted. That was maybe to be expected. That could have been weathered. What couldn't was, a good number of years ago, when something happened between us, and an ultimatum was given. 'Do this or the friendship is over.'

I told myself for years that I only caved to make things easy for those around me. That sounded and felt nobel. I told myself our overlapping friendships would have become awkward in a small town, small church. That was probably true, but more true is that I don't like conflict. I don't like others to be unhappy with me, disappointed with me, or (pride raising it's ugly head) to be misunderstood and not allowed to set the record straight.

So I did what was demanded, licked wounds, but actually it felt better to caress the hurts than to forgive and forget, and either stay in the friendship or let it go.

Because I never was honest, I never said what I was really feeling. Time passed, the hurt scabbed over and she forgot. Everything seemed fine between us. It wasn't. The truth is that I'd been given an ultimatum that if I did not do this one thing, the friendship would go to a different level, so I fulfilled the requirement and the friendship changed anyway.

Then I moved over one thousand miles away, where distance added to our separateness. It became easier to talk now and then, and pretend all was fine between us. Sad to say, this past week I made some choices that made it clear the friendship was still alive for me, but not as she thought it was or should be. How I now saw our friendship, especially compared to other friendships I had, was made evident, and she chose another, unspoken ultimatum - to finally end ours with silence that spoke volumes.

Henry Cloud, in his book 'Necessary Endings' says much about moving on, doing it right, and for the right reasons. Possibly I should have read this book years ago. Possibly it would have shown much more respect for me and for my friend, to at least give her the gift of my honesty, refuse the ultimatum, even if the friendship had died then and there, which I suspect it would have.
Cloud says this: 
Life has seasons, stages, and phases. For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them.... Endings are also an important factor in our personal lives. There are relationships that should go away, practices and phases that must be relinquished, and life stages that should come to an end to open up the space for the next one. A breakup, an ending of some friendships or activities, or an unplugging from some commitments often signals the beginning of a whole new life. 
I suspect there are a lot of women out there who struggle with friendships. Men can get together, hit a ball across acres of grass and be just fine. Women expect so much more than that, need so much more. I'm trusting that this happening finally is a good thing for both of us, that we both have learned lessons from it that will help us to be better friends with others in the future. God knows what's in both our hearts, and that's enough for me to lay it down for good.

Food for thought,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Following that thought on food as communion.....

Daddy with a rattlesnake he killed on the golf course, using a 9 iron.
Our family is getting ready to celebrate Daddy's 90th birthday, in just a couple more weeks. We've ordered a big sheet cake, all the food you would expect at an old fashioned pot luck. Plans are being made for kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, siblings, old friends, young friends to fly in, fly down, drive up, drive over. Swanky mom-and-pop motels costing around $56 a night are being reserved, not that there's any chance of them being filled where we're going. (Yes, they have free continental breakfast, and no, they don't have a pool.)

One of the presents I have planned for Daddy is a T-shirt that says "it took me 90 years to look this good." Which is completely true - he looks sooooo great for his age! The other is a typed-up version of a journal he filled out for me 12 years ago, when he was a mere 78. I got the idea from those 'gift-in-a-jar' books, typed up a long list of questions for him, pasted them in a book and had him write his answers.

Here's one of his questions and answers that hits on my post earlier this week:

What was your favorite dish that your mother made when you were a child?
We only had this about one time a year, which was Christmas, but by far it was chicken and cornbread dressing. She would take an old hen that was about too old to lay eggs anymore and boil it for several hours, then stuff it with a dressing made from cornbread and several other things and bake it in a bread pan until it was brown. She would use the liquid it was boiled in to mix with the cornbread. If we could have had that every Sunday instead of every Christmas we would have thought we were rich.

My Grandma Fanny (Frances Lavader) kept track of her laying hens, who was falling down on production. She knew which one was next in line to have its neck wrung. She did that without flinching, plucked those feathers off, threw it into a cook pot on a wood-burning stove. She made her cornbread, likely most every day, and took that and broke it up, threw things together and came up with Chicken and Cornbread Dressing. 

A chicken certainly couldn't be sacrificed daily, but once a year she did just that, sacrificed that chicken, and cooked this special dish for her family. Then they sat at a table, likely built by my grandfather, and had Christmas dinner together. My Daddy said his mother cooked three meals, every single day, to keep her family fed. Once a year they had a meal with food as communion. 

That recipe, in my father's squiggly hand-writing, blue ink on white lined paper, is a treasure to me. A sharing of his boyhood memories, something I can pass down through the ages, in our family, for years to come.  

Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food) says one way to know if food is 'real' is to ask if it's something your grandmother would recognize. He gives Go-gurt as an example of not so much. Grandma Fanny   grew her own, including the parts with blinking eyes, and came up with this dish without going to a grocery store, or rolling down her car window and handing over a debit card. 

If you asked my kids their favorite dish, at least two would say 'Enchilada Style Chili Burros' and one might say Taco Salad or meatloaf. I wouldn't have to kill anything to recreate it for them, but I'm happy to say none of them would answer Hamburger Helper, which I mostly cooked when I was between the ages of 19 and 30 and learning to keep kids full on a budget stretched thin. 

The dishes my own mother made for us, the ones I'd love to pull up to her kitchen table and eat once more are chicken and dumplings, cornbread, potato soup, and coconut cake baked once a year, every June, just for me. Even the tuna casserole my mother fed us was made from scratch, not from a box like it is today.

So what's your favorite meal from childhood? What do you remember? Can you go back as far as your grandmother and remember the meal that said, "I love you, I'm glad you're here with me."? Was it real, honest to goodness food? And what would your own kids answer if you asked them? 
Food for thought,


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Food for thought....

I've been 60 for almost a week and it hasn't killed me yet.

Surprise serenade at my 4 year old grandson's birthday party.

I did go see a new chiropractor, who asked me about the history behind my chronically achey back. I told him the 2 minute version, to which he said, 'ahhhhh, you're a speedboat, not a sailboat.' 

Really, he summed me up in 2 minutes? 

It may have been the part where I described pouring concrete, mulching flower beds, staining decks - all of which, if I could go back I would hire out, but that's neither here nor there now. 

He worked on me a bit, then turned me face down, turned out the lights and told me 'stay there.' 

I'm suspecting the man thought a little relaxation was in order. 

So I'm thinking about eating and exercise and handling stress - or not - and what things in my life tend to make every single muscle in my body seize up, and how to avoid them. And what to do when you can't 'avoid', because 'they' are people who depend on you and there's only so much a body can do about it. 

I've decided lamaze breathing, practiced for hours and hours then used for a very short period of time to bring a person into the world, is actually more beneficial long after you have any notion of reproducing. Long, deep breaths in thru the nose, and out thru the mouth, and you can decide if you want to make swishy patterns on your belly which, most days, still resembles some stage of pregnancy. 

Breathe in. Breathe out. Maybe pick times to expose yourself to certain situations or people, and how long the exposure is. And whether to have a glass of wine before or after, or both. 

I'm generally reading two or more books at once (three right now) (probably more evidence of speedboat syndrome). As an aside, one is The Love Song of Queeney Hennessey, by Rachel Jones. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful but you HAVE to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry before, then you'll possibly want to reread it after you read Queenie's story. That's my 'soak-in-the-tub' book right now.

I just started reading In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. I started with the last chapter on eating less. Pollan said, "'eat less' is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we presently do is compelling, whether or not you are overweight. Calorie restriction has repeatedly been shown to slow aging and prolong lifespan in animals, and some researchers believe it is the single strongest link between a change in the diet and the prevention of cancer." 

Interestingly I've gotten several calls of concern over my mother's weight, because she's lost about twenty pounds over the past year or so. She has always been a bit chubby, and now that she's the right weight, living amongst other women who are mostly chubby themselves, they think her too thin. I believe she's finally at a good weight for her height, because she has quit preparing her own food and rather eats what is brought to her. The serving sizes have been determined for her, so she never overeats. I have to believe shedding those twenty pounds is helping her two artificial knees if nothing else. (She's 5'5" and 130 lbs BTW.)

Pollan goes on to say how difficult eating less is in our Western culture. Our plates are too big, our portions are too big, we eat too fast while we're not paying attention, we want fast and cheap food, we don't pay attention to when we're slightly full and we have no connection to what we're eating - seeing the whole process of eating as fueling the body rather than a sort of communion. 

I'd started thinking of eating as fueling my body, essentially a machine with a soul. It seemed to me this was an elevated look at it, because really, who can honestly say doritos or french fries or ice cream are fuel? But to consider fuel and communion together, does that mean eating that which honors my body, and life itself, but give it a relational twist? Do that while doing what we were created to do, connect with others? 

Cub Sweetheart and I just booked a trip to Europe - our first - for next year, celebrating our 35th anniversary. We've talked for years of sitting in a piazza, somewhere in Rome, at a little table for two. Life will pass by as we sip wine, dip bread in oil and nibble on good cheese. THAT. That is the picture of true eating that has been in my craw for years, but I don't have to wait a year to do it. I can do that tonight, at our own table on the patio. Two people sharing life and food, slowly, intentionally, with reverence and appreciation for being able to do so.

In contrast when we go out to eat, it's usually loud and hectic, and the typical single-person 'plate' at the restaurant is as big as the platter my mother used to serve our holiday turkey on. We feel hurried because there is a line of people waiting for our table, we're given too much food,  much of which is filler, and we leave stuffed.

So much to think about....

Then Pollan hits on eating S.L.O.W.L.Y., something I apparently struggle with in most areas of my life, according to my chiropractor and most people who know me. This quote hit me between the eyes:

"I mean slow" in the sense of deliberate and knowledgeable eating promoted by Slow Food*, (see wikipedia on them here) the Italian-born movement dedicated to the principle that "a firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life." ... Slow Food offers a coherent protest against, and alternative to, the Western diet and way of eating, indeed to the whole ever-more-desperate Western way of life." Fast food is precisely the way you'd expect a people to eat who put success at the center of life, who work long hours (with two careers per household), get only a couple of weeks vacation each year, and who can't depend on a social safety net to cushion them from life's blows."

Wow! So drive-thru is not only possibly ruining my health (and at 60 that becomes a bigger consideration), but it's also cementing a philosophy not only of eating, but of life in general? I've wondered before why God made humans have to eat so often, likely because I'm often the one who has the responsibility of coming up with prepared food for my family. Couldn't we have eaten just once a day? (I realize there are some out there who do this very thing, but am doubting that's the ideal for optimum health.) 

Or maybe He knew humans would need to regularly slow down, gather together, express thankfulness for what they were about to eat? Maybe we were never designed to have our food handed to us through a window in our car? Maybe true eating is God's pause button, several times in our day, our hectic schedule, to come together to fuel, refresh, connect? 

Sort of like a boat with sails rather than one with a 350 HP motor fixed on the back.  Intentional living? Making days count rather than counting them?

Food for thought. Pun intended. 

Tonight, BBQ ribs, homemade potato salad and slices of watermelon, eaten by the pool, slowly, with a nice glass of chablis. All eaten with a new appreciation for the pig, the potatoes, the planter and a new perspective on life. Even at 60. Thanks Mr. Pollan. I'm going back to chapter one today.

*Slow Food was organized as a protest against opening a McDonald's near the Spanish Steps in Rome.....