If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This was my annual Christmas letter this year. I thought I would share it with you, my blog readers.

Lots of happy things have happened this year. Bruce came home from twelve months in Iraq so I can take a deep breath once again. They never get so grown up we don’t worry about them, do they? He turned fifty years old last month, so I hope he won’t have to go back.

Dee got laid off from Home Depot back in June, but had a good severance package and we enjoyed having her home, last summer. She is back with a local law firm now, part time.

Dee’s book about Alesia’s adoption [Adopting Alesia] was published in June, and it has sold well. She is working on another book now. A story written by Michael is in a new book called Snowflakes, A Flurry of Adoption Stories, and we are so proud of him. I helped him write it, and it’s about his early life in Kazakhstan. Dee also has a short piece in the Snowflakes book.

Mike has adjusted well to Middle School. Alesia just loves high school. She is a junior, this year. She took the SAT last Saturday, and she is learning to drive. She also has a boyfriend, a nice young man whose name I can never recall, so I just refer to him as Dill Pickle, except to his face.

Both kids are doing well and are a joy, most of the time. Dee is an exceptionally good mother and I am proud of her.

Last June, we spent a week at Hilton Head, in Ocean One, one of my favorite condos. From there, we drove down to Brunswick and St.Simon’s Island to get in a visit with my cousin Frank and his family.

A highlight for the kids was Bruce’s taking them on a camping trip in July, to the North Georgia mountains. They all enjoyed it. They had cute stories to share when they returned.

I am writing a blog, now, [A Marietta Gals’ View] about once a week. Dee writes almost every day on her blog The Crab Chronicles. I know many of you keep up with us that way.

I strongly feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I enjoy my life and am content. Bruce helped put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and the kids did a super job decorating. He will be back for Christmas. Dee has been buzzing around getting everything ready for our holidays. We have a quiet Christmas at home, but it’s always fun.

The past year has been pretty good, with the exception of the loss of my brother Bob, his wife Myrtle, my sister in law Evalyn and several very dear friends. I know where they are and that they are fine. I miss all of them but life goes on.

I truly treasure my family and long time friends. All are such a blessing.

Hope the new year brings much happiness to you and yours!


This is a rare shot of all of us in front of the tree...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

I never thought I would spend the final years of my life living with my daughter and grandchildren, but it has worked out very well for all of us. My grandchildren benefit from having me around, and I benefit from being around them, and staying mentally active, even as I slow down physically. I am there as a sounding board for them, a tutor, and sometimes a disciplinarian. They give me great joy, most of the time. [When they get on my nerves, I go in my room and shut the door!]

I am fortunate to have grandchildren who are good hearted and compassionate.

Even though I will be 76 years old in a couple of weeks, my darling13 year old grandson will come into my room, as he did today, and say, “Granny, it is time for your nap. I’ll wait while you run to the bathroom.” I should explain that there have been few days in the last 30 or so years that I have not had a late afternoon nap. Presently, my best nap spot is a wing back chair and ottoman, in our family room. It is helpful if someone lays the afghan over my legs because my arthritis prevents my leaning over to do that. Thus, Dee or one of the kids always try to help me. Coco waits, then snuggles up to my feet and has herself a little snooze too.

The other day, Dee and Mike were going to an afternoon movie. As Mike said, he wanted to get me settled before he left. This is a fairly tough little guy, but he looks after his Granny. My 30 or 40 minute rest does me a world of good. I got in the nap habit years ago, when the children were growing up. I always cooked a complete meal from scratch, every day. So it would be late by the time I was out of the kitchen, at night. The nap was a big help.

Helping me get ready to nap is not the only nice thing my grandchildren do for me. They both seek me out to talk, especially Alesia. I like to share their lives, and we talk often.

At night, when Alesia comes home from a date or the church Bible group she usually attends on Thursday nights, she comes into my room for a visit. I’ve never told her to do that but I do look forward to it. I also enjoy the after school chats.

Coco adores the children, too, and seeing her interact with them is adorable. Coco also misses the children terribly when they are in school. For some reason, for the last couple of weeks Coco has gone upstairs after everyone leaves in the mornings, jumped into Alesia’s bed and had herself a morning nap. Alesia’s bed is accessible. Mike’s bed is an old iron bed that my in laws started housekeeping with nearly 90 years ago. It is too high for Coco.

Bruce also loves to be with the kids. Seeing him with them is a joy to me.

When Bruce comes, he has two shadows – three, if you count Coco. No matter how mundane the trip to Home Depot or any other place, the kids want to go with him. For a person accustomed to living alone, he handles them like an old pro. I’ve never heard him raise his voice or scold the kids yet they mind him without question. He always backs Dee so she has a bit of a respite when he is here.

Tutoring Michael when he first came home was a labor of love. He learned quickly, but it was a real challenge sometimes to get him to pay attention. I was rewarded by how well he did in school, though, from the start.

Last year, when I attended a Parents’ Conference with Dee, regarding Mike, I really admired the principal of the elementary school. She runs a fine school and seemed very much aware of all that was going on, including exactly what the children were studying that week. Dee told her about my tutoring efforts with Michael. As we were leaving, she whispered in my ear ”You can come teach for me, anytime!” Now, didn’t that make me feel good!

When Dee brought each of her children home, Alesia from Russia and Michael from Kazakhstan, neither spoke English. However, they learned rapidly, both vocabulary and grammar. Only once in a long while, will they need help with a word. One day recently, I asked Mike what his mother was doing. ”Oh”, he said, thinking hard, ”she’s outside –uh - wiping.” After a double take and a stifled giggle, I saw Dee sweeping the lanai.

When she had been home just a short time, Alesia was sitting at the kitchen table one night staring in frustration at Dee, and finally she spluttered, “Mom, shut your – your – cave!” Now we joke about it. “ What did you do with the bubble gum I gave you? Oh, I put it in my cave!”

The other night, Mike came into my room with a math paper on multiplication of fractions. His math book this year doesn’t explain how to do things, which is maddening to all of us trying to help him. I said, ”OK, Granny will solve all your problems!” teasing him. Mike responded, “Grannies are just like books!” Well, dang, wonder what else I know?

Now Mike gets a kick out of calling me Book – my new nickname.

Being a senior is often tough, but I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself. There are some truths I’ve tried to teach my children and grandchildren. One important one is to be cheerful and positive. Life is just a lot easier if you can look on the bright side. Laughing is easier than crying. Anyone remember the old Johnny Mercer song “Accentuate the Positive”? I can still her it, in my head, ”Ya got to, accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. / Latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In Between.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Afraif of What?

Do you ever just stop and examine your fears? I was reminded of this yesterday when an older [than me] friend confided to me that he is afraid of death. This is the third friend who has said this just recently. All these people are fine Christians so I was somewhat surprised. When asked how I feel about death, I always reply that I am not afraid to die because I know where I am going and who will greet me. As the old saying goes, however, “if you are getting up a group, I’m not ready just yet.”

The other night around 3 a.m. I got up to go to the bathroom. As I was leaving, I noticed something on the white tile. I thought that Coco had had an accident. So I grabbed a wad of toilet tissue and my long handled grabber and kind of dropped the tissue over the poop but it was not exactly centered. Then as I watched, the poop developed tiny legs and started crawling away. I picked up the tissue with the grabber and dropped it again and watched as it began moving slowly across the room. I was laughing so hard it was difficult to grab the darn thing and I didn’t want to wake the family. Finally, I got a grip and dropped it into the toilet and flushed. Well, duh, it was a water bug [palmetto bug] so was probably delighted to be in the toilet. I poured a glop of Clorox into the water and closed the lid. At least I’d chlorinated his swimming pool for him. Hope he doesn’t invite his friends!

Dee, my brave daughter, is deathly afraid of palmetto bugs. Once she killed one by placing a copy of GONE WITH THE WIND over it --- then left it there until the next night so her boyfriend could dispose of it. I figured crawling poop would really freak her out.

If FEAR is an expectation of danger or pain and PHOBIA is an abnormal fear, then a lot of what we experience is actually a phobia. Now truly, there is no real danger from a Palmetto bug.

On the other hand, my fear of snakes is a real fear because, even if a snake is non venomous, it is liable to cause me to have a heart attack. At the least, it may cause my water to break and I’m not even pregnant!

I’ve never been wild about flying, although back in the eighties I’d flown several times with my husband and alone when my mother had a stroke. Son Bruce was stationed in Germany and I really wanted to visit him. The thought of flying over the ocean was very scary to me. You understand, I will not even ride a ferris wheel. Well, at someone’s suggestion, I bought a book about THE FEAR OF FLYING, written by a pilot, and found it quite helpful. I just about memorized that book and decided I could do it. I had talked really hard to myself about being brave, having faith etc.

On the lovely spring day of our departure, the plan was to drive Tony’s bank car by the bank and pick up one of his men to drive us on to the Knoxville airport. That way, they could use his car while we were gone. So there we were, double parked in downtown Knoxville, when one of the people from the Trust Dept came out with a stack of papers. Oh, they said, you need to sign your will, just in case, you know… I was highly annoyed but I signed it. Then, my beautiful daughter, who worked at a law firm in the bank building, came down to say good by, and added Mom, would you please let me put your diamond ring in a lockbox til you return? You know, if the plane goes down, the ring will just be in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean! Now I was really annoyed. I said NO - if I go, the ring goes with me! (The ring is made of my engagement ring plus my mothers.) What a sendoff! Actually, I made that long flight four times with no trouble at all.

Young people who have never flown in the old prop planes, don’t know how it feels to have the plane bump and skid. Also, air pockets are fun! Don’t know why but the short flight between Augusta and Atlanta was always the roughest I’d ever flown.

Once, my mother and I met at the Atlanta Airport in order to fly to Myrtle Beach together. A dear friend had died and we wanted to be with the family. I insisted Mother take the seat near the window, as I thought she’d enjoy looking out. Later, she told me she only took the seat because she’d assumed I was as terrified of looking out as she was. Poor little thing, she didn’t know that looking out is one of the joys of flying, to me. She only told me when the plane circled over the ocean and I kept saying, look, look, it’s beautiful! She’d recently flown to Hawaii, so I thought she was OK with flying.

The other day, I asked Dee her greatest fear. Now, she didn’t have time to think it over and if it were me, I’d have a different answer every day—and she might too. At any rate, what she said was she was fearful her children would not be happy. Please understand, these two kids had awfully rough times before Dee brought them home.

After my Tony died, a widow friend insisted I learn to live alone because that way I could develop the self-confidence I would need to continue a good life. I’d never lived alone though I’d spent nights alone when Tony was away on business trips. (Actually, he’d got where he tried to arrange trips where he would fly out early in the am and back home late the same night.) I was 62 years old and I lived in that big five bedroom house in Augusta alone for the next nine years. Of course, my children came home to visit and I always had a dog. I also had lots of close friends and wonderful neighbors. Even with all that, it got lonely. The peace I feel, living here with Dee and the kids, the lack of fear of being alone is indescribable.
Me and two dear friends, Carolyn and Keith, in my home in Augusta.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

TTAM = Things That Annoy Me

I get little messages all the time with just initials. You know, LMHO, ROTFL, TMI, etc etc. Now why in the name of heaven would a perfectly sane, intelligent, upright mostly, human, think I have time or any interest at all, in trying to figure out what those letters are meant to covey? Do they make the writer feel really good, like I imagine so-called uppers would? Oh hey, MAIAD so I’ll use some of those letters and my spirits will soar like the Goodyear Blimp. Now that I think about it, the blimp didn’t really soar. It just got to one spot, like over Sanford Stadium, and kind of squatted, a high squat, mind you, but definitely a prolonged squat. Guess the driver wanted to watch the games.

Reading is mostly what I do for pleasure, these days. Every now and then, I try a new author and it doesn’t take long to discover their prejudices. One that often creeps in, is “m’am” as in, “yes m’am, I ate the last piece of possum.” Now, the speaker says something like, Well, I am not THAT old! Oh, lawsy, one should be over eighty to be called, M’AM? Guess that’s the way it is up north or maybe in California. Down here in the real world, we call any female m’am, even tiny ones. I can remember telling my toddler,”Yes m’am, you will wear shoes to church.” [She still hates shoes]

When we first moved to Tennessee, my eleven or twelve year old son was told he would get a spanking if he continued to call his obviously very yankee teacher, m’am. She was possibly in her midthirties. DYC [email me if you want to know what that stands for!]

This morning, I was reading about a character who actually disliked another woman because she called the character, hon, as in “Hon, may I set the table for lunch?” Ooooo , guess that’s a real bad’un! Well, land sakes alive, I call everyone hon, or honey, or honey baby, or honey bugs. When I can’t think of someone’s name, I just call them something sweet. Sometimes, I look right at my beautiful granddaughter and call her Coco [our dog.] Then Mike fails to help the situation by saying,” No, Granny, the blonde is Alesia.”

My very bright mother in law used to look at any one of her daughters in law, and say “DiddyEvalynElva!” She knew she’d get one of us right, that way….. Guess my book character would have peed her trousers at that. We thought it was funny.

Other annoyances…

Sometimes when we invite a friend for a meal, they say something like, “I’ll try to come or if I get off in time I’ll come” etc. Wow, this doesn’t work for me. I always want to say, just forget it. Just say yes or no and make sure you are on time. However, these are usually people we are close to, good manners should prevail. One should be as courteous to family as to others. MYMH

DSP or pew on yew ! We joined a Methodist church, near our home, about three years ago. For me, it was a very strange experience. I’ve been to church all my life and have sung in most of the old downtown Atlanta churches, all denominations. But at this new church, I just could not connect. We did all the right things; went to Sunday School, Wednesday night dinners; Dee joined the choir; the children went to youth activities; Dee taught Bible school, I went to the Seniors’ luncheon etc. The next step of actually making friends just never happened. I was new to this area also.

For me, the kind of last straw came one Sunday when Alesia and I sat down in a pew and got all fixed with the program, hymnal, and our wraps. I turned and kind of nodded to some beautifully dressed, middle-aged women sitting behind us. With a strong feeling that something was amiss, I turned back to them and asked, how are you? One of them said, well the truth is that you’ve taken Mrs. Smith’s pew. I was stunned but then, we gathered our gear and moved to the very opposite side of the church. I wanted to cry but wouldn’t let myself. We couldn’t just walk out because Dee was singing in the choir. There were other difficult experiences too but this one kind of says it all. Don’t Save Pews, ever, except for your immediate family. We are no longer members of that church, although that wasn’t the only reason we left.

This morning, I was talking to Mike about this blog and he reminded me about LOL. Ya know, I do kind of like those letters - better than ROTFLMAO at least. To my way of thinking, one can have a nice chuckle over something without laughing as hard as those other letters indicate.

I have a darling friend, a teacher, who began sending messages to me some time back. These messages were kind of short usually but terribly misspelled. I was so worried about her. Could she have had a small stroke, TIA? I really hated to sound so prissy but I finally made a small comment about hearing from this person and Dee said yes, she text messages. I was so thankful she was OK but still have questions. Would it be impolite to return her message via email? Should I try to misspell words so she won’t feel bad? I am a poor speller anyway so that would not cause any problem for me.

Everyone has some kind of hang up or prejudice though not all will admit it. Recently, we’ve seen the tragedy of people fearing to be politically incorrect. People in Texas lost lives because no one would speak out against the person planning to kill them. What has happened to plain, old fashioned, gumption? If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck etc… People sometimes do terrible things because they are evil, not because they are crazy.

At first, people hesitated to say anything negative about our president because they didn’t want to be called racist. But, hey, people have always criticized the president, and that is a good thing. It still doesn’t keep them honest but in some cases it may keep them from thinking they are a god. My mother in law could not stand President Eisenhower and she did not hesitate to say so. Would she have been so vocal if he’d been black? Yeah, probably! However, there are those who’d have called her racist.

I really do try not “to sweat the small stuff” so does that mean I can be allowed to sweat the big stuff? People say not to worry about what you can’t change but how do we know we can’t change it unless we try???!?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas Music and Cakes Galore

Other than our Lord’s birth, what comes to mind when you think about Christmas? Well, I suppose maybe presents and decorating, maybe visitors, and all of the above and more, either delight or terrify us when we think of the coming holidays. I’ve always truly loved the time before Christmas, perhaps more than the day itself.

Being a singer, because I hesitate to say musician as if I were skilled in the classics, I pretty much judge the Christmas music by whether or not I’d enjoy singing it. At one time or another, I’ve sung all the traditional music, both religious and secular. Also, there is always a cute song that catches on and sometimes actually lasts: I SAW MOMMIE KISSING SANTA CLAUS etc. etc.

At Atlanta’s First Baptist Church, where I kind of grew up, the senior choir was always invited to sing at the beginning of the season, standing on the glassed in bridge joining Richs’ home store to their main store. There were maybe four tiers with a choir on each one. At the end, they lit the big tree and it really was lovely. I sang with the senior choir as well as the young people’s choir from the time I was about 13 or 14. I’m just being honest here, I so much prefer the Carols rather than the more serious or classical songs.

Some of my best memories of Christmas past are of all the baking that went on. My parents loved cake and it seems to me, that’s what my mother loved doing to celebrate. My dad just thoroughly encouraged her to bake and he had his favorites too. His most favorite cake was black walnut. Mother always made the cake by the One, Two, Three Four cake recipe that I believe is in Mrs. S.R. Dull’s Cookbook. [Mrs. Dull wrote the Cooking Column, in the Atlanta paper, for years – Here's more about the book.] Mother always made three layers, so the iced cakes were big. She made a cooked, white icing [called 7 minute icing] and as she put the icing on each layer, she patted in coarsely chopped black walnuts. For icing to completely cover the top and sides of the cake, she stirred into it probably another cup of walnuts. Now it all needed to set up for awhile before cutting. Where did she get the walnuts? That was Dad’s job. He had to obtain them, always fresh, crack them, pick them out of the hard shells, and chop them. Walnut outer shells are quite hard and he often used a hammer to open them. Then the next shell has to be opened. This was a labor of love for him.

black walnuts

I’ve been told the story of Dad’s arrival home from spring training, one year, and finding a big, black walnut cake sitting on the kitchen table. Mother was taking a bath but her dad, Grandaddy Butler, was in the kitchen. My dad greeted him, got a glass of milk and a plate and proceeded to eat most of the cake. Grandaddy was so horrified, he finally banged on the bathroom door and said, “Wilma, you’ve got to come quick. Bob is going to kill himself!” Dad was about a good 6ft 3+ inches tall and about 225 lbs. Grandaddy was perhaps 5ft 7, very small. Mother and Dad told that story and laughed about it for years.

Dad’s next most favorite cake was fresh coconut. Mother made it pretty much like the walnut, substituting finely grated coconut for the nuts. Here again, Dad’s job was to prepare the coconut and I honestly think he enjoyed doing it. Sometimes, we’d go to the Farmers’ Market and various other stores looking for the best nuts and coconuts. This was the part of Christmas he really got a kick out of.

She never made just two cakes so we always had a lemon cheese cake, chocolate cake, pound cake, and the fruit cake she’d made earlier so it could ripen or something like that.

Years later, in Augusta, after I had school age children, Mother and Dad were visiting for the first part of the holidays. They always left to be with her family on Christmas Day, after breakfast and Santa. Early in the morning of the 24th they came into the kitchen and said to me ”Are you ready to start making cakes?” I just looked at them. “Uh, I guess so?” I said --- and we were off! I made the cakes and icings and Mother put them together, a job she loved. Dad kept up with the dishes, kids, and finally, had to go buy more butter, eggs, milk etc. We only used White Lily plain flour and I still use White Lily products. That brand of flour is made from a wonderful soft wheat, not found in other brands. Well, I made all the cakes listed above plus my caramel cake. The next morning, before they left, they covered a huge box lid with foil and arranged cake slices all around it. Mother rode all the way to Atlanta with that huge tray of cake in her lap!

My dad, Bob Hasty, was one of the most genuine, kind human beings I’ve ever known. Don’t misunderstand - he was no pushover. He was fairly strict with us growing up but he tried to be fair and explain his reasons. He never had the kind of ego that allowed him to sit while others waited on him. After he retired when he was home more, he took over many of the household chores. After he died, I had to teach Mother how to use the vacuum.

My Grands love cake so we are beginning to start making cakes again, plus I want to teach them a few tricks. Their love of pound cake tickles us because Dad loved it too. In fact, he loved it so much Mother taught him how to make it. After that, there was always a pound cake at their house. He didn’t have to bother with layers and icing etc.

Most Christmas Eves, Dad and I would find an old Bing Crosby movie on TV and watch it after everyone else went to bed. Bing Crosby was his very favorite and I want to say the movie we liked most was “Holiday Inn” because that’s when he sang “White Christmas.”

With all the cake in the house, dessert was always just vanilla ice cream, on Xmas Eve. My dad did not drink alcohol but he told people about the wonderful mint sauce I made. He never knew it was simply Crème de Menthe, poured right over the ice cream! By Christmas Eve I was always too tired to do much cooking! For years he told people “Elva makes the best green sauce for ice cream but she won’t share the recipe!”