Always Be Prepared to Come Up with a “Plan B”

October 31, 2007


Wellll, so much for a leisurely trip to the Smokies.

We drove down Sunday, and checked into the $44 A NIGHT!! hotel Linda and UD had found (when I told DD about that rate, she expressed concern that that MIGHT not include in-door plumbing!  It did!).   Actually it was a fairly new, very clean, no frills, hotel (called The Park Grove Inn, in case you’re interested) in Pigeon Forge.  And, after all, we weren’t going to spend much time in the hotel room for the next three days, so really, a perfect choice.

After settling in, we went out to dinner with Linda and UD and then they took us on a drive around the area to give us “the lay of the land” so that we would know a little more about the places we might want to visit in the next few days.  Beautiful area.  And, as the sun was going down, a spectatular view from up in the mountains looking down on Gatlinburg.   This was just the latest of many, many times that Linda and UD have been there, making them well-qualified to be our “tour guides.”

So, we went back to our hotel with all kinds of ideas about what we might enjoy — the Aquarium (with SHARKS!) is supposed to be wonderful (we saw the beautiful building on our drive) — of course, a visit to the huge knife company for Hubby and UD —  daily hikes with at least one including a picnic by a stream — Gatlinburg shopping looked verrry interesting to me! — and all kinds of shows to see!  We couldn’t wait to get started in the morning! 

As usual, I went to sleep when Hubby was still watching TV.  But, just after midnight, something made me suddenly wake up.  Laying there in the dark, I knew that something was amiss but I had to give my mind a minute to fully wake up before I realized what was wrong — I could hear Hubby breathing, or rather, lightly snoring!!  Now, you’re thinking, okkkkay and that’s a problem because????  That’s a problem BECAUSE he has sleep apthea and uses a breathing machine ALWAYS.  And, when he’s using the breathing machine, I don’t hear him breathing — I just hear the swishing of air.  So, as soon as I woke up and heard him breathing, I realized we had forgotten to bring his breathing machine with us!  About the same time, he woke up (my elbow may have “slipped” and struck him in the ribs ever so slightly) and we discussed what to do. 

He said that when he started to bed and realized he didn’t have the machine, he thought maybe he could get along without it for a few nights, but he realized now that that wasn’t going to work — so far, he had only managed about an hour of sleep.  Now what?  We were both already tired from the 8 hour drive down, which didn’t make it seem reasonable to get up right then and drive home.  So, our new plan was for us both to sleep as much as we could, and then we would have to go home the next morning.  Drat.  We were so mad at ourselves that we had forgotten such an important piece of equipment, but, we had, I guess, just had a collective “senior moment.”   

We slept as much as we could (I hate circumstances where I have to tell myself, “Hurry up and sleep!”), and got up the next morning, in a word, TIRED.  Luckily, Hubby usually does about 90% of the driving when we travel, and I nap off and on, so I HAD had significantly more sleep in the last 24 hours than he had.  So, I would drive at least the first half of the trip home, so that he could sleep (a reclined car seat is much easier for him to sleep in without the machine than laying down in bed).  Certainly not the original plan we had for this trip — but a workable “Plan B.”

So, the next morning at breakfast we had to tell Linda and UD that we were leaving.  Of course, they were surprised and disappointed, but since they go there regularly by themselves anyway, it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship for them if we left early (except, of course, they would be missing the witty repartee we would have contributed!).

So, long story short, we drove 8 hours to the Smokies on Sunday, and drove 8 hours home on Monday!  Not exactly what we’d planned! 

But, we DID see enough to know that we WILL go back — and next time we’ll take everything we need!

One nice thing about having to come home early is that we would be home for the trick or treaters!  I had already bought bags of candy to pass out, before we decided to take this trip, and I wasn’t sure what we would do with all that candy if it didn’t get passed out!  We are really trying to diet, and the candy would have been a REALLY BIG temptation.  (In fact, I think I hear it calling me from the shelf in the front hall closet as I type this!  There’s a saying, “The devil is in the details,”  but I’m PRETTY SURE, at least for ME, he’s in the candy too!!)

So, I hope we have LOTS of trick or treaters tonight — or, if we only have a few, I hope they REALLLLLY like candy, because my plan is, when it gets toward the end of the evening, ANY candy left is going into those last bags!

May you and your family have a safe, fun Halloween!  Think of me when your children bring home bags BULGING with candy  — maybe they came to MY house at the end of the evenng!

And, by the way, because life is full of unexpected twists and turns, ALWAYS be prepared to come up with a Plan B. 

Diary of a Lunching “Professional”

October 27, 2007


If there was a professional certification for “lunching,” Linda and I would qualify without even taking the test.  This is something we know “hands down.”  We have practiced our “craft” for many, many years, and have it down to a science. 

I can imagine that when we retired and no longer ate lunch out five days a week, there were surely restaurants in town who wondered why their business had declined.  And, servers who probably looked for other lines of work because, when the “funny ladies” stopped coming in, waiting tables just wasn’t as much FUN any more!

If we were at all interested in working in retirement, we probably would be doing the “lunching” world (and the local restaurant industry) a service by hiring ourselves out as “lunching” mentors.  The way I see this working is that people (“novice” lunchers interested in bettering themselves in this important area of the working world) would take us out to lunch, and, for a small consulting fee, we would critique and coach them in ways to improve their dining experience!

But since we have now become lunchers “emeritus”  and no longer eat lunch out every day, and because, we have NO interest in employment (although the scenario I have described above does sound awfully tempting doesn’t it, Linda?), I will share a few of the tips that we have learned and experiences that we have had over the years with you here. 

Many years ago, it was normal for women “lunchers” to not get the same level of service as men, and the main reason was that women were perceived as notoriously poor tippers.  Early on, Linda and I made a point of dispelling that myth.  We always made sure that we tipped equal to the level of service we received.  If we received good service, we tipped well.  But, also, if we received bad service that was clearly because of the server (as opposed to problems in the kitchen, for example), we would reflect our dissatisfaction with a lesser tip.  In a few extreme cases, we have left something like a 50-cent tip.  Leaving NO tip was never an option, because then it might look like we just forgot to tip — perpetuating the “women are lousy tippers” idea.

The second important thing we learned over the years is that “regulars” always get better service.  So, while we went to a variety of restaurants, we did the complete “circuit” of those restaurants regularly, so that we were seen as “familiar” in all of them.

And, the third thing I believe we did right was that we tended to have the same server (when possible) or the same SEVERAL servers in each of those restaurants.  If a server “knows” you, there is a much better chance that they will CARE that you get good service, because they a) like you, and b) know they’ll probably see you again next week!  And, the familiarity with the  servers wasn’t one-sided either.  WE got to know them, and sometimes things about their families.

One of our favorite servers of all time was Fran.  She was a server in the Italian restaurant we liked.  She was, in our estimation, the ULTIMATE server — that is, one who was friendly, but efficient at the same time.  

Early on in the years she served us there, she found out that we were fellow Christians, so that was one of the things that we shared in common.  And, one memorable time, sometime between the salad and the entree, when Fran had come to refill our iced tea, she quickly (because she NEVER let anything get in the way of the great service she provided) set the pitcher down, laid her hand on each of our shoulders and said a quick prayer over us.  I don’t remember there being any specific reason for her prayer — I think she was just “moved” to pray for two women who she had come to consider friends!  But, when she walked away, Linda and I looked at each other, smiling but a little embarrassed by the attention this probably drew to us from the surrounding diners, and one of us whispered to the other, “The people around us are probably wondering which one of us is terminally ill!” 

But that was the Fran we came to know and love — she lived her faith in such a way that she couldn’t have stopped sharing it with others no matter what!   It was a sad day for us when she moved out of state with her husband’s job.  But, she left us great memories!

The downside of making friends with the servers was that sometimes it DID get in the way of our main goal — eating and getting back to work in a timely fashion!  We used to go to the closest location of a local pizza chain for lunch and had a really nice server who always waited on us there.  But, unfortunately, she became sooo familiar with us that she would stand at our table and chat so much that we not only had trouble getting our food in a timely manner, but it was hard to eat, because we kept having to chat with her!  We hated to do it, but we had to start going to another location, just because we didn’t have the time to spend with this too nice server.

Now, three stories that Linda always reminds me of when we relive our years of eating lunches together.  (You’ll notice these “favorite” stories of hers never make HER look bad!)

– One time we were in an Asian restaurant and I ordered the wonderful sweet/sour soup that they served.  Well, that day, someone must have inadvertently turned up the burner under the soup pot, because when I took the first bite of the soup that had just been brought to me, it was BOILING hot!  What would YOU do if you suddenly found yourself with a mouth-full of boiling liquid?!!  You would probably do exactly what I did — I spit it back into the bowl!!  The way I remember it is that, because of my quick action, Linda didn’t have to stop eating HER food and rush me to the hospital where, I’m sure, I would have had to have an immediate and complete transplant of the skin on the roof of my mouth!  But, if Linda would like to tell HER version of this story, she will have to start writing her OWN blog!  Because I am certainly not going to lend credibility HERE to her dismissive attitude toward the CRISIS I found myself in — and her embellishment of HER embarrassment at being in a restaurant with someone who spit her soup back into her bowl!  Linda likes to tell people we were banned from that restaurant after this incident.  The way I remember it — we just chose not to go there any more.

Lead-in to this next story is that I have a realllly soft spot in my heart for small children and dogs — especially if they are in harms way or already hurt (I had to go out and sit in the car while Linda and the Hubbies finished watching “Eight Below” — the movie about sled dogs that had to be left behind.  Tooo intense for me!) 

– One day Linda and I were seated by a window in a restaurant we frequented, that looked out over lawn to a street.  When we sat down, I noticed a dark something laying in the street that cars were having to go around.  But, the street was far enough away, you couldn’t tell what it was.  I tried to ignore it, but I kept looking back out there and wondering if it was a dog that had been hit by a car and was suffering.  I finally told Linda I thought we were going to have to leave, because I just couldn’t stop worrying about what that was!  Linda didn’t really want to leave if we didn’t HAVE to, but she told the server my concern.  The nice server sent one of the bus boys out to the street to see what the dark something was and he came back and reported that it was a piece of rolled-up carpet!  So, we stayed and had a nice meal.  Crisis averted. 

– One time Linda and I were sitting in a restaurant and I reached up several times and rubbed the back of my neck.  I must have slept on it wrong — it just felt a little stiff.  Suddenly, a nice-looking man in a suit approached our table and asked me if my neck hurt!!  He had noticed me rubbing it.  My first thought was, “Is he going to offer to massage it for me??!!”  But, instead he whipped out his card (with a picture of his nice-looking self on it — nice touch) and gave it to me — he was a chiropractor with an office not too far away!! I thanked him for his concern and took his card.  But, even if I HAD decided that I was in need of chiropractic treatment, I’m not sure I would have gone to one who was apparently out drumming up business at the local Shoney’s!

So ends this “diary” entry.  If you happen to need tutoring in the fine art of  lunching, give Linda and me a call.  We might consider “consulting.”  

Look for the humor in life — there is always fun to be had — even when just eating lunch!

Have You Sharpened Your Pencil Lately?

October 26, 2007


Yesterday’s post about handwritten notes made me remember something that happened to me when I was looking for my first job.

When I was applying for jobs before I graduated from high school, the company I would have loved to work for was the local truck  manufacturer.  They were the best-paying employer in the area, with great paying  jobs for people both with and without degrees, so they were sort of the local “mountain top” when it came to job aspirations.

Because they were the “elite” employer, if at all possible, you really needed to KNOW someone to help you get a job there.

Wellll, I KNEW someone!! — or, at least, my parents did.  Mr. and Mrs. M were in Mama and Daddys’ Sunday school class at church, ANNNND, Mr. M was head of the accounting department at the truck manufacturer’s Engineering building!!  He knew I was graduating and asked my parents what I was going to do, and they said I was looking for a job.  Wellll, he said that he was going to have an opening for an  accounting clerk and that I should come in and interview for it.  Hooray!!  I was soooo excited! 

When the appointed day for my interview arrived I was still excited, but  extreme nervousness had set in too.  So, I made my nervous self look the best I could (hair teased and sprayed, check.  dress clean and pressed, check.  no runs in hose, check.  best flats polished. check.  BUT, one thing I DIDN’T “check” was the contents of my purse — big mistake!), and then I drove (probably too fast — it’s a trait of mine) to the Engineering building. 

Right away there was a little problem — I couldn’t figure out how to get into the building!!  More specifically, I couldn’t even figure out how to get into the parking lot!!  As I drove down the road toward the building I could see two lanes of cars coming OUT (it was quitting time), but there didn’t appear to be a lane where I could go IN!  I drove around the block three times, frantic that I would be late for my appointment, but unable to figure out any other way to get in (there was a back entrance that I was missing).  Thankfully, the flow of cars coming out FINALLY stopped.  I then QUICKLY drove in and parked because I had no idea when what I had seen — resembling the running of the lemings to the cliffs to jump into the sea — might start again! 

Finally.  My slightly late, nervous, sweaty, wobbly-kneed self made it to the reception area and was escorted to the Personnel Department.  I remember sitting in a small reception area on a straight back chair, alone and “sweating bullets” as they say.   A few minutes later, the receptionist at the window called me over and gave me an application to fill out.  She DIDN’T give me a pencil or pen to fill it out with, and I was sooo nervous and flustered — and young — and inexperienced — that it never occurred to me that I could have asked her for a pen to use to fill it out.  I just dug in my purse to find something to use.  What I came up with, in among the used tissues, notes from hubby-to-be and girlfriends and chewing gum wrappers, was the only writing instrument in the whole purse  — a SOFT LEAD, no-eraser-left, badly in need of sharpening, pencil.

Before I go further, let me just tell you that my handwriting up to this time reflected my immaturity.  I dotted my “i'”s with circles or “hearts” depending on my mood and just had a generally VERY BIG, SLOPPY handwriting.

Did I mention this was a job in the Accounting Department?  Do you know what Accounting Clerks did back then?  They wrote numbers in TINY little boxes on accounting ledgers, by hand, in pencil, NEATLY.  Do you see the (bad) handwriting on the wall here?

Anyway, I remember when I had finished filling out the application, looking at it and wishing I had the nerve to ask for another one so that I could start all over again — even to my inexperienced eye, it looked pretty messy.  But, I went to the window and turned it in anyway and was taken to the Accounting Department to interview with Mr. M.  I don’t remember much about the interview, because I think I wasn’t breathing most of the time, but I thought it went “okay.”  But, “hope springs eternal” so I went home hoping things had gone better than I remembered.

What do you think the chances are that I got that job?  Nil. Zilch. Nadda.  NOOOO WAYYY!  I was notified by the Personnel Department a week later that someone else was hired for the job.

But, something very good DID come out of it.  I went home THAT DAY with a resolve that I was going to make my handwriting neater.  Nothing teaches a GOOD lesson like a BAD experience.  I now have a pretty neat, easy to read handwriting.  And, it all started THAT DAY with an unsharpened, soft lead pencil and a job I would have loved to have. 

Not too long after that, Mr. and Mrs. M retired to Florida, but years later they happened to be in town when we had an open house for Mama and Daddys’ 50th wedding anniversary.  As I was moving around the room chatting with different people, I came to Mr. M.  We had a nice chat and the subject finally came around to the fact that I did, in fact, now work for the company from which he retired.  (I finally got a job there 10 years later, after working at several other companies, and staying at home with my children for a few years).  I mentioned not getting the job in his department all those years ago because of my sloppy job application and he said, “I always wondered if you KNEW that that was the reason you didn’t get the job.”

Yeah, I knew.  I didn’t get that job.  But I did get one of the first life lessons that the “adult” world was going to teach me — it is ALWAYS in your best interest to communicate CLEARLY, whether you are writing or speaking.  And, the lesson was taught with the unlikeliest of tools — a badly-in-need-of-sharpening, eraser-used-up, soft-lead pencil.

Handwritten Notes — A Gift

October 25, 2007


Have you seen the mini-series on PBS by Ken Burns about the Civil War?  I haven’t seen all of it, but what I DID see included the reading of some wonderfully eloquent letters that soldiers had written home to their loved ones.  Beautiful, eloquent, heart-felt —  handwritten words.

Human emotion hasn’t changed — but the way it’s expressed has — and I think part of the reason is that eloquent, heart-felt words and ideas just aren’t as, well — eloquent, and don’t feel as “right” — when they are typed as they are when handwritten.

Handwritten communication has now taken a back seat to the faster, easier typed communication.  Today’s world pretty much revolves around the typed word.  But — when it comes to words that are felt deeply and which involve emotions, or are meant to convey caring — you can’t beat the handwritten word.

I have to say that our daughter, DD, has ALWAYS embraced this concept, even as a child.  If you know her, you can imagine that her notes are and always have been witty and original, and made even more special because they are in her handwriting. 

Gunny has said that when he was a young Marine on a ship on the other side of the world for months at a time, letters from DD were always funny, many-paged epistles, in her big, loopy handwriting, that made him laugh out loud and took him “home” for just a little while. 

A friend told me years ago that she LOOKED for reasons to send people notes (handwritten, of course) to thank, praise or encourage.  She said she started doing that after she herself received an unexpected note from someone and it felt like a “little gift” in her mailbox.   So, she wanted to be a “gift-giver” like that too.

My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Browning, was born in 1869.  He was left-handed  (that’s probably why I’m left-handed).  But back then, all children were MADE to write with their right hand.  I have no idea why.   But that didn’t stop him from having the most beautiful, flowing handwriting I have ever seen.  When he was a young man in the late 1800’s, he spent some of his time as a cowboy in Texas.  Our family has a ledger book that he used to write down the words to songs and poems he heard around the campfire.  It is so touching to look at those words, written over 100 years ago, in that beautiful hand. 

I wrote a note of apology to someone not too long ago, and I typed it — never giving it a thought.  But, when I was done, and ready to sign it, I realized that I had put a little wall of defense between me and that person by TYPING the note.  Yessss, I was apologizing, but somehow the typed words said, “Yes, I’m apologizing, but I’m NOT groveling!”  Well, when we apologize, I think if we truly mean it, we have to be prepared to do a tiny bit of groveling too.  So, I tore up the typed note, got out some note paper, and wrote it from the heart — in my own hand.

Is there someone who you can think of who would be surprised and touched if a handwritten note arrived in their mailbox from you?  That kind of “gift” is sooo cheap — yet, priceless to the receiver.

And, by the way, eloquent isn’t required.  I think sometimes we don’t communicate because we “don’t know what to say.”  Truly, the words you write aren’t nearly as important as the idea that you took the time and thought to WRITE them!

Thank you God for this free “gift” that we can give and receive from others.

Sledding – How Fun!

October 24, 2007


I LOVE a good visual story.  This is one that Deb, a friend who I used to work with, would tell about her childhood in Chicago.  If you’re reading this Deb, I hope I do it justice.

Deb lived in a neighborhood close to a park that had a great hill for sledding in the wintertime.

One day, after school, she and her little friend Mary decided, because there had been a nice heavy sticks-together-for-great-snowballs snowfall last night, that they would go to the park to sled (and maybe even throw a few snowballs at that mean kid Roger, when he wasn’t looking). 

The park was crowded — lots of kids were there enjoying the snow — and LOTS of them were on the sledding hill.  But, Deb and Mary took turns sledding down the hill (they only had one sled between them) whenever they could get “a turn” on the busy hill. 

It soon became apparent that this was reallllly slow “fun.”  One would sled down, and then slooowly trudge back up the hill, pulling the heavy sled.  She would then give the sled to the other, who would then wait for HER turn, then SHE would sled down and sloowly trudge back up the hill . . . . you get the picture.   Fun –but SHORT fun — with LOTS of waiting in between.  (Don’t kids just HATE to wait?)

So, while waiting for her next turn Deb had a BRILLIANT idea!  “How about if we BOTH ride the sled down the hill at the same time!”  Mary was a little reluctant — she wasn’t as adventuresome as Deb and couldn’t see exactly how that would work. 

Deb didn’t really have a “plan” either — but that didn’t stop her — she made up the plan as she went!  “Okay, here’s what we’ll do.  When it’s our next turn, one of us will lay down on the sled and the other one will lay on TOP of her!”  What a great plan!  Not only would they each get to go down twice as many times, but it would be easier to pull the sled back up the hill when they were doing it together.  Brilliant! 

So, when their turn came, they pulled the sled to the very edge of the hill.  Quickly they had to decide — who on the top — who on the bottom!  Hurry!  All the other kids waiting, didn’t want them to “standing around talking!”  So, because Mary outweighed Deb (she was a little bit chubby), Deb said to her,  “Get on first!”  Mary didn’t have time to “debate” it, whether she liked the idea or not, so she laid down on the sled, and Deb laid down on top of her!  

They hadn’t thought about the fact that their combined weight would make it harder to start the sled sliding!  But someone from behind, who was just interested in getting them out of the way so that THAT person could have THEIR turn, gave them a push and they got started! 

They went sliding down the hill.  It was great!  This was a BRILLIANT idea, Deb was thinking.  When they came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, Deb jumped up and said, “Hurry, Mary.  That was fun!  Let’s go do it that way again!” Mary didn’t answer.  Mary was slow getting up.  Hadn’t Mary enjoyed it as much as Deb had?  Well, maybe not QUITE as much.

Mary slowly turned around.  What had happened to Mary?  She had snow in her mouth and covering her face (even her glasses)!  In fact, the whole front of her was packed with snow!  When Deb started brushing the snow off the front of her little friend, she realized that all the buttons on the front of Mary’s coat were gone!  Then, she looked up the hill — the sled was still at the top of the hill, and the realization came — she had “sledded” down the hill on Mary!! 

Needless to say, that was the end of sledding for that day — and Mary may have even had a deeply held aversion to sledding for the rest of her life.  But, Deb always said, it was a great sled ride anyway, all things considered!

No great lesson to be learned here — just a great story to visualize.  It could have happened to ANY of us, beginning with a BRILLIANT idea!

Your Kindness is Killin’ Me!

October 23, 2007


When Hubby and I got married, only two months later my parents moved into a much larger, nicer house.  When anyone ohhhed and ahhhed about their new place, they would just smile and say they had gotten a “financial windfall” — no more kids at home!

Anyway, they moved next door to a very nice older lady, Mrs. R.  Mrs. R and Mama became friends over the years and loved to talk over the back fence, mainly about the roses they both grew.

One day, after my parents had lived there about 10 years, Mrs. R brought a new member of her “family” out to the fence for Mama to meet — a beautiful brindle boxer puppy, Max.   The next time, we were over there, Hubby and the kids and I got to meet Max too. 

How Mrs. R LOVED Max.  We didn’t see him often because he wasn’t an “outside dog” — translation, very little exercise.  But, once in a while, Mama would ask one of us while we were there to run something over to Mrs. R or we would see Max out in her back yard. When we DID see him, it became quickly obvious that Max was becoming BIG Max.  And I don’t mean taller.  Mama would tell us that Mrs. R fed Max like he was a human.  Anything SHE ate — HE ate.   In fact, one time when I was over there to pick up/deliver something, while we were chatting, she got a wine bottle and REFILLED the saucer out of which Max was drinking!

Long story short, Max didn’t live very many years, and was, as they say, “morbidly obese” when he died.  It was pretty obvious that Mrs. R had literally Loved Max To Death!  Something I KNOW she would never have intentionally done, because she was heartbroken when he was gone.

Going back to when I lived at home — Mama loved me, her surprise late-life baby, and enjoyed spoiling me in a way that she would have loved to have done with their four older children, but wasn’t able to do.  This was mainly because money was easier now because Daddy had moved up the ladder in his job and, also, because there was now only ONE of me!  So, she SPOILED me.  That’s nice when you are on the receiving end — until you have to go out in the world and function as an adult. 

When Hubby and I got married, I didn’t know how to cook, clean, write a check, iron clothes or do laundry!  My guess is that it didn’t take long for Mama to regret not having made me learn more of these life skills, and that may be the reason (besides that she DID love me) that she continued to be a great source of support for me. 

 I called Mama right after we got married and asked her how I would know when and to whom I should write checks out of our brand new checkbook.   She chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, the people who need for you to write them a check will let you know — it’s called a bill!”

For the first two years we were married, on Friday night, we would bundle our dirty laundry up in the dirty bed sheets and take it all over to Mama and Daddy’s house.  On Sunday, they would have us over for the one good meal we would have that week, and when we left, we would carry home our clean laundry and sheets, all folded and stacked in brown paper sacks!  After two years, when we told them that I was expecting our first child, Mama memorably said, “It’s time for you to get a washer and dryer — I don’t do diapers.”   I always say that if I had known things were going to take THAT nasty turn — we might never have had children! 

I did eventually learn the things I needed to know, with varying degrees of success, but my point is that my start in “adult” life would have been easier if Mama had MADE ME learn some basics when I was still at home.  Did she intentionally make my entrance into adult life harder?  Absolutely not.  But, that didn’t change the results.

So, my point is — be wise with your love — predict the consequences of your actions.  Don’t love your children so much that you aren’t willing to MAKE them learn to do things for themselves.  And, I’d like to say, “They’ll thank you later.”  But, they may not!  So, don’t do it for the “Thanks” later — do it because it’s the right thing to do.

A quote from General Norman Schwarzkopf, “The truth of the matter is, we always know the right thing to do.  The hard part is doing it.”

May God grant all of us wisdom in the way we show our love to those around us, especially to those He has put in our care.

A Slumber Party, How Fun!! Zzzzzzzz

October 22, 2007


I had a Slumber Party here this weekend, that’s why there wasn’t any post yesterday.  Toooo, busy having fun with the “attendees” — the “princesses” from Chicago — Coco, Lulu and Mimi.

They came on Friday night, in time for Papa to take Coco and Lulu to a family birthday party.  “In time” isn’t exactly the right wording –it was 8 p.m. when we arrived home from picking them up, but Coco and Lulu were still up to making a “fashionably late” appearance at the party — especially one that included cake and ice cream (or, as it turned out, ICE CREAM Cake — even better!!). 

Because all of our grandchildren live hours away, they don’t get to too many of the extended family events like the birthday party, so we always enjoy getting to “show them off” (because, of course, they are the cutest kids in the world) to relatives who don’t get to see them often.  Anyway, Mimi and I were just toooo tired to go, so we stayed home. 

But when the other girls got back, we went into our “slumber party” mode.  First, we moved Hubby/Papa to an upstairs bedroom so that we could take over the master.  (Poor Him — he has to sleep upstairs, ALL BY HIMSELF, with just a TV and a nice comfy bed in a nice, quiet room, all to himself — Poooor Him!)

Then, we took lots of nice thick blankets out of the cedar chest (Always a favorite — the huge “feels like fur” blanket with a picture of wild, running horses all in bright oranges, blues and browns, that Gunny sent us from Thailand many years ago.  Not many “decors” that go with that puppy, but it is incredibly soft — and BIG! Did I mention Gunny is color blind?  And, he says the store he bought it in was very dark.)

Then we made a pallet on the floor at the foot of the bed, with a perfect view of the TV cabinet in the corner.  That way, they have an option (don’t kids love OPTIONS?) of sleeping in the bed with Nanna or sleeping on the pallet.  They all started out on the pallet, but Lulu ends up moving to the bed sometime during the night.  She’s a cuddler — so when it’s just her and you in a king-size bed — it’s still a little crowded, even though she’s a wirey little thing.  Whereever you are — that’s the spot that she seems to be trying to crowd into too.  A little like wearing a little, lovable nightshirt!

Anyway, after everyone is settled down on the pallet, they watch some kids channels for a while and then, to top off the evening, we watch some ALF!!  Remember ALF — a little furry guy from outer space who crashes here and lives with a family?  A TV show from the 80’s that I have always loved.  Because of that, I have been “gifted” with two seasons of ALF on DVD’s.   ALF episodes are what they go to sleep by, and they still laugh out loud at them sometimes, even though the older girls have seen all of the episodes many times, because we play them every time we have a “slumber party.”  I usually fall asleep earlier than they do, so I wake up in the wee hours of the morning and turn off the TV.  A great slumber party — they watch fun stuff and I do too, except when I doze off for just a little while — zzzzzz. 

On Saturday after breakfast, Papa took Coco and Lulu to one of their favorite places here — the children’s hands-on science center.  They came home all excited because Coco had ridden the bike that goes around the top of the building (I tried it once — toooo high for me!!).  She rode it TWICE — the little dare-devil (there IS a net, in case something goes wrong.).  Lulu was excited because she got to pet a snake and feed it — something dead (I won’t gross you out with the details — as she did ME!)  Anyway, they had a great time.

While they were gone, Mimi and I had some shopping we had to do, and had some interesting conversation.  Now, some of the conversation, which I’m sure was verrrry interesting, was one-sided, because Mimi hasn’t figured out the “volume control” on her voice yet.  Ironically, there are times when she may be a tiny bit LOUD, but when she’s talking to the “hearing-impaired” (that would be Papa and Nana), she tends to get “shy” on us, and speak very softly.

Anyway, her and I did have an interesting conversation about Akela.  We talked about what a nice dog Akela was and that she had died (Mommy and Daddy had already prepared them for that fact).  But, then she mentioned very casually that Bibbles was going to die in two months!  Big surprise here — Bibbles is their family dog — and is less than a year old, and seemed to be in perfectly good health the last time we were there.  Also, it was a little surprising that Miss Not-Yet-Four knew exactly the predicted time of Bibble’s demise!   But she, even at her tender age, has a way of telling you something that makes it sound like she really knows what she’s talking about. (Do you know her Mom?  It runs in the family.)  So, I didn’t question her any further.  But, when the girls got home, I asked them about Bibbles health.  They said Bibbles was just fine.  So, unless Miss Mimi had a private conversation with the Vet, in which this sobering diagnosis was imparted to just HER, we are assuming that her little mind told her that if Akela died, all dogs must die (so far, accurate), and (this is the part that required some imagination on her part — something she has an abundance of) if Bibbles was going to die, two months sounded about right!  Bibbles is fine, we think, unless Mommy and Daddy get a call from the Vet, asking if they got the message he left with Mimi!

In the afternoon, I had some apples that needed to be used up, so the girls watched as I peeled the apples to make apple crisp and they ate the peelings, just like I remember doing when Mama peeled apples.  Then, while it baked, Papa went outside with them to play on the deck and in the back yard (when you live on water, you have to be a little more careful about children outside unattended).  When the crisp was done, they came in and we had a mid-afternoon snack of warm apple crisp with ice cream!  Boy, did we enjoy that, and I had made it with Splenda instead of sugar, and used sugar-free ice cream.  A little better for my diet, but still tasted great!  (Recipe at end, in case you’re interest.) 

Saturday night we went to their OTHER favorite spot when they come to visit — the Cinema Grille.  In case you haven’t been to a theater/restaurant, it is a great way to see a movie and have dinner too.  We go there regularly with Linda and her hubby.  But, it is especially great for kids.  They have alot more “wiggle room” because they are sitting in swivel chairs at either a counter or tables, and between the movie and the food, their attention hardly ever wanders.  And, as adults who go there regularly, we have never been distracted by children who may be around us.  I recommend it highly if there’s one in your area.  Anyway, we saw The Game Plan, starting Dwayne Johnson (the Rock).  It is a really cute, CLEAN movie that I recommend. 

So, after the movie another fun night of slumber party.  

On Sunday, after Church and breakfast at Cracker Barrel (during both church and breakfast, they were just great — we were very proud of them), we took them home. 

A great weekend of memories for all of us.  But Papa definitely looked a little better rested than the rest of us by the end of the weekend!

Thank you God for grandchildren — they are the “frosting on the cake”  or, more appropriately this time, the “ice cream on the crisp!” 

Great “Diet” Apple Crisp

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees 

Fill an 8″x8″ pan 3/4 full with peeled, sliced apples (will take most of a bag of apples).

Sprinkle with *1/3 C. Granulated Splenda (make sure “granulated” — big yellow bag)

Combine in medium bowl to make crumble top:  1 C. flour — *1 C. Granulated Splenda — 1 t. baking powder — 3/4 t. salt — 1 egg.  Sprinkle these crumbles on top of apples.

 *Note that Splenda is used in two different places.

Melt 3/4 STICK butter, and pour evenly over top.

Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm with Edy’s sugar-free vanilla ice cream.  Wonderful!

My First Job — Look Out World, Here I Come!

October 19, 2007


When I was in high school, I never had a job.  My parents discouraged it, and as long as they were willing to give me spending money, it was fine with me!  Besides, it would have gotten in the way of the after-school things I was involved in (speech and drama). 

Not having a job also made it possible for me to go to summer school to take all the subjects Mama and I thought I needed!  I wanted to take the college prep courses because I had this kind of “yeah, me too” thought that if my friends were going to go to college, I probably would too.  Mama, being muuuuuch more realistic than me, said, “You can take all the college prep courses you want, but you HAVE TO TAKE at least 2 years of shorthand and 2 years of typing!”  So, in order to get all that in, I went to summer school. 

It wasn’t much of a hardship to take summer school –my friends all did it too.  It was more fun than regular school, because you only took two classes, each for 2 hours a day.  And, unlike regular school, there were lots of field trips.  Memorably, our summer biology class took a  field trip to the University medical center and, among other things, got to see (lucky us) a room full of refrigerated boxes with dead bodies floating in formaldehyde inside!   Teenager totally grossed out here! 

One summer the whole 4-hour day was driver’s education (at that time, it was required).  There was alot of book learning and written tests, of course,  but we did drive almost every day, and learned to drive both automatic and standard transmissions.  The classroom teacher was a normal middle-aged guy, but our driving instructor was a verrrry nice looking “older man” (about 21) who we would see arriving each morning in his CORVETTE  — my girlfriends and I were in awe of him!!!”  (And, in return, I’m sure we left him “breathless” sometimes when our inexperience made us “jack-rabbit” a standard shift car through a red light, with the other driver-trainees laughing in the back seat!) 

So, when I decided NOT to go to college, it’s a good thing Mama had insisted on those secretarial classes!  It’s hard to believe, but I don’t remember her saying “I told you so.”  What a saint. 

The big local insurance company actually sent people to the high schools to do interviews and testing (yeah, yeah, I know, that Mama-required shorthand and typing), so I knew at least a month before graduation that I was going to work there. 

Let me just say here that the employer we all ASPIRED to work for was the big local truck manufacturer, because of the money.  For comparison, my one friend who DID get one of the few job openings there, started out at $100 a WEEK  (a wage that many married men were supporting a whole family on at that time — 1964) while I started at the insurance company at $260 a MONTH! 

But, truly, the pay was about the only thing that wasn’t wonderful at the insurance company.   They employed 3,000 people and 2,500 of them were women (who I saw as all potential friends).  Of course, typical of the times, the men were the  “Chiefs” and the women were the “Indians.”  But it was a beautiful, spotlessly clean building to work in, and they had a fantastic lunch room where (this is absolutely the truth) we could eat a full meal, including dessert (not a problem yet for our teenage metabolisms) and our drink, for 25 CENTS — TOTAL!!  So, this was not the employer that was going to make us RICH, but definitely a great place to work.  AND, it was right downtown where we could, after our 25-cent lunch, walk to lots of stores to spend the REST of our meager pay on clothes and shoes!  But, for the non-shoppers, the company also had a library, a glee club, a Toastmasters club and a large room full of tables and chairs where you could always join (or start) a fast game of cards at lunch time.  What a great company in which to have your first work experience! 

So, anyway, the end of school arrives, and I’m ready to become an adult!  Mama had bought me five new dresses with high heels to match each. We LOVED for things to match back then.  I was SET.

So, I graduate from high school on Friday night (point of interest — I’ve read that Dolly Parton graduated from high school on the same night, different school, different state, and got on a bus the next day to Nashville.  The beginning of very different career paths for her and me!). 

The next Monday morning, I teased and sprayed my hair into a perfect helmet, put on one of my matching outfits and nervously drove to the insurance company to begin my new “career.”  I was going to be a floating secretary for the Summer, and would get my permanent assignment in the Fall.  As a floating secretary, I would fill in for secretaries who went on vacation (That was some of the best education I ever received, filling in for all those more experience secretaries,  but I think most of their bosses were pretty glad to see them back after having the “greener-than-grass” kid fill in).

Anyway, first day — I had been told to report to the Personnel Department that first morning.  When I tottered in on my new high heels, the place was packed!  I thought, “Oh, all these poor girls are here hoping to get a job — and I ALREADY have one!  Aren’t I lucky!”  I  tottered perkily (not easy to do both at once) up to the reception desk and said, “I’m here to start work!” (secretly hoping, I suppose, that somehow the earth would alter it’s course on this momentus occasion!)  (Step back — slightly inflated young ego about to burst here.)  The receptionist said, “So are all these other people.  Have a seat.”  The first of many reality checks in the working world. 

Thus began my first day of my first job.  It was a lovely job, where I had many great experiences and made lots of great friends.   And, in many ways, it was my BEST job — because it was my first. 

Thank you, God, for all the great “firsts” in our lives that make for treasured memories.

The French Would Say, Le Soup. I say, Lo Soup!

October 18, 2007


I am a soup FAN!!  And, there is ALOT to like about soup.  

For example:  It is “thin calories” — the theory goes that because the calories in it are suspended in liquid, it takes fewer calories to fill you up.  Also, if you eat it with a small spoon, it takes longer to eat — giving your “I’m getting full” signal from your brain time to kick in.  If a broth-based soup is available in a restaurant, it is usually a lower calorie alternative to a salad before your entree. 

And, there is no such thing as “leftovers” when the meal you make at home is soup — because it’s just like “new” every time it’s heated up until it’s gone (it also freezes well).  In fact, I think soup gets even better each time it’s reheated because the flavors continue to blend.

Have you tried the new Progresso vegetable soups that are ZERO Weightwatcher points for a “serving?” (Count one point if you eat the whole can — still “cheap” diet-wise.)  The Italian is verrry good.  But, I have to say, I still like “home-made” soup the best.

Any soup I make includes at least a soup can-size chicken broth.  It may surprise you to know that I mean chili and beef vegetable soup too.  In fact, in the case of the stew I suggested a few weeks ago out of left-over roast — sometimes I even add chicken broth to it.  When chicken broth is added to beef-flavored soups/stews like these, you really don’t taste anything that tastes like chicken.  It just makes the flavors that are there a little more rich.

The other two ingredients that I add to most soups — a couple “glubs” of olive oil and a few shakes of Frank’s hot sauce.  Again — not flavors that you can necessarily pick out — but they just add to the overall flavor.  Note:  If you’ve done everything you can think of to a soup (including salt and pepper), and it still tastes a little “flat,”  try adding a teaspoon of sugar or a packet of Splenda.  Especially true with tomato-based soups/stews — also, spaghetti sauce!

When you bring home leftovers from a restaurant, what do you REALLY do with them?  In a perfect world, you would eat them for lunch the next day and feel good about having made two meals from one, but in reality, do they set in your frig until they “grow a beard” and then you throw them out?  If so, next time, think about making them into soup! 

I order chicken 99% of the time when we eat out — usually with veggies and a pasta or rice.  And, many times I bring half of it home.  Perfect for my “Lo (leftover) Soup.”   The next day, I can just put a cup or two of chicken broth in a sauce pan on medium heat (everything is already cooked — I am really just reheating), then I chop up the chicken in bite-size pieces and dump it and the leftover veggies and pasta/rice into the broth, making sure I include any sauce that was on the meal that may remain in the take-home container.  You can add V-8 too, but many times the chicken has a tomato sauce on it that makes the V-8 unnecessary.  Add the aforementioned olive oil and hot sauce, and then taste.  Add spices if needed.  But, I have found that restaurant chicken dishes are usually really nicely spiced, so many times I don’t need to add anything other than maybe some salt and fresh ground pepper.  When it’s hot — I eat it!  Much nicer way to eat my leftovers than trying to “re-create” the original meal by re-heating it in the microwave.  It never tastes quite the same.  Another nice thing about this is, depending on the quantity of the leftovers, it sometimes makes enough soup for both Hubby and me. 

 I would think that Lo Soup would be good with other meats too (beef, pork, even shrimp, but I’m not sure fish would work) — I just haven’t tried it with anything but chicken, because that’s what my leftovers are!

Have you had your Lo Soup today?  Try it — you MIGHT like it as much as I do!!

Thank you Father for the abundance of food we have in this country.  Please help us to be good stewards of it and everything else  you have given us!

Would You Have Put That Label There If You Knew It Was Permanent?

October 17, 2007


The first Christmas I was the “leader” (not sure who was leading who) of the Commissary at the Jail, several of the people who worked in the Commissary, and their spouses, were going to come to the Sheriff’s Department Christmas Party!  I was sooo excited that we were going to get to have a social evening together (there’s a dinner, a few speeches, lots of door prizes, and a DJ for dancing), so I told them, because I knew I had to be there early, that I would save a table so that we could all sit together. 

When that evening came, Hubby and I were there early because we were “greeters” (that will be listed under “experience” on our applications to Wal-Mart) so, I couldn’t just sit at a table and “shoo” people away from it to make sure we could all sit together, so how was I going to save a table?”  I had an idea — I’d write Commissary on the paper tablecloth!    So I borrowed a marker from the bartender, and picked out a choice table, and then just wrote “Commissary” in big letters across the tablecloth  so that people would know that it was reserved for “Commissary” people.  (Did I mention it was pretty dark in the room at that time?)

A little while later, at a lull in the “meetin’ and greetin'” I was noticing the room –the lights had been turned up and candles had been lit — it looked verrry nice.  A new group was in charge this year, and they had really “glam-ed” it up — candles on every table — china and REAL silverware (instead of the plastic from previous years), and even real linen napkins and tableclothes.  Oh my gosh, had I written “Commissary” on a LINEN tablecloth?  I rushed off to check on the table I had “labeled” in the off chance that the budget was tight and that maybe (please God) THAT table  had a PAPER one.  No such luck.  Long story short, I left my name and phone number with the catering people and told them I would pay for a replacement if the marker didn’t come out.  I never heard from them, so either it DID come out, or they just wrote it off as the “cost of doing business.”

Would I have labeled that table if I had known I would be ruining the tablecloth?  Absolutely not.  And, I think we do the same thing sometimes in life when we label people.  Would we put that negative “label” on them if we knew it might be permanent?

When our children were very little we had neighbors who had a little girl who was just a couple months older than DD.  From the time they were old enough to play outside, DD and Kammy were best friends.  I have a darling picture of the two of them sitting in a rocking chair together — happy as two bugs in a rug!  But, Kammy’s Mom, who I LIKED (even likeable people do thoughtless things sometimes), did something in my hearing one day that sent chills up my spine.  She called Kammy, “Dummy.”  I didn’t say anything that time, because I was surprised, and thought maybe it was a one-time thing, but the NEXT time I heard her say it, I HAD to say something.  So, I waited until she and I were out of earshot of the kids and told her I thought she ought to be careful about calling Kammy, “Dummy.”  She laughed it off, and said that Kammy knew she was just kidding.  I never heard her call Kammy that again, and I hope that is because she decided it wasn’t a good idea, not that she was just careful not to say it in front of me. 

That family moved out of state just a couple years later, and we only heard from and about them occasionally.  But, this is what I have heard — Kammy didn’t finish high school, has never been married but has several children, and has never been financially self-sufficient, still depending on her parents to subsidize her and her children.  I believe that how Kammy’s life has turned out was surely influenced by a label that was thoughtlessly attached to her as a child, that I’m sure her mother never thought would be “permanent.”

When I read an obituary in the paper that lists “step-grandchildren” I always wonder what that says about the relationships in that family.  Our oldest granddaughter was 5 years old when her Mom married Gunny.  I have always told her that she was ALWAYS our grandchild — we just didn’t KNOW her until she was five.  And, I can truthfully say that I love all six of our grandchildren equally.  So, I wonder what thought process makes a grandparent differentiate between how grandchildren came into their lives?  Do they think that the blood running through their veins is something special, so that “blood” grandchildren, are somehow “better?”  Let me just say this — I believe that God loves each of my grandchildren equally, and he expects me to love them equally too! 

One last “label.”  I have known women who never have anything good to say about their husbands, and I’m sure you have too.  Now, I know there aren’t any “perfect” husbands out there, but I have to think that there MUST be SOME good things that could be said about those husbands, if the wives would just choose to enumerate them instead of their faults. 

I have always subscribed to the theory that my spouse is a reflection of ME!  If I LABEL him as an “idiot” or “lazy” or “inconsiderate,” how smart does that make ME look that I MARRIED the low-life!  I prefer to look for the good in the man I married, and talk about his positives rather than his negatives whenever possible. Because, I assume, if he is GREAT — doesn’t that make me look “Brilliant” that I married him?  I tell people that I have been the president of Hubby’s “fan club” since I was 15 years old! 

May we each see (actively, LOOK FOR) something in our spouse TODAY that reminds us how lucky we are to be married to them.  And, if we are speaking to someone  about them TOMORROW — may that positive thought be the one that comes out of our mouths.

Be very careful of the labels you put on people — you never know which ones might become permanent.