Memories of the Stoic Mr. Ken

June 30, 2008

During my career with the major truck manufacturer, I worked in several areas.  For a short time, I even worked in our department’s Accounting “group” which was made up of Ken the manager, and my friend Linda and one other person (this job was an as-needed one, that many of us filled at some point).  Linda was without a doubt the “hub” of this little, but important group.  Ken was a smart man who knew his job thoroughly, but because he wasn’t a natural communicator, he definitely needed someone like Linda, who did alot of the communicating for him.  Besides, Linda is naturally a detail person, so there just wasn’t much about what they did that she didn’t know.  He was very fortunate to have her and that was made vividly evident in the near future.

When I tell you about Ken, keep in mind tht he was part American Indian, and personified the stoic personality that is often attributed to that group of people. 

Anyway, when I first worked for Ken I had mannnny questions about how he wanted things done (I was working on some projects that had just been assigned to the group).  And, when I would go into his office and give him a long spiel about what I had encountered and how I thought I should handle it, but that I wanted to check with him and see if that was actually how he wanted it done or if he wanted me to do it differently.  Wellllll, as I would be saying all that, Ken would just look at me and listen, never for a moment revealing in his expression what he was thinking (which, I am sure, at least sometimes, was “Does this woman ever say anything briefly?”).  And when I was finished, he would tell me in a few words, how he wanted it done.

I told Linda one time that it was disconcerting to me that I couldn’t read Ken at all!  I said, “When I make a suggestion about how something should be done, the expression on Ken’s face could either be telling me that he thinks that is the stupidest idea he has ever heard, OR that it is the most BRILLIANT idea he’s ever heard!  I could never tell which it was.”  Linda just laughed.  I have no idea why.

Anyway, while I was in the group, Ken and I had to make a trip to Kansas City where the divisional accounting office was located for a meeting involving one of the projects I was working on.  The corporate travel office had booked our flight, so we didn’t look at our tickets too closely because, after all, they were the “experts” at booking flights, right?  But, when Ken looked at our flight times right before we left (and too late to make any changes), he warned me it was reallllly going to be tight at O’Hare, because we only had 25 minutes between our flights (usually they would try to leave at least 45 minutes between flights!).  Not only had the travel department given us less time than normal between the connecting flights, but, because Ken had flown through there many times, he immediately recognized that the gates we would arrive at and then depart from 25 minutes later were a lonnnng distance from each other.

So when we got off the plane at O’Hare, man of few words, Ken just said, “Keep up with me.”  And we literally ran through O’Hare.  Even when we were on the moving walkways, we ran on those too!  And, we did make our connecting flight, but just barely.  Ken had been absolutely right.  If he hadn’t set the pace, there is no way we would ever have made that connection.

The surprising part of this is that just a few weeks later, Ken had a serious heart attack!  He required by-pass surgery and did eventually recover.  But he was off a couple months, during which time Linda, who was the only other person who knew everything Ken did and how he did it, kept all the accounting “plates spinning” until Ken could come back to work.  And, by the way, she never got the recognition I felt she deserved.  But she’s a humble sort who just believes in getting the job done. 

(I’ve read this to Linda before posting it, and she feels, to be completely truthful, I should point out that she was really, really cranky during this time — certainly not saintly.  I personally would never have told you that, but now that she mentions it . . .)

So, I helped her in any way I could, and also tried to give her a laugh once in a while, during this very stressful time.  Once I told her, “You know it’s a good thing Ken didn’t have that heart attack a couple weeks earlier!  If he’d had it when he and I were rushing through O’Hare, I’d never have made that flight, because it would have been — run a few steps, drag Ken, run a few steps, drag Ken . . .!”  Even with all her stress, she still thought I was funny!

Another thing I remember about that trip is that we flew a “puddle jumper” coming home from Chicago (it’s only an hour flight — how bad can that be, even on a tiny, tiny plane?)  Wellllll, someone decided that our little flying tin can would make an unscheduled stop in South Bend to pick up some passengers.  Did I mention that my stomach doesn’t really like to fly?  It gets a little unsettled, especially in tiny, tiny planes.  Also, this was an evening flight — not my best time of the day.  By evening I like to be home in my jammies — not flying around in a plane in which you practically have to duck to walk down the aisle.  And, because it was an evening flight, no food was served that might help settle an uneasy stomach, just peanuts and pop.

So, we stopped in South Bend and a few more people squeezed into our tiny, tiny plane.  One of the few empty seats had been next to me, so now a nice looking, well-dressed man sat down in the seat next to me — and I was immediately almost overcome with the smell of reallllly strong body odor!  I think he must have suspected how badly he smelled, because he made a point of telling me that he was a civil engineer who was exhausted because he had been working outside on a project all day.  That explained the B.O., but the explanation didn’t help my retching reflex which I was having to work really hard to control.  And, I certainly didn’t want to let this nice man know that he was making me ill.  So, I truly, for one of the few times in my life, “suffered in silence.”  In fact, I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep off and on, to avoid having to make conversation with him, because I was afraid even talking would lead to a “violent end”  for my digestive system.  I sipped warm 7-up (Mama’s cure for a queasy stomach) part of the time, and that helped a little.  But, it was a lonnnng, lonnnng flight at the end of a lonnnng day, for a not-great-flyer at the best of times, who was end-of-a-trip tired and sitting next to a very nice, very stinky man.

When Ken and I walked into the airport, I’m not even sure I said good-bye to him.  I walked straight to a restroom and threw up.  Then picked up my suitcase at Baggage, walked directly to my car, drove home, and fell into bed.  I don’t even remember taking my clothes off.

Ken also used to take Linda and I out to lunch once in a while.  On those days, we knew it would be a longer than usual lunch.  The man drove so slow we could have walked beside the car and kept up!  And he would take the “scenic route” (his wife told us he did that all the time to her too), so we probably spent more time in the car driving a meandering route to and from the restaurant than we did actually eating!  And, this part we certainly didn’t object to, sometimes the scenic route back to work included the drive-through at Dairy Queen!  He sure knew the way to our hearts!

Ken didn’t like pizza, but one time we badgered him into taking us to our favorite pizza place.  It was winter so he dropped us off at the door and then went to slowlllly park the car, just like he drove.  We went in and sat down.  Our favorite waitress came over and made some quick chit chat and then asked us if we wanted our “usual.”  By this time, we had settled in, Ken hadn’t come in from the parking lot yet, and we forgot that he was with us!  We said, “Sure, the usual.”  And, the waitress left.  Soon after, Ken walked in the door and the looks of surprise and guilt on our faces must have told the story, because he gave one of his longer speeches.  He said something like, “You guys are really something.  You talk me into going out for pizza, which I don’t like.  Then, I’m nice enough to drop you off at the door, and the thanks I get is that you forget I’m with you and order without me!!”  And then he laughed.  Thank goodness.  Because we really were embarrassed to have forgotten him — but he really did take a lonnnng time to park the car! 

Ken died a couple years ago.  But he lives on in some great memories that Linda and I have of him.  He was a great guy, who we think enjoyed our humor.  But who could tell! 

We Have a Wee Suggestion About Wii

June 28, 2008

As you may remember, Hubby and I purchased a Wii a few months ago.  And, I must say, we have used it alot — especially the bowling and tennis.  Both are really fun and seem to be good exercise, but the tennis is especially  physical, and actually makes me sweat! (Wait — ladies don’t sweat, right?  Okay then, It makes me “glow with liquid sunlight!”)

But, here is my concern, which I have talked about enough that I have talked Hubby into making it (or at least pretending it is) his “concern” too. (Marriage is like that, isn’t it?) 

My concern is that I am left handed, so I am, naturally, constantly swinging, lifting, extending, waving (and, of course, pumping, when I do my victory dance!) MY LEFT ARM.  What about my poor, under-utilized, ignored, flabby RIGHT ARM?  And, since Hubby is right handed, I’m concerned about his poor left arm!  (Although, if I remember correctly, he uses both arms in his victory dance, so he may not be in as much “uneven-ness trouble” as me.) 

Years down the road, are people who see me going to say, “Doesn’t she look nice — so toned.  You know she’s used a Wii for years.  But, wait!  What on earth is that limp, flabby, unattractive appendage on her right side? Oh, my lands, Ethel — IT’S HER RIGHT ARM!!  What a shame!  But, other than that, she looks very nice, very natural.  Anyway, we’d better move along now.  The viewing’s over in ten minutes.  Let’s stop for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie on our way home, shall we?”  But I digress. 

Right now, while I’m still among the living — My problem:  Uneven exercise for my arms.  My solution:  A RIGHT HANDED alter-ego!

Her name is Gigi.  She is taller and slimmer than me, and has long, flowing reddish blonde hair, and, most importantly, she’s RIGHT HANDED.  But I’ve got to tell you, for all she’s got going for her looks-wise, she is noooooo athlete!  I haven’t even let her try bowling yet.  But, in tennis she hits the ball alllll over the place and hasn’t won a match yet.  I actually think I can see the guys on the other side of the net smirking, only because they’re too polite to laugh out loud.  But, she IS execising my right arm, so I’m going to cut her some slack right now and keep her on the payroll. 

By the way, as further proof that looks really don’t matter, Hubby’s LEFT HANDED alter-ego is a quite unattractive old man named Bubba, who has a perpetual smug look on his face, and is already winning most of the time in tennis.  Apparently, Hubby’s been giving Bubba lessons before he “brought him on-board” so he’s alot better than Gigi. 

One of us likes to “win” the Mental Attitude Award and one of us just likes to win.  Can you guess which is which?  Oh well, we’re having fun, and if you have a Wii, you might want to try our solution to “evening up” your exercise. 


Swim for Your Life — Float for Your Soul

June 23, 2008


When I was five years old, one of my teenage sisters “volunteered” to take my little friend Janice and me to the big people’s swimming pool at the park for the first time.  I’m guessing this was the result of alot of me begging Mama, because I remember that awesome big pool with so many people in it (and diving boards!) fascinated me and I wanted to be a part of that instead of the tame kiddie pool that just had alot of “babies” in it.  The kiddie pool was a big round pool that was very shallow around the edge and only about three feet deep wayyyy out in the middle.  And, I’m sure at the advanced age of five years old, I probably perceived that pool as just for those babies — certainly not for big girls like Janice and me.

Background:  This is how it worked when you went to a public pool in 1951.  You carried your bathing suit and bathing cap (required for girls, to keep hair out of the water and the filters) rolled up in a towel to the pool with you.  (You never saw anyone out in public in a bathing suit.)  When you got there, you went to a counter on the front of the bathhouse where you paid your money and they gave you a big, heavy wire basket with a big safety pin attached to it, that had matching numbers on them.  You then went into the girls side of the bathhouse where there were booths along the side for those who were modest and benches out in the middle for those who were not, and changed into your suit and attached the big safety pin to it, usually at the leg opening, and put your clothes in the basket and then turned it in at a window.  That way when you were done swimming, you could come back to that window, give them your safety pin and they would give you the basket with the matching number containing your clothes, which you would change into before you went home. 

So, the big day came and ML took Janice and me to the pool.  I could hardly stand still while ML paid for us and got a basket.  Finally, we got into the bathhouse.  I immediately ripped my clothes off, threw them in the basket and put on my bathing suit as quickly as I could — I was soooo excited!  Then I pestered ML, to hurry up and help me put on my tight yellow, rubber swim cap (that required adult-type strength to pull down over my Mama-induced home permed curls).  That done, she turned away to finish getting ready herself and to turn in the basket at the nearby window.  Thennnn, and only thennnnn, would we all together go out to the pool!   Now, while I don’t remember hearing those exact words, I’m sure that the ever-responsible ML said something like that, but I don’t think I heard her — or I just totally ignored her because I was soooo excited!  Because I didn’t wait for anything or anybody — I immediately walked out of the bathhouse and jumped into the edge of the big people’s pool! 

Now, several things were unfortunate at this point.

1.  I didn’t know that, unlike the kiddie pool, the big pool wasn’t shallow all around the edge — I had jumped into 5 ft. of water, and couldn’t swim.

2.  ML didn’t notice me leave the bathhouse because she was busy helping Janice and turning in the basket, and there were lots of women and girls in the bathhouse, so it was very loud and chaotic.

3.  Janice was not the mouthy little kid I was (probably the reason we were friends), so she didn’t “tattle” to ML about me leaving without them.

But, by the grace of God, Janice did somewhat follow my lead.  While ML was turning in the basket, Janice walked out the door to the pool.  When ML turned around and saw the back of Janice going out the door, she assumed I was just a few steps ahead, so she wasn’t concerned, but she did quicken her step to catch up, before something could happen.

A few seconds later when ML walked out the door, she was surprised to see Janice standing on the side of the pool alone.  ML hurried over to her, and said, “Where’s Sandra?”  Janice said, “Down there.”  and pointed at my yellow bathing cap bobbing up and down under the water.

The view from below:  As soon as I jumped in even my little five year old mind knew I was in trouble.  I went all the way down and touched the bottom and proceeded to bounce and try to get air when I was at the top of the bounce — that only worked about half the time, and I was only gulping in about half air — the other half was water.  I remember seeing the legs of a guy sitting on the side of the pool and thinking I wished I could bounce over close enough to him to grab his leg (which would probably have given him a heart attack!), but I just wasn’t coordinated enough to be able to do that.  So, I just continued to bounce, gulp, bounce, gulp …  not exactly a recipe for success!

I don’t remember the “rescue,” but this is what I’ve been told:  ML immediately jumped in and grabbed me and started to push me toward the side, at which time the lifeguard realized what was happening, and jumped in to help.  They put me on the deck and started pushing on my back and lots of water came gushing out.  Apparently, that was good enough! (Today, they would probably call EMS, and I would have been kept in the hospital overnight for observation!), because I do remember walking home with ML and Janice, and ML specifically telling me that SHE would tell Mama what happened.  She probably figured (correctly) that this story blurted out in five-year old hysteria, would give Mama a heart attack!  I don’t remember ML or me getting in trouble, so I’m guessing Mama was just relieved that I was all right.  Its also my guess that ML and I were both soooo upset that Mama figured we didn’t need any further punishment!

But, what this experience gave me (no surprise) was a huge fear of water.  Ironically, Mama had had a similar near-drowning experience when she was a teen-ager, so she herself had a fear of water too.  The result of this incident and Mama’s own fear was that she had a strong desire for me to learn to swim because she didn’t want me to have the same life-long fear of water she did.  So, over the years Mama took me to swim lessons multiple times, and I usualy didn’t even last one lesson.  They seemed to always start out just bouncing around in water that wasn’t over my head — that was fine.  But, then they would invariably say, “Now let’s play a game — Ring Around the Rosie!”  Hey, I may have been a little kid, but I wasn’t a dumb little kid.  I knew how that game ended, “We all fall down!”  Uh-Uh — not me.  That would mean getting my face wet.  When they started to play that game, I would say I had to go to the bathroom.  Then I would get out of the pool and Mama would take me to the bathroom, where I would tell her, I wasn’t going back. 

Eventually Mama took me enough times that I finally overcame my fear and I actually stayed long enough to learn to swim!  Buttttt, in order to pass, you had to be able to float on your back.  Swimming, even with my face in the water, had become okay, even fun.  But float on my back!!! Lean back in the water, and totally “trust” the water to hold me up!?!?!  THAT was something I really didn’t think I could do.  Well, finally, with the help of a very patient teacher, one who was able to gain my trust, I did learn to float on my back.  And, now, I call that my survival mode.  If I were ever in water and had to stay afloat for a long period of time, I am not a strong enough swimmer to be able to depend on just swimming and/or treading water, but I do know that when I didn’t have the strength to swim to save myself any more, I would be able to flip over on my back and float to rest.  I believe that that ability would be the single thing that would allow me to survive.

I tell you this story for two reasons.  First, because it was a traumatic experience in my life that had a long, lingering impact on me.  I am thankful that Mama perservered in taking me to swimming lessons, so that I’m not an adult who can’t swim.  And I am, because of my experience, a strong advocate for children learning to swim as early as possible, and being taught every rule of water and pool safety possible.  During the ten years that we rented a condo for a week on the ocean near Gunny and his family, all three of his children learned to swim in the pools at our condo complex.  And, DD and “George” have taught all three of their girls to swim too.  That makes me very happy.

And the other reason I wanted to tell this story is that floating on my back has always reminded me of what faith is like.  I think in life itself “floating on your back” is trusting in God.  You can’t see God and His support — you just have to trust that He’s there and will hold you up when you can’t support yourself. 

Floating on your back and Trusting in God — both acts of faith that require trust in the unseen, but result in rest and comfort — one for your body, the other for your soul.

Forty-three Years Ago . . .

June 19, 2008

So Young and Soo Clueless!. . . Happy and CLUELESS! 

On June 19, 1965 two kids who were 19 and 20 got married and moved into an apartment that was the bottom floor of an old house. Neither one of them had ever cooked a meal, done laundry, or cleaned a toilet or bathtub.   They had never written a check — she had never even had her own bank account. 

She worked as a secretary at a large insurance company and made $260 a month.  He was a bricklayer and made about $400 a month.  Their rent was $89 a month, and in a big week, they spent $20 on groceries.  She ate lunch at the company-subsidized cafeteria where a full meal with drink and dessert (young metabolism allowed for that then) cost 25 cents (cheap, even then).  He carried the same lunch every day:  three lunch meat sandwiches with mustard, a can of shoe string potatoes and a store-bought dessert like cookies or a Twinkie.  Neither one of them liked coffee.  Their drink of choice was milk.

His parents gave them a kitchen table and chairs as a wedding gift.  He sold his Corvette (replaced by a much more practical used, 2-door Pontiac Bonneville) so that they could buy bedroom and living room furniture.  He said later that he never liked the floral living room chairs they bought from Sears (which he helped pick out!).  No surprise though, since probably every time he looked at them he thought of the loss of his super-cool black 1962 Corvette convertible with a red interior!  She thought the furniture was wonderful and luckily didn’t find out he didn’t agree until many years later!

Two products that had just hit the market heavily influenced the gifts they received — teflon and corning ware.  This was before the day of registering for every little thing.  The one thing they did register for was Lennox china, which could only be purchased at a jewelry store downtown.  Now, 43 years later, they still don’t have all the pieces to that set, and can count on two hands the number of times that china has been used. 

In the next two years they did alot of growing up, and learned to do many “adult” things like keeping a checkbook, but also had memorable, fun times like taking judo lessons.  They learned to cook a little and found out that keeping your living space clean is harder than it looks.  But one thing they didn’t learn was to do laundry.  For those two years, Mama did their laundry every week and returned it to them neatly folded and stacked in brown paper bags. 

Then, they found out they were going to have a baby, and their life as “adults” really got under way.  When they told Mama she said, “Great.  I’m happy for you.  Now, get a washing machine.  I don’t do diapers.”

They’ve always said that if they’d known she would say that, they might never have had children!

It’s been a great 43 years. 

Happy Anniversary, Husband of Mine, from the president of your “fan club.”


Get a Pedicure — It Makes Your Foot Taste Better!

June 18, 2008

Many years ago, when I was lamenting something I had said to someone, Hubby said, “Well, the law of averages says that if someone talks as much as you do, they are bound to put their foot in their mouth once in a while.”  We laughed at the time, but, in reality, I have spent my whole life thus far proving that theory. 

I’m not kidding when I describe myself as “in my head, out my mouth.”  This is mostly true when I am nervous, excited, angry or especially when I’m going for a laugh — but also when I’m happy, sad, euphoric, bummed, giggly, defensive, etc., in other words, regularly.

Once again, I woke up this morning thinking about something I said to someone yesterday in jest, that I look back on and wonder if I embarrassed them.  It was a short, quick comment, so if I did, I don’t think I embarrassed them badly, but I regret it just the same. 

I have asked God many, many times why I can’t learn to think before I speak, and I believe I have finally (I’m a slow learner) heard His answer.  Here’s what I think He’s telling me:

First, when you choose to be the “class clown”  (and I chose that as my persona when I was very young), you give up something in return.  There is a price to be paid for you always wanting to make people laugh — both by you and others

You give up “keeping your own counsel.” Many spontaneous thoughts that would best be kept to yourself so that they can be savored or re-thought or prayed about or measured for their worth (or their pain to another) or even rejected — are instead spilled out as soon as they’re thought for the sake of a laugh.  What makes you popular, hardly ever makes you wise. 

And, for the sake of your humor, your family and friends give up something too.  At times, they definitely wish that their shortcomings, missteps or their own mis-spokes didn’t have to become fodder for your humor.  And, it’s surely harder to confide in and trust someone with your deepest thoughts when you know that person can’t resist a good punchline, no matter what the subject.

Secondly, and most importantly, I believe God has worked all my life to make me less judgemental of others.  And, how better to teach someone to be more forgiving of others, than to make them painfully aware of their own frequent needs to be forgiven?  But its taken me this long to truly understand this connection.  Like I said, I’m a sloooow learner.

So, starting today, this will be part of my morning prayer: “Please let me see the actions and words of others in the best light.  Help me to be slow to anger and quick to forgive.  And, let my humor be in all ways kind and uplifting.”

 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?”  Luke 6:41

Point taken, Lord.  Now for the hard part — applying it! 


You Can’t Buy This kind of Humor!

June 16, 2008

Linda is one funny friend.  And, because we’re friends, I know she won’t mind me sharing some of her recent humor.

On vacation, when we were still in the bug-problem condos we were first given, I went to the adjoining door one morning and knocked so that I could tell Linda something (probably to report our latest bug count!).  When she opened the door, her hair was standing up all over her head (she was using the lift hunks of hair and spray with hair spray trick to give her hair body).  Her “look” surprised me and I blurted out, “Nice hair!”  Ever the quick wit, she responded, “Nice face!”  I had forgotten that I hadn’t put make-up on yet.

When we went to Dollywood, Linda and I both wore visors.  But, when we went to a little bakery in the park for lunch, we took our visors off.  I put mine on the seat beside me, but clever Linda put hers on her knee.  After we had eaten, we needed some more napkins to clean up, so Linda went to the counter to get some.  When she returned and sat down she suddenly laughed.  She said she had wondered why it felt like her pants were “bunching” around her knee when she was walking, and now she knew why.  She had walked across the busy restaurant and back with her visor “shading” her knee!

And, finally, as I’ve told you before, we now have a Wii.  So, Linda and UD sometimes come over and bowl on it with us.  So far, the place that has been easiest for us to hook up the Wii is on the TV in our bedroom.  so, when they come over, we take extra chairs into the bedroom, so that we can all sit down, and bowl in there!  So, Linda now refers to our bedroom as the bowling alley.

What a hoot she is — and a good friend too.  What more can I ask!

You Just Hit the Ball in the Hole — How Hard Can it Be?

June 13, 2008

Daddy was a devotee of the game of golf.  So, when I was a young mother with very small children, and expressed an interest in learning to play golf, he was alllll over that.  He encouraged me to sign up for a league and told me that he would show me how to play.  And, Mama volunteered to come to my house on those mornings and babysit — wonderful!

Daddy took me to the nearby golf course and “showed me how to play golf” — in nine holes (actually it was six holes — it was early spring and three of the holes were under repair).  Had I learned that quickly?  Or had he just mentally thrown up his hands, and thought, “I can’t help her any more than that!”  My guess is it was the latter.

Obviously, I started the league reallllly unprepared — besides not knowing what the heck I was doing, I had absolutely no equipment, and really couldn’t afford to buy any.  I didn’t have golf clubs or golf shoes — I rented clubs in the clubhouse and wore sneakers with holes in them that I had covered with flowers cut out of iron-on patches.

I have to say that the women in that league were very patient with me, and really mentored me.  When I play today, I can still hear Marge or Marilyn telling me “Don’t step on the other person’s line to the hole when you’re walking on the green.” or “Yes, you can lay out a club length from that big tree your ball is laying against, but you’ll have to take a penalty stroke.”  I’ve used that one alot — I hit trees (which, of course, aren’t in the fairway — they’re in the rough) regularly.  One friend has commented that I play “army golf” — you know, “right, left, right, left . . .”.  Seldom down the middle where you’re supposed to be.

The first couple weeks of that league, when I would rent clubs from the guy in the clubhouse, he would routinely forget to put a putter in the bag — an especially big problem because I am left handed, so I couldn’t borrow a club from just anyone.  When this happened the second week in a row, one of the women I was playing with told me that she had an old junior set of clubs in her attic that she would give me.  What a kind and generous gesture.  I played with those clubs for quite a few years.   But when she said they were “old” she really meant it.  They were so old that the woods had names, like “Niblick” instead of numbers.  I have no idea what happened to them, but more than one person has suggested that I should have held on to them, because they are probably collector items now.

That was in the early 70’s and the beginning of a long and checkered relationship I have had with the game of golf.  But, you know what my favorite memory is of that first golf experience?  When I would come home, Mama would have done the dishes (that were always accumulating in the sink), straightened the house, bathed, fed and loved my babies and put them down for a nap, and would have lunch ready for us to sit down and eat in peace and quiet in my nice clean kitchen!  What a wonderful plus to my new hobby!  I hope I told her how much I appreciated that.  When I was young, I sometimes took things like that for granted.  But, now that I look back on it, I realize what a wonderful gift that was that she and Daddy both gave me.  They encouraged and enabled me to do something for myself one morning a week, that, I’m sure, made me a happier, more relaxed person the rest of the week for my family.

Thank you God for parents who loved me and encouraged me, and for a game that has given me many happy hours of exercise and fellowship.

Snippets from the Smokies

June 10, 2008

Hi, ya’ll! (It’s sooo easy to join in when it comes to that lovely southern drawl.)  We have returned from our week in the Smokies and had a wonderful time.  Our friends, Linda and UD, were with us and really added to our enjoyment.  An experience is usually more fun when shared, don’t you think?

We drove down separately because they weren’t sure they wanted to do all the touristy stuff I was planning.  They have been there (the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge area) at least once, some times twice, yearly for at least 15 years.  And what they like to do is hike, picnic by a babbling brook, and sit out in the woods and read.  Very relaxing, but not exactly what I had in mind — I was thinking shows, shopping, restaurants and Dollywood.  (Hubby said he was just “along for the ride” and would do “whatever” — with just one request — that we make time to go to the Knife Works.)  Luckily it turned out that we did some of their kind of stuff and they did some of ours (and, of course, we DID go to the Knife Works, where Hubby bought a beautiful knife for his collection) — and we all came away happy!

We did have a little problem with the condo we were assigned originally.  It was actually two condos connected, and they were very new.  They were beautifully decorated, with a pretty nice view of woods with mountains towering behind them.  There was only one problem.  We were on the bottom floor, which didn’t mean ground floor — it meant the “basement” — the very bottom floor that was actually built into the side of the mountain.  And, no surprise, what that meant was that we found little centipedes (babies?) every morning when we got up — about a dozen (about the same number in Linda and UD’s condo).  City girl here, was not happy (and really the other three weren’t either — they just weren’t as verbal about it.)  When Hubby told the office about them, they sprayed on the first day while we were gone.  But the next morning we had them again.  This time, Hubby took a peanut can and put the dozen we found on the bathroom floor in it and took it to the office to show them what we were getting.  That definitely got their attention, and they said they’d love to move us, but there wasn’t any other unit in that building available.  So finally on the third day, they moved us to an older two bedroom/two bath townhouse (their description — I’d call it a cottage), also on the side of a mountain, of course, but wayyyy above ground on stilts, and they added an extra day to our stay for our inconvenience.  That worked out great.  The living room wall of windows looked right out into the branches of thick trees with a little view of mountains through the trees.  It was very cozy and really had much more of a feel of being “in” the mountains than the more upscale condo.  So, we really felt it worked out great — a cozier place and an extra day (and nooooo bugs)!

We went to Dollywood and it was alot of fun.  Saw a musical show there, ate a wayyy over-priced lunch, and rode a “white-water rafting”-type ride that got us realllly wet, but was still fun.  We toured Dolly’s just-retired tour bus (she got a new one), and that was interesting.  But I have to say the most memorable part of that day was going through Dolly’s museum and actually seeing the “coat of many colors” from her song.  That is one of my favorite songs and it was neat to actually get to see the coat her mother made her, and the kids at school teased her about.  It was actually not as gaudy and much better made than I had envisioned.  It may have been made out of scraps of material, but her mom was apparently a very good seamstress, because it looked very well made.  And right beside it were the two pages torn out of a small spiral notebook that Dolly had used to write the song — with her changes of words and additions — it was neat!

We also went to the Dixie Stampede — a rodeo-type show that is performed while you eat!  Very enjoyable.  But, by the way, no silverware.  They give you all food that can be eaten with your fingers (a cup of vegetable chowder, chicken, a potato wedge, corn on the cob, a fritter and an apple turnover), and then a lemon scented damp cloth at the end to use to clean up.  (I don’t know why “no sliverware” — maybe they’re afraid you’ll throw it at the horses and riders?)  The horseback riding in the show was spectacular, and they had some races, and divided the audience into “sides” so that you cheered for “your” riders.  A fun evening, with surprisingly good food.

The Gatlinburg aquarium was a first class one.  I would say a majority of the building is the HUGE tank that has lots of big fish in it.  There is a long tunnel that winds around through the tank, so that as you walk through the tunnel, the fish are swimming all around and over you.  The closest I ever hope to be to giant sharks and sting rays!

One day Linda and UD took us to their favorite picnic area up in the mountains near Chimney Rock.  Let me just say that we had lots of great food on this vacation, but none of it tasted better than those simple sandwiches eaten beside an absolutely beautiful rocky creek, with the wonderful sound of the water splashing over the rocks, huge trees shading us, and, temperatures probably 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the ones down in town.  After we ate Hubby and UD climbed down the very steep bank and took a “walk” on the big rocks in the water — once a little boy, always a little boy, right?  Linda and I enjoyed it just fine from afar — just watching them do all that “work.”

Another day Linda and UD took us on a drive to Cade’s Cove — a valley in among the mountains where there used to be a settlement.  There are still some of the houses standing, and you can walk through them.  I’m always touched when I can walk where many generations before me have walked.  We drove through that valley at dusk and were hoping to see a bear or two, but just saw LOTS of deer and wild turkeys.  Some people were stopping to take pictures of the deer.  I’m sure they weren’t from northern Indiana, because deer are verrry common here.

Well, that’s enough stuff about our trip for now.  We had a great time, and Linda and UD were great vacation partners. 

But, it’s nice to be home.  Doesn’t traveling make you appreciate home when you get back?  It does me.  I’m really a homebody.

Have You Had Your Picture Taken for your Obit yet?

June 1, 2008

At a gathering the other night a group of women were talking about a recent death, and the obituary in the newspaper.  I said I really liked the picture that was included — it was probablay 10-15 years old and showed the guy at the peak of health.  I had only known him the last few years when he was in poor health, so I felt it was nice to see “the real him.”

This started a debate about pictures in obituaries.  I was really surprised that my opinion was wayyyy outnumbered.  No one else seemed to enjoy the pictures that are now included with obituaries.  But, they were especially critical of the ones that are obviously from long ago.  My defense of that is, if the person had been sick for a long time, the family probably enjoyed remembering (and wanted those reading the obituary to remember also) her/him when they were young and obviously healthy, rather than one taken in recent years that might, for instance, show them with their oxygen tubes.

So, if everyone feels as this group did, maybe popular opinion will make the pictures go away.  But I, for one, enjoy them.  It also allows you to see a picture and think, “Hey, that’s that waitress or sales clerk that I always liked dealing with!” even though you didn’t know her name.

Just shows how the same subject can have such widely different opinions!  What do you think?

(I will be interested to read what you think when I return from vacation next Saturday.  See ya!)