The Tipping Point

September 16, 2008

I have joined a book club for the first time, ever. And I’m having my doubts.  I’m not sure I am a “good fit” for a book club.  I like books that entertain me.  I love a good mystery.  A spy novel once in a while.  I like a little romance in any book.  So, I’m not sure I’m a “deep” enough reader to be a good fit for a book club.

Case in point — the first book we are reading is The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve.  It was an Oprah Winfrey book club selection several years ago, so it ought to be great, right?  Well, I really have had trouble “getting into” this book.  The books I usually read are ones that “grab” you right from the beginning — someone is murdered or an interesting situation is described — something just screams, “TURN THE NEXT PAGE TO SEE WHY THAT HAPPENED!”

This book is much slower paced in developing the two entertwining plots and the characters.  And, frankly, I just wasn’t enjoying it.

But, over the weekend, I was talking to Gunny and told him about my first “book club” book.  Now, Gunny is an avid reader.  A little ironic, since we had trouble getting him started reading when he was a little kid.  We even took him to a local university to have him tested to see why he couldn’t read.  They said he could read, he just wasn’t interested!

So, Gunny certainly is the one to give advice about developing “interest” in a book.  And, what he told me about is what he called “the tipping point,” i.e., the point in the book where you have learned enough about the plot and/or the characters to make you want to continue reading.

He said that when he was taking literature classes in college, he read some novels he would never have read if they hadn’t been required.  But, surprisingly, some of them became favorites!  The example he gave was Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegutt.

So, after our conversation, I went back to my book, prepared to read until I found “the tipping point” — and I found it at about page 30!  And now I’m enjoying it.

Okay, so maybe I will stay in the book club, and maybe I will become a “deeper” reader.  Because now that I know about “the tipping point,” I feel like even in a slow-starting book, there is something ahead to make me keep reading.

Am I the last one in the world to know about this “tipping point” thing?


Gunny’s Birthday

August 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to our first-born, Gunny.  The one God gave us to “practice” on so that we could raise our second child, DD, to be “perfect.”  That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.  If you are very still and listen closely, I think you can probably hear them both laughing.

When Gunny was growing up:

— He had a good head for business at a very young age.  Like the time I offered him a nickel for every dandelion he dug up in the strip of yard between the backyard fence and a farmers field.  He just about bankrupted me!  I finally had to make him come in wayyyy after dark to go to bed.  Apparently he realized before I did what a great little money-making deal I had made him!

— He did lots of things that got him stitches.  Not because he was clumsy, but because he did everything all out — no brakes need apply!

— He loved going camping with his dad in Grandma and Grandpa’s woods. 

One time, Hubby cut his finger while preparing their meal over the campfire, so asked little Gunny to walk up the lane to the house and ask Grandma for a band-aid.  Next thing Hubby knew here came Grandma, Grandpa and Gunny down the lane in Grandpa’s pick-up.  He was surprised they hadn’t just given Gunny the band-aid, but he understood why his parents had decided they’d better check on him when they told him that when asked how badly his daddy was hurt, Gunny said he didn’t know because he couldn’t see the cut for all the blood! 

When Gunny and Hubby would come home from one of these camping weekends, I remember them and all their equipment as absolutely covered with grime and smelling of smoke.  But they always had big smiles on their faces — great memories for them both.

— He always loved math (which would make me wonder if he was adopted, if I hadn’t actually “been there” when he was born!).  He told me just a few years ago that he loves doing math problems like I love doing Sudoku’s!  Now that is just wrong — no one should see math as fun!

— As a teenager, Gunny made good grades and had friends who were good kids, but he had trouble “remembering” curfews.  One time he was wayyyyy late getting home, but felt that he shouldn’t be grounded for it, because he had saved a man’s life! 

The story goes, while driving past a K-Mart, (note: already well past his curfew) he saw a man lying in the parking lot so he pulled in and found that the man was only semi-concious, and was quickly being covered by the snow that had started to fall.  It appeared the man had been badly beaten.  He said he shook the man to rouse him and then helped him into his car and took him to a nearby all-night filling station to call the police. 

His argument against being grounded was that him being late had probably saved the man’s life!  There was just enough truth to that to make it hard for us to be too mad at him for being late.  (DD always did say that HE was the one who should have gotten a law degree.  This episode lends some weight to that idea. He had done a masterful job of “arguing his case.”)

Gunny was only 17 when he graduated from high school and he tried college, but he just didn’t know for sure what he wanted to study at the time, so about 6 months after he turned 18, he enlisted in the Marines. 

The Marines were a good career choice for Gunny.  He has been to almost every country in the world during the years he served on ships.  Then, he spent many years as a Quality Control Inspector of shops that repaired helicopter parts, and then becoming a Gunnery Sergeant and supervising those same shops, staffed by crews of young Marines.  And, in the Marines, your Gunny is similar to your Mama, only without the cookies and milk.  He not only was expected to supervise their work hours, but also be their counselor in all areas of their lives.  He would sometimes need to help them learn to keep a checkbook and just generally manage their money, and he sometimes was a marriage counselor for very young, very fragile marriages, made worse by frequent separations.  He loved his job, and was very good at it.

Before Gunny retired from the Marines, he got his degree in business and math, the hard way — taking courses in between working full-time and raising his family with Dilly.  One advantage to being an older student, he always said, was that he knew himself better than when he was younger and now knew exactly what courses and degree would fit his interests and aptitude, and best prepare him for his next “career.” 

So, three years ago, he retired from the Marines at 38 years old.  That made his mom and dad just a little grumpy, because WE hadn’t retired yet, so it just didn’t seem right that he got to go first!

On the home front, when Gunny was transferred from the west coast to the east coast (North Carolina) in the early 90’s, he met Dilly and they were married about a year later.  They have three children — Sam who is 20, married to a young Marine, and mother to a darling baby boy; Nikki who is 14 and just starting high school; and Jay, who is starting 8th grade.  They now live in Oklahoma because of Gunny’s new career as Director of Corporate Safety with a major roofing manufacturer.

So, there you have it — a few verbal “snapshots” from our son’s first 41 years.

Happy Birthday, Gunny.  We love you.  And may you have many more healthy, happy years, filled with more great memories.

 

Point of interest:  You probably ought to think about putting your mom “in the home” when she puts candles on your cake that say “Birthday Happy!”  Although, in her defense, this was last year, so maybe she’s gotten sharper since then. 

Again, I hear the distinct sound of distant laughter.


Like Being In A Movie (or a History book)!

March 3, 2008

SBW at Simple Words I Understand, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote about watching a barge on the river that somehow reminded me of a memorable experience I had.

When Gunny was a young Marine he was returning from his first six-month tour of duty on a ship and Hubby and I went to meet him when the ship docked.  So, we ended up standing on a dock in Norfolk, Virginia with lots of other military families, watching a huge ship come into port. 

If you have never seen a military ship’s return home, it is a sight to see.  As the ship slowly neared, you could see the railing on the main deck was lined with sailors in their white uniforms, all standing at attention.  A band on the dock was playing patriotic songs including, of course, Anchors Away and the Marine Hymn (ships always have a contingent of Marines as well as sailors).  American flags were being waved.  Some people were waving “Welcome Home” signs.  Smaller children were on shoulders to give them a better view.  And, as the ship got very close, a cheer started from the crowd that quickly swelled into a beautiful cheering roar! 

It was a surreal experience.  It really did feel like we were on a movie set, taking part in a scene like ones I had seen in movies all of my life of families welcoming soldiers home.  And, it made me feel very patriotic and proud and teary. 

It was especially touching to see the young mothers with small children, and see in their faces how thrilled they were to have their husbands back.  And, there were many proud parents like us too.  Lots of unabashed tears in lots of eyes. 

It felt very all-American and, at the same time, timeless.   A scene that has surely been played out millions of time through the course of history. 

A unique experience that I will always remember.

Thank you God, for all the people who serve in our military.  May they always be met with smiles and tears and gratitude for what they do for us.


The Best Christmas Decorations Aren’t the Most Expensive!

December 7, 2007

treebox.jpg

We still have some wooden Christmas tree ornaments that little DD and Gunny painted when she was 4 and he was 6.  When I look at them I can remember the two of them, in a rare moment of harmony, sitting at the kitchen table intently painting those simple wooden ornaments, and how proud they were when we hung them on the tree (and for many years thereafter). 

When Gunny was stationed in Japan for a year about 6 years ago, we went to North Carolina to celebrate Christmas with DIL and their children.  We rented the condo we always rented in May (I was amazed at how much different the ocean looks in December, compared to May!), and then went about making the condo  “Christmasy.” 

We took the kids (DIL was working long hours, as the new General Manager of the local Lenscrafter store) to a “dollar” store that also sold things that cost a little more than that, where we bought a $10 artifical Christmas tree, construction paper, kid’s scissors, glue, tape and glitter.  I also helped each of the kids do a little shopping of their own (while the other two were entertained by Grandpa somewhere else in the store) — picking out a gift for each of their siblings and Mommy, and then they each picked out a roll of wrapping paper that would be just for their gifts.  When we were done, we hurried back to the condo (because they were EXCITED to get started!) and  for the next couple hours, the kids cut out Christmas tree, snowman, snowflake and ornament shapes that they then colored and “polished off” with glitter (veryyyy festive, but also veryyyyy messy!), to decorate the tree.  And, our sweet little Carolina red-head (I have to specify, because we have a sweet little Chicago red-head too!), who was about 7 at the time, took on the project of making a red and green chain for the tree.  She spent hours cutting strips of the paper  (or having her “assistant,” Nana cut the strips FOR her) and then taping them into interlinking circles to make a lonnnnng chain that we used to finish off the tree.  When the tree was done, it touched my heart.  Everything on it had been made by those three precious children — a tree can’t get any better than that!

By the way, while their Mommy would be there to enjoy the tree they had “hand” decorated, we wanted to help them make something for Daddy too.  So, I had brought blank puzzles with us (found at an education supply store) for them to personalize for Daddy.  Each of them drew a picture for Daddy on a blank puzzle, and then we dis-assembled their puzzles, put them in envelopes and mailed them to their Dad.  Certainly not the only gifts Gunny Dad received way over there in Japan that year, but I’d guess they were the most memorable ones, because they were made by his children! 

Three years ago, we had a similar experience with DD and Georges’ oldest two girls.  DD and George went to Hawaii at the beginning of December (Having a tan at Christmas isn’t something that happens very often in our family, but they had one that year!).  They left baby Mimi with their long-time babysitter in Chicago, and the two older girls (7 and 5 at the time) came to our house for a visit. 

So, we set up a tree (the same one from North Carolina — we’ve gotten our $10’s worth out of that tree!) in the corner of the sunroom and gave the girls the same kind of “tools” we had used at the condo (less the glitter — we’d learned our lesson there).  They have a little play table and chairs that they use when they are here, so we set those up in the sunroom, and they went to work!  They cut and cut and cut, and then they colored and pasted and looped (yes, they made a chain too), and finally, they hung everything they had made on the tree — and it was beautiful!  (Of course, the room looked even more beautiful after the girls picked up the hundreds of little pieces of construction paper that had flown all over the room during their “creative frenzy.”)  Once again, we had a whole tree to enjoy that was completely decorated by precious little hands we loved.

We took them shopping too.  Memorably, after I had taken the girls to do most of their shopping, Papa took them to shop for gifts for me!  When they came home, Lulu came over and sat on my lap, put her arms around my neck, pulled my head close, put her forehead against mine, looked right into my eyes — AND ALMOST KNOCKED ME OVER WITH THE SCENT OF PERFUME!  And then she whispered, “You’ll never guess what I bought you, Nana!”  Of course, I had a pretty good guess, but I didn’t want to spoil her surprise, so Papa and I just exchanged knowing smiles.  (He always was a sucker for a perfume counter when he was buying me a gift.)

So, my point is — the absolutely most “beautiful” and memorable Christmas tree decorations we have ever had, will always be the ones decorated by the children we love most in the whole world. 

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the blessing of grandchildren, and the special memories they’ve given us.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen. 


Can You Help Sell A House?

November 19, 2007

for-sales-sign.jpg 

I received an e-mail from our Daughter-In-Law yesterday, asking for new ideas that she can use to help sell their house in Charlotte. 

So, I’m asking any of you who have had, or have heard of, success at selling a house in this awful market — do you have any tips for getting a house sold?

Gunny has already been with his new job, half-way across the country, for over a year, but she and their kids couldn’t make the move until she had fulfilled a one year commitment in her current location, and then found a job with her company (Lenscrafter) in the area of Gunny’s new job.  Well, now she has a job waiting for her (God bless the manager of that Lenscrafter region for realizing what a good manager she is and HOLDING the job for her), but their house in Charlotte has been on the market for over two months now and just is not moving!

When DIL asked the realtors (a two-woman team, who she does feel are doing everything they can) if the price should be lowered, they told her, no.  That it wasn’t because the price was too high, it was just that NOTHING was selling in that area right now.

Here are the things DIL is already doing:

– There will be open houses this weekend and next (Yes, Thanksgiving weekend.  The realtors say that a surprising number of people look for houses then because, especially if they are from out-of-town,  it gives them a four-day weekend to look.)

– One of the women who currently works for her in Charlotte just moved from California and told her that a trick used there is to offer a cash bonus directly to whatever realtor makes the sale — usually a set amount — like $1,000.  But, after DIL and Gunny discussed this idea, they decided to offer a percentage, to motivate a selling realtor to get the best price they could.  They are offering a half of a percent, which would be $1,700, if they sold it for the price they are asking.  Well worth it, if it motivates the realtors to “dig up” a buyer!

So, DIL is doing everything she can to get this house sold, but nothing has happened yet.  She says the hard part is that they aren’t even getting very many “looks.”  It is a great house, so it isn’t as if lots of people are seeing it and then saying, “No I don’t want to live there.”  It’s just that no one is looking. 

Sooo, do you have any ideas?  If you do, please put them in the comments section of this post — DIL will read them there.

And, by the way, if you have an “open slot” in your “things to pray for list” today, please join us in praying for this house to sell, so that Gunny and DIL’s family can get back together! 

Gunny says he gets the question alot, “How does your family handle being separated for all this time?”  He says his reply is, “Welll, because we are a military family, we have experienced lots of separations in our married life.  So, we are better prepared for this than most families would be — but it’s still hard.”  So, the family is doing well, relationship-wise — but they would certainly like to  all be living in the same town again!

Dear Heavenly Father, Please help them sell this house, but keep them ever mindful that YOU have a plan working in their lives, even when they can’t see it.  And, help us all to remember “All things work to the good for those who know and Love God.”  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen

Update:  This post was written in November, 2007.  The house finally sold in August, 2009.  We are so thankful.  And actually Gunny and Dilly now say that the time they spent in a very small apartment with two teenagers and two Great Dane dogs was a valuable learning experience for  all of them.  All things work to the good for those who know and love God. Romans 8:28


A “Memorable” First Date For DD (Divine Daughter)!

October 5, 2007

boy-and-girl-in-the-moon.jpg 

I just re-read my daughter’s blog from yesterday (about her brother, Gunny).  Between her post and the “rebuttal” he has now posted in her comments section — and the additional memory that Linda threw in in HER comment, it was a great trip down memory lane.  If you’d like to read it, her blog is chasedbychildren.typepad.com. 

This got me to thinking about all the “fun” the four of us had when Hubby and I were raising our son and daughter.  Hubby and I already enjoyed the humor in life before we had children, but I do think that having our children “enhanced” the experience — because kids are just natural comedians (even when they don’t mean to be)!  But, of course, I in no way mean for that to make our children sound like they were just little “punch lines” to us — but, well, the shoe did sometimes fit!

Reading DD (Divine Daughter)’s blog has reminded me of one more memory of the two of them regarding DD’s first date:

DD had gone to summer camp when she was about 13 and met a boy there who was 15.  After she came home, he called the next Saturday morning and asked if they could “go out”  that afternoon.  But there was a problem — he wasn’t old enough to drive, and his parents weren’t available to drive them.  Could one of her parents?  Well, no, we had other plans too.  In steps Gunny and his best friend who happened to hear our discussion.  They volunteered to drive the “kids” on their date.   It shows how excited DD was about getting to go on a DATE that she didn’t see this as probably not a good plan. 

When they got to the theater, Gunny and friend Tom apparently decided that since they also had to take the “date-ees” home, they might as well stay for the movie too.  Had they been mature young men (too much to expect of two 16 year olds?), they would have sat way on the other side of the theater and then just met the couple outside afterwards.  Instead, they apparently sat in the row right behind the couple!  Why does the word “heckling” come to mind?

As I remember, that was the only “date” DD had with that stud-muffin-in-training, and I believe Gunny-to-be locked his bedroom door for a while, until she got over wanting to kill him in his sleep.

Ahh, children.  What would we have done without them?  Probably had a normal, happy life — that’s what!

No, not really.  They did and do now add immeasurably to our lives. 

May God bless each of you with wonderful funny memories of your own childhood and those of your children.


Yes, And I Combed My Hair Too!

October 3, 2007

skeptical-little-boy.jpg 

When our little boy was in second grade, I visited his class one day.  I think it was one of those plans where they have each parent visit for part of a day so that they can see what the class is like. 

Of course, as someone who isn’t usually in the classroom, you are under close scrutiny by the children – and most of all, apparently, by your own child.   

I remember sitting on the piano bench, watching the children moving around the room preparing for the next activity, when I noticed my little boy casually meandering over toward me with a little bit of a frown on his face.  Even though it wasn’t even lunchtime yet, he already looked a little rough around the edges – shirttail half in/half out and some dust on his knees from the morning recess, one shoe untied (this was the days BEFORE that was done INTENTIONALLY), but, of course, still adorable to his Mom.  But then the little bugger spoke! 

When he got close, he leaned on my knee, put his little concerned face really close to mine, and whispered very quietly, “Did you remember to put your make-up on?”  After a few seconds of shock, I assured him I did.  His face brightened up immediately and he took his little somewhat grubby self back to the group.  If I thought he would have understood the irony of him worrying about how I looked, I would have certainly shared that with him. 

This does make me think that this must be about the age when your child is starting to see you as an extension of themselves to their friends, so they want you to not embarrass them. 

Let me just say here, that my family will tell you that wanting to look your best in ALL circumstances is something I have always felt strongly about for myself – and for them.   As an example, once we were awakened in the early morning hours by smoke from a fire in our fireplace chimney and Hubby turned off the electricity until the fire department could get there, just to be on the safe side.  That was all well and good, except that I didn’t have any make-up on, and I certainly wasn’t going to have a bunch of people see me without it – even if it WAS firemen!  So, I put on my make-up and combed my hair by flash light.  Not real easy – try it sometime.  By the way, the fire resulted in not much damage, but a lot of smoke. 

That is why I am absolutely sure I didn’t just throw on an old sweat suit and go to our son’s class.  So, what happened was very surprising to me and realllly funny — after I got over the shock. I know, I know, it was only a second grader questioning how I looked, but it definitely made me a little paranoid until I could take a bathroom break and see myself in a mirror, to make sure I DID look all right! 

Our son probably forgot about this incident as soon as he had my assurance that I wasn’t going to embarrass him, but I have always remembered it because it was such a surprise that a little second grade boy, who didn’t seem to care much at all about his OWN neatness and appearance, would care enough to ask if Mommy had her make-up on! 

I do believe that God DOES give us children to keep us humble!