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Monday, July 31, 2017

Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy

Wow. How time flies, fun or no fun, right? I meant to take a short sabbatical for the summer. Did
not mean for it to be so long. And now I'm itching to get back at it. Summertime, whether you
travel or not, seems to present events and activities that are exclusive to this time of the year. Friends
and families gather to celebrate the hazy, crazy, lazy days that fly so quickly into Autumn. As you
travel up and down the highways and byways, you see driveways crowded with cars - for Memorial
Day, 4th of July or just Sunday afternoon. People are on the patio, in the yard.....gathering to
celebrate whatever!
Restaurants and such places as wineries, etc., seem busier, more crowded. And if you see an
outdoor beer garden, it's usually jammed with people. Wednesdays and Thursdays become pre-weekend days. Why wait for the weekend!? As I relax on one of my porches on any
given day or evening of the week, I see vehicle after vehicle passing north or south, pulling beautiful
boats to or from the lakes. Just stepping outside in the evening, I can smell the aromas that tell of
nearby outside grilling. Oh, the hazy, crazy, lazy days.........wait. Lazy? I think not, anymore.

But I remember lazy and I'll bet you do too. As I so often do in this column, I think back and this time to the days when summertime did seem lazy and relaxed. Slow. Timeless. Careless. More gentle to the senses. Certainly as a child and teen, life was so very different. It wasn't perfect. Life had its
difficulties. But looking back, it seemed that from the end of May till Labor Day, time in general just stopped. We didn't have air conditioning - haha! Well, just a window unit that my father
wouldn't let us use. We had fans. But my sister Charmaine and I were outside so much. We rode
bikes, played Indian ball, croquet, badminton and tag with the neighborhood kids. We had
lemonade stands where we felt rich if we made fifty cents! We stayed outside late, sometimes
10 p.m. if we stood under the street light where mother could see us from the front door. And she'd
always let us sleep late in the summertime. Sometimes other adults would play the guilt card and
say that THEY didn't let THEIR kids sleep late. But mother didn't weaken. As long as we were willing to do our chores when we got up, we got to sleep late in the morning. And somehow the heat didn't seem to bother us very much back then. We just dealt with it. I deal with it now, too, by staying in the AC if at all possible! My, how time changes most things.

I was never quite ready for school to start. I dreaded it. But as it got closer to the end of August (because we actually stayed out till after Labor Day), I can recall feeling a thrill at starting back. I still remember the smell of the school building during those first few days back. Can any of you relate to that? Crazy how that has stayed with me. And seeing classmates I hadn't seen through the summer......that was exciting. Remember those oxford blue canvas three ring binder notebooks we all had? Starting back to school usually meant getting a new one that didn't have doodles written all over it from the year before. And there was always a new kid or two to get to know. Sometimes you'd
realize that an old friend and classmate was no longer there - they'd moved away during the summer.
Often through the years I've wondered what happened to those kids - gone forever from our lives.

Without a doubt, things have changed since the LAST CENTURY! Kids absolutely don't play
outside like we did. And I think that's partly our fault, as adults. And partly just the fault of "progress" which has provided so much technology.....the same technology that allows me to post this blog for you to read. I remember when Jamey was little, being able to hear the sounds of kids playing at dusk, around suppertime. That memory causes me to smile. But realistically, in this day and age, perhaps parents don't feel as secure letting their kids run the neighborhoods, out of parental sight.
I remember that Jamey was allowed to ride his bicycle as far as the Dairy Queen on Stacey Street,
just a few blocks from home. When I needed him to come home for supper or whatever, I would
go out to the back porch and scream his name - really scream. He said he could actually hear me
at the Dairy Queen! Smile. And in a couple of minutes he'd come pedaling up the alley or up
George Street toward home! Oh, how I miss those days. Sorry, too sentimental, I know.

Well, don't despair. Summer isn't over. There's still time to enjoy it, to do those fun things you still want to do before school starts, before the weather changes, before Fall is upon us. It's just been
so, so hot this summer and I'm really enjoying these few days of lower temps and less humidity.
I find myself sitting 'on the porch' probably way too late at night -after most of you are in bed. That's
one thing that hasn't changed for me. I never wanted to go to bed at night when I was a kid - always
afraid I'd miss something. I still feel that way. I push the day into evening and the evening into very
late night and the late night into early morning. And since I'm retired - I can sleep a little later in
the morning - just so I'm willing to do my "chores" when I get up. Mother would approve.

And so.....perhaps I'll see you 'on the porch'. And squeeze as much as you can into the next few
weeks. Make memories.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

"A Look Back At 'Shrinking Motherhood' "

Well, if  you read last week's column, you may remember that I said this week I would be publishing
another "oldie and hopefully a goodie". I wrote the following - let's say article - many years ago.
You will see by my references to my son, Jamey, that at the time, he was a 'youth', a teen, a growing
young man. I sincerely hope that he doesn't mind my publishing this at this point in time. It was
written all those years ago with 'tongue in cheek' - but also with a lot of reality. I love you, Jamey.
I'm so very proud of you.
For any of my readers who are currently raising kids, I think you'll relate.

                                                      "Shrinking Motherhood"

Shrinking Motherhood. I think that term should be added to the rapidly growing list of euphemisms
we hear every day....such as "user friendly", "finding ourselves" and "service excellence".
Shrinking Motherhood. It says it all, doesn't it? I mean any mother of a growing-growing-gone
youth can relate to it. The thighs and waistline may be growing, but the Motherhood is definitely
shrinking!
You read in all the magazines today about how to hone your talents to insure career success. But
nobody ever addresses the subject of SMS, Shrinking Motherhood Syndrome Oh, sure, you hear
all about PMS, but to me that should refer to Pre-Mother Syndrome, when you thought Motherhood
meant much-wanted job security. Let's look at the facts. You're a professional in your field, but
suddenly you're left out standing in it - alone. You've specialized in, not only one area, but many and therefore, created job security for yourself. Nobody can "mother" like you can! You've given new
meaning to the word as a verb as well as a noun. Nobody knows her subject or has done her home-
work better than you have. You've had a great performance record, never missed a day's work in
all these years and vacation and sick days are unheard of. They've been erased from the book, unused! You've beaten the popular theory that no one's indispensable. You're a darned phenomenon!
It can't be denied! I say, "It can't be denied! Hello! Is anyone out there listening?" No response.
That's the first clue. There's no one home to listen or respond. Relax. It's only the beginning. The
youth has come of age.

The bed is slept in, but you don't actually see the youth enter or exit the sheets. The plate is empty,
but you don't see the youth consume the food. You're sitting quietly in front of the TV, wishing
someone was there to share the storyline with you. Suddenly you hear a faint 'ding' of the telephone,
somewhere in the distance. Why, you recognize that sound. It's the sound of someone hanging up
the extension upstairs. The Youth! Hope springs eternal! You didn't even know the youth was home.
The sweet lad was probably just calling one of his buddies to cancel the evening's plans - in order
to spend more time with you - his mother. You rush to the stairs to greet the youth - and in the process
are swept from your aching and shrinking parental feet by what would, in meteorological circles, be
referred to as a tornadic wind. You see a blaze of color as the wind spins you to the floor and you
recognize the vivid blue as the $75 Polo shirt the youth received for his last birthday. And you hear
a voice but you can't quite make out the message. But yes, it's definitely the voice of the youth. What
difference if you didn't catch the phrase? He spoke and your ears heard. God! Life is good to me.
There's no denying it.

Now, I know that women everywhere are constantly fighting the battles of cellulite and the bulging
waistline. Who isn't? But mothers, as a contradiction, I'd have to say that vital parts on the "mother
model" are definitely shrinking. Take the lap. There's a part that was once "user friendly" but is now
considered obsolete.

And the shoulder, well nobody needs the shoulder anymore. You know, they always say "use it or
lose it". I guess that's why all women's clothes have built-in shoulder pads these days. Now I know
the index finger seems like an unimportant part. But try living without it. Just think of all the ways
you've used it through the years - when the youth was growing up. It was essential for keeping his
place when he was first struggling with reading and there were always those last minute nose and
ear checks, just before he exited the car before school in the mornings. Remember this one? "Put
your finger here, Mom, so I can learn to tie my shoes." And when all else failed your index finger
was needed from time to time, to point in the child's face - just to make your point. TRY THAT
ONE NOW!

But the heart, I guess, is the shrinking part that amazes me most. I mean scientifically it just
doesn't seem possible for something that is so full to actually shrink. Maybe this particular part
will just end up breaking instead. And it's the current unpredictability of the heart that's driving
me crazy. I can't trust the darned think anymore. I used to know when my heart was going to make
me laugh and when it was going to make me cry. I knew what filled and what emptied it and most
of the time, at least for the sake of appearances, I could manage to control it. But now the youth
seems to have taken over total control of it, and that really blows me away! I'm the one who's
suffered the heartburn and heartache over the years. I'm the one who's heart skipped a beat every
time the toddler went down or the bicycle went down, or the quarterback went down. It's the very
same heart that heaved a sigh of relief every time the fever went down or the swelling went down
or every time the sun went down - and the youth was safe at home with me.

It's just the crowning blow that now the youth can play havoc with this vital part. And it's not like you
can just stop payment on the heart or return it. It's no longer under warranty. Too many miles.

I guess I could ask for the youth's heart, in trade of course. But that would be a little pushy, don't you think? I guess I could just say to the youth, "Here, have a heart! Take it. It's yours - the whole thing!"
But no, that wouldn't be considered "quality parenting". And besides, I already did that, many years
ago.
                                                                    **********

Well, there ya' go. Obviously by the references to the upstairs extension telephone and the women's
shoulder pads, you know this was written a long time ago, at a time when I really was questioning every maternal action and decision I was making. You just do the best you can at the time and in
every individual situation and hope and pray you're not damaging your children for life! (smile)
I just thought that at Mother's Day it might be appropriate to share with my readers. I hope you've
gotten some enjoying from it.

And Jamey, thanks for my wonderful card and the beautiful gardenia corsage. And thanks for being
the man you've become. And thanks for being mine and for making me the one thing I always hoped
to be, a mom. I love you.
Right now, he's probably thinking, "Mush!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

"Memories Of My Grandma Mary Hasemeyer"

YEARS AGO..........when my Grandma Hasemeyer was still alive, I decided to interview her and
do a little essay about her. Grandma was always a "hoot". In her later years she had a form of
dementia, and though that could be sad, most of the time she was funny and cute and very, very jolly.
She always knew me which helped. It helped a lot.
I'm going to publish that "years ago" essay and hope that you enjoy it. Rather than re-writing it in
the past tense, I'm going to leave it in the tense in which I originally wrote it. So, in honor of
Grandma and Mother's Day, here it is.
                                                                          ***

                                                      "Talking With Grandma"

"So, you're on your way to work," said my Grandma, one morning as I stopped by for an early
morning visit. "I wish I had a job," she said. The remark caused me to smile, as it always does. It
was a remark that Grandma makes many times daily. Her mind is not clear much of the time. She
still lives alone, although she probably shouldn't. Most days she isn't aware of the month or the
year, unless we tell her. She repeats herself a lot and much of the time, doesn't recognize most
people. But her sense of humor and self respect are still very much intact. At 87 years of age, she
can't quite accept the fact that her "working days" are over.

From the time she married in 1919, she never held a job outside her home. She did, however, raise
a family of four active children, as well as a very large garden - every year. In her spare time she did hemstitching for people, quilted and managed to find time to sell produce from her garden. Certainly her life has been busy and productive and she has earned a rest. And still....she wishes she had a job.

In a day when many people resent the day-to-day routine of working outside the home and look
forward to the glorious days of retirement, I find Grandma's attitude truly refreshing. She never
tires of asking if there are little odd jobs she can do for me, such as washing dishes, folding clothes,
etc. And when possible, such as on the day I attempted this interview, I do find small chores for her
to do while she's at my home. Later on, after work, Grandma was at my house. She readily accepted the job of cleaning vegetables for me.

Several years ago, Grandma moved from her large home with ample yard to a small apartment in
an elderly housing complex - right across the street from me. She always loved doing yard work or
just sitting in the yard or in the swing on her front porch. Now her days are filled mostly with
television, looking through old photograph albums or visiting with her neighbors. Even though she
isn't able to enter fully into the conversations with her neighbors, due to her confusion, she still
enjoys hearing people talking and knowing that she isn't alone.

On this particular day, I said, "Grandma, what would you really like to do with your time?"
"Oh, I don't know. But I used to be very busy," Now she just wants to feel the world around her
and know that she is still a part of it.

Grandma gets excited about such little things, like a picture of a horse, or cow or chicken. She'll look
for hours at a picture or book with animals and over and over again, will remark, "Isn't that a pretty
horse?" or "I used to milk cows." At that point I know that Grandma's thoughts are returning to
the days when she was very young, when she lived with her family on a farm. On this particular day
Grandma seemed interested in a calendar picture of a horse. I asked her what types of
horses she had when she was a girl. Her eyes lit up as she smiled and said, "Oh, I just loved my
bay mare that I used to ride to school." That small fact, which she found somewhere in her fading
memory, is priceless to me. Somehow it helps me to piece together just a little more of the picture
I long for in my mind of that pretty young brunette girl so long ago.

Each time I question her about the days of her youth, her memory grows a little dimmer. And when
I think she's forgotten her youth completely, she'll surprise me with another momentary memory, a
jewel from the past.

When I take Grandma with me as I run errands, she loves to stay in the car in the parking lot and
watch people. She enjoys sitting and watching the world go by. She smiles and waves to everyone
she sees, never hesitating to speak to someone she doesn't know. She's never stressed and doesn't
relate to the words 'rush' or' hurry'. In her quiet way, she reminds me to slow down.....and enjoy.

Grandma raised me from the time I was 14, along with my two sisters and brother. She relished
having us with her and I've always felt that it kept her young and active. She was, more or less,
forced to listen to our music, watch our television shows and get to know our friends. And she did,
with enthusiasm. But when left to her own devices, she loved to watch such shows as 'Tony Orlando
and Dawn' and wrestling! We teased her about these shows all the time. Now when she watches
TV, she has trouble following the story lines and seems confused about what is actually taking
place on the screen. Only occasionally will she remark about a humorous comment or incident in the
story. Something that I find amusing though, is that she always asks me if I know the people on the
screen, and if those same people are at my house. I just smile and assure her that they are.

As Grandma cleaned vegetables on this day, I asked her. "How old do you think I am?" She looked
thoughtful and said, "Well, I don't know. Maybe 83!" Since she is 87, it's very obvious to me that age has ceased to be of much importance to Grandma!

The older I become the more aware I am of the value of having known my grandmother. Somehow
she has shown me the broader spectrum of things.....the deeper meanings of living.....and dying.
And she's done it by just living her life, day by day, simply and quietly. Grandma was never an avid
reader. She's never driven a car. And I don't believe I've ever known her to belong to any group
or organization, except for her church. She's known immense grief in her life and has remained
kind and caring and jolly. She never speaks badly of people and always tries to find good in those
around her. I'm moved by the thought that I should try harder to pattern myself after her example.
Grandma may be confused, her memory less than perfect, but her good and loving ways and her
faith in God far outweigh all other aspects of her life. When I grow old I hope to be loving and caring, jolly and excited by life, just like my Grandma.
                                                                  ***************

Well, if you're still with me, thanks for coming along on this sentimental ride. I'm sure that this has been much more cathartic for me than it has for you. (smile). Grandma passed away in 1990.
On the day she died, she ate a bunch of cookies, which she sweetly requested from the hospital
kitchen. She made us smile and even laugh. And her last words were to tell me that she loved me.
I still miss my Grandma Hasemeyer and still have many things I wish I could ask her. But I'm not
complaining. I feel like I'm sure you do. I had the very best grandma in the world!

 I'll be back in a few days with one more "oldie and hopefully goody". Have a great week. See you from the porch!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Beacon Lights of Literature, Book Seven

I pulled an old book off the shelf last week, one I hadn't looked at in a long while. But to me this
isn't just any old book. It may be my favorite book ever. It's green and dog-eared.....Beacon Lights
of Literature, Book Seven, compiled by Rudolph W. Chamberlain. I remember when I was about
seven or eight years old, my mother brought home a cardboard box full of discarded books. I have
no memory or idea of where she got them. I also have no memory of any of the other books, only
this one. It contains 96 literary selections. "A year's good reading" the intro states. I am aware,
from some searching on the internet, that Beacon Lights came in several publications - as evidenced
by the fact that mine is Book Seven. It was intended to be used as a school book, as there's a
teacher's guide at the front. It was recommended by the National Council of Teachers of
English. I didn't notice any of that when I was seven or eight. But for some reason I fell in love
with this book and at the risk of sounding a little silly, this book may have somewhat formed my
life and the interests I've enjoyed and pursued.

I realized about that time in my life that I really loved to read and I spent a lot of time honing this
skill with this very book. At first I'm sure I stumbled through a lot of it, but over time, I learned much of the book by heart by reading and re-reading the various essays.

I immediately loved "Paul Revere's Ride" and "The Courtship of Miles Standish", both by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Another favorite was "Grandmother's Story of Bunker Hill Battle" by Oliver Wendell Holmes. This book brought my first introduction to Charles Dickens in "Christmas With The Cratchits" from "A Christmas Carol". Has anyone ever heard of the non-sensical poem, "Godfrey
Gordon Gustavus Gore" by William Brighty Rands? "Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore -- no doubt
you have heard his name before -- was a boy who never would shut the door! The wind might
whistle, the wind might roar, and teeth be aching and throats be sore. But still he never wold shut
the door!"
There are so many selections in this book that I love, but I think that my very favorite would be
"A Song of Sherwood" by poet Alfred Noyes. I would read it and re-read it throughout my childhood. It always brought me a magical feeling and a sense of delightful mystery. It still does to this day.....
"Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake? Grey and ghostly shadows are gliding through the
break; Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn, dreaming of a shadowy man that winds
a shadowy horn.
Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves - answer as the bugle note shivers through the leaves;
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away. In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day."

Now I will reveal myself a bit further and tell you that I was not satisfied to just read the poetry and
stories in this book. Nothing would do but that I would read them aloud - at the top of my lungs
usually. I would stand in my front yard - on top of an old metal lawn chair and orate from this
book! I believe that my mother thought this was a bit strange, but that didn't stop me. I would read
to the old "haunted" house across the street as if a host of spirits were listening! Maybe they were,
especially when I read to them about Robin Hood!

This past weekend when our house was delightfully full of wonderful young men from the up-and-
coming musical group 'High South', my son spied this book on my desk and brought it into the room
where we all were. "Beacon Lights of Literature," he said. "I remember this." And he began reciting
the lines of "A Song of Sherwood". I guess I had read it to him too. (smile) A proud moment.

I know many people love reading from their electronic devices and that's great. But for me, I have
to be able to hold it, feel it, smell it and pull it from the shelf from time to time. I love being able
to recall the finding of this book and the 'falling in love' with it. Can anyone relate? I hope so.

I'll close with this verse from "Paul Revere's Ride".....
"So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere."

These words speak to us still.

Thanks, my friends, for indulging me - yet again.
I will not loan my Beacon Lights but I will pull it from the shelf and enjoy it with you - on the
porch! But let's wait till the monsoons stop, ok with you?
                                                                        ****
Postscript:
Thank you, Josh, Phoenix, Kevin, Mike and my Jamey of High South for sharing the wonderful
weekend with us! We're so proud of you all!


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Memories"

I won't be serving a meal on my dining room table anytime soon. I'm in the zone. I'm determined to get this job done. I have always told people that I am the keeper of 10,000 pictures. I believe I may have underestimated. And though I am the "keeper", that doesn't mean I've been terribly organized
 at the storage or preservation of said pictures. Simply put, they're everywhere. I have pictures in small boxes, large boxes, plastic tubs, photo albums, drawers, trunks, closets. Do I have to embarrass myself further or do you get the "picture"? For the past couple of years I've been attacking the trove
little by little, trying to at least determine just what I do have. I thought I had made good progress
until a few weeks ago when I found four (count 'em - four) more large boxes of pictures in storage.

Obviously, my major goal is to no longer be that keeper. I want to look at the pictures, oooooh and
ahhhhhhh and then put them in one of an organized grouping of stacks in preparation for mailing the
pictures to siblings, my son, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, etc. Simply put, I want the pictures to go away. I have enjoyed them. I have housed them. Time now to go. It's not that the pictures don't mean anything to me. On the contrary, pictures - as all of you know - are priceless and precious. I cherish them. But they have to go.

Oh, they're not all going. Certainly I'll keep some, probably too many. If there are doubles, in many
cases I'll keep one and send off the other. Of course - there are no doubles of the very old prints. So
then I have to decide if I, in fact, can bring myself to share them. PRAY FOR ME!!!!! :)

I have pictures that belonged to my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my parents, my siblings,
my son, his friends, my friends, my husband........I have pictures I cannot begin to identify. Way too many of those. And sometimes, in such an instance, I force myself to just let them go.

I love the old pictures. I can stare at them for the longest time. I love history, particularly family
history and each picture tells another story - usually one I've never actually heard. So I have to
make it up as I study the picture. Sometimes they include old family homes of people I never
actually knew. My ancestors are so young in those pictures and they're holding babies that grew
up and lived and died. And the fashions of the women are amazing! I have pictures of my grand-
mother and grandfather in Forest Park, St. Louis - I believe taken before they even married. Grandma
looks like a fashion model with her wonderfully stylish clothing of that era! It makes me appreciate them both in a way I was never able to when they were still with me.

And some of the old pictures include family pets. I'll never know their names, but you can tell that
they were loved. If you know me, you know that these pictures particularly speak to my heart. They too lived and died and were mourned and missed by the family who loved them.

I actually have two funeral pictures of family members as they lay in state - both taken professionally at the old Welge Funeral Chapel. This is a custom that I don't believe takes place anymore. One is of my great-grandmother and the other of my aunt who was murdered when she was only 17 years of age. I know the idea of having these pictures sounds gruesome, but somehow when I look at these pictures, I don't feel that way. Again, it allows me a glimpse into events and people I did not actually experience but who I feel I knew.

And oh, the baby pictures! I have to admit that when sending manila after manila to my son for his
own keeping or pitching, I cannot part with the baby pictures. I can send him all sorts of pictures of
his many activities - but not the baby pictures. They will always be with me. And each time I look
at the multitude of them I am reminded of a new, sweet memory. Precious and Priceless.

If you are one of those people who specializes in scientifically preserving pictures, don't call me
to give me advice, please. That is not and never will be my modus operandi. Apparently, in my
seeming ignorance, I've done allright - because they're all still here with me. And also if you are
someone who is passionate about "cropping" - I beg you - don't tell me about it. Not only do I
not care to attempt that feat, the thought of it causes me to be short of breath.

So, in the coming days and weeks you may be receiving a manila envelope from me - or perhaps
in some cases - an actual package, containing pictures that I have decided you should have. All you
have to do is let me know they have arrived. Thank me politely and then - if you don't want the
pictures inside those packages, YOU throw them away and DON'T EVER TELL ME!

As we grow in years we become aware that "things" do not really matter as much as we may have
once thought they did. But I believe pictures do not fall within that category. In one of the rooms
in my house I have what some may call an unusual grouping of small framed pictures - all of me
as a small child with my family members who are now all gone. Someone who saw them once asked me why I had this grouping of pictures in such a prominent place. I responded that these pictures
remind me of who I was. I KNOW who I AM. But I often need to be reminded of who I was. A small
thing, I guess. But precious and priceless.

Friends, I've been on the porch a lot this week - at all hours - enjoying the wonderful fresh air! I
enjoy Winter. I really do. I'm possibly one of the very few people who actually does enjoy Winter. But this respite has been amazing! So enjoy these next couple of days. I know I will be!




Thursday, January 26, 2017

Maya Angelou's Legacy To Us All

Most of us have favorite writers who have authored the types of books we most like to read. Whether
we prefer historical novels, mysteries, romance novels, how-to books, whatever!! And much of the
time our preferences are multiple. We like to read various kinds of books by various authors. Many years ago, and I don't remember exactly when or how, I became aware of Maya Angelou. And then I became a little obsessed about her, reading all of her books that I could get my hands on. In her
lifetime, she wrote autobiographical books, much poetry and books of essays. The first one I read was "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", written in 1969. If you haven't read it, I encourage you to do so. Absolutely a life changing read, chronicling the woman's early and very difficult life. Opened my eyes in ways I can't even describe.

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis. She is called an American poet, memoirist and civil rights activist. In her lifetime she published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows. Many may remember her for her 1977 role in the made for TV movie, "Roots". She was a very close friend of Oprah Winfrey and Winfrey aired many of her shows with Ms. Angelou as her
guest.

After receiving acclaim for Caged Bird, Angelou began to publicly address her personal life and was
respected for her role as a spokesperson for black people and all women. Through her many gifts, Maya Angelou touched people's lives in remarkable ways. She touched people of all colors and
backgrounds. To say that she was inspiring seems very inadequate. But through her work, her passion and her ability to speak to one's heart, she certainly has inspired my life.

On January 20, 1993 at the inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton, Maya Angelou
read a poem, "On The Pulse of Morning", written specifically for the event.

In the early fall of 2007 I had read in the newspaper that Ms. Angelou would be speaking at
SIU-Carbondale. When I read the ad, her engagement was just a few days away. I was very excited
and was trying to decide if I would be able to attend. That morning my old friend, Sue Reiman, came
bounding through my office door and said simply, "Ya' wanna go?" I knew immediately what she
was referring to and shouted, "Yes! I do!" We went together. On a cold, dark, rainy evening
Sue and I ill-advisedly took off down Route 3, on our way to Carbondale. Sue knew the campus really well and drove us right to the appointed location. The crowd was very large and we waited in
line for at least two hours before we were admitted into the auditorium. The standing was very
difficult for Sue, as she was not well, but we did it and we did it happily. Imagine how surprised we
were when Ms. Angelou was finally ushered into the room and on to the stage by Chester native and
then SIU student Nate Brown! Maya Angelou was a tall woman, with broad shoulders and a smile that could light a room! Her presence in the room immediately changed the very atmosphere. During
nearly two hours she made us cry. She made us laugh. Men and women. Young and old. Her words and the meaning behind them were deep and heart changing. I can only say that her unique delivery was so large and powerful, electrifying the large auditorium.

I have always been so grateful for my Maya Angelou experience - and for the fact that Sue and I were able to share it. We laughed that night like two young girls. And our lives were forever altered for
having been in that auditorium that evening. Sue's forever, though, was brief. A little over a month after that night, Sue lost her battle with cancer.

Maya Angelou died May 28, 2014 at the age of 86. But her work and her inspiration go on through the work she left behind. A huge legacy for us all. I could write so much in today's column about
Ms. Angelou's writings, her wonderful quotes, her experiences. But that would be wrong. I hope
you will decide to experience her on your own, if you have not already. I encourage you to make
the effort to pick up one of her books and read it. I hope you find her life and her writings as
inspirational as I have.

Not today, but earlier this week I actually had coffee on the porch. It felt marvelous!



Friday, December 30, 2016

For Auld Lang Syne

Now that Christmas has come and gone for another year, everyone we meet tells us, "Happy New
Year!" We're ending another year that has been filled with much joy and happiness or much sadness
and grief. Truth be known, for each of us 2016 has probably been a combination of all of those emotions.  Many years ago I read a passage from a book by artist and writer Kahlil Gibran. In this
particular writing he talked about the Tears and Laughter that fill our lives. And it is so. In this
writing, Gibran stated, "I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the
multitudes; nor would I be content with converting my tears, invited by my agonized self, into
calm. It is my fervent hope that my whole life on this earth will ever be tears and laughter." And
certainly we know that regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do - tears and laughter
will always be a  part of our lives, a part of every year of our lives. But still we look backward
upon the year ending and we feel nostalgic. And we look forward with hope and expectancy, even
though we know that this new year will most certainly include both tears and laughter.

As we approach the end of any year and look toward the next, I believe it is in our nature to get a little nostalgic or perhaps introspective. We may reminisce about what has been, perhaps what
could have or should have been - and then what might be in the coming year.

As a little girl my sister and I loved New Year's Eve. Though our parents usually went out "on
the town" on that night, we knew that at home or at Grandma's, we could stay up very late and
at midnight when the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" came on the radio or television, we would be
allowed to go outside in our nighties and bang on kitchen pans with large spoons,  making all
kinds of racket that at any other time would not have been acceptable. Then the next day we would
delight in the tchotchkes that our parents had brought home to us. There would be cardboard
new year's hats, noise makers, horns, paper necklaces and confetti! We were enchanted by these
meaningless items. Fast forward a few years. I remember that when my mother would hear the
traditional new year's song, "Auld Lang Syne", she would always shed a few tears. I didn't under-
stand and she seemed at a loss to find a way to explain her emotions to me. I no longer need an
explanation, as I now react the same way when I hear the song. And for goodness sake, I can't
really explain why either! Regardless of the time of year, it moves me.

The song, though familiar to literally everyone over the age of ten, has words that always leave
us confused. What do those words really mean? And depending on who is singing, WHAT ARE THOSE WORDS???? Personally, being a Rod Stewart fan, I think his rendition is my absolute
favorite and if you haven't heard him sing it, I encourage you to pull it up online and listen. His
delivery, as far as I'm concerned, adds even more depth to the meaning.

But let's look at some history of this song, shall we? A little research tells us that in 1788 Robert Burns sent the song to the Scots Musical Museum in Scotland, indicating that it was an ancient song, but that he'd been the first to record in on paper. The phrase 'auld lang syne' roughly translates to 'for old times' sake' and the song is about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year. Ok, that's not so tough, right?

Most of us know the first verse and the chorus, but it usually goes downhill from there. The original words, with their Scottish flair and brogue, leave us totally confused, with words like pint stoup and braes and gowans, etc.............But still, I think by even muddling through it, we can figure out the
true meaning of the song, or at least the feelings behind them.
                                                                          **
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne.

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup o'kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp and surely I'll be mine!
And we'll take a cup o'kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Chorus:

We two hae run about the braes and pu'd the gowans fine.
But we've wandered mony a weary fit sin' auld lang syne.

We twa have paidled i' the burn, frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid have roared sin' auld lang syne.

Chorus:

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere, and gie's a hand o'thine!
And we'll tak a right quid-willie waught - for auld lang syne!
                                                                            **
Wow. Well, we tried. Suffice to say, I hope that it's about friendship and friendship lost.
Perhaps about love and faithfulness to one another and belonging to something larger, a fellowship. About all kinds of loss, but finding each other once again. I think it refers to the fact that we're in this together and perhaps we can try to be a little kinder.  Regardless, wherever you are at midnight on New Year's Eve, if you hear the strains of "Auld Lang Syne", I hope you'll allow yourself a moment of nostalgia for what has been and a moment of hope for what may come. If you've suffered loss this year, I hope you find peace and consolation as you look to the new year.

I want to thank you all for taking this journey with me. I hope you have found on these pages, at
least sometimes, something that resinates with you or that interests you. I'm wishing each of you
a healthy, happy and prosperous 2017. I'll be back in January. Let's take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.