Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers

Wishing you a simple, beautiful, and peaceful week.

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

--Hans Hofman

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rolling With Betty

Hope your Sunday is a happy one!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ties that Bind

As most of you know, just last week we left sunny southern California and flew back to a very snowy Kansas landscape to attend HOB’s father’s funeral.

Are all funerals and the associated gatherings a strange mixture of happiness and sadness? Just as we had used the air conditioner on the way to the airport in Burbank and had the heater on full blast as we drove from the Kansas City airport, our emotions ran the full gamut as well.

There was much joy at seeing our family together. HOB’s family lives in Florida and Nashville and so we do not get to see them very much. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of hugging and laughing as we greeted one another at the hotel and sat to share family tales.

Then, occasionally and suddenly, there was acknowledgment of why we were there and the tears flowed. My brain must have been staring at my emotions going, “What the heck? Could we just pick one emotion and go with it for awhile?”

At the funeral, so many friends and relatives showed up. Some drove great distances just to see us and be with us. Our gratitude was boundless. There were many happy faces around and then the service started and the tears flowed again.

At the reception after the funeral, more than a hundred people gathered to share food and drink and memories. Each story people told about HOB’s father was a gift to my boys. Over and over people spoke of his generosity and optimism—traits I know both of my sons inherited from him.

I saw my father-in-law in the faces and the small actions of my brother-in-laws. His presence was everywhere.

Before the funeral, as we were getting dressed for the service, I glanced over to see HOB, standing in front of the mirror with his sons, showing them how to tie their ties. I saw his hands deftly work the silky fabric and then he put his arms over their heads to help them with the movements.

From where I stood in the room, the mirror gave way to image after image of this father with his sons. Over and over again, the image appeared. The ties resembled colorful flags fluttering in the wind on ships, sailing off into the distance, getting smaller and smaller.

I stood there, a bit dazed by the sight and had the strange feeling that if I moved just one inch and looked, I would have seen HOB’s father there, at the very end of the line, smiling and giving us his familiar salute, wishing us all a good voyage.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Remember" by Christina Rossetti


Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

--Christina Rossetti

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers

Left this Kansas beauty in white this morning:

Returned to these beauties in white in California:

May you find beauty in whatever surrounds you today.

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

All in One Week

This man passed away.

This woman celebrated her mid-century-plus-two birthday.

And this little one joined our family!

Presenting my new great-nephew, Turner Philip.
Isn't he gorgeous?

“It's the circle of life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, 'till we find our place, on the path unwinding”

--Elton John

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It Suits Him

HOB's father's funeral is this coming weekend. Since we live in California, his dad lived in Nashville, and the funeral is in Kansas City, there's been some major planning. HOB is with his mom now, Evan and I fly out on Thursday, and Sonny Boy joins us on Friday.

All the plane schedules, hotel reservations, and car reservations are in place, and it was a complicated process. Perhaps not as complicated, however, as taking the disinterested-in-fashion seventeen-year-old Evan shopping for a suit.

I'd like to say that both of my boys have crisp white shirts, freshly pressed suits, and shiny black shoes in their closets, but alas, this is not so. Now, Sonny Boy was ready and willing to get a suit. He is graduating from college soon after all, and despite being Earth Boy, there is also a streak of GQ in there as well. He took care of the situation right away and did a great job

Evan, on the other hand, considers clean jeans, a t-shirt with a logo, and skate shoes formal wear, so when I announced that we needed to get him a suit, he was less than thrilled. He hates shopping. Hates it. He also saw absolutely no need for a suit and he let me know about it. As a bonus, I got a twenty minute lecture on the hypocrisy of dressing up and how sad it was that I had bought into the whole idea perpetuated by a society based solely on appearance.

That was fun.

He is still growing so I didn't want to go for the hand-tailored hundreds-of-dollars suits. He is also between menswear and Giant Boywear in size. Giant Boywear is a whole lot less expensive so we headed over to that department of the department store. No luck. The size 18 was too small and the store was out of 20's. So, we headed over to the men's department.

Now, I know pretty much nothing about men's sizing, so I said to Evan, "OK, I'll go over to that side of the store and look for the smallest size I can find and you stay here and look." I was busy flipping through the jackets when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of silver. I looked up to see the long hook the store supplies to get merchandise down being swung around, bounced up and down, and being flipped over in the air. When I got over to Evan, he was concentrating on balancing it on his palm.

"Find anything?" I asked dryly.

The hook came down to his side. "Nah, they don't have any."


The evening pretty much went on and on like that until we went to another store and found a Giant Boy suit that we could get tailored. We decided to leave the purchasing of shoes for the next day while I still had an ounce of sanity left.

A suit, a tie, black socks, white shirt, black leather shoes: we'll pack them all and my boy will look devastatingly handsome as we pay tribute to his grandfather.

Now, if only I knew what I was wearing....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers: Birthday Edition

Happy Monday, My Darling Ones!

It's Betty's Birthday today and she celebrates by sharing flowers with you.

I'll be spending the day with friends and being grateful for all my blessings.

I reflect back on this life with appreciation and look forward with great optimism.

(FYI, There had better be cake and pretty presents involved at some point during the day or I just may snap.)

We turn not older with years, but newer every day.
--Emily Dickinson

Friday, January 14, 2011

After Wednesday

The call on Wednesday came as most calls of this nature do, early in the morning, the shrill ring of the phone even more piercing than usual, as though to warn the listener that the news it was about to deliver would leave a scar.

I answered it. “We lost the Chief this morning,” my brother-in-law said, holding back his tears.

I turned to deliver the news to HOB. His father had died.

As some of my faithful readers will remember, HOB’s father had struggled with Alzheimer’s for many years, the disease finally robbing him of his memory entirely. When he was alive and stricken with the disease, we concentrated on the man that existed there. We worried about his condition, and checked in on him when we were in town. The focus stayed on the present, on the reality and responsibilities that it brought.

It was a narrow focus, but a necessary one.

After Wednesday, after absorbing the news, we found that the spotlight that had centered on his Alzheimer’s and all it had wrought, began to fade. The stage lights began to come up and shed light on his entire life, on all of his years, as a law student, as a veteran, as a husband, as a father.

Slowly we allowed memories of his entire life to be played out and found the stage to be full of color and activity. Yes, Alzheimer’s was a part of his life story, but it takes its small, sad place at the back. It is no longer the focus, just one part in an otherwise full and vibrant life.

Viewing his whole life once again is at once a good thing and also a painful process. There is so much now to remember and celebrate, but also to grieve the final loss of.

During his childhood, HOB lived with his family in a community nestled in the hillsides above a large lake. His father loved it there, and was so happy to be able to raise his family in this idyllic setting. There were docks around the lake, which were wonderful places to sit and look out at the placid waters. The broad sky in the distance served as a fantastic movie screen upon which nature could do her wonders--sunrises, sunsets, lightening storms, the incredible riot of clouds that sometimes fill the Kansas sky.

This is the heaven I hope for my father-in law: he is there at the lake on his family’s dock. He is greeted by his mother and father. They hug him, smile and show him the chair they have reserved for him. They sit together and watch the sunset.

The sky darkens and then the show begins.

There in the sky, he sees scenes from his life. All of the gifts that Alzheimer’s took away over the years are slowly given back to him. One by one, the memories return in vivid color and detail.

There you are at three years old, holding your mother’s hand.

There you are beside your father, dressed in a suit, ready for church.

Your first car was blue. And it was fast.

You fell in love with this woman.

There you are, in your tuxedo, on your wedding day.

There you are at your desk, working at a job you loved.

These are your three sons. They grew up happy and healthy and never stopped loving you.

See those six children, waving there? They are your grandchildren. They carry on your name. They carry on your legacy. They remember how much you loved them.

In my fantasy, the spark slowly returns to his eyes and he is robust again. He remembers everything.

It is getting late and a bit chilly on the dock. His parents turn to go, but he stays.

“I want to watch it all one more time,” he says, smiling, settling into his chair once again and looking skyward.

“One more time."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Shopping With Betty

It's been a while, hasn't it?

Let's stock up!

Have a Sweet Day!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Lost" by David Wagoner


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

--David Wagoner

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers: Back to Work Edition

Hello, Darling Ones!

It's Monday. It's back to work for Betty Day.

I had an absolutely glorious time off between semesters, but now it is time to get back to campus. I have five classes this semester, all completely full with waiting lists and more students at the door, trying to add. I wish I could say it was because I am such a popular teacher. Alas, it's because we've had to cut, cut, and cut more classes due to lack of funding.

The first days of the semester are full of promise, full of hope, and absolutely exhausting too. I may not make it around to your blogs as much as I'd like to. I am having my 101 students start blogs as part of the class, so I'll be busy helping to launch, keep track of, and comment on over 60 new blogs. Wish me luck!

Disheartening news at the camera store: the film in the camera featured in my last post is Kodachrome. The last place to process it--Dwayne's Photo in Parson's, Kansas, announced in July of last year they would process any roll that came in before December 30 and thousands of rolls came in. They are not accepting any more rolls and after the last roll is processed (today or tomorrow) the processing machine will be taken out of service forever.

SO, whatever pictures are hidden on that roll of film will remain a mystery.

Quel dommage!

I thought these flowers, bursting forward and brightening the world would be good for all of us today.

Hope you enjoy the flowers and the week ahead!

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

--Martin Luther King

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My New Camera

A good friend surprised me the other day with a gift she had gotten at a yard sale in France.

I love old cameras and this one is a great one.
It's a Kinax Lumriex 6 X 9.

According to Camerapedia these cameras were produced between 1940 and 1956.

I like to imagine all this camera has seen and how excited and happy the person who had it must have been to possess such a thing.

The film is still in it but I can't get it out to determine if it's exposed or not. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it had photos on it?
Ah! If only cameras could talk!

Wonder what these two would discuss?

Oh, and thanks, Santa, for my new camera.
(It's the one on the right.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Gift

When I was about six years old, I announced to my dad one evening that I was going to learn to milk cows. We had about 12 milk cows at the time and my father milked them by hand every night and every morning. My dad just smiled at my suggestion that I would be able to help him once I learned.

So, determined to do this, I followed him out to the milk barn which was a small, low building back of the big barn. The path to the barn was made up of large stones, strategically placed in the dirt and manure that made up the lot. They were placed for my father's long stride, so I had to jump from stone to stone to get the the barn. I got there just as my dad opened the door and called the cows in.

They were lumbering giants, these cows. They were beautiful in the way they responded to my dad's voice, their big, trusting liquid eyes watching him as they all went to their spots and stood, placing their heads in the v-shaped grips on the walls, their tails toward the door. I stood, my back to the wall, and looked down the line at these massive animals. The smallness of the barn and their close quarters with one another only emphasized their enormity. Their square rear ends were now still, their tails periodically swinging to the loud country music my dad always had on the radio in the barn.

Sitting on his T-shaped stool, my dad began milking the first cow, humming to the radio. He stopped before the first bucket was full and poured the warm, foamy contents into a large pan that sat at one end of the barn. Instantly, about ten barn cats showed up to lap up the milk. These feral beauties I had never been able to get close to, were now within arm's length and they were letting my father pet them. My head swam with happiness. It was the warm summer evening, and I was filled with bliss, being in the barn with the cows, the cats, but most of all being with my dad, in his domain, watching the way he sang, and worked. The tension he sometimes carried while he was in the house seem to slip off his shoulders here and he was totally at ease and best of all, I was with him.

It was while I was in this blissful state that I noticed with great interest that the cow directly in front of me had raised its tail and I could see its crusty anus, twisting and turning like the shutter on a rusty camera. I was transfixed there by this sight, as if it were a real camera and I had to remain still until the picture was taken. I heard my dad's voice, "I wouldn't stand behind that one if I were you" but still I didn't move. I was memorized, hypnotized, transfixed. I heard my father's voice again, "That one's sick. You need to move."

Then it happened: the camera shutter opened, my eyes grew wide and my mouth opened in surprise, as the projectile diarrhea shot directly towards me. I felt the warmth coat my entire body and I sputtered as I stood, draped, covered, cloaked in runny light brown goo. I immediately started crying which was not a good idea as each gasp brought a new assault to my tongue and throat.

"Oh. Oh," my dad said calmly as he came my way. That's all he said as he surveyed the situation. There was no scolding, no admonishment, no kidding, no teasing. All he did was put down the bucket of milk he was carrying, gently take my hand, and helped me over the large stones, back through the big barn, and down the path to the house. I could barely see out of the small holes I had managed to make around my eyes. The evening was a warm one and I could feel the hardening of the crust on my skin. I felt low. I felt... well, like one does when one is covered in cow poop, but I also felt my hand in my father's hand and knew at least I was headed in the right direction.

I remember at least one sister screamed when she saw me and I remember the (understandable) shrinking back (I did look like a walking Snicker's bar) and then some shouts for my mom. She came out of the house, took my hand from my father and led me to the bathroom to get cleaned up. I felt remarkably clean and good after that bath though I would continue to find residue of the adventure in my ears and scalp for weeks.

My dad died six years ago; today would have been his 96th birthday. In addition to all I have to think him for, I have the lesson I learned from this incident.

It is this: there are times in life when we all feel just the way I did that day and the greatest gift we can receive is for someone to quietly, and without negativity, put down the work he or she is doing, take us by the hand, help us maneuver our way over the big stones in our lives, and gently guide us back home to get cleaned up.

Sometimes in life we are the ones who need the help and sometimes we are the ones who offer the hand. In the end, both situations are gifts.

Happy Birthday, Daddy, and thanks for the hand.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's Not a Right. It's a Privilege. Try to Remember That.

Maybe HOB Could Practice His Medical Social Skills on This Nice Sock Monkey and His Inflamed Gums

Poor HOB (Husband of Betty).

He did not, apparently, receive the supplement to the Marriage Manual for husbands on how to deal with certain medical conditions.

I speak of this specific passage:

Section C-1

Initial Reaction to Invitation to Observe Evidence of Medical Malady.

Section C-1 Article A-1:

A spouse is encouraged, nay, obligated to view any evidence of a medical malady that his wife chooses to share with him. This includes but is not limited to cuts, bruises, infections, stitches, and ripped off toenails. When approached by spouse with physical evidence of a recent trauma to the body, your reaction should be a mixture of concern, and just a hint of enthusiasm at the opportunity.

C-1. Article A-2

Subsequent Reaction of Spouse to Physical Evidence of Medical Malady:

Your reaction must be in direct proportion to the seriousness perceived by the spouse with malady. Looks of nonchalance are not permitted, nor are looks of sheer revulsion. Additionally, you must make appropriate sounds indicating concern and admiration of wife's incredible strength and courage.

If HOB had read this supplement to the manual, he would not have withdrawn in horror this morning as I pulled out my lower lip to ask him if he thought the skin near some recent gum surgery was rotting flesh. Following this, I gently explained to him the rule of marriage that he had to look at my gums and react appropriately. I gave him another chance, pulled out the bottom lip again and put my face closer to his.

I am sorry to say he is still working on the skill of the nuanced reaction.

I had the gum surgery on Thursday and, in a tale that is as old as motherhood itself, shortly after I came out of the surgery in a weakened condition, both HOB and Sonny Boy came down with hideous bouts of the flu.

So much for the Mama being taken care of.

(Guess who went to the store and got herself an obscene number of tapioca pudding cups and later hid them from the sickies.)

So, you can see why the least HOB could have done, as I went in to coo at him and ask if he needed anything, was to look at the strangely-colored, putrid-smelling skin around the three teeth that had the gum reconstruction.

I didn’t even ask him to look at the part of the palate where they harvested the gum grafts. I mean, he IS sick, so I am giving him a bit of a break.

HOB has never been very good at hitting the right note when I present to him something that I consider to be both intriguing and medically fascinating.

Years ago, late at night I hacked up some sort of white mass from my throat, and in accordance with the rights given me in Article C-1 section A-1, I showed it to HOB, mostly because it was a really interesting shape and looked like a large bit of cauliflower, a food I had not consumed for years. Could it be that my throat had been performing as a slow cooker for this bit of food for that long? This thought fascinated me.

This was in the days before Web MD, so without a word, without any questions, without a comment like “Wow! Baby! You are just full of cool surprises, aren’t you?” He gasped, picked up the phone and called our friend who had a large medical encyclopedia. “Hello?” the very sleepy voice on the other end of the phone said. HOB responded in a loud and serious voice. “Look up throat cancer. NOW”

The man really needs to regulate these reactions. Overreaction is just as bad as underreaction. It’s all a matter of balance.

We’ll keep working on things here.

Please note I am not including a picture of my gums with this post. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s for HOB’s eyes only. (And my friends, my co-workers, the counter guy at Jamba Juice, and the nice lady behind me at the grocery store, oh yeah, and I did text a picture of it to a couple of people.)

As you can see, it's a private matter. God knows, I don't want any extra attention.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"I Would Live in Your Love" by Sara Teasdale

I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that

I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me,
I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul
as it leads.

--Sara Teasdale

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happy First Monday of 2011!

So many new starts, new opportunities, and new beginnings.

Are you ready?

Here are some flowers to keep you company this week.

There is a woman at the beginning of all great things.

--Alphonse de Lamartine

Hope you have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Another year flies away....

Looking forward to sharing the year ahead with all of you.

Hope your New Year is a wonderful one!