Childhood Memory


One winter, when I was about six years old, every kid in my family came down with a series of diseases. Measles, followed by chicken pox, followed by mumps. For three months my mother was stuck in the house with four little girls covered by some sort of bumps and dealing with a fever. We were hot, itchy, cooped up, and miserable. We all fell ill, like dominoes, one after the other. How my mother kept her sanity is beyond me. And to make things even more stressful, my dad was out in the field with the US Army and we were stationed in Germany with no family to help. I don’t remember a lot about that winter, except for one shining moment.

I got well first. I cannot tell you how great it was to not itch, and to be able to go outside. For Christmas, my older sister and I got our first bicycles. We were too sick to ride them for weeks after Christmas. I got to ride my bike before my sister got to be outdoors. I remember riding it up and down the sidewalk outside our flat, looking up at the third floor window where my sisters all stood watching me. As the second child, I rarely got to do anything first. I was chuffed beyond words. All three stood scowling at me, and I have to admit I was feeling pretty cocky that I was out and they were still in itchy hell. I was six, give me a break and don’t judge. As an adult, I know it was cheeky and rude, but as a child, I just felt empowered.

It wasn’t long before all four of us were well and back to running in and out of the house like we usually did. The memories of being miserable faded, and my special moment did too. We were finally back in school, and I know my mother was happy beyond words to have survived the winter of illness. Spring came and we were outside more than inside the house. In fact, we didn’t want to be indoors if we could avoid it. With spring came our usual battles with the Jones kids. We hated the Jones kids, they were bullies and meaner than a ticked off snake. Debra was the only girl, and she decided she was going to make my little sister’s life hell. Her closest sibling was Billy, he was twelve, my older sister was seven, and I was six. It was our job to look after the two younger girls. Billy would pick on us every time his sister started being rude or hateful and we put her in her place. I have always been, and will always be, a sarcastic smart mouth.

One afternoon on the playground, I got into it with Debra again. Billy started in on my sister, and I jumped in with a bowling pin. I have no idea where the wooden pin came from, but it was perfect to beat the snot out of Billy. So I set to, and he went home to whine to his mother. About that time, my mother turned up on the playground, (my next younger sister was always a tattle tale) to see what was going on. Mrs. Jones started shouting out her window at my mother. Mrs. Jones was probably close to six feet tall and weighed in at well over 200 pounds. My mother was five feet four inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds. Mom told Mrs. Jones that if she wanted a fight to get her fat @$$ down stairs and she would be happy to oblige her. She wouldn’t come down, and Mom was more than ready to go up and drag her out by her hair. But the other moms got her to calm down. No one insulted her girls. Now you know where I get my bad attitude and willingness to take on anyone. My sister and I got a reputation for fighting. Most people left us alone, except for the Jones brats and a girl called Rita.

Rita was bigger than my sister and I, since we tended to be on the shrimpy side. One day walking home from school she ambushed us. It wasn’t a long fight, my sister pretty much ended it before it got started, darn it. Rita’s problem was her dirty mouth and the way she thought she could talk to anyone that way. In our family, if we had sworn like that, my mother would have made us eat a bar of soap. The problem was that we wouldn’t put up with it from anyone else either. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well when my parents found out we had been fighting again. We followed the house rule of never starting a fight, but we sure as hell finished one. I guess my attitude was built into my genes. My dad and mother were scrappers in school, my sons were also willing to take on a fight anytime, and at least one of my grandchildren is a scrapper too. Thinking back on those days it is a wonder my dad didn’t get into trouble due to our fighting. Of course, one look at my tiny sister and the almost as tiny me, and every boy we fought with had a very embarrassed Dad since two skinny girls beat the stuffing out of their big brave boy.

I fought less as I grew older, but the years between six and eight were the banner years for my hot temper. I learned to control it better, but I never managed to curb the smart mouth and sarcastic comments that fell out of it regularly. Looking back, I was a bit of a bad ass. It tends to make me smile when I think back on those days.

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Play With Any Toy


“Nana?” she asked, “Do I have to play with boy toys if I don’t want to?” I was surprised at the question, she is all girl, and only has pink toy cars that match her Barbie stuff. “Why?” I asked her. “Well, Papa said that sometimes girls play with toys boys like more than girls do. I don’t like boy toys, they’re boring and dumb. I want to play with girl toys because I have fun pretending with them. And I love my babies. (She is crazy about baby dolls.) So I don’t want to play with boy toys.” I assured her that she didn’t have to play with boy toys if she didn’t want to, but if she did she could. It didn’t matter one way or the other. But it had to be her choice what she played with and when. She was satisfied with that and went off to play with her Barbie doll house. Later, I got the whole story from her.

Come to find out, it is a big issue at school from last week. There was a deep discussion between the other kids sitting at her table. There are four of them two girls, two boys. One of the boys was playing “house” with the mostly girl group. He was “the dad” and he was babysitting so the “moms” could go grocery shopping. All normal play as far as I am concerned. They were mimicking their home life. Sounds a lot like our house too. At one point one of the girls said that the boy was silly for playing with a doll because it was a girl toy. This led to a huge discussion about what a boy toy or girl toy was, and why it was fine for anyone to play with either. Except for one small group of girls who insisted that boys who played with dolls were sissies and not acting like boys. Addie, who has been raised in a traditional family that has no such rules was confused. She was raised to think that she could play with any toy, and even if boy toys were boring and dumb, she could still play with them.

The play ended with a young boy with hurt feelings, and several snippy little girls feeling smug and superior. Addie felt bad for the little boy, he sits at her table, and he is her friend. The next free play time, she went to play with him and his boy toys. They had fun wrecking their trucks. Then they decided to organize the baby stuff so that everyone could find it and play with it. They were happily folding “laundry” and putting everything away when another girl started in on the boy again about being a sissy. Addie stepped in and told her she was being a mean bully to the boy. He quietly walked away and played with the boys again. The girl and Addie ignored each other the rest of the week. Apparently, it really bothered her. Enough that she sought out adult opinions from the Mr. and I.

She told me that when she went back to school, she was going to tell the boy and the mean girl that anyone could play with any toy they wanted to, and it didn’t mean they were anything different than anyone else. She was indignant for her friend, which makes me proud of her. My problem is simple, what kind of home life does the little girl have that it gives her the idea everyone has to be the same, and if anyone is different at all, then it is okay to ridicule them and call them names?

I don’t believe in forcing my kids to play with gender specific toys, who knows, my girls might want to be mechanics, and my boys might want to be a kindergarten teacher for all I know. It is sad enough that men are denied the opportunity to work with and be around young children because the are automatically suspected monsters due to their gender. Now other children, who have been brain washed, want to control a boy’s instinct to parent by telling them doing so makes them suspected in some way as abnormal. Why? At this rate, boys will grow up to be men who are afraid of being involved with their own children for fear of being labeled as predators, homosexual, or inept as males.

I am proud of Addie for standing up for her friend. I am glad she felt able to come to us and ask about something that really bothered her. I hope we gave her an answer that would help her navigate the social issues of kindergarten children. Most of all, however, I hope that girl has zero influence on Addie’s acceptance of everyone just as they are.

Your Attitude Makes or Breaks the Vacation.


While on the cruise recently, I was amazed at the number of children on board. Over seven hundred in all. They came in ages from tiny babies (Why anyone would do that is beyond me) to teenagers. The thing I found interesting, is that with all those kids, there were very few meltdown tantrums among them. Generally, when kids get over tired, over stimulated, out of their normal routine, or in a strange place, tantrums, tears, meltdowns, and stubborn acting out ensues among them. We didn’t see that in the smallest kids, nor in the kids between five and twelve. However, teenagers of all ages and adults were absolutely invested in tantrums and meltdowns from the first moment we were at sea.

Couples were arguing with each other, parents were telling off children for no apparent reason, and teenagers, well, you know teenagers, everything that wasn’t on their phone or tablet was a reason for meltdowns and irritation. Shocking. Annoying. Hilarious. Immature. Generally undeserved by the person whom the tantrum was directed at and embarrassing to watch an adult act like a tired two year old on too much sugar. I don’t get it, really, I thought a family vacation was supposed to be relaxing and fun. Apparently not for anyone between thirteen and fifty, according to the melt down count down.

I expected frowny faces and bad attitudes in children, but it was the parents who had the, “I hate the world” faces. Unless, of course, they were eating, drinking alcohol, or hanging out in the smoking areas. It was easy to tell that most of the parents couldn’t wait for the Kid’s Clubs to open so they could park their progeny there until meal times and escape to do adult stuff. Teenagers clumped together in pools of dissatisfied texting groups as long as they had access to the ship’s texting program, and when they didn’t they sat in glum silence playing games on their phones, ignoring the swimming pools, mini golf, and other activities available for them from dawn to dusk. It was as if they wanted to be bored and dissatisfied with everything. I don’t get that either.

We had a great time from playing with Addie in the pools to mini golf, to talking to the server in the buffet room who chatted with us about Philippine food for a good half hour. Addie loved the Kid’s Club, and while she was making friends there, we had a good time relaxing and wandering around the ship. We laughed a lot, held hands, teased each other, chatted with other passengers, and simply allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment. When the three of us were together, it was clear that I was the odd one out since Addie is in the “I Adore My Papa” stage of her life, so I read a book and let them rush about doing things like water slides and such. And the bonus was that Addie didn’t have one single moment dedicated to being in a rotten mood. She was dog tired by bedtime, but there were no complaints. She would climb into her top bunk, roll over and go to sleep in moments. She did get up one night to go have pizza and ice cream in the “middle of the night” around ten p.m. She got a huge kick out of that. Even after pizza and ice cream, she climbed right back into bed and went to sleep in five minutes.

Meanwhile, every time we took her to the Kid’s Club, there would be a parent there ranting about something, embarrassing their child who couldn’t wait to escape mom or dad and go play somewhere stress free. The last time we picked Addie up, the ladies who worked in the Club gave us a note telling us how much they enjoyed time with Addie. She was polite, kind, sharing, and friendly to everyone and she was very respectful to the adults working in the Club. Everywhere we engaged with crew, they always complimented us on Addie’s behavior. Our server in the restaurant made her origami dinosaurs and the steward for our room went out of his way to make her adorable towel animals on the bed everyday. I know they must miss their children terribly since they are at sea for nine months at a time. Addie was unfailingly polite to all the adults with whom she interacted. We raised her to be polite and kind, and to always use her manners. The rest is all her doing.

I am not saying she was the best kid, there were lots of kids who were good. There were also rude and mouthy kids who talked back to adults, didn’t listen to the crew when they were told not to do something or to do something, and who ran wild because their parents didn’t care what they did as long as they didn’t bother them or get into trouble with the crew who would then bother them. That I really don’t get. As a parent, grandparent or guardian, I want to know what my kid is up to every second of the day. They don’t have to be under my feet, and I don’t hover, but I keep an eye on them. It is very easy to injure themselves on a ship filled with stairs, heavy doors, and over three thousand people on board.

I suppose people brought their daily issues to the ship with them. We try to leave all that on the shore and have a new and exciting experience. This was Addie’s first cruse, we wanted it to be positive, fun, and something she would want to do again. I guess we did it right. She can’t wait to go on another one as soon as possible. As for the grumpy folks who turned their holiday into a whine fest, I’m sorry they were such a miserable group. They missed an opportunity to have a great time. Especially the teenagers who were determined to hate everything from not having internet connections to having to be around their parents and siblings for more than five minutes a day. Oh well, what goes around comes around. Next time they want to have a good holiday, Mom and Dad have an excuse to make it as miserable as they possibly can just because they want to.

Meanwhile, the Combs Family will be the three people trying to catch the wind while walking on the deck or eating ice cream and pizza at ten at night just because we can.

Ornaments and Traditions


Every year since we got married in 1971, the day after Thanksgiving is when we start decorating for Christmas. No matter how broke, despondent, worried, angry, or disappointed our life is at that moment, we begin to build our home into a happy place designed to celebrate the traditions of our families and the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, we have collected many decorations, some made by our children and grandchildren, some bought in the far off places we have lived and traveled to, some handed down from friends and family. Each one is a treasure, carefully packed away every year to be brought out and rediscovered the following year. As time goes by, some of them get a bit worn and tattered, but they still go on the best place for them on the tree. As I see them being hung by my family and myself, memories flow through my mind about how and when they came to be part of our tradition.

I have twelve cloisonne bells that were given to me as a gift when we lived in Hong Kong, each one has a slightly different sound when it rings. I have a set of lovely hand carved Angel ornaments that I bought when we were visiting Bruge, Belgium. And the lace ornaments that I bought in different countries to make a special collection is beautiful. But the ornaments that I love the most are the ones made by my children and grandchildren, and now, great grandchildren. Some were made at school, others were made in scouts or as projects we did together as a family. They aren’t fancy, and they aren’t perfect, but they are unique, one of a kind, filled with love and memories. I have hand prints in paint on plastic bobbles, I have ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. I have drawings on paper, hung carefully next to the crystal angel that I bought for my first grandchild’s first Christmas. It doesn’t matter what they are made of, they are more treasured than the most expensive ornament on the tree. Because my babies made them, I would rather have them than any other treasure on my trees.

Now I have two trees, one for my fancy store bought and gifted ornaments. It is lovely to behold. Sparkling and glittering with lights and special stones. I put it up in my home office, where it can be seen from the front of the house. It is an addition to all the sparkling lights outside. The other tree is for all my special treasures from my family. It is in my living room, and it glitters and sparkles unlike any other tree in the world. Each ornament is a memory or a story to pass down to our progeny. Each one is a part of our traditions, sacred, and delightful. Usually, the youngest in the family puts the star on the tree, but the one on the tree is built in now. This year, the youngest will be eight hours away, he is two, the perfect age to start telling the stories about each ornament. Instead, our five year old will do the honors when she comes to visit this weekend. She gets a kick out of decorating the tree her way. Meaning most of the purple ornaments are at her eye level, in one place on the tree. She has a thing for organizing colors that way. If she can’t reach a place she wants an ornament, either her Papa or I patiently position it until she is satisfied. Then we have hot chocolate and play until bedtime.

As the days lead up to Christmas, our entire house is decorated inside and out. While I do the baking creating goodies to share with friends and family, the Mr. hangs lights and swears under his breath every time he has to repair another string of lights. When we are done, our home looks like a place of joy, it smells delightfully of chocolate and fresh baked goods, and the music of Christmas fills the air with both sacred and fun sounds of happiness and celebration.

Traditions bring us together as a family. The stories bring us laughter and teaches us through example. The decorations remind us of the past, the people, and the love we all share one generation to the next. I love Christmas, it completes my life, just as the month of December completes the year. Merry Christmas One and All. God Bless Each and Every One of You.

Feeding the Multitude


The Mr. and I went on a cruise to Mexico, out of New Orleans. We took our five year old great granddaughter with us to see how she would cope on a ship. She had a blast. Loved every minute of it, especially the kid’s club (power name for baby sitting so parents could have some down time). We have gone on a lot of cruises over the years, and one thing is constant on every cruise except for the adventure cruises, people eat all day long. They don’t just have three meals and a snack, they belly up to the trough twenty-four hours a day, every single day of the cruise. When they aren’t eating, they are at the bar knocking back drinks or in the casino gambling, smoking, and drinking like they are going to be executed the next day. And the majority of them are gargantuan in girth. I am overweight, but some of those people put the word to shame.

I watched with shock to see a woman in her forties fill two platters, yes platters, to overflowing, stacked six inches high and carry them back to a table with a single setting. She put her food down and got up to get four glasses of lemonade to go with it. I sat and watched her eat every single scrap of food, drink all her drinks, and go back for dessert and more drinks. It was a buffet, passengers could go back as many times as they wanted, it wasn’t going to escape, nor would they go without. She wasn’t the only one. There was an entire table full of people – a family of twelve – who ate that way. I swear that they ate an entire ham between them. On the cruise ship, there is always something available to eat. You can get pizza and ice cream twenty four hours a day, room service is the same, and chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven are always available. All of the food is free of charge, lemonade, water, and ice tea is free, but all other drinks cost money. Some of the passengers were non stop eating machines. Just because it is available, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Really. It doesn’t.

Then they would put on swim suits designed for people who are fashion model thin and strut about with all their extra skin hanging out of all sorts of places it shouldn’t. I won’t even wear a swim suit in public for any reason because I am overweight by about 25 pounds. With them, not an iota of modesty existed. I was constantly drawing Addie’s eyes away from an X rated sight so she wouldn’t start asking questions at the top of her lungs. (Like most five year old kids, she has trouble modulating her volume of speech when she is surprised by something she doesn’t understand.) It was embarrassing to me to see huge women wearing bikinis with the top barely, and I mean barely covering their nipples. The Mr. ended up looking at the floor or out to sea when we had to be near the pool areas.

I have nothing against obese people, most are simply fat due to diet, medications, or their inherent DNA. Losing weight, even ten pounds, is hard for everyone. But acting as if they are starving to death and they have to eat constantly isn’t going to do their health any good. Hello heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Good bye long life.

It wasn’t just a gender thing, race thing, or age thing, the uncontrolled eating covered all of those areas and then some. The Mr. and I ate normal meals, no extras or constant eating. Addie was the same. I weighed as soon as we got home, fully clothed and I weighted exactly the same as when I left home. Tomorrow I will find out if I lost weight when I weigh without my jeans and sweater on.

Despite the shocking display of over eating, we had a wonderful time as a family. Mexico fascinated Addie, and all three of us really enjoyed the Myan Museum and learning about their culture. Their art is deeply moving. More on the holiday later. Right now I want to go lie down. I need a day off from my week off. We all do.

How Do You Do It?


My friend asked me, “How do you do it?” “Do what?” I replied. “Keep your marriage growing.” “Ah, well, its different for everyone. I can tell you what works for us, but it might not work for you.” She thought about it for a minute, “So tell me anyway. I want to know, maybe it will give me inspiration so we can make it as a couple for 47 years too.” I asked her to give me a few days to think about it. I am not a marriage counselor, I am certainly not a shrink. I’m just a quickly aging female who isn’t willing to sit down and shut up when others don’t want to hear my opinion. And, as my dear friend Bryan said, patience is not one of my attributes. He knows me far too well.

So, here we go. Stop here if you do not want unsolicited advice from a great grandmother.

I can tell you that there are hundreds of books for sale that will tell you their version of the truth. Most of them, however, will simply add to the confusion. At the end of the day, it is up to the couple, whatever that looks like, to find their own path. But they MUST find it together if they want marriage to work.

The first lesson is to Know Thy Self. No I am not quoting the scriptures to you, I am seriously saying, you have to know yourself before you can learn to love another. What you like, what you need, what you want in a lover, spouse, and the best friend you will ever have. And most of us poor saps haven’t a clue before the age of thirty. By then, of course, most of us are committed, and we love the person we chose to live our lives with. Sometimes deeply, sometimes conveniently, but we are committed.

Lesson Two, Keep your business between the two of you, and/or a professional counselor.

As you grow you change, sometimes in the most profound ways, sometimes superficially, but we all change. With change can come distance between us and the love of our lives. That leads to frustration, miscommunication, downright anger, and feelings of isolation. Now here is where most people, male and female, make a huge mistake. They take it to the gossip mill. Instead of going to their spouse or partner (I will use spouse to make typing easy) and talking things through, they go to their best pal, coworker, or family member if your a guy. A woman goes to her best friend, the ladies at the nail salon, or, heaven help all of them, their mother or sister for advice.

At this point, everything gets confused and every opinion will muddle things up even more. There is nothing that will strain an already difficult situation than for a woman to say to a man (or whomever), “Well My Mother Said…” The immediate response is generally, “You told your MOTHER?” It works the same from the other direction. There is a reason why “mother in law” is a dirty phrase in nearly every culture in the world. Because I can guarantee no one can stick their nose in and stir things up like a mother in law. Sure we all need someone to talk to. I suggest making it a professional who doesn’t have a personal interest in your life. Someone who isn’t going to take sides and pony up excuses instead of practical advice.

Lesson Three, Always put each other first. I can hear the shocked gasps from here.

Before children, before parents, before extended family, before friends, before jobs, before church, before Friday night poker games that have been ongoing since high school, your spouse comes first. Why? Well exactly who do you expect to spend the rest of your life with other than your spouse? One day the kids will grow up and leave home, hopefully. Your friends will drift away, your family will die and leave this mortal coil, and you two will be sitting across from one another, all alone, on your phones, ignoring each other. Okay, maybe not on the phone, but you will still have nothing to talk about if you don’t start building memories and adventures today.

Lesson Four, Kiss the Girl, or Guy. For no reason other than they still ring your bell. Go on, kiss her, in front of the kids, or anyone else standing there. Whisper loving words, or even silly words, in his ear. Make a promise for mind blowing love making, later. Make eye contact across the room, then smile, yes, that smile. Remember what made you want him or her in your arms and hang on to that memory as tight as you can for the times when it seems like one or both of you have lost interest. Take home flowers for her just because, or cook her a special meal, or give him a back rub while he complains about work. Do the little things that require physical contact. Fix his tie, smooth his jacket, hold her jacket for her, smooth a wayward lock of hair into place. Find any excuse to touch. Hold hands, Every. Where. You. Go. If that attraction fades away completely, you are in deep trouble and the further you drift, the harder it is to find each other again. Of course, there are couples that are destined to separate and divorce. It takes two in the endeavor, and if one is unwilling or unable to take part. The marriage will drift into the doldrums of the family court system.

Lesson Five, Dance in the Kitchen. My husband has two left feet, no sense of rhythm, and doesn’t understand the art of dance, At. All. But when I get upset or down, he puts on our favorite slow song, and we dance in the kitchen. Really, he just holds me and we sway to the music, but it is how we dance. I know this is his way of comforting me, he knows after I settle down, I will tell him what is hurting me. We are communicating love, comfort, and compassion without words. Maybe you won’t dance in the kitchen, maybe you will go out and shoot at tin cans, or make pizza together, or go for a walk, but each couple needs to find their comfort mechanism. That one thing they only do together that brings them close to one another, communicating without words. It’s a good thing.

Lesson Six, Take private time for romance. A weekend at the hotel down the road is good enough, if you don’t want to get too far from the kids. Why? Because every couple, admit it or not, need the excitement of a romantic get away. Give the hotel number to the sitter, turn off you phones, better yet, leave them in the car or at home. Spend the time alone, on a honeymoon, or if your having issues, as a marriage get away to talk things through. Romance is vital, VITAL to a lasting marriage. Once, my husband took me to Paris, France (We lived in London at the time.) and he kissed me in the rain, on top of the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t an all out, I want to bed you right now, kind of kiss, it was a, soft, romantic, I love you, I’m glad I found you, kind of kiss. One that used to make ladies in a movie audience swoon. Now that is romantic. For me. For you, I have no idea what constitutes romantic, but make sure it stays alive between you all your lives.

Lesson Seven, Words Mean Things. Don’t say it unless you mean it. Even in the heat of a knock down drag out screaming argument, Don’t Say It unless you mean it. Because you can’t take back the hurt and shock of whatever it is, and once said, it has meaning that can resonate for years. Just don’t do it, words hurt more than a sharp sword. The damage can be fatal to a relationship. Dead and buried isn’t how most people want their marriage to end. Sometimes it is necessary, especially if there is infidelity or violence in the relationship. Being angry does not give a person the right to try to destroy another person with vicious words, lies, and gossip. Anger is not communication. Words mean things, good and bad. Be kind or Don’t say it.

Lesson Eight, Be gracious, be noble. When we first got married the Mr. and I would argue over stupid things. If I turned out right, I would gloat and rub it in that I was right. If I lost, I would pout and resent him. Talk about twisted. Be gracious in apologizing if you are wrong. Be noble in accepting that apology. Even if you insist you are right, be gracious and let it go, unless you love screaming at him or subjecting her to the silent treatment. Be noble, be willing to be wrong, be willing to apologize. Let go of the need to always control things, to always know everything. Men and women see things from a totally different point of view. I am five feet three inches tall. My husband is six feet one inch tall. I do not see the world from his perspective, nor does he see it from mine. Not unless we are willing to trade perspectives. I climb on a ladder, he sits in a chair, but come on, who always has that available? So we accept that each of us sees something differently, and we nobly, with grace, let it go. (Unless I get into a stubborn mode. You would think I would know better by now.)

Lesson Nine, It’s Okay To Cry. Nothing makes me cry faster than seeing a strong man cry. Because, ladies especially, for a strong man to cry, he has to break social expectations and give in to emotions. Men do NOT like that. They want to see a problem, analyze it, and fix it. If it is something they can’t fix, it confuses and frustrates them. It emasculates them in the deepest part of their foundation. We lost our son. It was horrific, sad, shocking to know a 21 year old was dead. Just gone. His life over. My beloved husband couldn’t fix it. He slid into shock, then into rage, then into a deep, long lasting depression. I got angry, got things done, buried our boy, and picked up the pieces of our life because that what a woman does, even while crying her eyes out. It wasn’t until my husband broke down and cried that I knew there would be a chance for our marriage to survive. He couldn’t fix it, he had to learn to accept the pain, the loss, the sorrow, and still go on living. It has made him a more tender, loving man. So, fellas, its okay to cry. The strongest of men are those who will allow themselves to cry in sorrow and in joy.

Lesson Ten, Nobody is perfect. No, you aren’t. Because if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need to be here struggling on earth. (Okay, there was a God pitch there, deal with it.) Both people in a relationship are flawed human beings. We say stupid things, do stupid things, hurt each other unknowingly and make mistakes. It isn’t a mistake to forsake your marriage vows, or try to maim one another, those are choices designed to end a marriage. Period. A mistake is making an inappropriate joke, telling your spouse something that will hurt them, and being so obtuse not to know. Imperfect means forgetting to say I love you when your spouse needs it. Imperfect is missing the cues she sends out that she is in need of a little tender loving care, and imperfect is to expect a man to catch those cues when they need explicit information to know how to act. (Note to females: Most guys only need to be told the parameters once, with an example, and careful instructions. From then on they will only need to be reminded with a code word.) Imperfect is to expect a man to understand female emotions, and imperfect is to expect a woman to understand that a man needs to FIX things instead of simply understanding and listening. But both come close to perfection when they try to see things as they really are and not through a cloud of emotion.

There is a lot more, small things, significant things that make a marriage work. Sometimes it requires judicial use of blinders, and a boat load of forgiveness. Sometimes it requires a huge sense of humor, and sometimes a hard line drawn in the sand. But, give it time, and most things can be sorted out. Two things are unforgivable: Physical or emotional violence, and infidelity. Either one is a deal breaker, and it can and will end a marriage.

To all my friends who are reaching the breaking point, breathe, look at your spouse, some where, deep inside both of you are the two people who fell in love once upon a time. Dig them out, dust them off, and let them rediscover each other in the older, wiser version of you.

And, that my friend, is how the Mr. and I manage to stay married after all these years.

Bon Appetite!


I am cooking today. Real cooking, from scratch, no boxes, cans, or frozen stuff. Just fresh ingredients and spices. Every now and then I get the urge to do this sort of cooking. It is always an all day thing, and I make a huge mess for the Mr. to clean up after. He is the official dishwasher in our home. I cook, he cleans. He says its worth it because he gets to eat delicious food in return. Not sure how delicious it is, but he likes it.

I started cooking simple things when I was around ten years old. By the time I was fourteen, I could make a descent cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got married at sixteen, and I had to learn to cook even better, so I started collecting cookbooks and recipes. Eventually, I took a year of cooking school to fill time while my boys were in school. I learned to love to cook. I will never be a real chef, but I am a good cook.

Women in my family have always been good cooks. Sometimes in the most difficult situations. My maternal grandmother used to work at a laundry in town. In the evening, she would come home and do her farm chores and then cook on a wood burning stove. She cooked simple things, but we always had biscuits. I don’t know how she did it, but she made the best biscuits ever. (Scones to the British out there.) They were warm, with melted butter and homemade jam, or sometimes served with sausage gravy. Either way, or plain, they were good. My fraternal great grandmother made the best vanilla cookies. She used to let us “help” her bake them, and we got to eat them fresh out of the oven with cold milk. Grownups got coffee instead. Grannie always smelled like vanilla cookies and coffee, two of my favorite aromas to this day.

My mother had to feed a family of six on a shoestring budget. She makes the best goulash, a recipe she got from another Army wife when we lived in Germany. Her potato salad and deviled eggs are beyond merely good, they are in a class all their own. Her biscuits are top of the line too. My husband nearly drools when he knows she is making breakfast because he know biscuits and gravy will be on the table along with sausage and eggs. I grew up on plain food, nothing fancy with odd named ingredients. We ate a lot of vegetables, very little meat (that’s probably why I love it so much), and pasta.

Interestingly enough, none of the women in my family who taught me to cook baked all that much. Dessert wasn’t on the table daily, dessert was a special treat – except for Grannie’s cookies. Learning to bake from scratch was a hit and miss thing for me for years. After cooking school, I got better at it, but we still don’t have dessert on a daily basis. Part of that is because when I bake it barely makes it from the oven to the plate before the Mr. or one of the kids finds it and spreads the word. When our youngest was a teenager, he and his friends would turn up out of nowhere every time I baked brownies. I always made a double batch because I knew that somehow, somewhere, the whole bunch would turn up at the farm in the middle of nowhere within half an hour and power through the brownies and two gallons of milk. I had to hide some for my husband or there would be nothing for him by the time he got home from work. That is one of my happiest memories, all those boys (ten or more) filling my house with laughter and loud noise as they wrestled over “Mom’s Brownies.”

Food is a common denominator in every culture. Feeding guests is a time honored tradition everywhere. We have lived all over the world, and no matter the culture the first thing we are offered is something to drink, followed by an offer for food. In some places refusing is rude, in some it is expected until your host convinces you to eat. The food, no matter where we were, was always amazing. I could eat my weight, and it is considerable, in the rice Florence Kaulu used to bring to our church pot luck meals. I could eat jerked chicken until I couldn’t move. I could eat any traditional Chinese food that Winnie Mak made, and I am downright addicted to Adobo from the Philippines. I love English scones, and Yorkshire pudding – which isn’t a dessert, but a roast beef meal. And bread from Bird’s Bakery on the high street in Debden, England is to die for. Okay, I have an issue with Carbs, so sue me. Food is something we all need, why not enjoy it?

As I age, I cook less, and we tend to eat out more. Lately, however, it has become boring to eat out. The majority of restaurants are chain restaurants, and the food is always the same. I would love to find a mom and pop greasy spoon old fashioned diner, with good food from old recipes. Or a new twist on traditional food, or an honest to goodness old fashioned Southern restaurant that serves fried chicken like we could get back when. And I don’t mean KFC or Popeye’s, I mean pan fried chicken like Grannie used to make on Sunday afternoon. Real food, not the la-di-da meals served in fancy places where you leave as hungry as you were when you walked in. I want something different, or traditional, like they always have on that TV show Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Not bar-b-Que, heaven knows I can get that anywhere in Mississippi or Tennessee, but real food.

One of my soap box issues is how so many younger people simply haven’t a clue how to cook, unless they nuke something in a microwave. Most folks under 30 are clueless when it comes to making a meal from scratch. Teaching a child to cook is a great bonding moment, it is also beneficial to the child because some day they will live alone, or with a partner, and someone needs to know how to feed the family. I regret that I didn’t do more of that with my children and grandchildren. My boys learned enough not to starve or to have to eat cereal every day. My oldest granddaughter is learning how to cook on her own, she too, is collecting cookbooks. I really need to start teaching my great granddaughter more. She loves to “help” me bake now that she is five.

I better go give things a stir, get the bread in the oven, and figure out dessert. No, it isn’t a special occasion, but if one makes a full dinner from scratch, dessert is a must. Bon Appetite!

All You Need Is More Than Love


I saw a sticker on a car that said, “All You Need Is Love.” It was printed with a tie-dye design, with lettering circa 1970’s. A very nostalgic, Magic Mushroom, vibe was attached to the meme like design. At first glance, it is a neat saying. But like most bumper sticker/meme tag lines, it falls down when logic is applied.

First of all, to whom or what does the “you” in the incomplete sentence apply? Me? People? Dogs? Aliens? What kind of love is needed? Is it needed, or wanted, and how will it change anything? Exactly what is the expected outcome of the love? How will it change or complete the life of the “you” mentioned in the blurb? I don’t know about most people, but I need a lot more than love in my life to exist, survive, be at peace, and live a healthy life.

To begin with, I need all the basics of survival. I need air, water, food, and shelter. Without those, love isn’t going to do me a bit of good. It won’t replace the need to breathe, and it sure won’t give me the moisture I need to replace what my body has to have to live. Water is one of those things that is more important that love. I can’t live without food either. Love won’t replace the energy I need to do things like walk and hunt for food and water. I can do without shelter as long as it isn’t too hot or cold. But if the weather changes, I need a place to get warm, and a fire will trump love in a contest of survival.

Love is a luxury when it comes to survival in the harsh reality of life. Before love became a “thing” everyone strives for, people came together who were compatible to survive together. A woman looked for a man who was strong, capable of protecting and hunting for the survival of the woman and offspring. It didn’t matter if he was sensitive and understanding, it didn’t matter if he was as ugly as a mud fence. It didn’t matter how well spoken, or how well dressed he was, what mattered was if he could do his share of work for the family. A man looked for a woman who could gather or grow food, medicine, and herbs that she would use to feed the family. She needed to know how to help dress out the animals he killed, build a fire and keep it going, cook, and take care of the illnesses that might come along. She didn’t have to be sexy, pretty, or wear the hottest new clothes. She needed to know how to nurture the family and the man who helped provide for her. They bonded by surviving and bearing children together. They took care of each other, and love wasn’t even a word in their vocabulary.

Love was a luxury between men and women who mated with each other via marriage and ceremony right up until the twentieth century. Only once survival wasn’t tied to living from hand to mouth, hunting and gathering, did love become part of the lexicon for couples. Oh, yes, it was bandied about for centuries, but when it came right down to it, survival was always more important. Women married successful men or married into successful families, men married for social advantages, and often for money. Love was for mistresses and lovers, not the spouse. Fidelity was a fluid commodity, often something that applied legally, but not morally, throughout many societies.

Then along came modern love. No longer did men and women need to marry or mate for survival, Movies, books, advertisements, media all made love a glowing part of finding a spouse or mate. Linked to that love was romance and sexual attraction. Suddenly the way a woman looked was more important than how she acted and what she could do. Men needed not only to be successful, they needed to be handsome, well built, and oh, my, sexy. When the two of them met, they had to be eye-crossing sexually attracted to one another. Then boom, love was in the air. That trend has continued since.

However, human beings cannot survive on love alone. We still must work together as a couple, whatever that looks like, to have air, food, water, and shelter today just as we have from the beginning of time. The way we get those may have changed, but we still have to support our partner and they have to support us in those endeavors. Many people still marry for protection, many join each other to maintain a healthy way of life. Some people marry because they are lonely, some because it is expected. At the end of the day, love is still a luxury, even a necessity, but everyone needs much more to survive and thrive.

This is one of my favorite love songs, from Fiddler on the Roof, Do You Love Me? Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSF8l_Yh_gY


Today, at church, during our women’s meeting, we were asked to stand one at a time and introduce ourselves by telling everyone something unique about ourselves, something we were good at doing, and a hobby or interest. One thing that really bothered me was that almost every single woman said that there wasn’t anything special or unique about themselves and they didn’t have any particular talent or anything they were particularly good at. They were, in fact, rather ordinary and though they could do a lot of things, they didn’t excel at anything. It was all I could do not to stand on my proverbial soap box and launch into a heartfelt, if some what annoyed, lecture on what it means to excel and the meaning of uniqueness. The largest portion of them started with “I am just a” and filled in the blanks.

There is no such thing as being “just a” anything. It vastly annoys me to hear a wife, mother, single, mature, or young woman demeaning themselves as “just a” followed by a put down of what they can do or what they create. God does not make “just a” woman. God makes strong, individual children whom he would never judge against other children. He doesn’t do mediocre, half measure daughters who are lacking in anything. We do it to ourselves, to each other, enough. Stop that! Simply Stop!

Each one of us is unique, leaving God out of it if you must, science proves that with our DNA. We may have DNA in common with others, but our DNA is unique to us. No one in the world, save maybe an identical twin (and that is debatable), is exactly the same as we are. We have different talents, interests, abilities, knowledge, experiences, and desires from one another. Not one of us is the same. That’s a GOOD thing!

All of the women who are stay at home mothers and loved being one were almost apologetic in their acclamation that they didn’t work outside the home. Why? What a blessing to your children that their mom is there for them every day, all day and they know she will be there when they need her the most. It is the most powerful job any woman can have. She will literally bring up a generation for the future of the world. How can that be “just a” anything? She will be raising devoted children who will look back on their childhood with wonderful memories. Before all the feminists get their knickers in a bunch about how it might not be all that fulfilling for a mom who is “stuck” at home with kids when she would rather be working on a career, working is fine if a mom wants to juggle the pressures of a job and a family. Good for her. I think it is high time working mother’s back off the criticism for those who see staying home and raising kids as a full time job that is more beneficial to their children than day care. Many mother’s who have to work due to financial issues and many single mothers who have to support their families do so because it must be done. Ask most of them, and if they are honest, they would rather be in a loving relationship with a partner who supports the wife staying home. If given a choice, many women would be stay at home mom’s in lieu of climbing the corporate ladder. Many wouldn’t want to because a career is their ultimate goal. So working women, back off, stay at home mom’s, stop apologizing and stand proud for your chosen profession. It isn’t a contest.

The biggest thing that bothered me beyond being unique was the claim that none of them were particularly good at anything, implying that they were mediocre at a lot of things. Wait a minute ladies. There are a million things I am not good at doing. I muddle along with a lot of things I wish I were better at doing. I know people who are brilliant artists and musicians, while I can’t draw a straight line and barely read music. I admit to envy a bit, okay, a lot, but if we were all brilliant artists and musicians, it would make it ordinary not brilliant. I am a good cook, but not a chef like some of my friends. I can drive anything on four wheels, but I am not able drive a race car because it scares me to go so fast. What I can do is write a good story, teach a great lesson in any classroom with nothing more than a book and a chalk board, I can raise children to be competent adults, and I can take care of animals. If you ask my grandchildren, I can do magic and I have eyes in the back of my head because I always catch them when they are trying to be sneaky. I love fiercely and I am a good friend.

My point is, all of us are good at something. Maybe you think you aren’t because you don’t feel like you can compete with women who do things you can’t. Maybe you give great hugs when someone needs it the most. Maybe you are a great listener who doesn’t judge others, maybe you are someone that doesn’t gossip and spread lies, but are trustworthy when someone needs a safe place to speak out. Maybe you can do hair, or sew beautiful garments (I sure can’t), or are an amazing source for genealogy information. Maybe you give of your time freely, not asking for anything in return. Maybe you have a great singing voice, but are too shy to share it. Maybe you are a soft place to fall for those in emotion turmoil, or maybe you are a loyal and loving friend in a world of mean spirited people. Small talents are as important as great talents. Nothing is mediocre about any of us, some women are just better at things than others. There IS something each of us excels at, we just may not see it as something special when it is to all of those who know and love you. Giving of your time can be one of the greatest talents of all.

Just stop denying your uniqueness, stop denying your talents, stop denying your special abilities, and for heaven’s sake stop saying you are “just a” anything. BE A daughter of God, BE A proud and strong woman, BE YOU, and simply BE.

A Childhood Memory


When I was a little kid, my family went to a parade. It was wonderful. All the men marching in step, the tanks rolling by, all the armor, jeeps, and first and foremost, the flag flying high over everything. I remember the sky was bright blue, making the colors of the flag stand out, each color brilliant and fresh. A band marched by, playing loud and proud. When they passed us, they were playing Grand Old Flag. It was all so exciting. My mother kept us kids under control, but the entire crowd was cheering, like they were welcoming heroes home. It was the Fourth of July and we were in Germany in the early 1960’s. Somewhere among those marching men was my father.

I was too young to recognize the importance of that post WWII and post Korea moment. I grew up in the military, I thought everyone’s dad marched in long lines and wore a uniform if they were American. It was normal. All the kids I knew, except for the few locals in our area, had dads who wore uniforms. The women and children in our house area waited for dads and husbands to come home from “the field” just like we did. And everywhere we went, from the school to the doctor’s building, there was a flag with the same bright colors flying above it. It was normal.

When my dad left the military, I was shocked to see buildings without the flag, people without uniforms of any kind, and complete disrespect for any sort of organization. It was hard to become a civilian, I missed the comfort of normal. I missed the feeling of security I had always had, even in the midst of the cold war that could send us on a bus or train with one bag for our whole family at a moment’s notice. I was never unsure, I was never alone, as long as there was a man in a uniform like my dad wore.

One day, I was at school very early for some reason. I was wandering around waiting for school to open when I saw the janitor come out of the building. He unfolded a flag, and pulled it up the flagpole. There, against the bright blue sky, the colors of my flag unfurled. As the wind caught it, the flag waved proudly above the land around it. In my mind I heard Grand Old Flag, as the janitor stepped back and saluted with all the dignity and honor of a soldier. Tears came to my eyes, because to me, he no longer wore a gray shirt and pants of a janitor, he wore a uniform of a soldier, and I knew as long as there were men who had served, men who knew the value of freedom and sacrifice, we would be safe.

Today life is very different in our country. But still, men and women serve to protect what is ours, and our freedom. No matter what politics you hold, no matter what lifestyle you profess, no matter where you live, the military protects you. The flag some spit on, burn, and trample still flies proudly from front porches, flag poles, and buildings. Be it against smoke from a riot, storms, or skies of bright blue, the flag still watches over our land and our people. The little girl in my past and the old woman I am today salute them. In memory of all those who have served to protect our homeland from the Revolutionary Founders through today, Thank You and God Bless America.