Choices

Two weeks ago I visited my mom and helped her make the adjustment to assisted living. For a variety of reasons it had become apparent to the family that she needs an environment where she will be safe, and my brother took charge of pursuing her options. Through a Medicaid program called elderly waiver she is able to afford a (quite small) place in a nice, newly-renovated facility near the apartment she had been living in. So we’re all satisfied she’s done the right thing and are happy with the service she’ll be getting.

What I struggle with, though, is watching my mom get older, knowing that it will be me someday. Without children, I don’t know who will help me when the time comes. I made the choice some time ago not to have children, and as it turns out, my body had made the same decision for me. Yes, I could have adopted, but the bottom line is, as much as I love babies and older kids, I didn’t want any of my own.

AdobeStock_145424722 [Converted]So who will care for me as I age? My brother put in a lot of time and effort to help get my mom where she is today, and I did what I could as well. It all came together for her in a way it isn’t likely to for me. When I mentioned my fears to my brother, he sort of laughed and said it’s a little early to worry about that now.

It is. As scripture says, don’t worry about tomorrow, today has enough trouble of its own. I do believe in planning,  but I know I can’t really plan for how I will be cared for in the future when I don’t know what my situation will be. Still, I will do what I can so I’m at least partially prepared for any eventuality.

Yes, today has enough trouble of its own.


Image Credits: Dandelions © Bigstock; Aging © Adrian Hillman–stock.adobe.com

I Remember Mama

Happy Mother’s Day, all you moms out there. Here’s a film that honors one mother, and in honoring her, honors all of you.

Classic for a Reason

I Remember Mama, 1948, RKO Radio Pictures. Starring Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes, Oskar Homolka, Ellen Corby, Philip Dorn. Directed by George Stevens. B&W, 134 minutes.

With quiet dignity, wry humor and deep devotion, Marta Hanson (Irene Dunne), a Norwegian immigrant, is raising her family in early 20th century San Francisco. Her story is told in flashback vignettes by her oldest daughter, Katrin (Barbara Bel Geddes), who has just finished writing an autobiographical novel based on her family.

Mama manages not only her home, but the bickering and rivalry among her sisters and uncle Chris (Oskar Homolka). Chris scares everyone, it seems, with his boisterous manner and demanding presence. Yet he’s clearly wounded to learn he’s frightening his youngest family members—Marta’s children—and seeks camaraderie with them, which he creates by leaning in and whispering a shared secret: none of them like Marta’s sisters.

Mama puts her family first, and…

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Friendship

The other day I had the distinct pleasure of watching two teenage girls connect. I already knew these were nice girls, and seeing the way they responded to each other, sharing a love of books and a particular type of learning, not to mention the immediate reaction to each other’s Instagram accounts, kind of made my heart sing.

Connections like that don’t happen every day.

Whether or not this leads to any sort of long-term friendship (and by long-term, I mean anywhere from the next few years to a lifetime) remains to be seen, and I may never know. But it was a happy reminder to me of two of my friendships that started 25 and 40 years ago, respectively, and remain strong to this day.

All three of us have moved multiple times and we’ve all faced life’s struggles, and even though neither friend lives near me now, we remain in contact and have learned that we’ve grown in similar ways. Our faith has changed in some of the details (but not the basics) and our politics have changed (thankfully). I’m proud to call them each my friend.

I have good friends locally today, but these are friendships that have evolved.  While I liked these friends from the beginning, there wasn’t the immediate connection I felt with the others. Is that because that sort of connection is so rare, or is it because I’m so much more cautious these days?

I don’t have an answer for that. I’m just grateful to have the friends I have and to know the people I know. I don’t make a lot of friends easily, but I endeavor to keep the ones I have.


Image credit: © Cienpies Design-stock.adobe.com

Listen and Cheer

We all like recognition, some more than others. Some crave recognition from certain people while shying away from it in unfamiliar situations. Others will take it wherever they can get it. Whatever our wants, there is a basic fact of human experience: we all have a need for respect and recognition.

It starts by having our existence acknowledged, when others simply listen to what one has to say. On a higher level there are accolades, acknowledging work well done. That doesn’t necessarily begin and end with our jobs, although that’s important. It could be noting the sweater someone knit or the good behavior of a friend’s child.

bigstock-happy-kids-jumping-89727494 [Converted] croppedUnderstanding another’s life challenges can help us hone in on what kind of recognition they need. Parents, of course, love to have their children acknowledged in meaningful ways (and might I add, those of us with cats and dogs will take the praise due them), It takes listening and paying attention to know how best to respect others, even those closest to us.

Today I saw a group of truck drivers at work (I work for J. B, Hunt, a transportation company) cheered on in the Million Mile March, recognizing them  for driving two, three and four million miles for the company without a preventable accident. There were quite a few walking the red carpet in the home offices as the local high school band played and the office employees cheered and whooped.

Not only were these men and women proud, but their family members walking beside them beamed as well. It was quite an experience. I should add, J. B. Hunt rewards them in multiple ways for this achievement. It’s a big deal.

That’s an extreme example, but a fun  one. I hope you take the time to recognize others in simple ways. Not out of guilt, of course, but love and respect for those around you. People are valuable, and it’s a good idea to let them know it.


Image Credits: Balloons and Confetti © beerfan–stock.adobe.com; Children Jumping © Bigstock

Orthodox Easter

This weekend marks Eastern Orthodox Easter, generally one of the most joyous and celebrated times in the Ukrainian year. Today, however, we know that for most Ukrainians, survival is utmost in their mind. If they are safe in a neighboring country, it is their faith and memories that must sustain them as they wait to hear the fate of their loved ones left behind.

Ukraine flag flying high in the isolated background Ukraine indeI say a prayer for Ukraine and its people, and hope, as they must, that the war ends soon and the struggle of rebuilding can begin.


Image Credits: Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Ukrainian Flag, © stock.adobe.com

It’s National Banana Day! Don’t Let It Slip By

It’s a fine time to celebrate the world’s third most popular fruit! In case you’re wondering, apples and tomatoes beat it out. Tomatoes, not surprisingly, are the most popular. Given how much they’re used in foods around the world, I’m guessing they far surpass even apples. But I digress. Have a banana or two today!

Shoe to slip on banana peel and have an accidentThis brings back what should be a painful memory, but the situation actually never bothered me. In seventh grade (when everything embarrasses you), I slipped on a banana heading in to class after the lunch break. I thought it was funny. My fellow students just stared at me. I’m not sure where my confidence came from that day, but there it was.

I already knew my peers thought I was strange. I don’t think I was. I was smarter than most and maybe that alienated others, I don’t know. I had a dry sense of humor that most probably didn’t get. Whatever it was, little by little, over time, the sneers and comments from others beat me down.

Nowhere was it worse than in gym class. I was the least athletic student in my class, couldn’t throw a ball, couldn’t catch a ball, couldn’t shoot a basket. As a freshman in high school, we had a schedule of sports we were to participate in. Imagine my horror when we found out the freshmen had to share the softball field with the seniors. By share, I mean play together. I cried every night.

Softball in a softball field in California mountainsUntil two senior girls befriended me and told me it was okay to strike out. It didn’t matter if I dropped the ball. I was still okay and worthy of support and caring. It changed my life.

Don’t get me wrong, the massive insecurities continued to swirl around my mind and my parent’s divorce threw me into a tailspin, but at my core I re-found the confidence I had that day I slipped on a banana.

Thank you, Ginny. Thank you, Sue.


Image credits: Bananas © Nataliia; About to Slip © Africa Studio; Softball © Peieq, all, stock.adobe.com

It’s Caturday! And Walter’s Alarmed

Surprise

What are all these boxes for, you ask? Don’t worry, we’re not moving. Mama’s gotten used to where we are and she knows you have, too. Just a bunch of boxes that need to be broken down. Except the one you’re sitting on…hmmm…I wonder what’s in there?


AdobeStock_244086800 [Converted]

 

Image credits: Cesar Cat © Belinda O; Paws in Heart © Bigstock; Spring Cats © solodkayamari–stock.adobe.com

The Faberge Flute

I recently read–and thoroughly enjoyed–the latest book from Maeve Maddox, one of the members of my writing group. I wanted to share it with you:

flutefixAmateur flutist and English teacher Sallie Dunbar has had all she can take of her tedious, penny-pinching, small-town existence. At the end of a very bad, awful day, she decides to shake up her life by splurging on a six-day music convention in 1980s London.

None of the people she meets—the James Garner look-alike on the plane, the flute salesman who looks like Omar Sharif, the creepy, ubiquitous waiter, the friendly couple from Chicago—are what they seem.

tacet-circleEven Tacet, the Jack Russell terrier, has a secret.

Armed only with her familiarity with adolescent angst and  a mental store of literary and movie trivia, Sallie must avoid becoming one more fatality in a deadly seventy-year quest to possess the fabulous Fabergé Flute.

Maeve Maddox’s cozy mystery, The Fabergé Flute, is based in part upon her own experiences as an English teacher, amateur flutist, and Anglophile.

She spent seven years of what she calls her “misspent youth” in London, where she taught at a private tutorial school for girls, saw as many plays as she could, and studied for a degree in English from the University of London.

After returning home to Hot Springs, Arkansas with her degree, Maeve taught English and French at local schools and joined the Hot Springs Flute Ensemble. She even flew back to London one year to attend a flute convention, although it was nothing like the harrowing OWFI gathering depicted in The Fabergé Flute.

Dog-lovers, flute-players, bookworms, movie buffs, public school teachers and cozy mystery addicts will all find something of interest in the story of the put-upon English teacher from DeSoto Springs, Arkansas.


From The Fabergé Flute:

Thoughts whirling, Sallie took her place with a group of people she thought were waiting for the light to change, but as they surged forward, she realized that she was at a bus stop. As the huge red hulk of a Number Nine hurtled towards the curb, she felt the pressure of a hand at the small of her back and found herself being propelled forward into the street. For the first time, she noticed that red London buses have black fenders and that one of them was inches from her face.

As the black fender rushed towards her, Sallie’s main emotion was one of chagrin, knowing that if she were killed, Mother would say she’d told her so.



Amazon review from Jackie Flowers, founder and director of the Hot Springs (Arkansas) Flute Ensemble:

5.0 out of 5 stars The description of an instrumental convention are so accurate that it was like being there

Reviewed in the United States on January 29, 2018

Verified Purchase

Fabulous book! A plot twister to the end! A must for flute players and mystery lovers. The description of an instrumental convention are so accurate that it was like being there. The details were so authentic! This author is quite knowledgeable on flutes of all kinds and English literature and was very clever in how the two were intermingled. Loved the dog antics, so characteristic of that breed. Great characters were developed and it was a shame to leave some of them when the book was over. I loved the ending. I do hope that there is a sequel. If you are a flute player, or know one, this book is a MUST and would be a great gift.

The Fabergé Flute is available in both print and digital copies.

Amazon link:

Barnes And Noble link:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/The%20Faberge%20Flute

When Good Deeds Go Bad (Giving Part II)

AdobeStock_210621413 [Converted]Once, many years ago, before cell phones but after we all got answering machines with caller ID, someone dialed my number by mistake. I don’t remember the details exactly, but the gist of it was some man who’d planned to meet his buddy couldn’t make it and wanted to reschedule. Good Samaritan that I was,  when I heard the message an hour or so later, I called back the number that popped up on the caller ID to let the guy know he’d dialed the wrong number.

Problem was, he didn’t answer. A woman, presumably his wife, did. I explained the reason for my call, but fumbled when my kind gesture was met by stony silence. After repeating myself several times (why, oh why did I do that?), I hung up.

Obviously, she didn’t buy the he-dialed-the-wrong-number bit.

Since that time, I’ve left well enough alone when someone calls me by mistake. It doesn’t happen too often, but a few days ago I received a message from a man who was quite anxious to talk to his friend. Not in a frightening way, like he was incredibly angry or, worse yet, suicidal, but clearly this conversation was important to him. Still, I didn’t call back. Phone safety is a tricky thing and I only talk to people I know.

An episode of Frasier dealt with this issue of helping strangers in its usual comic way some twenty years ago or so, only Frasier ended up in the police station, busted for solicitation of a female impersonator. Of course the show didn’t end there and Frasier ended up continuing with his practice of kindness to strangers.

As do I. One suspicious wife isn’t going to stop me from helping others. However, now that I’m older and wiser, I do put my own safety first. It doesn’t mean I couldn’t be hoodwinked by someone who knows X number of people will help a child in need, but I take care. It’s sad to me that most of us are cautious when it comes to helping those we don’t know, but that’s the way it is.

For now, anyway.


Image credits: People helping people © Bro Vector–stock.adobe.com; Retro telephone © siraanamwong–stock.adobe.com

Giving

I’ve once again started knitting hats and mittens for charitable giving, and I’m struck by this: how much credit can I take for altruism if I’m knitting these things in part because I have no further need for knitted items? I have plenty of cold weather wear, from gloves to sweaters, so I’m giving my full knitting attention to others. That’s not to say I didn’t do charitable knitting before. I did do some. But the other question I ask is, does it matter?

Now the Bible teaches us those making a show of their giving will get their full reward here on earth, so maybe, given this post, that’s all I can expect. That would make me sad, but I feel compelled to ask if those who receive these gifts will give a rat’s patooty what my motivation is, and if I’m overthinking things.

Giving, in my mind, is more than financial. Giving your old, gently-worn coats to those in need is a good thing, even if you know you would never wear that coat again because your new one is so much better. If we put our focus on the multitude of ways we can help others, good things will happen. And not only to others, but to ourselves.

An August 17, 2021 article on BigThink.com says giving may actually help us live longer.  It certainly makes us feel good. It seems to me that many people who volunteer a lot have a gentler demeanor, perhaps a more empathetic one as well.

There’s only so much personal consumption can do for any of us. It does feel good to get money, but if you spend every cent you get (please don’t, please save) you’re not likely to be any happier than your neighbor who gives generously. We know that intuitively.

So I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that people who suffer in cold weather will be happy to have hats and mittens regardless of what percentage of my knitting I can credit to being a good person. Just give and don’t give it another thought. I’ve done enough of that.


Image credits: Giving heart © nito–stock.adobe.com; Trumpets © lembit–stock.adobe.com

Thrones

I wish I could give my cats the kind of cat room I’ve read about but never seen–with ramps to run up on and around, scratching posts of all shapes and sizes and a huge window seat. Instead, they have to make due with piles of boxes I have yet to unload and a somewhat narrower window ledge–wide enough, I suppose, but not what I dream of giving them.

Walter’s latest favorite seat is my desk chair, which has been scratched down to the wood frame and is a short walk away from the trash bin. It’s not particularly comfortable for me, but it’s the desk chair I have. Walter, however, just loves it. It is his throne. If I’m working and make the mistake of getting up, he dashes upon it. When I gently pick him up and place him down from the chair, he purrs and attempts to sit behind me. I guess he thinks sharing is a good compromise.

When a friend’s cat sadly and suddenly passed away in November, I became the recipient of two cat pillows, which Mimi has taken to greatly. Walter isn’t allowed in either one of them, no matter where Mimi might be at the time. If he dares sit in one, she quietly approaches him, starts cleaning him behind the ears, and he leaves. Quickly. Those pillows are her thrones.

I need to step back and realize that what I’m giving my cats is enough for them. I hear parents bemoaning what they can’t give their children, and I say to them, your kids have an imagination. They also have your love and commitment. If my parents had given me everything I wanted growing up, I’d be expecting a throne in my life today.

Instead, I’m satisfied with my desk chair. And my futon. And my wicker chairs. I have my cats, and they have me. They are loving and kind, and I hope my friends think the same of me.

Thrones are just overrated.


Image Credit: © studiostoks-stock.adobe.com

Meet Sue Ann Nivens–Betty White’s Other Great Role

Sue Ann (Betty White) checks the oven to see why her dessert failed.

Before she starred as Rose in The Golden Girls, Betty White delighted television audiences with her portrayal of Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She made her first appearance in the initial episode of the fourth season of MTM. The show’s producers expected it to be a one-time guest shot for White, but audience reaction prompted them to bring her back–again and again. Here are four episodes featuring Sue Ann, some of the funniest episodes in the entire series.

The Lars Affair (Season 4, Episode 1)

Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) sprays Sue Ann (Betty White) with chocolate, all over Sue Ann's white apron.
Cloris Leachman, Betty White

Here’s where we first meet Sue Ann, and we quickly learn that the saccharine personality hides a less-than-charming side. She’s fooling around with Lars Lindstrom, Phyllis’ (Cloris Leachman) husband. It’s only when confronted with the possibility of losing her career that she gives up on him, but the road it takes Mary. Phyllis and Sue Ann to get to that point is hilarious. This episode has one of Leachman’s funniest performances of the series. Sadly, we also lost her in 2021.

The Dinner Party (Season 4, Episode 10)

Sue Ann (Betty White) checks the oven to see why her dessert failed.
Betty White

When Mary has 24 hours to plan a dinner party for a U. S. Congresswoman, Sue Ann steps in to prepare a gourmet meal for her guests. But that isn’t what makes this episode so revealing when it comes to the Happy Homemaker. Watch what happens when she discovers her on-air oven wasn’t plugged in, ruining the dessert she so meticulously prepared.

A New Sue Ann (Season 5, Episode 7)

Sue Ann (Betty White) proudly introduces her protege to the station manager.
Linda Kelsey, Betty White

A bubbly 23-year-old flatters herself into a job as Sue Ann’s stand-in, only to little by little reveal herself as the career-climbing Eve Harrington character that she actually is. But Sue Ann doesn’t take it sitting down. There’s no revenge like the revenge of a Happy Homemaker.

Sue Ann Falls in Love (Season 6, Episode 23)

Sue Ann (Betty White) breaks down after Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) reveals the truth about Sue Ann's new boyfriend.
Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore

Sue Ann has met a man good enough to make her forget Lou Grant (Ed Asner, who also died in 2021). He’s introduced her to the great outdoors, she’s introduced him to the great indoors. Well, you get the idea. But is he as good a man as Sue Ann believes? Only Mary knows.

I should mention that in addition to White, Leachman and Asner, we also lost Gavin MacLeod, who played Murray Slaughter, in 2021. It was a sad year for MTM fans, but the show lives on. The Mary Tyler Moore Show can currently be seen on Hulu, and probably some other places I don’t know about. Check it out!

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