Twelve Little Toy Animals, A Little Girl and a Big Imagination

A few years ago my husband and I bought our little granddaughter some toy zoo  animals.

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We assumed she would play with them for a couple of years and then we would pass them on to another small child.  We also assumed she would just play with them by herself.

Were we ever wrong!

From the very beginning she wanted someone to play with her and the animals.  In her imagination, she would take them to McDonald’s or to the playground.  Someone was needed to be their voice and order french fries for them or scream with delight as they climbed the monkey bars.

When Mom and Dad and Grandpa all declined the honor, I became their voice.  Thinking the novelty would wear off soon, I had no idea that four years later I would still be their voice.

Oh, the places we have been.

We started with trips to McDonald’s and to the park, but soon we went to even more interesting places like the museum, the mall and Kids Church.

When she began taking Taw kwon do lessons the animals also went to class.

Then there was school.

Oh the roles I have played!

  • worker at McDonalds
  • worship leader at Kids Church
  • school teacher
  • principal
  • unruly student
  • parent
  • Taw kwon do instructor
  • Taw kwon do student
  • museum curator
  • clerk at Walmart

Oh the places I have been!

  • playground
  • school
  • church
  • museum
  • Nana’s house in Missouri
  • Aunt Beka and Uncle Rob’s house in North Carolina
  • Sierra Leone

The animals have even taken on personalities and we have named them all.

  • Giraffe boy
  • Hippy Hippo
  • Charlie Cheetah
  • Ellie Elephant
  • Winnie Warthog
  • Barbara Bear
  • Ted Tiger
  • Gary Gorilla
  • Ralph Rhino
  • Lexie Lion

And the last two have really become best friends.

  • Zoe Zebra
  • Macey Moose

I think their names and their becoming BFF is probably because my granddaughter is Zoe and her BFF is Macey.  Whatever we are doing, taking a piano lesson, going to McDonald’s or on the playground at recess, these two are always together.

As she grows older the animals come out of their special home (a big plastic box) less and less.  Just when I think I am through being their voice, she pulls them out again and says with a big smile:

Grandma, let’s play with the animals!

To be honest, I do sometimes get a little tired of playing with them.  Yet I know I will miss the day when the animals are never invited out of their box to play with us.

Then, my little girl with her big imagination will be no longer little.

Hey Zoe – let’s play animals!

 

 

 

 

 

From Flip Phone to Smart Phone

This week my husband and I traded in our flip phones for a smart phone.  I have resisted doing this for some time.  It’s not that I am not computer savvy – but I must confess as I age and as the technology keeps making leaps and bounds, I fear that I will never keep up with it all

I learned to type on a Remington manual typewriter.  The only place you will see one of those now is in an antique shop.

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Excitement ran high when we found out we would get electric typewriters to use in our senior year of school.

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During my senior year they also offered a course on computers.  That class consisted of reading about the history and concept of computers.  We heard about the mathematics professor Charles Babbage who designed the Analytical Engine.  This became the basis of today’s computers.  But there were no computers for us to use.  At that time the only ones with computers were banks and large commercial firms.  The idea that someone might have a personal computer at home sounded like science fiction to the average American.

The last week of the class we visited a local bank to see their computer.  It was a huge machine in a room that had to be kept at a certain temperature.

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Data was fed into the computer inserting punch cards into the machine.

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Every time I remember that big computer and realize the smart phone my daughter holds in her hand can do so much more than that huge machine could do, I am still amazed at the progress in technology made in my lifetime.

After graduating my first job was as a bookkeeper at a local bank.  Checking accounts were divided between three bookkeepers.  I was responsible for all customers whose last names started J to P.  Every check and every deposit these customers made was posted by me using the Burroughs data processor.  Each customer had a statement that we posted debits and credits on throughout the month.  At the end of the month we printed out the statements, gathered all the checks and deposit slips and mailed them to the customers.   We had to memorize the signature of our customers and before posting any check we examined it to make sure it was signed by our customer.  If we had any doubt we would pull out their signature card and make a comparison.  If still in doubt we would give the customer a call to confirm they had written the check.

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Finally, at age 36 I used my first computer.  Starting a job as a legal secretary for a junior partner in a law firm, I was told the firm had just switched out their electric typewriters to word processors about six months before.  Having no experience with word processors I came in on a Saturday morning and spent about 30 minutes with the secretary I was replacing to learn how to use the processor.  Monday morning I was off – secretary to a very busy upcoming lawyer using a word processor with no experience as either a legal secretary or with a word processor.  Needless to say, it was a BIG learning experience.  Thankfully I am a fast learner and the job became my favorite in my work career.

Since that time there has continued to be new and exciting milestones for me in this rapidly changing technology world.

  • The day the law firm got email on their computers.  We could only email one another within the firm.
  • The day we got email that could go beyond our own personal system and we could communicate with other law firms and businesses.
  • The day I got my own personal computer at home.  It was just a word processing machine.
  • The day I got a computer that could handle all kinds of programs like Publisher, Excel and I could go on the internet.

While I struggle to stay on top of all these changes – and I think I do pretty good for a woman in her 70’s – I fear the day it all gets more than I can do.

But, if and when that happens, I have my own little computer expert, my granddaughter Zoe.  When she was only four years old she sat by her Papa as he opened up children’s songs on YouTube and showed her the videos.  She kept trying to reach over and touch the keyboard and he kept telling her to stop.  Finally, she managed to get around his hands and reach the keyboard.  To his surprise she touched a key that opened up the tiny window showing the song to a full screen picture!  Then and there he realized this four-year-old was probably much more computer savvy than he was.

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The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99

Growing Old Gracefully

This week I took a short trip with my youngest daughter flying from Michigan to North Carolina to see a granddaughter graduate from college.  What a great time I had not only seeing this granddaughter graduate, but also seeing my oldest daughter and all of her family.

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For my daughter and I it was a learning experience.

Many years of my life I have spent teaching, helping, caring for my children and grandchildren.  For many years I was the one in the kitchen fixing a Thanksgiving meal, playing on the floor with the grandchildren, being the “helper” for the family.

Slowly as my children have grown up and had children of their own I have taken less responsibility and they have done the cooking, the “helping.”

But still I saw myself as a strong, independent woman who tried to be a source of help and encouragement to my family.  I certainly could take care of myself and did not need help.

But this trip revealed to me that this old body of mine is not what it used to be and it is now my time to accept help from others.

We drove into the airport at Detroit.  My daughter asked for a wheelchair for me to get to our gate.  But my pride insisted I did not need that.  I could walk.  Being patient with me my daughter walked along with me and had to slow her steps down to accommodate me as I struggled to keep going.

By the time we got to our gate I was in so much pain.  My legs just refused to cooperate and let me walk long distances.  My poor daughter was faced with the task of insisting that “Mom, you need a wheelchair when we land in Greensboro.  You can’t walk that far again.”

How I so wanted to say that was not true.  I was still young enough to get through an airport on my own.  But my aching legs told me I needed to listen.

So – at Greensboro we were met by a kind man with a wheelchair who wheeled me all the way through the airport to the area where my daughter rented a car for our time in Greensboro.

Throughout the trip it became clear that I needed help – getting in and out of the bus that drove us from terminal to terminal, carrying my bag, walking up stairs.  At the graduation both my daughters and son-in-love were there to give me support as I climbed up the stairs in the coliseum where the graduation ceremony was held.

So my daughters and I began to navigate that journey

  • for my daughters – how do we help our mother without making her feel stupid or incapable of doing for herself?
  • for me – how do I accept the help I need with grace and thankfulness for their love and offer of help?

It’s a journey we will have to continue to navigate.  I need to continue to do for myself all I can, but I also must accept that the time has come to accept some help.

There were a a few moments of frustration as I tried to tell my daughter where I saw a parking spot or give advice on something where I really knew what I was talking about, but she seemed to ignore me.

Then I had to laugh as I told her:

“I got mad because you didn’t listen to me and I knew what I was saying was right, but then I had to think why would she listen when I just ordered a drink, walked over to the dispenser to get my cup and had to ask her what size drink I just ordered”

We both shared the laugh.

I’ve still got lots of life and enjoyment ahead of me, but as I continue to age, I pray that I will age gracefully and be a person of joy and laughter and be humble enough to accept the help I need.

Not sure who actually wrote this, but today it seems appropriate:

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient.  If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to walk, to eat, to read. to dress yourself.

When my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

 

I hope this post does not sound like I’m ready to “kick the bucket.”  There are still roads trips to take, friends to meet, flowers to plant, much more life to enjoy.  Just recognizing it may be time to walk a little slower and be a little less prideful in my own ability.

The Good Book says “pride goes before a fall.”  Now I realize this was not about actually walking but I had to laugh as I thought – “In my case too much pride to accept help just might mean a fall for me.”

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Thanks for Remembering!

This month two of my grandchildren are graduating from college.  A granddaughter in North Carolina is getting her BS and will be starting law school in the fall.  A grandson in Tennessee is getting his Master’s.

As I rejoice in these two grandchildren’s success and hard work, I wonder where did the time go?  It was only yesterday they were playing with puzzles at my kitchen table or playing on the merry-go-round at the park.

As my grandchildren grow up, go to college, start careers, get married, have lives of their own and also live so far from me (grandchildren in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee – but only one in Michigan where I live) it is only natural that my time with them is limited.  The circle of life turns and we old folks are no longer an active part of their lives.

But I often relive times spent with them as they grew up.  My granddaughter who is graduating was such a cute baby.

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When this picture was taken I was in the Philippines along with my husband and youngest daughter teaching in a Bible college.  I missed her first year but I always treasured this picture her mother sent to me in the Philippines.  Sometimes I feel sad that I missed her first tooth, her first step.  But thankfully I was back with her by her second birthday and shared so much joy watching her grow up.

Her first step toward becoming a lawyer was getting her Associate’s Degree.

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Now she has completed the second time with her Bachelor’s Degree.  So excited for her as she takes this next step and enters fall school.

One of my prayers for my grandchildren has always been that when the time was right, God would give them a Christian husband/wife.  It was my joy two years ago to see the answer to that prayer.

 

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But sometimes I must confess I wonder if the memories I treasure are held in such esteem by my grandchildren.

So – today my heart is so happy.  I got a text from this granddaughter that said:

Brandon and I are at the mall and we saw a carousel.  It made me remember all the times you and Grandpa took me and my brothers to the mall to ride the carousel.  I love you!”

What can I say to express my joy!

If someone has given you great memories be it a grandparent, a parent, an aunt or uncle, maybe a school teacher or a youth leader, take time to let them know you remember.  We often wait until someone has died to share how important those memories were.  Sadly, it’s a little too late then.

Thank you Barbara Rose for remembering!

 

 

 

 

Mom, You Left Too Soon

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My mother, Fern, and me, Barbara Fern

 

In the last years of my mother’s life she lived in southern Illinois while I lived over 300 miles away in northern Illinois.  I worked a Monday-Friday job and my husband was a pastor which meant his job required work on the weekends.  Thus, it was hard to have a chance to get away for a few days to visit her.

We took some vacation time and made a visit three or four times a year.  When we drove in the driveway she was always standing at the door anticipating our arrival.  Every time we left she would stand on the porch and wave until we were out of sight.

Becoming interested in doing genealogy research on my family I began asking Mom and Dad to tell me more about their childhood.  On one of our last visits, they took my husband and I to the cemeteries where grandparents were buried, to the place where my mother grew up, to the school my dad attended as a small boy.  My husband took a videotape of our adventures that day.

In February 2006 my husband retired and I was so excited as that meant we would have weekends free to visit my parents.  Now I could visit more and begin writing down their stories and take pictures of places from their childhood.

So, early in April we sat out to visit my parents.  I knew Mother would be so happy to hear that I was going to be able to start coming down more and that I wanted to hear more about her childhood and her family.

My excitement soon turned to worry.  When we arrived I found my Mother in great pain.  She had made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon.  I took her to the doctor expecting to hear that she had some “bug” that would require some medicine and rest.  All prepared to stay and help her recover, I was shocked when the doctor admitted her to the hospital for tests.

The first couple of days seem pretty routine and we had some great visits in her hospital room – just the two of us talking.  On the third day Mom took a turn for the worse and I called my two sisters to come.  Something was wrong – much more than routine.

Mom quickly went downhill as the days passed and it became clear she was not going to make it.  The time came when we had to make that dreaded decision.  Do we continue to do treatments that were clearly painful or do we let her die with dignity and in peace?  A tough decision.

A few days later Mom was gone.

Gone – before I got to write down those stories.

Gone – before I got to spend more time with her.

It has now been thirteen years since Mom left.  As I age myself I begin to understand her more.  I find myself doing and saying things to my children that she once did and said to me.  Often I see that my comments are not welcome.  I’m being bossy, old-fashion, interfering.  All the things I once thought about my mother.  Now I realize while she may have been (and I certainly am) bossy, old-fashion and interfering, her motives were one of love.

Gone – before I could say, “Mom I understand you now.”

Gone – before I could say, “Mom, I’m sorry.”

 

The Power and Magic of Music

Every other Friday I go to a local assisted living facility and play for 30-40 minutes.  I play all kinds of music.  Old songs like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “You are My Sunshine” get them singing along with me.  They love to listen so songs from old movies like “The Sound of Music” and “Exodus.”  The program is always ended with some old hymns, songs that only those over 60 even know.

Over the years as I have played in these facilities, perhaps the most requested song is “In the Garden.”  The song speaks of being with Christ in the garden but as I play it I envision the beautiful garden I had at my former home.

As I play for the residents of these facilities, some are very alert, sing along and truly enjoy the music.  Others are clearly struggling with physical or mental difficulties, and do not sing along but they clearly enjoy the music.  Then there are the few who do not seem to have any idea where they are or what is going on sometimes falling asleep as I play.

Yet I find those are the ones who are the greatest blessing to me when they do respond to the music.

Years ago my husband and I did a service at a nursing home in Edwardsville, IL.  One woman would be wheeled in by one of the nursing staff.  She sat with her head slumped to one side and appeared to have no idea we were even there.  But one Sunday we sang the old gospel hymn “There is Power in the Blood.”  Instantly this woman sat up, smiled and began singing along perfectly in a clear and beautiful voice.  As soon as the song was over, she slumped back down in her chair and appeared to once again have no idea where she was or what was going on.  Seeing this we sang that song every week and she always “came to life” at the sound of that song.

Today I saw that same thing happen.  One lady in the music room appeared to be totally unaware of her surroundings.  When I began singing “In the Garden” she came to life and sang in a VERY loud voice.

My heart sang with joy as I left the music center at the end of the program and headed down the hall to the front door.  She was sitting in the hallway just outside her room and I could hear her all the way down the hall as she continued to sing in a VERY loud voice “In the Garden.

There is magic in music.

Where words leave off, music begins.” 
― Heinrich Heine

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.” 
― Alphonse de Lamartine

“My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.” 
― Martin Luther