Category Archives: Life
Raising multiple children on a budget is no easy feat. It makes for some creative ways to budget and provide entertainment for a variety of personalities. One of the things that I did when the kiddos were younger was something that I called “Free Day.” Free Day is just what it describes. If you pay close attention to the stuff your kids bring home from school and the things going on around you, you can have your very own Free Day.
To begin with, start with what the school gave ya! What do I mean by this? Often, your kids will bring home flyers for free events and other things. Often, when there are awards day or holidays and stuff, they will bring home coupons for free happy meals, a donut, or some other sweet treat from somewhere. All for free. Most of the time, these things do not have expiration dates so they are good to hold on to. Next, you want to look in local papers for free coupons or for local businesses having free give aways. One of the things I like are places like Denny’s. They will provide you a free stack of pancakes if you come in and purchase a drink. Fountain drinks at these places are generally about $2.50 after tax. Not exactly free, it is still a good deal when it is you and 3 kiddos. You can also find coupons for stuff that you can purchase at the grocery store for free or near free. Finally, we live in a resort area. This means that there are coupons for things like “with this coupon get a free shark necklace with your next visit” or “free seashell on your next visit.” These are especially popular with the younger kids.
Another thing that I liked to save up for Free Day was things like savings at the gas pump. We often shopped at Bi-Lo and I would save my gas savings for the first fill-up of the day. 30 cents off per gallon of gas up to 20 gallons could rake in some savings and provide enough gas to get us around to redeem all of our free stuff and still have about a half a tank left at the end of the day. Also, because I was a mystery shopper, I could take the kiddos with me on some of my shops and be reimbursed for some of the shops I did. I could also take them on the shops I did at places like kids clothing stores, shoe stores, and food kiosks. I would get paid for the shop and possibly reimbursed for part or all of my purchase. It is a win/win!
Now if you do happen to have some extra change beyond gas money, then you can take advantage of buy one get one deals or locals discounts for those of you who live near places that do things like that. Now that you are armed with all of your loyalty cards and free coupons and certificates, you want to make your plan to ensure that you start with the furthest place away and work your way toward home. You pack up the kiddos and bring your bag and you start out on your Free Day.
The whole point of Free Day is to spend time with the kids and to go out and do things as a family. Often, I would take the kids to get our breakfast for the price of our soda’s and we would have a device free breakfast at a sit down restaurant. After that, it is off to the random stores armed with our coupons to get our free shark tooth necklaces, seashells, and other nick nacks. Sometimes we got things like silly bands and other stuff. We would try on the funny hats and people watch. We would also learn how women should NOT dress in public and have a teachable moment or two when we would see a homeless person panhandling on the side of the road. While riding in the car, we would laugh and giggle and sing at the top of our lungs. Most of the time, I would time our Free Days around events that are going on within the city. A parade. (Free Candy and beads.) A free family event. (Fire safety expos, family safety expo, boat show at the convention center (yes, turned out kiddos into convention junkies, we did.) You name it. My favorite was to have lunch with our free McDonald’s happy meals in the car and count the motor cycles going up the main street during Bike Week. We would see all kinds and joke and laugh. Good times.
If we didn’t have an event to go to, we would visit the local arcades and see how many coins we could find in the coin slots or pretend to play the games or even play games with the tokens we find. We would be on the look out for tickets people would walk away and leave hanging from the machines. Sometimes, the tourists would walk by and hand us tickets to turn in for whatever junk we could get before we leave. A great way to burn off energy and run around like crazy.
The library was always a good place to find something to do. They also had the hook up on free stuff to do and other things. It was also a good place to read or play checkers. Most days, we come home with our bellies full as well as a lot of junk that would last for the remainder of the weekend. We spent time together as a family and we had great laughs. My favorite times with the kiddos.
What kinds of things did you do with your kids that created lifetime memories on a budget?
What do YOU think?
It is seldom that I have to sit and think about a blurb that needs to be created around an epic title. However, this one was one of those titles that I just had to put out there. When I first heard it, I had envisioned something else entirely. Maybe even another fiction post but it has finally hit me that it is something else entirely. You often hear people note “kids say the darndest things.” This is proof that, yes, yes they do!
I took a walk with the boyz just the other day. We walked down the side of a busy road that we normally avoid. No particular reason. It is just that the great majority of the stuff we do happens to involve the other side of the road. This particular day, we walked down the “uncommon” side and there was a small retention pond next to a strip mall. Because there are so many in this city and because they are all unique, I often look to see if I can spot anything interesting. Due to the surrounding trees and building and the arc of the sun, this pond is often in the shade. This allows for the growth of moss and other things that don’t do well in direct sunlight.
As with most any permanent spot of water in this city, there are bound to be turtles. Sure enough there was. There happened to be a couple playing around in a mossy patch that was growing in the water. I pointed them out to Numba 10 and he snickered to himself. Keep in mind this child is a reader and, like his mother is quite fond of random, nonsense trivia. I said “Dude, what is so funny about turtles?” His reply? “Look Mom! Turtles in the Moss!” Of course I knew to what he was alluding. My smart kiddo. I love that boy so much! It made me grin as we continued our walk to get ice cream. If he didn’t deserve it before that moment, he sure deserved it then. I think I returned the favor when I repeated what he said and announced “Hmm. That would make a good blog post. Thanks!” I seen the same grin on his face I had felt moments before. Ah, the love between a son and his mother. It is epic!
You have the back story. What did I take from this? It has been about a week since we took that walk. It took me this long to figure out the content of what I wanted to say. Wait for it…..here it comes……ah…LET”S DIGRESS! (Ha ha, backwards there, but I did it!) As of late, I have not been sleeping well. This has put a terrible interruption to the rut that I tend to enjoy. It is Sunday morning. Yes, it is like 4 AM or something. I know it is this time of day because my slumber has not been interrupted by a random pooch telling me it is time to go outside. Yes, dogs do the whole 5 AM thing too. I think it is a conspiracy. That is for another day, folks. Anywho… I got up before the dogs and decided that, if I was to roll over and go back to sleep, it would not be for long due to the time of day. Normally, I will go let them out and return back to bed. If it is not raining or hurricane weather, I will let them stay out there for a few hours and enjoy the sunrise or at least until it is time for me to clock in at work.
I had returned to bed but did not feel the need to go back to sleep. What a long Sunday (and day off) this is going to be if I am not sleeping until my 6 AM sleep-in time. What is a writer to do? Fire up the laptop and do your thang girl! I had not written anything all weekend because I have been writing constipated. But it hit me as I was getting my stuff together. It was time to write about Turtles in the Moss. I happen to have my own little Turtles. They have their individual patches of moss.
Like me, they tend to be loners and enjoy their own company. However, there is a need to visit with other beings of like species from time to time. Like humans, turtles, need to socialize from time to time. In my house, we have gamers. We probably have the entire gaming world under one roof. One likes the Xbox. Another goes off to a friends and plays PlayStation all day and has been known to bring it home and play for a weekend when that friend goes on a trip or something. We even have one that plays hand held gaming systems from Game Boy Color to the 3DS. I have this Game Wave thing that I have from when I was a BuzzAgent. And, of course, there are the computer and puzzle gamers. There are even REAL D and D gamers and Pokemon players here. We just do it all. Whenever there is not any school or there has been an exceptionally good day at school, we all go to our little patches of moss and play our games. It is not exciting and it is not glamorous but it is what we do. Our version of sunning on the rock is to meander to the kitchen and get game fuel and chat amongst ourselves while we wait in line for the ice maker or the microwave to nuke whatever happens to be in there.
Sometimes we cook. Sometimes we hang out for an hour or so and just giggle at random things or compare notes on the games that we play. Yes, we keep up with each other’s games and discuss strategy and new things we have discovered. While it is not the most nuclear family thing to do, it is a modern family thing and this is a version of the dinner table that we know and love.
As I sit here in the breakfast nook, writing my post and wondering why the sun is not up at 7:04 AM, I will take a minute to meander through the house and check on my Turtles in the Moss to ensure they have not fallen asleep with yet another bowl of popcorn that is now everywhere. <<Insert motherly grin here.>>
I think I also need to change the time on the stove because the computer says it is still 6 AM. *sigh* No wonder the sun isn’t up. The Zombies still are.
What do YOU think?
It is not very often that people are given the opportunity to experience something ethereal. Death is something that many a scientist an after life expert have opinions on but, unless they experience it themselves and come back, there is not much premise to go on. This is where our story begins, and ends…sort of. In my life, I have bore witness to 3 deaths. One was from afar, and the other two were in a hospital room. The first one, in the hospital room was my Aunt Maggie. It was nothing like the second experience and she just ceased to be present in her body and all the machines around her stopped their busy, white noise. I imagine this is typical of what most people experience/witness when they are gathered around the death bed of a loved one.
However, is the experience ever different? I like to think so.
When my father died, it was different. It was one of the most difficult and easiest moments in my life. I seen things that are hard to translate into words but I will try my best for the purposes of this blurb. For lack of a better description, his last moment was sucked out of him. Plain and simple. I don’t understand how nor do I want to try and comprehend what it was that moment meant. But for me, it was peace and terror all in one breath.
I don’t recall who was in the room when Dad died. I remember calling his siblings in Washington and letting them talk to him through the phone while he was still breathing. I remember whispering in his ear. The content of those whispers now leave me and only me and a dead man know what those words consist of. I remember I was standing to his right. They had just leveled the bed. It was in the ICU unit of the local hospital. I also remember that he was fine when we were put out for the half hour that ICU requires all visitors to leave for their daily reset. From 6 to 6:30, everyone in the ICU that was not assigned to that room had to leave the ICU ward. It was hospital rules. So we left. Dad was alright as alright could be when we left. We had all planned on coming back and pick back up where we left off. But, when we came back, his bed was tilted so that his feet were up in the air and his head was near the floor. At this 45 degree angle, it was supposed to be easier on his heart. I remember thinking, “Jeez, they are serious about the health benefits of laying with your feet above your heart.” I vaguely remember my mother’s distraught voice “What did you do to him?” The nurse replied it was to help his heart as his heart rate dropped right after we left.
After that, it was like it was in slow motion. Somehow the room became cold. I chalked it up to being August in the deep South. Air conditioning and such. In those moments it never occurred to me that it was not the air conditioning coming on as it was already blowing and had been at a steady enough pace to keep things comfortable. Aside from the possibility that my mother was on the other side of the bed, I felt as if I was the only one in the room at that point. I felt a chill come over me when I pulled the phone from my fathers face for the last time. I stood there for a minute. Something told me to focus on his face. It seemed peaceful enough. They had turned off all the machines and it was just the fading beep beep of the heart monitor that sort of faded into white noise. My surroundings faded into a blur. It was me and dad and…Death had made its appearance.
Dad had begun to take a breath as if he were coming up for air while swimming. He was a mouth breather when he slept and my mind told me it was him preparing him for that final nap. One breath. Two breaths. Three breaths. Then something happened. I don’t know if it was my mind doing this or if it really happened, I just don’t recall the lighting in the room. I remember when they came to put the white circles on his eyes that the room was dimly lit. But, in the moment that Death had arrived, I don’t remember how the lights were in that room. It was a corner room. The part behind me was part wall and part glass wall and I think there was a window across from me. I am not sure. That part doesn’t matter. That fourth breath Dad took was his final breath. To me, it got dark and cold and his face contorted into an expression I had never seen before. It was not an expression that one can describe as there is not an emotion to attach it to.
c Dad’s last breath. That expression, coupled with the chill in the room and that noise that I heard (or maybe my mind fabricated it) was me watching the life being sucked out of my fathers body by Death itself. His face contorted and twisted up in a way that can only be described as “leaving.” It was every human emotion wrapped up in one second. I remember taking a step back after that. I looked at the air above my father. Human observers would say it was a moment of shock that Daddy was gone. It was not that. Not that at all. There was something there and it fled. Just like that. The hours after that have since been blocked out of my mind and no matter how hard I try, they still flee any recollection.
In the months that followed, I had nightmares of this black shadow of a creature standing on my fathers chest pushing down and sucking the essence out of him. It turns to look at me as if it were a child caught doing something it shouldn’t and then it turns to flee as only a ghostly apparition can do. Leaving behind only the shell of what I identified as my father, the dream ends when I try to run to the body. Same dream every time. I used to wake up with a start when these first happened. But now, I just stand there as if I had been desensitized to it. Sure, I wake up. But I simply roll over and go back to sleep.
When my sister passed away this past Winter, I wanted to be there and see if I could meet Death once again. However, I didn’t want to be. It would turn into some sort of sick hobby and I wanted no part of it. I shared a moment with Death. I watched it at work. I seen every detail in hyper focus. I felt and seen its presence. There is nothing that can change that. I am not special. I don’t claim to have a sixth sense. However, I know when it came and when it fled that hospital room. Honestly, I don’t want to see it again until it is my time to walk with it. However, I still try to grasp the concept of why I was one to be allowed to see the apparition at work. People are often granted permission to see things that mortals should never see. There is ultimately a reason. I have yet to figure that out.
Maybe I will find out one day. Maybe I won’t. They say that only use a minute part of their brain. How does that relate to this experience? Only me and Death know that answer. Unfortunately, I don’t have the key to that door in my brain that contains the answer. I know I will never find it. Maybe that is a good thing.
What do YOU think?
Just before I turned 21, mom and dad purchased a distinguished house that was built at the turn of the 20th century. Later, it became known as “The Rock House” but not for the reasons you may think. You see, this epic behemoth of a beauty was made of just that. Stone. It gave it a unique look that was only shared by a reflection. It was a two story behemoth with a full basement that had 3 rooms. It was completely authentic and true to the era it was built right down to the push button light switches and the 12×18 vents in the wall for an early version (late renovation) of central heating. I loved and am still in love with this house. Should I ever find myself in a position to purchase it, it would be without hesitation. Mom and dad only owned the house for about 5 years. There were many great memories to be had there. Many that will never be forgotten. Especially things which occurred at the bottom of the stairs.
I will tell many stories about this stair case. The same one that had 9 steps up to a landing and then you turned back to go up 9 more stairs. It was open and you could see the ceiling of the 2nd floor from the bottom of the first flight. This is where Daddy comes in. You see, if he found that talking to you as you left the room was an effort in vain, he would stand at the bottom of the stairs and talk to you as you walked by. This was, essentially, the center of the house. To go upstairs, you had to go by him. To go to the living room, you had to walk by him. To go to the kitchen, bathroom, basement, or any of the bedrooms…you guessed it…you had to walk by him.
Dad was one of those guys who would put his foot on a higher step on an escalator. Modern day visual of this would be the Captain Morgan stance. Now imagine he has a glass all clinky with his whiskey and Pepsi in one hand and a cigarette in another. There was a small table with an ash tray and an old rotary phone in the hallway and this would be behind him just next to the stairs. Ah, that rotary phone. It is sure a long way coming from the time when you turned the crank and yelled into the horn on the wall. When rotary phones came out, they were actually attached to the house. This one was one of them. Why do I mention the Captain Morgan stance you say? You see, there was a rounded piece that was part of the bottom step that stuck out beside the stair case. He would stand right there and prop his foot on that jutting piece. Captain Morgan retired I guess.
Whenever Daddy was particularly yakky and the house was busy with people coming to and fro, he would stand there and talk at you as you walked by. He was particularly fond of talking to people as they were going up the stairs. This gave him about 30 seconds of conversation before you were out of ear shot. I also think he knew that the acoustics were pretty awesome in that spot because the higher up you went, the louder he became. You had no choice but to reply to him because it was harmless and he would actually talk about a whole lot of nothing. Dad was good for what he called “shooting the shit.” He was also a man who liked to talk with his hands. If you were on the other side of a field and seen him talking, you would think that the man was trying to fly. Flying with a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Always. Always. Arms flailing up in the air as he described some thing that happened in his glory days or talking about the latest man gossip at the local auction house. He would even do the same when he was trying to describe to you some thing he wanted done to one of the houses or trailers he owned.
Which reminds me, I should tell you the story of the 3 hours it took us to discuss how to lay corner round behind the refrigerator in the trailer he and mom later lived in. That was hilarious. It was the most difficult project I had ever undertaken. I was supposed to be the muscle of that job and we had to have a major discussion on how it had to be done. He spend one of his days at the bottom of the stairs telling me how he is still impressed that I inherited his mechanical inclination gene. (I was right about how to cut the corner pieces. Sort version of that story. Ah, but I digress….)
I have so many stories of Daddy that I could probably fill a book. But yea, I love that man. I wish sometimes he could look down and read these stories. He would probably laugh that laugh that only a Doug can do…I love you Poopsie Doo!
What do YOU think?
Twenty years ago, Cal and I moved to the first place we had on our own. We had an already established “home” as my parents lived with us for a few years. However, we were about to embark on our own chapter. We moved 4 hours away to a lovely beach city. With careful planning, he drove the moving truck, pulling his car on a trailer and I drove our Nissan. Of course the Nissan was packed with stuff. However, we decided to put important things in the Nissan. This ensured easy accessibility.
In the Nissan, with me, were the dog, the bird, plants, the fish tank and, of course, our computer and other important items. Behr, the dog, liked to ride in my lap when I was driving and the bird cage was in the back seat with the plants. The fish tank had been emptied to about 2 inches in the bottom of the tank to ensure the little buggers would not jump out. Never in a million years did I think this to be a recipe for disaster. Another thing that both of us had were walkie talkies. During the time before cell phones were an extension of the human arm, people had to find different means to communicate besides the trusty landline telephone. Ergo, we had walkie talkies for this situation.
I was driving in front of the truck to ensure that Cal could see me and that we could stay together during the trip. We had just entered the state of Virginia and this particular stretch of interstate was four lanes. Outside of my normal habit, I was driving on the right innermost lane. Not a good idea. It was about an hour after twilight. All the cars on the road had their headlights on and so did the truck. With the fact that I was in a sedan and Cal was in the truck, the headlights were positioned so that he could see into the car…sort of. Cal had noticed that the car his wife was driving had started swerving and moving back and forth in between the lines. He called out on the walkie talkie once, twice, three times before there came back an answer that was yelly and presented a stressful tone.
Meanwhile, in the car, unbeknownst to me, the bird had escaped the cage. That tricky little parakeet had done the same thing a hundred times before and I don’t know why I did not cover the cage before putting it in the back seat but that magic little flucker sure did. I had the driver side window down and when he swooped at my head, that was my first instinct. I had to roll up the window. It was a manual window so I was literally rolling the window up with a crank. After getting the window up to a near crack, the dog noticed that the bird had escaped. and began barking and attempting to chase the bird around the car. The plants were falling over in the back seat and the bird had fell into the fish tank and the dog was trying to get in there. All the while, I was doing my best to drive like nothing was going on. In the midst of the chaos, the walkie talkie had fallen to the floorboard under my feet. I heard the squawk of it as Cal started calling me “Hey! What the hell are you going up there?”
I like to pride myself on the fact that I work well under pressure. It has been my experience, in an emergency, that I am quick thinking and able to get it under control. Fortunately, this was no different. In an instant, I grabbed the dog by the nape of his neck, put him under my feet, and grabbed the walkie talkie. He was still barking and Cal was going “Hello? Hello!” on the walkie. I pressed the button and hollered “The fucking bird got out of the cage and Behr is trying to get him!” At that moment, the bird had decided to return to the back seat and flap around in the light and settle down in the back windshield. Cal could see the bird flapping around in the back and told me that he seen that. I could hear the amusement in his voice. Know what he said?
The rest of the trip was quite uneventful. We were about 30 minutes away from our new home and I just let the bird stay out of the cage. There was no reason to make a stop at this point. It is not like he was going to get any further as he was still literally confined into a square area. We made it to our new home and, with a gloved hand, I was able to secure the bird back into his cage and get him in the house. This time, I made sure to cover the cage while we were moving the furniture into the house. God forbid the dog tried to get at him again or he flew away.
What do YOU think?
Not sure if I have ever told you about Momma’s bar stool. If I have, I am gonna tell you about it again. It is an ever evolving story. I will retell it the best my memory will allow. Here goes.
When I was in early elementary school, my mother worked for a Seattle based thrift store. (At least so I think it is Seattle based. I have never seen any outside of Seattle and there were three or four in the city to my knowledge. I was only 6 or 7. What did I know? Ah, but I digress…) It was called St. Vincent De Paul. As the General Manager, she was afforded the opportunity to bring things home from time to time. My childhood was filled with many oddities that came from those stores. Donations straight from America’s attics, back rooms, sheds, and basements. Riddled with yard sale oddities, these stores were the day care centers of my 1st-3rd grade years. You see, Momma would pick me up from school and bring me to work. I would have the run of the place until the store closed and then it was off to the Bingo Hall for the remainder of the evening. But that, my friends, is a story for another day.
On one of the days I was lucky enough to be able to come home with Daddy; Momma brought home 2 things. The red “bench” chair and an oak bar stool. The red bench chair is still in her kitchen. There is only one place you can actually find one of those chairs and I hope to own one of my own one day, if not THAT one. Seems like a pretty good product if it is still around after nearly 40 years. So is that bar stool. That bar stool has moved all over the country with us. We slowly migrated east with this bar stool (and the rest of our stuff, obviously.) Currently, we are in South Carolina and this bar stool will migrate with me and my family into the far north soon. Boy, the stories it could tell. Yes, after nearly 40 years, it still exists. Albeit not in its original form, but its still hanging on nonetheless. These days it is not much more than an alternately shaped TV tray but still a fixture in the main areas of the house.
Bar stool was made in an era when real furniture was made. Its not made of match stick wood or press board. None of that shit lasts as long as good solid oak. I mean, think about it. How much of the furniture manufactured in the last 20 years is going to be here half a century later. Unless some little old lady owns it, it will likely be destroyed somehow. Even water rings from a sweaty glass can kill a piece of furniture these days. Not old Bar Stool. It’s real. It’s there. It’s here to stay. It shrugs off sweat rings like water off a duck’s back.
About 3 or 4 years ago, I was painting one of the boyz rooms. I needed to paint at the top of the wall, in the corner, behind the door. Of the two boys, the youngest was asleep and the other one was roaming around the house doing things only a 9-10 year old can do. I had the door shut. I was painting the corner above the door and didn’t want to drip sky blue paint on the door. Foolishly, I was standing on the seat of the bar stool. Instead of doing the right thing and going to get the kitchen step bench, I had chosen Bar Stool as my lift to reach the higher parts of the wall. There is still no reason why I choose that as my muse. I just did. It is good to keep in mind that I had successfully painted a quarter of the room before I found myself in this corner. I had meandered on and off the stool from this same standing position for at least the last hour. No problem right? I was about to find out my mistake.
There is another thing you should know about this situation. This happened at the point of my life where I was just over 200 pounds. It was my “fat phase” also known as the era of the Flavor Hog. So, yes, even if I were just 80 pounds soak and wet, at 200 plus, I had no business standing on the top of a bar stool, in a corner, on carpet. Being my first time up on the stool in the corner and confident that I was doing well, I had inadvertently placed the stool a tad too close to the wall. I had painted most of the corner and needed one more round of paint in my cup to finish off what needed to be done. Just as I had done many times before. I had squatted down, in preparation to get my foot on the first slat, and then it happened.
You have been told before that, when I was overweight, I was quite uncomfortable in my own skin. This made me a little more clumsy. A little more miserable. A lot more misunderstood about the limits of where my boundaries were. Upon squatting down on the stool, I had bumped the wall behind me with my big fat fanny. The next few seconds happened for me in slow motion but I can still remember them happening like it was just yesterday. I bumped the wall, and the stool began to fall over. Trying not to fall on my face, I tried to stand up and gain my footing on something, anything so that I would not get hurt. We all know I am as graceful as they come. In hindsight, I am not sure if that was the best idea, but it seemed to be the only one at the time. Instead of ending up vertical, I over corrected and fell backwards…right on top of the legs of the Bar Stool. I heard the legs splinter underneath me and laid there on the floor. In full shock of what just happened and wondering if any of that splintering had been something inside my body, my 9 year old son comes banging on the door. Frantically I hear “Mom? MOM! Are you OK? What haaappppeeennnneddd?” Unable to move and not sure, I hollered back and told him to go get his Daddy. You see, I was on the floor blocking the door and he was unable to get in.
I imagine he took off like a flash. Daddy was at the pond behind the house fishing. A few minutes later, Cal pushed his way into the room and stood over me shaking his head. “Are you OK?” he said. My reply was that everything was fine. By this time I had gained my bearings and figuring out exactly what I had done. I explained myself to Cal and know what he said to me? “Only you.”
Remember at the beginning of the story I had told you that Bar Stool was still around? Yes, the story does not end here. I told Cal I wanted to see if he could turn Bar Stool into Step Stool or something and that is exactly what he did. Essentially, he sawed off the splintered legs to about a foot long, screwed them into the seat of the stool and here I sit on it, in the living room, writing to you. Bar Stool is our cat of sorts. A thing with nine lives.
What do YOU think?
In his twilight years, Daddy became an avid reader. Maybe he always was. He just did it a whole lot more when he was older. He always liked to read. Ever since I could remember, Daddy had a book within arm’s reach. He loved his car races, football games, Star Trek, and horror movies just like any other man. He worked on cars and was a hard working man who took care of his wife’s bingo and shopping habits. But one thing he always did, no matter what, was read. When I was a little girl, he always told me that if you loved to read, you were never at a loss for something to do nor would you be poor. Reading provided knowledge and it took you places that you could never afford or even dream of. Daddy was always fond of a good western and later, he liked the horror/mystery books. I can still remember vividly the first time he took me with him to the library. I knew how to read by this point in my life and outside of the libraries at school, I did not know of public libraries where you could check out as many books as your heart desired. That first time, I came home with a stack of books almost as tall as I was. I curled up in the corner and spent the afternoon reading about dragons, the Little Rascals, Mr Frog and Rabbit, and many other stories. I distinctly remember him telling my mother that I had not moved from my spot for hours and spent the afternoon reading.
Thus, the love for reading was passed from father to daughter. In one afternoon, he shared a passion with me that resonated and woke something inside of me that never really sleeps. The love of reading. After he retired and started to become too old and stiff to work on the cars or ride around to auction houses, he started visiting the local libraries. At the time, our county had four branches that were relatively close to where we lived. He always announced to the house when he was going to the library. The older he got, these announcements started to be the only time his voice would sparkle with happiness. Like he was about to embark on a grand adventure and he would be back. It was never a short trip and he would always come home with a grocery bag full of books.
After some time, he discovered the honor books. He became quite fond of them. In this county, the honor book section was quite impressive and it allowed for him to take as many as he wanted and return them whenever he felt like. He would also add into the mix a random paper back that he would find here or there. I remember having a conversation with him once about the honor books. He told me that once he had discovered he had read everything in the honor book section, he would move on to another branch and start reading their honor books. He could accomplish reading an entire honor book section in about a month or two. I like to think this as Daddy travelling his “Honor Book Circuit.” Sometimes, I would ask him. “Yo, Dad, what library in the circuit are you going to today?” He would giggle that Doug giggle and tell me which one then invite me to go. I was always too busy. However, I now wish I would have went every time he asked.
He seemed at peace when he was reading. Even if he was eating a sandwich with his book propped up on the napkin holder, he was at peace and spend many hours sitting at the kitchen table with a stack of 2 or 3 on the table, waiting to be read.
When he went tot he hospital for the last time in 2009, one of the things he asked my mother to bring him was his bag of books that were next to his chair in the kitchen. When I retrieved his things after he had passed, one of the things that was on the table next to his bead was one of those honor books and his reading glasses. I still have the reading glasses and I still have the book. He was never able to finish the story. I kept the book, hoping one day to finish it. It is outside of my normal genre and I never got any further than he did. I did take the rest of the bag of books to the library. The lady at the counter looked at me evilly as I plopped the bag on the counter. “I don’t know where these go. They were my fathers and he got them from the honor section. I am returning them to you as he would have.” Yea, I broke down in tears. I walked away and had never been back to that library since. However, one day I plan on finishing ihe one book I kept. Besides, I have to have something to tell him when we meet in heaven right?
I miss you Daddy…I am still reading.
What do YOU think?
Long before I was a work at home professional, and many years ago, I was a manager in a local elementary school cafeteria. I was the new kid on the block as most of the staff had been with the school for many years. I got along well enough and the people who worked in there were what you would expect of the kids lunch staff. One of my duties was to choose and set out a snack for the after school program that often met in the cafeteria at the end of the school day.
This one particular day, we had some Popsicle’s of assorted colors. It was an exceptionally warm afternoon and it was a perfect day to have these out for a snack for the kids. Whenever we had to leave something out that required refrigeration or a freezer, they were often set inside a piece if equipment that housed other things that the kids paid for when they were sent to school with extra lunch money. The school required that we kept a daily running inventory of these items because the money earned from these items was accounted for and used to purchase things like the after school snacks and other things for the kitchen. Our school sold “rainbow pops” of “assorted colors” to the kids during lunch. These were one of the sets of items I had to have inventoried daily.
I would leave a note for the after school teacher directing her where to find the snacks for the day provided to her program each afternoon. This particular day, I had to put some extra thought into the note I was leaving her. I did not want her to confuse the after school snack with the snacks that the children paid to purchase during lunch. I was unable to note that her kid’s snack was “rainbow pops” because that was the literal name of the ones we sold at lunch. I felt that would cause confusion. I certainly did not want to explain to my higher ups why there was a discrepancy. I had to come up with another way to explain on paper what she was to look for. Another term I did not want to use was “assorted colors” because that was also on the label of the for sale Popsicle’s that were not intended for the program. I was also acutely aware that I did not offend anyone. After much thought, I decided to let her know:
“Today’s snack is the colored popscicles in the freezer. They are right on top. Have a great day!”
I went home and thought that would be the end of it. Early the next morning, the principal came to my office. As a side note, when I interviewed for this position, my husband drove me to the school and waited in the parking lot for me to attend the interview. On the way out, the Principal had walked with me to the car and she met my husband. Both had attended this elementary school and were able to make pleasant conversation. The day ended well and I was offered the job. Ah, but I digress. So the Principal comes to see me and shows me this note that I had left the after school lady. The one about “colored Popsicle’s” Really?
Apparently, the thought I put into this note was a bit much and I was accused of being a racist. Keep in mind, the Principal (and maybe the kitchen clean up guy) were the only ones who knew anything about my family and anything outside of what I was at work. As she was explaining how utterly offended the after school lady was, she noted that we had to have a meeting about it in her office the next day. What struck me as strange was that she was grinning the entire time she was talking to me. Let me put the situation to you in “black and white.” It is not meant to be offensive. If you find offense in this, then you are better off reading other things. There is no other way to set up how this went down. The Principal is white. I am white. The after school lady is black. My husband is black. It is that simple. Because the Principal knew my husband. She asked that he be present at this meeting so that we can squash any conflicts there may be over any misunderstandings.
She asked that DH and I be in her office at 7 AM the next morning. Purposely, she asked that the after school lady show up at 7:15. DH and I were sitting in the Principal’s office discussing our own elementary school adventures when the after school lady came in. Immediately, she noticed someone she had never seen before and stopped at the door. She had a look of confusion on her face. Obviously she did not understand while DH was sitting in this office. The Principal waved her into the cozy office to have a seat. She immediately began by raising the letter into the air and noting that we are here due to a serious accusation of racism. Yes, there is no room in today’s world for such a thing a s racism and we are here to stop this before it becomes something it is not. She went on to allow the after school lady to explain her side of the story.
The after school lady noted that she was utterly and thoroughly offended by the statement and that it was a racist stab at her because she was black. She went on to say that my behaviors during the day were, in her observation, discriminatory and she did not feel comfortable working around someone who was borderline white supremacist as me. I am sure it does not help the uninformed third party that I am as pale as they come. There is no mistake that I am white. There is no way around it. After the after school lady told her side, I explained my side. I told how I had put careful thought into the letter and that I tried not to offend anyone nor create any confusion due to the labeling of all of the Popscicle’s that were in the deep freezer in the cafeteria. After both sides had told their stories. The principal sat there for a minute or two and there was an uncomfortable silence.
One of the things I admired about after school lady was that she was very vocal about her observations. She broke the silence by asking who was this man sitting here in this office with us and what was his purpose for being here? Principal asked DH to introduce himself. (She did so with a grin.) He thrust out his hand to after school lady and introduced himself as my husband. There is not a way to describe the look on after school lady’s face. She was, for lack of a better description, floored. She had no idea that I was married and married to DH. There was not any words she could form to show that she knew in that moment she was wrong for what she had done. After school lady came into this meeting likely believing that I was going to be reprimanded of fired for purposely writing racist slander. Instead, Principal went on to advise after school lady that she should not judge a book by it’s cover and to not assume that all white people that she did not know were racist.
We got along famously after that and the whole thing brought the kitchen staff a little closer. This story has stuck with me over the years. I had never been in a situation like that or have since. It was interesting and a great learning experience for me.
Two things come from this. 1. Don’t be racist. Even when you don’t try to be and 2. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
What do YOU think?
In an effort to work on my blogging skills and try to write outside of my comfort zone, I am trying writing prompts. Today’s word…. Elastic. Brought to you by: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1618878317
Elastic is a term used loosely in life. No pun intended. Life is all about push and pull. While one may feel they have found themselves in a rut, there is still some stretching that is done in life. No matter how deep the rut is. Things happen and life gets in the way. You may be in that grey area and follow the same exact routine daily, but there is always something that provides something elastic to the whole process. For those with anxiety, the change can make for some great self doubt and nervousness. From having the 9 a.m. Monday meeting cancelled to taking lunch 20 minutes late; if you have found comfort in your rut, even the smallest changes can be difficult.
Think about the young child with a blanket attachment. I remember when our son’s blanket was left at the daycare and we did not know where it was. It was quite a difficult night and despite all the cuddles and snuggles readily provided to him, he did not sleep well and that entire 24 hour period was wrought with stress and tears. Something as simple as his blanket being missing for the day made life difficult at best. While it was hard for me, I cannot imagine how it must of been for him. As parents, we tend to discount the paramount importance something as little as a blanket can be to our tiny humans. The reason I mention this tidbit is this: The way we can tackle catastrophes such as this lay the foundation for how our future selves handle the slightest change or elastic situation in our lives. The happy ending to the blanket story is that the next day we found that I had put the diaper bag and blanked on the car and drove away. The next parent found it all and took it inside. We did get the blanket back and he was happy as a lark. Surprisingly, he found out himself (a big revelation for a 2 year old) that he can go to the store or live for a few hours without dragging his blanket with him. He is 14 now. He still has the blanket. It spends most days folded neatly in the top of his closet. However, during particularly elastic days, I will find it laying on his bed. I guess he finds comfort in having an old friend around during a trying day.
Moving from a steadfast constant, to an elastic comfort, the blanket is his safety net. It helps him through days where his routine is thrown out of wack.
Amazing how things transform as we grow.
What do YOU think?