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Coddiwomple and Other Fun Words

An unusual word I saw posted on Facebook, made me think of my paternal grandfather.  Papa was a first-class coddiwompler.  He usually drove to a particular place, but sometimes when I rode in his car with him when I was young, I’d ask where we were going.  He responded that we’d know when we got there, but he could’ve said, “We just going to coddiwomple.” He probably didn’t know that coddiwomple means to travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown or vague destination.

            Coddiwomple makes me think of Papa’s Sunday afternoon drives when he took Grandma on rides around Pickett and Overton counties.  He wanted to get Grandma out of the house, but there was never a destination and most often they didn’t stop except at a country market to get a cold drink, a carbonated beverage.

            Before leaving this word, I must share that several people commented on Facebook that coddiwomple is life’s journey. I agree. 

            My Granny often said, “Don’t put it cattywampus.” ‘It’ could have been a dish that she didn’t want me to put on the edge of the counter beside the kitchen sink or a quilt piece that she wanted me to lay on another with the straight edges even. Cattywampus is the similar to catty-corner when something isn’t lined up as need be.

            “You’re a nincompoop!” Oh, the many times I heard and said nincompoop when I was a kid.  Anyone acting silly was nincompoop.  I would never have said someone was stupid, but I’d say he was a nincompoop which meant the same thing.  This word is so fun for kids when the last syllable is shouted loud and long.

            I’m often bumfuzzled.  I’ve spent hours trying to find one piece to put in a jigsaw puzzle and out of frustration, I became flustered.  When someone tells me driving directions that involve more than three turns and landmarks or when I can’t understand what my young Grands say, I’m bumfuzzled.  This word is more fun to say that confused or perplexed because bumfuzzled rolls out of the mouth with a smile.

            Are you a lollygagger?  Do you waste time?  Do you spend time doing something that isn’t serious or useful?  Some procrastinators tend to lollygag, and people who don’t keep up on group hikes lollygag.  A beach or mountain cabin vacation is perfect for lollygagging, but lollygaggers aren’t appreciated when there’s work to be done.

            While searching out fun words, I learned that I suffer from abibliophobia.  Even when I’m reading a book, I want a few others stacked on my bedside table waiting to be read.  What if I decide the book I’m reading isn’t good? Even though my living room bookshelves hold books I’ve read, and Husband always has several interesting magazines, I need a stack (and it can’t be cattywampus) of unread books.  I truly fear running out of something to read.

            Coddiwomple, cattywampus, nincompoop, bumfuzzled, lollygag and abibliophobia – what fun words!  As I write these last words, I’m wabbit.  You probably feel that way too at the end of the day.

Salute to Coaches

How I wish I’d kept a tally of the team sporting events I’ve watched.  Some families go to concerts or movies together; my family takes in spectator sports.  My children played t-ball, volleyball, basketball and swam on swim teams.  There was a time when our family’s weeks were busy with high school and Tennessee Tech basketball games.  We were there to watch the players and cheer on our team, but I watch the coaches too. Some scream and pace sidelines. Some stomp. Some yell plays.  Some sit calmly and stand only to call a time out.  Recently, I’ve watched and appreciate three of my Grands’ coaches.

            “Great play! Way to stop the ball!” Lucy’s soccer coach yelled.  Stephen’s words didn’t surprise me, but I was surprised that he was congratulating the opposing team’s goalie who caught the ball Lucy’s teammate had kicked.  Then he yelled to his player, “Great kick! You’ll score next time!”

            As I watched soccer practice one day, Stephen gave all fourteen players, ages 6-8, high-fives when they ran onto the field.  It was a structured practice.  Players ran and kicked balls around the perimeter of the field and Stephen encouraged them when they ran past him.  Then he and two assistant coaches divided players into small groups to practice skills and they ran the field with them, teaching and praising, when the players scrimmaged.  There were smiles, high fives, and one-on-one instruction.

            At the last game of the season, Stephen talked to each player.  He knelt to Lucy’s eye level and put his hand on her shoulder.  “Lucy, you work hard in practice.  You’re learning to be a great goalie.  I’m really glad you were on my team and when we play in the Spring, I want you on my team.”  He said more and then he placed a participation medal around her neck. Lucy held her head high and grinned; I wiped tears.

            Janet walked on the YMCA swimming pool deck as middle-school age students, including two of my Grands, swam during practice.  I couldn’t hear what Janet said, but I saw her wide smile and thumbs up when all finished swimming laps.  Several times each week, Janet holds practice and she schedules meets. Her smiles and encouragement are contagious. I’ve watched Elsie’s and Annabel’s confidence grow during this past year, and I give credit to Janet for providing this opportunity for them to use their natural abilities and love of swimming.

            Travis bent low to look up to his players, young teenage boys, as they huddled around him on the sideline of the basketball court.  He could’ve towered above them, but he looked up to hold his players’ attention.  During games, he’s calm and gives instructions.  “Cut across, Samuel,” he yelled to my Grand.  When a player threw the ball away, Travis grimaced and then quickly motioned with open palms toward the player to stay in control. 

            I salute Stephen, Janet, and Travis who are volunteer coaches.  Thank you for giving your time and your efforts to teach, and more importantly, to also model character.

Don’t Miss the Chance

I almost didn’t go.  Daughter called and invited me to join her family at Cane Creek Park.  “Some of us are riding bikes on the dirt trail.  Want to come and stomp in the woods with the rest of us?”

             I answered, “Thanks. Not today.  I’ve got to go to the grocery store, cook, and write a column.” I hung up the phone and continued writing my grocery list, checking the refrigerator and pantry.  It was 10:30 a.m.  I didn’t need food on the table until supper time and writing could wait.  How could I pass up time with Daughter, Son 2, and five Grands?  And I knew part of the reason Daughter invited me is because she knows I need time outside, among trees.  I sent her a text:  I’m coming. Where can I meet you?

           Two Grands, ages 12 and 14, waved at me after I got out of my van. As we walked on the paved trail, they shoved and tripped each other.  They laughed; I grimaced. “Enough,” I said.  “Ah, Gran.  We’re just playing,” Samuel said.  I suggested they play like that when I wasn’t around.  He threw his arm around Elsie’s shoulders and they walked arm in arm beside me.  Elsie asked, “Gran, is this better?”  Much. 

          After the two youngest rode one time around the two-mile trail with their dad, they raced to the wooden vertical climbing structures. Eight-year old Lucy, quickly climbed high and stood twelve feet off the ground.  “Come on, Gran. You try,” she said.  I took her challenge, but stopped only a few feet high.  

          Youngest Grand’s short legs didn’t reach the first step so he unsuccessfully clawed and tried to get a foot hold. (Family rule: you can climb anything if you don’t need help getting up or getting down.)  “Gran, let’s throw rocks in the water!” Micah shouted.  There’s something calming about watching concentric rings on the water’s surface.

         All Daughter’s family except Annabel, age 10, were ready to go home, and she agreed to walk around the lake with me.  We gathered fruits from sweet gum and sycamore trees.  We searched for sweet gum balls that had really sharp points that felt like needles. We rubbed cedar tree twigs between our finger to smell a real Christmas tree, the kind my dad cut for our house every December.

        As we walked, Annabel and I held hands. “I’m going to close my eyes.  Don’t make me fall,” she said.  I said that I’d keep her safe.  I led her diagonally across the four-foot wide path.  “Don’t go crooked,” she said.

      “Trust me, Annabel,” I told her.  She giggled.  I stopped and led her around me.  “What if I get dizzy and fall,” my Grand said.  I reminded her to trust me.  We zigzagged and walked off the path.  “Why should I trust you?” she asked, her eyes still closed.

        “Because I said I’d keep you safe and because I love you,” I told her.         To think I almost didn’t go.

An Open Letter to Jake Hoot

Dear Jake,

When a tall woman, old enough to be your mother – no, your grandmother – holds her arms out to hug you, that’ll be me.  It will be a hug of gratitude for sharing your singing talent with everyone who watched Season 17 of The Voice and my thanks for your humility, your thoughtfulness, and your appreciation.

             Until this season, I’ve never watched The Voice. A few years ago, a friend encouraged me to watch it.  “Be sure to catch the first show of the season,” she said.  “That’s when the coaches pick teams and there’s lots of outstanding singers.”  I missed your blind audition, but when I heard someone from Cookeville made the cut, I searched online and found a picture of you wearing a black cap and a dark plaid shirt.  I jumped on the Jake Hoot bandwagon when Tennessee Tech hosted a Watch Party at Hooper Eblen.  Out of curiosity, I went, sat with hundreds of your fans, and watched to the very end when you performed.

            I don’t remember what you sang that night.  I do remember that I felt a connection with you, a Cookevillian and a TTU alumnus.  You wore normal everyday clothes and could have sat unnoticed among those of us watching, except for your height and because I’m six feet tall and my son is 6’ 9” I was happy to see a big guy on stage.  You lived, with your missionary family, in the Dominion Republic where I spent a week on a mission trip.

            That Monday night I voted for you and Tuesday, I cheered when you made it through.  Then I watched every Monday and Tuesday and voted 10 votes every way I could. 

            Thank you, Jake, for the excitement you have created in our community.  Your successes were our successes.  We celebrated over coffee with breakfast, sweet tea with lunch, and wine with dinner.  We downloaded your songs.  We talked about people we knew who knew you.  We marveled that someone from Cookeville was in L. A. and doing well.

            Throughout those many weeks, I enjoyed your every performance and I appreciated the little things.  You answered questions with “Yes, mam,” and “Yes, sir.”  On the final night as you four finalists took the stage, you stopped and offered your hand to Rose who walked up the steps behind you. 

            When you were announced as the winner, you bowed.  Bowed. Most winners throw their arms high with a stance of look at me.  Your response was humble thankfulness.  You gave credit to others.  You came home to Cookeville and, with gratitude, offer a free concert.

            In your dress, your manners, your performances, you stayed true to the person you were the very first night of The Voice.  You reminded me that good guys do finish first.

            May your singing career be successful and may you have the courage to not let others define you as continue to be yourself.

Blessings for the very best from a Hoot Fan,

Susan

'Tis the Week Before Christmas

‘Tis the week before Christmas and my life is a’jumble.  There’s much to do.  Write lists.  Shop. Wrap gifts.  Attend Christmas programs and plays.  Bake and decorate cookies with my Grands.  Deliver gifts.  Watch Christmas movies. Read A Christmas Carol, for the umpteenth time.  

            When the hustle and bustle overwhelmed me, I brewed a cup of tea and settled into a favorite chair where I can see an outside birdfeeder and our Christmas tree.  Finches and cardinals calmed my thoughts.  A nativity ornament, carved of olive wood and bought in Jerusalem, reminded me why I celebrate Christmas and soothed my spirit. 

            Ornaments on my tree take me back to memories of childhood, to the people who cared for and loved me.  I think of gifts.  On Christmas Eve, I opened one gift:  flannel pajamas.  Long sleeve, button-up the front, collared pajama tops and pajama pants with tucks just above the hem so they could be lengthened as I grew.  I never saw Mom make them, but I knew pajamas were in the wrapped package that she put under the tree a few days before Christmas. 

            Granny always gave money, but the amount varied.  In November, she’d say, “I don’t know how much you’ll get for Christmas.  It depends on how the ‘baccy sells.”  Granny had a tobacco base that she leased and when those dried tobacco leaves were sold in mid-December, she’d get a check.  Most years she gave me a $5 bill, a generous gift in the 1950s, but a few years Granny gave three $5 bills, a small fortune!

            Christmas Day dinners were the most special meal of the year. Dad, my uncles, and grandfather wore white shirts and ties; Mom, my aunts, and grandmothers wore church dresses and pearl necklaces.  The dining room table was covered with a white tablecloth and set with the finest china and crystal and an arrangement of fresh flowers and evergreens.  Children sat around card tables, also covered with a tablecloth. Platters of sliced turkey and cornbread dressing and bowls filled with vegetables and salads were placed on the dining table where the adults sat.  Dad’s blessing included gratitude for Jesus, our family, and the food.  Then we children stood at the corners of the dining room table and filled our plates as the food was passed.  Mom and her sisters served their best desserts: sugar plum pudding, chocolate cream pie, and apple stack cake. 

            I want to carry the love and my memories of Christmases past to Christmas present.  When my Grands decorate cookie angels and Christmas trees, sticky icing and sprinkles will coat my kitchen counter.  When gifts are opened and paper and ribbon clutter the floor, I want my Grands to know the love I felt. When our traditional breakfast is served, Son and Daughter will tell their children that they always ate country ham and angel biscuits and strawberry jam on Christmas morning.  

            Christmas isn’t about lists and tasks, it’s about people and sharing love.  May we all enjoy Christmas preparations and activities, and make memories that will be cherished.####

Let Children Give

A young fifth grade student knows his teacher well.  Mrs. R calls him a rough tough boy and she shared this story.  Their school gives money and a shopping trip to children who wouldn’t have money and an opportunity to shop.  This little guy asked Mrs. R, “What do you want for Christmas?” She answered,

“For you to work hard!”

            That wasn’t what he had in mind.  “I’m going shopping and I have SO MUCH money and I want to get you something,” he said.  Mrs. R thanked him with a big hug and told him he didn’t need to get her a gift.  “I’m still going to get you lipstick or perfrume (his word) because they’re what you love,” he said.

            Mrs. R, a teacher for twenty years, wears perfume and bright colored lipstick.  And this rough tough guy wants to give her something he knows she’ll like.  Not because he has to, not because his mother told him to take a gift to his teacher, not because his teacher asked for a gift.  Because he wants to.  I hope he finds the brightest red lipstick ever and I know Mrs. R will wear it.  And if he gives the cheapest sweet-smelling perfume, she’ll wear it too, at least a few times. And that rough tough boy will probably work harder when she does.

            Mrs. R’s story took me back to my classroom where elementary age children brought me Christmas gifts for twenty-five years.  I appreciated every gift, but the ones that touched my heart were the ones that children chose.  Like the small ceramic hummingbird that sits in the window over my kitchen sink.  When David’s mother picked him up after school that Christmas party day, she made sure he didn’t hear her as she apologized for such a small gift and said he wouldn’t bring the gift she’d chosen.  David chose the perfect gift.

            My Christmas tree has a small flock of birds: cardinals, a blue jay, doves, partridges.  All gifts from students.   Brooke handed me a beautifully store-wrapped gift and said, “Momma said you had better like these.  They cost a lot of money!”  Inside were two green partridges which hang with other birds at eye level on my Christmas tree where I see them every morning as I sit and drink coffee and enjoy quiet time.

            My sweaters were often decorated with pins, scatter pins of all kinds.  Best teacher.  Santa with rhinestone eyes.  Angels with gold wings.  Gifts that students chose and when I wore them, the givers stood straighter, work harder, smiled more.

            I also remember gifts I really liked, but left the giver uncertain.  Gift certificates that were just a piece of paper.  Banana bread that the giver didn’t like.  A glass pie plate.

            During this Christmas shopping season, let children choose the gifts they give.  Let them know the joy, the excitement of watching someone open what they chose.  Let them smile when someone hugs and says thank you.  Let them give.

Lux Remembers

In last week’s column, I wrote about Lux, a teen-age Rotary Exchange Student, who lived with our family for four months almost thirty years ago.  After she went home, she called Christmas mornings and we sent cards and pictures.  Now, via email and social media, we communicate.

            I asked Lux, her nickname for Lavanya, to share her memories. This column is snippets of her response. I didn’t made changes; her command of English is part of her story.

Dearest mom thank you very much for taking me through this memory line.

            OH MY how and where do I start from? It feels like I have just lived there in Cookeville and back. Evergreen in my memory which I would cherish every bit of it for my lifetime.

            Lavanya a tiny teenager decides one fine day that she would be part of this exchange program and live in another country where people culture food everything would be unimaginably new. Knowing very well that I could return home to India only after a year to see my family. Our only form of communication was letters and few phone calls due to the cost of international calls.

            New environment, new people, new accent of English, new food and an entire new culture waiting for me. My first day of school was mind blowing and challenging. One would understand if you know the layout of Cookeville high school. New teaching methods and the culture of my fellow students were so beautiful. My acceptance as one among them started then. I was surprised and at the same time felt happy to have had the wonderful opportunity to be there and experience such happiness.  God really have blessed me with such wonderful parents in India and two lovely parents and families in Cookeville ready to be my parents forever.

            A sister who takes me to school who teaches me how to enjoy cleaning the ice off the windshield. A wonderful younger brother with whom I played with snow and enjoyed watching his basketball matches at school. Fun and carefree where those days, no doubt.

            I remember Halloween and the large pumpkin which I sat down and carved into my own design and put a candle onto it. A work all by myself.  Going to the nearby town and visiting the Apple Barn and tasting apple pie with cinnamon. I could drool over it even today.  Mom I miss your Macaroni and Cheese .

            Stepping out to pick our Christmas tree home and the fun we had watching dad Allen decorate it.  He was as tall as the tree. What a wonderful Christmas. Singing songs, opening Christmas presents (I yet hold most of it) a visit to the church for the midnight prayer, watching the movie Ghost with Alicia and friends.

            My entire year in Cookeville with the most wonderful families would be cherished for a lifetime. I have learned that life is beautiful and distances are never a boundary to have such wonderful relationships and continue the bonding forever.

            I’m thankful for Lux and that she has happy memories.  When we’re busy with daily life, we often don’t realize the memories we’re creating.