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Congrats to Grad’s Parents

He wore his blue mortar board and blue gown with pride.  When his name was called, he held his head high and grinned ear-to-ear as the school’s headmaster placed a diploma in his hand.  Like all graduates, he’d successfully completed the course of study, but no one needed to ask what his plans were after graduation.  When the next school year begins in August, Micah will be in first grade.

            As parents and grandparents took pictures, I thought of my longtime friend who questioned why schools held graduation ceremonies for young children.  In fact, she hardly recognized her children’s high school graduations because they were expected to graduate from universities and then complete masters’ degrees, and preferably, doctorates.  After that, the family would celebrate. 

            Thirty years ago, I understood my friend’s reasoning, but now I’m glad to celebrate each and every successful step of education.  I applauded my Grand as he graduated from kindergarten and his big sister who graduated from 8th grade.

            Across our county many graduation ceremonies, ranging from preschool through doctorate degrees,have been held recently.  Children can graduate many times, depending on the exit grade of their schools: preschool, kindergarten, 4th grade, 8th grade, high school, Tennessee Tech University.

            During graduation ceremonies, speakers congratulate, challenge, inspire, and encourage the graduates.  But who does the same for the parents?  Why isn’t there a graduation speech for parents?

            Congratulations, parents!  Enjoy the moment.  Breathe deeply.  Relax. You did your part. Take a few days off and gloat.  Pat yourself and your new graduates on the back.  Your children’s successes are your successes. 

            You fed, clothed, transported, and bought books, paper, pencils, and poster board.  You helped your children with school work at home and patiently watched, or did your own work nearby, while they finally figured out how to solve the last math equation. 

            You wiped tears and hugged. You heard about teachers who gave too much homework and teachers who didn’t grade fairly and friends who weren’t really friends. 

             Now, challenge your children to continue learning.  Show them, by your example that in real life, outside a classroom, there are opportunities to learn. Challenge them to learn something new every day, even though it won’t be on a test. 

            Read. Read. Read. Read aloud.  Read silently. Read together. Read signs and books and newspapers (printed and online) and the back of a cereal box and Lego directions. 

            Show children that learning is fun.  Play games. There’s a fine line between letting children win and squashing children’s confidence by always losing.  Let them experience victory and defeat.  

            Encourage children to try. The quote I kept on my classroom wall read, “It’s okay to try and fail, and try and fail again.  But it’s not okay to try and fail, and fail to try again.”  Share your successes and failures.

            Parents, no matter the age of your graduates, they will always be your children.  And they’ll always want you to celebrate with them.  So, celebrate all graduations.  You’re making happy memories.


Celebrate Birthdays!

On my birthday last month, it wasn’t a coincidence that Kim sent an email to the members of our women’s church circle group.  She wrote, “I want to share a devotional with you today and say it is okay to grow old.”  I agree and I appreciated this encouragement.

            “Wear out, not rust out” is the title of Dr. Joe Pettigrew’s devotion.  He questions why so many quit celebrating as the years pass and asks what it looks like to really celebrate our years. 

            I plan to make a big deal out of birthdays no matter how many candles are on my cakes.  When my children were young, I learned that celebrating their grandparents’ birthdays were happy times and created happy memories.  For a few years, Husband and I have celebrated my birthday with five Grands and their parents at the lake, but we sold the pontoon boat so in June my Grands began asking, “Gran, what’ll we do to celebrate your birthday?” 

            I had the answer. For two days, a huge blow-up water slide was in our backyard and we laughed and slid and splashed.  My Grands discovered ways to twist and bounce down the slide and throw huge water sprays from the pool at the bottom of the slide.  We ate chips and Moon Pies for snacks and hamburgers and chips for supper.  I blew out the many, many candles on my chocolate cake while everyone laughed when the candles continued to burn. 

            Days before my birthday, my 6-year-old Grand had asked, “What do you want for your birthday?” He was surprised that I hadn’t made a list and wondered how anyone would know what I wanted. What if I got something I didn’t like?  Micah was right, and I did want to replace my hummingbird feeder. 

            So now where my old faded feeder had hung, there’s a bright new one that Micah and his siblings gave me. And one morning last week, Micah’s older sister, Lucy, and I sat for over an hour watching two hummers dart and sip.  Would that have been fun for her if she hadn’t given the new feeder and poured sugar water into it?

            I’ve never understood why anyone says, “Oh, I’d rather just skip my birthday.  It’s just another day.” It’s not.  It’s a day that family and friends feel good about wishing you a happy day.  A day to eat cake and ice cream and ignore the calories. A day to remember childhood birthdays when getting a card meant getting money.  To celebrate blessings and overcoming trials.  To make memories for yourself and those who love you.  To look forward to the next birthday and what the future holds. 

            Dr. Pettigrew wrote that the idea of life winding down at age sixty or seventy makes no sense.  He even quoted scripture that gray hair is a glorious crown. I’m making note of those words since I have a natural gray crown.             

Wear out, not rust out.  That’s my intention.

Roads for High School Graduates

Congratulations, high school graduates!  You’ve successfully completed thirteen years of education and this week you’ll receive diplomas during graduation ceremonies. 

            As students you’ve added layers of knowledge.  You’ve counted by tens and added fractions and found the area of rectangles and solved A x 2 + B x + C = y.  You’ve learned to write d and b with lines on the right and left sides of circles and the difference between a synonym and antonym and how to write an essay.  You’ve heard about civilizations and wars and compromises and peace treaties. You’ve identified seven continents and five oceans and can explain how the Earth rotates and revolves.  

            You’ve gained experience interacting with peers.  On the playground, you waited your turn to go down a slide.  You worked with classmates on small group science projects and social studies reports.  You performed with a group: a sports team, a dance team, a choral presentation, a play, or a debate.

            Everything about your last two months of high school has been different than expected, than planned. But some things haven’t changed: you’ve followed instructions and directions from teachers and coaches and parents. I can hear you say, “Now, I can do whatever I want,” because that’s what eighteen-year-old high school graduates usually think, even us grandparents had such a thought.

              So, now what?  The COVID19 pandemic might limit your plans, but your life as a graduate will be different from that of a high school student.  Some of you will head off to higher learning:  vocational schools, colleges, universities.  Some will start full-time jobs.  Some will combine school and work.  Some will join the armed forces.  Some will accept more home responsibilities. 

            I wish for words of wisdom to ease these transitions, these travels on new paths, new roads.  Two quotes come to mind:  take the road less travelled and take the high road.

            In an English class you probably heard Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”  The last lines read, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”   Those words remind me of when my dad said, “Just because everyone one else is doing it, doesn’t mean you do it.”  And Dad’s example was the foolish one that is joked about – just because everyone else jumps off a tall building, are you going to? 

            Will you take the low road or high road? According to an old Scottish tune, the low road is longer and easier while the high road is shorter, but much more arduous.  Taking the more difficult high road has come to mean when faced with choices the high road is the morally right choice.  Take the more ethical option, the one that lets you have a clear conscience, the one you’ll be glad for your parents and everyone who loves you to know about.             Graduates

Take a Break from Work

An airport is one of the best places for people watching.  Last week at the Denver airport I chose a seat facing a wall of windows where I could see two Southwest airplanes parked and the ground crew working.

            Those workers were like ants around an anthill.  One drove a baggage tractor that pulled a loaded wagon from the building to an airplane.  Another lifted all the baggage – suitcases of all shapes, colors, and sizes, cardboard boxes secured with orange duck tape, golf bags, and big canvas bags, probably carrying infant car seats – from the wagon to a conveyer belt that moved the baggage into the belly of the airplane.  But before lifting, the worker swiped a device, like a big watch, on his left wrist over the white airline tags attached to the bags and boxes.  That device probably created tracking records in case baggage became lost.

            A worker inside an open cargo door of the plane took bags from the conveyor belt and threw them into a dark cavity out of my sight.  Another worker drove a small jeep under the plane’s wing, stopped, got out, bent low, and looked at the tires.  A man dressed in a pilot uniform carried a clipboard and walked around the plane. 

            As the other airplane moved backwards, four workers walked under the wings and in front of the plane and motioned with huge flashlights to indicate that the pilot should continue to back up.  Putting flashlights aside, they waved with their hands stretched high as the plane turned. 

            Wearing uniform long pants, long sleeve shirts, bright orange vests, and ear noise protectors, the ground crew was a team.  All doing their jobs.

            Then an oversized white van stopped near the parked airplane.  Snownie Ambulance was written on the van’s side.  Was someone hurt?  This didn’t look like an ambulance to take a patient to a hospital.  The driver, dressed in dark shorts and a white-shirt, lifted a metal table with holes from the back of the van.  He set the table on the paved ground and placed gallon jars, filled with brightly colored liquids, upside down in those holes. 

            A couple of the ground crew workers sauntered over to the Snowie Ambulance and were handed snow cones.  One immediately used the lever on an upside down jar to cover the ice with red syrup.  The other squirted several colors on his snow cone. 

            Within a few minutes, more than a dozen strong looking men and women were eating snow cones and talking.  I couldn’t hear them, but their smiles, their shoulder punches, their high-fives conveyed a party atmosphere.  Southwest Airlines celebrated its 48th birthday last week, and I’m guessing the Snowie Ambulance was part of the celebration.                    It’s interesting that something as simple as snow cones brought frivolity and a sense of community to grown men and women who were working just minutes earlier.  My spirits were lifted and I didn’t even get to eat a cherry snow cone.

Treasures – the Simplest Things

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-7-51-03-amThe true treasures in life are found in the simplest things. A small, framed picture with those words sits on the windowsill above my kitchen sink. Perched in the frame’s corner are a miniature birdfeeder and three birds: a cardinal, a blue jay and a tufted titmouse. This picture by Marjolein Bastin, and sold by Hallmark, makes me smile every time I see it, although it’s been in my kitchen for decades.

            Not to be sappy, excessively sentimental, but during the holidays my greatest treasures and what I most appreciated were not purchased gifts under the Christmas tree.

Like many mothers, my best gift was having my children and their families together. They sat around Husband’s and my dining room table. Six adults, eight children, ages 1 to 11. A white tablecloth and a Christmas candle centerpiece weren’t important. Or that some drinks were poured into the best crystal and some into plastic cups with a top and a straw.   Or what food was served. How many times have you heard someone ask, “Mom, have you eaten?” Maybe she was filled with the happiness of having all her brood together and eating was trivial.

Three Grands and their parents travelled across country and three nights, at my Grands’ bedtime, I read Watch Out for Mater. (In the world of Cars, Mater is a rusty tow truck that Lightning McQueen must protect.) Dean, age 5, chose the book. He and his little brother Neil snuggled close as I sat on their bed. Dean giggled because Lightning had a girlyfriend, Sally, and Neil was sad that Matter cried. “He should’ve listened to Lightning. Then he wouldn’t cry,” Neil said. How good it was to snuggle and watch my Grands absorb the characters’ emotions.

For our first-ever Family Talent Show, David, a beginning piano student, played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Louise, age 9, entertained us with her violin. Two five-year-old cousins teamed up to share every Knock-Knock joke they knew and then they made up a few. And anyone who didn’t have a planned act, danced. (This term is used loosely to include shuffling feet and somersaults.)

My seven year-old Grand gave me a special handwritten card. “I love Gran bekus she loves me.” I treasure her line drawings of a butterfly and a spider web and she signed it as I sign her birthday cards, ‘Love forever.’ My Grand knows how to tug my heartstrings.

When I announced, “Anyone who wants to win a prize come sit quietly at the dining room table.” I wasn’t sure how my plan would go. I brought out Bingo. A wire cage, marble size balls embossed with such things as B15, white playing cards, and a basket of prizes. This game deserves its own column.

You’ve enjoyed such simple things, too. Family together. Reading a book. A handmade card. A game. Acting silly. Let’s appreciate simple things as treasures during 2017.





Lessons from Mother

imgresIn 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. A day to serve Mom breakfast in bed, take her out for lunch, and give her a homemade card, flowers, and jewelry.   My mom wore every scatter pin I gave her on her lapels and dresses. Even the one with a missing rhinestone.

Like most young children, I thought Mom was perfect. And like most teenagers, I sometimes resented her advice. As a young mother, I followed her examples and sought her advice. And some things Mom taught me I still follow, especially at suppertime, although she’s been gone twenty-five years.

I was nine years old when Mom taught me to make cornbread and it was my supper chore. I put a dollop of bacon grease in a black skillet, the one with a broken-off handle and used only for cornbread, and placed the skillet in the oven set at 425ºF. The recipe was simple: two cups Martha White self-rising cornmeal, one beaten egg, and enough buttermilk to make the right consistency. Stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients were combined. If the batter was too thick, add buttermilk. Too thin, add cornmeal. When the skillet and grease were hot, pour the melted grease into the batter and stir two or three times. Dump the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 20 minutes.

But my job wasn’t finished. Making cornbread included washing the bowl and wooden spoon, and that didn’t mean, swish and rinse. It meant hand washing with detergent, rinsing, drying and putting away the bowl and spoon. That has stuck with me through these many decades. Occasionally, I rinse a cornbread bowl and stick it in the dishwasher and I see Mom’s smile. Her closed mouth grin and tilted head tells me, “You could wash it in a minute.”

When I was young, supper was the meal when Mom, Dad, my brother, and I sat down together. It was eating and visiting time. Mom taught me two tricks: always set the table before calling everyone to supper and always serve hot bread. A set table looks inviting and everyone knows a meal will be served. Oftentimes our table was set with placemats, plates, folded paper napkins, and utensils – a knife, spoon, and fork – by late afternoon. It was a promise of food and an expectation that all would gather and linger.

Even if the meal was leftovers, hot bread and butter whetted our appetites. Most often, it was cornbread or biscuits. But if Mom didn’t want to heat up the house with a hot oven on an August evening, she fried hoecakes in a black skillet. And sometimes, mostly for guests, she served store-bought brown and serve rolls.

Setting the table has stuck with me. Even when only Husband and I sit down together for supper, I like the table set. But, as much as I love hot bread and butter, I hate the added pounds so my mantra is always serve guests, especially my Grands’ families, hot bread. If not, I’m confident the whole meal would flop.

Wash the cornbread batter bowl, set the table, serve hot bread – simple habits ingrained in me. It’s not the once in a lifetime or once a year things we remember when our parents no longer stand beside us, it’s the daily things.

This Mother’s Day hug your mother and tell her thank you for what she does everyday.



2015 Year in Review

imagesI’m a sucker for reading any list that is entitled 2015 Year in Review. A look back at the people and events and places that made the news during the past twelve months.  And so, I created my own list.

Annie. My youngest Grand was born! I flew across the country to be with Son’s family for nine days. On the day Annie was born, her two older brothers and I stayed home when her parents went to the hospital. I met Annie and cradled her in my arms when she was only 18 hours old. My tears were happy tears.

Concussion. After I tripped, flipped, and hit my head on a baby grand piano, I sported two raccoon black eyes and an addled brain. I never, ever wanted a concussion and hope to never, ever have another. I don’t do dizzy well.

Gatlinburg with college girlfriends. Seven women who have kept each other’s secrets and knows each other’s faults and pick up past conversations as if we still lived together in Meadows Hall on Tennessee Tech’s campus.

The Blarney Stone. I stood on the sidewalk beside the Blarney Castle and threw a kiss. And I’m positive that I was gifted with eloquence as were those who patiently moseyed up the narrow stairwell to the top of castle, lay on their backs, held tightly to metal poles, tilted their head upside down, and kissed the stone. For two hours, I wandered through the gardens and stables surrounding this famous Ireland castle.

Cross-stitch quilt. Seven years ago, I pieced together thirty fabric blocks that my mother and Grandma Gladys had embroidered with tiny cross-stitches, and I began hand quilting that quilt. My very first quilting project. I completed two blocks each winter until January 2015 when I declared the quilt would be finished by September. So the quilt kit that Mom bought from Lee Ward’s catalog in 1966 was finally completed forty-nine years later. And because Daughter and my Grands quilted a few inches on the border, it’s named the Five-Generation Quilt. The most priceless thing I own.

Building the Heart of the City Playground. I’ve never been so happy to pick up trash and sweep water and count pieces of wood – all while enduring a steady rain. On a clear day, I painted handrails and served lunch and supper to the many volunteers. This community endeavor was truly one of Cookeville’s best.

Red tide and blue jellyfish. A beach trip began with red tide, a phenomenon caused by microorganisms that take on a reddish brown color in the water. The trip ended with blue jellyfish, Velvella, littering the beach. Beautiful creatures to look at, but not to touch. God’s creations amaze me.

Reunions. Because Husband’s Tennessee Tech fraternity celebrated a 50-year milestone, friends from near and far came for Tech’s homecoming. We marveled how quickly the years have passed and we toasted long-lasting friendships.

Tea Party. If you’ve never been to a tea party with little girls, you’ve missed a giggling good time. While baking Christmas cookies with her older sister and me, six-year-old Ruth asked, “Gran, can we have a tea party?” Older sister frowned and shook her head so Ruth invited three of her friends. She set the kitchen table with my best kid-friendly Christmas plates and arranged cookies on a Christmas tree platter. Even the three dolls who sat at our table seemed to giggle.

Now it’s your turn. Think through the year and jot down some notes. The people, the events, the places.   Who and what made news in your life in 2015?





Father’s Day

imagesIn 1914 President Woodrow Wilson approved a resolution and declared the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day. In 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a federal holiday on the third Sunday in June.

Why was Father’s Day proclaimed a holiday 58 years later than Mother’s Day?

Two women campaigned for these two holidays. Anna M. Jarvis who lived in West Virginia, devoted six years of her life after her mother’s death, beginning in 1908, petitioning state governments, business leaders, churches, and community organizations for Mother’s Day. In 1909 a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official day for fathers. Inspired by Jarvis’s work, she thought fathers deserved the same recognition as mothers. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and Washington celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day in an effort to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” Tobacconists and haberdashers promoted Father’s Day. They advertised cigars and men’s clothing as gifts instead of roses, the flower that Dodd had proposed as the official symbol of Father’s Day. And the earliest greeting cards showed neckties as the perfect Father’s Day gifts.

So why did it take so long for fathers to officially have their own holiday?

Maybe because Sonora Dodd didn’t work as hard for Father’s Day as Anna Jarvis worked for Mother’s Day or maybe Dodd didn’t talk to the right people.

Maybe because, as one historian wrote, men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.” (http://www.history.com)

Maybe because during the 1920s and 1930s, a movement arose to favor one holiday: Parent’s Day.

Maybe because the Depression derailed the effort to honor both parents and an attempt was made to de-commercialize holidays.

Maybe because, as a florist explained, “fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.”

Nevertheless, a day to honor fathers unofficially continued. When World War II began, advertisers stated that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort and by the end of the war, although it wasn’t a proclaimed holiday, Father’s Day was celebrated. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a public statement declaring the third Sunday in June the official day to observe Father’s Day. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation making the day permanent.

It is estimated that on this Father’s Day 80 million cards will be given. Half of those will say, “Happy Father’s Day.” One fifth will say, “To my Husband.” Others will be given to grandfathers, fathers, uncles, sons. But very few cards will feature a necktie – the traditional least favorite Father’s Day gift.

Maybe the necktie is why Father’s Day was proclaimed 58 years later than Mother’s Day.

Maybe because the powers who were, the congressmen and presidents, didn’t want to create a holiday that their children would give them ugly ties. Ties they would have to wear.

Happy Father’s Day!

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 9.03.03 AMThanks to Winter Storm Octavia my Grands and their friends have sled down our backyard hill for two days, and we’ve partied inside with hot chocolate and cookies. What fun! Now, I’m done with winter. Done! Like I did this time last year, I’ve searched for Funny Days, Weird Holidays, and Celebrations on http://www.daysoftheyear.com for ways to enjoy cold winter days.

Today is Battery Day. Just think how important the simple battery is to our way of life. How many household devices use a battery? Maybe I chose Battery Day because I recently turned the ignition switch on my van and nothing happened, except for a rat-a-tat-tat sound. A simple fix, I was told. (Thank you, Husband, for letting me drive your car while you installed a new battery in mine.) The first battery was invented in 1800 so this is a 215-year birthday celebration. February 18 is also Drink Wine Day. Whoever chose mid-February to celebrate drinking wine must have also been searching for ways to enjoy these dreary cold days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.54.57 AM  February 25th is Inconvenience Yourself Day. A day to put on your happy face and be nice. The website states, “…this day should be an incentive for others to acknowledge their appreciation for acquaintances or strangers and to promote a respectful attitude and an attentive demeanor.” To hold a door or carry something heavy for someone. Help someone cross a street. “A day to reflect on what others need and how we can help.” At first I thought this day should be called Kindness Day, but the emphasis is to inconvenience myself to help another person. It’s also Chocolate Covered Peanuts Day. Chocolate and peanuts – my favorite candy combination. It’s no inconvenience to devour a Goo Goo!

Last year on March 4th, I celebrated Grammar Day and Pound Cake Day. Other choices are Toy Solider Day and International Scrapbooking Industry Day. Neither seems to fit what I do, but my scrapbooking friends can cut and paste from sunrise to sundown. I learned that Toy Solider Day is deceiving. It’s intended to unite fans of various roleplaying activities. From nurses to scouts to cowboys to soldiers to whatever anyone wants to be. So on this day, we can all dress up and pretend.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 8.51.48 AMWorld Plumbing Day is March 11. A day to reflect on the role that plumbing plays in preserving good health and our way of life. My great aunt and uncle didn’t have indoor plumbing when I was nine years old and spent a week with them. I took a hot bath as soon as I got home, and I’ve never forgotten the spiders in Aunt Anne and Uncle Everett’s outhouse. Hallelujah for plumbing!

March 18 is Awkward Moments Day. I celebrate this often. Every time I see someone who says, “Hi, Susan. How you doing?” and I know the face – not the name. I listen for a clue. A former student or his parent? One of my children’s friends? Someone I knew in another life? The website says I should celebrate with humor. Laugh and move on to the next awkward moment. Yes, there will be more.

Check out the website and choose your own days. How about What if Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Days? Or Open an Umbrella Indoors Day? Or International Ask a Question Day? Chocolate Caramel Day? Whatever it takes to get to Friday, March 20. Just 30 more days.