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Rainy Days

Rain gets a bad rap. How many times have you heard complaints about a rainy day? I do love sunshine, but I also love rainy days. And even better a thunderstorm, not a damaging storm, just rolling thunder and gentle rain.

As I write this, the morning sky is gray and water puddles stand in the driveway. Thunder woke me at 5:45 a.m. and then I heard the rain. I opened the shutters and raised a window and sat close as I drank my first cup of coffee. A perfect way to begin the day. I wouldn’t like rain every day, I’m not in favor of moving to Oregon where rain falls 164 days yearly, but I surely like a good rainy day.

And I’m not the only one. Three-year-old Jess said, “Yay, rain puddles. Stomp!” Have you ever seen a little kid walk around a puddle? Jess stops at a puddle’s edge and jumps right in the middle with both feet or stomps with one foot, then the other.

Elaine, age 6, likes rainy days to play in mud and be messy. She slathers her body with mud. Elaine doesn’t need spa treatments to reap the benefits of mud baths. Mud baths are advertised to soften skin, detox the body, improve circulation, and relieve stress. If these claims are true, my Grand should be calm and healthy.

“Mom won’t make us go outside to play,” said Lou, age 10. This Grand is happiest holding a book in her hands. “We get to watch TV more on rainy days,” said, Ruth. But when outside, both these girls are right beside their younger siblings stomping puddles and playing in mud.

My Grands take me back. As a kid, I patted dozens of mud pies and meatballs. I liked the feel of sloppy wet dirt squishing through my fingers. But one of the few times I remember Mom really being angry with me was a rainy day. I was about eight when she let me use her red umbrella to walk in the rain for fun. I played in our front yard, running barefoot through standing water, and then decided the umbrella would make a good boat. Mom wasn’t happy that her good umbrella was upside down, soaking wet, and the underneath side plastered with wet leaves. Leaves that stained.

I admit I’ve chanted, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” When I taught a class of 28 sixth-grade students, I hated rainy days that prevented outside recess and walking around the school building after lunch in the cafeteria to take the long way back to our classroom. And when Daughter and Son-in-law’s wedding reception was planned for our backyard, I cussed the four days of non-stop rain.

I planned to write a happy, enjoy-the-rain ending for this column. But I can’t. I went grocery shopping at 4:15 p.m. and walked in drizzling rain and darkness hit and my hair frizzed and I was cold and damp. No wonder rain gets a bad rap.

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Maxim for Life

WHERE WE ARE

I chose the title of this column when my aunt said to me, “It’s okay. It’s where we are in life.” That was 2009.

One of my first columns told about a phone conversation with Aunt Doris, who was 83 at the time and has since passed away. When I asked what she and Uncle Hugh had done during that week, she said they’d attended two funerals. One for a close friend. I was upset that they had lost a good friend and their week was spent at the funeral home and church.

Aunt Doris said, “It’s okay. It’s where we are in life.”   With those words, she assured me that she had accepted her life stage. Aunt Doris and Uncle Hugh were familiar with the rituals of death. Each morning and at noontime, they listened to the radio for the local news and obituaries, and Aunt Doris called her church or a friend if she needed more information about a death.

By that afternoon, she had fried apple pies or a homemade chocolate pie ready to take to the family of the deceased. She and Uncle Hugh attended visitation or the funeral and sometimes both. They gave their time and hearts to comfort those who were mourning.

In a 2009 column, I wrote that I’d adopted Aunt Doris’s words as a maxim for life. No matter what my age or situation, it’s where I was and being okay was my goal. And now, that Husband and I are losing friends to death and many of our conversations are about sickness, I preach Aunt Doris’s words to myself.

Recent deaths hit hard. Our next-door neighbor of 34 years and another friend with whom we’ve celebrated good times since 1977. Some friends care for invalid parents. Others suffer debilitating illnesses. Friends endure chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Wheelchairs and walkers are common in homes. I’m not accepting any of this easily.

It’s comforting to remember the past. Sleeping twice for two hours during the night and hoping for a nap when a baby naps. Giving baby showers and wedding parties. Sewing Halloween costumes and Easter dresses. Chauffeuring children to sports practices, piano lessons, church choir. Monitoring homework.

Travelling long distances to watch Daughter play volleyball and Son play basketball. Welcoming twelve teen-age girls to Friday night slumber parties. Cooking hamburgers for Son and his friends. Hosting a 50th wedding anniversary dinner for parents.

Celebrating engagements and weddings. Cuddling newborn grandchildren. Comforting a Grand during his first overnight stay, his first time to sleep away from home and his parents. And now, setting the family table for six adults and eight Grands for Christmas morning breakfast.

Aunt Doris was right. It’s where we are in life that determines what we do. And she showed me that accepting a life stage and its activities, its blessings, and its trials make life okay.

I don’t have to like losing friends and sickness. Just accept. I’ll keep talking to myself.

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Life in 2017

Husband needed the schedule, I thought. I hit the word FORWARD at the top of an email, entered Husband’s email address, and clicked SEND. Then I walked downstairs from an upstairs room in our house where I work on my computer to where Husband sat in front of his laptop. “I forwarded an email to you,” I said.

“What’s it about?” Husband asked.

“Where and when talks will be given at the Chattanooga aquarium when we go this week. I made notes to take with us.” Holding a post-it-note in my hand, I laughed at myself. How silly to forward an email when Husband was only thirty steps away and I could have told him the information I wanted to share or just shown him the note I held.

Sending this email reminded me of a list I read that began with these words: you know you are living in 2017 when. It included you send an e-mail to the person whose desk is right next to you. I read that, shook my head, and thought surely not. But surely, I did the same.

As I reread the list recently, I wondered if someone had been watching me.

You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach a family of three. I have at least two phone numbers, home and mobile, for everyone and work numbers for some. Remember when the only number was a home phone?

You drive into your driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help carry in the groceries. Even worse, I called as I left the grocery store in hopes that Husband would be standing on the front steps waiting for me.

Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn’t even own for the first 20 or 30 years of your life, is cause for panic and you go home to get it. Guilty. I drove a mile away from home, thought of something I meant to tell Husband, reached in my purse to send a text, and when my cell phone wasn’t there, I drove home. I got my phone, forget to tell Husband whatever was important, and drove back across town.

You enter your checking account PIN number on the microwave. That Personal Identification Number that I worked hard to memorize. I didn’t enter it on the microwave, but I did once use it as the last four digits of my Social Security number.

I could add a few things to the list.

You hit fast-forward on the television remote control to avoid watching commercials while watching a live program.

You push OPEN on your car fob to unlock the door at your house.

You hand a credit card to the librarian to check out a book at the public library, and your library card is not even the same color as your credit card.

Living in 2017. Technology. Emails. Cell phones. Remote controls. Credit cards. PIN.

Makes me wonder what life twenty years later will be like.

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Band-Aids for Adults

“There should be adult Band-Aids with pictures of things we like,” I told Husband as I covered a bloody spot on the top of his head.

“Yeah,” Husband said, “I’d get some with a picture of B. B. King.”

“I’d choose butterflies or trees,” I said.

Husband’s baldhead attracts tree limbs, the tailgate of my van, and so many other things that scrap his head. My skin isn’t as tough as it was so I often reach for a bandage for my arms. We have an assortment of adhesive bandages: sheer, waterproof, cloth, plastic. And choices for the Grands: Sesame Street and Animal Kingdom. (Sometimes I wear a monkey or tiger and my young Grands think it’s cool.) But we don’t have any adult design bandages.

Think of the possibilities. Seasonal: Christmas, snowflakes, Valentine hearts, Easter eggs, 4th or July, Halloween, Thanksgiving. Hobbies: golf clubs, deck of cards, blooming flowers, knitting needles. Wear your profession: dollar bills for bankers, books for librarians, computers for programmers. Show support for a sports team: purple and gold for TTU, orange for UT.

How about Band-Aids with initials? I’d like a red capital S in Old English script. There are names available on everything from placemats to key rings, why not on bandages?

Thinking of these ideas made me wonder who invented adhesive bandages and when were the ones with designs for kids made. Mom put plain flesh colored strips on me; I put Big Bird on my children.

Earle Dickson, who was a cotton buyer for Johnson & Johnson, invented the Band-Aid in 1921 for his wife because she often cut her fingers while preparing food. The small piece of gauze she held in place with adhesive tape to cover a cut fell off easily. So Dickson attached gauze to the center of a piece of tape and covered it with crinoline to keep it sterile. When his boss saw the invention, the company began producing Band-Aids for the public and Dickson was promoted to vice-president.

Sales were slow until the 1950s. Then Johnson & Johnson donated Band-Aids to Boy Scout troops and overseas military personnel as publicity stunts and in 1951 the first decorative bandages with Mickey Mouse were manufactured to appeal to children.

The structural design has changed little in almost 100 years and adhesive bandages are now available in sizes from thumbnail to big patches. A child can choose a character from kids’ movies and television shows. But what about designs for adults?

I haven’t found any at the corner market, but there are some interesting bandages online. Husband might like bright red lips or a green pickle-shaped bandage on the top of his head. I’d choose safari designs as bracelets. And for a night walk, we can both wear neon orange.

These choices are a long way from Husband’s request. However, custom designs are available, a minimum of 5000 for $1300. Maybe I’ll glue a picture of B. B. on a Band-Aid and Husband will have an original personalize bandage.

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Who Will Volunteer?

Who can help? Who wants to? Who has time? Hearing these questions, I’ve turned away. Ducked my head. Avoided eye contact. But other times, I’ve raised my hand. Committed to a time and place. Completed the assignment.

            My first volunteer work was before I knew what I was doing was volunteering. When the pianist of my small church went away to college, there was no one to play the piano. Except my cousin and me, neither accomplished pianists and both young teenagers, but we were willing, so we alternated weekly during our high school years.

On the Sundays I played, the song selection was limited. The song leader chose songs written in the key of C or with no more than two sharps or four flats and a song I knew. I carried away two things from that teen-age experience. It felt good to play a role in my church. To serve and not be paid. And church members often said thank you and encouraged me.

Through the years, I’ve taken on volunteer jobs. Visited senior citizens in retirement homes. Served as advisor to my college sorority. Read with and tutored young students. Taught 4th grade Sunday school. Delivered meals to shut-ins. Served on community boards. Helped out during the high school state football championship games. Picked up litter.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in four Tennesseans volunteered in 2015. Many organizations depend on volunteers, but does the experience help the volunteer? According to an article in Psychology Today, there are five benefits. Volunteers live longer and are healthier. Volunteering establishes strong relationships. Volunteering is good for your career. Volunteering is good for society. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. And I’d add, it’s fun.

People in our community volunteer as evidenced recently by the clean up after May’s wind damage and the rescue of those stranded at Cummins Falls. Volunteers are committed to making their community better and helping others. A listing of almost 400 organizations popped up when I googled volunteer opportunities in Putnam County, Tennessee. We can choose our volunteer jobs.

My next one is at the Putnam County Fair. When I learned that the fair needed volunteers, I signed up. To welcome visitors, offer help, and be an ambassador for Putnam County. No experience is necessary. Just a smile and willing attitude. An opportunity to be a part of a ten-day event where 52,000 people walked through the gates last year.

You can volunteer at the fair, too. Email info@putnamcountyfair.org and give your mailing address and telephone number. (And check out the website: putnamcountyfair.org) Each volunteer will receive a ten-day pass for the event. Volunteers are needed for most evenings. Some for three hours, some five.

When I was 14 and played “In the Garden” on the church’s upright piano, I didn’t know I was beginning a way of life that would span decades and lead to directing Putnam County Fair visitors to the nearest bathroom.

If you aren’t a volunteer, try it. You get more than you give.

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Who Needs an Umbrella?

I made it through April without an umbrella. That’s not to say I wasn’t outside in the rain.   I was, but never holding an umbrella. In fact, I gloated that I didn’t spend $20 or more to buy one.

When my small, folding, red umbrella that I kept tucked under the front seat of my mini-van bit the dust, I started looking for a new one. Every time I was in a store that stocked umbrellas, I checked out the selection. Designer styles with sparkles on the handles didn’t tempt me. Black and navy blue are drab and who wants drab on a rainy day? White ones would get dirty. Tan ones are boring.

Long umbrellas won’t fit under the van seat or in my purse. But I was tempted by one that was yellow on the top and decorated with the Vincent van Gogh painting “Irises” on the inside. Wouldn’t looking up at purple flowers while rain fell all around make for a happy day? Then practicality kicked in. If I were holding an umbrella, shouldn’t I be looking where I was walking, and not up? And if I spent $50 for a Van Gogh print, I’d like hanging it on my wall, and $50 is too much for an umbrella.

I’ve been entertained while looking at umbrellas. Some were labeled “waterproof.” What? Aren’t umbrellas supposed to be waterproof? I wasn’t looking for a white, frilly parasol to provide protection from the sun. Umbrellas protect from rain. And the term “windproof” is interesting. One was guaranteed to withstand 55 mph wind and supposed to be the only one that can stand up to heavy winds. If the wind is blowing 55 mph, I’m staying inside.

Then there are enormous umbrellas. Why would I want anything so big that I could fly like Mary Poppins? That’s how I’d feel holding a 68” umbrella. These are marketed to golfers, but since golfers rarely pull or carry golf clubs and usually ride in covered carts, I don’t understand the need for a gigantic cover.

And not all umbrella handles are alike. My trashed red one had a fat handle that fit my hand. Some handles are skinny, like a pencil. Some have curved, hook-like handles. And some have C-shape handles, much like cuffed bracelets and advertised to “leave your hands free for holding a baby or using a mobile or carrying things.” Seems like a good idea, but these handles are only on long umbrellas.

One March day, I talked myself out of buying a $20 orange umbrella, which I liked just okay, because I realized that for several months I hadn’t reached for an umbrella even once. Maybe I didn’t really need one.

I set April, Tennessee’s rainiest month, as a test. I wore my two jackets with hoods and I got sprinkled a few times, but I never wished for an umbrella. I may never own another one. It’s one less thing to keep up with.

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Lost and Found

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-7-43-00-amI do all I can to be an average American. Like spending 55 minutes a day looking for things I own, but can’t find.

My long black coat sweater would have been perfect to wear to the funeral home. I changed from black sweat pants to black dress pants. Brushed my hair and teeth. Went to the closet to put on my sweater. It wasn’t there. It should’ve been hanging beside my red sweater. I quickly surveyed the hanging clothes in my closet, and then I touched every coat hanger near where that black sweater usually hangs. It wasn’t there.

I glanced at something black that was folded and lay on the edge of the bathtub. The sweat pants I’d just taken off. I looked in the hallway coat closet. It wasn’t there. I grabbed a tan jacket and headed to the funeral home.

My mind wandered during the funeral service. I really liked that sweater coat. I’d worn it with blue jeans for grocery shopping and dressed it up for church wear. And I’d bought it as a souvenir on a trip. How could I be so careless? Where did I last wear it?

When I returned home, I did another search through closets. Then I remembered. A few days before, I had attended a club meeting at a friend’s home and later went out for supper. I called Jennie. Did I leave my sweater at her house? No.

I called the restaurant. After I briefly explained that I’d misplaced something and hoped it was there, a sweet young woman said, “Oh, I understand. We have lots of lost items.” I described my sweater. “There are several black things behind the cash register. It’s probably here. I’ll look and be right back,” she said.

I hit the speaker on my phone and put on my tan jacket and gathered my purse and car keys. Smugly, I waited to hear exactly where to retrieve my sweater. Thank goodness, the restaurant was only a couple of miles away.

“Well, there are three black things. Two sweaters. One is a man’s. One, a woman’s short sweater,” the sweet young woman said.

I wasn’t ready to take no for an answer and asked, “What about the other black thing?”

“It’s a lightweight golf jacket.”

After mumbling thanks and hanging up the phone, I slumped into a living room chair. “What’s going on?” Husband asked. I shared the whole two-hour story. Blah, blah, blah. From getting dressed to go to the funeral home to the lightweight golf jacket.

Husband nodded, turned, and walked out of the living room. Frustrated and mad at myself, I didn’t move. Minutes later, Husband held up my black sweater jacket. “This one?”

It was exactly where I’d left it. Draped over the side of the bathtub beside the black sweat pants. Isn’t that where most lost things are? Exactly where we left them?

At least, I’d spent twice the average 55 minutes searching so maybe the next day I wouldn’t search for anything. Wishful thinking.