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An Unforgettable Parade

I’ve never seen a parade I didn’t like. From Fourth of July neighborhood parades where kids ride tricycles and wear blue shorts and red and white striped shirts to Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City, which I’ve only seen on television. And I try to never miss TTU’s Homecoming parades featuring floats made by Tech students and marching bands from many area high schools.

But one parade stands out in my memory. A parade I didn’t plan to watch. Didn’t even realize I was in the right place at the right time until I braked at a stop sign on Washington Avenue and saw a few people standing on the sidewalk. Samuel, my oldest Grand who was 11 at the time, was riding in my van with me.

“What’s happening here?” Samuel asked. I shrugged my shoulders and then looked across the street and saw a military vehicle, young people carrying the American flag and other flags, and some older men dressed in military uniforms. Then I remembered the date and that I’d read about a planned parade.

“It’s the Veteran’s Day Parade,” I said and immediately decided we would join the people on the sidewalk. I don’t remember every detail of that parade, but there were no floats. No fancy cars decorated with crepe paper and balloons. No clowns. No motorcycles. No horses. No candy thrown to spectators. And only one band, but not even all the members of the Cookeville High School marching band.

The band members played patriotic marching songs and members of ROTC, Reserve Officer Training Corps, carrying the flags led. Veterans marched or rode in military jeeps and trucks. Veterans from all branches of the military. Veterans of all ages. Most the age of grandparents. Some walking very slowly. All dressed in uniform.

The veterans carried their shoulders and chins high and acknowledged those of us who applauded quietly to say thank you. Slight head nods and closed mouth smiles were the veterans’ responses to our expressions of appreciation.

This Veteran’s Day parade was short. As the last veteran walked past, Samuel looked up at me. I wiped the back of my hands across my eyes and he asked, “Gran, why are you crying?”

To me, the veterans represented all who have served in the United States Armed Forces, including my father and brother. Dad served in the Army at the end of WW II, and Roger was stationed in Spain for three years while in the Air Force. And I thought of a high school classmate who lost his life fighting in Viet Nam.

Monday, November 12, at 11:00 a.m. we are all invited to honor our veterans at the Putnam County Veterans Day Parade. There will be a short opening ceremony at the courthouse, and then the parade will proceed along Broad Street from North Washington Avenue to the Cookeville Depot. Anyone interested in more information should contact a Veteran’s Service Officer at 931-526-2432.

Let’s line Broad Street to honor those who have served our country.

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Happy 4th of July

Screen Shot 2018-07-04 at 6.40.02 AMTo celebrate our independence we wear red, white and blue, gather with friends and family for backyard picnics, light firecrackers, and watch community fireworks shows. Is this the way our country’s birthday has always been celebrated? Why do we shoot fireworks? Who decided hot dogs are eaten at picnics?

While researching, I discovered that maybe we should be celebrating two days earlier since on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted for independence and declared the legal separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain. It took two more days of debate for the delegates to agree upon the Declaration of Independence and have paper copies printed to distribute to states for ratification. Because those papers were dated July 4, 1776, the date was adopted as our country’s beginning.

Historians claim that only two people signed on the 4th: Secretary Charles Thompson and John Hancock, who was the president of Congress. About a month later, August 2, all fifty-six congressional delegates had signed their names on the document.

One of our founding fathers, John Adams, wrote, “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” He was right that we Americans continue to commemorate this significant event and we can give him credit for the tradition of fireworks. He wrote that America’s birthday should be honored with “games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”

The holiday has always been celebrated with loud bangs and fire. On July 4, 1777, the first celebratory fireworks to mark the Declaration of Independence were set off in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cannons and explosives left over from wars were part of our country’s earliest celebrations. By 1783, fireworks were easily available for public purchase and this year about 14,000 fireworks displays are planned nationwide.

It’s estimated that 150 million hot dogs will be consumed during the 4th of July week. And it’s no surprise that July is National Hot Dog Month. According to urban legend, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island began on July 4, 1916 when four immigrants challenged each other to a hot dog eating contest to prove their loyalty to America. Whoever ate the most hot dogs was the most patriotic.

But there are no records to prove this contest’s origin. The competition continues and now there are separate events for men and women and the contest is televised.

Like many of you, Husband and I will celebrate in all the traditional ways. I’ll eat only one hot dog and sparklers are my choice for backyard fireworks. And maybe we should all take time to include a reading of the Declaration of Independence as was done during the earliest Independence Day celebrations.

A copy is available at http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/ or listen at https://learcenter.org/event/dramatic-reading-of-the-declaration-of-independence. It’s worth fifteen minutes.

Happy Birthday America!

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Roses, Violets, Sugar, and Cards

Screen Shot 2018-02-15 at 7.54.23 AMIt’s Valentine’s Day. A day to send greetings to those we love. A day that the Greeting Card Association says that over a billion cards are sent, and it’s estimated that almost two hundred million roses are produced for this holiday. That’s about 17,000,000 bouquets of a dozen roses.

When I think of Valentine’s Day cards, I think of a two-line poem I first heard Dad quote when I was a child, and it was printed on some of the first mass produced cards in the mid-1800s.

Roses are red, violets are blue

Sugar is sweet and so are you.

But that’s not how the poem was first written. These lines were adapted from a rhyme published in 1784 in a collection of English nursery rhymes and read as follows:

The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

The honey’s sweet, and so are you.

Thou are my love and I am thine;

I drew thee to my Valentine.

The origins of these words can be traced back all the way to the 16th century, 1590, and were written by Sir Edmund Spenser in his epic The Faerie Queene. To describd a fair lady, he wrote, ‘She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew.’ All these years later, cards are printed with variations of the two lines about roses and violets and honey.

By the time you read this, I’m sure everyone has given and received Valentine cards. But what if you haven’t? It’s not too late. All you need is a pen or keyboard, a little time, and a willingness to put your feelings in words.

Husband and I have celebrated more that fifty Valentine’s Days. Yes, fifty! Three as college sweethearts and forty-eight as husband and wife. The cards we’ve given each other chronicle our time together. From lovey-dovey courtship days. Busyness of early marriage, each holding a job. Appreciation of love and care given to children and family. To funny verses about love lasting through the years. And we’ve exchanged gifts of flowers and candy.

I do appreciate every card, every gift, but I most remember one gift and one card. When Husband and I were college students, I was the only girl in my dormitory who received a dozen long- stemmed yellow roses. Yellow, not red, roses. No doubt the florist tried to convince Husband that red roses signify love and romance and were the perfect Valentine flower. Yellow roses represent joy and friendship. Husband knew yellow roses were my favorite flowers.

And my best-loved card didn’t cost one penny, except Husband’s time and the expense of printer ink. Not a store-bought card, but a personal card. I read this just-for-me card every Valentine’s Day and sometimes in between.

So write a card for your sweetheart. Begin with ‘Roses are red and violets are blue. Sugar is sweet and so are you.’ You can’t go wrong with those words. They’ve been around a long time.

In Between Week

What are you doing this last week of 2017? I threw out this question to Facebook friends.

I see these days as Mondays, kick-start days for tasks and chores. But I thought some people might say the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is down time, a time to kick back and do nothing. Daughter said she’d take a big nap on the 26th and then get back to me. Amy works a demanding job and is taking life easy until the end of this year and then start out strong in 2018. Peggy is resting up for an upcoming adventure in January.

Some people travel. “Get out of town,” Sherry said. Mary is travelling to NYC for shows, museums, the Downton Abby exhibit, and taking in Saks’ windows displays on Fifth Avenue. After a few days with family, Chuck will fly to Buenos Aires, and Mikey is fishing in Costa Rica where life is easy and warm.

Some hit the exercise mode and take on new classes. Michael gets back on his walking program this week with the goal of 500 miles in 2018. Jan is ready for the gym and workouts. Crystal rides her bike. Together Cousin Mike and his thirteen-year-old daughter start a beginner’s tap-dancing class that runs for four months.

Some people take on tasks. Marilyn is going through Christmas decorations and sorting them. Linda begins the decluttering that lasts through February. “It is a tradition,” she says. Crystal and her husband who are in the process of downsizing will begin to declutter. (I’ve done that. They have my sympathy.)

Some set goals. Kristy, the mother of a toddler and newborn twin babies, will make a game plan for simplifying her life and said, “So I can better take care of my now family of 5!” Alexandra will write her vision of Thrive with Hope’s Growth in 2018.

Some spoke of looking forward. I appreciate their optimism. Move toward 2018 with hope, love, faith. Look forward to new friendships, new opportunities for self-development, spiritual growth and personal well-being.

Almost all planned to spend some of this week with others. Time with family and friends tops most people’s list. Grandparents are enjoying grandbabies. Parents treasure having grown-up kids home. Out-of-towners are visiting everyone they can.

Many friends inspire me. They remind me to be in the present and count my blessings. Reminisce about the past year, the good times and the hard times, thanking God for seeing us through.

This week is like no other and I like it. I’ll do a few tasks. I’ll pack away most Christmas decorations. But not the carolers, one for each of our children and Grands, which will decorate the china hutch until Valentine’s Day and the nativity so the Wise Men can join the celebration sometime in January.

And I’ll get out my 2018 calendar and jot down planned events. And I have a new jigsaw puzzle to complete. But I’m convinced this week is a time to rest and enjoy being with those we love. I hope you do the same.

When You knew it was Love

searchWhen did you know you were in love? My Facebook friends shared their stories for this column. Stories of love at first sight. Of confirmed love.

On our first date. He took me out for a nice dinner, told me I was beautiful, and made me feel like no one ever had.

I saw him leaning against a brick wall. Shades. Sullen. Looking all James Dean.

He jumped over my front porch railing and ran to me when I came home from work. I didn’t know he was on leave from the Navy.

While at a movie night at a friend’s house, he walked across the room and handed me his popcorn bowl with only half-popped kernels. He remembered my favorite popcorn.

When I saw him with his family, he was gentle, loving, and showed respect.

Coming home from a trip to Chattanooga sealed the deal. Ruby Falls is so romantic.

He kissed me in my parents’ kitchen when we were teenagers. I knew I’d marry him one day.

In 7th grade, I saw her for the first time and a lightning bolt struck. We were a parent-take-us-couple. To the movies, skating rink, a friend’s house. Then we went to different high schools, but reconnected in 10th grade. She called me on her birthday at 11:00 p.m. because her family had forgotten her birthday. That was it!

Our eyes locked across the room at our high school reunion. I’d had a crush on him in high school and he “picked” on me. I called him the day after the reunion and he sent me flowers. Three weeks later we began a long-distance courtship.

On our first date. He held my hand during the movie and walked, rather than drove, me home.

Six months into dating, we were slow dancing and the thought popped into my head, “I’m in love with this guy!” I wasn’t happy about it because I was 14 and had big plans. He went away to college and called me every Sunday afternoon. When I received a scholarship at a college close to him, I knew it was meant to be.

I heard a tiny bell chime when I first saw him. It was like heaven said, “Finally, they meet!”

When going to college badminton class wasn’t as important as going to lunch with him. I made a D in badminton.

Our wedding was only weeks away when our rescue boxer died. Phillip wrapped his body in a quilt and dug a grave at my grandparent’s farm. I realized that if I could endure such a sad time with Phillip by my side and still feel hopeful about the future, I had chosen the right partner for life.

Thank you, friends, for your mini-love stories.   I was swayed when he brought Ralph’s chocolate-covered cream-filled donuts and drove me from my college dormitory to 8:00 chemistry classes in the dead of winter. I hated early cold mornings and chemistry class. I loved Boyfriend, now Husband, and donuts. And still do.

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Patriotism at Its Best

imagesThe 4th of July.   Our country’s birthday, when Americans are most patriotic. We hold parades and concerts and backyard picnics. We wear red, white, and blue. Eat watermelon. Decorate bicycles with crepe paper streamers. Watch fireworks.

I’ve been right in the middle of such celebrations, but the most patriotic event I’ve ever attended wasn’t to celebrate our country’s birthday. Ten years ago, Son and Daughter-in-Law met Husband and me in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a long weekend visit. It was mid-July, time for the local rodeo. Since we didn’t have Friday night plans, a real western rodeo seemed like a fun evening.

As we got out of our rental car in the parking lot, we laughed that we weren’t dressed appropriately. White tennis shoes, wrinkled blue jeans, and tee shirts identified us as tourists. Other people wore spit-shined cowboy boots (many with silver spurs), long sleeve western shirts, and jeans with knife-sharp creases. Black, brown, and white cowboy hats with rolled side brims put Husband’s and Son’s caps to shame.

We bought our admission tickets, took a few steps into the arena, and I had one of those frozen-in-place moments. The arena was pristine. The rusty-brown colored ground in the center ring had been smoothed in a circle pattern. And America flags flew from white posts around the ring. It was the beauty of the flags that stopped me.

As we made our way to grandstand seats, cowboys stepped aside and tipped their hats. An usher led us to open bleacher seating and suggested we sit high so we could take in the show at its best. People already seated moved closer together to make room for us and nodded a welcome.

At dusk, floodlights dimmed and everyone stood. Riders on horseback and dressed in military uniforms presented the American and Colorado flags and two others I didn’t recognize. The horses raced around the arena and then stopped dead still in the center.   Old Glory rose above the other flags. All hats were held over hearts.

A traditional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung, and not just by the singer holding the microphone. It seemed that every person standing sang. The red and white stripes waved. I wiped tears of pride.

I knew we were at a real rodeo. What I didn’t know was that the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, which began in 1937, supports the military. Rodeo proceeds support service members and their families in the Pikes Peak Region. Colorado Springs is home to the United States Air Force Academy, U.S. NORAD/NORTHCOM (home to the American and Canadian joint forces), Air Force Space Command, Shriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson. The community is proud of its partnership with the armed forces.

The Facebook page for the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo recognizes the event’s volunteers.

“What makes the rodeo work is the over 300 community and military volunteers who give their time to ensure we provide our community with a great rodeo. More importantly, it assures we can continue our tradition and #1 purpose of giving back to our military and their families. That’s what it’s all about and why we do what we do.”

And no doubt, that’s why a rodeo that we just happened to take in was the most patriotic event I’ve ever attended. It recognized the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

And, oh yes, the barrel racing and bareback bronc riding were the two most exciting competitions.

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Mom Said

Bertram Girls front030 - Version 2Sunday is Mother’s Day and I’ll honor my mom with memories. Even though she passed away more that twenty years ago, I still remember many things that she said, and not just her words. There was no time that Mom spoke louder or more clearly than when a surprise gift arrived one day.

At 13, I was as tall as Mom, five foot, seven inches and taller than all my friends. I didn’t like being tall. Mom often placed her hand on the small of my back and gently ran her fingers up my spine. “Stand tall and proud,” she’d whisper.

Dad’s large hands rubbed my shoulders. “No slumping. You’re beautiful – just like your mother,” he’d say.

I didn’t feel proud or beautiful. Just tall.

One summer day a package from Sears Roebuck came in the mail. Mom was pulling weeds from her flowerbed and told me to put it on the kitchen table.

That night while I lay in bed reading Mom laid the package on my bed. I’m not sure of the exact words of our conversation, but they were something like this. Mom said, “Susan, this is for you. You’ll probably never wear it. But you’ll have it if you need it.” I ripped the package’s thick brown paper. Inside was ugly white material—like the drop cloth we’d used while painting my bedroom. This thing had hooks and laces.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“A back brace,” Mom said. “I know it’s hard to stand straight. I remember. I was taller than everyone at school.”

“A brace? My back doesn’t hurt.”

“It’s not for pain. It’s to help you have good posture. You don’t need this brace now. We’ll just put it in your closet and if you ever think it’s too hard to stand straight, you can wear it.” Mom put the hideous brace, inside its brown package, on my closet shelf. Front and center. Eye-level.

After Mom left my room, I wanted to throw the package away, but instead I threw it onto the closet floor, kicked it to the back corner. Throughout my high school years, that package stayed hidden. Mom still rubbed her fingers up my spine. Dad still patted my shoulders. They didn’t have to say anything. I never wanted to see that ugly brace again.

I survived being the tallest girl in my class, and I even accepted my almost-last place in our high school graduation line – shortest to tallest.

When Mom and I packed my clothes before I left home for college, she found the worn package on the closet floor. “I don’t think you need to take this,” she said. I was sure I didn’t.

Years passed. After I graduated from college and married, Mom and I cleaned out my closet so my room could be her sewing room. “Where’s the brown package?” I asked when the closet was empty.

“Gone,” Mom said.

“Where? Did you find someone who needed to wear that awful brace?”

“No. I threw it away after you left for college. It did its job. I’m glad it never came out of the package.”

“So you didn’t want me to wear it?” I asked.

“I hoped not. That might have been the best $6.00 we spent when you were in high school. You stand tall and straight with wonderful posture.”

Mother never took a child psychology or a parenting class. She was a smart, loving mother, and even now, half a century later, when I feel my shoulders slump, I hear her. Loud and clear.

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