The Remarkable Nature of the 5-Minute Work Break at Newell Lodge

On busy days, I argue with myself about the need for a break.

“I don’t have five minutes.”

The voice of reason counters, “Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t.”  

And, on it goes.  On rare occasions, the voice of reason wins the argument, allowing a needed break.  

 It is quiet, and I am alone.  

This moment of complete solitude makes me uncomfortable and maybe, a little guilty.  The part of me that feels the need to push forward, do not stop, keep going raises its demanding head.  But for five minutes, I will refuse to listen as I enjoy this small slice of time.  

I will rest.  

In no rush, I walk beneath the old oak trees enjoying the unquestionable brilliance of nature.  The colossal oak trees, trickling with Spanish moss, have remained untouched for generations guarding untold stories. Would those long-ago tales of joys, struggles, accomplishments, and failures sound achingly familiar?  

The horses quietly graze in the fields, swishing their tails to keep the horseflies at bay.  The chickens roam freely, searching for their mid-morning snack, while three squirrels rush up the branches of a nearby tree. 

The quietness brings a sense of contentment all its own. 

A hoarse sound or cackle coming from a tree above me breaks the silence.  

Schur, schur, schur. 

“What is that?” I ask of no one.

As I look up into the tree, there he is.  With his crimson head and inky black wings, a beautiful woodpecker, sitting on a high limb, is partially hidden by the branches.  Quietly, carefully, I creep closer to get a better look.  

Neither of us moves nor makes a sound.  He turns his head towards me.  

“He’s getting ready to fly,” I think.  

He does not move, other than the turning of his head.  He continues to sit on his branch, watching me as I watch him.  I wait for his next move.  Long minutes pass, and suddenly, without warning, he flies away.  

As I continue my walk beneath the trees, I think of the woodpecker, wondering if maybe those were his five minutes of rest in a busy bird day.  

I return to work, relaxed and gratified. It’s remarkable what a five-minute break can do.

Same Thing, Different Day: Lessons A Classic Movie Offers For Coping With The Pandemic

Here in south Georgia, we continue to feel the effects of the pandemic. For more than a year, we’ve lived in a cycle of “same thing, different day.” Our perception of a passing inconvenience now has a life all its own.

The cycle of “same thing, different day” reminds me of one of my favorite old movies, the 1993 romantic comedy, “Groundhog Day.” In this romantic comedy, weatherman Phil Conner goes on location to the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the legendary festivities on that fateful day.

Then he ends up covering the same events over and over again day after day.

Tradition dictates that if the groundhog sees his shadow on this ‘historic’ day, he will return to his den. Then the rest of us will experience six more weeks of unwanted cold, dreary weather.  

It’s my belief that the pandemic has become our “Groundhog Day.” Like poor Phil, we’re stuck in a loop, unable to stop the ceaseless repetition.

We watch as those we love become embittered, cynical, dismayed, unnecessarily reckless, and self-loathing.

Some days, our patience wears paper-thin as each day mirrors the previous day. We learn that sameness takes a mental and emotional toll which colors our thoughts, conversations, and actions.    

Local and national news stations broadcast the Pandemic on our televisions. We witness the heartbreak and grim realities of the havoc while watching the devastation in real-time. We already know that we will hear the same sorrowful news tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. 

Despite a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, the Delta Variant reared its ugly head.  This is no friendly groundhog that is afraid of its shadow. Now, families all over the world watch helplessly as increasing numbers of children suffer from this deadly virus.

We now saturate our vocabulary with a plethora of pandemic words:    unprecedented, challenging times, social distancing, face masks, transmission, ventilator, self-quarantine, shutdown, isolation, essential business, and state of emergency.  

While we tire of the over-use of these words, we are better informed than we were before. A year ago, many of us did not even know that an N-95 mask existed.  Now we wear one.

The Pandemic is more than a health crisis.  It reminds us of the toll of genuine human suffering. We are learning to grieve. We are learning acceptance.

The Pandemic will eventually end.  History tells us so.  

In the movie, Phil Conner changed his reality by changing himself.  We can, too.

This reality is the only one we know until we decide to change things. From Phil, we learn that changes we want and need to see must come from within.

We cannot be afraid of our shadows and dwell in dread, fear, and uncertainty.

Instead, let us seize this day. Let us practice again and again to open our hearts and minds.

Let’s work together to create new opportunities, meet challenges, and renew our faith.

Our faith, our families, and our community of support will see us safely through.

Perhaps the light of our faith and love will dim the hold that the shadow of this pandemic has on us.

When the groundhog emerges from his deep burrow on Wednesday, February 22, 2022, I’ll be watching.

May his shadow be nowhere to be seen.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine for South Georgia Ladies Who Do Lunch

A cheerful heart is good medicine. - Proverbs 17:22

The heartless south-Georgia heat snubbed us as we stepped outside, daring us to breathe. Ninety-two degrees and rising. The overcast sky trapped the sun momentarily but brought little relief. The July heat was unrelenting, but our trio ignored the mugginess as though it was nothing more than an annoying housefly.

Ours was to be a working lunch.  The past three weeks had been a living nightmare, with software concerns, unresolved problems, and personnel issues. Each unfinished task had passed the critical stage and now rested in the bottom of the "black pit," as it was affectionately known.  

Robin, Lisa, and I, preoccupied in deep thought, walked the short distance to the Magnolia Cafe with the morning events spooling in our frazzled minds.  After taking seats near the window, the silence lingered. Then, finally, it was time to face the truth.  Our problems were just beginning.   The task ahead was bleak. Nonetheless, our sisterhood of coworkers was confident that combined efforts would bring tranquility to a chaotic workplace.  

The truth is sometimes a tough pill to swallow, but we were committed to our cause. And what better way to ingest the bitter truth than with a tall glass of sweet iced tea, making any situation bearable?  

We placed our orders as the waitress quickly filled the tea glasses. The ice cubes twinkled in the amber liquid as the sugary substance worked its magic of immediate relief.  The conversation began with a recap of the morning's fiasco and lasted approximately 60 seconds. Quickly, the working lunch was officially over. 

After the usual array of topics, children, grandchildren, and husbands, was exhausted, the conversation took an unexpected turn.  Suddenly we were discussing mothers and squirrels.  

For those of you who are from other regions, you may not know that Southerners take great pride in their humorous anecdotes about crazy relatives, hunting, religion, and, of course, squirrels.  

Country music fans will recall the ever-popular, catchy song by Ray Stevens, “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival?” According to my best friend and coworker, Lisa, the truth is more entertaining than fiction.  She told this story, and for the next 10 minutes, it was 1970 in the United Methodist Church located in the deep southern part of Georgia.  

Lisa shifted in her seat. She looked around to see who might be listening. Then, with a mischievous smile, she leaned in to share the marvelous tale. 

"Y'all know my brothers," she said. "They were always up to some kind of mischief."

"One Saturday afternoon, they rescued a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest.  He was a cute little thing, as far as squirrels go." 

She paused to take a sip of her tea.

"By nightfall, the squirrel had fully recovered from the fall, but my brothers were reluctant to set him free," she recalled. "They were having such a grand time with their new friend, they decided he should spend the night." 

She continued to unwind the story one sentence at a time. 

“Then it was Sunday-church day." 

Every Sunday morning, come rain or shine, the entire family marched, like little ducks, down the aisle of the United Methodist Church, where they filled a full pew. According to the family's weekly seating ritual, the two oldest girls went in first, followed by the two brothers.  

"As the youngest, my designated seat was next to Mama, who sat at the end of the pew," she says. 

Later, I understood that this particular arrangement offered her the unique view of the episode that was to come.

"Walking single file into the church on this fine Sunday morning, Mama did not realize that my brothers decided to bring a visitor to the morning services.

I squirmed in my seat a little as I could guess what was coming next. My other friend, Robin, shook her head from side to side. She, too, sensed what was coming next. 

Our worst suspicions were soon confirmed.

"Yes. They. Did!" 

Lisa’s voice rose just a little as she pronounced each word separately, one at the time. 

The poor squirrel was now a captive in the front pocket of Jared's Sunday pants.

Lisa's sweet and melodious voice captivated the diners' attention at the adjacent table, who were struggling to maintain their composure as she continued the tale.

 "As soon as we were seated, the squirrel put his escape plan into action,”

She  paused for effect. 

“My brother's bushy-tailed friend began to do what squirrels do best- nibbling, squirming, scratching, and clawing.”

We three, without volition, each squirmed a little bit in our chairs, too. 

“As he struggled to keep his newfound friend captive, Jared began twisting, turning, and sliding on the slick wooden pew in response to the squirrel's distressful actions.” 

Her mother simply looked at him and shook her head. She was oblivious to the impending disaster, Lisa recalled.

"We all began to giggle, Mama tried to settle us down with a stern look, but she was unprepared when the giggles erupted into snickering and a couple of snorts.”

She described the vain attempts to stifle their laughter. Then paused momentarily for our laughter to subside.  

"Then," she said, with amusement in her voice, "out of absolute necessity, my brother produced the squirrel on the second stanza of The Old Rugged Cross."  

"A look of absolute horror crossed my mother's face.”

Lisa’s voice was filled with sympathy for her mother. 

"But then, being the practical and resourceful woman she was, Mama made a split-second decision. She snatched that squirrel from my brother's hands, unsnapped the clasp on her black patent leather pocketbook, shoved the squirrel inside, and closed it with a loud click!”

Our waitress, the tea pitcher in hand, made no effort to curb her laughter, along with other diners who were now entangled in Lisa's squirrel narration.  

"When we weren't trying to smother our giggles, we were holding our breaths."      

Lisa's audience grew, as other diners turned their chairs in our direction for better hearing.  Lisa never faltered as she neared the end of the squirrel saga.  

"Throughout the singing,  praying, and preaching, we watched anxiously as Mama's pocketbook squeaked and made sudden, short jerky movements on the floor of our pew.” 

Every so often, Mama used the pointed toe of her high-heeled shoe to pull the pocketbook back beneath her feet, she noted.

"Finally, the congregation sang the last song, and the deacon closed the service with prayer.” 

Her Mama led the way, her black patent leather pocketbook and the bushy-tailed squirrel in tow, and all the children in single file, straight out to the car There, her Mama quickly set her Sunday pocketbook on the ground and released the clasp.

"The squirrel flew from the depths of that pocketbook as though he had acquired wings during the preachin',” Lisa said. “Not only did he fly out, but with him came a multitude of confetti.” 

The shreds bore an uncanny resemblance to the contents of Mama's pocketbook. 

“There was nothing left of Mama's checkbook nor her pocket pack of tissues."

No-one, she said, spoke a word, not even her Mama. The same could not be said for the roomful of eavesdroppers. 

"The squirrel made a mad dash for freedom, never looking back.  We watched him go.   Silently, one by one, we climbed into the car and headed home for Sunday dinner."   

In closing, Lisa alluded to the last line of that infamous Ray Stevens song.

"And that was the day that a South Georgia squirrel joined the congregation of the United Methodist Church." 

My friends and I, along with the other diners within hearing distance, did not attempt to contain our hysterical laughter as we finished our meals. The laughter was infectious and uplifting, cementing our relationships with joy, adding sparkles to our workday. The morning stress was gone, and our hopeful demeanors were restored, despite the sweltering heat. We were ready to tackle the afternoon.  

Undoubtedly, laughter is the best medicine for ladies who do lunch.  

The Piano Lessons

Several unconstrained dogs lived between our house and Mrs. White’s.  I was wasting my breath as I begged my older sister, Sue to slow down as we walked to piano lessons.  I was deathly afraid of strange dogs.  Justifiably, my begging was sincere, prolonged, and truth be told, annoying.  

My whining lasted the entire 15-minute walk.  

“Wait.  Stop leaving me,” I begged. “Slow down.”

Then pleaded. “Don’t leave me. Please.”

Complaining, “You’re walking too fast.” 

You get the idea.  

Sue looked back over her shoulder at me and uttered two words through clenched teeth.        “Shut up.” 

Sue had left home in a temper because she hated taking piano lessons.  Evidently, the angrier she became, the faster she walked.  We covered the five blocks to Mrs. White’s house in record time.  

Unfortunately, this scenario was a weekly occurrence.  Why our mother insisted that Sue take piano lessons surpassed the logic of my nine-year-old mind.  The piano confrontations went beyond just taking classes.  As beginning students, Mrs. White recommended that we practice 30 minutes a day.   

Both Sue and I objected to the practice time.  We had more exciting ways to fill that 30-minutes.  I practiced without complaining but with a standing objection.  Sue, on the other hand, refused.

The recurring battle of wills over piano lessons ensued.    

After serving my 30 minutes, it was now showtime for Sue.  Mama would lead the way into the living room, where she stood beside the piano stool, waiting.  And, waiting.  And, waiting.  Finally, Sue appeared, literally dragging her feet, trying to run out the clock before practice began. Who was she trying to fool?  Our mother?  Ridiculous.  Give credit where credit is due.  She tried.   

Sue took the piano stool after glaring at the piano in disgust.  Mama sat on the sofa as she checked her watch and noted the time.  Let the framming begin.  Looking back, why I stayed in the room is a mystery.  Even more mysterious is that Mama fell asleep while Sue banged away on the innocent keys.  

Suddenly, the playing stopped.  Sue turned around and realized that Mama was dozing.  I nervously watched as Sue prepared to leave.  But not before covering her bases.  With nerves of steel, Sue tiptoed over to the sofa where she gently lifted Mama’s left arm and advanced the hands on her little black Timex watch.  

Watching her in action made me extremely uneasy.  I wanted no part of this.  And then she looked at me and said in her most menacing voice, “You better not tell, or you’ll be sorry.”  Being sorry could mean many things when dealing with Sue, who could be both scary and convincing when making threats.  

“She’ll know.  You’re going to be in trouble,” I said in a timid voice.  

She whispered.

“No, she won’t.  Unless you tell-and, you had better not.” 

She left.  

I immediately shook Mama awake and gave a play-by-play of what had transpired as she slept. Then, of course, I mentioned the dire threats which were utmost in my mind.  Looking at the small grandfather clock which sat on the top shelf of the bookcase, Mama re-set her Timex, assured me Sue wouldn’t hurt me, and headed to the kitchen to cook supper. 

Sue never went back to piano lessons again.  The battle was over.  I continued to take classes for the next couple of years.  Although, I practiced for 30 minutes, at least twice a week, I never became a great piano player.     

Frequently, my granny would ask me to play from an old worn Baptist Hymnal - “The Great Physician” and “In the Sweet By and By.”  Both hymns were challenging for me, but I tried.   I played, and Granny sang.  We were quite the pair—me, with severely limited piano skills, she with a worn singing voice.  But the misplayed keys and a voice that could no longer reach the high notes were of no significance to either of us.   So today, when I think of my granny, these times of making “a joyful noise, unto the Lord,” immediately comes to mind.  

Often, it’s the small and seemingly insignificant things in life that shine through with clarity in later years that reaffirm that every single moment of our lives has meaning—even piano lessons.  

Try, Try Again: Remembering Daddy’s Patience and Lessons of Love

The Carter Girls: Grace, Sue, Kathy, me, and Phyllis Anne with their father, Clarence, and mother, Gladys, about 1957.

The memories of my father, Clarence Carter, remain as clear as though they were yesterday.   When I think of him, patience is a word that immediately comes to mind.  Back in those days, our household consisted of my parents, my four sisters, my grandmother, and cousin Gloria, who came to live with us after her mother died.  Eight women, my dad, and one bathroom. Yes, he was a patient man.  

But there were many occasions where his patience was especially apparent.  

Daddy's patience was unmistakable as he taught each of his five daughters first to ride a horse and later drive a car. We learned to ride a horse while he led us around the pasture countless times.  Our job was to hold onto the saddle horn and not fall off the horse. Eventually, we were encouraged to ride using the reins instead of the saddle horn.   Because of his countless steps in that pasture, he instilled the confidence and courage to ride, even though we were afraid to try.   

Learning to drive a car was "A horse of a different color." As we each turned 16, our driving education began on rural back roads in our 1957 Chevrolet.  Our instructions went something like this. "Slow down," he would say. "Don't go too fast."  "Always give the right of way to the other fellow, even if he doesn't deserve it." "Watch out for young’uns on bicycles.  You never know which way they'll go."   

According to my mother, he possessed that same patience when he taught her to drive after they married in 1942. She loved to tell that story!  

He would remark, "I wish you would stop telling people I taught you to drive. It doesn't give me much credit because I didn't do a good job." 

Daddy thought she drove too fast (which she did), tended to slam on brakes (which she did), and claimed the car would jump 10 feet as the vehicle left the driveway as she headed for work (which it did) As with each telling of the story, she would laugh and laugh.  

He would just smile.  

He tried to teach her to ride a horse.  She had no knack for riding, but he tried and tried again.  Finally, my mother gave up the dream of riding, much to the relief of both them and the horse. 

When he tried to teach her to swim, he finally said the best thing  for her would be "to stay in shallow water." 

In addition to our ponies, we had a milk cow, a steer, and a few chickens.   Each evening, we would be on Daddy's heels as he headed to the barn to "feed up" and milk the cow.  As we crowded into the tiny stall behind him, he would say, "Don't get behind the cow.  She’ll kick." 

So, we naturally moved in closer to him, waiting our turn to try milking. Of course, knowing we would never become proficient in milking,  he allowed us to try, day after day. That's patience. 

He was an amazing father who loved his daughters. But it was the love he shared with my mother, the kind of love that lasts forever, that I remember so well. And his patience.    

Happy Father's Day.  May your day be filled with treasured memories like mine.    

Do You Live Above or Below Georgia’s ‘Gnat Line?’ Here’s What You Need to Know

Having lived near the Okefenokee Swamp in South Georgia my entire life, I’ve never given much thought to gnats. A seasonal nuisance, gnats are dealt with similar to the arrangement I have with yellow flies:  I swat, slap, spray, fan, wave, and complain. In short, I hope to eliminate a few of the bothersome pests before they carry me off. 

 Unfortunately, our sweltering summer months, sandy soil, and excessive rains serve as a welcome mat for gnats. They travel in moving gnat clouds, a pretty way of saying “swarming droves of gnats.”

When you live below the Georgia Gnat Line, gnat sightings such as these are inevitable. 

For the uninformed, please know that the Gnat Line does exist and roughly follows the Georgia Fall Line, that imaginary line from Columbus to Macon and Augusta. The Fall Line marks the end of red clay and the beginning of the sandy soil so beloved by gnats.

How do you determine your gnat tolerance?  It’s all about “where you’re from.” Your primary residence will affect your gnat rating. Now, do you live above or below the gnat line?

  •  If you sit on the porch, are you immediately swarmed by gnats?
  •  If you leave the back door open while bringing in the groceries, do gnats come into your home uninvited? 
  • Do you live south of Macon? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you definitely live below the Gnat Line, and your gnat rating is likely excellent. Congratulations! 

Folks who live above the Georgia Gnat Line have often mistaken a gnat for a flea, fruit fly, or “some kind of black bug.” Unfortunately, they do not have a proper understanding of these pesky insects, so their gnat tolerance may register as a low-level rating. 

Here are a few suggestions for folks from above the gnat line while visiting friends below the gnat line.

  1. Make a gnat trap.
    My husband creates a gnat trap made with apple cider vinegar. Mix a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a few drops of dish soap, and a tablespoon of sugar in a bowl.  After mixing, set the bowl where gnats seem most prevalent.  The sugar and vinegar attract the gnats. The soap traps the gnats causing them to drown eventually.  Simple, right?  Not for my husband.  Instead of making a few bowls for the house, he mixes it by the gallon and places the solution in large plastic hanging bags to eradicate the entire outdoors gnat population.
  2. Clean the drains.
    Another favorite is to pour diluted bleach down the drains. Undiluted vinegar also works.
  3. Crash and burn tactics.
    Partially fill a candle holder with water, light the candle, turn off the lights and watch your gnat friends swarm to the flame, where they will meet their demise.
  4. Avoidance.
    Local athletes swear by eating raw sweet onions like apples. I haven’t been able to get past the “like apples” part. And I’m pretty sure gnats chug insect repellant for fun.
  5. Grin and Bear It.
    Some days, I just grin and bear it without the grin. By grinning, you may inadvertently swallow a gnat, which is one gnat too many.

In the end, it’s probable that the most sensible approach if you have a lingering gnat infestation is to contact your pest control service to deal with these uninvited guests. Meanwhile, I’ll stick with the tried and true methods of swatting, fanning, spraying, waving, and complaining.

Mothers Know Everything: A Case of Forbidden Love

As a teenager, I was bored to tears listening to my elders as they reminisced of days forever gone.  Memories resurface, and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with those “boring” people as they share their childhood stories.  The booming sound of my Uncle Elbert laughter echoes, in my mind, as he shares childhood antics.

I clearly see my mother’s beautiful smile as she recalls those same memories.

One of my favorite stories involved my mother, Gladys, my Aunt Mildred, their cousin, Mary Emma, and her mother, Martha, affectionately known as Aunt Mark.  The three young ladies, Gladys, Mildred, and Mary Emma were between 16 and 17 years of age, at the time this “incident” occurred.

Mary Emma had fallen deeply in love with a young man, who was also 16 years old.  For whatever reason, which was never disclosed in the numerous retellings of the story, Aunt Mark did not approve of the relationship nor of the young man.  In fact, Mary Emma was not allowed to see him.  As is the case of most forbidden loves, Mary Emma was determined to continue the relationship despite her mother’s instructions.  The relationship did continue, but, in secret.  In fact, it wasn’t long before Mary Emma and her young beau decided they would marry.

The news of the pending marriage was shared with Mary Emma’s most loved and trusted cousins, Gladys and Mildred.  They were sworn to secrecy, as the three of them planned the elopement.

Planning an elopement is not as easy as one might think.  Remember, this was 1940, when most families did not have telephones, much less a cell phone and the word, texting, was not in the dictionary.   The lack of communication was no obstacle to the girls.  Mary Emma’s happiness was at stake.  In their opinion, Aunt Mark was standing in the way of true love.

The plan was devised, though it was both simple and unimaginative.  It was, after all, the first and only elopement in which these three young girls would ever engage.  An overnight stay with Mary Emma was arranged and perhaps the only thing that went according to the plan.  After the family was asleep, Mary Emma would leave through the bedroom window, where her fiancé would be waiting.

At this point of the story, my mother would interject, “we never gave any thought to what we would tell Aunt Mark the next morning when she discovered Mary Emma was gone.”

As they waited for the darkness, Gladys and Mildred assisted Mary Emma as she packed a few clothes in a small suitcase.  All was ready.  Darkness descended and the appointed time quickly approached.  The window was quietly raised, and nervous goodbyes were shared.   As Mary Emma climbed on the window- sill, preparing to make her descent, the three girls looked down and standing outside beneath the window was Aunt Mark, along with the young bridegroom. Waiting.  Not a word was spoken.

Mary Emma quickly pulled herself back into the bedroom as they heard Aunt Mark’s no-nonsense, sharp tongue send the boy on his way, never to return.  Mary Emma, Gladys, and Mildred waited as they heard the back door close.  After a good “talking-to” and “what were you youngins’  thinking”, and “better, NEVER do anything like this again”, the three wedding planners retired for the night.

As with each telling of this escapade, my mother would conclude the story, by saying, “We never figured out how Aunt Mark found out what we were planning.”

Perhaps, it was just another stellar story of how mothers know everything.

Happy Mother’s Day

Microwave Replacement

Today, sprigs of green are peeping out of the earth, pushing aside the tired and frazzled burnt-brown grass. Like a connect the dots puzzles, they form a clear picture: spring has finally arrived.

Suddenly, I’m energized.  

After being cooped up since the onset of the pandemic last year, I am now compelled to sanitize and reorganize my entire house, using the two-year rule.  If you haven’t used it or moved it in two years, out the door it goes.

First, my closets.  After watching several episodes of Forensic Files, it was obvious the camera man seemed to linger on the cluttered bedroom closets of the crime scene.  By the looks of them, anyone could have been mine. How embarrassing!

Not anymore.  After today, if my bedroom ever becomes a crime scene, TV viewers will be impressed with an uncluttered and tidy closet.  

Following the completion of the bedrooms and bath, tackling the kitchen presented its own challenges. The less than shiny appearance of my worn appliances shouted their ages.   Specifically, my Amana microwave oven, which I purchased nearly 36 years ago. That microwave has been with me as long as my husband!

I was pleased with my new microwave, all those years ago.  It was sleek, attractive, and operated flawlessly.   In the early years of marriage, my husband possessed these same qualities.  

It soon became evident that the microwave wasn’t quite what it used to be.  Little things.  The numbers 4,5,7, 8, & 9 no longer worked.  The reset button finally decided to throw in the dish towel and retired.   The microwave still functioned, just not quite as well.  Sadly, the same could be said for my husband.  

For instance, on any normal workday, my husband would shower, dress, have two cups of coffee and out the door, headed to work within 25 minutes.  Now, it’s closer to an hour before his finishes his second cup of coffee.  Fifteen minutes later, he’s still staring at his shoes, sitting directly in front of him.  No problem, just takes him a minute or two longer to get cooking. 

The interior of the oven is worn and yellowed with age.  As I glance at my husband, he too, looks a little frayed and pale.  It must be the lighting, I reason.  

Remembering the two year rule,  I decide to replace the old, worn-out microwave with a brand new one.  There was a momentary twinge of sadness as I unplugged the old microwave.  That Amana Radarange has been sitting in its prime location above the kitchen countertop for nearly 36 years, watching as the life this family unfolded.  Memories surfaced; like the time someone tried to reheat rice in a stainless steel pot.  Not to mention the thousands of bags of popcorn which were cooked and consumed while watching Disney movies with our grandsons. 

My husband walks into the kitchen, as I’m removing the microwave.  “Are you getting rid of the microwave?” He asks. “ We’ve had that thing for a long time.  It’s been a good one.”  

I look at my husband, then at the microwave.  Then, back at my husband.  The microwave is old, but it still works.  So, what if it’s temperamental and a little difficult to operate at times?  Time has aged the oven, making the interior slightly worn and yellowed.  A few of the parts are worn out.  New isn’t always better.  It’s just new.  

The new microwave is still in the box.  I’ll return it tomorrow, keeping what I’ve had for a long time.  “It’s been a good one.”  Both the microwave and the husband. 

Spring cleaning is done.   

A World War II Romance and a True Story of Love Everlasting

An old love story.

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

- Colossians 3:14

World War II was coming to an end. The handsome soldier was home for a short time, when the couple met on a blind date, set up by mutual friends. Originally, the young woman’s sister was the intended companion.  Fate intervened and her sister was unavailable, so she went instead.   

After the blind date, they spent time together until his leave was up.   She feared that would be the end of the new relationship.  Fortunately, that was not the case.  Because years later, this couple became my parents.

During his remaining days in the Army, he wrote to her, faithfully.  Real love letters.  As children, my sisters and I would plunder through closets and chest of drawers, searching for the shoe box filled with those love letters written so many years ago.

“My dearest darling”, each letter would begin.  We would giggle at the salutation. Our humor was short-lived, though.  Barely getting beyond the first paragraph, we were caught snooping time and again.     

“Put that box back where you found it and stay out of that closet.

Those letters are not for you to read.”

She kept those letters for the rest of her life.            

Sadly, after 33 years of marriage, my father died of cancer on February 14, 1976. My mother said many times,

“33 years was not much time.”

They began dating steadily after he returned home from service. After having a slight disagreement, they hadn’t seen each other for several weeks.  As my mother was walking home from work one afternoon, it started raining.  A car was approaching behind her and began to slow down.   She glanced over her shoulder. It was him!            

“Do you want a ride?”

“I just kept walking,” she said.

The rain got heavier.  The car continued to follow behind at a slow pace, as she sloshed through mud puddles.  Finally, soaking wet, she accepted the ride and got in the car. That ended the spat.                  

Late one afternoon, my mother, then age 82, and I sat talking.  She shared a story of one of their early dates.

“We went down to the Old River at Camp Pinckney with Martha Lee and Colonel.  We built a fire and roasted hot dogs.  We had the best time sitting around that fire, just talking and laughing until it was dark.”   

And, then with tears in her eyes, she remembered the time my father told her,

“You’re the prettiest woman I’ve ever known.”

After all these years, she was still in love with him.

She never remarried and when asked why, she simply said,

“Sometimes there is only one true love.

I had mine.

There’s no need to look elsewhere,

because you will not find it.”

So, whether it’s a lopsided heart cut from construction paper by the shaky hand of your six-year-old, the dozen perfectly shaped roses from your spouse, or one precious memory of long ago, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate love.

Santa's Got Nothing on Me! Confessions of a Chronic List Maker

“Making a list and checking it twice.”  Santa Claus has nothing on me, the chronic lister.  Picture Santa, a twinkle in his eye, red pencil in hand, checking his infamous list and smiling as he verifies each name.  You can almost smell the sugar cookies baking in the oven.  

Now, visualize me, the chronic lister.  A formidable look of concentration, colored sharpies, three sharpened pencils, multiple highlighters, along with day planners, legal pads, post-it notes, Google calendar, and a daily task planner spread on my desk.  No sugar plums dancing in this head.  

As we rapidly approach Jan. 1, my life Is filled with lists. But this compulsion to list hearkens back to a simpler time.

I became a lister in elementary school when I discovered my first homework assignment book complete with subject dividers and perfectly lined pages, waiting to be filled.  It was wonderful!  As a fourth grader, my lists were simple: Homework & Christmas list.  My homework list kept me focused while my Christmas List allowed me to dream. Two vital life skills for a nine-year-old. 

Nothing is ever as uncomplicated as childhood, so as I grew so did my lists.  It was like an obsession.  Actually, it is an obsession.  I had to have a list for everything.  The grocery lists.  The household chores lists.  To do lists. Completed work lists. Pending projects lists.  Brilliant ideas lists. Lists for my lists. Telephone conversations with bullet points lists.   And the lists go on and on and on.    

For instance, as soon as the telephone rings, I pick up a pen and notepad before answering.  Before the conversation begins, the notepad has the date and time at the top of the page.   If the conversation is lengthy or boring, the margins will be filled with doodles and lines.  Doodling is permitted only on the sidelines.  Never mix doodles with bullet points.  The list is easier to decipher when re-writing a more legible list from a doodle list.  

I’m always looking for that all-purpose list.  You know, the one list that will include all lists.  A master list for lists, if you will. “Try such and such day planner.  It’s great for lists!” other listers suggested.  After spending literally hundreds of dollars on day planners, my debit card cried out in pain forcing me to take a reality check.

The reality was plain and simple.  There is no perfect planner.  It doesn’t exist.  There must be, I argue with myself.  This was totally unacceptable.   I decided to create and customize my own day planner.  It would be the ultimate Super-Duper Day Planner, which would meet not only my needs but the needs of other listers like me.  This could go global.   Dollar marks danced in my head along with“ sugar and spice and everything nice”.  As I began to list the standards for the Super-Duper Planner, I quickly realized that it could not be done.

To meet the strict requirements for the perfect planner, I would need a red Radio Flyer wagon to pull around with me all day.  Just to carry the planner. 

Someone, obviously a fly by the seat of  your pants person,  suggested that I stop making so many lists.  It was as though I had suddenly been deprived of oxygen.  Once my heart rate returned to normal, I immediately added their name to my list of Unusual and Abnormal People.  

So, I’ll carry on.  Business as usual.  Colored sharpies, sharpened pencils, highlighters, day planners, legal pads, post-it notes, Google calendar, and a daily task planner.  And, a red Radio Flyer Wagon, just in case.