A Surprise Party for Me

I woke up this morning, smiling, smiling, smiling. I am filled with the awe and the afterglow that comes with a surprise party planned by fantastic friends. How fortunate I am to have these remarkable people in my life. How wonderful to be a few days away from my 80th birthday and still enjoying great health and the camaraderie of good friends.

At the party last night, there is laughter, stories, wine, and good food. Then like frosting on a cake, birthday gifts. The first is a Pandora bracelet. It is followed by many little boxes, each with a silver charm to be added to the bracelet. Each charm represents time spent together and memories shared. There is a tiny Gator, the mascot of Gateway school, a coffee cup, and two birds similar to my parrots. These are followed by a book charm symbolizing my book club and wine glasses bringing to mind, raucous summer adventures in Cayucos. The boxes and cards keep coming and soon a miniature camera, a best friend heart, and a birthday cake are unwrapped and added to the bracelet. It is a fantastic co-ordinated effort resulting in a beautiful gift that I love.

If gratitude be wine and friends a silver chalice, my cup indeed runneth over. Last night was magical, fun-filled, and my silver bracelet with its little charms will always remind me of an enchanted evening and the awe-inspiring well-wishers who made it all happen.
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The Perfectly Imperfect Thanksgiving

Sometimes the perfect Thanksgiving is not the one where everything goes well, but the one where nearly everything goes wrong. This Thanksgiving was pretty much the latter. And as a family, we are deserving of a hearty pat on the back. When I arrive in Santa Clarita, my grand-daughter and Mommy T meet with the news that daughter Kristi’s day began with a migraine headache. She has let her prescription for a migraine medicine run out and with doctor offices closed, we hope that a dark, quiet room will ease the symptoms.

Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law Theresa is holding down the meal preparation by herself. The house is beautifully decorated and the table set with holiday best. Family members, Rev. Pat and her daughter arrive and the Turkey is lifted into the oven. Visiting and enjoying cheese balls and crackers, we wait for Kristi’s headache to subside. It soon became apparent that the migraine is only getting worse and will not subside in time for dinner. In fact, it is very apparent that a trip to the ER for the right medication is essential, and we all leap into action. First, we cut out some dishes that are being prepared. Turkey, dressing, potatoes, and green bean salad will suffice. Theresa gives me the times when each should come out of the oven, and I pray that the food gods will help me remember all the directions. The meat thermometer shows the turkey to be the right temperature for eating, and so we remove the Turkey from the oven earlier than Betty Crocker suggests in her cookbook.

Off Theresa and Kristi went to the ER and Pat and I jump into action. So far the three kids are having so much fun that they failed to realize how hungry they are about to become. Pat and I are a team anyone would be proud of. All the side dishes are coming out of the oven more or less on time; Pat turns to the task of carving the Turkey and my grandson Eric comes into the kitchen for a “before the meal piece of toast”. Waiting for the toast to darken, he watches Pat begin the carving. The breast meat is moist and delicious looking. Then she proceeds to the thigh and drumstick. All three of us gape in horror at the far from ready to serve, drumstick. As Pat expertly starts pulling the bone away from the carcass, Eric screams, “I see blood. There is blood”. We shoo him out of the kitchen, grab a paper plate, and the drumstick goes into the microwave. By this time, the other dishes are ready. No time to put everything into beautiful serving dishes. We serve right from the baking dishes.

Sitting down to eat, we all take the time to be thankful and as tradition dictates, we go around the table, each taking a moment to talk about gratitude. Eric asked a question about the first Thanksgiving and everyone chime in with their versions. Then we discuss the reasons families gather together on Thanksgiving. Pat and I share a loving moment, motivated by our success, and consider ourselves honorary mother and daughter. And so our extended family continues to grow.

The meal over, the children run off to play Hide and Seek. Pat and I begin the task of setting aside plates full of holiday food for Kristi and Theresa; They are on their way home from ER with a much improved, but very exhausted Kristi.

With dessert still on the table, Breaker, the Dachshund, discovers a chair left pushed out, and a quick jump from the chair to the table brings him to a feast that tops his dream list. Glancing over, I see him at the end of the table, face in a dessert bowl of leftover cherry pie hidden under a mound of whipped cream left by one of the kids.
Knowing I should remove the dog from the table, I grab my camera instead and catch the culprit in the act. Finishing the cherry pie, Breaker heads lustily for the pumpkin pie, and I know it is time to set the camera aside and remove the dog from the table. This is no easy task for he is no small dog and I call for Pat’s help. As we remove a reluctant Breaker from the table, I turn around and catch the red Dachshund, Duchess, with a half-eaten cheese ball in her mouth. She is standing on back tiptoes so that her head is just is above the top of the appetizer tray in the living room. The cheese is within easy reach. She responds to my “’No” command and drops the cheese ball on the floor. It is by sheer luck that she has not brought the entire tray of appetizers with her.

Theresa and an exhausted, but pain-free Kristi return. Kristi off to bed, Pat fixes a plate of Thanksgiving delights for Theresa and we regale her with all the stories. Soon it is time for Pat and little Maya to head home. The twins are watching TV in their bedroom. Theresa put a log on the fire, and I curled up on the couch with the Dachshunds. A little the worse for wear, but content and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

So it wasn’t a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, Yet look at the lessons learned, the laughter shared, the concern given. There is always next year and with God’s blessing, perhaps it will be the perfect holiday, If it is not, we will know it doesn’t matter because we are together. We are family. We are thankful for all we share. Perfect or not so perfect.

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Why I Attend Journey to Happiness Meetings.

I am often asked, “What is the Journey to Happiness Group that meets on Wednesdays at the hospital all about.” I smile and say, “Well, I am not sure, but I know we laugh a lot.” I also always say, “Come and see for yourself. It is great fun.” Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Habits of Happy People Conference in Valencia with Journey to Happiness leader, Darrell Price.

The conference opened my eyes to the great, but subtle way that each Wednesday’s meeting brings us along further on the Journey to Happiness. I learned from the presenter, Dr. Brian King that happiness is fifty percent genetic, ten percent circumstances, and forty percent intentional activity. I quickly became aware of exactly what the Wednesday meeting are all about. They are all about intentional activity leading to the habit of happiness.

With all the changes in standard of living, Americans are no happier than we were fifty years ago. One of the advantages of being a senior is that it is easy to remember fifty years ago, and although filtered, I remember that happiness well. This is because happiness is not based on wealth, convenience, or appearance. It depends more on our ability to maintain a level of happiness during times of turmoil and times of triumph. It is based more on experiences than possessions. In other words, my happiness comes more from sharing life with others, than owning a Porsche. Travelling and adventure bring more happiness to many than a larger home, and positive memories bring joy and love.

No one is happy all the time, and some people are happier than others. Frankly, I bobble all over the charts, but the habit of being happy helps me to reduce my stress and to be aware that happiness is a choice helps me through the bad times and gives me confidence and more resilient attitude. When I am feeling happy, I feel healthier, more social, energetic, and ready to face whatever life sends my way.

And this brings me back to Why I love the Journey to Happiness meetings. As a senior, I was beginning to feel I was living on old laurels. I had had a great teaching career, was often meeting students who told me how I influenced their life, and I was enjoying travelling. Then as happens in life, the stories, praise, and adventures begin to fade, and I thought “Is this it? Am I becoming one of those invisible old ladies?” Along came Darrell Price and the Journey to Happiness and after attending a few meetings, my outlook rose significantly. I think I already had the tools and the habit, but with the changes in lifestyle that come to us over 65, I need a boost or a gentle reminder. That is what Journey is all about. Can’t wait for the next person who asks me why I attend those Happiness meetings.I have often been asked What is the Journey to Happiness Group that meets on Wednesdays at the hospital all about. I smile and say, “Well, I am not sure, but I know we laugh a lot. I also always say, “Come and see for yourself. It is great fun.” Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Habits of Happy People Conference in Valencia with Journey to Happiness leader, Darrell Price.

The conference opened my eyes to the great, but subtle way that each Wednesday’s meeting brings us along further on the Journey to Happiness. I learned from the presenter, Dr. Brian King that happiness is fifty percent genetic, ten percent circumstances, and forty percent intentional activity. I quickly became aware of exactly what the Wednesday meeting are all about. They are all about intentional activity leading to the habit of happiness.

With all the changes in standard of living, Americans are no happier than we were fifty years ago. One of the advantages of being a senior is that it is easy to remember fifty years ago, and although filtered, I remember that happiness well. Happiness is not based on wealth, or convenience, or appearance. It depends more on our ability to maintain a level of happiness during times of turmoil and times of triumph. It is based more on experiences than possessions. In other words, my happiness comes from sharing life with others, than from owning a Porsche. Travelling and adventure bring more happiness to many than a larger home, and positive memories bring joy and love.

No one is happy all the time, and some people are happier than others. Frankly, I bobble all over the charts, but the habit of being happy helps me to reduce my stress and to be aware that happiness is a choice helps me through the bad times and gives me confidence and more ability to be resilient. When I am happy, I feel healthier, more social, energetic, and ready to face whatever life sends my way.

And this brings me back to Why I love the Journey to Happiness meetings. As a senior, I was beginning to feel I was living on old laurels. I had had a great teaching career, was often meeting students who told me how I influenced their life, and I was enjoying travelling. Then as happens in life, the stories, praise, and adventures begin to fade, and I thought “Is this it? Am I becoming one of those invisible old ladies?” Along came Darrell Price and the Journey to Happiness and after attending a few meetings, my outlook rose significantly. I think I already had the tools and the habit, but with the changes in lifestyle that come to us over 65, I need a boost or a gentle reminder. This is what Journey is all about. Can’t wait for the next person to asks me why I attend those Happiness meetings

An Open Letter to Alysia Steele

I have just finished reading a most interesting book Jewels of the Delta by Alysia Steele. Her interviews with the Church Women of the Delta area of Mississippi is a fascinating look at the oral history of a time before, during, and directly after the Civil Rights Movement. She entwines these stories with stories of her grandmother.


Reading her prompted me to return to my blog and to post the following:


A Letter to Alysia Steele on Grandmothers.


Alysia,


I love your book. I can only imagine how proud your grandmother is as she smiles down on you from above. I find myself remembering the days of Civil Rights and my very small involvement at the time. I was studying at the University of Minnesota, attended rallies, picketed the local Woolworths’s and collected money to aid the Freedom Riders. It humbles me to think of how very minute my efforts were when compared to those women of courage and faith.


I taught school for 34 years and never knew that black teachers in Mississippi had to struggle to gain the right to put Mrs. in front of their name. Ironically, at about the same time, I was fighting for the right to drop the title and use my first name. I was teaching in Topanga Canyon in Southern California. Many of my students were from communes with flower children parents and I was swept away with my own “Dawning of Aquarius”. I am sure the Church Mothers would be shaking their heads in disbelief at my reverse identity struggle.


I smiled when the Rev. Dr. Matthew recalled that Martin Luther King was an average student when both men were at Morehouse College. I briefly met Dr. King when he came to speak at the University of Minnesota at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. I do not know what I was expecting – perhaps a superhuman being with a cape and all. He was not as tall as I thought he would be; he was quiet, well-mannered, and a little average. As a teacher, I would celebrate his birthday with my third and fourth graders. I always mentioned meeting Dr. King and how he seemed to be just an ordinary man who was doing extra-ordinary things and how his leadership changed our world for the good of all people.


I know you miss your grandmother. I understand how you long to hear her voice and how you wish you could say “I am sorry for all the stomping up the stairs and the eye-rolling.” (There must have been eye-rolling.) So I wrote the following with you in mind. I may not speak for your grandmother, but I believe my words and thoughts are pretty universal Nana-Speak.


What My Granddaughter Didn’t Know When I Was Busy Lecturing Her about Privacy Rights and Boundaries


There was a minor little incident when my delightful eight-year-old granddaughter visited me a few weeks ago. She was playing with my iPad, and I asked what she was doing.


“ I am changing the setting so I can get in easy.“ she announced.


“Oh no, you are not,” I answered, “An iPad is like someone’s purse. You ask permission before opening it, and you never change my settings.”


That was my message, and I wanted to get the lesson across. To her credit, she listened and hopefully was not crushed by the authority in my voice. Now here is the part she didn’t know. I was also secretly proud of her misplaced initiative, and her knowledge of technology. I call this a soul-tickle. Soul-tickling is a feeling of pride grandmothers keep to themselves. It is an amusement not often shared, and it is known to produce mild head-shaking and half-smiles on our faces.


So for all those grandmothers out there and those granddaughters who are listening. Please know three things. First we grandmothers know about stomping upstairs, and impatience, and obnoxious behavior. We may not always admit it, but a lot of our knowledge comes from personal experience. Second, our ability to forgive and forget the grievances of grandchildren nears saintliness, and last, but certainly not least, grandmothers understand soul-tickling better than anyone else. I suspect, Alysia, your antics soul-tickled your grandmother more than you will ever know.

Happy Easter

What a wonderful Easter Sunday. It was filled with fun, family, and festivities. I have just spent the day making six pages for the kids’ memory books. Easter looked a lot more like Christmas than Easter. This is because the twins have new beds and desks and I bought sheets, bedspreads, desk lamps, and book-ends for their room. Then wrapped them along with some toys and said the Easter Bunny brought them.

It is pretty much tradition to have Macaroni and Cheese, made from a recipe that came from Maya Angelou. We of course had the marvelous honey-baked ham, as well as, honey glazed carrots, Harvard beets, and the highly requested Strawberry/Cranberry Jello from Mary Axsom’s Michigan recipe. It is a fact that Midwesterners know Jello better than anyone else in the U.S.

We are experiencing winter. Of course, we switched from heat to air-conditioning last week. The skies are filled with dark clouds, the wind must be close to fifty miles an hour, and we worry about our back yard fence going down. Such is life and poor California certainly can use some rain, although I know this storm will only produce a smidgeon of the amount we need to recover from our devastating drought.

This is a good time to share my album pages. As they say, “A picture is worth a dozen words.8 Easter-p0018 Easter-p0028 Easter-p0038 Easter-p0048 Easter-p0058 Easter-p006