Daisy Cat

Our beloved 18 year-old-cat left us this past week. It’s been hard. She was an amazing cat with so much personality. A hole is left in our hearts.

Daisy in box from Current Oct 2002

Daisy came to us through the Humane Society in 2001.

We had two cats when we moved back to Omaha from Chicago. Pepper, a beautiful gray cat, had been a part of our for seven years. I’d gotten her from a farm woman who ran a Bed and Breakfast between Lincoln and Omaha. I’d attended a retreat there and she told us that one of the cats had had kittens and we were welcome to take any or all of them. I chose a pretty gray kitty and surprised the boys (and my less-than-thrilled husband). The boys named her Pepper because of her coloring. She was a good kitty, but rather standoffish, especially to me. I think she held a grudge against me for taking her from the farm. An outdoor kitty at heart, she would glare at me as if to say, “Why did you bring be here?”

In 1996, my husband was transferred to the Chicago area. Pepper, used to being outdoors, left one day and was gone for several days. We worried because the suburb in which we lived had laws about pets and they allowed any homeowner to kill your cat if the animal trespassed on their property. We thought she was a goner for sure. I’d posted notices and let the sheriff and Humane Society know that we had lost our cat. Weeks went by and no Pepper. The boys were crushed.

I took them to the DuPage County Humane Society and they fell in love with a white cat named Sabrina. Sabrina was neurotic and didn’t know how to groom herself. (Bad when you’re a white cat!) I wondered if the previous owner had bathed her instead of letting her bathe herself.

Shortly after Sabrina joined our household, I received a call from a man in the next suburb over. He had Pepper! Apparently, she’d been hanging around the neighborhood because the nice people were feeding her delicious tuna and giving her all kinds of treats. The man said he’d been on vacation and had just gotten home. He saw my “lost cat” notice.

The boys and I drove over to pick up Pepper. On the way, we commented on the path she must’ve taken to get there. She would’ve had to cross three busy 4-lane streets, get by the Canadian geese that congregated at two large retention ponds, cross an industrial park area and finally come to the neighborhood where she was found by crossing another major thoroughfare.

Pepper seemed glad to see the boys and me. For a day or two, I was her best friend. But…there was another kitty in the house. Where did she come from? Pepper did not get along with Sabrina. Confused, both cats vied for their territory. I was here first! Over time, they tolerated one another.

Sabrina developed bad allergies and chewed her skin. I took her to the vet who gave her cortisone shots for the itching. It worsened, and she was bleeding at times. We moved back to Omaha in 2000. She continued to see the vet for shots. She was miserable. We finally decided to put her to sleep.

Joe was in high school and on a band trip to Disney World when we made the decision. Sabrina had been close to Joe and we knew he’d be upset but the poor kitty suffered so. Sad to hear the news, Joe returned home to find a new kitty in his room. We’d been to the Humane Society in Omaha and chose Daisy. In reality, Daisy chose us.

We’d taken Mike, our youngest, 10 years old at the time, to look at kitties. When we stood in front of the window where Daisy (aka “Sassy”) was housed, she got so excited, leaping around, showing us tricks as if to say, “Pick me! Pick me!” So, we did. I felt like we didn’t pick Daisy. She picked us.

Daisy and Pepper got along okay. Pepper still acted standoffish but seemed to begrudgingly accept Daisy.Pepper and Daisy Dec 31 2002
Joe named her Daisy because he’d been to Disney World (Daisy Duck) and Daisy was a “Holstein” cat—black and white like the cows. “Daisy” seemed to fit her. (Later, we understood why the previous owner had called her “Sassy.” She let us know if she needed attention.)

Daisy loved being around the boys and their friends, frequently hanging out in the basement with them while they played video games. A load bearing pole in the basement that the previous owner had covered with the same carpeting as on the floor attracted her attention. Daisy would run around the basement and jump on the pole, climbing to the top, entertaining the boys and their friends. They figured out that if they ran their fingers along the pole or scratched the carpet, she’d play and jump on the pole.

Daisy climbing pole in basement Oct 2001

One evening, Joe and Mike were in the basement watching TV when they called, “Mom! There’s a snake in the vent.”

I went downstairs with a flashlight. I heard a sound and it was Daisy. Somehow, she’d gotten up inside of the vent. When she saw the flashlight shining she tried to get the light, making her way to the window well. We all laughed at the scare she gave the boys.

Daisy loved to chase lights. Like most cats, she loved the laser pointer. She also liked flashlights. If we were using the flashlight to find something, she’d be right there, pouncing on the light. It could be annoying at times when we were diligently searching for something and there she was, jumping in front of us.

When we first got her, she loved to ride on the boys’ shoulders. She even jumped up on my shoulders while I tried to work on the computer.

Dave and Daisy going for a ride May 2001 Joe with Daisy on his shoulders May 2001 Daisy on Moms shoulders at the computer May 2001

 

A constant companion, she followed us everywhere. In the mornings, as I got ready for work, she’d sit in the bathtub and wait for water to drip from the faucet. Daisy waiting for the water to drip July 2003She watched TV with us as she got older. When Dennis and I watched Jeopardy or Netflix, she sat there, mesmerized by the screen, sometimes stretching up to touch the television as action zipped across the “tube.”IMG_1623

If things were left on the floor, she checked them out and often sat on the boys’ backpacks and papers. I couldn’t imagine a bag full of books would be comfortable, but for some reason, she liked to sit on purses, computer bags and bulky totes. It’s as if she claimed them as her own.

Daisy in backpack 1998Daisy on grass skirt for drink barrel for Daves graduation party 2002
Once, I put the 3-ring binder that holds my manuscript on the floor by the computer and she came over to investigate. It looked as if she was critiquing my work.

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As the boys grew up and left home, she was stuck with us two old people. But she slowed down, too, often keeping our laps warm. She liked to sit in front of the heat vent in wintertime. She loved sitting under the Christmas tree. She wanted to be where the people were.

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She groomed Pepper, mothering the older cat. Pepper acted annoyed at times, but put up with it. Sometimes we’d find them sleeping in the same little box downstairs. They both enjoyed laying in the sunlight that beamed through the front door. Sometimes Pepper’s tags would catch the light and reflect, catching Daisy’s attention who would then pounce on the light. Pepper would turn her head and the light would reflect elsewhere, then Daisy would pounce again. Sometimes Pepper looked at Daisy as if to say, “You’re such an idiot.”

Daisy and Pepper keeping the neighborhood safe Oct 2001
Pepper got sick in 2007 and we had to put her down. It was tough, as it always is when you lose a cherished pet. Mike was in high school and had known Pepper most of his life. Daisy missed her, too, looking for her, calling for her. Over time, the pain of Pepper’s loss abated. We still had our dear Daisy.

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Daisy developed chronic kidney failure and had frequent urinary tract infections. We fed her special prescription cat food that we bought at the vet office. Giving her pills for the infections proved to be a challenge. We tag-teamed, putting her in an old pillowcase with only her head exposed. Dennis would hold her still while I popped the pill in her mouth using the eraser end of a pencil to get it in her mouth.

Dennis retired in July 2016. I’d already retired from nursing two years prior. We decided to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on vacation. The day before we left, Daisy got sick with another UTI. Our vet wasn’t available, so I took her to an animal hospital. The vet did all kinds of tests on her and said she was in kidney failure. He said she needed to receive sub-q fluids and medication. It would cost an arm and leg to keep her at the hospital and we didn’t think Joe could do the fluids while we were gone. (Joe was married by then, starting his own family. The other two sons lived far away so they couldn’t take care of Daisy.)

Daisy on stairs 2001

We called the Humane Society and they suggested going ahead with our trip and leaving plenty of water and food for Daisy (like we always did.) Joe would check in on her every day and give her medicine. If, by chance, Daisy died while we were gone, Joe was to call the Humane Society and they’d come pick up the body and hold it until we got home. We left town, concerned but knowing that Daisy was in good hands.

Upon our return from vacation ten days later, Daisy was chipper and bright, acting like she’d never been at death’s door. Pleasantly surprised and happy, we enjoyed our kitty with a new appreciation for her spunk.

She started to lose weight after that, but still liked to play and jump on our laps to watch TV. She slept in bed with me which was unusual, but she easily jumped up into the bed. She’d pounce on my feet when I moved in bed.

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She went from 10# to 7# to 5# over a year’s time. It was sad to see her lose so much weight. When I’d pet her, I felt her spine and ribs. We took her to the vet again for another UTI and she got better again. We started giving her treats and tuna in the morning, trying to fatten her up. She’d started hacking up hairballs more frequently and we gave hairball remedy chews which she loved.

She became our alarm clock, yowling in the morning to come down and give her the treats. Sometimes, we’d wake up at 5:00 am to her siren song.Daisy on pop 1998

Things seemed fine. She still liked to play whenever anyone was in the little bathroom on the main floor. She’d put her paw under the door and wait for whoever was in there to slide a newspaper or other paper under the door for her to paw at. We used to warn visitors that, if they used that bathroom, they might see a little paw flick under the door, looking for something to play with.

She still chased the flashlight and played with her favorite toys. She still ran into the computer room whenever she heard the printer running. She still sat up and waited for her treats. She still greeted us at the door when we returned from grocery shopping or errands.

Daisy and the printer2

We had plans to leave for Chicago November 10 to attend our granddaughter’s birthday party. She’s been fine the 9th. I heard Dennis talking to her in the kitchen. He sounded unhappy. I went to see what was going on. Daisy was squatting like she did with UTIs and then I saw spots of blood. We called the vet and said it looked like another UTI. The vet sounded discouraged. Dennis and I discussed what to do.
He would take her to the vet since I had a meeting at 9:30 am. If it was something serious, we agreed that she should be put down. When I returned from my meeting, I noticed Dennis’ car in the garage but the cat carrier was missing. I knew that Daisy had probably been put to sleep.
Dennis told me that the vet said there was nothing she could do. Daisy was peeing blood and it was serious. It was time to let her go.
I spent the morning sobbing. It was strange because, I’d been sad when Pepper and Sabrina died, but never like this. I talked to my boys on the phone. Mike called from Oregon and Dave, from Chicago. All three boys spoke fondly of our kitty and shared many memories. I said I didn’t understand why I cried so hard for Daisy. Dave pointed out that, with Sabrina and Pepper, they’d been sick awhile and I’d seen them suffer. But Daisy seemed fine one day and was dead the next. I had no time to anticipate her demise.Daisy helping with Christmas decorations 2001
I was glad we were going to Chicago the next day. A few days away might help. And it did. But coming home was hard. As we neared Omaha, I thought of Daisy, almost automatically, like I’d done before, wondering what she’d been up to while we were gone. What would we find when we walked in the door? Then it hit me. We wouldn’t find anything because she wouldn’t be there to greet us or meow and complain about our absence. We would enter an empty house.

I’m grieving but it helps to remember all the joy and love she gave us. We were so blessed to have our sweet Daisy Cat. Time will heal my broken heart, but memories of Daisy will be forever etched in my soul. Thank you, sweet kitty cat. You were the best!

Daisy 2004Daisy fireplace 1998

Daisy computer cat May 2001Daisy helping with the lights

 

 

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What’s Your Story?

Do you keep journals? Write in a diary?

What is a journal? Business people will tell you that it’s a “record that keeps accounting transactions in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ”

Writers use journals to come up with story ideas or to make memory lists for memoir. Journals help us tap into our creativity.

Mental health professionals often suggest keeping a journal as a means to discover your inner self and identify issues you may have hidden from yourself.

Journals can be very private or shared with individuals or groups.

Journals and diaries are a way to:

  • leave your legacy for your children
  • sort out your feelings about the past
  • communicate with yourself and others
  • unleash the right side of your brain (creativity)
  • figure out day-to-day issues and time management
  • understand your life story
  • keep track of a specific event as it is happening in your life

I tend to use random spiral notebooks for my journals, but there are many more formal journals you can purchase. They may have “prompts” in case you aren’t sure what to write about.

Years ago, after the birth of my first grandchild, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a journal called “Grandma, Tell Me Your Story.” Each page had a prompt for each day of the year. There were blank pages at the end where I could write whatever came to mind. The topics were something like:

  • January 1 – How did your family celebrate the New Year?
  • January 2 – What were your favorite activities in the winter?

Most months had holiday-specific prompts (if there was a holiday that month) as well as general topics like “Did you ever get in trouble at school? What did you do?” or “What was your favorite Halloween costume? Describe it.” One particularly poignant page in September asked “Where were you on 9/11?”

I wrote in the journal each day and by the end of the year, I returned it to my son for my granddaughter to read in the future.

Recently, I found another “Grandmother” journal that I plan to write WITH my granddaughter. It’s a “back and forth” journal where one of us writes and tJounral grandmahe other responds.

I am scheduled for a major surgical procedure next week and have been journaling about it. It will require major lifestyle changes so I am ambivalent and a little scared. Will I be able to do what is needed to stay healthy? I’d planned to grab a regular notebook to write in, but my friend said I should buy a special journal since this will be a major change in my life. She thought it would be wise to write down the process as well as my anxiety and feelings of anticipation. Why am I having the procedure? How will it improve my life? What will I be able to do afterwards that I can’t do now? What is the doctor telling me day-to-day?

I saw some journals at the card store while I was looking for Father’s Day and birthday cards. One caught my eye. It was beautifully bound and combined adult coloring designs and lined pages. But, it cost $25 so I put it down. A spiral notebook would only cost $2 or so. I told my friend, an adult coloring book fan, about it and she said I needed to go back and get the journal. “You deserve it.”

While out shopping, I was near another card store, same company. I decided to stop in rather than driving across town to the one where I originally saw the journal. Disappointed, no journals like it were to be seen. I asked the cashier as I was leaving the store and she pointed, saying, “Check out the clearance table.”

I walked over and laying on the table among scented candles, stuffed Easter bunnies, and small Mother’s Day plaques sat a lone coloring journal. Spiral and paper instead of leather bound, the coloring areas were on the outer margins of each page instead of the top. Price: $5. I couldn’t pass it up. I took it to the cashier and she rang it up at $2.50. Even better. “Clearance” proved true. Being a spiral, it’s easier to open up flat and write.

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With a price like that, I couldn’t resist buying a second one listed for $8. It was more elaborate with pale green binding and sayings inside as well as coloring at the top.

I should be set for awhile.

I’ve discovered that writing in the coloring journal isn’t as tiring if I write awhile and then color awhile. Different hand muscles are in use for each activity.

journal inside

I have other journals that I will leave for my children as legacy. There is one about Family Traditions. Each major holiday has page where I wrote about typical ways we celebrated when our sons were small or still living at home. Each page has a pocket side where I store mementos such as cards, place-mats or small items.

There are so many journals out there that are fun and useful. I hope you can find one or two you like. To paraphrase the beginning definition of a journal by accountants –” A journal is a record that keeps personal and family history in chronological order, i.e. as they occur. ” Or not.

Journal mothers

 

Story Ideas and Techniques

Where do you get ideas for stories? Many of mine come from observations I’ve made and experiences I’ve had. Once in awhile something will just pop into my head. When I am on a “roll” and things are moving along,  it’s so exciting to me. I lose all track of time. Does that happen to you?

I recently wrote a short story (and I think it’s a work in progress) and ideas came so quickly, I couldn’t keep up. My fingers were flying across the keyboard. I couldn’t keep up with the thoughts in my brain.

I am grateful for my education in journalism in the 1970’s at UNL. As a student, I learned to type and think. It was much different than the leisurely handwritten thoughts that I was used to. I had to sit at the typewriter and, in rapid fire, put down my thoughts. It was daunting. But now I have difficulty putting pen to paper because my hand is slower than my brain when I write.

I have discovered that I like to write mystical stories. I’m a reader of mysteries, thrillers and spy novels so this has come as a surprise to me. My latest short story is called “Dream Catcher” and it’s about a museum curator who has the uncanny ability to sense things “other worldly.” I got the idea while looking at the dream catcher that hangs in my bedroom window.

Dream catchers started with the Native American of the Great Plains, the Lakota and Sioux. They believed the air is filled with both good and bad dreams. Dream catchers were hung in the tepees and on the babies’ cradle boards for protection.

According to legend, good dreams pass through the center hole to the sleeping person. Bad dreams are caught in the web where they die in the light of dawn.

Traditionally, the frame was made of willow hoops and animal sinew or cordage made from plants. The circular shape represented the sun and moon (and time) as each day moves across the sky.

Now, soft leather cord or synthetic materials are used. The hoop is likely wooden or plastic. They are often decorated with feathers and beads. Mine has an arrowhead in the center.IMG_3865

I have several dream catchers in various forms. I’m not sure when my “collection” started. Like many of my collections, it was inadvertent. I received some from the St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota after making a donation. I continue to receive them now and then, even if I don’t send a donation. I bought the one I have in my bedroom while vacationing in Colorado Springs. I also bought a dreIMG_3868am catcher necklace on another trip to Colorado. I’ve had one of my dream catchers so long, I don’t recall when or where it came from. It is made of leather and is very simple but beautiful with pinkish webbing. It’s one of my favorites.

http://www.dream-catchers.org/category/history/

In my story, the protagonist, Frank de Salle, is a museum curator who was born with microtia. The character is loosely based on my brilliant younger brother who is deaf. My character’s name is Frank de Salle, named for the patron saint of deaf persons, St. Francis de Salle.

Frank and his sister, Christine, a reporter, travel to the Pine Ridge reservation where they attend a powwow. Things happen as they journey onward to the Black Hills and into Wyoming to see Devil’s Tower. All culminates when Frank returns home and is visited by a ghostly figure one night.

Excerpt from “The Dream Catcher”

Frank de Salle was born with a missing ear.   He could speak but he knew he didn’t articulate very well. Strangers treated him as though he was retarded. He sensed it was because of his slurred speech and very loud nasal voice. But he held advanced degrees in both anthropology and history.

 He worked at the college museum as a curator where he set up traveling exhibits,  cataloged museum pieces, and conducted research on artifacts. He worked alone and lived alone and he was fine with that.

His modest two-bedroom home sat ten blocks from campus. He had a drivers’ license but preferred to walk. Pedestrians didn’t cut in front of one another or flip each other off as they hurried down the sidewalk. A nod or smile made it a much more genial mode of getting from point A to point B. Oh, he’d drive in the winter sometimes but leave early in the morning before there was much traffic.

When he spoke, he could hear his words echo in his head and thought they sounded fine, even though strangers looked at him in an odd way. “Don’t yell so loud,” Christine would say, but then he couldn’t hear his words. His speech therapist explained that, with his hearing aid on, he could hear about as well as someone underwater in a swimming pool might hear, whatever that was.

Sometimes he’d feel a vibration before hearing a sound through his hearing aid. Doctors told him that his other senses were heightened. He overcompensated because of his deafness. An oncoming car felt like he was holding an electric razor with the sensation passing through his entire body. He liked vibrations, his connection to the world.

Want to read more? Let me know. Leave a comment below. 

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“Everything the Power does, it does in a circle.” Lakota Proverb

“A man’s life is a circle from childhood to childhood, and thus it is in everything where the power moves.” Black Elk

 

Writing Class

An opportunity presented itself to me this winter. I found out about a program at the local university called the “Senior Passport.”

I hate to admit that I celebrated my “Medicare Birthday” this year but being 65 has given me some new opportunities. I signed up to audit a class on writing short stories. It has been a wonderful experience.

Each Monday, we meet and discuss short stories and present short stories we have written since the previous class. The professor packs the classes full of information and activities. Fortunately, we are a small group so there is time to get most of it in.

Each week, one of the students presents a short story to the class. The story I chose was “Train” by Alice Munro. With the stories, we discuss the author’s background, the story plot and twists, the characters and the setting.

Then we critique short stories we have written. This is my favorite part. It is fun to read what other people have written and to offer suggestions to one another. The other students are all fairly young but they offer many good suggestions on how I can improve my stories and in turn, I offer my opinions on their stories.

Writing in a group has a way of bringing people together, of bonding with one another. Being the “old lady” of the class, when we first met, the others were more interested in looking at their i-Phones than chatting during break. But as we began to share our stories, we talked to each other more. We got to know one another through our writing.

When I presented my story about growing up in small town America in the 1950’s, many of the other students came up to me afterwards with comments. One young man asked me about Roger Maris. He lived in Fargo, SD, for awhile and told me about a museum dedicated to Roger Maris in that town. We talked about the excerpt from my story (below) and shared some laughs.

Leaving their dogs to roam the streets, they’d head to the theater four blocks away.  Once inside, they bounced on the padded flip-down seats and waited for the lights to dim. “I hope they show Bugs Bunny today.” Gloria grabbed a handful of popcorn from the bag.

“I like Woody Woodpecker best,” Bob said.  They both made the classic “Hahaha-ha-ha” laugh of the cartoon character.

            The bouncing stopped as they heard the whirl of the reels begin. A black and white circle with a grid appeared on the screen, “Please Stand By.” They clapped their hands. A countdown flashed with numbers and they chanted, “Five, four, three, two, one.” Then the newsreel announcing “News of the Day.” Black and white pictures appeared on the big screen. Large white letters announced that Queen Elizabeth christened a ship somewhere. Roger Maris hit another home run.

            “I love Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle,” she whispered to Bob.

Another student talked to me about anorexia, a topic I breach in my story.

Flipping to the next page, she found several greeting cards. “Happy 6th Birthday” in big red letters.  A chubby cheeked girl in pink drawn holding a bunny on the front of another said, “You’re Turning Six!” One caught her eyes in particular. It was from her big sister, Barbara. She recognized the exact loops, uniform and clear, marking her signature. Always perfect. Her sister was ten years older than she and the oldest, making her the boss of the family. Whatever Barbara wanted, she got. She was talented, smart and pretty. But she was also a tyrant.

Gloria thought she probably had anorexia. Back in 1957, no one knew about anorexia nervosa. Mental illness was considered a character flaw. Barbara hid her problem from adults, but the siblings knew something was amiss.  She ate a lot of celery.

Others talked to me about my story in general and commented on what they liked about it as well as some pitfalls in my writing. It was interesting to see how the story brought us together.

Writing is a powerful tool. We are reading “Fortune Smiles” a book by Adam Johnson, a Pulitzer prize winner. His short stories are very intriguing. Our professor asked if we thought writing was just for entertainment or was there a deeper purpose? Most of us agreed that writing can change minds and promote social justice. Why else would tyrannical governments burn books if the words inside didn’t offer threat?

Books like “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” brought the plight of slavery to the forefront. Dozens of books including “To Kill a Mockingbird” shed light on the law and people’s prejudices. The short stories in Johnson’s book touch on topics such as cancer/death and dying, living with a disabled wife, pedophilia, and the Cold War attitude of an East German prison warden.

The class has given further proof that “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The most exhilarating feeling for me is when my writing touches a soul. I may curse the Muses and wonder why I were given this “need to write” but then, once in a while, something magical happens and people are influenced by something I’ve written.

Have you ever had that happen? Tell me about it.

 

 

My Short Story

In the midst of a class at the local university on short story writing, I just finished writing about being a fat person. The story has been brewing in my head for several years.

Several years ago, a national debate began about the rise in obesity in the US. Some fat people were blaming everything from McDonald’s and other fast food places to corn syrup in processed foods to sedentary lifestyle with the onset of personal computers, video games and other devices that kept kids from going outside to play and adults from going on long evening walks.

I pondered this and came up with  list of “excuses” for being fat.

  1. My parents. “When you grow up, when you’re BIG and strong, you can do this, you will know that, you will understand.” Hypothesis: To get big and strong and therefore independent and smart, EAT!
  2. “Clean Plate Club.” As I child I often heard, “Clean your plate. There are starving children in China (Africa, Bangladesh…)” Never did figure out how my eating everything on my plate would help those children.
  3. My paper route. I rode my bicycle all around town, delivering newspapers when I was in 5th grade. You would’ve thought that would enhance muscle strength and normal weight. But two of the places I delivered papers to were the local Dairy Queen and a small cafe along the highway that made the best cinnamon rolls. Any calories burned while circling the town on my bike were more than replenished by dilly bars and warm sticky buns.
  4. The image of a girl in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. Girls didn’t sweat. Girls sat at home and embroidered. Girls didn’t do things that might mess up their dresses. Dresses were not conducive to climbing jungle gyms, running up hills or throwing baseballs. The only place acceptable for sweating was in gym class where we wore ugly one-piece short outfits and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
  5. Food supply. In the Midwest, summer was great when we had fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits like cherries and apples from our trees. Otherwise, in the winter, we relied on shipments of oranges and other produce from far off places like California, Arizona and Texas. The fresh foods were expensive and not as tasty as they would be in their native states. Who wants to eat pink bland tomatoes?Much of our diet consisted of meat and potatoes. I never had a green salad until I was in my late teens.
  6. Terminology. Instead of cutting to the chase and calling it “fat,” there was a tendency when I was growing up for people to say things like “pleasingly plumb,”overweight,” and “chunky.” Even children’s clothes were labeled as “hefty.” I remember when I first identified myself as being “fat” it was liberating. People around me were shocked to hear that word, though, and it took awhile before society was ready to “tell it like it is.”
  7. News reels at the movie theater. Before the cartoon and main feature was shown, many cinemas showed MovieTone newsreels. https://youtu.be/FsPKD4tNe-Y  I remember seeing the films of the released Nazi films showing the concentration camps. As a little kid seeing (on the big screen, larger than life) the emaciated people with sunken faces, ribs sticking out, skin and bones. And the stacks of dead bodies piled high like so many haystacks, it had a profound effect on me. I never wanted to be that thin and emaciated. So, I ate more, thinking it was like a “reserve” I could store in my body in case something horrible like that happened to me.

Once I became fat, it was my identity, my defense mechanism. If someone didn’t like me because of my appearance, that was their problem, not mine. I had lots of friends and had lots of fun. My fat didn’t stop me.

As an adult, I decided I needed to lose weight for my health. I had lost two siblings and my father to heart disease. I lost 90 pounds after the birth of my second child. But then people commented on how good I looked and it bothered me. I didn’t want to hear that. My appearance was not who I was. I’m sure they thought they were complimenting me, but I saw it as a devaluation of my previous life. I also started losing friends, normal-weighted friends. One was killed in an earthquake. Another had a heart attack at age 42 while deer hunting. A tiny, active college friend had a stroke just before her 50th birthday. At that point, I decided I really have no control over the length of my life and I gained my weight back.

Now, I realize it’s more about “quality” than “quantity” of life. I have no control over when I will die, but I have control over how I will live.

My short story is called “Adolph Hitler Made Me Fat.” It will be read in class in the next week. I am anxious to hear what the other students think about it.

The Four Stages of My Life (and Maybe Yours, Too)

Saturday night, I went to a retirement party for a nurse I used to work with. This was the fourth retirement party I had been to this year, including my own. As I pondered it, I realized that I have had four stages of adulthood involving parties or celebrations.

  • Stage One Bridal showers, Weddings and Baby Showers

Brother Ron officiating  cake Big bear and Mike

This stage took place somewhere between 20 to 30 years of age. During that time, friends were getting married and having babies and not necessarily in that order. Money was spent of gifts for the occasions. Many parties and receptions took place during that time.

  • Stage TwoKids’ Birthday Parties, School Events and Sports

Joe's Ghostbuster birthday   Basketball cake (2) Joe's Star Wars birthday

Baby showers and weddings continued but were fewer. Now, kids’ parties and events took over. Big birthday parties, theme parties, destination parties–each set of parents trying to outdo the other. It was a crazy, expensive time. (If you have read my blog before, you may know that almost ALL of our birthdays happen in March and April. That time of year was harder on the checkbook than Christmas as we celebrated a birthday about every two weeks in our family.)

Then there were the classroom parties–Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. I was a room mother, so it was my job to make sure we had games to play and treats to eat. We room mothers were very creative with our games. (I may do a blog on party games sometime. I even had a game published in Family Fun magazine that we played at one of my son’s birthday parties.)

And there were soccer games, football games, baseball games, all with end-of-season parties (and don’t forget the gifts for the coaches. Someone had to collect the money and buy the gifts.)

  • Stage ThreeTeenaged angst followed by…Parties!

We experienced a short “dry spell” during the early teen years because, who wants to have a party at your house with your parents there?

Around junior prom time, things picked up. These were the “photo op” years. Homecoming, class plays, concerts, marching band competitions, Honors Night, Graduation.

More picsTrumpets rock!cakeOP canopy

  • Stage 4 – Reunions, Retirement and Funerals

IMG_2996 (2) NICU reunion

Just prior to this stage, there is a “mini” stage where the weddings and baby showers return as our adult children get married and have children of their own. The parties and events aren’t as plentiful, but they pop up now and then. I always look forward to them as it gives me a “break” from going to funerals!

During this stage, our parents are dying, our friends’ parents are dying and, unfortunately, some of our friends are dying. We are going to a lot of funerals. It is nice to be invited to a wedding or baby shower now and then just to get away from the funerals. More on funerals later…

We also are going to retirement parties as our friends and co-workers leave the workplace and start  new adventures. These parties don’t necessarily require a lot of gifts and hoopla because most of us have all the “stuff” we need and don’t want any more. We also find it enjoyable just to sit and talk, so no band or DJ is needed. Milestone anniversary parties may include some music and dancing, but most gatherings at this stage are simply good friends gathering to catch up and talk.

Now, for funerals. I think we do funerals all wrong in our society. All that weeping and sadness is crazy! If we believe in an afterlife, then a funeral should be a time of rejoicing because “it ain’t over!” And it never will be! We may not see each other in person for awhile, but the time will come when we meet again. So, instead of being sad, we should party! I have instructed my family and close friends that, when I head for the Great Beyond, I want a good old-fashioned Irish wake. I want people to gather, tell funny stories about me (believe me, I have left them plenty of fodder!), drink to my life and celebrate. I don’t want any crying at my funeral unless it’s from having a hangover.

Polly opening her gifts Susan and John May 2013

Happy “Stage Whatever!”

I Am the Proud Mother of Sons

August 11 is National Son’s Day, a day to celebrate the special boys in our lives. As a mother of three sons, I plan to celebrate. With only 106 days to go, I need to start planning now!

My boys are adults now but they are still “my boys.” Although they all have women in their lives now, I will always be their mother, whether they like it or not. My guys are great and we have a good time. I joke that, when they are all back home, I feel like Monty Python is in the house–or the Marx Brothers. They constantly throw “zingers” at each other and we laugh a lot.

My boys were exposed to many things including old Marx Brothers movies and Monty Python sketches. They could do the dialogue from most of what they saw. They also were pretty good at The Simpsons and other popular shows of the time. I was glad they grew up surrounded by silliness and humor. And it continues!Dads birthday 1998

I am a “boy mom.” I believe that there are “boy moms” and “girl moms.” Some moms can pull off both without any problem, but it has been my experience that we are better with one sex than the other. I was raised with four brothers–smack dab in the middle–two older brothers and two younger brothers. I think that is why I am a better “boy mom” — I can relate to boys.

If I had had girls, they probably would have been tomboys and athletes, not frilly or “proper.” I can barely fix my own hair, let alone curl or braid or add barrettes and ribbons to a daughter’s. I always had skinned knees and a dirty face, so any daughter of mine (poor girl!) would have had the same.

Raising boys is a joy (as is raising girls for “girl moms,” I’m sure.) There are so many adventures and so much activity. Some advantages of parenting, in my opinion, include:

  • Surprises and fun – You never know what your child is going to do. Boys can run up and give you a hug at the most unexpected moments. A day in the park or at the zoo can be an adventure. A trip to the zoo where he notices a bug on the sidewalk or a ground squirrel is just as exciting as the exotic animals. My boys helped me appreciate the “little things” around us as well as the more unusual things.
  • Laughter – I enjoyed the sounds of laughter in the mornings as the little guys got out of bed as well as the guffaws that I heard coming from the basement as my teen-aged sons hung out  with their friends, playing video games.
  • Individuality – I had three sons, but I had three very different sons. My oldest was my cuddler, my social guy with loyal friends, my creative thinker. He ended up studying philosophy in college.My second son was “his own man.” I never had to worry about peer pressure with him because he marched to his own drummer. On the other hand, his nickname as a toddler was “Mr. Destructo.” He became an art teacher. My youngest was (and is) an avid reader, my scholar. When he was in 2nd grade, we were signing him up for soccer (which my other two boys loved to play). He informed us that he was more “into academics than sports.” (His words at age 8.) Even as a toddler, he loved to look at catalogs instead of play with toys. At the mall, the other boys rushed to the toy store and wanted a toy, He preferred the bookstore and we couldn’t leave without a book. He is a high school history teacher.
  • Simplicity – When leaving the house, there was no last minute primping and polishing (unless they were in their Easter best. But primping was pretty much futile then, too.) It was a “come as you are” world for my boys. Things changed later when girlfriends entered the picture, but much of boyhood was spent in casual wear and worn out shoes.
  • Boys clothes – Their clothes were basic and rarely changed in style. My biggest “fight” about clothes had to do with holey sox. I don’t know why it was so hard to get rid of sox and wear new ones. Still a mystery to me.
  • Speak their mind – My boys didn’t sugar-coat, nor did their friends. They spoke their minds, sometimes at awkward moments. “Mommy, why does that lady’s nose look so funny?”
  • Cheaper? – Some people think girls cost more because of their clothes, upkeep, “necessities,” but boys can be pretty expensive, too. Sports sign ups, grocery bills when feeding teenagers, video games, cars and car maintenance, broken bones, girls and first dates. Guys can run up the bills as well–just on different things.
  • Less drama? False! Boys can be pretty melodramatic at times. Who gets to run shotgun? Who ate the last piece of pizza? “Who said you could borrow my MP3 player?” “Why does HE always get to do ____ (fill in the blank)?” “Why do I always have to put the dishes away?”

Raising boys has given my husband and me many memories, mostly filled with joy and laughter. Like how one of our boys (at 3 or 4 year old) used to wait until we were out of town, on the road, when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom because he wanted to pee outside. Or the memories of their many friends taking all of their shoes off inside the front door and our cat going from shoe to shoe, sticking her head in to savor the aroma of each.

Joe's Ghostbuster birthdayOr the birthday parties where my second son had so much faith in my cake-making abilities that he offered a new challenge each year–“Mom, can you make me a Ghost buster cake?””Can you make me a “Superman” cake?” “Can you make a Basketball cake?” Or the time our youngest, at age 2, followed his dad up the ladder to the roof, almost causing our neighbor and my husband to have heart attacks. Or the time we were in South Dakota at Custer State Park, trapped in the car behind several other cars, stuck in a herd of buffalo. “No, you cannot get out of the car. You can see the buffalo just fine.”

The broken collar bone, the stitches, the grass-stained Easter suits, the teen-aged angst, the car repairs were all worth it. Now we have three wonderful girls in our lives as well. I’ll admit, being a mother-in-law is different and there are adjustments, but I don’t think anyone is calling Doctor Phil on me with crazy mother-in-law stories yet.