Monthly Archives: March 2014

Punch Scars

Parr schoolhouse

 

My dearest & oldest friend is visiting from Indiana! We were enjoying supper the other night at ‘Bahama Breeze’ restaurant and I mentioned to her that in a couple of years we will have been the closest of friends for 50 years! That’s half-a-century of  ‘secrets’, chattering and silliness, crying on her shoulder, rejoicing in each other’s accomplishments, heartbreak over our precious Daddys’ deaths, long phone conversations, exchanging our gorgeous children’s photos, numerous cards and letters, and visits whenever possible. I sang at her wedding and she was my Matron-of-Honor. I told her that she was actually my VERY FIRST friend that’s a girl….I think she was surprised at that. But I grew up in a teeny tiny town with approximately 40 homes plus a little white country church and a Grain Elevator; there just weren’t girls in my particular age group. So I grew up with my brothers and the boys in the town. I showed her the scars that still remain on my knuckles from punching other kids!

I adored my hometown. We lived on one end, Gramma lived 2 houses away. There was one intersection and that was where the Post Office used to sit; at the time it was literally ‘The World’s Smallest Post Office’ but now rests at the Jasper County Fairgrounds for all to see as a historical treasure. Grandpa lived next to the Post Office. Turn to the right at that intersection and at the other end of town was the Grain Elevator that the family owned and Daddy managed. The town also had a school for grades 1, 2, and 3. The photo above shows the version of it’s remains.

Kindergarten was optional when I was 5 and would’ve meant a long ride on the schoolbus into a bigger town so my Mama taught me what I needed to know before entering 1st grade. Besides, she knew the 1st grade teacher very well because Mama had been Mrs. McColly’s student in 1st and 2nd grades! The 2nd grade teacher that I’d have would be Mrs. Switzer, a sister of Mrs. McColly, and Mama had been her student in 3rd and 4th grades. I was rather excited to go to school, although I felt that it was unfair that I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike….there were only 6 homes between our house and the school, and one of them was my Gramma’s!

My 1st day of school was not at all fun as I had hoped it’d be. Right away my Mama got called to come and get me because I wasn’t properly attired. We didn’t realize that I was supposed to wear a dress so I had to go home and change my clothes! The only dresses that I owned were my frilly Sunday School dresses and they were uncomfortable and not at all appropriate for classroom. We did not realize this and had not bought the right ‘school clothes’. My parents weren’t too happy about this miscommunication but I had to wear Sunday School dresses for a week until Mama could get ‘to town’ and buy a couple of outfits. She also ordered several outfits from the Sears Roebuck and JCPenneys catalogs after I got an idea of what the other little girls were wearing. Thus started my dismay at NOT liking fashion! (this has NEVER changed) So right away I didn’t like the other little girls and they laughed at me since I was wearing fancy clothes meant for church.

Recess was another eye-opener! Separation! I couldn’t wait to finally play with my friends but immediately was told by the teacher that the girls play on one side of the playground while the boys play on the other….the next day the sides would be switched to make it ‘fair’. What was fair about that? I sat on a swing and watched the boys, my constant companions and only friends in the world, playing on the monkey bars without me. My anger seethed inside of me. The next day the teacher urged me to play with girls but I knew none of them, they’d ALL been brought to my little town by a schoolbus from out in the country somewhere and were total strangers to me. I had no interest in them whatsoever so I climbed up into the big tree in front of the schoolyard….and decided to stay put! No coaxing by the Principal was getting me down. Next thing I knew, here came my Daddy. They’d called him at work so he had to come from the Grain Elevator to the school. He stood at the bottom of the tree and looked up at me and I knew that I was in trouble! I could hear children chanting for him to paddle me. But my dear Daddy climbed up into that tree and sat beside me without saying a word. After several long moments he looked at me and I got onto his back, feeling safe at last, and he took me home for the rest of the day. He wasn’t going to holler at me in front of others, that wasn’t his way. Our ‘discussion’ was later.

After a couple of lonely days on the playground, I started to try to get the other little girls to play with me but they wouldn’t include me. So instead I started punching them in the mouth. Some of their teeth dared to make my knuckles bleed! That’s why I have these PUNCH SCARS….they are my reminders of when I was a bratty little 1st-grader who wouldn’t make friends! I did not wanna conform to the system and play with only the girls. I am so glad that my own children, 3 decades later, didn’t have to endure these kind of ridiculous limitations! Oh, and as for my very first girl friend….I didn’t meet her until 4th grade when I started riding the schoolbus to the next town. She was my first real friend and has been my longest and best friendship!

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Leftover Oomph

Jill's pool

 

I reckon I still have a little bit of OOMPH left in me….the kids & I were in the pool, didn’t even wanna get out when it started raining BUT when thunderclaps started sounding, we were being cautious. Then when it started lightning, those kids were surprised at HOW FAST THIS OLD MAMA did the backstroke to get outa that pool!!! HA! They didn’t think that I really still knew how to swim….I showed them!

I live with my darling daughter now because I probably ought not be living on my own any longer. Having been Diagnosed with Extreme Vertigo/Imbalance/Severe Dizziness a few years ago has been a rather odd illness to have acquired and one that is somewhat perplexing. Most folks don’t quite understand the depths (by the way, I also haven’t any ‘depth perception’) of this illness so I get some strange looks and raised eyebrows when I tell folks what my ‘handicap’ is. Most people doubt that this is even a true illness. Believe me, I certainly am the 1st to wish that it weren’t! I’ve had to make total adjustments in many areas of my life, including re-learning how to do several things in a totally new way. Add to that the other maladies that have gone wrong in the past couple of years: diabetes, osteoarthritis in both knees, rheumatoid arthritis in a shoulder, tinnitus, sleep apnea, and the latest is the horrid diabetic neuropathy in both hands and feet. All of this has occurred within a few short years so I’ve had to do lotsa research and make adjustments quickly.

Physical Therapy was getting rather expensive so 2 years ago my daughter decided that it was time to quit renting and buy a house! Her credit was excellent but her patience was not….so the realtors and I spent a few months looking at dozens and dozens of homes before presenting her with several to check out. It took many disappointments until we found just the right one because my daughter is just as ‘picky’ as I am, but luckily we had a great husband-and-wife realty team that got to know all of our idiosyncrasies and only showed us properties that they were sure were a ‘good fit’. My precious daughter’s top priority was to have a pool because she wanted to make sure that I could do my physical therapy at home, thus eliminating the thrice-weekly expensive health club visits (she’d attended half of these and was confident that she could assist me adequately). I had serious doubts about finding an in-ground pool in her price range; after all, she’s a full-time theme-park Castmember plus a college student….but we found a house that she loves because of it’s quirkiness AND it’s less than a block to the college!

The only time that I can do ANY type of exercise is while in the pool. I am most comfortable in the water. I cannot do running or jogging or walking or stairs or jumping or anything in which I’m in an upright position; even so I’ve gotta be holding onto something with both hands. This is because of the dizziness; it becomes magnified much more if I would even try. Not only do I become more unbalanced, but I also experience these weird ‘tinglies‘ in my head that feel like teeny insects crawling underneath the skin along the sides and top of my head. However, in the water I FEEL FREE!!! Sure, I’m still dizzy but it doesn’t matter because if I am falling that’s okay because I’ll be floating. I never ever end up in the same spot of the pool that I started out doing my exercises because my dizziness makes me lose track of where exactly I am, but at least I’m able to do them! I sooooo enjoy this feeling of being able to exercise and swim; I’ve always been a good swimmer so it boosts my confidence a bit and just gives me a feeling of well-being! When any of my kids are with me (they insist upon my not swimming alone, naturally!), I am always the one begging to stay in the pool longer….just as they did when they were little kiddies! Second childhood, perhaps? Well, if it involves anything that’ll give me a bit of EXTRA OOMPH….I say to BRING IT ON!

Yellow Hair

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My oldest son was going to be the only one enrolling in school when we moved to the island of Oahu while their father was getting an assignment in an extremely remote location upon the Arctic Circle. We’d been stationed at Randolph AFB in San Antonio and my husband came home with the news one day that our time would be ending in Texas and that he’d be living the next 14 months in a place so cold that there weren’t even any trees! His next assignment after that wasn’t yet determined so we had to make a decision where the kiddies and I would be living. The Air Force gave us 2 choices: stay in San Antonio or move back to ‘where I came from’, with all moving expenses paid by the Air Force. I was then thrown-for-a-loop when my hubby grinned and informed me that the Air Force had ME listed as being a resident of the state of Hawaii! Oh My Goodness! I had never changed my residency out of the state of Hawaii since college, and apparently as a military spouse I never did have to renew my driver’s license….so I now had to make a choice of moving my 3 kids and myself to Hawaii or staying in San Antonio! I supposedly had until the end of the week to decide. REALLY? I decided instantaneously! We were moving to Hawaii with the move being paid for, even my car and my baby grand piano too; and also quite a hefty cost-of-living allowance increase, WOOHOO!

Hubby took us on the long flight to Honolulu. I’m so glad that we were given the ‘bulkhead’ seats because that gave us extra room. Back then, in the 80s, those seats were not necessarily reserved for particular passengers. I do feel sorry for the other folks on that plane. The stewardesses knew the kids’ names plus brought them extra treats and spent much more time on them than anybody else flying with us that day. My children have always been extremely well-behaved, but we must’ve made 3 dozen trips up and down the aisles to the bathrooms. They were sooo young and fidgeted and wanted to sing and be read to, etc. I’m just thrilled that they didn’t cry or scream like we heard some other children doing. I was embarrassed for those parents! Mine were ages 1, 2, & 4 when we flew from San Antonio to Honolulu. We were even allowed to disembark the plane 1st, along with the other family with kids, and I could swear that I heard cheering when we all got off that airplane!

After settling into our rental home, we enrolled Jerry in the preschool program at Pearl City Elementary. He needed to continue in Speech Therapy and that was a school that’d been on our list that supposedly had excellent teachers. I just wasn’t prepared that in Hawaii the preschool was going to be an all-day program! I didn’t know if I could handle having my 4&1/2-year-old away from me ALL DAY, 5 days per week! (in Texas it’d been 3 half-days) But the program was 1/2-day in preschool and 1/2-day in speech class. His 2 teachers, Miss Maile and Miss Glenda, were wonderful! He took a liking to them from the very beginning.

My biggest worry for my son was ‘culture shock’. When I’d gone to college at Chaminade College (now University) in Honolulu a few years before, I’d chosen to go there because it WAS so very far away from my tiny hometown in northern Indiana. I was from farm-country moving to a big international city and I wanted to see what folks were like elsewhere. I wanted to explore customs and cultures and religions. But Jerry was just such a little boy and had only lived in Indiana and Texas. He spoke English and was only used to hearing 2 languages spoken regularly: English and Spanish. Here in Hawaii there’s a myriad of languages heard, plus ‘pidgin’ is not at all like the English that he was used to. He also was accustomed to seeing people of only 3 nationalities in Texas….in Hawaii my children would hopefully be making friends with dozens of nationalities plus mixtures of those races, just as I had when I’d moved to Honolulu not-so-long-ago.That was certainly my dream, anyway!

During his 1st day of school, this Mama sat at home nervously wondering how his day was going and what he was doing. I fretted and fretted. I wondered if he was being accepted. I hoped he wasn’t crying or fighting or pouting. I made sure the phone was working about 15 times also, somewhat expecting the principal to call to inform me that I’d have to come and get him….I had at least a dozen scenarios imagined in my overworked mind! Finally it was time for us to go and pick him up at his new school. So into the carseats went the other 2 kids and away we drove. I’d been praying and praying all day for my son. We sat by the school sidewalk waiting for him. I was so very worried that he’d come running to the car with a black eye or bandaged knees or something. Instead, here comes Jerry surrounded by 7 lovely little Polynesian and Japanese and Hawaiian girls. He points at us and waves goodbye to them. When he gets into the car, I resist the urge to hug and kiss on him because I definitely don’t wanna embarrass him in front of the little girls! So as we drive away, I ask him if he likes his new school. He replied, “Yep. I’m the only one with Yellow Hair!” And THAT was THAT!

Slow Motion

ImageThis morning I forgot to take my 6 a.m. meds that control my dizziness. I awoke at noon with my head spinning so much that the task of merely getting out of the bed and grasping the walker to go into the bathroom seemed as if it were a monumental undertaking, one that I’d not had to do for many months. But for some reason this morning I must’ve slept through the alarm that was supposed to alert me to take that medication, the first of 10 that I take daily. I’d also missed my 9:00 med plus my allergy pill. I get so frustrated with/at myself whenever this happens but usually it’s only a single pill that gets taken an hour or two late. Luckily my daughter is home today, it’s her day off from work and she’ll be studying for tonight’s class and an exam in another class later this week. So I’m happy to know that someone is at home as I clumsily wheel myself down the hall, banging my walker a couple of times on doorframes, into the kitchen to pour a glass of juice. Knowing that this is going to be a rough day because of my lack of early meds, I warn my daughter as I go back into my bedroom. It’s going to take several hours for the dizziness and vertigo to subside for today so I know from past experience that all I can do is to just take it easy.

‘One of those days’ is what I keep thinking to myself and I just wanna sit here and cry but know that’s not at all what I need to do. I notice a couple of CDs that my daughter had borrowed for me from the library. So I plug in Hank, Jr. and decide to play computer games. But I’m still tooooo dizzy for the games so I figured that it’d be a good time to go through my box of photos…. the photographs that hadn’t made it into any of my albums. It’s always enjoyable reminiscing but not so fun when realizing that the memories are not coming back as swiftly as they used to.

The most pleasant recollections are those when my children were young and also the years that I spent in Hawaii. Still dizzy, I propped myself upon the bed using all of my pillows and my largest stuffed Eeyore to support my back. (I have a LOT of Eeyores!) My dizziness, along with the photos, were carrying my mind to a more pleasant time period. I recalled day after day after day spent at various beaches. I could imagine that my life was in slow-motion and that I was still in that moment. I smiled upon hearing my children’s laughter while chasing the birds and building sandcastles or taking turns partially burying each other in the sand! EVERY time we were at a beach in Hawaii, I’d have some nice and polite Asian tourists asking permission to take pictures of my blonde and redheaded blue-eyed kids. I always got a kick outa that….when I was a teenager and my family came for the first time to Hawaii, it was the American ‘mainlanders’ that wanted to take photos of the Polynesian and Asian folks that inhabited those beautiful isles. Now they wanted to take photos of my keiki (Hawaiian for ‘child’)! Imagine that! So all over another continent there’s also pictures of my kids in somebody’s photo albums….I wonder what the captions say?

3 hours have gone by and I’m really REALLY wishing that I still lived on or near a Hawaiian beach! Florida beaches, especially the Gulf beaches, are a close 2nd and are much more affordable so that’s why I stay here for now. Besides, I have the world’s best Neurologist (in my opinion) and I don’t wanna leave him! He understands  my condition and I trust him….it’s amazing to fully trust any doctors nowadays, and mine is a gem. He’s actually a Neurotologist; he was an Otolaryngologist before specializing further in Neurology so he is an expert in balance and vertigo. I’m very lucky to be here in central Florida….‘right place, right time’, & I’ll add ‘right doc’! These times of having this feeling of being in Slow Motion is kinda par-for-the-course for my illness; that doesn’t mean that I have to like it though, eh? It’s just that I’ll have ‘an episode’ sometimes and have constantly been learning of ways to cope. I just wish I didn’t feel so sorry for myself each time! I reckon that’s another thing for me to work on….ah! Another little goal!

NO GIRL !

 

Jillian-age 1

The sun was thinking about meeting it’s new day over San Antonio July 24th just as my 2nd child was trying to greet the world for the first time. With my 2-year-old son in the back seat of the Audi, my hubby was speeding as fast as the car could take us and I was holding that baby inside of me with all my might. At one point I glanced at the speedometer….big mistake! The needle was as high as it could go and I was soooo scared that I literally felt NONE of the labor pains. I’d had exactly 2 contractions before that urge came upon me of wanting to start to push, so during this long drive from Randolph AFB to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland AFB, I was using all of my strength to hold that baby inside of me! It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast….I was told that labor would be much longer. After those 2 ONLY contractions, knowing that we had a 40-minute drive to the hospital, I’d told my husband that we’d have to have the baby at home. He wasn’t having none of this! He strapped the kid in the carseat, buckled me into the frontseat….and zoomed off like a bat outa you-know-where! Luckily it was before 6:00 a.m. & there was no traffic, although I was praying for a police escort, because we made that 40-minute drive in 25-minutes.

The moment we arrived at the E.R., the paramedics rushed out of the hospital with a stretcher & I couldn’t contain the pushing any longer; I just had to let go. They helped me out of the car and onto the stretcher and were running with me through the emergency room, but we didn’t make it very far. I gave birth in the hallway in front of approximately 40 onlookers! Then they gave me some news that I DID NOT WANT TO HEAR: I had a daughter! I very emphatically exclaimed, in front of everyone, “A girl! But I don’t want any girls….I plan to have 6 boys!!!” Surely there was some mistake. Boys ran in my family and in my husband’s family. I wasn’t prepared for this, and I WAS MAD! I heard several gasps from ‘the audience’.

I was swiftly whisked away in one direction while my daughter was taken into another room to be cleaned. While I was in the recovery room awaiting my baby girl to be brought to me, I was shocked when an Air Force psychiatrist came to talk to me. Apparently the medical staff had alerted the psychiatrics because they were worried that I was going to reject my newborn! When he left, a 2nd psychiatrist came in to ask another set of questions. After an hour of questioning by 2 USAF psychiatrists, my baby girl was finally brought to me….later I found out that the medics and nurses were worried that I’d not want her or something. My goodness, I’m not an animal in the wild that eats it’s young if’n it’s not satisfactory! Once the nurse laid that little 8-pound bundle in my arms and I gazed into her cornflower-blue eyes, I fell instantly in love and have been ever since….for the last 29 years and counting!

Hibiscus Shadow

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I’m growing several pots of herbs upon my kitchen windowsill. Outside the window, every afternoon I get to watch a Sandhill Crane family feeding. They never notice me because I’m hidden behind the cover of 5 beautiful hibiscus bushes that are now taller than I. One bush doesn’t like to bloom, one bush provides up to 9 blooms daily, and the others give me from 4 to 7 blooms each and every day. When my daughter bought this house more than a year ago, we were excited to see how many different colors of hibiscus we’d be getting. Alas though, all of these are a bright pink, but they are all splendid double-blossoms! We also have a red hibiscus in the backyard.

I didn’t expect to get this much joy out of watching the crane couple and their baby. They come each day at the same time, about 15 to 20 minutes after the nearby Middle School has let forth it’s stream of students and those students have all made their way to their homes. Then a few moments later I hear them coming….their call almost sounds like the velociraptors from the ‘Jurassic Park’ movies but not as loud (or definitely not scary!) as they arrive to feed in our side yard from whatever has dropped from the trees. I peer through the window and through the bushes and watch them.

I have fun plucking a hibiscus and sticking it over & behind my ear like I used to do almost every day while living in Hawaii. As a student at Chaminade University in Honolulu, I lived in the dorm. The college is on the side of a mountain….most of my classes were on the 1st ‘level’, a few were on the 2nd ‘level’, and my dorm was quite a bit higher up the mountain. We had the most amazing vistas from Diamond Head to Waikiki, to all of Honolulu and Ala Moana Beach Park, to Pearl Harbor. God gave us the most spectacular sunsets every evening, which brought all the students out onto the lanais just to take a pause and watch the majesty of the best show of all! Amazing! It was so serene and well worth taking a break for! Anyway, coming up that mountain was extremely tiring and always left me breathless (and not the good kind). But in the mornings when I was hurrying to that 7 a.m. class, I’d be rushing (not a good idea in slippahs!) down that mountain via a well-worn ‘shortcut’ instead of the road….at the end of the trail I’d say a quick HELLO to the statue of Fr. Chaminade, then grab a hibiscus and enter the classroom! I usually was in my seat just as the Professor entered. What a life!

I was Hoosier-born and raised. I know that when this baby crane gets bigger, and he/she will do so at an amazingly fast rate, and when the weather up in the northern states warms enough for this year….then ‘my’ little Sandhill Crane family will be flying northward for the summer. My Indiana kin and friends always are happy to see the cranes return, as are we here in Florida. It’s something we share!

I look out my kitchen window and notice that the baby crane must be approximately a ‘teenager’ about now. Right now I’m living in central Florida. They’ll be going north soon, maybe even to Indiana! My gorgeous hibiscus flowers make me long for the Hawaii that I dearly miss! And it looks like it’s time to re-plant those herbs into the outside garden now.