Monthly Archives: April 2015

Summertime Sunshine

American poet John Greenleaf Whittier said, “The windows of my soul I throw wide open to the sun.”

Beach sunset Casey Key

SUMMERTIME SUNSHINE. Northerners long for it all winter long as they shovel the snow from their driveways and sidewalks. Folks across the nation watch the news for snowstorms, school closings, crashes caused by bad weather, and airport delays. I chose long ago to leave all of that behind. Quite frankly, I got tired of getting sick in November and remaining sick for several months and having this happen every year for the 4 years that I’d moved back to northern Indiana with my 3 small children following my divorce. So I moved to Florida. I’d lived in both Florida and Hawaii several times but reluctantly had to choose Florida because it was more affordable.The kiddies and I had also lived in Texas and Georgia (thanks to the USAF) too but those 2 states no longer had any appeal to me because we didn’t have any friends or kin living there. Florida won out tho this time; more affordable because of both the cost-of-living PLUS eventual college costs for public education are more affordable and we have lotsa relatives already living in a few areas in that state. A win-win situation.

People seem to be drawn to light. It seems as though since recorded history began, we have always been gathering around fires during hours of darkness. Evidently we have always enjoyed the warm dancing of the flames. I am particularly soothed by that glowing of embers, whether it be a simple candle or a campfire on the beach. Moonlight on the beach seems to weave its own particular magic too as it inspires songwriters and storytellers and artists. Both fire and the light of the full moon have had ceremonial uses throughout the ages by many peoples and religions for celebrations and events of various kinds. We seem to love the light of nighttime as much as the daytime.

I prefer the light of the sunshine. The light of the sunshine upon the water, particularly the ocean, revives my spirit. I enjoy the warmth of the sun and don’t wanna ever be without it. I am the first to admit that I probably spent too much of my youth basking in the glow of the wonderful rays of the Hawaiian sunshine and was usually sporting a golden suntan. Back then we didn’t know about ‘harmful rays‘ and I definitely do worry that every ‘age spot‘ that shows up now in my 50s may very well develop into that dreaded melanoma. But I still wouldn’t trade my SUMMERTIME SUNSHINE to move back to any state that’d have me living without it on a daily basis all year long. I don’t think that I could or would survive! I need that sun just as much as my plants do. I enjoy those sunsets immensely. I have always felt like a sunset is God’s signature on another ending of a gorgeous landscape!

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Sweet Tea

Sweet tea, southern-style

I’m working hard today and it’s time for a break. Of course my #1 drink-of-choice is always and has almost always been iced tea. Here in the South, folks prefer SWEET TEA. In fact, they swear by it!!! Any eaterie will serve it. It will be sweet, really sweet. When you visit somebody, you will be offered SWEET TEA. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes lemonade or a beer will ALSO be offered, but you can betcha that in the South you will be drinking sweeeet tea sometime during your visit! So don’t turn up your nose at it. And if you move to the South, then you had better learn to like it! Oh, by the way….it is very often served in a Mason jar! Somehow it enhances the flavor (the opinion of a lot of us, haha). Many folks like it with lemon, some like it with mint. I normally drink it with mint simply because I usually have 3 or 4 types of mint growing in my garden.

I’ve been picking a few strawberries and blueberries out of my berry patch, trying to get to them before any of the’nuisance‘ critters do. I’m getting ready for a road trip so I need to tend to my gardens as much as possible before leaving. The blackberries and raspberries may or may not produce while I’m gone but there’s not much that I can do about that. Next up is my herb garden and all I can do is to pinch the tops off the basils so that they’ll grow fuller, as from past experience here in central Florida I do know that most types of basils can last 18 months or more! I’m putting 7 large pinwheels in my main garden to try and ward off some of the birds and squirrels that have been munching on my tomatoes (I have 12 plants already) and peppers and squashes and beans. I don’t know if they will keep ALL of the critters away but they surely do look pretty twirling in the breezes. We do have plenty of winds here in our part of the Sunshine State, and I’m hoping that they will at least keep away SOME of those varmints. I suppose I am the only one that can keep our puppy away from the pinwheels though!

When I was growing up, in Indiana (not the South!), my Mama served us iced tea EVERY night with our supper. I do mean every night: summer, fall, winter, spring. It wasn’t a choice, it was just a part of our meal. She cooked it in a saucepan on one of the 2 burners that was on the long island in our big kitchen while she was making the supper at the stove. Then she’d let it ‘steep‘ awhile. Right before supper, she’d have one of us kids pour the tea through a strainer into a large pitcher and add water and sweetener. We had to put the exact number of ice cubes into each glass and fill them with that beautiful amber-colored liquid beverage. Mama used Lipton loose tea and it always tasted perfect. When any of us had supper at somebody else’s home, we kinda missed having our iced tea. It was a tradition, I reckon, that you don’t even realize until later.

Nowadays I have diabetes and cannot add the sugar so I USUALLY sweeten my gallon-jug of tea with Truvia and Equal. Every once-in-a-while, I make it the old way with real sugar and then cringe as I take my blood-sugar reading the following day! It’s worth it occasionally if I don’t make it a habit! I also have made the switch to green teas. I also need to learn how to make hibiscus tea because I’ve got half-a-dozen gorgeous hibiscus bushes and my Hawaiian pals tell me that I oughta being making my own tea. I do like Jasmine tea. My daughter and I drink a gallon per day. Sometimes I make peppermint tea, or regular plain mint tea, or REAL tea (nowadays that seems to make me hyper and make frequent trips to the loo) but I do soooo love my SWEET TEA immensely! Well, I am thinking that I will go and have a jar right now!

Easter Passing

Gramma&I-Easter 1981

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, always a sad day for me. It’s a day of remembering of the EASTER PASSING of my darling beloved Gramma Pearl, and while most of the Christian world is celebrating Christ’s glorious resurrection….I am fondly thinking about Gramma and the joy that she brought to my life.

It was an Easter Sunday when I was 12 that I came forward to accept Jesus into my heart at the little white church that our family had always attended. I don’t recall ever NOT spending Sunday mornings and evenings at that church with our family and my Grandparents. My Gramma Pearl lived next door to us in our tiny farming town of 40+ homes, and the church was in the next town where my favorite Aunty lived. It was always so much fun to spend Sunday services with my cousins! Anyway, I had always believed in Christ because of the beautiful stories that were a part of my life, as taught to my brothers and I by our Mama and our Gramma. But I’d not yet been baptized, so for several weeks before Easter, my Gramma had been preparing and encouraging me to take that big step! She was so gentle and precious. When the time came for the ‘altar call‘ at church and I was nervous because several pair of eyes were upon me….my wonderful Gramma simply held out her loving hand and actually went with me! That has always left quite a lasting impression on me and is even making me misty-eyed as I write this!

Gramma enjoyed a very happy and fun-filled 3rd marriage. After Nick retired and their big old 2-story house and acreage got to be too much for them to handle, they moved into the nearest larger town, the county seat. They were across from an elementary school, a block from a ball field and a pizza place, and a short distance to anywhere they needed to go. My Mama and stepdad lived there too so Gramma got to see her oldest daughter almost daily and her other daughter a couple of times each week too. Life was good for her. As I journeyed, we wrote very often and I sent lotsa photos. Following my divorce, I moved back to that Hoosier small town and for 4 years, my children adored life with Great-Grandparents and 2 sets of Grandparents constantly being nearby for them at most any event. Since my kids are/were ‘Air Force brats‘ and had moved around A LOT, the 4 years spent there in my hometown gave them a sense of being grounded, of being FROM SOMEPLACE. They really really got to know their grandparents and great-grandparents. This was priceless!

After Nick died, in a few years my Gramma’s health declined to the point that her daughters weren’t able to take care of her. They tried, they really did, but they were unable to lift her so they had to place her into the local nursing home. This is a nice nursing home and my Mama visited her every day. Plus my cousin was a nurse there so Gramma had her own granddaughter to look after her care, and her private bedroom was directly across from the nurse’s station so she and my cousin could make ‘funny faces‘ at each other. This nursing home also has an aviary! Gramma knows all about birds, being the ultimate lover of nature, so this was something that she would converse about with anybody that’d listen! So it really didn’t take too long before my Gramma became the ‘QUEEN BEE‘ around that place! She was well-liked by all: staff, residents, other visitors.

Towards the end, we made a special visit in winter because my Mama told me that Gramma needed to see me and that she wouldn’t be lasting too much longer. I hate cold weather but still, I could not deny my dear Gramma, so we drove overnight to have what we expected to be our last visits with Gramma Pearl. This would indeed be the last visit for my 3 children to have with their Great-Gramma. She was in good spirits when we spent time with her and took our last photos together. After a brief stay with Mama, we left.

When Mama asked me again to come, just a couple of weeks later, I refused her request. I’d said my goodbyes to my dearly cherished grandmother and had been crying several times daily since I’d left her. I did not want to watch her die. I did not want my children to either, nor did I honestly believe that Gramma would want her grandchildren to remember that. So we were gonna wait to return for her funeral. At this point, Mama said that Gramma hadn’t been responsive or opening her eyes at all so probably wouldn’t know if’n I were there or not. Mama and my Aunty were taking turns being by her bedside and chattering, but they did not know whether or not she was aware of them being there. Every other day Mama would call and ask if I were ready to come home yet and I’d say that I would come home for the funeral.

Evidently, I don’t quite remember how it went, but somehow Gramma had asked for me. So shortly before Easter my Mama called and practically begged me to come home because she thought that her mother NEEDED to pass on to heaven but she WANTED me there one last time. There was a different sound in my Mama’s voice that I’d not heard before, or since. Even though I didn’t want to see my Gramma like this, or didn’t even know if we would make it ‘in time‘, the kids and I hurriedly packed and headed to Indiana.

I dropped the kids off at Mama’s house Easter night just as she came home. She was going to bathe and eat before going back to the nursing home but since I was there, she’d be able to take a little more time plus she needed to call my brothers to come soon from Indianapolis and Chicago (she lives between). It was late at night, well past visiting hours, when I walked into the nursing home….but nobody stopped me. Instead, the 2 nurses at the front must’ve known exactly who I was because one of them said, “You’re the one that she’s been waiting for.” And then they both started crying! (I’ll always remember this) I hurried to Gramma’s room and was startled at her appearance! I expected to be, but I am very glad that her eyes were closed. I hugged my Aunty, who was holding her hand and caressing her arm. I kissed Gramma’s cheek and forehead, unclenched her fist so that I could wrap her hand around mine, and told her that I was there. Gramma squeezed my hand and my Aunty smiled, then told me that Gramma won’t open her eyes, and that she hasn’t done so for several days. Well, the women in our family are stubborn and defiant. That includes ME and my only daughter, Mama, Aunty and all 3 of her girls, and it surely started with this beautiful, incredible lady laying beside me because the last thing that she did was to defy what her baby girl had just said that she wouldn’t do! She opened her eyes, barely, but enough to see that it was me standing there beside her smiling at her. She looked at me and I told her that I loved her and that it was all right. She knew what I meant. With a daughter and a granddaughter holding tightly onto her hands, she closed her eyes for the last time that Easter Sunday. My Gramma’s EASTER PASSING has always had a heavy impact upon my heart; not only upon my heart, but also upon my sense of guilt. Did I cause my treasured grandmother extra weeks of discomfort, pain, or unpleasantness just because of my stubborn unwillingness to come home and be present for her death? I did not know that she’d been waiting for me. I will always carry that with me. It bothers me still. But she has a new and glorious body now and I know that she would never ever place any of the blame onto me, even tho I may do so myself. That’s because she always loved me truly and thoroughly, the way I hope to love my grandchildren someday if I have any!

Full Attention

Upside-down

Doesn’t anybody ever pay attention to what the other person is saying anymore? I get frustrated and aggravated when I have to tell the same thing over and over and over again to one of my kids. Then the next day, or the next time I talk to him or her, they totally don’t recall the conversation at all. Then I repeat it again, all the while wondering if I’m getting their FULL ATTENTION this time either. What do I have to do? Slap them, stand on my head, and then shout into a megaphone?

I am definitely NOT alone in this either! I was in the Chinese buffet again that I visit almost weekly. I found out that I have many kindred spirits. A dad-and-son duo came in & sat down, approximately same age group as my kids & myself….son gets phone call; tells dad to go ahead & start without him & then heads outside. The dad just sits there, for 13 minutes (I paid attention….ok, ok, so I’m nosy) until son comes back & asks why he’d not yet visited buffet. Dad matter-of-factly replied, as if rehearsed, “Son, you have been taking me out to lunch every week for the past few years since your blessed mother passed. It used to be dinners but now it’s lunches. I appreciate it but every week during our time together, you get up & go outside at once or twice to talk to someone else. If you don’t want to spend this time with me, then take me home now.” Then they went to the buffet. It was time for me to leave when I heard the son’s phone go off again, but I’d already gotten up and was heading out! Phooey, dunno how that story ended!

This isn’t just about me, you know! It’s all these electronics that everybody seem to be plugged into. They seem to be more entrancing than I am. Even if it WAS about only me, I can honestly and sadly say that it isn’t even only about my 3 offspring that are all constantly ‘tuning me out‘. It’s other members of my family too, along with friends, neighbors, co-workers. Nowadays the only way I seem to get anybody’s FULL ATTENTION is through my writings on ‘social media‘….especially if I make somebody angry! HAHA