Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Courage, Family, Happiness, Iowa, Laughter, Love, Marshalltown, Iowa, Passion for Living, The Queen of Iowa, Uncategorized

Here’s To The Queen!

I’d like to tell you about The Queen……not the Queen of England, but The Queen of Iowa!  You didn’t know there was one, did you?  This queen is someone I’ve had in my life since I was 19 years old, and has been like a second mother to me, even though I don’t get to see or talk to her much anymore.  I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately…..

Joan Yvonne Wendt Williams…..The Queen.   I will get to why she has that title later, but for now, I want to tell you why she deserves it.  Joan was my mother in-law for 23 years, and is the grandmother to my children.  In fact, I was the one who made her a grandmother for the first time in 1989!  Her son and I may not see eye to eye on much of anything, and the divorce strained the whole family relationship, but I still consider her my family, especially since I’ve lost my own mother.  When you lose your mother, you lose a huge part of yourself. And when you divorce, you also lose another part of your family.

From the first time I met her in 1984, wearing my bathing suit (aghhh!), she was friendly, warm, and loving, and acted like she had known me my whole life.  For the first few years of knowing her, she was in an unhappy situation with her marriage.  Through hard work, she came through it on the other side, stronger, more independent, and happier.  It was hard for her to take that step, but she did it, and she has deserved every day of peace and happiness it has brought her since. She stood up for me several times in some uncomfortable situations during that time period, and I have never thanked her for that, even though I appreciated it so much.  I’m not even sure she would remember doing it because it is so second nature for her to do that sort of thing.

She was raised in a small town in Iowa, married young, as most girls did in the late 1950’s, and raised 4 children.  She lost a child shortly after birth, which I know is still painful for her.  I’ve been to the cemetery with her a few times to place flowers or pinwheels on her daughter’s grave.  She has talked to me about that time, and I could feel the pain myself through her words, even though she was so strong and composed telling me about it.  This is just one of the few things that made her such a strong woman.

Her own mother in-law, Florence, was a good woman, and was good to her too, but…..difficult.  I knew Florence well, and I always got the feeling that no woman would ever be good enough for her sons.  Yet, with Joan…..any man would be lucky to have her!  Joan told me once that she never wanted to be that type of mother in-law to me.  I feel thankful to her for that.  It sure made life easier!

We grew closer over the years, and always enjoyed having a beer and pizza together.  The laughter and friendship we shared can never be replicated with anyone else, but two of my children are now to the age where they can sit down and enjoy a good drink with their grandma and laugh the way we used to.  She and her oldest daughter, Lisa, used to make a trip to see us about twice a year….once in the fall, and once in the spring, when we lived in Kansas.  Lisa would bring her step daughter sometimes, and always had her dog in tow.  It was fun, but Joan hated driving through the Kansas City traffic before getting to our house!  It stressed her out to no end!  The very first thing she would say after her hugs and kisses all around, was, “I need a beer!”  I tried to be fully stocked on beer when Grandma Joan came to visit!

I will never forget the time I heard my 4 year old daughter say, “Oh damnit!” when she dropped something.  I said, “Lily, we don’t say that.”  She looked at me confused, and said, “We don’t?  Grandma Joan says it!”  Now my own  five year old grandson is repeating Great-Grandma Joan’s salty language that he picked up last summer.  Of course, it isn’t appropriate, but I can’t be mad.  In fact, I think it’s pretty funny……if Joan has taught me anything, it is to not be stuffy and unhappy, even when life is hard.  Learn to laugh and let go.  Don’t be angry.  Smile.  Don’t hold grudges.  Have fun.  Don’t take life so serious.  It’s short, so enjoy it.

These days I hear she enjoys her boxed wine while getting her daily fix of Drew Carey and The Price is Right!  One of my daughters was telling me that Grandma loads up her walker with beer, and meets with friends at the Embers, her retirement apartment building, for “coffee.”  I got such a chuckle out of that!  She has always known how to have a good time!  Whether it’s playing bingo, trips to the casino, watching her favorite soap opera or TV show, or “coffee” with her friends, she always has fun!

The last time I saw her, I was able to introduce my husband to her.  She hugged him, and told him that if I loved him, then he was okay in her book!  Before we left, she hugged him again, and told him to “take care of my girl.”  He promised he would.  After we left, he said he wished we could have stayed because he could have sat for a few hours, having a few beers and talking with her!  Now that I’m sick, she continues to check with my daughter to make sure Al is taking good care of me…..he is!  I’m stubborn, but he does as much as I let him do.

Now to her well earned title…….The Queen……in most retirement or assisted living facilities, they will choose a king and queen.  I’m not sure what all goes along with the title, but they get to ride in a parade!  Last year, Joan was chosen as Queen of the Embers.  She got to ride in the parade, and from what the kids tell me, she was ordering people to “bow down.”  I can’t help but laugh, because I can picture it!  Recently, a little girl was introduced to The Queen.  She asked if she was the Queen of Iowa, and my daughter told her yes!  And you know what?  She is!  Beautiful, funny, kind, gracious, friendly, salty, and compassionate……what other qualities do you need in a queen?

Here’s to The Queen!  I love you Joan!

 

 

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Anxiety, Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Bewitched, Busy Minds, Civil Rights, Compassion, Coping, Courage, Empowerment, Family, Fear, Focus, Happiness, Insensitivity, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Kindness, Laughter, Laughter is the best medicine, Life Happens.....Make the Best Of It!, Loneliness, Love, Loyalty, Making life interesting, Manners, Misconceptions, Passion for Living, Peaceful Protests, Racism, Rejection, Relationships, Respect, Self respect, Support, Thankfulness, That's life, Tom Jones, Uncategorized, Understanding

Hocus Focus

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately.  Part of it is because I have a hard time typing with a brace on my wrist. Part of it is just because I’ve been a bit distracted with a few things lately.  I start to write, and I find myself not wanting to finish the topic because I get worried how some people might react.  I try to keep my posts positive, and try to inspire people to do their best, while maybe sharing some experiences from my life, or funny stories.  I know I shouldn’t worry about that, because I know if I’m doing the best I can, that’s all that matters.  I have a level of sarcastic humor that not everyone gets, but I can’t worry about that either.  I’ll try to give you an idea of what my mind has been like lately….

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is today……let’s keep moving forward.  Even my 1st graders think racism is awful.

Broken wrists suck.

Vertigo sucks.

I have a secret crush on Tom Jones.

Migraines suck.

Free movie passes are great.

I, Tonya was a good movie.

Catch the movie, Mudbound on Netflix……eye opening, and should tug at everyone’s heart.  Let’s not ever go back to that. Mary J. Blige does an excellent job in it.

I love Kansas City at Christmas.

I love warm weather.

My dog is the sweetest, snuggled next to me as I type this.

The Vikings had an awesome game yesterday, and I hope they go all the way, especially for my best friend’s sake…..she loves them!

Some people really take advantage, and are attention whores.

I would never have the nerve to set up a Go Fund Me account for myself…….

Therefore, medical bills and trying to get by through this really sucks.

Donald Trump sucks.  Yep.  I said it!

What happened to manners?

Why can’t people respect your time and your finances?  It’s not up to anyone else how you spend these things, and if you have the time or money for something.  I would never tell someone, “You have time for this,” or “You can afford that.”  No one’s energy level is the same as someone else’s, and no one knows what your financial obligations are.

A man complimented me in the elevator in the medical building for the boots I had on….then he asked if that was okay because he wasn’t sure it was acceptable….compliments should always be acceptable.

Work/teaching is exhausting.

Trying to get my foot in the door with real estate is next to impossible while teaching full time.  Taking my post license course now.

I don’t like one of my medical specialists…….at all.

Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, they just won’t like you.  Be nice anyway, but protect yourself.  You can’t make them care.  Their actions will show you how they feel.  Be kind.

Seizures suck.

My family is wonderful.

I don’t get to see a lot of Al this time of year because he works at lot with youth basketball, so we spent today together.  He helped me with groceries and put gas in my car…..helping me with that wrist thing.

My kids are great…..and goofy, and I worry about them all the time.

Social anxiety can be crippling……try to smile and get through it.  I feel it every day.

Youth basketball games are fun to watch, especially when they’re scrappy little kids.

Some people are heartless.

I’m addicted to reruns of Bewitched.

Spring and summer need to get here soon. I need summer now!

So you can see……my mind is all over the place…..writer’s block, because I can’t focus on anything.  Not feeling bad or depressed….I’m just overwhelmed with a lot right now, so my mind is a busy place.  I wonder if I have adult ADD to add to the list of conditions? Maybe if I am able to reduce the stress in my life and get the rest I need, I can focus!  For now, I will rely on exercise and meditation (and Bewitched) to get me through!

I hope you all have had a great Martin Luther King Jr Day.  Did you do anything to give back? I didn’t this year.  I just don’t have the energy.  My justification for this is that I give back each day when I walk into my classroom. Every teacher does……

Get focused! Now back to studying….

 

 

 

 

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Courage, Egos, Emotions, Get Over Yourself, Happiness, Laughter, Laughter is the best medicine, Making life interesting, Passion for Living, Shit happens, Thankfulness, That's life, The Unexpected, Uncategorized

Life Happens…..Make the Best Of It!

Strange things happen to me.  It’s always been like that, especially as an adult.  No matter how odd, I try to always see the humor in it, and make fun of myself.  As I write this, I have a splint on my left arm, breaking my wrist after falling in my bedroom a few nights ago.  Excuse any typos, if I miss them.  It’s taking me forever to type this!

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a sitcom, but someone forgot to tell me that I’m the star!  When I was about 6 months pregnant with my oldest daughter, I fainted at the grocery store.  I happened to be in the baby aisle, and had just picked up a package of diapers (always planning ahead).  The next thing I knew, I was on my back, looking up, with store employees looking down at me, offering to call someone.  My feet were propped up on the diapers I had just picked up!  I was really embarrassed, but could laugh about it then and now!

A year or so after that, I went to the store, and because I lived in a cold climate, I had to walk through two sets of automatic double doors to get into the store.  I walked through the first set, completely expecting the next set to open.  They didn’t.  I stopped and waited.  The first set of doors closed behind me.  I pushed on the next doors, and they wouldn’t open.  I tried to go back out, and those doors wouldn’t open either.  I was stuck in the little entryway, between the two sets of doors!  I knocked on the doors to get someone’s attention, and some boys came over to help…..but they didn’t know what to do.  The doors were stuck.  I was stuck.  Other customers were trying to get in.  I told them I couldn’t open the doors.  Some of them acted annoyed with me, as I paced in the entryway, like a zoo animal!  The store employees told the other customers to go around to the other doors, while they got a manager to figure out what to do.  They ended up getting an electrician, and it all turned out okay…..except, I left without getting the items I went in to get in the first place because I was too embarrassed to stay!  But now I laugh….

Another time I walked to my car in a parking lot, and found a bird sitting on my gear shift…inside my car!  I left my sun roof open, and I guess he decided he needed to take a little rest in my car for a few minutes.  The dancing and screaming that followed, while I opened all the doors and tried to shoo him out must have been comical to other people in the parking lot, but I was ready to have a nervous breakdown!  Now I can laugh…..

I’ve had lizards land on my windshield while I’m driving, frogs land on my feet, bugs crawl in my cleavage while I’m at lunch with my mother in-law, stepped on mice, climbed a tree to rescue a stuck ball, but couldn’t get back down, got my finger stuck in a Coke bottle, and the list goes on and on and on!

Now I’m dealing with things that cause other weird things to happen.  Recently, I had a seizure in a crowded restaurant.  That was embarrassing, but I’m able to laugh about it….my kids are having fun teasing me about it, and what triggers them, even though it’s scary.  When I fell in the middle of the night last weekend, I think I may have had a seizure because I felt disoriented and confused.  It was dark, and I lost my balance.  I knew it hurt, but I was tired, and wanted to go back to bed!  So I did.  When I woke up later, I realized I really was hurt, and my wedding ring was stuck on my finger.  Oops!  Well, I still say that sleep is more important than getting x-rays.  I haven’t slept well since, so maybe getting that extra couple of hours wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.  My balance is off, so I bump into things.  I laughed at myself when I bumped into the wall at work yesterday.  I know I must look like the town drunk at times, but it’s just me!

Things happen.  Funny things, weird things, happy things, sad things, scary things…..just make the best of it.  Laugh at yourself.  Have a sense of humor.  Don’t be so full of yourself or vain that you can’t make the best of every situation.  My sisters and I even managed to laugh our way through a funeral once…..I’m not proud of that, but it made it memorable, and I’m pretty sure our deceased loved one would have understood the circumstances.  Try to make the best of every situation.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,”  Charles Dickens

 

Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Compassion, Coping, Courage, Emotions, Family, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Kindness, Laughter, Laughter is the best medicine, Love, Memories, Negativity, Passion for Living, Relationships, Self respect, Thankfulness, That's life, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Love and Laughter in 2018

Happy 2018!  Last night, we returned from a whirlwind trip to Kansas City, where we spent the week with my family for the first time in years.  It really was a great time, even if it was cold, busy and chaotic.  That’s kind of the way my family is during the holidays….. NOT cold, but busy and chaotic!  Laughter, kids, memories, and constant activity is pretty much the norm for us.

My family is big……maybe not big by some people’s standards, but my parents were each one of 5 children, and I am also one of 5 (all girls).  My parents have 11 grandchildren, a few of them have spouses, and there is one great grandchild (my grandson). My daughter’s boyfriend has 2 children, who only added to the fun!  My sister also had two other guests, who were visiting from Japan, and they added to the fun and laughter.  Between all of the people, 2 dogs, the great food, cousins leg wrestling on the family room floor, Nerf gun fights, building train tracks on the floor, pretending to cook (and eat) the Fisher Price food, and our excursions into the city to visit the Nelson Atkins Museum (Picasso, Monet, Pollock, Warhol, etc), Union Station, Crown Center, ice skating (just the kids….not me!),  breakfast with my aunt and nieces, Al and I going out with a childhood friend of mine, and Al going out for a jazz night at Plaza III with our brother in-law, it was a packed few days!  The cold temps didn’t stop the fun!  My family welcomes everyone, and treats everyone with love and acceptance, if they are willing to put up with our noise and silliness!  This is really the first time Al has had a chance to spend any real time with a lot of my family.  He got to see first hand how loving and accepting they are.

I thought back on times when my sisters and our families would all gather at my parents each year (either on Thanksgiving or Christmas).  At times, there might be around 23 of us packed into their little ranch home in Springfield, Missouri.  Noise, laughter, children, food, games, movies, sports on TV, and just spending time together laughing and reminiscing was such fun.  Or the times when we would gather at my grandmother’s house in Wichita with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins……times change, families grow, and loved ones leave us eventually…….but no one can take my memories.

2017 was not easy on me in a lot of ways.  I’ve tried to stay positive, and grateful for all I have, even when I’m physically struggling.  My first trip to Europe, which I was so looking forward to, turned out to be very hard because of a lot of the physical problems I was having, without knowing what was wrong with me.  I tried to do what I could, but I ended up spending a lot of time unable to enjoy a lot of it.  Once we got back, and I got a diagnosis (a benign brain tumor, called an acoustic neuroma), I had to figure out a lot of things.  I dove into information, trying to learn all I could about it.  But mostly, I counted my blessings.  It could have been a lot worse.  My emotions went into overdrive……I can cry at the drop of a pin, and I have a few unpleasant symptoms that are the new normal for me, but I started appreciating things I hadn’t even noticed before!  I also told myself I would not waste time on people or things that were negative or tried to drain my happiness.

I’ve had a lot of hard times in my life, but I’ve also had a lot of very happy times.  My big family has provided so many happy moments for me, and the memories of the love and laughter keep me going.  I always try to stay positive and not let negativity bring me down, but that seems so much more important now.  So, like every year, I will vow to keep my chin up, stay positive, be nice, friendly, compassionate, and happy.  Even though I have been presented with a new obstacle, it doesn’t change my outlook on life.  It may be a new year, but it’s the same love and appreciation that I always strive for.

The important things in life are love, loved ones, laughter, memories, and good health.  Laugh and learn to enjoy everything you have.  Cut out the negativity and negative people who don’t love you back, don’t care about you, or don’t appreciate you.  Stay positive.  Stay happy.  Enjoy the chaos and laughter in life.  Don’t waste time sitting around getting old. I’m so thankful I come from a family who loves to laugh and have fun…..it keeps us young and healthy!

It’s great to be home where it’s a little warmer, but I have some great new memories of this trip, and of my big family and friends.   Happy New Year, and here’s to a fun 2018, filled with love and laughter……curing all that ails us!

Anxiety, Bad Attitudes, Be Happy, Be Kind, Compassion, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Innocence, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Negativity, Passion for Living, Season's Greetings, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Stay Off the Naughty List!

Each year at this time, I’m reminded of the time I was at the grocery store a couple of years ago just before Christmas.  The place was a madhouse, packed with busy, stressed, uptight shoppers.  Apparently, I wasn’t moving fast enough for one shopper, because she very impolitely ordered me to, “Get the hell out of my way!” I moved, but looked her in the eye, smiled, and said, “I guess we know who’s on Santa’s naughty list!”  She didn’t appreciate it, but I got a good chuckle out of it!

I have a ton of holiday cheer.  It’s not unusual for me to be playing Christmas music in the car, in my classroom, at home while I cook, in the bathroom, etc.  I love my decorations and my tree.  I love Christmas movies.  I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t bore you with it again.  But the most wonderful thing about about this time of year is the spirit.  Yet, I try to keep the spirit alive all year with a positive attitude, cheerfulness, appreciation, and compassion for others.  I don’t like it when someone tries to kill my spirit.  That lady at the grocery store tried to kill my spirit.  People who insist on taking the fun out of Christmas or other times of year are attempting to kill my spirit.

I used to stress about the holidays, trying to get everything done with my kids, my family, shopping, wrapping gifts, traveling, cooking, and also taking care of my students, planning fun activities for them as well.  It was ALL on my shoulders.  I felt such pressure to make it all perfect for everyone else, and I really didn’t take the time to appreciate the true meaning of love, sharing, giving, and togetherness……and I never felt appreciated for all I did. I have learned not to stress as much, and to let some things take a back seat to others.  Because of my health, I’ve also learned to say no, and stop with a few unnecessary things.  I’ve scaled back on my decorations a lot, but still have a houseful.  So when someone else puts grumpiness, anger, negativity, or extra burdens on me, it makes me upset that they are trying to kill my spirit.  I want to enjoy this time of year without feeling pressure to do what everyone else expects of me.  I need to stay healthy, so I can’t do it all anymore. I have to slow down and take time to enjoy the spirit.

I decided today that my dog needed a new sweater for Christmas because his is looking a little shabby (Shhh!  Don’t tell him).  I went to the little shopping center where the pet shop is, but I couldn’t find any parking spots.  I drove in circles through the parking lot, trying to find a place to park, for at least 10 minutes.  It seemed like it was taking a lot longer.  I had a couple of spots picked out, and was waiting for the other driver to pull out.  I waited patiently with my blinker on, only to have someone pull in from the other direction before I could get in.  I could have become angry and cursed them out, but what for?  What good would it do?  If they didn’t do it intentionally, then I might be ruining their spirit by getting mad at them.  If they did it on purpose, I wasn’t going to let them ruin my spirit by getting angry.  I eventually found a spot, and enjoyed a nice little (long) walk into the store to find the doggy sweater.  When I got into the store, I was surprised by Santa Claus, who was taking pics with pets.  He was sitting alone, and caught me off guard.  I said, “Oh!  Hello Santa!” He said, “Hello Little Girl.  Have you been good this year?”  I actually stood there, and thought about it for a minute.  Then I told him I have!  I’ve been really good!  It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways, but I’ve been good, and I’m still full of happiness, positivity, good cheer, and holiday spirit.  He wished me a merry Christmas, and then welcomed a couple of little dogs in elf hats onto his lap.

Others can choose to be negative, angry, suspicious, manipulative, mean, and critical.  They can attempt to kill my spirit when they have none.  Others can choose to rush, and put pressure on themselves to do everything, feeling stressed and drained of any Christmas cheer.  Don’t force that on others who choose to be appreciative of life.  Take your “Bah humbug!” somewhere else.  Find your true Christmas spirit, and keep it all year long!  Spread true Christmas cheer year round.  It will most definitely keep you off of the naughty list!

Acceptance, Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Being Strong, Coping, Courage, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Laughter, Love, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, That's life, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

Just Keep Going…

It’s been 130  days since my AN diagnosis.  Since then, I’ve been through loads of doctor appointments (I’ve lost count), a variety of tests, another diagnosis of an infection in my mastoid bones (behind my ears), which seems to be resistant (I’ve been on 4 different antibiotics so far), and a seizure.  I’m now on anti-seizure meds, and a few things to try to control my headaches.  This seems to be the new “normal” for me, and we just keep hoping for the best with each appointment.

I try not to miss any work.  I’ve actually only missed 3 days out of 70 so far this year, and have taken an early leave here and there for doctor appointments.  I also go in early almost every day……a habit I’ve had for a very long time.  I know if I sit at home, I would get depressed…..something that is easy to do with any illness.  I don’t want to add depression to the list of conditions and symptoms.  Besides, I love my students, and appreciate that this is probably the best class I’ve ever taught!  I guess I need them right now.  They let me know how much they love me, and how much they care about me.  They tell me constantly that they love me, they hug me, they make pictures for me, are pretty well behaved, and they understand that sometimes I can’t get up too fast!  I told them about my recent EEG, and they enjoyed imagining their silly teacher with the 25 electrodes coming off of her head.

I don’t let a lot of people see me when I’m feeling bad.  I have learned to manage that very well.  The teacher who teaches next door to me, Tamesa, has become such a great friend.  We vent, laugh, cry, and support each other every day!  She is one of the few who sees me holding my hurting head, or can tell by the look on my face that I’m in pain, and knows what is going on, without me having to say anything.  It’s nice to have a friend/co-worker like that, but she also understands my fierce independence, and knows when I just need to push through.

I have had people ask me how I do it.  How do I keep going?  The commute? Teaching 1st graders? The work load? One of my husband’s friends in New York said in his thick NY accent, “She’s a troopah!” Well, what choice do I have?  Like I said before, I don’t want to sit home and get depressed, having no interaction with anyone.  While I might need more rest now, I still believe that I can manage this more effectively by continuing to keep busy, and keep a normal schedule. And…..I don’t want to give up my way of life.  I don’t want to get old before my time.  Young at heart = hopefulness and positivity.

I have seen people with chronic illnesses give up, go on disability, stay home, and become old before their time.  If you know anything about me, you know I have a sense of adventure and fun, and a curiosity to learn about people and places.  I love travel.  I love museums.  I’m not old enough to give up that part of myself.  I might stumble a bit here and there.  I might not hear everything, especially in a noisy room.  I might be hypersensitive to loud noises.  I might have headaches.  I might feel pressure in my ear and head.  I might have vertigo that makes life feel extra wobbly.  I might have to be more aware of the signs (auras) of an impending seizure.  I might have to eventually have surgery. But my life will not stop being enjoyable because I have a chronic illness! I refuse to give in to this.  I guess this is where my stubbornness pays off!

Over the last 130 days, I have learned so much.  I’ve learned that I am much stronger and more determined than I ever realized.  I’ve learned that I keep my balance better if I give myself more time and turn on lights!  I’ve learned that my husband is a jewel (I actually already knew this, but he has just confirmed it, as he helps me up every morning so I don’t fall, reminds me to be careful, and is understanding and supportive with my fatigue and limitations).  I’ve learned who really cares about me, and who is there to support me on this journey, wherever it leads me.  Fortunately, there are a lot of people supporting me that I never knew cared so much!  I’ve learned that naps are not only enjoyable, but they really do help!  I’ve learned a lot about two illnesses that I have, that I never dreamed would affect me.  I’ve learned to really appreciate small acts of kindness, quiet moments, fresh air, a good laugh, a walk, and all of the positive things in life.  I want to be the best me I can be for my children, who I know have been worried and scared through this.  I want them to enjoy their silly mama, who loves to laugh and embarrass them in public.  I want to be the best me for my husband, who shows me his strength every day, but I know he worries and gets scared from all of this too.

So the last 130 days of knowing what is wrong with me has been an emotional and physical roller coaster, but I appreciate what it has given me.  Things can always be worse!  I can do this…..with a few adjustments and a lot of support from those who love me.  I’m not ready to give up anything yet…..and I won’t.

Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Crying, Emotions, Family, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Mother, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

My Mama

Eighty-six years ago, my grandmother was escorted to a hospital in Peiping, China (now Beijing) in an ambulance, by a military escort because the city was under martial law. No one was allowed to be on the streets because of fighting with the Japanese. She gave birth to my mother, Mary Joan Slater (Mary Jo) shortly after.  Yes, my mother was born in China.  My grandparents were medical missionaries in China in the 1930’s.  My mother’s first language was Chinese.  Her first “family” were the other missionaries and the Chinese people they knew.  Her first school was in Nantung.  Her first HOME was China.

On December 26, 1940, the family was evacuated on the last ship out of China, after the Japanese warned that if they did not leave, they would become prisoners of war.  It was hard to leave everything they knew and loved there, but the Slaters (now with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy added to the family) left for the United States.  My mother was painfully shy, and was so afraid to move not only to a new school, but to a new country.  My grandpa enlisted in the Army, and was gone for a few years, which was very hard on them, but so typical of a lot of families during WWII.

Meeting and marrying my father in college was the best decision she ever made.  She was barely 19, and they eloped because her parents wanted her to finish college first.  Fortunately, it all worked out, and my parents were married for 52 years before her death in 2002. I’m pretty sure both sides of the family were in a state of shock, but they soon realized the union was a perfect match.  Both sets of grandparents were very good to each of my parents.

Mama was the perfect minister’s wife.  She was so kind, sweet, smart, honest, and compassionate.  She truly was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known….even through my horrible teenage years, where we didn’t see eye to eye!  She was silly, a little spacey….I know where I get it…….and so much fun to be around.  She was always willing to let down her guard to have a good time, especially as she got older.  Tea parties and pretending with the grandchildren, “antiquing” and going out for tea with her five daughters, and playing with her dolls and her beautiful dollhouse (built by my Grandpa Penry and my father).  I’ve never known anyone who could claim “cleaning” as a hobby, but she could! Her younger brothers, Butch and Chuck, could talk her into anything, even though it was rarely in her best interest!  Rides on the back of motorcycles, and going down my grandparents’ driveway on a homemade go-cart (made from an old ironing board) were just two of the things they talked her into, and she regretted later.  On a few other occasions, she made crazy decisions all on her own……swinging on a vine or a tire swing, and jumping on a trampoline when she was well into her 60’s……..as embarrassed as she was later about these things, she always had the childlike innocence to look for fun.  As mature and composed as she usually was, she still had the ability and desire to look for fun.

My mother was also very strong.  She had to go to work after being a stay at home mom for years.  My father had been sick, and my sisters needed glasses and braces.  Bills were accumulating.  She learned to drive at the same time as my 16 year old sister.  Right after getting her drivers’ license (at the age of 38), she went to work as a social worker, where she had to commute (not easy for someone who had just learned to drive!).  Social work is a tough job, but she did it for a lot of years! She lost both of her parents and a younger brother, and even though she couldn’t talk about them without crying, she kept going, showing her love for them through her memories of them…..and her tears.

Being a minister’s wife was not always easy either, but she loved and supported Daddy through every difficult situation (including the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas in the 1960’s). She always taught Sunday School, and I know she impacted hundreds of young lives through her own ministry.  She and Daddy were definitely each other’s biggest supporter and the best of friends.  They made a great team!

So Mama has been gone for nearly 15 years now, and today would have been her 86th birthday.  It’s not easy for me, but I always celebrate her birthday by eating Chinese food, and usually go to an antique store and drink a cup of tea.  Tonight, Al came home with roses for me, in Mama’s honor……..

I know I will never be as good as she was, but I can always strive to be better than I am.  She had a way of saying my name, or giving me a look, or poking her finger in my side to get me to behave! Sometimes I swear I can feel that same poke, or hear her say my name…….you know, when your middle name gets tacked on the end when you’re in trouble…..”Lauri Ann!”  I know I inherited her sense of fun, and I am grateful to her for that, along with so many other things.  I know when I do something that seems a bit….airheaded……it’s her way of getting back at me for laughing at her for doing similar things!  My sisters and I refer to these times as “Mary Jo moments.”

My mama was a pretty special lady.  She led a fascinating life from her beginnings in China to her years as a minister’s wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  I miss her every day.  But today, I celebrate her, and the time I had with her.  I’m very lucky.  I love you, Mama.