Monday, May 30, 2011

In Remembrance

My daughters and I were talking this past week about how we miss the "old days," when their father, their grandfather and their uncle were still alive. I loved to listen to them joke around and talk about the good old days and tell tales of their youth. My father-in-law was really special to me. We had many similar interests and the same taste in books. He would often send me a package of books when he was finished reading them. He also loved cryptoquotes, another favorite of mine, and kept index cards from the daily cryptoquote in the newspaper. He was a real family man and loved nothing more than to spend time with his children and grandchildren. My father-in-law was a veteran, but never made it overseas. While his unit was on their way to Europe during World War II he was hospitalized for several months for Tuberculosis, a lung disease that claimed the lives of several of his siblings. Out of nine children, he and a younger brother were the only ones to live past the age of 30. When he recovered he was discharged from the Army and went to college on the GI Bill, becoming a teacher. Not bad for a man with a wife and four young children.

While his father did not make a career out of the military, my late husband did, serving 20 years in the Army. Before he was 30 years old he had already been stationed in Vietnam, Panama, Korea, Germany, and Alaska, and these were not counting the stateside tours. Don was  proud of his 101st Airborne badge and the bronze star that he received for being wounded in action.  He was proud to serve in the Army and proud to wear the uniform. My husband was a spontaneous type of person and with the Internet, was able to contact some former soldiers of the 101st Airborne. He called one veteran late one night, against my cautious, "It's 11 o'clock at night!" He and the other Vietnam vet spoke for over an hour on the phone. Another soldier that he had contacted replied with this email, "Welcome Home, Brother."

I like to think that heaven has a flag-waving welcoming committee for all those who served, and that they are all holding signs that say, "Welcome Home, Brother."


Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Six


My granddaughter, Teka (her nickname), has been getting into trouble at school lately. It's the usual stuff that first graders do  - talking too much and not listening. In her defense, the past few weeks have been full of upsets and changes. There were the bad storms and the power outage and having to go out of town. There's a new baby at home. Teka was also worried about her cousin that was having a tonsillectomy. She's a little worrywart. It's the end of the year and the children are getting antsy by now. Teka is usually well-behaved. She loves to read and is the typical older child, shouldering the responsibilities of big sisterhood. She has landed on "Yellow" before, but after a couple of days on "Yellow", my daughter made her write a note to her teacher, apologizing for her behavior.

"Nobody else has to do this," she remarked through tears.

"But what if you had to go to the Principal's office?" my daughter asked.

"But you don't go to the Principal's office until you're on "Red" and I was only on "Yellow."

It's not easy being six.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Home's in Alabama

I've lived in Alabama for over twenty-five years. I was not born in the South, but I am a Southerner by the grace of God. I believe that every state and every region has something to be proud of...and together we can celebrate each other's gifts. That's what makes us the "United States."

But Alabama has always suffered in the way it has been represented in the media. We're always at the bottom of some list, and jokingly say, "Thank God for Mississippi!" It was pointed out to me recently, though, that Alabama was upgraded on a new list. It is now No.#1 for tornadoes.

There is one thing that is often overlooked about Alabama and the South. We have had some great talent come from the red clay dirt and cotton fields that dot this landscape, from the hills and hollows, and even from the Gulf Coast. I bet there are some people who don't realize that Alabama actually has beaches. But Alabama has produced some literary giants, like Harper Lee, who wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Truman Capote, her childhood friend from Monroeville. Helen Keller was from Tuscumbia. Former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, is from Birmingham. Fannie Flagg, another Birmingham native, gave us "Fried Green Tomatoes" and Winston Groom wrote "Forrest Gump." Somehow, the creative juices that were born in this southern state are ingrained in our minds. Who can forget Scout and Atticus, from "To Kill a Mockingbird?" Who will ever forget "Life is like a box of chocolates" from "Forrest Gump?" What woman hasn't jumped off of her sofa in her bathrobe, cheering Kathy Bates in "Fried Green Tomatoes" in the parking lot scene at Walmart? And who has not seen "The Miracle Worker" and knows the story of Helen Keller by heart?

 Everyone knows that Hank Williams was born in Montgomery, Alabama. His music needs no introduction, but I love his song, "I Saw the Light". My absolute favorite gospel song is " I Shall Not Walk Alone" by the Blind Boys of Alabama. The group, Alabama, recorded a song, "Angels Among Us" that has always been one of my favorites. Taylor Hicks, an Alabama native, was the winner on American Idol a few years ago. Tammy Wynette was also from Alabama. And, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd gave us "Sweet Home Alabama."

Yes, here in Alabama we might live across from a cotton field or live in a mansion on a hill. We like our sweet tea and we like our football rivalries. We are passionate about our faith and our politics and we cherish our liberties. The Old South is no more, but the New South has a lot of heart and a lot of soul. Just listen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mothers

This is for the mothers who are sleep-deprived, stumbling in the dark to change sheets in the middle of the night when a child is sick.

This is for the mothers who wake up at dawn to bake cookies or brownies for snack day at school.

This is for the mothers who yell at their children and hide in the bathroom while they wipe the tears from their eyes.

This is for the mothers who practice spelling words while washing the dishes.

This is for the mothers who clean up after the puppy, tackle loads of laundry, and make it to all the soccer games.

This is for the mother who saves every homemade Mother's Day card, and crayon drawing from their child.

This is for the mothers who read to their children.

This is for the mothers wno stay at home or work outside the home because a mother's shift is 24/7.

This is for the mothers who learn how to text, so that they can communicate with their young adult children.

This is for the mothers who are not perfect, but whose love for their children is perfect.

This is for the mothers young and old alike, who will tell you that being a mother is the most important job she ever had.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Light

I am so tired that I should really be asleep, but since I go in an hour later tomorrow I can justify staying up a little later. My house is a mess and I have piles of laundry, but I've barely been home long enough to tackle my chores.

I work for a financial institution and we finally re-opened for business on Monday morning. I left early, hoping to find a cup of coffee along the way, but the fast food restaurants were still closed. Thankfully, I had a cup when I got to work and immediately started cleaning out the refrigerator in our break room. I was happy to return to a sense of normalcy. We were busy, as our customers lined up to get cash. We had been closed for four days and many people didn't have access to cash and with no power, even debit cards were useless. People were extraordinarily patient and grateful. We heard their storm stories and are still hearing them. I think I have teared up more than once or twice a day since the beginning of the week. As of right now there have been 39 counties in Alabama designated as disaster areas. Alabama only has 67 counties, so more than half of the state was affected. It will take years to recover.

I drove home on Monday evening. Still in the dark. Since I needed a shower, I grabbed a few things and spent the night at my older daughter's house. My pregnant daughter got her power back...for one hour. The transformer blew and once more they were in the dark. They went to her in-laws. Luckily the power came back on by Tuesday of this week. Just in time. My newest granddaughter made her entrance into this world on Tuesday evening, all 7 lbs. 10 oz.  Her middle name is "Dawn", a perfect fit. After the darkness, comes the dawn.

I came home at midnight, happy to see my front porch light on, and happy to have another bright light in my life.


Monday, May 2, 2011

In Darkness and Light

The news has been plastered with horrific stories from the storms. But there have also been amazing stories of people helping each other, stories of  amazing grace. Strangers helping strangers. Neighbors helping neighbors. "I need to get your phone number," said one of my co-workers as we went back to work today. "I had no way to reach you." "Me, too," I said. I now have several more phone numbers saved in my cell phone. I also answered every call, even from phone numbers that I didn't recognize, because people were borrowing phones from strangers to make phone calls.

With no power, neighbors are cooking food and sharing their meals cooked on a charcoal or gas grill. My daughter made gourmet burgers and roasted potatoes wrapped in foil on the first night without lights. It was delicious. One co-worker heated water on the grill to wash the baby bottles. The son of a friend used a rain barrel and solar power and improvised an outdoor shower with warm water. My cousin brought a generator, gas grill, supplies and enough gas for several weeks, from her home in Tennessee to my sister's house. The fire department helped my friend, who is handicapped, and opened her garage door. One middle-aged man that I met told me that his neighbor used his chain saw and cut down the tree that landed on his roof, single-handedly, all out of neighborliness. My sister, who is in animal rescue, and my niece, took cat and dog food to the devastated regions. My daughter donated children's clothing and several packs of diapers, diapers that she had been saving for her baby. "I can always buy more," she said.

People, with few exceptions, have been unbelievably polite. With no traffic lights, we have had to follow the 4-way stop rule. Neighbors who have never talked to one another now know each other's first name. One lady realized that her neighbors weren't actually "vampires" and are actually nice people. Everyone has a heart of gratitude and feels truly blessed.

Daylight is no longer taken for granted. You have to make the most of it. Isn't this what our ancestors did?
And if you work hard and play hard, you'll be ready for bed not long after dark.

Being in the dark has taught us all to never take anything for granted, especially our loved ones. I can live without my hot water for a few days. I can live without computer access or my cell phone. I can even live without my favorite television shows. The roof can be repaired, a new tree can be planted, a house rebuilt, food and clothing replaced, but the ones we love are what matters most.


Pictures

Growing up in my era we didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course, there were the school pictures, which I dreaded, and Mom rarely bought...