Random Word Story # 32~ Moving Along to Nowhere

5211895183_cc7770c5dd_bcombatant…hard…fantastic…square…habitual…defector

Here is my story:

There was something dark about the store clerk at the new Dollar General. She stood with rounded shoulders, and a defeated look in her eyes, as I approached the counter to check out. I would have guessed that she was much older, if we weren’t face to face. She was not much beyond the age of twenty, as I would learn, yet had the demeanor of a lone surviving combatant from a long lost battle.

Her southern drawl set her apart even further.

“You aren’t from around here, young lady.” I said.

“No ma’am. I’m from Alabama. Been he’ ah for two weeks, or so. I’m hopin’ to bring my kids he’ah soon.”

“My… you have children? You’re just a young thing.”

“I was twenty last month and I’ve got three baby boys back home with my momma. Their daddies were scumbags and I cum up here and met the love of my life for sure!”

Her grin was bright and happy but the sadness in her eyes did not fade. She nervously chewed on the side of her tongue as we spoke. It occurred to me that she may have been a beautiful child, once upon a time. Her face was heart-shaped and she had large blue eyes but her hair, seemed as though it was as stressed as her posture, with frizzy ends on a carelessly gathered ponytail.

I saw her as a defector. She’d left her children, after all, while pursuing what I could only imagine was an habitual trail of scumbags. Without having to ask, she went on…

“Met James on the internet. He’s going to bring my boys up soon and we’re buyin’ a house too.” She grinned as her eyes looked through me to an imagined “happy place”.

“That is fantastic! A new beginning, in a new place. I’m happy for you.”

Then I noticed  scars in both of her thin eyebrows and one that ran along her chin too. As she packed my items, her hands trembled.

My, too quickly made judgement, softened as I asked myself, “Why  do so many young ladies have to live such hard lives?”. I felt the urge to hug her and to tell her that things would get better…that she would find her happy ending, but I didn’t believe the latter. Not everyone gets a square deal. Her children would probably have similar fates without the foundation of roots and family and I felt helpless, very helpless to remedy her troubles. In fact I, shamefully, wanted to get away from her as quickly as I could, as if hard luck and ignorance were somehow catchy.

She continued, “James will be picking me up soon and we’re gonna call my kids to tell them about our house. We ain’t been approved yet but we’re hopin’ to hear this week. That ‘ill be ten dollars and seventy cents ma’am.”

“Thank-you. Best wishes to you and James.”

That night, I said several prayers for her family. I held on to a glimmer of hope for her sons, realizing that they might have a slightly better chance to find stability, simply by not being  “beautiful” daughters.

It has, now, been six months … and I have not seen her at the Dollar General again…

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My other Random Word Stories were complete fiction. Sadly, this one, came from a true encounter that I had last Fall.

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Family Gathering

Deb and meMy mother organized a family gathering that we celebrated on June 1st. A collection of cousins, and their kids, some I had never met, came. Afterward, there was an unexpected let down. So many people and so little time to interact beyond small talk.

For the next few days , following the event, I’ve had a “woulda/shoulda/coulda” feeling. You see, if a person is presenting a party, they are busy with meeting the needs of guests instead of enjoying the people. Certainly, watching our children, and grandchildren, making brand new family friends was a joy. I was overwhelmed though, with people whom I was unable to fully appreciate and subjects I was unable (because of limited time) to talk about. My cousin, Debbie (pictured with me above), made a 5 hour trip and spent 5 hours returning home after our mingle.

For those an hour or less away, I had little time and I have a heavy heart about that fact. Although we live relatively close, we do not gather for years on end. A smaller, more intimate gathering would do us but to “make time” for those many smaller gatherings doesn’t seem doable. Work, and family duties are many and it’s a burden to ask too often. My sister suggested a catered event in the future which would lighten the load upon the party organizers to afford more real “visiting”.  I believe, with a family so large, there will be the inevitable regrets, even still. Some folks are going to be “left out” whenever there are so many. Having the duty (a wonderfully fun one) of photographing the event, also sadly, puts the “photographer” outside of the mingle. Next time, I believe buying disposable cameras for each family, might be a better way to get a more varied and complete “picture”.

I would love to hear suggestions about how to make a large party work without the extravagance of a wedding reception.

It was a fun day and, those who could not come, were missed.

Ha! If you had come, I probably would have ignored you guys too!  At least, the no-shows kept my regrets fewer. 😉

You CAN be TOO Careful

Safety first and “You can’t be too careful.” are two common phrases in our language, especially, pertaining to kids.

I believe keeping a keen eye on safety is very important but also know that parents can be careful to the point of causing more danger to their kids.

The first area where ultra-cautious parents endanger their kids is by being “chokeaphobics”.

Baby’s first solid foods can drive, some parents, crazy. There are lists of foods that I would never feed children under four.

  • whole hot dogs
  • whole grapes

    Young couple with baby.

    Young couple with baby. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • peanuts (most nuts) but walnut meats are softer than most.
  • sticky, chewy candy like gummy bears
  • hard candies
  • popcorn (sometimes okay)

You see, at about a year old, kids have their first exposure to chewing food for swallowing. Gagging can be an alarming sound but it is a noise from a reflex which alerts the child to chew. The sound also lets us know that his/her airway is not obstructed. Up to the time of the first solids, babies are gulpers. Parents who “cream” everything and avoid approved baby “munchies” just because gagging frightens them, are encouraging their baby to continue gulping. Chewing must be learned and the earlier, the better. An over-protected eater will have more gagging and choking episodes in later years when other kids are chewing things, like popcorn, without incident.

Then there are the “germaphobic” parents.

Germs are not all bad and even those which offer colds and stomach bugs, have value. Unless your child has a compromised immune system, let them mingle.

Babies are clean slates. Their immune systems are too. As much as we dislike a sick baby, the illness makes baby stronger. Children who rarely get to play and exchange germs with each other, will not only be in for a “plague” of illness when they go to school, they may really get sicker when they are older before they are exposed.

To me, the worst over protection is what I’ll call, the “bumpaphobic” parents.

You’ve seen them. The ones who interrupt “rough and tumble” play at every opportunity.

Kids are pretty sturdy creatures. Their bodies are developing many groups of muscles, and sadly, there is not manufactured child-safe equipment suitable for every need. Kids who aren’t challenged by uneven ground (they will fall)or jumping off of steps (they will fall) or climbing up things that cannot hold their weight (they will fall) are deprived of lessons in balance, depth perception and the physics of living with gravity. Too the extreme, “bumpaphobic” parents create clumsy, accident prone kids who won’t keep up with their peers.

These are my biggest over-protective peeves. I’ve witnessed every one in my day care experience of 38 years and thought I’d warn parents OR give a printable text to offer someone who is witnessing over-protection.

The Price of Kindness

On Saturday morning, I took my granddaughter to the grocery store. As we were putting our groceries in the car, a man stepped into view who was talking on a cell phone in an agitated voice.

The gist of his “conversation” was that he’d run out of gas in an unfamiliar town, that his gas gauge must be broken and he had only two dollar to get gas which wouldn’t be enough to get back to Springfield.

His performance was very good. He added that he was afraid and pleaded with the “person” on the other end to help him and he was also trembling. Oh yeah, he added that he had been visiting his mother before he had gotten lost.

Katherine was buckled in and as I put the last bag in the car, I interrupted him asking,” Would ten dollars help?” He said some thing like, ” So much for you guys, some nice lady is offering me help! Thanks for nothing.” and he closed his phone. I could hear Katherine saying, “Oh grandma, that’s so nice!”

At this point, my instincts said that I was falling into a scam but my heart was unsure. What I did know, was my granddaughter was witnessing human kindness.

I needed change, and since Kat was buckled in, I locked her into the car to go to the desk for ten dollars.

When I came out, I handed the grateful, still teary-eyed, man the ten saying,”Please pass this kindness on to someone else one day.” His answer was, “I sure will. Karma is a good thing.” He walked away.

If I had been a man, my next step would have been to say, “Hey, I’ll give you a lift to your car.” This would have cleared up the scam or not, but inviting a stranger into my car would have turned a kindness into a reckless act.

On top of it all, I had decided that the lesson for my granddaughter was worth ten dollars and no longer cared if I had been fooled. I had spent ten dollars on more foolish things, for sure.

Katherine and I talked while we rode home. I explained that this man may have been lying in a very practiced scam but, since I wasn’t sure, thought it was a good thing to help. Also, that it is never a child’s job to help an adult. Dealing with strangers is never good for kids.

And now, two days later, I am convinced that I had been scammed as I replay the events. I would have still done what I did, though. And karma may have the last laugh, if that man was taking advantage of the kindness of others.

Mindless in America

A telemarketer called a few days ago. He was promoting a new organization and hoping to sell wholesome family films.

The idea was admirable. No one can argue, against the fact, that there are too many images of violence and “adult” subject matter available to children on prime time television. Soon enough, it became clear that he was reading a script.

It was a time, in my work day, when I was getting my day care charges ready to go home so I was distracted and rushed. My manners have always kept me from just hanging up, so I listened. I also always figure that the person,calling, is earning a living and deserves, at least, a few moments.

As I listened, he repeatedly said,” Studies show…” . Then, he started saying that Spongebob was an example of mindless broadcasting to be avoided because “Studies show, this is also a poor choice.”

He had my interest, at first. But frustrated from not being able to get a word in and the time constraints…after all, I was “on the job”… made me lose my patience. This is what I told him:

“I believe you are promoting a worthy cause and this call is your job, but when you have said repeatedly, “studies show” and have expected that you could convince me without telling me where the studies were conducted, who did them, and how many people were studied, suggest that you are the mindless one here or you believe that I am. I grew up watching the Three Stooges and never once was tempted to hit someone with a hammer. There is definitely too much violence on TV, sir. The greater problem, in my opinion, is the cultural break down of the American family. If you have any interest in the success of your organization, I suggest you change your speech and get real. I have no extra money to invest and I thank you for trying, good-bye.”

Now, I wonder, how many people are willing to believe the rhetoric “studies show” without pause?  I don’t really want to know because it scares me too much to consider further.

The original Three Stooges in Soup to Nuts

The original Three Stooges in Soup to Nuts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultural Dissolve

Homecoming "He's everything I hoped for a...

Homecoming  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No political correctness

No political correctness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a dissolve going on in our culture. Very few actions, that bear a burden of public shame, still exist. That fact, is clearly an alarming example of the erosion of our cultural foundation.

Consider what having a baby out-of-wedlock or being in tremendous debt used to mean. Our culture policed itself by frowning upon such things in years past. Now, those things have no stigma and, therefore, have become culturally acceptable.

The feminists were so zealous in their quest for workplace equality, that they ended up redefining the art of being a “lady” and the act of being a “gentleman”, which I maintain are still worthy titles. Strange how being thoughtful and polite are now viewed as weaknesses? A bad sign, me thinks.

The equal rights defenders have made the fight for justice such a racial endeavor, that it divides us, and distracts us, from our American oneness.

Fairness has replaced, justifiable, in every argument and there IS a difference. Things that seem “fair” quite often don’t justify the burden placed upon others to create such a utopia. Might I add, Utopian ideals belong in the land of unicorns where, I understand, there is no unemployment, debt or greed.

The steps to citizenship have turned into an elevator, with buttons labeled in 7 languages, rather than a goal worthy of being hard-earned.

We accept that all politicians lie, and justice is for sale, without “blinking an eye” while we squabble about semantics (political correctness) to the point of ignoring our common cultural erosion. There is not one problem, other than foreign terrorism, that cannot be explained by and blamed, partly, on our ailing culture.

We don’t recognize that by creating new laws, we also are defining new categories of criminals for an already over-burdened justice system and refuse to realize that the overburdened system, is the reason the current laws aren’t already enforced.

Our media takes advantage of our busy distractions and choreograph our outrage by carefully choosing or boycotting information according to their own tastes and addiction to sensationalism.

Parenting used to be a cultural obligation to our children. Parents who did not take their roles seriously were treated as deadbeats.  Look around, parenting has become a choice according to personal comforts, decided after kids are born. There is no backlash, no stigma, any more.

Look at our current culture and ask, “Is there no shame?”

Seems to me, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

My Grandma

An alarm clock goes off somewhere downstairs. It’s 3:30 am and I wander into the kitchen where grandma is dressed and preparing breakfast for the men. Places are set at the table when she feeds the dog and pats me on the head asking me if I might want to go back to bed. I say “No, I want to go to the barn today.”
She hollers up the stairs every 5 minutes for half an hour. “Get up!” Each time the pitch rises in her voice until she hears fumbling footsteps. The men enter the kitchen, with yawns and grumbles, just before we walk to the barn in the dark of early morning. I’m too little to help so I set off to find kittens in the corners of the barn. Switches are pulled and motors come to life to the clanging of milking machines being assembled. She opens the barn door where the cows are anxiously awaiting entry. They know their places and file in, much more orderly than kids would, extending their heads through stantions that will be closed keeping them there.

I hear the scuffing of rubber boots and the men take up their duties of closing stanchions and graining each cow according to her own needs. When I get a little older, I’ll be helping. But, for now, my job is to stay out-of-the-way of the cows. I walk along by their heads, petting the friendly ones. Tigress and Ginger are my friends. Each cow has a name. The number tags are many years beyond. My grandma will laugh, harder than I’ve ever seen, when I announce that Raindrop really looks like my Dad and a cow will be renamed “My Friend”, this summer, just because of my insistence that she was.

Later on, Grandma will rush to put on lunch and then take a power nap of about 20 minutes. She may be running the rake in the hay-field, shortly after that, then back to the barn for evening milking. After evening milking, there’s supper. Grandma was the best cook. She never measured with cups. Only now, I realize it was more efficient in time saved, not by choice. Seven days a week, every single day of the year, Grandma worked. She mowed her own lawn, washed the laundry and did the grocery shopping too.

Grandma rarely wore make-up or fancy clothes. She loved to read. Anne of Green Gables was her favorite. She would doctor any injured person or animal and put out milk for the feral cats without fail. She loved extra oregano and green peppers in her spaghetti sauce and thought daisies and phlox were the sweet touches placed on earth to remind her of delicate things she wouldn’t, otherwise, be able to enjoy.

Grandma used the phrases “between a rock and a hard place” and “at sixes and sevens” when she was frustrated. No swearing, ever. On the rare occasion that I was irritating her to distraction, she’d say, “Don’t make me get ugly with you.” I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. I do remember looking at her face and wondering how my beautiful grandma could EVER be ugly?

Our minds often tell us what we already know in dreams and flashes. When she passed away in 1999, I had a persistent flashback of a movie scene that plagued me for months. It was Dorothy embracing the Scarecrow, in the Wizard of Oz, and whispering in his ear, “I think I’m going to miss you most of all.”

Gotta to love it when your mind gets things so right!

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What’s in a Name?

This is for you guys out there. Something that you may not have considered.

This was inspired by my Facebook connection to my High School graduating class of 1974, since, the women are much harder to identify. It reminded me of something.

The social convention of women taking their husband’s last name is common and seems quite mundane, especially to the husband.

It wasn’t really easy for me, and I suspect, it hasn’t been easy for many women. We create an individuality, a reputation and a persona as we grow up then our “identity” is renamed, changed, in one day.

At first, my biggest fear was accidentally misspelling this name but it felt like I was hiding my true identity for years. Soon, came the ordinary questions from locals about this family, which I really had no history with. Few asked about my “maiden” family because it was hidden but I had been THAT former person all of my life. There was a brand new persona that was in its infancy and I felt a little lost.

In my case, we lived (and still do) in a small city where our families had an equal recognizability. I was not as much an alien, as a bipolar person. For years, I was introduced with two names, by folks who were “in the know”. The old person and this new one…I hadn’t changed a bit though. Creepy when you really get down to it.

I realized that this was a sore point for years, when I uncharacteristically made a snipe at friend of my husband’s family. About two years into our marriage, our first child was born. My husband’s family friend was admiring our beautiful daughter and commented, in jest, “You should had named her Edwina after her father.”

I felt flushed for a moment, then said, “Why would I? She already has HIS last name!”

The rush of resentful emotion startled me, as much as, the poor woman.

Now, I’ve been married for 34 years and I’m no longer the “maiden”. I have built one fine new reputation and persona and I’m comfortable. But when I try to relate to friends who knew me by an ancient name, there’s still a pinch…a moment of mourning, about that not so mundane name change long ago.

23612_411477303827_530328827_5007867_4476253_nSusan

Happy Valentine’s Day… whomever you are?

Build an Artist

BeFunky_003katpaintingMy 7-year-old granddaughter presented me with this wonderful watercolor painting. Her mother told me that Kat had labored over it for a long time.

According to the artist, it is a self-portrait in a green field on a sunny day. She added a flock of crows for her bird-loving grandmother. As she explored the watercolor medium, her smile “bled” downward. Kat’s mom told me that she was not at all discouraged by that event. As all artists do, she embraced the “accident” and exclaimed, “I like that. Now, my clothes look brighter.”

Katherine had originally planned to give her masterpiece to me for my birthday but April would be just too long to wait. I will be buying a frame for my Kat Original this weekend and have already reserved a spot to display it above our TV. Of course, I insisted that she sign and date her work.

The sparkle in her eyes is something that I’ll never forget. She gasped when I showed her where her work would hang. This reminded me of how important it is to marvel at the artwork kids produce. First, it’s just plain beautiful. Secondly, it is the building of an artist … our way of showing them how wonderfully unique and precious artistic expression is.

The TV show Everybody Loves Raymond was a comedy that drew its humor from poking fun at a family’s “dysfunctional” moments. I noticed one thing, that I hope you will look for, if you had not already noticed. Children’s drawings were framed and displayed on the walls of their home. I loved seeing that and this blog post seemed a good place to bring that up. 🙂