Friday, August 29, 2014

Do You Remember These

The world is so different. Like all people who are getting older I seem to remember a much simpler world than the one my children and grandchildren have experienced. Some things are definitely changed for the good but there are some things that make me shake my head with dismay.

I am certainly in favor of things like air conditioners and indoor plumbing for instance. All the hatred in the world can be done without. I am sure that I just did not experience the hatred so maybe it was just the cocoon I was raised in that sheltered  me from it.

I thought it would be fun to remember things from the past. If they are not something I have an actual experience with I will make a note but I made use of at least most of these.

Duck-and-Cover was the air raid drill we did at school where we would duck under our desks and cover our heads with our arms to protect us from atomic bombs.

There were no computer printers that make as many copies of whatever as one wishes. For a test at school the teacher had to use special mimeograph paper to type it up. Then she would fill the mimeograph machine with its special ink and place her typed copy on a cylinder. She would turn the crank that turned the cylinder to make the copies she needed of the test. Eventually they were powered by electricity so the cranking was not needed.

Howdy Doody. We could not get The Howdy Doody Show in the town where I lived but we always watched it when we went to my grandparents' farm. The characters on that show are the stuff of history. Besides Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob  there was Clarabell the clown who was played by Bob Keeshan who went on to become Captain Kangaroo.

Other characters were Mayor Phineas T. Bluster, Heidi Doody (Howdy's sister), Dilly Dally, Inspector John J. Fadoozle America's number 1 private eye, Captain Windy Scuttlebut, Sandra the Witch, and the curious Flub-A-Dub. (Deep breath)  J Cornelius Cobb, The Featherman, Sir Archibald the Explorer, Chief Thunderthud father of Princess Summerfallwinterspring. And they all lived happily in Doodyville.

Grocery stores and gas stations gave Green Stamps with each purchase. You put them in the special Green Stamp book and when you had enough you could redeem them for all sorts of merchandise... FREE.

Gym shoes were reserved to wear on the indoor gym floors. Outside shoes were made of leather. When patent leather was made girls had to be extremely careful because they were so shiny and boys might see the reflection of panties in the shoes. Gasp.

Beatniks (who I only saw on television) were all emaciated and dressed in black. The men had scraggly beards and none of them ever smiled. They frequented dreary coffee houses and wrote and recited depressing poetry.

The big threat to the world was the Cold War and Communism.

Hoola hoops were a huge craze. They were made by making a circle out of rubber tubing held in shape by inserting a piece of cork into both ends and stapling it in place. We then put them around our waists and twirled them for hours. They make a comeback about every ten years.

Driving along the highway you were almost certain to spot the Burma Shave signs. They were a series of signs that when read in order made a funny quote. The last sign simply said Burma Shave.

Frisbees were another craze. They are plastic discs that float on the air when tossed to someone else. My mother told me they used to use the lids from cans of food in the same way after they made sure the edges were dulled.

Bell bottom pants were modeled after sailors' bell bottoms. The legs flared out just above the ankle . Some had bigger bells than others. Hip huggers were pants that had a very low waist meaning they fastened about 2 or 3 inches below your waist. Hip hugger bells were about as "hip" as you could get.

Route 66 was the major highway in the United States. Remember... you can get your kicks on Route 66.

Polio vaccine was invented and all school children were being vaccinated to begin the effort to eradicate polio.

The starter for cars was located on the floor right next to the clutch. You had to do a contortionist's move to reach all the pedals necessary to start the car. There was a throttle on the steering column in case you needed a bit more gas to help start it. To dim or brighten the headlights also required a button on the floor. But a lot of people put a knob on the steering wheel. It was called many things but suicide knob and "necker's" knob were probably the most well known.

Chemise dresses were called sack dresses because they had no defined waistline leading some critics to say it looked as if the woman was wearing a gunnysack.

All movies and TV programs were shown in black-and-white. That is because they were filmed that way. When they began to show movies in glorious color TV decided to follow suit. That meant that everyone had to buy a new television to accommodate the technology. That meant no more of those silly plastic covers that were green on the bottom, clear in the middle, and blue at the top to give the illusion of color to a television program.

Photographs were also black-and-white. It is hard to remember how difficult it was to take a picture yourself. The lighting had to be just so and no shadows allowed.

Royal Crown Cola had special bottle caps. After you opened the pop you peeled the cork (all bottle caps had a cork lining) from the inside. After you drank the pop you rinsed the bottle thoroughly and filled it with water. You had a handy way to sprinkle your clothes for ironing.

Speaking of laundry we used those old wringer washers. You filled them with water and put in the detergent. After washing the first load you would turn off the agitator and send the clothes one by one through the wringer. I was always thankful that we had an electric operated wringer instead of using a hand operated wringer.

From the wringer the clothes dropped into a tub of rinse water. You would then refill the machine with another load of clothes to wash as you rinsed the clothes and put them through the wringer into another tub of water just to make sure you had all the detergent out. Another time of putting them through the wringer into a basket. Then you hung them on the line to dry. A sunny breezy (but not windy) day was best.

You would repeat this process until all the laundry was done. When the clothes on the line were dry you took them down to make room for the next load. Anything that needed to be ironed would be lightly sprinkled with water and carefully rolled up. Steam irons were not in common use so the moisture from the water made it easier to iron the clothes the next day.

Soda pop was sold in vending machines but they were certainly different. They sat flat like a chest freezer. The glass bottles were lined up with the caps at the top. You would insert your money then slide the bottle along by its cap until it reached the opening that allowed it to lift out of the machine. To open the bottle (no twist-off caps) there was an apparatus on the side of the machine with a little bin below it to catch the caps.

In the summer it got hot. Most homes did not have an air conditioner. Many did not have fans except for those little round oscillating things. And usually only one of those. To keep cool we spent a lot of time sitting under a big shade tree hoping for a bit of a breeze. Maybe we would slip away with a stick and bit of fishing line with a hook and sinker to fish. It was more to dangle our feet in the water than the hope of catching any fish. If we had running water my father might wait until very late in the afternoon to spray the outside of the house with cold water. You would not believe how much that helped.

How many of these things do you remember? Candy cigarettes, wax lips or mustaches, wax pop bottles with flavored water inside, penny candy, 5 cent packages of baseball cards with a piece of very hard bubble gum inside, Blackjack, Clove, and Teaberry gum, 15cent burgers and 10 cent fries at McDonalds, Cracker Jack with GOOD prizes in them, or turning the crank to make homemade ice cream. Man am I old!

I have not even touched on so many other things. Another time perhaps. Maybe my creaky old body needs a nap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Third Granddaughter

I did not even know that this beautiful little girl existed until she was almost 2 years old. I missed all those little firsts and that makes me so sad. But I have her now and for that I am a happy Grandma.

One day my 2nd son answered the knock at his door. A former girlfriend stood there with a little girl in her arms. She said, "Say hello to your daddy."

She had been in another relationship and that person finally convinced her that the baby's father needed to help with raising her. He happily took to being a daddy.

He kept her with him as often as he could get her. He bought diapers and clothes and all the other things a baby needs.

She was very pretty. She had blonde hair like her daddy. But she had curls that he never had. She looked a lot like my oldest sister-in-law. My daughter-in-law said that I say that about all the babies. I might. My sister-in-law was a very attractive woman.

Then just as suddenly as she came into our lives she was gone. My son was in jail and we had no idea how to reach her mother to let her know we wanted to continue a relationship with our little girl.

When my son came home he stayed with his sister and her family for a while as a condition of his parole. The first thing he wanted was to have his children. So they came to stay with him.

My granddaughter has her father's temperament. And she is mischievous. As are all my grandchildren she is extremely smart. Like her father sometimes she is too smart for her own good.

She did not like to listen or mind. She could get around most people so she pretty much would get her own way. To put it bluntly she was a loveable handful.

When her father had to back to jail at least we knew how to reach her mother. We were able to have her stay with us often and we had her at family and holiday celebrations.

I was getting ready to make waffles for breakfast. My granddaughter is a fussy eater just like all my kids. She decided she did not like waffles. As I asked her what kinds of things she would eat she gave me a very short list. Then she said, " Waffles... not so much." She ate waffles.

And nosy! I had her and her little brother for the weekend. We were on our way to the park. They were properly buckled up in the back seat. Suddenly I noticed in the mirror that she was busily going through my things. I asked her if she was finding what she was looking for. She hurriedly placed her hands in her lap and faked an innocent look on her face. I think she just wanted to see what interested me.

Soon she began to sing. At the time there was a commercial on TV where they sang "F R E E That spells free Credit Report dot com that's me." She sang the first line and I chimed in with the second. She was absolutely delighted. For months after that every time she would see me she sang the first line and I answered with the second.

She is also very stubborn. I am afraid she gets that from me. She was used to getting her own way because she would not give up. Then she spent some time with her aunt.

My daughter is stubborn too. She loves having the kids from the family come to spend time with her family. So she had my granddaughter for several days. 

My granddaughter decided to pull her stubborn bit. My daughter just laughed at her and said, "You will never be more stubborn than me. You can't win this one." It took a little time but my granddaughter settled down. She and her aunt have become very close.

Once when I had my granddaughter and grandson for the day we stopped for lunch on the way to where we were going. Two fussy eaters. I told them they could order whatever they wished. There did not seem to be anythinbg on the menu that they liked so I finally ordered for them.

When the food came my grandson obediently began to eat. My granddaughter however was having none of it. She dawdled and pouted. I told her that she needed to eat so we could be on our way. Nope. No deal.

So I leaned over the table and looked her straight in the eye and said, "You know how your aunt is more stubborn than you and you have to do as she says? Well I am her mother. I am more stubborn than she is and she does what I say." Then I smiled a moderately evil smile. She got a shocked look on her face then ate all the food on her plate.

My granddaughter is growing into a lovely young woman. She is starting middle school this year. She looks more and more like her mother but at the same time she looks a great deal like my daughter. Not a bad combination at all.

She is still extremely intelligent (like all my grandchildren) and very pretty (they all are). She is still stubborn but she is learning when to dig in and when to give in. I like that.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Son Has More

I have another set of stories from my son. They are in his words but I may add a comment here or there. If I do I will let you know it is mine and not my son's.

There are a few parts to this story so I'll start with the main part. I was at my house around 8 p.m. when someone knocked on my door. I got up, answered it and there were 3 guys there and one of them put a gun to my head. 

We went back into the living room and they told me and the girl that was there to lay on the ground. After I did one of them went to my bedroom and started searching it and the other one started kicking my in the head. He was jumping on my head trying to knock me out. It wasn't working because my adrenalin was pumping and I couldn't even feel it. He finally got tired and stopped. 

I turned my head to see what they were doing and he kicked me again. When he did, I saw he had a gun in his boot. I grabbed it and started to get up. As I did, the other guy came out of my bedroom and started shooting at me. I shot back, I shot at his head but missed because I was still trying to get up. 

I fired two more shots and hit him in the chest. After that, my gun jammed, cheap bullets. I heard his shots going past me but I didn't think I got hit; I never felt a thing. Everything was in slow motion. The guy I hit was falling as I was getting up. 

I all of a sudden turned when I was completely up and the guy that was watching me had his gun right between my eyes, about an inch away. I thought I was done right then. When he didn't fire, I looked up and saw he was in shock. 

I tackled him and we both went flying through the living room and all the way through to the far end of the kitchen. We both fell on the ground and both guns went flying. He got up and started running and I tried to get up but for some reason I couldn't get my legs working. They finally started working and I got up. I ran to the living room and everyone was gone, even the girl that was at my house. 

The first thing I thought was they took her. I ran out the door onto the front porch and saw them leaving in a car, still pulling the guy I shot in the back seat with the door still open and him halfway out of the car. The 3rd guy wasn't with them, he just was at the wrong place, wrong time. 

My neighbor called the cops, he said he saw them leaving and thought I was dead so he called the cops. He looked at me and said, you've been shot. I said, "No I'm not." He said, "Look at your leg."

I looked down and blood was running down my leg. The cops got there and took me to the hospital. At the hospital, they found out I got shot in both legs. I still have the bullets in me because they say it will cause more damage trying to take them out. 

That night, the cops searched my house and took some stuff out of it. I got out of the hospital about 2 a.m. and was back home. The people at the hospital told me the girl that was at my house was just there, they said she got shot in the but and she was ok.

The cops wanted me to come do a line up and me and my lawyer went to the precinct and looked at pictures. They got mad because I couldn't pick the guy out. The cop was pointing at a picture of a guy in a hospital bed, with a tube in his throat, saying this is the easiest lineup I ever did in my life. He was trying to make me pick that guy and was really mad that I wouldn't. 

They tried to threaten me after that by saying they found some illegal stuff in my house when they searched it. My lawyer told them the did an illegal search and told them they lied about when they searched. They said they searched all the next day but they couldn't have, I was home with people in and out all day. (Note from Emma: I picked him up at the hospital and was there off and on all day. There were no police officers.)

And you can't get a search warrant signed on a legal holiday, witch is when this all happened, Thanksgiving. You can get one signed for a legal holiday but not on one. So their threats didn't work and we were out of there and done with them. Now I just had to deal with my parole officer!

(Another note from me: It was Thanksgiving and my son did not want to go anywhere for a meal so my daughter and I took him a plate. It was a good excuse to make sure he was doing well.

I knocked on the door and heard a gruff voice asking who was there. It was my ex-husband. I told him it was me so he opened the door just a crack and put a gun in my face!

I told him to put that thing away and went in to check on my son. His father was frantic and afraid that someone would come back to retaliate. He had also been drinking so he was not in the most stable position. 

He went to his house a couple of blocks away to make sure everything was okay there. He handed me his gun and told me to protect things while he was gone. 

After he left my son said to give the gun to him and he would give it back to his father after he sobered up. So I gave it to him.

He was not happy when he came back and I did not have a gun for him. No more violence occurred.)

The morning I got up to report to my parole officer after the shoot out at my house, I was sore because I had just got shot in both my legs. I got up and just threw on some sweat pants and a T-shirt.

 I get to the parole office and there are about 100 people in there waiting, like always. It seems like everyone in this city is on parole. Anyway, after about an hour my parole officer comes out from her offices and looks over at me and has a weird look on her face. 

She comes over to me and says "You have to be the craziest person I've ever had on parole." I asked why. She said "You just got in a shoot out in your house, the F.B.I. called me for a couple months last year trying to get me to violate your parole because they said you robbed the Harley Davidson shop in another city and stole $1,000,000 worth of bikes and other stuff and now you come in here dressed like this." 

I said, "I just got shot, what am I supposed to wear, a suit?" She said, "No but not the shirt you've got on." I looked at my shirt and realized I put on a shirt I bought at the mall a few months ago. It was a black T-shirt and in big block Orange letters it said PAROLE VIOLATER!. Everyone in the room was laughing. Even my parole officer. 

She was a good parole officer, never really bothered me too much, and she wouldn't lock me up when the F.B.I. wanted her to, with no good reason. About the Harley Shop, I don't know how the cops thought I stole all that stuff. They raided my house and took me to jail and held me for 72 hrs. They never found anything and the first day they had me the detectives took me to an office in the precinct and asked me if I had anything to say. I said all I want is to talk to my lawyer. 

The second day a detective from the other city came and did the same. I gave the same answer. The third day the cop from the other city and an F.B.I. agent came and I gave the same answer again but this time the F.B.I. still tried to talk to me and didn't care about my rights. He was looking to see if he could get a reaction from me. After all that they took me back to go to my cell. 

They had to wait for the guard to come so as we were in the hallway. The cop from the other city asked, "After you get a lawyer, maybe then you will talk to us?" I looked at the F.B.I. agent and we both knew just by looking at each other that they had to let me go. 

When the guard came and took me to the cell, he said,"You aren't talking are you?" I said, "No." He said, "You want to know how I know?" I said, "Yes."

 He said, "Every time they take you out of here I put the cuffs on you real tight don't I?" I said, "Yes you do!" He said, "Well I'm just doing what I'm told. And every time you come back those cuffs are still real tight aren't they?" I said, "Yes, you guys are real good at keeping them tight." He said, "If you would've come back with the cuffs loose, I would've known you talked because they let you be comfortable." 

That's just one of there tricks they do, make you as uncomfortable as possible so you want to give them what they want, even if you're not guilty. That's why you hear about people that confess to crimes that later they are found not guilty of from other evidence, like D.N.A. People naturally want to get out of an uncomfortable situation and the government uses that. After all that, they let me go and I never heard about that again. Ok I got to end this,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Butt Of The Joke

I am often the one that makes my family laugh. I do not always do it intentionally but they laugh anyway. Laughter is good for the innards so I am happy to help keep them in good health.

Everyone knows how much I love baseball. My sister-in-law just smiles and shakes her head as she says, "You and your baseball."  But my children are another matter altogether.

We lived for a long time just a few miles from where my favorite major league baseball team played their home games. We went often. My children were able to watch some great baseball and great players. When we were not able to go to a game we would watch on television.

Even after my father died my mother and I had a good time watching baseball together. We would moan when our batter's hit was caught just before it appeared to be going over the fence for a home run. We would cheer when our outfielder caught the ball hit by the other team just before it went over the fence for a home run. We would scream and yell at any perceived infraction to our sensibilities committed by either team or the umpires. It is great fun.

But my children, nieces and nephews, and younger brother and sister were the ones having the most fun. They would sit in the back yard on nice summer days and laugh at us as we screamed at the television.

These days my children still laugh because I am still screaming at the television during ball games. They are joined by my grandchildren. Soon my great-grandchildren will be joining in. At least the dog does not run and hide any more.

I love music. I am the weirdo you see in the supermarket bopping down the aisle when a favorite song comes over their music list. I will being watching TV disinterestedly and suddenly find myself chair dancing to the music of a commercial. And of course I sing long and loud with the radio.

Now I know I cannot sing. If you put the tune into a breifcase and locked it I would not be able to carry it. But I have a lot of enthusiasm. Does that count for anything?

Of course my whole family laughs at me. When I begin to twitch in the grocery store my children used to scatter not wanting to be associated with the crazy lady. Sitting in a restaurant with my grandchildren brought head shaking and comments like, "Don't do that." Listening to music on the computer brings wails begging me to stop singing. (It is my house. I sing.)

When my children were young I would try to plan activities we would all enjoy. Movies were a good bet but we often did not want to see the same movie. Theaters that show multiple movies worked well because we could see the movie we wanted to see then get together afterward for something to eat.

But there were movies that we all enjoyed. Star Wars was one of those. So off we went to Star Wars. But it seems that everyone had a favorite place to sit in the theater. It works for us.

Toward the end of that movie Darth Vader is killed by his son Luke Skywalker. It was an emotional scene and I cry easily at the movies so I was dabbing my eyes and (I thought) quietly crying. Then I hear son number 3 chuckling. He was sitting several rows behind me and to the left.

He then stage whispers to son number 2. "Hey, Mom is crying because Darth Vader got killed." All heads in the theater craned to see me dabbing at my eyes. Son number 2 chuckled as did son number 1 and my daughter. Then the whole theater erupted into soft laughter. Think how good they all felt inside.

After the movie I had plans for us to go downtown in the big city. Summer weekends they held what they called Ethnic Festivals. It was an attempt to introduce people to other cultures and learn more about their own. It was one of the best ideas they ever had.

Anyway this weekend was the Irish Festival. Seeing that I had four little Irish children we went to the festival. After much searching we found a parking structure that was almost within walking distance.

As we were walking into the riverfront area where the festival was being held there were so many people milling about. Son number 3 took great joy in walking up to as many as he could and saying, "That's my mother. She cried when Darth Vader died."

Most people just had confused looks on their faces. But a few of them laughed. My son was having a good time. Add to that the fact that we had a good time at the festival. It was a great day.

It truly does not bother me when people laugh at me. Know why? I laugh at them too. Ridiculous things happen all the time. The trick is to recognize them for what they are and enjoy them.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Another Visit From My son

My son has come to tell us a few more stories about life in prison. While he has been there he has met some famous and infamous people. I am not sure whether that is good or bad but it is interesting. These are his stories in his words.

I was in a county jail and I needed to get a paper notarized so I could get an appeal lawyer. I asked the social worker to do it ( they are notaries). She said she couldn't because she couldn't verify what I was saying on the paper was true. 

I looked at her and asked how long she has been a notary? She said for years. I said then you should know that your job as a notary doesn't require you to verify anything, you are just witnessing that I am the one signing the papers. She looked at me with a guilty look on her face and said, "you're right," and notarized my papers. 

I knew what she was supposed to do because when I was a little kid, my mom was a notary and I listened to her even though she didn't think I did! Haha. That saved me a lot of hassle a few years later when they finally (found) my notarized papers. 

Another good story is when I helped the leader of a motorcycle club beat a few gun charges in the fed court. I met him in county jail and we talked because we were both from the same city, and both on Fed cases. He just came in and was real worried like we all were about our cases. I showed him a few cases that showed that some of his charges were illegal and had to be dropped. 

After that, he left for federal prison. I went to federal prison about 2 weeks later and when I got there he ran up and helped me carry all my legal stuff. A few other guys on my case were there and were shocked and laughed because here I come with this big black guy that is in a group that hates white people carrying my stuff. They said, you "shore" do know how to make an entrance, haha.   

This is one when I was in county again. I got called out of my cell for a visit and I was on the way to the visiting cells when I heard the guards talking about this crazy Arab guy that has been attacking everyone. As they were talking, other guards came around the corner with a guy that looked like he was in the taliban. He was chained up and going to the hole. 

When he saw me, he yelled at the top of his lungs "SPRINGFIELD" and broke free from the guards and ran straight for me. The guards started chasing him but they were too slow. He came up and gave me a hug and we laughed. The guards were in shock. He was really crazy and loved to fight everyone he saw but they didn't know I met him in county a while back and we got along real good. 

The guards asked me after that if I knew him and explained how he got moved from 5 different places in the jail since 2 weeks ago for fighting with everyone and I was the first person they ever saw him get along with. I laughed and said, "you got to be a little crazy to get along with a crazy guy",haha. 

Another time in county, I helped a guy with his sentencing hearing with the info I learned from reading a Dr. Phil book. It worked real good, and it was good practice for when I go to my sentencing. Anyway he was on a very bad crime and it didn't look good at all for him. 

He was there for home invasion and armed robbery because he broke into a house full of people and robbed them at gun point. We started to make out a sentencing speech, talking about how he grew up living in abandoned cars because he had no family and doing whatever he had to to survive. He was 18 and they called him Animal. We didn't mention anything about the crime in the speech, only his rough life and good things he did. 

When he went to his sentencing and came back, he was happy as could be. He said the judge actually cried when she heard how bad his life was growing up and gave him 18 years for the crime. I know you're shocked about the time, but the judge said before he did his speech, she was going to give him 35 or 40 years on his minimum at least. She said she felt bad for him but had to give him that much time for the victims sake. 

I tried to help another guy the same way but he lied about what he was in jail for and tried to lie to the judge too, he was a child molester and they slammed him, just like he deserved.

When I was going to court one day, the marshal that took me there said,"How is it that you know everyone we run into?" I laughed and said, "I've been here forever." He said, "You are the only guy I know that's on good terms with everyone in the whole place." 

That's because everyone we ran into, I helped with their case. I helped a lot of people and I'll tell you about some of them later. But that's what built up to the judge calling me a nice guy at my sentencing. I was real good at helping people with their cases and I got a few guys sentences lowered and one group of guys, I helped them beat their whole indictment, even their lawyer finally had to admit I was right. Out of time

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's Only Words...

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. A beautiful sentiment that all parents teach their children. It is meant to show that words can roll off your back and you do not have to deal with them any more whereas a physical blow can leave an injury that needs to be cared for after the altercation is finished.

The truth is that we have all been deeply hurt by words. Maybe someone called you stupid or ugly when you were a child. If that was a person whose opinion of you mattered those words would cause great pain. Perhaps someone made fun of you and it seemed to catch on with other people until everyone was making fun of you. Torment. Often a misused word can bring a misgiving you have about yourself to light and exaggerate that into what you see as a serious flaw.

I have mentioned that my family did not have much money. My mother made a lot of our clothes. But there were families in town who spent a bit more on clothing than we did.

I can remember some of the women bringing huge boxes of clothes that their daughters could no longer use. They were expensive clothes and in practically new condition. I loved getting those clothes because they were so nice.

What did bother me was that when they delivered the boxes the women did not pay attention to what they were saying. Even at that age I knew they were trying to do a good deed; it was in fact a good deed. I not only liked the clothes they brought but I needed them too. They were nice people doing a nice thing.

The problem was that they almost invariably said, "I thought Emma could wear these. If they don't fit just throw them away." I always felt like they were saying that they were not good for anybody else but they were good enough for me.

I believe in hand-me-downs. There is no sense in throwing out perfectly good items because you cannot use them for whatever reason. But I make sure if I give something to someone else that I say, "If you cannot use them maybe you know someone who can."

Another example is tasteless jokes. I have to be honest and say that often they are funny. But they are funny at the expense of others.

I was at a conference. A bunch of us met at the hotel for drinks after the meetings had adjourned for the day. Several people were standing around telling jokes. Most of the jokes were tasteless. Of course I had to join them.

I told my favorite tasteless joke. They all laughed. But afterward a woman came to me and told me that one of the other women had left because of my joke. It touched a nerve with her and hurt her feelings. I felt terrible.

I went to her room and asked if I could speak to her. She did not want to talk but was gracious. I apologized to her and she was such a nice person that she accepted my apology. We hugged each other and I left. I have not told another tasteless joke since.

My mother was laughing one day. She had seen my niece arguing with a friend. They were little girls and Mom wanted to make sure the argument did not turn into blows. But it was an argument using words as weapons. Finally my niece screamed, "Well at least MY mother buys real gold jewelry!"

How much did it hurt the other girl? I do not know. I do know that the girls are still good friends 30 years later. If only that was the worst thing we could think of to hurl at someone when we are angry with them.

Mom also liked to tell about her days as a waitress when she was young. There was a young man who came in once a week like clockwork. In those days people were called retarded and she just assumed that was his affliction.

He always ordered allep pie meaning apple pie. Mom would serve him and speak to him for a few moments before moving on to her next customers.

One day a woman came in to thank everyone at the cafe for being so nice to him. The family had to institutionalize him and he would not be coming in any more.

Another time she saw customers sitting at the table who were being very animated while they talked. Their hands were going a mile a minute and they talked and talked.

When she went to the table to take their orders she decided to join in and waved her hands excitedly. To her chagrin she soon realized that there were people who could not hear at that table. They had been using sign language as well as spoken language to communicate.

I hope these examples demonstrate that things are not always as they seem. And especially that words have power. It is so easy to unintentionally hurt someone with a careless word. And all we need to do is think before we open our mouths. Think. Think.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Help Me If You Can

Do you try to make the world a better place? It is easy to do. The next time you see someone, smile at them. Usually they will smile back. You have given someone a smile. What a wonderful gift.

Of course if you have the time and inclination there are other things you can do. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is ill. Offer to go to the store for them. Or offer to straighten their house so they can rest. Or take them some nice hot chicken soup. Make them something cool to drink. Just think; with a minimal effort you can make someone's life easier.

When I was quite young polio was still a major threat in our country. The March Of Dimes was founded on the premise that if everyone would give one dime a cure could be found. My school had an even better idea.

Each child was encouraged to take a strip of scotch tape that was as long as the child was tall. Then place dimes side by side along the length of the tape. Then place another length of tape over the dimes to keep them from falling off. Those were our donations to The March Of Dimes that year. It was fun for us and we contributed to the cause.

Often you see the Candy Stripe girls and boys in places that offer medical care. It is the job of these people to take care of mundane tasks like delivering reading materials, refreshing water pitchers, and maybe fluffing a pillow or two. Sometimes they just provide some company for a patient who would like to talk. The tasks may not seem important but they are and they are time consuming. It is a lot of time that frees the nurses to do the duties they trained for.

I was a candy striper at a nursing home. I answered phones and read to patients. Besides being a help to the professional workers, I learned a great deal.

Another unpaid job I had was at the town's museum. The museum was old and had a lot of artifacts. It was located in a building that used to be someone's home. Historical items had accumulated over the years and they were piling up.

The museum placed an advertisement in the newspaper seeking people to help sorting, identifying, and cataloging all those items. I volunteered.

This was an interesting experience. I live in the Plains area of the United States. Often the area is associated with Indians. There were many tribes in my area and there were artifacts from them in our museum. Just learning what they were and how they were used was an education.

We had animal pelts. First of all they were so dusty! And we had to be careful handling them because they were so old so there was no shaking to rid them of dust. Likewise no vacuuming. I sneezed a lot when we ran across pelts.

I visited the new museum a few years ago when I was in the area. I was amazed at how many of the same items were still on display. I feel as if I were a part of history.

When I lived in the big city there were beggars on the street. Now to be fair some of them offered services in return for a hand-out. Some would position themselves at stoplights to wash your windshield in exchange for a bit of money, for instance.

But usually they just asked for enough money to buy a meal. If I have a couple of extra dollars I certainly feel like I could feed someone. I also know that many of these panhandlers will only use money to buy a drink. I feel better about a situation if I purchase a meal for them. Then they will get a bit of nourishment before the next drink. Not everyone agrees with me but it is my money after all.

A lot of my helping people revolves around food for some reason. I do not think that anyone should be hungry in today's world. I knew a woman whose husband had been arrested. To be honest I did not particularly like this woman. But she called me looking for some help. She was unsure how she would pay her bills and buy food.

I immediately went to my children. We filled a grocery bag with canned goods. I had a little m
 eat in the freezer and gave her some. She was surprised when one of my sons delivered the food. It seems that what she was actually looking for was money to go play bingo. So I was fooled! But I would do it again under the same circumstances so I do not feel bad.

The Salvation Army does some wonderful work. They help people in crisis situations such as if a house burns and people need lodging, food, and clothing.

The Salvation Army is actually a religious organization. Instead of the usual titles in a church the leaders have military titles.

You will see the pots for donations all over the place at Christmas time. They are watched over by bell ringers. The bell ringers are paid employees who usually make minimum wage. There is nothing wrong with that. These are people who might not have a job otherwise. The money from the pots is used to purchase items to ensure that people of small means have a decent holiday.

I worked as a bell ringer when I was a senior in high school. It was good money. But I did not consider that as helping others. I had a job and I earned money. It was not giving of myself.

Many years later I volunteered for a time helping to sort donated items in one of their stores. That time was, for me, not paid. I worked hard and I hope I helped make someone's life better.

One night/morning after work the drummer for the band I managed was hit by a hit-and-run driver as he was walking across the street to buy some cigarettes. For several weeks we were not sure whether he would live or then lived to be normal. Since he was a young self-employed musician he had no health insurance.

Musicians have a unique way to help each other. We organized a benefit. Besides the band he played for there were 6 or 7 other bands from the area happy to donate their time and music to help a comrade.

The bar the band played in agreed to allow the use of the bar. So we set a date for the benefit. We would serve food for a small fee and ask for donations. I approached businesses for donations of what we needed.

We got hamburger meat and hot dogs. Potato chips were donated. One of our favorite customers drove a delivery truck for Wonder Bread. He convinced them to donate the buns we needed as well as miniature loaves of bread that we used as prizes for games. A local bottler even donated cases of soda pop as long as we returned all the bottles. People are so kind if given a chance.

The proceeds from everything (except liquor sales... illegal) went to pay his hospital bills. So many people donated time as well as money. It was a wonderful success. The family of the drummer came to thank everyone. They were so gracious and grateful.

By the way our drummer made a complete recovery. Even the doctors were surprised. Do you think it was the outpouring of love that did it?

Remember that children need to be taught to give of themselves. Teach them to help neighbors with chores appropriate to the age of the child. Older people can always use some help mowing the lawn, scooping snow from the sidewalk, or pulling weeds. The relationships they build will be a bonus.

I am gratified that many schools are now requiring a certain amount of community service from the students in order to graduate. They recognize that we all need to pitch in to make a better place for others. So give someone a smile. You will both feel good.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


I pride myself for having memories of my past and the stories I have heard. I believe they are important to me, my children, and their children. You are what you come from. Knowing what you come from helps you to know yourself.

That being said I must tell about a part of my memory that is missing.

We lived for most of the summer and part of the school year in a small town. We lived in a big old house on the corner. We played a lot of hide and seek. I cut my arm and needed stitches because of hide and seek. My brother cut his leg and needed stitches while he was messing around the pile where my mother burned the trash.

We made a play house in the alley. There was a funeral home across the alley. They had set one of those big cement vaults in the alley for some reason. We painted it and fixed it all up so we could play in it. The funeral director thought it was cute and left it to us.

I used to walk up to the school I would be attending in the fall. I would stand right up next to the wall of the building and look up at the top. It made me dizzy.

The school had one of those old fire escape chutes on the outside. They are not allowed to use those any more. We would climb up as high as we could and then slide down. It was better than a slide at the park.

I remember all those things. I remember our house.

But I have no memory of going to school there. Absolutely none. Nothing.

I do not remember going into the building. I do not remember going home at the end of the day. I do not remember being inside the building. I do not remember walking in the halls. I do not remember my classroom. Nothing.

Now I remember all my teachers. I may not remember all the names immediately but I remember them.

I do not remember my teacher at that school. I was in the second grade so I am certain it must have been a woman. Beyond that I know nothing.

Why don't I remember? I do not remember.

Actually this is something that has puzzled me ever since I realized that I had no memory of going to school there. It is not like me to have a total blank about something but there is nothing there.

Sometimes when I think very hard about it and try to remember it seems as if a shadow of a memory races just out of sight. But I cannot be sure. It could be wishful thinking. If it is there it is not long enough to even leave an impression of what might be.

So you will never hear about any of the things I did in that school. No funny comments about class. No trouble I got into with classmates. No foibles of my teacher. Sorry.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The "C" Word

My father's mother had cancer. When the doctor discovered it there was really not much they could do to combat it. The doctor's best opinion was that she not be told. Then she could live her life with no worry.

Many, many years later other doctors decided to do surgery to see if they could cut out most of the cancer and let chemotherapy and radiation take care of the rest. When they made the incisions and took a look they just closed the incisions and said there was nothing they could do for her. Her body was full of cancer.

My grandmother died a slow agonizing death. I don't know that she was in pain as much as being alive in that condition is no way to be alive. Pain medications helped her deal with the pain.

My mother's father had leukemia which is cancer of the blood or bone marrow. He was such a big strong man all of his life. When he died he looked so frail. Again that was at a time there was little they could do to treat him. I loved him so much and it hurt to see his condition.

Many of my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have died of various forms of cancer. My youngest aunt who is just a few years older than me is struggling against leukemia. A few months ago the doctors told her it seems as if she is improving.

Over time treatments have become more sophisticated and more successful. Millions of people can be tested for all types of cancers. These tests can discover cancer or cancer dangers before it is untreatable.

Even if cancer is the diagnosis there are many different types of treatments. There is surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. Even diet and nutrition treatments are recommended. There are alternative therapies which are many times experimental. Try to find a doctor you trust and then listen to what the doctor recommends.

I realized when I was about eight years old that I would have cancer when I was older. Strange what children come up with. Well almost 11 years ago I had a routine physical and colon cancer was discovered.

I had been fighting against the colonoscopy. Just the thought of what had to be done was repugnant to me. First you drink this nasty strong laxative the day before. Before you drink it you can have nothing to eat or drink except jello, broth and clear liquids. Of course the laxative does what it is supposed to do and you spend a lot of time in the bathroom while it cleans out the area to be examined.

The next morning with still no food you go to be tested. After they put an IV in place they wheel you off to the room where the colonoscopy is done. In most cases the doctor will be a specialist who sets aside days to do nothing but colonoscopies.

An anesthetist puts you into a light sleep. The doctor inserts a camera and looks around at the lining of the intestines and colon. If any irregularities are seen biopsies are taken and sent to the lab. The lab checks for malignancies.

My first colonoscopy was done by my own doctor. It was just part of the routine physical. When the test was finished he came to talk to me.

The doctor began by telling me that he had found a couple of polyps. Then he lowered his voice to a sympathetic tone and tried to find a way to speak to me. Finally he realized that I understood. He came right out and said, "You have a cancer, " and let out a deep breath.

I said, "Okay. What do we do next?"

He said that he had almost missed the cancer. It was in a hard to see spot and he was just going to leave it but something made him go back to take another look.

An appointment was set up with a specialist. I got to go through the whole colonoscopy thing again in a couple of days. Yippee!

The specialist told me the same thing... cancer. My children were there. My youngest son had so many questions. Cancer is a scary word.

My only question was, "What are we going to do about it?"

Surgery was recommended. When did I want to do it? I told him that it might as well be as soon as we could set it up, thinking that there would be a backlog in the hospital.

This all happened on Friday. I had to go through the cleansing routine on Sunday because I was having surgery on Monday!

I called my boss. He was shocked and concerned. My son and daughter-in-law told their children. They were teenagers. My grandson sounded hurt and said, "Grandma Emma?" My daughter told her children who were quite a bit younger.

My oldest granddaughter drew a special picture in colored charcoals for me (She is a talented artist). It is a unicorn in my favorite colors. It still hangs on the wall in my room. The younger two grandchildren each sent me a stuffed animal (an elephant and a bear) to keep me safe.

When I awoke from the surgery the doctor told me they had cut out the cancer. It had perforated the wall of the colon and lymph nodes were taken to see if they were also cancerous.

I felt good and had a fast recovery from the surgery. I was only in the hospital for a few days. I was to be home from work for 6 weeks.

A few days after I went home I went to see the surgeon for a check-up. Basically he just wanted to talk. The tests on my lymph nodes showed no evidence of cancer.

Now I had another decision to make. Chemotherapy or no chemotherapy? Many people had chemo in cases like this just to make sure all the cancer was gone. Many decided to take their chances.

I felt good. I was certain the doctor had removed all the cancer. I opted for no chemo. It was a good decision for me.

Now after 11 years I am still cancer free. I am fortunate. Each case is different and should be judged on its own. Doctor recommendations should be seriously considered.

The cancer would not have been discovered if not for that routine physical. I had no symptoms and I felt good. If I had not listened to my doctor I might not be here today.