Sunday, July 30, 2017

Testament to Tammie

Friendship is something that happens quite accidentally. We can look for friends, try to be a friend, and be surrounded by friendly people, but there is something unplanned that leads to true friendship. If we are lucky enough to have a best friend, “one who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24), then we are doubly blessed! My relationship with Tammie began in high school.

High school is filled with young people trying to find their way to fit in. There are the popular ones, the brainy ones, the quiet ones, the kind ones, and the funny ones. I couldn’t make myself popular, but I could be helpful! Being helpful is symbiotic, benefiting both the giver and the receiver. Getting something obviously helps the receiver, but the giver feels important and needed. This became my place in high school, being helpful! I picked up dropped papers, opened doors, straightened desks, and so on. I was not popular but I had my place!

When Tammie arrived she was in a cast from neck to waist as a result of a recent surgery. I saw a need and was soon running defense for Tammie as she maneuvered from class to class, carrying her books and making sure she made it without being hurt in the bustling hallways. She was needy and I was helpful. We were both friendly but I was mainly fulfilling my role.

Our relationship grew to include activities outside of school and our roles continued unchanged for a while. I remained the helper, modeler, and leader giving advice, support, and transportation. Tammie was younger, less secure, and, because of her physical needs, more sheltered. She remained the receiver.

Time passed. Each of us married, the other at our side. We moved away and back and started families. Memories were built through letters and face-to-face. We became equals. I still gave, but Tammie was able to give back. She gave devotion, kindness, unwavering love and steadiness. She dealt with the constant limitations from spina bifida with humor and acceptance. Tammie started to give to me more than I gave to her.

Finally the spina bifida began to take its toll and she started declining more rapidly. Her grace and humor continued through surgeries, strained relationships, and physical deterioration. We talked on the phone nearly daily since I once again moved away. I traveled to visit several times a year. Near the end, Tammie struggled to carry on, but was tired and ready to go; ready to be whole again with her Savior. It was so hard to let go.

Tammie ended up giving back to those of us who knew and loved her in spades! We witnessed her life with all its ups and downs and we grew as a result. I am a changed person because of her. I miss her so and can’t wait to continue our relationship in heaven. Below is the poem I wrote for Tammie’s funeral.

Tammie’s Lessons

You arrived fragile, helpless, needy
We loved you, took care of you
We taught you to walk and talk
We taught you to play and laugh

You grew up slowly, through trials and pain
We helped you, nursed you, cared for you
We taught you to persevere, survive
We taught you to trust and mature

You blossomed into womanhood, marriage, and motherhood
You were a caregiver, teacher, companion
God taught you to be patient, giving
God taught you to be grateful and strong

Your body failed you, you grew weak
You were patient, selfless
You taught us to appreciate life
You taught us to be brave, loving and grateful

In the 70s

At my wedding

Cotton candy at the Dallas Zoo

At my grandmother's funeral

Tammie's wedding

Tammie's tea pot

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lelah's Life Lessons!

When I was young, I lived on a large piece of property on the outskirts of town. My neighbors were an older woman, Lelah, and her husband. I saw them now and again, but since our houses were separated by a large, lightly wooded field, opportunities for visiting didn't arise naturally.

While I was expecting my oldest daughter, Lelah's husband died unexpectedly. I felt a burden to look in on her now and again through this trying time. Soon Lelah and I had established a close relationship.

We continued to visit at least weekly during the early years of my daughter's life. Lelah taught me to garden, giving me a small patch in her garden to work. She babysat while I ran errands occasionally. We visited and enjoyed each other's company!

After a while Lelah's mother, Sally, came to live with her. Sally became my daughter's first best friend. She would ooh and ah over her and play silly games! When Sally died, that was a 4-year-old's first taste of death! She was sad and missed her friend, Sally.

Lelah and I looked after each other, helping when possible. She had no children and we happily filled the gap.

I started noticing that Lelah was forgetting words. She would point and say things like, "put it down over there on that thing, you know, where we eat!" in other words, the table. This continued for some time and we would just laugh it off. After a while I asked Lelah if she shouldn't see a doctor to see if she was developing Alzheimer's. She took my advice and came home with a positive diagnosis.

Things continued to deteriorate. Soon she was not able to drive, forgot how to cook, was not able to pay her bills and so on. Once I went over to find all of her pills dumped together in a big bowl. She was stirring them and told me she wasn't sure which ones to take. I started hiding a single dose of pills with a glass of water and calling her during the day to tell her where to find them. I got her signed up for Meals on Wheels. I went over at night to check on her after work, to be sure she had food to eat. I balanced her checking account, paid her bills, bought her groceries, helped with her laundry and so on.

One day I came home to a frantic phone message with Lelah calling out for help! I ran to her house and found her calmly watching TV. I asked her what was wrong and she told me nothing. I looked all over her house and finally started examining her body. There were several circular burns on her hand and lower arm where she had laid it on the hot burner! I called her family who lived out of town and told them Lelah could no longer live alone! They developed a plan for a family member to move in and share her home until the time came where she had to be moved to a nursing facility.

Throughout the later stages of her dementia, Lelah remained calm and happy. I remember one of my last visits where she was coherent enough to have a slight conversation. She told me, "I don't know who you are, but I like you!" That was heartbreaking, but comforting. She had held on to her joy, right up to the end.

What did I learn from this? I learned that happiness has more to do with attitude than circumstance. Lelah was never sad or distressed over her situation. She laughed at herself when she did silly things or forgot words. She didn't feel sorry for herself, but pressed on. Up until then I had thought about old age with a certain foreboding. Now I look on it as just another step in life. As a Christian, I know something far better waits at the end. Lelah taught me to be brave during the journey!

Lelah, Bethany and me at Easter

Purse and gloves Lelah gave to me 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Beeladee: Accidental Honey Harvest!

I have been quite lax in my hive inspections this year. I decided this cool fall day would be perfect for a slow-paced, thorough inspection.

I opened the hive to find the ladies quite laid back, going about their business and paying no mind to me. 

My method of inspection is to pull all the bars of comb over to the left and inspect as I carefully place them back in place. I was about four bars into moving the comb when I saw that things were not quite right!

There was a whole bar of comb attached to the front, bottom, and back of the hive! I soon found that it had originally fallen and the bees just built it all in place. I went about removing this piece, placing it in a large bowl, covering it with a round tray. 

The bees then were a bit more riled up, although not as hot as I would have imagined. I continued my inspection. 

I was nearing the right wall when I noticed another comb had fallen! This one was fixed in place as was the last and even more full of capped honey! 

I had a time getting it out without if falling completely apart. I added it to the bowl. Several bees were becoming stuck in the honey. I shooed out as many as I could and covered the bowl.

As I finished my inspection I noticed there was a lot of capped honey and uncapped syrup. I saw a little brood, but not as much as I would have liked. Since the hive was upset, I decided to quickly close up and inspect again in 2-3 weeks. 

I put the bowl of comb, honey, and trapped bees in the freezer as this was the easiest way to deal with the situation. 

A couple of hours later, I removed the comb and began to break it up in a strainer bag. Upon warming up, several of the bees began to wake and move around. When finished, I took the bowl out next to the hive for the bees to clean and for the girls' sisters to lick the honey off and free them from their sticky situation!

Strainer set up in an out of the way place
so the honey can continue to drip from the comb

Crushing the comb to allow the honey to flow out

Bees cleaning up the leftover comb and honey

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I am an Attractive Older Woman!

In Texas, we now have a combined inspection/registration sticker. You must get your car inspected, then provide a unique number of proof from the receipt. I recently received an email that I had only a week left before my registration expired (I had forgotten about the first notice!) I immediately left to get an inspection, knowing there would be some time before the registration sticker arrived in the mail.

At the inspection place I was told the wait would be about 20 minutes and was directed inside to sit in the air-conditioned waiting room. As there was no one at the counter, I took a seat with two other men also waiting. As an employee came in, another man entered the building and approached the counter. I walked up and announced that I was next in line. The man who entered said he felt he was next. The employee stuck his head out the door and yelled to the young man who had directed me inside, "Who's next?".

The young man (I'll call John), yelled back, "An old lady!" Well, I could feel the warmth moving up my neck into my face. I knew I was the only woman in the place, so obviously this was me! I sat and waited my turn, trying to see the humor in this all, but feeling a bit shocked. The last man in, trying to alleviate my discomfort, announced that he was older than I and age was just a number.

Soon John entered, telling me he was finished. I approached the counter, smiled, and stated, "John, I am not an "old lady", but an attractive older woman!" He colored and apologized. We finished the transaction with small talk and I was soon ready to go.

As I pulled away, the shock of the comment continued to sting. I do have a lot of gray hair of which I often pull back out of the way. I am in what is called the "youth" of old age, but old age none the less. Should I color my hair and dress more carefully, or just accept myself with humor and grace? I am working on the latter. It may take some time!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Christmas in July" or "Birds vs Tomatoes!"

I feel my "freeze setback experiment" was a success. Even though my tomatoes ripened a couple of weeks after most others in this area, they did come back from dead-looking sticks and I did not have to start over with new tomatoes plants! Now for the next garden challenge: how to keep birds from pecking the tomatoes....(grrr...)

I read about the idea of putting plastic red Christmas balls out before the tomatoes turn red. Birds peck on the balls and lose interest in visiting the ripe tomatoes later. Next Christmas, I will buy a few to put in with my garden supplies. As it is, I have no red plastic balls to use as decoys. I found myself having to harvest earlier and earlier to get the tomatoes in before the birds started pecking at them. 

One evening while working in the garage, I noticed a box of various colored Christmas garland that had missed being put away in the attic. I decided the various sparkly colors might be a distraction from the juicy red tomatoes. I strung the garland all around my tomato cages, securing the ends with tie wraps. 

After a week, I have had no tomatoes that have been pecked on! My garden also looks very festive! If this works, I will pack the garland away with my garden supplies instead of in the attic!

Update: It's been a couple of weeks now. The garland has been a partial success. Smarter birds (like Mockingbirds) learn the tomatoes are there and go back to look. I think birds in general are still distracted by the shimmers and color. Someone suggested hanging old CDs (DVDs) around. I think I will save some of those as well as get red plastic Christmas balls for next year. I'll be packing this garland away in my garden supplies this fall as part of my spring bird deterrent! 

Festive Garden!

I will leave this one a little longer
to prove or disprove my experiment.
Normally it would be snacked on by now!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Freeze Setback; Opportunity for an Experiment!

While I do enjoy the fruits of my labor, my garden is for relaxation and enjoyment and I try to never stress over it. I take precautions in the cases of freeze or hail. Afterwards I just work with what is left and move on. This year is a good example of that.

I started my plants indoors in a makeshift greenhouse.
I draped a curtain over the bakers rack to retain heat from the window.

I prepared for a freeze that happened the week after I put my
plants out by putting pots and buckets over the new plants.
Unfortunately, new plants were severely affected by the freeze!
Knowing how tomatoes send out new leaves at the joints,
I decided to continue to water the damaged plants.
All but 4 tomatoes and peppers are have either recovered or
are sending out leaves at the joints!
It seems that this year's tomatoes and peppers will be an experiment. I will allow them to grow and note how they do. I'm interested to see whether the plants will be hardy after this setback.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Senior Discount!

There is no magic number representing "old age". Usually it is a state of mind or a reality of arthritis. One deals with the dawning of this idea over time. It creeps up and slowly you adjust. When thrust upon you it comes as a shock!

My shock started this way: I went to Bealls to shop. I had not been in some time. As I approached the check-out, I was asked to produce my Senior Discount Card! I stammered that I didn't have one and was politely asked if I wanted to sign up! The sales clerk "reminded me" that I would get 20% off since I came in on Tuesday! I barely heard her comments as I was mulling over this new info.... what was the magic age of a discount at Bealls: 55, 60, 65? How old did I look to this lady?! She hadn't even asked to see my driver's license!

The idea that this was an isolated incident, perpetuated by an unobservant sales lady was soon shattered! I was at a local tire dealership getting some long-needed work done on my car. Minutes dragged into hours as I watched infomercial after infomercial on the TV in the waiting area. Finally hunger drove me next door to the Taco Bell. I ordered a couple of small items to tide me over until my car was finished and sat down to eat. Soon the cashier showed up with an empty paper cup. She told me that I'd forgotten my cup. I accepted, but was a bit puzzled. Soon I approached the cashier and told her that she must be mistaken for I had brought my own water and hadn't ordered a drink. She told me that it was for my free "senior" tea! I'm not sure if the shock showed on my face, but I felt it! MY SENIOR TEA! There it was....obviously I look like a senior citizen!

I've decided to embrace the new "senior" me! I've actually looked up senior discounts on the internet and found I do qualify for some. During a recent trip to Whataburger, I boldly approached to counter and ordered my free cup of coffee. Sadly I wasn't carded, and it was handed over with a smile. I guess the new "senior" me is here to stay! Now, where did I put my keys?!

       We celebrated the 100th day of school by dressing as old people. 
  One of my students asked me why I was dressed up since I 
 was already old! I told her that I wasn't 100 years old!
(photo used with permission)