Connie and Pearls

Just a quick thought to share. The other night at our New Horizons Book Club meeting at Connie’s house, she and I somehow got on the subject of pearls and their lustrous beauty. The gist of our conversation is basically that we enjoy wearing and looking at pearls of all kinds, shapes, and colors because of what they symbolize to us.

Not mined like diamonds or other valuable gems, a pearl is produced out of “irritation.” Somehow a tiny particle of sand  gets into an oyster, and to protect itself, the oyster secretes a substance similar to mucus. This substance builds up about the sand and hardens into a beautiful pearl.  With us, our irritants (hassles, stressors, lack of resources including time, frustrations, the “peeps” in our lives, etc.) have the ability to make us lovely…something worth remembering the next time someone or something gets on our absolute last nerve!

By the way, we (Connie and I) even like fake pearls because of what they symbolize. Although I’m fortunate enough to have a strand of the “genuine article,” I LOVE a long strand that I got from Target because of its versatility and length. Wearing it reminds me that lots of irritations (many pearls) develop versatility, flexibility, and strength.

ABC’s of Life

My friend Connie gave me this wonderful marble plaque the other night, and I like it so much that I decided to share its message with my fellow and sister bloggers.  After I get through copying the 26 admonitions (might to be too strong of a word?),  the plaque is going right back to its perch on my kitchen window sill so that I can be reminded of how I should be living.

Accept differences.
Be kind.
Count your blessings.
Dream.
Express thanks.
Forgive.
Give freely.
Harm no one.
Imagine more.
Jettison anger.
Keep confidences.
Love truly.
Master something.
Nurture hope.
Open yhour mind.
Pack lightly.
Quell rumors.
Reciprocate.
Seek wisdom.
Touch hearts.
Understand.
Value truth.
Win graciously.
Xeriscape (I had to look this one up and am happy to report that we’ve been practicing this lately).
Yearn for peace.
Zealously support a worthy cause.

Isn’t this a neat list? While the phrases are short and simple, each is fraught with meaning and could easily elaborated upon. Who would like to go first?

Marjorie Ann

Last night Debbie W. and I dined on tacos and burritos and talked about our mothers. That seemed a natural thing to do since we were celebrating our birthdays, and these fine ladies brought us into the world. Debbie’s in the position of being able to care for and spend time with her mother, and she realizes her good fortune. Her words: “Not many people get to take care of their mothers, and I’m going to savor every minute of it for as long as I have her with me.”

As the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death approaches, I find myself thinking of her more as the years go by rather than less. Crazy, huh? I envy (but not in a resentful way) Debbie’s daily contact and conversation with her mother, and this morning I find myself thinking of what I’d say to Margie if she were here. I’d  like to ask her what to wear to a wedding that I have to attend in three weeks, what she thinks about Paul’s lovely girlfriend, and how she likes my enormous sunflowers. And about that wedding, since she knows the mother of the bride, she’d remind me to say hello to “Little Ella,” her term of endearment for my friend.

More importantly, no one but my mother would appreciate the delightful beings that my children have become. She and my father both had “their finger on the pulse” in that they knew my children’s strengths, attributes, shortcomings, dispositions, traits, and abilities, and we were able to chat about any and everything related to them. This, incidentally, was true of all of her grandchildren, for she loved them all.

With Braden, her great grandson, beginning four-year preschool this week, I’d LOVE to talk to Mama about his being such a big boy and about his mother Carrie. She was once just a little preschooler herself, and my mother would not only remember that, but she would also listen to me prattle about it and then add her own memories. A phrase she often used was “get a charge,” and I know she’d “get a charge” out of Brooke’s fireball personality and her desire to go to school with Braden. And Emma? She’d melt Mama’s heart just the way Carrie did 32 years ago.

What a gal! And how fortunate I am to have had such a mother.

Louisa’s Legacy

Last night we had a great meeting of the New Horizons Book Club at Cindy’s house. She chose Wish You Well by David Baldacci, and although I was a little lukewarm about reading it, I ended up enjoying the novel, especially the author’s descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains and their beauty. Sunrises, sunsets, starry nights, streams, flowers, birds, waterfalls, and many other of God’s creations were so well described that I found myself thinking about them even when I wasn’t reading the book. Connie had recently visited Virginia and attested to the awesome grandeur of the terrain.

After Cindy gave us some information about Baldacci and his motives in writing the book, she led us in a discussion about the book itself. After twenty minutes or so, it seems that all of us were talking about our families, especially ancestors who had impressed us. We know a little more about each others’ forefathers (and mothers), some of whom wore red petticoats, worked on the chain gang, found a wife through a “lonely hearts” correspondence, and traveled cross-country with four children ON A BUS. We shared family stories and all agreed to think more about our ancestry and to work more diligently on journal writing.

Thanks to Louisa, Lou, Oz, Eugene, Cotton, and Diamond, eight women are now giving more earnest thought to their legacies: the ones they have received and the ones they’ll be leaving. Have I mentioned that one of my grandmother’s name was Mary John? There’s a story behind that, and maybe by next month’s meeting, I’ll have learned about it.

Dream Weaver

Carol, a.k.a. Dream Weaver, is a great department chair. She keeps us in line, hates whiners (she told us that today in no uncertain terms), and conducts memorable meetings. At today’s meeting we were treated to an entertaining and thought provoking power point slide complete with pictures, quotes, music, and information about each of us. Before this morning I didn’t know that Tim was terrified of heights or that Joey has developed his own barbecue sauce.

Carol is also a fabulous cook, and at least a couple of times a year, we’re treated to some of her culinary creations…like the shrimp and grits casserole this morning. What a mouth watering experience that was! This morning she went even further beyond the call of duty in that she provided a miniature chocolate birthday cake, complete with candles. All twenty members of the department sang “Happy Birthday,” and I now think of the meeting as a party of sorts.

We got things done, and our minds are full of information about retention, advisement, graduation rates, and annual objectives. At the same time, we all feel a little closer to each other, and I think (know) that it’s largely due to Carol and her many efforts on our behalf. Towards the end of the power point, Carol inserted a photograph of some of us at Lisa’s wedding and included the words from the Beatles’ “In My Life.”

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my live I’ve loved them all…

Though I know I’ll never lose
affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them…

Great combination meeting/birthday celebration. In fact, I’m going to change that to “Life Celebration,” for I feel that that’s what we were doing. I just hope all of us can remember the lesson we were taught by our fearsome (oops, fearless) leader and that we’ll take heed to her last quote by Jonathan Swift: “May you live all the days of your life.”  

Happy Birthday Brittany

I learned Sunday that Brittany and I have the same birthday (40 years apart), and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. That afternoon I asked my husband, “Where have those years gone? How did they pass so quickly?” Very practical and no-nonsense, he replied that I’d been getting an education, raising children, and working. “That’s not what I mean,” I lamented. Where have the Friday nights gone? The weeks preparing for Christmas? The summers on the beach?  The years of chauffeuring children hither, thither, and yon? In other words, have I been sleepwalking? How has my life gone by so quickly? Yesterday I was outside with my siblings trying to catch fireflies, and today I’m reading books to my grandchildren.

I’ll do some more pondering on this topic, but today I’m going to look at manageable segments, like ten years. When I reflect on the past ten years, I see that there have been changes, transitions, gains, losses, milestones, disappointment, accomplishment, sadness, heartache, and well, pretty much the same things that happen to everyone.

Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane. Since August of 1997, I’ve lost both parents, gone through a divorce, earned another degree, remarried, left a job and area that I LOVED, relocated to the midlands of SC, secured a teaching position at another community college, saw both daughters receive their teaching degrees, saw one of my daughters marry the love of her life for time and eternity, experienced the thrill of holding four grandchildren and four step-grands, survived the two years while my son was serving on a two-year mission in Mexico, published another book, sold a house and bought another, left old friends but have met scores of new ones, and participated in ten marathons and/or half-marathons. It makes me pause and wonder what’s next.

Happy Birthday to Brittany and Jayne. Let’s vow to savor every minute of our short, precious lives. Let’s also consider these immortal words from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t’ stop to look around once in a while you could miss it.”

Leave Day Lesson

Determined not to become a Walter Mitty, I took a day of leave before plunging into the fall semester. It began at the track with a three mile walk with Joyce, progressed with a day of shopping with Elizabeth, and ended with a light repast with Otis in our newly painted dining room (Russet 5). In some ways it was a typical summer day, but in others it was especially special because I seemed acutely aware of all the good stuff going on in my life.

First, there’s Joyce. She’s always a pleasure to walk and talk with. As we go around and around and around the tree lined path, we share confidences, offer advice, give encouragement, and provide insight to problems and situations. She is ALWAYS able to see the presence of Heavenly Father in her life, and it’s refreshing to chat with someone who’s so in touch with the divine.

This morning I told Joyce about a book the book club discussed last month, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Autobiographical, the book told of the author’s childhood which was “challenging” to say the least. Raised by eccentric, intelligent, but neglectful parents, the author and her siblings were what psychologists would call “resilient.” Despite poverty (or perhaps because of it), the Walls children learned to be resourceful, strong, and motivated (seems like an inadequate word, but I can’t think of another at the moment). For instance, Jeannette hated her teeth but knew that braces were out of the question so she engineered some of her own. Rather than have her classmates see the holes in her pants, she painted her legs with a marker that matched her pants. Instead of going hungry, she scavenged through trashcans. Once, they even ate butter.

Anyway, it’s a great read, and I recommended it to Joyce. But get this. Moments after talking about the hardships of the Walls family, I mentioned to Joyce that I had tons of work to do before leaving to meet Elizabeth in Florence. There was laundry to attend to, and what a drag it was to wash, dry, fold, iron, and put away clothes! Plus, there were a few dishes in the sink from the night before when my sweet husband had helped himself to brownies and ice cream. After my “chores,” then I had to take a quick shower before meeting Elizabeth.

Joyce listened to all of this without interrupting, and suddenly it hit me that I was being impossibly ungrateful. The Walls family had few changes of clothes, and the few garments they owned came from thrift stores. Forget washing, drying, and ironing them. You’ll have to read the book to learn how ingenious the children were in that department. Brownies and ice cream? Never. Pinto beans were standard fare. I don’t recall the family taking too many warm showers; in fact, when living in West Virginia, the author dreaded the spring because that’s when people really began to notice how “rank” they were.

Before I left Scott Park this morning, I had a new attitude. I’m grateful for clothes, warm water, soap, electricity,  an air-conditioned home, and a reliable Camry that enabled me to drive a comfortable 50 miles to meet my beautiful daughter.

Random Act of Kindness

As I write this, there’s a woman heading home to Montana who will probably reach into her purse and wipe her hands with a scented towelette from Bath and Body Works. There are others scattered from south Georgia to the coast of South Carolina who are cleaning their hands with foam soap or perhaps applying antibacterial hand cream to soften and scent their hands. Some are using cotton blossom while others prefer brown sugar vanilla or perhaps more of a fruity scent like peach or pineapple.

What all of these good-smelling gals have in common is their benefactor, a student who knows and practices the lessons behind “random acts of kindness.”  Because of his kind letter and gift card, I was prompted to “pay it forward” and follow his example by using the card for surprise gifts for these ladies. I think AG would approve of that gesture, and I’d like to think that Willie Mae, Judy, Shirley, Ann, Carrie, Elizabeth, and Amanda will now emulate his generosity as they “pay it forward.”

Baker’s Dozen of New Friends

Grades for the summer semester were due at noon today, and my department chair just thanked all of us for getting them in on time. I’ve been at the college for five years…actually five years and nearly three months. Before moving here, I was a little apprehensive about the change. I knew very few people and dreaded (no, hated) leaving the beach. In a sense, I moved inland “kicking and screaming” all the way. I knew I’d miss my friends and the familiar haunts of the coastal region. Still, here I am at the end of yet another semester, and this afternoon I find myself reflecting on some of the people I’ve come to know in the last five years.

  1. Carol-department chair and classy lady who keeps us in line while managing to show compassion and understanding when needed
  2. Martha-English teacher with a flair for story telling and author of Getting Maisie Married, a great piece of Southern literature
  3. Lisa-history instructor who recently re-wed her first husband and invited all of us to the wedding and reception
  4. Laurie-perky, pretty psychology instructor who’s gone on to what I hope are greener pastures (she’s currently teaching at a college in GA)
  5. Mark-psychology instructor, photographer, potter, whittler, and #1 co-diner at Cut-Rate
  6. Myles-psychology instructor, electronic wizard, and former tennis pro
  7. Jim-Spanish and religion instructor, loving husband, and doting father
  8. Scott-yet another psychology instructor who now goes by the appellation of  “Dr.” and resides in central Florida
  9. Connie-member of my “tribe,” fellow Christine Kane enthusiast, compatible shopping buddy, and bibliophile
  10. Dorothy-fellow (or should I say sister?) church member who has a unique British accent and an indomitable spirit
  11. Cindy-member of two of my clubs, New Horizons Book Club and M.O.M.s
  12. Telene-one of my “sisters” with a double dose of spiritual strength and a recently renewed zest for living
  13. Chuck-speech instructor par excellance who’s even now pacing the classroom down the hall trying to think of ways to improve his classes.

I often tell my children (and anyone else willing to listen to my prattling) that all strangers are potential friends, and this list proves it. My list is larger than this; these folks are just the ones who’ve popped into my mind this afternoon. Makes me wonder who else is out there.

Catbird Seat

catbird-seat.jpg

Martha’s a great storyteller (no wonder she’s the author of Getting Maisie Married), and last week as she described a restaurant scene about her family, she mentioned the term “catbird seat,” a phrase I haven’t thought much about. After hearing her use it in the context of her story, however, now I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m truly sitting in the catbird seat and am happy that Martha’s linguistic skills reminded me of it. I live in the best state of the best nation on Earth. I have a great job that enables me to associate with people who are interesting and stimulating. A few of them are co-workers; others are students. As a teacher, I actually get paid for doing things that I love: reading and sharing ideas with others. I have a caring, considerate husband; three responsible, conscientious, funny, smart, good-looking children (a little maternal bias); four great step-children; three grandchildren (all adorable): four step grandchildren (also adorable); siblings that make you want to stand tall and their talented, supportive spouses; other assorted relatives who share my DNA; many in-laws; great friends from several walks of life; and currently the continued health, strength, and good sense to savor and appreciate it all.