Love and Loss

In just the past week, a friend in Mobile and my brother both lost their beloved pets…and when I say “lost,” I mean the dogs passed away. If you’ve never had a pet, you likely think “beloved” before the word “pet” is odd. But if you’ve had pets, you get it.

Growing up, we always had pets…mostly dogs. We had a cat once, but it was a stray that stayed outside. I was too young to remember its arrival, but my mother told me we named it Valentine, because it showed up on Valentine’s Day. We had lots of dogs along the way, and no matter what breed they were or how much of a mutt they were, we loved them all. After I got married, we got an Airedale Terrier and named her Annie, even though I wanted to name her Fannie, after a college roommate. My husband wouldn’t go along with the name “Fannie,” but later, he said he wished we had named her Fannie. I was crazy over that dog.

Annie helped me get through morning sickness (or all the time sickness) in the first trimester of pregnancy. She was a big dog (about 80 pounds), but when I would lie in bed with nausea, she would get in bed next to me and put her warm back against me. She was the only dog I had as an adult who I knew would put her life on the line for me. And I knew she would. She was not aggressive, but she was very protective, and I was grateful for that, especially when my husband was out of town.

My brother didn’t call me and tell me about his dog’s passing. His dog, a beautiful Weimeraner named Amos, was his sidekick. I woke up yesterday to a text message from a family friend, Jane, who told me, “Amos is gone.” I must have gasped audibly, because my husband asked me what was wrong. I called Jane immediately, and she told me Amos’s health had declined rapidly, and he had passed away during the night. We sat on the phone and cried together, and after we hung up, I texted my brother. I couldn’t call him, because I couldn’t stop crying. He didn’t need to listen to me blubber.

My friend in Mobile who lost her dog called me a few days before my brother’s dog died, crying hysterically, after her dog was hit by a car. She lives on a busy road, and the dog had jumped the backyard fence. She had fostered the dog after she found him wandering somewhere. We always laugh that she’s a “bleeding heart.” After her dog passed, she said to me, “I just love too hard!” She said she had resolved she wouldn’t do that again, because it hurts so much when she loses a pet, but she can’t help herself.

I remembered something Dr. Seuss said about love, “A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses. To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Isn’t that the truth? My brother was certainly the world to his dog, as my friend in Mobile was to hers.

Here’s the thing…yes, it hurts to lose those pets we love so much, but the joy they bring us outweighs that pain. I cried for a month when we lost Annie, but now, six years after her death, I mostly remember the good stuff: her fighting off the scary snowman, her happiness when I came home, how she drooled like crazy when she saw me get out the peanut butter jar, her floating on the pool lounge, and her unconditional love.

And sometimes I have to remind myself  the same applies to people. Yes. It’s totally worth it to put yourself out there. I’m 52. I’ve loved friends along the way. No, I’m not talking about boyfriends, but yes, I had boyfriends when I was young. Do I regret loving any of those people along the way? No. Most of those folks are still my friends, but some are no longer my friends, and I certainly don’t have any boyfriends. Even though a few friends are no longer in my life for whatever reason…their fault, my fault, or no one’s fault…I’m glad I loved them. I’m even glad I trusted them. Here’s why: if they were my friends, there were some “roses” along the way. Sure, there were thorns, but I know we had some “roses” along the way. And no matter what, I learned something from every relationship…sometimes learning more form the thorns than the roses. And don’t get me wrong…sometimes I presented the thorns, no doubt. All my relationships, the great ones and the failures, have contributed to my life. In fact, because of that, I don’t hold grudges. I wish all those people well.

So right now, during this coronavirus, I’m making a point to reach out to some folks I haven’t talked to in a while. Because, yes, there will be some thorns, but the roses are glorious!

 

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Vacation can do a mind and body good. I just returned from a few days on the beach, and I feel rejuvenated. I felt worry-free for a week…almost.

But before we went, my teenage daughter was about to drive me crazy checking the weather. Every time I turned around, she was checking the forecast for our destination, and she kept announcing to me that it was supposed to rain every day of our vacation. Finally, after days of hearing it, I said to her, “Keep checking the weather if you want, but knowing the forecast isn’t going to change it. There’s nothing we can do about it, because we are going.” She knows I’ve preached a million times about worrying and how it can just eat you alive. She knows we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.

In my youth, I was a worrier. Somehow, in college, I managed to change all that. I don’t know what happened, but at some point, I realized all that worry was just a big waste of time and energy. Truly, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of something, I should turn over all that worry to God. In fact, worrying is sinful. We are supposed to cast all our worries on the Lord. That’s one way to stop worrying…realize it’s sinful.

If you’re worrying about something you can control…like an upcoming college exam…stop worrying and do what you can to control it. What can you do? Study! Meet with your teacher! Become prepared. If you are prepared for something you can control, then worry should go out the window.

My daughter got into the car one day after school and told me she was afraid she had messed up a test she had taken that day. She had a pained look on her face. I looked at her and said, “Stop worrying about it. It’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it now…let’s celebrate the fact that it’s over.” She laughed, but she knew I was right. I’m not always right…many people will tell you that…but on this matter, I was right. We went to get ice cream to celebrate the fact that the test was over.

As for the vacation, once we got there, my daughter stopped checking the weather. We had mostly beautiful, sunny, worry-free days while we were there. In fact, I can’t think of anything vacation-related that worried me. I did have a couple of aggravating moments when our accountant kept messaging me about tax-related stuff…not what I wanted to discuss while I was on vacation. I’m thinking my husband should have asked him to wait till after I was home. I’ll need to remind him of that next time.

Other than the tax stuff, I could have been walking around singing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I was very happy, and somehow I’ve managed to be very relaxed even after returning home. Since we were in swimsuits most of the day, I haven’t had tons of laundry to do. I’m still in vacation mode, in fact.

My mother was a worrier. Daddy, not so much. I like to think I’ve broken the familial cycle of worrying passed down by my mother. My brother certainly isn’t a worrier. Generally, we’re the kinds of people who “cross that bridge when we come to it.” We just don’t sit around worrying about what could happen, what people think, or negative outcomes. Sure, I worry about my daughter, and if there are health issues with anyone in my family, I worry about that, but I had an uncle who once explained it this way: worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things. If there is something that is out of my control, and I find myself worrying about it, I give myself ten minutes to ponder it. After that, I hand it over to God and forget about it.

Wise words from my uncle. Personally, I like that approach, and it’s the approach I choose to take. Don’t worry, be happy. And if you are having trouble with it, download Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry Be Happy to your playlist and enjoy. It will help.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

 

 

The Moon Belongs to Everyone

The moon belongs to everyone…the best things in life are free.

That line is from the song, The Best Things in Life Are Free, which was written in 1927 for the musical, Good News. I wrote it down a few weeks ago when I was watching an episode of Mad Men in which the ghost of one of the characters, Bert Cooper, sings the song and dances in front of Don Draper. It’s one of the most memorable scenes from the series. You can see the clip from Mad Men here.While I was on vacation this week, I was reminded of it.

We were in Cancun for Spring Break, and every night, the moon was glorious over the water!img_1689-e1553395245246.jpg

Years ago, my parents lived near Mobile, Alabama. I live in Charlotte now and lived here then too, but whenever there was a beautiful moon high in the sky, Daddy would call me and tell me to walk outside and look at the moon. We would talk on the phone while staring at the exact same object while we were hundreds of miles apart.

Daddy died in October of 2006. That night, as I drove from my parents’ home to our bayside condo, I looked up at the moon in the sky and thought, “Daddy will never see the moon again. He won’t be here to see anything that happens after this date.” It made me sad to think about that, but it was also comforting to know that every time I looked at the moon, I would think of him.

After Daddy died, my brother started referring to a big, full moon as Big Ken’s Moon. Both our parents are gone now, but every now and then, my brother will send me a picture of the moon high in the sky, and I know he and I are thinking of Daddy at that same moment.

When my brother was helping with cleanup efforts after a tornado wreaked havoc on his town in Alabama, he sent me a picture of the moon in the background while the were working. I knew what he was thinking…Daddy was with him in spirit.

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Moon over tornado damage. Big Ken’s Moon

Yes, the moon does belong to everyone, and yes, the best things in life are free….including that moon. You know some more great things in life that are free?

  • Sunshine. Yep, it’s free. It warms us up and helps flowers grow…and it’s free!
  • Love…also free. I love my family and friends, and I expect nothing in exchange for that love. It’s free.
  • Faith. Faith is free. I won’t get into the meaning of faith, but if you have it, you know  you have it…and it’s free.
  • Rainbows. Also free. Walk outside after a storm. Sometimes you’ll find a rainbow. God’s promise…it’s free.
  • Laughter…free. Nothing makes me feel better than laughter. Having a good laugh is “the best medicine,” and that medicine is free.
  • Hugs…hugs are free, and somewhere I read that hugs help lower blood pressure and decrease stress.

There are lots more great things in life that are free. Get out there and enjoy some free stuff. I’ll be looking for the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Moon Belongs to Everyone

The moon belongs to everyone…the best things in life are free.

That line is from the song, The Best Things in Life Are Free, which was written in 1927 for the musical, Good News. I wrote it down a few weeks ago when I was watching an episode of Mad Men in which the ghost of one of the characters, Bert Cooper, sings the song and dances in front of Don Draper. It’s one of the most memorable scenes from the series. You can see the clip from Mad Men here.While I was on vacation this week, I was reminded of it.

We were in Cancun for Spring Break, and every night, the moon was glorious over the water!img_1689-e1553395245246.jpg

Years ago, my parents lived near Mobile, Alabama. I live in Charlotte now and lived here then too, but whenever there was a beautiful moon high in the sky, Daddy would call me and tell me to walk outside and look at the moon. We would talk on the phone while staring at the exact same object while we were hundreds of miles apart.

Daddy died in October of 2006. That night, as I drove from my parents’ home to our bayside condo, I looked up at the moon in the sky and thought, “Daddy will never see the moon again. He won’t be here to see anything that happens after this date.” It made me sad to think about that, but it was also comforting to know that every time I looked at the moon, I would think of him.

After Daddy died, my brother started referring to a big, full moon as Big Ken’s Moon. Both our parents are gone now, but every now and then, my brother will send me a picture of the moon high in the sky, and I know he and I are thinking of Daddy at that same moment.

When my brother was helping with cleanup efforts after a tornado wreaked havoc on his town in Alabama, he sent me a picture of the moon in the background while the were working. I knew what he was thinking…Daddy was with him in spirit.

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Moon over tornado damage. Big Ken’s Moon

Yes, the moon does belong to everyone, and yes, the best things in life are free….including that moon. You know some more great things in life that are free?

  • Sunshine. Yep, it’s free. It warms us up and helps flowers grow…and it’s free!
  • Love…also free. I love my family and friends, and I expect nothing in exchange for that love. It’s free.
  • Faith. Faith is free. I won’t get into the meaning of faith, but if you have it, you know  you have it…and it’s free.
  • Rainbows. Also free. Walk outside after a storm. Sometimes you’ll find a rainbow. God’s promise…it’s free.
  • Laughter…free. Nothing makes me feel better than laughter. Having a good laugh is “the best medicine,” and that medicine is free.
  • Hugs…hugs are free, and somewhere I read that hugs help lower blood pressure and decrease stress.

There are lots more great things in life that are free. Get out there and enjoy some free stuff. I’ll be looking for the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Rescue Story (2 years later)

****I first wrote this story on February 10, 2018, but today, January 30, 2020, is the second anniversary of “the homecoming,” so I’m sharing it again. It makes me happy.****

Eight years ago, when my mother lost her Jack Russell Terrier, Sissy, to heart failure, she needed rescuing. I mean my mother needed rescuing. Daddy had died three years earlier, and Mother missed him terribly. So now, she was missing Sissy too. She needed company, so after a few months, she went to the local animal shelter.

FullSizeRender-28On that fateful day, it happened there was a young female Jack Russell Terrier who had been picked up and brought in by animal control. There was a hitch: she had only been there a couple days, so they had to hold her for two weeks to see if anyone claimed her. Mother waited. She called me and told me about the cute, little, white terrier with brown spots. Mother said she was a muscular little dog with lots of energy. She told the people at the shelter she would take the little terrier if no one claimed her. She was excited, and secretly, she was praying no one would claim that cute little terrier. She waited two weeks.

September 14th rolled around, and Mother went back to the shelter. The cute little terrier was still there, and since no one had claimed her, she was available for adoption. It seemed fitting that the cute little terrier, which Mother would name Sam, went home with Mother on Daddy’s birthday. Mother gave Sam a home, but really, Sam rescued Mother.

The two of them were together almost every single day for eight years. As long as she was able, Mother would throw the ball in the backyard for Sam. They “talked” to each other. They sat out on the back porch together. When company came over, sometimes Sam would run and hide under the bed, but she didn’t realize only her head was under the bed, and the rest of her wasn’t…just like  a two-year-old, “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me.” She made Mother laugh. She rescued Mother.

Mother died December 30. She fell on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Sam saw her fall. I’m sure Sam saw the EMTs carry her out. I’m sure she was confused. Heck, I’m still confused; I wish Sam could talk and tell me exactly what happened. For a few days, Mother’s friend/caretaker, Lois, would go feed Sam and visit with her some. When we realized Mother wasn’t going to make it, my aunt and cousin were with me at the hospital, and they offered to take Sam from Alabama to Florida to another aunt. (I would have loved to keep her, but we have three non-shedding dogs at my house, and my husband’s allergies can’t handle shedding.)

Sam is ornery, doesn’t adapt well to change, and she must have been scared and confused. She couldn’t get along with the aunt’s dog. My cousin, Patti, found her another home…and another. She was loved at the last home, but because of her shedding and her running into the road (a lot of acreage but no fenced yard), after a month, the lady couldn’t keep her.

Patti called me and told me she was looking for another home for Sam. I immediately texted my brother, whom I affectionally call “Brother,” and said, “We need to bring Sam back to Mother’s house.”   Because he lives near Mother’s house and would be responsible for her, I held my breath, thinking he might text back a firm “no.’

To my surprise, his first response was, “Maybe.” I knew, if Sam went back to Mother’s, she would have lots of company and be loved, because my brother stays there sometimes, my nephew was planning to move into the house, and friends visit all the time. Most of all, Sam would be comfortable. I typed back, “We can pay someone to come clean the house once a week.” Brother typed back, “Yes.”

Next, I texted, “I think Sam would be so happy.” He immediately responded, “OK.” Yippee! I promptly called Patti to start arranging Sam’s homecoming. I relayed messages between Patti and Brother, and they made it happen.

Patti called me after picking up Sam from her most recent temporary home, and said, “Sam went absolutely wild when she saw me!” Patti used to visit Mother and Sam a lot, and Sam is crazy about her. I could hardly wait for Sam to see Brother. A week ago, Brother met Patti at the halfway point between their cities and picked up Sam.IMG_8703.JPG

Sam was as excited to see Brother as she had been to see Patti. She and Brother’s dog, Amos, don’t always see eye to eye, but when she saw Amos in the car, she was even excited to see him! The three of them drove back to Mother’s house.

Brother called me after he got Sam home and said, “She was so excited. She ran into the house, and then she ran and ran and ran around the backyard.” He said, after a little while in the house, things got too quiet. He thought Sam had escaped. (She loves to slip out the door and go for a run if she can.) He looked in the bedroom, and there was Sam, piled up on the bed, sound asleep. It was probably the best sleep she’d had since December.

Mother would be happy to know, this time, we rescued Sam. She’s home. She’s comfortable, and she’s happy. I haven’t even seen her since her return(I live 400 miles away), but every time I think about her homecoming, I cry. I’m crying now.

We rescued Sam. I engineered it, and Brother and Patti made it happen. My nephews love her dearly, and she loves them.

Give your dog an extra treat today.

***Two years later, Sam is living a happy life with my nephews in my mother’s old home, and she is enjoying lots of love and exercise. She gets lots of attention and lots of visitors. My nephews take great care of her, and my mother would be thrilled to know Sam is living a happy life in her home.***

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One Year

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. One year. And I have felt it at all the times I would expect to feel it, and I have felt it when I least expected it.

I didn’t sleep at all last night, staring at the clock, thinking of Mother.

I lost my daddy 12 years ago, so I gained some coping skills from that, but grief is grief. It’s going to happen, one way or another. I have been able to keep moving forward more than I did when Daddy died, but I’ve had moments.

I miss her all the time. She gave good advice. She had a calming demeanor. She wasn’t perfect, and she would be the first to admit that, but she was the perfect mama for me and my brother. I never knew exactly how much she loved me till I had my own child.

When do I miss her most?

I stayed in bed most of January. Friends brought meals, and I gave myself permission to give in to the grief for one month. After that, I rejoined the living. Here’s when I’ve missed her most:

  • Every time I’ve gotten in the car. I used to call her and talk (Bluetooth) every time I drove somewhere. Living 400 miles away, I didn’t get to see her all the time, but I called her all the time. I’ve almost called her a thousand times since.
  • When the Alabama Crimson Tide won the National Championship in January, she would have been thrilled. I missed her then…even cried that she missed it.
  • In February, my parents’ wedding anniversary rolled around on the 18th. They married in 1961 on my maternal grandfather’s birthday. Every year, on their anniversary, we would talk about their small wedding and how her Aunt Ola came through to pull it all together. And we talked about her daddy…truly one of the most patient, God-loving men who ever lived.
  • I missed her when my cousin, Patti, was searching for the perfect home for Mother’s dog. In the end, everything worked out, and Sam, the dog, went back home. It worked out the way it was supposed to, but I missed Mother, because I knew she loved Sam, and Sam loved her. I’m sure Sam still wonders about Mother, but she is living a happy life with my nephew in Mother’s home.
  • In March, we vacationed with my brother and his family.  Mother would have loved how much we laughed. She loved when we were all together. We missed her.
  • During our daughter’s eighth grade basketball and lacrosse seasons in winter and spring, she would have wanted regular updates. When something exciting happened, I always wanted to call her.
  • My birthday is in May. She always laughed at how excited I get about my birthday. Nobody loves a birthday like I do, and she would start singing to me days in advance. Missed out on that this year.
  • In the summer, our daughter traveled to Iceland for two weeks. It was not easy for me, but she needed to do it. Mother would have suffered along with me during those two weeks. She would have called me every day, asking about updates from the trip leaders. She also would have been happy my husband and I took our own vacation during that time…visiting South Florida with my brother and sister-in-law. And Mother would have been as excited as I was when our daughter was back on US soil.
  • I also had an eclectic garden in the summer…growing tomatoes, corn, and sunflowers, all favorites of my parents. She would have been amazed at the success I had. I wanted to call her daily and tell her about it.
  • As summer came to an end and school sports teams tryouts came around, she would have suffered through that with me too. Our daughter, a freshman in high school, tried out for varsity field hockey on August 1. I sat in my car, waiting for my daughter to come out after the tryout… to find out if she made the team or not. I wanted to call Mother, but since I couldn’t, I called my friend, Jane, who said all the things she knew my mother would have said. Our daughter made the team, and they won the state championship! I wish Mother could have seen her play.
  • When one of my brother’s sons visited us in Charlotte, I would have loved to share photos with Mother. And when the other one started a new job, a job that can lead to something real for his future, I know she would have been thrilled.
  • When I met Dominique Wilkins, former NBA superstar, in a restaurant several weeks ago, I got in the car and dialed Mother’s number before I realized it. She loved sports and would have loved my photo with Dominique.
  • Any time anyone in the family has gotten sick, I’ve missed Mother, a nurse. Two weeks ago, after an allergic reaction to a manicure (who knew?!?!), my hands broke out, and I sneezed for two days. A couple of days later, I woke up to find an enlarged lymph node in my neck. Fortunately, my pharmacist sister-in-law calmed me down. The next day, I went to the doctor, just like Mother would have advised. She would have called checked on me a few times a day. The node was enlarged because of an infection…viral or bacterial…and yes, it went back to normal after a few days.
  • And the holidays. She would have loved our family gathering at my brother and sis-in-law’s lake house. We all laughed, played games, told funny stories, and ate too much. Mother would have loved it.

I miss that tiny little firecracker of a woman. Occasionally, people who knew her will tell me something I said or did brought back memories of her. If only I had her gift of calm listening.

Now…if you still have your Mother, call her or give her a big hug right now.

 

 

 

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My Nephews Are 21 Today

My nephews are 21 today. Obviously, they are twins, but they are two very different people…more on that later. I simply cannot believe they are 21 today. Come on…21 is an age that is easy for me to remember, even though it was 30 years ago. So it’s very difficult for me to believe these two young gentlemen are full-fledged adults…full-fledged adults.

How did we get here so fast?

I remember when they were born. I remember when they were afraid of Santa…and Cookie Monster. Their mother and I took them to see Cookie Monster when they were about three, and they were so excited on the way to Uptown Charlotte. They were even excited when we got there. But when it was their turn to sit on Cookie Monster’s lap…wow. Just wow. They freaked out. I have a photo somewhere, but I wouldn’t embarrass them by sharing it. You just have to trust me when I say it’s hilarious.

I remember how my brother would call me and tell me about their accomplishments…in fact, he still calls and tells me about their accomplishments. He calls me to tell me about nice things they have done for other people. They’re good boys.

My parents were crazy about them, but my daddy was insane over them. When we were growing up, he traveled with work, and he worked hard, so he wasn’t around as much as he might have liked. But he retired when the boys were little, so he was able to enjoy them. He loved playing ball with them. He loved having Easter egg hunts with them. He loved placing orders with them when they played waiter. He loved how they loved to run to the trunk of his car, because they knew he would have surprises for them. Of course, Mother helped him get the surprises, but he got full credit, and Mother was OK with that. She enjoyed watching him enjoy them. And Daddy always loved leaving them with WAM (walking around money) after visiting with them.

They were crazy over Daddy too. They were heartbroken when he died in 2006. He was larger than life to them, and they knew he loved them dearly. He would be proud of the young men they have become.

One has mad artistic skills. He was blessed with great athletic skill, but that was not what he wanted to do. Now that he is in college, he is pursuing art, and we couldn’t be more proud of him. He is smart. He is handsome. Sure, I wish he would get a haircut, so everybody can see how handsome he is, but I accept the hair (even though, the last time I saw him, I jokingly threatened to cut it in his sleep). And here’s why: he is one of the most genuinely kind people I know. He and a friend were in Charlotte a few months ago, and they were looking to rent some scooters in Uptown. They finally found some, but before they could get to them, a homeless gentleman struck up a conversation with my nephew. Instead of rushing off to the available scooters, he stood and talked with him…and missed out on the scooters. He also “adopted” my mothers’s dog, who loves him dearly. That’s who he is.

As much as that nephew has mad artistic skills, his brother has mad speaking skills and mad writing skills. This nephew has cerebral palsy, but he doesn’t let it stop him from doing what he loves. He’s also handsome and kind. As a little boy, he loved baseball, but he realized his love for baseball would not manifest itself in playing the sport. He knows more about baseball than anyone else I know. I was at a Pittsburgh Pirates/Chicago Cubs game, and I started texting him about the game. He knew about each player, warning me the third baseman for one team would likely make an error soon. And he was right! He took that love for baseball to the press box and earns money announcing baseball and softball games. He writes sports pieces for a local online publication and works in publications for the city. 

I love them them both, and I love the men they are becoming. They survived childhood, the teenage years, and some hiccups along the way, but they’re going to be OK. They’re going to be great. My mother died last December, but she was so proud of them, and she’d be even more proud now. And Daddy…well, he would be bursting with pride.

And he would still be giving them WAM every time he saw them.

Happy Birthday to my nephews…you’re full-fledged adults.

A Southern Boy Turns 50

I wish I could remember the day my parents brought my brother home from the hospital, but I can’t. I was seventeen months old, and I was angry. According to Mother, I avoided her and wouldn’t talk to her when they came home. I’m not a silent-treatment kind of person, but apparently, I was then. My life had changed forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a change for the better. See slideshow:

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Today, that baby brother turns 50. I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want to celebrate him.

Growing up, we were polar opposites. Mother used to say, “No matter how long you were outside…five minutes or two hours…you came back in clean, and he came back in dirty.” He was all boy…snakes, snails…you get the picture. I was all girl. He was always funny; I wasn’t so funny. I made mudpies, but he made mudpies to have a mud fight. I hated to get in trouble; he didn’t mind getting in trouble. I was a rule follower; he was a rule breaker. I evaluated situations before getting involved; he threw all caution to the wind. I wanted to do well on standardized tests; he wanted to make patterns with the dots on standardized tests.

When we were kids, Brother (I call him Brother, and he calls me Sister) loved playing outside. And I mean he loved it. He loved fishing, hunting, baseball, basketball, getting muddy, Tonka trucks in the dirt…if he could be outside, he was happy.  He was always athletic. I think he could ride a two-wheeled bicycle before he was three; the neighbors in Brewton were amazed. He played baseball with the older boys in the neighborhood. He fished in the neighborhood lake. When we moved to Spanish Fort, he would talk me into going through the bamboo to the creek behind our house…where I once saw a gigantic rattlesnake swim past; I ran home and never went back after that, but he did. I would still venture into the bamboo with him, so he could show me green snakes eating frogs or black snakes slithering by, but I didn’t go back to the creek.

Daddy spent countless hours throwing a baseball with my left-handed brother. Oh, I was so jealous that he was left-handed; it got so much attention. We all had fun together, but Brother and Daddy were a team. They were both funny and appreciated each other’s humor, but Daddy was more serious and cautious than Brother.

Because he has always been adventurous and funny, there are stories. Oh, the stories! One of my favorites is about a phone call Daddy received one night when Brother was in ninth grade. It was from a teacher whose class I had been in two years before, Coach Long. I had always behaved very nicely in his class. And then along came Brother. That night, Daddy picked up the phone, and Coach Long said, “Mr. Parmer, I sure hated to have to call you.” I’m sure they exchanged pleasantries before Coach Long told him the purpose of the call. “Mr. Parmer, your son is a leader, but he’s leading my class in the wrong direction (emphasis on the first syllable..DI-rection).” Uh-oh. Uh, yeah…. Brother was in big trouble. Apparently, he had been quite the class clown during Coach Long’s class. For the rest of the school year, I had to visit Coach Long every two weeks and ask him if Brother was behaving correctly. He would laugh, and I would too, but Brother behaved well for the rest of the school year, and he and Coach Long developed a mutual respect for each other…later becoming friends.

When Brother was 14, Mother drove past a local church and saw Brother driving a friend’s car…doing doughnuts in the parking lot. When she asked him about it later, he told her everything was under control…he knew how to drive…at 14. Apparently, he had been driving a friend’s car…frequently…big trouble. Another time, after he could drive legally, he and a friend drove a truck into a construction site. It was a weekend, so no one was there. They drove the truck down a steep loose-dirt hill and then couldn’t drive it out. Daddy borrowed a truck with a winch to pull them out…more trouble…and a lecture about responsibility and self control. “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.” I know about the lecture, because I sat quietly at the top of the stairs and listened.

Brother is a lot of fun, with a contagious laugh and a sometimes warped sense of humor.   But Brother’s not all fun and games. He’s a licensed airplane pilot and skilled boat captain. He’s strong in a crisis. He helps folks on a regular basis and expects nothing in return. Over the years, he has helped stranded motorists on interstates and back roads; helped people move; and more. When we were young, we looked out for each other and felt each other’s pain. If someone slammed Brother’s fingers in a door, I cried. Mother told people when we were little that if something happened to her, since Daddy traveled with work, my 17-months younger brother would take care of me. We’ve been through life together. We’ve lost both parents together. Everyone else may not get us, but we get us. We are connected.  All his humor hides a big heart.

That class clown is all grown up now; he’s still an overgrown little boy, but he’s 50. He has a beautiful wife; two handsome, smart sons; and three awesome bonus sons. I’m lucky he’s my brother. Have there been times I’ve wanted to wring his neck? Yes. Have there been times I’ve needed his support? Yes. Now that both our parents are gone, we know it’s even more important to support each other. We talk almost every day  and often call each other with silly trivia questions.

I’m lucky my parents brought that baby home 50 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brother!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Drive

As our daughter’s 15th birthday approaches, so does the excitement about the driver’s learner permit. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s nerve-wracking at the same time.

It’s a lot more difficult to get a driver’s license now than it was when I was a teenager. Our daughter doesn’t even have her permit yet, and we’ve already had to jump through some hoops.

In North Carolina, there are lots of moving parts to getting a learner’s permit. If no one tells you the different steps, it can be rather confusing. I’ve had to ask multiple people a million questions throughout the process, so hopefully, this will help some of you. This has been our process:

  • Register for Driver’s Education at age 14 1/2, if it isn’t offered in your school. (see bottom of page for contact info for three companies)
  • Send in payment for course.
  • Attend course and pass written driver’s ed test.
  • Go to the DMV for the eye test (if the company doesn’t offer it)
  • Schedule the driving portion of Driver’s Ed.
  • Complete the practice driving (six hours) with instructor.
  • Obtain proof of enrollment form from school.
  • Go to DMV on or after 15th birthday for written test and permit…take birth certificate, form from school, completed Driver’s Ed form, and Social Security card.

If I didn’t have friends who reminded me of things to do throughout the process, my poor daughter probably wouldn’t be on her way to getting her permit in a couple of weeks.

She completed the classroom/written test portion of Driver’s Ed the first week of June, getting it out of the way. She had to be 14 1/2 to enroll in the course. We then had to wait till about a month before her birthday to schedule the driving portion of the course. She had the first of two three-hour sessions this past Saturday, and she said everything went smoothly.

Anyone who has ridden with a new driver knows it can be nerve-wracking, but the only way to learn is through practice.

When the instructor arrived at our house, she told me that she usually stays in the neighborhood for the first two hours, and she never takes anyone on the highway in their first session. I wasn’t worried. I knew our daughter was in good hands, so I was very relaxed while they were gone. Plus, my daughter has practiced driving me around on private roads for months.I knew she would do well driving the instructor in the neighborhood.

When my daughter got home three hours later, she said she thought she had done very well, and she did go on the highway. She said that after they drove around the neighborhood a couple of times, the instructor said she was ready to get out on the open road. First, they practiced some parking skills at a nearby parking lot, and then they got in the interstate! Yikes! I love interstate driving, but some people hate it. I asked my daughter what she thought of it, and she said she liked it. Near the end of the lesson, they drove to pick up the next student driver and came home. She has her next session this weekend.

I’m excited for her, and nervous for us. I remember when I was learning to drive. It was exciting thinking about the freedom that was coming my way! I’m sure she feels the same way, but first, we have to make sure she knows what she’s doing. We have a year to help her practice to get her prepared.

It was a lot easier when I as a teenager. We took Driver’s Ed at school, and then when we turned 15, we could test for our learner’s permit. That was it. I don’t even think we had to show any proof that we had taken Driver’s Ed. But Driver’s Ed at school was fun. We had driving simulators. They were nothing like real driving, but they were fun!

Drivers-Ed-simulator-2

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

I remember some of the driving mistakes I made early on when I was learning to drive. My poor Daddy. Our house was at the top of a hill, so if you backed out of our driveway in one direction, you were backing a little downhill on the road. One day, with my daddy in the car, I forgot to put the car into Drive after backing out, and I stepped on the gas pedal, sending us speeding down the hill backward! Somehow, Daddy stayed calm, and I got things under control. He probably never wanted to drive with me again, but he did. Another time, I stepped on the gas instead of the brake as we turned into a street. And somehow, we survived it.

I’m sure when Daddy was teaching my brother to drive, it was much less stressful for him. My parents had caught my brother driving a friend’s car when he was just 14, so there’s no telling how much driving experience he really had when he got his permit. It wasn’t funny at the time, but Daddy laughed about it years later.

Later, after I had my license, he taught me to drive a manual transmission on a Jeep we had…another adventure, but not one my daughter is likely to have, since so few manual transmission cars are made now.

So our adventure in driving is about to begin. It’s difficult to believe. I remember when our daughter first started walking, and we said she didn’t have walking around sense. Will we feel the same way about her driving?

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DRIVING SCHOOLS IN CHARLOTTE (I’m only listing companies my friends have used):

Helms Driving School…Website:   http://www.helmsdrivingschool.com/Services.html

Jordan Driving School…Website:   http://www.jordandrivingschoolcharlotte.com

Faulkner Driving School…Website:   http://faulknersdrivingschool.com/about-us.aspx

 

 

 

 

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The Bad News Bears Were Our Babysitters

Earlier this week, someone posted a video clip on Facebook. It was a clip from The Bad News Bears, a movie that was released in 1976. And oh, how that one short clip took me back in time. Not familiar with the movie? You can see the trailer here.

When I was a little girl between the ages of seven and ten, the movie theater was my babysitter. Many Saturday nights, our parents would drop off me and my younger brother at the local movie theater. Sometimes it was a double feature, but I think that was with the less popular movies. The local theater was a Mom and Pop operation with one screen. No megaplex. Just one screen, and they showed first run movies, usually a different one every week. The only one I remember showing for two weeks was Jaws in 1975, and yes, I was eight, and my brother was six when we saw it.

Our parents never did any “pre-screening” of any of the movies. As long as it wasn’t rated R, we went, and we loved Saturday nights at the movies!

In 1975, our favorite movie was Jaws, and our favorite in 1977 was Smokey and the Bandit, which was released on my tenth birthday…both rated PG, and both inappropriate by today’s standards. I saw Smokey and the Bandit again last year, and there is no way that movie could even be made today.

Between those great movies, there was The Bad News Bears, released in 1976. It was rated PG, and every kid wanted to see it. IMDb.com sums it up saying, “An aging, down-on-his-luck ex-minor leaguer coaches a team of misfits in an ultra-competitive California little league.” It starred Walter Matthau as the coach and Tatum O’Neal as Amanda, an 11-year old girl with mad pitching skills. The movie’s language is bad; it’s completely and utterly politically incorrect, and the coach is a drunk, but the team of misfits pulls together. If it were released today, lots of parents would freak out at the political incorrectness, language and mature content. Heck, there might even be an uproar, but it was a great movie from my childhood. I don’t remember anybody’s parents making a big deal about it. Back then, there wasn’t a PG-13 rating, so everything that wasn’t G or R fell into the middle category, PG. This movie would have been a PG-13 by today’s standards. We loved The Bad News Bears.

MPW-90219

Yet somehow, The Bad News Bears stands the test of time. There are lots of movies that just aren’t as good 40 years after they’re made, but this one is just as funny and heartwarming to me now as it was in 1976, because despite the political incorrectness, it’s a story of people coming together. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen it over the years. I purchased the DVD a couple years ago and watched it with my daughter. Sure the language was inappropriate, but the rest of it…the beer cans, drunk Buttermaker (Walter Matthau’s coach character), the drinking/smoking/motorcycle riding guy named Kelly Leak who would become a part of the team…well, my daughter was as surprised as I was when I watched it in 1976, but she liked the movie. And Tatum O’Neal was so darn cute. The movie stands the test of time, though, because it wasn’t a glossed-over, Leave It To Beaver version of childhood. Somebody, somewhere was actually living that childhood.

While lots of people would think The Bad News Bears is a terrible movie for kids now, people didn’t worry so much about stuff like that in 1976. Heck, we could ride our bikes all over the neighborhood, as long as we were home when the streetlights came on. My parents were buying themselves some date time by dropping us at the movies, but we were also getting an education. The Bad News Bears is set in Southern California, a place I’d never visited at the time. It was about a little league baseball team of misfits that was sponsored by none other than Chico’s Bail Bonds. While those of us who lived in South Alabama could relate to a baseball league, I didn’t know anyone like Amanda (Tatum O’Neal’s character), who sat on the side of the road selling maps to stars’ homes. That seemed fun and exciting to me. Add in the fact that she was a female, 11-yr-old, pitching dynamo, and I thought she was awesome. She was still feminine, yet that team of boys needed her. There was a lesson of “girls can do anything boys can do” in there, and there was a big message about teamwork and friendship.

When I was a kid, we all talked about the characters and even had favorites. If I said something about Tanner from The Bad News Bears to someone my age today, most people would immediately know who that is. Say the name Buttermaker today, and everybody my age knows who that is. I just tested that on my brother. I texted him and asked, “If I say the name Buttermaker, do you know who that is?” He immediately texted back, “Bad News Bears.” And any time one of us hears Bizet’s Carmen Overture, we think of The Bad News Bears, because an adaptation of it was used as the theme song.

So, while lots of parents would never watch The Bad News Bears with their children, I allowed mine to watch it, inappropriate or not. Truthfully, I had forgotten how terrible the language was, but we watched it anyway. Language aside, maybe she saw a glimpse of life outside her bubble. Sure, some of the characters were over the top, but the overall theme and message in the movie was a good one. I mean, really…who can forget the scene near the end of the movie where Tanner tells the Yankees, who have just defeated the Bears in the championship, what they can do with their apology and their trophy? And little, mousy Lupus tells them, “And another thing! Just wait till next year!”…as he pours a beer over his teammate’s head.

The Bad News Bears was well-received by audiences and critics when it was released, even winning a Writer’s Guild of America Award.

I never dropped our daughter at the theater when she was younger than 12. Times have changed since the 70s. Kids aren’t as free-ranging as they used to be. Now that she’s a teenager, she meets friends at movies occasionally. They check movie times on their phones and purchase their tickets in advance online. At some theaters, they reserve their seats in advance. I wish we could have done that in the 1970s. And I wish we’d had those big, reclining seats too.

Back then, we had to call a pre-recorded message line (from our landline phones!) to hear the title and movie times. It was along the lines of, “Thank you for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema. Today is June 1st. Our movie this week is Jaws. Showtimes are 4:00, 7:00 and 9:30. Admission is $1 for children under 12 and $2 for adults. Thank you again for calling the Eastern Shore Cinema.” Here’s how often we called that theater line…I still remember the telephone number…more than 40 years later. And the floors were sticky. Everyone drank sodas back then, and there were no cupholders at the seats, so when they spilled, the soda would run down the sloped floor of the theater, making a long, sticky, soda line. Y’all remember…

So, cheers to The Bad News Bears and all those great 70s movies that could never be made in 2018. They were great babysitters, and they were educators too. They don’t make ’em like they used to. We learned a lot about life from those “inappropriate” movies, and we haven’t become ax murderers…shocking, I know.

Wish my little brother and I could share a beer with Buttermaker.

***To see a clip of one of the best scenes from the movie, click here.***

***Want to see some of the oldies but goodies mentioned in this blog? Amazon Prime has lots of them! Go to Amazon here and in the search box, enter the name of the movie you’d like to see.***