Christmas Anticipation, Secrets and Magic 12/06/09

A few days ago I received the Advent Calendars I ordered for our grandchildren. The Advent Calendar is of the Angel Tree that appears every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in New York City. You can visit their Web site at http://www.metmuseum.org/store.
New York is an awe inspiring and fantastic city to visit. Everywhere you look there is something great and wonderful to see. But, at Christmas time, it is just downright magical. It is just the most magical city one could ever visit at Christmas.
The Angel Tree is one of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. I’ve always wanted to go back to NYC and tour the Museum of Fine Art again; hopefully, during Advent to see the wonderful, magical Angel Tree.
A few years ago I discovered that the daughter of an acquaintance had been employed as one of the directors at the Museum and her first assignment was to oversee The Christmas Angel Tree. What a magical moment to discover someone so delightful was overseeing that beautiful Angel Tree.
The magic of Christmas can be found in the most unlikely places, events, traditions and customs. We all know that Santa has a magic watch. It has countries on the face instead of numbers. He just sets the hands a half turn back and the world stands still. Then, in that magical time he makes his special flight across the globe visiting every home and heart in just one night.
My youngest called me on Thanksgiving to wish me happy birthday and unabashedly told me I am old as dirt and could even qualify as an antique.
I responded by reminding him that age is just a state of mind. He simply
said I state my mind quite often. At my age I consider that to be an earned privilege. He also reminded me of past Christmas shopping trips and his anticipation as I hid and wrapped presents. I would close my bedroom door and hang a sign on it that read “Santa’s Workshop.” Then I would set the work table up in my walk in closet.
My four children would listen, giggle, whisper and try to catch a glimpse of what was going on behind that magical door. My daughter was inquisitive and a take charge type child. She seemingly always had to know everything that was going on, especially at Christmas. She had one particular trait that drove us all crazy. She wouldn’t leave the Christmas presents alone. She had to shake, rattle and roll each one of them.
The last straw came the year she opened and rewrapped each of them. Santa initiated a new policy the following year. Instead of finding their names on each present, they found numbers. Each family member was given a number and no one knew their number until Christmas morning when they found it in the toe of their Christmas stocking. Daughter got the message and knew the consequences would be dire if she dared open any presents before Christmas.
My six year old son asked, “Mom, does anyone besides you know what number is mine?” “No,” I replied. He said, “Ummm, what if something happens to you before Christmas? How will I know what number is mine?” I told him it was part of the magic of Christmas.            Anticipation, secrets and magical moments are all part of the mysteries of Christmas. Hmmm, I wonder if anyone besides The Mr. knows what my number is this year.

 

JULIA 5/23/09

It’s a common occurrence at our house to lose or forget things. Just as sure as the sun rises and sets somewhere on this planet every day, something will be lost or forgotten at the Heath household.
There are times when temporary brain glitches occur such as not being able to remember a person’s name. We simply refer to these as our “senior moments.” But, sometimes these can become indicators of much more serious problems.
If you saw the movie, The Notebook, starring James Garner and Gena Rolands you know something of what happens to a couple when one of them is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. It can be devastating.
This happened to some friends of mine. Bill was a large man both in stature and character. He played football for The University of Mississippi and was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Upon graduation he played six seasons in the NFL, three for the New York Giants (1951-53) and three for the Philadelphia Eagles (1954-57). He caught 114 passes for 1,573 yards and 14 touchdowns in his NFL career. He also played with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League in 1960.
On November 30, 1952 Majure Blanks “Bill” Stribling, Sr., caught a 70-yard TD pass from Tom Landry, the Hall of Fame coach for the Dallas Cowboys. It was the only touchdown pass Tom Landry threw as a professional football player.
Julia was an attractive strawberry blonde airline stewadess; tall and slender with all the charm of a true Southern Belle. It was during one of her flights that she met Bill.
Theirs was a story book romance that began in the 1950’s. They had a whirlwind courtship and after his pro-career they moved their family to Rogers, Arkansas.
Bill and Julia were devoted to each other and their family. Life was good for them. He began his own packaging and display company and Julia kept busy with family and volunteer work.
But in later years their life took a bittersweet turn. A few years ago Julia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Bill was determined that she remain in their home. In the latter part of 2006 her condition worsened and she was moved to an assisted living care center.
Adding to their personal tragedy is the fact that their son’s wife, who is in her mid-forties, recently suffered a stroke and is still in therapy struggling to recover.
Sometime during the night of August 22, 2006 their life’s story ended on a sad note. Bill passed away quietly in his sleep.
Hundreds of people attended Bill’s funeral, but Julia wasn’t among them. You see, the light is gone from Julia’s eyes and she has no recollection of the tall, handsome man she married nor of the children they had together.
We can fly to the Moon, land on Mars and wage war with high-tech destructive weapons. When will we find the cause and cure for this disease that robs people of their most precious possession and totally destroys their personal identity?

ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE 4/10/09

Every 70 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Various news agencies have shown how Alzheimer’s disease literally turns families upside down. Not only is it one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose, but it is also one that is very painful to watch as it destroys the mind of the individual who has been diagnosed with it.
One of my readers emailed me regarding Alzheimer’s disease and how it has affected his life. He told me his wife of 50 plus years is in the third stage of the disease and invited me to visit them in their home.
I accepted the invitation and had a very memorable visit with them. He shared some of the sad incidents that occur on a daily basis. One minute he will have glimpses of the woman he fell in love with and married; another minute that woman becomes someone he doesn’t recognize at all.
As we sat at the kitchen table, I noted he had labeled each cabinet door with its contents. He said his desire is to make things less confusing for her as he tries to keep her in their home as long as he possibly can.
She often locks herself in the bathroom and screams because she cannot get out. She sees her beloved dog, who died three years ago, walking in the snow and she goes out barefoot to bring him inside. She talks to people who are not present, but she sees them sitting beside her.
He told me she has rare lucid moments that occur when she sits down at the piano and the music seems to flow from deep inside her.
This is one of the most tragic diseases that attack the elderly today. Older people who deal with other diseases at least have the hope of comfort and a possible cure. Right now there is little hope for those who are stricken with Alzheimer’s disease.
Consider this: It is November, 1901 in Frankfurt Germany when a man appears at the psychiatric hospital with his 51 year old wife. The woman has no family history of mental illness, although she is suffering from a multitude of symptoms including memory loss, being irrational while performing routine tasks and having sudden outbursts of anger.
The man explains that he can no longer provide adequate care for her and he leaves her at the hospital. The next day one of the doctors asks her to tell him her name and she quietly responds, “Auguste.” She responds with the same answer when he asks her last name and the same answer when he asks her husband’s name.
The doctor then speaks her name and asks her to write it down. As she takes the pen in her hand, she becomes disoriented and asks him to repeat the name. He does so and she writes the first two letters and becomes very frustrated. She puts the pen down, looks at the doctor and in a whisper she says, “I have lost myself.”
He becomes so interested in her illness that he studies her in depth and documents his findings until she passes away four years later. His name is Alois Alzheimer and hers is the first documented Alzheimer’s case in history.
It is estimated that 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, double the number since 1980. These frightening statistics will only increase if the cause and cure for the disease cannot be found. Interestingly, the letters used in the Hebrew word for “forgetting”
are the same as in the Hebrew word meaning “darkness.”
It must be very painful to watch as the light of memory dims for loved ones who can no longer find themselves.

VACATION TIME 5/28/11

School’s out! School’s out! Teacher let the mules out! Such was the chant of days gone by. The last day of school in the Saint Vrain Valley School District was May 26 this year. This means vacation season has begun. By this time each year parents are so ready to pack the kids up and go somewhere—anywhere away from home for a respite.
Even though the economy is showing signs of improving, it’s still going to be a challenge to find great vacation spots on the cheap. You really don’t need to look much further than our beautiful state.
Trying to juggle the likes and dislikes of all family members can be exasperating to put it mildly. Susie wants to go to the lake; Joey envisions hiking the fourteeners; Sally would rather just stay home and read; And Jimmy just wants to make life miserable for everyone, especially Susie and Sally. Yep, I’ve been there; done that.
Sometimes I think the idea of togetherness on a vacation scares the willies out of some people. They would have to spend real time together as a family and do things like eat together and maybe even talk to each other.
Most of our vacations were spent visiting the grandparents and the children slept most of the way. We didn’t have such things as Ipods, cell phones, text messaging, laptops, or in-car television. They could only look and talk with each other. Bummer! You can bet they knew at all times exactly whose turn it was to sit in the front seat. It really sucked to be a teenager in the ‘old days.’ The daughter won the lucky draw to be first to sit in the front seat on one such trip.
Shortly after our departure her ‘stinky’ brother took his big fat wad of bubble gum and smushed it into the back of her long hair. It was probably the closest we ever came to witnessing an actual murder while traveling. I was worried none of us would survive the catastrophe.
Rubbing ice on the gum didn’t help the situation and we were stuck with a sulking teenage daughter for the next 500 miles. Upon arriving at the grandparent’s home we headed to the mall where she found a salon and had to have her hair cut short. We were reminded every hour of every day of our vacation that her life had been totally ruined. Not only was she bald; no one would be friends with her ever again.
The family did survive somehow and her hair eventually grew long again. They have each grown into adults and have the excitement and joy of going on vacations with their families. Paybacks are such fun!
Climbing, hiking and camping in the Rockies sounds like a wonderful family outing. But beware! A few years ago in July some friends of ours traveled from Phoenix with their family to do just that. After a weekend of rain mixed with snow and listening to their boys complaining about freezing to death, they packed up and went back home to warmer weather.
Vacations are only as good as you make them. Short trips close to home can be fun and less stressful, especially if you have a Plan B to fall back on. By all means remember no matter what problems or challenges you encounter, there is life after vacation after all.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? 6/17/08

Almost all my life people I’ve met along my life’s journey have called me by a name other than the one that I was given. I really think a person’s name is a very special gift given to them by their parents. We don’t ask for or have any say as to what moniker we want to be known by. Our name is a gift bestowed upon us when we are born.
Many people I’ve encountered tell me I remind them of someone named Dorothy. Others just call me Dorothy as they think I look like my name should be Dorothy. “Gee, you look like a ‘Dorothy,’ they say. It’s not that I object to the name of Dorothy. It’s just that I really like to be called by my given name.
My mother had no idea she misnamed me. She actually gave me her best friend’s name as my middle name. I didn’t know this until after mom passed away in 1994. Her best friend was a woman named Louise Compton. I have no clue where mom came up with the name Elizabeth (Betty), because no one else in the family has that name.
Perhaps she was wishing for a princess so she gave me Princess Elizabeth’s name. Of course, she is known today as Elizabeth, Queen of England. I’m known as Betty, Queen of Everything.
In the south there is a saying, “I don’t care what you call me as long as you call me for dinner.” That’s pretty much how I feel about it. It really doesn’t matter what I’m called; what does matter is what I am. As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
It’s not only my name that makes people think of others. It seems I always remind people of someone else they know or knew. When I was working in an expediting office there was a young man who worked next door in receiving. He would come by almost every morning to say hello. This gesture really made an impression on me. I mean, here was a young man who went out of his way almost every day just to come by and say good morning to me and shoot the breeze awhile.
One morning I thanked him for taking time to stop by. He grinned from ear to ear and said, “Aw, that’s o.k. I like coming by, you smell just like my grandma.” Now, it’s one thing to have people call you by another name, but quite another to have them think you smell like someone else. That’s downright scary! As it turned out we use the same perfume.
Last week I had an appointment with my knee surgeon for a follow-up exam. He has a new nurse whom I have spoken with several times on the phone, but had never met. When I arrived and she called my name she told me how nice it was to put a face and name together. She also asked what part of the country I was from. I told her I grew up in Arkansas and lived several years in Texas. She smiled and said, “I knew you were from Arkansas; you talk just like my grandma.” She said she had to smile when we talked on the phone because I used the same sayings in my conversation that her grandma always used.
As I was leaving I told her she could call me Grandma Betty. She said she would. Hmmm, I wonder if her grandma’s name was Dorothy.

 

THE SINGING BOWL 01/01/12

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
(Isaiah 41:10) NLT

HAPPY NEW YEAR–It is what it is, but it can be whatever you make of it. For many a new year presents a chance for new beginnings. New Year’s resolutions represent good intentions. What you make of those resolutions will determine what kind of a new year you make for yourself. Trusting God to show us the way should be our first resolution of the New Year.
Several months ago I was taking acrylic painting classes. I soon realized I would never become another Van Gogh or Renoir, so I decided to take the new knowledge I gained and paint for the sheer enjoyment of splashing colors on the canvas and feeling like a kid again. Before beginning our first class session the instructor brought out a large metal bowl with a striker and asked us to sit in a circle. As she began striking the edge of the bowl the room resonated with the most soothing, reverberating sounds I’ve ever heard. An air of calmness surrounded us and when the sounds stopped, we were ready to focus on our painting projects.

The new year of 1937 began in the midst of a turbulent world. The country was struggling to dig out of a recession. The average cost of a new house was $4,100, but to rent a house was only $26 per month. A gallon of gas cost 10 cents; a loaf of bread cost 9 cents; a pound of hamburger cost 12 cents. A new Ford automobile cost $850. The average income per household was $1,780. The population was 128,824,829. The unemployment rate stood at 14.3% down from 16.9% in 1936. The unemployed numbered 13.5 million people.
It was the year the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened, The Hindenburg burst into flames while being moored in New Jersey, and Amelia Earhart vanished from the face of the earth while flying over the Pacific Ocean. Walt Disney released the new movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and John Steinbeck published “Of Mice and Men.” World tensions were high as Japan and Germany were making war noises.
A young couple living in mid-America with an eight year old son found it difficult to make ends meet. It became even more difficult when they also found out they were expecting an addition to their family. Two years earlier they became parents of a baby boy, but lost him at the age of 18 months to a condition that is easily cured today.
The father had only an eighth grade education, but he was by no means stupid. He grew up as one in a family of thirteen children. After the eighth grade he was out working in the cotton fields to help his parents make ends meet. He became self-educated and excelled in English and math. He did whatever was necessary to feed, clothe and house his family.
These were my parents and this was the world I was born into in November, 1937. If there was ever a time a young couple needed a singing bowl, it was certainly during these turbulent times. Their faith in God and leaning on each other helped them make it through these tough times.To say history repeats itself is redundant. But today certainly seems to mirror those days of 1937. The U.S. population today is 311,800,000 with an estimated 11.6 million unemployed, which represents a little below 9% unemployment rate.
Today we are given a New Year—a clean slate, a new beginning. It is up to each of us to paint our new year with our hopes and dreams; then ask God to help us choose the right colors to make those dreams a reality. Perhaps it would also help if we each had a singing bowl with a striker to help us accomplish this task.

APRIL FOOL’S JOKES JUST CAN’T WAIT 4/01/12

Today may be All Fool’s Day, but that doesn’t mean YOU are a fool. There was one time I fooled my mother. It was an April Fool’s joke that backfired. I must have been all of about ten years old. My mom and dad always had their coffee at the kitchen table before mom began cooking breakfast. Dad was a straight-up, black coffee guy. Mom liked hers with sugar and cream. She also liked to ‘saucer’ it. It’s a common practice in the South. You make your coffee as hot as you can, then you pour it in the cup, put a little cream and sugar in it, stir till blended, then pour it in the saucer and gently blow on it to make it cool enough to drink. I never quite figured that one out. But, mom loved it.
Knowing it was April 1, I got out of bed early, dressed and slipped into the kitchen where I poured the sugar out of the sugar bowl and replaced it with salt, then put the sugar bowl back on the table. When mom and dad came in the kitchen, mom made the coffee in the old percolator allowing it to perk until it smelled really good, but didn’t boil. I watched anxiously as she poured their coffee in the cups. Dad took a gulp and said it was mighty good. Mom went through her normal routine and since dad said it was so good, she took a big gulp of it. What came next was a lot of spewing, spitting, and choking sounds. Dad thought she was dying; I was holding back my laughter until I was sure she was alright; then I jumped up, waved my arms and exclaimed, “April Fool’s.” It’s amazing how some folks just can’t take a joke! I thought my mother was going to kill me. When she recovered from her gagging and choking she gave me a quick lesson on economics. Didn’t I know that coffee was 19 cents a pound and sugar a whopping 31 cents a pound? And didn’t I know that to buy any sugar you would have to use sugar ration stamps? She even insinuated that I was the April Fool in the family!
It’s no joke that spring is here. I’m reminded not to be fooled by Mother Nature. Try as she may to bring sunny weather Old Man Winter just doesn’t want to let go just yet. Maybe he’ll go stomping back up the mountain before long for a long rest. May he slumber in peace. I’ve been fooled many times into believing it’s time to garden. But I know the Rockies hold the distinct honor of being unpredictable and anything but constant.
The Mr. and I surveyed our yard the other day and it wasn’t a pretty sight. It doesn’t look anything like the vision I have in my head. I’m not generally known to be a procrastinator, but when it comes to gardening in the Rockies I’ve found I need a boatload of patience. That is one word that just isn’t in my vocabulary. We always seem to have to ‘wait a minute’ or ‘wait and see.’ I was always the last one out the door when we were going somewhere. I was caught saying, ‘Wait a minute’ more than once. My mother used to reply, “Weight’s what broke the wagon down.”
The Mr. better be careful today. I’m trying to decide just which April Fool’s joke to play on him. I’ll just have to wait and see which joke spring on him. You can bet I won’t be replacing the sugar with salt. I’ve been down that road before and I don’t want to be an April Fool again!