Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wishes Fulfilled: Repairing and Expanding the Tapestry We Call Life

Many times over the past few years, my niece, Rebecca, and I have lamented the fact that our already small family has shrunk even more.     We discuss this because when we have a "family gathering" we literally can rent one house with maybe 5 or 6 bedrooms and that seems to be enough to contain our immediate (non-extended) family.     As people close to us have died, we are reminded once again that  "we're all we've got".      Rebecca and I have said that so much to each other it has almost become a joke.

And yet there is some sad irony in that because we do have a few extended family members that are "out there" somewhere scattered across the country.    I have an inkling where to find some of them but others are well beyond the scope of my limited sleuthing abilities.     Over the years we've had contact with a few cousins from my mother's side of the family and one very short lived contact with a cousin from my dad's side.    Beyond that, I didn't have a clue where to look for anyone else whose name I could bring up.   Then out of the blue someone found ME.    

As some of you know, I have a kind of love-hate relationship with Facebook.    On the one hand it provides almost immediate (and sometimes REAL TIME) access to things my grandchildren are doing.   Comments with my daughter-in-law regarding "what's for dinner" bounce back and forth across cyberspace in the blink of an eye.   That's the part that is fun and makes me go back to FB several times a day.     The not so nice side of FB is that the site can and does do weird things occasionally like completely change the look of the  page that allegedly is "yours".    They also apparently can gather lots of random bits and pieces about your life that they can do with as they please.     And furthermore, if you're not careful with your settings, you can put yourself out on the internet for lots and lots of unwelcome attention.     So while my love affair is sometimes tepid, I have entered this relationship with a degree of caution.  

So having said that, Facebook is also the great connector of people from our past.     The long and difficult task of digging up people who were classmates, room mates, co-workers, fraternity brothers, neighbors, former ministers and yes, even family members has become much less of a chore.     One can literally type in a name and voila!    You will be pleasantly surprised to get a long list of people by that name.    If you're lucky, you might get a location to go with that name.    And with all the stars lined up, you might get a way to contact that person to see if they are, indeed, the person you are seeking.   

Imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks ago I happened to catch (almost out of the corner of my eye) a message on my FB page that said someone had sent me a message.    The name was instantly recognizable as one of my cousins on my dad's side of the family.     I quickly clicked on the link and to my amazement, she was reaching out to me and was  interested in re-establishing our connection as relatives.     I responded to her request with surprise and delight at this turn of events because suddenly, with no effort on my part, those wispy bonds of connection became a little bit firmer and visible.

We exchanged a flurry of messages back and forth and finally got each other's email address and we have been exchanging family stories, legend and lore, history and chronicles of our lives from when we last were even in the same room together.     So much time has passed and we each have almost a lifetime of events to exchange.    The last time we had a conversation, her son was a baby, my son was  in early grade school.     She has moved numerous times, as I have, too.     Her life has had drama and complications.   Mine has, as well.   There has been much joy for each of us, along with the sorrow and tragedy.   Like all lives, we've had a mix of bitter and sweet.     And we have only begun to do the catching up that we want to do. 

Why am I writing about this today?    The reason is partly because the reconnection with Cindy is a wish fulfilled for me.   I have thought long and hard about the lack of information to my family history.     Rebecca and I have discussed this endlessly about how the people who could answer so many questions we have are now gone.   We have found bits and pieces of our past but have had no one who could fill in a few details.     Having Cindy's information and perspective on what she remembers is like opening up a diary and finding out what a key family member thought.    She is privy to knowledge passed on to her by her father and her personal experiences with our grandmother and aunt.    The good news she is willing to share what she remembers.

She also has photographs of family members that I have wished a thousand times I had and could not find to save my life.    She told me yesterday that she is sending an album and some loose pictures to me that will be in here in a day or two.   To me, photographs are like a window back in time and I can hardly wait to see what I find.     One of the tasks is to try to identify who some of the people are in the pictures.    A bigger goal, one that I have already started envisioning, is a photobook with some of the pictures combined with some of the ones I have and stories that go along with the photographs.    Cindy and I have exchanged some of the family stories and we both have said that there are more.  I want some of them preserved for my grandchildren and for hers.     

There is one more reason for writing about this that I want to state clearly and plainly to Cindy and others who read this.      Having a connection back to my past has helped fill a kind of empty place in my heart.     It was not anything that I acknowledged but since reconnecting with Cindy, I have noticed that the feeling has receded just a little.     It was a feeling akin to loneliness and perhaps sadness that exists when the usual things that are found there are in such short supply.  

Our lives are like a tapestry woven together with many connections and events across time.    When you rediscover a thread that was there and then dropped out, it helps repair that tapestry to be stronger and, yes, prettier, when that thread is rewoven back into the whole of the piece.    I truly want to thank Cindy for making the effort to find me and other family members.     That empty spot in my heart has shrunk a little bit or more accurately has started to fill in with the knowledge that some  of my extended family connections that I thought were gone really are alive and well.     It feels good to know that we have a slightly bigger family than we did a few weeks ago and that together we're still here for each other, still able to recall the names and the faces of those who went before us.     It makes me feel good to know this and I hope it did the same for her!  

Happy Trails,


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Listen Up, People! Fall Is Coming!

Alright, I know by the calendar, we're still several more weeks away from the official arrival of fall.  And where I live, even if the calendar says so, doesn't MAKE it so!   So how, you might ask, how can I be so sure that fall really is  a comin'.     

Well, yesterday when Larry brought in the mail, he brought with him proof positive that Fall 2012 is right around the corner.     He casually tossed the pile of mail in my chair, but I knew as soon as I scanned that pile that it was true.   There amongst the pamphlets from Holland America tempting me with another cruise, the newsletter from our local Food Bank, a free offer from American Express for an appointment book and desk set was all the proof I needed to set my heart aflutter!    Yes, it was the Early Fall 2012 Edition of the Blair catalog!   

I was so thrilled to have this wonderful piece of news come tumbling out of my mail box, that I set it aside temporarily until I could really examine it's pages, gaze upon the turtlenecks, corduroy pants, fleece jackets and demi-boots offered for sale. And with FREE SHIPPING yet! Pinch me, I'm dreaming!  You see, nothing announces the arrival of fall to me like the fall fashions that immediately transports us out of the tee shirts and shorts of summer, the neon and pastel shades better suited to 99 degree days and straight into the bluer skies and crisper air that is only experienced in the fall.  

When people are asked what their favorite season is, invariably, they will tell you it is either the spring or the fall.   Oh, I guess there are probably a few die-hards out there who actually LIKE the summer or prefer the winter.    But do we look for signs of either of these seasons?   Not really.    The ones we look for, hope for and long for are spring and fall.    We look eagerly for the first robins of spring.   Those first few shoots of green or dandelions in the lawn.    And for fall, well, we eagerly anticipate the first cool days, the smell of burning oak or hickory and yes, even something so simple, and yet predictive, as a catalog in the mail box.    

I ask myself why do I love the fall so much?    By rights I could really not like it.    For it was on a bright, crisp fall day in November 1967, one day after my 18th birthday that we buried my father.    I still remember the dress I wore that day, the surreal way everything felt and looked.   I actually thought for a minute that day that time stood still and that we'd be standing in that cemetery forever right there with him.     I never imagined that my life and the life of  my family would move on to have the experiences both good and bad that would come our way.   

And so I look up today and realize how much time has passed by, how far away that place is where he is buried, both in miles and in memory.    It is that knowledge why I love the fall so much.     It reminds me of the passage of time, the never ending flow to life.     Time, as they say, marches on.    The fall urges me to reflect, to recount the good times, as well as the bad.   It calls me to account with what I've done with my life because the chapter I am in is about to close and another will begin shortly.    

More important, however, than just reflecting and reminiscing, I think the fall is our opportunity to renew our commitment to life.   It is our chance, one last chance before this year is done, to realign our priorities and try one more time to get things right.    Life is a struggle for every one of us.    None of us has the answer to every question and what I find that works for me may not be right for someone else. I guess the important thing to remember is that it is our journey that matters, our attempts to figure out the big questions that should be guide posts.     When I anticipate the arrival of fall, I look with eagerness to the opportunity to make closing arguments for this chapter, while jotting down the opening remarks for the next one to follow.

I hope you find the time this fall to reflect on your year and the things you've done to make your story count.     If you find that somehow, you just didn't quite make it go the way you intended, that is the beauty of the fall.  It's the time to plan, to think, to dream.    

I have a bag of mulling spices ready to make a steaming mug of cider, my order to that catalog will be on its way soon.     I'm watching for those first hints of turning leaves and the smell of wood burning in a fireplace.    And soon, very soon, I'll be pondering what it means to be alive and living in such interesting and amazing times.    I'll be examining my life and figuring out what comes next.    Hope you get to do the same!

Happy Fall (It's coming.   It really is.)


Monday, September 3, 2012

Working for a Living: A long tradition of labor

When I was a little girl and we would go to Memphis to see my grandparents, I couldn't help but notice a heavy, metal doorstop in my paternal grandmother's home.    It was shaped like a sailing ship, painted bright gold.  The story I was always told about it was that it was made by my grandfather because his occupation was iron molder.    

I never knew my paternal grandfather, William M. Treadway,  and just heard stories about "Pop" from my own father and Uncle Bill about their dad.   He was a hard drinking, hard working man from all the accounts I ever heard.    One of the more memorable stories my Grandmother told me was that when she was only 15 years old, Pop and one of his working buddies passed by her house, saw her sitting on the front porch  and declared then and there that he was going to marry her some day.    Never mind the fact that they had never even met formally.    And yes, they did marry---eloped a short time after that.   
Lura Grey Treadway, GrannyT.  2nd from Left, Top Row
Annie Gorley Treadway, Pop's Mother, 2nd from Right, Top Row
William Gorley Treadway "Pop"  Far Right, Bottom Row
Watermelon Time 1904

For a while Pop worked on the railroad out west and Granny worked as a cook for Pop and his fellow workers.     They tried to homestead in Colorado but eventually that was a dream they abandoned to return to Memphis.      Pop was employed as an iron molder and from all the stories I've been told about him he was a hard worker until his untimely death at age fifty-six  in 1941.  
Since I never knew him except in some really old, faded photographs and family legend and lore, I can only imagine what he was like and what his hard working hands must have looked like.   Given the nature of his work, I see large, calloused hands, dirt embedded in his fingers that no amount of scrubbing could ever completely remove.    He wore a working man's clothing, probably dungarees and a heavy shirt of some kind to help protect against the hot cinders that were probably part of his every day work place.    Heavy lines marked his face from constant exposure to heat and fumes from the work he did.    He worked long before there was such a thing as OSHA or EPA and workmen in those days were frequently exposed to hazards that would surely be outlawed today for their protection.   
And as I sat thinking about him on this Labor Day 2012, it made me think of all the other people in my family who worked hard, labored in difficult, sometimes dangerous jobs.    A few were able to benefit from higher education and went into fields like education and became teachers, nurses and worked in management, like my father did.   My maternal grandfather worked for the phone company stringing telephone line that came to a spectacular end when he was electrocuted, thrown from the pole and spent 180 days in a hospital recovering from injuries to nearly every bone in his body.    He later worked for the Memphis Police Department in dispatch.     My grandmother's brother,  C. W.  "Red" Gardner was in the military through several wars and eventually worked for the Memphis Fire Department.    My Uncle Charlie worked for the Illinois Central Rail Road, starting out at age 15 and eventually becoming an engineer on the IC line.  My mother fulfilled a life long dream of becoming a nurse by returning to school and was a Registered Nurse.   Her last position was with the Veteran's Adminstration caring for aged veterans who needed a caring heart and kind word in their final years.   They, too, provided a different kind of labor for our nation, but one that is much appreciated and lauded on other holidays throughout our year.    
Granny Treadway was widowed in 1941 and had to supplement her income, but with no education or training, she did the only thing she really knew how to do.  She went to work for a department store in Memphis doing alterations.   Her daughter, Blanche, worked for S.C. Toof and Company, commercial printers.   I can still remember her hands that were permanently stained with black printer's ink and the finger cot she wore on one finger to help when she thumbed through stacks of papers.     One brother worked for the newspaper, the Press-Scimitar in Memphis, as a proof reader and another worked in Washington DC for the Congressional Record in the printing division.    A younger brother went into Musical Ministry and served many churches through out his career.    

And so it is that I look back at a long line of hard working men and women who worked at a time when there were few laws protecting them from injury and getting a good wage was fraught with difficulties, too.     Some of these people were union members, others were not.    Without question, all were people who knew the meaning of work and didn't shy away from hard labor.    They helped build this country we live in today and I look with pride back on their contribution whether it was working in hot, dirty jobs , walking up and down the corridors of a hospital or crusading for higher wages and better benefits for the working people across the United States.   

Today is Labor Day.  It has become a day to drag out the bar-b-que grill and ice down some drinks, make potato salad and relax on the patio.   It is often a day off for those who are employed in all the various occupations that it takes to make our country function.  Let us not forget that it is our kinfolk that built the workforce of yesteryear and the workers of today who build the cars, deliver the mail, teach the young, care for the sick and pave our roads.  It will be the generation growing up now that will move this country on  through the 21st century and into the next.  

We owe our gratitude to those who came before us and made it possible for many of us to have a better standard of living and hope for a better life style.   While you're grilling those burgers and eating that potato salad, please take a few moments to remember your heritage and the people who brought us  this far and thank the ones who are going to take us forward for many more years. 

Happy Labor Day 2012!   (A proud American tradition since 1882)

Happy Trails,


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Music: Can You Name That Tune in Three Notes?

Ok, I admit it.    I am sentimental and sometimes cry about stuff for no good reason.    Or at least one that is not obvious to me right off the bat.    So the other night when I was reading one of the blogs I follow, I saw a link to a song from my past.    It was Arlo Guthrie singing " The City of New Orleans".    Someone else had commented that when they went to the link and watched it they cried.   And I thought, "Yea, I bet you did."   Then I clicked on the link and was barely into the Youtube video when I found myself singing along and crying like I was two years old.   

Yep, it happened to me, too.   And that made me start thinking and you know what a dangerous thing that can be.   Oh, but I kid about that, because actually I am a big advocate of thinking.   It can lead you in directions you never knew you'd go, but hey, it IS what is supposed to separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom, right?  (Although I have seen and read some things lately that are making me begin to wonder and doubt the common wisdom on THAT.    But that's for another blog post, not this one.)    

So as I was sitting there singing and crying, it occurred to me that music is such a powerful force in our lives and that if there is something universal in this world, it is the power of music to touch us, inspire us and maybe even make us better human beings.    Well, I might be hoping for too much on that last thing, but for sure, music does touch us and activates parts of our brain that maybe we aren't even aware we have.     Back before I retired, I used to read a lot of stuff regarding the brain since it directly applied to my line of work.   And if there is anything that came out of all that reading, it is that there is so much more to learn about our brain.....we've only begun to scratch the surface of what there is to know about it.   It truly is a vast frontier of the unexplored, but hopefully knowable, essence of what makes us human.   

As I read and began to have a greater appreciation for our brain,  it became very clear to me that there are forces around us that make us act and think in certain ways.   And one of those is music.     The very act of listening to a familiar song can evoke such powerful memories or feelings that one could almost burst with sheer joy or sob uncontrollably for being reminded of something bygone and faded into the mists of time.     Likewise, the act of creating or playing music can be such a healing and life changing thing that the urge to do this often starts at a very early age.    

I can't help but think of my oldest grandson, Gavin.    When he was a wee tike, who had to have help to get up on the piano bench, he would sit up there, bouncing up and down, moving his hands up and down the keys, pretending to be playing the piano.    He had a certain movement in his shoulders that indicated he had a clear vision of how one moves when performing at the piano.    We often laughed at his cute attempts to play the piano, little realizing that in a few short years, he would keep that desire to make music alive by taking, first, guitar lessons and then moving on
to learn how to play the piano.  Today he is a budding performer who entertains us at family gatherings,   inspires people at his church and like most teenagers, has dreams of taking his skills to the professional stage some day.   I hope he succeeds because making music is so important to him and I know one of his greatest desires is to share his gifts and talents by writing and performing music.   

Another story about the power of music was related to me by Larry.    A few years ago he volunteered with a group of people who went to nursing homes and facilities who care for severely disabled adults.    Many of these people live a life that most of us could never imagine.     And we're pretty good at hiding these people, not because we're cruel or indifferent to their plight, but because it is painful and difficult to see the hand that they were dealt and not wonder if life has some unexpected surprises for us, too.    So this group of volunteers would try to overcome their own reluctance to see a side to life that some would avoid to try to bring a little joy and fun into the lives of the people who lived in the home.       Many were wheelchair bound with ailments that rendered them incapable of walking.    Some had brains that were horrendously malformed so that there was little or no hope of anything close to normal functioning.     Some were just really old and dementia had taken its toll on their minds.      A sad group of life's survivors to be sure.    

Well, having strung you along to this sad place, I need to turn to what happened next.   And this is where a little miracle took place that should make you never doubt the power of music to transform a life, if only for a short while.     With their canned music and portable keyboard, Larry and that small group of singers began to sing a familiar hymn.     It doesn't matter what it was.   It could have been The Old Rugged Cross or Down by the Riverside.   No matter.   It's what happened when one little lady in particular heard the notes drift her way.     There she was on a type of gurney, sprawled backward, staring up at the ceiling, no recognition on her face or in her eyes that she even knew where she was or that there was even anyone else in that room with her.    And then.....all of sudden, she sat bolt upright and began smiling and swaying along to the music.    It was as if something reanimated her poor broken body and mind to awaken anew.     And the whole time they were singing the song that touched something in her time ravaged brain, she smiled and almost glowed with the sheer joy of hearing that familiar song that brought her back to this world again for a few minutes.   

I have often thought of this story when I hear a song on the radio or the music that takes us on a journey when we watch a movie.     Is there anyone who can listen to the soundtrack from the movie Jaws and not be instantly transported back to the time you first saw that film??   It's the music that  did it, not the images, although they are powerful, too.  Those first few strains of that ominous musical interlude were used to properly prepare us for what was coming next.    Who says music can't move you?  It can lift you out of despair, scare the heck out of you or take you soaring to new heights of inspiration.  Or even just take a sentimental journey back in time.  

Finally, one last personal story about the power of music and this one is my own.     Twenty two years ago I was engaged in one of the most serious battles of my life.    I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was about to embark on the treatment plan that took more than a year to complete and is probably the reason I am alive and sitting here today writing this blog.   My doctors had recommended a course of treatment that included surgery, followed by six weeks of radiation therapy and then ten months of chemotherapy.      It was a long and stressful event in my life, but one that forever changed me and helped make me into who I am today.    

As I was going to get chemo every week, I began a to see quite a few of my fellow travelers (aka Cancer Survivors) bringing boom boxes with them on the days they got their IV treatments.    A few who were more technologically advanced even had Walkmans.   Ipods were still many years away from being a reality back then.     And I read in journals and information for patients that listening to music was proving to be a great way to get through treatment and help deal with stress and uncertainty.    So I decided I would give it a whirl since treatments could be and often were times of difficulty for me.     

I had a few CDs since they were a rather new item at the time and I had cassette tapes.   My choices tended to go toward New Age music, but I was definitely not above listening to Huey Lewis and the News when the mood struck me.     I discovered right away that listening to the music had a very profound affect on my mood, my heartbeat and my stress level.   One particular artist, Andreas Vollenweider, was one I listened to time after time.   To this day, there is one track on one of his albums that I can hear and will instantly relax and begin to feel calm inside.      He plays harp and I have promised myself if I ever get the chance to hear him in person, I will go since I am pretty sure it will be a high point in my life.    As an aside about this, I wrote to him when I was in the middle of treatment to tell him how much his music meant to me and that I hoped he would continue to bring his gifts and talents to the world since I felt he was making a huge difference for so many people.    And if you can believe it, I got a handwritten reply from this man that I have still in an album.    I will never forget the kindness of this international star for writing to me, just an ordinary fan who took the time to write to him about the value and impact of his music on my life.    

So to tie all of this up in a neat package, I say to anyone who takes the time to read this, if you're searching for a way to find comfort or peace, music can be your friend.     If you want something to evoke powerful memories and maybe even inspiration, look to your musical library (or Youtube).    If you are trying to set a mood (think of Jaws!), music will do the trick.     And for goodness sake, if you are musically inclined, MAKE music for your own amusement and amazement.  Do it for any willing audience.   But just do it.     The power of music has been proven to us over and over and it is up to us to figure out ways to bring it into our lives for all the many paths we can explore using that power.   

P.S.  The track I was referring to that I so loved back then and still listen to is on an album called:
Andreas Vollenweider Trilogy.  The track is an extra one called "Pace Verde". The You Tube link is below and when I listened to it a few minutes ago...yep....I cried, but boy, was I relaxed!

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/CBjLj0EOAV4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Happy Trails,


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude.....Whatever You Call It, That is What Life is About

I ran into a friend at the grocery store yesterday.    I had read in the newspaper just last week that her husband had died after a long struggle with a neurological disorder, complicated by a stroke.    As we hugged and exchanged hellos, I mentioned to her that I had read about her husband's death.    Like most people who have been through that ordeal, she appeared to be filled with mixed emotions.    Relief that suffering for his pain and disability is over.   Sadness as the impact of the loss begins to settle in as she adjusts to a new life without him.   Confusion and dismay at who she is now and what her life will be like are consuming most of her thoughts.   The mountain of paperwork and tasks  surrounding his illness and death that must be settled have not even really started for her, but she is anticipating that, too.  

As we stood in the aisle and talked of what it's like to care for someone with dementia,  I began to remember my experience when Larry and I took care of my mother for three years before her death in 2006.    No one really knows what they will do in that situation, even though people often speculate and opine on what they think they would do.   In our situation, we were caught completely off guard since Mama lived in a group home type setting in another city where my younger sister lived.    When my sister died very suddenly and unexpectedly, the responsibility of taking care for mama fell completely to us.    It was quite clear after we had her with us for a few weeks that the living arrangement she had before Ginny died was not going to work any more.    

So we took on the task and set about to get her moved in so she could live with us permanently.   We got a Durable Power of Attorney while we still could legally get that done so I could pay her bills, manage her money and make sure I had the authority to make important decisions regarding her health.   We arranged to store a lot of possessions that wouldn't fit in her room at our house and that she no longer needed.    We assessed our house to make sure she could be here safely and without worrying that we were overlooking something that could cause her harm.

It was made doubly hard because both of us were still working at the time and we had to re-arrange our schedules so that someone would be here with her the majority of the day.     In the beginning we could leave her for very short periods of time and she was OK.    That didn't last long but it gave us enough time to find alternatives for when we both had to be at work and couldn't be at home with her.   Once in a while I even took her to work with me when we couldn't figure out what else to do.    It was a difficult time but we managed and somehow got through it.    

And the thing is: our story is not unusual or a rare occurrence for people in our generation---the baby boomers.     Some friends we met for lunch just this past Sunday are in that awful place of deciding what to do about her mother.   She is clearly in need of a different living arrangement, living some 8 hours or so away from them.     They both work, she is not quite old enough to be at the mandatory 59 1/2 to retire without penalty.    Too young for her Social Security, but if she can get to the right age, she can draw her pension.     That age is still about 6 months away.    So what do they do about her mom in the meantime?     Hard questions.   No easy answers.   

I keep hearing stories like this and running into friends and relatives who have an amazing tale of sacrifice and so much love and devotion to care for a loved one.  Usually, spouses or children feel the need to care for their loved one out of loyalty and love.   Sometimes the choice of what to do is driven by financial stresses----lack of resources to place the loved one in a special facility for those with dementia or other disorders requiring special care.    Other times, however, it is complicated by the fact that the loved one has specifically asked not to be "put in a home" or difficulty in finding an opening or in finding a place that you consider suitable or decent.  

Truthfully, there are many, many resources available if you live in a fairly large community, but in our case, we attempted to and did care for my mother for a long time before we got outside help.     Looking back, I know we waited too long because we were both at the end of our psychological and physical ropes.    I would tell anyone facing this to monitor themselves and start finding help before they begin to crumble under the weight of such an important and difficult task.    

The long and the short of this is that many, many people in our generation are going to be involved in the care of a loved one who may be elderly, sick and possibly even suffering from dementia.    We are living longer these days but the bad news about that is that as we get older, our risks for developing those kinds of illnesses rise with our age.   Risk factors like falls, strokes and other illnesses that contribute to mental or physical frailties go up with each birthday.     Our ability to prolong life is improving but sadly we are lacking in the ability to keep those other bad things completely at bay.   

They say a lesson to the wise is sufficient.   So there is a lesson to be learned here.    Life is about change and sometimes the change you experience isn't something you bargained for.     If you get yourself too wedded to the idea that things will stay the same.....the same house, the same spouse, the same way of life.....you are fooling yourself.     If you can, you need to start talking about the "what ifs" long before they come knocking on your door.    One day, on another post, I will talk about what some of those WHAT IFS are, but for today, my suggestion is that you begin that process of at least thinking about them.     It won't be easy and you might even squirm just a little when you start talking about things like your mortality and the illness or death of a spouse or other loved one.    But CHANGE is inevitable and starting to face that and deal with it, even plan for it, is one step that you will be glad you did.

I am thinking a lot about my friend and the loss of her husband of 45 years....almost the same amount of time Larry and I have been married.   I am thinking about our friends who are struggling with what to do about her mom and how their lives will be impacted with whatever decision they make.    I know that these days and weeks and months ahead of them won't be easy but they can and will make decisions and will prevail.     We did and I know they can, too.    If you keep your head, educate yourself, ask for help and take care of yourself, you will come through it and live to tell your story so others can benefit from what you learned.   

Happy Trails,


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer On My Plate

Earlier this week, we decided to make a visit to a local business that has been a landmark in this area for many years.    It is easy to know when you've gotten there because of the huge Jolly Green Giant that stands guard over the building and its contents.    Known far and wide as Bailey's Farmer's Market, all the locals depend heavily on the things they sell all year round from the Christmas trees that they bring in every November to the huge pallets of collard greens and sweet potatoes and big cardboard boxes filled to the brim with a variety of watermelons just begging to be iced and then sliced into big, pink grins of pure summer enjoyment.  

But the quintessential thing that people come to Bailey's to buy in the summer are on the flat tables overflowing with shelled field peas and speckled butter beans.   Sure, they sell 'em in the shell and many of their customers would have it no other way but to buy them in the shell and spend the hours it takes to shell a huge bag of peas or butter beans to have for supper that night or to "put up" for later on when the season for growing them is long gone.    The difference between buying them shelled, ready for the pot and buying them in the shell that means hours of sitting, shelling and dealing with sore fingers for days is not insignificant.  I picked up that scoop and filled my bag without hesitation with the tempting beauties that were pot ready, even if they cost a lot more.    Larry opted for a pound of the ones in the shell, just to see how much we'd get if we shelled 'em ourselves and saved a bundle over the ones that Bailey's kindly shelled for us.  

Once inside their fruit and vegetable stand most people are unable to resist buying other things so enticingly displayed and begging to be placed in the brown paper bags they have conveniently placed all around the bins.    So it was that we happened to also buy some yellow squash, vine ripe tomatoes, Georgia peaches, jalapenos and pablano peppers, Japanese Eggplant and two varieties of sweet potatoes.   Falling under their spell is not easy to resist and we were not the only ones milling around, picking and pawing over the fresh veggies destined to be on many dinner plates that night.   

Obviously we couldn't cook all of the things we bought in one day so we have spread out our wealth throughout this week, enjoying and discussing the merits of each thing that showed up on our plates.    Yesterday I prepared a large pot of the Zipper Peas combined with Pink Eyed Purple Hull peas and served them over rice.   We still had a large hunk of corn bread from a previous meal that included some of those Speckled Butter Beans that found their way into my sack.    I was looking for something else to include with our peas and cornbread when I spied a couple of beautiful specimens of tomatoes sitting on the counter---waiting their turn to be on the menu.    So I sliced them into thick and thin slices.   People tend to come from one of the two schools of thought on the proper slicing of a tomato:   A. It should be sliced into a nice, thick slab or B. God forbid you cut it thick and instead make it as thin as possible, requiring a razor sharp knife to get the deed done correctly.    Since we have one of each in our household, we get both styles---thick and thin slices.

As I sat down and stared at my plate I couldn't decide where to start first but ended up taking a mouthful of the peas and rice.    For a moment, I thought I might swoon.    It was so good, so flavorful and delicious I was instantly struck with how iconic it was for most of my youth, having spent the majority of that time growing up in Mississippi.   Peas and cornbread are standard fare in the South during the summer.   You just couldn't escape having that if you grew up in Mississippi during the 50s and 60s.    I suspect it may still be that way, but for sure that's how it was back then.  

And then I realized that I had Summer On My Plate.    For a few moments, I was transported back in time ---- a time so far away that you'd think the memory would have faded into infinity.   But no.   It was still there, embedded like all the other memories of that time.    On our recent camping trip with the grandkids, they were pleading....no begging me to tell story after story about when I was a kid.    And the stories just kept coming and the more I told, the more they wanted to hear.     I never got to this one but this is one that maybe I'll get around to telling them on the next trip.

Every summer between the ages of about 9 until I was a teen ager, my sister, Ginny and I spent with my older sister, Charlotte, her husband, Wilson and my niece, Rebecca.    It was not unusual for us to spend a big part of the summer with them, which was just fine with us because life was never dull with them and besides, we absolutely adored our older sister and Rebecca was our very own Little Princess.  Wilson was studying to be an ordained minister and spent several years in Kentucky at seminary and later came back to Mississippi to begin his career as a United Methodist Minister.    Only back then he was mainly called Brother Brent.   

All of the churches he served tended to be way out in the country, down dusty roads, back in the woods and getting there usually entailed a long ride in a hot, un-air conditioned car.   Once you got there the church had all the windows slightly open and a fan would be humming in the background.    Occasionally,  a wasp would come in during the middle of the service adding a new reason for praying earnestly during the morning prayer.   

Every summer, along with Vacation Bible School, churches had a Revival Service that might last for one week and once in a while up to two weeks.  It was the common practice to invite a guest preacher to come in to do the nightly preachin' and if their budget could stand it, they would bring in an Evangelist to be their guest speaker.    Wilson was sometimes invited to go to other churches while another preacher might come to his church to preach.   When Wilson went to preach a revival it always included all of us.....Charlotte, Rebecca, Ginny and me.    We'd load up the car, drive to the church and get treated like honored guests wherever we went.  

One thing about that time---churches certainly couldn't afford to pay their guest speaker a lot of money, but they sure could feed us.     Since it was summer the bounty coming in from their gardens was plentiful.     And since it was the PREACHER coming to their house to eat, you can bet they pulled out all the stops to present a meal fit for a king.    It was not unusual to have three or four kinds of meat at one meal:  fried chicken, ham, pork chops and roast beef.    Then there were the vegetables.   Oh my word!    Peas, butter beans, fresh greens, squash, mashed potatoes (the real kind, not something out of a plastic bowl and microwaved), string beans, fresh tomatoes.    It truly was overwhelming to see the vast array that would be put on the table for us.    And that certainly didn't include the desserts that were awaiting us.     Those things would take up a table all by themselves.   

And so it went summer after summer.    And if we weren't attending a revival, we were going to Dinner on the Grounds.    You have not lived until you have been to a true "Dinner on the Grounds" in rural Mississippi in the summer time.    Every cook in the county tries to out-do every other cook and the sight of a long row of banquet size tables with dish after dish is enough to make a strong person buckle under the pressure.    No short cuts, no Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets or deli containers of potato salad there.   The feast would start shortly after church services ended for the morning and would go on long into the afternoon.     Desserts would come out later on and it's for sure there would be cakes, banana pudding, pies and a variety of congealed (Jell-o) salads in every color of the rainbow.   

Later on there might be singing.    Many of the churches Wilson served had musicians who would form into groups to sing gospel songs familiar to all who heard them.     They would pound out the tunes on an old upright piano, that was only slightly out of tune and frequently had a key or two that would stick.    Sometimes there would be someone who played a fiddle or guitar.    But mostly it was the piano and a trio or quartet of singers, accompanied by others in the congregation who wanted to sing along to the familiar and comforting tunes.    

As the afternoon faded into sunset, the preacher (Wilson or invited guest) would take the to the pulpit once again to bring a message to the (usually) packed pews.    Once I remember Wilson had invited his Uncle Jimmy to preach a revival.    He and his wife, Aunt Kitty, were true Missionaries and had been to all sorts of interesting and far lands doing their missionary work.    Uncle Jimmy was what some people would call a "Fire and Brimstone" preacher since he often preached on the Book of Revelations.    When he got finished with a sermon, you KNEW you had been preached to by a master since he usually had his audience in the palm of his hands when he got to the end.    He could also scare the living life out of you if you were young and impressionable, like I was.    If the hair on the back of your neck was not raised when he preached, you weren't listening to him.   

And this is how many of my summers were spent when I was a kid.    Funny how a plate of peas and cornbread could bring all that back in one bite.    Those memories of my life are from a time long ago and so so far away.    My life was really simple then, as was the life of many people in my life.     I think the reason that we tend to gravitate back to things from long ago is that they are familiar and in some ways comforting. 

You see most of the people in the story I've related to you are gone now.    Charlotte in 2000, Ginny in 2003 and Wilson in 2010.     Rebecca and I often say to each other, "We're all we've got left."   That's not quite true but we each know what we mean when we say that.    We are the only ones left who hold the memories of that time in our lives like a king holds his treasured jewels.    In some magical sort of way, when I go back in time and relive those memories, it brings those dear ones back to me for a little while.    I miss them so much and it comforts me to have those great stories about shelling and eating butter beans, bouncing down dusty roads on the way to a tiny church in the distance and walking out into a moonlit night with the heavy scent of honeysuckle in the air.   It brings them alive once more and for a little while I am thirteen again when life was simple and easy.  

So if you have a Farmer's Market in your town or maybe even have a garden spot in your backyard, enjoy the summer bounty.    You never know where that bowl of butter beans and zipper peas will take you.    Maybe somewhere special, magical and comforting.

Happy Trails,


Friday, June 29, 2012

Eat Good Food While You Camp Without Spending All of Your Time at the Stove

Anyone who has ever gone camping knows that preparing and providing good food that is not a chore to make can be a real challenge.    I remember going camping once in my youth where the person planning our meals (it was a church youth group retreat) thought that having sandwiches for the entire long weekend was a good idea.   The adult chaperons and some of the kids were less than enthusiastic about that menu.   :( 

The possibilities for preparing tasty food while camping is infinitely easier today with the abundance of appliances that can be brought to the camp site.    Most campgrounds have electrical service and outdoor kitchens for their campers to use.     Our campers (a pop-up and a 31' travel trailer) both are equipped with propane stoves and the travel trailer has a combination 3 burner stove and oven.    The stove for the pop-up is portable and can be used inside the camper or set up outside.    After the weather starts to get warm the portability of that stove is really important so we can avoid heating up the camper to unbearable levels.  

We have found that by bringing along a few appliances we can increase the number of culinary creations we can prepare with a minimum of effort.     Crock pots are the cook's best friend, along with rice cookers, toaster ovens, George Foreman electric grill and waffle irons.     A cook center set up outside the camper keeps the heat out of the camper and the appliance handy so you can keep an eye on the food as it cooks. We have an awning that offers some protection but would have taken the appliance inside if rain was in the forecast.

Larry grills chicken using his George Foreman Electric Grill

On our most recent camping trip we brought along our Crock Pots.   Our daughter-in-law made a breakfast casserole for us that she put together shortly before we went to bed and was cooked to perfection when we got up the next morning.   The smell of the casserole woke us out of our slumber and, after we made a pot of coffee, we were enjoying our breakfast. The important thing about this method was it took very little time to put together and was ready to serve first thing the next morning.     I might add that the best thing to come along in a long, long time is the invention of a LINER for the Crock Pot, making clean up a breeze.    You simply pull the liner up and out of the pot and toss in a trash can.  Voila!    Clean Crock Pot.   

So one day when it was my turn to cook, I decided that the Crock Pot would simplify the process and help keep the heat to a minimum.   When we went to the store to buy supplies, I was thinking of how to cut down on prep time and also the length of time the dish would need to cook in order to get everything done.     I was planning to make a Chicken Taco Soup and ordinarily would have started the dish from scratch with raw chicken.    I was prepared to go that route when Larry suggested that I consider using rotisserie chickens.  DUH!   What a great idea!!    Starting with cooked chicken meant that the time in the Crock Pot could be reduced to just long enough to get the whole thing hot.

We bought two rotisserie chickens and then Larry kindly sacrificed his finger prints by deboning the chickens and we put the meat in a large Ziploc bag and stored it in the camper's refrigerator.    The next afternoon when I put the soup all together, all I had to do was pull out the bag of cooked chicken, a can of tomatoes, black beans, a box of chicken broth, frozen corn (could have used canned) and an envelope of Taco Seasoning.  Yeah, the little red packets that cost less than a dollar.   This step saves you from having to bring along a lot of bottles of spices to get the distinctive flavors you want.  I cut up an onion and sliced up two cloves of garlic, put that in a bowl, added a little olive oil and nuked it for a couple of minutes until the onion began to soften. (Our camper has a built in small microwave.)    I did this to help hasten the cooking time for the ingredients.

I lined the Crock Pot with a liner (yeah!! for liners), dumped in the chicken, tomatoes, beans, corn, chicken broth and sprinkled the taco seasoning over it all.    You could add more seasoning like salt and pepper if you like and parsley flakes if you have that.    Then I cooked the whole thing on high for about three hours.   If I had started with raw chicken it would have required a lot longer to cook to make sure the meat was done and not going to give us all salmonella.   

When we all sat down at the picnic table to eat, we brought over the pot of hot soup and passed around sour cream, shredded cheese, a jar of roasted bell peppers and corn chips.     If you have folks who enjoy a little heat, you can always add jalapenos to your soup or have a jar of peppers or hot sauce handy.    

We ate most of our meals outside in the screen house.

It was very easy to prepare and tasted very good, too.     When you think about cooking when you camp, try to simplify what you make but don't give up on having good, tasty meals.     We had grilled burgers one night, hot dogs and brats another, a Crock Pot chicken dish that had a wonderful sauce that we served over rice that was cooked in an electric rice cooker outside on our little cook center.    Larry made grilled chicken and grilled zucchini and squash one night with his George Foreman Electric Grill.   It is easy to clean up and cooks pork, chicken, burgers or veggies in a flash.   No need to worry about charcoal or firestarter.  With modern appliances, a little advance planning and modifying your recipes to make them easier to do at a camp site, you can eat rather well without breaking the bank or spending all your time slaving over a hot camp fire or camp stove.    Bon Appetit!    

Chicken Taco Soup
(This made enough to feed 3 kids and 4 adults and still have enough left overs for 2 or 3 more servings.)

2 Rotisserie Chickens, deboned
1 can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
2 cans of black beans (14 oz. each)
1 1/2 - 2 cups of corn (frozen and allowed to thaw a little or canned)
1 box of chicken broth (32 oz.) 
1 Vidalia (or yellow) onion, chopped and cooked in microwave for 2 minutes or until soft
2 cloves of garlic, minced and cooked with onion in microwave to soften
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Envelope of Taco Seasoning
Salt, pepper and parsley flakes to taste

Line 6 qt. Crock Pot with a liner.    Add all ingredients and heat until hot and bubbly.   It may take several hours for your Crock Pot to reach this temperature but by using cooked chicken and canned beans you can significantly reduce the time necessary to make it safe to eat and for the flavors to blend.   Ours cooked for approximately 3 hours.

Serve with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese (or Queso Fresco) and your favorite corn chips!  Delicious, fast and tasty!   This tastes even better the next day after it sits in the refrigerator and the flavors "marry", as my big sis used to say.

Happy Trails,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Crafty Project with a Lampshade!

Some of you have probably seen me reference Pinterest in a few of my posts.   If you have not gotten
sucked into this vast array of decorating ideas, recipes, crafty projects, inspirational sayings, fashion and pure nonsense, you have no idea!    Even a casual glimpse of what lurks within its pages will stun and amaze you with the plethora of trivia, good ideas, cooking tips, innovative recipes and countless ways to separate you from hours of your time!  

Once in a while, however, you will stumble upon an idea or tip that is just too good to pass by and it gets pinned on your board for some time in the future when you decide to put the idea to use.  And so it was with me one day when I noticed a picture of a lamp shade entirely covered in buttons.     I immediately thought of two things:   an off-white lamp shade on a small lamp on my kitchen counter and a collection of buttons in my craft supplies that would make Hobby Lobby's owners blush in shame.     The lamp shade had gotten splashed (mostly with water) and had an assortment of blotches and discolored spots on it that were unsightly but mostly unnoticed as most things are that you see every day.     The lamp sits on the countertop near the kitchen sink and has gotten battle scarred and, in fact, I had thought several times about replacing the shade and just kept forgetting to measure it so I could do just that.   

Once I saw the picture of the button encrusted shade on Pinterest, I KNEW I had to try that idea out on my poor, pitiful, neglected shade.   So that was my project "du jour".   Which technically means "of the day", but in truth turned out to take more like two days.    

Lamp Shade with water stains and blotches  :(

Ugly lamp shade before my intervention!

The next step was to take a damp cloth and wipe off the entire shade for dust and anything else that didn't belong on it.    Then I assembled a sizable portion of my button stash, my hot glue gun and a disposable plate so I could start sorting my buttons into colors, shapes and sizes.      I wasn't sure exactly how I intended to procede with the project since I was working from a picture on Pinterest but no specific instructions.     So I just started randomly gluing some of the largest buttons around the shade, thinking that somewhere along the line I would get struck with inspiration and insight to what needed to happen next.    You HAVE done a project like that, haven't you?     I mean really.   Who has not started a project like this without a clear battle plan before making your first move?   

As I glued buttons I began to see that what was needed was a variety of large buttons, intersperced with smaller ones and a healthy mix of colors.     What also became apparent was that fitting the buttons together, especially as I got more and more glued to the shade would get trickier and a little bit more difficult since the buttons are not flexible and neither is the glue once it grabs hold and dries....which is almost instantly!      So at that point, I decided that my best move would be to stop gluing to the body of the shade and concentrate on putting the buttons around the top edge and the bottom edge of the shade.     

I used small buttons on the top edge.

I used slightly larger buttons on the bottom edge.

After I glued buttons on the top edge, as well as the bottom edge, I then began filling in buttons around the inside section of the shade until most of the white areas were filled.    There were some small sections that were left open and I had no buttons that would fit---believe me, I tried to make them fit.   As I said, buttons are NOT flexible so I concluded that I would need to fill in those gaps (if I wanted all the spaces filled) with something smaller.    I remembered that I had some small brads, as well as some dots and rhinestones with adhesive backing on them.   So I got those out to help fill in the remaining spaces.   

The result?     Well, here ya go!

So the lamp shade project is pretty much finished and I am basically happy with how it turned out.    I will probably go back and fill in a few more "gaps" between buttons but truthfully, the gaps are not THAT apparent when you are looking at it in person.    They tend to show up more in the photograph.    So whether I put on more embellishements is still up in the air.    The bigger issue is now that the shade is looking a tad more presentable, does it go with the lamp?   In a word, NO!    So I see another project in my future involving this lamp.     I have considered three options:  painting it, applying decoupage and encasing it in cloth that is gathered around the neck of the lamp.    Not sure yet what I'll do but when and if I do, I'll post pictures!  

In the meantime, if you find a lamp shade around your home that is need of help (I  recommend selecting a fairly small shade for a project like this) why not consider using this method to fix it?    Heck, you could even start with a BRAND NEW shade and do this!  All you need is a hot glue gun, an assortment of buttons or even a lot of one kind and color and some spare time to glue them to the shade.  Craft stores sell them in bulk so it's not hard to get an assortment of buttons for not much money.  Gluing the buttons is not difficult and you can put on some tunes, sing along and still glue buttons without too much risk of making a mistake.    One thing I forgot to mention is that if you do make a mistake and glue on a button and decide it's not the right size, shape or color, they tend to pop off pretty easily if you apply firm, upward pressure.   So it's a forgiving craft! 

One of the happy benefits of retirement is that every day you have the chance to work on projects like this that previously would have been put off to the weekend or on a day off.      Since every day is "Saturday" when you're retired, I don't have to do that.   Each day gives me the option of having fun and working on things that I choose to do rather than things that I MUST do.   No one mentioned that perk of retirement before I retired so let me be the first to say, it is one of the BEST things ever about being retired!   

Happy Trails~~~


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Caution: Larry Wrote This Post!

A few days ago Marcia wrote a blog post about mustaches, etc.  She read it to me and at the end she had tears in her eyes.   So I thought perhaps it brought back some memories that made her tear up.   So I said, "Why are you crying?"   She said, "You're not a writer."  And I said,"Thank you for that endorsement."  So proceed with caution---you have been warned.   If you came here today expecting the same eloquent prose that you're used to reading on this blog, STOP reading now.   For you will be sadly disappointed.  

I spent the day doing a couple of projects I have been dragging my feet on.   I made a Camper Ramp to assist in replacing the camper tires.    If you want to know what this is, you can google the term "Trailer Aid" and find examples.  But mine is home made.  I may not be a writer but I do have some handyman skills.  (On edit:   Marcia says she is grateful for that!)  

Two pictures below will give you an idea of how this ramp works.    I am going to put it in action next week and will report back with pictures and let you know how well it worked or not.  
Trailer Ramp for Changing Tires
End View of Ramp

Another project I needed to do and have been putting off was the wheels needed to be painted on my truck.  They were rusted and pitted.   So I got the sandpaper out, sanded the rims, cleaned them, primed them and repainted.   Below are pix that show the process.   
Cleaned and Sanded


Completed Tire with New Paint

The upside of all this activity was I got two projects out of the way that needed to be done.   However, the downside is I got a sunburn and I missed my afternoon nap.  

Will report on the ramp after I put it into action next week.   If you got this far, thanks for reading.  

Hasta la Vista, Baby!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mustaches, Mismatched Socks, Sequins and Penny Loafers

Larry and I just got back from walking at the mall.   Yes, we have joined the ranks of the other geezers in town and have gone for a daily walk three times this week.    I say "geezers" because the only people doing the walking are folks of our age and some quite a bit older than us.   And if you think I am being snarky to call them geezers, think again.    Many of those making their rounds were going a lot faster than us and had more pep in their step than many people half their age.    Quite the contrary, I admire those gray haired high steppers who are faithfully making their way through the tiled path at the local mall.  

The primary reason for our new found desire to walk the mall is the realization that we're too sedentary, too out of shape and just too lacking in energy to be healthy.    We have places to go, people to see and it's hard to do those things when you're "too pooped to pop" as Lucy Ricardo once said.    So after acknowledging that walking out in the fresh air along a nice, paved path down the street from our house is totally impractical when the humidity is 97 % and the mosquitoes have been known to carry off small dogs in our area, it dawned on us that there is a reason the mall opens 2 hours early for people to stroll along its empty hallways.      Climate controlled.    Safe.    Flat (except for a few ramps/steps).   Display windows with the latest fashions to entertain us.  Water fountains and bathrooms conveniently placed---just in case.   What more could anyone want?

So today as we meandered along looking at sequined tops, one shouldered sun dresses, Little Mismatch Socks, sparkly sandals and neon tennis shoes,  I suddenly knew why some of my younger relatives dress the way they do.   At family gatherings and celebrations, I have often marveled at their fashions but since I haven't darkened the doors of a mall until recently, I had no idea what the styles of the day had become.     This morning's outing certainly gave me an epiphany.   

There were a few things we saw that I attempted to explain to Larry since he is clueless when it comes to fashion.    His philosophy about clothing is that if it's clean, covers his nakedness and is not a white shirt, he is happy.   So as we were passing the Claire's I pointed out the mustache display that had a sign above it saying "Mustache Mania".    I mentioned to him that mustaches seem to be all the rage these days.   For girls.   That was as far as I got with the explanation because, frankly, I have NO idea how I know this nor do I know WHY it is a fad.    Maybe one of my readers could  leave a comment and fill me in on the details of this mysterious "must have".  

As I was pointing out the sequined, animal print tops in another display I felt a slight twinge as a memory stored somewhere deep within the folds of my cerebellum sprang to life.     It was 1963 and my family had just moved to Ft. Worth, Texas from Jackson, Mississippi.    I had just finished 9th grade and was anticipating going to high school for the first time the next fall.    Naturally a girl of that age starts noticing what the other girls are wearing.    I was involved in my church youth group shortly after we moved to Texas so among the first things I noticed was that every girl had some cut off jeans, a pair of penny loafers and white Levis.     It became obvious to me that if I didn't have those things I would stick out like a sore thumb among my peers.     I set up a howl like you would not believe until I got a few of the necessary items to make me fit in with the new school mates I would soon be meeting.   

Once I got those things, I thought I had arrived.    There is a photograph of me somewhere (hopefully it's lost to the ages) when we had just come back home after a 3 week trip through Mexico.   I am standing by our 1960 station wagon, posing like I was a model for Seventeen Magazine---my fashion Bible at the time.    I have on wrap around sunglasses, cut off shorts and penny loafers with crew socks.   I think I might even have my wrist slightly bent, casually showing my disdain for the whole affair.    Oh, yeah, I was cool and I knew it.   

And that memory popped into my head this morning when I saw all the latest fashions and realized why my nieces and granddaughter want to dress the way they do.    It is no different for them than it was for me all those years ago.    When you're young it is all about finding out who you are, how to fit in and be confident in yourself.    It is a process that evolves over time until one day you do develop your own style, your comfort zone, your own way to be.    But it's does not stop.   The process keeps on going in our lives.

Ask me how I know this?   It's because along with the sudden realization of why the young ones do what they do, I came to understand that Larry and I are still evolving in who we are.    Retirement brings abrupt and dramatic changes to your life.    Suddenly you're not in the familiar routine any more.    There are no alarms clocks to roust you out of bed every day.     No wardrobe worries.    No traffic to navigate.    It's just you and 12 - 18 hours of freedom every day.   As I told someone shortly after we retired, "Every day is Saturday when you retire."   

We are still figuring out who we are now that we don't do the jobs we used to do.  My old life involved lots of paperwork, employee issues, conference calls and dealing with state bureaucracy over our funding.   Larry's life involved a lot of physical labor, along with a hefty dose of electronic record keeping and making sure everything he did was done by the rules and within his own exacting standards.    Neither of us has to worry about any of that any more.     So where do we go from here?     Am I a writer, an artist?  A better cook?    Is he a carpenter?   A story teller and entertainer to his grandchildren?    Just who we are and what we'll be is developing as we go along.    The trick is to get comfortable with the process and figure out what it is that will signal we have arrived at our new persona.    I don't think I'll be wearing wrap around shades any time soon, but I sure do hope I meet back up with that girl who thought she had it all posing in her cut-offs and penny loafers.