One of a Kind

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(Granddaddy Walker, Barbara Walker and Mama Walker)

Mama. That’s what we called her, though she was not our mother. Mama was the best grandmother-my favorite grandmother. She was my daddy’s mother and she was all mine. Well, that’s what I thought. She was a farm girl. Had been all her life. So, she was not a tiny little thing and she was not fragile. She could milk a cow with the best of them and who knows what else. She was not fat, but round and her lap was the most comfortable I think I’d ever slept in. She called me her favorite, but I think she told all her grandkids that. And every one of the grandkids knew they were her favorite. I sure did.

Mama stayed with me while my parents worked and my sister was at school. The days were filled with her working in the yard and me riding my stick pony. It was imperative I learn how to ride that stick horse to perfection because I wanted to be just like Mama. One time, while pulling weeds in the beautiful flower bed, Mama fell backward. She told me not to tell Daddy, but I had been worried about her and told him anyway. Besides, I never could remember when I was supposed to be quiet about something.

After working in the yard, Mama would read to me and she taught me to read when I was three. I loved it and she loved teaching me. We’d have lunch and I thought I was the luckiest little girl in the world because before I took my nap, I was allowed to watch
“As the World Turns”, her favorite soap opera.  Once it was over, we’d make the long trek down the hall to my room and she would lay down with me. I could never figure out how she woke up before I did, but she always did.

Mama took a blood thinner because she had hardening of the arteries. It made her smell funny- like medicine. But, it was Mama’s smell. It didn’t smell bad, it just smelled like Mama.

She made dinner for all of us because my parents worked so late. I can’t remember all she cooked, but I make her chicken and dumplins’ to this day. Oh my gosh, if ever there was as wonderful a meal as her chicken and dumplins’, I don’t know where it could be found.

There is nothing like yesterday’s grandmothers. They were old fashioned, they loved to give you things to eat and drink that made your body work more efficiently, if you know what I mean. And they were a tough bunch, having been farmers and whatnot all their lives.

Every kid thinks their grandmother is the best and you know what? They are right! I’ll bet your grandmother was the best as well! Here’s to our grandmothers!

 

 

A Love Song For Stephen

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I love Valentine’s Day as much as the next girl. I love to be told I’m loved and adored, I love to laugh  with my husband, Stephen and I love presents. But, some years, we’ve not had enough to get a Valentine’s present and make it through the week. You know, those lean years when you just have to choose which is more important. It is during those times I have felt more love than when I am given some token of love.

Love is a state of being. It’s not just a one day thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying (or am I ?) that one day out of the year does it for most people. I somehow can’t imagine that. But, many times, people choose only to show their affection through words and gestures on this one day.

My husband is not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes us so perfect for each other. But, my husband brags on me, tells of when we met with a gleam in his eye, talks about strengths he sees in me even before I see it myself and I do the same . We’re crazy about each other! That’s the whole thing. We are the real deal.

It’s not always been this way. No siree. There was a time when we were divorced. For two long years. I’m here to tell you we were the world’s worst divorced couple. We were miserable together and apart. But the thing was, we were more miserable apart than we ever were together. I moved away -way far away – to Granger, Texas. A four hour drive  from Stephen. Distance made no difference. If my car broke down, Stephen was there. If I was sick, he came to nurse me back to health. Flat tire? He came Stephen from Dallas to fix it.

Eventually, I moved back to Dallas and because I had no place to stay, Stephen let me stay at the house. It was Valentine’s Day 2000, when  he and the boys came in my room and said they’d talked and wondered if I would marry him again! He had asked the  boys if it was okay with them before he asked me. It was romantic and amazing and I realized I never had lost the love of my life. So, we married that April. We still celebrate our first marriage on our anniversary and six months later, we celebrate our second wedding anniversary. What could be more perfect than that?  We have the occassional argument, but not often at all.

So, I would like to suggest that Valentine’s is a state of mind and we would all do well to practice it every day. Besides, it’s more fun. It’s not the cards, flowers and stuff. Shoot! I have those things. But, the best thing, is the state of mind.

Stephen, “Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.”

Beyond Words

I am hardly ever at a loss for words. I’m a natural talker and words are always my best friends. But, last night, my friend, Kim, sent me this photo her daughter took of the marquis of Half Price Books Flagship store in Dallas. It’s me! On the marquis! I was so surprised. I have a book signing for The Conservative Congregant this coming Sunday, so the store was advertising it.

I was so shocked! Needless to say, I’ve never had my name on a billboard, marquis or anything other than the role at school. So, I wanted to share this with you . I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it’s pretty cool!

 

 

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Which leads me to talk a little bit about marketing books. I’m trying to learn how to do this as Independent authors do not have the luxury of a publicist or marketing director. So, I thought, “What better way to advertise than to use my husband.” It was brilliant when I saw the advertisement for the shirt. I had to buy it. It was his Christmas present this year. He laughed when he saw it and said, “It’s really all about you, isn’t it?” Well, maybe  not all the time, but it’s fun when it is. Enjoy his promo ad for me.

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This Time a While Ago

This time of year, a while ago, my sister and I would be cleaning house like crazy, getting ready for the company to come for Thanksgiving. My mother was world famous for catching bits of dust we might have missed. How? I have no earthly idea! She could catch a speck of dust that God couldn’t even see. No kidding!  My sister and I actually worked pretty good together, as I remember. Now, that may be a wishful memory, I don’t know. But , the crux of the matter was, we just wanted to get the housework done so we could do our own thing. For me, that was playing any  sort of thing. I loved games. Yahtzee (which I still love), cards, Risk, Monopoly , oh and Scrabble. Anyway, I digress.

While my sister (Martha) and I didn’t like cleaning the house, the only thing we really hated to do was clean up the backyard after the dog. EWWW. Neither of us were big into cleaning up the dog poop. But, we wanted the dog, so it was our job.

Martha and I shared a room-especially if there were people who would be spending the night.I have to admit, her side of the room was always neater than mine. Well, we all have our flaws.

My favorite thing to do was vacuum. I don’t know- it was some kind of thrill to hear the bits go into the vacuum cleaner bag. Like, it was proof things were actually getting cleaned.

My mother, about this time of the week would have written everyone’s name down on the back of an envelope who would be attending the Thanksgiving dinner. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, babies. You name it, they were on it. She also would have a different envelope in which she had the menu. All the delicacies we would be eating was on that envelope. We had a big people table and a little people table. If one was unfortunate as to have to eat at the little people table even after reaching the age of the big people table, it was just too bad. Our family was huge and if you had a place, you were lucky to get it.

Although Mother had to work everyday, she stayed up late working out the details of the dinner down to the minute. I don’t know how she did it, but every item of the dinner was ready at the same time the other things were.I am not that coordinated in my culinary abilities to be able to achieve that feat. I am just not that person, I guess. She could have given me that talent in the gene pool, but maybe I was standing behind the door when it was passed out.

Not only did Mother work out the details, but she had time for a bit of television and Bible study. She studied her Bible every night and knew more than I will ever know about the Bible. She would wake my dad, who would be sleeping in the chair and say, “Paul, Paul, let’s go to bed.” She had this tone to her voice that she only ever had when she was tired and ready for bed. Or, when she was telling him in the night to turn over because he was snoring.

So, off to bed she would go just to get up and start it all over again. And our job?  Mine and Martha’s? To keep the house clean until after Thanksgiving.

Come Thanksgiving day, of course, Martha, Barbie (my oldest sister, now deceased) and I would wait anxiously for the guests to arrive. We always knew who would be first to arrive and who would be woefully late -holding up the dinner. Mother always said we would eat at noon, sometimes, one o’clock. Invariably, we ate at one at the latest. If anyone would have the audacity to show up after one, they would find themselves having to eat after we got started.

Every year, we’d sit at that very same dark wood dining room table and tell the same stories and laugh as if they were brand new. It was the funniest thing ever how last year’s and the year before that and the year before that memories got such huge laughs every single year.

The memory I hated the most was told so many times that if it had been cute when I said it, it wasn’t any longer. And never would be again. To this day, I hate that memory still. What was it? Well, my mother had a habit of calling each girls name when she wanted one of us. If she wanted me, it would be “BarMarPaula” One day, I got aggravated that she did that and said, “Oh! Just call me Suzy!” Whoop. I just can’t conjure up even a grin when I think of it. Brother.

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This photo is of one of the smaller reunions. My niece was just lucky she got to sit at the big people table!

Do you have an unfavorite memory of Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear it.

 

A Forced Break

Bipolar. It can be heartless and debilitating. I have talked about it before and it has been a long time since it has reared it’s ugly head.

I chose to take on another job to help with things around the house and help alleviate expenses. I knew it was a risk to take, but I wanted to see if I was up for the challenge. Turns out, not so much. Things went well for a couple of weeks and then it was all downhill from there.

A person with Bipolar Disorder has to have a stable environment, a stability in their lives that doesn’t have to remain static, but should be close… a sameness- no surprises, no ups and downs. Or at least not often. When one is working two jobs , that stability is just not there.

Because I put too much on myself, I crashed. It was a hard one this time. My body and mind just put a stop to the whole thing. I didn’t want to talk, write, work or anything else. Just sleep-a sweet release. I put a call into the doctor and got the meds I needed to regain my stability. It took a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, but I’m finally back and going strong.

A crash is like being in a black hole, spiraling  further and further down until, at last, you’ve hit bottom and don’t even feel like trying to get up. It’s like having no energy to engage or be engaged in anything and sleep comes swiftly and heavily. It is a living hell.  One’s brain literally shuts down and there are no words to utter, there are no songs to sing, there is no joy to be had. That must be what the definition of hell is .

To say that I am blessed with this disease sounds ludicrous, I know. But, I am able to sympathize and know what someone else may be going through. I consider that a great blessing. To “get” what someone else may be going through is empathy. To be able to feel that for a person with a mental illness is a huge blessing for you and for the other person. I hope this helps someone to understand the ups and downs of mental illness.

I was finally able to work on Book 2 of The Conservative Congregant today  and it felt so good to write again.  And to be able to blog as well was just icing on the cake!

I’ll be back soon with thoughts on something totally different! Have a good night friends.

 

The Best Life is the Good Life For Me

There are times I feel like my life has been hard. I have had hard times- we all have. But, today, while riding my horse, I passed my husband who was riding his lawn mower, mowing the pasture. A wry smile came across my face as I realized, not for the first time, how wonderful my life really is. My husband mowing the lawn on his day off while I rode my horse. Amazing!

Some might wonder why I think this is such a big deal. Well, the reason is because we were, at one time, both city kids, both terribly spoiled, woefully oblivious to other folks plights, but struggling to stay afloat with our little family of a daughter and two young boys.  Oh, we knew there were other people worse off than us. We were sure of that. We had no idea who they might be, but  we knew they existed.

My youngest son, Micah, was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a lung and endocrine disease- so far without a cure. We found out when he was about 9 weeks old. My older son, David was about 22 months when Micah was born. My daughter Amanda, was almost 13 . We were in and out of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas seemingly all the time. It had become like a revolving door. Micah’s CF was pretty well under control after he was about 5, I suppose. At 9, he was back in the hospital and then again not for 11 years. We have been blessed. Very blessed. It didn’t seem so at the time. Funny how time changes your mind regarding your circumstances.

I say all this to say to you- If you are in difficult circumstances right now- try to view it as a learning experience. We had many a heartache, heartbreak and despair. We had times we were on food stamps, CHIPS (before that CIDC), our doctor vistis for the kids were often write offs for the docs. It was quite embarrassing  to us. Both Stephen and I had been well off within our families, so we had no idea how to cope at this point in our lives. We flew by the seat of our pants and God’s grace. You can too. Prayer changes everything and sometimes situations occur in which God is the only  one who can help, who can understand, who can hear you. Stay the course, it works out- maybe not the way we want it

A ride on a hot afternoon. me and Licorice
A ride on a hot afternoon. me and Licorice

to – maybe it works out fine- but it works out how it is supposed to according to what God wants you to know. 

I feel as if I am writing to someone who needs to hear this right now. If so, I hope my message helps, because God will make your life the Best Life. 

 

 

Preconceived Ideas? Better Think Again!

All of us have preconceived ideas about lots of things. Sometimes, our preconceived ideas have us refusing certain foods because of the color, the smell, but not usually the taste. What do you think when I say “Brussell Sprouts”? Does your lip curl at the smell of them? Do you shriek with terror? Or, do you lick your lips? What about when I say “Cops”? Does it conjure up a good connotation or a bad one? Fear? Anger? Compassion or perhaps, the phrase,

“They give their lives for our safety?”

So, then, what comes to mind when you think of homeless people? “Lazy?” “Crazy?” “Weird?” Do the words “Nice”, “Sweet,” “Funny?” ever come to mind? Have you ever taken the time to speak to a homeless person? Have you even looked them in the eye? Have you escorted someone to a restaurant and bought them lunch? Or does the mere mention of the word incite fear, anger and lack of understanding, fill you? 

I am asking because it seems we all have preconceived ideas regarding some topic or another- some words bring instant visuals to our minds’ eye. I am also asking because I used to have the same visual. I thought homeless folks were lazy, crazy, weird, scary and God forbid I ever look a homeless person in the eye. 

But, I had a change of heart when I began going to “The Gathering.” The Gathering, you may remember (because I write often about it), is a church for the “housed and unhoused” people of Dallas. Some of the most sincere, loving, funny, friendly, wonderful people worship at The Gathering with us.Some are ill, bipolar, mentally  ill, unable to get medications that might stabilize them, unable to get proper help for their illness. Most are so different than we think they are. Some made me feel ashamed I did not worship God with the fervor they did. But I learned and so can you.

“They” are us. “They” are what we might be someday, what the hidden part of ourselves could be. There is no “They” and “Us. There is,however, “We.” Because we could all be walking in their shoes. 

My challenge for this week is to start with a first step- make eye contact and say hi. How hard could that be, right? Well, it can be very difficult for some. Some folks have been taught negative things about homeless people all their lives.  It’s time to stop all of our preconceived ideas about the homeless and come to think of it, anyone else. So, practice… if you dare. Say hi, make eye contact. Maybe next week, you might have a smile. Choose one person. Make them your challenge. Step out of your comfort zone and walk in Jesus’ shoes for a day. Be kind. Love. Help someone else. I’d love to hear about your experiment.

When we help others, we forget our own troubles. Isn’t that worth it?