From the Kindness Blog

I am a big fan of the Kindness Blog. Each time I read the stories, they uplift me. I hope the following will lift you up, too.

Jim and the Job. My neighbor, Jim, had trouble deciding if he wanted to retire from the construction field, until he ran into a younger man he’d worked with previously. The young man had a wife and three children and was finding it difficult to make ends meet, since he hadn’t worked in some time. The next morning, Jim went to the union office and submitted his retirement paperwork. As for his replacement, he gave them the name of the young man.That was six years ago, and that young husband and father has been employed ever since.

A Family’s Food Angel. While going through a divorce, my mother fretted over her new worries: no income, the same bills, and no way to afford groceries. It was around this time that she started finding boxes of food outside our door every morning. This went on for months, until she was able to land a job.We never did find out who it was who left the groceries for us, but they truly saved our lives.

Color Me Amazed. I forgot about the rules on liquids in carry-on luggage, so when I hit security at the airport, I had to give up all my painting supplies. When I returned a week later, an attendant was at the baggage area with my paints. Not only had he kept them for me, but he’d looked up my return date and time in order to meet me.

Seven Miles For Me. Leaving a store, I returned to my car only to find that I’d locked my keys and cell phone inside. A teenager riding his bike saw me kick a tire and say a few choice words. “What’s wrong?” he asked.I explained my situation. “But even if I could call my wife,” I said, “she can’t bring me her car key, since this is our only car.” He handed me his cell phone. “Call your wife and tell her I’m coming to get her key.”“That’s seven miles round trip.”“Don’t worry about it.”An hour later, he returned with the key. I offered him some money, but he refused. “Let’s just say I needed the exercise,” he said. Then, like a cowboy in the movies, he rode off into the sunset.

The Little Lift. One evening, I left a restaurant just ahead of a woman assisting her elderly mom. I approached the curb and paused to see if my arthritic knees could climb it. To my right appeared an arm to assist. It was that of the elderly mom. My heart was so touched.

Bounty For a Navy Wife. I was balancing caring for a toddler and working a full-time job, all while my Navy husband was on extended duty overseas. One evening, the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor, a retired chief petty officer, holding a breadboard loaded with a freshly cooked chicken and vegetable stew. “I’ve noticed you’re getting a little skinny,” he said. It was the best meal I’d had in months.

My Granddaughter’s Dress. I saw a dress in a consignment shop that I knew my granddaughter would love. But money was tight, so I asked the store owner if she could hold it for me. “May I buy the dress for you?” asked another customer.“Thank you, but I can’t accept such a gracious gift,” I said. Then she told me why it was so important for her to help me. She’d been homeless for three years, she said, and had it not been for the kindness of strangers, she would not have been able to survive.“I’m no longer homeless, and my situation has improved,” she said. “I promised myself that I would repay the kindness so many had shown me.” She paid for the dress, and the only payment she would accept in return was a heartfelt hug.

White Shoulders. A woman at our yard sale wore a perfume that smelled heavenly and familiar. “What are you wearing?” I asked.“White Shoulders,” she said. Suddenly, I was bowled over by a flood of memories. White Shoulders was the one gift I could count on at Christmas from my late mother. We chatted awhile, and she bought some things and left. A few hours later, she returned holding a new bottle of White Shoulders.I don’t recall which one of us started crying first.

This one really touched my heart. My grandmother’s favorite perfume was White Shoulders. She wore it on special occasions, even going to the grocery store. To this day when I smell White Shoulders perfume I know that she is still with me.

Patience and Time

You may remember a few months ago that the Crankee Yankee and I adopted Scooter, a young black cat we had been feeding and sheltering for the past two years. Long story short, we found out who his owner was and he was fine with us adopting the cat. So we brought him into the house in mid-July.

All well and good; he’s a nice little guy and is very loving. He is happy to be a house cat again, but the other five cats are still sizing him up. For the first few months, every one of our other five cats would hiss at him as soon as they saw him. Scooter, being Scooter; young and wanting to make friends, found out quickly that you have to earn your “wings,” so to speak.

Our other five cats are all older than he is, so that’s a factor too. He does want to be friends, but he still hasn’t figured out that you have to go slowly. He reminds me of our youngest granddaughter, Juliette. Nothing bothers that kid; she marches to her own drummer, and so does he.

Seeing Scooter slowly but surely become part of the family is another life lesson. Blending in takes time and patience. Too often we barge our way through life, expecting that everyone around us will just understand what we are going through.

But things are slowly changing. These days there are only one or two cats that still hiss or growl at him. Slowly, he is fitting in. Watching them all get used to each other is a lesson in patience and timing. Just the other day I found him sleeping peacefully beside Tinker, our biggest cat.

It’s a life lesson in patience and time; you can’t hurry it. You just have to go with it. Sooner or later, it all evens out.

 

Teachers Who Truly Teach


I’ll bet that most everyone has had a teacher in their lives who made a positive impact on them. It isn’t always about the subject matter either; it’s about how the teacher makes the students feel—about themselves as well as the subject matter.

The teachers I remember most are the ones who inspired me to be the best I could be; the ones who opened my mind to more than just the subject matter. I had a history teacher whom I loved; he made American history not just interesting but exciting. He also knew that I loved to read aloud, and he often called on me to do so.

One day, sitting in class, I began to daydream (something that always showed up on my report cards). I lost track of where we were in the book. He called on me to read, and I abruptly came back to planet Earth and could not remember where we were. He gave me a look that spoke volumes about how disappointed he was, and then asked someone else to read. I never disgraced myself again in his class.

My English classes were my favorites. Not only did I learn but I realized that I was a fairly good writer. I loved writing compositions and stories, and usually got high marks for them. I learned to read wonderful and inspiring books and poetry; they enriched my imagination and made me want to read more and more.

Then there were the truly awful teachers that made you feel terrible. I was in second grade and I had a little girl crush on a boy in my class. I wrote him a love letter in my notebook and failed to see my teacher walking toward me. She ripped my note out of my hand, and read it out loud to the entire class—including the boy I had a crush on.

I was mortified and hurt. I knew I shouldn’t have been writing and should have been listening to my teacher. But I couldn’t get over a teacher shaming me like that. I walked home from school and went right into my bedroom and crawled underneath my bed. I put my flaming hot face on the cool floor and wondered if I would ever live this down. Of course I did, but I never trusted that teacher again.

The teachers who inspired me made a real difference in my life. I am grateful to them to this day. I don’t know how it is these days with teachers, but I respect them always for what they do. The wrong teacher can make a mark on their students that can follow them to adulthood. The right teacher can not only bring out the best in a student, but inspire them to be the best that they can be. These are the teachers who truly teach.

 

For the Love of Country Music

Has anyone been keeping up with Ken Burn’s “Country Music” history? From the Tennessean:

“Country artists and the classic songs they wrote and recorded are at the heart of “Country Music.” More than 100 interviews were conducted for the project, many of them with prominent country musicians, songwriters and industry figures. The list includes Marty Stuart, Rosanne Cash, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Dwight Yoakam, Kris Kristofferson, and Naomi and Wynonna Judd.”

From Ken Burns himself:

“Country music is just the perfect subject,” Burns says. “Because as (songwriter) Harlan Howard said, ‘It’s three chords and the truth.’ It does not have the sophistication and elegance of jazz, but what it has is essential human emotions and stories told, basically, that everybody experiences. When someone says, ‘I’m not a fan of country music,’ we just say, ‘OK, just watch.’ ”

Now, as a child of rock and roll, and then the British invasion, I wasn’t really a fan of country music either. However, there were (and are) songs that just stay in your heart forever. Listening to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” makes me cry every time.

I found that I was riveted to this latest from Ken Burns; there’s something about the music that not only tells stories, but touches our hearts as well. The folks from “Hee Haw” were also noted; expecially Minnie Pearl, remembered for her big smile and welcome to the audience: “How-DEEEE!” And the audience just loved to “How-DEEEE!” right back to her. She famously wore a straw hat with a $1.98 price tag dangling on it.

Her real name was Sarah Ophelia Colley. It is interesting to note that she was quite educated, and loved Shakespeare.  She also published books, including a cookbook. She appeared on Hee Haw from 1969 to 1991. People loved her, and many admirers sent her letters. She answered each and every one.

Country music is unique, and comes from the heart and soul of the musician. Just this from the last verse of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken:”

“Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, Lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, Lord, in the sky.”

Honestly, I wasn’t much of a fan of country music, but watching and listening to the Ken Burns documentary of country music, it opened my heart and soul. Do yourself a favor and watch this latest from Ken Burns.

 

Cleaning Out the Closets

I finally realized that my lack of closet space was because I STILL had lots of “working clothes” in there; and I retired six years ago. I have never worn any of them since. You know how you hear those closet-cleaner folks say: “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it!” And there I was with clothes way past that!

So I filled two trash bags; one for tops and one for slacks, and took them up to our local thrift shop. Why in the world I hung to them so long is just laziness on my part. I like to think that someone will enjoy the clothes as much as I did. Now, on to the next clean-out project: my dresser drawers. Trust me, it’s not a pretty sight.

I’m fairly sure that a lot of the stuff in there can be donated. I confess that I am incredibly lazy about things like this; I can’t even remember the last year that I cleaned out my dresser drawers. You know how it goes: once you commit to cleaning out anything, you are pretty much compelled to finish the job. My motto for years has been “I’ll get to it later.” And “later” can take years.

On the next rainy day I’ll get to it; seriously, I mean it. I will probably find stuff I forgot all about, such as my little hand recorder I bought years ago. When I was working and had a 72 mile trip each way, I would record stories and poems (some of which ended up in my children’s book, “Lulu’s Book of Childrens’ Stories.”). It was a fun way to pass the time. But that’s only one thing I’m sure I’ll find; there will be more.

So, wish me luck. This is what happens when you are lazy (as I am); all that stuff can creep up on you like nobody’s business. It’s a lot like not cleaning the cat’s litter box each day; let it go and you will have a HUGE mess. Good luck to all of us packrats and “I’ll get to it later” folks. Heaven help us all.

Letting Go of Things We No Longer Need

When my mother was dying of terminal cancer, she was still feeling pretty good. She decided to have her friends come over and go through her jewelry and clothes and take what they wanted. It may sound morbid, but it actually was a lot of fun. We all laughed as everyone tried on clothes and jewelry. People kept asking Mom, “are you sure you don’t want to keep (this, that, or the other thing?) Mom replied, “where do you think I’m going to wear any of this?” And we all broke up laughing.

It may have been bittersweet, but it was a beautiful thing to see; everyone parading around in Mom’s clothes and jewelry. No one was happier than Mom. When everyone left, she told me that she wanted to go to her grave wearing her gold wedding band (which she never took off), and also her sterling eucalyptus pin and earrings. She looked beautiful at the wake; a grand lady to the end. Mom gave away her things with love and happiness; it made her happy, as well as those who enjoyed her clothes and jewelry.

I have her engagement ring that I often wear. There’s a funny story that goes with it; Dad had been engaged to a young woman (years before he met Mom). He had presented her with an engagement ring, and not too far from that, their engagement broke up. Dad still had the ring, which had to be sized down to fit Mom’s slender finger. She always referred to the ring as “old fat-finger’s ring,” which cracks me up to this day.

It’s sort of a metaphore for the things that really count in our lives when we give our things away. Material things are fun and fine, but who we are and the way people remember us are our real gifts. I still have my grandmother’s amethyst ring; when she died, her daughter (my Aunt Jane) flew up from South Carolina made sure that I was given it. My grandmother used to tell me the story of it; one of her uncles was a barber, and one day a sailor came into his shop. He said that he had been out to sea for a long time and badly needed a haircut and shave.

He didn’t have any money, but he showed the barber a beautiful amethyst stone as payment. The barber had it made into a ring for his wife. When my grandmother was a little girl, she would sit on her aunt’s lap and admire the ring. Her aunt told her that, when she passed on, the ring would be hers.

Years later, I was the one who admired the ring. My grandmother told me that it would be mine when the time came. True to her word, the amethyst ring is in my possession, and I always remember its history when I wear it.

Gifting friends and family with our material goods is actually a wonderful thing; we divest these things because where we are going next, no fripperies are required. I have already thought of our grandgirls and how much fun they will have going over my own “bits and bobs.” These things are part of the ties that bind us to each other; they are living memories of those we love.

Just Roll Your Eyes One More Time…

I was born in the ’50s and I did not grow up with the technology we have today. Our telephones were clunky and heavy, and you had to dial the number you wanted: that means that you put your finger in each numbered hole to dial the phone number you wanted. The first voice you heard was the operator who would get you the person you wanted to talk with. Also, you had to get permission from your parents to use the phone as well. Here’s a bit more on the subject:

VINTAGE BLACK ROTARY PHONE PROPERTY OF NEW YORK TELEPHONE COMPANY BELL SYSTEMS

From Techwalla: “The 1950s were prosperous years for the United States and saw many technological and economic advances. One of these forward strides was the widespread adoption of the telephone in American homes and businesses. By the 1950s, roughly two-thirds of American households had at least one telephone, with the percentage growing every year. The core technology was already highly advanced, similar to landline technology in the 21st century, but none of the ancillary technologies like voicemail and text messaging existed yet. It was also a different time in that one company, AT&T, controlled nearly the entire industry.”

So with that as my history with telephones, the technology today is often confusing. Oh, I know how to take pictures, how to text, how to call and so on. It’s just that the different usages of the phones of today (well, also the computers, tablets, Kindles, etc.) are often confusing to people of my age.

There have been times when I got so confused that I would have to go to an expert for help. This is what always happens: I walk in, say hello to the guy or gal behind the counter, and ask them for help. I can immediately see the eye rolls coming and I can just about read their minds: “oh, NO—not another old person who doesn’t know how to do anything! What a waste of my precious time!”

I would be thrilled if there was a seniors course that took you through everything you need to know regarding phones, tablets, computers, etc. I would especially love it if there was a real “someone” who wouldn’t roll their eyes if you asked a stupid question. Also, wouldn’t it be great if there was a hot line you could call when you get one of those scary messages that your computer is supposedly rampant with some horrible virus?

Seriously, I would be grateful if the young people you have to deal with regarding any type of technology would just kindly answer the questions and leave the eye rolls at home. In fact, here’s another idea: how about all the young techies take a mandatory course in 1950’s telephones so they too can enjoy being snickered at and eye rolled? Couldn’t hurt; might help.