Gramsie and November

 

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November is such a great month. The weather finally decides to be fallish, or hellish rain in our case, but the trees are showing off their colors and the air has become snappy. The clocks turned backwards for an hour, so we come home in pitch dark, but the youngest can now wait at the morning bus stop in the light. Last week he saw a deer across the road because it was neither light nor dark and the deer hadn’t yet gone back into the trees.

We have the privilege of voting in November and that makes it a month in which we hopefully contemplate and are thankful for our freedoms. We occasionally have a beautiful Saturday in November which to rake or blow leaves and we pick the last raggedy bit of the garden we planted months ago. We dig out our warmer clothes and fluff out the sweaters and hope we can fit into the same jeans from last year. We seriously shop for boots and scarves and begin to think about soups, home-made breads, firepits and hot cocoa.

I love November because of the pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, and sweet potatoes. A few weekends ago, college-age girl came home and announced that it was time for her to learn to cook. She wanted pumpkin pie. I said, “OK” and handed her the stuff to make it. She turned to me and said, “Now, for your perfect, mom-made, good-old, pumpkin pie recipe.” She held her hand towards me.

I smiled and put the can of Pumpkin in her hand. “It’s on the back of the can.”Pumpkin

She gasped and rolled her eyes. “The BACK of the CAN? The back of the can? I thought…I thought you had some time-honored, all from scratch, fancy-dancy recipe for our pumpkin pie.”

“I do,” I said, “It is on the back of the can and I have been using the back of the can for my entire life and that makes it old and it has always been good.”

She huffed, rolled the can to the back and kind of pushed me out of the way. “I got this mom.”

And she did, and the pie was great, and I can’t wait for her to come home next week and make another one or two. We made banana nut bread last weekend and put two loaves in the freezer and will make some pumpkin bread to go along with the coconut, chocolate, and chess pies that we will make when our son and his lovely new wife get in.

I do love to bake from old recipes and November is the perfect month to warm up the oven and try new things. I want to share my recipe for Banana Nut Bread. Or you can call it cake if you want. This recipe is from my grandmother’s sister. She was a terrific cook and she and I had a great friendship over the years. She also wrote a column in her local newspaper which I grew up reading. One day she and I were talking about cake and she made me write this recipe down. I still use the same carefully folded, piece of typing paper, I wrote on back in 1980. It has a few stains but at the top I titled it “Aunt Era’s Banana Nut Cake.”

3 Cups of Sugar

1 Cup of Shortening

2 teaspoons of Vanilla

4 eggs – add one at a time

Mix together until creamy then add the following:

3 ½ cups Flour

2 teaspoons Baking Soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk (if you don’t have any you can pour a capful of vinegar into regular milk and let it set for a few minutes – it will curdle)

6 small Bananas – I mash these with a fork on a plate

1 cup chopped Pecans

Mix it all together. The mix will feel heavy and dry until you add the bananas. Th

banana-nut-bread-14-754

is is a thick cake batter. Pour into greased bread pans or a Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 for about an hour. Insert toothpick to check the center for doneness.

Make some for this week to test and then some for next week to share on Thanksgiving.

November has been great so far and will only get better when I get the text saying, “Our plane has landed, come get us Gramsie!”

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SIXTY-black

On this beautiful morning, I am sitting in front of my electric heater, reflecting on sixty years of life. My birthday was on Wednesday and I really didn’t think much of it except to be thankful that I could get out of the bed and get to work. I did get to my hairdresser in the afternoon to get a new “do.”

When I was a child, sixty was such a long way off, that I never considered the idea of making it to sixty. I’m not sure my grandparents were even sixty when I was born. It was a foreign concept.

Around my teenage years, I was just hoping that if/when I turned sixty my children would move the hospital bed into the living room, so I could see what was happening. Sixty was OLD. The preacher was sixty and the ladies at church were old and I was never going to be that old!

By the end of my twenties, early thirties, my brain was developed to a point that I realized that people lived to sixty and beyond and I knew some of them and they were still active. Heck, some of them even still played golf and tennis! golf

At the end of thirty and the beginning of forty, with a herd of kids in tow, there were days I longed for sixty because I planned on them (the kids) all being gone. If I could just survive until that last one got out of high school, I could eat breakfast out on the porch with no spills, cook, clean, and pick-up for only two and I definitely would NOT have to wait in car lanes at multiple schools. One can only dream.

In my fifties, when my sister died about the same time as some close friends, I knew that I couldn’t count on sixty but had to be thankful for each day. I started working on those pesky issues of pride and contentment. I needed less pride and more contentment thrown together with huge doses of grace and I might make it to sixty.

And now here I am. Sixty years old.

My first thought is that I have been blessed and am thankful to have a great husband, a herd of great kids, many friends, a good job, beautiful grandchildren, some laying hens, and a garage full of “saved” fabric, fruit jars, and well, more boxes of fabric.

Not all the fabric is my fault though. When my grandma died, I got her fabric stash. I had to. They were going to throw it away. There might be a few scraps in the eighteen boxes that I can actually use someday. I won’t know until someday gets here. I got some more when my other grandmother died. A close friend at church passed on and I got her jars. Fabric and jars. The twin blessings of life!

My second thought is that I am SIXTY! Yikes! I still have so much I want to do. Hubs has been hanging in there for forty-ones years with me, we still have kids at home, and I still get up early to put the LAST, LAST, LAST one on the bus. I am not as quick as I once was, but I did shingle a roof a few weekends ago. I took Aleve for the rest of the week, but we got the job done. I am more tolerant of things than I used to be – just ask my older children. They have informed my that the youngest ones are horribly spoiled and get everything they want.

I have been trying out riskier behavior lately. I think I have been conservative enough and sixty is the time to finally let go. Just last weekend I walked out on the deck in my socks! No shoes. Just socks! My kids would gasp. I do not care if the socks wear out. xocks

One night I let the youngest eat his supper in front of the TV, so hubs and I could have a few minutes ALONE at the table. I am thinking of purchasing him a brand-new TV for his room, so I never have to listen to Fortnite again! We still operate with one TV in the house, but I am thinking that it is time to add another. The older kids will have a fit! I have quit coloring my hair so now I am totally silver, and I do not CARE a whit. I wear makeup only on the days I want to, and I am thinking about trying out my hubby’s secret for hair care. Don’t fix it, just wear a hat!

Sixty should be fun with my new, riskier attitude and my attention to more grace and contentment. My next step is to fake sick and call in to work! See what hubs thinks about that!

 

 

 

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ZZZZZZ’s

 

In my position as the Office Manager of an up and coming Psychiatry and Psychotherapy office I try to make things work smoothly. We work the schedules and send off bills. We offer lots of advice, keep the candy bowl full, and make people feel OK about being there across the window from us. Sometime back I had some great ideas about how to expand our offices.

We started with the Psychmatch.com program where I was going to help patients connect with other patients. I had two patients who would be perfect together and after much window counseling I decided that they would make the perfect couple. I worked the schedules and had them coming in on the same day one behind the other. The only problem was HIPPA. I was foiled immediately. I could not introduce them to each other and I couldn’t insure that they would actually speak to each other in the waiting room. All I could do was get them into the waiting room at the same time.

The first visit was not a success as one went back to see the Dr. before the other came in – which makes sense as their appointments were back to back, not simultaneous. They crossed for about twelve seconds while one checked out and the other passed right by going in to see the Dr. I had to sit and watch as my perfect match veered away from each other.

As luck would have it, they both were to return in four weeks. Alas, one wanted morning and one wanted afternoon. I could see right away that with all the HIPPA laws I was not going to make a success of Psychmatch.com, even though it was a great idea. I heard them crying out to me through my window, but I could do nothing.

My next idea was to have a wine bar in the waiting room. They would definitely be chill when they were called back for therapy, but it got nixed right from the start. I have suggested margaritas for sleep problems but all I got for that suggestion was a snort and an eye roll.

We do have yoga therapy and quilting therapy in place and many are happy coming in for those events. We also go into work places and give Lunch and Learn topics to help with work stress and workplace fatigue. One idea I am working on is Therapy for Therapists. It would be a night out to work on themselves instead of others.

Of all my ideas, the best one I have had so far, and the one I feel is absolutely necessary in today’s fast paced world, is Nap Therapy. Yes, NAP THERAPY. We would have a room with small couches, chairs, or even a twin bed. Dimmed lights. No cell phones. No talking. Maybe some soft music or tinkling sounds. The sleep deprived or agitated would make an appointment, just like a regular Dr. appointment, come in, lock up all communication devices, pick a seat and rest/sleep for 30 minutes. We would give them a Dr. Note to get back to work or school and they would feel better.

When my kids get snappy and out of sorts, my first resort is always a nap. When they would scream, “But I’m not tired!” I knew that I was correct in my assessment. The more they got upset, the more I knew they needed a nap.

I see people every day who are so tired, they can barely get through the sign -in process. They are out of sorts with themselves and nothing in their world makes sense. Our entire culture needs more rest. All the 24/7 inventions, non-stop information, lights, lights, and more light does not make a well-rested citizen who can make sensible decisions. A brain with no rest can NOT make good choices. 

When I was young, most kids were in by 10:00 or 10:30 pm on school nights. We had Sundays off because no stores were open. We got up, went to church, had lunch with family and spent the rest of the day watching the Dallas Cowboys or lazing around. If we got snappy, we found ourselves in bed in the middle of the afternoon. We rested and were able to get through the week without a “meltdown.”

Now, we have first graders talking about being nervous ad their mothers discuss their “meltdowns” and their difficulty getting through all the activities they have been signed up for. We have teens afraid to enter the adult world, partly because they are exhausted from scrolling continuously on their social media. They don’t know how to make a life for themselves outside of a screen. We have moms and dads working tirelessly so that their kids can have more stuff and be everything they want to be.

We need to rest! We need to slow down just a little. We need to be able to take a moment at the grocery store and let someone else go in front. We need to be able to sit on the deck and talk about our day. We need to stop and listen to silence now and again. We need a day to do what we want to do rather than what we MUST do.

If you are not getting enough rest, you are welcome to come into our up and coming psychiatry office and make an appointment for our NAP THERAPY room. If enough ask for it, they will let me build it.

 

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BIG

In my job as an office manager at an up and coming psychiatry office I work constantly with insurance companies. This work is annoying, irritating, and absolutely non-productive.

Here is how most conversations – if you can call them conversations – go.

I look up the number and dial it. It is answered by a robot with horrible music playing in the background.

The first message is all about how the recent storms have produced a huge backlog and the wait time will be even longer than normal. Then the message about options have changed and I am given four options for the first round. I choose number three. Another round of options and I choose number one.

A different robot comes online and asks questions. I repeat the information at least three or four times for each response. For instance, on the date of birth, the robot does not understand October one as October first. I say it. I punch it in on my phone. I say it. And still the voice can’t get it. I punch it in again because if I can not make the robot understand the date of birth my call is over.

Finally, I kind of scream in a very articulate manner, “October first!” My co-worker says something about a snarky attitude about the time the robot asks another question. I punch in the answers and get another question. About fifteen questions later, I get to go back on hold while I wait for a “real” operator. The bad music comes back on and I continue the work at my desk until I hear a person asking my name.

I give her answers about my name, my business, my phone number, the tax id, the patient name, and the patient’s demographic information. She asks a few more questions and then informs me that the call will have to be transferred to another department. At this time, I have been on the phone for twenty-three minutes. She asks me even more questions that I find are unnecessary combined with the information they have already gathered. She has already said that she is going to transfer me to another department and I will have to start from the beginning.  All this while chomping on her gum in my ear!

I tell the girl that I find the questions redundant because the next department is going to ask the same questions again. The music comes on immediately with no response from her.  After eight more minutes, I hang up and begin again.

On the second try, after I enter all of the demographic information, I get a message that they can only put me on hold for two minutes. What? Two minutes. I roll my eyes because it helps me to cope with the intolerable situation. Nine minutes later, I am still on hold waiting for option number two to kick in.

On that try I never get past the music. I hang up because I need to go to the bathroom and I have other things to do. I will call later.

On the third try I get the disclaimer message that tells me IF I ever get to talk to someone that anything they say is not a promise of payment and that basically they can change their minds at any time. This time I get past option number two and the dreaded music begins. Seventeen minutes and I hang up. Keep in mind that I am dialing in on the professional, provider line.

In the end they ask me to fill out a short survey about the satisfaction of my call and the information I received. I thought it more Christian-like to not answer the survey.

My thoughts are that if this is happening to me on a daily basis, then it is happening to others on a daily basis, and this is not fun. Insurance. Banking. Medicine. Education. What is the big deal with being so BIG that there is no longer customer service or satisfaction?

Personally, I like the smaller places who know who I am. I like the places who have a real person answering the phone and answering my questions. I like the places where I still matter. I like connections and I like relationships. Why else are we here?

Perhaps the answer to our biggest questions should begin with the idea that too big can be too much. Maybe we need to dial it back to a size where a person actually answers the phones and takes care of the customer. Or the phones are answered by someone who speaks the language of the country where the service is being offered. While BIG might be the answer to a few questions, I have to say that when I go into the bank or the grocery store or want to shop around for insurance, I much prefer the smaller entities with whom I can build a relationship. 

I can almost guarantee that the anxiety levels of many will go down as customer service increases and companies remember that relationships are important.

 

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Learning Changes

I wrote this in August about the time school started, but did not get it posted until now. The thoughts still apply.

 

It’s that time of year again when all schools have either started or will start shortly. I well remember the first day I was left at home with my momma while all the other kids got on the bus and went to school. I must have stood by the window for hours waiting on the bus to come back around and bring my playmates home to me. It was the first time in my life, that I know of, that I was alone with momma.

I really don’t remember what all momma and I did that day, but I do remember when my roommate sister came in from school. She grabbed me by the arm and led me to a little chair and desk in our room. She sat me down and taught me everything that she had done during the day. From that day forward, I loved learning and I loved going to school.

My sister became an educator and was in the classroom for most of her career. She went on to gain advanced degrees and moved into administration, but I believe her days as a classroom teacher were her favorite. She had a gift for teaching others. Perhaps she got it from our grandmother. One of our other sisters became a teacher and she was a great classroom teacher as well.

I started my own teaching career as a basketball coach and loved every minute of it. I am still in touch with many adults who were once silly Jr. High kids pulling pranks in my classroom or riding until late at night with me on a yellow dog. I moved up to teaching at the University level and still loved being in a classroom. Being a parent was really an extension of the teaching world for me.

I still teach at home at nights and I believe that I now know The Scarlett Letter by memory, can still complete algebra problems on paper and come up with the right answer quicker than the ones getting bogged down on their laptops. As for multiplication and the capitols of all the states, I can rattle answers off so fast that it makes heads spin. I can build entire Roman Empires out of salt dough and “carve” a sarcophagus for a Barbie doll out of an old Velveeta box. Science Fair exhibition boards are not even a blip on the nervous scale of things Jr. Kids really hate to do. AND I still enjoy creating new ways to teach old things.

Learning is a continuous part of life. I do not understand why learning has taken such a bad rap over the years. Perhaps learning isn’t dead but has changed directions. We no longer teach the skills to be hunters and gatherers or even pioneers because those skills are not necessary in our world. We no longer make candles on a mass scale because we have electricity. We buy our clothes from Walmart or Talbots or somewhere in between but few have the skills to make all the clothes for their families. As our culture changes, our skill sets have had to change.

Perhaps we need to re-examine the different skill sets we are teaching in our schools and begin asking more pertinent questions. Do we really need to keep pounding the old literature texts? Does every kid need to be in college prep? What skill sets are the actual jobs requiring? Will pushing all learning to a computer really enhance their skill sets? Is it time to bring back hands-on learning and use the all videos for something else?

Since our culture is constantly changing, we need to consider new things. On the other side of that idea lies the fact that when something absolutely does NOT work (think common core) we need to get rid of it. Our kids and grandkids live in a fast-paced world that is constantly changing. Our education system needs to make a stab at making changes faster. For instance, creating all math lessons online might sound cool and modern but the fact remains that writing a math problem along a horizontal line is very difficult and hard to understand. Having to worry about font sizes and text boxes definitely adds to the confusion. Why not go ahead and ditch math problems online and assign all math homework to be completed on paper?

Some educators know to do get rid of yucky methods and create new ones, but all are hampered by the rules of standardized testing. Maye it is time to ditch those tests as well. What do they really accomplish? I never much liked giving tests because I wasn’t sure they measured what I wanted measured. I liked to look at things like initiative and improvement and attitude. Remember when citizenship was a large part of our school life?

At any rate, these are just some ideas of mine after many years of formal teaching, parental teaching, and my own life-long learning.

Once again, be careful at the crosswalks, the bus stops, and Starbucks lines in the mornings. I am hoping that everyone has a successful, stress free school year.

 

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The Least Advice

We will travel to Texas this weekend for our oldest son’s wedding. It is an event we have long waited for and looked forward to. Immediately after High School he served in the United States Marines and put his college off until later. In his classes at University of Houston he met a wonderful young lady who will soon be my new daughter. My wishes are for them to have a good life together and, of course, to give me as many grandchildren as they wish.

I don’t necessarily wish for them to have great riches and wealth or to have a mansion or even to be able to travel the world over. I wish for them to respect each other and support each other and to be steadfast in their commitment to each other. If wealth comes their way, then my wish is that they be granted much wisdom to use their wealth to help others.

Besides wisdom, I wish for this new young couple to be granted the lessons of LEAST. Or Last. Anything but First.

I would wish for them to be last in complaining. Young marriages can be difficult with new expectations, unfulfilled expectations, and disappointing results. There will be times that money is tight and there will be times that both are tired beyond belief but complaining only encourages discontent. If each person in a relationship would try their best to be least in complaining, it would surely strengthen the relationship.

I would wish for our newlyweds to be least in comparison. Look only to the needs/wants of each other rather than scrolling through the Interned to see what the “world” has. Don’t compare your car, house, clothes, vacations, jobs to others. Especially be least in comparing spouses. Be content with each other and what you have obtained together.

Be last in constructive criticism. Grace covers a lot more ground.

Be the least in your “dreams” of your new marriage. Yes, we all want a great wedding and marriage but, truly, the HUGE fairytale is just that, a fairytale. Marriage is made up of hard work, effort, elbow grease, and loads of unselfishness. Sometimes, expecting your spouse to be everything is just too much. Be reasonable, work hard, and give each other some space.

Be the least in selfishness. Be the one to make the bed. Be the one to clean the toilets. Be the one to walk the dog in the rain. Be the one to change the poopy diapers – in the future. Go ahead and make peace, be the first to apologize. Let your spouse pick the place for dinner or vacation. Be thoughtful. Don’t pout or throw tantrums. Be the least in selfishness.

Be the least in negative thoughts. Talk things out. Get them in the open. Do not dwell in negative and unconstructive thoughts. Marriage is wonderful, but it is not without pitfalls. Look for the best in each other and look for the best in every situation that you encounter.

Be the least in quits. It is much easier to quit a relationship than to build a relationship. Don’t suggest quitting at every little bump in the road. Don’t let quitting be the first answer to your troubles. Take quit out of the solution to anything.

And finally, I hope that our new couple has fun with each other. I hope they don’t take things too seriously and lose out on all of the pranks, jokes, and teases that make a long relationship full and memorable.

Life has many Firsts for us all, and we should enjoy those, but I am also thinking that we never forget the lessons of least when they come our way.

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Monster on Vacation

 

Last week we went on vacation. We enjoyed the sights and sounds of the coast of North Carolina. We explored the area around Atlantic Beach and Beaufort. It is a less traveled place and we had a blast. We visited the North Carolina Aquarium and I would recommend it for everyone. The exhibits were great, and the bird show was fantastic. I did get to “pet” a ray as he swam past and pick up some different kinds of crabs. We swam in the ocean and collected shells every morning.

During the hottest part of the day we explored small towns around us. Beaufort is one of the oldest towns in North Carolina and has a lot of history including the distinction of saying that Blackbeard’s boat was just offshore and that he often came to Beaufort to stay. We went to the Maritime museum to see the Blackbeard exhibit and that is where we met the monster on vacation. 

All was going well until the very end. The youngest and I popped up to the front of the museum to check out the bathrooms. We wandered over to the gift shop to see what we could see. I was talking to the museum women and he was looking at a book on shells when it happened. I heard a crash and a loud scream. “I want a watch!”

The small monster was wearing a pink, frilly tutu of some sort, sparkly pink tennis shoes, and a headband with pinkish feathers. With each stomp of her tiny foot, her headband would shake and shimmy. She quickly escalated in volume while her grandmother completed her purchase. The little girl looked at us and ran over to a table and shoved a stack of books off to the floor. My youngest gasped in horror and my eye began to twitch. Where were the parents?

“I want a watch!” she reiterated.

The museum visitors were gathering while the mom stood texting by the exit door. It was easy to spot her because she was wearing a small plastic backpack – bright pink, of course. Her head was down, and her thumbs were working overtime. Nothing was happening here. She had no clue, or she didn’t want to know.

By then our college daughter and her boyfriend were ambling up to the front to see what was happening. I motioned to them that we should leave. We all sat on a bench on the front porch and waited for dad to finish reading about life boats from the early 1800’s. The kids were laughing and saying that if that was them, their behind would be stinging or their arms might have been almost yanked off from being dragged to the bathroom for a little come to Jesus meeting in the museum.

In the middle of our laughter, the door opened, and the grandmother walked out followed by the mother and a young lad of about eighth grade. Finally, the pink monster stomped out, walked over to our bench and kicked it. The others proceeded to the car. No one spoke to the child or even looked at her. We just stared as she proceeded to kick the railings and scream.

College girl was holding me down and saying, “Please don’t say anything mom. Just let her scream.”

The young boy got out of the car and came to the pink dragon. “If you get in the car, we can get some ice cream.” He bent down to speak directly to her. She screamed right in his face much like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Her body shook, and spit shot from her mouth. “I want a Watch!”

With quiet resolve he picked her up and put her in the car. 

What a little horror! We finished our trip and while the kids went back out to the ocean I ran to the grocery store for a few things. Wouldn’t you know it, right in the automatic doors was the same little child screaming about a shovel while all around her were ignoring or texting.

She did not ruin our vacation because she was easily forgotten, but I seriously think the grandmother was thinking about leaving early or sending the daughter and her children home.

All this to say: If you want to have a kid, have them. Have as many as you want. BUT TAKE CARE OF THEM and that means take the time to notice them and to discipline them and to set boundaries for them. How unfair to make the young pre-teen boy put up with her antics and take care of her. How unfair to make the grandmother listen to her demands. How unfair to make a five-year-old beg for attention.

Parents get off your phones and take care of your kids! Spank them, put them in time out, talk to them, grab them by the arm and haul them to the bathroom. Do something or your little pink monster will grow into a large, unhappy, dysfunctional monster who just wanted some attention and boundaries along the way.

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