Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memories That Make Me Smile

Sometime ago I was thinking about some of the best memories of my life. These were not the obvious: getting married, having my kids, graduations, their weddings, etc. These were the little things that always seem to bring a smile to my face whenever I think of them. (Even if the situation was NOT funny at the time!) Get ready! Storytelling takes time.

It’s hard to remember all the “funnies” before I was married—why that is so, I have no idea—but one situation comes to mind. My best friend in high school, Debbie's Dad bought her a Honda 90 motorcycle—whatever for I don’t remember. It had a clutch and I don’t think I ever figured out how the thing worked, but I remember riding it once in my bikini and I went down the hill behind her Grandma’s house and I was headed for a cow and didn't know how to stop the cycle! I had to make a decision, so I turned it over and jumped off before hitting the animal and fortunately did not burn myself either, and headed up the hill feeling like an idiot. We got some good mileage out of that story.

My kids in the apple orchard.
I married into a family which had a fruit (mostly apples) orchard. I used to call the bushel baskets “little bushel baskets” and “big bushel baskets.” I was talking about them as if bushel baskets were a “style,” not a measure of product. I got teased over and over as we referred to the little (half) bushel baskets and big (full) baskets. I was the big city girl, you know. How could I know these things?

When I was first married, I made mistakes—and sometimes things just happened. Our power went off and the frozen bread dough that I had in the freezer “expanded.” I thought, “Well, let’s just try it and I put it in an 8" x 8" cake pan and it pretty much ended up looking like a mushroom-shaped cloud. It was inedible, so into the garbage it went. Oh well, I tried. What I didn't know is that my husband fished it out of the trash, wrapped it up and gave it to me at his family’s Christmas. Everyone got a good laugh out of it. I wasn't so sure…..

My husband loved to camp. I learned to sort of enjoy it. (Now, no way, but I was young once.) The first summer we were married we went on a two week trip for $400! This involved staying with friends and relatives and camping. We found a campsite on Pensacola (Florida) Beach and decided to stay there. My husband made the mistake of telling me there was a tropical storm out in the gulf. After we got all settled in, some wind gusts came upon us, and the tent fell down. I was hysterical! But the funny memory was of Jerry putting the tent back up alone in his underwear—and by the way, this was underwear that looked like underwear—and me standing up in the tent being of no help whatsoever. It wasn't late—and there were plenty of people in RVs playing cards watching this scene unfold. I have told this story many times when he brings up camping. I am so over camping…..

One day Jerry came home from school telling me about this new girl in one of his classes. Her name was Greta and if she wasn't voted class clown or “most likely to get herself into mischief” I don’t know who would have. She was in my brother’s class and I knew a little something about this situation before he started his story, but I let him go on…..and on…..and on. My mother’s first cousin had moved into the condos that Mom lived in and she had two daughters still at home. You guessed it. “Jerry, Greta is my second cousin.” The look on his face was priceless and memorable for a lifetime.

While Jerry taught at Baker, there were many priceless memories of the “shows” that teachers would put on for the seniors. I could come in for part of them before going to work. I wish I had just arranged for the morning off with my employer. Now, there was much rehearsal time that went into these productions and it took place behind a locked door in our den. I was never entitled to a preview! One of my favorites was Jerry and a short female teacher doing the Blues Brothers and sadly I do not have a photo of this event. They both retired the same year and that certainly would have made for an excellent picture in the school newspaper. They were really cute though. Acrobatics was involved—but remember, they were young!

The "Village People"
But the funniest show that ever happened at Baker High School was in 1980. About six male teachers did the Village People and YMCA. Each teacher came out one at a time and did their little thing and the last person to come out was the (disciplinarian) assistant principal as the Indian with a big headdress, bare chest and shorts with a loin cloth over it. The kids were STANDING on the chairs by this time. All sense of control was completely gone. I have never seen anything like it since and I have heard others say the same thing. That principal is gone now, but this is the memory I have of him (and I have many). It was outrageous. There was a copy of that picture at his visitation.

A few years went by and we were in the habit of going to visit friends on vacation. One of my (still) best friends lived in Florida at the time and she had a 4 year old and a 2 year old and was due in July and it was Spring Break. The four of us—husbands and wives—had gone out for dinner and hired a sitter and had a wonderful time. When we got home and started getting the kids ready for bed, we found that her daughter, the four-year-old, had put a bunch of pantie liners in her panties, in order to “be more like mommy.” When my friend and I really get to really laughing, you might as well leave us alone. We went into the kids’ closet and laughed until we couldn't laugh anymore, and the men had to take over bedtime with the children. We didn't want to have her daughter feel “badly” about herself, so we didn't want her to see us laughing—but we were hysterical for a good while. I might have had a drink or two, but she was pregnant and stone sober. The daughter is now grown and probably has had something happen like this to her with her daughter! I still smile thinking about it.

In 1991 my brother was in an accident which left him a quadriplegic. Of course, this was not a funny time, actually it was the worst time of my life (and his). I don’t remember if it was the next summer or two years later, but the two of us decided to go to a “Homarama” nearby and in Georgia, everything is on hills. At one house, I had him pushed halfway up a driveway and we were both outta gas. I told him if we went down, we went down together, I would never let him go. We had no help (I don’t know where all the other people were!) but I gave it everything I had and he pushed with everything he had and eventually we got up there. No, this wasn't funny; but it’s a pleasant memory of how we didn't let his disability stop us. (He has never had a motorized wheelchair—yet)

A few years later I went back to work and I was in the most interesting of situations—that of working as secretary to my pastor. I should say that this man was my friend before he was my pastor and he’s still my friend today. The word “friend” is the operative word here. I can’t imagine pulling this on any other boss. We had Macs and I had access to everything on his computer from mine. If he did counseling and had notes for counseling, those were on disk and locked in a cabinet which I did NOT have access to. One day I had my son at work with me and I let him fool around on the pastor’s computer (can you IMAGINE this? But this was normal at this job). Joel learned how to set the “chime” noises every 15 minutes on mine, and one day I heard him in the other room setting the “fart” noises on the pastor’s computer. (He was about 9) I laughed, and decided I was NOT going to reprimand him for it, but did redirect his activity within a short time. Then I forgot about it—that is until about 8:45 the next morning. I am sitting at my computer doing my work and I hear this roar of a laugh and then I remembered what had been done. We both laughed a long time.

Another memorable time at that job was the time the Music Director and I decided to sing for Sunday evening church “talent night.” The song wasn't outrageous, it was actually very nice, although upbeat, and we sang it together, dressed pretty much the same, like groups do in concerts, but there was this interlude that was instrumental and on a whim, we started playing air guitar. My daughter was 15. I thought she was going to die of embarrassment; but I had some of the older teen boys tell me it was the funniest thing they had ever seen at church. I have an entire blog dedicated to this church family. You can find it here.

One of my many friends at this church was military and moved away. I decided to visit her while she lived in the DC area. This is one of those people who you just pick up with at any time. We took her then 11-year-old to her gymnastics lesson, and there was a new “area” to the gym that wasn't being used yet and we decided to look around. They had one of these foam pits and without thinking, we just jumped in! We were just impulsive. We didn't look around to see how we were going to get out. Kids just pull themselves up, like getting out of a swimming pool. We first took off our shoes, they were doing us no good, whatsoever. I guess I could have easily pushed her out—she weighed 100 lbs. soaking wet—and she could have gone to get help. But we decided she would push ME out and then very easily I could reach in and pull her up. I am telling you, there aren't many people in this world that I would have wanted to see me in this position. That, plus the fact that we were both laughing uncontrollably, which didn't help. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how much she had to push until I could get a knee up. There was NOTHING to grab onto. We laughed all evening about it. I still laugh thinking about it.

Then there are just plain awesome poignant memories of life. We watched our son play football for eight years and during my son’s junior year in high school, in the last four minutes of the last game, his team backed into the league championship. Our team scored twice in those four minutes, there was an onside kick involved, and some teams had to help us out in other places for this to happen. We were all quoting Al Michaels. But what I remember most was our superintendent running out on the field with a banner that said XXX League Champs. It had been in his desk for years. Now the poignant part of this is after that man retired, within a year he was in a terrible automobile accident that left him brain-damaged and changed his life and that of his family forever. But this is my memory of him—running around like Jimmy V on a football field while everyone else was screaming and hollering.

We've gotten older and the smaller things bring a smile to our faces and we appreciate them more. However one day we will always laugh about and we will NEVER repeat. We bought TWO cars in one day! I had just broken my foot, and was not working and we just went out to look. I found what I wanted and needed, a 2013 Hyundai Elantra and was doing the paperwork on it, when my husband went walking around. BIG MISTAKE. Eight hours after we began, we were home in the evening (I was exhausted!) with two new cars, an Elantra and a Tuscon in the garage. It was crazy and insane, and we’ll never do it again.

I started thinking about this subject months ago and started my list. I am listing them in chronological order as I could never say one was funnier than the next. This exercise helped me to remember that it’s really the smaller things that make a life great. The big events and celebrations are important to be sure, but I smile whenever I think of these times.

It’s the little things that make a rich life. There are many more, and I am sure some of my readers are thinking of some, but these are the ones that come quickly to my mind. Ponder your own life.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Thrift for Today

This is certainly not a diary, but here are two things I did today.

Most of us know Kohl's has got us in the marketing department. You get their card, get on their lists, and stack and use discounts together. I do not buy because there is a "deal" normally, but I certainly keep my eyes open all the time.

In three weeks it is the Towhead's third birthday. She is into princesses. I found the cutest thing: a book about (Disney) princesses and something that looks like an iPod with Disney music on it. Anyway, she can "shuffle" the songs on it so I presume it works like an iPod. I also found a beautiful summer dress, and the Towhead likes dresses, but she doesn't spend the majority of her time in them.

However, since we have another female child on the way, I thought, "What the heck, this will be worn by at least two children," so I bought it. Good thing Towhead can't read blogs yet. Anyway, for both, I got approximately 73% off. (We also contribute to her education fund, but that's another blog and she has to have SOMETHING to open!) I kept it within a VERY reasonable cost.

In the mail, I also received a renewal for Country Living Magazine. I know I said previously that I was not going to renew magazines because I can follow on Pinterest and have almost all the same knowledge. However, I get the magazine digitally and I give my paper copy to my much-loved niece and her daughters AND I can get a gift subscription for someone else--who happens to be my much-loved sister-in-law (also aunt of said niece)--for a total of $12.

Sometimes, we have to ask ourselves, not "Do we need this?" but "What can this sum of money do?" For $12, I give myself and two other women who wish they were living in the country, but are not, a magazine on Country Living.

So I write that dang check! Done and done.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Word Fitly Spoken

I am not a beauty queen, no do I dress fabulously, have lots of bling or anything else that people compliment others for. I have received compliments when I had a good hair day, or was particularly dressed up, and they were very nice.

I remember as a child, people made a big deal about my eyes. They are dark and I had long eyelashes. I eventually grew into them and was a normal brown-eyed girl. I had long hair—as did everyone else—and mine was a pretty shade of brown. I must say, that at 60 years of age, I still have GOOD hair, a blessing to be sure; and there is always this product called hair dye.

There have been times when I was part of a job well done and the recognition and camaraderie of teamwork was special. It’s always nice to be part of a winning team.

However, there are two situations in my life that totally stand out as the nicest compliments anyone ever gave me. One is about a job (mission) and the other is about some volunteer work.

In 1991, I was working on my 20th high school class reunion and it turned out to be quite the event. Actually there were three events and as I recall, the total attendance of all three events was over 700 (this obviously means many people attended more than one event). It’s my humble opinion as I watch people having class reunions; the 20th is always the largest, and our class was no exception. It was a huge weekend. I had a wonderful committee and we were ALL busy; I don’t even mean to imply that I did this alone. I did not.

On Friday night, I was “working the room” and ended up in a group of men. (These things never happened in high school!) One of the classmates said for all to hear, “When I got my registration information, and saw Denise’s return address on the envelope, I knew it would be a good reunion because she got along with everyone.” Now, keep in mind, I was not a class officer; I was no “queen” of anything, I was really an average kid who had above average grades.

Just to have someone think 20 years after graduation that I got along well with people and didn't run with any particular group, made me realize what was really important in how people perceived me. I thought long and hard about what he said, and I was grateful.

The next situation happened about ten years later. I had worked as business manager for ten years for our church’s weekday preschool and although I worked with the children and loved them; I also interacted with the parents, but the bottom line was it was my responsibility to keep our product affordable, and yet doable. We weren't a for-profit organization; but we had to hold our own in terms of income and outgo. I really believed in what we were doing. Both my children attended and began their education in this environment.

All these years later, I was waiting on one of my customers at the bank where I worked. His son, three years ahead of mine, had been one of our students and was now graduating from high school with a very high GPA. He told me that his great start to education was received at our preschool. He was an amazing young man and we were all proud of him; but I was so thrilled that someone recognized the product that I worked very hard to maintain, and grow into over 100 students.

I certainly didn't do that alone either, as we had a fabulous staff, but as I look back on life, I believe it was the most important thing I ever did. I didn't earn very much, but I was involved in changing children’s and their families’ lives. Maybe I should have been a teacher, but I was good with details and budgets, and did well as an administrator. The best part is that the school still exists, and thrives.

I don’t know what will be said about me when I’m gone—but to think that I was seen as a person that got along with everyone (which, of course, is not entirely true) and to be part of an educational program that impacted many families and children over the years—that’s enough for me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Buying Cemetery Plots

The family plot
I just bought our cemetery plots today. This wasn't really an issue that thrift played into as much as timing. We always knew we would be buried in my family cemetery. My grandparents and parents generation plot section is "used up." We wanted to be as close as possible so the connection could be made.

We picked the plots out three years ago, but never paid for them. We had a "gentleman's agreement" with the caretaker, who was my childhood neighbor. I never worried about him NOT taking care of anything we wanted, and we had money. We just had no deed.

He was a year older than I, and he died this past January. It was a huge shock to all of us. Knowing that his widow was in shock also, I did not contact her for about 3 months. The gentleman on the Board of Trustees who wrote out the deeds was wintering in Florida and the transaction was not going to take place for awhile. This week is Memorial Day week and I still had not purchased my flowers for the pots that I put on the graves of my grandparents, aunts and uncles, father and brother. Jeannie called me on Sunday and wanted to take care of the transaction this week, so on Monday I got myself to the flower place (I use Meijer usually) and made my pots.

Today (Tuesday) I met her at the cemetery and we took care of business. Done and done.

Now the reason I mention this under the Thrifty Tabloid blog is that there are sometimes things need to be done. Now. Period. With all that has transpired this last six months, the Board is going to reconvene, elect officers and do the things boards do when they reorganize.

I'm ready to put money on the fact that they will raise the price of grave plots. Immediately. A gentleman's agreement will mean nothing.

Our family cemetery is private, and is one of the best kept cemeteries in our area. (Mostly due to my childhood buddy and his wife, but I do believe the care will go on). While many of my friends' parents and parents' friends and friends themselves are buried in a cemetery closer to my home; I have never even considered it. My memorial will be with my family. Two of my four sets of great-grandparents are buried there as are (at least) one set of GG grandparents. My own Grandma and Grandpa, their three sons and wives (mom is still living but there is a place for her) and my brother who died at the age of 51, unmarried, are all there together.

The prices of lots here is probably the best in the county, but that certainly is not driving the train here and never has been. However, with changes on the horizon, it's just time to get 'er done. And sometimes, there are days like that.

Friday, May 16, 2014

When You Just Do The Best You Can

I haven’t posted in some time. It’s been a time of just getting through each day and not doing extra research to learn about new things. We have those times in our lives.

When your parent is hospitalized, your child has a baby, or someone in the family has been in an accident, you don’t stop to pack lunches and clip coupons for restaurants (although we do keep a stash of restaurant coupons in the car). You throw a few things in a suitcase and you do what you have to do.

You don’t worry about where the cheapest gas is. You eat in hospital cafeterias. You don’t worry about points, deals or advantages. You just take it day-by-day.

I’m at one of those places. The details are not what’s important—what is important is that we've all been there at one time or another. There are added expenses, but I never worry about those. In every crisis we've lived through, we've been provided for. Refund checks arrive exactly when you need them. There’s a gift card in your wallet for gas.

If you have practiced thrift, have a rewards card for a certain restaurant (Subway), certainly you recognize that one choice is better than another—but you do NOT focus on it. You practice habits, but you do not obsess.

Meanwhile, I live my life as I always have—doing the best that I can.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Boredom in Retirement??????

Since my last entry was about “Who’s the Boss” in retirement; where I talked about making your OWN decisions about how to spend your OWN time—I thought I should address the other side of the coin, that of boredom, or at least “perceived” boredom.

Who would have thought I would
become a Jimmy Junkie? NO ONE!
I am having a hard time addressing this as I am never really BORED. Rest is NOT boredom. Deciding, whether for health reasons, or mental health reasons (both equally important), that you just want to sit down, read a book, listen to music—or play it—do a jigsaw puzzle or any other activity that we as a society consider non-productive (ridiculously) is NOT A SIN!

Trying something new—and even having it flop—is not a waste of time. You have learned something. With the media bombarding us from every direction, there are ideas afloat everywhere. When my mother retired, we were just embarking on the Internet age, but she was first in line. She had a computer and email before any of us. Go back another generation and if you wanted ideas, you had magazines, the daily paper and (some) TV, and do not forget the people in our lives who shared THEIR ideas.

Just think about what we have available to us today in terms of inspiration! I suppose we have to admit that if a person does not have connection to the Internet, their possibilities are limited somewhat. Otherwise, there is no reason to be bored.

I am not going to elaborate at length on the downsides of the Internet. I remember (barely) TV coming into our homes and that method of communication certainly has its downsides too. I assume the position that we are all grown-ups and know right from wrong. If we make bad choices, it’s our own fault, not the fault of any media.

You can Google ANYTHING and find more to do, or think about doing, than you can ever imagine. Every town has opportunities to volunteer in many organizations. There are so many in need, or cultural groups, churches that need volunteer help; that no matter what you believe or like, there has to be something you are interested in.

If NOT, take a look in the mirror and make some honest assessments. You have to like yourself first. If your working career masked a basic dislike of being alone with yourself, that’s a deeper subject than I can handle in a blog. You might want to talk to someone about that.

Bottom line: there is plenty to do and you just need to look for, and decide what you prefer, and WANT to do. While I won’t go so far as to say that in retirement, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, because that is fallacy; you certainly have some choices that you didn't have previously. If you get involved with something that you eventually don’t care for, have the honesty and guts to say no.

In doing the things you want to, you will meet people of like interests and make new friends. I always go back to that Girl Scout song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold” when I think of making new friends. Don’t forget the old friends too. They share special times that only people of that “era” can. The other day I was driving with my sister-in-law and I made a comment that I didn't have to finish—it needed no explanation. We need those people in our lives.

In summary, we all like bullet points, don’t we?
  • Enjoy your own company.
  • Think about what YOU want to do. (whether alone, or think about who you would like to do with)
  • Try something new.
  • Don’t get sucked into, tied down into activities you really don’t enjoy. Time is too short.
  • Enjoy people around you. Silver and Gold.
  • Laundry still needs done. Toilets need cleaned.  Some things never go away.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Who's The Boss?

I don’t know how many times I have heard people say, “I am busier in retirement than I ever was when working?” Really?

Whose choice is that? Who is running the show?

Loved This TV Show!
Those of us who are married or live with someone do have to take into consideration any person we share a home with—be it spouse, parent, adult child or friend. Being a “good roommate” is appropriate at all ages of life.

However, we have to consider who in our lives expects us now to stop and meet their needs; when they got along perfectly well while we are working?

Some of us have time to “plan out” our retirement and others, like myself, just stopped. Well, I planned for three months and that helped, but that was as much about my clients as it was about me. After I quit, I didn't feel well for a while and that certainly defined everything. When I started to feel better, I added one thing at a time.

Exercise is a high priority. Regular attendance at weekly worship is important to me. But there were some bad days I could do neither.

What did not happen was putting myself in a situation of doing everything for my husband, my mother, my children and the neighborhood. I realize there may come a time I have to do some things for some of them; but I have not turned into a taxi service for anyone. I do not babysit anyone regularly.

This is probably the only time in my life where I AM THE BOSS! The only person I really have to “obey” is the oncologist.

Of course, cooperation is part of everyone’s lives, and most of us find us in a season of crisis once or twice in our lives, and these things will likely happen, but until then……I am doing what I want to do and I am not doing what I don’t want to do—with the exception of keeping house, and to be truthful, I am OK with that. Everyone has toilets to clean. The alternative to that is a nursing home—I’ll be happy to clean my toilet, thank you.

If you are “busier” in retirement than you were in working, you have to ask yourself why? You still have doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, grocery shopping and miscellaneous errands that you worked in around your work day, and maybe you can now do them during the work day. You may want to add some volunteering (which I have not done yet, but I intend to eventually), but likely as not, it will not be 40 hours a week.

Unless you are going through a busy time in life—for example, remodeling and/or redecorating the house or helping with a new birth in the family, times which will have an end date—you are in control of whatever else it is you do.

Until you have to “Honor your father or mother” by caring for them, or take care of your spouse “in sickness” as you promised, you ARE the boss!

Take advantage of it!

This can also be found at The Thrifty Tabloid.