Author: JoAnn


Thankful Thanksgiving!


                             

Another Thanksgiving Day is around the corner and it’s hard to believe we are already here in 2021. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This time of year, with its beautiful fall foliage and crisp air, is by far my favorite season! Nothing feels better than wrapping up in my softest old sweater and turning on the heat for the first time.

With the lovely colors on the trees and ground, along with the smells of pumpkin, hay, and dried leaves in the air, it’s the perfect time of year to stop for a while and take an inventory of what we are thankful for in our lives. Yes, we should stop and count our blessings every day. But one holiday a year, towards the end of the year, is a perfect time to do some serious reflection. Usually, by this time, we have lived through many experiences in the past 10 1/2 months.

I think a lot of us just plow through life at a steady rate and choose to just “Keep on Trucking” as the old saying goes. Getting through another day, week, and month the best and quickest way we can. Sometimes it feels if we fall during the race, we will surely end up in the ditch. So, I think it’s fitting that during this season, along with nature slowing down to prepare for its Winter slumber, we too should slow down and not only rest, but take time to meditate on what the previous year has brought to our lives.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to only count the many blessings and to not miss the things we have lost. There is no way around that. Missing our loved ones that are no longer here to enjoy a big family get together is especially hard for all of us. One of the last photos I have of my mother is of her in the kitchen, with her hands full of chopped celery and onions, as she was preparing her famous dressing on a Thanksgiving Day. Every year I miss my mama like crazy. And yes, I miss her dressing too.

For me, it is impossible not to daydream about the wonderful, loving, family Thanksgivings of my past, the warmth felt in every home visited. The smells of food cooking, the scents of spice, and a warm fire. Seeing loved ones that we may have not seen for the entire year. Catching up on family gossip. Noticing how much the children have grown in the past year or meeting a brand-new family member for the first time.

There are so many things that make Thanksgiving special. To me, it is the best holiday to just enjoy family, friends, and being together. There is no pressure to exchange gifts, no pressure for money to be spent at all, just spending time together over some tasty food in a relaxed environment. It’s just perfect!

Wherever you are this year for Thanksgiving, my prayer is that you feel the love and peace that the holiday should bring. Even if you are alone, which I have been too, some years, stop and be thankful, and reflect on your most precious memories of your past. Remember those you miss with love and gratitude for having had them in your life. And if you just happen to get the chance to eat a piece of your favorite pie, do that too! 

Happy Thanksgiving from me to you…JoAnn


Squeaky Clean!


This is going to be a strange missive.  Or should I say a stinky one?  It will either make you laugh, or ponder your own personal habits.  
I have noticed over the years that many things seem to change with age.  Most are just natural occurrences that happen so gradually, we barely notice anything different.  Unfortunately, there may be some things that others might notice, even if we don’t.  Yes, I am talking about body odor.
When I was a young mother of three little girls, I had a strict daily routine for them that included a daily shower or bath every night.  No matter what was going on, a perfectly bathed child would be put to bed at night.  No exceptions.  I chose this nightly ritual because I believed a child slept better having washed off their day and climbed into their bed sparkling clean.  It was the routine my mother had started with me and I still had for myself.  I remember looking forward, all afternoon, to the time of evening that I would have my children tucked into their beds and smelling of No Tear baby shampoo.   It would then be my turn to unwind from the day and soak in a relaxing tub.  It was something that I really looked forward to!
I will be the first to tell you that now, at my age, I no longer look forward to bath time.  Gone is the desire to step into a tub and get wet.  The thought of getting wet all over is almost appalling to me at times.  And sometimes, I will put this now dreaded chore off for as long as I possibly can.  I am telling you all this personal information as I try to understand what is happening to me.  I am not being “lazy”.  And the chronic pain I deal with daily is not an excuse every time either. 
So what is it then?  I have come to the conclusion that it is simply another stage of aging.  Having watched my parents be “Seniors” for many years, I noticed both of them having the same feelings about bath time.  My dad seemed to not really care if he had one or not.  He usually did only to appease my mom.  My mother would only take a shower when it was absolutely necessary.  She had arthritis in every joint in her body, and I always knew it was a painful ordeal for her, not to mention a dangerous one.  
Having been a home health care worker, I also witnessed other seniors who had no interest at all in bath time.  It seems the older a person gets, the less of an interest they have in all types of personal hygiene, not just bathing.  
Now I do not want to offend anyone reading this!  That is the last thing I would ever want to do.  But this subject has been on my mind for some time and I just wanted to express how it makes me feel.  It has become a definite problem with me personally.  I have witnessed it being a problem with many others my own age as well.  It appears it is just a natural part of aging, but it saddens me.  I know when I do take the time to bathe, and am feeling squeaky clean, and moisturized from my head to my toes, I feel like a new person.  Then why on earth do I not want to feel that way daily?  I certainly don’t want to smell bad.  I don’t believe anyone does really.  Yet there does seem to be a real problem among many older individuals.  
Maybe it’s just my peaked interest in seniors that has me pondering this subject for so long.  My parents didn’t have me until they were in their 40s.  They were always “older” than the norm and I have always had an interest in geriatrics.  I’m sure that’s why I took my job as a home health worker so seriously.  I was truly interested in my clients and found myself studying them.  But even those experiences haven’t helped me with my own plight of dreading a bath!
I guess the answer is to just keep on living life like I always have, and that is to take one day at a time and do the very best that I can.  Hopefully I will smell good doing so, but in the event that I don’t, I apologize now.  
Here’s to a squeaky clean day!  


Summertime Memories


As I sat in front of my air conditioner this past summer, trying to fend off yet another series of “Heat Advisory” sessions, I started daydreaming quite a bit about what my summers were like as a kid. 

Dealing with “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees, I find myself asking, did we even feel heat as children? I do not remember summer ever being too hot for me to enjoy my day. Now, if it’s in the 90s or higher, my body feels as though it’s going to melt. Literally. I vaguely remember sweating as a kid.  

But I remember how good it felt to run through a spraying garden hose on a beautiful summer’s day. I remember well how good cold ice cream tasted on a summer’s night. The taste of a chilled Coke in the thick glass bottle was like no other drink in the world. Walking into a store that actually had air conditioning and thinking “WOW”! And to this day, the sound of a simple box fan will put me right to sleep. 

I remember well, sitting at the picnic table we had in our front yard, while Mama spread out newspapers so Daddy could slice up an ice-cold watermelon. We each had our own little saltshaker. It was such a treat!

I remember spending most of my summer days playing with my sister in either the cool dirt basement where Mama kept the many jars of home canned goodies, or in the thick woods that surrounded our home. Daddy would always have the woods cleared of weeds and especially poison oak or ivy, so our play time would be a joyous one. He even built us a playground one year beside his organic garden so he could keep an eye on us as he worked. Mama could also see us from her kitchen window as she washed dishes.

Probably my favorite summer memory would have to be when Daddy would take us to the public swimming pool. I can still remember the feel of the wet concrete under my bare feet as we walked through the front gate, and the sound that gate made closing. I knew instantly I was in for a day filled with pure joy and fun that only a child could understand. It didn’t matter that it was hot, or if I got sunburned. The smell of chlorine in the water, and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion will forever be something I adore. In my mind, I can see Daddy sitting in his car, parked out front, waiting for us to come out when the pool was closing. I remember him asking if we had enjoyed our day and saying how he wished he could have spent the day in that cool water, too. This was the 1960s, when kids could be kids without fear of being abducted or harmed. What a blessing it was for every child at that swimming pool.

It wasn’t all fun and games during the Summer. There was work to be done as well. Helping Mama and Daddy in their sizeable gardens was of utmost importance. Daddy grew organically, and that meant he had to spend a lot of time in the garden. But he loved it and would reap a beautiful bounty. Mama home canned or froze all the vegetables and fruits she could, so it would stock us for the coming winter. Canning was a hot, messy, and exhausting job back then. Especially with no air conditioning in the house. We spent hours tending to the garden, picking the produce, and preparing it to either be canned or frozen. I look back now and realize how hard my parents worked. I wish now I would have strung more beans, shucked more corn, and shelled more peas. I didn’t look forward to the chore as a kid and can see now that I wasn’t much help. I feel bad for that because I sure enjoyed the fruits of Mama and Daddy’s labor!  

Daddy always kept our large yard mowed neatly. Oh, to walk barefoot in that cool grass again would be Heavenly. Or to take a nature walk with Mama into the woods. We searched for berries and mushrooms. Mama would dig up a fern from the ones that grew wild on the side of the mountain. She would take it home and plant it in her favorite McCoy pot. Of course, with her green thumb, it grew big and lush. 

Like with all good things, Summer would indeed end. But before it did, Mama would take me and my sister shopping for school clothes. We always caught the yearly going back to school sale at J. C. Penney’s. If Mama didn’t have the money to purchase what we needed that day, she would put all or some items on layaway. We would try on so many dresses that Mama would pick out. In the 60s, dresses would be the normal attire for an elementary school aged girl. I would get so excited about the new dresses. Having outgrown all the ones from last year, I couldn’t wait to see what new style Penney’s had for the new year.

Mama would pick out tights, anklets, and knee socks to match each dress she purchased. If we were really lucky, we would go shopping for new school shoes on the same day. I remember always begging for a new purse to match my school wardrobe. Usually, Mama would say no. But I would come home from school a few weeks later and she would surprise me with a new purse or two. My guess is, she caught them on mark down later. I was a blessed little girl.  

By the time we went back to school, I think we were all ready for Summer to end and a new season to arrive. I loved school back then and couldn’t wait to ride the school bus again and to see my friends. Of course, by the next Spring, we would all be champing at the bit for another summer vacation. And we would do all our favorite things all over again. 

What wonderful memories we made. 


Unplugged


Today I unplugged. Unplugged from the world of social media by staying off Facebook and Instagram. Refusing to watch any news on the television, both local and worldwide. I also put down my cell phone and did not pick it up for about 16 hours. All in hopes it would help relieve the feelings of anxiety and depression that I have had this week because of the catastrophic happenings all around me. Both around the world and closer to my backyard. And it helped!

Many people find the need to “unplug” to spend more quality time with their loved ones. I feel unplugging gives me a mental break from all the chaos and negativity in our world right now. It’s like taking a mental health day for myself.  

I have always been a rather empathetic soul. Seeing others in pain of any kind is difficult for me to handle. If I allow myself to dwell, it can quickly become overwhelming for me mentally. I used to react personally by crying and being an anxious mess. As I’ve gotten older, I disengage. Taking myself away from the situation and choosing solitude as to avoid anything negative. That is not the best for me or the people who are hurting. Other than praying for them, I’m not really helping anyone. But this practice has become my norm. I feel more in control of my emotions, but I do not feel better. I would rather be more constructive in ways of helping. It is a battle I will continue to fight.

As if all that is happening around the world right now with Covid and Afghanistan weren’t enough, this week we had a disaster hit a town here in Tennessee. Seventeen inches of rain fell within 24 hours onto an already saturated area. The horrific flood in Waverly quickly took the lives of 20 people, many of which were children. Houses were lifted off their foundations and moved for blocks down the road. Homes are completely lost, and it left many homeless with only the clothes on their back. The waters quickly receded, but the damage was complete and permanent. The town will never be the same, nor will its people.  

I can no longer look at another picture of this flood or hear another story of a precious life lost. It was literally making me physically sick. Waverly was a town much like all the surrounding towns near me. Why were they not spared from such a horrific scene? It could just as easily be my very own hometown, and me and my neighbors suffering. The sad stories played repeatedly in my head. And my soul. Praying was the only way that I could help anyone hurt. But as a Christian, I believe prayer is the most important thing to do. So that is what I will continue to do.  

I guess I will continue to unplug to keep my sanity in check. I know many people who watch no type of news, and do not use social media of any kind. I don’t believe I would be happy to go that far, as I get much enjoyment out of social media, and it is beneficial to someone who lives alone like I do. I also like to keep up with what is going on in our world. I think it’s important. Maybe it’s just that there is too much going on right now for anyone to handle! Maybe I am not alone in my desire to withdraw and avoid the negativity at the risk of being selfish. I guess only time will tell. My prayers are we all have that time given to us.

Wherever you are in your world, I hope you are doing well with all life is handing you right now. I hope you can enjoy something every single day and are surrounded by good people.  


Pen Pals


Have you ever had a pen pal? I am sure many people, especially the younger generation, do not know what a pen pal is. I doubt my own granddaughters have ever heard the term before. But having a pen pal is something that I know very well. 

Back in the 1970s, when I was a pre-teen and teenager, I had several pen pals. One was my first cousin Jerry, one my favorite aunt Rena, three friends from my old hometown, and a brief one named John who lived in another state.

I had written my aunt Rena and cousin Jerry simply to stay in touch with family after we moved from Tennessee to Virginia. Same with the old friends that I left behind. It was a lot of fun for me. I enjoyed writing letters, and even more so receiving letters in the mail. Back in those days, we taught children the proper way to write a letter in school. My mom and dad were big on writing letters to family as well and also taught me it was a loving and polite way to stay in touch. In fact, after I was married, and even though I called my parents often, we also wrote letters to each other regularly. 

Before computers and cell phones, writing a letter was the only way, other than a phone call, to stay in touch with loved ones that didn’t live close by. Everyone seemed to know how to write a letter. Not everyone enjoyed writing letters, but at least it taught them the art.  

Good letter writing is indeed an art. Over the years, I have had pen pals tell me when they read my letters that it feels like I am sitting right there with them. That is a genuine compliment. The receiver should feel as though they are having an actual conversation with you when they read your words.  

Pen pals were so popular back in the good old days that you could find advertisements in the back of magazines, newspapers, and other publications, of people who wanted pen pals. They would actually give their name, age, and address to anyone who wanted to correspond. That would be absolutely ludicrous today! How unsafe that would be in so many ways. Never did it enter our minds back then that someone would lie about their age or have anything else on their mind other than letter writing.  

But it was a thrill to write to someone new and make a new friend with pen pal letters. As a teenager, me and my girlfriends would get so excited to find a boy of our age advertising for a pen pal. We would write a letter, asking the boy to send a photo of himself back to us. We would be giddy waiting for his reply and to see his picture. We would be so happy if he was “cute”! That’s how I became pen pals with John from New Jersey. It gave us many hours of conversation and plenty of giggling. I also remember well how it made us feel when we sent our own photo to a boy, and we did not get a positive response. They stopped writing, leaving us to feel completely rejected. Or they actually wrote to say we weren’t their type. We would feel crushed! So silly to think of it now, but back then, girls were so innocent and naïve. We didn’t seem to have the weight of the world on our shoulders as it seems teens do today. That makes me very sad. 

Over the years, I have gained and lost many pen pals for various reasons. Some relationships simply ended. Soon, we found the new technology of emails or texts fits our lifestyles better. Unfortunately, a couple of them passed away. I still have one pen pal left named Jenny. She is an extended family member who does not use a smart phone or computer. And she is not a fan of talking on the phone. But she enjoys writing letters and seems to appreciate mine. In fact, the last letter I received from her, she told me that she felt like she had just sat down to talk with me after reading it. I hope that means I haven’t lost my touch.

If I ever lose this last pen pal, I doubt there will be another one in my lifetime. But who knows, maybe God has someone else waiting in the wings. My pen is always ready.