Author: JoAnn

Big Dreams… by JoAnn

“If you’re gonna dream, dream big!” That’s the quote I read from a wise man somewhere along the way. But does every dream have to be big? What about small dreams? I think they are important as well. Not all of us are wired to the giant leap. We need to take baby steps until we are comfortable with major ones. Does that make us a failure? Absolutely not.

Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare has always been a favorite of mine. The Tortoise won the race by going slow and steady. The Hare, though must speedier, made one mistake along his way. I have always been more of the Tortoise than the Hare in life. I like taking small steps and in my own time. I have been this way my entire life. Maybe I was just born that way, or perhaps I never learned how to do things differently. Or maybe, I never had the desire to change. If it doesn’t seem broke, why fix it? I don’t think everyone in my life has always thought I was correct in being the Tortoise. I believe many from my past would have preferred I hurry up at certain times. I know my grown children all think I am too slow now as I’ve aged. I seem to get in their way as they race through their lives. All three are living life as Hares. I think they got that from their Dad. Lol

I believe you are never too old to dream, whether big or small. It’s a positive way of thinking. And without hope, what do we have? The Holy Bible tells us in Jeremiah 29:ll; “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I continue to remind myself of that scripture each year that I age. It’s easy to feel like you’ve done everything you were meant to do in life. Now it’s time to retire from life. Just sit back and watch the world go by. But that would be going against what the scripture says. We are to have hope and a future.

So do I dare to continue having dreams? You betcha! For without them, I would have no hope or future to look forward to. Even us tortoises need to keep on moving. Slow and steady is even more critical now. I may be unable to keep up with my Hares, but this old Tortoise will eventually win her race. I hope I see you at the finish line.

The Best Era… by JoAnn

When thinking about which era I enjoyed the most, I can’t help but be partial to the ’60s and ’70s. Mainly the 1970’s because that holds the best memories for me. It was the happiest and most carefree time in my life, before I was old enough to have all of the adult problems and stresses that snuff out so much of the fun in life. Just as the grass always seems greener somewhere else, another era seems better than our current one.

I follow several eras and or decade pages online. I find them entertaining, and they always make me smile looking back. Two are devoted to sharing memories of the fads from their era—things like toys that bring back childhood memories of letters to Santa. Or home decor we found so groovy back then, but not so much today. Sometimes the photos will bring back a particular memory I had not thought of since it first happened. Like a photo of the many hair shampoos that were all the rage for teen girls. Just looking at a picture of the bottle, I can almost smell it.

A whole different type of memory set is released on the pages that share music from that era. It is amazing how fast a song can dislodge a memory from the depths of our souls. Just a few notes can take me right back to where I was when I listened to the song almost 50 years ago. I understand the sight of a photograph brings forward long forgotten memories, but how does hearing music do the same thing? Just as I have photos that may be too sad for me to look at, there are songs that I also avoid listening to. They bring forward memories that are too painful for me to relive. I find it all so fascinating.

Just as I am drawn back to the eras I have lived through, I think some people are drawn to the time periods that came before them. I have known many people who loved everything from the 1950s and wished they could have been born during that time. Big band music always catches my attention and has me dreaming of what the Swing era must have been like. An old movie will really get the gears turning. I spend most of my attention on all of the items in the background than on the storyline.

I only consider the happier times of an era, things that jog my memory of a pleasant experience or time spent with a loved one. I think it’s true that just as many people are interested in a particular era because of its history. They are drawn to specific world events such as WWI or WWII, for example. Those eras changed our lives in remarkable ways, both good and bad. I admire those who can look at the entire picture and all of its truth. I feel a little cowardly that I can not.

What do you consider your favorite era and why? What draws you to it? Do you long for the joy it brings you, or are you enthralled with its history?

Here’s hoping you find fulfillment wherever your mind is taking you to answer those questions.

First Job… by JoAnn

My sister Jeanie is four years older than me. In the 1970s, she was in high school and a straight-A student. She took the popular business course classes that included; typing, shorthand, accounting, etc. She excelled in each and every subject. The school had a program where they would find jobs for the students who were top of their class. Jeanie, of course, was one of them and was offered an excellent office job at a rather prestigious company in our city when she was sixteen. She went to work after school and on weekends. She quickly excelled at her first job and was very respected by her peers. My big sis was a brilliant girl.

I had a lot of admiration for my big sister. I wanted to follow in many of her footsteps. We had always been close growing up, regardless of the four-year age difference. Most things we did in our spare time, we did together. When Jeanie turned sixteen and got her driver’s license, we had a lot of great times together. We spent many hours at the mall, eating out, going to the movies and the beach, and even taking longer trips to places like Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion. I’m proud to say my sister was always someone that could be trusted and was very mature in her responsibility as a big sister. Not to mention Jeanie was an excellent driver. She never put me in harm’s way. My parents trusted her explicitly and allowed me to tag along wherever Jeanie went.

In 1975, I was thirteen years old. Jeanie came home one day and asked me if I wanted a job working with her. It seemed the office needed some extra help, and they had asked if she knew of anyone. She mentioned me, and of course, they thought I was too young. But after my big sis sang my praises, they decided to give me a try. She spoke highly of my ability to learn quickly and my good grades.

The job they had for me was pretty simple—mostly just busy work filing. Back then, computers were not used in all offices, and most paperwork was done by hand through every step necessary. I needed to be a good reader and have good math skills. Being able to make the most of my time was also a plus. I fit right in and was happy to have my own paycheck.

I worked part-time for the next five years at the company. I learned invaluable information through my experiences. Because I was called in whenever extra work was needed, I was placed in many different areas of the company and learned a variety of office jobs. I was a file clerk, receptionist, gopher, and mail room clerk, and I often assisted with the grueling yearly inventory for all the employees. That required that I travel to other cities with my sister. I worked in the credit department for some time. My sister Jeanie had become so good at her data entry job that she remained working on the keypunch machine that was the precursor to the computers used today. When the company decided to bring in its first computers, Jeanie and I were part of the few chosen to begin learning how to enter data. I still remember that “computer room .”The so-called computers were as big as refrigerators and very daunting. The room had to be kept at a low temperature for them not to overheat and crash. I remember freezing as I typed as fast as possible to get as much data entered as they expected. I was not a fan of this particular job and was happy when my turn was over.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I had been making enough money to pay for all my clothes, school supplies, and any extras along the way. I always had money to eat out, shop, or see a movie with my sister or friends. My dad had taught me from my very first paycheck to save as well. He insisted I save at least half of every paycheck. He even took me to the bank to open an account and taught me how to keep up with it. By the time I graduated high school, I had saved enough money to buy my first car.

I have always known that it is not the norm to have a first job like my sister and me. We were truly blessed for the opportunities we were given. I have always felt proud of how young I began working and how well I did the jobs handed to me. I genuinely feel I worked as hard and reliable as any adult could have. Jeanie as well, most definitely. She has made me proud over the years, and I still look up to her and admire her. I love all of the memories I have of our days working together and would love to go back in time for one more go at it. I love you Big Sis.

Things Mama Told Me… by JoAnn

My Mama was a very unique woman—strong, independent, and stubborn. Yet feminine and loving to a fault. She wore her heart on her sleeve and paid the price of getting it broken several times. She never learned to drive because it made her too nervous. Yet she endured some of the most challenging times of anyone I have known. She could be prim and proper if need be but let loose with us kids and roll on the floor with the giggles. Thunderstorms would stop her in her tracks, and she’d make me and my sister lie on the bed with her till it was over. Yet when sick, she refused to take to her bed.

Mama was very wise. At some time in my adulthood, I realized that every piece of advice she had ever given me, unsolicited or requested, had turned out to be true. How did she know so much? Now that I am 60 years old, that question is no longer a mystery. She had lived through it all to know, much like I feel now. I am sure I still have a few things to learn, though.

Mama has been gone since February 2000. But I can still hear her voice in my head. Some of the old wives’ tales she told us, I still remember with a smile. Don’t go barefoot before summer, or you’ll catch a cold. Don’t play in the rain, or you’ll catch pneumonia. Don’t drink soda pop with ice cream, or you’ll get bubbles in your belly. Eat a watermelon seed, and a watermelon will grow in your stomach. One of my favorites, she always told my dad, when scolding him for overeating, that you can fatten a hog on apples. Meaning that eating too much of anything, no matter how healthy, is not good. He never won those arguments.

Those are silly little things that lots of parents say to their kids. But Mama would tell us some things she believed to be true. She had been raised in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. Most people lived a difficult, poor life up in the mountains. Many of those mountain people had superstitions that had been handed down to them through generations. They believed these superstitions to be the truth. My Mama was no different.

Mama was a believer in bad luck. She told us never to open an umbrella in the house because it was bad luck. If a bird flew into the house, it meant someone was going to die. If she had a bad dream, it was more than a nightmare. It was a premonition and warning to be taken very seriously. I remember one story she told me that stuck with me more than any other. She said that if a pregnant woman sees something upsetting or ugly, it will “mark” her baby. For example, if a pregnant woman had been frightened by a mean dog, her baby may be born looking like a dog. It sounds ridiculous, but my Mama believed it to be true, just as her mother and grandmother had before her.

Mama also told me some funny pieces of wisdom. Like you can’t make sense with a drunk, and a drunk will pee anywhere! Unfortunately, I have experienced both of those things to be very accurate. I’ll never tell you how I know this, so don’t ask me. Just know Mama was right again.

My Mama was a unique, beautiful woman, inside and out. She could be bold or peculiar and sometimes make you think she was downright mean. Then the love would twinkle in her eyes and soften her voice. Mama was quite a character, and I loved her exactly that way! I miss her every day.

Till we meet again, Mama, keep Daddy in line.

Tomatoes… by JoAnn

There are many things that I look forward to in the summer months, and fresh veggies and fruit are top of the list. There is something about the taste of that first picking of green beans and cucumbers that words just can’t describe. You have to taste the perfectly cooked green beans with a side of sliced cucumber, accompanied by either a hot biscuit or wedge of cornbread. Add a glass of iced tea or even my favorite buttermilk, and you will swear you’re in Heaven. It’s truly a treat.

Although I grew up learning how to plant a large vegetable garden, it has been many years since I have grown anything of my own; vegetable or otherwise. My taste buds don’t really care about that and still have me craving the new summer crops, just like I did when I was a kid. When I was a little girl, it was not unusual to sit outside on a warm day with a salt shaker in hand and eat tomatoes till I thought I would burst. Still, to this day, my favorite thing to have during the summertime is a juicy, homegrown tomato!

The great thing about growing tomatoes, there are always plenty. It almost seems like you will never run out! My Mama would bring them inside, and they would be placed on the kitchen window sills. Even the back porch, living room, bedrooms, and bathroom window sills were filled. We would have so many tomatoes hanging out in the widows that I imagine someone who didn’t know what was going on would think we were crazy. But my daddy was particularly proud of his “organic” tomatoes and didn’t want even one to go to waste. I remember him saying what a shame it would be to let just one spoil. Mama agreed. You probably realized we didn’t have air conditioning back then, and the windows were always open. Haha.

Mama would “can” as many tomatoes as she had jars to do so. She placed the whole tomatoes into boiling water just long enough to make it easy to remove the peel. Then into a sterile jar, they would go. In a few days, jars upon jars would be sealed and ready for their rightful place in our dirt basement. She would also make and can tomato juice. Later on, those tomatoes and juice would be used in the winter months to make vegetable beef soup on a cold day. I still remember how good the house would smell when I got home from school on a brisk day, and a pot of Mama’s soup would be simmering on the stove. I couldn’t wait to have a bowl of that steamy deliciousness. I still make that recipe to this day, but the tomato part never tastes quite the same.

Since my daddy became unable to garden and grow his tomatoes many years ago, I have not had nary one that tasted as good as his. Not even close. Every year I search the entire summer for a tomato that maybe will be as good as Daddy’s. I never even get close to finding one. No doubt the fresh, homegrown ones are definitely better than store-bought. But none have ever tasted like Daddy’s. I wonder if he had a special secret to growing his tomatoes that only he knew about. Or maybe it’s just me and my longing to have my dad back in my life somehow, even if it comes by way of a tomato.

I will probably continue to search yearly for the best tomatoes, fruits, and veggies. Maybe I will give 5-gallon bucket gardening a try next year. Heck, that’s one of the best parts of summer! Unless you can still grow your own. Now that would be wonderful.

Guest Blog

    No posts found in this category