Wednesday, November 20, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #20 - Travel

Gratitude day #20

Today I am grateful for modern transportation.

Yesterday afternoon, I was still at work in Ohio. By that evening, I was hugging daughter Harmony, who lives 3,000 miles across the country.

I am amazed.

My parents would often talk about the types of transportation they used to go anywhere; mostly a mule. A real mule - not a Kawasaki mule, or John Deere. Mom would tell me that a mule was more sure-footed than a horse, and in the hills of Appalachia, that counted.

How grateful I am that I don't have to feed and water a mule when I get home from any trip; that I can just turn off the engine and go drop into bed.

That I don't have to hook up a wagon to make a trip to town. My parents grew up with these, and so did everyone else in the neighborhood. They never wished to return to those days.

Dad was a hobo for awhile, riding the rails to the next town looking for work. A couple of years ago, Kerry and I rode the rails, too - for my birthday. It was comfortable and fun.

I am grateful for things like rubber tires, air conditioning, heat, soft seats, shock absorbers (or whatever they use now), for safety measures like seat belts and air bags, and all of the conveniences that we often take for granted.

I am grateful that in less than half a day's time, I can be from one end of the country to the other.

I am grateful that instead of incessant tossing back and forth on a tiny ship in the ocean, I can cruise with people waiting to help me at my beck and call, or flying over that same ocean from one continent to another.

These things are commonplace in our world. But, they came into being by good minds inspired to make our world better for us.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #19 - Traditions

Gratitude day #19

Today I am grateful for traditions.

As we have gotten older, Kerry and I have both reflected on the traditions from our childhood, as well as those from raising our own family, that cause us to pause and smile.

Kerry's Christmas morning consisted of each child opening gifts one at a time - times eleven - so that all could see and admire what had been received.

My house consisted of me ripping through the presents with my parents warning me to not let the wrapping paper get too close to the fireplace.

Our own little family consisted of the first birthday cake being plowed into by the baby (in a high chair out in the yard close to the hose), completing all of the yard work and jumping into the back of the pickup truck to do an ice cream run, the smell of dinner cooking when we walked through the door after church on Sunday (everyone was groaning and slobbering), the blessing/christening of each of the kids (Kerry's mom made Harmony's little dress in the photos attached), and the annual Christmas tree fight.

I don't know how the annual Christmas tree fight began. For some reason, it would start out well, and then someone got offended because someone took their "branch". By the time we got to the end, I was sitting on the couch throwing the ornaments across the room and letting them land wherever they wanted.

I sort of miss the Christmas tree fights.

It was also a tradition that we all dressed alike when we were traveling. I was fortunate to either find shirts or make them so that we would be clones of each other. Lots of people just thought it was the cutest thing. But, there was purpose in this tradition - not only did I want to be able to keep my eyes on the kids; I wanted them to be able to find US.

One year at Disneyland, we were all dressed in red shirts. So was every other child in the park that day. However, my eyes kept falling back on to a man with a yellow shirt. After that, I noticed that in most crowds, yellow really stuck out. Soon, I had yellow shirts for all of us.

But, today is special because forty-two years ago I was sitting with dear friends in the Washington DC area at my bridal shower. I never thought I would ever get married, and the day was filled with young and old friends presenting me with presents and recipes and advice from their years of experience.

I still have and use many of those gifts, and have kept every one of the recipe cards.

As I recollect some of these traditions, I also hope that my memory remains good and clear so that I can look back on them and smile, knowing I tried to do the best I could do in providing meaningful moments for us all.

Monday, November 18, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #18 Modern Technology

Gratitude day #18

Today I am grateful for modern technology.

I am grateful for devices that can put me in touch in an instant! It was only a few weeks ago that I was rummaging through a closet and found our first "car phone".

It was carried in a small suitcase.

We were limited to 30 minutes per month.

It was heavy. It was clunky. And, we were so grateful for it! It meant that we could travel across the country feeling a little bit safer if we broke down.

I recall our first computer. Again, we were limited to 30 minutes of being online (dial up), and thought we had died and gone to heaven when it was increased to 60 minutes.

My kids were becoming more and more adept at computers in school. I hadn't arrived yet, and it would be some years before I would.

One day, I thought I would try to improve my skills while they were playing and doing homework. I went into our downstairs office, dialed in, and waited for it to load. I was doing great!

Then, without realizing it, I had put some wonky address into the search bar, and very, very slowly...a man's rear end began to pixel in on the screen. I couldn't get it off! It had frozen.

Right then, my son walked in to ask me something and saw what was on the screen. "MOM!!!" I was trying to explain and ask him for help, but this was a moment he felt he had to share with his siblings.

"Guys, come here and look at what Mom has on the computer!" They all came running, and I felt like wearing the cone of shame.

I didn't know how I got there. I didn't know how to get it off. My kids thought I was addicted to porn. They couldn't wait to tell Dad.

And, for months, I was receiving porn ads in my email.


In today's world, I practically have a computer in my hand. I can keep in touch. I can do research and look things up. I can waste time.

And, I can also keep in touch with nieces and nephews around the world. I can see their brand new babies, and have them take me on a tour of their new house.

I can also call Kerry in the basement.

Cell phones have been out about forty years, for which I am grateful. It will be exciting to see what's coming in the next forty years.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #17 - My Ancestors

Gratitude day #17

Today I am grateful for my ancestors, and for what I have learned of their lives through genealogy.

My parents were the ones who whetted my appetite in learning of my family's history. I was born into an old family, and heard firsthand of the early lives of my grandparents, all born in the 1880s and 1890s.

I touched their hands! Their hands had touched those who were born in the 1820s and 1830s! I have touched history.

I have researched their lives, I have learned of their struggles and successes, I have read of the abject poverty they were living in years after their service in the Revolutionary War as they tried to recount their military days to receive a pension.

I've seen them on the move in their migration. I don't move around much, and the thought of packing up and crossing into the unknown overwhelms me.

I've seen them bury child after child after child; parents whose feelings would have been no different than ours as we stood at our son's graveside.

I have photos of many of them. I have looked into their eyes. I can almost feel them looking into mine.

I often wonder if they are wagging their head as I am trying to trace their history; wondering if they feel like saying to me, "Peggy, you're looking in the wrong place. Go back and look at my pedigree again, and get it right this time!"

I'm grateful I have gotten to know these many generations of loved ones who went through what they did to give me what I enjoy today. Whose characters were firm and strong, and their integrity solid.

I hope that when I meet them, they won't be strangers to me. I know their stories, and hope to hear about some of the stories I'm not aware of.

Friday, November 15, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #15 - My Grandmother's Whoopin'

All four of my grandparents were born in the late 1800's. That is just mind-boggling to others when they hear that. And, it's mind-boggling to me, too! People are surprised when they learn that I actually knew people from the 1800's. Just look at all they saw!
Let me relate a snippet. Each year, my parents and I drove to eastern Kentucky where my grandmother lived. My parents had grown up there, too, as well as my three sisters. The hill are steep and the hollers are deep.
My mom was afraid for my her mother to live alone during the winter months. She still heated her home with a pot-bellied stove that was fueled by coal, which meant going out back to fetch the coal. Mom was afraid she would slip and fall and no one would discover her. She had no phone.
We went to get her in October and drove her back in March - plantin' time.
She slept in my bedroom, which was downstairs. She got up every morning at 4:30 am, fixed her own breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits, and coffee so strong that a spoon would stand up in it.
My dad fixed a special chair for her by the fireplace he had built. She warmed her arthritic knees by the fire, and spit tobacco juice into a green bean can. One day, I had taken a bath and washed my hair, which hung to my waist. I put on my warm flannel nightgown and went to dry my hair by the fire. As I stood there talking to Mawmaw, I shook my hair to speed its drying. All of a sudden, my arthritic grandmother flew up out of her chair, grabbed the hearth broom that was used to sweep ashes, and knocked me to the floor, whooping the daylights out of me!
The only thing I could think of was, "What on earth did I say this time?"
Mawmaw saved my life. My nightgown was smoldering, and was ready to ignite. She knew the signs, and didn't take the time to explain. She just went into action. People from that era worked daily around fires, and had seen their share of burns. And, it probably gave her some satisfaction to be whoopin' that smart-aleck 13-year old grandchild of hers!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #14 - My Senses

Gratitude day #14

Today I am grateful for my five senses.

Through them I have been blessed with the ability to see and hear and smell and taste and feel the best things in this world.

I am grateful for my eyesight. As of recent, I have had to have treatments on my right eye for macular edema and BRVO. The good news is that the condition is improving. With that eyesight I have been able to see to read books and music, to see my children's first steps and also the last steps (son Peter). I have seen grandchildren just moments after their birth. I have seen Mr. Kerry's big brown eyes that just melt my hear, and saw the tears that fell from those eyes. And, I get to see his fruit plates!

I am grateful for my sense of taste. Perhaps I am too grateful for that! From my mom's down home cooking in a cast iron skillet to the buffet at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to the Central Market in Mexico City, I have grazed my way through life.

I am grateful that I can hear. My father, who instilled my love of music, wasn't able to enjoy it much at the end of his life, for working in noisy places had robbed his hearing. I've heard squeals of excitement over Easter baskets, I've heard quiet conversations from the children as Kerry and I sat on the deck below their bedrooms, I've heard music that has moved me to tears and choked me up, and I've heard a still, small face guiding me to do the right thing.

I am thankful my sense of smell has not diminished. The aroma of good food, the smell of my mature lilac bush drifting through my living room windows, that fresh scent a newborn baby has only for a short time, and Mr. Kerry as he is grooming and dressing. I could follow him blindfold through the house.

I am mindful of my sense of touch, for I burned a thumb this week. But, all parts of my body can touch and feel heat and cold, softness and firm things, the piano and organ keys that my fingers dance over, a grandchild nestled in the corner of my arm, and Mr. Kerry when he rubs my back to give me the assurance that I need.

If I lost any of these senses, I'm sure in some way the others would become stronger to make up for that loss. Bodies are miracles, and are able to do so many things; even to healing a part that is broken.

Even a heart.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

2019 - Gratitude Month #13 - Fabric and Clothing

Gratitude day #13

Today I am grateful for clothing, and for all of the fabrics and materials that make them; that I don't have to make them myself.

Notice I said I don't "have" to make to make them. I could. But, it's not a necessity to have those skills like it once was.

Today, I am cold. Yet I have so many items at my disposal that are made from fabrics that didn't exist in the days of my grandparents, my parents, or even my sisters.

In my grandmother's day, they raised the sheep, sheared them, carded and spun the wool, and made items to get them through the year.

In my mom's day, bolts of fabrics were at the general store not far from their home. However, that fabric was not in their price range; hence, clothing made from feed sacks. I actually have one of those feed sacks hanging on the door to the attic just a few feet away, a reminder to me when I step out there for any item of clothing that I may have to defrost before I wear it.

I'm now going to include a snippet from my blog that I wrote a few years ago. As I read it again this morning, I had tears in my eyes as I recalled this special day, much of which was made possible by friend Vicki Taylor. It was as though it happened yesterday.

"As a child, I have vivid memories of my mother, Ida Stevens Clemens, and her mother, Bertha Agnes Gearheart Stevens as they pieced squares and triangles together making quilt tops. I believe the fabrics were those that had been worn as clothing and still had a bit of a life in them.

Mawmaw would live with us every winter. My parents and I would make the trip from Ohio to Kentucky in October to pick her up and bring her up north. Mom was always afraid that her mother would take a tumble while going out to pick a bucket of coal for the stove. One year she did fall, and broke her arm in the process. But, as soon as the weather would be clear enough to go back home, we took her. She was anxious to get back for “plantin’ time”.

Mawmaw passed one. Then, my mother passed on. One day, while at my father’s home, we were going through an old steamer trunk that had been in the family for years. I pulled out quilt after quilt, as well as four quilt tops. I mentioned to dad that I would be happy to take them home and repair, clean and preserve them. He thought about it, but said my three sisters would probably be jealous. I did talk him into letting me take the four quilt tops, promising that I would someday make them into quilts for my sisters and myself.

Just two months later, my dad went to Kentucky to visit relatives. When he came home, the only thing standing was his front door and the front wall of his home. Lightning had struck the house and burned it to the ground while he was gone. My sisters and I helped him go through the rubble, trying to salvage anything we could. The only thing that remained intact was the genealogy, the pictures, and a drawer with his underwear in it. Those items smelled of smoke and had a bit of water damage, but were mostly in good condition.
Through years of raising my own family, the quilt tops were forgotten. They remained in a black garbage back in my attic. But, one year I rediscovered them and decided it was time to make them into what they were intended to be – beautiful quilts.

The fabrics were old and mismatched, but through the help of a friend and her quilting machine, we began to work on them to get them quilted. I thought of how each one was so different and decided which of my sisters would get the finished one.

All except for one. I couldn’t find it anywhere!
I tore the house apart. I promised a reward to any of my children that could find it. I cried. I prayed. I was desperate.
The impression came to look in the back of my van, for I had loaded up a number of items to take to the thrift shop. Sure enough, as I reached through the clothes to the bottom of the bag, I could feel the familiar stitches my mother and grandmother had made some forty years before on material that was even older than that.

The quilts were finished and given to my sisters for Christmas that year. They were absolutely dumbfounded, for they had all assumed that everything had been destroyed in the fire. I can still remember their voices as they exclaimed over the fabrics, remembering a dress, or a tie, or an apron, etc. that brought back a flood of memories.

I am saddened for the quilts that were lost in the fire, but am so grateful for the quilt tops that I brought home that enabled me to give one final present from Mom and Mawmaw to each of us granddaughters."

Modern technology and techniques have replaced those times that I sat with my mother and my grandmother and watched them reconstruct useful items from clothing that was no longer useful. Though I wouldn't want to return to that time, I am grateful for the experience of seeing and participating in the creation of those items.