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Stupid but Loveable

Leaning back in my desk chair, I took a sip of hot tea and sighed with pleasure. Winter sunshine slanting through the window made my office glow. I faintly heard the peaceful Christmas music of Kenny G and Mannheim Steamroller coming from the dining room stereo. Smiling, I took another sip. I love listening to these instrumentals through mid-January and have joked that they are subliminally Christmas.

Winter-clad goldfinches were busily working over the seeds in the bird feeder outside the office window. Hungry chick-a-dees and nuthatches greedily gobbled from a bag of suet hung nearby. I occasionally heard their squabbling twitters through the window.

An angry meow followed by a low growl made me turn to look at the futon across the room. Shadow, my brainless black and white kitten was trying to capture and bite my older white and black cat Louie’s tail. Addressing the older cat, I sympathized, “That stupid baby just won’t leave you alone, will he?”

Louie gave me a long-suffering stare. He is a mighty adult feline, equipped with can-opener claws, yet all he does when Shadow irritates him is meow angrily and growl. He could easily turn the little jerk of a kitten into strips of rawhide and dried meat snacks, but he doesn’t. The only conclusion is that Louie finds Shadow to be stupid, but loveable. Continue reading

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Scratch and Sniff

Seeing tears glittering in my daughter’s eyes, the nurse gently distracted her by sweetly pointing out, “I have some stickers for you.”

Niki’s eyes lit-up and the tears disappeared. No fuss, no worries, life was good! Forgetting her doctor’s office anxieties, she leaned over to examine the stickers the nurse held in the palm of her hand.

It has always amazed me how much my children loved getting stickers. I found they worked just as well for bribes as for rewards. Everyone seemed to be handing them out. My girls received them not just at the doctor’s office, but from the dentist, their teachers, the bank and at birthday parties.

By the time Niki was in grade school and Tammie was starting kindergarten, the types of stickers had multiplied. Plain pictures on a sticky-backed paper became passé. Stickers came out with textured surfaces. Some were padded plastic. My children especially loved the ones of the latest Disney movie princesses.

One day, as we were shopping with Grammie, Tammie received a rather plain-looking, slightly bumpy sticker of a pink-frosted cupcake with a cherry on its top. She proudly showed it to me saying, “Scratch it and then sniff it.”

Scraping my fingernail over the red cherry, I leaned down and sniffed. It smelled like a bowl of cherries! Grammie enjoyed looking at and sniffing Tammie’s latest sticker, too. Continue reading

Resolved

Today is the 9th of January. How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? Are you sticking to them, or have you tossed them aside already? At one time or another, we have all resolved at the start of a new year to lose weight, get into better shape, start going to bed earlier or increase the amount of our daily water intake. Not many of us stick to our resolutions Some quit after the first day, others after the first week. By the time the first month passes, most people have given up.

When my daughter Tammie was home for Christmas, she told me, “We’d have better luck sticking to our resolutions if we made them S.M.A.R.T.”

Are your New Year’s resolutions S.M.A.R.T this year?

S  You need to make your goal as specific as you can. Will you be the one doing it? What do you want to accomplish? Where are you going to do it? When do you want it done? How is it going to be done?

For example, it isn’t enough to say you want to get in better shape so you can participate in the 2019 Boston marathon. You need to make concrete plans like, “In January I will stop eating donuts for breakfast and candy bars before bedtime. In February I will begin walking around the block once a day. In March I will stop eating second helpings. In April I will quit smoking. In May I will begin training for the marathon.” Continue reading

Christmas Island

In the backseat of my car, Niki, age eight and Tammie, age four happily sang along with me, “A-b-c-d-e-f-g!” I stopped singing as we entered the outskirts of town. My older daughter finished the song with her little sister.

As my daughters began to chatter to each other after the song, I thought about how long it had taken Tammie to learn how to talk. She had been fully three and a half years old. My wise pediatrician advised me not to worry, “She’ll begin speaking when she’s ready. She’s been busy concentrating on getting over her medical problems and surgeries.”

I would have worried more, but Tammie’s ability to communicate without words was so good that some nurses at the hospital thought she had used words instead of eye contact and gestures!

Tammie was born with Thrombocytopenia with Absent Radius syndrome, TAR for short. Besides missing both of her fore arms, her body made too few blood platelets, had leg deformities and intestinal problems. Until age three, she was hospitalized frequently for blood transfusions, leg surgeries and complications. The last complication resulted in an emergency tracheostomy shortly after her third birthday. I had commented to my husband, Arnie, “Tammie will probably learn how to speak soon, now that it’ll be a bigger challenge.” Continue reading

Childhood’s Last Doll

During the past several months, my body had developed curves and I no longer looked like a little girl. Things that had once interested me now seemed babyish. I’d even started having crushes on guys. Most of these things were pleasant and exciting, but once in a while part of me wanted to go back to the easy safety of a little girl’s existence.

That year, when I heard the first Christmas carol play on the radio, I felt a sense of relief. The familiar old song was like a good friend I hadn’t heard from for a full year.  I looked forward to once again experiencing the warm, comfortable traditions of childhood.

Receiving a doll every Christmas was one tradition that started before I could remember. As I listened to Bing Crosby sing, “Silver Bells”, I suddenly realized I was too old for dolls. Although I no longer played with dolls, I felt very sad. Continue reading

I Was There!

Even though I ran all the way to the barn from the farmhouse, my fingers, toes and nose felt frozen by the time I stepped into the warm, earthy atmosphere, slamming the door shut behind me. Clutched in my hand was a kettle from our kitchen, half filled with gristle and fat meat trimmings, bread crusts, old grease, mold cut off cheese and leftover casserole that no one had eaten.

Knowing they were about to have a feast, three cats ran to greet me. Daddy looked up from the cow he was washing. I walked towards the stairway to the haymow. The cat’s food dish was there and so were the milk cans Daddy and my brother were filling. My brother was pouring warm, foamy milk from a milker bucket into the strainer sitting on one of the milk cans.

I dumped the kitchen scraps into the food dish and three more cats appeared. Putting the empty kettle on the second step, I sat down next to it to watch the six cats eagerly eat. Hearing the squeal of a teat cup letting go, I turned to look in time to see Daddy stepping in next to a cow to take care of the problem. Having had her fill, one of the cats sat back and licked her paw.

I loved everything about the barn, especially how warm and cozy it felt during the winter. Closing my eyes, I listened as a cow lowed contentedly. A moment later, another gustily exhaled. On the far end of the barn, a calf bawled. The cow next to the steps shook her head making her big ears flap. Shifting her great weight made her hooves creak. In the background I heard our Surge pump for the milking system. It wasn’t loud, but its gentle, comforting chug-chug sound was always there during chores, just like Daddy was always there. Continue reading

The Tinsel Master

I wanted to help, but I could tell my attempts I made annoyed my brother Casper. He frowned at me when I tossed a strand of tinsel over one of the balsam boughs. Both ends of the heavy, lead tinsel strands did not hang down evenly, nor were they across from each other. That would not do! The job needed to be done perfectly. Regretfully, I knew I wasn’t able, nor did I have the patience.

Plopping down onto Mom’s rocking-chair footstool, I looked around at the living room. Our beautiful Christmas tree stood in the far corner. The ornaments were evenly spaced among the branches. Now Casper, the tinsel master, was neatly…so very, very neatly hanging uniform curtains of tinsel on each branch and twig.

All morning Mom had been cleaning the house. Along with the fragrance of the balsam tree, I could smell floor polish. Mixing delightfully with these scents were the aroma of sweet, spicy things baking in the oven. I sighed with satisfaction. Everything was perfect. Mom made me a brand-new flannel nightgown to wear tonight, plus I fully expected my annual Christmas doll would be wearing a matching one! Continue reading