Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Forty-Seven Years and Counting


Forty-seven years ago today in Pensacola, the weather was bright and sunny, warm enough for Mother to go to the church to be sure that the air-conditioner was turned on for the festivities at 3:00 P.M. I was filing my fingernails and giggling with my soon-to-be sister-in-law, just killing time until noon, when I would start getting ready for the most exciting day yet in my short twenty-one years. Mother found a few minutes of privacy with me just to check to be sure that I knew the "facts of life." Fine time to check. I assured her that I did, not letting her know that what I really knew was just a bit more than that the stork delivered babies. Just kidding. I was a little more knowledgeable than that, but no more details on this subject!

Nineteen sixty-one was a long time ago, but I remember lots of details, such as the following:

--The owner of the bridal shop where we bought my dress ($50 and gorgeous) came to the church to help me get dressed.
--I dressed in the balcony of Brownsville Baptist Church.
--The pictures taken with my mother and dad are priceless and precious. The look in Daddy's eyes said, "I love you more than words can tell, little girl." How I wish I could re-live those moments alone with my parents!
--Frank and I smiled and smiled as I walked down the aisle. He looked so handsome in the only tux that fit. The groomsmen all had something wrong with their tuxedos because the person who placed the order for them at the shop in Pensacola just didn't believe the measurements that Frank sent in for them.
--Brother Dodson, our minister, called me Sandra, but that was okay if that's what it took to make our marriage official.
--Frank wouldn't tell me ahead of time whether or not he would kiss me at the end of the ceremony. He did. I was happy!
--The reception was lovely, very old-fashioned by today's standards, with a receiving line, cake, and punch. Very traditional and beautiful, held in our church dining hall.
--The groomsmen painted my parents' new white Oldsmobile with black shoe polish, forcing them to get a paint job later.
--They also painted my 1959 Ford with white shoe polish, which came off in a car wash.
--We drove to Chipley, FL, less than a hundred miles from Pensacola. We found one restaurant open that Sunday night, had a nice nervous dinner, and backed into a pine tree outside the restaurant when we finished. Very embarrassing for Frank.
--My dad had recommended the Chipley Motel, where he stayed while traveling in his job, so that's where we stayed that first night of married life. I forgot my toothbrush, and nothing was open where we could buy one. I used Frank's. That's a bit too intimate, isn't it? No more information about that first night except to say that the years have been good to us. You can figure that one out!

Today, December 17, 2008, is somewhat different from that same day of the year in 1961. We aren't turning the air-conditioner on this bright sunshiny day; instead, we're loving the snow, some of which has accumulated, some of which has melted. More on the way tonight. No more sitting around filing my nails and giggling with Sally. Instead, Frank and I are both in the kitchen getting ready for our big Christmas Open House here in Cerrillos, NM, a place where you'd never have convinced me forty-seven years ago that I'd live someday. On that day so many years ago, I'd hardly been west of the Mississippi River and certainly didn't have any idea that I'd live anywhere except the Deep South. But here we are in our retirement home, just about five minutes from Wendy and her family and as happy as can be. Of course, we still love each other; however, even more important . . . we still like each other. Pretty neat, huh?

Enough reminiscing for now. Back to the kitchen. Gumbo and cookies call!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Reading Anthology

Sometime in August, I went to Dubuque, IA, to conduct an inservice session on Conversation Circles. During the inservice, I mentioned a project that I used to do with my seniors at Woodham High School in Pensacola. I've mentioned this project, The Reading Anthology, in several presentations/inservices, but no one has ever asked me for instructions. Three middle school teachers in Dubuque wanted to know how to do the project. The following is a pretty much lame attempt to inform them. This may not be very interesting reading if you're not an English teacher, so don't feel obligated . . .




How I wish that I had kept the disk that had all of the instructions on it! I’ll try to reconstruct what I did a dozen years ago. Here’s a little background first:

One evening in 1990 (or thereabouts), I decided to look through old issues of The English Journal, my favorite “teacher” book, but one that I had neglected for several months because of the mounds of papers that needed grading. The EJ had always been my source for new ideas, ideas that I usually tweaked to make my own. Because of my “borrowing” from this periodical so much, I would later refer to myself as a copycat teacher. Very true!

As I sat cross-legged on the floor of my office, I happened upon one particular EJ that changed my teaching life forever. I had always thought that students should have a definite say in what they read. A teacher never gave me that opportunity, and I wanted my students to be able to choose. But I was at a loss as to how they could do that and still have the kids read quality literature. I hope that somewhere in boxes out in our storage building I still have that particular issue, but I doubt it. Anyway, as I thumbed through the issue (probably somewhere between 1988 and 1990), one article almost literally jumped out at me. It was by Anne McCrary Sullivan, a teacher in Texas, and was titled “The Reading Anthology,” or something similar to that.

I fell in love with the assignment immediately because Anne had opted to give her students literature types to read, but she let the students choose the specific titles. Why couldn’t I have thought of that? I’m no dummy. Maybe I didn’t think of it because the Lord meant for me to meet Anne in person. My detective skills kicked in, and I found her. It wasn’t easy, but I did it, and I think it was in 1992 that she and I finally got together at NCTE. There’s quite a story in our meeting, but what you want to know is how to do the assignment.

Now to the instructions. I’m going to give them to you in bulleted format, just suggesting some things that you might want to do. Before beginning, however, let me remind you that I taught high school seniors, and I required of them much more than you’ll want to require of middle school students. The assignment can be done with any grade level and any ability level, as long as the number of selections and the depth of writing are adjusted.

• Before assigning The Reading Anthology (through the years, my assignment came to be known as The Dreaded Anthology, mainly because seniors like to gripe), write the assignment in an enthusiastic manner so that students see that they’re in control and that the assignment can be fun and meaningful. They’ve never been able to choose their own literature before. This may be a problem for some of them, but you’ll encourage them and make them see that they can do this. If the three of you are working on this together and can get together to agree on what to assign in the way of types of lit, I think you’ll enjoy the project more. I was a “voice crying in the wilderness,” and many times I wished for a companion teacher just to bounce ideas off; however, I’m pretty much a loner in most teaching, so I did fine. Good instructions are a must! You may have to adjust the assignment as you progress the first time, but the students will like that because most of the time, your adjustments will make the assignment easier for them. Seniors are probably more devious than middle school students, so you may not have this particular problem: three of my boys decided to sabotage my beautiful assignment by twisting my words to mean something other than what they meant to me. I have to admit that they were successful to some degree; however, I found ways to lower their grades because of their mis-interpretations. They didn’t really win, but I re-worded instructions the next year.
• The following are the categories and number of selections that they had to read: Southern novel (1), British novel (1), Southern short stories (3), British short stories (3), poems (10) [the second year, I changed this to (5) for my survival], young adult novel (1), children’s story (1), cartoons (5), magazine article (1) . . . I think there were other categories, but I’m drawing a blank right now. Remember that my students were seniors; be sure to adjust the types of literature and the numbers of selections that they have to read. Don’t make an assignment that will suffocate them. Give them plenty of time to read and write.
• And now to the writing: My students had specific instructions for the essays that they’d write about each type of literature. The essays that they wrote were definitely personal, very much informal, but with definite guidelines. I’m sure you have your own instructions for writing about fiction and nonfiction. Just be sure that the instructions are not onerous. You want the students to enjoy writing about the selections that they’ve chosen. Don’t make the assignments too long because YOU must read and evaluate them.

Here are a couple of other things that I had my students do:

• Every Thursday after I made the assignment, they had to turn in a memo to me. I just had them use a regular memo form. The first paragraph was a summary of the kinds of reading that they had done during the week. The second was a comment on what they liked and/or didn’t like in their reading. And the third was a projection as to what they’d do during the next week. Frequently, a student would come to me bemoaning the fact that he or she didn’t like his or her selections for the anthology. My reply? ABANDON! Do not read something that you wouldn’t want to include in a book that you’re putting together! Occasionally, a student would bound into the room announcing, “I’ve abandoned that short story, Mrs. Young!” And we’d all cheer!
• I also had the students do double-entry journals for novels and short stories. You’ve probably done this before, maybe using a different title for the assignment. The students had to quote sections of the selections and comment on them . . . sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, often questioning the passages. This was always one of my favorite assignments in the classroom. I can’t remember how many I required, maybe seven or so from a novel and three to five from a short story. Frequently their comments were a page or so long.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I evaluated an assignment of such magnitude. Believe me, I made it fairly easy for myself by creating a good rubric beforehand. The students had a copy of this. The main ingredient that I looked for in the assignment was their real reaction to the literature. I also evaluated them on how well they followed my instructions and whether or not they read and wrote about the full number of required readings. You’ll have to determine all of this for yourselves, though. Make this YOUR assignment!

I never marked anything on their finished product because it’s an assignment that they’ll be proud of and will want to keep. I made copies of the rubric and wrote on that for each student, mentioning page numbers in their “books.” Grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc., were important but not the deciding factor on the excellence of their anthologies.

I gave extra credit to students who made a copy of their anthologies for me to keep to show students the next year. Don’t let them give you their original because you’ll want them to keep them. Their parents will want them to keep them, too. Will it be a problem for middle school students to use computers for their final copies? I doubt it.

Have I told you enough? Have I overwhelmed you? I do hope that each of you will make The Reading Anthology an assignment that both you and your students can enjoy. Please be sure to let me know whether or not you choose to do this and how everything turns out. I’m eager to hear!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Every Day Is Saturday

As of Friday, October 10, every day is Saturday to me. Yep . . . I received my “walking papers” from dear old Holt McDougal on that day. I should say that I received my “sitting papers.” Sandy won’t be traveling until January, if then.

The pitiful economy has caught up with the publishing companies, at least with the publishing company for which I work. Ask me if I’m sad. The answer: a resounding NO! The only thing that makes me sad is that I won’t be earning any money while I sit at home. Since I still haven’t been paid for the first week in August, all I can say is “So what’s new?” My constant theme song is “Maybe a check will come today!”

Enough sarcastic comments! I enjoy my job and hope to get back to work in January. In the meantime, I have plans. Nothing’s definite yet, but the following are some projects that I’m considering, some that I’m looking forward to and some that I’d rather skip:

• The number one project that I don’t want to do is some much-needed housecleaning. I have “glory holes” galore (these are cluttered areas like drawers and closets, according to my mother-in-law, Elsa Young) that are much in need of attention. Baseboards are crying for cleaning, and the mice have chewed their way into countless bags of dry foods in the pantry, so I could spend days in that closet just finding more things to throw away. We’ve gotten rid of the mice, but evidence of their busy-ness is still around. I had to make cornbread from scratch today because they’d been nibbling on my Marie Calendar’s mix. Now, that’s a shame!

• Years ago, when I first started my career in the publishing business, Frank took over almost all the cooking. I’d call him every evening, mouth watering, just waiting for his description of what he’d had for dinner. He’s a fantastic cook! But I fear that a project that will fall on my shoulders virtually every day is thinking up the meals and preparing them. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate this project; I just don’t look forward to tackling it every day. I think my sweetheart will pull his weight from time to time, especially when he wants something really scrumptious and/or exotic. I’m a “meat and potatoes” cook. Frank will help with cooking more than I’ll help with building the garage, I assure you.

• Getting away from the negativity, I’ll address the positives . . . the projects that I look forward to. Almost at the moment that Scott, the rep for whom I work, gave me the news about my job, I said to myself, “Well, this gives me time to write! And who knows, maybe the Lord is telling the old lady that it’s time to hang up the van keys permanently.”

• So what kinds of writing to I want to do? Well, here I am writing on my blog for the first time since July, when I wrote about Jay. On January 1, 2008, I wrote that I might do some scribbling every day in 2008. Obviously, I’ve missed the mark, but I can get back to writing every once in a while since I don’t have to be on the road, in schools, making presentations, conducting inservices. I look forward to “talking” on my computer.

• One of my good friends, Grace Hollen, is encouraging me to look into editing as a new profession. I’m investigating the possibilities; however, I’m not sure that grading papers for thirty-two years will qualify me for anything. People usually want proof of experience before hiring anyone for editing. I’m afraid my resume isn’t very impressive. But I may try this!

• I just found a Writing Workshop through Writer’s Digest that sounds very interesting to me, and I may sign up for it: Scrapbook Journaling. I doubt that I’d get anything published with this workshop, but publication isn’t really my goal. I just like to write!

• Here’s one that doesn’t pertain to writing or cleaning house: getting together with my Cerrillos girlfriends whenever I want to. Sigh! It’ll be so nice to be able to say “Yes” every time one of them wants to get together for lunch. Even nicer will be my ability to invite them to my house whenever I want to. Frank and I have such great friends out here in our hills. My never knowing for sure that I’ll be at home when something’s going on has been a heartbreak for me. Now my heart can mend.

• Several months ago, my cousin, Nancy Posey, gave me all sorts of suggestions for starting a book club. I just may investigate to see if friends in our neighborhood might be interested in forming one. Another check that I may do is to see if anyone is interested in writing his or her autobiography. The autobiography project is one that I’d like to do at Rodeo Road Baptist Church, too.

• A big project that’s coming up is one that we do every year but one which is difficult to get going and to complete because of my being out of town so much: our Christmas Open House. I can start baking as soon as I want to this year!

• The last “project” that I’ll mention right now is one that always thrills my heart: having Jackson at our house for a day every once in a while. I have no desire to be the every day babysitter for our precious little grandson; however, I love to be able to step in to help Todd when he gets really pushed in completing a job. Jackson makes us smile!

Anyone reading this post will know not to feel sorry for me for my having been “fired.” During the almost fifty years that I have been either teaching, “repping,” or working per diem, Saturdays have been the days when I could do just what I wanted to do. I know I’ll enjoy all these Saturdays that I have now!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Mother's Memories

Here we are again at an anniversary of my boy’s death. After receiving some poignant notes from friends and calls from Andy Waltrip and Susan Findley, I’m doing really well this year, though a couple of days ago, I didn’t know how I would handle July 2.

Since I found writing so cathartic a year ago, I decided earlier to write again this year. But since I reminisced about Melonheads and gigs last year, I didn’t know what I wanted to write. If you’ve read anything on my blog lately, you’ll know that I used pieces that I wrote years ago on my mother’s birthday (she’d have been 100 this year) and on Father’s Day. I still liked those pieces, and it made me happy to post them for all to read. They were parts of my autobiography, and very few people have read that volume.

What did I have that would do Jay justice? Aha! THE JAY BOOK. Some of you may remember that beautiful book that Angela Hinkley masterminded and Wendy provided photographs for. Some of you contributed stories about Jay for it. Only Angela, Wendy, and Frank know, though, that I wrote my part of the book after we received it. It was sort of a “thank you” to Angela. I loved writing it in December 1992, so I decided to copy it here, with a few deletions and additions. I don’t think Angela will mind.

I must warn you ahead of time that it’s VERY long, so don’t feel obliged to read it in its entirety. The pictures in the memory are all either scanned or taken up close with Wendy's digital camera. She works miracles with old photos! By the way, if you click on the photos, they will enlarge. Here are some of my favorite memories of my boy . . . your relative or friend. I hope you never forget him! No chance that I will . . . If, as you read, you feel that I'm talking to someone besides you, remember that I am -- to Angela Hinkley, one of Jay's very best friends.

A MOTHER’S MEMORIES

First of all, I can’t write A memory of Jay, just as some who wrote about him in THE JAY BOOK couldn’t. I’ll begin with a couple of memories of Jay before he arrived, and then I’ll proceed through a few that are not necessarily the most important ones or ones that others will remember, but they are ones that keep coming back to me. Though my recollections are long, They won’t be exhaustive, but they'll give you a little flavor of Jay and his mom. Let’s see . . . maybe I’ll title the periods for you . . .

BEFORE BIRTH

Jay’s determination was evident even at this time. You have to know at the outset that Wendy arrived in this world pretty much when we planned for her. That’s not to say that she’s predictable now, but her arrival was. Jay, however, began his unpredictability early. We knew, just as with Wendy, when we wanted to have him. He, however, had other plans. He waited until I had just settled into the job of my dreams before he let us know that he was on the way. Wouldn’t you agree that he did things in his own time frame during the part of his life that you knew? To further illustrate his behavior, he wasn’t due until around the 20th of February in 1968, but since my doctor was going to be off duty at that time, he came on February 10, my dad’s birthday, so that Dr. Girouard could deliver him and so that he’d have a real “in” with Papa, since Wendy was the only light of his eyes at the time.

IN INFANCY

I remember that he loved me right from the start. You see, I was his only source of nourishment. He came into this world fascinated with a certain part of my anatomy. Hmmmm . . . I wonder if that had anything to do with later interests . . . Shame on me! Of course not! Anyway, he just about wore me out. He’d nurse on and off all day long, with short periods in between feedings, and then just when I’d be certain that I’d get a long nap around midnight, he’d be yelling for me again. Needless to say, we developed quite a relationship right then. We talked a lot during the night. He’d just look at me as though I were the only important person in the world. He always had a special look for me, but there were lots of other important people later in his life. I remember that I worried so much because he wouldn’t eat “real” food, but the doctor assured me that if he continued to gain weight at the rate that he was going, he would weigh fifty pounds when he was a year old. I quit worrying. Eventually, he ate, but he never “lived to eat,” as some of us do, did he? Many other vignettes are flitting through my mind, like the time Wendy and I ran all over town letting pharmacists look at the weird spot on Jay’s cheek because I was convinced it was ringworm, only to be told finally that it ws a mark left by his pacifier while he napped. Talk about stupid! I don’t think I was the best mother in the world. Onward . . .

Here's a family picture from Jay's baby days and Wendy's little girl days. Frank and I were considerably younger then, too.



BEFORE SCHOOL DAYS

I suppose Jay’s life really began when we moved to Pensacola because he had no memories before that time. The only house that he could ever remember our living in is this one. This was truly home to Jay. (A later memory which I’m afraid I’ll forget to mention is of Jay, running from room to room when he returned after being gone for seven months to New York, shouting, “My house! My house!” It still is his house.) Wendy can probably remember some specifics about Jay as a child in Pascagoula, but nothing comes to my mind right now. But I do have a few (!) memories of his childhood in Pensacola.

He did not like for me to leave him when I went to work each morning. Can you imagine how I felt each day when I left him squalling either with a maid here at home or at the baby-sitter’s house? I guess he got over his attachment by the time that we began to leave him at Children’s World. He really liked it there. That was before the times of having to be so careful about day care centers. Anyway, it was a good one. I recall, though, that he didn’t like taking a nap with the other children, and the teacher would put him in a room by himself. Independent little kid! Actually, some of the children misbehaved during nap time, and it scared him to hear the teachers yelling at them.

I almost enrolled him in one of the Pensacola Christian day care centers; however, when I investigated and found that if he talked on the bus, he wouldn’t get any dessert at lunch, I changed my mind. That probably wouldn’t have been too much punishment for him, though, since he never did care much for sweets. But can you imagine anyone’s trying to squelch Jay’s talking? We used to have to tell him that we had to play the quiet game during meals at home because he’d still be sitting there talking when Wendy and Frank and I had finished eating. Some things don’t change, do they?

A man named Dale Godbold used to work in our store. His brother died, and Jay heard us talking about someone named Godbold having passed away. You can imagine Jay’s surprise when Dale walked into the store a couple of days later when we were there. Jay turned to him in complete consternation and said, “Why, Mr. Godbold! I thought you died!” Yep . . . even back then, he said what was on his mind.

This is one of my favorite memories. I guess he must have been around five, and evidently he and his dad had had a “misunderstanding” about Jay’s using something of Frank’s. Anyway, we (Jay and I) were riding down Pine Forest Road when he announced that he was going to be a fireman when he grew up (Never anything ordinary for him!) and that he and his wife would have about twelve children. He’d take his fire truck home at night, and he’d let his children climb all over it. I said that that was nice and asked him if he knew that those children would be my grandchildren. Of course, he knew that. Then came the great question . . . “Will you bring your little children to see me, Jay?” A slight pause . . . and then, “Oh, Ma, you plolly be dead by then!” This is one of my best stories of Jay. I love it. It’s a real mother’s story, don’t you think? That’s really the order in which things should happen, but they don’t always.

And a picture of Jay with the Jolly Old Elf . . .



That’s enough for this period in Jay’s life . . .

IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Days at Beulah School! What wonderful years! I loved it out there. Everything was so much more peaceful than it was at the big schools in the city. Thanks so much, Angela, for talking to Beverly Gunn and Vera Gainey to get their remembrances of Jay. They were two of his favorites. Let’s see what I can remember about those days. So much . . .

Once Mrs. Gunn had jury duty for a whole week. Jay cried every day before he went to school because she wouldn’t be there and he didn’t like the substitute. I went by one day to get a look at her myself, and she was pretty scary.

By the time he was in second grade, we had so many kids at Beulah that Mr. Winters, the principal, had to form a second class after school started. Jay really didn’t like the teacher whose class he was originally in, and neither did we. She insisted on calling him Frank because that was his real name. Jay cried about that, too, so one day I wrote a note asking her to call him Jay. I also dressed him in his shirt that had “Here Comes Trouble!” written on the front and “Jay” on the back. Shortly after, he was moved to the new teacher’s class. I have always thought that Mrs. Gunn had something to do with that. Anyway, I’ve always thanked her in my heart for it.

Third grade was Mrs. Vickery! What a lady! All he ever mentioned in later years was boobs and breath when her name came up. I’m forever grateful to her for making both Wendy and Jay learn their times tables before they could be promoted to fourth grade. She was a rather old-fashioned teacher. I like old-fashioned!

I made sure that he was placed in Mrs. Gainey’s room in fourth grade because we had loved her for Wendy. Sure enough, she allowed him to be creative, just as she had Wendy. He was happy in her class. Of course, the principal almost killed me because I told all the mothers in the neighborhood to call and request Mrs. Gainey for their fourth graders.

I think that fifth grade was about the time when he and Walter Glenn had such fun at the Fall Festival, kissing the girls out behind the portable classrooms, a practice that never went away for either of them.

From third grade on, I have definite memories of Jay and the piano. I can see him sitting on the piano bench with his legs dangling from the bench, playing songs that really were too hard for such a tiny kid. I also remember piano contest Saturdays. One in particular stands out. He and two other little boys were in a certain level of competition. I could hear them practicing behind the curtain at Pensacola Junior College before the contest began. Jay’s playing stood out from that of the others; he was so sure of himself. He won, hands down. As we drove away from the parking lot, I asked him about what went on behind the curtain before the contest. He said, “I couldn’t believe how scared those other kids were. I told them that I could hardly wait to get out there to play!” Guess he psyched them out. I never knew Jay to be nervous before a performance, unless I count the time that he lost his singer just two days before a gig at Fennegal’s and knew that he’d have to do all the singing himself. That was just one of the times that he asked me to pray lots about what he was doing. I did. He did fine.

Can a person inherit headaches? I think so. My dad passed them on to me, and I shared them with Jay. Mrs. Gunn mentioned Jay's to me. I have some specific memories of these agonizing times in my little boy’s life. One of these memories actually covers many instances. Every time that he’d have a headache, he and I would sit in the rocker in the living room and rock in the dark. That’s the only way he got relief. Those were special times to me. Rocking my boy was one motherly thing that I could do. Another memory of those headaches involves taking him to the doctor to find out what caused them. We were told that he had classic migraines. While we were sitting in the examination room with him, the doctor noticed some little red places on his arms and legs. When asked what they were, Jay looked innocently up at the physician and said, “Child abuse.” You can imagine our chagrin. The doctor, however, was smarter than Jay thought and said that he didn’t believe that (Whew!); he had had a sister, and he recognized the signs of sister/brother horseplay when he saw it. That kid! A third headache memory comes with thoughts of Jay’s one and only attempt at football. All the other kids, Walter and Joe probably, were playing, so nothing would do but Jay had to play, too. We outfitted him and began going to practice. His football “career” lasted just about a week. He had a couple of headaches during that time, and the coach accused him of trying to get out of practice and made him go out on the field even though his head was splitting. He never liked to be accused of lying if he wasn’t, so he said that he’d had enough. I admitted readily that I had, too, and we both threw in the towel . . . ‘scuse me . . . uniform. The closest he ever came to football again was playing xylophone in the high school band. On to middle school . . .

IN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Even though Jay had taken piano for several years during his elementary days, his real love of music probably began here, for it was at this time that he joined the Bellview Middle School band. He blew the sax. I know that’s a strange way to put it, but it was such an awful sound at first. As I’ve said before, however, the screech didn’t last long. Soon he was playing really well. I don’t remember any specific instances in band in middle school. Isn’t that strange?

He also was tremendously interested in running during this time. Soccer was a love, too. You know, Jay never wanted to be anything but a star. During these years, he aspired to be another Pele. I took him to countless soccer practices and games. I remember one particular game when I was sitting in the stands cross-stitching and watching. Yes, I could do both at the same time. I looked up just in time to see Jay butt the ball for a goal. I yelled, “That’s using your head, son,” and was immediately relieved to know that he hadn’t heard me because he would have been really embarrassed. I’m not much of a sports fan, I fear.

He was so little in middle school. One of his teachers called him “Too-Tall Young,” after some famous athlete. I never understood. Jay didn’t mind; in fact, I always felt that he took pride in being the smallest but the “tallest” often in accomplishments. He never longed (pun intended) to be tall. I recall once his telling me that he had no desire to be a big person. But he was big, wasn’t he?

I think that it was probably during his middle school years that he rushed into the house crying about something that had happened in the neighborhood. After he was about eight or so, he never cried much, so I was really surprised. (The only time after this one that I recall him crying was about three years ago when he and Suzy had had a horrible falling out on the phone on Christmas Eve. The only solution that I could offer was for him to call her to apologize and then to come home to spend the night with us. He did both. We all felt better.) It seems that Joe Jacobi had thrown Jay’s new Nikes into Walter’s pool. He was so angry. I can’t even describe it. I don’t think I ever saw him that angry again. Thank goodness!

Jay loved school. Don’t get me wrong. He was not a wonderful student. I’d never try to convince myself that he was. However, he loved people and fun, and that’s where both were . . . at school. He also loved his teachers, like Mrs. Gunn, Mrs. Gainey, Mrs. Jackson, Mr. Whitten, Mr. Ewing, Mr. Buck, Mr. “Longwoit,” Mrs. Crumpton, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Livingston . . . and lots of others (and Mr. Hand, of “Don’s Subs” fame). But there was one teacher in middle school that he did not like at all. She embarrassed him. I think she taught math and science. Once when he made an F on something, she told the whole class. He just couldn’t stand it. His grades plummeted in her class, so we went for a conference. She was not a delightful person. We understood why the kids would misbehave. They wanted to be put into the “hole” for punishment. Jay spent a lot of time there. We never complained.

Just before he left Bellview to go to Pine Forest High School, he announced that he wouldn’t be in band in high school. Instead, he’d run cross-country. It seems that he didn’t think it would be “cool” to march and play his sax. Don’t ask me where he got that idea. But if he got an idea in his head, it was there to stay. Well, Wendy would have none of that. I remember that she took him outside here at home and talked to him for a while. When they came in, she announced that Mr. Buck had an opening for a xylophone player and that Jay was going to fill the spot. Had Jay ever played mallets before? Nope! Did that discourage him? Nope! Does this sound familiar (like when he needed a bass player, so he learned to play bass in just a couple of days)? Yep!

IN HIGH SCHOOL

Most of my memorable moments with Jay in high school involve band. PFHS band was not new to us. We had been through fours years with Wendy, so we were very much familiar with meetings and duty at the concession stand and contests and last-minute ironings of uniforms . . . and on and on and on. We loved John Buck and his band. I must admit that it was difficult to be a teacher at Woodham and a parent at Pine Forest. I had to work really hard not to mix the two. When Jay and Jimmy Mills were in Suncoast Sound Drum and Bugle Corps the summer of 1984, he learned to play drums. That completed his percussion education. He wrote the cadence for drums his senior year. My heart beat right along with the drums as the band marched in. Pride!! The night that he played his trap set on the field was almost too much for this mother’s heart. We even have pictures somewhere. I suppose, though, that the time that my heart thrilled the most was at Honor’s Night when John Buck gave him the Band Award, saying simply that he had never known a student with so much talent. Jay still holds that place in John’s heart. He told me so this summer when Jay died. Again, John brought joy to a mother’s heart. This memory thing is so hard to write. Sometimes I can heardly see the screen through my tears. Sorry. (The same thing is happening in 2008.)

Of course, I remember the night in January of 1985, when Joey Allred called Jay. I was doing dishes, and I heard Jay say something about a band. At that moment VELVET MELON was born. (The name of the band didn't come that night, though. It was months later that Jay's current girlfriend, Gina Forsberg, told him that she had seen something strange carved on a desk at Tate High School: Velvet Melon. Jay exclaimed, "That's it, Gina. Our band is Velvet Melon!" And he announced it to the guys that evening . . . immediate acceptance.) Jay and Joey had a dream. It came true every Saturday morning around 10:00 and went on for about four hours, letting up only for the guys to consume dozens of hot dogs. That was all I could afford to buy that whole bunch of boys who all looked and sounded alike to me. Even though Joey and Jay together formed Velvet Melon, Jay was always in the lead. I could hear him giving orders as I set out the food. It’s so funny that a month before the band came into existence, Frank was preaching about the ills of rock music, and I was shouting “Amen” to what he said. According to Frank, that rock beat would mess up your heart. I wonder. Somehow, though, when our boy began to play and sing the “stuff,” it wasn’t quite so bad. I was immediately in love with all that Jay did. Frank, Wendy, and I were Jay’s #1 fans, and Steve wasn’t far behind. Naturally, certain gigs stand out more than others. We went to all of them, except for the private parties, which, by the way, were usually broken up by the police, who were responding to the complaints of neighbors. It’s probably a good thing that we weren’t invited to these gala events anyway because we might have seen some things that our tender eyes didn’t need to see yet. The fact is we did see some things that we shouldn’t have; however, we thought it best to ignore some of them. The gigs that I enjoyed most were those at Pine Forest (sock hops, talent shows, even concerts). I can’t remember when they started to play in clubs, but it was probably after Jay was out of high school. But the clubs that I enjoyed most in the early days, whenever they were, were Longnecker’s and Fennegal’s. I never did care much for The Rex.

I enjoyed Jay’s high school days right along with him. But on to later days . . . But first, here's a picture from high school days, maybe his senior year . . .















AFTER HIGH SCHOOL / IN VELVET MELON

I’ve already written about many of my memories of this time. They were such good years. It has occurred to me that I probably should say something here. None of my memories involve some of the “trouble” that middle schoolers and high school students sometimes get in to. I found out in later years that we didn’t escape some of these “events”; we just didn’t know about them. Even though we discovered later some of the things that Jay did and that we didn’t approve of, we were happy to know for sure that he was not involved in drugs. It really is a miracle in the twentieth century and especially in the rock music circle for a person not to be involved in this aspect of the lives of young people. I never feared that Jay would have anything to do with drugs. In fact, I can remember telling him that he might get in trouble because of his outspoken abhorrence of them. I feared that someone might slip something into a drink just to prove to him that he, too, would do drugs. That never happened. Thank you, Lord! That one line that he wrote in an original always comforted me: “I don’t mix drugs with rock and roll/I’ve got Jesus in my heart to save my soul.” Isn’t that a wonderful line? Wish he had felt the same way about beer!

There are far too many gigs for me to mention too many specifics. Here are just a few:

The performance at The Bitter End in New York on the trip before the move . . .

Times at Longnecker’s . . . Suzy, Rick Holt, New Year’s Eve, taking my seniors in after the Senior Banquet . . . mentioning how good the band sounded one night and then getting the dreaded call about Keith’s accident just a few hours later. By the way, remember that math and science teacher that Jay didn’t like? She taught the kids CPR, and Jay used it on Keith that night. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all.

And speaking of Suzy . . . here's my favorite picture . . .



The beach house fiasco . . . We had just left when the balcony fell . . .

The French Quarter . . . spending two days snowed in in motor homes with nine kids in their twenties . . .

The gig on the riverboat . . . Jay got a bit sick when he looked out the window while they were playing.

The night at Coconut Bay just before he was going to let the drummer go. I kept looking around for him, but he was nowhere to be seen. Finally, I spotted him, do-rag on his head, huddled in fetal position off in a corner, obviously praying for help with his task. How my heart hurt for him. He knew what was best for his band, but that guy was his friend, and he couldn’t stand to hurt him. So many times he said to me, “Please pray, Mom. I’ve got to have help.” And I prayed. And he did, too. I wonder how many people know that about my boy. A few do.

Many nights at various gigs when he grabbed me just as we were leaving to give me a big hug and a huge kiss . . . right there in front of everyone. Not many young people honor their mothers in such a way. In fact, I remember one morning last spring when he called me at school to register a complaint. It seems that he had had it with us! We would go to his gigs, sit through one set, and then leave . . . without telling him good-bye. What greater compliment could a twenty-four-year-old son give his parents? None, as far as I’m concerned. Then there was the time that he called me at school. Becky Mc answered the phone in the teachers’ work area. He wanted to speak to me, but before she went to look for me, she told him that we were all burning up because the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. She said, “Your mom’s really hot today.” His reply . . . “My mom’s always hot!” Now, that’s a compliment, too!

Oh, and there was the night of October 31, 1987, when Velvet Melon played “Rebel Yell” for Wendy and “My Girl” for Corey. Corey had just entered the world about four hours before the gig. The guys were dressed in their costumes . . . Jay was the Punk Monk that year! Everyone was so excited about their new little mascot. Corey has truly been right up there with the #1 fans! So many times Jay has played songs for her while she was at gigs. She was a light in his life. He truly loved her. He didn’t always know exactly what to do with her, but he loved her. He learned from my mother not to “mash her head”! That was always a great line, but you had to be there to understand, I’m afraid.

Probably the gig that will always be most memorable to me, though, is the one on the night of June 27, 1992, his last gig. I wouldn’t take anything for that evening. We were there at Yesterdays in Chattanooga, TN, from beginning to end. We heard every lick, saw every wink, loved every minute of it. He came and sat with us during one of the breaks – as he always did – and said, “You’ll never know the feeling. The feeling of having them right in the palm of your hand!” He loved performing . . . leading the audience in whatever direction he wanted them to go. Andy was right. Jay had charisma . . . he still has it. Witness the hordes of young people who are still drawn to our house. Check this picture very carefully. You may see yourself in it. It's a small portion of the collage that Wendy made right after Jay died . . . one of the collages that we had on display at the funeral home on July 5.

And then the four days after that gig when we spent time in Jay’s home in Nashville. I wouldn’t take anything for those days! This picture is of him trying to look fat. The guys composed and recorded . . . I read . . . we (Jay, Frank, and I) shopped for a washer and dryer, and Jay and I acted crazy while Frank had to be serious with the saleslady, whom we invited to gigs in the Nashville area (she’ll never know what she missed) . . . my heart soared as I listened to Jay negotiate with Bill Puryear, an agent ready to sign Velvet Melon . . . we ate out . . . Jay cooked breakfast for us . . . he ate my leftovers from the Chinese restaurant that he never had a chance to go to . . . I was “smitten” with vertigo (thank goodness) . . . I watched him leave for the last time, dressed in the outfit that we buried him in. I thought as he left, “I can see why the girls love him. He is SO cute!” The rest is history. You know everything that’s happened since.

SINCE JULY 2, 1992

I guess I’ve almost come to the end of my memories for now. This hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a good catharsis. It’s a beginning for some of the things that I’d like to write. Each of these little vignettes could be expanded into pages. Maybe some day I’ll get around to writing more, but for right now, this is enough.

As you know, Angela, I’ve been doing a lot of reading since Jay died. Before, I always read novels, something to immerse myself into, to live another’s life but still come back to my own. I haven’t read one novel since July. Actually, I finished one that I had started in Nashville, but I haven’t read anything in addition to it. Instead, I’ve read books about grief and the afterlife. Some have been good; some just fair. One that I read recently was excellent. I wept when I found the following quotation in it. The book is called Intra Muros (My Dream of Heaven) by Rebecca Ruter Springer. Here’s the quote:


There is an endearing tenderness in the love of a mother to a son, that transcends all other affections of the heart. It is neither to be chilled by selfishness, nor daunted by danger, nor weakened by worthlessness, nor stifled by ingratitude. She will sacrifice every comfort to his convenience; she will surrender every pleasure to his enjoyment; she will glory in his fame, and exult in his prosperity; and if adversity overtake him, he will be the dearer to her by misfortune; and if disgrace settle upon his name, she will still love and cherish him; and if all the world beside cast him off, she will be all the world to him. – Washington Irving


Isn’t that beautiful? It was very near the end of the book, and at that time, I knew that it was meant for me to read that book. To me, it means that a mother would do anything for her son, would love him no matter what. My feelings exactly for my son . . . and for my daughter, too, for that matter. The book tells what heaven may be like. In fact, it’s a dream that the woman who wrote it had while she lay ill of a disease for weeks. I love her account because it’s what I’d like for heaven to be like; however, I’m not so sure that it’s true because no one has actually been there and returned. She says it was her dream. I’ve read other accounts of people who have been near death, and those accounts are equally as wonderful. I’ll find out exactly what it’s like in time . . . in God’s time.

As Jay would say, “I’m outta here!” This epistle is far longer than I intended for it to be, but I just wanted to jot down some feelings and ideas. I love you, my dear Angela; I truly love you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Family in the 'Hood

If you didn’t already know this, you’ll know it now: I am a city girl, and I’ve never seen a real live bird’s nest in action. Can you imagine that I’ve reached the age of 68 and have never watched the building of a nest, the hatching of eggs, and the feeding of little birdies? Well, that’s the truth . . . and here’s what’s been happening right outside the window where I sit to peck away on my little Mac.

I guess it was a month or so ago when Frank noticed some birds building a nest on the other side of our “company room” or “Two Rocks and a Hubcap Music Hall,” as it is called from time to time. Every time the little critters would begin a nest, he’d tear it down, bad boy that he is. Didn’t want the poop all over everything. So, Mama and Papa Bird did what any good parents who were being evicted would do . . . they found another spot to construct: this side of the CR or TRAAHMH. When Papa Frank discovered what Papa Bird was doing, he put some items on the beam in hopes of discouraging the feathered father. Didn’t help one bit because one of the items was a piece of 4” PVC, just the right size for a nest. Oh, well . . . let him build!

Papa Bird built something akin to a condo, I do believe. It’s really plush . . . first a layer of grass and twigs, the usual building material for a nest, I suppose. Then he lined it with rabbit fur and, for all I know, some Maizy hair, too. Really beautiful! After about a week of flying in and out and patting down just so with his little warm body, Mama Bird took occupancy. I really don’t know when she laid her eggs; I just know that one day they were there.

She’d come home several times a day to sit on her precious eggs. This activity went on for a couple of weeks, Mama screeching at Frank and me whenever we ate supper out on the portal, where her home is located. We were very much an interruption to her routine. Frank would yell at her, “But we were here first!” Didn’t console her at all.

Finally, one day, we saw movement in the nest. How “my heart leapt up”! As I mentioned earlier, I had never seen baby birds in a nest. We think there are five babies, and believe me, they keep both Mama and Papa busy all day long bringing a little something to eat for each one. They can’t carry food for more than one baby at a time. I don’t know how they know whom they fed the last time, for they all look alike to me. Guess it’s like people parents who have quintuplets . . . each one is different. Or maybe they have names or birthmarks or something. Beats me! In any event, those little ones call out for their parents constantly, and someone’s mouth is always open, waiting for a little sustenance.

Why am I so amazed and taken with this new family? It’s because once again, I see God in action. This little Bird Family can’t be an accident; it has to be evidence of God’s creation. I never can understand how anyone can look at nature and not see the hand of God.

By the way . . . my friends Annie and Susan identified the family as Say’s Phoebes, birds that are abundant in our part of New Mexico. All I know is that they’re oh so cute and that they don’t like for me to go out with my camera, but the Paparazzo doesn’t care. Here’s a picture from last week. Today, they play possum every time I go out with my camera.











Our photographer daughter, Wendy, has better luck and a much better camera. She took this picture this evening.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!


I surely do wish there had been technology like computers and blogs when my daddy was alive, not that he'd have used either one, but he'd have enjoyed reading about himself . . . a little tribute from his daughter, his favorite girl.

This morning in church, we all had the opportunity to say something about our dads. I loved telling everyone about Arlie Weaver Cheatham, my dad. On Mother's Day, I'd told them about funny sayings that my mother had, little saws that she'd used to bring me up right; however, I didn't have any of these for Daddy. Instead, I told them that he was a wonderful Christian gentleman who wasn't actually a Christian for most of his life. He had all the fine moral characteristics of one, but in his heart he hadn't accepted Jesus. That all changed somewhere around 1956.

At Brownsville Baptist Church in Pensacola, our preacher called for rededications of lives to Jesus every Sunday. One little girl went forward just about once a month . . . and she probably needed to. Just before I was to have probably my fourth ear surgery, I, too, felt the need to rededicate my life. Much to my surprise, my dad beat me to the front of the church. As I was rededicating my life, he was asking Jesus to come into his heart. You can imagine that my heart soared!

Just as I did for Mother on her birthday, I'd like to share with those who read this post the main entry that I have about my dad in my autobiography, Grammy Then and Now. My dad was the most special man in my life until Frank entered the picture. My autobiography was written to Corey, so whenever it seems as though I'm talking to someone, I am . . . Corey. Ta da! Here's Daddy . . .


My daddy . . . how can I describe this extraordinary man to you? If only you had known him! He would have been one of your favorite people, just as he was a favorite to ever so many who knew him. I can honestly say that I never heard anyone say an unkind thing about him. Well . . . Mother sometimes ranted and raved, but the faults that she saw really were faults. When we were all younger, he had something of a drinking problem, and that really made my mother stew. I don't blame her. I vividly remember the last time that he drank anything. It was on Christmas Eve in 1952; we had been to the office party at his boss's house. (The odd think about this particular Christmas party was the fact that the Browns were Jewish. But they always had the hugest, most beautiful Christmas tree and also gifts for the employees and their children. I loved Christmas parties with our Jewish friends!) Daddy and probably almost everyone else got drunk. I cried myself to sleep that night after we completed the rounds of short visits to the homes of friends. I was embarrassed for him because I realized how foolish he looked in that inebriated condition. For some reason, he never drank again. That next summer, we moved to Pensacola (August 17, 1953), and a few years later, he became a Christian. After that important decision in his life, I'm sure that a team of wild horses could not have made him take a drink. But I'm wandering . . . I need to tell you about my early memories of Daddy.

I really don't remember much about him at all in Mobile. He worked very long days as manager of the Western Auto store downtown. I do remember a particular evening when Mother and Daddy were having friends over for dinner, though, not for a specific incident with Daddy, but I know he was involved if only passively. I was about three years old. I sneaked into the dining room, where Mother had the table carefully set with the best dishes and a brand new stick of butter. Now, that butter won't mean much to you because you see a pound or so of it in our refrigerator all the time, but 1943 was during World War II, and lots of foods were rationed. That means that a housewife could buy only so much of any one thing, and butter was definitely rationed. I really don't know how much she could buy or how often she could buy it. All I know is that it was precious and that she was serving it at a very special occasion. She probably had no more. As quickly as only a three-year-old can, I grabbed the priceless stick of butter and ate about half of it before Mother discovered her little girl devouring the "bb," as I called it. I guess if the HRS had been in existence in the 40's, my mother would have been jailed for child beating many because she could wallop the daylights out of me in no time flat? Just with her hand or a little switch, you understand. I assure you her spankings hurt. And the marks ceertainly stayed more than thirty minutes! Anyway, I'm sure Daddy was around, and he didn't inteerfere in the disciplining. He approved of my mother's correcting me, but he didn't want to do it himself.

Daddy's dealings with me always involved the softer side: lots of hugs and kisses, gifts for no particular reason, singing and dancing, praise for even the least little accomplishment on my part. I never saw at this time of my life what I saw years later in Daddy's absence, after he died. In watching Mother's great grief at losing him, I began to realize that within this mild-mannered man was a strong family leader. My mother was the voice for the two of them, and I'm afraid she was blamed for strict discipline when really Daddy had just as much to do with it. He just couldn't bear to discipline me himself; he depended on her. But in her agony, I saw that she, too, depended on him . . . far more than I ever realized during his life.

My daddy took me places, too. You'll be very much surprised when I tell you where he took me. To bars. Yea, to bars. And I played the slot machines. Can you imagine your Grammy, who wouldn't put even a nickel in those one-armed bandits today, putting coin after coin in when she was eight or nine years old and winning? It's hard for me to believe, too.

We didn't have a car until I was about eight years old (an old Packard), but I vividly remember Daddy and me riding around and him asking me to sing for him. He's the only person in the world who ever thought I had singing possibilities. Sometimes we'd sing together; he had a truly beautiful tenor voice. "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leafed Clover" was our favorite. We weren't so bad.

I mentioned earlier that he traveled during the week. I have a really strange remembrance of him on Saturday nights during those years. Every Saturday evening after dinner, Mother and Daddy would sit down in the living room to do their weekly routine. He would sit at one end of the sofa, and she would sit on a chair next to him. As he rested his arm on the arm of the sofa, Mother would become his manicurist. Yes, she cut, filed, and polished (clear nail polish, you understand) his nails. I get my long, skinny fingers from my dad. In fact, most of me is like him: height, eyes, feet, hands, clumsiness . . . everything except the gorgeous naturally curly hair. Drat! His hair turned wavy when he was seventeen, so he told me; therefore, I figured that since I was like him in so many ways, if I followed his lead in that respect, too, then I also would have the miraculous change in my hair when I reached seventeen. It didn't happen, not even after I ate what probably amounted to truckloads of brread crusts as my mother instructed me to do if I wanted curly hair.

Parents didn't cry in front of their children in those days. Mine were no exceptions. I already told you about seeing my mother cry for the first time (when her parents' house in Logansport, LA, burned). I also remember the first time I saw Daddy cry. Mother had surgery, a hysterectomy, when I was in seventh grade. Daddy was so worried about her. I wonder if he thought she might die and leave him with a pre-teen to rear all alone. One evening we visited her in the hospital. I guess it was the day of or the day after the surgery, and she was still loopy from the anesthetic. She had said something strange, funny to a twelve-year-old, that evening. I still remember exactly what she said: "Hand me the soap . . . s-o-u-p, soap." That was hilarious to me, and when I recalled the incident later that evening after my dad and I were back at home, he burst into tears because I was making fun of Mother. That really made me feel bad because I couldn't stand to think of hurting my daddey's feelings, nor did I want to ridicule Mother. I had a tremendously active conscience, one that kept me awake at night. I don't remember sleeping very well that night.

My dad's job was his life. He ate, talked, slept, lived his job. I never remember him taking a day off. Even on Sunday, he would call the managers of the stores which he supervised, asking them about closing reports for the week, always wanting to con firm that Auto-Lec Associate Stores were doing fine. He always had a little piece of paper in his wallet, and on that paper were the results of his calls to those managers. Even after he opened his own Auto-Lec Store in Pensacola, he had a little list concerning his own business. I have the last one that was in his wallet. It is a treasure. Speaking of his not taking any time off . . . I remember only one family vacation. We went to Biloxi and stayed in a little motel with a kitchenette. Mother was not particularly happy about that part because she didn't think it much of a vacation if she had to cook every meal. What I remember about Daddy during that week was that I didn't see much of him. He spent most of his time in the Auto-Lec stores in Biloxi and Gulfport, doing what he always did . . . certainly not vacationing. We went home before our vacation time was over because Daddy just had to get back to work. That's the way I remember it, but I'm recalling the time from a great distance.

Daddy wanted me to be a doctor. I learned that early on. Because that's what he wanted, that's what I wanted, too. He was so proud of my good grades that he was convinced that medicine was the field for me. Thank goodness, when I grew up and decided to become a teacher, he didn't try to hold me to the vocation that he had chosen for me. I would have made a pitiful physician! I can't stand the sight of blood, and I get queasy just watching someone else get a shot. He always thought I was best at everything. It's a good thing I lacked self-confidence when I was growing up, or I might have believed all the wonderful things he said about me. He thought I was the most beautiful, the smartest, the most talented girl in the world. I could look in the mirror and at other kids' report cards and listen to others play the piano and know that he was wrong. I was good , but not great. But that was my daddy. both of my parents always built up my ego. For that I am thankful . . . very thankful.

This mutual admiration society that my daddy and I were members of never dissolved. We loved each other unconditionally until he died on March 24, 1973. And I still love him!


And that's what I wrote in my book. On this Father's Day in 2008, I've been thinking about my dad all day. I can't close without mentioning one Father's Day regret. I don't remember the exact year, but our children and I got so involved in celebrating the day with Frank that I forgot to call my dad on his day. I was so embarrassed and heartbroken because of my neglect when Mother called to see why I hadn't even called. Since my tear ducts are so easily moved, I cried and cried and apologized profusely to both of my parents. I just know that I hurt Daddy very much that day, and I'll always be devastated by that. It was a case of spilt milk, but I'll never forget. To be truthful, Daddy probably never even gave it a thought. But my mother always said, "Do anything you want to me, but leave my child, my husband, and my money alone (not that she ever had much of the green stuff)." I had injured her husband, and she didn't like it one bit.

Sometimes everything in my life now would be even better if I could just sit down for a little father-daughter chat with Arlie Weaver Cheatham, Daddy to me, PaPa to our children and Frank. My, how I loved that man!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Mother, My Best Friend


I never forget my mother on May 17, always think back over special times in our lives; however, this May 17 is even more special than others in the past. Nina Mae Kolb Cheatham, my mother, would have been one hundred today, had she lived. What a celebration we would have had!

Recently, someone asked me if, every time I remembered her, I thought of those last days, when she was a resident at Baptist Manor, a nursing home in Pensacola, those physically painful days for her and mentally and emotionally painful days for me. My answer . . . Of course not. I remember funny incidents, lots of instructions on how I should behave, times when we just sat and talked as friends, and, naturally, scoldings and punishments when I was a child. Seldom do I remember how angry she was with me much of the time before she died simply because she was so ill and in so much pain. That's not the Mother who is so dear to my heart.

Fourteen years ago, I wrote my autobiography along with my students. I like the part that I wrote about Mother, so I'm just going to copy it here. It gives a pretty good picture of the woman our children called Mema. I wrote my book for Corey, our firstborn grandchild, so you'll hear me talking to her in this passage. It's a bit long, but so am I. Pretty typical of me.

. . . . . .


You know that I was an only child, just like you at this time in your life. Because of my "only" status, I, just like you, was very close to my parents, especially to my mother. Since my dad traveled throughout each week, my mother and I were left alone much of the time. She was a very protective mother; therefore, I was not given much freedom and managed to spend lots of time with her. First, I'll tell you some things that I know about her before I was born; then I'll tell you what I knew of her from living with her.

Her name was Nina Mae Kolb before she married my dad. From what I can gather, she was a very feisty young person. She had lots of boyfriends and almost married the man whose family owned the Chevrolet dealership in Logansport, LA. His name was Stubblefirld, I think. I can't imagine a world without cars in it or even with very few, but she grew up in such a time. One of my favorite stories of her is one that she told of taking her baby sisters (twins, Ressie and Tressie) rideing in one of these new-fangled contraptions. As she sped down a country road in north Louisiana, Ressie squealed with delight, but Tressie wept, threatening to tell Papa (her father, your great great grandfather) if Nina didn't slow down. My mother screeched to a halt, looked Tressie squarely in the eye, crossed her arms over her chest, rolled her head back and closed her eyes, then said, "You'll be sorry when I'm dead and in the grave like this." Don't ask me why that should change Tressie's mind about telling Papa, but it did. I think I'll ask Aunt Tressie and Aunt Ressie to tell me their versions of this story. It might sound diffferent from them. Anyway, that's a story from my mother's early adulthood. (5/17/08 -- I'm sorry that I never did get around to asking these dear ladies.)

I also know that she came from a family of eleven children, two of whom died before I was born. There was a little girl who died when she was about two years old, and one was a young man named Clyde. I don't recall how he died, but I believe he was around nineteen. I knew all of the others: Oma lea, whom I called Big Auntie (she was actually little; it's just that she was the oldest); Edwin, who was nicknamed Ty for Ty Cobb, a famous baseball player of his time (remember that their last name was Kolb . . . it just sounds the same), and whom we all called Uncle Ty; Ruth (don't know how an ordinary name like this appeared in this strangely named group of children); Nina, my mother; Waymon, whom I remember as always being sick; Inez, Aunt Jo's mother; Orie, nicknamed Chris because he was as mean as some man named Chris, but called Bud by all of us grandchildren; and Ressie and Tressie, the twins.

I know my mother was a very bright student. She told me so! She was never known for her humility! When she went to school, there were only eleven grades. Can you imagine that? When she graduated from high school. she moved from Logansport, LA, her hometown, to Shreveport, about forty miles away. That's not very far today, but back then, it was quite a distance. She went to business school, where she studied shorthand, filing, bookkeeping, and typing. Your great grandmother was a well-educated young woman for the times, though she didn't go to a regular college. Actually, not too many young people did back then. "Back then" was in the late 20's and early 30's, I suppose, because she had been in the big city for several years when she met Arlie Weaver Cheatham, my dad, in the summer of 1933. They married on September 26, 1933. Short relationship that led to a very long married life. (When my dad died in 1973, they had been married almost forty years.)

My mother didn't like for my dad to tell this story, but he told me that he first saw her when they were working buildings across the street from each other in Shreveport. He was attracted to her because of her figure; she was quite buxom in those days, and he, like most men, immediately noticed that. He motioned to her to give him her phone number, and she did. I guess you'd have to say that he picked her up! They had a date that evening . . . and the rest is history.

After they married, they both worked in hotels in order to have food and a place to live. Those were the days of the Great Depression, and people did lots of things to earn money. I wish I could remember the names of the people in their liv es at that time and the names of the hotels where they worked, but I can't. I didn't listen carefully enough when I was growing up. Their lives were hard, but they were happy. Now back to what I remember of my mother firsthand.

A few details that are associated with Mobile, the first place I remember living, come to me from time to time. I remember her telling me not to talk to the new neighbors until we could find out something about them and then my telling the people what she had said. Another memory is of her reading a letter while weeping as she sat on the back porch of our apartment. She told me that her parents' home in Logansport had been destroyed by flood. That's the first time that I saw my mother cry; in fact, I rrecall being surprised that she cry. I remember picking flowers from the Catholic church yard and her making me confess (though we weren't Catholic) to the priest. He, however, was happy to provide my bouquet and invited me to gather flowers any time I wanted to. Still another memory comes to me, one involving fowl. One Easter, I received two little ducks from the Easter Bunny. After I had had them for a couple of weeks, Mother set them in a box on the back porch to get a little sun and fresh air. Shortly thereafter, a cat came along and ate one of the ducks. Naturally, I cried; Mother didn't. The next day she set the one little duck out, ostensibly to catch the cat. What she was going to do with the cat, I don't know, but that's what she said she was tying to do. The cat ate the other duck. That was in 1944. In 1961, my husband to be, your Pop, doubled over with laughter when he heard the story. Somehow he couldn't buy it.

In New Orleans, our next home, I have quite different recollections of Mother. She comes to my mind as a meticulous housekeeper. In addition to keeping everything clean and neat and demanding the same of me, though she often didn't get her desires, she painted the complete apartment and varnished all the hardwood floors every spring. I can't imagine doing that, can you? She also kept those hardwood floors shiny by waxing them at least once a month. In relation to one of those waxing days, I recall one of the worst tongue-lashings I ever received. She specifically told me not to walk across the floor, yet I, faithful little only child that I was, followed her out the door so that I could be with her. Not a smart move! Nightlife also comes to mind when I think of my mother and my early years. It seems to me now at such a distance from actuality that she played bridge with the Bazins, the Nettleships, the Stipskys, and the Wests almost every night while my dad was traveling. Probably, we didn't go roaming around more than one or two nights a week. On those bridge nights, however, I can still recall the dread feelings of going to sleep in someone else's bed to the chatter of happy friends enjoying an evening together. I think that I developed an aversion to the game early on and have never had any desire to learn to play. In fact, the few times that I have tried to learn that card game, I have been much unsuccessful. The memories are not especially pleasant. i would have to be guided a block or two in the sometimes cold night air half asleep to get to my own bed, only to be awakened much too soon by the alarm clock or Mother calling out that it was time to get up.

She loved to shop, and even though she didn't have much money to spend, she and her friends would go to town on the streetcar on Tuesday to stroll through D.l H. Holmes and Maison Blanche department stores, eat lunch at Morrison's, and then hail a taxi to get them home before we all arrived from school. You know, I never recall a single day going home to an empty apartment. Every afternoon, I hit the downstairs hall calling, "Mother!" She always answered. I wish children today were so blessed.

I think that she was always the room mother for my class at Judah P. Benjamin School. That's the way I remember her, anyway. She was also the Girl Scout leader. And she was president of the Mothers' Club at least once. It seemed as though she were the perennial president, but I'm sure she wasn't. a couple of good school stories come to mind. One year, I came home and elatedly announced to her that we were getting a Thanksgiving basket together for a needy family. That was fine until I told her that I had volunteered her for the turkey. "What?" she exclaimed. "Buy a turkey for a needy family? I can't even buy one for us!" Oh, well . . . so much for my generosity. The other story involves her Girl Scout work. Once again, I was involved. We were going to present a grand play to the school. I think we were actually presenting several short plays so that everyone could perform. Mother wrote the names of the characters on slips of paper, put them into a box, and directed us to draw for our parts. I couldn't believe my luck. I had drawn the lead part! I would be the star! Alas . . . my happiness was short lived. When she discovered that I had drawn that one, she made me trade with some poor little soul who had drawn the part of the "scene shifter," an invented part just to provide enough parts for everyone. I still remember my lines even after some forty-five years. All I did was to walk onto the stage between scenes, turn the handle of a flour sifter, and say in a supposedly enthusiastic way, "I am the scene shifter; I shift the scenes." Needless to say, I won no Academy Award for that one.
from Grammy . . . Then and Now, 1994

. . . . . .


I realize that all of the above concerns my mother and me during my childhood years. Someday I'll write about my teen and adult years with her. The same close relationship between the two of us continued until her death. To capture the essence of that relationship, I'd say that we were best friends. Today, almost twenty years after her death, I still miss my mother.

If you've read this far and are interested in reading more about this lady, read my post on New Year's Day 2008. She was a hoot!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jay!


On February 8, 1968, I informed my doctor that the baby HAD to arrive on February 10. Dr. Girard laughed at me and said that the little one wasn’t finished cooking and that it would be at least two more weeks before he or she arrived (back then, we had no way of knowing the sex of a baby ahead of time . . . just knew that if a mother carried the baby low, it might be a boy – or maybe it might be a girl. I forget. Pretty much speculation back in those days.). I implored him to induce labor so that Cassie or Jay would be born on the second weekend in February, the last weekend that Dr. Girard would be on duty in February. I didn’t want that doctor with the big fat hands to deliver our little baby.

Finished cooking or not, Jay needed to be born on Saturday, February 10, 1968. Those who knew Jay well in his adult years seldom heard him say that he wanted something; he always needed it. And why did he need to be born then? Because he knew that his papa was having a hard time even thinking of having another grandchild. Wendy was my dad’s heart, and Jay needed an advantage in order to really be accepted. He got just that! Two things immediately made him special: the fact that he was a boy and the fact that he was born on his papa’s birthday. Pretty neat, huh?

By 1968, the Lord had given us two beautiful children. We brought up both Wendy and Jay thinking that they would be alive throughout our lives and would live to keep our memories alive for their children and grandchildren; however, in 1992, we found that Jay was just “lent” to us. Here’s a beautiful poem that has brought much comfort to me through the years and which proves to me how much God loves me.

LENT FOR AWHILE by Edgar Guest

“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of Mine,” He said,
“For you to love the while he lives, and mourn for, when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three.
But will you till I call him back, take care of him for Me?

“He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I wish this child to learn.

“I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have selected you.
Nor will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known , forever grateful stay.

“And should the Angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.”


I love this poem. I discovered it for myself a few years before Jay died, and I cried as I read it, thinking of the grief that poor bereaved parents must feel. I wondered how they could survive. A student brought the poem to me a year or so before Jay died because she was so moved by it. She and I cried together. The third time I read it was in a sympathy card sent to us shortly after July 2, 1992. Frank and I wept. Edgar Guest touched my heart three times years ago. He touches me still.

Another selection that I love is by Marjorie Holmes . . .

HE WAS SO YOUNG

He was so young, God.
So young and strong and filled with promise. So vital, so radiant, giving so much joy wherever he went.
He was so brilliant. On this one boy you lavished so many talents that could have enriched your world. He had already received so many honors, and there were so many honors to come.
Why, then? In our agony we ask. Why him?
Why not someone less gifted? Someone less good? Some hop-head, rioter, thief, brute, hood?
Yet we know, even as we demand what seems to us a rational answer, that we are only intensifying our grief. Plunging deeper into the blind and witless place where all hope is gone. A dark lost place where our own gifts will be blunted and ruin replace the goodness he brought and wished for us.


Instead, let us thank you for the marvel that this boy was. That we can say good-by to him without shame or regret, rejoicing in the blessed years he was given to us. Knowing that his bright young life, his many gifts, have not truly been stilled or wasted, only lifted to a higher level where the rest of us can’t follow yet.
Separation? Yes. Loss? Never.
For his spirit will be with us always. And when we meet him again, we will be even more proud.
Thank you for this answer, God.


I may love this piece even more that the first one. Both brought great comfort to me in the early days after Jay died, and they continue to do so.

So . . . today, on this Jay’s 40th birthday, I’m wondering what my boy would have been like had he lived. Would music still be his life? Would he still love the crowds and the joy of having them in his hands? Would he still eagerly anticipate the breaks between sets when he could “work the crowds,” as he called that time? Would he still want his dad and me at gigs? Would he and Wendy still crack me up as no one else has ever been able to do? Would his hair still be long? Would he still say, “My mom’s always hot!”? Would he still have a charisma that drew people to him like a magnet? So many things to wonder about. Such a reunion to look forward to!

If you’re a talk show listener, as I am, you may be familiar with Rush Limbaugh’s very conceited comment about him and God. I just roll my eyes every time he says it. I’ll borrow from him, though, and say that Jay truly was “on loan from God.”

Lord, we are forever grateful for that loan. You know that I wish full payment hadn’t come due as soon as it did, but I firmly believe that You don’t make mistakes about anything. Thank you for trusting us with Jay. To say that having him with us was a pleasure is surely an understatement. It was a glorious adventure!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Such Good Memories

Sometimes articles in The New Mexican grab my attention. One such article was in today's paper, "The Religion Factor," by Pete Iaconelli. The author wrote about the influence of Christian coaches on young athletes' choosing certain colleges to attend and to play football for. The main coach that Iaconelli referred to was Tommy Bowden at Clemson University. I love Tommy just because he's Bobby Bowden's son, and I admire the Bowdens for their unashamed Christian witness in all that they do. The article goes on to tell about excellent Southern athletes who are choosing Clemson because of Coach Tommy Bowden's concern not only for their athletic abilities but also for their spiritual lives. He will continue the Christian upbringing that their families have begun. As a result, the families feel confident in turning over their "children" to him. My heart soared just thinking of the meaningful college years ahead of these young men!

As I read the article, my mind kept wandering back to 1957 and my choice of Mississippi College as the place that I would spend my college years. No, I wasn't a recruited athlete (my natural clumsiness would never allow me to play any sport); I wasn't even recruited for academics, though I might have been if I had made any overtures in that direction. I chose MC for my home away from home because of the Christian influences that I knew would be all around me for at least four years (as it turned out, it would be for more than four years, every year being better than the one before).

And what exactly were these Christian influences? For starters, we were required to take two Bible courses as prerequisites for graduation: Introduction to the Old Testament and Introduction to the New Testament. Everyone took these courses; no questions asked. Christian Bible professors taught them. These courses weren't meant to encourage students to dispute the Bible. The Bible was taught as the inspired Word of God. To quote Wordsworth: "My heart leaps up" when I think of those courses. To say that I was inspired by these professors, especially Dr. Ernest Pinson, is an example of litotes (understatement). I was so moved by what I learned in just the basic courses that I went on to take enough courses for a major in Bible. They just weren't the right courses for a major. I took ones that were of specific interest to me. Most of the ones past prerequisite level were ones in which I was the only girl. All the other students were ministerial students. Dr. Pinson used to call me the "rose among the thorns." I loved that epithet! My greatest joys in those classes came when I outshone the "preacher boys"!

Bible professors weren't the only Christian professors at MC. During those years when I was there (1958 - 1964), I'd say that virtually all professors were Christian. I remember seeing almost all of them at Wednesday night Prayer Meeting at Clinton Baptist Church, and many of them taught Sunday School classes on Sunday morning and/or were deacons at the church. It was the norm rather than the exception that classes were opened with prayer, either by the professor or one of the students. I never remember a student refusing to lead in prayer if called on. I, too, began my classes with prayer when I was a fellowship teacher while working on my master's degree. I do remember one time that I was sorry that I called on someone to lead in prayer, though. On November 22, 1963, I went to my afternoon class in Freshman English and asked a young man to pray. What a mistake! He was much too shaken up and refused. I should have led myself, not called on anyone else. Maybe I should have cancelled class for the day. With President Kennedy's having been shot just a couple of hours before, none of us had our minds on class. If I had known then what I know now, I might have given the students an assignment to write about the day before the next class period and dismissed class immediately. Maybe I would have just dismissed class.

As members of the Baptist Student Union (the original BSU), and most of us were members, we were encouraged to have prayer partners. My one and only prayer partner during my years at Mississippi College was Jan Cutrell. She and I clicked as soon as we met. If I had known the term at that time, I would have called her my "new best friend" as soon as I met her. What a pair we were! Jan was probably the shortest member of the Class of 1962, and I was almost certainly the tallest. We referred to ourselves as "Mutt and Jeff." If you're reading this and don't know who Mutt and Jeff were, you're just a youngster! We were different in another way, too. She was the most talented musician in our class; I struggled just to be able to read music and filter it through my fingers. I took basic organ lessons; Jan could make the organ sing. She had a beautiful voice; I could barely carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. But in one respect we were "kindred spirits": we both loved the Lord and knew the value of prayer. Therefore, we met regularly in the prayer rooms either in our dilapidated Whittington Student Center during our first two years of college or in the brand new B. C. Rogers Student Center during the latter years. In both places, we spent many hours pouring our hearts out to each other and praying for each other and others who we knew needed our prayers. What a meaningful, joyous part of my college education!

Unlike many today who view their college years as dull and mere drudgery in getting to their professions, I loved my college years. I didn't mind the early curfews, the late nights at the library (especially after I met Frank, and we had really good footsies-under-the-table evenings there), the strict dress codes (for girls, no shorts or jeans unless we wore our raincoats over them). I felt that I was truly called to that little Baptist college in Clinton, Mississippi. My education was stellar, and the Christian influences that I had helped to mold me into the woman that I am today. I'm thankful.

As usual, my post has gone on far longer than needed or wanted by those who read it. Sometimes, though, an article just connects with me, and I feel the need to write. Pete Iaconelli truly inspired me today. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You'd Better Eat Those Black-Eyed Peas!

My mother, Nina Mae Kolb Cheatham, was a sassy Southern lady. She was sassy in the way she dressed, in her mannerisms, in her choice of words, in her everyday sayings, and definitely in her New Year's Rules. This post, written on New Year's Day 2008, is my tribute to my mother. I never called her Mom, just Mother or Mema after May 24, 1963, the day that Wendy, her first grandchild, was born.

I'd have to write a book or two in order to tell readers everything that I knew and loved and sometimes feared about Mother. For right now, I'll concentrate on her everyday sayings and then her New Year's Rules. Those everyday sayings were ones that I've never heard anyone else attribute to his or her mother. I think my mother made them up. In any event, she believed in using them on me. And you can believe that I heeded them! Maybe she thought what she said would help me in some strange way.

One of them, I must admit, I used on Wendy and Jay. In fact, once when I told Jay that I was going to "skin him alive" if he didn't stop doing something, Wendy burst into tears and said, "Please don't tell him that, Mommy! It's so scary!" I never thought much about Mother's skinning me alive, but my use of the expression really did have an adverse effect on my Wendy. I don't think I ever used it again. My mother used it a lot, though. Since I always stopped doing whatever it was that she didn't want me to do, I never knew whether or not she'd really take the action.

I'd never be able to remember the number of times that she said to me, "For goodness' sake, Sandra (she always called me Sandra because, as she used to say, 'That's what I named you.'), don't cry. You look so ugly!" I know you're thinking horrible things about my mother about right now, but I'm thankful that she told me not to cry. As a result, I do try not to cry in public. After all, I work pretty hard trying to make myself presentable, so why would I want to look ugly if I can help it? I really do look ugly when I cry, unlike my friend from years ago, Linda Umphress, who I always thought looked pretty when the tears came. She never agreed with me, but, then, she never agreed with me when I told her how pretty her upper arms were . . . a lot bigger than mine . . . but I digress.

My friends now find it hard to believe that I was a shy little girl. By little, I mean "little" in years, not in size. No details here because I could write a long essay about my size when I was a child. Anyway . . . back to my shyness and also to my fear of teachers. Many a day, as I was walking out the door of our apartment, on my way to Judah P. Benjamin School in New Orleans, she'd say to me, "For goodness' sake, Sandra (yes, she began many sentences that way), quit worrying. She (the teacher) can kill you, but she can't eat you!" That saying was supposed to make me feel better about my concern over not having my homework done correctly or my fear of failing a test. Again, you may think my mother cruel; however, that's not the case at all. As her result of drumming the "kill but not eat" saying into me, I'm no longer shy, nor do I fear people nearly so much. You notice that I didn't say that all fear has been washed away. I'm just not quite so fearful in my adult life as I was in earlier years. I'm really grateful to Mother! I must admit that I used to tell our children this saying; however, it was a joke in our house because I had explained its early use on me. When I said, "Don't worry . . . she can kill you, but she can't eat you," we'd all laugh, and the fear would disappear.

The last of the everyday sayings probably made my friends more uncomfortable than it did me. Inevitably, when someone came to our house, she bombarded them with questions: How's your mother? And your dad? Have you had dinner? What did you have? Where are y'all going? Who's going with you? You get the picture. Her reason for all these questions? As she would say, "You never learn anything unless you ask!" She was so right. Questioning people is a great way to learn who they really are. It's just difficult sometimes to draw the line between curious and nosey.

I can't leave Mother's everyday sayings without telling readers that during the past couple of years, I've used the last three sayings in textbook presentations, the first two because it relaxes the audience when I begin by asking, "What kind of mother did you have? I wonder if yours brought you up on sayings the way mine did." When I get to the one about questions, that leads me exactly where I want to go . . . asking them a question: What are you looking for in a new math (or literature or science) book this year? They're putty in my hands! Well, sometimes, at least . . .

I guess you thought I'd never get to Nina Mae's New Year's Rules, but here I am. She lived by these rules on New Year's Day. As I said before, she was a Southern lady. Many of her beliefs were rooted in the Deep South; however, only one of her rules is Southern as far as I know. I'll alert you when I get to it.

She truly believed that it was bad luck to leave Christmas decorations up after New Year's Day, and I never remember seeing any red and green after January 1 at her house. Where she got this one, I'll never know. Of course, I don't know where she got another steadfast rule for her . . . that Labor Day was made for washing windows. We always washed windows on that holiday, and I honestly think I was an adult before I knew what Labor Day was really for! Anyway, at our house, I've never been able to keep to the decorations rule. I try, but I'm always too busy the week after Christmas to even begin de-decorating. This year is no exception. In fact, I have the Christmas lights on right now. I'll get busy this week if I don't have to go to Denver to work early next week. If I do have to go, the beautiful decorations may not come down until mid-January. Who cares? Mother does.

Now, this one is Southern. You absolutely MUST eat black-eyes peas on New Year's Day, or you won't get rich this year. I can never remember dinner at my parents' house on this day without black-eyed peas, and I'm still not rich. Maybe I didn't eat enough of them. No matter the tradition, we don't usually have the peas because no one in my family will touch them except me. I like them, but what a waste to cook them (all that soaking of the peas, gathering of the ingredients, cooking) if no one eats them except me. I've even bought delicious chow-chow (that's Southern for great tomato/onion relish) to put on them, but to no avail. The bowl passes by everyone until it gets to me. This year is no exception for no black-eyed peas at our house. Did you know that back in the old days, the wife cooked the peas with a nickel in them, assuring that whoever got the coin would surely get rich? I think a starving dentist thought this up in order to assure him more patients!

The last of Nina Mae's Rules is this, and I love it: Whatever you do on New Year's Day, you'll do all year long. Through the years, I've enlightened many friends about this rule; however, not one has seen the encouragement that I see in it. They all groan, but I take it seriously. Back in my school-teaching days, I tried not to grade mundane assignments on New Year's Day. I'd gladly tackle a couple of autobiographies because I enjoyed reading/grading them; however, I'd stay far away from vocabulary tests. Today, I'm cooking dinner for my family and a couple of Wendy and Todd's best friends . . . and I'd love to do that all year long. Also, I'm writing this post. My only New Year's Resolution is to write more this year, hopefully every day. So I'm getting a start on my plan. By the end of 2008, I want to be able to refer to myself as a writer, not just someone who likes to write. When I'll cross the line between the two, I don't know yet. Maybe I'll determine that in 2008!

My mother was a feisty and loving little lady. She always wanted the very best for me, her only child, and I knew that even though she had strange teachings to prove it. Until I fell in love with and married Frank, she was my best friend. At that point, our friendship took a different turn. She was still A best friend, just not THE best friend that I had. We remained very close during all of her years, even when she was so ill and couldn't really demonstrate her love. I knew even through her crankiness caused by cancer that she loved me better than anyone else in the world. And I loved her! Thanks for reading my tribute to my mother!

Happy New Year to all who read!