Those Old Familiar Places

    Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can go somewhere and just the subtlety of a scent, or the sound of a voice just makes you remember “all those old familiar places.” I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true in my life how this happens. Just this week seemed to be one of those times where a whirlwinds of all of those little things either took my breath away, or caused me to burst into laughter or tears from the nostalgia.

I went to the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). Oh, the years I spent there. And still am! I stood in the stairwell outside what once was the office of Dr. Harold Williamson, Department Head of Criminal Justice. He was one of those instructors that you didn’t try so much to earn a grade from him, as you did to earn his respect.

As I walked towards the exit, I had time to stand outside of what once was Sandel Library. I worked there for five years. I remembered meeting my boss, Shirley Morgan, and later Melinda Matthews became my boss. I remember Interim Director Rebecca DiCarlo.

Then, there was the director’s secretary, Carmelyn Tucker. She would sachet down those halls. Her husband, Joe worked as an electrician and would stop in just to see her. Oh, you could see they looked like school kids huddled in the hall corner. Nell used to say, look at those kids. Someone’s going to put them in detention. I miss Nell so. She passed away a few months back. I never got the chance to catch back up with her. But I wish I would have.  

That new library looks grand with its tower of books and its watch tower for all to see. Inside the library at that time, we had the booming voice of Dr. Glenn Jordan. That last name is pronounced (Jur-den), and he will correct if you don’t get it right. The third floor had the unpleasant aroma of cigarettes, and his office was piled with books, he knew every word from. He was a man who came to class with the presence of authority, and demanded reverence as he lectured without a book or notes. Every now and again he wrote a term on the board for orientation for students who could not follow his velocity paired with his reference page for spelling and such. You see teaching was his job, writing was yours. What he needed was someone to dress him. Those yellow cowboy boots with an orange tint on the sides were never in style.

As I heard the chiming of that clock, I hurried on. And smiled as I remembered the countless times I had been here before. As I rushed I was desperately thinking about going to the Annual Health and Wellness Expo at the Monroe Civic Center this weekend. I was up at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday. I may even try the Zumba Fest. I might take the stairs at my next meeting, just to get my heart rate in check.

And once again I find myself at another reason to keep time. You see, I have an hourglass at home that I pick up often, and I it turn over countless times, remembering, and wishing for just once, maybe I could hold these certain moments in time. It’s is a realization that every time you look at your watch, you have moved from one memory to another. Some you keep for a moment; others you keep forever brought back by some of those old familiar places.

Published October 13, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Seasons, Reasons and Resolutions

The time has come for the end; when the proverbial “pen hits the paper.” I’m not referring to taxes, but year-end resolutions. We all make them, and we’ve all broken them, but this year is different. This year is the year for positive changes. These changes will set the course for how, not just this, but the years to come for life expectations will propel life into motion.

            Most of us will make a list of 10 resolutions. The first one at the top of the list is generally to lose weight. Even if you don’t appear to be overweight, you just want to tone-up. So how do you get started? Stop eating real food, and just eat a salad and have a glass of water? This is indeed a misconception, as your body must have other nutrients rich in vitamins, but provided in other foods. The best way to accomplish this resolution is to cut out that bedtime snack. Write down your weight, and for one month go without the snack, or if you don’t have a snack, your dessert, and after a month, you should notice the difference, and resolution one will be complete.’

            Resolution two began when you took out the pen and paper. You must get a system of organization in place. A simple daily list of things to do will keep you in place. Plan your trip to the grocery store, the rearrange those cabinets and shelves. You know the ones, the ones you say “I can’t ever find anything in here?” That is the one.

            Resolution three is an automatic byproduct off your dedication from Resolutions one and two. You will by this time notice you have your life functioning by routine, and you are eating more at home than you are eating out. You now have money to put back on rainy days.

      Resolution four is the time you let yourself be consumed by the benefits of your “New Year’s Kind of Life” and for those clear days after the rainy days have cleared. Before you had no money, no time, and you were too tired to go anywhere if you did. Well that is has changed since you have made some valuable resolutions in your life and with your time. With resolutions one, two, and three, you know have some money set aside, a list of places you want to go, and now, yes the time has come for you to start planning and asserting you lists. Pick your place and contact a travel company to book it for a lay away plan. Get ready for a change of scenery and some retail therapy, you’ve saved for it!

     Resolution five has you out and about. You have made some major changes in your life. You are looking good, feeling good, and you are smiling again. You have planned a trip with your organizational skills that will be pre-paid, so once you get ready to take it, you can do so without worrying about cost. There are many classes you can take: yoga, aerobics, running or just walking every day can have an added benefit to decreasing the waist line, and to stimulate all of the endorphins in the brain that makes you feel good.

Resolution six encompasses your downtime. This is the best time for resolutions to fail. This is the time you will are consumed by the benefits of the failure. You must utilize your talents, or you will be idle and bored which leads to, “I must be hungry.”

Just this weekend my mother had invited my Aunt Joyce, and that woman is phenomenal in the kitchen. However, we had to wait. So I went into the living room and played a couple of piano pieces.

Resolution seven, well smoking is bad for you. Yes, you need to quit. And you probably quit every year huh? It’s a struggle, but you need to breathe.

Resolution eight is the easiest for me, may not be for you. I had a teacher tell me when I was a child, sometimes people don’t feel good about something and they wear a frown. She told me, the best thing, to do was, just share your smile with them. You have plenty more where that one came from.

Resolution nine, if you haven’t fallen in love, get out there and do it. I mean true love. I’ve read it is never too late to fall in love. I’ve read fairy tales and watched television shows about feelings, emotions, a bond or connection between two people so strong, that when they are together time stands still. You will have the naysayers that say, does that really happen? Yes, it does.

Resolution ten – spend time with your family. I read on Christmas day a woman woke to a house full of flames. She and male acquaintance escaped. They drove her ex-husband there where he was informed both of his parents and all three of his children were consumed by the fire. My heart goes out to what is left of this family. Again, spend time with your family. As it reads –“Tomorrow is a promise to no one.”

        Published October 6, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

What’s Wrong with Television?

        You ever wonder what happened to television? What happened to shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Walton’s – the good wholesome family shows that used to come on when we were growing up? The ones that come on now like The Secret Life of an American Teenager, Degrassi; what has happened to television programming? I know what you are going to say – Life.

I was cleaning the house, taking care of the typical Saturday morning rituals. As I was loading the dishwasher Ally, my youngest was watching Transformers. She knows this movie word for word and she tends to play along with the movie. I walked into the living room to reinforce she had taken care of her hair, and I hear someone (and her) call someone a *#^*.  And as I turn to her, she does not even look up to see the appalled look on my face.  Now, I am trying to rationalize, she has watched this movie 1,000 times, so why is this the first time I had heard that. I shook it off, regrouped and hurried back to my chores.

It is the strangest thing. Television programming filled with pregnant teenagers, homosexual couples, children telling their parents how to live their lives, and schools where promiscuity isn’t even noticed, or is accepted as a way of life. Movies and music filled with profanity and violence.

Growing up I can not remember my father ever using profanity. He still doesn’t in the presence of his children. My daughter has had to have her mouth threatened with her choice of soap on an occasion or two, as a result of her father’s inability to control himself. My youngest has yet to have this happen, but I am assuming she too will taste the freshness of Dial one day. She has less control than her sister.

I have to wonder why the world has changed to this. I have made one girl to age 19 and ready to begin college. I have talked with her many times about what we, as a family, believe spiritually, and hope she has learned something. If so, then she will be able to provide a home and a two-parent family for her children. This will keep her from having to work twice as much to be two parents.

I have also spoken with her about carrying that bar of soap with her as a reminder. Jess was here for her last night before leaving for college. We lay in bed watching episodes of Hot in Cleveland. Jess is a major Betty White fan. In the show, when Valerie Bertinelli would have a mishap, she would express her anger in some unconventional way, like puppy toes or something. Growing up, my father never used profanity around us. My mother, well, when she lost her temper she used profane words and I think she created new ones.

       You know, you want to raise your children right. Then you realize right changes so much, you have to wonder – what is right? I don’t think anyone knows anymore. I know I want grandkids, but not until there are two employed parents to give them everything they need. Then I can give them everything they want. Works for me!

        Published September 29, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

The Aches and Pains of Growing Up

Every day I hear stories about the “good ole days.” Typically, I have heard adults refer to the “good ole days” with fond memories and stories that go on for hours at a time.  Times have changed so much. I now hear stories about “graduating from high school,” as being the “good ole days.”  It is almost if a portion of time is playing itself in reverse.

For instance, I can remember my grandmother talking about getting married to my grandfather. She was a mere child when they were married.  Somehow she managed to birth 11 children, well 10 births, if you count a set of twins.  She ran a household, and then went on to work, and later volunteer at the nursing home in the town I was raised in. 

Grandmother always took time with her grandchildren too. And with 11 children, there were a bunch of them too. I remember learning to cook at seven years old.  Back then, little girls were supposed to grow up and raise a family.  It was expected of them. By the age of 18, you would be married, graduated high school and be ready to start a family.

But times had changed by the time I graduated. Young girls no longer were passionate homemakers.  They were die-hard college activists. They would graduate, start a job, attain a career, and somewhere along the way, pick up that extra degree – MRS.

Now time has reverted quickly to the latter. My oldest daughter graduated this year from high school. Over 60% of her female class will maintain jobs in the communities as homemakers.  Others will trample to the community college, some other colleges as well, to go in search of a career.  Nervously, they will enter the workforce one day.  Some prepared and ready, others barely able to balance a checkbook. As this generation has so many children that were promoted by age, rather than by merit.

What am I saying all of this about Grandmother, jobs, and stories to mean? As I know I have mentioned before, and will mention again, time after time, we tend to forget things as time goes on.  I will never forget the last night Moe stayed.  She has a contagious laughter that draws you in. She has a foul mouth, with a southern accent. For some reason, that makes it sound a little more ladylike when she mutters something she shouldn’t under her jaded tongue.

We were sitting in the living room, brushing our hair, like mothers and daughters do, when they do not want to bothered by men. “What are you going to do when you graduate?”, I asked.  She said, “Oh, get married to my boyfriend, and find a job. I may go to college or something.” I said, “Honey, you will barely be 17. You have your whole life to be someone’s wife, why not be on your own for a while?”  She replied, “I will, he is a good choice for my first husband.” Not a smirk, or quiver in her voice.  And as I watched their class graduate, one right after the other, I cried.

Published September 22, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Home Sweet Hues

     I went back home over the weekend. It is always good to go back home. It helps you to remember who you are, where you came from. People can be forgetful of the little things that make you appreciate just why you go back.

    For me, it was my dad’s birthday. My mom had decided to cook supper for him. And that meant one thing for my sister and me – we were coming by for dessert. We dropped off the ice cream cake, and off we went towards Duty Ferry.

     To get to the Relay Station you have to cross a ferry. Yes, it is a real working ferry. It costs nothing to cross it from the Columbia side, but it costs $1.00 to get back across it from the Harrisonburg side. But it is worth it.

     I love going there to the Relay Station. The food is great. But the atmosphere is phenomenal. They have a license plate on the wall for every state that has come through. They even have one from Brazil. And on the top of the wall and on the roof are political signs for who is running for office. It is fun to see who can remember that far back, listen to who won that race. Even people from surrounding tables will get in on the game, if you are too loud with it. You can get a whole history lesson just sitting there waiting to eat.

     When you look out the windows as you drive there and see areas that were once flooded, you see how there was a time of devastation, and time of rebuilding. Expansion has since taken its place after time and planning, under the work of the best leadership you could you find.

     Today, we find a breakdown in the economy. At the relay station, you walk in to a sign that says “Cash, check, or I Owe You.” That is when you know you have reached an area where a man’s word is still as good as his money.

     Today’s reality is the jobless rate struck 9% in August. Unemployment is at a battle with underemployment. Labor unions need job creations and extensions for the unemployed. Employees need tax credits and cuts on made payroll taxes. Everyone wants incentives to get America back into the workforce by spending.

     But Hurricane Irene has made her presence and we are back to where we once were before. Planning and rebuilding under strong leadership. I wonder if the Presidential speech on jobs will include something referring to what we can do to help those who have been hit hard by Irene.

     You know, when I go home, I notice things. It is nice to come back across the Duty Ferry and hear the whistle blow. It is nice to watch the river as you travel through what we call Sandy Bayou. And to wave at just about every passing car, and never knowing who they are. You do it, because you are friendly, and it is the customary thing to do.

But it was on this ride back that I leaned against the dash and watched the water as it passed. I watched the sun as it changed the various colors. Red, to orange, a darker shade to a lighter shade, and how the sun seemed to get closer and closer to the river as it made its descent for the evening. I know it sounds crazy. A sun doesn’t dip down towards water.

Well, where I come, it does. It comes so close it appears to slip right into the water, and disappear from the sky. This night, it left a red hue, then to a dull orange before it slowly slipped into the water. You probably don’t believe a sun would do that, and I wish I had a camera to show you, but too bad I am just a writer, not a photographer.

Published September 8, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench