Awakened by a Unicorn

The Country Mice Head to the Big Apple
The Country Mice Head to the Big Apple

You have to agree, most women my age are not awakened in the middle of the night by a unicorn. She is soft and fluffy with a rainbow colored mane and tail and blue eyes that are always looking for adventure.

But she really should be sleeping now!

And so should I!

But . . . . .

Ulyanna Unicorn, pronounced “You’ll-ee-Anna”, came to live with us a year ago when two of my “grands” asked me to tell them a story while they ate their lunch.

Prior to that I had never ever told a make believe story. I always marveled at people who could do that, just make up a story. How do they do that? My 70th birthday is crashing in on me like an out-of-control freight train but up until age 68 the only stories I could ever tell were ones I’d memorized or recounting real life experiences. From my point of view telling a make believe story was like the artist who paints a picture from their imagination, with no photo or picture to copy. Or the composer who hears a song in his head that no one else has ever heard.

And then came Ulyanna!

She just burst forth in living color and along the way has invited a number of her animal friends to join her. There’s Billy the Bluebird, he’s a constant companion and lives with her in the stable that’s snuggled against the castle at the top of Mt. Imagine.

Freddy the Frog, Tommy the Turtle, Gus the Seagull, and the twin mice, Minerva and Mergatroid (who always wear polka dot dresses) join them in their first seven adventures. In their eighth, they get assistance from Kitty Cat (nicknamed KC) and her friend Ted E. Bear (whose real name is Theodore).

As a child many of the stories that were read to me had a lesson of some kind woven into the text. They would often end with, “And the moral of the story is . . . .” In each of Ulyanna’s stories, she and her friends impart Character Qualities to their readers like Faithfulness, Resourcefulness, Compassion, Kindness and Generosity to name a few.

I would LOVE to have these stories published and to that end, hubby and I are trekking to NYC for a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. It’s both an exciting and intimidating prospect. It’s our hope and prayer that someone else will fall in love with this little band of animals and show us how to get them into the hands of children.

We have much to learn.

This day – Unique

Ginnyandmom

This day in 1987 it snowed.

Snow of any proportion in a children’s home is reason to celebrate. You sled, you have snowball fights, you build snowmen and then knock them down, build a fort and then come in the house freezing looking for hot chocolate.

This day, with 24 inches and still coming down, Mighty Mittens (me) and my gang wrestled and slipped and slid all over the hillside at the front of the home. Their goal was to cover me in snow and my goal was to avoid it.

Then the phone call came. “Your mom’s in the hospital. Come now.” Finding a car on the campus that could manage the ever drifting snow, blizzard conditions and unplowed highways between Paradise and Harrisburg took some time. Our one hour trip on good roads took four hours driving at 5-10 mph. Driving was rather surreal. Snow pelted our windshield like a scene from a sci-fi movie where the space ship travels unhindered through the vast universe passing planets and stars on all sides.

 

In the distance we could see a car parked on the side of the road. Smoke was billowing from the driver’s side window that was cracked less than an inch. The amount of snow, the phone call to “Come now” and the smoking car made the afternoon feel like we were driving through a dream. The dream was more of a nightmare that wouldn’t let me go.

No one stopped. No one stopped in front of us. No one stopped behind us. We all passed slowly by this garish scene. The other motorists probably thought as we did, could this be real? Cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. Watching my sideview mirror intently, I finally told my hubby, “We have to turn around. No one is stopping. Mom is in a hospital, she has my dad, my brother, doctors and nurses with her. If there’s someone in that car, they have no one.”

We traveled to the next exit and came back to park on the other side of the snow covered highway. There wasn’t even a fingernail file in our borrowed car to try breaking into the smoldering vehicle. Despite his valiant efforts in the worst of conditions my hubby couldn’t rouse anyone inside. He climbed back over the guardrail and we were on our way again. As we began driving away, we spotted emergency vehicles cresting the hill ahead of us. Help was on the way.

A good runner or someone on skis could have made faster progress.

Arriving at the ER, we were met by my brother and faced the sad, sad fact that mom had passed hours earlier. Unknown to us, she was already gone when they called me. Because of a bed shortage due to the weather, she had been moved to the morgue. Denny asked me, “Do you want to go see her?” My response, “Is that what I’m supposed to do?” “There is no right or wrong here, Ginny. But whatever you decide to do, I’ll help you.” I didn’t want to see her in a cold metal drawer covered with a sheet. Those simple words left me grieve in my own way. I will always be thankful for his support in those first moments.

It’s 28 years and this still makes me cry.

Any age is too young to lose your mom. I was 40, and it felt like my mommy was taken. Knowing we would never laugh or cry together again was hard but she gave me the best of gifts in those 40 years. She instilled imagination, creativity, resourcefulness, contentment, the ability to laugh at myself, a tender compassion for the needs of others and a desire to stand by my man through sickness and health, richer, poorer, for better and for worse. I watched her stand by my dad for 51 years, and like any marriage their’s was not perfect. But she didn’t give up on it.

Every once in a while I dream about her and we’re always laughing together. I hate to wake from those dreams because she’ll be gone again. But then I thank God for the visit and the memories we made.

I wrote this post at center court of Park City Mall while I waited the two and a half hours predicted until Apple could look at my dead computer. Writing was accompanied by tears as the memories walked across my mind. When it was my turn to have the computer looked at, a young woman in her mid 30’s was ever so helpful. She laid healing hands, so to speak, on the computer and we’re back in business again.

As I was leaving, I asked her name. When she replied, I must have looked like I didn’t hear her. So she spelled it, E-v-a. My eyes immediately filled with tears. Eva, that was my mom’s name.

Silly maybe, but I feel like she just visited again through the eyes, hands and intellect of this young lady. Mom would have never been able to work for Apple though, she wasn’t big on technology. Finding multiple uses for a stapler at her first office job gave her a great deal of pleasure. She used it to fix her purse, a friend’s shoe, a falling hemline. She never learned to drive, but she managed to get where she wanted to go. What a woman!

Eva glanced again at her Apple paper work. Her eyes filled with tears too realizing that my name was Virginia. Her best friend by the same name died suddenly last January.

This day . . . was unique.

My Mind HEARS My Photos

Seventeen -17 – SEVENTEEN people between the ages of one and sixty-nine!

That’s 34 arms, 34 legs, 34 eyes to get turned in the same direction. It’s a huge amount of teeth, clean and shiny covered by lips that you’d at least like to look like they’re smiling. And then there’s the dog, a wonderful pup, but he only has one oar in the water and all these people want to pet, pat and pull him in different directions.

It makes for a chaotic afternoon of picture taking in the park.

As if that’s not enough, the park has a beautiful stream running right through the center fully equipped with ducks who have no fear of people. And we have children who have no fear of ducks or water. The idea of keeping all those little feet, hands and legs clean AND out of the water was ridiculous.

Whose idea was this anyway?

My own children have been raised from day one by parents who couldn’t afford to waste “film”. Film, the roll that once upon a time was put in the camera and then pictures were taken that had to be developed. Unfortunately, we never knew until the pack of photos was returned to us if someone blinked, or had turned around to see if everyone else was smiling, or the light was too bright or too dim. In the land before seatbelts, I had two little blonde haired girls who had stick straight hair. Before picture taking, I’d comb, barrette, and plaster their heads with hairspray to prevent any possible movement. They would ask, “Can we lean back in the seat of the car,” “NO! We’re almost there, don’t move.” (Such a picky momma!) “Please,” I would say, “PLEASE look at the camera! Smile! Stand still!” That didn’t always work, but I tried just because I couldn’t afford to toss failed pictures into the waste can.

And then they all got married.

We’re blessed to have seven grandchildren now. Hence, SEVENTEEN and a dog. We could have added two more dogs, but that would have been crazy. I can almost see our youngest daughter’s beagle chasing the ducks and dragging a five year old through the stream. Cooper, the one in the picture, is an old man so he’s not much into chasing. Charlie, my son’s dog, is a youngster though. His never ending plea is, “Wanna play? Wanna play? I’ll play! Come on, it’ll be fun!” We didn’t go there.

But still, we were SEVENTEEN and a dog by a stream filled with ducks in the middle of a park on a gorgeous fall day. And they did it because, “Mom wants a family picture.” We can’t all get together often. My son-in-law from NC hadn’t been here in a year. My daughter from Lewisburg has an incredible schedule with teenage kids, jobs, swim team, school, friends. Life gets busy, but still “Mom wants a family picture.”

So I look at the picture and I can SEE their smiles, their eyes all turned toward the camera for the single moment that the camera’s red light blinks on the tripod, but I HEAR the laughter and the shuffling about. There’s poking and there’s joking. Everyone is a target! I know the old man dog was ready to be done, the one year old just wanted to watch everyone behind her and the two five year olds preferred climbing on the rocks.

But still they smiled and my heart is full to running over when I look at it DSC03928-edit1because they did it just because “Mom wants a family picture.” Even the son-in-laws, who would rather have a tooth pulled without novacaine, cooperated. PRICELESS! But this is how they really felt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Circles of Life

Recently I was watching a mom of three little blonde, curly topped wonders at a picnic and I was reminded of the circle of life that we go through as parents. She diligently sequestered her wonders on a blanket spread across the lawn. Each little one had her own plan of where she’d go and what she’d like to do, but mom had the deciding vote on what would really happen. We move from one Circle of Life to another, often not realizing where one stops and another begins.

Circle One!

When we’re expecting that little bundle of joy we sometimes lay awake at three in the morning while the energetic baby inside plays kickball or jumps rope on the bladder. We just wish we could get another hour or two of sleep. If only he or she were in their bed nearby! But then, as time moves on and that active little one joins the outside world, we are again awakened at three AM to calls for comfort or food or a clean diaper. Who hasn’t wished she could just tuck them back inside to be able to grab a few more winks before the sun comes up!

Circle Two!

As we watch them grow, we can hardly wait for that first word to be uttered. “Mama”, “dada”, it doesn’t matter which one! I remember one of my daughters telling our first little girl grandchild, “Just say something and I’ll buy you anything you want!” Eventually that little charmer started talking – and she hasn’t stopped much since! She would chatter on until the very moment she was tucked up tight in her bed and then – SILENCE. Even now, many years later, she doesn’t lack anything in the communication department.

Circle Three!

We are so anxious for that first step, the teetering tottering ones that often happen right at the top of the stairs as we held our breath. It seems that in a matter of days, they’re off and running. My mom used to say, “Just put everything on sky hooks!” Get all sharp corners and delicate breakables out of their way. They’re on the move!

Circle Four!

School days come before we know it and that little one that we’ve guarded so closely is exposed to a whole new world. Our days are stretched and our hearts are torn, whether they’re jumping on a school bus or being schooled at home, doesn’t make a difference. We still have to figure out how to add one more responsibility to our already overflowing agenda. Nine months of school seems to go by much faster than nine months of pregnancy and all of a sudden it’s summer. The joy of having them close all day is great – most of the time. But moments of boredom, or sibling rivalry can be unpleasant interruptions to the idyllic scene portrayed in books and magazines.

Circles Five, Six, Seven, Eight and so on come in quick succession!

They want to play at a neighbor’s house, have a sleep over, get a driver’s license, go out on a date, get a job, go off to college, and before long they’ve found their soulmate. The one who will make their life complete.

Then, if God grants you the days, you get to watch from the spectators seat as all the Circles of Life start over again.

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Leave the Light on in the Closet

It’s time for bed and I am so tempted to leave the light on in the closet! I even briefly considered sleeping there.

I want to see who is putting their wash in my laundry basket each night!

Laundry is admittedly my favorite of household tasks, but really, where does it come from? There are only two of us living here!

I don’t change the towels every day like one of my friends. I don’t use a new table cloth on my table each day like another. I don’t even switch out my dish cloths and dish towels daily. Yes, we do wear clean undies, but they can’t fill a basket.

I’m telling you, we need to leave the light on so the hanky panky stops in there!

Yesterday I did all the wash except for two of hubby’s shirts. Tonight it’s spilling over its edges and we weren’t even home all day.

The reason laundry is my favorite task is because it’s measurable. The stuff goes in all crumpled and rumpled, swishes around in the suds, comes out of the washer wet and wrinkled and goes into the dryer. When the dryer beeps at me (with that obnoxious sound that it has! It should be programable like ringtones on a phone!) I grab out each piece and fold it or hang it. Whatever it takes to keep from having to iron it. Though I have an iron, I would rather not have to spend any time becoming closely acquainted.

And viola! there on top of the dryer are neat little stacks of towels and tee shirts, pillow cases and panties, socks and slacks. Measurable – evidence of what I did with my time. It’s not like scrubbing the bathtub, as soon as you shower it’s dirty again. You wash up all the dishes, but then you eat and they’re sitting in the sink or accumulating in the dishwasher.

So if you’re guilty of sneaking in during the night and filling that basket, you can stop now.

I’ve had enough fun for this week!

Epic Fail – Underpacking

 

IMG_1022Birkdale Mall, Charlotte, NC

It’s like an experiment – only NOT!

I tried the whole “underpacking” thing for a long weekend to visit our daughter in North Carolina.

Six days, right? The prerequisite there is that you be able to count to SIX! Math was never my strong point, but really folks, this should be possible.

Did you ever have the feeling, “I got this!” Going to bed the night before the trip I was certain that I had all my proverbial ducks in a proverbial row. They were lined up and saluting.

Then came morning, where I had the clothes for the day laid out neatly. The lists were checked and double checked. The car was packed. Actually, the car was P-A-C-K-E-D! And this was the “underpacked” version of a trip to NC.

Forget the options the girls said I needed. I took just the essentials, plus a box full of books for homeschooling, some groceries to cover the Celiac disease situation, just a few prizes for the littles, a couple of snacks (perhaps a few snacks) and sunscreen just in case.

My thinking at the outset was that we would come home again lighter than air, leaving behind all the excess baggage that would stay in NC.

I don’t know why I always fantasize this way, it never happens!

By the end of the weekend I realized my “underpacking” had one giant flaw. If you’re going to be away SIX days, you should take SIX days worth of clothes.

One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six!

Yeah, good thing my girl’s house comes equipped with a washer and a dryer!

Next trip, I’m back to “OVERpacking” – it didn’t seem to make a difference in the return trip anyway. We still filled the car with the treats we found in NC.

It’s a good thing memories don’t take up any space —– we wouldn’t have been able to close the doors!

Overpacking vs. Underpacking

IMG_1032It can go either way.

You arrive at your destination and someone says, “Oh, did we forget to mention the indoor pool? Sorry.” There you are with your ski pants and scarves, mittens, gloves and boots. All set to play in the snow!

Or the reverse is also true.You bring your swimsuit, snorkel and mask tucked neatly inside the ski pants and scarves. Possibly you might need some light reading for in the evening so you throw in the book you’ve almost finished, but “What if it rains?” Better throw in another novel just in case. Of course you don’t want to forget your Study Bible with notebook and pen. Then you remember that the destination doesn’t have a quick market nearby, so you just might need a couple snacks, or three! Surely the hotel will have first aid supplies, but what if they don’t. Might as well take some aspirin, bandaids and antibacterial ointment. You never know – be prepared – just like the Boy Scouts! My daughters always tell me, “A girls gotta have OPTIONS!” Better take a sweater AND a jacket.

By the time you’ve finished lugging the suitcase through the airport, you find you owe the airline employee an additional $75 for extra weight and OPTIONS! Do you (1. bargain with her, (2.throw some clothes in the trash, or (3. have them sent back to your house via UPS in the box they so graciously provide for a mere $74.95?

It’s always a question.

Years ago I packed up my family of six for a week long trip to the beach. Food, medicine, suntan gizmos, play clothes, good clothes, sleep clothes, books, games, camera, stuffed animals, pillows!

We should have rented a U-Haul!

Just as we were about to pull out, our friend, Jackie ran out to the car to say goodbye. She tapped my hubby on the shoulder and said, ”Nice shirt, Jer, is it new?”

In stunned silence I stared at him with my mouth wide open. “What?” he said.

“Uh, —– I’ll just be a minute. Keep the car running!

I FORGOT TO PACK HIM A-N-Y CLOTHES! He had the clothes on his back and a pair of swim trunks for a week at the beach.

Overpack vs. Underpack – It’s always a toss up!

I’m so glad God is going to take care of all those details for eternity when we are finally HOME!