Did you know that the amount of time that today’s children spend playing is far less than the amount of time we spent at play? How can that be with so many overwhelmed mothers who spend their time running children from one event to the next?Meanwhile, in our schools there is a decline in recesses. And at home there is an increase in screen time. Altogether, this means there is an overall decline in unsupervised play.
From time to time my husband Chuck and I reminisce about our childhood experiences and find ourselves comparing them to those of our grandchildren. The one that we feel is the most different is playing outdoors.
Neither of us would trade our experiences with our grandchildren’s. Not only do we see less children playing outdoors, but we also see that those who do are almost always involved in some sort of competitive, adult-supervised play.We feel that outdoor play is important to the development of children, but we also think that unsupervised play is equally important.
I learned in October while at the Type-A Parents Blogging Conference that we are not alone in our beliefs. Researchers say that free play significantly improves kids’ problem-solving skills. Play is also one of the best ways to stimulate children’s brain development. Active kids are more likely to be active adults.But is free play the same as unsupervised play.
Chuck likes to talk about the traditional pick up game and how he feels it helped him develop into an independent adult. I wrote an earlier blog which described his experience. You can find it here.
I on the other hand like to tell about mine and my sister Pam’s imaginary world of playing house, using a stick to draw our homes in the dirt road driveway leading down to our home. They didn’t pave the driveway until I was much older.
Also, many of us in the neighborhood liked to play down in the woods behind our houses. We built forts and dammed the stream back there. Those were wonderful days, and there wasn’t an adult in sight for hours at a time.
At the Conference I found in the expo a kiosk about a movement called, “The Genius of Play”. This is a national movement whose mission is to give families the information and inspiration to make Play an important part of every child’s day. You can read about it here.
Their research says that play is more than fun and games; that it is essential for child development. Their mission is to “give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life.” It provides advice, play tips, and ideas based on a kid’s age and developmental stages.
The Genius of Play and the other groups feel that there are six key benefits of play that are crucial to healthy child development. I’ve taken the liberty to regurgitate what they said, melding it all together below.
Key Benefits of Play
1. Play Improves Cognitive Abilities – There are studies that show a correlation between outdoor play and a reduction in ADHD symptoms. Outdoor play requires children to use their brains in unique ways. Also, it helps them to incorporate concepts learned in the classroom.
They may have learned about the parts of an insect in school, but in the outdoors they can study an insect up close, by themselves, and experience it in a hands-on way where they can see it and touch it, bringing to life the lesson they learned at their school. My daughters used to bring me rolly pollys and would also let the little green lizards bite their earlobes and wear them as earrings until they let go. Scientists tell us that outdoor play also decreases anxiety.2. Play Hones Communication Skills – Unstructured play helps with honing our communication skills. Not everyone can be chosen first nor can everyone take a turn on the slide first. Kids who participate in unstructured play with each other learn these communication and behavioral skills on the playground.
They also learn to modify and enforce their own rules. Chuck and I both were involved in unstructured, unsupervised play. His story about the pick-up game you heard about earlier. Mine, though, was in a big field across the road from my home. It was surrounded with houses, as we lived at the edge of a small town. Kids from the houses met in that field and played football, baseball, or whatever was in season. As a girl, I loved football best. I think it had something to do with getting tackled by the boys.
3. Play Increases Creativity – Outdoor play helps children use all their senses, such as insects to see, rustling leaves to hear, fresh mown grass to smell, rabbit weed to taste, and acorns to touch and throw. TV only gives them hearing and seeing, and it can seriously affect their perceptual abilities.
For example, biking develops self-confidence and satisfies one’s exploratory interest, and playing outdoors provides opportunities for imaginative play. Children invent things like Pam and I used to do with the imaginary houses we created. And it was dirt that presented limitless opportunities to invent our world as we pleased.4. Play Increases the Ability to Process and Express Emotions – Remember how excited we all got when someone made a touchdown or someone jumped across a wide ditch. Well, this is how we learned to process and express our emotions. We were challenged by the other kids; and that was a good thing, because we learned how to cope.
5. Play Develops Physical Skills – Did you know that children who play outdoors have better distance vision? A study by Optometry and Vision Science found this to be true. Also, outside play is relaxing and destressing for children.
Research shows that third graders who get 15 plus minutes of recess a day are better behaved in school. Playing outdoors also helps kids develop muscle strength and coordination. For example, the simple act of swinging requires a child to engage all their muscles to hold on, balance, and coordinate their body to move back and forth. Skating requires balance, too.6. Play Enhances Social Skills – Outdoor play requires kids to learn to get along with each other. Unchaperoned play requires it, too. It also helps kids gain self-confidence. Children invent rules and negotiate their way through play. This increases their creativity, intelligence, and negotiation skills—all social skills that we need to function in society.
But I would like to add a seventh benefit.
7. Play in the Outdoors Develops Good Health – Lots of children suffer from vitamin D deficiencies according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This vitamin is important to future bone and heart health, but too much sun is a problem as well. My mother and I both made our kids come indoors during the hours of 10-2 p.m. Florida gets quite hot during the middle of the day anyway. But children need to play outdoors without sunscreen for some part of the day, and I don’t remember using sunscreen as a child at all unless we were swimming or out all day on the beach. I can remember playing outdoors without my shirt until I got to be about 6 or 7 years old. I believe outdoor play for children is vital to their good health.
So grandmothers, encourage your children to read this. They need to understand that unstructured play is as important as school and adult-supervised sports.Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychologist noted for her work on bi-polar disorder, says it best, “Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”
I don’t think I’ve talked very much about my Dad, but he was quite a character. He had a great personality and always seemed to be very comfortable living in his own skin.
He was a special person–witty, strong, courageous, spontaneous, decisive, honest to a fault, considerate, inclusive, frugal, fair, and fun-loving. He was handy with his hands. He built our home–literally built it with his own two hands from the ground up. It sits where my Grandparents’ chicken house used to sit, where over a hundred chickens once lived.
I now own that home, and I remember years ago asking him about a light switch that didn’t seem to be connected to anything. I said, “What does it go to?” And he replied, “I don’t know. No telling what that twenty-five year old boy was thinking when he wired this part of the house.”
That light switch is in the oldest part of the house which he built when he was in his mid twenties. He also added that as far as he knew there was not a right angle in this entire section. Well, that part of the house is almost sixty years old, and it is solid as a rock.
Year after year I worked legislative sessions. Florida’s legislature only meets for sixty days during each spring. We work non-stop, live on adrenaline, and the sessions in my memory flow one into the other. But there is one that will be forever etched into my mind. It was the session of 2003, when I took a call and stepped out of a meeting over in the Hilton Hotel (now Doubletree) to talk to my Dad’s doctor.
The news was not good. The doctor told me that he believed that Dad had pancreatic cancer. One of the worst kinds. We talked procedures, chemo, radiation, surgeries, and strategy; but the prognosis was weeks to possibly months to live.
Still he was not sure, and there would have to be tests. As it turned out, lots of tests and several months before we were sure.
That session I moved from meeting to meeting and room to room in a deliberative manner. It was like I got an extra shot of adrenaline, and I was firing on all cylinders. I had energy like no get out. My memory of those days is as clear as a bell.
It occurs to me now that Dad had that Doctor call me. I remember asking him if Dad already knew about the cancer, and the doctor said yes.
For years after Dad died I thought the Doctor called me on his own, but now I feel certain Daddy wanted me to hear the whole thing because decisions had to be made. My Dad and I conferred off and on over the next months as to what procedures to do and not do. My Mom was already sick both physically and now mentally too, so that wasn’t an option. I became his sounding board. I learned how useful the Internet was under these circumstances.
I also remember during that legislative session moments when my mind wandered to my childhood–to memories of our times together when I was a child–memories of Mom, Dad, Ranny, Pam and later Linda Baby, the littlest sister who was born when I was almost 15.
These memories were different, though, because this time it was like I was looking back across a void that I never noticed before. Until then, I still felt like I was young. I was still his little girl, but all of a sudden I wasn’t anymore. Something shifted as if a new dimension opened up in my life. I guess it was about time, because I was 49.
I look back now and realize that anything that I was, anything that I did successfully in helping to take care of him was by his mentoring. If I was strong, it was because he had always been strong. If I was reliable, it was his reliability that set the tone. He was the best role model.
Today, he would have been 87. Happy Birthday, Dad!
The pickup game is fondly remembered for its hours of unsupervised play. Those halcyon days when we played outdoors until dark when we were expected to come back home for supper.
Every once in a while Chuck and I reminisce about how good we had it as youngsters. Some of our best experiences were those without the intrusion of parents. We both were allowed to experience life and freedoms that kids today don’t seem to have.
Chuck was raised in cities, like Richmond, Knoxville and Jacksonville; and I was raised in a small rural town in Florida. But both of us ran free. We were just expected back home in time for supper; and if we were wandering out of our range, we had to check back first with our parents.
It was a wonderful sort of freedom. We spent hours making our own forts in the woods, fishing in ponds, playing in pick up games, and just generally hanging out with the neighborhood kids. Those were special times.
Chuck said that the pick up games are what he remembered most fondly. The pick-up game is a game spontaneously started by a group of kids. Chuck said that the kids in his neighborhood knew that generally there would be a game going on when the kids were out of school. Sometimes it was in a local park or a school playground within walking distance.
He said that there was no referee or adult present, so the kids made their own rules and refereed themselves. The total number of players was always different with sometimes more than normal and sometimes less. They played baseball, dodge ball, basketball, and football this way.
Kids were chosen for each team, and he remembers being chosen last and working harder to be chosen earlier in the lineup. He said that he threw many a ball at a concrete wall in the neighborhood just to get more practice.
We did the same in my neighborhood in Monticello, but we did it in an old pecan grove across the street from my home. A couple of the trees died, and we used the large open area to play. There was always a gang of kids over there.
I just read a rather long, but good article from a young woman who had the amazing opportunity of growing up in both the US and Estonia. She experienced two types of parenting cultures and talks about their differences. Chuck and I wondered if growing up in Estonia was a little like growing up in the 50s and 60s here in the US.
Read here what she had to say. It is entitled “What Living in the USSR as a Kid Taught Me about Parenting.”
So how was it in your neighborhood? Did you have helicopter parents or were they stealth parents like mine? Mine were always there, but they just mostly watched from afar.
What do your grandparents want for Christmas? Good question! I certainly remember how hard it was to buy for my grandparents. So now that I’m a grandmother myself, I thought I might be of help to my readers.
Every year I get a call from one of my kids asking, “What do you want for Christmas?” This year Jamie was the designated caller calling for all the kids.
So I decided to do a blog post called “What Grandparents Want for Christmas”. Listed below are some suggestions of what Chuck and I would want or need. Some of the items we already have; but I added them anyway, because they were such favored gifts.
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The New Sweater Robes
I love the new sweater robes. They come in different lengths, some tie, and some don’t. They look super chic. I found this one online, but it is already sold out. It was my favorite and by Donna Karan. I added it so you could see how cool the new robes can be.
Here’s another that I found online at Amazon. Click on the picture and you can see it better. You can purchase it here, too, if you wish; but I need to let you know that I receive a small commission for anything you purchase here from my blog page.
I also found some really pretty sweater robes at Talbots in their store. They also have one that ties, but I like the ones that are open.
A New Yoga Mat
Place this one in the need category. I have back trouble, but it has been under control ever since I started doing Yoga twice a week. I practice a very ancient Yoga that is slower and more careful, though; and I have worn out three Yoga mats already.
Yoga Gift Certificate
One of the problems of old age is that our joints don’t move as easily as they used to. I’ve found, though, that Yoga takes care of that problem for me. I never ache and I have good movement all over.
My yoga studio has gift certificates. I go to Halfmoon Yoga, but there are many other studios in Tallahassee. I try to go twice a week, and it costs me $60 for five sessions. I don’t consider it exercise, but something I do for my health. The only thing that decompresses me as well is a morning in the turkey woods :), which is only a springtime thing. Yoga is year around.
You need to do your homework, though. Not all Yoga is the same, and you can get hurt if your practitioner isn’t well versed in the art. There are also different kinds of Yoga. I believe hot Yoga is for the younger. I go to Yoga to relax and decompress, along with the other health benefits. Gift certificates are usually available.
Pedicure Gift Certificate
This is a no brainer, but make sure she likes a pedicure. There are the occasional people who don’t like it. I use Classic Nail Spa in the Carriage Gate Shopping Center here in Tallahassee. They have gift certificates available.
A Good Scrub and A Buttery Cream
As we get older, our skin gets drier. I use a good scrub, either salt or sugar, to soften my feet, cuticles, elbows, etc.
Then I follow up with a good hand or body cream. I like fragrances, but not everyone does.
I gave up gowns a long time ago. As we age, we go through all kinds of changes. One is hot flashes and sweating. I need something between my legs to capture the moisture. Also, I get colder now.
PJs are the perfect choice for me. My mother always seemed to be too hot, so she used lighter PJs instead with short sleeves. For winter I need long sleeves and shoulders. I just get cold some nights.
A Silk-Filled Pillow
I got a silk down pillow in China, and I’ll find another one when this one wears out. I love this pillow. Actually these pillows are a good gift for both grandparents.
Full Body Sensing Bathroom Scale
Full body sensing is important to us since our doctor checks us for muscle mass now. He says that maintaining good muscle mass is very important to our health as we age.
With this Body Composition Monitor and Scale, you get a comprehensive understanding of your body composition to help you reach your fitness goals. The Scale measures seven fitness indicators including body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), skeletal muscle mass, resting metabolism, visceral fat, body age and body weight. We have this scale, and it changed our entire outlook on how we view our health. I can literally see how a 15 minute session of using light weights increases my muscle mass. Again, this is a good gift for both grandparents.
Chuck’s hands need protection, because our skin thins as we get older. I’ve noticed that he is always asking me to help him find his work gloves. He has several pair, but they are all just about shot.
Below is a good pair that was chosen for dexterity, comfort, and good reviews. They are pricier, though, than he would choose for himself; but these are a gift and of good quality. There are cheaper gloves especially by Carhartt.
We recently bought one for our back porch and now Chuck wants one for the Coasthouse. That’s how much he liked the one at the house. We got ours from Tractor Supply.
Here’s another one from Amazon. It is about three inches shorter than ours, but comes with free shipping. Another gift for both grandparents.
First, check and see if he needs one. Chuck’s hangs his in our bathroom, or you may find it in his bedroom. Chuck’s can also hang in his closet. If you don’t live close enough, ask someone to check for you or just ask him. But be prepared to be told that his is ok when it isn’t. They get too attached.
Gardening Shears & Wheelbarrow
If either is a gardiner, new pruning shears can help. A gift for both grandparents.
Check their equipment to see if anything needs replacing. I had to buy a new wheelbarrow in the past year. I like this kind because it is easy for me to maneuver, load and unload.
Does their house need new visitor towels for the guest bath. The other day I was in a friend’s home. She is almost 90, and she still lives alone. Her eyesight is failing, and I noticed that her hand towels for guests were faded and dusty. This is what I bought her. I got her two with her surname initials on them.
What about out on the porch. Anything need replacing? Sofa pillows? Knick knacks on the tables?
Check out his tools and their work bench and/or potting bench. Anything look tired and worn out?
Best Gift of All, Though…
Is the Gift of You! If money is a problem, give them the gift of “you”. Maybe give them a hand-made certificate for an afternoon of help in the yard or a morning of help in the kitchen. Your time is a gift worth even more because they get to spend it with you.
So these are some of my ideas for grandparents. Maybe, you have a good suggestion, too. Please add yours in the comments below. Together, we can help everyone find the perfect Christmas gifts for Granddaddy and Grandma.
The holidays are especially difficult for those who have lost a loved one, especially within the past year. Back in March I experienced a loss that I’ve never experienced before–the loss of one of my siblings.
Last October was my sister Pam’s birthday, and she would have been 60 years old. I’ve missed her a lot lately, because it’s hard to move on like nothing really changed. In fact it seems disrespectful. And besides, now we’re in the Holidays.
Our parents are deceased, so she and I owned the two old family homes where we grew up. She owned our grandparent’s home, where our Dad was born; and I owned our childhood home, which he built next door. Since we both married and moved away years ago, we rented out the houses.
Every once in a while, though, we talked about getting old and moving back there beside each other–the possibility of two old widows growing older together. We laughed at the thought. We fought as kids so we expected nothing less later in life.
Back in October, though, I visited our Grandmother Hamrick’s two surviving sisters. They were the babies in their family of ten children. Today, they are two widows, 90 and 88, living across the street from each other in Port St. Lucie, Florida. They fight like no get out.
Pam and I would have been just like them, but now it will never happen. We will never grow old together. We will never move back to the old homes, either.
Pam died last spring. She was 59 years young. She became very sick almost over night, and she didn’t make it. You can read about what happened here.
Since then, it has been a slow seven months; and looking back I realize I’m a classic example of the Five Stages of Loss and Grief that people react to under such circumstances. You can read about it below.
Denial, Numbness and Shock
I think I went through some of this first stage while Pam was still sick. Her sickness was so sudden and so devastating that her life was in great danger, but I just didn’t accept it. Never for a minute did I think that she might not make it. She was so strong and healthy before, and I just knew she would beat the illness. I was shocked and numb when she didn’t.
All of us coasted through those days immediately afterward. It was easier when there were people to receive, a funeral to attend, and goodbyes to be said. They say that the numbness is there to help you cope. All I know is I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I wondered why I didn’t cry more.
Chuck and I took a quick trip into the North Carolina mountains for a day between her death and the funeral. I just needed to grieve by myself. I think I was just too numb to be there to help plan her funeral. We drove to Chimney Rock, spent the night, and returned the next day.
And there have been other emotions.
Since she died last Spring, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night playing out different scenarios. I know now that I’ve been bargaining with myself. The scenarios center around Pam’s problems with delirium while she was in the hospital.
You see, a patient who is unconscious for a long time becomes very confused. Pam was on a ventilator for over three weeks; but she had family with her around the clock. Each day Chuck and I took over right after noon to relieve her husband, and we stayed until her son and his wife took over for the evening. All of us did this for the time that she was in the hospital.
Pam was unconscious almost the entire three weeks. Early on they had her in a drug-induced coma, but later they kept trying to wake her and that was a problem in and of itself. She fought the tubes down her throat, and her oxygen levels plummeted every time. Delirium was the issue; and we the family had no idea what it was, let alone the role it played in her possible recovery.
Since then, I read up on it; and now I wake up playing tapes in my head–that maybe If I kept her hospital room brightly lit during each and every day or if I kept talking to her non-stop while I was there.
Delirium happens when the patient becomes confused for many reasons, such as how night and day becomes one and the same to the patient, adding to their confusion.
What if, what if. I can’t get those tapes out of my head now. Thankfully, it isn’t every night, so I keep taking it one day or in this case one night at a time.
This stage for me came really, really early. I’m afraid I lashed out in anger at Pam’s ex-husband. They divorced over a decade ago, and Pam finally moved on and recently married. I was mad that they had been married only less than a year–that she didn’t have this new wonderful life very long. I just wanted her to be finally happy.
Of course, what I was really angry at was losing Pam. And losing her to a hideous myth about taking flu shots. Within a week or two after her death I wrote a blog post taking out all my anger on her ex and “When A Myth Can Cost A Life“. I guess I got it off my chest really quickly, because the anger is gone now. There is sadness now.
There are two more steps in the grieving process–depression and acceptance. I haven’t experienced the former, and I believe I’m getting closer to the latter. There is still a general numbness from time to time, but I’m no longer angry. I’m obviously still subconsciously bargaining, or I wouldn’t be waking up at night playing the “what if” scenarios. Thank goodness, I haven’t been depressed.
But there may be another step.
I had two episodes that don’t seem to fit any of the five steps.
The night Pam died, I stepped out into the hallway because I just couldn’t stand to see Pam’s nine-month’s pregnant daughter crying or Pam’s husband of less than a year weeping.
I stepped around the corner when a totally unexpected feeling swept over me. I felt like I had let my parents down. I was the older one and always taught to look after my little sister Pam.
Pam and I were two and a half years apart, so she was my little sister for over twelve years before our littlest sister Linda was born. I felt this immense feeling that I didn’t do enough to protect Pam–that I somehow failed her. I felt responsible. For a brief moment that night I felt I was to blame.
As I stepped into the hallway, I swooned. Thank goodness, I was alone. The wall held me up; and I composed myself before Pam’s kids saw it. They needed strength to lean on not someone collapsing herself. I think I swept the guilt aside, worrying more about Pam’s kids.
I haven’t felt this again since that night. Thankfully, my mind quickly let it go; but I feel now this was simply ‘guilt’.
A week later after Pam died, her little granddaughter was born. Our other sister Linda was there to take Pam’s place. She spent a week with Pam’s daughter, son-in-law, and new grandbaby doing what Pam had planned to do.
Several weeks after that, I finally held little Courtney in my arms for the first time, And I felt that it was all wrong. I felt guilty that I got the pleasure of touching that precious little child when Pam could not. It just wasn’t fair, and I was totally unprepared for how I felt.
I can’t seem to place these two emotions in any of the five steps of grieving, so I believe another step may be ‘guilt’.
A Plan For Overcoming Loss and Grief
While I researched the different steps of grief, I found a “Nine Step Action Plan for Overcoming Grief and Loss” by Dr. Phil. I found it helpful, and I found where I unknowingly used several of these steps to help me deal with my loss.
Chuck feels that our bodies and minds are wired due to evolution–wired to survive, to cope with whatever comes our way. He thinks that is why I unknowingly followed some of Dr. Phil’s nine-step action plan, that some of us are hard wired to handle grief better than others.
Daytime is Easier Because I Keep Busy
I try not to dwell on what happened, and I keep busy which isn’t too hard for me to do. Dr. Phil thinks this is an important part of not letting myself get stuck. If anything, my husband always encourages me to slow down and smell the roses more. But still I have to sleep, and that’s when my unconscious thought takes over.
So I try to take one day at a time. I try to stay out of my head. I know that I just need more time, and I try to stay busy. Grief is hard work.
Still, though, it bothers me that she’s gone; and I’m still here. You see? Pam passed out of turn. I’m the older one, and I should have been next.
And there’s that guilt thing again.
Here is a little poem called “Where I’m From”, using some of the results found both through standard genealogical research and DNA. I’ve been tracing my ancestry for over 40 years, and I’m always looking for a way to share what I’ve found.
Where I’m From
I come from pines, small town playgrounds, springs, and sand.
From a Georgia mountain side and a South Carolinian low country river with an Indian name.
From Georgia gold, Colorado gold, and 49ers spread across the Oregon and California trails.
From Confederate privates and a Georgia mill sold before all was lost.
From a Revolutionary, a Loyalist and a Hessian soldier who turned.
From an indentured servant and a colonial Governor.
From a trail into Indian territory and a passel of children stopping to swim in a stream.
I come from a red-headed widow, who fled demanding in-laws, seeking a new beginning in a new state.
From a model A racing from an economic downturn to new land with new crops and opportunity.
I come from a later wave of Jamestown immigrants and a Powhaten squaw who left her people.
From an Old Dominion seventh great grandfather who I share with my husband.
From cattlemen pushing cattle on a trail through recently ceded Indian Territory.
And a family looking for new opportunity in the sandy soils of south Florida.
From three men who stood in line to vote for a new state with a very old name.
From a Ranny, a Geechie, and a Peniopy.
My DNA comes from mostly Ireland, plus Spain and Norway.
From Scotland and a common border with Finland and Russia.
And traces, I recently learned, from North Africa and the Middle East.
I am getting ready for Thanksgiving. This year all the kids will be here along with their families, as well as Chuck’s sister and her family, my sister and her family, and one of my sister Pam’s kids and her family.
I expect a busy Thanksgiving at the Littlejohn’s with ten children ages nine and under–six of which are our own grandchildren. Oops! I just realized that there isn’t enough room at the children’s table.
Just last night, Chuck said that he thought he should become scarce for the next few days leading up to Thursday. He knows that my type-A personality always comes out in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. He knows that the “Johnelle” in me is always right under the surface. Johnelle is my mother, and she had a fearsome temper.
I decided this year to not work on any projects during the week, but instead spend the three days before Thanksgiving just getting ready. That means no writing the book and no genealogy.
My Schedule Includes
So my list for this week includes: Monday-straightening up the house and yard (so far so good), Tuesday-decorating, and Wednesday-cooking and scheduling. There is also a plan for Thursday.
It might be nice to begin my day on Thursday with some quiet “me” time early in the morning. I haven’t decided yet if I would like to take an early morning walk or just sit with a cup of coffee and a devotional. I might do about ten minutes of yoga just to stretch out and start my day.
On Wednesday while I’m preparing and cooking. I plan to finalize a list of what needs to be done and by what time. It is a schedule that will keep me on time all day Thursday. We plan to eat around 2 PM.
So far, it shows that I need to have the turkey in the oven by 9 AM and the ham baking an hour later. Biscuits go in the oven around 1:30 pm. It just occurred to me that I don’t ever remember my mom or grandmother cooking by a schedule or even following a recipe.
Mostly though, on Thanksgiving day I want to take some time to be thankful for all of God’s bountiful blessings. I try to always remember something my Grandmother Roe once said–that no matter what happens to me, out there is someone who is having a harder time.
One of my favorite blessings was my sorority’s. It is below.
There are some other things that I want to do on Thursday. It will help to be very mindful of what I eat. I plan to eat real slow and drink lots of unsweet tea, filling my plate with lots of vegetables and very little starches. A tiny sliver of cake or pie will do, along with a cup of coffee. I also plan to chew gum while cooking. It keeps me from nibbling.
Also, I want to try and spend time talking to everyone. I have a tendency to get in the kitchen and work work work without really conversing with people. I want to try very hard this year to sit down and have a chat with everyone who’s there.
Since we have about thirty guests, this may be hard to do; but I want to try anyway. There’s a reason for this.
A year ago this week, Chuck and I came back from the islands, where we visited with friends. We flew back into West Palm Beach and decided to stop on our way north and have Thanksgiving dinner with my 94-year old uncle in Jacksonville. I worried that he might not be with us much longer. Usually we spent every other Thanksgiving with Pam, but I thought I should spend this one with Uncle James instead.
I never dreamed it would be Pam’s last Thanksgiving. The good Lord knows that life is nothing but a rough draft. We don’t get to make any changes. There is no rewrite.
My other sister Linda was there with Pam at Thanksgiving last year, and here is a video that she took of Pam preparing their Thanksgiving turkey and our brother-in-law Marty ‘cutting the fool’ with her in the kitchen. Oh how I treasure this now.
So this year I feel the need to stop and visit with every last one of my family members. Life is so uncertain.
Our Thanksgiving will be Florida-style. We’ll have a shuck and burn–that’s oysters and a bonfire; but it might be too warm for a fire. Food will be served outdoors on the picnic tables in the courtyard. It is supposed to be in the high 70’s on Thursday here.
So we’ll be down here in Florida gathering and thanking and blessing and overeating and shucking and burning.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
How do you plan to spend this Thanksgiving? Do you have any special plans or a schedule? Do you have any traditions you wish to share? Please leave a comment below.
I love Facebook. It allows me to keep up with friends who I’ve lost contact with over time. Friends relocate. They change jobs, and life in general always seems to get in the way.
Best way I know of keeping in touch, though, is through Facebook. But it comes with a price.
Did I say that I love Facebook. Its best feature is that I can keep up with not only my long lost friends but with my kids and grandchildren. I see pictures almost in real time.
Hear that sucking sound?
But let’s face it. Facebook sucks up time like a vacuum cleaner. All of a sudden you’ll realize that a couple of hours have gone by, and the house looks like hell…
or the trash never got put out or the clock struck midnight and you have to get up by 5:30 the next morning. That swooshing sound you hear is Facebook sucking time out of your day.
So a couple of years ago I realized that either Facebook had to go or I had to get stronger in my resolve to limit its use. The latter option is where I began.
Round 1: Trying to Get Control
At first I went in every morning and allowed myself only 20 minutes to check my news feed. Every night I did the same, but I would still slip off the wagon and find myself at midnight as happy as a clam commenting back and forth with whoever was still up.
Or a Saturday morning would slip by and there I would be sitting in my pjs glued to the screen as time sped toward noon. An entire morning lost.
Round 2: Success
Finally, I had to get real and cut it out or drop my page; and that is when I discovered the “close friends” feature. If you check your friend as a ‘close friend’, then you get an email every time they post.
I automatically check my emails every morning and every evening anyway, and there they are–my close friends’ emails waiting for me to check them out.
I have all my family members (children, in laws, husband, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc) checked as ‘close friends’ and my truly closest friends, too. I have a few of my old high school buddies, college buddies, and former career colleagues checked, as well.
These are the ones that usually post only the important events in their lives like pictures of their children and grandchildren or when something truly important is happening to them. These are the ones that don’t post every day.
A few years ago when we planned a high school class reunion, I checked everyone in my class who was on Facebook. It was fun to keep up with their lives just before we got together. By the time of the reunion I had things to talk to them about, such as how their daughter was getting along in graduate school or how was little Timmy doing.
You can check them (a friend) as a ‘close friend’ for a short period of time and then uncheck them later if needed, which is what I did after the reunion.
A note about my friends is in order here, though. I’m still very careful about who I friend. If I don’t know them, I don’t accept their request. It keeps my numbers down.
And if one of my close friends keeps posting offensive comments or posts too often such as a Candy Crush player, I uncheck them but keep them as a regular friend. I’m truly interested in what they have to say, but time is precious. I would rather spend it writing my book or even more important visiting with my family.
So if you are having Facebook separation anxiety, but you know that something has to change? Give this a try. I think you’ll find that it helps tremendously.
So How Do You Set Up Your ‘Close Friends’ on Facebook?
All you need do is go to ‘their’ Facebook page, then click on “Friends” in the top box to the right of their name.
Next, scroll down the options and click on “Edit Friends List”. Then click on “Close Friends’.
Or go to your list of friends. You can check and uncheck friends in bulk here.
I tried it on my immediate family members first, then added more later as I got used to the feature.
I have friends who were afraid to use Facebook because they were afraid of the time lost. This has helped them use Facebook just to keep up with their offspring.
The ‘Close Friends” feature has worked amazingly well for me over the last couple of years. I finally got control of my Facebook addiction.
Hurricane Hermine is threatening our shore line. Earlier today I turned on the TV, and the Weather Channel was in Tallahassee. Oh Crap! It is never a good thing when Jim Cantore shows up in your town.
August 31, 2016
By nightfall the storm begins coming ashore just east of Tallahassee between Monticello and Greenville, Florida, about 25 to 35 miles away to our east. Monticello is my hometown.
Our power goes out around 10 pm. Hurricane Hermine has begun to do its damage.
It will be all over the next morning, and tomorrow will be a very busy day. I make sure that everyone in the house knows that we’re in a “no flush” zone. You only flush the toilets periodically–on an as needed basis. Jamie has to explain what this means to Patrick.
We have no idea how long the power will be off, and the water in the tubs are there to bucket water from the tubs to flush the toilets. If you just need to pee, don’t flush. Only flush when needed. The water has to last. Not only is the weather deteriorating, but our lifestyle is, too.
Also, everyone understands that we do not open the refrigerators for anything. They will maintain food longer if they are not opened.
Finally, we all go to bed.
Friday, September 1
I wake up around 2 a.m., and the wind roars outside. I hear things hitting the outside of the house; but thankfully no big crashes, yet.
Around 4 a.m. I check my iPad for the latest weather update. Hermine is moving northeast and away from the area; but I can tell by the radar that it passed closely to our east. Luckily, we are on the good side of the storm, the side with less wind. I try to go back to sleep.
Finally, it is daylight. Outside it’s raining heavily. The oaks are still thrashing about, and I squint to see how the yard looks. Within minutes, I can tell that the pool is green with fallen branches. It is full of debris, but the fence around the pool is intact.
Then I see a very large tree down between the oaks, on the path down to the lake. One of the big Longleaf pines fell. I pull on a robe and go downstairs out on to the back porch.
The entire back yard looks like a bomb hit it. Oh dear!
The front yard doesn’t look any better.
There is another big pine tree down east of our house. It fell between ours and the neighbor’s house. The kids are downstairs sound asleep.
Thankfully, all the portable cell chargers were charged and ready. Our iPads and cells will come in handy now. We’ll need to begin making phone calls, checking on others, and trying to get help.
Chuck and I throw something on and decide to take his car and investigate our neighborhood, but we quickly realize that we cannot go east. A large pine is laying across our street, which is a circle.
So we go west and have to go around another tree in the road that leaves us us just enough room to squeeze by. Up on Lakeshore, we realize that we cannot go west because of downed trees, nor can we take Sharer south; but we are able to get out to Meridian going east.
Street lights are inoperable all over the city, and we see numerous occurrences of people barreling through these intersections. We quickly realize that it has been a decade since the last storms in Florida and over two decades since Kate.
There is an entire generation of drivers in town that have no idea that when the lights are out everywhere, every intersection becomes a four-way stop. The radios quickly begin trying to educate all of us before someone is killed.
Speaking of mortality, electric lines are down everywhere on sidewalks, in streets, across driveways. It is quite scary because people are outside walking around trying to assess their damages.
We also realize that this is beginning to look like the aftermath of Hurricane Kate. Everywhere we turn, streets are blocked by felled trees and downed powerlines. We now know that it will be days before our power is restored. Thankfully, Hurricane Hermine came ashore as just a Category 1 hurricane.
We use the radio to help us get down to the coast to check out the coast house. WFLA, 100.7 radio station with Preston Scott is taking calls from residents to let everyone know which streets are blocked and which aren’t. We use this to worm our way across town and south to the coast.
We learn that the Woodville Highway is closed, but not the Wakulla Springs Road down to the Bloxham Cutoff Rd. Wakulla Springs Rd. is closed from here, but we jog right on Bloxham and pick up Spring Creek Road all the way down to Shell Point and Live Oak Island Roads. All the while we fully expect for any one of them to be blocked and closed.
A Wakulla County deputy stops us to check that we are island residents. We are lucky and get all the way down to Live Oak Island.
As we drive across the causeway, we begin to see debris from the storm surge. Someone’s floating dock is on the side of the road. All the docks near the bridge are capsized and strewn about. You can tell that the island was inundated in areas. The storm surge did come across the island, but most houses are up off the ground.
Then we turn on to our road, and quickly realize that the it is strewn with many floating docks. We have trouble maneuvering and have to get out a couple of times to squeeze by debris until we find ours.
Our floating dock is no longer in the bay behind our house. It is sitting in the road right in front of our neighbor’s house.
Inside the house, everything is thankfully high and dry. We are blessed. Outside, though, we realize that the kayak is missing, along with the ramp leading down to the floating dock, and a set of steps down from the sea wall to the Gulf.
Walking around, we find the kayak in a wad of flotsam near the other neighbor’s house along with the missing ramp.
Chuck and I begin trying to remove the debris so we can move the kayak.
Other neighbors come by in search of their missing items, and most of us find what we’re looking for in this pile. It is strange how a storm does this, affecting one house but not the next. Underneath our house, it is swept clean. Under our neighbor’s is everyone else’s debris.
Finally, we finish what we can and drive back to Tallahassee. The kids called; and they are already trying to check on their home, which has several trees down on their well house and pump. They have Talquin Electric and already learn that it may be a week or more before their power is restored.
We return to the house in Tallahassee and begin the cleanup there. Our son-in-law is our hero. He picked up almost all the debris in our yard stacking it for our next really big bonfire. We usually have at least one during the winter holidays.
We realize that we’ve seen no power trucks yet in our neighborhood–not a good sign. We learn through the radio that the City of Tallahassee Electric has to restore the infrastructure first, which was also damaged by the storm.
We saw the trucks and tree trimming crews working out on the main roads. It will be some time before they get to little neighborhoods like ours.
The day goes quickly; but it hasn’t been all bad. When the storm pushed through so did the little front. Behind it is cooler and dryer air, which is unusual. Usually it is hot and humid behind these storms. So the cleanup this time is less painful.
By late afternoon, though, it begins to change. It begins to get humid; and we have no power, no air conditioning, no running water. We live on well water, which requires electricity to run. We tip toe through the house with flashlights and a kerosene lamp that hazily lights the kitchen.
Around 9 pm a bat flies into the house, sending everyone ducking and dodging in the dark to escape the little varmint. The bat finally finds an open door and flies back out after circling the house for about ten minutes.
My son in law Patrick who is an Air Force brat born in England and raised all over the world is getting his Ph.D. in becoming a true Floridian in one big hellacious weekend. He leads the effort to get rid of the bat.
Exhausted, we try to get some rest; but it is a little uncomfortable, nothing like the next night will be, though.
Saturday, September 2
All day Saturday we are cleaning up and setting all the lawn furniture back out. It is hard to get through the living room because it is full of pots, plants, and lawn furniture. Outside Chuck continues pulling leaves and limbs out of the pool.
We know it will be days before we get electricity. I’m already tired of bucketing water to flush toilets, sweating, and eating cold food. I wrench my shoulder and it hurts. We also worry about the food in the freezers, which we haven’t opened yet.
So Jamie and I begin to look for a generator to replace the one we had that won’t start. We call several stores, but they don’t answer their phones. Later, we learn that no one has regular phone service.
The stores who have no power are either running on generators or remain closed. Fortunately for us Florida’s hardware stores, grocery stores, and banks are almost all powered by generators during the aftermath of these storms.
At Home Depot there is a short line for 70 generators coming in around 5 pm on a truck. I count the number of people in line and think I have a shot at getting one, so I jump in the line and send Jamie and Thomas to Lowes to see if they can find one there.
She in turn gets in another line, but the line at Lowes requires a ticket. There are 96 generators and she gets ticket 96. Her success is more certain, but what if someone miscounted and there are only 95 generators on the truck. So she stays in that line with instructions to call if she gets one first, which she did.
By the way Jamie almost witnessed a fight. A man from a country, where obviously only the strongest survive, jumped ahead several people and snatched a ticket from someone in the line, who was less able to defend themselves. She said that the man almost got a ass whippin from some of the good old southern boys nearby, before he (the one who snatched the ticket) apologized and returned it.
With a new generator in tow, we get home and realize that this one is big enough to carry almost all of the appliances in the house, except the HVAC systems. We run big outdoor extension cords everywhere, first to the refrigerator/freezers. I check the food in the freezers and everything is still ok. Earlier we had begun bringing in ice for things in the refrigerators.
Too bad that we didn’t have a small air conditioner, though. It is still humid and hot at night. It would be worse, though, without the big ceiling fan over our bed and two old house fans that I’ve had since I lived in Monticello over 27 years ago.
We’re already talking to a tree service company to remove the two downed trees. Many people have trees on their homes or across their driveways, while ours are not as big a problem. They ask us to wait for a later time, and we agree to do so.
Saturday night, we are hot; but we have TV and lights. Life is much better.
Sunday, September 2
We begin to find pockets of the city open for business. We have lunch at Vertigo’s, which is packed. Everyone else had the same idea.
The house is strewn with electrical cords leading to the refrigerators, fans, and lamps all over the house. Can you say fire hazard? We call our electrician, and he hooks the entire house to the generator, except for the two HVAC systems. Then we spend the next hour trying to figure out why the breaker keeps flipping off. It turns out that there is some type of short in the water pump. So we turn everything else off when we need to use the water pump.
We spend a second afternoon finishing packing. Did I tell you that Chuck and I leave tomorrow for China? For two days before, I packed early in the morning for the best light, otherwise I’m packing for a seventeen day trip in the dark. One has to laugh to keep from going crazy.
Later, we notice that there are Gulf Power Co. bucket trucks and linesmen working up on Lakeshore. They are from west Florida and helping us in Tallahassee to get our power back. It is a relief to see them finally in our neighborhood.
It’s like the cavalry came. That is how we see our heroes–the linesmen. I honk and wave, give them a thumbs up, and scream “Thank You” from my car window. The lady driving back of me did the same thing. They’re working in our neighborhood, but not on our street yet.
Sunday night is the hottest night yet. Still no power. We see their lights up on Lakeshore. We heard that the men work 16-hour shifts. We both have trouble sleeping.
Monday, September 5
Monday comes, and we still have no power. We finally packed for China, and we leave. Final packing done; but much of it without lights, so I have no idea how prepared we are for China.
The floors in the house are littered with trash, leaves and mud, tracked in from the outside. Unfortunately, we leave everything in a mess and our daughter in charge. Jamie is our angel.
About half way to the airport, our daughter calls and the power is on. Thank the Lord and Gulf Power.
The house smells with the heat, humidity, two dogs, one crochety old cat, four adults, one five year old, and lots of smelly laundry. It needs the dehumidification that only a central air conditioning unit can provide.
Return From China
Seventeen days later we return from China. Tallahassee has power. Most everyone gets their power back within 10 days, but there are piles of yard debris everywhere still waiting for final cleanup. Many of the piles create a wall of debris next to the roads. People swerve to miss them.
The two trees are still down in our yard in Tallahassee, but our neighbor at the coast got our floating dock back in the water. It is anchored so it won’t float off. There is no ramp to it, though. It is just an island. Jamie and Patrick got their power back 8 days after the storm.
And on Monday, October 3rd, we had the decks and porches pressure washed to remove all the debris stains. We finally get back to normal just as we begin to watch Hurricane Matthew cross Haiti and threaten the other side of Florida. Monday, several computer models showed it coming into the Gulf.
And so we began the cycle again; but thankfully, this Hurricane Matthew went elsewhere.