August 25, 2015

School Days, School Days by Mary Lou Martin: Grandmother & Professional

Now that I have been retired for 8 years, I believe I am still a morning person, but not one that jumps out of bed, showers, dresses and heads outside into the world. My style is more of a slide out of bed, amble to the kitchen in my pj's, get a cup of coffee (Hooray for Kuerig!) and slip out on the patio to sit and watch the day come to life. Yesterday, I also looked at all of the back to school pictures on Facebook posted by friends and relatives. My favorites of course, were the pictures of my grandchildren. Today, my blog is featuring our four grandchildren, the loves of mine and Kim's lives.

It was the first day of school for our district and many colleges across Texas. My middle granddaughter, Olivia, attended her first day of public school kindergarten. Looking so much like her daddy, her first day pictures show an excited little blonde, backpack ready girl who was going to have a wonderful day meeting new friends and loving her teacher. Olivia is a lover of people, a doer of something all the time, a reader, bike rider, gymnast, funny, sweet child and a friend. She is very intelligent and as a friend of mine once said, "I am not bias at all. I am a professional". After 30 years teaching, 3 years substitute teaching and a tester for the advanced placement team these past 7 years, I do consider myself an expert on the subject of intelligent 5 year olds. Olivia's command of words stands out as she uses words above the normal 5 year old vocabulary. My stamp of approval on a smart little girl with a bright future goes to Olivia Kathryn Martin with no bias whatsoever.  

Our oldest grandchild, Aidan, began 7th grade yesterday. He has grown taller this year, confident in his abilities and has the most handsome smile. (Okay, that may be a grandmother bias.) I looked at his first day picture on Facebook with pride as I saw my soon to be teenage grandson. At 12 years old, he has ditched the traditional backpack for a more sophisticated  messenger bag. He stands straight appearing calm, ready to take on the middle school life with cool breezy ability. Aidan also enjoys wearing a small brimmed hat and pushed up sleeves as he hones his trumpet player fashion style. I like that about Aidan. He has a way of hanging unassumingly slightly under the radar, going about in his own unique way. Though he didn't have his trumpet in the picture, he'll be carrying it to school each day, blasting out musical notes in band. Perhaps we see a future jazz musician in Aidan. He also plays soccer stretching those long legs to the goal, kicking the ball in to score with the cool and calm of a pro. Appearing very skilled and confident on the field he doesn't ever appear rattled in a soccer game, only focused. He enjoys soccer banter with his dad about the professional soccer teams they follow. The Martin Family all share a love for our home town baseball team, the Houston Astros. Aidan, an avid fan, has memorized facts I could never remember about the players and the game. He is an intelligent individual who excels not only in sports and music, but also in academics. Aidan is tenderhearted and loves his family very much. He and his sister, Regan, have a sibling closeness that will last a lifetime.It is my pleasure to observe Aidan and all that he will accomplish. Aidan Kelly Martin will excel at whatever he chooses to do in this life.  I know this because as I mentioned above, I am a professional. 

Next, our granddaughter, Regan has graced us with her presence for one decade now. At a mere 10 years old, our slim brunette beauty displays a bubbly, interesting personality that everyone loves. Our talented young girl who starts 5th grade this year, loves to dance, sing, do gymnastics and have fun. From the time she was a toddler with a paci in her mouth, Regan has smiled at a pretty shoe. Her cute sense of style makes her all the more adorable. I love her artsy side too because we can share arts and craft time when she visits, painting, drawing and cutting up creatively. As a kindergartener, Regan was tested for the Gifted and Talented program. She's a smart confident little girl and got into the program. With a flare for the dramatic, Regan has appeared in at least three musicals. When one director asked if she could turn cartwheels across the stage and without hesitation she flipped across a long stage in front of full audiences. Regan sings with her school honor choir and loves being part of a group. She excitedly explained to me through Facetime, that her choir teacher this year announced an opportunity to audition for a big chorus who would perform in San Antonio should they make the cut. We are pulling for our Regan to make the chorus. Regan loves adventure and takes it on with the zeal of an explorer out to discover a new world. Regan Karina Martin is a problem solver, friend, singer and intelligent individual. I know because, as you've read, I am a professional. As a 5th grader, Regan will lead and be an exemplary role model to the younger kids in her school.

Lastly, the youngest of the Martin grands, at 2 years old, did not start school, but returned to her babysitter. She is, nonetheless, as smart and outgoing as the rest of our grandchildren with a uniqueness of her own. Penelope Louise Martin is simply waiting her turn and taking it all in, learning as she goes. Recently we were in Abilene for a visit and I had the privilege to have some alone time outside with our Penny Lou. She enjoys swinging in their backyard and I pushed her as we sang together, "...seesaw, Margery doll, Seesaw, Margery doll." Back and forth she went on reciting the nursery rhyme to the exact tune I sang, matching tones and words. I do believe Penelope will be a singer and musician one day. She exhibits some mean 2 year old technology skills navigating an iPad.  Her ability to think for herself is evident when watching her complete puzzles, play games and stand her ground on what she does not want to do or eat. We witness her love for her sister as she calls "EE-ah'! Short for "Olivia". Penelope doesn't give her love way for free. One has to prove worthy of her affection, but once earned, she'll return again and again delighting her recipients. Our hearts swelled when we heard Penelope call to us, "Daddy" for "Big Daddy" or "Mama" for "Mama Lou". We'll take it and know the rest of our names will come through in time. Penelope Louise Martin has learned so much in the brief 2 years she has been on this earth. I expect by the time we see her next, she will have learned much more because she exhibits high intelligence. Of course, I should know because as an unbias grandmother, I am also a professional. 

January 21, 2015

Gray Days, Yard Work and a Whole Lot of Hope

     What a wet foggy morning it is! The temp is only about 58 degrees, the sun is hiding somewhere in the mist and everything outside is wet. Too yucky to do anything outside! I look out from my breakfast table window onto my backyard. Past the patio table I see all the brush that Kim cleaned out of the back jungle just before he had to return to work. There it lays on the grass…trashing up the backyard. The jungle still isn’t under control though it was beginning to take on a cleaner look. Lots of tall, out of control wild trees had grown up throughout the summer months like Jack’s beanstalk. If my back wasn’t in such bad shape I’d get out there and at least move the brush to the side of the road. Then, the city guys could haul it off for us.
     Then, standing at my kitchen sink, I look out the window and see overgrown bushes obstructing my view of the street and neighborhood. I enjoy watching the little kids walking home from school or keeping an eye out for anything interesting going on in the streets. Now, all I see is an occasional brown bird or lizard in the branches of the green leaves outside my window. I just realized that the leaves on those bushes never turn brown. I supposed that should be a glimmer of hope to know there is still life out there.
     Ever since we moved into this house about 11 years ago, the yard has been a trial for us to maintain. It is a large corner lot and very pretty when it is trimmed and mowed. There used to be 21 trees on this lot, but with hurricanes, bugs, and the occasional roots just letting go, we might have about 11 trees left. Previous owners had planted several bushes and scrubs on the grounds showing their love of yard work. Kim, not a fan of yard work, but wanting to save money, immediately vetoed the use of the lawn service the previous owner had offered. At first, Kim did a pretty decent job of keeping the grass mowed. That was until he began to have some health issues.  Then, job requirements were taking up a lot of his time and in general, he was not able to keep up with the always growing grass. One day Kim hired a yard crew to catch up in the overgrown yard. They were so quick and neat, edging the sidewalks, trimming below the tree trunks and clearing the clippings from sight. Even the jungle which was not part of the deal, looked better. Also, it wasn’t as costly as Kim had thought. It was worth it just to get it done neatly and spare Kim the trouble. Even with Kim’s health problems under control, he has continued to hire a crew to work in our yard. 
     Now in the winter months the yard is somewhat dormant, while it waits for spring. The yard guys are not coming since there is virtually no grass to cut. The grass is brownish in color and the weeds miraculously show themselves by turning very brown in contrast to the green bushes they once entangled. There is still much more lovely green color than one would expect in January. The birds that have flown here from the colder winter temperatures up north, will gather here and there to nibble the red berries clustered in the plants. A fun sight to see is when the blackbirds or robins are returning home up north and they stop over in our yards to eat. The chirping birds fill the lawns like traveling companions stopping at a diner along their journey. 
     Even though my yard is a trashcan of dead weeds and leaves now, it still has much to offer. The squirrels while in a sleepy mode, appear to enjoy running about gathering the nuts or seeds they can find. For now their dinner is visible, unhidden in the spaces where once leaves had covered their food. The birds and squirrels make a fuss high in the branches above my cats walking out into the back jungle on expedition. Being just far enough from city noises, my neighborhood is normally quiet with only the occasional sounds of playing children. But on a damp, foggy day like today, even the sounds of the nearby school are abnormally silent as I’m sure the children are inside reading and working math problems. Life goes on.
     One of these days soon, I’m sure that Kim will find the time to get in the yard and complete his job. I hope he can do that before the new spring foliage begins to sprout making the task more difficult. However, even if the dead weeds, branches and grass doesn’t get cleaned up anytime soon, it’ll be okay. These gray gloomy sort of days gives me a chance to reflect on life. It’s in these times I think about life, loved ones who are gone and I’m reminded of a great day of redemption to come. God in his glory and Christ on the throne are looking out for us all. The Holy Spirit living inside of us gives me hope of a brighter day. The Spirit through God has it all under control even in a gloomy world of brown and gray.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24 NIV)

December 17, 2014

Ouiji Board Predictions

It was about 1963 when 3 preteen girls playing with a Ouiji board at a slumber party, that one of them asked the board "what year will I get married?"  To my surprise it lead us through 4 numerals, 1974. I do not have any idea  how the Ouiji board works, nor do I believe in magic future-predicting boards manufactured by Parker Brothers. On December 21, 1974 I married Harold Kelly Martin, III (Kim). Coincidence? Maybe, but to tell the truth, shortly after I graduated from college that August, we decided when Kim finished his fall semester and his senior directing project, it would be a good time to get married...and it happened to still be 1974.

When I met Kim Martin it was 1971 and we were in college at Abilene Christian College (now ACU). Having completed my freshman year at ACC, I was now a sophmore when Kim, an incoming freshman, walked into the choir hall. I noticed this tall, lanky, dark-haired guy who had an endearing almost shy persona. Although, in spiite of first impressions, he walked with confidence appearing focused on the class. Making no introductions to me that first day, I don't know if he even noticed a blonde-haired girl checking him out. He was good looking and I wondered why he was wearing a worn faded red hoodie with a yellow ribbon tied to the hood pull. I later learned the yellow ribbon was from a girl he would soon forget all about.

The fall of 1971 got cold fast. I was dating a smart-mouthed redheaded guy who was just fun to hang out with. Jimmy and I played in the snow on the lawn of Abilene Christian High School that adjoined the college campus. He was hiliarious, made me laugh and paid a lot of attendtion to me, but I could see this relationship had no depth. After lunch in "The Bean" (the college cafeteria), Jimmy walked me to choir where Kim and another guy who would later ask me out, were waiting for class to begin.

Memory still shows me that other boy's face in my mind, but I cannot even remember his name. Not long after Jimmy and I had called it quits, my nameless classmate sent a request inquiring if I'd go out with him. Now that I think about it, I believe the invitation came by way of a girlfriend. He was a sweet, shy guy in the choir, but I declined his offer to go on a date. I don't really remember the details, I just know I did not go out with him. Years later I would learn from Kim that he only had the guts to ask me out because he thought I was nice to go out with such a plain guy. So, naturally he thought I'd go out with him. (Who by no means was "plain"). True confessions: I felt like a heel because I wasn't the nice girl he thought. I had not gone out with that sweet boy after all because he really was rather plain.

Kim was a theater major in the fall homecoming musical which in 1971 was "Camelot". He had already auditioned and was cast in the play by the time a request for more singers was sent to the choir. I thought it would be fun and signed on to sing in some of the scenes. As it turned out I sang in two different scenes. One was with about 4 other girls on a backstage microphone on the song, "Follow Me" and the other song, "Guenevere" was performed onstage costumed in a black scroud standing high up on scaffoling with the additonal chorus. What a fun time I had! I'd performed some on stage in choirs from elementary through high school, but I'd never been in a big musical like this. As the rehearsal process of the play continued, I met a lot of new friends and had fun talking to the backstage crew guys on stage-right where I hung out. As the performance dates approached, we were all told to begin staying in the green room until our entrances. So, I had to give up friendly conversations with the stage manager and move to the green room with other friends. One of the guys waiting in the green room, Ron, I had met in choir, or maybe another class, it's hard to recall after 40 years. Although, it could have been that I met him through one of my girlfriends in the dorm who knew Ron from her hometown church in Oklahoma. Anyway, Ron was the only other person sitting in the green room that I knew. We enjoyed visiting until our entrances to go on stage. Through the course of our time in the green room, another guy would join us from time to time and my friend, Ron, introduced me to the tall, lanky dark-haired guy who had strolled confidently into my choir class at the start of the semester. Kim Martin was cute, sweet and from the beginning we seemed to make a connection.

Shortly after the play closed, my friend, Ron, asked me out on a date to a movie. We had a good time, but that was the last date we had for no particular reason and would remain friends. By the close of "Camelot", Kim and I were friends. He saved us seats to sit together at the closing cast party on the empty stage of the Abilene Civic Center. Still we had not been on a date yet. Then, "Blood, Sweat, and Tears" came to the Abilene Coliseum and a friend of a friend (blind date) asked me out to see the concert. Shortly after I had accepted the concert date, I got a phone call in my dorm from Kim. He also invited me to go with him to the concert. I told him I already had a date. It happened that another dormitory friend from Baytown, knew Kim from her hometown church, Missouri Street Church of Christ. I told her when I got the invitation from Kim that I really didn't want to turn him down, but I couldn't break the date I already had accepted. I also told her I really hoped Kim would ask me out again. She saw Kim one day and told him how disappointed I was that I already had a date and couldn't go with him. Shortly after that and before the concert, my dormitory had an Open House when the guys could come in to see our rooms. Kim came to see me and he asked me to go to church with him. I have forgotten so much about that blind date, but I can still remember the clothes that Kim was wearing and which church we attended that Wednesday night. After that is history. 

Not that it was all candy and roses, we managed to stay together through good times, misundertandings, fun in the snow and Kim's romantic roles on stage. I learned that I can be a jealous person. That's another story for another time. We did, however, break up only for a few weeks and found we were miserable apart; well, I was anyway. Then, on December 21, after my graduation in 1974, we  married. Just like the old Ouiji board had predicted. It's been the ride of a lifetime with this confident Martin man. The years have been an entertaining, frustrating, loving, rewarding, hectic work evolving two people into one. Kim and I could never stop working on our marriage because we are ever changing, therefore, our marriage paradigm is ever changing, too. We have a much deeper relationship than when we first met at ACU, but as we evolve there are still things to learn about each other. As our love continues to grow, we are committed to a successful marriage. 40 years! Yes, it is a long time to stay with one person, but when you commit for a lifetime, 40 years isn't long at all. I can not imagine life without Kim. It's just not possible. He is my mate and consistent love for the remaining days of my life. And to think, the journey all started with a Ouiji board. Or, did it?

December 21, 2014 in San Antonio, TX.