January 6, 2016

Meaningful Connections in 2016

The writing of this blog has slowed considerably over the past several years since my retirement. Not that I have not attempted to write a piece from time to time, I have. Many pieces got deleted when I realized I was writing about a lack of something in general or it resembled complaining about my life. That was when I clicked delete, abandoned what I'd written and moved on. Sometimes I would have completed a whole article, having given up an entire morning to writing only to abort in the last seconds before hitting 'publish'. Although, my blog doesn't have much of a public following, I occasionally notice through sitemeter.com, that a reader or two has stopped in on etxgirl.blogspot.com. It doesn't really mean anything except that I don't post often enough to my blog to keep an audience of readers. However, for the few who read, I hope to report something of interest and not just my personal angst.

For the most part, my writings are therapeutic. I am able to unleash feelings and emotions onto the written page, as it were. Although, there are times I find out someone I know has read my blog and reacted to my words in a concerned manner. The reader might leave a comment, send an email or ask to talk to me...in person. Yikes! A personal meeting means a problem of sorts. Those times when well meaning people let you know what you wrote has upset others or lead them to think I had a problem. Back then, I usually caved and took down the piece that brought about the controversy. Looking back, I realize there was no real reason to take down the post. They were my words, my feelings and as the author I had every right to publish to my blog. That being said, or written as it were, I might write a piece you do not agree with or think the worse of me personally. For that I'm sorry, but I can not control how you react to what I write. Although, you will find if you read my blog, that I am a mild-mannered writer for the most part. (Except, don't get me started on Donald Trump!)

Since my retirement back in 2007, I no longer see the same groups of people everyday. As a teacher, I had teaching partners with whom I'd bond. We talked everyday about our lives, our families, our jobs and of course, some complaining was involved. We were going through the same trials and it was a relief to know others could relate to our issues. Also, our conversations cost less than counseling groups or therapy sessions. Even before retirement, when we still had children at home, my family kept me so busy that I didn't need this vehicle to express my thoughts. Now, eight years after retirement several friends I once had intimate conversations with have moved away, some still work and most are "friends" on Facebook. (Not exactly able to give hugs.) Meeting up to talk long hours face-to-face over coffee isn't going to happen too often anymore. 

My husband is a theater instructor at a local community college and his evenings are often spent in rehearsals for upcoming productions. Even though I do a small amount of work with the school district, it is sporadic and I'm often home alone with my two adorable cats, the Internet and HGTV.  When my husband finally gets home, I attempt conversations with him and he tries to listen. But let's face it, men simply do not listen the same as other women. No offense to my loving, vigilent, intelligent husband, who I love to the moon and back, but talking to my cats is almost the same as talking to a man. They both look, listen and leave with no comment. So, I will continue to write it out. I can revise, edit, get it out of my system, save it and revisit it another day.

I am thankful for the delete key. The Internet is a wonderful tool to get messages out to the masses in a millisecond. Although, once it is out there, you might not be able to reign it back in as is the case with email, text messaging or in-person chats. Words can get us into trouble and I have gotten myself into embarrassing situations because I was too quick to hit "send". Fortunately, for me, I am the author of my words, the user of my blogspot account and therefore, can delete any of the pieces I have written. Sometimes being upset over an issue and venting my emotions to my blog can clear my thoughts, even if I have to hit "delete" by the end of a writing session, saving my readers from whatever current dilemma is on my mind.

Obviously, I did not delete this piece. The purpose of this post was simply to let you know I'm still writing and a small explanation as to why I write in the first place. My writing style resembles chats with friends. If you are in my small world of readers, thank you, but I must confess that my writing is mostly for myself. I am flattered, even shocked with a twinge of worry when someone comments or mentions reading my blog. "Yikes! What did I write?", I think to myself. Then, on the other hand, I love feedback because it shows me there are still people, some I even know, who are interested in what I have to say. 

God bless us all in 2016. May we make meaningful connections with real people who will help us carry out the plans of our Maker. 

November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: Giving Thanks

As a Christian, I am mindful of being thankful for all I have, the way things were, they way they might have been and a forgiving God.

[My parents, Louise & Elton Ritchey]

From the time Mama came to my bedroom in the morning announcing, Time to get up! until I fell alseep on our couch and heard, Go to bed, Mary Lou, my days as a child were safe and warm with no added stress, except for school studies. It wasn't like I had any regular chores to do (I did have to keep my room cleaned up.) or places to be, except for school or church. My mom simply thought a person should not sleep their days away. I wasn't enrolled in other activities like dance or gymnastics to occupy my time. I made up games to play by myself or went outside and found other friends to play with. I led a rather carefree existance with no regularly scheduled activites other than being a kid. I am thankful for my mother who, daily, made sure I got up, dressed and encouraged me to find activites to do on my own.

My daddy had already lit the space heater in my bedroom by the time I woke up on cold days. As I placed my feet on the area rug next to my bed, the room and wood floor felt warm. (I would love to have those wood floors in my house today. There was not enough appreciation of those floors on my part back then. ) Putting on a robe, I'd go into the warm, cozy kitchen. If I didn't have anything on my feet, mom scowled and said, you go get some socks on those feet. This floor is cold, for she thought a child could catch a cold from walking barefoot on winter cold floors. One was never to argue with Mama either, because...well, it just never crossed my mind to argue with her. She was right and that as that. My daddy did his best to make all of us comfortable on chilly mornings adjusting heaters. He made sure all the space heaters were lit and warming the rooms even before we got out of bed. I am thankful my mama and daddy loved and cared enough for me and my brothers to get up earlier than anyone to warm up our house. 

As I grew up, mornings at my house were always spent in the kitchen at the breakfast table. Only on Saturday mornings could my brother and I turn on the TV in the living room before breakfast. Not on school days or church mornings were we allowed to watch TV because my mother implied that we didn't need to be distracted. Now, I think it was a brilliant plan for our family's day to start off together around the breakfast table. There was not a time I can recall eating breakfast in front of the television in our living room. At my house, one always ate breakfast, every morning, in the dining room. That was an unspoken rule and not the exception. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around the table, with my brothers and daddy, enjoying a hot breakfast on cold winter mornings. Mama, wearing her apron over her houserobe, was typically in the kitchen cooking breakfast and serving her family.  We'd sit down to either eggs with bacon or sausage, perhaps hotcakes (as we called them) or oatmeal with toast. If we had biscuits, they were PIllsbury canned bisuits from the grocery store. Most of the time there was orange juice, not freshly squeezed, but like the bisuits from the grocery store, the juice was canned Texsun brand or a frozen tube of orange concentrate Mom mixed with water. The tartness of that orange juice made my cheeks cave in.  Sometimes, I'd get to have hot chocolate with my breakfast, but if I had a score throat, Mom let me sip a little cup of coffee. Such a funny thought to let a child sip hot coffee for a sore throat, not because she thought it would bring healing, but for the warmth and soothing powers the hot coffee offered at the moment. That's a good memory! I feel safe and warm just reminiscing about that little dining room on a brisk, chilly moring. My mom was an unintentional role model for me to observe serving the needs of family or guests in our home. She simply did what came naturally to her. I am so thankful for those mornings spent around the breakfast table and the love my mother gave me.

My daddy did a lot of renovating to that old 1940's house from the time we moved in, around 1957, until I went off to college in 1970 and probably some after that. Basically a two-bedroom house, with one small bath (with a wonderful claw-foot tub), a nice sized kitchen with only a breakfast booth to eat our meals and a screened-in back porch with a little room off to side was what our family of 5 shared. I can remember moving during the summer to our new home. We loved it! It was old and needed a lot of work, but my daddy was an expert in carpentry, house painting and anything else it took to make our house more functional for our family. The kitchen table was moved out to the screened back porch as there was no other place for it inside of the house. The kitchen had a booth much like a diner and we had to add an extra chair at the end to fit us all around it. So, most of our meals were eaten at the table on the back porch. However, that meant every bowl of food or dish had to be taken from the kitchen around through the back door and out on the porch. Most of the time we filled our plates from the pots on the stove and it accomplished the need for a place to eat. But Mama wanted a place inside of the house to eat our meals. Daddy removed the breakfast nook, cut a door to the porch for our new dining room and replaced the porch screens with walls and windows in no time. Our dining room would serve to be the hub of our home for many years to come. Daddy also remodeled the extra little room on the back porch to be a third bedroom complete with a window, closet and interior door. It became one of my two brothers' bedroom at different times and later a place where my children would sleep in the baby crib Mama put in just for them.

One summer, while Mama and I were at the church camp, Daddy took vacation days to tear out the old fireplace which was of no use anymore. He also took off the cool front porch I would use as my stage or doll house when I was younger. The living room was extended out several feet, a new front porch with ground-level cement sidewalks were also added to the front of the house.  My daddy did all the work himself except for some help from his buddies with the fireplace demo. There wasn't a room inside or out of that house my daddy didn't work on. He was our plumber, painter, carpenter, roofer and car mechanic. My daddy was not shy to show his affection for us and often, I was kissed good bye before I left for school with goodnight hugs at bedtime. He also showed his love for us by providing and maintaining our house. I am thankful that my daddy had the talent and skills to make our house a comfortable home not just because he could, but because he loved us.

As I remember my childhood, my parents, our old house, their sacrifices and work done just so my brothers and I would have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, I am very thankful.  I am thankful for God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who have been with me from the day I was born caring, loving and making the ultimate sacrifice for my sins. I am thankful that God chose to place me in such a loving enviornment with parents who worked hard and raised us to love Jesus. I am thankful to give thanks for all of this and much, much more this Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving! 2015

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.