Those 9-9 Girls

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Looking in my daughter’s eyes, I could feel her heart sink. She supposed her teacher and I would be rehashing the good old days. That was not to be.

We were at her junior high open house. Lo and behold, she had the same Home Economics teacher I had so many years ago. As I re-introduced myself, Mrs. Tada rolled her eyes. “Oh, those 9-9 girls.”

Turning to Cindy, she explained, “That was my first year teaching.” I could hear what she didn’t say. I never want to relive that year.                                                                                                                                                                                               © JB Katke

 

When I was in school, back in the dark ages, students met in homeroom. It was there that we listened to announcements over the PA, attendance was taken, then dispersed to our various classes. We were numbered by grade and group, hence my 9-9 status.

My Home Ec class was a little on the rowdy side. Not me of course, I considered my sewing class as recess. It was the only subject I excelled in. But poor Mrs. Tada had trouble keeping order in the classroom.

My friend Belinda got into a heated disagreement with one of our tablemates. Belinda picked up a seam ripper and as if shooting a dart, took aim at the girls face. I freaked out, fearing the girl was about to lose an eye. Thankfully nothing happened.

Cindy feared comparison with the sewing skills of her mother. Instead she learned Mom was young once and part of a class filled with immaturity. My school days were challenging too. .

Home Ec didn’t ‘click’ with either of my girls. But that’s okay. Both of them has excelled in areas I could never have imagined. I think it’s interesting how they have grown up in the same home, with the same parents, but blossomed individually. My children make me proud.

At birth, each of us are given differing gifts and talents. Sometimes it just takes a long time to realize them, like myself. I’m finding life is a giant learning process.

Barry and Sharon

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Disclaimer: The pictured gun was not the weapon used in this story. Additionally, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sharon didn’t wake up until she sat bolt upright in bed.

“Barry! Are you alright?”

The stillness of night returned.

It couldn’t have been a dream, the shot was too real. “Barry, answer me, are you okay?”

All was quiet. As she sat pondering what to do, a second shot rang out.

Never again would Sharon hear her brother’s voice. Or her father’s.

The reality was Sharon and Barry lived a nightmare life. Their dad was mentally unstable. The siblings learned at an early age to look after each other.

Their paternal grandparents were well-known and influential in the community. The stigma of their son in a mental institution would have been more than they could bear.

Instead they live with this.

It was the Viet Nam era and Barry was in his senior year of high school. His dad was under doctor’s care and doing quite well. But as father’s do, got thinking…

Soon Barry would be eligible for the draft. The thought of his son going to war was too much for this dad to handle. There was only one way he could see to spare him of that horror.

Now reality set in. What he did was reprehensible and the remaining family will suffer from his action.

The next morning I learned what had taken place down the street. There are no words for that kind of pain and loss. At the funeral I merely held Sharon’s hand. The following year Sharon and I graduated high school and we lost contact with each other.

After all these years, I still pray for the family. I’ve heard there is a reason for everything. Maybe that is why we have established interventions now? Perhaps our world needed a wake-up call to learn better treatments for mental illness.

Or should we just depend upon God for all the things that we don’t understand, because he does?

Humble Pie

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A lady I know will go on and on about apples. In her opinion McIntosh are the only apples worth eating. I can’t believe how opinionated she is. As if she were some kind of apple expert or something.

Do you know anyone like that? Who cares about her opinion anyway? The best one can do, is smile, let them vent, then walk away. Don’t bother trying discuss the pros or cons, she has a deaf ear.

This year though, she experienced a comeuppance. It was hilarious, I wish you could have been there. It was Christmas day and this lady was in full-blown praise of her precious apple pie. “The only apple pie I’ll eat is my own.”

Her son-in-law made note to never bake her an apple pie because she wouldn’t eat it.

As she is slicing her pie to serve, she notices it’s really juicy. “Darn, I wonder why? That’s never happened before.”

Okay, it’s me.

I have my reasons for being so apple biased. What many people look upon as desirable apples to bake with I find lacking. Other apples hold their shape and don’t cook down. I like cooked down.

McIntosh apples could easily be on a grocers list of unwanted produce because they are fragile and bruise easily. That makes them hard to find. So when I found a local grocer that carried them, I praised the managers in charge. It was important to me that they keep on coming while in season.

Too late, I realize why this pie bombed. My pie plates are deep dish. Normally one would think that’s a good thing because it holds more filling. And fill it I did.

Because McIntosh are soft and moist, made for a very juicy product. Humble pie. Note to self: Don’t use so many apples.

Isn’t that typical in life though? We think if a little does a little good, a lot will do a lot of good? Or bigger is always better, right? Wrong on both counts.

Good golly, now I must exercise food discipline in the kitchen as well as at the table. Life sure can get complicated. But if I’m not mindful the outcome may be undesirable, like being overweight or juicy.

I bet that’s why the good Lord gave us a conscience. The mind and heart are not always in agreement, best to let a wise conscience prevail.

Is There a Good Mad?

 

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The question is can I hold the mad…for a year?

The house is officially dedecked from Christmas. Except for the few items that got overlooked in the packing.  Unintentional tradition reigns.

What I don’t understand is why I had so much trouble packing things away. I had bought nothing extra, but somehow couldn’t get things packed back into the box they came from. What’s with that?

Each year I enjoy hauling the décor out that I haven’t seen in a year. It’s fun to transition the house to be festive. Memories are relived. The ornaments family members have made, the ones grandpa used to painstakingly place over lights so they would spin.

Packing the stuff away again finds me in the no fun zone. The box I thought I had for my nutcracker was missing. I like for him to be protected in storage. This year my little guy is going to fend for himself to stay presentable for next year.

I had boxes and bins everywhere and nothing seemed to fit in them. Frustration led me to anger. This should not be happening. My husband wisely kept his distance from me until it was time to stow the goods away.

“Look, they fit in the space just fine.”

That is not the point. I’m supposed to be getting rid of stuff.

“How come it’s taking more boxes than ever to get them put away?”

I’m furious. Next year I must be ruthless. Somehow ruthless doesn’t blend with a season of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Some people can hold onto a good mad for a lifetime. I can’t recommend that, it’s wearing a perpetual chip on your shoulder that permeates everything and everyone around you. That is a real no fun zone.

Instead I aim to learn from this experience, like decorating with large objects. It’s too easy to overlook small things hanging here and there around the house. I’m not going to ask why God brought all this stuff under my roof either. He didn’t, he just allowed it.

That puts the ball back in my court to graciously let go of stuff that adds nothing but stress. I prefer my life not have room for anger, but to be filled with Jesus’ positive energy. With his help I can do this

Happy New Year!

 

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© of JB Katke

 

The New Year is upon us…ready or not

.As a rule I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  Why set myself up for disappointment? Unless it’s reasonable. Like promising myself I absolutely will not eat artichoke heart or sushi. That I can pull off. It isn’t my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings if you like them. It’s just far be it from me to take your pleasure away.

I’m hoping this year will be different though. Recently my doctor has been casually mentioning some weight loss for me. Easy to say, hard to do. For me anyway. You may know the verse that says little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice? I am here to tell you years of that stuff turns into Velcro that adheres to waist and hips. I am living proof.

But it’s not just weight I’d like to change. There is exercise (that should actually be a four letter word). Stressing my body is not pleasurable. Some people like it which boggles my mind. Just thinking about it wears me out.

Writing too. Does that surprise you? While I have never been at a loss for words, writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Its work. Blogging exposes me and that’s not comfortable. I’m an introvert. Likewise being with a group of people wears me out as well. My husband doesn’t agree, just because I’m able to carry on a conversation.

All that being said, here’s what I’m hoping for in 2020. I’d like to see Jesus better. I’m well aware he is with me all the time. He knows what is going on in my life. But I feel a little like our relationship is lopsided. He blesses me, but do I give him enough credit?

Here’s my plan, and I expect you to hold me accountable. I feel the need to be quiet as I meditate on his presence more often. It takes time and discipline. But he has made himself known to me on several occasions and it was an amazing experience. I want more of that.

Seeing more clearly in 2020 is wordplay I know, but this might be well worth the effort.

Stolen Christmases

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Today I’m burying the Grinch. May he never rear his ugly head again.

He has stolen too many of my Christmases and I’ve had enough.

I’m not speaking of the beloved Grinch we love to hate each Christmas season. I’m speaking of my own personal demon Grinch. Like the famous Grinch, mine is green too, I suspect envy.

Dr Seuss wrote the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and I am amazed how much the two Grinches have in common. My Grinch also hates Christmas, doing everything he can to make mine miserable. But it doesn’t end there. Like the Grinch in the book, he can’t tolerate happiness of any sort, only my Grinch has no heart at all.

Each miserable Christmas I would come to realize my poor attitude and feel shame. Too late I would reach the point of what Christmas is truly about.

The sad fact is I gave my Grinch permission to be a demon in my life. It was so unnecessary. For no reason I allowed this Grinch to ruin my disposition. Our home wore the décor, but it was a façade. My heart wasn’t there.

The holiday season can be painful if a beloved family member has died, but that wasn’t my case. I don’t have the fear of a family member in the military serving overseas in a dangerous country.

I believe my situation is shared by many. The season of celebration isn’t what it used to be. Through the years our family has spread across the country and now reside far from each other. Through no fault of our own, life just takes us places. Now there is no one to ‘do’ for.

Our children are no longer children. All of them are living responsible adult lives as they were taught. I’m proud of them. Even the grandchildren are adults, more pride added. We have been promoted to great-grandparenthood, but again, distance comes between us…I’m not alone. There are others.

It’s inexcusable to be distraught over not having to fight the maddening crowds Christmas shopping. We no longer exchange gifts, so are spared the concerns. Would she like this, or does he need that? I confess it’s hard not to buy for those I love. Likewise I shouldn’t miss baking Christmas cookies. We don’t need all the calories.

The time for a wake up call is now. Are we not celebrating the birth of our Savior? He’s the ideal gift. He’s needed, one size fits all, plus he doesn’t require wrapping. No shipping costs either. Didn’t he come to take away all the hurt this world dishes out?                        A gift doesn’t get more perfect than that.

This year I’m looking forward, not back. I can recall past Christmases with fond memories as long as I return my gaze to what Jesus will be doing in the future. Both in my own life and those around me. I’m convinced that is why God placed eyes on the front of our head, not the back.

Merry Christmas!

Too Many Toys

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My husband had enough.

Begging was wasted breath. Rewards meant nothing. Bribery didn’t work, and neither did grounding. Grounding I learned, is never a good idea. It punishes the stay-at-home parent. AKA me.

Clearly our children’s concept of a clean room differed from ours. They threw things in the closet and stowed as much as possible under the bed. Leftovers were designated to line the walls. On the plus side, we never worried about a bed collapsing. Their ‘cleaning’ took all day. As buried treasures surfaced, they played.

I’m not sure if it was frustration or tired of hearing my ranting. But desperate times called for desperate measures in getting the kids to pick up their toys. Out came the leaf rake.

At the end of the day, so-called cleaning done, their dad raked what was left into the middle of the floor. It was deposited into a box. If the kids wanted them back it was going to cost them. Prices ranged from a penny to a nickel.

Who Is Learning A Lesson Here?

Eventually there were no more purchases. What’s with that? They didn’t care whether they got the rest back or not. The excess toys were unnecessary. By all appearances we all had something to learn.

Good Intentions Are Not Always Good

When Christmas or a birthday rolled around, we went overboard in gifts. The Grandparents hearts held more than their wallets, unable to give as much as they wanted. They lavished love for our children. It’s what money can’t buy, doesn’t need wrapping and takes up no space.

All we wanted to do was give our children good memories. Too many gifts multiplied by three children gave new meaning to a well-rounded Christmas tree. We have learned.

That’s the problem with parenting. By the time we learn how to do it right, the children are grown and the damage is done. We’ll do better with the grandchildren, we’ve got this.

Wait a minute, grandparent play by a different rule book, don’t they?