Seasons In Life

As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we realize that over the course of our lives a diverse group of people have come and gone.  Some staying briefly, others for a season and on that rare occasion we’ve met someone who has stuck with us for a large part of our lives.

Ahh, the Memories

Recently while thinking about simple times, memories of my childhood came to mind.  My friends who made junior high fun, crazy and sometimes naughty, like kissing boys under the bleachers (yes, I did that a time or two…who didn’t?)

My youth was spent in the 1970’s and for the most part I cannot recall a dull moment (okay, well maybe when I had to babysit my younger sisters.) mendy-circa-late-70s If I wasn’t cheering for our recreation club’s football team (my mom sewed my cheerleading outfit as most did back then) my friends Sheri, Karla, Kim, and Amber and I were deciding whose house we’d be sleeping at on Friday night. We would spend those nights talking about boys (as they were never far from our minds), listen to the radio and have pillow fights.  We all attended Sligh Junior High in Tampa, Florida which at the time was a 7th grade center designed for cultural integration in the community; it is now called Sligh Middle School (named after the street it faces) and is home to middle school kids in grades 5th – 7th.

In the late 70s, we would play 4-square in the school’s courtyard after lunch and talk about boys (again..we were 7th grade girls) and on rare occasion other topics which ran the gamut. We wore the hairstyles of the day, one side straight down and the other clipped back tight against the head (a bit of a bizarre style if you ask me) or a long and feathered look, such as in my picture. School offered home economics class, shop and typing, I took all three not remembering what I made in either home eco or shop, but I do recall standing at an ironing board (who knew back then we’d have was and wear clothing in the 21st century?) We wore dresses that were at or below our knees, pantyhose and black baby doll (flat) shoes. We had “patrols” (with the orange patrol belt) who patrolled the halls making sure we didn’t run and kept order on buses during the rides to/from school. Oh yeah, an on the rare occasion we would go to the mall…there would always be a line at the photo booth, you know…where you would go in, sit down, draw the curtain and start making goofy faces, then step out and wait a minute or two for your four shots to magically appear!  The picture above is a photo booth sitting.

I remember quite well my time in junior high and physical education class, pfft! (rolling eyes!)  Oh how I hated P.E.!  I still believe the only form of exercise our Phy. Ed. teachers knew were laps; everyday without fail and as soon as we hit the basketball courts (after dressing out) we ran laps.  I ran around that basketball court so many times one year I could tell you the location of every divot, crack and dip. I was determined not to have P.E. the following year so I got a part-time job at McDonald’s on Busch Blvd across the street from Busch Gardens and signed up for the school’s early work release program which allowed student to work in the afternoons on school days, usually reporting to work around noon. When a student was on early release P.E., home economics or shop were the classes of choice to drop from our class schedule; all the kids in this program thought it was the best thing in life, especially if we had the day off from work we still left school early.

GrandbabiesAlthough Karla, Sheri, Kim, and Amber are not part of my life on a daily basis, a few of us still keep in touch via social media and texting. We are spread across the U.S. with Sheri in New Mexico, I am in Northern Kentucky and Karla, Kim and Amber are all in Florida. It’s hard to believe some of us are grannies and these are my four precious ones.

Ahh, the memories are a nice escape from the hectic life most of us lead in adulthood. Just writing this article has conjured up some really great visions of years gone too soon. Wow its so hard to grasp that I turned 50 in February of this year, W-O-W…where has the time gone?

As I grow older by the day I’ve found that its the simple things in life that make L-I-F-E an adventure. As a Nona (grandmother/grandma in Italian), I love that I can love on my grandchildren and when they get cranky… I hand them back to mom and dad. I love that I don’t have to put up with other people’s drama and there’s no law telling me I have to keep them in my life. I love that because of where I’ve been…I know where I’m going and planning my future has never been so much fun. I love that my “lifetime” friends love me for who I am and accept me completely, without question, ridicule or judgement.  They just love me! And lastly, I love walking down MEMORY LANE and bringing all those great memories into the present. Thank you for letting me share a smidge of my past with you.

The Next Generation of Adventurers

As I sit and contemplate my life thus far, the adventures I’ve experience with family, friends, and most importantly…my children, I am overwhelmed with the memories created and the excitement of those yet to come.

The Boy’s Adventures

As you may know The Boy graduated high school in the Spring of 2014, and enrolled in college which started about two weeks ago and so far so good.  He’s changed is major (in his head, not on paper) three times already. At first he had his sight set on a degree in general business administration, then it progressed into majoring in statistics or accounting, now…he’s seriously considering criminal justice and would eventually like to be a detective, a member of a S.W.A.T. team, or private investigator.

The last year has been filled with change and I’ve had no option but to acknowledge there will come a time, which is fast approaching, when my youngest will embark on his own “Life’s Adventures.” For now, I have a white-knuckle grasp, tightly holding onto the memories of when all my children were wee ones. Now they are all adults and those times of days-gone-by only have a home in my memory.

Future Expeditions

The Boy recently shared with me his desire to have a tattoo of a maritime compass placed on the back of this calf.  Why? Because a compass will always guide you in the direction toward your destination when the course for life has been set.

Thinking about The Boy, his life, and the decisions which lie in wait for him, I penned the following.

While always remembering the direction leading home,

Grab the wheel of life, Sail its seas,

Set your course toward adventure;

Enjoy the waves while leaving a trail of memories and your legacy.

©2015 Life’s Adventures

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A New Year, A New You With SPICES

The Christmas and New Year holidays are traditionally the most celebrated annual events worldwide. As the new year begins to unfold  a large majority of us seek ways to find a more balanced and fulfilled life.

A friend recently shared with me the acronym S-P-I-C-E-S which is a stress balanced-stones-blogmanagement and overall wellness concept in filling your life with a balance in the six areas of Social, Physical, Intellectual, Career, Emotional, and Spiritual.  Each element plays an important role in leading and successful living a well-rounded life and being genuinely happy with your life and the decisions/choices made.

As many know in a balanced life, “being well/wellness” is much more than being free from illnesses and/or a sick body.  It encompasses a positive attitude which incorporate a person’s sense of responsibility and uniqueness.

Social

Being socially active allows one to build and maintain relationships, both personally and professionally.

Physical

This is just as it states…being physical, exercising and maintaining the physical movement for balanced wellness (physically and emotionally.)

Intellectual

Being involved in mental activities which are stimulating and creative.

Career

Never underestimate the power of having goals and/or a direction in your life.

Emotional

Being aware of your emotions and feelings and express or respond in a positive manner.  You’ll be happy you did.

Spiritual

What describes you?  What are your personal beliefs, values, and ethics? These things have an impact on your “balance.”

Let’s strive to add balance to all areas of our life this new year.  Learn to be a little more patient with others, choose our words so they correctly express our true feelings without breaking down others.  Make it a goal to genuinely convey our gratitude to others and build them UP with encouragement.

Make 2015 your best year yet.  Try something new, make life an adventure, make a new friend or two and make memories!  Get out there…you’ve got a life to live!

Resources

Julie T. Lusk, M.Ed., R/CYT, Stress Solutions Now

25 Days of Christmas: Day 25 ~ Christmas Around the World, Part V

Christmas in the Middle East

Although much of the Middle East is devoted to Islam – or, in Israel, to Judaism – every year thousands of Christians from around the world make pilgrimages to the Holy Land, especially Bethlehem. They come to visit the place where, according to the Gospels, it all began. Not surprisingly, this is the time of the year when Bethlehem is most popular, although the scope of the celebrations often depend on the political climate at the time.

The festivities in the “little town” center on the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Fields. The Church of the Nativity is believed to stand on the place where Christ was born; under the church, within a small cave, a star on the floor marks the place where Mary gave birth to Jesus. The Shepherds’ Fields is said to represent the fields where the angels announced the arrival of Christ.

There are three Christian groups in Bethlehem. The Roman Catholics celebrate Christmas on December 25, the Greek Orthodox on January 6, and the Armenian Christians on January 18. Representatives protecting the interests of these three groups sit on a board that governs the Church of the Nativity, so that no group will be favored or slighted. No services are held within the church itself, but rather in an adjoining building. Services on Christmas Eve are by invitation only, but are televised to the crowds outside. Afterwards, most venture to the Shepherd’s’ Fields, which are also divided into three sections.

Christmas is also celebrated quite widely in Lebanon, with lights, carols, and midnight church services.  Papa Noel brings presents to children, and the meal often includes a cake that’s designed to resemble a Yule log.

Some of the more predominantly Muslim countries do have Christian sections, and in those sections Christmas is observed, although the observance is usually more strictly religious, as in Africa. Some countries, however, have Christian populations that have been celebrating Christmas for centuries.

In Armenia, it is believed that Christmas should be celebrated on the day of Christ’s baptism, which is January 6 in most church calendars. However, the Armenian Church follows the old Julian calendar, which marks this date as January 18. One week before Christmas there is a fast, during which no meat, eggs, cheese, or milk may be consumed. Religious services are held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Afterward, children go onto the roofs with handkerchiefs and sing carols; often the handkerchiefs are later filled with fruit, grain or money.

Christmas in the Far East

In the Far East, Christianity exists alongside such other faiths or ideologies as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shintoism. While Christians celebrate the holidays for its traditional meanings, many of the other aspects, such as decorating and gift giving, have been adopted more widely.

China

China was only opened to the West 400 years ago, so – relatively speaking – Christians and Christmas have not been around for long. A very small portion of the Christian ChinaChristmaspopulation celebrates Christmas that’s referred to as Sheng Dan Jieh, or the Holy Birth Festival. Christmas trees are called “trees of light,” and paper lanterns are intermingled with holly for decorations. Stocking are hung, and there are versions of Santa known as Lam Khoong-Khoong (nice old father) and Dun Che Lao Ren (Christmas old man). Gift given has some formal rules: Jewelry and other more-valuable gifts are only given to the immediate family; other gifts are given to relatives and friends.

More important to the majority of Chinese is the New Year, referred to as the Spring Festival, which is celebrated in late January. New toys and clothes are given and feasts are held. The spiritual aspects concern ancestor worship, and portraits of ancestors are displayed on New Year’s Eve. This is not, strictly speaking, a Christmas celebration, but it is a festive and popular seasonal undertaking.

Christmas in Other Parts of the World

Canada

CanadaChristmas1Christmas is celebrated in many different ways in Canada, a result of the way that cultural and religious groups from many parts of the world have found a home there. Many Canadians of Ukrainian descent, for example, follow the Orthodox church’s calendar, and celebrated Christmas on January 6. In French-speaking areas such as the providence of Quebec, the Roman Catholic traditions of displaying creches, or Nativity scenes, as decorations remain very strong, as does attending midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a hearty meal that includes tourtiere (a meat pie) and present opening.

The annual Santa Claus Parade in downtown Toronto began in 1905 as a way to celebrate the arrival of Santa at the Eaton’s department store. The first parade featured Santa arriving at the train station and walking to the store. Today, the parade – with bands, clowns, and intricately decorated floats – features almost 2,000 participants and stretches for more than three miles.

Along with the widespread North American traditions of decorating the home inside CanadaChristmasand out with lights, visiting Santa at local stores and malls to offer him a wish list, and decorating Christmas trees with ornaments and lights, many Canadians Christmas traditions depend on geography.

In the north, for example, the winter season was often celebrated before the arrival of Christmas with feasts, games, dogsled races, and gift exchanges. Known as Quviasuvvik, or the Happy Time, many of these traditions have now been wrapped into the church services and charitable causes that are part of Canadian customs throughout the country.

In Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, the Carol Ships are an annual traditional, as boats decorated with sparkling lights to take the harbor in a nightly parade throughout December.

Australia

AustraliaChristmas1As in South Africa, Christmas falls during summer vacation down under. Because of the climate, flowers are the most important Christmas decoration, particularly the Christmas Bush and the Christmas Bell. Father Christmas and Santa exist side by side – like siblings, which they certainly are. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas morning before attending church. Typically, the afternoon is spent at the beach or engaging in sports.

AustraliaChristmasAustralia is also the home of “Carols by Candlelight,” a tradition stated by radio announcer Norman Banks in 1937. After Banks saw a woman listening to carols alone by candlelight, he decided to do something to relieve the loneliness and isolation some feel during the holidays. He announced a community carol sing for anyone who wanted to join in. The concept has grown in popularity over the years, and the recorded program is now broadcast over the world.

 (Jeffrey, Yvonne; The Everything Family Christmas Book)

 Garland1-1

Regardless of where you live or how you celebrate the Birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. From our home to yours, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Year’s.

 

jomerry2

True Story: Under One Roof

This past weekend just about all of my waking hours were spent submerged in a captivating real life story.  I’m not always the first to hear about something (as in this case) and it apparently took eight years for this one to cross my “hmm, that’s interesting” radar.

UnderOneRoofI do not recall how I heard about the story a week or so ago, or what exactly about it caught my attention.  All I know is I was intrigued and had to learn more.  After researching all I could find online I knew there had to be more depth to the details than what was lightly brushed over in news articles and blog posts.  I researched a little more and found a book, written first-person by the gentleman in the story.  BINGO…NOW, that’s what I’m talking about!  Who would know the details better than first-person?

I quickly ordered the book Monday, received it on Friday and started reading it that night; finishing it on Sunday afternoon. I would have had it completed by Saturday afternoon, but there was eating, sleeping, and chores that sort of got in the way.

I am completely fascinated by the story of Edith Wilson Macefield (she once told Barry, her unintentional caretaker, “that it is important for a woman to keep and carry her maiden name to maintain her identity“) and simply could not put the book down until I read it in its entirety.

A Glimpse of Edith

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When Barry Martin took on the role of construction supervisor of a huge Seattle shopping complex, he never imagined that he would end up caring for Edith Wilson Macefield, a stubborn 84-year-old who had refused $1 million from the developer to move house. Here he describes their unlikely friendship.

I was nervous, that first day on the job, walking up to her house. I’d heard so much already. The developers had bought every inch of a block to build on, except for this one ramshackle house, so they were having to build around it. If anyone tried to talk to her, she was more likely to bite their head off than give them the time of day.

Edith was tending to her garden when I walked up to her and introduced myself. ‘Miss Macefield, I just want to let you know that we’re going to be making a whole lot of noise and mess, so if you need anything or have any problems, here’s my number.’

‘Well, that’s very nice of you,’ she said, taking my card and holding it close to her one good eye. ‘I’m glad to have you here. It’ll be nice to have company.’

Edith’s gate was just 40 feet away from my trailer, so whenever I saw her outside I found myself wandering over for a chat. Then one morning she rang my mobile and asked if I would mind driving her to the hairdresser. I was surprised by the request as she seemed to value her independence above everything else. Whenever I went to check that she was OK, I had to make it look like I just happened to be there, otherwise she’d get angry. At the appointed time I stood next to her 1989 blue Chevy Cavalier. It was a sturdy car with a dent in the front. She had a booster seat on the driver’s side so that she could see over the steering wheel. I sat down on it and hit my head on the inside of the roof.

‘I guess you’re a little bit bigger than me,’ she laughed.

‘Yeah, and getting wider every year, too.’

When I dropped her home after her haircut she thanked me.

‘Not a problem. Let me know if you need anything else. And Edith, your hair looks really nice.’

Edith and caretaker Barry outside her 'ramshackle' home.

Edith and caretaker Barry outside her ‘ramshackle’ home with her 1989 blue Chevy Cavalier.

As the weeks went by, I found it easier and easier to talk to Edith, yakking about everything and anything. But then, six weeks later, I went to collect her to take her to the hairdresser again and she was furious with me. ‘I just want you to know I didn’t appreciate that call this morning. You boys keep on hounding me to move – well, I’m not moving, so save your breath!’

I had no idea what she was talking about. ‘Your friend over there at the developers, he tried to sound all polite but I know what he was up to.’

‘Listen,’ I replied. ‘I work by the hour and it makes no difference to me whether you stay or go but let me ask you one question: why don’t you want to move?’

She looked out of the window. ‘Where would I go? I don’t have any family and this is my home. My mother died here, on this very couch. I came back to America from England to take care of her. She made me promise I would let her die at home and not in some facility, and I kept that promise. And this is where I want to die. Right in my own home. On this couch.’

She seemed so frail and so strong at the same time. So vulnerable and needy and yet so fiercely independent. I was moved by what she had told me and felt strangely protective of her. It was such a simple request. At another meeting the developers offered to bring someone in to take pictures of her house so that they could build an exact replica somewhere else. They mentioned the $1 million [over £600,000] again and said they would buy a new house for her. ‘I’m not sure why I need $1 million,’ said Edith. ‘If I get sick it probably won’t cover the medical bills and if I don’t get sick I don’t need it. And if you’re going to make the new place look just like this one, well this place already looks just like this one, so why should I bother?’

Edith’s House

Edith’s house, which looked a little sad and lonely to begin with, looked even sadder once all the buildings around it were torn down. It resembled some last outpost of a bombed-out village after the Second World War. Before long I was taking her to doctor’s appointments as well as to the hairdresser. Then I was scheduling her appointments myself. On one of our drives home she was wondering out loud what she might make herself for lunch. I told her that one of the boys was going out for hamburgers and she said that sounded good. I told them to bring her back a vanilla shake as well. That was the day I learned what a sweet tooth Edith had. She would stick the straw into her mouth and not stop until the shake was gone. Then she started calling me about once a week to ask for ‘a hamburger and one of those vanilla things’.

As Time Went By

It wasn’t long before I was making her a TV dinner, too, before I went home. One evening I noticed a picture sitting on the dusty bookcase in the living room. It was Edith wearing wire-rimmed glasses and holding a clarinet, looking for all the world like the great jazz musician Benny Goodman.

‘Edith, how old were you when you started playing the clarinet?’ I asked.

‘My cousin Benny gave me one of his old clarinets, that’s how it started.’ It was the second time she had mentioned him and it got me thinking. Was this actually true, or was this just an old lady with a few loony tunes? So I started flipping through her Benny Goodman albums and sure enough one was signed ‘to my cousin Edith, with love, Benny’.

As the shopping centre was beginning to rise up from the ground I got my first call from Edith’s social workers. They didn’t think she was capable of staying in the house by herself. Could I help convince her to move? What if something happened? And I said that something could happen anywhere and I was just 30 seconds away and would keep checking on her. ‘Well, if something goes wrong, you’re going to be responsible,’ they told me.

Caretaker and author, Barry Martin

Edith bequeathed her home to Barry – and he refused to sell it to the developers.

At that point something welled up in me; it was the first time I understood how much I was learning about growing old from Edith.

‘How am I responsible? I’ll check on her but she’s a grown woman and she can make her own decisions. She’s perfectly capable of knowing what she can or cannot do and if she wants to take that risk because it means staying in her own house, well that’s her right. People have rights you know.’

I was beginning to understand how much we do things for old people just to make things easier for ourselves. We don’t always listen to what they are trying to tell us. Every time Edith swatted my hands away as I tried to help her wipe her mouth or tie a shoelace, she would roar, ‘I can do it myself.’ Just as with a child, you try to convince them to let you help them, not for their sake but for your own, just to get through the day a little quicker. Dignity is a hard thing to let go of, especially for someone who had lived the kind of exciting life that Edith seemingly had.

The unlikely friendship and refusal to bow to developers is a real-life version of the Disney cartoon, "Up" (which by the way was already in the development stages two years before Edith's story came to light.)

The unlikely friendship and refusal to bow to developers is a real-life version of the Disney cartoon, “Up” (which by the way was already in the development stages two years before Edith’s story came to light.)

That autumn, as the days grew shorter, I had given up all pretence that there was some separation between my life with and without Edith. I wasn’t spending weekends with her but during the week I was in and out of her house from dawn till way after dark, making her meals, taking care of the bills and the chores, the shopping and the laundry, as well as watching TV with her. On the days when I’d make it home before dark, more often than not Edith would call me on the mobile with some problem or other, some excuse to make me drive back. I’ve had an accident, she’d say, or you forgot to leave water for me – I swear she’d take the jug of water I left on the table and struggle over to the sink to pour it out just to get me to come back.

I wonder, looking back, how my wife Evie coped with all this. She’d get irritated, of course. With two teenagers at home, there was always too much for one person to do. But when I asked her about it all she would ever say was that she was proud of me: ‘It takes a special person to do this.’

Edith fell down a number of times that winter. Too often I’d come over and find her on the floor. But still she wouldn’t let me bring in any help and she was getting more and more demanding of my time. It seemed like every time I tried to leave she manufactured some kind of crisis. One night she called me at home and told me she’d fallen. Evie was really starting to get irritated by these middle-of-the-night calls, but I still got a Thermos of hot chocolate and a kiss goodbye as I headed out of the door.

‘You don’t know,’ Edith said as I left after one of these crises, ‘how sometimes I lie awake for hours waiting for the morning, longing for the sound of your key in the door.’

It was probably the first time that she had got close to saying thank you. I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. ‘I love you, old woman. Now get some sleep.’

Edith seemed more fragile every day. I knew something was wrong. No one could eat as much as I was feeding her and keep losing weight. Finally she agreed to go to the hospital for tests. The news was not good – she had pancreatic cancer.  I guess when a woman reaches 86 you’ve got to at least consider the possibility of what she might be facing. But Edith was so self-assured, so in control that I never wanted to look around that particular corner. I had come to love her in the same way I loved my family. For a long time, Edith had been in a long dark tunnel, incontinent, unable to read or write. Now at least we knew why and she seemed at peace with the news. For Edith the darkness had been lifted even though it revealed a horrible truth. Now she knew what the future held.

How It All Began

Edith was born in Oregon in 1921, but not much is known about her life. She told Barry stories from her past that seemed so extraordinary that he was never sure whether or not they were true. She said that she had been recruited by British intelligence as a music student and sent to Germany to spy on the Nazis.

That she was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp, but escaped, taking 13 children with her to England.

She said she had a son who died of meningitis at the age of 13, fathered by her lover, the Austrian tenor Richard Tauber (below right), and that she went on to marry James Macefield who had a plantation in Africa where they spent months at a time.

Credit: Photo by CSU Archives/Everett Collection/REX (708712a)  Benny Goodman -  1943

Credit: Photo by CSU Archives/Everett Collection/REX (708712a)
Benny Goodman – 1943

‘Was she making all this up? It didn’t help Edith one bit if I figured out whether or not these stories were true,’ says Barry.

‘If I was going to be her true friend, and steadfast, then I was going to have to accept Edith for who she was: someone who had changed my life by giving me the chance to be a better person. She opened up my world and challenged me to do the right thing, even if that sometimes meant just listening.’

Edith became a symbol of the power of one individual against corporations. In the process she became something of a folk hero, and her story is said to have inspired the opening scene of the Pixar film Up (below), in which an ageing widower’s home is similarly surrounded by a housing development.

Edith died, aged 86, on 15 June 2008 at home on the same couch on which her mother had died. She left her house to Barry and his family.

Barry chose not to sell it to the developers but to a man who wants to preserve Edith’s spirit of resistance.

The story above is an edited extract from Under One Roof: How a Tough Old Woman in a Little Old House Changed My Life by Barry Martin with Philip Lerman.  You can order the book through Amazon online.

Some of This Author’s Favorite “Edith Quotes”

  • “Change is change.”
  • “Not philosophical at all” she said.  “Realistic. World of difference between the two.”
  • “Why the hell people dwell in the past is beyond me.”
  • “Tell them to get the hell out of here!”

Good night Edith.