To The Love Of My Life

P9050020_1Dear Cool,

Many years ago, a lonely girl sat in her tenth grade English class and watched a boy standing in the hallway with his girlfriend. He stared deep into her eyes with such adoration. This girl was absorbed in the moment as she watched from a few yards. Her heart was hurting from wanting that kind of love. She offered a prayer up to God. She pleaded that someday would He please give her someone in her life to look at her like that. Someone who had eyes just for her. She wanted to be loved like that.

A few years later, this girl started dating a guy. He looked at her like that. He not only looked deep into her eyes but pierced her soul. They had a connection. They fell in love.

A few years after that, they got married. They were in love. The details didn’t matter. At their wedding, someone asked where they were going to live. They looked at each other and laughed. They hadn’t planned past the honeymoon. They were in love. They figured God would take care of the rest.Image12

There were some rough years. Poor years. He was in college. She worked to support them. They lived off of Dinty Moore beef stew and Minute rice. They were in love. They didn’t have “things”, but they had each other. They had book cases made from cinder blocks and wood. They had a utility spool table. They did have a bed and other second hand pieces of furniture given to them. They would have been happy sleeping on the floor. They had each other, and they had love. That was all they needed.

The boy graduated from college. They had children. The girl’s job turned to motherhood, and oh, how she loved it. They bought a home. Life happened. The kids grew up and are in college. That boy and that girl are now a middle aged couple. They have many “things” accumulated through the years. Above all, they have love.

I thank God every day that He heard the prayer of that lonely desperately looking -for -love teenage girl that day. Not only did He answer that prayer, but He blessed that girl with the exact boy she had been watching over thirty years ago. Our souls clasped hands and melded. Now, they beat from a solitary heart. I am forever grateful for you and your love.

You have loved me, protected me, and provided for me, and I am

Forever Yours,

Cat

A Woman With A Purpose

My father’s family has many interesting stories with vibrant characteristics. These tales along with some of those family traits have been passed down through the generations. I have enjoyed the stories of my great, great grandmother who was a Monacan Indian, my pipe- smoking great grandmother, my Civil War horse-carriage ambulance driver great grandfather, and many other equally colorful people. But my favorite stories are about my great grandmother who was a midwife.

Granny Annie was a fiercely independent woman. She married my great grandfather when she was eighteen years old. She entered the marriage owning her own farm. Her father had given her a farm and an adjoining one to her brother, Bob. Her farm had more acreage and a lot of timber. Bob’s farm had more open land for farming. Bob’s farm was of more interest to Annie because her husband Llewellyn was a farmer, so they swapped farms. Since this was her husband’s livelihood, she made him purchase the farmland from her. She was her own woman from the get-go.

Annie became a midwife by accident. Her pregnant cousin came to the mountains for a visit and went into labor a month early. She, Annie, and the small children were the only ones at home, so there was no way to get the doctor. If something had to be done, Annie just clenched her jaws and did it. He only experience delivering babies was giving birth to her own six months prior. A few months after that event, a neighbor went into labor and the doctor was unable to come so they sent for Annie. Then, it happened again and again.

One day Doctor Dawson paid Annie a visit. He wanted to know what she was charging. She was downright indignant. She was doing the neighborly thing, and they in return would do her a favor. Sometimes, she got a chicken or a watermelon but never money. He said he figured that and it just wasn’t right. And another thing, she was delivering six babies to every one he delivered. With all of the illnesses and things he had to tend to he just couldn’t get to all the deliveries. He needed her, but the problem was these babies didn’t have birth certificates. Annie thought that was just plain crazy. Their parents knew they were born and she knew they were born. The doc explained that it was the law. And to top that, she needed a license. Annie thought that was even crazier than accepting money for her services. Finally, he convinced her and she decided to go take the test.

Annie soared through the written test, and then had to answer questions from the board members. One asked her what she would do if she faced a breech birth. She answered, “I’d cut out of there and run like the devil!” They roared with laughter and rewarded her with her license.

With a license, the people no longer considered her a midwife. They thought of her as a real doctor and they called on her to treat anything they would call on Dr. Dawson to treat. She set bones, treated dysentery, attended pneumonia cases, and many other illnesses. If she found herself in a bind, she would send someone for Dr. Dawson. Annie rode her horse “Bird” sidesaddle all over the countryside to take care of the folks in need. Sometimes she’d be gone for days at a time. She practiced medicine until she was almost 60 years of age. Her husband died and she moved to the city to live with her daughter, thus forcing herself into retirement.

Annie emerged from retirement to deliver my father in 1930. He was the last baby she ever delivered. She died eight months later at the age of 66. My uncle is in possession of her leather bound ledgers containing the names and dates of birth of over 350 babies that she brought into this world.Annie Maria Carter Mr. Mann 1

I see Annie’s physical attributes in many of my female relatives. These relatives also share the sense of humor, strength, stubbornness, and compassion that enabled Annie to accomplish what few women of her time and means were capable.

My Own Family Jewel

PA110003I don’t treasure “things”. Things aren’t important to me. People are important to me. I treasure people and what they bring into my life. I treasure the emotions I experience with certain people. I like things, but treasuring things just aren’t at the top of my list.

The questions posed was what things would you run back into a burning house to save. I really wouldn’t run into a burning house to save anything, but I would to save people or animals. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. My tastes and delights are quite simple. With that being said, I’ll try to name a few of my favorite “things” and what they mean to me.

I absolutely love pajamas. I love the comfort they provide me. The feeling of laziness and slumber. I usually have a few pairs that I wear more than others, and it nearly kills me to part with them. I generally keep them until they reach the point of being threadbare. Finding replacements for the discards is a chore in itself because I never think the new ones will even begin to compare to the coziness and contentment that the previous ones granted me. My perfect day would allow me to wear my pajamas all day. Pajamas become like really good friends that I hate to see move away.

Another thing that I really enjoy are cookbooks. I like to browse through them and drool over the pictures of all the wonderful comfort foods. It goes right along with something I can do on a perfect day in my pajamas. I plan fabulous meals. I make menus, grocery lists, and mark pages of recipes I want to try. I actually do try out many of the recipes. And I can do that in my pajamas. I like to cook almost as much as I like to eat.

A third item that I like are socks. They are warm and cozy. They make me feel good, all toasty inside. I like socks that make a statement. I have socks for every holiday, even if it‘s one I don‘t celebrate. I wear socks with dogs, cats, frogs, cartoon characters, and flowers. I own lots of bright colorful socks. I like really goofy socks. I hate it when my socks get holes in them because again, it’s like parting with a good friend when I have to throw them out. I have even tried sewing them instead, but wearing lumpy socks is worse than letting them go. I like warm feet, especially if they look cute.

However, there is one thing…a piece of jewelry that actually does mean the world to me. It is not the piece itself but the sentiment behind the gift that makes it so special. One year around Christmas, I was lamenting about how I did not own a single piece of jewelry or item of otherwise importance that was handed down for generations. I had no family jewels. I told him that I was envious that his sisters had jewelry that had belonged to long lost (dead) relatives. In this conversation, I mentioned an antique pendant I had seen at an estate sale. It was a silver necklace with a beautifully carved cameo encased in amber. Well, that sweet, wonderful husband of mine went and hunted down the exact piece I referred to and gave it to me for Christmas. I think it was truly the only gift that has ever made me cry. It was given with such love, I was overwhelmed. I was so touched that he took the time and the effort to hunt down that piece of jewelry so that I could have my own family heirloom to be passed down through the generations. Now, maybe I would run back into a burning house to rescue my family jewel!

A Little Rain, A Little Peace.

It is difficult to narrow the theme song of my life to just one song. I mean I think I could probably take every single song Creedence Clearwater Revival ever recorded and somehow tweek it to fit some part of my life. I just love their music…the beat…the words. I mean what’s not to love?

I think I’m going to break this into two parts and claim “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” as the theme for the first part. I grew up in a large chaotic household with an even larger and more conflicted extended family. I was a child filled with anxieties. I worried about losing everyone I loved. I worried about wanting anything because I knew things cost money and  did not want to be an additional burden. I was fearful of new situations, distrustful of new people, and petrified of loud noises and storms. I learned to conceal this stress behind a smile and commanded as much control over my life as I was able.

I have lived much of my life in frustration and unnecessary turmoil from worrying about things of which I have no control. I was (and to a degree still am!) a control freak. I had gotten to the point that I was living what I considered a happy life, but still I was plagued by the ‘what ifs”. What if I had left the stove (or the iron or my curling iron) on and the house burned down? What if I hadn’t locked the door and we were robbed? What if I lost my job? What if someone I loved was killed in a car accident? The thoughts were constant. I was living in the calm before the storm. I was so busy waiting for my world to be washed away that I wasn’t enjoying my life.

I have never had huge career ambitions. Moving up the corporate ladder was never my goal. The most important thing in my life was my family. I wanted to provide them with a happy and stable home. I wanted it as much for them as I did for myself. I needed this home and this family as a comfort and a refuge. It was vital to my absolute being that I give my children the security that I never felt as a child. I sometimes did this at my own expense, kind of like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

However, I kept searching for “things” to make us happy. We joined organizations that associated us with the parents of our children’s peers. We became involved in school and sport activities and supported various community causes. I was the good wife and mother who did not know how to say no. I did almost anything and everything for almost anyone who asked. There were times that I was frazzled and tired, but we were living “the good life”. We measured up to the standards of our friends and neighbors.

Seventeen years ago, something happened that changed my perspective on life which in turn rerouted the course of our lives. I was held up at gun point at my job. There has never been a more eye-defining moment in my life. I lived to make it home to the three most important people in my life, my husband and our two small sons. I learned that day that life must be shared through the heart and not through designer labels or trying to impress people who were probably not going to be a part of our lives in ten years. I’m not saying that I made those changes that very day, but the seed was planted.

My focus changed, but it still took me five more years to say goodbye to my job. It was amazing how much stress disappeared when I walked out of those doors for the last time. I opened my own business which is not completely stress free, and yes, I do demand to be somewhat in control. There are two things that I can control, and they are my actions and my reactions. I try not to waste time and energy worrying about the decisions and actions of others. If things don’t go according to my plans…it’s okay, not the end of the world. I reevaluate and take things from there.

So, this takes me to the theme song of the second part of my life. I live most of my days to “Peace of Mind” by Boston. I have worked long and hard to achieve this balance…this comfort in my spirit. I try not to worry about things before they happen but deal with them if and when the situation arises. According to The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness, the secret of happiness is good judgment which is achieved through experience which is attained by bad judgment. It’s not to say that I don’t still make mistakes, but I learn from them. All that I have been and everything I have done has attributed to who I am now. And I am satisfied.

I think a lot of the changes that I’ve made in my life through the years has purely come from the wisdom that can only come from age and experience. I don’t live my life according to the opinions or directions of friends or relatives. I live my life by my own standards. I try not to worry about what other people think, and sometimes that’s hard. The bottom line is that I know their opinions might affect my attitude but won’t have any bearing on my soul. I mostly live through my heart, but I have to occasionally check in with my brain to keep the balance. When my heart is warm and my mind is peaceful, I am happy. Really, what more could I want?

Moon And Clouds

Afterlife With DMV

It is true he thinks as he trudges the long, dusty driveway to the mailbox. Old people do like getting mail. It is usually bills and the monthly pittance the government deems acceptable to meet his needs. At seventy-nine, he resides on the ragged edge of living through today and the staunch reality that tomorrow may never come for him, so the rare card from one of the kids with maybe a picture of one of the grandchildren or an even rarer social invite can launch him into a state of euphoria for a solid month.

He pulls the stack of letters out of the shiny silver box. He glances through them saving the sale pages and bills for his wife to deal with as one from the DMV catches his eye. His name is in the address window, however “The Estate of” appears before his name. What the heck?, he thinks and opens it. It reads that since the owner of said vehicle is deceased that the executor of his estate must appear before a judge in order to renew the registration of the car. Bunch of idiots, he thinks.

He storms through the front door and practically throws the mail at his wife. “Look at this, will ya? Can you believe this? Ridiculous! I tell ya they’re trying to kill me off.”

The wife who is a bit more calm and patient calls the DMV to straighten out the matter. “Well, according to our records he is deceased” was the reply she received.

“Well, he’s not dead!”

“Are you sure?”

“What do you mean am I sure? I think I’d know if my husband was dead!”

“Well, I am going to need proof.”

“Do what?’

“Is your husband there, ma’am? Can I speak with him?”

The wife shoved the phone at the husband. The DMV agent reiterated that she was speaking to the man that according to the DMV database is expired. “So, this is really you I am speaking to?”

“Yes, unless it’s my ghost and I have not been informed.”

“So, you are not deceased because we received a report that you died?”

“Unless this is Heaven and not at all what I expected or this is Hell which is a replica of my life and not what I feared, I am very much alive.”

“Well, I am going to need proof that you are alive.”

“ I am breathing and speaking to you at this very moment. What more proof do you want? Do I need to go to my doctor and get a documentation of life for you?”

“Well, since this didn’t originate from our office, you’ll have to take it up with the agency who reported it.”

“You have got to be kidding me! And who would that be?”

“I guess it would probably be Social Security.”

“You guess? It either is or it isn’t. And if they had reported it, I am positive I would not have received my pension in yesterday’s mail.”

“You have to contact them as it had to have been an error on their part, not ours. Have a pleasant day.”

“Have a pleasant day, my foot! I just found out I’m dead!” he shouts as he slams down the phone.

Next he calls the Social Security Administration. After an hour of bureaucratic red tape, the agent determines that he indeed is not dead and according to their database his benefits have not been halted, and since the error did not originate in their office, they could not possibly correct it. They suggest he call DMV and demand that a manager get to the bottom of the situation.

He calls DMV again and gets the same helpful young woman who faulted the SSA. “Your job might would be easier if I was dead, but I can assure you I am not. I want some answers. Now.” He says this to the concrete block on the other end of the phone line.

After much blame shifting and arguing over his demise, she finally places him on hold and puts her superior on the phone. The superior asks the ultimate question of his social security number. It ends up that the Social Security Administration had not reported his death but reported the death of someone whose number was one digit off and the DMV agent keyed in the wrong number placing him on the death list. “Well, it’s all straightened out now, and you should not have any further problems”, she retorts. He wonders what will happen when he sends in his registration renewal or maybe he’ll show up in person at DMV as living proof of his current living status.

Almost Dead in Winter

I was in the office alone, posting patient payments like I did every Wednesday afternoon. I looked up to see a scruffy older man slowly making his way to the glass partition that separates my desk from the waiting area. He asked me if Medicaid covered dental care for adults. I told him no. Then, he asked me how much it would cost to have a tooth pulled. I gave him quotes for an x-ray and an extraction and offered to make him an appointment. He scanned the room as he talked to me, never removing his right arm from behind his back. He refused an appointment. As he left, he scooted to the side out of my view before he turned to walk out.

I started to feel a bit troubled as the memory of my friend being held up at gunpoint at a McDonalds when she was in college. I locked the front door. Then, I started feeling guilty. I was always supposed to keep the door unlocked, and I knew that Dr. D would have a conniption if he found out. After all, someone might need to pay on an account or make an appointment. We couldn’t have the world inconvenienced by my apprehension. I really didn’t want to tick Dr. D off, so I unlocked the front door, but made sure the door between my desk and the waiting area was secure. I left the glass partition open because I was certain that no one would try to climb through it.

About ten minutes later a teenage girl sauntered to the window at my desk. “Do you accept Medicaid?” I told her yes. At the absolute most, she was eighteen, so she had dental coverage.

She snapped her right jaw over and over and jerked her head down to her neck on her right side. “I have a toothache.” She continued snapping her jaw and bobbing her head.

“The first available appointment I have is tomorrow morning at ten. Would you like it?”

“Yes”.

“What is your name?”

“Tanya Smith.” I scribbled her name in the appointment slot, and made out an appointment card and handed it to her. She didn’t take it from my hand.

“I want to see the dentist, now!”

“I’m sorry. He’s not here today, but he can see you tomorrow morning.”

“Is there anyone else here?”

“No, but the dentist will be here in the morning.”

All of a sudden I was staring down the barrel of a revolver. The barrel seemed a foot long and it was so black that it shined blue. “Give me all the money!” She waved the gun even closer to my face. If she shoved it any closer, I would be able to feel the cold metal against my skin.

With both hands clasped around the handle, she had a steady grip on the gun. He arms never flinched, all the while her jaw snapped like a warped record. I figured I must be in the middle of a really bad dream. This could not possibly be happening in real life. I pinched my right arm with my left hand. Dang, it hurt. It was a real live nightmare, and it was my nightmare.

“I said give me all the money in here.” I actually let out a chuckle. It must have been my nerves getting the best of me. I opened the cash drawer and pulled out two insurance checks and a personal check from a patient. I thought everyone knew that dental offices did not deal in cash. I dropped the checks onto the desk for her to see.

“No, I want your money!” It was as if she knew I had just cashed a large insurance check at the bank before I came to work. I was supposed to pick my car up after work at the repair shop.

I bent down to reach my purse under the desk. “Get back up here where I can see you. Did you push a button?’

“No.” It dawned on me that she thought we had a silent alarm. I wished we had an alarm system.

“I asked you did you push a button.”

“I told you I did not.” I decided then and there that I was not going to give my money to this crazy girl . She was going to kill me and I was NOT going to give her my money to boot.

It was exactly one week before Christmas, and this lunatic was going to shoot me. My Aunt Jenny’s voice popped in my head which the words she’d spoken to me when I was a teenager. “If you are ever in distress, call on the name of your Lord”. I started praying under my breath. “Please God, show me what to do. Help me get out of this alive. Please don’t let my children become motherless. They are so young and still need me.” She was still yelling at me, but I couldn’t hear her words over the words I was praying in my head.

Then, I heard the voice inside my head. “Run. Just run.”

At some point I stood up. “Sit back down and be quiet.” I thought this girl is going to kill me. My husband and children’s Christmases will be ruined forever. Inside I panicked. Outside, I was composed (only by the grace of God). I knew the space between the pistol and me was the divider between my life and my death.

“Give me your money. Now! ”

I started to rise again. She yelled at me to sit down. “I’ll get you my money. It’s in the back.” I lied to her.

“No. You ain’t going nowhere!” She thrust the gun at me.

“You can come with me“, I offered. I had no intention of letting her through to my side of the door.

“Sit down! Don’t move!” I could hear the tremble in her voice. I continued rising and backed away from my chair to the other side of the counter and dropped to the floor behind the counter out of her line of vision. I didn’t think she could get a clean shot at me. The voice kept pleading with me to just go for it. I decided that I had no alternative but to go for it. I assumed that if she shot me when I stood up it would hit me in my back. I might be paralyzed me, but probably wouldn’t kill me or disfigure my face. Then I wondered how I could be so vain when my life was flashing before my eyes. It was my only chance. The voice told me to go. To run for my life. Not to look back.

I darted down the hall and out the rear door, never looking back. I reached the first business. Door locked. Second office. Door locked. Where the heck were these people? Did the whole complex take off on Fridays? The third door I reached was the management office. It was unlocked. I pushed the door closed behind me and locked it. Did I really think she was going to follow me? I bolted up the steps two at a time. And I lost it. I started shaking and crying. I was barely coherent. The secretary called the police and Dr. D.

When the police arrived, I went back to the dental office. The rear and front doors were wide open. The three checks were still lying on the desk. My purse with all my money intact was under the desk where I had left it. I filed the necessary reports. They dusted for fingerprints. Dr. D arrived and told me I could leave for the rest of the day. What a guy!

The girl who temporarily stole my life was never caught. But I was reunited with my God who whispered me safely into His arms.