The Nationall Charity League–My Perspective on Senior Present

         Tuesday night I saw a beauty pageant, an event that wasn’t called a beauty pageant, but I am calling it that because I saw eleven beautiful, young women who allowed you to look inside for their beauty. The beauty, poise, and grace we saw on the runway was just an added feature. It’s an event called “Senior Present.” Most of the time was spent in recognizing the service the girls gave to their community with their mothers. They took the time to recognize the hours of service of all girls from grade seven and up. The total numbers were staggering. These girls are learning at a young age to fit volunteering into their busy schedules. They are learning over a period of time to serve and help others. Yes, the runway walks were important and impressive. It was a part of the preparation of the senior girls to show how ready they are to step out and be comfortable in places they want to go. To introduce us to the last of each young lady’s four runway walks, we were prepared  with a video of her life. Memories and highlights. Tears of joy as family and friends remembered. And then the young lady dressed in a white gown and on the arm of her father, walked with confidence toward the stage as if it were her future. Her walk was accompanied with her recorded voice. This was her time to be grateful and gracious, to remember those who journeyed with her, and to look forward to all the places she will go. That was the theme, “Oh, The Places You Can Go.” 
            Yes, Tuesday night was a highlight moment event, an .  event that chronicled the journeys of eleven beautiful young women who are graduating from high school this spring. This audacious group of NCL seniors and their mothers served their community together. NCL is “Mothers and Daughters serving their community.” The night was long as it  focused the spotlight on service awards–hundreds and hundreds of hours of service in shelters, the food pantry, playing bingo with seniors, and so many other places.

            I have been to some pretty interesting events all over the world in my nearly 93 years. I have heard girls and mothers talk about NCL. I have watched my granddaughter for the last four years, and I have heard so often, “I have an NCL meeting, or I am volunteering this weekend, today, or whenever. Often it seemed it was on top of two varsity sports, AP classes, or a voluminous amount of other work. I’m certain many of the Ticktocker hours were served when a beach trip might have been an alternative.

I applaud NCL, their purpose, and their results. It was a wonderful night. When you see these young women and hear of their accomplishments, you want to engage them incineration and hear more about their dreams, their aspirations, and the places they can go.  

Thanksgiving Day Thanks Giving Reminder

        It’s amazing how easy it is for folks to get into the spirit of a holiday. Those special days are reminders, lest we forget. On Thanksgiving, people gather around a feast-laden table. They hold hands and give thanks for all those present, those who are not at the table, for friends, family, and the food that has been provided. There is reverence, gratitude, joy, and friendship. Conversations are civil and memory rich. Remember the time that…

       The feast is just part of the day as families and friends gather. A father throws endless high-arching passes to his young  son who deftly grabs the football and throws it back, eagerly awaiting the next pass. Two little pre-teen, compatible cousins shoot hoops or drop by the appetizers to grab bites to fill the voids in growing girls bodies. Or all of the kids invent their own games and laugh and squeal with delight. And there is always the cell phone activity. And there are older cousins who sit and talk, text a lot, and help when called. The television is tuned to the Thanksgiving Day football game, sometimes eagerly watched and other times totally ignored. The kitchen is the busiest place in the house where it’s all systems go! Beautiful children continue to run in and out and through the house. Grandma and grandpa sit with smiles at the wonder of it all. Moms and Dads are trying to manage the stress of such a big day with so many moving parts. But they all come together and dinner is served. The after-dinner game of hide-and-seek in the house is a game enjoyed by the little and the “big” kids

          As we think about our Thanksgiving Day filled with so many positive happenings, so much love, so much fun, and so many pictures for the camera of the soul, we smile and give thanks.

          If we were to journal the week following Thanksgiving, we would find the same things happening and more, just not all in one place. Somehow we forget to be grateful for the ordinary things that happen every day. The simple things that we hurry through–the warm shower, a breakfast, the beauty of a morning walk, the children clamoring for our attention as they ready for school, the car and the roads that take us to work or school, our teachers, our colleagues, our friends and neighbors. Learning to be grateful is a task for all moments. So often we don’t say thanks until we regain something we have lost.

           On the day after Thanksgiving we have the same choice that we have each day: to be grateful or not. The joy experienced from the gratefulness expressed and felt on Thanksgiving Day is available each day, each hour, each minute. It is a gift that is with us always, but we must choose to be grateful. With gratitude, comes joy.

Proud to Be a Veteran

 Every one is a veteran of something because you have done it for some time, but being a Veteran because  you have raised your right hand to serve your country, uphold its Constitution, and protect it from enemies from within and without, is quite a different matter. You are allowed to wear that uniform that sets you apart and requires much of you.

        Military service was not on my planned life’s journey itinerary. That is, until a young female naval officer came to talk to the girls in her former high school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Those girls just happened to be in my physical education and biology classes. These kids were among those I taught in my first teaching job.

        I was a mere 21. She talked of the War, the Navy, the opportunity, but most of all the duty. It was early 1943; Pearl Harbor was still a raw subject. The War in the Pacific was horrific. The War in Europe was difficult. The young naval officer was not a recruiter; she was just a citizen turned patriot. She was going to do whatever she could to help those brave men aboard the ships, the planes, and the landing barges that carried the men to islands in the Pacific that became infamous and those that sometimes weren’t even named on the maps of the world.

        The Navy needed physical education instructors to work with the physical fitness of the WAVES, the women in the Navy, she said. I could do that; I could serve my country. After I enlisted, I was sent to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for my physical. During my interview, the officer suggested that I was too young to be an officer. In my youth, I became enraged and gave a lecture to her on the lack of relationship between age and maturity. She was not pleased, decided to rid herself of the upstart, and sent me to take the physical. Having been blessed with good health coupled with my attention to my fitness, the physical was a breeze.

I raised my right hand, repeated the words of the oath, and I was in the Navy. I thought that I would be able to finish out the school year, but that was not to be. I was called to my first duty base in May, 1943.

        Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was like a foreign country to this small town girl from Iowa and the pheasant filled prairies of South Dakota. It is a beautiful and elite women’s college. The town was definitely a cultural adventure for me. We ate at the famous Inn in the city. I came to understand that the food was extraordinary. But then I only knew lobsters existed because I studied Biology in college. I came to relish the new things to explore. It did not take long to appreciate the fine cuisine at the Inn.

        I came also to understand the uniqueness of the women with whom I served. I was one of very few with just a bachelors degree; most had masters and doctorates. It was amazing to learn what people had left to raise their right hand. So many left very prestigious positions. It truly was an interesting, diverse mix of women who had accomplished much in their civilian lives; I did not truly understand how much until after the War when I came to understand fully the glass ceiling.

        As the training came to a close, we all eagerly awaited our “orders.” Mine took me to the Naval Air Technical Training Center at Millington, Tennessee, not far from Memphis. It was a huge base with a Naval Air Station across the street and a Naval Hospital just down the street. The military during the War was a great melting pot and equalizer. The uniform of the United States Navy or Marine Corps was the same for celebrity, teacher, farmer, business executive, movie star, football coaches and football stars, famous chefs and photographers, holders of gold medals, the college grad, or the kid who dropped out of school. Insignia told you what they were doing, but most certainly not where they were from. But we all took the same oath.

Yes, I am proud to be a veteran. I have been able to speak of my pride when folks express surprise that I was in the Navy. Some seem to think that women in the armed services were quite different from those that I knew. My children know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My grandchildren know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My friends know, my colleagues know, and any shipmates I meet certainly know. The sports guy who wants to stop playing the national anthem at sports events will never know or understand my pride. Too bad. His loss.

       America, feel my pride.   I am just one among so many. But I am ONE. As long as I have voice and pen, I will tell you about my  pride.  Do not ignore those who would silence the pride of those who know it. And above all, preserve the voice of those who served and paid the price of the silent voice. They rest with pride; we must be their voice, too.

 

When I Was a Little Girl…

I walked to school in snow that was occasionally quite deep. When I got to school my feet were cold, my mittens were wet, and my hands were very cold. The schoolhouse was nice and warm, heated by the pot-bellied stove that the teacher had started a fire in much earlier. I don’t know what time the teacher had to get there.

Now, when I was your age or when I was a little girl are statements that can produce the closing of the ear passages. The words can bring a sigh or at least non-verbal behavior that indicates disinterest. Or it might even bring the statement, “Well, would you like to go back to those horse-and-buggy days?”

No, I don’t want to go back to freezing hands and feet. And I don’t want my grandchildren to have to walk in deep snow to school, or run behind a horse-drawn bus to keep warm, or sit on the cold wood seat with a bag of salt or a hot brick to moderate the cold just a wee bit.

However, I wouldn’t mind going back to some other things I learned.

I appreciated the heat because I knew the cold. I appreciated the snow and the warm summer days because I knew both. I appreciated the teacher who went early to light the fires for her kids; I never heard her say it wasn’t in her contract or that her day started fifteen minutes before the kids arrived. I never heard one of my teachers say she had to go home when I wanted to stay and read a book; she knew I didn’t have books at home. She would just put more wood in the stove.

I learned character from my family and from the great stories with a message in my readers. I wasn’t separated from the concepts of our Founders that have made a great nation because of the “establishment clause.”  I read about our history as it really happened. I learned about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They were there to guarantee the freedoms that people fought and died for. It was presented as the lasting document that it must remain if we are to survive as a republic. No one suggested modernization to “fit the culture and the times.”  I learned from the writings of the Founders that they sought Divine Guidance in their work.

Yes, I learned to appreciate, to be grateful for the opportunities, to love my country and understand what has made it great. And I didn’t expect anyone to shovel a path in the snow to make my trek easier. In the process of it all, I learned to serve, to shovel paths that make it easier for those who follow.

 

Christmas Memories and a Happy New Year, 2013

I looked at the Christmas tree lights as I turned them on this morning. I wondered why it did not seem the same three days after Christmas as the first time they were turned on before Christmas for the Christmas season. They shine with the same amount of light. The sparkle on the ornaments is beautiful. They light the room with the same glow each time they’re turned on. Hmmnnnnn!!! What is the difference? The physical dimensions of the situations remain the same. Must be me, then. Within my being, there must be a difference in the two situations–pre-Christmas, and post–Christmas.

The Christmas tree is a very visible piece of what has become the ritual of Christmas. The poinsettias, the Christmas cards, the various manger scenes, the Christmas Eve program, the gifts that grow beneath the tree, the cookie baking, shopping for the Christmas dinner, family telephone conversations, hanging the garlands, checking out travel plans for yourself or for those coming to see you, and on and on. And most of all the expectation of it all. Amidst the clutter of the Christmas balls and bells, the shopping malls, and the outdoor lights, is the nagging and tugging at your inner self to remember really what the expectation is about. The nagging voice in your psyche keeps tugging at your soul as you wrap the gifts. Remember, it whispers, what the season is. Remember, it shouts, the greatest gift–the reason for the season. Remember to keep Christ in Christmas. Remember the star so bright that lit up the night. Imagine the expectation on that night–the birth of the Baby Jesus. And how do you wrap that gift?

Now Christmas day is over. It was wonderful. My family was here. All four grandchildren were able to be here. We opened gifts; we cooked and ate wonderful meals together, and yes, we ate dessert when we shouldn’t have. We talked and talked and even played an old-fashioned board game together, an activity filled with joyous family laughter. It’s wonderful to see generational fun away from a piece of technology.

Soon I will plant the poinsettia outside and hope they will grow to be great blobs of red in the California sun Christmas’s to come years from now. The Christmas tree will be carefully dismantled and the precious ornaments put to rest for another year. The ornaments on the “animal tree,” will find  their resting place in the box labeled  Animal Ornaments. The Santa Claus stuff, the reindeer, the village scenes, the wreaths, and other Christmas decorations will be taken down or dismantled and carefully packed in their homes until next year when they will be assembled again.

But this year when I wrap the manger scenes and the Baby Jesus, I will remember that the greatest gift ever given to me at Christmas was the birth of that manger baby in Bethlehem so long ago. It is the priceless gift that abides in me and has been with me since my birth. It is the gift that never grows old, never tarnishes like my silver does, sparkles like crystal without he sun, and gives me perpetual hope for my journey and beyond. It nourishes me and energizes my soul. It helps me to seek the good in others and to hope that evil subsides. Most of all the Spirit helps me to live a grateful life.

It’s not New Year’s Day yet, but I know what my New Year’s resolution will  be: I will not pack the message of the Baby Jesus away until another Christmas. He is the reason for this season and will remain the reason for every season in my life. He will not be just the Spirit of Christmas; he will be the Spirit of every day. I will remember that the wrap that I place around the Baby as I pack the pieces of the creche can no more contain him than the wrap that bound him in the tomb. He is free and available to all.

A Happy New Year with blessings to all.