Coffee Chat: Merry Month of May







Come in, Lovelies and let us take a leisurely cup of coffee.  It's a little cool yet for iced tea and porches.  I am sure it's our last cool spell of the year.

Sit down and let us talk a bit.  I've much to share.

Shall I begin with the family day we just had?  It was a lovely day.  Hot, my gracious, that whole weekend was hot and heavy with humidity.  Indoors felt good with the air conditioning coming on routinely and a fan stirring the air, too.  Everyone practically arrived at once and they all departed at once as well, but in between was the visiting and that was so nice.  I had a little chance to hold Isaac before everyone arrived.  His mama dressed him in a jeans and plaid shirt outfit that my mom bought him and he looked like a linebacker.  He's such a hefty little boy and so serious.  He frowns at the world a lot, but I think it's more to help his focus because he likes to look at things and people.  He loves to be held, which is a good thing, since he was only put down long enough to change.  Everyone had an opportunity to hold him, but every one also heard from Josh that this was his Isaac and nobody could have him for keeps because Mama needed him. 

Taylor never glanced Isaac's way at all.  She wasn't in the least disturbed by Mama and Daddy holding him.  I was beginning to wonder why he generated no interest at all from her when his Gammy Jenny went to change his diaper. All of a sudden a diaper change and kicking little legs brought Taylor's focus upon him.  She watched, she helped, she touched his hand and his feet and felt his head.  She was oh so gentle the whole while.  Then she offered to help put on his jeans and once the jeans were on Isaac was invisible to her once more.



Taylor chatters constantly.  She talks to everyone.  We can't understand a single word really but every now and then the ear catches something that sounds like a word or phrase.   The key seems to be to let the sub-conscious sort out what she's saying.  Josh communicated with her just fine but one incident still has me laughing.  He and Taylor were sitting together in the kitchen chair and Taylor had taken out her dubby as she calls her pacifier and was chattering away.  Sam was going to take a picture of them and asked Josh, "What did she say?"  "She said,' Bah dah blod ya do bey gah,".   Sam laughed so hard he couldn't take a picture and Matt had to capture the moment.  Sam told me, "What was funny was that he perfectly imitated her...he just didn't interpret it for me."

There were so many funny moments that had us all laughing.  After dinner, Matt picked up Taylor and shook off her crumbs over the table so the tablecloth would catch them all.   We Mamas all agreed it was the smartest thing he could have done but how we did laugh at his practicality. 

The children were in the music room with Grampa when Taylor tripped over the guitar chord.  That pulled it from the guitar and created a horribly loud noise.  Both children ran from the room.  Josh was terribly frightened by it all and cried while Taylor just hid.   The parents in the room with them laughed and laughed over it all and Grampa had to encourage Josh to come back and see what made the noise and explain it was all right. 

After dinner we went onto the front porch, having sent daddies out to scatter eggs. We felt at this age scattering was better than hiding.  And here I got amused because unknownst to me they took up both the filled eggs and the ones that were empty and the children could have cared less.  It was an egg, they found them and they were happy.  That opening some produced a surprise made them doubly happy because they wanted to open ALL of them.  

Josh was a pro at egg hunting having mimicked his Sunday school buddies at the church hunt.  Taylor was so sweet.  She handed Uncle Sam her basket and then proceeded to have him follow her about while she gracefully picked up eggs and deposited them into the basket.  There is something about little girls, isn't there, that just seems to know who is a willing knight to their princess?

Towards the end of the visit every child had a mini meltdown.  To a person they were all tired and over stimulated and had long trips ahead of them.  Everyone got a fresh change of clothing, a cooling wipe down and were packed into car seats and off they all went.  The house, which had rung with laughter and rattled with movement and rocked with raised voices seemed unnaturally still and quiet.  For about five minutes I mistook it for peace; then I realized it was just empty.

We were mightily disappointed that our eldest son, home on leave, returned to base on the west coast without so much as a text or phone call, much less visit.  We'd have happily met him anywhere he'd suggested but it didn't happen.  We didn't know he was returning to his base until I stumbled upon a facebook post Saturday evening.    I sometimes do not at all understand my two oldest children and I mean that sincerely.  We appear to have a decent relationship but their hearts and minds somehow are not connected to the family the way that Katie and Sam's are.  Perhaps it's true independence.  I don't know.   They are neither one of them communicators in the usual sense. 

But what is usual these days?  Let's face it: Facebook, texts...not even emails really and let's completely forget postal service.  I shall not complain.  Were it not for Facebook, I'd not have known he was home, nor that he left again.  I'd not have seen his children had he not posted a goodbye picture of them.  I'd never have vicariously joined in with Lily's 11th birthday party had it not been for a video on Facebook.  And I do enjoy the sometimes daily chatters with Katie and Bess on posts or via texts.

By now you've likely read the post of what's happening in May in my home.  Charm School...Anybody else just love those sorts of books when they were growing up?  I learned probably more from them than I myself realized.  There were pointers of course from my mom and Granny and Grandmama but not really any teaching per se.  And then there were my great grandmothers and Great Great Aunt whom I called Mama Lee.  All six women were different in their ways of conveying grace.

Mama was an attractive young woman.  She knew how to dress her hair and how to dress herself too but her mode of teaching was criticism.  "Don't sit with your legs apart like that!"  Never an example of how I ought to sit.  "Nice girls don't wear visible make up."  I wasn't sure what the point was if you couldn't tell it was on.  "Women oughtn't to wear bright nail polish.  It's gaudy." "Perfume should never be evident to anyone but you."   That sort of thing.   There was some wisdom in what she had to say, critical though it was.  I did sit in an awkward and uncouth sort of way.  Some nail polishes and make up too can be too much in evidence.  Perfume shouldn't announce itself from across a football field or even across a parking lot.  

There was always something just a little bit immodest about Mama, and I don't mean in dress, but in manner.  She was a little too quick tempered and a little too prone to speak loudly and always quick to be slightly off color in remarks.  She often said she was 'frank' in her replies.

Granny's was more direct advice though there was little enough of it.  "Get a good face cream and use it every night."  That was advice given when I turned age twelve.  I listened, too and have worn a moisturizer morning and evening every day since.  "Don't let the sun turn your skin so dark.  Wear a hat and sleeves."  Well I ignored that.  Now as I gaze at age spots, I wish I'd paid attention to that bit!
"Hold your shoulders straight!  Don't slouch!", was frequently heard and rightly so.  And finally, "Terri, don't frown so into the sun.  Wear sunglasses and then you won't have a lines on your forehead or about your eyes."  I paid attention that time and bought a set of sunglasses.  I still wear them.   I put them on each time I get in the car or am sitting in the sun.

Granny's example was what I saw most clearly.  She worked hard about the fields and in the yard each morning but afternoons...well, she was a lady.  I mean that in the mornings, while working in the yard, she wore boots and work pants and long sleeved shirts and a big sun hat.  She looked like she worked in the fields and the yard.  But come afternoon, she was freshly washed if only via what she called 'polka dot bath' and she fixed her hair and dressed in a pretty shorts and nice sleeveless cotton shirt in summer or in a fresh skirt or slacks and a blouse.  When it was nearly time for Granddaddy to come in from work, Granny would put on lipstick and fix her hair and check her clothes. 

When we went to town she was always nicely dressed, and she spoke quietly and calmly but in a open friendly manner to others.  I never heard her say anything one oughtn't to say except on a very rare occasion in the heat of the moment with Granddaddy.  That's just the sort of woman she was.  At church her back was straight as she sat on the hard church pew and her hands quiet.

I remember visiting her at the Living Center after she was placed there because of Alzheimers.  I came just in time for the mid-week morning service in the chapel.  Granny sat still as a mouse, back straight, legs crossed,  hands quietly folded in her lap.  I became acutely aware of my nearly constant movement: picking at fingers, adjusting clothing.  I remember I wondered how and when I'd become so fidgety.  I noted yet again, at 50 years of age, that my Granny was innately a lady.

Grandmama wore a little makeup, mostly face powder and Tangee orange lipstick.  She dyed her hair which Mama felt was cheap and told me so, but Grandmama never looked obviously dyed, just a natural enhancement of her own hair color.  She wore what I would call house clothes about the house.  You know, a well worn (clean and always ironed) shirt and slacks or shorts.  Sometimes in summer she began her day in what she called a 'duster' which was a light cotton, front snap closure sort of dress but changed towards lunchtime into appropriate day clothes.  She never let company see her without running a comb through her hair and quick changing into a fresh blouse.  Oh she might well welcome them in, but she immediately excused herself and made herself presentable.

Grandmama spoke quietly, laughed gently and avoided any subject that appeared truly personal and blushed fiercely if anything slightly off color was said.  She was calm in a soft sort of way, not rigid in her body language.  But she was seldom still for long.  There were cookies and tea to pass around (see where I get that from?) and surely someone would like a cup of coffee and then there was a quick wipe for the table or counter and a quick washing of any dishes that were done with.  She was a busy sort of person overall but it didn't come across as fidgety.

Granny and Grandmama both wore perfume.  They wore it everyday.  They had signature scents.  For years, Granny wore Desert Flower perfume.  I can still see the bottle on her waterfall vanity with the big round mirror.  She later changed to Halston.  Grandmama wore Chantilly. She kept it on top of a chest of drawers in the bathroom in every house she lived in within my memory.  They both used powder and perfume.

Grandma Stewart never wore slacks near as I recall.  I forever see her in a skirt and blouse or a dress with a cardigan sweater that she'd pushed the sleeves up to her forearms.  She might well have on an apron when you met her but if you were more than family that quickly disappeared.   She too, was like Grandmama in keeping her hair neat and nice but touching up was done surreptitiously since her bedroom was also the 'front room' of her house and she'd hustle visitors right into the kitchen where seating was more accommodating or invite them to sit in the yard on old log benches.

Her overall look and style was youthful but not in a jarring sort of way.  I think it came from within, from the friendly fun of her personality to the way her hair curled about her head.  I want to use the word 'vitality' when I think of Grandma Stewart.  It showed itself in the way she wore her clothes.  I never knew her as anything other than an old woman but I think she must have been quite beautiful in her youth because there was a beauty about her in her old age.

Big Mama and Mama Lee were sisters.  Mama Lee was some years younger than Big Mama.  Big Mama would have made a wonderful Mennonite or Amish woman and I say that nicely.  She was very modest and plain in her mode of dress, preferring shirtwaist type dresses with a placket that buttoned up to her neck and long sleeves with cuffs that buttoned, too.  She didn't wear bright colors either.  They were always subtle soft colors or black, though seldom that. She mostly wore cotton stockings rather than nylon as others did.  On occasion I did see her in more modern apparel but truth was Big Mama was old fashioned and knew it and she embraced it.  I think that is something key about each woman I'm mentioning here.  They knew who they were and what suited them.  They didn't try to pretend they were anything other than what they were.  But they were ladies each and every one of them.

Big Mama kept her hair long for many years and pulled it back into a low bun at the back of her head.  She too wore an apron about the house to do her household and yard work.  In the yard she added an old fashioned sun bonnet.  I have two of the last she made, never worn, with a wide brim to shield the face from sun, of cotton to absorb perspiration.  I don't recall her ever wearing more than a light touch of Chapstick and most certainly never wearing nail polish.  She was the sort that wore a hat even when hats were no longer in fashion because it suited her to have a hat.  For all that she dressed in an old fashioned sort of way, it wasn't immediately apparent.  It slowly dawned on you that she was dressed in a manner that wasn't modern. 

Mama Lee, was more fashion forward and embraced modern fashions and colors.  She wore lipstick and nail polish and high heels and stockings or open toed sandals and fuller skirts if she wanted or slim ones if she felt it was more fashionable.  Yet her style wasn't over the top.  It was a contrast for sure from Big Mama's style but it wasn't like looking at the Whore of Babylon compared to the Virgin Mary sort of contrast.  Vivacious would be a good word to describe Mama Lee. 

So these women are my legacy of womanhood, the imprints I absorbed and through whom I gradually derived my own sense of being a lady.

Mama dressed me for more years than she ought to have, long after I married the first time, even to the point of telling me what I would buy.   I was dressed according to what she liked, and according to the styles she felt most comfortable with.  I didn't have confidence enough in myself to know my own style because I was never allowed to choose or make a choice statement growing up.  I was almost thirty before I began to  develop my own idea of how I'd like to look and stopped wearing just whatever was in my closet. 

I read quite a few of the books from the school library that dealt with 'charm'.  I wasn't popular and was a little lonely even, so I sought a way to become more popular.  Each book in turn assured me I might become more so if I followed their instruction.  I didn't become popular nor even really confident, but I had a clearer idea of why some girls were more popular and certainly pleasant to be around than others.

Now I'm not seeking to be popular.  I would like a little added refinement.  I would like a little additional confidence in feeling I am presenting myself well for my sake, for my husband's sake, for the sake of my grandchildren.  I want especially for my granddaughters to recall that I was a lady and to take their cue in presenting themselves to the world as such as they grow. 

And truthfully, I do believe that we can always be a little better than we are at present. I'll just lay odds each of you can tell me one area where you know you fail in presenting yourselves well.  I want to correct some areas in my own mannerisms and while I'm aware of the faults I'm not quite sure exactly what I need to do to correct them.  So I'm going to charm school this month and I'm going to learn and put into practice some new habits, polish up my skills in areas where I am already doing well  and just generally have a good refresher course on all things womanly regarding my manners and appearance. 

I had a wonderful little bit of prayer and Bible study the other day and after my last coffee chat in which I shared my difficulty in a certain prayer situation it was as though God himself laid out before me the answers one by one. 

I began reading When Women Say Yes to God by Lisa TerKeurst right after I wrote that post.  I'd really just started the book but I was so impacted by what I read in those first chapters.   I realized that not only was it a matter of having failed yet again in trusting God as I'd shared with you all, I'd literally forgotten that I wasn't alone in my struggle.  I had, in fact, God as my companion in this trial I was going through.  It wasn't something I had to do on my own, then come before God and say "See I did this, I've taken this test."  No.  I had only to walk my path and know that He was there to encourage and strengthen me all along the way, lonely as it might appear to my human eye. Need I say that the prayer become easier in it's own way?  While words fail me still at times, the longing heart within me rises up and trusts God to know why the ache is there and tend to matters as He sees fit.  Some of  you have encouraged me as well.  He put you in that place to encourage me, you know.  Please know that I feel those prayers and appreciate them and they strengthen me as I struggle.

The storm threatens ever more than it did before, but honestly I've realized that sometimes the worst times of all are before the storm actually hits.  There's no time for worrying over what might possibly happen once the storm arrives. It's here.  It's now.  It's looking at those heavy, dark clouds and watching that wind build, hearing the bad reports and sirens and  not knowing what's coming or just when that grinds us down.  When the storms actually hit we are focused hard on battening down and riding it out.  I've never heard anyone wonder what the future would bring while they were right in the middle of the storm!

On the other hand...Why oh why is there always another hand?  It does seem at times that worries come in two by two just as the animals did to the ark doesn't it?...John has had a sort of answer regarding his job.  We've been told that we'll know the decision July 1.  Not a huge shock that date and to be honest, it's about a non-answer but there will be a change of some sort..  Every one of us who relies on the county income knew the fiscal year ends in June and begins anew in July.  On July 1, either John still has a job or he doesn't.  Either the county privatizes or it doesn't.  The one given on both scores is that shifts will change from 24/72 to 24/48.  That means a new shift begins every 48 hours following the last.  That means, if John is still employed, that we will essentially be in about the same boat we were when he was working full time and going to medic school full time.   Our lives will literally revolve around the job, period.  There will be lay-offs with either scenario.

I am not worried.   I think the threat of it kept being spoken so often that I've lost any sense of fear and it's more like a 'Yeah?'    John struggled with his peace about it all, at first,  sort of like my prayer situation.  He's always been very aware of his responsibility as a provider for his household. He's not a shirker of duty.  He dislikes change and dislikes it plenty.  He seems to have found his center of peace however. 

I am philosophical.  I know that change can be unpleasant and I squawk as loud as the next when it's slammed on me but I look back and see that every change brings good with it as well as the messes that must be cleared away.  In the meantime, I mean to go on and build up my little stock piles and fill my sub-accounts and have my vacation.  In other words, I'm going on as I mean to carry on.  The day we have a final answer will be the day we know what the next steps have to be.  These are the only steps I know to take just now.  I know that when it's time for the next step, it will present itself.

Well dears, I've enjoyed my chat but have many things left to do yet today.  I am flagging now that I've stopped for a spell, but I must push on.  The jobs left are on the 'must be done today' list.  Truth?  Every job on today's list was marked "Must Be Done Today"!  Then there is the next session of Charm School to be done...So I shall let you go and I'll get busy once more.  Talk to you later!

7 comments:

Vintage Ellen said...

I love your idea of charm school! Thank you for sharing about the women in your family - we learn from everyone. If you have any books or blogs to suggest that would be great. I am in awe of your attitude and patience about your husband's job situation. I would be tied up in knots - I like to know what is ahead so I can work everything out, plan, re-plan, re-plan, etc. Sending good thoughts your way.

Lana said...

I certainly understand what you mean about children who are not connected to the family. It is heart wrenching when we as parents mean so little to them.

Tammy said...

Reading about the variety of women who influenced your growing up years made me reflect on my own. My grandmothers couldn't have been more different women. One, was, in fact, a Mennonite. She never wore nail polish, unless, perhaps just a clear coat, and that was rare. I remember one of the last times I visited her in the nursing home, there was a woman in a wheelchair in the hallway when I entered. She had red nail polish on and was picking at it like she was puzzled about why it was there. As I watched her, I realized it was my grandmother. The dementia had taken over, but I'm sure she would not have been happy in the least that someone assumed she wanted red nail polish. Truth be told, I was a bit annoyed about it, but in defense of the nursing home staff, they didn't know that was never something she'd have done herself.
My other grandmother worked in the public for many years in a department store, and she loved the costume jewelry. One of my favorite memories of being at her house was escaping the 30+ cousins and slipping into Grandma's bedroom to empty the jewelry box on the bed and play with all of the clip-on earrings and fun necklaces. I have a few pair of her earrings and changed them to pierced findings so I can wear them. They're lovely and old-fashioned and perfect.
Thanks once again for such a lovely post. I'm starting my housekeeping morning with a smile, remembering my Grandmas.

Anonymous said...

Your descriptions of the women in your life made me think deeper about mine. I knew of course in my head their personalities and style but never thought to put it on paper. My children are interested in genealogy but mostly want to know the personality and traits of each kin. To write more of this type of thing down too would be so helpful for them to have a mental picture of each. Men and women. Thank you for inspiring this.
I really enjoyed this post. Not just the recollections of the women but the whole of it. I too always gravitated towards charm books and such. Read Seventeen magazine Way back. Boy, it sure has changed and is not so innocent any more! I always loved sewing and would look in department stores at products or clothes and copy some of the designs in clothing. The women in cosmetics would give you pointers. Each of course was trying to promote the lines of cosmetics they represented for a sale but since many got to know me they really did teach me many basics. But that was Years ago and to be truthful in your May 8th post you mentioned lip mask and I had never heard of it! :) In other 'beauty' posts there were items I had not heard of either. I have to ask my granddaughter and she fills me in. :-)))
All I wear as far as makeup is blush. And I use moisturizer and lotions. I have a lot of learning to do but it will be fun. I can hardly believe I turned out to be as I am since when I was growing up I was considered the one who wore makeup and dressed so well. I know through years of way too tight a budget I just made myself not think of it and just made sure my clothes were clean and I had some. I did not get to choose. That is then and now is now and I need to turn around and enjoy being a women again!!! And how I do enjoy being a women! As I have said, I have worked on making my clothing and accessory choices smarter. With your encouragement by the way. :) Still a work in progress but it always is as you learn. I bought myself some nice soap. Also a different shampoo and a few Very basic things lately since you got on the charm course. I will slowly begin to come out of my cocoon and hopefully become a more confident women little by little! Can you tell I am excited. I AM !! Sarah

Debby in KS said...

I wanted to comment on the kids. I have none. When my mom was living with us, she was telling me how very happy she was to be here. She joked that in her whole life, she never thought she'd have a maid, laundress, cook, chauffer, secretary, etc. I told her that having no children, I wondered what would happen when I got old. That there would be nobody if my husband died first. She said,
"Having children is no guarantee that anybody will care." She went on to tell me that she learned this by living in her Sr. apartment. She was in Los Angeles and I was in Kansas and she said that we saw each other more than some did when their kids lived in the same area.
Lest you think my mom and I were close our whole lives, we weren't. She was a bi-polar alcoholic. The best time of my life with her were the 18 mos. she lived here before she died.

beckyathome said...

It's never fun to be in limbo. At least they gave you a date where they will decide what will happen to your husband's job. Of course you will weather the storm--from reading your blog, I feel you've weather worse ones. Still, change is hard. So, hang in there. It seems like you have a good plan.

Julie Baker said...

Thank you for sharing about family disconnect. I think that it is in nearly all families. I myself have a brother who so rarely contacts our mother that she has taken to calling him "an enigma....just can't figure him out." I wish he would like to see mom and my sister and I, but praying for this to happen someday soon is all I can do.
:) ,Julie

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