Monthly Archives: March 2012

Most of us have a teacher that we would have to call our favorite of all the teachers we ever had, and I am no exception, but this story is about the favorite teacher I never had. You see, I couldn’t have had this teacher, because by the time she was born, I was already out of school. My favorite teacher I never had is my niece, Liz. I can’t say that I know anything about her teaching style, and I suppose you could call me biased, and you would be right, but she is nevertheless, my favorite.

Liz is also the favorite of many of her students, and when they leave her class, most are friends for life. Her students friend her on Facebook, and even go on trips with her later. She has traveled with one student’s family to Europe, and everyone had a wonderful time. Liz is simply a friend to all. And is loved by all who know her.

I know that her teaching style is great, because you don’t like a teacher who makes class boring, or is just a bad teacher in general. I do know that while she maintains an orderly class, it is also somewhat laid back. Maybe that is why her students work so hard for Liz. They try to excel. That is a quality that is so important in teaching. You have to be able to inspire your students. That is what Liz does.

As I have watched Liz through her years of teaching, I have found myself amazed at the love her students feel for her. I rarely heard of that before I began watching Liz do her teaching thing. Most kids, even if they liked their teacher, were still done with the teachers after school was over. And almost no one wants to spend time with the teachers after school is over…except Liz’s students. I think that is wonderful.

Liz is also the photographer for events, sports, the school paper, and the annual. That is a big responsibility, and yet a lot of fun, because she has the unique ability to get to know students that aren’t even in her classes. She is careful to include every student in the school annual, and as many other events as she possible can. Those kids couldn’t have a better photographer…I know, because she has done pictures of my family too, as well as my grandson and other family members in the school activities. Yes, she has taught her cousins and nieces and nephews…and they still love her too.

Yes, I am biased, but Liz is still my favorite teacher, even though I never had her as a teacher. She is a different kind of teacher…one who really cares about her students, and that is awesome…as any of her students would tell you. And having someone in this world who cares about someone they aren’t related to, teacher or otherwise is rare indeed. Happy birthday Liz!! We all love you!!

When you are on vacation, the idea is to relax and enjoy yourself, but all too often, there are so many things to see and do that you find yourself needing to go back to work to rest up. I have been on many of those trips. I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed my trips. I have been blessed to have gone many places, and I have many wonderful memories from my trips. Still, I must say that not all of them have been relaxing.

As a caregiver, who also works full time…when I can stay at work full time, I have a lot of stress in my life, and sometimes what I need the most is to relax…even if only for part of a trip. Today was that day. The drive from Mississippi to Florida was beautiful, with splendid views of the Gulf of Mexico. The green trees and lush grass were calming to my soul.

The time spent at the beach, however, was the best of all. We walked barefoot through the sand, which is really crushed sea shells, and laughed about the fact that is squeaked as you stepped in it. Then we laughed at the little birds who were eating something at the water’s edge. They would run out there when the water receded and then turn and run away from the next incoming wave. Their little legs were moving as fast as they could possibly go. Then they would look back at the water as if to scold it for interrupting their dinner. They were just so funny!! I only wish I could have been quick enough to get a picture.

We walked along the water’s edge, letting the warm Gulf water run over our feet. The breeze was gentle and warm. It was so relaxing to just enjoy the sensations of the water and the salt air. We stood in the water, laughing about the way the water made our feet sink into the sand,and trying not to fall down as a result. Then we found a place to sit in the sand, and we sat relaxing for quite some time. There is just something about listening to the waves crashing into the beach and the gulls squawking above that is somehow peaceful.

We talked very little. It didn’t seem like that kind of a moment. It was a time to sit and quietly reflect on the trip we had taken, and the beauty of the Gulf water around us. We watched the waves coming in and waited to see if they would finally make it to our feet. Bob found a sea shell that the waves washed in, and we watched the sea gulls trying to steal fish from a pelican.

Finally, we picked up our sandals and the sea shell and made our way back to the car…relaxed and contented, and grateful for the day God had blessed us with. It was a perfectly beautiful, amazingly relaxing, wonderful kind of day.

Bob and I are on a trip to Florida, Louisiana, Alabama,  and Mississippi. It is a trip I have looked forward to for some time. As I have read through letters from the past and searched for past records for my family, it seems fitting that I should travel to an area of our country in which resides so much of our nation’s past. I don’t know if any of my ancestors were plantation owners or not, but I do know that some of them came from the south, so I suppose there is a possibility.

Going through Nottoway Plantation, gave us a peek into the lives of the very wealthiest plantation owners. These were people who could not “afford” to marry for love. Every child in the family knew what was expected of them. You married to better your standing and value…even if that meant marrying your cousin, as did happen in some cases, but was not totally common. Does this remind you of “Gone With The Wind”? It did us, but that is how the wealthy lived in those days, and maybe even more than we know in today’s world.

The Randolf family completed Nottoway Plantation in 1859 after 2 years of construction. It was situated right on the Mississippi River, and that was how the family traveled…by river boat, directly into New Orleans. They new no shortage of funds, and lived extravagantly…at least until the Civil War broke out in 1861. One of their sons was killed in the war, one became ill and was sent home, and one was captured. Still, the family proved what they were made of. The father, John went to Texas to grow cotton in order to make money, and the wife and some of the daughters stayed in the family home…even when the Yankee troops showed up. A wise woman, Emily offered to let the troops camp on her property and use what they needed. They took most of the vegetables and livestock, but left the home and the women alone…mostly because one of the soldiers knew one of the Randolf boys.

The home was made of the finest Virginia Cypress wood, which resisted rotting and termites, so the home has endured through the years. The shutters made of the same wood, are simply closed when hurricanes came, and the glass is even protected. The home is beautiful, and the family held many balls there as their children came of age for marrying, because they had to make sure that their children married from the right families.

While this family was wealthy and extravagant, they were also among the few families in the South who were good to their slaves. After the harvest and at Christmas time, John Randolf roasted a pig, and the family ate with the slaves. During that party, John handed out money to his slaves as a reward for jobs well done. Because of that, when the Civil War was over, and John offered contracts to his slaves, so they could now work for a wage, most of them stayed on with him. From the pay they had received through the years, they trusted him to keep his word and pay them after the war as well.

As I said, I don’t know if my family were plantation owners or not, but I like to think that if they were, they would be like John and Emily Randolf, who treated their slaves with kindness. I don’t like the idea of slavery, but I suppose that the people of that time didn’t know any different. It was a different culture, and as far as slaves are concerned, one that I think should not have happened, but unfortunately it is a part if our nation’s past.

When my sister-in-law was a little girl, her favorite outfits were pretty dresses. She, like many little girls, loved feeling beautiful. Wearing dresses is something that has a way of making many women feel beautiful, so why should a little girl be different. Marlyce lived out in the country with her family, so there weren’t many times when she got to wear a dress. So when the days arrived that a dress was needed, Marlyce was very happy about it.

Once she was dressed for the day, Marlyce pranced aroud the place showing everyone how pretty she looked.
Wearing a dress doesn’t have much place in the country. Too much dirt and when playing outside, even girly girls get plenty dirty, so many mothers choose to put their little girls in bib overalls or slacks to keep them a little cleaner.

But, how so the little girls feel. Well, most of the time, wearing slacks or bibs, is ok by them, because they are out there playing in a rough and tumble way, or as was the case with the children in my in-law’s family, riding horses whenever they could. That said, pants were a lot easier to wear to do the things they wanted to do.

But, Marlyce was a little girl who liked to do things a little bit different. She did like to ride the horses and play outside, but only part of the time. The rest of the time, she wanted to wear pretty dresses. She wanted to dance around, and tip toe around so everyone could see her pretty shoes. Marlyce was a sweet little girl, who turned into the sweet sister-in-law that I gained when I married Bob, and lost when cancer took her life at the age of 39 years.

I wish I could have known the sweet little girl she was, but since she was born 6 years before me, that was impossible. So all I can do is look at the pictures of the little girl she was, and compare it to the girl she was when I knew her, to know the story of her life. People didn’t come sweeter than Marlyce. Although developmentally disabled, she knew more about kindness that many people who weren’t developmentally disabled, and who lived long lives. And while wearing a dress allowed Marlyce to feel pretty, I know that it didn’t matter what she had on…Marlyce was always pretty.

My girls were babies about the time the wind up baby swing was invented. Boy was that thing ever a life saver. Babies who were fussy and wouldn’t sleep would almost instantly fall asleep in there. Of course, I didn’t let the girls sleep there over night…that would not be a good plan, but it did offer me a little break once in a while.

My girls loved their swing. Soon the time of being a newborn passed, and they were babies who could be a little bit more alert and aware of their surroundings. They still loved their swing. I remember getting ready to put them in, and they would giggle and kick their little legs in anticipation of the ride. It was like having their own carnival ride. I think most babies get to a place where they really enjoy their swing. It becomes more than just a tool to get a cranky baby to sleep. Just like kids who are older…babies like to swing.

For a time, we hung toys from the crossbar for the girls to play with, but they never really could make that work very well, so we gave them a stuffed animal to play with. Funny thing is, the toys were really not necessary. Kids are really very resourceful, and they can make toys out of most situations. In the absence of real toys, they will look for things that will work as a good substitute.

And as we all know, it doesn’t take kids very long to find something to play with. It is right in front of them as they are laying on their back on the floor. They play with their hands and their feet. Their hands were the first thing they played with in their swing. Chewing and sucking on them, but since neither of my girls ever really took to the whole thumb sucking thing,  their hands got old pretty fast when it came to being used as a toy.

Then came a very important day in the lives of my daughters. There they were…tired of their hands, and looking for something new…something that would get rid of their boredom and still allow them to stay in the swing they so loved. They looked around for something new. What could they use as a new toy? Then, just when they thought they might have to do something drastic…like cry, they looked over the edge of the swing, and wonder of wonders, there it was! Inspiration hit them…”Hey, I see my feet!!”

When my mom first saw my dad, she tells me that her heart skipped a beat, and she thought, “Whew, what a handsome man!” My dad must have had similar thoughts because that began a lifelong marriage. They lived happily ever after. That might sound like the whole story, but it is only the beginning. From the moment they had their first date, my dad treated my mom like a princess. He planned to win her love and then spend the rest of his life loving her and giving her everything he could. That was a dream that would never change.

As the years went by, and their 5 daughters arrived, the love multiplied. Our family was always close…it was planned that way by my parents. When they married, it was forever. Their love would always be put first. They always treated each other like royalty. To them, their spouse was the most important person in the world…and their children a close second. Theirs was a match made in heaven.

I never saw my mom happier than when she was with my dad. Her eyes sparkled and her smile was brighter. Dad had a way of making her feel prettier…a condition that comes from being treated like a princess. And truly when he was around, she glowed. Could love possibly be stronger than that. There is just something about spending your life around a person who has the ability to make you feel better about yourself, that gives life a greater meaning. And my dad had that ability…with all his girls. He made you feel like you could be more, do more…like you were more than you thought.

Whenever any of us had a problem, Dad always had a way of working it out, and that is how he always was. I could see that in his letters to his family during World War II, and he carried that same ability with him throughout his entire life. I suppose it was that ability that always made him seem like a knight in shining armor to my mom. She always knew that Dad would work out any problem they might encounter. Don’t get me wrong, mom was quite capable too, but Dad always had a plan…no matter what the problem.

I have been around many married couples, but none that were ever quite like my parents. Theirs was a love that was unmatched. Sometimes love is like that. They fell in love at first sight and loved forever after that day. How blessed their lives were, and how blessed were the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Kindergarten…it’s such a precious time. Your little one is starting school and so much is changing, so fast. They are going to school and discovering who they are and who they might like to be. They get a chance to try different things and to see if they might have the coordination…or learn coordination. Most kindergarten kids, aren’t especially coordinated, but sometimes they are.

At this age, a lot of their track meet is held in the gym, where they do skill tests that have little to do with track, but everything to do with balance and coordination. Still, it can be funny, to watch these little first time jumpers. rope climbers, runners, etc. Their little legs will barely take them over the lowest rung on the high jump. They are doing their best to figure out how to get over the bar without falling on their face. And speaking of faces, their level of concentration shows so clearly on their faces.

At 5 years old, my granddaughter Shai, who will tell you to this day that PE isn’t her favorite class, was already pretty convinced that track would not be her sport…if there was ever to be a sport that would be her favorite. She never did like running, or even jump rope as I recall. She is too much of a girly girl to want to do PE. Still, she did her best, and even if it never won her a first place ribbon, it won her first place in this picture…as far as her mom, my daughter, Amy is concerned. Amy told me that this picture is one of her very favorite pictures of Shai. “She just looked so cute!”, Amy would tell me. And she was so right. Shai was a cute little girl…a little out of her element, but it was the trying that captured your interest.

It is the level of concentration that is most telling in how successful my granddaughter will be in her life. Shai can do anyhing she sets her mind to. She is a bit stubborn like her grandma, and yet I believe that it will be that tubbornness that will carry her to success in whatever she chooses to do in her life. Like my granddaughter, I too was very stubborn, and in fact still am. I hate to lose, and I will keep trying until I win. That is what I expect my granddaughter will be like too. Still, the choice will be hers. She will have to choose to put that stubbornness to good use…to be so stubborn that she will stay with a thing until she masters it. I believe she will do just that.

When Weston was a little boy, his mom, my niece, Machelle worked at Taco Bell. Weston really liked the fact that his mom worked there, because that meant he got to go there often. And going to Taco Bell was cool in several ways, but mostly because he got toys. Now that may not seem like such a big deal to most of us, but to a 4 year old boy, toys are the best part. There is just something about getting toys that is so exciting to a little kid. Even a cheap toy is like getting a birthday or Christmas present.

One day, Machelle had gone down to the Pamida store and Weston stayed home with his daddy, Machelle’s husband Steve. Weston was playing in the yard, and Steve had stepped into the house for a minute. Weston had been thinking about those great toys at the Taco Bell, and he knew that if his mom were there, she would take him down there to get one, but she wasn’t there. So, Weston decided to take matters into his own hands.

Weston had wheels, so why wait? He opened the gate and headed off on his tricycle to Taco Bell. He had been there many times, and he knew the way. It is amazing how well those little kids know directions to places they especially like to go…like a favorite restaurant. They are always watching when they are in the car…just to see if they might, just might be going to that favorite place.

So began Weston’s adventure. He peddled his way down the street…quickly, because he really wanted that toy. On the way there, Weston only stopped once, because he was, after all, a boy on a mission. Still, a little white kitten had the ability to bring his trip to a halt, just for a minute, because that kitty was just so cute, and he really needed to be petted for a minute. After that, Weston was back on his way to Taco Bell.

Weston’s dad, meanwhile had come back to the yard, and found his precious little boy missing. In a serious panic, Steve went looking for his little boy. He first checked the one place he assumed Weston would go…his grandma’s house. So he headed over there, only to find that Weston had not been there. Not sure what to do next, he headed back home to see if Weston had returned. When he got there, he found the police at his house…not the best greeting…until he saw Weston.

With a great sigh of relief, he gathered up his son, and waited to hear what had happened. As it turned out, a police car came upon Weston, happily riding his tricycle on the 4 lane highway that runs through the small town. When Weston’s adventure came it’s untimely end, he was only 4 blocks from his destination, and was not at all lost…just disappointed. Today is Weston’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Weston! We love you!

I have been researching our family history, and recently I came across a site called Find A Grave. I know that seems odd, but it has been quite exciting to me. I have found the graves of several of my grandparents and great grandparents, and great great grandparents, etc. These are people I have never met, of course, such as my grandpa’s dad, Cornelius George Byer, who died in 1930, my grandmother’s mother, Estella Shaw Pattan, who died in 1959. I have also seen links to many other members of their families, as well as other branches of my family and Bob’s, and I look forward to exploring those links as well.

I also found pictures of many of these grandparents, which I had never seen before. They weren’t all real clear, but it was exciting to see the faces of my ancestors. And some were pretty clear, so I got a very good look. There was some history about some of them too. I felt like I had just found a hidden treasure chest. I knew about the site for a little while, but I hadn’t explored it much. I thought I would need a lot of information on the burial site and dates in order to find a grave, but found that I could search a last name and when I did…well, I was amazed at the treasures I discovered.

I found out that my grandmother who married my grandfather on December 24, 1927, shared her anniversary with her great grandmother who married her great grandfather on December 24, 1872. That anniversary date is also shared by my cousin, Raelynn and her husband on December 24 as well. Sorry, I’m not sure of the year on that one, but maybe this story will bring me that information.

There were also stories that I knew about before, like my great great grandfather who, to me seemed to be eccentric…even in his young years. He served in the Civil War twice. He was also married twice, but forgot to divorce either wife, and after 17 years away from his first family, his son saw him wandering around town and brought him home where he spent his remaining years. I suppose many people would think he was a scoundrel, but I think maybe he experienced an injury that caused amnesia, or that his memory was in some other way compromised. No matter who or what he was, he was my great great grandfather, and that is the way it is.

The history of one’s family is such an interesting thing. We don’t know what factors and events in our background played together to make us the people we are today, but the experiences they had were passed down to the future generations nevertheless. We can’t separate our experiences for the way we raise our own children. Our past affects our future, and the future of our kids. I have found so many things out about my family from this and other sites, and my research has been interesting and exciting. I feel like I know my ancestors a little bit. And that is worth the search.

When a kid gets a baby sister or brother, they are usually so excited…especially if they had been the only child. My sister, Cheryl felt that way when I came along. She finally had a baby sibling of her own. I can’t say that she felt that way through put adolescent years, but it was great while it lasted…in those early years.

While we were little, we got along great and loved being sisters. I saw a movie my parents had taken of us when we were little. I had learned to crawl, and Cheryl was pretty hard pressed to keep up with me. In the movie, Cheryl would crawl beside me for a few minutes, but when she started to get behind, she got up and began to walk to catch up. Then she would try crawling again…but it didn’t do her any good. I was too fast for her.

During our adolescent years, we fought like cats and dogs. I’m sure I was always in the way, because Cheryl seemed so grown up and sophisticated to me, and I just wanted to hang out with her and her friends. She on the other hand didn’t want to hang out this her nerdy kid sister. Those days it just didn’t matter what we did, we couldn’t get along. We were too different. And we were both very strong willed. The two things didn’t add up to a comfortable relationship. Thankfully those awkward years don’t last forever.

After Cheryl was married, we still fought, mostly because I was still young and again, we were very different. Shortly after her second child, Toni was born, we had our worst fight…and our last. Yes, it was physical, and…there was no winner. The next day, with both of us feeling a little sore, we decided that we were too old for such fighting. We have been close friends and even closer sisters since that day. Not many people who have been at odds so much of their lives can turn around and be very loyal friends. We were and still are very blessed.

I can’t tell you that we never fought again, because we did…but never physical. Our arguments were small and unimportant, and never lasted long. Mostly though, we were very good friends. My life has been so much better because of our friendship. My sister is the amazing person I thought she was when I was a kid. She is strong and yet, kind. She is beautiful in every way. She has a sweet spirit, that is a blessing to all who know her.