Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Birthday, Anne Marie!

Today is my beloved daughter's birthday. She is a true blessing to our family (even though there were times when they were growing up that her brother might have disagreed!).

Anne Marie on her 7th birthday, with the $5.00 bill from
Grandma and Grandpa. Presents from family were
opened first thing in the morning--she was
obviously too excited to be bothered with brushing
hair first. Later that day she had a little birthday
party with several of her friends.

It's too bad we didn't have the equipment that is now available for taking and printing photos when our kids were growing up. Of course, if we would have had, my house might not be big enough to hold all the photo books! I do like to have prints, as well as pictures on the computer.

When I looked through my old albums for birthday photos, I was surprised to find how few were of the kids' birthdays when they were little. I guess I was not as focused on saving those moments as I am now. And film, flashbulbs, and developing costs often just did not fit in our very tight budget.

Now I might not get good pictures of Anne Marie on her birthday, because she doesn't much like being photographed.

Anne Marie, happy, happy birthday. I am so glad you are my daughter. I won't even mind clearing The Project off the kitchen table so we can have birthday cake this evening! (And be a good daughter and let me get some photos.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Summer Terror

The news is currently discussing a new disease that has cropped up in California, and was probably active in Asia before that. The disease bears a frightening resemblance to polio, but the polio vaccine has no effect on it. It has left some with various degrees of paralysis and some have died. From the reports I have seen thus far, it seems to strike mainly at children.

Presently, the experts don't seem to agree on this phenomenon. Is it the same virus? Are the incidents of paralysis unconnected? Is it likely to become an epidemic? They don't yet know.

I am of the last generation of Americans to live during the terrible polio epidemics that took so many lives and left so many victims with varying degrees of paralysis. Even some of those who survived and seemed to make full recoveries have been found to have a type of relapse into problems with affected, but apparently recovered, limbs when they reach middle-age.

I remember how terrifying the outbreaks of polio were. Summer was the time when the dread disease most often broke out. When polio broke out in the area children were warned against going swimming. Swimming pools seemed to be a place where the virus thrived and spread.

Mary Louise (bottom) and Grace sledding. I think this was
 in the winter of late 1949 or early1950. I believe this visit was our last
 with this cousin we loved and admired. Maybe Grace or Terry will
 remember for sure. Mother didn't date the photos.
Our family was touched twice by this horrible plague. Our cousin Mary Louise Thames died from a very fast moving form of polio in the summer of 1950, when she was twelve years old. Our sister Brownie had polio later. Hers was a mild case, but left her with some problems in her legs that required special exercises to stretch her hamstrings. It was very scary when she was in the hospital and they diagnosed polio. How grateful we were that her story did not end as Mary Louise's had.

Although our younger sisters probably didn't remember a lot about Mary Louise, the three of us who were older did. We thought Mary Louise was wonderful. She was a lively, fun girl and we loved it when her family made trips from Texas to visit. We were devastated when she died.

Our parents made the trip to Texas for Mary Louise's funeral. When they returned they brought back Mary Louise's bicycle, which her parents had given to us. My older sisters each already had a bike, so Mary Louise's bike became mine. I learned to ride a bike on it and rode it for years. And I always thought of it as Mary Louise's.

The advent of polio vaccine was nothing less than a miracle to everyone who had lived through the polio scares. I hope and pray that medical science can quickly solve the puzzle of this new paralyzer.

Monday, February 24, 2014

That Song Is Driving Me Crazy

I woke up at 5 o'clock this morning with a fragment of song running through my head. Oddly, that song bit had nothing to do with what I had been dreaming. It was from a song I had not listened to or thought of for months.

I tried to go back to sleep, but succeeded only in resting and drowsing until I got up at seven. And all that time that tiny scrap of song kept going.

I do not have a good musical memory. By that I mean that I enjoy music a great deal, but for me to be able to mentally play it back I must hear it many, many times. My children can hear a piece and "hear" it in their minds. I don't have that ability. That means that most of the songs that pop into my mind are ones from church that I have sung since childhood.

This was not one of those.

A few decades ago--I think the 1970s--I had an album of Tom T. Hall's titled The Storyteller. That was when an album was an LP record played on a big living room stereo. One of the songs on this album was "Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine." It was my favorite song on the album and from time to time through the years that line would come to mind.

But that wasn't the song I woke up with.

A year or so ago when "Old Dogs. . ." popped into my mind, I used my Kindle Fire to look for a Tom T. Hall album with that song on it. I found one named Tom T. Hall: The Definitive Collection, which has 24 of his songs, including the one I was looking for. I have enjoyed most of the songs in this group, though it had been some time since I had played them.

The song on my mind this morning is from that collection. It is called "The Year that Clayton Delaney Died." And the title line is the scrap that was stuck in my head. Just that little bit, over and over.

There is another song on the album called "That Song is Driving Me Crazy"--now, that song is lively and the type that makes me feel like I ought to jump up and dance madly around the room. I really would have preferred to have that stuck in my head rather than Clayton Delaney!

So guess what I am doing right now. That's right. I'm listening to Tom T. Hall's Definitive Collection.

I still like it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Making a Mess to Organize a Mess

For the past few months I have sadly neglected my photos project. And considering my age, I shouldn't do that--I have a lot of photos to get properly booked and cared for! Winter is usually a time when I get the blahs, and this winter I sank into them a little deeper than usual. I've had trouble getting myself in gear to do anything useful.

I have, however, read or listened to a lot of books and probably watched more TV than I should. The reading is good mental exercise, the TV not so much. Did those two things just cancel each other out?

The only place I have that I can spread things out to work on the photo project is my kitchen table. Since I live alone that isn't usually a problem. We do have family meals, birthday celebrations, and holiday get-togethers in my home. And when that happens I scoop everything up and put it on my bed, then return it to the table afterwards. With every "scooping" things get more mixed up. My carefully organized packets of photos are scrambled. The scrapbooking accessories, likewise. And I have a hard time getting motivated to unscramble once again. So the project lies untouched for a time--and then I find I have forgotten where I was in it. Yikes. It is easier to put it off than try to reconstruct where I was before both the project and I got scrambled.

And then I got access to some of the old family history photos that I hadn't had before. So that album that I thought I had finished, needed reorganized a bit to incorporate this new (to me) material. I have gotten myself to work on that this week, and almost have it done.

But the rest of the mess I have just started on. I'm trying to find better ways to organize the various types of materials so that even when I have to clear the table I don't lose my place, forget what materials I have, forget which photos I've already printed out (I find I have printed some more than once!), and become too discouraged to work the project because I have to spend too much time sorting.

Here's what my table looks like this morning.

That mess means I have actually been working on organizing. Step one was sorting out the scrapbooking accessories such as stick on accent materials. They started out in a box. Other stuff got added to the box. More stuff got tossed in to make it easier to carry everything off the table. Yesterday I dug the varied types of stuff out of that particular box, sorted out the accent materials, and put them in sleeves in a binder. Now I can flip through, see what I have, and easily pick out what I might want to use on a particular page. (I found some things I had forgotten I had.) There was even some stray stuff in that box that had nothing to do with the project and most of that went to the trash.

Now I need to go through the photos again. I have them sorted into baggies dated with the year they belong in. The problem is where I forgot and made duplicates of some pictures, and some had not yet made it into the proper baggie. When I get that sorted, I'll give the extras to my sister Grace.

This just takes me through the mid-1940s. Once these are properly booked I can begin the next phase. The photos from there on won't need as much work. From the later '40s on the prints tend to be larger and there will be fewer that I need to scan and enlarge. Of course, for me at this point, larger is a great help.

I probably won't be working at top speed, but I feel encouraged that with the organizing I'll be less discouraged and more excited about working on The Project. I still need to find a better way to organize some of these things, but any progress helps! I love photos, but they are worthless if they are not in an easily viewed format. Boxes full of photos tend to be just boxes of excess paper, stuck away somewhere and never seen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

For Diahann

Today is my niece Diahann's birthday. I looked back in my memory (otherwise known as photo albums) and found these pictures.

Diahann, this is for you.

Diahann, and parents Kathleen and John
In this photo Diahann is about eight months old. Although our families did not live in the same town, we lived close enough (by Wyoming standards) to visit each other from time to time. This was in the little house we lived in on the outskirts of Scottsbluff, Nebraska; they lived in Wyoming. Diahann had been having fun petting our kitten, but as soon as I got out my camera she focused on me; I didn't get the shot I wanted, but I like this one, anyway.

Hugh, Diahann, John
Our brother Hugh was at our house that day also. His favorite place to crash was always the floor. That meant he was very handy for Diahann to climb on Uncle Hughie.

So, Diahann, here is a memory piece for you of an occasion you can't remember! And--Happy Birthday!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big 1955 Mackey Family Reunion

In the summer of 1955 the Mackey siblings and their families gathered to celebrate the 50th Wedding Anniversary of Will and Rhoda Mackey. I was 14 years old that summer and had my own little Kodak Brownie camera. I took photos of all the family groupings, as did pretty much everyone there who had a camera. My photos are very poor quality compared to what we can get with today's digital cameras. I imagine some of the families have photos of the event that are of better quality, but I am offering what I have.

These are what we call memory pictures. While the quality is poor, they stimulate memories. So, here are some memories from almost 59 years ago. (How is it possible that so much time has passed?!)

Will and Rhoda Mackey with their seven surviving children (in order of their birth): Vera, Boyce, Rose, Elsie, Bess, Joe, and Bob 
Kerry, Gary, Larry, Glen Jr., Vera, and Glen Rogers
Jerry, Boyce, Joel, Jessie, and Doris Mackey
The McLaughlins. Back Row: Terry, Grace, Michelle, Rose, Red
Front Row: Kathryn (Brownie), Kathleen (Pinkie), Hugh. And Nancy Mackey, who happened by at that moment! (Terry was expecting Johnny and Grace was expecting Mike.)
Lee, Elsie, Nick, and Bill Tyrrell
Bess, Diane, and Dennis Sauble
Joe, Dorothy, Nancy, and Cheryl Mackey
From back to front: Bob (holding Deb), Dorothy (who is expecting Tom), Bobbie, Jackie, Dudley, and Bert Mackey
The Cousins
Some of the younger cousins playing on a tractor.
Just our grandparents, their children, and their children's children (three generations) are a lot of people. I have no idea how many descendants Will and Rhoda have by now! Maybe there is a family historian out there who tracks all of this. It would be interesting to know.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Getting Fat

I read once that after the end of WWII, the German people admired fatness. It meant that the deprivations and near starvation of the last months of the war were over.

The artist Botticelli seemed to admire hefty women.

However, as a formerly-thin person, I am not comfortable wearing a layer of thick fat over my body. It not only does not look good, it does not feel good.

When we were kids, my sisters and I had an expression we used to describe extreme fatness. It was "as big as Mrs.  H_______," who was a woman in my grandmother's neighborhood. I've looked at a photo of this lady recently. While she was well-rounded, I must admit that I can't be that far off matching her.

My mother was a woman of iron will. When she reached middle-age she changed her eating habits and stayed very trim. At the time, I thought she had just developed a taste for dry shredded wheat. That's what she ate for supper every night. She just nibbled away at a dry biscuit or two. She never made any fuss or explanation about it. It was just what she did. Now I realize that she was watching her weight.

That is something I did not have to do in my younger days. Metabolism and activity levels can, however, change as life's stages change.
Here I am c. 1975 with Jeremy, Kristofer (I babysat for him for several years), and Anne Marie. It is not my ambition to get that thin again; I was that size naturally. If I ate as much now as I did then, I'd be even more obese now.

Changing life habits can be very difficult.

Yes, I eat a lot less now than I did when I was young. But "calories in/calories out" still holds true. Less food may help, but when activity is greatly reduced that is not enough.

And when I am hungry I still want to eat.

As a formerly slim person, I most definitely feel ashamed of gaining so much weight. As a senior citizen with asthma, I find upping activity difficult. Being a person whose favorite activity is reading makes it even more difficult. Being active was natural for me years ago. I walked a lot, had a busy household, added an outside job. Things have changed.

I can lose thirty pounds on Nutrisystem. At about that point, I reach the stage where I just can't eat that food any longer. I know they talk about how delicious it is in the TV ads. And some of it is not bad. It works, but I really need to get myself in hand to eat real food and keep in control. Otherwise, I'll just repeat the pattern of losing and gradually gaining it back.

So, I keep beating myself up over it--but in a rather desultory way. I am definitely in the winter blahs. Part of me cares. Part of me just doesn't have the mental energy to care enough to do something about it. I always feel the most inspired to "do something about it" right after I've had a meal and am not hungry!

But I know I'm in trouble when I find that I hate to go out in public where someone I know may see me. And doctor's visits--that dreaded scale!

So, this is my confession: My name is Michelle and I am overweight.