Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.

 

 

Kitchen aromas bring memories flooding back

Day by day

Kitchen aromas  bring memories  flooding back
by Liz Thompson
THISWEEKNEWS
Wednesday December 4, 2013

My childhood memories created a love of a lived-in kitchen. My Grandmother Page had a grand home called West Bank Farm on Alum Creek Drive in Columbus.

I loved the smell of her kitchen and the entire house. Even though it was, at one time, on a historical registry of some kind, it has long since met its demise. But the memories of the place are as easy to recall as closing my eyes.

The kitchen was the first room you walked into at this 15-room house. The aroma was a mix of years of canning foods from the garden, homemade applesauce, and her favorite gum; Dentyne. Cinnamon was clearly the winner.

The ceilings were tall and the wooden floors covered with worn Oriental rugs. I loved the sounds as well as the fragrance. It reminded me of stepping inside an old book with its musty smell and great stories to share. Many a night I still fall asleep walking through the house in my mind; seeing the winding staircase, the music room, large screened porch where I looked out at huge trees and wide open land that went on for acres.

Good memories all.

About 30 years ago, we were house hunting. I don’t know why, but when I looked at houses to buy, I always opened every kitchen cupboard and looked in every closet. What was I looking for? I’m still not sure.

We were looking at a house that was a little above our price range but we loved it. When I walked into the kitchen, I was met with a scent that was delicious, for lack of a better word.

As I opened the kitchen cupboard doors, I was met with one aroma after another. Spices. Coffee. Candles. Tea. I’m not sure what it was in total but my senses were in love with this house. There was more than scents we liked about it but today what I remember is that behind each door was a delight for me to enjoy. The kitchen had been loved with home cooking for years and it was obvious to anyone standing in the room.

It reminded me of the farm, on a much smaller scale.

We were disappointed to not be able to buy this lovely home, but we have moved so often, it might have been hard to leave. So it was for the best.

Unconsciously, I think I always wanted our home to have that welcoming aroma, for visitors opening our cupboards to smile in that same way.

Yet even though I didn’t really know what the mix was, in my mind, I remember. But it’s more than an emanating scent that that home held; it had memories stamped into its fabric. I realize that now after years of doing the same in our homes from here to the Southwest and back.

Again, like the farm; memories which are too many to recount here.

We carry our memories with us and at odd times they make it to the surface. The farm experiences are part of my personal fabric and the comfort of these soft pieces make all negative experiences less traumatic. Like a patchwork quilt pieced together one stitch at a time to end up with a complete quilt to treasure.

Christmas was always a time for baking cookies at my childhood home in Westerville. Sugar and molasses cookies, Chinese chews that were so sweet they made your teeth ache — in a good way — and my mom’s famous meringues. How she is able to whip up those stiff cookies that melt in your mouth, is still a mystery to me.

If you were born into a coffee-drinking family and before it was sealed in bags, you must remember the metal tins of coffee. We opened the coffee with the metal “key” used to wind around and pop the lid off. The smell of fresh coffee filled the room.

My mom stored her Christmas cookies in used coffee tins. Now I realize that the lingering coffee aroma made her cookies taste extra delicious, to me.

My granddaughter sent me this email:

I had poured myself a cup of coffee this morning — lots of milk and sweetener — and the very moment I tasted it, I was reminded of you and Pappy! Coffee always reminds me of waking up early at your house and having eggs and bacon and sweet, milky coffee for breakfast. It’s a really fun memory.

And the memories linger.

Priority lists…

Day by day

Priority lists good for life as well as chores

by Liz Thompson
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Tuesday January 21, 2014

Each new day is a gift. As years pass, seemingly faster every year, I become more aware of this reality. I try to start my days with a prayer that I’ll use my time wisely.

In the 1980s, I took a time management class at my workplace. My most valuable takeaway was to make daily to-do lists and prioritize them. The goal was to end our day with a lot of the tasks crossed off.

Years passed and I became a true list maker: grocery, daily to-do, what to pack for a trip, Christmas cards and gifts, and even books I’d read. Sometimes when the day is through and I read my list(s), I add accomplishments completed I hadn’t planned on and cross them off, too.

The last 10 days of December, my daily devotional book was about priorities. The author took each letter of the word, discussing what should be foremost in our lives. I realized that I don’t often list my life’s priorities; they are in my head and heart. This is not the popular bucket list or New Year’s resolutions I speak of, but what uses my time and talents and what fills my heart and mind. The order shifts with life circumstance, with many being constant.

Recently, I was reminded of a visual illustration. You have an empty jar — any size, you choose. You fill it with various small marbles or pea gravel. The jar is mostly full. Then you realize you still have some larger stones you need to put in the jar, but they won’t fit.

Start over and put the larger stones in the jar first. Then sprinkle the small gravel on top; these stones shift around and settle into the cracks and crevices. Some empty spaces remain. The jar represents our day, or life, and the large stones are our first priorities; the smaller stones are minor events. If those don’t all fit in our jar, or life, we’ve only missed out on something of lesser consequence.

Keep in mind that the small joys are no less important.

I asked some friends what their priorities are at this point in their lives. The answers have a common thread, partly because my friends and I are of a certain age.

Don Huiner, of Columbus, wants to become a better, active listener and talk less. “You know me well enough to know that’s not going to be a walk in the park for me,” he said.

Irveline, from Columbus, says her priority for this year is to teach her grandchildren, ages 2 to 20, Dutch and Welsh, which is their ancestors’ mother tongue.

“My priority for the year will be to say it like it is,” says Linda Sturm of Gahanna. “Procrastinator is a pretty word for sloth. I’m not procrastinating when I put something off; I’m being a sloth. By being honest with myself, dropping the window dressing, I hope to be more productive.”

Clay Cormany of Worthington says, “For me the ‘t’ in priorities stands out with t standing for time and a wiser, more productive and less self-centered use of it. That means more time spent playing with my grandchildren and seeing the world through their eyes; more time spent showing my love and devotion to my wife; more time visiting my 90-year-old aunt, who’s my last living link to my parents’ generation; and less time playing computer word games.”

“I want to spend as much time as possible with my grandchildren while they’re young, and my children,” says Judy Hannigan of Grove City. She hopes to start visiting people in assisted living and spend time with shut-ins, like she used to, because they may not see others very often.

My daughter, Mary, wants to be more like the biblical Mary and less of a Martha. See Luke 10:38-42 for the story about Mary listening attentively when Jesus was their guest while her sister, Martha, was busy working.

Elizabeth, my granddaughter, wants to make God’s purpose for her life her highest priority.

If we put these and similar long-term priorities in our jar first — and probably keep them there to remind us — we’ll have room for the small surprises. We’ll still have empty spaces of time open for contemplation, recreation and rest.

No matter what we place in our jars, Zig Ziglar sums up time management well: “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either, ‘I wish I had,’ or ‘I’m glad I did.’ “