Sometimes, That’s All We Can Do

Author’s note:  Many of you know that I work two days a week in a local pharmacy.  At some point I hope to become too busy selling my books to continue at the pharmacy, but I am so incredibly grateful for the people I have met and the things I have learned during my time there.  This is a story about something that happened yesterday while I was working.  I am making no judgement…it is simply food for thought for us both.

Yesterday at the pharmacy, a customer came in about an hour before we closed.  It was a couple minutes before 5:00 and he was there to pick up a compounded medication for a pet.  He was dressed in a dress shirt and pants as if he were on his way home from work. 

I didn’t find the medicine in our “will call” bin, so I checked with the compounding lab and they said they were just finishing the medication and that it would be ready in 10 minutes.  I gave this information to the customer and asked politely if he had time to wait…telling him that it might be only five minutes as they were often quicker since they usually give worst case scenario times.

His face twisted into an ugly sneer and he said, “No, I don’t have time to wait!  I was told the medication would be ready.”  And then, he turned abruptly and walked out while I stood behind the counter dumbfounded.

When you work in a pharmacy, you are accustomed to dealing with sick people who don’t feel well and might sometimes be grumpy because of it.  But we don’t often see rudeness from someone who is picking up medication for a pet.  Most people are usually grateful that there is a compounding pharmacy in town that can make exactly the right medication to help their animal friends.

During the last year and nine months that I’ve been a part of this world, I’ve come to realize that pharmacy workers tend to be very kind and have a genuine desire to help people (and animals) feel better.  The last thing a person needs if they are sick or if their family member is sick, is for the people in their local pharmacy to behave in a way that makes their day even worse.

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The compounding pharmacist walked out with the medication right after the customer left.  How I wished he had stayed.  That last hour dragged for me.  It’s amazing how we can talk with many people in a day, and one single interaction has the power to lift us or discourage us.

We never know what other people might be dealing with in their lives.  Sometimes something as innocuous as a potential 10 minute wait might be the last straw for someone, like it appeared to be for my customer yesterday.  I said a prayer for him on my drive home.  Because sometimes, that’s all we can do.

It’s A Garden That I Carry With Me

I come from a long line of women with green thumbs.  My mother and both of my grandmothers loved to garden and were really good at it.  My paternal great-grandmother was famous for her gardens on Jackson Street in Elkhart, Indiana, and even sold flowers from them during the Great Depression.

My maternal grandfather was also a gardener.  One of my favorite pictures of him was taken when he was around 80 years old.  It’s a photo of him behind his roto-tiller, turning the soil to prepare it for the planting of his annual vegetable garden.

I have a theory about those who love to garden like I do.  I think gardeners are creative people at heart.  There are a lot of creative people in my family…writers, songwriters, artists…and most of them are gardeners too.

If you’ve seen my book, “Which Came First?” which is a story set on my maternal grandmother’s farm, you will notice a lot of flowers in the pictures.  The book was dedicated to her and the flowers are a nod to her love of gardening.

The gardening process is very much like the creative process…one starts with nothing but a blank piece of ground or a blank computer screen or a blank sheet of paper…and creates something (hopefully beautiful) out of nothing.  Then of course, you sit back and critique your work and make mental lists of all the things you could do to make it better!

One of the hardest parts of my recent move was leaving my perennial gardens at the old house.  It had taken me seven years of careful tending to get them up to speed and I moved just as they were really thriving and coming into their own.  (I’m hoping the new owners are enjoying them!)

I had moved from the Midwest where I was very familiar with the flowers and plants that grew best in that climate.  When I moved to Texas seven years ago, I planted a Midwest perennial garden that spring and it promptly burnt up in the hot Texas sun that first summer.  The next year, I tried again but I still didn’t get it right.

After losing two complete perennial gardens to the Texas heat and sun, I finally wised up and did my research on Texas plants and gardening before my third try.  My third spring in Texas, I finally knew what to plant, what not to plant, and which plants I could plant here in the shade.

My third try was a charm as they say!  And this year, my gardens were looking mighty fine just about the time we moved.  So, here I am in a new home with no gardens.  I’ve scouted out my yard and decided on a spot for my new garden but it’s a little late in the season in this region to plant this year.  I do have a blank slate for next spring and I’m excited to plan it on paper before the actual planting begins.

For now, I will have to make do with my planter gardens:

*The two pots that I planted with succulents…those of you who garden know these fleshy-leafed plants that store water in their stems and leaves are very popular right now!

*My Energizer Poinsettia from last Christmas that just keeps on blooming…remember what I said about having the green thumbs in my family line!

*A pot and a hanging basket of multi-colored Begonias that I bought to support a co-worker’s daughter’s school fundraiser.

*A sometime flowering Kalanchoe plant I bought at the farmer’s market in Denton last summer…that looks like it is about ready to flower again.

*One “Early Girl” tomato plant that promises both flavor and an early appearance of fruit…we shall see about that as it only has yellow blossoms right now.

*And finally, a brand new Aloe Vera plant (which is also a succulent) to replace the one I accidently left outside on a night when we got a rare freeze in Texas.

I’m partial to Aloe Vera plants because my mom always kept one in the kitchen when I was growing up.  She believed the sticky gel-like substance in the leaves was good for burns and cuts.  It’s a pretty little plant that does double duty as a self-regenerating first-aid kit.

I will tend my little hodge podge garden in pots this year but next spring I will be chomping at the bit to start anew with my perennial planting.

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Author’s note:  If you are looking for a fun houseplant, Aloe Vera plants are very easy to grow and have been used for a variety of medicinal purposes for at least 6000 years.  The ancient Egyptians called it the “plant of immortality” and it is said that Cleopatra used the gel as part of her beauty regimen.  Native Americans also used the gel from the plant and called Aloe Vera the “wand of heaven.”


The Cousin Adventure

Four of my cousins are in town…Marcia, Deb, Pam and Bob.  They made a 1000 mile road trip from Northern Indiana to come visit.  Pam is in her 50’s like me and the other three are over 60.  They left in the middle of the night Sunday night and took turns driving and sleeping.  It took them 15 hours to get to North Texas.

Originally, it was going to be a girl trip…my three girl cousins…but then their brother got wind of their plan and said he wanted to go too!  I asked what all of their spouses thought about their road trip, and they said that all were supportive of the four siblings having this fun adventure together.

Their mother and my mother were sisters and best friends…Edie and June.  They loved one another so we loved one another.  I didn’t have sisters so I especially looked up to my older, girl cousins.  Pam was younger than me but the same age as my brother, Jeff, so they were always close.

With my mom and aunt in 1984 at Pam’s wedding

My first birthday celebrated with my cousins!

Since our mothers loved being together, we spent a lot of time with one another when we were kids.  I was younger so it probably wasn’t as exciting for my older cousins to be with me as it was for me to be with them.  We grew up playing together at one another’s houses and often celebrated our birthdays together.   We trick-or-treated as a group every Halloween and we spent every Christmas Eve together at our grandmother’s house.

Cousins in the 1960’s!

We spent many nights at one another’s houses too.  Marcia and Deb taught me about hair and makeup and clothes.  Bobby taught me how to throw a football and a baseball.  We loved playing “Is the wolf out tonight” and “Kickball” in their big front yard.  Sometimes we would fight, usually about whether or not someone was out in a game, but those disputes never seemed to last very long.

We rode horses together across the fields and country roads near our homes.  We played jokes on one another.  One day, we were swimming at the local creek just down the road from their house and we all came out of the water covered with leeches.   I still remember standing on the edge of the creek screaming at the top of my lungs, “Someone get them off me!”

My brother, Jeff, on a horse at our Aunt’s house

Their mother was a second mother to me and mine to them.  She was the one I talked with when my own mother just didn’t understand.  She was the only one who called me “Jannie” and to this day, I can still remember the sound of her voice calling my name.  One of my fondest memories is the time my aunt and I spent together in the summer of 1984 planning the decorations for Pam’s wedding reception.

Celebrating Pam’s wedding in 1984

When our grandmother was still alive but was getting too old to do the work herself, we would organize a spring cleanup of her property every year.  All the cousins would meet at her farm and trim and rake and plant and paint and repair.   We would all bring a dish or two to share and have a big potluck meal when all the work was done.  There would usually be a horseshoe tournament at the end of the work day too!

My Mom and Grandma at a spring cleanup work day.

Marcia drove me to the hospital when I was in labor with my daughter.  I had been in Indiana visiting family when my water broke and I wanted to get back to Michigan and to my own doctor. My husband and my father were both out of town for work, and my mother kept my sons while Marcia drove me to the hospital.

My contractions were five minutes apart when we were making the hour-long drive to Kalamazoo.  Every time I would say, “Here comes another one,” Marcia would floor the Ford Explorer we were in.  She kept telling me, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you have this baby on the side of the road…I’ll pull in behind a gas station if the baby starts coming.”  Needless to say, we laughed during the whole drive back to Michigan and she got me to the hospital before Anna arrived!

Marcia holding my daughter, Anna, Easter of 1994

When her oldest son wanted to attend Western Michigan University and play baseball there, he lived with my family for a summer so he could play with the college summer team.  Later, he played in the minor leagues for the Cubs and was able to play professional baseball in Canada and Japan.

Marcia’s son, Brent, far left, celebrating Ryan’s 4th birthday in the summer of 1993 when he lived with us.

As adults, my cousins and I have celebrated the happy moments of life together and we have mourned together during the sad times. When my brother died 11 years ago, they were all there and just as devastated as I was.  When you love the same people, you hurt when they do.

With my brother, Jeff, at his wedding reception in 1990.

When our grandmother died, Bobby and I both spoke at the service for her.  When their mom died of cancer nine years ago, my cousins asked me to speak at her funeral.  It was such a difficult task for me but I did it because I loved my cousins so much and because I had loved their mom so much too.

Bobby and me this week at Babe’s in Sanger, Texas.

Two years ago when my oldest son had an October, Halloween-themed wedding reception, my cousins were there and in costume to help us celebrate the big day!  (Blog post:  And Zombies Came To The Wedding, October 2014.)

Last September, I had the privilege of doing a book signing in Northern Indiana and of course, my cousins were there to support me and to celebrate my new book.  This picture of the four of us girls is one I will treasure always.

Their Texas road trip adventure has been such a gift for all of us.  My cousins felt it was important to visit and to spend time with their aunt while they still could.  And my mother has been so happy to have this time with the four of them…as have I. How lucky we have all been to share our whole lives with one another!

My cousins and me with my mom this week.

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Mother’s Day Can Be Bittersweet

Before I became a mother, I used to go home every year for Mother’s Day.  I would spend a wonderful day visiting with my mother and with my grandmother.  Since my love of flowers had come from them both, I would often give my mother a gift that had something to do with gardening, and my grandmother an Azalea plant or a flat of Snapdragons…two of her favorites.  If we had time, I would help her plant the flat of flowers.

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As my family grew, I would also have my children with me on Mother’s Day and they would bring me coffee in bed and little gifts they had chosen with their dad and the sweet homemade cards they had each made.   It really didn’t matter to me what we did; I just wanted to be surrounded by them and their love.

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet holiday for me now…as it is for many of us for various reasons.  My beloved grandmother is gone and hopefully spending time in a more beautiful garden somewhere.  Now that she isn’t here to visit, I’m so glad I have those memories of time spent with her on Mother’s Day. 

My mother hasn’t been the same since her stroke five years ago.  We will spend Mother’s Day together and maybe it will be a good day and I will see glimmers of the woman she once was.  It will be a different Mother’s Day than it used to be, but at least I can see her face and hear her voice and remember the way things were before.

My youngest child lives not far from me and I will get to be with her on Mother’s Day.  I’m very grateful for that time with her because I know how busy her life is these days.  My other children live across the country and I will hear from them and they will probably send lovely gifts that will mean a lot to me.  But it isn’t the same.

Every mother wants to spend Mother’s Day with her children.  More than dinner out, flowers, candy, jewelry…what we really want is time with our children…even after they are grown up adults with lives and families of their own. 

So, I will do my best on Mother’s Day to not be sad and to be grateful to and for the people around me.  I will, however, remember the many Mother’s Day holidays when life felt perfect and I thought I was the luckiest mom ever.

If you have the chance to be with your mom on Mother’s Day, don’t miss the opportunity to give her some special memories that she will treasure all of her life.  Because one day, you will treasure those memories too!

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Friends Are Friends Forever

During the past two weeks, we moved into a new home and mid-move, we had out of state friends come to visit.  You might think that’s a terrible time to have company, but it wasn’t.  When my dear friend, Susan, contacted me a month ago about possibly coming for a visit during April, I told her we would be moving the week they were coming to Texas from their home in Michigan.

“You don’t want us coming when you are in the middle of a move,” she said.  Oh, but I did.

The older I get, the more I want to spend time with my friends.  They say that friends are the family we choose and I believe this to be true.  We don’t get to choose our family, but we do get to choose our friends.

I’ve been friends with Susan and her husband, Ron, for over 30 years.  We met when our oldest children were just babies.  Ron was beginning his electrical contracting business and was still the guy doing the work in the field himself.  He came to do some electrical work at my house and we struck up a conversation about us just moving to town and both of us being new parents.  Ron and Susan invited our family over for dinner and the friendship began.

Over the years, each family welcomed more children, we met one another’s parents and extended families, and we shared the stuff of life…both good and bad.  We watched one another’s children grow up and spent many days and nights with the two families together…sharing birthdays and holidays, kids’ games and performances, family celebrations and challenges.

Susan and I both lost a brother during the last 30 years, our homes changed, my marriage ended and when I married again they welcomed my new husband into our friendship, and time saw the three of us grow from young parents into middle-aged empty nesters.

The last three years saw the marriages of three of our combined five children and a first grandchild for me.  Through it all, our friendship has endured even when life was busy on both sides and we didn’t see one another as often.

So, when friends with this kind of shared history wanted to visit and we were in the middle of a move, it really wasn’t a big deal.  We ended up having a welcome break from moving, and a wonderful three days spent together.  What a gift this friendship has been!

And, having overseen the wiring on four of my previous homes, Ron knew me well enough to know that I would want to have some electrical work done on my new house.  So of course, being the friend that he is, he packed his electrical tools and brought them on the plane and on his vacation, to Texas!

I’m always intrigued by the forces that bring people together as friends.  While I have treasured long time friends like Ron and Susan, I also have relatively short term friendships that are very important to me too.  There is no time requirement for friendship!

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with a couple of friends at work about friendships and how you know someone is a good and true friend.  Here’s a list of what we decided:

*Your personalities mesh and you simply enjoy being together whether you are talking or not.

*You have shared experiences and understand the important people and events in one another’s lives.

*You are flexible and understand the demands on each other’s time and can pick back up with the friendship no matter how much time has passed since you were last together.

*You have similar values for how you want to live your lives.

*You know you can depend on one another.

*The friendship is important to each of you and there is effort to nurture it from both sides.

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Author’s note:  I would love to hear your feedback on what you believe makes a good friend or friendship!