Tuesday evening, I was getting some “around the deck” spring cleaning accomplished and set up my cleaning headquarters on the deck’s table.
I reached in the box of trash bags, grabbed a bag, shook it open with a snap, and sat down to unsuccessfully hold back tears. Opening the trash bag is not terrifying like popping the biscuit tube. Sometimes, opening a garbage bag snaps back a memory of several of my sons and foster sons arriving at the house with their clothes and other worldly belongings packed into trash bags.
Several sons reported they’d return to their foster homes after school to find trash bags filled with their “life” piled on the front porch, waiting for the social worker to arrive and transfer them to a new foster home. One son saved each bag for future moves until the weakened bag could no longer serve it’s humiliating purpose.
Omega Baptist Church of Dayton, Ohio did a tremendous, loving thing through one of their ministries: they purchased and delivered 40 suitcases filled with hygiene items. Their social justice ministry project, spearheaded by Kendra and Carrlo Heard, and Rev. Joshua Ward delivered “Hope In A Suitcase” that will serve Montgomery County children who enter the foster care system.
This project is near and dear to my heart and I applaud Omega Baptist Church of Dayton for thinking of those brave souls, little and not-so-little, who are suddenly forced into a new, unfamiliar world. To pack one’s worldly belongings into a trash bag is degrading, dehumanizing, and despicable. Sometimes, in an emergency placement, it’s all that is available; I get that. But, we can always do better. We must always do better.
Thank you, Omega Baptist Church! Know you are loved…
NOTE: This blog entry is from DailyOM and not my own personal submission.
Finding joy and reason in mundane tasks can shift the flow, and make it not so bad afterall.
Spending an afternoon working on the car, gardening, or even cleaning the house can be fun when we have an interest in the project. Yet, we can also find joy in the chores and tasks we don’t especially like. All we need is a change of attitude, a different approach, a little music, or some help from friends, and the tasks or responsibilities that we perceive as tedious can become a source of pleasure.
Most of us tend to put off what it is that we don’t want to do. Yet, one of the best approaches to an unpleasant task or dull chore is to dive right in and be fully mindful of what it is that you are doing. You may not perceive washing the kitchen floor as enjoyable, but it can be if you view it as a loving act for both yourself and your family. Lose yourself in paying your bills, and thank the universe that you are able to receive the service you are writing that check for. Mending can become a treasure hunt to find the right button and matching thread. And, each morning, see how neatly you can make your bed and take pride in your results.
Playing your favorite music, dancing while you work, or creating a mental list of everything you are grateful for are just a few ways to turn an unexciting activity into a fun event. Ask a friend to help you clean out the basement or paint a room; provide some yummy snacks as an incentive. Look for joy in doing your mundane activities, and they’ll become a source of enjoyment rather than a tolerable duty.
Mother taught me basic chores long before starting kindergarten and for that I shall always be grateful.
Grandpa Leroy always celebrated our graduation from the thrice used baby bed with a brand new big boy/girl twin bed. Somewhere, I still have the photograph of my own transition from crib-bed to full twin bed. Grandpa even made sure my own sons, adopted at age 12, were set with their own “big boy beds.” He purchased four beds and frames, even when I insisted I was only adopting one child.
My first twin bed had light blue sheets and pillow cases to showcase the toile bedspread and curtains with scenes of US History. I loved this set and often laid on the cover to search details of the various historic scenes.
“Now, this line of material is called “piping” and it’s kind of like a guide to make the cover straight,” Mother pointed out as she showed me how to straighten the piping that ran the full shape of the twin bed’s design.
The next few mornings, Mother assisted me in making my bed, always giving me the lead.
One morning, it was my turn to do it all by myself.
“Now, remember what I said about the piping?”
I made a few adjustments.
I’m sure the piping’s designed placement, framing the top edges of the mattress, was was no where close to being straight but I do not recall Mother ever making any adjustments. I still was a bit uncertain of the piping’s purpose.
Every morning, Mother would enter my room for inspection, mainly to assure the bed was made, items retrieved from the floor and put away, and any clean clothes were put away. I don’t ever recall Mother giving a short tug at the bed spread to straighten the crooked piping.
I’ve oft seen memes of haphazardly loaded dishwashers that would drive a perfectionist to tears.
Mother was an organized perfectionist, but when it came to training her children and grandchildren at younger ages, she made allowances. I loved watching her with my sister’s young sons, Jonathan and Andrew, as well as my sons who were slightly older. Jonathan lived with Autism, my sons each arrived straight out of foster care, and Andrew… well, he had bright red hair. Mother always had the right amount of patience and creativity in dealing with each grandson.
However, as us children grew older, she would gradually tightened the grip in our training.
I teach “process” to my students. I think I see the link to my own training from Mother. Step by step.
Last week’s post regarding The Rude Runners, those joggers/runners who shout-talk when they pass by my house at 5:00 AM, resulted in several witty suggestions but an even funnier gift from my friend, Jenny Davis.
Several days of exceptionally strong winds and rain kept the loud Rude Runners at bay over the weekend but I was certain they’d be back Monday morning.
I have this audio reader on my phone which I absolutely love. I use it mostly for multitasking so I can work and listen.
Now, I can hear folks chatting the full length of the school parking lot due to all the blacktop, concrete, and bricks. It’s an echo chamber which I don’t mind unless it’s 5:00 AM.
So, I decided to experiment with my Bluetooth speaker on the deck. I think I struck gold.
When I was awakened by the women coming down the parking lot from the west, I was set to go. As they got nearer I could tell when they heard the recording; one of them said to the others, “Shhh.” (There were at least three this morning.) They heard my male reader:
“Good morning, Neighbors. I am aware and thrilled you take your morning exercise seriously and with such devotion. Please remember that some of your neighbors do the same but at this time of day they require more rest. Please try to respect their quest for good health as much as you take pride in your own by speaking softer when running this time of day. Thank you and please be safe on your daily journey.” [Repeat]
I could tell they remained to listen to the loop or second time through as they had probably missed the first few lines.
Then, I heard one ask if it was a motion sensor or something that tripped it.
“It’s like being at Kings Island or Disney when those voices come out of nowhere to remind guests about…”
They were off, again, and silent. Whether this will work or last, who knows? But, I may end up searching the ACME Corporation catalog.
I was finishing up my fourth and last online class at 12:50 PM when I began hearing an odd but familiar singing from the deck area.
I went to the deck and there were THREE baby cardinals!
Two were pretty solid red and one a shabby red and beige, so I’m assuming there are two boys and a girl.
They were tiny and so adorable.
They were gone before I could get my phone or camera but they’re enjoying the surrounding trees and doing a great job of maneuvering from tree to tree, branch to branch.
It’s been years since I’ve seen a baby cardinal and this is so exciting.
Since I didn’t get any cardinal photos, here are some flowers. the former crocus photos, and the ones here with pink and purple, were from plants Mother gave me many years ago when one of my nephews had a fund raiser.
It was announced that Cincinnati, Ohio television personality and performer, Bob Braun, only two years after taking over for the legendary television host, Ruth Lyons, and his talented crew would be coming to perform in Elwood’s Wendell L. Willkie High School’s massive gymnasium that was a popular vehicle for much more than indoor sports and physical education classes.
The Bob Braun Show would go up Sunday evening, March 16, 1969. My grandparents, Donna and Leroy Barmes, purchased tickets for the entire family, serving as a triple celebration for my father’s birthday (March 22), my parents’ wedding anniversary (April 4), and Mother’s birthday (April 6). I would watch the Bob Braun Show with my grandmother or my mother at lunchtime nearly every day until I began school, so I was understandably excited to be going.
Now, when I was a child, if someone said, “we’re headed to the gym” it had absolutely nothing to do with working out or personal fitness.
The Gym in Elwood, Indiana was located at the northwest corner of the Wendell L. Willkie High School’s city block-sized campus and while it was known for its impressive size for indoor sports events, it was also recognized for entertainment and the performing arts.
Every spring, the high school’s Variety Show, begun in the late 1950s, was a near-Great White Way staple for the community showcasing the concert band and choirs, under the direction of Clifford Brugger and Rex Jenkins, and the majorettes (baton’d color guard of the 1960s), choreographed by the nationally celebrated Tudy Smith, and a number of ensembles and solos. This was not just any ordinary high school presentation; it was a stellar production that continues to this day, still based on the blueprint of its solid 1950’s origins. It was my training ground for music education and theatre. The old gym was my Disney World of adventure, Main Street USA, the future, and a world of magic.
We arrived at the high school gym, early. If you were with Grandpa Leroy, you were always 30-45 minutes early! There were dressing and headquarter trailers next to the building and trucks to transport all the television equipment and costumes.
As we were seated on the southwest side of the door, a few rows up from the main floor, my grandfather slipped away to speak with a gentleman with a clipboard, giving directions to production staff. They chatted a few moments and Grandpa turned to indicate where we were seated; the gentleman made a note on his clipboard and nodded to Grandpa.
The show began and I was mesmerized. The familiar images from television were live and up close. The process of recording a television show was beyond magical.
Singing cast member, Bonnie Lou, left the stage with a bright spot light operator following her; she walked near to where we were seated.
“I understand there’s a man named Danny in the audience who will be celebrating his birthday next week. Can he stand?”
My father could be a bit shy but he had enough performance instinct to manage situations, even one like what he was about to experience.
Bonnie Lou asked an audience member for one of the vacant metal folding chairs where a large section of the audience was seated and motioned for my father to sit. looking out toward the audience; Bonnie and my father were bathed in the spotlight as she sang, “Danny Boy.”
At first I was confused because in my piano lesson book, the melody was identified as “Londonderry Air.” Did she change the words just for my dad?
For years, I thought Bonnie Lou had basically written the song for Danny Jolliff.
“A small, blonde-headed tyke curls up on his father’s lap, attentively listening to the melodic velvety voice reading from a history book. The boy has a tiny index finger on top of the long, slender finger as it runs across the lines of words. The little tyke follows the lines to absorb the spoken sounds to match them into making sense; he is eager to read at three years old. Occasionally, the little tyke will raise his other hand to pause his father’s reading, pointing to a word that appears interesting and the young patient father stops, repeats the word, waits for his son to pronounce the word, and explains its meaning in three-year-old lay terms. The little boy nods and the reading continues.”
That was me as a little blonde tyke.
The young, twenty-seven-year-old man was my birth father, Danny Lee Jolliff, who was born at his parents’ home in Elwood, Indiana, on March 22, 1942; he would have turned 79 years old, today.
By the time I turned ten, the tender father-son scenario was radically altered by the ravaging effects of alcoholism. My father was still tender toward me and now, my two younger siblings who were eight and ten years younger, but his intoxicating rage was mentally and physically directed at our mother, creating distress and hesitation in us wanting to be near him.
Many of my father’s classmates at Elwood’s Wendell L. Willkie High School still recall a tall, handsome, pleasant, jovial teenager with an enchanting sense of humor. I agree with their assessment as I clearly remember it, myself before the alcohol began masking the terrific human with an unfortunate, unfamiliar one that was quite nasty and ugly.
Alcoholism crept through three of my paternal family’s preceding generations and I observed it, once again, in line with my own generation. I pray the cycle is now broken, no longer cursing my nieces and nephews.
My sister has asked questions about what I remember and sadly, my memories are so disconnected from what she and my brother knew. I find it terribly sad that neither of my younger siblings knew our father as I had known him.
Despite the horrors Mother endured, I never once heard her degrade him. She even loved his family and oft commented, “I stopped loving Danny but never stopped loving his family.” And, throughout her final illness and at her funeral, Danny’s family mirrored their love for her with profound affection.
Grandma Donna and Grandpa Leroy, Mother’s parents, were careful to never make disparaging comments about my father and by the time my sister arrived when I was going on nine, I was still uncertain they knew what was happening on the hill at 825 Main Street.
One night, while sitting around round dining room table following dinner, my father, after a number of beers, was quietly chatting with Grandma Donna. In unsteady wording, I heard him reassuringly say to Grandma, “I want you to believe me that I never hurt Diana and would never harm her.”
I had witnessed too many scenes of his domestic violence to not become distantly engaged in this conversation. My eavesdropping skills had matured early in life and I remained focused on my ever-present note-writing pad in front of me.
Grandma Donna was seated forward in her chair, balancing her elbows on the wooden walnut table, staring down at her folded hands. She said nothing. My father asked, “You believe me, don’t you?”
Grandma Donna maintained absolute control of the moment. Without looking up into his pleading eyes, she quietly said, “I would truly love to believe you.”
Then, she raised her eyes to his, still keeping her familiar warm smile. He backed away from further conversation.
Across the table sat Grandpa Leroy; his arms folded, his jaw set, and a smoldering glare targeting my father.
They knew. I figured they suspected but I was never sure since they never discussed anything within my hearing.
My father never regained the footing of what I knew as a young child. He had stepped onto that proverbial slippery slope. The angle of his decline was far too steep and he did not possess the personal traction to climb back up the slope. The early descriptions from his high school friends still ring true but it was an obvious struggle for him to pretend. Fortunately, his desire to keep others laughing never weakened. It was his gift. It was his way of preventing the world around him from sagging into unhappiness. That was a true gift.
Looking back, nearly forty years later, my sister and I have wondered what our father would be like had he lived. Would he have been a part of our lives? We think so. Would he have been interested in being a grandfather to our children? Again, we think so. Naturally, it is hopeful speculation but we are entitled to those hopes.
My father’s death occurred two days following Mother’s marriage to Coach Haas. His choice allowed us to be released from the hell we had known. In some ways, it was another gift, a selfless one. It afforded us freedom from the past, a new start.
Six months later, Madison County’s magistrate, Judge Carroll, banged the gavel three separate times: Destin Lang Haas… Dena Linn Haas… Darin Lee Jolliffe-Haas. Our family story and personal stories and journeys were drastically changed.
Some folks were ruffled by the name change for which I will never apologize. It was much like Jean Valjean’s “Soliloquy” in the musical, LES MISERABLES,
“I’ll escape now from that world, From the world of Jean Valjean. Jean Valjean is nothing now; Another story must begin.”
I loved recounting with Mother of our Labor Day parties in the large house atop the huge hill at the corner of Main and 9th Streets, his love for gourmet cooking, their mutual passion for music that was more my gene-blessing rather than inspired, and especially, our family vacations that were enormously entertaining and historically enriched. My love and passion for United States history and architecture are prominent traits instilled in me and I now recognize my earnest desire to keep others laughing is not so much me being a clown as it is to keep the joy flowing in and through others.
One of my favorite stories she shared was about sitting up at the dining room table, late one August night to work on a project. It was nearing 3:00 AM; my siblings were asleep and I was a new freshman at Ball State University. There was a tap at the patio’s screen door. It was my father. Mother was somewhat hesitant but invited him in.
They sat at the dining room table for several hours, chatting pleasantly, reminiscing, and discussing us kids. He expressed how he appreciated what she had done on her own as a parent, a compliment that touched Mother greatly, still making her eyes glisten a bit as we discussed it the summer prior to her August passing. From the first time Mother shared this account to the last, she always maintained a fond appreciation of that night.
Later, Mother learned that the police officers on 3rd shift always made a wellness check past our house. That night, they saw my father’s car parked at the side on 9th Street and parked with the lights out to observe our dining room. When they were convinced all was well, they left, but continued to make frequent passes near our house.
The last birthday card I received from my father was on my 18th, nearly 40 years ago. In it he penned, “Only my love for you exceeds my pride in you. Never ever reach for the stars; always be one. Love, Dad.”
We’ll never know Danny Jolliff’s entire story. Many of us hold pieces to his human puzzle but there will always be too many undiscovered pieces to complete the full portrait. The pieces we do have are probably enough. He was a good guy; a kind-hearted man who battled dragons much larger than him and far more powerful. I am confident he tried. The dragons were just too fierce.
While waiting in the basement for my blanket and pillow cases to finish in the spin cycle, I opened a few drawers of a 8’-0” long dresser and found two time-ridden picture frames of the ornate, somewhat cheap metal, with a bit of a treasure trove!
One was a photograph of Mother from, I believe her non-yearbook, formal senior portrait. The other frame was a photograph of me at about age five.
But, packed away behind those front portraits were several other images. I now remember these frames at my grandparents’ home in Elwood, Indiana, at the corner of South A Street and 8th Street.
Then, from the frame with my images…
The 1968 photograph was a little haunting as I was coming off a few years of illnesses, rheumatic fever being the big scare.
Grandpa Leroy had finished basic training for the Air Force in Miami, Florida and was in training for radio operator in Racine, Wisconsin when he was swept under with rheumatic fever and discharged from the service after recovery.
Mother said my fevers would get outrageously high and she would bathe me in the bathtub with alcohol and ice. A number of times I was in the ER at Elwood’s Mercy Hospital. Finally, in 1968, my tonsils were removed and most of my dramatic illnesses abandoned my weakened body.
However, my specialists now believe that was just the beginning of RRMS, marking several practical symptoms for other things.
I knew this photograph existed and that there was a lull in the first born photograph parade during this period. To see it now, seems to be a “missing piece” of some scattered puzzle that’s finally coming together, somehow.
My memory stretched back to age two so I can clearly recall a number of memories from this period: Mother’s calming presence and touch, curled up in my father’s (Danny) lap while he read history books to me, Grandma Donna making me rest when I wanted to join my uncles in play, and Grandpa Leroy’s somewhat sympathetic touch as he held me. I had our local physician, Dr. Walter Wirth, and Indianapolis’ Methodist Hospital’s Dr. William Wishard, but it is my family’s loving, supportive hands I recall most.
This photograph was a good discovery; a comforting and somewhat reassuring one.
With my current physical conditions, it’s really difficult to determine what is RRMS and what are symptoms from yesterday’s vaccine as I was wracked with significant fatigue and minimal discomfort.
The Quartet was fed at 7:45 AM and once they returned from pottying, I was back in my bed until at least 12:30 PM, or perhaps later. While there was nothing on my schedule for today, I was missing out on tons of research and possible writing. I tried to sit at the desk a number of times but lasted not more than ten minutes before returning to bed to make other futile stabs at working. I did manage to organize my Dropbox files.
If this is the worst of it, fine. I’ve managed this leaden fatigue before. Still, I do not know if this is my body or my body +vaccine. The muscle around the injection site is a tad sore, but I can barely call it disruptive in any way.
So, I do wonder if Vaccine No. 2 will pack the wallop I’ve been reading from some of my teacher friends. Several colleagues are really getting socked with major symptoms and incredible discomfort.
I divided a head of lettuce, drizzled them with olive oil, and placed them in the air fryer for ten minutes. The toppings: chili tomatoes, black beans, shredder cheddar, chopped onion, and thousand island dressing made for a comforting meal as The Quartet surrounded me.
I am feeling better, now, at 11:00 PM and DENNIS THE MENACE is aiding in a lighter state.
Our wet Thursday actually began early Wednesday evening and steadily continued through the night up to now, 9:45 AM.
The sound of tires plunging through standing water on Shroyer Road, the clanking wind chimes in the wet wind, and the patter of droplets hitting the wooden deck are offset by the belching cardinals dueting somewhere in the nearby trees.
Rain, dripping trees, and grey skies are selected items for nature’s canvas making it difficult to scoop up energy.
The dogs are stretched out into nap readiness as I attend to some basic items on the main floor. I may join them for an hour.