Joy & Celebration:
Writings to bring a smile, a positive thought,
and an invitation to remember your own stories...
"When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace, love, prosperity, happiness, all the good things."
The benefits of joy can’t be underestimated. Joy can do what nothing else can do! It can nourish, refresh, rejuvenate, replenish, and restore. Joy can bring optimism and hopefulness. Sometimes, joy comes to us, sometimes, we have to go after it, and sometimes, we have to take it to someone else. Joy can display itself as sheer happiness and gladness, or it can be quietly felt in the deep and tender places of our heart. “Joy moments” are unforgettable. Good feelings are fleeting, but true joy stays with us and reminds us of the best parts of our lives, and our shared, vulnerable humanity. Shirley
Treasures Wrapped in Wrinkled Paper
“My little brother has a present for you.” This older sister and younger brother had waited until all of the other students had gone, and now, here they stood in front of my desk, each holding a wrapped gift.
As an intervention reading specialist who worked with groups of 3rd through 5th grade students throughout the day, my lesson plans were focused on teaching foundational reading skills to students who were not meeting their grade level expectations. So every minute of their intervention time was critical. When I set up my classroom, I brought along hundreds of high-interest books I had purchased throughout my years as a general classroom teacher. Yet, because my students had so much catching up to do, there was no flexibility in the 30-40 minute blocks that would allow time for any “free choice/free reading” opportunities. So my library shelves sat untouched.
The collection of books stared at me every morning when I walked into my classroom, and the tidiness of the shelves had become unacceptable. I wanted to see signs that books had been pulled off the shelves for reading, and that students had been searching for just the right book to read. This desire prompted me to offer a before-school and during-lunch Reading Club. My small portable could only accommodate 30-35 students, so every Reading Club filled quickly. I would get to work by 7am to open the door, but even my early arrival wasn’t early enough. If the buses arrived before I did, a long line of students would be waiting for me. My library of books was being used beyond my expectations!
On this particular morning, as students were leaving for their homerooms to start their school day, the 4th grade sister had stopped at my desk with her little kindergarten brother. I couldn’t accommodate kindergarteners in the Reading Clubs, so this resulted in having only 1st-5th grade student participants. However, weeks earlier, the older sister had asked if her younger brother could join her, since she wasn’t going to leave him alone on the playground before school, and she wanted to come in and read. Of course, my answer was yes!
Now, the sister was saying to me, “My little brother has a present for you.” With her prompting, he very shyly gave me his gift that had been wrapped in crumpled tissue paper and tied with a piece of forlorn ribbon. I opened the gift and found a trial-size Lady Deodorant Stick. His shyness gave way to a big smile when he saw my delight with his gift! Then, his sister gave me her gift, also wrapped in some wrinkled tissue paper, and she, with a look of expectancy, watched as I lifted a strand of pink plastic beads for me to wear. Years earlier, a parent had told me, “Students say that Mrs. Myers wears fine jewelry.” My collection of “costume jewelry” gleaned from clearance sales must have looked like very special jewels to the children; and since it was my habit to wear a necklace to school everyday, somewhere around October, I would notice little girls wearing necklaces borrowed from their mothers’ jewelry boxes. My observant Reading Club student had found a piece of fine jewelry for me to wear, knowing it was something I would enjoy!
You have to understand that my students came from homes in which parents worked in the fields picking strawberries, and other produce for just dollars a day; and in rainy weather, there was no work or income. To keep from becoming homeless, many families shared single homes with multiple families. Money was for food and other essentials, with little or no discretionary spending for extras. Yet, having so little materially didn’t limit the generosity of the two young children who stood in front of me. Their hearts simply wanted to give, and they had found a way to make that happen.
How a deodorant stick and plastic beads wrapped in wrinkled paper can transform into treasures is an amazing experience. In those brief moments, I received joy from two little gifts, and my students received joy in seeing my appreciation of their gifts! Yet, I believe the greatest joy of all was in my witnessing the modeling of gratitude and giving that a big sister had given to her little brother, simply because she had said, “Let’s give the teacher a present!”
For a long time, I wore a pink strand of plastic beads that felt more valuable and looked more beautiful than any necklace I had purchased. I think the strand of pink beads and the lady deodorant stick are probably in one of my teacher bins stored in the garage. However, I do know for sure that on a routine early-morning start to my teacher day twelve years ago, joy walked into my portable classroom, and gifted me with a gentle memory that still holds a special place in my heart today!
Recently, while going through some bins in my garage, I came upon a file folder filled with love letters - not really. Let me rephrase this, the folder was filled with letters of rejection from the many publishers I had “crushed” on over the years. I just knew they would take one look at the articles and book chapters I had sent for their publication, and remark to everyone in the room, “Eureka, we have found the best writer in the land! Quickly, give her a call and offer her a gazillion dollars to let us publish her writing before someone else does!”
Ah, but this is not how the relationships unfolded. Instead, each sent me a little card or letter letting me know that I was not going to have even a single date with their magazine or publishing house. “Your article doesn’t fit the needs of our magazine.” “Thank you for thinking of us, but….” “We hope you will continue to search for other publishers…” “Unfortunately, at this time….” I was rejected - spurned over and over again.
Thankfully, over the years, I did have a few pieces published. In my file folder of “rejects”, there were also some “love letters” from publishers who said, “Would you send us another chapter? ” “Could we see your Table of Contents?” “We are very interested in…”
Now, in mid-summer, I await to hear from a publisher regarding articles I recently submitted. Will the publisher ignore me, spurn me, encourage me, or want to move forward? Time will tell.
For now, though, I’d better get back to the article I was writing before I got distracted and went outside and viewed the sunset, checked the fruit on the trees, organized some of my office supplies, watched the ending of a baseball game, and decided to write this instead! What can you expect, though, when Mark Twain is whispering his words in your ear - Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well. Easy for him to say.
How was I supposed to know hard-boiled eggs can explode? Did I miss the lesson on propulsion and missile guiding systems in one of my English Lit classes in college? All I wanted to do was make a bowl of egg salad for my family, and now I was dodging a large pot full of exploding eggs in my kitchen! Everything I will write is 100% true, with no embellishments or stretching of the truth. The drama of the situation needs no embellishment. On its own, the situation was terrifyingly awful.
These simple words, “Is something burning?” set off a search party in my home that would have successfully found Sasquatch or the Yeti if either of these big-footed wonders had been anywhere near. However, the source of the burning smell was coming from the kitchen, where on the stove's back burner sat a steaming pot filled with eggs I had "just" set to boil. The pot of water had boiled down in the "few" minutes I had gone to do something else. Quickly, I turned off the stove and moved the pot off the hot burner and onto the cooler burner in front. The inside bottom of the pot was completely blackened, and the eggs were sizzling. If you remember nothing else, remember this: Boiled eggs should NEVER sizzle!
Wonder woman here decided she could save the eggs and still have egg salad, so she promptly took the pot to the sink to run cold water over the eggs, thinking this would release them from the hot blackened bottom of the pan. Immediately upon contact with the cold water, the eggs - all of them - began to shriek like missiles, whizzing and propelling themselves out of the pan, exploding into little pieces of shell, yolk and egg white. I dodged and cowered, and bent from side to side, trying not to get hit by a flying egg. Those once harmless objects had turned into angry projectiles that wanted to smash into me and take an eye out. I did get hit and it hurt! As the water continued to flow, the pot finally cooled and the drama ended. The total wreckage took about two minutes to complete.
Near tears, and in shock, I looked at the damage. Egg bits on the walls, the ceiling, on appliances, counter tops, and all over the cafe curtains that, just hours before, I had taken down, washed and ironed, and hung back up. The cute music notes on my curtains were now splattered with yellow and white pieces of egg. I was so stunned, I couldn’t even cry, even though I remember wanting to just sit down on the floor and do that very thing. Instead, I started the cleanup and marveled at the drama caused by an unwatched pot of small, oval objects.
I don’t care which came first - the chicken or the egg - and I can still sleep at night not knowing why the chicken crossed the road. All I want to know is why the egg fiasco couldn’t have happened a couple of hours earlier before I had thoroughly cleaned my kitchen and washed my curtains.
Lest I end this story without a “lesson” or a “moral” to impart, here are two: Never boil a pot of eggs after you’ve cleaned your kitchen; and never, ever ignore the “Is something burning?” question. You might not find Bigfoot, but you might find a forgotten pot or pan on a hot stove.
When the Unexpected Shows Up - Again
I love going out in the morning to survey my land - approximately all 15 by 30 feet of it. I am grateful for every square inch and foot of my rectangular patch of patio and yard! We have some fruit trees, a planter bed, and lots of large pots that satisfy my gardening needs at this time in my life. So it is that I go out every morning to pick up fruit that has fallen, dead-head the flowers, check on seeds to see what is coming up, and look for signs of snakes, racoons, rats (for which our recent HOA newsletter gave warning), and any other varmint that I don’t want occupying my small territory.
Yesterday morning, I started clipping a few low branches of a climbing plant that I had planted in an oak barrel a few years ago. The plant was now lush, and full, and sharing its space was something that was furry and had a very long tail! I backed away in shock, saying, “Oh, no, oh, no, oh, no!” and immediately went to tell my husband that we had a dead rat in my planter. It wasn’t moving because the sweet, angel ceramic statue in the planter had fallen on top of the rat, looking like it was “pinning” it down with its large angel wing.
My husband came out to see this huge dead rat, and declared, “Rats aren’t that furry. It’s an opossum with a very bad wound - probably a bite wound from another animal, and it is definitely dead.” Now, I have tended to the wound of a friend who gashed his shoulder with an ax (thankfully, he was able to pull it out), and I have changed dressings and tended to the wounds of others, but I’m just not good with seeing or tending to injured small animals, no matter if they are dead or alive. I was so grateful that my husband was able to remove the dead possum from my planter!
After this unexpected task, we got some lunch and then went to a local festival where a friend was playing with her band. Life was feeling oh so good, particularly after managing some physical difficulties during the week. So we decided to “kick up our heels” and get an appetizer and some iced tea at our local favorite place. We hadn’t been sitting there long, enjoying the ambience and friendliness around us, when I noticed the room was feeling a little “wavy.” That did not bode well.
There are 200,000 cases of Meniere’s disease that are diagnosed each year. It is a rare disease and is debilitating when it strikes, and as I sat there in our favorite restaurant, Meniere’s was beginning to do its wretched thing. If you, or someone you know has vertigo (the more commonly known name for Meniere’s disease), you can sympathize with what comes next. At least this time, the room wasn’t spinning and turning upside down - it was only “rippling” and “waving” as I sat there and felt the familiar dread come over me. I quickly reached into my purse (not looking down because that only causes Meniere’s to intensify), and grabbed my emergency container of anti-nausea pills, because a spinning room and loss of all balance that will send you hard to the ground, is made even more horrible with the instant nausea that accompanies a Meniere’s episode.
We made it out of the restaurant while I could still walk fairly straight, and I used my husbands arm as my lifeline, just as it had been over the past 25 years.
My world stops when I have a Meniere’s episode. The hours it takes to get past it and to the other side are pretty wretched. I’m on an excellent treatment plan, and have a wonderful doctor, but one little slip up did me in. The signs were growing all week long, but I had attributed them to other things. Yet, this morning when I was taking the “cocktail” mix of my other meds, I finally noticed that the specific med for Meniere’s was not among my daily batch of medications. I had failed to include it in the past week’s pill organizer. This unintended “experiment” verified for me that the Meniere’s meds have been keeping me Meniere's-free! I am incredibly thankful that this episode didn’t turn into a full-blown wreck of a thing, but even a "light" episode is pretty miserable! My “take away” from this will be to check, double-check, and triple-check my pill organizers from now on.
If you, or someone you know has Meniere’s/Vertigo, you can learn about this disease online, or from your medical professionals. Please know that you don’t have to suffer with Meniere’s! Find an Ear, Nose,Throat (ENT) Specialist who has experience treating Meniere’s patients. That person should be compassionate, and able to put you on a good treatment plan. My wonderful doctor, who as a young boy watched his grandmother suffer with Meniere’s disease, has over 30 patients and totally “gets” what we go through. When my treatment plan showed signs of working a few years ago, I told my doctor, “You have given me back my life.”
I thank God everyday for the good medicines, and medical professionals who can help those of us who have Meniere’s get some “normal” back, so that we can tend to our gardens (even with some surprises), continue in our jobs, and participate in life with our family and friends. On those Meniere’s-free days, I savor the simple, daily blessings of all that is good and I give thanks to God, because yesterday was a reminder that I am always just a few pills away from losing those good days.
© Copyright Shirley Myers_July 2019