Life, Laughter & Lemons

We’ve just returned from a trip. That sort of thing throws my world out of kilter. I supposed the people who thrive on deadlines and challenges have all their blog posts ready ahead of time and scheduled to post while they’re gone.


It’s my first day back from where the landscape is shades of brown, the trees are short and scrubby, but the hair is manageable – the Desert Southwest. We’ve come home to our spot in the Midwest where the grass is green, the trees are tall and plentiful and the hair is – well – natty.

Vacations help you thrive! I like the Mark Twain quote that Joseph Rosendo always says at the end of his show, Travelscope – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” It does us all good to experience people, customs and attitudes that are different from our daily grind.

I would’ve let the blog slide for another day, but it’s April 10th and I wanted to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to my mom in Heaven. She would have been ninety-nine years old today if we still had her with us. She passed away in 2013.

Mom’s family affectionately combined her first and middle names, calling her Emmabelle. No one who knew her ever called her anything else. When I was at “that age” (you know the one), I thought hers was a funny, old-fashioned name. Later, I came to think it the most beautiful name in the world.

Other than a vast difference in height, Mom and I looked a lot alike. Here we are side by side. Isn’t she lovely? Now that she has shed the effects of her ninety-four years on earth, I’m sure she must look like this once again.

Mother and Daughter

Mom thrived amongst great adversity. She loved her seven children and did her best to raise them, though life for her was no picnic. It was hard, folks. Difficult. Emmabelle, however, made the best of every single day. Though shy and reserved, she had a quiet, ready wit and a great sense of humor. Overflowing with creativity, Mom always seemed to whip up something to make life easier or to brighten up the atmosphere.

And the holidays? Mom loved all of them, especially Christmas! I can’t even describe how she put the joy into it in her own calm and quiet way.

When I was a kid, Mom, latched onto an old typewriter and a touch-typing manual and decided to teach herself to type. She sat it up back in the utility room next to the old, wringer washing machine and worked at it every day. At a loss as to what to write, she made notes on what she did every day. I never gave it much thought. After all, your mom’s life is pretty much a drag, right? I thought it was really neat that she was learning something new “at her age”. Yeah, I was pathetic.

One day when I was a teenager, I went to the utility room to grab some clean clothes. I looked down at Mom’s typewriter. The sheet wrapped around the roller was still at the place where she’d left off. It said:

“What a day! The old cow had a calf. The old cat had kittens.  The old man had a fit!”

I decided to read Mom’s diary more often.

I have her birthday doubly on my mind this year because during this vacation, we visited my cousin who is facing the task of going through the belongings of her recently deceased parents. Her mother, Martha, my mom’s older sister, was quite a lady. Much alike, we grew to have a strong bond over the last eight years of her life. She died at age ninety-eight and I miss her terribly. After Mom left us, I’d call Martha often. We’d talk for an hour or two, howling our heads off at all the old family stories. Through those talks, I felt I got to know Mom better than ever.

Some people don’t like to look back, but I find that my family stories and my heritage help me thrive. Mom loved to work on the family tree and I’ve taken her research back further. I can’t help but wonder how she’d react to knowing that she is directly descended from kings and queens.

I’m encouraged by Mom’s example. If ever a woman took her lemons and made lemonade – Emmabelle made a sweet batch! Most people may not have thought of her as a strong woman, but as the years go by I’ve come to think of her as the strongest woman I know. And those seven children? They all, as the Scripture says, “rise up and call her blessed”.

Don’t let the “old timers” in your family go without hearing their story. You’ll be surprised and even amazed at what they’ve been through. It’ll help you thrive!

More stories from Emmabelle and Martha coming soon!

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Questions? Comments? Who do you need to hear stories from before it’s too late?!

You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important! You is a Thriver!

Now, didn’t that “Help”? Let’s push on with better grammar…

I first thought to name this blog page “Stayin’ Alive!” Love those Bee Gees! Besides, if one doesn’t accomplish at least this much in regards to one’s health, all other attempts are pretty much useless, if you get my drift.

I soon ditched that idea. There’s more to life than stayin’ alive! What’s the point of being here if your quality of life stinks? I decided on “Thrive!”

I got serious about my health during pregnancy. Up until that point, I’d stuck strictly to the See Food Diet. If I saw it, I ate it. Tall and slim, it never seemed to affect me. My dad once told me, as he watched me eat, that someday I’d stop growing up and start growing out and then be sorry about that appetite! I ate three square meals a day – big ones! No one had better leave a box of doughnuts anywhere near me.

But now, I knew that whatever I fed myself, I also fed the baby. Yikes! I spent a lot of time at the library. The baby came (all eight pounds and three ounces of her) along with an epiphany. I needed to keep her healthy till adulthood. And, (DUH!) why feed my child one way and myself another? The adult population seemed to be made up of a bunch of sick people, anyway.

Take a look at this photo. Note your first impression.

Lemonade In Gas Tank

That’s the image that came to me. We can’t run on bad fuel! Yet, we live in a country where no one seems to grasp the concept.  Or, if they do, they don’t care!

Can you imagine? Your friend Gwendolyn tells you that she hates the smell of gasoline, dislikes waiting in line at the service station and once even dribbled gasoline into her brand new shoes. She’s switching. From now on, she’ll run her car on lemonade. She likes lemonade. Tastes better, smells better and isn’t quite so icky between the toes.

You stifle a snort of laughter and get down to business. Somebody’s gotta talk Gwennie out of this madness. Doesn’t she know she’ll ruin a valuable machine with a crazy notion like that?

Gwendolyn won’t listen. Her plan is good for her, she insists. She leaves. You call several friends. After howling with laughter over Gwendolyn’s stupidity, some compassionate soul in the group says, “Listen! Don’t you think we ought to call her mother or somebody? I mean, somebody’s gotta stop her!”

I gave myself a “talkin’ to”. It went something like this: “You are kind to yourself. You are smart enough to learn. You are important to your family and you need to be the best you can be.”

Poor Smuffy went kicking and screaming all the way, suffering through strange herbs drying on the kitchen counter, whole wheat everything and tinctures galore. He told me once that the thing that kept him healthy was positive confession. Each time he’d cough or sniffle, I’d come running with some form of what he termed “stump water” and he’d call out, “I’m okay. I’m OKAY!”

Despite my efforts, I got that call from the doctor nobody wants – a cancer diagnosis. I’d studied various aspects of health, but hadn’t paid much attention to what may open the doors to cancer. I had no family history and besides, I ate good stuff! With my terrific appetite, I ate the good stuff and had room left over for some of the bad stuff.

People told me I was too young for cancer. I asked myself, “How old is old enough?” The answer, I concluded, was NEVER! After surgery, I endured chemo and radiation as “insurance”, more or less, according to the doctors. I’m sure there will be a future blog post on that nasty little interlude.

People like me are called “survivors”. I rejected that term from the beginning. It left me with an image of someone emerging from a jungle – burned, bitten, half-naked and hunted – running for a lifeboat that may or may not spring a leak. By the grace of God, I’m a WINNER! I am kind to myself. I am smart enough to learn. I am important to God and my family! I’m going to thrive

I’ve learned much over the years, and it has turned my health around.  In future posts, you’ll be receiving a lot of great health information to chew on so that you can make your own decisions and take charge of your health.  I am not your doctor and don’t pretend to be, but only hope to share helpful information.  You’re smart enough to do your own research.

So…about your reaction to the photo. Did you want to scream, “Stop, you idiot!”? Yet, we, almost never stop friends when it comes to food. Cars can be replaced. You only get one body. Why treat the finest, most intricately-designed, valuable piece of machinery ever invented – the human body – as though it were disposable?

Since the purpose of Midwest Storyteller is to take you to a better place, I want to share what I did as a first step. I gave up soda. Why pollute my body with a non-food item? A sugary soda has as many calories as a full meal. (Sorry, but I’d rather have food.) Artificially sweetened, it’s dangerous stuff, and I want to thrive! It’s been decades since I’ve had a soda. I don’t miss it. I do enjoy, however, Stayin’ Alive!

Americans have a big problem. Take a look at this aisle in my local grocery store.

Soda Aisle www.midweststoryteller.comThat’s an entire aisle! All soda! They don’t devote this much space to bread, juice, cheese, etc.  Yes, America has a problem, but you don’t have to.  We can’t fuel up on junk because we feel like it or because, like Mount Everest, it’s there.  We are as capable of making the right choices with our bodies as we are with our cars.

Okay, enough tough love. I believe in you. You are kind to yourself. You are smart enough to listen to the “real you”. You are important to God and your family.

You are also strong! Here’s the challenge: Choose one thing – just one – and take that step. Stick with it for thirty days. Whether it is to give up soda, lay off the desserts, exercise for 20 minutes five times a week or get more sleep, you can do it!

Comment, letting me know you’ve chosen one way to live a better life. Or, share something you’ve already done that might encourage others. In thirty days, comment again, letting me know that you’re not only Stayin’ Alive, but determined to Thrive!

SUBSCRIBE, because it won’t be long before I throw myself a little online party, celebrating the eighteen years that stretch between me and that cancer diagnosis.