A Season of Bounty

Swinging-Bridge-at-Caddo-Gap-1I was six years old in the summer of 1956. It was a very good time in my life. Our family lived in a beautiful home within walking distance of my school. My best friend, Lynda, lived right across the street and from the time that we awoke each morning we rode our bicycles and played in the woods at the edges of our neighborhood. That summer my family traveled to Arkansas to visit my grandparents’ farm. It was a season of plenty in which all of my childhood dreams were beautiful. I had little idea that storms were brewing for me and that life was already difficult for others that I did not know. I reveled in the gloriousness of that time while ignoring the signs that something was not quite right.

Life with my grandparents was deliciously fun. We helped my grandfather milk his cow each morning and I vividly remember how velvety the warm milk looked as it filled the tin bucket with a foamy white mixture. I recall the feel of the cow’s utter and my amazement that my brother’s favorite drink didn’t actually come from the glass bottles that the milkman delivered to our doorstep each week. I can still smell the sweetness of the hay in the barn and hear the chickens raising a ruckus in their pen as the rooster strutted from hen to hen crowing for attention. How I loved being part of that scene and watching my grandpa’s strong hands do his work while he puffed on a pipe that hung from his lips and sent a lovely aroma into the air.

My grandmother took us on tours of her gardens and into the hills on their property wearing overalls, rubber boots, a long sleeved shirt and a huge wide brimmed hat. I thought it strange that she covered her skin in ninety degree weather but back then I did not yet know about skin cancer or the fact that her folk knowledge was so wise. She taught me and my brothers about the birds that we saw along our trek and instructed us on the kind of rocks that were strewn along our path. She demonstrated how to pick berries while checking for the presence snakes and showed us the proper way to drink the cooling waters from the creek. We learned about the land and how to protect it for future generations.

My brothers and I picked peaches alongside my grandparents, ignoring their warnings that we should protect ourselves with clothing that covered our arms and legs. We soon enough learned why our shorts and sandals were insufficient protection from the furry texture of the fruit that made our limbs itch as though we had been attacked by a thousand mosquitoes. At night we caught fireflies in jars with holes in the lids that Grandma had prepared. Our glass containers became nature’s flashlights until we freed the insects at the end of our play. Our grandmother created butterfly nets out of coat hangers and cloth. She taught us how to surprise the lovely winged creatures and catch them so that we might better observe them. Always she insisted that we let them fly free once we had watched them for a few minutes.

Grandpa took us into town to check his mail each day. We rode on the leather seats of his Plymouth which smelled of his tobacco and soap. He always wore a clean white shirt, polished black boots, suspenders and a big straw hat. He visited with his neighbors at the post office and bragged about us as grandfathers have been doing for generations. If we were especially good he took us to the grocery store and bought us each a cold soda that we selected from a big metal box filled with chunks of ice. I always noticed how much the townspeople respected him and I felt so proud and happy with him.

I had little idea back then how much the world was already changing. I overheard the discussions between my father and grandfather as they wondered what the governor of Arkansas was going to do about the order to integrate the schools in the coming fall. I didn’t totally understand what they were saying but their serious demeanors told me that it was something important. I didn’t know then that my family would soon embark on a nomadic adventure that would take us to California and back or that my father would be dead in less than a year. I had little warning that I would begin to see things happening in our country that somehow felt wrong even to my innocent and childish mind. On those hot summer days in Arkansas I saw only the bounty of the season. I felt as though I had landed in a kind of paradise.

All hell would break lose in the coming months when Governor Faubus would vow to never allow black children to integrate the Arkansas schools. My father would announce that we were moving to San Jose, California and I would grudgingly leave my extended family and my friends. I would watch as civil unrest took hold across the country and I would observe racism with naive confusion. I began to formulate a belief system that was far more generous than that of most of the adults that I observed. For the first time in my life I began to question their behavior as I realized that the bounty that I enjoyed was not shared equally by everyone. I was pushed by events into an early onset of maturity that felt uncomfortable and challenged the status quo.

Sixty years later I look back on that summer with mixed emotions. It was a joyful time that somehow masked the realities that were looming all around me. In a year I would feel like a different person but my lovely memories of that time with my grandparents would keep the light of optimism alive inside my soul. I would forever love the simplicity and honesty of nature while understanding the complex nature of human beings. I would see that I had been blessed by the random act of my birth. But for luck I might have been one of those nine students who had to endure violence just to go to school in Little Rock, Arkansas. I would watch as death, wars, assassinations and violence served as a backdrop for the years of my coming of age. I would witness the contradictions and hardships of the human experience always understanding how many blessings invariably came my way.

I still remember that wonderful summer of 1956 and cherish my recollections with all of my heart. I would ultimately find my way after the death of my father and learn how to find the bounty of even the most difficult seasons of my life. I had realized in that time just how soothing Mother nature may be. I had realized the depth of my grandparents’ love for me. I understood that I have always been part of something much bigger than myself and that I have never really been alone in my struggles. I found strength before I even knew that I possessed it. That summer would serve me well to this very day. I would find the bounty in life again and again and work to extend it to those who had not always shared it with me. Life has been good.

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To Infinity and Beyond

Alan and Sean13413120_10210403732116445_9006089120690796231_nEveryone who knows me well realizes that I have always loved young people. When Mike and I moved from our home of over thirty years several of my friends suggested that we might enjoy being in a senior living community. I quickly squelched that idea because I knew that I would miss the sounds of children playing. We chose a house in a neighborhood where there are mostly young families and that is the way I prefer it to be. The most pleasant part of my day is watching the kids boarding the buses for school and then returning safely in the afternoon. I like that I can hear the joyful noises of the children next door as they play in their swimming pool. The most difficult aspect of retirement has been the loss of the glorious hordes of students who populated my life for so many years.

Of course I have my grandchildren to satisfy my need for youthfulness but they are often quite busy, which is as it should be. Tutoring is almost a selfish hobby for me. It allows me to stay young and keeps my mind vibrant. Mostly it provides me with an opportunity to be around the young people who keep my optimism soaring. Our hope and our future is always to be found in them. They see the world through different lenses than ours. It is important that we pay attention to what they have to say because what they are thinking will ultimately shape the course of history. Thankfully I have been quite blessed to know many hundreds of youngsters who are already assuming the reigns of leadership and it soothes my heart to know that we are in such good hands.

Every grandmother believes that her grandchildren are the most special angels on the planet. I am fortunate enough to have proof that my assessment of them is absolutely true. All seven of them are eagerly embracing life’s challenges and striving to be their personal best. Most importantly they are truly good people. They are reflective souls intent on doing what is right and just. I have to give their parents credit for guiding them in the right direction but I am unabashedly proud that they are of my flesh and blood.

There are other special children in my life and chief among them are Alan and Sean, two young men who are the grandsons of my dear friend, Pat. It still saddens my heart that Pat died before her sweet boys ever had a chance to really know her. They would have loved her so, just as those of us who were her friends did. I have had several wonderful opportunities to spend quality time with Alan and Sean and I treasure those moments as much as I would if they were my very own grandchildren. As an added bonus Sean is my godson and it is a special treat to be his godmother.

Four years ago I first began writing this blog during a time when I was watching Alan and Sean while their parents traveled to Germany. They were already delightfully well behaved young gentlemen so my task was quite easy. I wrote while they were in school and the three of us played when they returned home. I delighted in their joyfulness and the profoundness of their intellect. Alan being the eldest is the more serious of the two. Sean is a little sprite whose laughter and impishness is contagious. The week that I spent with them galvanized my love for them and I have enjoyed watching them grow like weeds and find their individual voices.

Alan, like my twin grandchildren Ian and Abby,  will be a seventh grader in the fall. He has already grown taller than I am. His deep voice signals that he is becoming a man. He is a thinker and a bit more cautious than his brother. He is mostly quiet but when he speaks there is so much wisdom in his words that it boggles the mind. He has a sharp wit and a photographic memory. He loves history and has the ability to cite people and events to support his ideas.

Sean is close in age to my youngest grandson William. He will be in the fifth grade in the coming school year. He bears a continual smile on his face and seems to be filled with boundless energy just as his grandmother always was. He enjoys a good joke and laughter is his constant companion. People appear to be naturally drawn to him and he to them. He somehow manages to make every occasion just a bit more fun.

I was blessed recently when Alan and Sean’s mother asked me to be their chaperone while she attended a conference in Boston. For four days I romped around that glorious city with them and enjoyed some wonderful conversations, all while having so much fun. There is an adult way of touring and another that sees things through the innocence of childhood. I learned that Alan is leaning more and more toward a passage into maturity while Sean is still one hundred percent little boy. I enjoyed my time with both of them and it was wonderful to realize that they, like my own grandchildren, are already well on their way to being outstanding keepers of the flame of integrity and wisdom.

Sean and I shared a touching moment while we were waiting for the Red Sox game to begin at Fenway Park. Alan and his mother had left us in our seats as they searched for food for our dinner. As the two of us sat admiring the stadium and the gloriously beautiful evening I remarked that my mother loved baseball so much that she watched an Astros game on the very day that she died. Sean whose birthday is only one day later than my mom’s smiled and asked how I thought my mother might enjoy being with us. Of course I knew that she would have been thrilled as long as she didn’t have to root against her beloved Astros. Sean then asked me with all earnestness if I thought that my mom’s spirit was with us. I told him that not only did I think that she was there but that his own grandmother was smiling on us as well. I felt that they were both happy that we were having so much fun. He grinned and there was a knowing look in his eyes. For a second I was torn between laughing and crying. I chose joy because it was truly a grand night and I believed that our departed angels wanted us to celebrate life. A bit later a photographer took our picture and froze our wonderful memory into a precious keepsake that I will value for all time.

It would be easy to fall into a pit of cynicism and despair given the tenor of the world today but the children that I meet teach me time and again to be ever hopeful. As long as we have all of those glorious young people showing us how to remain optimistic we don’t have to worry about making any place great again, it already is. Our young remind me over and over to choose life and love and laughter over bleakness. They are our ultimate salvation. It is in them that our ideals live on and take us to infinity and beyond.

It’s About Time

Glenda Jones13516264_10209578242793605_5124992074342233422_nBack in the eighties my eldest daughter, Maryellen, was a member of the Janette Dance team at South Houston High School. She had taken ballet and tap lessons from the time that she was five years old, first at a church in Pasadena and later from Patty Owens near our home in southeast Houston. Our family budget often tended to be stressed beyond our means but we somehow managed to find the funds for the classes that she loved so very much. Over time it became apparent that she had a natural talent for dance, most likely inherited from my mother who had her own reputation for being light on her feet and as graceful as a swan. When Maryellen earned a coveted spot on her school’s dance team it seemed to be a reward for all of her hard work and determination. Our family time began to revolve around practices, performances at football games, cotillions, competitions, camps and shows.

I was a fairly young mom, only in my late thirties, when I joined forces with other mothers in providing costumes, decorations, food and other kinds of support for our beautiful young girls. We were all caught up in the joys of our children’s teenage years. We ladies often met to build sets or design programs. We became expert seamstresses who made intricate pieces of clothing. I still recall almost tearing my hair out while sewing the game day suit that Maryellen had to wear on Fridays during football season. It was a complex project but well worth the effort in the end. I recall volunteering to work long hours in those days and at those times I got to know the other moms who were as lovingly devoted to their children as I was to mine. There were dance competitions that demanded whole days of our time and summer camps that required long drives and funds that we might have used otherwise. We sometimes joined in the fun by performing in hilarious dance routines that made us the laughing stock of the audience but also demonstrated just what good sports we were. Those were some of the best times of my entire life and the memories of those days remain precious even today.

Maryellen advanced through the ranks of the team to become one of the military officers, a Lieutenant. She worked hard to meet all of the requirements of the honor, including choreographing original dances and designing costumes and props. Because she so loved the experience, so did I. Those were the wonder years in which her confidence and abilities grew under the watchful eye of her always committed instructor, Glenda Jones Bludworth, a loving woman who taught her dancers how to present themselves with grace in any situation. She was more than just a teacher. She became a friend, mentor and counselor to each of her students. Because we parents witnessed her devotion to our children, we loved her as much as our girls did.

As is usually the case with good times, they flew by all too quickly. Soon Maryellen was attending the University of Texas and focusing on more serious academic goals. She had little time for dancing as she studied constantly to earn the grades that would allow her to be accepted into the McCombs School of Business. The days of visiting Southern Imports in search of fabrics, feathers and sequins were gone. The worn section of carpet in our den where Maryellen had practiced all of her dance routines was the only reminder of those lovely days. I lost track of the women with whom I had spent so many hours. Time raced by and I too turned my attention to new challenges and adventures, forgetting for a moment the joys of being a dance mom.

It has been almost thirty years since Maryellen donned her leotards and dancing shoes. In the interim she earned degrees in Finance and Accounting, worked, married and became mom to four boys who find the stories of her days on the stage to be strangely confusing. Now she is the one who spends almost every free moment supporting her sons’ hobbies and talents. She is the one who now juggles the family budget to find all of the funding for equipment, camps, classes, trips and college so that her boys will be able to enjoy their youth as much as she did hers. Like I once did, she has a circle of friends whose commonality is based on swimming, scouts, theater and school activities. She keeps books for the teams and creates end of season slideshows. Her world is hectic but wonderful. She rarely thinks back to those days when she was an extraordinary dancer who riveted the attention of her many admirers. The memories seem to be both long ago and just like yesterday.

A group of Janette Dancers recently decided to host a kind of reunion of the classes who had been members of the team under the direction of their beloved Glenda Jones Bludworth. The “girls” are now in their forties and some are even knocking on the door of the fifties. Like Maryellen they have children in college, high school and middle school. They have enjoyed marriages and careers and evolved to a time in their lives when they more closely resemble their mothers and me were back in the day. They are beautiful women who learned their teacher’s lessons well and carry themselves with the poise and self respect that she instilled in them.

Happily they did not fail to remember their mothers in planning this event. We were invited to celebrate the life of Glenda Jones Bludworth along with them. I enjoyed sitting at a table with ladies who had been my constant companions so many years before. We bragged on the successes of our daughters and exchanged photos of our grandchildren. We recalled our own sacrifices of money and time and how we would not have changed a thing. We laughed at some of the silly things that we did and grew saddened as we remembered ladies who had been part of our mother brigade who are no longer alive. Mostly we each had remarkable stories of the wonderful influence that Glenda had on our children. We all agreed that she was one of those once in a lifetime educators who goes well beyond the requirements of her job. She reached into the very hearts and souls of her girls and helped them to find the strengths and talents that defined them as unique and outstanding individuals.

It was grand to once again be reminded of a time in life that was so happy for all of us. I found myself amazed that our time together had been so long ago and yet seemed so near and dear. I was particularly happy that all of the delightful young women whom I had watched grow in wisdom and age and grace had remembered and appreciated their amazing teacher. She had so truly earned the attention and praise that they heaped on her. All too often we become so busy with the demands of daily existence that we forget to show our gratitude to the people who did so much to make us who we are. We let the clock tick and tick until it is too late and our hearts are filled with regret that we never took the opportunity to voice the thanks that we always meant to convey. Somehow Glenda’s Girls understood that they needed to stop the passage of time for a few hours so that they might demonstrate how truly important their moment with her had been. It’s about time!

Open Your Heart

open-heartThe vast majority of the earth’s people are good men and women, with honorable intentions. What confounds most of us is the fact that we are so divided as to what constitutes the best way of doing things. Each side proclaims itself the harbinger of all that is right and just. We are often forced to select between one philosophy or another, often with great difficulty. There was a time when we mostly kept our thoughts to ourselves and managed to get along quite well even with those whose ideas were diametrically opposed to ours. Now there is a tendency to “out people” and then defile them if they dare to contradict our own thinking. The great divide that exists across the entire planet has made it more and more difficult for those of us intent on keeping the peace to navigate among the differing points of view.

Social media is a wonderful place for seeing photos of our friends and family. We are able to vacation vicariously with the individuals that we know. We watch babies grow into lovely children and youngsters grow into young men and women. As long as things stay apolitical we seem to do quite well. It is whenever someone wants to express a thought that is important to them that we feel uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of avoiding those who have once been our friends. We don’t want to hear things that bother us. We want to keep the world more like Disneyworld. Sadly we have recently learned that even the land of Mickey and Minnie may be home to dangerous creatures who surprise us with their deadly actions. The truth is that we can’t close our eyes and hope for the best any more than we will ever be able to convince everyone to believe exactly as we do.

Lately I have noticed a number of people declaring their disgust with others. One of my former students participated in Houston’s Gay Pride Parade and heard shouts of hate being directed at him and the other participants. He was hurt and confused that anyone had the audacity to suggest that he was going to hell. A former colleague posted his supportive reaction to Brexit and endured negative backlash from people who had supposedly been his friends. In the present state of the world there are far too many among us who seem to believe that we must all adopt their points of view and abandon our own or run the risk of losing their acceptance of us.

It is always easy to open our hearts to those with whom we identify. There is nothing particularly magnanimous about embracing the people who are most like ourselves. In fact it always feels quite wonderful to have a sympathetic ear. We feel free to safely express ourselves with our philosophical twins. It is far more difficult to make an effort to understand people who totally disagree with us. We too often feel the need to either change their minds or turn our backs on them, neither of which is a particularly productive way to exist in a diverse world. 

The American Civil War was a terrible time for our country. Over 600,000 men died in a conflict that need never have occurred. Abraham Lincoln was determined to bring us back together to preserve our union. The interesting thing about him is that to the very end of his life he never expressed hatred for those who had rebelled. Instead he attempted to understand their frustrations and was willing to forgive them once the battles had ended even as he fought with everything in his power to bring the two sides together once again. He strongly believed that he was on the right side of history but he also steered clear of insinuating that the members of the Confederacy were somehow less important or more evil than the those who had fought for the United States. He understood that the need for healing and forgiveness required that he open his heart to members of a group that sometimes hated him. Upon President Lincoln’s untimely death the forces that wanted to punish the South persisted. I think it possible that with a an approach more in keeping with that of Lincoln the divisions that still exist in our country might have been mitigated.

History is replete with examples of individuals who punished their detractors and those who somehow found the grace to listen to the cries of even their enemies. It might have been easy to punish the German people for perpetuity after World War II but a more understanding approach actually hastened their renouncement of the evils that had caused their country to descend into unspeakable horrors. Today Germany is a world leader in democratic ideals. I wonder if it would be so if we had instead brokered hardcore retribution at the end of the war.

There are indeed moments when we cannot and should not embrace those who would do us harm. When we encounter abusive individuals we need not accept their corrosive behaviors. Those who would kill or hurt us likewise need to be cast aside. For the most part though we should be more open to the people whose ideas are far different from our own. I believe that the rise of populist uprisings across the world is in part due to the fact that we have often been tone deaf to the needs of vast swaths of society. When we continuously ridicule and debase those whose fears are genuine they become even more determined to fight. When we place entire groups into a bucket of our own prejudices we run the risk of angering many among them. Sadly our tendencies of late have been to do just that. We are not willing to open our hearts to those that we don’t understand. We join groups that are like ourselves and build walls designed to keep differing points of view and lifestyles from entering our sphere of influence.

If we were to rationally discuss virtually any issue that concerns our country and our world we might find that only a small proportion of the people engaged in a particular way of thinking actually have evil intent. Most of us sincerely want to improve our environments. We simply desire different means of doing so.

As an inexperienced teacher I tended to discipline an entire class rather than seeking out those who were the real trouble makers. I soon learned that in subjecting my students to such mass punishments I only angered the innocent and turned those who might have helped me against my cause. Once I became more adept at classroom management I learned how to counsel with those who were actually responsible for the offending behaviors. Even at that point I often learned that they had somewhat legitimate reasons for defying my demands. By brokering mutual understanding my classroom settled into a reasoned peace. My students sensed that I was a just person, not authoritarian or patronizing. I once had one young man explain that he saw me as a fair, strict person, the perfect combination.

I try to react in a similar way to everyone that I encounter. When I heard a friend recently railing against guns, conservatives, whites, seniors and Christians I did not take offense even though I belong to at least three of those categories. Instead I simply let him know that I had heard his cries of frustration and understood the depth of his feelings. When I told him that I loved him he immediately softened his tone and apologized in the off chance that he had somehow insulted me. We both left feeling okay with one another. It happened because I was willing to open my heart to a situation that might otherwise have resulted in the loss of a good friend.

Continue to love those who are close to you but don’t be so quick to condemn those who choose different paths than your own. Keep your heart open. Demonstrate your willingness to love even those who seem to contradict everything that you believe. You may soon find yourself feeling much more optimistic about the world. It really is a good place and in the end most of us want exactly the same things.   

Things That Make Me Smile

smiley-face-symbols-detlev-van-ravenswaayI’ve got a goofy smile. One eye squints almost shut and my mouth is crooked. I resemble a gnome when I’m happy but but I still love any occasion that turns up the corners of my mouth. This month I’ve had a number of such times and all of them have involved people. The truth is that no amount of money nor fame is better than knowing that there are people who really care about me and that I in turn love. I’ve been lucky enough to see many of them of late and all of them make me beam with unadulterated joy.

I try to get together with a group of friends from my last job as often as possible. Most of them are still working so it’s not easy to find a date when we are all free but luckily we did so not long ago. We met up at Ninfa’s on Navigation which, on a side note, I highly recommend. As is always the case we laughed and chattered and felt so very relaxed with one another. A plus was the fact that the food was also great. Someone remarked that most of us were English majors in college. I don’t know if that has anything to do with how well we get along but it’s amazing how in sync we always seem to be. We’ve agreed to meet again before school starts so that we might compare stories about the trips that each of us will be taking during these warm months. I have no doubt that we will once again talk and grin until we get dirty looks from the waiters hoping that we get the hint and move on.

A certain graduation brought a huge smile to my face recently. It was for a young man whom I had tutored for three years. He had worked quite hard to earn his diploma and I knew as well as anyone how much the occasion meant to him. I felt as though I was floating through the air when he walked across the stage. It was as grand a day as I have experienced in a long time. My face must have shown my elation as the corners of my mouth almost touched my ears.

My grandson is home from college for the summer. I only got to see him a couple of times during the school year. He attends Purdue University and has a schedule as busy as the President of the United States. It was so good to finally meet up with him at Bob’s Taco Station if only for an hour or so. I marveled at how much he has matured in only one short year. He is definitely a man now. Not a shred of boyishness seems to remain in his demeanor. A smile of pride and of course lots of love lit up my face the whole time that we were together.

I had the privilege of serving as a chaperone for my godson and his brother while their mother attended a conference a couple of weeks ago. We all flew together to Boston and while she worked, we played. Boy was it fun! I suspect that I was even smiling in my sleep. We saw so many wondrous things but best of all we got to know each other even better. It was a very special time in which we laughed and told silly stories and just felt as comfortable as can be. I can’t wait until I am needed for another trip one day. We built some important memories together which will no doubt always bring brightness to my face whenever I recall them.

My second oldest grandson is going to be a senior in high school next year. He is in the process of visiting colleges and so Mike and I took him to Texas A&M University a week ago. We had a grand time touring the recreation center, the dorms and many of the engineering buildings. I have a particular love for the Aggies because my father was one. Every time I visit the campus I feel his spirit. I know that he will be quite proud if his great grandson decides to get his education there. I smiled quite a bit at the thought of having another Aggie in the family, especially the one who just happens to be named after my dad. When my grandson admitted that he would be quite excited to go there I suspect that my grin was so big that I resembled a Cheshire cat. It was fun to be able to share this important moment with him.

Last Saturday I invited several of my former students to a party at my house. I wanted to celebrate their graduations from college. It was rewarding to hear how wonderfully they are all doing. I want to believe that I may have had at least a tiny bit of influence on them. I know that they bring me incalculable happiness. Knowing that they have already accomplished so much makes my teaching years seem all the more fruitful. I smiled and smiled and smiled as they spoke of their successes and their dreams. I hope that my expression told them how much I love them.

On Father’s Day I made dinner for Mike and his dad. We had an incredible time just as we always do. They are the two most important men in my life. Both of them watch over me and would probably walk through fire for me. Just being with them is reason enough to smile. We have a long history of sharing happiness and sorrow. I burst into a visage of elation when I think of how lucky I have been to be with the two of them. They make me feel so beautiful and important that I fairly beam.

I just spent the past week in a trailer built for two with my daughter and her three children. Stuffing the six of us inside reminded me of a circus act when dozens of clowns go inside a tiny car. For a time the refrigerator didn’t work and all of us were almost eaten alive by chiggers but somehow we muddled through. Nothing could have kept me from beaming from ear to ear. Just being together was all that I needed to feel elated. We went to see movies on a workday afternoon and ate delicious hamburgers and fries from Hopdoddy. We walked through museums filled with scientific wonders and history. In the evenings I watched the children swim at McKInney Falls. They were so delighted as they jumped into the cooling waters. Our time together was a blast and we hardly noticed that we were stuffed inside our home on wheels like sardines.

While we were camping in Austin one of my cousins invited us to visit with her and her family. They treated us to a gourmet dinner that included a taste test of seven different yummy desserts. The kids had great fun playing with Legos and making music while we adults enjoyed sharing stories about our ancestors. There were happy faces all around.

These are the things that make me smile. Right now I’m feeling quite content as I gaze on the flowers in my yard and watch the birds playing in the trees. It’s summertime and the whole world is seems to be alive. Best of all my adventures have only just begun. We’ll be celebrating my mother’s birthday on Monday and in about a week we will head for California. There are so many reasons to be elated that I suspect I am wearing a smile even now.