Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happenings with the sisters....

We went to the pool, gym and hot tub yesterday and when we got back to our suite, the door was standing wide open. We carefully checked everything and nothing was missing but, just who opened the door or how did it open? We were the condo and discussing this and how awful it could have been if someone took our purses, the computers and our possessions when the door popped open again after the cleaning woman next door slammed the door. We quickly called security and they came to check our door...after some putzing with the locking mechanism and much slamming of doors, the guys declared the situation, "fixed." Now, we leave the condo and slam against the door and check to see that it is latched well. We were very lucky.

While travelling to Gatlinburg to visit the arts and crafts community there which covers about 8 miles of shops and strip malls, we passed a drive through wedding chapel, only one of many hundreds here in the area. Drive through everything works here apparently and having not visited the area, I am amazed and dazed at all there is to do IF one has tons o money. There are theatrical shows, magic stores and shows, outdoor parks, indoor parks, putt putt, parks, hiking, pools, zip lining and much much more.

While at the craft stores, I was sorely tempted to take a photo of a government vehicle whose license plates clearly state...for government use only. The driver, his mate and two children dressed in shorts left an arts store with packages in arms. Hmmm...government work? Our tax dollars were certainly being spent.

Last night, we put the Biggest Loser DVD in and did our exercising in the living room. Felt badly for the folks below us because this hopping, jumping and sweating occured at 9:30 p.m. Had fun and laughed a lot. Going to do this again this morning...very cloudy and overcast this morning. Hoping the sun will peak out.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sisters' week...the first couple of days

No photos to share because Sheryl's computer doesn't have a place for me to insert my camera card. Sad...but they will be forthcoming. And for fun and grins, one MUST see the photos of us dancing to the belly dancing DVD which Sheryl brought and which we are enjoying with our dingle dangly belly dancing belts she purchased for us. I have a royal blue one with lots of coins and shiny discs attached...a sight to behold. Belly dancing happened this afternoon after we had shopped at the outlet mall and hit the gym, the hot tub and the pool for much needed exercise.

We left on Friday from Cyn's house in Danville, Ky only to find that Linda did not have her charge card. We emptied her purse, looked everywhere, including in the washer and dryer, under the seats, in the chairs and she was getting more and more frantic but we were meeting Sheryl in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at noon, so off we went. We stopped for gas and she paid cash because the lost card was her ONLY card and she didn't want us to pay. Next stop was a potty stop and Lynn was still worrying. She opened her purse and said, "I wish it would just pop up." And in front of her, she found her missing charge card. Her disposition improved immediately. Sheryl thought that losing her card would, "irritate the fur off of her." Now, this may be a southern phrase often used in Georgia, but we hadn't heard it before and we died laughing.

We three did rendezvous at the Wyndham resorts with Sheryl and we went to lunch at the Olive Garden where we were served by a charming 30 year old who looked 16 and whose last name was "Sweet." So, I couldn't resist and called him, "sweet thing" which he thought quite amusing in an old lady kind of way. He was Mr. Personality personified and also a great server. Had good food, good service and many laughs. We were laughing so hard at one point that we mentioned to the folks across from us that we were not drinking and had not been...we were just having fun. Sceptical looks were thrown our way.

My sister, Linda had us howling...she had her mammogram which is NOT a laughing matter BUT she was told that she has no glandular tissue in her boobs which means they are 100% fat. She isn't going to have breast cancer...which is great news.

In the evening last night we went to see a Kenny Rogers impersonator named Mark Hinds and while the show wasn't a top rated experience, it cost $7 and was held here at the resort. He hadn't checked his equipment before the show so we had a bit of a delay but all in all, we had fun.

Tomorrow, we are going to stop by the Hilltop Winery, which is a big building with NO grape vines and no processing plant to see if they have any shirts with their slogan for purchase. Think of this on fairly largely endowed women: "Pick me, squeeze me, make me wine." Should be good for a laugh or two...right??

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My family...and my father

My father asleep in his younger days, most likely on a weekend morning because he was a GM factory worker and was always up before the crack of dawn. But, before sleeping, he would smoke many cigarettes and then continue that ugly habit all day. As I wrote earlier, his nasty habit killed him eventually because he just couldn't breathe without oxygen. NO issue for him...while living with us and while connected to his oxygen, he would light up a smoke. He never did figure out how we could quickly tell that he was smoking in the house. Somehow, we just never mentioned that smoke travels through the vents in the house and fortunately, he never exploded though we worried every day that he lived with us.

By the way, the end table holding up his ashtray in this ancient photo is in our garage here in Caseville!

My father is the little guy with the grey hair and crossed arms laughing in front. I started writing about him this morning and asked my cousins and sisters if they had any photos of him that I could post and share with you all. Jeanne, named after my mother's sister, Olive Jeanne, found several which she has sent to me. This photo I love because he has, what my mother used to call his "shit eating grin" and it was soooo my father. He was up to NO good so often and had so much fun playing pranks and laughing at and with people. My mother is the woman in the white jacket/bathrobe in the back. She was at least twice my father's size and stood almost a foot taller than he. As a child, I hated to be with them together...everyone knows that the man HAS to be taller than his woman!

My father

For some reason, I spent much of last night thinking of my father and his influence in my life. I guess the thinking and pondering was triggered by the announcement that UAW Local 659 now has its first African American President. That was my father's union to which he belonged his many many years as a laborer for GM in Flint, Michigan. His union and his buddies were his life: his pride and joy. Often, I thought, he was more in tune with them than with his wife and children.

My father, "Frenchy" Plount worked side by side with many black men...maybe women back then also, I am unsure. However, he proudly lived in Owosso, Michigan, a town with a long history of being a white's only kind of town. My dad talked about his friends often, many he even spent nights drinking with in bars across Genessee County...none of whom came to our home. Ever.

The union was the antithesis of, "the man" or the company. The union supported the working person and fought for good hours and good pay and, at one point, that is truly what unions were all about. My father stopped speaking with me twice in his lifetime: once when one of my sister's mentioned to him that I was dating a black man and the other, when I left Michigan to teach in Virginia, a non-union teaching environment. At that point, I seriously refused for any organization to tell me how many hours I could work with children and their families, and then, be forced to join and pay for the privilege. To me, the union was about more rules and regulations which I didn't need to help those interested in learning.

My father was also an alcoholic who had to be dug out of bars every Friday night before he spent his paycheck. My sisters and I rode many a Friday night with my mother, waiting in a dark car, in bar parking lots, while my mother hurried into one bar after another looking for her husband. We usually found him and fortunately, my father was a gentle drunk and loved his family. He had run away from his family as a child, leaving his brother, Kermit behind as well. Whatever life he had in the bayous of Louisiana, he knew as a sixth grader he could improve upon if only he left. And leave, he did.

Dad cared deeply for us and for our extended family: many of whom ended up living with us for long or short periods of time. There was an aunt who was pregnant and needed shelter; a cousin with parents who were not the best; another aunt divorcing who needed help and always, extra cousins to help in some way or another, several living with us for months at a time in a very crowded, bunk bed filled room of girls.

We had little money but we had parents who loved us. My sisters and I went to Catholic Schools until my father abstained from his drinking, joined AA and attended meetings religiously. There were relapses but he was comitted to making better life for us all. Our parents knew that education would be our way to a better life and both mom and dad insisted on good attendance and good grades.

When I was about 13 years of age, we moved up in life...moving into town from the countryside where our home had a dirt cellar, huge garden, which was worked feverishly by all every summer so my mother could put up fruits and veggies for us to eat all winter. We raised chickens, as well for protein. Life changed when we moved into town.

The schools were now public and good. The Catholic lessons learned served us well. The gardening continued, but on a smaller scale and we had no animals around. Chickens came from the store and didn't have to be plucked! Very cool. We had friends and some of them had money and had their own bedrooms and beds. Amazing experiences. I had best friends who were Methodists, even daughters of a Methodist minister and so, I went to youth group and to church services with them and learned much about community.

My father continued to commute to his union job in Flint and eventually retired from GM. Later, after I taught and returned to Lansing to work on my Ph.D at MSU, I accepted a position at The Lansing State Journal and then, five years later an even better job at The Flint Journal. My now much older father was petrified to hear that we planned to live and work in Flint, and worse yet, raise his grandson in "THAT PLACE."

My father didn't sleep well for quite awhile after our move, said my mother. When she died suddenly and dad came to live in Flint with my husband and our family, he was beyond petrified.

My husband and I worked full time and my father, still somewhat independent but yet, ill with respiratory diseases, was home pretty much all day, alone. We asked that dad receive "Meals on Wheels" for lunch because the old curmudgeon refused to use the microwave to warm up leftovers. These began and dad was assigned a delightful old man, who was a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

"Owen" was African American and, of course, he came to the front door to deliver that lunch to dad. Dad signaled to him that he would have to go around back and dad took his lunch from this volunteer through our sliding glass doors. I found out that this gentle old man was walking around our home every day after several weeks when I was home from work ill. Dad had told me earlier that I had to fix the situation because they were sending a "N...." to our house and he didn't like it and it was my job to feed him and take care of him. I wouldn't "fix" this situation but dad had not told me about making Owen or his substitute come to our back door.

We had quite an argument about the treatment of guests/visitors to MY home and I also met with Owen and apologized. Owen laughed and said my father was always polite and that they were becoming, "friends" and he understood my dad. This "friend" situation I hoped to live to see. And see, I did one day when I came home and Owen and my father were playing cards together in the house. Somehow, along the road, Owen had become a friend...those other people out there still qualified to be called the pejoratives we would not permit in our home.

Before my father died, we were able to see him enjoy and play with our son who went to a Catholic daycare and school in Flint and who often had black friends in our home. The lesson learned and taught unknowingly by my father: when people are close to you and part of your life, their color, their culture, their education, and their wealth matter not. And so, today, I thank my father for teaching me and my children a lesson that has made my life ever so much richer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Returning to school: the retirement plan

The last thing one would expect is that I would consider returning to school to renew my certification and attempt to get certified in Spanish. And the hoops one has to jump through are truly amazing. Signed up also to substitute teach which should be somewhat of a no-brainer but is taking an act of God to accomplish. One must take several training modules re: HIV; blood born pathogens and gory topics like that. And for the first time ever, I must be finger printed before the orientation which will happen two months from now and about six counties away from where our home is.

Now, had I finished my Ph.D, I could possibly figure out just how to manage the subpass website so I could complete everything I need to have done before orientation in August. As I have been checking websites, I am reminded that often websites are created by geeks and not checked by people in focus groups or tried out by the marketing team. I visited the Michigan Education Association website and when I found the same button on 13 pages, I gave up and called. Not clear what button to click on to get to the page or form required. Again...had I just finished my Ph.D what I might be able to achieve.

Now, I will be attending Saginaw Valley State University and I must take a CLEP exam: that is CLEP not CLAP! That will allow me to waive out of some Spanish classes, assuming I pass it. I thought I had taken Spanish at MSU eons ago but instead, had taken German and French. So, no coursework in Spanish since about 1966. The Spanish department head, when she heard that asked, "are you a native Spanish speaker?" Now, all of my friends who are native Spanish speakers know how silly of a question THAT is.

I am going to try to get back to writing regularly. My life here in the US is sooo boring to me compared to the many adventures I have been blessed to have had around the world. We shall see what interesting I can drum up to share.