Of These My Children: Looking Famous!

Teaching has always brought me joy and satisfaction, but I never dreamed it would lead to looking famous. It all happened in a normal school day.

It started like any other day in the classroom–except for the argument–as two students  who  arrived at the same time were disagreeing on how to pronounce a term. One said, “Everyone knows it’s Bob Wire; I guess they named it after a man named Bob.”  The girl matched his volume with great confidence, “No, it was a woman named Barb!” Looks like it’s time for a little Texas history, so I’ll look up some pictures of barbed wire and we’ll go over the meaning. Maybe we could do some arts and crafts and make fences with pipe cleaners for the sharp edges.

Everyone is happy when Library Day comes.  The students enjoy showing each other what books they checked out. One boy was excited about 20,000 Leagues Under the Siege.” Vocabulary is such a constant companion to a teacher. I realized we’d have a chance to compare and contrast baseball leagues with leagues in the ocean.  The boys will be glad to play a war game as we learn the meaning of siege. Then as we return from recess we can play like we’re swimming to the edge of the seas!

As the class was buzzing quietly with numbers flying in and out of their heads, one child just couldn’t resist bragging, “I’m a good adder!”  For a moment there, I could imagine a snake wandering around the room helping the kids with adding. Actually, it was a fairly fitting description of this boy as he loved to mingle--even in math time when we were only allowed to talk about numbers. His idea was that if he game answers to their adding problems, THEY would become good adders too. Boy, did I have some explaining to do!

When the weather permits the children love eating lunch in the sideboard at picnic tables or on The Chocolate Porch under the Sweet Gum Tree.

When I overheard a remark by a fine young gentleman I choked on my food. He said, “I want to be a high school dropout.”  Being a teacher-type I simply had to ask why: “All my uncles are dropouts and they all drive neat cars.” Hmm, tomorrow I’d better start clarifying the value of an education with my dear students. I agree, not everyone needs college. Some thrive in vocational schools or apprenticeships, etc. However, I do want all of my kiddoes to finish high school! Maybe we can start by talking about cause and effect, then discuss how the world has changed in the last few generations since nowadays most jobs require at least a high school diploma.

Language class had just begun. Suddenly a girl confessed, “I love reading with my Grandma but when we do it in school it’s not as much fun.” I had to further break her heart by telling her the name of today’s lesson I had just written on the board was Grammar, not Grandma. I guess it’s time to bring out that game about words that start alike again.

Now that we were on the subject of grandparents one boy told us, “My grandpa is getting a hearing aid cause he’s going death.” I decided it was time for the spelling pre-test. Anything to get them off the topic before someone started talking about funerals!

As I prepared for the end of the day, I slipped a jacket on to stay warm as I saw the children to their cars. One style-conscious young lady hollered out, “You’re looking famous in that fancy jacket!”  I thought I’d better quit while I was ahead, so I began to do the royal wave as the kids left for the day.:-)

Copyright 2018 by Hildra Tague. Obtain author’s permission for use in print or online.

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Of These My Children: The Big Plus Sign in the Sky

We’ve all heard that adults learn more from children than they can ever teach. In my career my students sometimes informed me of things I didn’t know I needed to know!

On Mondays I hear about their weekend adventures. Sometimes unsupervised TV watching brings up issues in need of clarification. One rather shy gal whispers to me that her TV shocked her. It said, “Take advantage of these sexual offers.” After calming her down a bit, I was able to convince her they really said “special offers.” 

Then a young lady said her mom went to the Department of Murder Vehicles on Saturday but they were closed. Motor problems, I guess.

At lunch a very eager boy was thrilled to tell us about the “peppermint pizza” his uncle brought to his house this weekend. I kinda hated to spoil his enthusiasm but I included similar words like peppermint and pepperoni in that afternoon’s language lesson. Tomorrow I’ll bring one of each to show the class. We could have a tasting party.

There is a magical time in childhood when they are so innocent it goes beyond naive. A young scholar told me he had a great idea for getting a good grade on his spelling test. He told me his great plan: “Copy from Dylan–that’s the easy way!” Teachers can find it a momentous challenge to move understanding to the next level without trampling on a child’s fragile psyche.

One day we had a surprise snack brought by a parent. Afterward, I said “Now we all have renewed energy to finish our work.” A guy pipes up with, “What is nude energy?” Boy, did I have some explaining to do! Even his mom had a question or two the next day after their supper conversation. She had a hard time telling me since she kept choking with chuckles:-)

Kids usually show a great love for Science. In our Weather unit someone read, “Trees attack lightning.” I rushed over to see what she was reading from. Another child hovered, “Why would they attack lightning–no way they could win!” I decided then and there to put attack and attract on our Word Magic wall, stat.

In our study of Resources a budding scholar informed us there was another kind of resource besides water, gas and oil “mental resources.” I decided not to wait till recess to play “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral” game. Then just when I thought it was all cleared up, a voice announced, “I’m so glad we learned about mineral resorts.”   I decided it was high time to change the subject.

Another young man said his dad was broken hearted since he had to go to his uncle’s funeral. “He died of mimosas of the liver.” Well, maybe too many mimosas might cause sclerosis of the liver, who knows?

At the mention of church, now little guy obviously hadn’t ever been to one. He asked me what that big plus sign in the sky” meant. His car passed it every day on the way to school. It took me a minute to add it all up. While I was recovering, he further explained: “I know most kids say addition is better than subtraction…”  Quickly I interrupted him before the classroom’s brains became even more tangled. I then provided him his first basic lesson in Christianity. Luckily a girl in the room was wearing a necklace with a cross and she pitched in while I was rearranging my brain. Since I feel parents should teach kiddoes about religion, I had a little chat with his mom just to keep her informed of what he was thinking.

On that note, I thought of a church I pass often on my way to church each week. I will never be able to drive by that lovely church with a tall steeple and cross without thinking of the big plus sign in the sky!

Maybe this event points out a good goal for all of us: See that our religion adds  to the world by making it a better place for all. As they say, “out of the mouths of babes.”

 

 

 

 

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Of These My Children: My Life as a Teddy Bear

Our little private school was almost lost in the woods. Yet it was pleasantly surrounded by Miss Popcorn Goat, the mascot, and Mr. Roo Ster, the Rooler of the school. On another side was the Pizza Garden and The Chocolate Porch where 32 kinds of plants lived with frogs, birds and squirrels who enjoyed having recess all day.

Oh, and a few students came each day for the sole purpose of avoiding and resisting anything that smacked of school work. Many of them had not felt so good at their former school, so they were skeptical souls.

One day I had the best compliment I could ever have in my life! A new student sat rather shyly as his peers tried to put him at ease. A remarkable guy sitting next to him said, “It’s OK to talk around her” pointing to me (the teacher). “She doesn’t mind. She likes to know what we think. It’s kinda like talking to a Teddy Bear.” (Later that year that child brought me a teddy bear bubble necklace. Hmmm, so many reasons to smile).

My life as a Teddy Bear was busy for sure. In Social Studies we had a lesson on pollution. A child popped up with a map claiming it went with this lesson. Well, I guess some folks might think a population map helps explain pollution.

On the day when we learned about Europe one guy quickly yelled out the chapter title “Earp!” I did a double take to make sure he wasn’t about to vomit but the pleasant look on his face told me to stress the pronunciation of the continents.

We learned about customs around the world. A smart child read from the whiteboard, “They were following the customers of their ancestors.”  We all looked to catch a glimpse of who was following whom while I reiterated the concept of customs.  We did a role play of being a customer or clerk in a store, then switched to practicing customs of our ancestors and singing a Christmas song. What fun.

Another time when we read about ancestors, someone called it anteaters. An astute kid said they didn’t eat ants, they ate roots and berries. That day we learned about how the eating habits of our ancestors was different from the diets of anteaters.

Soon I wondered if I should have even brought up the subject of ancestors when a gal focused on China. She informed us that “they practiced Sister Worship.” Another child yelled, “Glad I didn’t live there! I’d never worship my sister.” I had myself some real cleaning up to do on the kids’ vocabulary that day.

Science is time for a sense of wonder. As we delves into the wonders of water, a child held up a picture in his library book of a boat. He said, “If a boat turns over it might get a cat’s eye.” Since I had just mentioned gravity, it took me a minute to realize he meant the force of gravity would make it capsize!  It’s so nice when the students can apply what they learn to real life, ahem.

Spelling and Language require the dreaded ABC order. One gal was reciting the alphabet to herself to get warmed up for alphabetizing her spelling words. Her voice was happy and musical and she got them just right–almost. When she came to PQRST she clearly said “pee ewe” and held her nose. Once again, I had some explaining to do.

That day in the classroom was finally over. I grabbed my snack and put my feet up, musing about my day. Maybe it’s time for me to consult the Teddy Bear Association about my job. How am I ever going to keep my fur smooth when the kids keep making it stand on end by their shocking renditions of the English language??!!!

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Honeysuckle Air: Love Letter to Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church–History and Hugs

We moved from Houston  in 1972 with two young sons, determined to miss our church in Oklahoma. Soon we saw a community calendar in a local paper which said a Unitarian group was meeting on Spring Cypress. We dressed up Sunday evening, eager to connect  with people of like faith, and made the drive to a dark and empty building in Klein.

Sadly arriving at home I called the contact person mentioned in the paper and she said they had met a few weeks ago but the notice had continued by mistake.

Several weekends later we were invited to what became a supper club which met for fellowship and sharing ideas.

Yet I felt a vacuum where my children were concerned. So my younger son and I went to the First Unitarian Church in Houston for Sunday School while I continued to foster the formation of a local church. As the years passed we arranged for the minister of First Church to come to a subdivision clubhouse, volunteering on Sunday evenings to give a talk.

Before too long we became a congregation. We met at the original Interfaith location on Woodlands Parkway, long before it went very far west into The Woodlands as it currently exists. We met there for a some time.

Then we began a series of survival moves, a barn in Enchanted Oaks (where I stared our first RE with 17 kids, all ages, in one house!) Then for a while we met at a learning center on Sawdust which I ran, putting up partitions each week before the service and using the peripheral rooms for the children.

Next came The Music Rack in Klein–trading fix-up services for rent and Ponderosa Y. We engaged part time ministers Van Vanstrom and Al Judd. Finally in 1985, building this edifice partially with our own hands. I can’t claim much sweat on that but I was a part of it all, and painted the SW corner RE room alongside Mary Branson when she was pregnant with Amy.

Then I was privileged to lead the 2nd service in this building: A Date With Grief. I was going through a divorce and was writing a Grief Yearbook so I had plenty of original poems and material ready, and of course there were always musicians ready to strum out Song Sung Blue and other expressions of angst which we all go through at some point in our lives.

NUUC thrived off and on, but I found it gratifying to see it was always “there” for folks who needed a church home, or even just an accepting lagoon to rest their souls in for a bit.

One of my passions was the music program. It grew and changed, but always seemed to keep getting better. From a pitch pipe to simple guitar music we managed to include traditional, choral, folk, rock and roll, and even a flute choir! Thanks Judy Middleton, Rusty Rhoad and many others for their tireless efforts!

I also held the RE program dear to my heart and was especially proud when one of our teen gals suggested a Harry Potter-esque summer camp. So many children grew up inside these walls, having fun, sharing both good and bad times, friends, ideas and fun.

For a while I read stories to the children early in the service. Favorites were Tacky the Penguin and Love You Forever. (One of the parents passed tissues around for that last one!)

After Shirley Broussard retired from the newsletter, Larry did it for several years. We enjoyed using our newly-minted Macintosh to print out news of Northwoods. He particularly enjoyed adding graphics to make it interesting.

My hubby, Larry McLoughlin, and I also spent years keeping the kitchen going. Like most groups, people were naturally more aware of the need to eat the goodies than bring them! The crazy ones among us, myself included, loved to belt out the Adjusted Doxology “Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Lord give us coffee” at moments of mirth here and there. Eventually a fine committee took it over–The Kitchen Angels.

The years moved on, with the Gorilla Chorus honoring the fine men in our congregation with music, mania, and even a live gorilla (the person inside the costume WAS alive:-) Then the corner room saw things made by the Ewe Ewe Knitting ministry,  busy making comfort blankets for those in need of such kindness. They were soft and wonderful!

I was especially touched with the Lay Ministry. Sharon Ossowski and a number of others kept it running over the years. When Larry started his series of hospitalizations, I became the recipient of their kindness.. There was a group of Saturday ladies, Maxine DeVries and friends, who had me email a list of needs so they could shop each weekend and keep us in food and friendship.

Larry’s favorite thing was The Lunch Bunch. We visited a wide variety of restaurants for after church chatting and fellowship. Visitors could come there and start the process of making friends and others were “regulars” who showed up regularly for the food and fun.

Such fine memories!

For a number of years we organized a shared Thanksgiving open to all. Since we wanted to include folks with no other easy options as well as those who feast with family, we set it up at 3 p.m. People who ate with others at lunch were welcomed, and people who planned to sup with family could come by and move on when needed. But most of all, people for whom this was their Thanksgiving family could stay as long as desired.

Although signups were dutifully done, there were always extra people, so we had the essentials aplenty and loads of other wonderful stuff to eat. Afterwards there were table games, dishes being done, and of course, I brought out song books for Carols and Cookies (or pies, etc.) It was an event to remember and a touching opportunity for members and friends to build fond memories of food, fun and farfetched stories and songs.

When my good friend Ann Tofft went into hospice, Kate Rhoad and a huge slew of other fine folks jumped in and helped in a million ways. Dr. ____________ even rescued me as I was about to wear out with both Ann and Larry in the hospital at once.

Then there was the Cancer Group, eventually called Chronic Illness group where we met in to rooms. Mary Chimirusti and Marci set it up and made it happen. One room was for patients and across the hall the caregivers met. Such support made me proud to be a Northwoods fan!

Eventually I realized I had my hands more than full and needed to downsize and move near family as Larry’s health demands were ever increasing. ENTER Northwoods friends yet again! Dorothy Kennedy, Cindy Mahony, Kate, Susan Blackmore, Sean Connelly, Lee Anna Loehr all pitched in wholeheartedly along with many other fantastic folks to help me reduce, donate, sell, unload and box up far less stuff to make the trip to Florida.

We’ve been here over 6 years now. Yet Northwoods is still a part of my life. Facebook and phone calls keep me up with happenings there as I hold them in my heart. Friends there  continue to uplift, entertain, and yes even grieve with me when needed.

So I guess that’s a peek into a portion of my liberal view of eternal life! Go hug a Northwoodsian, and cherish and maintain that great place in all our hearts for us and others to come.

Love,

Hildra Tague, Founder and Fan of Northwoods UU Church, The Woodlands, Texas

___________________

Copyright 2017 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation: Soft Voices Make Me Cry

Nothing wrong with crying. Tears cleanse the soul.

But sometimes it’s, uh, inconvenient.

I can wear the badge of courage quite well until some kind soul says a tender word, pats me on the back, gives me a hug, or makes an offer to be of assistance. Then I helplessly melt into my grief.

At that point my eyes begin to leak without my permission, and I find myself unable to speak coherently.

Sometimes I regret this for a moment, knowing I could really use a good therapeutic conversation, yet I realize these tears are here only for a season to do the work of grief and transition.

Not that I don’t have good reasons for the overflow of saline rivulets. When life’s flood level is reached the body and soul needs to release its pressure valve to rid my heart of just too much pain.

I find myself feeling cheated out of a much needed conversation. Yet I’ve finally realized that words will come in due time. Right then I mostly needed a hug and those cleansing tears.

A possible explanation is that I feel safe enough wrapped in the kindness of understanding people to let my negative feelings just leak right on out.

Being the sole caregiver for an ailing husband for 13 years did it for me. Then using up all our retirement safety net on one dreadful cancer, then another, only to discover copays can really add up and cripple a budget, affecting one’s retirement disastrously.

We plotted, and even plodded, our way through all of this only to then have my soul knocked sideways with his dementia diagnosis.

Actually, I suspected dementia long before the official test results. It took me a few years to look it in the eye. But eventually it knocked on the door of my life till I had to face it.

Back to those tears, I have cried enough to make a river. Yet I notice, with each new challenge, for my emotions, I eventually get rid of enough of those dang droplets that I’m ready to slide right over into problem solving. (For most of my adult life, my motto during troubles was to get myself into the cognitive. Little did I realize there was sometimes a grotto to traverse to reach the thinking stage.)

That’s when problem-solving starts. Maybe the tears are lubricating the way so I can scooch over into yet another phase of my long and wonderful life.

One can note that this is different from being stuck in the weeping stage of a grief. These particular  tears seem to meet two needs: 1) Pave the way for moving on, and 2) Drain off the overflow of stress so there’s room in my eyes for clear assessment of my current reality.

So I seem to have learned to lean into the kindness and just let my feelings roll. The next time I see that friend I’ll be ready for the use of words.

This process reminds me of when I used to make homemade jellies. One must boil the scum off, removing it completely, before the reward of a crystal clear jelly remains. If that step is skipped or not done thoroughly, the jelly is compromised. So it is with life.

So if you see me, feel free to be your own kind self. Don’t hold back for fear of making me cry. When I’m through crying, we’ll both notice.

Cause then you’ll find me singing along or telling a joke, or yelling out in delight the same way my midget grandma used to do:-)

Maybe another day I’ll return the favor and help you cry.

See you around, tears and all.

__________________

Copyright 2017 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

 

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Honeysuckle Air: Happy Graduation to Kind Princess Boss Becca

I remember Princess Becca. A smart dresser even then. When we took a picture she turned and quipped “Again” so somehow we knew she’d be her very own kind of royalty.

Then I saw a sensitive side when Grandpa Mac was so very sick with a dreadful cancer and she patiently sat (across the room due to his low immunity) and talked quietly yet clearly to him about his hospitalizations, and life. She listened well since his voice was almost gone. What a caring person!

One year she taught us what she learned in Music Appreciation. She and the other grandkids could identify many of my favorite pieces. I was so impressed.

There were so many good times: taking a nature walk on the property in Colorado, returning home to play in the driveway, sharing Easter carrots, fun at the beach, playing at our house when we couldn’t travel, enjoying my magic stuff and whatnots, then “camping out” on futons on the floor. She decorated the room with her smiles.

From a barefoot scholar to a Facebook friend, I saw a student of science, history, and knowledge in general, as well as a well-rounded person who relished friends.

Then one year, after a walk around to see plants she knew I’d love and spending some time scrolling through pictures, she shared with me how she poured out her heart in poetry. I was honored as another poet to read her words and catch a glimpse of her soul.

Yup, there goes Boss Becca, to graduation and beyond! It has been my grandmother’s pleasure and honor to watch her grow up into a fine young woman.

As graduation came and went, I had to stay home and help Grandpa Mac as he was having lots of falls due to complications of his diagnosis. Now I send my words of love and hope to my dear Becca:-)

Please remember to wear your wisdom daily. Keep your mind open to knowledge, caring and understanding of others. Listen to many but mostly to yourself. Be willing to say no and make your own choices, knowing they may follow you around forever.

Most of all, hold yourself dear and cherish your worth for this is how you will teach people to cherish you , themselves, and others.

Be careful out there. Life can be hard. Always know your worth. Think before you respond. Be cautious with money yet generous with kindness.

Love you forever,

Hildra Tague, your very own Grandma Without the Goat, Summer of 2017

_____________

Copyright 2017 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

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Honeysuckle Air: Holding Foot

I am probably not the only wife who was born with cold feet.

After our marriage had settled into decades, there were times we went to bed only because we were tired and longed for sleep.

Yet our mutual fondness declared some expression of love was necessary to settling down for a “long winter’s nap” as they say.

One such night our toes touched and my toes which are always cold discovered the warmth to be found there.  After a bit of giggling with him declaring how cold my feet were, and me relishing his “hot feet” we settled into the night’s rest with our toes still touching.

This toe fondling became a habit of sweetness and snuggling after a hard day’s work. When one of us was a little late to climb into bed the other would bemoan the lack of a foot to hold.

Eventually it evolved into the term “holding foot” which we always said with a bit of a grin. Since it bore all the tender landmarks of holding hands, we found it to be a vital part of our time together, especially when we were tired. It supplied to us the same gentle thrill as holding hands does. We enjoyed the idea that we could drift off to sleep while holding feet.

As the tradition continued, we began to realize that whatever didn’t hurt with aging issues could be held in fondness and comfort. Due to his severe peripheral neuropathy, what got held could vary from day to day. Sometimes hands, sometimes feet.

The people in the place we retired to in South Florida began to refer to us as the “couple who holds hands” since we usually held hands when we were out and about.

As arthritis and other issues of aging began to enter our lives, we began to appreciate the fact that we had an alternate closeness we could enjoy when our hands were off duty due to pain or sensitivity.

It can serve as a reminder to us all that whatever works is good in a relationship. Hold hands, hold feet, but don’t hold your breath too long as you get older.

Copyright 2017 by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Deep Breathing Moments: Meditations for the Unpremeditated, Honeysuckle Air - Memoirs, Savor Our Seniors to Grow Bold Along With Me – The Rest is Yet to Come | Leave a comment