The Joy Fund

I’ve been incubating an idea for several weeks. It needs to be said, and I will feel better when I’ve expressed it, but it might sound sloppy, so bear with me. The idea I’ve been germinating is this: Why the heck does it happen that when you set a goal or declare that you “Will do something”, that you are immediately faced with situations that make your declaration impossible? Does the Universe have it in for us? Does God like to play tricks on us? Does He like to make a fool of me? Case in point: I declared that this past Christmas season, “I will be happy, and find happiness in each and every day. I WILL look for joy and make it happen daily.” No sooner did I thrust my spear in the fertile soil at the battlefront of cheery goodness than I received a phone call. Dad was facing yet another very serious surgery to alleviate a blood clot. And shortly after that, another conversation with my son that seriously shook me and dashed any hope of joy; it was the kind of thing that lots of nearly-adult sons find themselves in the throes of. And I lost some sleep that night. Well let me tell you: the joy seeking ended pretty quickly right then and there. It seemed very silly to look for frivolous things to be happy about. Life is serious, and while it didn’t exactly kick me in the teeth, it did affect two men who I love dearly. So back to my question. The timing. Does Life hang around behind palm trees eavesdropping, and then jump out at you when She hears that you’ve Made A Declaration, all with the idea of making you feel silly? Is She cunning, and does She fling her pixie dust of health threats and legal battles and financial woes discriminately, when we are at our lowest? And then twinkle away, giggling wickedly?

The more I’ve pondered this question, the more I think it’s not so. In fact, I don’t think so at all. You can accuse me of being Pollyanna if you like. It’s one epithet that’s been hurled at me, which I own and welcome. Like Pollyanna, I think that you can look at any situation as you want to look at it, find the silver lining, and that makes all the difference. It makes life better. My sister disagrees; she hates it when I sing in the morning. But I think it’s a good way to think.

So here’s what I’m thinking. I made that declaration To Be Happy or to Seek Little Sparkly Joys, and when bad things happened, it gave me even more reason to know that my happiness does not depend on my circumstances. Paul wrote encouraging letters while he was in a dark, stinky prison. Horatio Spafford wrote “It is Well with My Soul” after losing his wife and children in a horrific accident. Those people understood that happiness is a separate condition, unrelated to circumstances.

So my conclusion is this: Life is not a Sneaky Woman. Life is a whole bunch of experiments. We get up in the morning, brush our teeth, and face the day with its opportunities for helping the people we meet as we’re headed to work or to golf or to the grocery store. Happily, some of those folks are the ones we’re related to, and who we love. We get to do things for and with them. Like drive to their house, watch a movie in the evening, then drive them to the hospital and give them a kiss and say, “See you this afternoon” as the nurse wheels them into the OR.

My favorite definition of prayer is this: God, the Creator of you and me, gives us the chance to participate in His Creation by answering our prayers. He’s like a really great Dad who says to us, “Okay! Because you asked, it will happen just as you suggested.”With a Dad like that, the circumstances that whirl around me don’t seem quite as staggering.


The Question of Age

What exactly does “middle aged” mean? I thought it was a spot that is between “young” and “old”. However, I’m still on the young half of the hill; I can see “old” in the distance, and I don’t see “middle age” anywhere around. I am 49 years old (brevet 50). An explanation: “brevet” is a military term for a combat-instigated promotion in rank. So, you’ll see in history books about Colonel So-And-So (Brevet General). Once the war is over, the poor sap goes back to the lower rank. In my chronology, I have acquired 50, but a divorce robbed me of any celebration of that milestone, so I got busted back to the rank of 49 now that my war is over. Not a bad place to be busted back to, I’ll have to add. Another aside: I’m planning a big 50th  birthday party for myself. I’m calling it my Mulligan 50th Birthday. Do you know that golf term? When you really mess up a shot, you get a do-over, called a Mulligan. This is going to be my Mulligan 50th birthday.


Back to the landmark of “middle age”. I can imagine that teenagers describe me as “that older lady”. Don’t they know? Don’t they know that at a glance, I can recall clearly a memory from my days in Kindergarten, Junior High School (blergh), college, and any number of adult memories. So you see? I’m not old at all! Because in my mind, I am the same Kindergartener/angst-filled junior-high schooler, co-ed, and young adult with little toddlers around my ankles. I can also recall each of my kids at many ages–sweet-smelling infant in my arms, loveable, tyrannical toddler, knowledgeable Kindergartener, and young adult. It’s like I’m looking through  series of negatives stacked in front of each other. I can see my youngest in his yellow puddle boots, and chasing chickens around our back yard, and learning to ride the bike I bought at a garage sale, and winning nationals at the robotics competition, and at his wedding. I’m not trying to sing a maudlin song on a minor key–you know what I’m talking about with memories stacked in front of each other. And those memories are as vivid as Kodak; they don’t fade with age.


But my main question is this. When does Middle Age happen? Or is that term now defunct? I know that old age keeps moving forward as we get older. When we were 9, old people were anyone in high school or beyond. When we were 15, old people were in their 40’s. Now that we’re approaching 50, old means people in their 90’s. It’s the March of the Age! But whatever happened to Middle Age? I think it got gobbled up somewhere in my 20’s. Don’t tell my dad that it’s gone, because he has always, since my very youngest days, described me as his middle-aged daughter because I’m neither the oldest nor the youngest of my siblings.

Here’s to a Happy, Grand Sparkling New Year, full of love and joy.

The Happy Season, Day 2

Who knew that there would be a Pow Wow in Florida? But there is, and so I gathered the left-overs of my Thanksgiving company (my daughter and her two friends), and together we clamored off to find it. Image

And sure enough, it was everything that we had seen in Oklahoma, where I attended every single pow wow that was within a day’s drive to us. There was Indian fry bread, booths selling all things feathery/leather/artifacty, and there was dancing! And regalia! And honor and respect to all things sacred: country, men and women serving in our armed forces, police and fire departments, and a dance to honor the elders in the community. And there were men sitting around a large drum, chanting out a rhythm with their voices and their percussion as the people walk/danced around the ring which had been blessed. And the Creator was honored, as was the son and the Holy Spirit.

The Happy Season, Day 1

Christmas Resolution: To Do One Happy Thing Daily for the Season.

Today I bought a tree……….Image



and put it up in my living room, with the help of my Joy Team. WooHOO!



I am thankful for friends, because they make my life sweeter! A couple of weeks ago, I asked God for a houseful of guests for a Thanksgiving meal, and boy, did He deliver! I stood in my foyer adjoining my dining room, and asked God to fill it up all the way to the wall with people. See the stair railing? That’s the wall that I pointed to to ask God to fill it up to that point. Do you see my dad sitting with his back against that wall? That was God who was responsible for that.

Fast-forward: Thanksgiving afternoon. The table is set with 18 places, and the doorbell rings: Two more! We have to add a card table, extending it all the way to the wall I had pointed to when I asked God for it! We scrambled for a couple more forks & plates.


This is half of us; there were 20 people sitting at the table (actually, 3 tables smashed together).  Most of these people had never met before today; they represent all the people I could find who would otherwise be alone for Thanksgiving. They joined me and my parents and my kids. Isn’t it cool how comfortable they are with each other?

I’m going to count my blessings:

1. Two of the folks exchanged phone numbers because they discovered that they lived near each other, and had common interests!

2. The two teenagers said, “Cool! We’re going to play games!”

3. My kids had a nice time, even though their house was flooded with people they didn’t know previously.

4. My new daughter-in-law enjoyed herself, and participated in the introduce-your-new-friend game!

5. New smiles on faces.


More Kid Stories

I see a 3-year-old boy with Down syndrome for speech therapy. For a very long time, he had no words, so he communicated by crying and whining, mostly. I diligently tried to keep his attention as I taught him the baby signs for “dog”, “car”, “drink”, “ball”, “rain”, “helicopter”. All important words for little ones.

I didn’t think he was paying attention until one day I showed up for therapy, and his mom told me this story:

The little fella’s grandma visited for the weekend during a torrential rain storm. Florida has some scary-loud thunderstorms with dramatic lightening shows. Grandma saw the little fella crying and raising his hands up and lowering them straight down. His mom realized he was saying “rain” in baby sign because that was what was making him cry.

That reminds me of another little girl that I see for speech therapy. She had 30 words in her repertoire, all baby signs, before she spoke her first word. Her mom told me that at a routine doctor’s appointment, the little 2-year-old girl cried and cried, and produced the baby sign for “boo-boo”. She was afraid that the doctor would hurt her.

This little guy is saying “help”.

This gal is saying “please” or maybe “I’m sorry.” I’m not sure which. By the look on her face, I’m guessing she’s saying “please.”


Twin Switcheraoo

I got tricked by a 3-year-old. It starts young; or maybe I’m getting old. I see a little princess for speech therapy. She is adorable, and precocious, and her mother dresses her and braids her to the 9’s every day. And, to make things hard for the rest of the world, her mom dresses her and her twin sister exactly the same. As far as I can see, the ONLY difference between these girls is that one speaks less clearly than her sister. Enter me. Enter speech therapy.

Photograph of eight month old fraternal twin e...

Now, you have to understand that every other child in the daycare (whichever daycare I go to) wishes that they could be the one chosen to go with Ms. Kathy for speech therapy. Because it looks like fun! So, when Twin B had had just about enough of her sister always being the chosen one, she decided to take matters into her own hands. When she saw me coming, she ran up to me in her 3-year-oldness and announced to me that she was ready to go with me.

Another thing you have to understand is that I can never, ever tell the difference between these girls. They are identical in the extreme. So my tactic is to stand at the door and wait for the right twin to come to me. Then I say her name, and take her by the hand to do a speech therapy session.

So this day when Twin B stood by the door and announced that she was ready to go, I grabbed her hand and proceeded to take her down the hall. She was looking a little suspicious, so I was on alert. I grilled her with questions such as, “What’s your sister’s name?” She was supreme in her ruse. She answered with her own name to the question.

The therapy session commenced. I thought: hmmmm. Her speech is sounding good today! Am I an excellent therapist? Or is this girl tricking me. The session went on. I snuck in a few more questions to see if I could trip her up. Not so. She was good. She even queried me about the bubble gum in my bag. She knew about my gum. Was that first-hand information, or had she heard about the gum from the real therapy patient?


The session went on. And then she choked. She let this comment slip: “Does (Twin A) do these words?”

I grabbed that girl by the hand and marched her back to her classroom. I exasperated to the teachers: “I’VE GOT THE WRONG TWIN!” They clutched their sides and laughed as hard as I’d ever heard them laugh. I grabbed Twin A by the hand and completed the therapy session with her.

I told her mom this story on the phone this morning, and we had a laugh together.