Monday, September 21, 2015

Family Matters

Jimmy, Tommy, Mitchell, Roberta, Linda, Mom, Terri
On a cold February night, just as we were going to bed, I casually mentioned to Harold that this was my year to host our family get-together. We used to gather on Thanksgiving at my mom and dad’s house.

After Dad died, and Mom sold the house to my brother Mitchell, we converged on them for several years until we made a change with tradition. We decided to pass the hosting around by going from oldest to youngest and decided to meet in September when the weather was better.

“When were you going to tell me this?” he asked.

“Oh, about August,” I replied. Harold is the planner. I, on the other hand, am a seat-of-the-pants type person.

Well, he wasn’t having any of that. After a barrage of questions about logistics, I finally suggested we have the event at the park so we wouldn’t have to find tables, chairs, etc. that he was worrying about seven months ahead of time.

By March, we had rented the shelter at the park and worked on a list of things to do. In addition to the place, the host family provides the meat, drinks, and table service.

The reunion was Sunday, and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We were up at 6:00 a.m., and Harold was in drill-sergeant mode. Before I could get a cup of coffee, he was slicing up the pork loin we’d cooked the day before, and one of the huge hams he had bought for the occasion.

By the time we got the first ham in the roaster oven it was full. Harold was still fretting that we weren’t going to have enough meat. “That’s plenty,” I said. After all, Stacey was bringing two turkey breasts.

“This isn’t like the Fisher reunion,” I said. The Fisher reunion is for anyone with the last name, but this reunion is for our immediate family, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. “We usually have about thirty people, not a hundred.”

He finally settled on cooking an additional three-pound ham, just in case. Then we fixed gallons and gallons of tea. Thank goodness, Rob came by with his pickup to help us load everything into his truck and our Tahoe.

On the way to town, I began to feel the excitement. Until then, I’d been too busy. I love spending time with my family, and don’t see them as often as I should.

Both my sons were there and my two youngest grandchildren. My two oldest grandkids work on weekends, but Whitney would be coming by on her lunch hour.

Rob set up a PC to play a CD made from a video of a Capps family Thanksgiving from the early 1990’s. Mom was taking a turkey out of the oven, and my husband Jim was running the video camera.

After everyone found the right shelter, we decided to go ahead and start eating. My brother Mitchell had not arrived, but was on his way.  Tommy asked a short blessing. “Wow, that must be the shortest blessing you’ve ever done,” I said.

“He’s still going on the videotape,” someone said. Sure enough, the CD was still rolling and Tommy was still asking the blessing. In all fairness, we used to update everyone on our family, and he had the largest family.

We visited and took photos of the brothers, sisters, and our mom. Marshall wasn’t able to come this year and our brother Donnie passed away Thanksgiving eve in 2012.

The time just flew by, and before it seemed possible, people were leaving. It had been a beautiful day to spend with people I love. Of all things in life, family matters the most.

Copyright © September 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, September 18, 2015

On the Inside

Our Walk to End Alzheimer’s was Saturday. Nearly a full year of preparation all came together for a flawless event. The one thing you can’t really control is the weather, but it cooperated in a big way. The day was gorgeous, and for once, I didn’t have butterflies worrying about whether it was going to rain…or be so hot that someone could have heatstroke.

Before the Walk, we determined the eldest walker (Uncle Johnny) and the youngest, Bella Howard, a sweet baby wearing a Fairview shirt. The best individual fundraiser, Jessica Snell, was announced. Trophies were awarded to Sylvia G. Thompson for best fundraising and largest team.

Jessie from the Greater Missouri Chapter surprised me with an award. She pulled out a photo collage that immediately brought back memories. She asked me to say a few words.

“They caught me off guard,” I said. Then, I became so choked up, I had to pause before I could continue. Normally, when I speak, I prepare myself mentally to keep the emotions on the inside. After a brief pause, I was able to thank the wonderful walkers and teams that have supported our efforts throughout the years. Then, I told everyone how important the Walk was to me personally and how it helped me through the tough times. It gave me a focus and a way to feel good about helping put an end to this awful disease.

The extra bonus for the day was that the weather was also perfect for the other two outdoor events I planned to attend. At three o’clock, my great-niece was married in the same locale where we held the walk—the Highway Gardens on the Fairgrounds.

Larry Cooper
The final event to end my day was to watch “Changed By Grace” perform at the Sedalia Rockin’ for Jesus show. Besides the spiritual implications of the evening, two of the band members happen to be my nephews Mike Munsterman and Larry Cooper.  
Mike Munsterman
I thoroughly enjoyed their uplifting performance and their testimonies. 

A song that really made me think about life was one  Larry wrote, “On the Inside.” The song is about how we work to have all the material possessions, but then fall into the trap of devoting our lives to gaining even more worldly goods. Looking successful on the outside does not necessarily make a person happy or feel good about how he got to that point in life. In the song, Larry shares the importance of living life in such a way that a person feels good on the inside.   

Mike, too, has found a way to feel good on the inside. He has put his life back together after losing his wife Krystal. He has made a positive impact on the homeless through Krystal’s Dream. Mike has traveled far and wide to provide shoes and socks to those who have fallen on hard times. Through his mission, he has taken a tragedy that could have broken him, and turned it into action to help others.

To feel good on the inside you have to find that sweet spot in your soul where love, peace, and spirituality come to life. The important times in our lives are the heart moments spent doing what we love and being with those we love.

Is there anything better than living life in such a manner that it really does make us feel good on the inside? Sometimes we just need to put aside the negative thoughts and pressures that daily life brings and focus on the positive, happy times that make us smile.    

Copyright © September 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don’t Let the Rain Dampen Your Spirits

In “The Rainy Day” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Into each life some rain must fall.”  At times we pray for rain, the refreshing life-essential drops that come from the heavens to end droughts. Other times, when we have an important outdoor activity we don’t want it to rain. We wonder why it can’t hold off for just a while longer. Is that too much to ask?

Labor Day is our day for our big Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser for Jim’s team. This was our 17th year to do the “traffic stop.” It seems the day is usually unbearably hot, and this year looked to be more of the same. Then, the forecast called for heat and a chance of rain.

“Will you still do the stop if it rains, or will you reschedule,” my niece asked the day before.

“We can’t reschedule it. If it rains, we’ll stand in the rain. If we have a thunderstorm, we’ll wait it out in our cars,” I said. In all the previous years, we only had one rainy day. It was a blessing in disguise because the intermittent, gentle showers made for a cooler day.

As we began setting up our signs, a few gentle drops fell. Not bad, I thought. Suppose to last only a short while and move out. Soon, the rain began falling a little harder, and eventually, those of us who brought umbrellas stood beneath them. Only Shelly and Chris didn’t have umbrellas. Chris was wearing a raincoat, but Shelly just stood alongside the road with her collection can without protection against the rain that stalled over our heads.

I glanced down the street and saw a lady coming out of her house carrying a smiley-face umbrella. She talked to Shelly for a few minutes and handed her the umbrella. This woman had lived in the house for eleven years and noticed us every year and admired our tenacity to continue through the hot days in the past. She gave Shelly a donation and insisted she take the umbrella. The woman told Shelly that her sister was only in her fifties and had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The relentless rain fell on our “parade” until the last half hour. Water was running down the ditches, and the umbrellas didn’t keep the rain from soaking us. I didn’t mind the wet shirt and capris nearly as much as sloshing around with wet socks and shoes. Hey, it was still better than one-hundred degree heat. We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits.  

In his poem, Longfellow isn’t speaking of physical rain. He is speaking of the dark times when we cling to the past and “days are dark and dreary.” It makes me think of a conversation I had with a caregiver recently. She was battling depression and felt overwhelmed taking care of her husband who has Alzheimer’s. Yet, while we talked, I could tell she had the courage and indomitable spirit to keep on keeping on.

We all deal with our own personal rainy days. Sometimes they are gentle showers, and we can just shrug them off. We can even soldier through those steady downpours without much ado. Then there are those times when the wind is gusting, the thunder is booming, and a torrential downpour flash floods all over our last ray of optimism.

Before you let rainy, turbulent times dampen your spirits, remember the sun is still above those pesky clouds. Sunshine after a rain is glorious; rays beam down like the word of God, and the rainbow promises better days to come.

Copyright © September 2015 by L.S. Fisher