Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Most Favorite Cousin in the Whole Wide World

     When I was girl living in Elk Run Heights, a suburb of Waterloo, Iowa, we lived in an apartment house behind my cousins, Roy and Beulah, and their family, who lived in a big farmhouse. They had six children. Roy's mother also lived with them, we called her Grandma. Part of the time she lived in one of the apartments. We all loved Grandma.
     The apartment house we lived in was actually a new, long, converted, chicken house! No chickens had ever lived in it! It was now made into three apartments. My parents did not like it when one of us made a remark about living in a chicken house! We were in transition and only lived there while Dad and my older brother, Richard, built a new house for our family. It was  just on the other side of a woods. My siblings, our 2nd cousins and I had a lot of fun playing in the woods, hiding out, climbing trees, etc. There was a path going from our apartment, through the woods, to our house.
     Dad had bought the land, for our new house, from cousin, Roy. It was a part of the farm land that went with the farmhouse his family lived in. 
     On this farm was a very large round barn. We had so much fun playing in that barn. Hay was stored in it and we made hideouts in the bales of hay. Then we made tunnels going from one hideout to another hideout! A bale of hay is heavy but when they had to be moved to make a room or  tunnel, it was no problem! I moved many a bale back in those fun years! As I look back I wonder how we managed, to never be hurt, moving those bales around...
     I was in 2nd semester of 5th through 7th grades living there. I attended Elk Run Heights School. My  cousin, actually 2nd cousin, Leroy, was in the same grade and room as I was. We became best friends. We also attended the same church so we were in the same Sunday School class. We respected each other and had a lot of fun together.
     Leroy and his siblings had a pony. One day we were double riding. (The poor pony!) One of Leroy's brothers, Lavonne (now called Chuck), began chasing the pony with a long stick! The pony started running, Leroy couldn't stop him or slow him down! Finally, we came to the fence...the pony stopped!!! Leroy and I went flying! We weren't hurt, except for our pride, but we were really mad. 
     In seventh grade, one day, walking home from school together, Leroy told me he wanted a certain girlfriend. We were at that age... I asked him why he didn't ask the girl to be his girlfriend. He looked at me and said, "Because she's my best friend!" I suddenly knew... We were best friends and neither of us wanted to spoil our friendship by making it more than that. I loved him even more after that day. Best friends.
     Well, my family eventually moved away. We, of course, were still cousins and best friends, but we lost contact with each other.
     Many, many years later...I had my third baby, a boy and named him Timothy Lee. Lee was after my husband's middle name: Leroy. When we decided on Lee I asked Jerry if it could also be after a favorite cousin, Leroy because we had been such good friends as kids. "In fact," I said, "He was my most favorite cousin in the whole wide world!" Jerry said, "Of course we can!"
     One day I was talking to my mother and telling her about Tim's middle name being after Jerry and Leroy. 
     She asked if I knew about Leroy's baby girl? No, I hadn't heard from him in years. Then she told me he had named his second daughter, Anita! 
     Oh! I knew we were best friends! What a thrill! 
     I met her once after she was all grown up. What a beautiful young woman! Leroy also met my son, Timothy Lee, once when Tim was a young boy. 
     Second cousins and best friends...a wonderful combination. A wonderful relationship.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When I was a girl...

       My sister, Lorraine, and I love to reminisce. You see, we're only two years, three and a half months apart in age and we always played together as children.
     So? Well, back in the 40's we played...dolls or house, school (Lorraine was always the teacher), jacks (we became pros), jump rope (we knew all the jingles to jump to), clamping skates onto our shoes and roller skating down the sidewalk, paper dolls... Oh yes, paper dolls. We would cut clothes from the old Sears catalog, making sure we cut tabs on the shoulders so they would stay on. Sections of toilet paper made wonderful sheets and blankets for their match box beds. Evenings and Saturday mornings we'd listen to favorite radio programs. We had a wonderful childhood. We shared a double bed and were best friends.
     We had a ritual we repeated to each other every night. We both still remember it word for word.
     "Good night, Anita." 
     "Good night, Lorraine."
     "Don't forget to say your prayers."
     "Okay, I won't, don't you either."
     "Okay, I won't. Good night."
     "Good night."
     But we didn't stay children forever... Lorraine became a teenager first. I remember one day asking if she'd like to play house with me. I'll never forget the look on her face. It was one of not wanting to hurt me but yet not wanting to play...or maybe wanting to play but thinking she was too old... 
     Anyway, that was a defining day in my life. She made new friends and went away to a Christian high school. 
     I was also growing up and changing. Dolls and toys were put away. Friends (including boys), cars (even though I didn't drive until after I was married), music, all became my focus. 
     Then college, marriage, children, etc. took all my time and Lorraine's too. She lived on the west coast, and still does, I live in Michigan. I'm ashamed to say we seldom ever communicated. Oh, once in a while we did.
     Now, we're both getting older, and we love to talk on the phone reminiscing about our childhood, sharing with each other about our daily lives, our mistakes in life, our successes, our hopes and dreams, to brag about our grandchildren, etc. 
     When I was a girl life was simple. We didn't have a lot, money was scarce, but we loved what we had. To go back and share our memories is a favorite pastime today. Thanks for the memories, Lorraine...I love you. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh Oh, Someone Is Going To Get It!

     I was on my way to have a cup of coffee with a friend, near Clio, Michigan, when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a police car with the red light flashing. Oh oh, someone is going to get it! I thought and kept driving. I slowed down a little. I soon looked in the mirror again and saw the same police car, red light still flashing! Why doesn't he go around me, I wondered?
     Then...the thought came through my brain, in slow motion, that just maybe the car he was going after was mine! Oh, I slowed down and pulled over. So did the police car! 
     Oh no, it was me. I wondered what I had done wrong?! I put my window down as the officer came walking over. "Was I doing something wrong," I asked?
     "Do you know how fast you were driving?"
     "Well, no." I said. "Was I speeding?"
     "Yes, you were going 55 mph in a 35 mph zone."
     "Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize it." I said apologetically. 
     After checking over my license and registration the officer asked, "Are you taking your dog to the vet?" 

     Our little Chihuahua, Pinto, had been lost in our woods for five days and had just found her way back home that morning. Not wanting to leave her home along I had put a little blanket on the seat beside me and she was lying there.

     "Well, no, I'm not taking her now but I may later," I said. Then I picked Pinto up and showed her little feet, cracked and bloody, from running through the woods trying to find her way home. I explained to the officer about her being lost. 
     "Oh, well, I'm not going to give you a ticket this time, only a warning. But please keep your mind on your driving and watch the speed limit." The officer even smiled at me!
     I was so relieved and said thank you, I'm not sure how many times. 
     I went on to my friend's house. I relayed this story to her over coffee and her immediate reply was, "It's a good thing it wasn't a black woman police officer! They are really tough!"
     "Oh, but it was! The officer was a black woman!" I blurted out! We both sat there in silence, mulling this over. 
     I wanted to write a letter thanking her, but I wasn't given a ticket so I had no record of her name. Because it was outside the city limits it would have been a sheriff's deputy. I ended up not doing anything to thank her. I have told the story many times so I hope I've somehow helped the reputation of the black women officers in the State of Michigan. 
     Today is Martin Luther King, Jr day. He is a man I admire so much, before his death and after. I thought it fitting to write this story today. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Big Bird

     "What's this big bird in the tree?" Jerry asked. I'm a bird watcher so I quickly went into the sun room before the 'big bird' flew away! 
     Just as I got there the 'big bird' flew down to the ground. It was no more than 10 feet away from the window! "Well," I said excitedly, "It's an owl! I wish it was facing us so I could know for sure..." 
     Just as I said that it turned it's head around 180 degrees! It was an owl! A Great Horned Owl! Oh, I was so excited!
     Then he turned his head back around. His wings spread out and he flew up into our large White Pine Tree! 
     I shuddered. Dangling from his feet was a  long snake! The owl sat in the tree eating his lunch. It was probably just a Gardner snake but still, I hate snakes...
     But even the snake couldn't dampen my excitement of seeing the owl in my own back yard!

Friday, January 7, 2011

The most dreaded Disease

     The phone rang one day and I heard my daddy say, "No, oh no. When? How long was he sick?" 
     I was in fourth grade, we were living in East Peoria, Illinois. The phone call was from Des Moines, Iowa, where we had lived for several years and my daddy was pastor of a church.
     In that church was a family with just one son, Eddie. They had lost a daughter shortly after she was born. 
     We waited until Daddy hung up the phone for him to tell us the bad news. Eddie had died of polio, the most dreaded disease.
     NO! Not Eddie! Why? Why, God? Why Eddie? 
     Eddie was about a year older then I was. He was an outstanding boy. Eddie loved school and had many friends. He loved Jesus and wasn't afraid to tell anyone. In fact he loved telling folks, of all ages, about Jesus! 
     I have so many memories of Eddie. One day, playing in a park with friends, a rabid dog began chasing the boys. Eddie ran home, with his arms in the air, praying loudly, "Help me, Jesus, Help me, Jesus!"
God did help him run into the house and slam the door shut just as the dog ran up the porch steps. A dog catcher came and retrieved the dog a few minutes later.
     Eddie raised money for a children's home, by going door to door, asking for donations. He felt so badly for the children with no parents he often cried as he told of their plight. He raised more money for the Woodstock Children's Home than any other child. (Back in the late 40's and early 50's it was possible to go door to door to raise money.) A prize of a new bicycle was awarded to him, but a better prize for Eddie was in knowing he had helped the unfortunate children who had abusive parents or no parents at all.
     We were told Eddie's mother sat beside his hospital bed, crying softly. Eddie reached over and put his hand on her arm, "Don't cry, Mama," he said, "I'm going to live with Jesus."
     The next day Eddie did go to be with Jesus. A very sad day on earth...but a day of rejoicing in heaven.
     Someday I'm going to see Eddie again...


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Being Rejected

     I was hungry and our picnic lunch wasn't ready yet. So I was looking through a box of snacks when I saw a note with my name on it! I picked it up to read...  It was signed by one of the girls in the youth group. 
     I was attending school in South Dakota. My parents moved from Des Moines, Iowa to Winona Lake, Indiana, so I went to Winona Lake for summers and Christmas breaks. I didn't know the kids real well in the youth group but I had been invited to go to the state park with them. I was looking forward to a fun day and making new friends. 
     Then I read the note... "I'll ride to the  state park in any car and with anyone but not with Anita Williamson!!!" I was shocked and I panicked. I didn't know I wasn't liked... What should I do? I could walk off and never return. Yes, that's what I'd better do. Just walk off and keep walking. We were miles from home but that didn't matter, I couldn't ride home with this bunch of kids anyway. Why was I invited? Why had I said yes, I'll go? 
     The worst part was I did end up riding to the state park with the girl who had written the note! I thought it was strange they had me sit in the front seat...they were keeping us separated! I barely knew her. Oh, what should I do? Why didn't she like me? We didn't even know each other.
     I began walking but as I walked I thought about the commotion I would make by walking off and not returning; about the youth workers and the kids looking through the woods; about my parents and the worry I would cause them; about the state police being called and a search for me
     I couldn't stand these thoughts. I finally turned around and walked slowly back. Lunch was now ready, everyone was eating. No one asked where I'd been. I knew no one cared. 
     This park had horses and trails for riding. In the afternoon some decided to go riding. Well, I love riding and would never turn down an opportunity. 
     As they were choosing horses and riders there was one horse that was not picked. He was a beautiful horse but rather frisky. 
     I was the last one so I was given that horse. I wish I could remember his name. 
     We suited each other. I felt unwanted and knew this horse was unwanted. We had a really good ride and I had someone to talk to. I told the horse all about my day, my feelings, my disappointment. My need for a friend. I thanked him for being my friend. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

God Had a Better Plan

     Abigail raised her hand and said, "Ms Anita, we don't want lessons!" 
     I was in Thailand for my first time. I was quite excited. I was there to minister to field worker's kids (Missionary kids). These were field workers who work in creative access countries and who come out to a week long retreat to refresh, requip, and recommit themselves to work in such, often primitive, countries.
     By having someone to work with the children gave these deserving field workers a time to attend seminars together as a couple rather than one having to stay behind with their children. I felt privileged to have this responsibility of being a care giver to their beautiful children. I arrived excited and well prepared. 
     There were about twenty kids from age five years to thirteen years; quite an age range. There were only three of us kids workers. Two were college students and myself, in my 6o's! One of the college girls was to care for the babies and preschool children. The other was in charge of handicraft for my kids. I had no helpers, except the Lord.
     The first morning we were all together in the little house that was ours to use. By all together, I mean, babies, toddlers, school kids, and parents who wanted to see who was going to be with their kids that week, and just what I planned to do with them!
     It was total mayhem! Everyone was talking, babies were crying, toddlers running all over. I was ready to scream!!! I finally asked the college student, over the babies, to please take them to their nursery so I could get started. She looked hurt but did as I asked. Parents slowly began walking out to go to their own meetings.
     Finally, it was just the kids and me... We began to get acquainted, giving names and telling favorite things to do. I, very excitedly, began to tell them of the plans I had for the week. I said I had lessons all prepared for them and we were going to be learning some really interesting lessons.
     Abigail raised her hand and said, "Ms Anita, we don't want lessons!" 
     Josiah nodded in agreement and raised his hand. "We're home schooled and have lessons every day. This is our vacation week, we don't want lessons!" 
     "Oh, I see," I exclaimed. "Well, I'll have to think about that." 
     I don't remember the rest of that first day. It's sort of a blur! 
     I do remember the first night...! I laid in bed and cried out to the Lord, "Oh, what am I doing here? I thought I was following Your will! I'm the wrong person to work with these kids. They don't want lessons, they don't want me! What am I going to do?  Lord, help me!" 
     I became very ill. I was so dizzy and felt like if I moved even one hand I would throw up. I just laid there and wanted to die.
     Somehow, some time, I fell asleep. I woke up in the morning feeling fine. As I prayed that morning, I again told the Lord of my predicament, but not in the desperate way I had in the night. Somehow, I felt the Lord would be helping me. I knew He would be helping me.
     After breakfast the kids and I met in our house. They were all eager to tell me details of their lives. I listened intently and also told them some things about myself. In our sharing, because of the age range, I had to make sure the younger ones had time to talk too. 
     As we were sharing, the door opened and in walked a teenage boy about 14 or 15. Before I could even ask what he wanted, he asked me if I could use some help! 
     Oh, thank You, Lord! I truly believe the Lord sent him!
     One of the activities I had taken with me was a set of batons to use in a relay race. The Lord seemed to be telling me this was more than just a game. This was a lesson for them to learn. 
     We began talking about their lives as mk's (missionary kids). They mainly felt it was their parents work. 
     Here is where the Lord had me introduce the relay race. We divided the kids in two groups. The buddy system was established here and continued all week. Each younger child had an older kid as a partner. 
     Then Randy and I explained how a relay race worked. It takes cooperation, alertness, steadiness and loyalty of each player to make it to the finish line. 
     As we talked about their lives in another country and their parents work, their own friendships with kids of another culture, the concept of the relay race fit in perfectly. What a lesson for me as well! 
     The first day the race didn't go so well. But we worked at it all week, and by the end, they were all good relay racers! ...and they understood their purpose in living in another country and how they were a help to their parents work. Each one is important, no matter what their age.
     So no lessons, as such. But we were all learning lessons all week! When we finished one activity I would send up a prayer... "Okay, Lord, what's next?" Ideas would come to my mind that I knew came from God! My lesson plans remained in my suitcase.
     We had a wonderful week together. I will never forget those kids, their honesty with me; Randy, whom we both felt was led by the Lord to come and be my helper.
     I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippines 4:13