Categories
Life Memoirs school teaching writing

Fifth Grade Follies

It was in the fifth grade that I began writing stories. I don’t recall exactly what I wrote but I shared my work with friends, and at one time, my teacher. Any feedback they might have given me is not in my memory banks, so maybe it wasn’t that good? I don’t know. I do know that I began to consider myself a writer at that age.

That is when I discovered the book Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I must have checked it out of the school library a dozen times. I identified with little Harriet, although I didn’t consider myself a spy. She spied on people, even sneaked into their homes, to gather information to write about, until one of her schoolmates stole her notebook. It was devastating to have her innermost thoughts and feelings revealed to the world. I was very careful about what I wrote in my own notebook, and the only spying I did was on my family. But the book got me writing.

Fifth grade was still a part of J.E. Rhodes Elementary but our classes were separated from the younger grades. I changed classes for math and reading, probably, I don’t recall. My granddaughter attends J.E. Rhodes Elementary now, although not in the same building. The original building was destroyed by a tornado several years ago, so she goes to school in my old high school building. Of course, it’s all been renovated so it is unrecognizable as the old high school. I just attended her kindergarten graduation in the auditorium that I graduated in 45 years ago! How can that be? At least it’s air-conditioned now!

One memory I have that stands out is one time when we were in class sitting in desks that had been pushed together to make a large group. It was after lunch and I had been bitten by the witty bug and couldn’t keep my mouth closed in my efforts to entertain my classmates. Mrs. Pittman jumped all over me, telling me in front of the class how disappointed she was in my behavior. I’m telling you that stopped it once and for all. I was so ashamed of myself I wished I could disappear. I wish it was that easy to make kids behave today.

Fifth grade. The cusp of preteen-hood. Not quite a baby, not quite a teen, still a kid, but a big one. Next time: a visit to Neiman Marcus for an embarrassing visit with Santa.

My fifth grade school picture.
The pixie haircut grew out!

Do you have any standout memories of fifth grade? Do tell!

XOXO

Categories
glamping Life Memoirs

Stone Groan

It was a perfect weekend for camping–temps in the 80’s, fair skies. It was a bit windy so I really couldn’t set much outside but I managed to decorate my site and make it a glamping fit.

My cozy comfy little vintage camper.

It was a Get’away Gals campout, so as is our custom we met Thursday evening for a “BYODinner” to catch up and play games and just enjoy being together again. I made plans to go to a flea market the next day with some of the ladies.

Friday morning after a rather fitful night I got up feeling a little off. I met the ladies and got into the car, but I soon recognized the odd feeling. It was a familiar ache. Kidney stone. We had to make one restroom stop on the way to the market. I chose denial and went shopping.

The kidney stone chose not to be ignored. I managed to buy a pair of earrings and another item but after two restroom visits it was time to say uncle. I asked my friend to take me back to the campground, a mere 40 minutes away. Nausea reared its ugly head and we had to stop again.

Finally back at my camper I rummaged around for the hydrocodone and tamsulosin prescriptions I’d gotten at the ER last year for the same problem. I always bring those drugs with me in case. I’m so glad I did.

I texted everyone in my family as I tried to decide what to do. Should I hook up my camper and try to make the two-hour drive home? (No way that would have happened!) Should I ask someone to pick me up? My sister and brother-in-law said they would come get me and my trailer. But then my son gave me the wisest advice. Stay put. Ride it out. Call 911 if I have to, or get a friend to take me to a clinic or ER.

After the medicine took effect, staying put was my only option. Thank God for my cozy, comfy little camper and my bucket potty. I slept most of the day and when I woke I texted a friend, asking her to bring me something from the potluck. I ate half of that and then slept until the next morning.

When I woke the back pain and urgency to use the bathroom were gone. I showered, dressed, and ventured to the clubhouse where a few ladies were hanging out. Had the stone actually passed?

I was good. Good enough to go on to the ballpark to watch my grandson play in his baseball tournament. It was a lucky coincidence that my camping event and his tournament were in the same town on the same weekend.

Back at the campground I attended the evening dinner, hooked up my camper, and drove home on Sunday with no problems. The stone was gone. Many had prayed for me, and I have no doubt that God in His infinite mercy intervened. But I can’t help having a lingering fear that I will have another stone on another campout or on a long trip. I won’t let that fear keep me from going, though. I know even in the darkness and pain, He will be with me.

Have you ever had a kidney stone?

XOXO

Categories
Life Memoirs school teaching

Another 4th Grade Thing

I thought I had pretty much exhausted my memories of fourth grade but something came to mind the other day that I feel should be documented for my kids and grandkids if they care to read about it some day. It happened one day in my fourth grade P.E. class in the multipurpose room at J.E. Rhodes Elementary.

We girls were sitting in our assigned spaces on the gym floor when the gym teacher, or P.E. teacher as we called her, asked me to follow her into the dressing room, or locker room. Of course, any time a teacher, especially a coach, singles you out in front of everyone else, the anxiety ticks up some. For me, it ticked up a lot. I had no clue what she wanted. Was I in trouble?

“Nunn, follow me.” She always called her students by their last names. I guess that’s a common practice for coaches. At the age of nine I found it intimidating.

She stood me in front of a mirror in the quiet dressing room. At least there was no one else in there. “Look at you,” she said.

I did. I saw what I saw every day when I looked in the mirror: a pimply-faced average-sized kid on the brink of puberty.

“Your skin,” she said. “Are you washing your face every day?”

I was mortified. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to run and hide. I wanted my mama. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I’m sure my face went red as fire. I don’t remember. Or maybe it went white. Who knows?

“Yes, every morning and every night,” I managed to reply.

I don’t remember what else she said, but I do remember that she told me to ask my mother to get some Phisohex to wash my face with. She said that I was too young to have problem skin.

I know she probably meant well, but what she did was shame me. As if my skin weren’t already a source of embarrassment, she made sure I would be self-conscious about it for the rest of fourth grade, on up through high school, and in fact, for the rest of my life.

My mother bought me the Phisohex soap, had me start wearing makeup foundation, changed my diet, and tried everything she and I together could come up with. I eventually had to accept my acne, manage it as best I could, and accept the scarring it left. Perhaps my parents with their limited budget could have taken me to a dermatologist, but I’m not sure there was much that could be done about it in the early 70’s.

I did learn what an enormous impact a teacher can have on a student. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over that traumatic day in the dressing room. Did she have the right to do what she did? I suppose she thought she did. Do I wish she had approached the matter with more sensitivity, perhaps contacted my parents first? Absolutely.

But I accepted what she said, swallowed my shame and mortification, and returned to the gym to do jumping jacks, run, or play dodgeball, or whatever she had planned for that day. As if nothing had happened. . .

I must add a postscript. I grew up and became a contributing member of society. I taught school for thirty years, raised two children into responsible, caring, and giving adults, taught Sunday School classes, wrote two novels and many articles and blog posts, and am now tutoring kids in English, writing, and math. I didn’t let that incident, which was earth-shattering at the time, ruin my life. It is what it is, and I’m a firm believer that God uses life events to shape us into what He wants us to become. What about you? What hardship has helped make you into who you are?

Blessings to you!

XOXO

Fourth grade me. The acne hadn’t shown up yet.
Categories
Alzheimer's Life marriage Memoirs Parkinson's Disease

Today in (My) History

January 12 (the day I started this post) would have been my husband Jimmy’s and my 42nd wedding anniversary. We married in January of 1980, him fresh out of high school and me between college semesters. Our honeymoon consisted of a weekend trip to a town 40 miles away. We had to be at school and work that Monday, after all.

We married at my childhood church with about 50 guests in attendance. I bought my wedding dress and veil out of the Montgomery Ward catalog and didn’t have it altered. I didn’t even realize that might have been needed. My two sisters were my bridesmaids and they wore coordinating pink dresses. The groom and two groomsmen, his brothers-in-law, wore rented tuxes, that 70’s version with the ruffled shirt.

January 12, 1980

We didn’t even hire a photographer, and our cake came from the local grocery store. But by golly, we were married, and we made it last. Through thick and thin (both of us!), through poor and not-so-poor but definitely not rich, and through gain and loss (births of our children, deaths of his family members), we trudged on, committed to the vows we took in 1980. There were times when we didn’t like each other very much, when we wished we could walk away, when we wondered if this is all there is. Everyone does. But we were committed.

And what a surprise when the years passed so quickly and we found ourselves with no children at home and with grandchildren! What a blessing that we lived long enough and persevered long enough to enjoy grandchildren together!

Too soon though, Jimmy started showing symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. He was only in his mid-50’s. Both his mother and his older sister had passed away at age 59 from Alzheimer’s. We didn’t want to believe that it was happening to him as well. And with the Parkinson’s in the mix, his struggle seemed twice as difficult.

Picnicking on vacation in 2018

I lost him January 16, 2021 at age 59. I lost my best friend and lover, my supporter, my cheerleader, my confidante, my rock. I miss him. Happy anniversary, honey. Until we meet again.

XOXO

Categories
Alzheimer's Memoirs Parkinson's Disease

January the Bleak

I’m not going to blame January for my bleakness, but my present is bleak and it is January. Hubby passed away on the 16th, just after our 41st anniversary on the 12th and my birthday on the 6th. His suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s is over, and his passing was peaceful, and for that I am thankful. I’m quite positive he is with the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven, and for that I rejoice.

Jimmy Leon Coker

However, all that doesn’t make the quietness of the house any louder, the days any busier, the nights any cozier. It’s just me and Stella the dog rattling around this old house now. I am grateful that it’s only 1600 square feet and not 6000.

I don’t have to figure out what to fix for supper and I don’t have to defer to his television choices. I don’t have to do his laundry and I don’t have to clean up his messes. I can vacuum the floors any time I want to without worrying about disturbing him. I can leave the house and not worry about getting home because he needs me. I can eat and sleep whenever I want. This is all because I am alone.

1979

People ask me how I’m doing. I think I’m okay right now. I’ve always said I would be fine alone. I’m an independent person. Will I feel the same way next week? Next month? Next year?

The great hunter

Only God knows what happens next. He knew my fears about not being able to care for Jimmy or afford to pay for care, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about that very long. He knows what tomorrow and the next day and the next year will bring. I trust Him to bring it to pass. I choose not to worry about it. I’m really not alone. He is here with me.

What will I do? I will continue planning Jimmy’s memorial service. I will continue making phone calls to insurance companies, government agencies, and the rest. I will treasure the memories I have of our life together, and I will spend every minute I can with my children and grandchildren. I will thank God every day for blessing me with 41 years with a loyal, devoted, loving man, husband, and father. And I will miss him every minute of every day.

XOXO

A rare snow on our East Texas property just a couple of weeks ago.