Today, April 11,  I’m thinking about my dad. Since I wrote about Mom on her birthday last November, I thought today I’d share a few memories about the man whose “larger-than-life” personality dominated my early years and whose loving example still influences me today.

Marion Edmond Mischler (everyone called him “Misch”) was born in Vincennes, Indiana, on April 11, 1911. Today’s date is also significant, because on April 11, 1992—Easter Sunday that year—my sister Cathy and I scattered Daddy’s ashes in Caddo Lake, north of Shreveport, Louisiana. This was a favorite fishing spot for Dad, who would row out onto the lake every chance he got, pull in a couple of nice bass, bring them home, clean and filet them, and pan fry them for supper.

Fishing was a lifelong hobby. Before moving to Shreveport in 1953, we lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and I can remember many a Sunday afternoon, he’d load all of us into our 1939 Mercury and off we’d go to Prairie Lee Lake. Mother would rest and read, and Cathy and I would play around the picnic grounds while Daddy stepped down to the lake with his rod and reel.

Daddy was  a Y.M.C.A. executive his entire career. As a youth, he became active in the “Y” in Chicago during the late 1920s where he worked in the community with other young people who were caught up in street gangs. Daddy talked about how he often met with Al Capone, even in his home for dinner, where Dad would discuss how particular programs and sports activities sponsored by the “Y” could help the boys escape their dangerous life on the streets. Al was hospitable and supported Dad’s efforts.

When we moved to Kansas City, Dad served as the Northeast Y.M.C.A. executive secretary. I remember he would take me on field trips with the young boys to exciting places like Swope Park Zoo. I would be the only little girl on the bus! I wondered if he sometimes wished he had a son, but he always seemed quite happy to have his daughter along on these trips.

My dad believed in strict discipline—he only had to tell Cathy and me one time to stop our quarreling or to come home from playing with our friends at a certain hour. If we disobeyed, he would spank us—never with a belt or a switch, but with a firm hand as we bent across his lap. However, Daddy played with us, too. We would go bicycle riding together. I can also remember he would help us construct homemade kites, and our family would have a great time flying them high on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River.

Dad was a faithful elder and teacher in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. all his life. He had an outgoing personality and often played a strong leadership role in the church and in the community. People looked to Dad for wisdom and strength.

In his later years, he took charge of Mom as she dealt with Alzheimer’s Disease, structuring her day and attending to all her needs. With his guitar, Dad loved to lead group singing at local nursing homes, and he would take my mother along. Amazingly, she remembered all the words to the “golden oldies,” and he seemed delighted that music could help her find enjoyment when all else seemed so bleak.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I will always love you.

If I’ve counted right, we’re shivering under our sixth blanket of snow and ice this winter! Highly unusual for us here in central Arkansas! Our narrow streets, winding up and down hills and around sharp curves, are slick with ice. Robin and I will stay holed up again today.

I think about all the creatures outdoors in the woods around us. These wintry “blankets” must be wearing thin for them as well—deer hunkered down under brush piles, coons and possums buried in frosty piles of leaves. Soon they will venture out to forage for food to satisfy their gnawing hunger.

In our homes, we humans stay snug and fed, but only if our electricity stays on and only if our cupboards are full. If not, then soon we will share the same struggles as our creature cousins.

Right now, our outdoor thermometer says 16 degrees!  Today’s high is predicted to be only 28 degrees.

Stay warm and safe today, my friends.

Do you know folks who are always on the go? They’re usually juggling three or four projects at a time, and they’re always busy, busy with rarely any time to relax. I mentioned this to a friend in an email this morning. “I don’t think many of us who are retired like to go at that franatic pace anymore.” Then I laughed. I meant to say “frenetic,” of course, but “franatic” may be an even better word. It’s like “frantic” and “fanatic” rolled into one.

At this time of life, I enjoy working on projects, and I do plan my day to accomplish things. But I still need my down time—time to work my crossword puzzle, read the paper, answer my email. And I still need plenty of sleep each night. I worry about people who are constantly running from pillar to post, pushing themselves. Why do they do it?

Perhaps they only feel good if they’re out and about, always engaged with others. But running on fumes without a full tank of gas can be hazardous. That lifestyle can lead to stress which can cause poor outcomes on projects, friction in personal relationships, and problems in health.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who can stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy a day balanced with activities and quiet times, be thankful for that. You’ll have a much happier life than your friends who are living at such a “franatic” pace.

Mr. “Fix-it”

My husband, Robin, isn’t blessed with too many handyman skills. He can do basic things, like change bulbs in high ceiling light fixtures and replace batteries in smoke alarms—he still has good balance on stepladders—and he can use a screwdriver and hammer just fine. Beyond that, we usually have to call in an expert.  But today he proved he’s a genius!

A few nights ago, while reaching for something under the kitchen sink, he accidentally leaned on the top of the cabinet door. That extra bit of weight broke the top hinge right in two. Of course, that meant he had to remove the door completely until he could replace the hinge. No problem. He unscrewed the broken hinge and the bottom hinge and set the door aside. Now our usually out-of-sight trash can was exposed, along with all the other paraphernalia under our sink, but that was okay—I knew it was only temporary.

This morning, we carried the good hinge he had removed to our local hardware store to buy a replacement. The clerk led us to an aisle where all the cabinet hardware was on display—rows upon rows of cubbyholes full of brackets, hinges, and screws. He and Robin tried hard to come up with a match, but the style of hinge closest in size to our hinge was still a little too large. Looked like we might have to try Lowe’s or Home Depot, and that would mean a longer trip to get what we needed.  Disappointed, we headed for home.

Then Robin got an idea. Why not replace the broken hinge with one taken from another cabinet in our home?  We had several cabinets that used top, middle, and bottom hinges. Maybe he could remove one of those middle hinges and use it on the under-the-sink door.

Sure enough, the hinges on all our cabinets were the same. We found a three-hinged door that wasn’t used too often on a cabinet near our back entry.

Now Mr. Fix-it has removed that middle hinge, replaced the broken hinge, and we’re back in business! Hooray! As Robin’s wise old daddy used to say, “You can’t beat that with a stick!”

Hello, faithful readers! I received a notice from WordPress today with my blog stats for 2013. I thought you might like to know what posts were your favorites, at least, according to the number of views they received.

First place winner was “Cousins’ Camp,” with all the photos we took up in Perryville, Arkansas, at the Heifer, International Ranch when we visited with the granddaughters in July.

Second place, “An Unexpected Turn,” was my account of that terrible attack of vertigo I suffered in August!

Third place was “Friendly Neighbors,” the story about the snag we ran into when power-washing the house in June.

Fourth place, “What a Character,” included the short story, “Revenge,” written in the voice of a dead teen-ager who was bullied.

Fifth place, “Close Calls,” was my account of when I almost collided with another car as I turned left onto my street.

It’s interesting that four out of the five were first person accounts. You told me last year you liked to read personal anecdotes, and that definitely proved to be true. The only fiction piece in the top five this year was the story “Revenge,” although many of you did tell me you were moved by that powerful story.

All in all, Southern Story Lady has received 4,784 views and 326 comments.  I’m excited about that!
Thank you so much for your support!  It’s fun to know you’re out there, reading my work, and offering your comments.

I hope each of you has a great 2014!

The Star

Every Christmas I reread a small booklet given to me by my mother many years ago. Candle Glowing is an anthology of original Christmas stories and poems published by Shreveport Writers’ Club in 1973. Faith Lucy has two poems included in the collection, and tonight I’d like to share one of them with you. I believe Mom’s “candle” is still glowing!

The Star

Faith L. Mischler

O lustrous star that trembled into sight

Over a Persian land of long ago,

And sent the Wise Men out into the night

To learn the meaning of that gathering glow,

Were you aware your beams would mark the span

From past to present?  Radiant mystery

Made clear to earth the night that time began

Forever after, Anno Domini.

O lighten still the darkness of our days,

Dissolve each hidden sorrow with the light

Of reconciliation.  Let fresh rays

Of rapture cleanse our hearts this Christmas night.

O star whose blazing path changed history,

Kindle a flame of love this night in me.

Stormy Memories

I hope all of you are safe and warm.  Today’s ice storm reminds me of another wintry day back in December 2004—the  year we were stranded here in Arkansas at Christmas time, holed up in our house, unable to attend our big Young Family Dinner in Tupelo. We felt so alone! Today I’ll share a little essay I wrote that year:

Christmas on the Mountain

Madelyn F. Young

The sun is shining. From our dining room windows we can see a little wren hopping along our deck railing. She bobs her head up and down, poking her beak into every crevice. I don’t think she will have much luck today. The snow on the deck is beginning to melt, but I’m sure any insects have long since disappeared.

It seems strange to be here by ourselves, the first time in forty-six years we aren’t spending Christmas with our families. That’s quite a record!

The snow began mid-day on December 22. By nighttime we had four inches—not unusual here in Arkansas—but we are up on a mountain and the streets to our house are steep and curving.  The next day our exits were all icy and slick.  Temperatures have stayed well below thirty-two, and any snow melted by the sun has frozen again each night. We are stranded now until the temperatures rise.

The Christmas music from the CD player soothes our spirits, but we are lonesome. Our thoughts are with all our family members as they gather for dinner in Tupelo. We miss the smells of vegetables cooking. The smoked turkey and the honey-glazed ham are being sliced. We know the dressing is mixed and ready to put into the oven. It will be piping hot when served. As each group arrives they will bring in steaming casseroles and chilled salads and yummy desserts of all kinds. There will be hugs and laughter. I hope someone is taking pictures. That was always my job.

I pop a small roast into our crock pot. Comfort food. We call our neighbors who are renting the house next door. The police brought them back up the mountain yesterday. We discovered the wife was in the hospital in Hot Springs this week. We offer to share our Christmas meal with them today, but they decline. They have already started cooking some things. We wish them well.

The little wren on our deck is persistent. I scatter some bread crumbs and watch.




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