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Last night, Robin and I ventured out to try something we’d not ever done before—attend a performance at a dinner theater where we could enjoy a nice meal followed by a great play. The Five Star Dinner Theatre in Hot Springs was presenting their final performance of “On Golden Pond,” and since we knew the storyline and the lead actors, we thought it might be a fun evening.

About 5:00, we left our home in Hot Springs Village to travel to Hot Springs, where we joined a long string of bumper-to-bumper traffic winding through the historic district while hundreds of early spring tourists milled up and down the sidewalks. However, we still arrived at the theater almost thirty minutes early, so we drove around behind to locate a parking place and waited in our car for a few minutes before entering the building. In the lobby, we paid for our reservations at a concessions stand and then stepped into the semi-darkened room where dinner would be served on linen-covered tables surrounding a small stage.

We spotted our place cards on a table-for-two near the back, close to the long buffet table. I worried about our distance from the stage—Robin has a hearing problem, and even with his hearing aide, he often misses dialogue lines. But the room wasn’t too large, so maybe it wouldn’t be a problem. We ordered two glasses of wine and took our seats.

Porterhouse Grill, the restaurant next door, catered the meal, and they provided a wonderful selection of dishes from which to choose. We did encounter a few glitches—Robin had to fish out all the mushrooms from his salad, and I had selected a piece of pork loin that was a bit dry. But the rest of our dinner was delicious and we enjoyed it. Then we settled back for the play.

That was certainly the highlight of the evening. The entire cast was outstanding! Robin missed a few lines—especially some of the quick punch lines when the audience would laugh before he could catch all the words. But we still had fun identifying with Ethel and Norman Thayer, the old couple whose lives and personalities were portrayed so well by Patsy Slezak and Frank Nilson.

On the way home, Robin and I talked about whether or not our “new adventure” had been worth it. The tickets had not been cheap, and the glasses of wine we bought and the gratuity we left on the table added to the cost as well.

However, we’ve decided that yes, the evening was definitely “worth it.” It was good for us to stretch ourselves—move out of our comfort zone—try something different. We’re just thankful we old timers could muster up the gumption to do it!

When you’re my age—past the three-quarter-century mark now—you often look back at all the experiences you’ve had in life and wonder, have I learned anything? Do I have any insights now that make life more understandable? More enjoyable?

I think most of us can say “Yes!” to those questions. And that’s where writing comes in. We long to reveal our true selves to our companions on the journey—to connect with them, to give them a boost, and maybe to entertain them too.

Last night I read several short stories in a well-known literary journal, and I was disappointed. Every story I read was full of dysfunctional characters, awash in drugs, alcohol abuse, traumatic experiences. Why do so many modern-day story writers want to muck around in all the dark stuff? I can understand why some of that might be okay—it’s part of “real life”—but it’s certainly not all of life. Without any positive points to their stories, it leaves the reader depressed.

This old woman enjoys hearing and writing about the difficult experiences that we, or our characters, have learned from, the obstacles overcome, the blessings of friends who have encouraged and supported us, or our characters, as we pass through the trials of life.

What about you? What do you like to read?

Today, April 2nd, is little Sam’s birthday. Our grandson turned five years old today. Hardly seems possible that it’s been four years ago this month that we all traveled to Franklin, Tennessee, to greet his arrival from Kazakhstan.

After Christmas in December 2010, our oldest son, Steve, and his wife, Tonya, traveled to Kazakhstan to complete the adoption process. After many months of preparation, they were finally able to meet their little son in the baby house. Every day for six weeks, they played with him and bonded with him. However, after the official papers were signed, they returned to the States without him. They needed to reconnect with Lily Grace, their three-year-old, who had also been adopted from Kazakhstan two years before. She was staying with her Uncle Marty, Aunt Anna, and her thirteen-year-old cousin Audrey in Maryville, Tennessee. The visas for traveling with Sam still had to be processed, and Steve and Tonya didn’t want to be away from Lily Grace any longer, so they planned for Steve to return to Kazakhstan to get Sam when the visas were ready.

In early April, Steve made the trip back, picked up Sam, and began the long journey home. But what a journey it was! Little Sam had forgotten who Steve was, and the frightened one-year-old cried and cried when Steve carried him away from his caregivers in the baby house. And he never stopped crying during the entire plane trip, except for a few short intervals when he became so exhausted that he fell asleep on Steve’s chest!

Before Steve began the last leg of his trip, he called Tonya. “It will probably be better if Sam doesn’t have a large group of strangers surrounding us to greet him at the airport in Nashville,” he told her. Then he explained what a traumatic time they were having.

We were disappointed, of course, but we understood. Only Tonya and Lily Grace went to meet the plane and welcome Sam to his new home.

Later, we did get to stop by their house and see our new little grandson, but Sam was still not feeling well and Steve was exhausted, so we didn’t stay. Instead, Marty, Anna, Robin and I picked up Lily Grace, and we took her and her three older cousins to the Nashville Zoo.

On our way home from the zoo, Steve and Tonya called to say they were taking Sam to the hospital in Nashville. The poor little fellow had become listless and dehydrated. At the hospital they discovered he had the beginnings of pneumonia! Steve was sick, too, with a virus infection. Lily Grace spent the night with her Aunt Sharon and the big girls  there in Franklin, and during the wee hours of the morning, Steve, Tonya, and Sam returned home from the hospital with instructions and medicine. Later that day, Lily Grace came home, too, so Robin and I left the new family to regroup and adjust, and we drove back to Arkansas.

However, the next month, we made another trip to Franklin. By this time Sam was well and everyone was doing so much better!  Today we’re so thankful that our little grandson has continued to grow and learn and thrive in his parents’ care.

Happy Birthday, Sam! And may you have many, many more!

I’m excited! Today WOW-Women on Writing posted an interview with me on their blog site The Muffin. The interview was one of the rewards given to each of us whose stories placed in the top ten in their 2014 Summer Flash Fiction Contest.

If you’d like to see what questions they asked and how I responded, you can click on this link: www.wow-womenonwriting.com  Then click on the Blog tab at the top of the WOW home page.

The Muffin’s byline reads: “Fresh news daily, from the bakers of WOW-WomenonWriting.com. Never stale! The Muffin provides daily writing tips, inspiration, and updates from the bakers of WOW!”

I hope you will enjoy today’s “muffin” with your morning coffee or tea!

Today, January 22, is our youngest granddaughter’s birthday. Lily Grace, who was born in Kazakhstan and adopted by Steve and Tonya when she was seven months old, will turn seven years old today.
Christmas, Tupelo, 2014 009

Recently, Lily Grace’s first grade teacher asked all the children in her class to write a letter to someone older in their family to learn about schools long ago. We loved Lily Grace’s letter! Here is what she wrote:

“Dear Maddie and Granddaddy,

I am learning how things change over time. In my school we use white boards and computers. I have a lot of teachers, and I go to P.E., Art, Guidance, Music, Library, and Computer. I sit at a table, not a desk. What was first grade like for you? Please write back.

Love, Lily Grace.”

Here is our reply, in care of her teacher at the school:

“Hi, Lily Grace,

We loved to get your letter! You will have fun learning about how school and first grade was very different a long time ago.

Your granddaddy went to a consolidated school out in the country in Mississippi. It was not a “one-room” school, but a big school with all grades in one school. It had an auditorium where all the kids in the school met for an assembly every morning. The school principal would make announcements, and there was a devotional, a short talk given by one of the church ministers from the community, and everyone recited the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Granddaddy’s birthday is November 27, so he was only five years old when he started first grade in September 1938.

I went to a large elementary school in Kansas City, Missouri. It had grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Since my birthday is December 20, I started kindergarten in September 1943, when I was only four years old, and then I graduated to first grade when I was five.

I remember learning how to read. We had a little book of stories about Alice and Jerry, who were a sister and brother, and they had a little dog named Jip. The book used simple words like Look, See, and Jump, and the pictures really told the story.

Your granddaddy and I did not have cafeterias in our schools. Granddaddy brought his lunch to school, and I walked home for lunch every day.

We did not have computers or dry erase boards. We had big blackboards on the walls, and our teachers used white chalk to write on the boards. Then they used soft, gray, flat erasers to clean the writing off the boards. Those erasers would get very dusty. The teacher would choose a child to go outside and “dust the erasers” by pounding them on a rock or a brick wall to get off all the chalk dust. That was a fun job, and we children loved to be chosen by the teacher.

We know you are learning a lot now, and we are happy that you are enjoying school.

We love you!

Maddie and Granddaddy

(Madelyn and Robin Young)”

Litterbugs Bug Me!

Seems like there’s more litter than usual out on our Hot Springs Village roadsides now. Must be the winter weather that’s keeping our faithful volunteers inside and unable to pick up all those cans and bottles that others have carelessly tossed.

Today I thought about a little essay I wrote soon after I retired. It was published in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal way back in 1996. I hope you will enjoy this!

Streetwalker Job Isn’t That Glamorous

Madelyn F. Young

My life as a “street-walker” began several years ago. Now that I’m retired from my regular job, I have even more time to devote to this hobby. And no matter what some of you may think, I believe that what I do is a real service for the community. I wish a lot more of us women could do this!

Once a week or so, I don my special garb—garden gloves, insect repellant, old Keds—and toting a large trash bag, I start my rounds. The “pick-ups” I make are interesting. Beer cans, soft drink bottles, fast-food wrappers and cartons. Quite a variety!

Of course, there are a few health hazards which a woman in this occupation needs to be aware of. One time on our road I was stretching out to reach a can positioned down a steep bank, and I lost my balance. Face-first I sprawled awkwardly down the hill into the weeds with one foot tangled in the vines above me. Ridiculous! Nevertheless, I grabbed that can, tossed it up onto the road, and then performed an inchworm maneuver to scoot backwards up the bank. Later, I discovered I had a full-blown case of poison ivy for all my efforts. But such is the life of a “woman-of-the-streets”!

I’ll have to admit that the pay for my services is not too great. However, seeing clean, litter-free roadsides near my home is a good reward. Maybe someday soon, before I’m too old to “perform” any longer, drivers will learn to keep their throw-away items in their cars and trucks until they get home. Then I could be a “street-walker” who is able to take a stroll and merely enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery all around.

 

Happy News!

Today I received exciting news from WOW, Women on Writing. This international online journal for women writers sponsors a flash fiction contest every quarter, and the story I entered in their Summer, 2014, Flash Fiction Contest is now published on their website!

Several months ago I heard that my story was in the top ten out of 300 entries! Of course, I was thrilled!

If you’d like to read the three top stories and read my story, which is the first one published in the Runners Up, you may click on www.wow-womenonwriting.com. Scroll down until you see the 2014 Summer Contest Results listed in a sidebar on the left, click on “More,” and that will bring up the top ten stories. I feel so honored to be among these winners!

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