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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Celebrating Libraries

This is National Library Week, a time to focus on our public library systems and refresh our gratitude for the ways these libraries are available to us - quantities of collections for us to use for resource and enjoyment, free of charge.  A discussion this week about times that a library was important to us led to several remarks about checking out books weekly when we were children. Of course, for me and those near my age, there were no televisions, tablets, computers, or smart phones to provide information and entertainment. I read my stack of books quickly every week and was ready to go back to the cool quiet of the small library in Jacksonville, TX long before Mother was ready to drive me back!

Currently, many of our libraries also provide a wide selection of audio books which are vitally important to those whose vision no longer allows print reading.  These books also provide many hours of reading for those who have long commutes or travel. is an incredible audio resource that allows building a personal audio library at minimal cost. Thousands now read e-books on a Kindle or tablet and can take a virtual library with them that is smaller than the size of a single book. E-books are also loaned from many public libraries along with devices on which they can be read.

 I sincerely hope we will continue to support and to utilize the wealth contained on the shelves of  material in our public libraries.Celebrate your local library this week by checking out a new book.  Take your children or grandchildren!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nora was only a few weeks old last Easter, but this year she proudly walked around for all to see her Easter outfit!  Her Dad held her proudly as he brought her into our church's Easter breakfast wearing all the special clothes her Mommy had assembled for her. We were amazed how long the hat stayed on her dark haired head.  Later, at home when her shoes and stockings were given up for sweet bare feet, her hat traded for bunny ears. I looked around at the gathering her parents had assembled - fond grandparents, aunts, uncles, and proud cousin, and remembered a sweet line from a Fernando Ortega song called "This Time Next Year."

"... hold her high, because we are lifted in her laughter!"  

posted with gratitude to Ben and Kristen and Nora, and also to Nora's other grandmother, Desiree, who outdid herself cooking our Easter brunch. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Not About the Rabbits

Recently a topic of conversation in a group of women friends: "What Easter stories or memories come to mind?"

I thought about Easters in the seventies when we decorated and hid eggs for our three little boys, dressed them up and took them to church and to visit grandparents. I thought about Easters in the past 15 years when I found just the right Easter dress to delight first one, then two, three, four, and now five sweet granddaughters! I smiled when I pictured the fun we have had with our little boys and these little girls decorating eggs, cookies, and cakes, and gathering our growing family around Grandma Terrell's dining table in our home.  Which led me to think of that same table surrounded by my grandparents, parents, my sister and me, and sometimes others.  Always my sister and I proudly wore Easter dresses sewed by Mother.  Often we had a coat, hat, and purse to match!  Those little girl Easters always included going to an outdoor Easter sunrise service in a rock ampitheater.  Those red rocks made for hard, cold seating and shivering little girls in the early hours.

I thought about all the Easter baskets and Easter bunnies these memories represent, including this stern looking celluloid blue and white bunny that was mine in 1941, my very first Easter.  I have no recollection of that Easter, of course, but the fact that this odd little rattle was something Mother kept and passed on to me is significant.  She remembered.

Remembering is really what matters after all. In all the little signs and symbols of Easter there is one common thread, one reason for each:  to help us remember. We remember that Christ came, that he lived to show us how to live, was crucified, laid in a grave, and that he rose on the third day.  We sing the Easter songs and celebrate with joy because we remember.

We practice resurrection and redemption.  Happy Easter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Very Important Job

Today's post is written by my husband as a guest blogger!  He has told this story many times at gatherings of friends and family, and I never get tired of hearing it.

I Am Liu.  I Have a Very Important Job!

In mid-March, 1984, while working for a well known oil company headquartered in Plano, Texas, I was directed to go to China to work for a few months at the Chinese Geophysical Institute (GRI) in a village called (pronounced phonetically), Joe-Shin.  As I cannot recall the accurate spelling of the city’s name, Joe-Shin will have to suffice for now.  Located about 50 kilometers from Beijing,  GRI was a rather grim looking conglomeration of low two story buildings housing their geophysical data processing center.  It was there at GRI where I met Mr. Liu.

I was given a small office at GRI.   It was small and sparsely furnished,  with a desk, table, chair, steam radiator, teapot, chipped teacup, and waste basket.  Unlike the rest of the building, it was quite clean and tidy, with no dust nor trash anywhere.  The rest of the building was dirty and dusty.   Trash and other debris were just swept into corners.  On the first morning after my arrival, there was a light tap on the office door.  When I opened the door, there was a tall Chinese gentleman.  He was dressed in clean but well-worn blue Mao type jacket and pants.  He came in with a wide smile that I grew to expect daily.  He had a broom and dustpan in his hands, and as he stepped in, he saluted and introduced himself in clear, but accented English, “Hello, my name is Liu.  I have a very important job.  I am your janitor!”

With that introduction, he began to clean a room that was already spotless, probably from his having cleaned it in days before I arrived at GRI.   He showed up each day promptly at 8:30 AM.  The conversation always began with a small tap on the door, then on entering he would say, “Hello, I am Liu.  I have a very important job.  I am your janitor!”  The second day he came to clean the room, he began with, “Hello, I am Liu.  I have a very important job!  I am your janitor.  You are Mr. Parker.  You work for Arco.  You live in Texas!”  Our conversations after his greeting often lasted an hour or more as he slowly cleaned an already tidy room.  He told me of his desire to learn more English, where he lived, that he was not married, although he admired a young lady he knew, but didn't have the nerve to approach for fear of being rejected.

Every day, he would ask questions about me, what I did, where I worked, about my wife and my children, what my home was like, many questions about the United States,  etc.  Then, each day, he would incorporate what he had learned the day before into his greeting.   So, by the time I left Joe-Shin, he had quite a long spiel to say when he came into my office.  We learned much about each other as he worked.  He was a very humble and honest man, poor, but with great pride in his job.  He lived close to GRI, somewhere in the nearby village.  He never complained about anything although from my view, there was a lot to gripe about.  It was cold and dusty.  There were dead animals in the filthy roadside ditches filled with stagnant water.  In the open air meat market, other animals hung from rafters.  Transportation was primarily by bicycle, small horse drawn carts, and home made tractors.ñ

I had almost as many questions about him and his country as he had for me.  For instance, one day I saw an open-bedded truck with three men and two guards standing in the back.   The men had their eyes covered with blindfolds and their hands were tied behind their backs.   There were placards with Chinese writing tied around their necks.  As the truck drove slowly through the streets of Joe-Shin with horns honking loudly, the men were shouted at and ridiculed by the crowds lining the streets.  

After seeing this spectacle, I asked Mr. Liu what it was all about.  He told me the men had committed a crime (described by the placards) for which they were to be punished by public embarrassment and humiliation.   At the conclusion of their ride through Joe-Shin, they would be taken to the rice fields outside the village to be executed by a gunshot to the head.  In addition to that punishment, their families would have to pay the government for the bullets that killed them.  This is tough punishment, indeed.  As “family” is so important in China, the acts of these men and their punishment must have been devastating to their loved ones.  It is no wonder, at least at that time, that the crime rate in China seemed to be very low.

On another occasion, when I arrived at the office,   I found it to be very cold inside.  The room’s small steam radiator, never very efficient was not working at all and the room temperature probably matched that outside, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  The only other available heat was from the little electric heater used to boil water for daily teas.  When Mr. Liu arrived, I asked him if the radiator was broken.  His smiling reply was,   “Oh, no, Mr. Parker, today winter over by government order, no more heat!”  I wore much more clothing to go to work the next day.

By the time I left China a few months later,  Mr. Liu had a very long speech for me when he came in, including most everything we had ever talked about.  On my last day there, he came in without his usual broad grin, but he seemed very sad.  He went through his daily greeting, “Hello, I am Mr. Liu.  I have a very important job.  I am your janitor . . . . !”  Then following that, he related in better English than when I first arrived,  but maybe with a little of my East Texas twang, all the things we had talked about during my stay.  When he finished his long morning speech, he concluded with,  “…..but, I am very sad today”.  When I asked why he was sad, he said it was because I was leaving and he had no gift for me.  I assured him that was okay, but he said brightly, “ Aah!  I have no gift for you, but I can sing for you!”  He then commenced to sing, “Good morning to you, good morning to you, good morning, good morning,  good morning to you.”  (He had learned this song and much of his English from listening to Good Morning America.)

What a gift!  I will never forget that fine and simple man or his singing of that song.  As we both sang it one more time with tears in our eyes, we said goodbye, and I had to leave.

I often wonder how Mr. Liu is.  Did he ever summon the courage to talk to the lady who he admired so much?  Did he continue to learn English by listening to Good Morning America?  I still miss our conversations now 30 plus years past.  If I could talk to him again, I would wager that he would tell me, with a big smile, of course, “Hello, I am Liu.  I have another very important job!”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have Mr. Liu's attitude about our lives and our work?

Joe Parker
March 12, 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nora, One Year Old Today

A year ago, we welcomed Nora into our arms. As babies do, she has grown and changed and welcomed her friends and family with outstretched arms when her parents invited us to share her celebration last weekend. There was a hungry caterpillar theme (thank you, Eric Carle!) and Nora had a tiny cupcake with one candle. Joe and I gave her a little wicker rocker which will always remind me of the sweet times I have had rocking and singing to her. Happy Birthday, sweet girl.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Maddie!

Nine years ago today in Birmingham, Alabama, we celebrated the birthday of a beautiful baby girl her parents named Madelyn Claire.  She brings us countless joys, blessing us with sunshine, laughter, and hugs.  We are grateful for her life and love.  Today we celebrate you, Maddie!  Happy Birthday!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Crazy Quilt Comfort

My recent surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon is 9 days past now, and I am thankful for all the ways my family and friends have cared for me. I love reaching for this crazy quilt made by my maternal grandmother, Mary Clyde Curley Terrell. I have another one which has more silky taffeta and fancy fabrics, but this one speaks comfort to me with its patches of checked wool, bright colored corduroy, and flannel. Most of all I love her embroidery stitches outlining each patch, briar stitch, blanket stitch, feather stitch, and cross stitch. I can picture her fingers carefully choosing the floss, separating it, and threading through the eye of a needle.  I can see her stitching each seam line. In her later years, she was no longer able to see to thread a needle, so my mother would thread several needles with different color threads so that Grandma would have one ready if she needed to mend something or replace a missing button.