Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FRIENDLY PERSUASIONS...

 

"Don't be afraid that the world will end today.
It's already tomorrow in Australia."
Charles Schultz
 
Times have so changed...once we listened to the radio and read newspapers; went to the movies...there was always a newsreel.  Not now...newspapers are fading...we have our smart phones, ipads, computers and of course...television.  In other words, if we want it we have instant news 24/7. 

Surfing once only meant riding a board w/the waves...now we ride the wavy internet, right? 

But you know, there seem to be many who haven't a clue as to what's taking place anywhere...neighborhood, city or even our own country. ..much less the world.  Some say 'ignorance is bliss'...to each his own I suppose but personally  I want & like to be informed.   

I watch, read and listen to what's going on; and wow, there's a flood of activity worldwide.  Many have opinions as to what's right and what's wrong...agree? 
Mind you, I did not say ALL...I said many.  Ha, we agree to disagree!  


"Every truth has two-sides, it is as well to look at both,
before we commit ourselves to either."

People really do get around the world these days;
flying...via water...driving when/where possible. 
Doing so puts one in touch with many different
cultures...to each his own. 
Michael had been overseas before we married...
makes him a seasoned traveler compared
to the me and the four boys.

Imagine our awesome surprise...boys, we're moving to Greece...wow...wow!

 
For two years we lived 'above' our landlords...Kyriakos, Yolande & Eulala Kokkotis.  Kyriakos was a retired bodyguard in the government hierarchy;  he looked like one but he had a most ever-so-gentle personality.  Yolande, who was my great friend, wore black the entire two years that we shared their home; grieving her father's death.

The country suffered severely during WWII and they delight in castigating the Turks (religion as well as other things)...both countries love, love, love to argue!    We stayed on the safe side; never discussed politics, religions or wars.
 
Since we had the four little boys...plus a beautiful indoor Boxer (her owner named her Nebo and when he had to leave, we gave him peace of mind (not piece) and she moved in...all our floors were white marble?  Yolande declared no one was good enough to keep them clean but her...no argument there.  She would cook Greek goodies to share...talk about luscious?  Love Greek food to this day! 
 
They adored our little boys and would do anything for them.  Our oldest, Steve, had a terrific bicycle accident due to some careless gravel trucks...aka dumping a load of gravel blocking the road that Steve was riding down to the local Kiosk for colored pencils.  A young kid on a motorbike w/sidecar loaded Steve up and delivered him screaming to our door.  That became an adventure all of us could have done without. 

God was really watching, as always, and what do you know?  A Greek physician (trained at one of the best...McBride Bone and Joint in Oklahoma City) saved Steven's arm. 

In Stuttgart, Germany we lived with Herr & Frau Weggemann.  It was a beautiful pink house on a corner with a large garden Herr tended in his three piece suit.  We didn't speak German, they spoke no English but we had a relationship.  There was something in the air though...his position in the German army. 

Here we were, residents of a former German military man...it brought back a multitude of memories and sometimes I really had to work at squelching my resentment. 
 
China was something else...M certainly had pondered about it.  He had fought in the Korean Conflict...the North Koreans were heavily supplied with Chinese troops.  Viet Nam was the same.  Of course, Japan (now our ally) had done terrible harm to China...when China was our ally in WWII.  Our ally to our enemy in two wars...Korea and Viet Nam. 

Making friends is a good thing; keeping them is another.   In Greece we were 'among' friends...the fierce Greeks who were our allies fought against Italy. The Japanese shifted from our enemy to an ally.  Germany, in two world wars our enemy, became an ally.  In China our ally to...different concepts.

Time changes things...enemies become friends...friends become enemies.   Round and round we go...in a circle.  

We, the people, surely can lay differences aside...could be no one wants to...but you and I can give it our best shot, you think?  As for me...I intend to do my part. 
 
And a friend came to help!
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CHANGING SHOES...


 
 
 
 
Michael and I have just returned from Chicago where we participated in an annual get together of some of the veterans who served in Korea w/the 179th Heavy Tank Company.  This is a special time for all of us...vets and their friends/families...we're like a large and ever so happy family. 

Obviously the veterans are now in their eighties...they were so young when they served together during the Korean conflict in the 50's; most were still wet behind their ears.  Wars tend to 'mature' people very quickly; these men are heroic and influential examples for countless individuals.  They are totally respected and loved...each and every one!

Four of them died between last year's reunion and this one but there were four attending this year, along with families which gave us a total of twenty-two.  We had one more terrific, happy time...creating precious, unforgettable memories.

Our host for this year did a great job of arranging things; the hotel was comfortable and well situated...everything was perfect.  Of course it didn't hurt that their made-to-order breakfast each morning was awesome!  Loved it and so did the eight floors of guests! 

Chicago is one of the many cities that is a 'melting pot' aka many nationalities.   Nonetheless, we were actually surprised Friday when crowds of Indians checked in...I do mean CROWDS.  Replete with huge wardrobes ...along with the families...wow! 
 
It seems there was to be a three day traditional Indian wedding across from the hotel in the convention center.  The Indians reserved it for the festivities...let the celebration begin...and begin it did. 

Families meant children, lots and lots of children...suddenly the hotel became a mini-convention center.  Seems the kids were performing 24/7...noise level was top of the world.  One of the employees told M & me that he carried one of the wedding sari's in and thought it had to weigh more than five pounds. 

M got into an elevator Saturday morning and the only occupant was the 'bridegroom'...
who asked M if he would please take another elevator so that he could ride alone.  Seems they were going to video him as he rode down in the glass elevator...M happily obliged.  Interesting times!  Yay!
 
We totally understood their excitement but the noise level was a momentary irritant.  Just one of those things, you know...or do you? 

Patience...compassion...understanding...qualities that much too often escape me.  How about you?  Bah-humbug had to go in the trash can!  Enjoy the glow and happiness of a new chapter in someone's life...oh yes!
 
Our four days passed and oops, it was time to leave.  The plane was posted to be 'on time'...whose time was mysterious; we checked in for our very short wait when, of course, a two hour delay time was posted.  Chicago's O'Hare is the busiest in the world...according to the experts.  Oh wow, I think they're right on target (okay, not always on time but they can count).
 
The seating area became more and more crowded by the minute...lots of people going to Dallas...more than lots.  Every nationality imaginable...accompanied by every age.  And everyone was becoming more restless as time slowly...and more slowly...passed.
 
 
M and I were surprised when a tall gentleman appeared in front of us, looking into our faces..."I thought that was you two and it is...how nice to see you here".  Ha, ha...it was one of M's top doc's for his Amyloidosis.  He had just cleared customs returning from Pakistan visiting his mother...heading home to Dallas on the same delayed flight as us.  A pleasant surprise indeed...you never know who you might run into...or where.
 
The wait was tolerable...until?  Oh wow, a little child began screaming and I do mean screaming...at the top of its lungs!  The family was back in a corner where they blessedly couldn't see many other passengers...but I'm sure they could just imagine!  If looks could have killed? 
 
Time to 'line up' and here the little family came; mom & dad w/the screamer in the stroller and a little sister who seemed to enjoy getting in the infant's proximity...she would cry that the infant was 'teasing' her...oh yeah. 
 
Suddenly the beautiful mom began sobbing her heart out, the husband was patting and comforting her...trying his best to let her know everything was going to be okay.  I felt very ashamed of myself when I realized she had run in a marathon that morning which she lost...she was totally exhausted...the two children had misbehaved and made a spectacle of her.  Hey, having been solo with our four boys who are only a few months apart?  Been there, done that and bawled accordingly. 
 
I had a slight change-of-heart that pricked...little blood, yes.  I smiled as I watched her squeeze her napkin letting all those tears run out and she felt better.  Rainbows followed the rain 'cause the kids were good on the flight...let's hear a shout out for blessings, especially for the mom.  Ah...peace for her...sigh of relief for her partner...happy kids!
 
Speed ahead (500 mph) to the DFW baggage area where I parked near a mom and her two children...M was eyeing the incoming luggage.  This mom looked so tired; I smiled at her and she didn't even see me.  I thought how unhappy she must be.  Then I noticed her beautiful little child in the stroller...a Down Syndrome infant...looked like a little cherub, a little angelic one!  I thought to myself, "No wonder she looks so worn out...a tad unhappy".  
 
That prick I mentioned stabbed me and that's when the actual 'change of heart' occurred. 
 
Little angel stuck its precious, bare, fat feet up out of the stroller...wiggling the little toes and that awesome mom lit up with a glowing smile, looked into that babies face and began laughing and talking to her angel and all was well with the world...in a most gentle, touching way!  Such a way that moved and moves me to tears.


"Empathy is about standing in someone else's shoes,
feeling with his or her heart,
seeing with his or her eyes. 
Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate,
but it makes the world a better place."
Daniel H. Pink
 
Lesson learned for me...how could I think thoughts as I do about others...
when I have been in those places, walked their way, felt with my heart...
I simply had forgotten. 
 
I'm telling you, my Father and myself...
I am intent on making the world a better place.
Stepping gently, feeling the way...seeing with loving eyes.  I understand.
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SEW IT GOES...MORE BEAUTIFUL EACH DAY

     
                                                                                     
        June 1952  in Oklahoma                                                      June 2014 in Texas
 Michael Beall & Vasca Smith                                                   Michael & Vasca Beall                 
 
"Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years."
Simone Signoret
 
Here we are, still in stitches...together after these awesome years.  Sixty two to be exact since the 8th day of July in Odessa, Texas.  You've probably heard the expression 'it'll be a cold day in July' before someone does something they vowed never to do?  Well, we married on a 'cold day in July' believe it or not.  Talk about the odds? 
 
M and I are opposites; he's neat as a pin, I'm like Pigpen in Peanuts.  He focuses and plans...I do neither.  However...this is a biggie...we have the most important thing in common.  We both have Christ as the center of our lives...from the 'I Do' get-go. 
 
Michael (poor guy) actually never proposed to me...I did all the doing.  Though we might have shared some thoughts while dating there was nothing in print...so I couldn't sue him for breach of contract.  I always have 'enjoyed talking'.  However I was not very brassy/bold so the next few actions were totally out of character for me. 
 
I took the bull by the horns/aka Michael by setting the date, printing the invitations, bought my wedding dress...all planned...by the time we were together for the above picture on the left.  I simply cannot imagine myself doing such an outright unscrupulous, outrageous thing. 
 
What if he hadn't consented...what if he had balked?  Aargh...double Aargh.  How embarrassing would that have been.  I must have been absolutely insane...or perhaps I was just so madly in love I'd lost my marbles?  You think?
 
Nonetheless, I suppose he might have agreed due to his weakened condition...after all he had just (and I do mean just) returned from fighting in Korea on the front lines in a tank!  He had lost weight and was 100% pooped.  Grabbed him while he was vulnerable...yep!
 
God had a plan for the two of us; actually we were unlikely candidates for marriage.  M had finished two years at Abilene Christian and I was already a career girl at the ripe old age of sixteen...had no yearning for college.  He moved to Odessa, got a job the first day...came to church where I attended...sat behind me and pronounced, 'that's one girl that will NEVER set foot in my car'.  Bad move, Michael.  I ended up owning half of everything the man has...bah ha!  Actually he thought I was stuck-up...not...I was painfully shy.  I know that's hard for you to believe due to my riotous wedding plans!
 
Our marriage has not been a bed of roses...not by a long shot.  We've had many personality conflicts...lots of temper tantrums on my part (even occasionally on M's part)...many mistakes and missteps!  After all, we are very human and weak at times.
 
Talk about chains...talk about threads?  Michael is the cause of my love of writing; he suggested it, he encourages it and he is my 'editor'.  I remember what he told me once...'Vasca, I like the way you write...you always have a thread to your posts.'
 
The two of us never dreamed about our future.  We just tootled along on our merry way; Michael had a job...I had a job.  He worked in the public.  I worked at home...I'll say!  Four little boys in less than five years was rather full time...but you know...I loved every busy minute of it.  I was like 'Wonder Woman'...I felt there was nothing I couldn't do.
 
Imagine the two of us, living in a very small town in Oklahoma...na├»ve...working 24/7...suddenly moving into a totally unexpected career with the United States Army.  No one on either side of the family had a military career and some thought we'd lost our minds. 
 
Who was to know but the One in charge, right?  He had a magnificent plan for our lives and we went along with Him.  From Oklahoma...to Virginia...to Greece...to Viet Nam and Texas...back to Virginia...to Oklahoma...to Ethiopia...to Holland & Germany...to Oklahoma...to Kansas...to Oklahoma...to Wisconsin...to Texas...to China...whew!  And here we are again...in Texas. 
 
Our four sons are finally all in the surrounding area...we have twelve grandchildren...we think we have an awesome family...ranging in age from sixteen to sixty.  M & I are 80-ish. We have a mutual love and respect for each other...thank you, God.
 
Health-wise?  We're making it.  As most of you know, Michael has Amyloidosis residing in his throat...thankfully it's a rare form of the rare condition.  So...yes...he's making it.  Me?  I'm thinkin' things are going pretty well for me these days.  Okay, I'm a 21 year old trapped in an 83 year old body and can't escape...oh well, young is a state of mind, yes?
 
This is a synopsis of our togetherness...so many farewells...many tears...so many hello's...many smiles/much laughter.  An abundance of 'wow moments' filled with unexpected...marvelous...and life changing experiences.   
 
And that's the way our marriage has been...the way it continues.  Michael & I are sewn together with all these hundreds of tiny, marvelous threads...we're still sewing.  The threads are strong because they are woven by a master artisan...our Father God. 
 
"Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years."
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca
(Incidentally, Michael is so happy that he not only 'let' me ride in his car
but that he agreed to marry me!  So am I...whew!)