Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Weeping Willow

Topic: Cup and Saucer (08/28/14)

TITLE: The Weeping Willow
By Leola Ogle

I am, and stand on a dairy farm, because of Aaron. Aaron’s grandfather planted me to commemorate his birth. Aaron is gone now but I will always be his tree. I am a weeping willow with deep roots. My trunk is thick and strong. My branches reach upward as if to beseech the Almighty, then droop so my leaves caress the ground in mournful surrender.

Now my branches sway in listless melancholy. Even the melody of birds that make their home in my branches can’t lift my sorrow. I miss the times of a little boy playing beneath my shade and climbing my branches. I was his fortress. He believed my drooping branches hid him from the world. My leaves danced with the sound of his laughter, then sagged with empathy during his tears.

My favorite memories are when his sister, Becky, was born. Aaron was five. Grandfather planted a peach tree near me to commemorate her birth. Although this tree would provide them with delectable fruit, I am the one both chose as their play area. 

Aaron was special, but Becky even more so. She was born with a mind that would always remain a child. Aaron loved her all the more because of it. Many days he laid aside his toy soldiers and cowboys, and cars and trucks to participate in Becky’s tea party. 

“Aaron, have a tea party with me.” He would sit at the wooden picnic table their father had made especially for Becky. Aaron would lift the plastic cup and saucer and pretend to sip. Sometimes Becky really did have tea or lemonade, and cookies on tiny plates. Tea parties with her brother were Becky’s favorite thing. Their giggles caused my leaves to vibrate with joy. Even the birds’ melody was sweeter. 

Aaron’s love for his sister never waned. As he got older and outgrew toys, he never refused to sit under my branches and sip tea with Becky. It’s what little girls do. It was something he understood and accepted. As she grew, her plastic cups and saucers were replaced by porcelain. For her sixteenth birthday, Aaron sent her home a set of Royal Albert fine china he bought in England during his tour of duty with the Army. 

When war broke out, Aaron’s plane was shot down. For months, his family didn’t know if he was dead or alive. Only Becky believed beyond a doubt that he would return. She set her fine china on the table under my branches and spoke to God. “When you bring Aaron home, God, we’ll have tea in my beautiful cups he sent me.” 

One day a fierce storm hit. The violence of the wind broke off some of my branches. I tried my best to shelter Becky. She had sat out her tea set and was having imaginary conversations with Aaron. By the time her family noticed she wasn’t in the house, she was soaked and chilled to the bone. 

She was very ill, and for many weeks she didn't come to sit beneath my branches. So somber was the countenance of everyone in the farmhouse, I feared she’d never return. One day, a man came slowly walking towards me. He had a limp, and was so thin. A young beautiful lady walked beside him.

As they drew closer, I recognized in that drawn face the vestiges of the boy I knew. The lovely lady was his bride, the daughter of the farmer who found Aaron and nursed him back to health after his plane was shot down. 

They chatted amiably as she, Paulette, set out the tea set. She arranged crumpets and scones on a plate and poured tea into cups from a teapot laced with delicate roses. Aaron’s parents helped Becky to the table, bracing her on either side. It was the most marvelous tea party ever. 

They’re all gone now, every one of them. Grandfather and Grandmother were the first to go, then Aaron’s parents. Even as an old woman, Becky had many tea parties with Aaron’s and Paulette’s daughters and granddaughters. When Aaron and Becky departed this earth, his sons sold the farm. No more children came to sit beneath my leaves or climb my branches. 

On nights when the howling wind rustles my leaves with a mournful sound, I can still recall the clink of cups on saucers as Becky’s giggles summon Aaron. I hear the sigh of acquiescence from a boy who understood the importance of tea parties with his sister.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Women Are Wordier! Sometimes!

Words! Words are life to a writer. We cannot communicate without words. Pictures and signs – as in charades – evoke words in our minds. That thought leads to this blog and the difference between how men and women communicate.

My husband teaches a small group Bible study at our church on Wednesday nights. Once a quarter we do a fun night. Usually it’s just a potluck and we sit around tables and talk. And eat. Two weeks ago my husband – who loves games – chose to play a Bible trivia game patterned after the television game show Celebrity Name Game.

He announced it for a couple of weeks. It would be men against women. Yikes. We women were biting out nails. Most of the men in our group are Bible teachers/scholars. We felt doomed to lose.

Not only did we NOT lose; we won by a healthy margin. It was because of the difference between how men and women communicate. First, let me clarify that it wasn’t all profound theological topics. It was any word found in the Bible. The game was played by a team member sitting in a chair with a screen behind him or her. A word was flashed on the screen, and a designated “caller” shouted clues (although the groups, men or women, got excited and helped call out clues. We weren’t too strict on that). The object was to get as many words as possible in 60 seconds. We rotated players continually.

The women won because we gave simplistic clues. The men….not so much. For example, the word donkey. The ladies’ clue: “Not a horse or mule, but like a mule.” The men gave a theological explanation which took longer to say: “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Good Friday on one. Balaam had a talking one.”

Temple: The women’s clue: Points to temple on forehead, “What do we call this?”  Men: “People worship there and made sacrifices. The priests were there.”

King Jehoshaphat. Women: “We get the term Jumping blank from this king. (Jumping Jehoshaphat)”  Men: “He was a king in Judah. Had a son named Jerhoam who married Ahab’s daughter.”

Usually, by nature, women are wordier than men. We won’t tell you something using 6 words if we can use 60. But in the mentioned game, it was obvious women’s brains were quicker to grasp the clue than men. They tended to get more frustrated when the clue-receiver didn’t get the word immediately.

It was a fun game night for us, and just my observations. Maybe it’s why there are more women writers and readers. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pronunciation and Articulation is a Must!

Belied! It is a word. I used it in a story that was presented to a critique group several years ago. One of the gals told me it wasn't a word. Even when I insisted it was. Sometimes, though, we are misunderstood with a word that we don't articulate correctly, or it sounds so similar to another, or perhaps the hearer just doesn't know the word.

Have you ever had that happen? I'm sure most, or all, of us have. I have one incident that just came to mind this morning.

Years ago, I was a Women's Ministry Representative in the denomination I belong to. I was in charge of twenty-plus churches in the west central section of Arizona. This just meant I was one of several ladies who helped plan and organize state and sectional events for women.

At the time, I was also single after my twenty-two year marriage had ended. As such, I was the Singles' Director at my church. We had activities almost every week. I loved our singles' group. I met my husband, Jeff, there.

Our singles were having a potluck lunch at my house one Sunday after church, and we had a new gal there. I'll call her Linda since I don't remember her name. I was feeling a little nervous that day because on Tuesday I had an event where as a WM Rep I had to participate in a presentation before a few hundred people that included pastors and state leaders within our denomination. Gulp!

At the potluck I was sitting at the table with several of our single ladies. The men were watching sports on television. I mentioned to the ladies I was nervous. New lady, Linda, who wasn't familiar with me or our denomination, asked me what it was. I explained the best I could to her, but I could tell by the puzzled look on her face that she wasn't grasping it.

"You're nervous?" she asked.

"Well, yes. There will be pastors and leaders watching me."

"What is it again?"

"Sectional Council."

Her puzzled expression intensified.  "They're asking you, a single and divorced woman, to talk to the pastors and leaders about it?"

"Well, not talk exactly. It's a skit."

"That's amazing that they think you're qualified. What an honor."

Now I was puzzled. Qualified? Maybe an honor, after all, it was part of my job as a rep. But qualified?

"I'm not sure what you mean by qualified."

Her look said she thought perhaps she had offended me. "Oh, you know. That they think a single, divorced woman could give sexual counsel to pastors and leaders."

Sectional Council, not sexual council! I almost fell out of my chair laughing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools' Day

I used to be the queen of April Fools’ Day jokes. Now? Now, I’m too tired to be creative. Huh? What? I cannot be too old and tired to have fun. I have all day to get my brain in gear.Can I come up with something? Oh, yeah, you bet I can. Jeff, beware!

The first memory of an April Fools joke that comes to my mind includes my husband, Jeff. We are a blended family, second marriage for both of us. We’ve been married 20 years. Because I am sixteen years older than him, I had grown – some married – children when we started dating.

We had dated for three months on April Fools’ Day 1990. My children, among other people, were still scratching their heads in disbelief that I, a level-headed, love-Jesus-with-all-my-heart woman was dating this much younger man. I had two teenage daughters at home still, so the joke started with them: “We’re in love and we’re getting married.” My five children’s responses were delightfully comical.

That went over so well, so I called Jeff later and told him I found a house I wanted to buy. The owner wanted to help me get a mortgage, but I couldn’t qualify on my own. “He said I need a co-signer. So I thought maybe you’d be my co-signer. Please, please Jeff! You know how much I want to buy a house. Please.”  Jeff hummed and hawed and tried not to say an outright “no.” He did agree to go look at the house with, but then I had mercy and told him, “April Fools!”

We did get married almost four years later, and of course, we did buy a house together. Laughter makes us feel better, so be creative with your April Fools jokes – as long as it’s not hurtful. Go forth, my fellow jesters, and bring laughter to someone today.

Proverbs 17:22 (NIV) A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.