Sunday, November 26, 2017

A season of kindness

Thanksgiving is over. It seems that Christmas trees have already brightened many homes. The shopping frenzy has begun. My friend Jo Anne joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. With tummies full to bursting, we all settled into conversation. All of us swore to never go Black Friday shopping. So on Friday morning I was surprised to receive a text from Jo Anne saying that she decided to return something she bought at the outlet mall. Contrary to the conversation the night before, she wanted us to go to head out into the chaos. Well, we knew it was Black Friday, but more than that, we knew how much fun we have shopping together. Conversation and laughter kept us company on the twenty-eight mile drive. Before we could even see the mall, let alone the off-ramp, we maintained the mighty speed of a Belgian mare pulling a full load of straw through a mud pit. For the next hour and forty five minutes we looked for a parking place. Hm, seemed like a decent idea when we left home. As we shopped, people plowed mindlessly into one another, others walked side by side five across, doors opened and smacked passer-byers (? so many options so I make up my own spellings). We stood in lines, dodged children set loose by unconcerned parents and found that rudeness was alive and in full swing at the mall.

It was indeed a study of humanity.  A lesson in behavior lacking the smallest amount of concern for others. Kindness seemed to take a holiday, and, indeed, I realized why it was referred to as black. I have a weird tendency to love crowds like this. They offer an opportunity to change the worn-out, stressed workers and shoppers by a mere smile or kind word. Maybe I wasn't there to shop. Giving thanks and encouragement to store employees, telling an exhausted mother that her child is beautiful, holding a door for a man and watching his startled face, telling someone standing in front of a mirror that she looks lovely. Yes, it was my day of shopping for people. A day to make black warm and loving.

Christmas is approaching. My grandchildren are making cards for the family. Well, Emma made fifteen. Nolan made three and informed me that he was done. It is a time of thinking of others and not just the presents we will buy and the celebrations lining up on the calendar. It is a time to think outside the family and to embrace a world needing to be uplifted. Please remember that those children in your lives learn by your example, the very person you show them every day. They think, they understand, they have their own thoughts that are shaped by the experiences that surround them.  Forget the presents. Forget the parties. Forget the bah-humbugs. This is indeed a season of goodwill. A time to set in motion actions that are not just for the holiday.

On Facebook I posted a story that I think is a good lesson in looking for the positive when there seems to be so much negative. It is a story about you and me and the world we can create together. It is about changing from black/white into a world of color.

The bus driver was a tired school bus driver. He didn't pay much attention to the kids. They got on, they got off. He looked straight ahead until he was rid of his load of noisy children. The last day of school before break, when I picked up the twins, Nolan bounded off the bus yelling "Happy Thanksgiving!" We got over to the car where the kids wait to wave at the bus driver as we always did. He stopped, opened his door and motioned to me. "What's the name of that boy with glasses?" he asked. I told him. "He is a great kid. He is something else. You've got a good one there." From the very beginning, Nolan always said good-bye when he exited the bus. Gradually, over the next couple months, the bus driver started nodding when Nolan pursued his exit conversation. Now when the bus pulled away, the driver waved back at the waiting twins. I am thankful that we can change the world with kindness one person at a time. Even if we are only five.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

All hands on deck

Hands. The one appendage that is used the most and gets the least amount of recognition. Today I present to you HANDS. Well, I'm sure that got your attention. You see, these words are appearing because my hands are busy doing what they enjoy. Type away, Pam!

Yes, I have had a fascination with hands since childhood. One of the first things my mother did to entertain me was to draw around my hands. Once the imprint was on paper, she would put little faces on each fingernail. It was a way to keep her little one quiet during church, but unbeknownst to her, it was by her hands that I learned. At this time of the year, our imprinted hands with faces took on a new look. My little hands became turkey feathers.

If I sat next to Dad, my hands turned into a church with and without people. He also played the game of pointing to one of my fingers in my clasped hands asking me to move it. Being poorly coordinated and lacking in concentration, I struggled. He was also pretty good at the game of alternating hands in a pile then pulling the bottom hand out to place on top. His hands were about twice the size of mine, and he showed no mercy.

When I had children, I was captivated by their small hands. First, a hand wrapped around my finger. Then a child eager to walk beside me reaching for my hand. Watching those hands grow till one day hold their own children. And now, my grandchildren reach for my hands, and I am doubly blessed. I am still in awe when I look down and see our hands together. My heart swells with love, knowing that each time is a gift to savor. Hands that will grow and grow away. Hands that reached for me when they were babies, hands that pulled my hair and grabbed my nose. Hands that held the hands of the other twin. Precious.

Years ago I found in the family Bible outlines of my grandmother's hands along with those of my mother at various ages. I hardly knew my grandmother, but seeing these hand prints gave me a little insight into the woman who took time to play with her daughter. Her large hands are now closer to the size of mine. In some strange way, I feel connected.

Our hands are full of memories. They are full of love. They are full of talent. They are helping hands and sometimes hands that need help. We clasp them in prayer, and wipe away tears. They welcome old and new friends and help those who need a hand. They applaud excellence and sometimes save a life. They throw a ball and play the piano. We can hand on goodwill and aid because our hands are indeed hand-y. With all of this to contemplate, I will wave farewell. I hope this has been a hands-on column.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Out the front door

A friend once told me that she loved living in her area, because it was away from crime and the cities. It is a quiet community that hasn't changed that much for generations. The people live in the same neighborhoods where their ancestors resided. They marry local people. Their children go to the same schools. Nothing changes but the clothing with the seasons and the babies replacing those who have passed.

Well, as we all know, that is not reality. It certainly is not part of our religious background that tells us to go out into the world and to love all people regardless of their color, their beliefs, their lifestyles. We are told not to judge and to be lights unto the world. It isn't just about prayers. It is about us as God's hands. Seems to me that we all are failing on that topic.

This isn't just about the shooting in Texas but much more. It is about the people who criticize, who are close-minded and who allow their religion, party affiliations, and families to dictate what they believe. We have come through this last year with hate being allowed to have a voice. A time when being mean to someone is accepted and our values lowered to accept things we never would under different circumstances. We joke about harassment saying women are just pushing the issue. We ignore when one more African American or Hispanic person is brutalized. We ignore pleas from other countries for help. We have an ego that just doesn't stop! Where is the heart, the love, the compassion and understanding that we all know we are supposed to have? Yet, we believe lies and ignore injustice, because it happens elsewhere.

Please, I implore you to become part of the system and not just an audience member. Vote, vote, vote. Don't vote party.  Vote for the welfare of ALL people. Call your people in congress and let a voice be heard. Support organizations for peace and equality. Support mental illness agencies. Embrace and understand those outside of your community. Don't support an issue if you do not know all sides of it. Don't believe what you read unless you check out all sides of the issue by doing your own research. Rethink what a gun can do and the necessity of it. Don't be a pawn. Be a player.

When I grew up, no one talked seriously about family problems and how to help loved ones in need to find their own help. I know in our house Mom tried to solve problems; however, I learned from working with kids at risk that we are to help them help themselves by finding resources for them to pursue and encouraging them along the way. We can't just shut out problems. Be active. Not passive.

A small community not so unlike where I grew up lost 26 people in just a few minutes. As many are in the hospital. We are not communities separated by state or country or religion or sex or belief or color. We are a united world. Americans are no better than those in other countries. We have a right to protest when we are hurt and no one seems to listen. We need to listen, folks. We need to stop judging. We need to look out the front door and see the bigger world. Please.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

On your mark

A bell is ringing in the hall. Voices are heard behind a closed door. I look at a bed mussed and a monitor no longer clicked. At least for now. I wonder at the changes that can come so quickly for which you have no time to prepare. I wonder at that very word. Prepare: to get ready to put into motion. This all involves that process of: On your mark: Ready. Get set. Go! So, here we go.

On Friday I did all three. I bypassed 'On your mark', leapt over 'Ready/Get set', landing directly on 'Go' and did not collect $200. So now a bell rings in the hallway and conversations are going on as well. My hospital bed is messed up and minus me, because finally, today (Sunday) I am allowed to move around on my own minus IV lines I had plugged into my arm. Free at last! Yes, my friends, I was not prepared.

For almost 10 days, I had been on an antibiotic for my ever-aching gut. But, alas, the meds were not fixing the problem. At 3:30, I went to urgent care, informing the doctor that above mentioned medical condition was not resolved. Well, let me tell you, this doctor went into action and sent me immediately for a CT scan. At 7pm I got a call to go to the hospital immediately. A bed would be waiting for me. Oh,, by the way, I might have surgery.

Now let me tell you a thing or two about missing those steps of preparation. My 'Ready' got trampled on as I ran out the door. Luckily, no one here at the hospital was nearly as concerned even though they prodded and poked and slammed me into bed with a couple of IV's becoming my current dinner table. Yes, my innards were a mess. I had an abscess in my colon that needed to be resolved. Well, yep, I'd say so.

So how prepared are we if we only have time to grab a bag? I went to an earthquake preparedness session a couple of weeks ago and learned what I need to do to help myself, family and community should we get the big one. In both instances, I have learned that no matter what the best laid plans are at the time, your plans just might not work out the way you want them to. I have an earthquake bag ready to grab if need be. I had no plan for this trip to the hospital. A will, a directive, a sack lunch on the way in? All are good; we never really know.

So lessons I have learned the last three going on four days: Live each minute of your life to the fullest. Make life wonderful for all of those around you and even those you are yet to meet. Do not dwell on what you cannot control. You just get frustrated and your health goes sour. If you are ill, take care of yourself for those who love you, including yourself. Do not dwell on your health. When your body requires attention, it will certainly let you know. Prepare for what you can so there are no worries later, but live life to the fullest every day.

Tubes are out and I am called ambulatory. I am dressed in my own pajamas, sitting in a huge, soft chair with my feet up (looking a bit like a miniature Alice in Wonderland). A pull down TV hangs above me, so I can watch movies whenever I want. Life is not the best but pretty darn sweet right now. Wait! What do you mean I can only have chicken broth and orange jello?!?!? Nooooooo. Be prepared!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ready for a retread

I figured since I was doing it, I had better check out what it meant. Little did I know the number of options from which I could choose. So many options.

Definition of RETIRE per Merriam Webster Dictionary (1) to withdraw from action or danger: retreat (2) to withdraw especially for privacy: retired to her room (3) to move back: recede (4) to withdraw from one's position or occupation (5) to go to bed.

It was time. I was only working part time, but at a certain age your body rebels, and you wonder what it would be like not to have that hassle of working when perhaps you could be learning a new form of art, traveling, going to concerts and museums. Oh, heck, I just wanted time to enjoy my grandkids and my life.

So what does this look like? Hm. Definitely a withdrawal from danger (No.1). I could get a paper cut or trip over my own feet falling into a rack and ending up in the hospital. I could go with the No.2 definition and retire to my room. Boring! No.3 would be wonderful. I could move back to Neff Road and enjoy my friends there. But it is different now. Mom and Dad are gone. So is my home back that lane. Yep, you can never go back. And, most important, my family is here. Now No.4 seems to hit the nail on the head. I didn't just withdraw. I walked out the door with a lively step and a smile on my face. Withdraw makes me feel as though I should have been hiding inconspicuously behind a shrub, sneaking my way to my car. Ah, and then there is No.5. No more early rising. No more dreading the next morning. No more noisy alarm clock to intrude on my peaceful sleep. Ah, yes, I will do my fair share of No.5. So many choices, and I get to do them all.

I was surprised that  the list of definitions  did not include 're-tiring', as in re-tiring a car. I get new tires and have my tires rotated. I am a bit like a worn out old tire. The tread is getting thin. When I park the car, the tire seems to relax into itself. When its flat, its flat. Seems that this is a pretty good description of my next phase of life. I am getting 're-tired'.

Ah, yes, this special time of my life will be full of love, family, home and probably some new tires. A spring trip back to Ohio. Adventures I've yet to find. And, a new man in my life. Sweet retirement. I think I like it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This little light of mine

Light in just a few moments turned to darkness. A barrier settled in front of the sun. A little moon up there in an orbit manages to block out that great big sun. Darkness erasing light.

Oregon was a mecca for the eclipse. People from all over the world flocking to see this once in a lifetime shadow across the sun. Small rural towns were overrun. Service stations ran out of gas. Not enough toilets, not enough food, not enough of everything, including law and order, to cope with the masses who came to see the two minutes of darkness.

As you can see, I am not one of those who rushed out to find my observation spot. Seems to me that all of these people could be doing something more useful. One of the national forests is burning and canceled all campers from entering. Reservations made a year ago are useless a year later. Much ado over two minutes. Much ado.

I am wondering if all of these people are equally interested in the mudslides in Sierra Leone leaving hundreds dead and homeless, bombs, cars driving into crowds, wars on foreign lands, nuclear war looming closer all the time, prejudice.  We seem to want to bury our heads and only think of wonderful things. We pack up our bags and drive away from the daily news. We want our two minutes of awe and wonder. Yes, this is a big event but then there are more important things blocking our lives.

Some ancient cultures believed that the eclipse happened as a mythical figure ate or stole the sun. Others thought it might be a sign of angry gods. In Vietnam, people thought a giant frog was chowing down the sun. The Norse believed it was wolves. Ancient China went with a dragon. The Native Americans believed that a hungry bear caused an eclipse. I personally believe it was blocked out by the thousands of people waiting around for their two memorable minutes.

The sun waited for the moon to stop by. The dark spot blocked out the light. Yet even with the darkness covering the brightest light known to man, a small edge glimmered. Glimmers of light. Glimmers of hope, of renewal. Darkness does move on. It moves on when the light it tries to banish will not be hidden. We know the light is there. We have seen it. We should fight for it, so there is light for everyone. For in allowing darkness to stay, we blot out the son.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Never too old

Days of summer are dwindling. School is just around the corner. The twins will be going off to kindergarten. I know what this means. Having seen it with my older granddaughters, I know that time with MeMe will not be nearly as exciting and our adventures will change. Days of leisurely playing will disappear until next summer.

We stood in the hull of the bulky aircraft, staring down the 218 ft. fuselage. The big plane, as Emma and Nolan call it, is a favorite. We are all dwarfed by this huge plane built in 1947. So when we gave the twins the option to return to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, they jumped for joy. However, Emma had a request. "Can we swim on those slides?" Ah, yes, the museum also hosts a building called Wings and Waves. An ideal way to end the summer no matter how old or young you happen to be.

Being a grandparent offers so many opportunities. We get to play with cars, push dolly strollers, play with Play Doh, paint and do art crafts, play games and pretend to eat meals the kids cook in the toy oven. We have had a great time taking the kids swimming, but this adventure was a success in an all new way. The kids loved the slides that twisted and turned then spit the duo out drenched and laughing. In the Wave pool, we were tossed as in the surf and held on to kids in life jackets waiting for the next wave. In the Vortex, we swirled in the current carrying us around and around. We laughed, we played, we made memories. And, that's what it is all about. Maybe not their memories since they are only 5, but truly it is all about our memories. A small hand in mine. A laughing child who can hardly speak so full of joy and soaking wet. The chatter in the dressing room about toilets, wet suits, soap dispensers and paper towels that shoot out when you wave at them. Children who fall asleep on the way home and capture your heart all over again.

This week we are taking them to see a wood carver, a true artist. Simple experiences that reside in our own community. Exposure to the different ways of life and the world outside of their own backyard. Yes, we have added page upon page to our memories this summer and opening a wider world of experience for our grandchildren.

We stood in the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes's folly. The kids do not know the history yet are awed by the very size of this beast. They will talk about it again and again until it takes residence in their memories. They just might hear a story about how their grandparents stepped away from all decency in donning bathing suits so they could enjoy precious time with their grandkids. My son asked me if I wasn't exhausted. Oh, yes, exhausted, by the very best kind of being tired.