Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

You might not see me often. You might know me by birth or by becoming family not of the womb but of the heart. You might only be an acquaintance. You might be a stranger who just wandered into my world. Well, you are all loved. When you entered my thoughts, you entered my heart. Today I thank you and give you my love.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Behind the greasepaint

Clowns are pegs on which the circus is hung. - P. T. Barnum.

We walked down Clown Alley after the circus performance. Trunks scattered the area. Trunks full of oversized shoes, brightly colored wigs, bow ties and ruffly collars. Clowns were changing from clown to selves once more. The children marveled. Wow, we got to go down clown alley to see the back side of the circus.

I sat in a front row seat above the circus floor. The student I had brought to sample an audition for Clown College was surrounded by Ringling Brothers' clowns. A couple of clowns, Tuba and Tommy, wandered over and kept me company. I was a bystander loving every minute of this wonderful atmosphere. It came time for the auditionees to show their stuff. A clown would set up the scene then work with the applicant improvising as they went along. The auditions were complete when one of the clowns asked if I would like to try it? Well, how could I resist?! This was right down my 'alley'. The clown inside of me surfaced, and I had the time of my life. Caren did not get into clown school. I was accepted. Of course, running off to the circus was impossible with two kids to raise. And, Mom would have been horrified.

This experience brought into my life a few new friends. Scott Linker was the Little Usher clown who to this day is a dear friend. I met Tommy and Tammy, a married couple of clowns. Tuba went on to be Ronald McDonald in commercials. Scott took me onto the circus train to see how he lived. Small compartments lined the hallway. His compartment was tiny. A bed and room for little else. Here was his life for most of the year as they traveled from place to place. The common toilet was so small that one could hardly turn around. This was the life of a circus performer. Elephants, lions, horses all had a place on this train. Children traveled with their families and most performed as well. A world removed from the rest of us. Unusual and strange to me, yet it spoke to the child in me. I wanted to run away with the circus.

Aunt Bess gave last dolls to the Loxley girls. Peg and June were given lovely dolls. I got an Emmett Kelly, Willie the Clown, doll. A sad faced, weary clown dressed in rags with a derby on his bald head. When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by Mr. Kelly. The way he conveyed emotions without saying a word spoke to the silent child in me. I understood him. He understood me. Aunt Bess gave me the best doll of all.

Now the tent comes down. We who are blessed to have experienced the thrill of the circus will pass on the memories to future generations. We will tell of the smell of the circus. The excitement of walking into that big, white tent. For me, it was the day the Little Usher played to me as I sat with my children in the stands. My heart was won over and has stayed there ever since.

I did not go to clown college. I did some Christian clowning. I discovered what it was like to be behind that white face. One of the most powerful experiences I ever had was praying alone with another clown in an empty sanctuary. Behind the white face, I felt my very soul. I finally understood the clown.

To my clown friends: Thank you, thank you, thank you. To my children: Remember what we were given. To my grandchildren: Come here. Let me tell you a story. A wonderful story about a circus.

Truth will answer

The masks we wear. Yes, we all have them. We put them on when we leave the house. We put them on when we are trying to train the child. We put them on to please our partners and families. We wear them well, because they shield us from change, from truth, from exposure.

It was 1977. I packed my toddlers into the car and drove to my estranged husband's temporary dwelling. The kids were thrilled to see Daddy. I was not so thrilled, but his car was in the shop, and he needed a ride to work. We pulled up in front of the building, dropping him off. Before we pulled away from the curb, we saw him walk into the building with his girlfriend. I share this because we wear masks.

For many years, I wore the mask of a dutiful wife and mother. I tried my best in this new residence in Wisconsin to blend in and accept the change. I wore my best face and cried when no one was looking. There is nothing lonelier than being in a relationship with no way out. I was a child of the past in a time when women were just beginning to step out of that old belief of the little housewife. I wore a mask, an identity of the past. Yes, we all wear them. They are all different. In fact, we have a drawer full of them.

I tossed off that mask and walked away. The shy wallflower became a working woman who would offer her life to her children. My ex said he did not like the change. Well, he didn't like me much before, but, darn it, I liked me.

I have learned over the years that honesty is crucial for any relationship. Kids can see through our put-together facades. We talk differently, relate differently, keep our parental distance. They know our games. Even the little ones understand. We keep friends at arms-length and let our other half have his/her way. Kindness? Maybe. But from a woman who lived thirteen years with a heavy mask on her face, I can tell you, that truth in action is the only truth worth living.

I realize this is a fairly different column. Many of you have asked that I keep including my Grandparent's Voice. I like to think that perhaps you find some truth in my writing. Let's throw away our masks and give future generations freedom to experience, to believe, to grow into themselves. Maybe we can make a difference in this new year for ourselves and our world.

When I was a child trick-or-treating, I hid my identity behind a mask. I became someone else for a brief period of time. There was a world outside from which I was temporarily removed. The mask itched and poked me. When it was lifted off my face, fresh air whispered to the real me. It revealed a child who for a moment hid away from the world. Share the truth of yourself with other; truth will answer.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Empty Manger

"So, Emma, do you want to be Mary this year?"
"No, I'm going to be an angel. You know there are three?"
 Nolan is not sure what he wants to be this year. Last year he was a lamb. I think he is contemplating the role of shepherd this year."

A few years ago I wrote a play called The Empty Manger. It was about a young woman who stopped into a church to warm herself. Due to illness, the role of Mary was up for grabs. The minister talked her into sitting by the manger. It was all she had to do. Just sit there.

As she sat there, three people came by to see the babe in the empty manger. A king. A woman. A child. They saw hope, love and peace. An heir, a friend, a master. 'Mary' was confused because she saw nothing in the manger. "I don't think this is the way the story goes," she said.

A light shone upon her face, and she began to cry for she realized that the manger was full of forgiveness, possibilities, love. A Jewish baby born in a barn. The crude manger and the humbleness with which we come to it. He was a dark child unlike her with fair features and blonde hair. It was time for Mary to face her reality. Could she accept this dark child? Could she believe that He  embraces her warts and all? Could she believe with all her heart?

Well, just as she had little choice in playing the part of Mary, she had little control over the depth of love she felt from this empty manger. The minister came back and told her to be ready as the congregation had settled. Confused Mary looked at the minister. What had just happened? She then understood that she had been given a blessing. A step back to a time that was foreign and strange. A step forward in peace and love.

Last year Emma held baby Jesus in the pageant. She pulled the blanket from his face and tucked it around him. She rocked him and saw nothing else but Him. For Emma, the manger was full. For all of us who watched, our hearts were overflowing.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. May you be blessed with peace, love and hope. Please, pass it on.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bearer of heart gifts

My grandniece and her two year old daughter Della were here for a visit. "MeMe, Della can play with Spotty," Nolan said. Spotty. The best stuffed toy ever because he and Daddy picked him out together. The stuffed toy never leaves him. This was quite a big deal.

"I don't want her to play with DogDog," Emma said. I assured her that it was just fine if she wanted to put DogDog up until Della left. The kids played and the evening passed. Emma crawled up on my lap, "MeMe, I asked Della if she wanted to play with DogDog, and she didn't." Generosity. Generosity of the heart, generosity of gifts, generosity in the spirit of giving. No one told the twins to share. No, wait. Their hearts asked them to share.

In their innocence, I saw my selfishness. My selfishness of my time, my ease, my comfort. What do I give?

I was sitting at a pancake house waiting for a table. A couple of young ladies came in and sat next to me. I realized that they were a couple and delighted in getting to know them. These dear young ladies were new to the area and struggling to settle in. It was a time when jobs were impossible to find. We were all in the same boat. I continued on to my table and they to theirs. When the bill came, I found that they had taken care of it. My heart grew 10 times its size.

We are blessings to one another. A gift in our actions. The interaction with everyone we meet is opportunity. Giving time to serve meals or time to visit with shut ins. Buying a toy for a child or books for a hospital. We are creative creatures that can serve in many ways....if we just give up a bit of ourselves.

This is a difficult time of the year for many. People alone. Those feeling the loss of a dear one. People unemployed and those homeless. People who have no family close by. So much pain and sadness seems to happen this season. We each have the ability to make the holidays easier and more comforting for someone out there. An extra plate at the table. A visit with an old friend. A plate of cookies to the fire house or police station. A phone call long overdue. So easy. So very easy.

Generosity is a wonderful word. The quality of being kind and generous. The heart speaking and the hands acting. May you be the bearers of heart gifts this Christmas and the receivers of great joy.

"Honey, there are children who do not receive toys at Christmas," I tried to explain. The 4 year old duo had just scoped out the toys and were making a list and checking it twice. Of course, the little cuties have no idea what poor means. They cannot fathom a child without a toy. As we were walking out of the store,  Nolan looked up at me. "They can have mine."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

God help us all

1. open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values
2. concerned mainly with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience
3. broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact

The young boy was pushed into a hole covered by a grate. Kids stood around him throwing rocks and other debris at him. A sweet boy who never did harm to anyone. Yes, he was different. He was born different. There was no pick and choose. He was gay from the moment he took his first breath. He is one of many who have had to hide themselves away and pretend to have 'normal' lives. A man who was my neighbor and friend. My faith has always told me that we are not to judge. I will stand up for every gay and lesbian person.

The child had two children by her father. She lived in hell and no one cared. The man could do what he wanted. She was a daughter, a mother, a sister......a child. Another girl stood at the top of the stairway.  She was a young woman terrified of her future. She threw herself down the stairs and lost the child. Now her parents would not throw her out of their house. A woman was raped. She bore a child and carried the reminder all of her days. At least until she ended her life. Another child was born. It did not cry. It was deformed beyond recognition. The parents stood watching her die. Suffer the little children to come unto Me. And forbid them not for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

They cried for help. They crawled into their boats and crossed the raging water. They walked for miles seeking freedom. They were our ancestors. They came to a land that was not theirs and took it away from those living here. Those who taught them to forage and hunt. A wall came down in Germany. A wall that took away freedom and independence. A wall. People risk all wanting freedom...American freedom. They knock and the door fail to open.

I grew up a Republican in a very Republican home and community. At a young age, I could not connect what my faith told me with the party of my parents. It was an oxymoron. I felt that the savior I believed in would certainly have been liberal. He fought against a church that did not understand God's love. He accepted all people. All. All colors, all conditions, all nationalities, all of those who were outcasts. Today I see that the outcasts have lost again. I see people  begging for food, shelter, freedom to live the lives they choose. Freedom to just live and raise families. We took our land from the Native Americans and Mexican people. Now we build a wall to separate us more than ever. That is not what my faith tells me. I am ashamed today. I am frightened and angry. I fear for my family. I fear for the world.

My heart is broken by those who voted red. They were so ready to believe the worse without checking facts. They have put my family and my earth at risk. Sometimes people who live in shells refuse to get out if because it is comfortable staying separated. They don't have to make decisions. Well, a decision was made. God help us all.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I voted

I voted thinking of those who do not have the freedom to do so. I voted thankful for the democracy I live in. I voted as a proud woman who is allowed this right to do so because of the struggle, the fight for the right by courageous women who came before. I voted thinking.....