Monday, April 17, 2017

In the backseat of the car

"Let's count buses," I said to the twins on the way to preschool. They were three at the time. The two restless toddlers zeroed in on the search for buses. The most we counted was about twenty-five on one trek. When they wearied of buses, we moved on to large trucks. The sizes of the trucks became an issue, so we returned to buses.

When my oldest granddaughter was the same age, we managed to have some pretty interesting topics in the car. My favorite was when she decided to make up a song called Pinky Pinky Pink. As we passed by things along the side of the road, they were added to her lyrics. At one point she informed me that she had another song. Oddly enough, it sounded just like Pinky Pinky Pink.....and had the same words. An imagination allowed to run rampant. Imagination brought to life by a toddler sitting in the backseat, looking out the window and an adult in the front paying attention.

Time in the car. With my children, I found those times together were some of the best. Problems were solved. Debates were had. Conflicts were worked out in a reasonable manner since there was no escape. A long time ago I decided that being a good parent/grandparent involved staying in the present. Never let opportunities slide by. Never ignore those kids riding in the car with you. In working with kids, I discovered that most of them felt their parents never listened. It made me think that maybe that was due to lack of involvement with them when they were small. For if you interact with them when they are small, your relationship with the struggling adolescent and teen is much easier at a later date. There is a foundation that supports a lifetime of love. It is built piece by piece starting when they are young. Maybe even in the backseat of a car.

"Okay, today we are going to look for heather plants and willow trees," I informed the dialogue-dueling duo on the backseat. "You mean Sydney's friend, Heather?" Emma asked. (Be prepared at all times for random comments and questions.) I slowed down as we passed a hillside of heather pointing out the pink flowers. "How can that be heather and Heather be heather?" (Oh, my). I explained to Emma that names like Heather, Robin, Lily, etc.can be shared with plants and even a birds. We passed the willow tree on my street and with great excitement, Nolan yelled, "A crying willow!"

Now no one said that it is easy being an older person and keeping up with little ones; however, I find that my mind works just about as quickly as theirs, and I can teach them at every opportunity with new, fun ways of learning. I can keep up with them. Just have to try.

The mind of a child is open to all information. They ride in that backseat just watching the scenery. Why not teach them the wonder of all they see? Why not interact and make the ride a joy for all? When the kids are no longer in the car, I will look at all the fun we had together and be thankful for each adventure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Resurrect the spirit

[Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra-, from PIE *aus- "to shine" (especially of the dawn).Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Ultimately related to east. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal). (from Dictionary.com)]

Oh, my, the hubbub about a word. Easter, Pascha, the celebration of the Resurrection. People demanding the word Easter. A word that has come to the Christians to mean a great deal in their faith. A word that was originally a pagan word for the goddess of fertility and spring. A word like Christmas and other words that have more than one definition or even date. Easter was adopted by the Christians, yet it was a pagan feast.

Truly God must be laughing as was I when I saw that people were up in arms over a package of Easter eggs with no mention of the word Easter on it. We have Easter parade, Easter eggs, Easter bunny, lovely Easter bonnet and, of course, the handy Easter basket. My bonnet is not holy. Nor are the eggs or basket. Yes, they are items that have come to be as did Santa for all people. The holiness of the days lies not in the name, it lies truly in the heart of the believer. We all worship differently and all are loved by the same God....yep, even the sinner as we are told. I refuse to be upset over a package of candy eggs that does not say 'Easter'.

I hold my faith not against others and their beliefs, but by the love of God that I accept as mine. Not by a special day but by my every day. My church is the world, and I get to love every one in it not by what I expect from them or what they believe, but by the word of Christ that says for me to love everyone as I would myself. For someday I will be judged by my love of all humankind not separating out immigrants or Muslims or people of color or by belief. But by my hope to lift people up, to open my heart and to give of the gifts I have been given, I truly will be judged.

We color eggs of different colors. Colors of the rainbow. A rainbow that holds the promise of God. A rainbow that encompasses all people of all colors, creeds, sexual orientation, ALL people. No judgment. Just love. No labels. Just love. No holidays just for ourselves but days of love for all people. Eggs of all colors hidden away by a big bunny so that children might find them. People hidden away that we might find them.

I wish you a rainbow day of celebrating your uniqueness and gifts. A day that will resurrect your spirit and let it soar.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Move over Easter Bunny

Tools: arcrylic paint, canvas paper, paint brushes in various sizes, cookie cutters, pencil, stickers and two four-year-olds. Ah, nothing could be finer.

Creating cards for Christmas and hearts for Valentine's Day brought us up to Easter. "Meme, remember the lady we gave the Christmas card to?" asked Emma. "She cried." Yes, I do remember and, yes, she cried. Someone took time to look into her eyes and give her a card. Someone who was four going on forty. "Can we do it again?" Words of pure joy.

So I gathered supplies. And, for two days little fingers held paint brushes and created all sorts of colors and designs on paint paper. I took the painted sheets, once dried, and outlined eggs, butterflies and rabbits with cookie cutters. Then the designs were cut out of the paper, and the kids added the bling with stickers. Their scribbled sheets of paper became beautiful little tokens ready for the Easter outings to spread some joy. The Easter Bunny was about to have competition.

After two days of painting and cutting, we must have around eighty eggs to distribute. I am so proud of the kids as they hand out the cards. I stand in the background watching. This is their thing not mine. To begin with, the kids stood frozen with the cards in hand. Gradually, they have come to delight in giving the card then walking away not looking back. We want nothing in return. It is a free gift of love from small hands and a grandma's love.

What do we give as freely in our lives not asking for anything in return? Do we see those forgotten faces that go unnoticed? Are we too busy with our phones or our own lives to notice the strangers we pass? What do we teach children in our actions? A little paint, a little paper and tears of joy. That is the legacy I hope to leave.

As I cut each design from the pages slathered with paint, I discovered beautiful pictures, composition from chaos. We marveled at what we had created. Over the next couple of weeks, we will delight even more at what these little cards from little hands will accomplish.

"Can we do this again, MeMe?" Nolan asked. "We have Mother's Day next," said Emma. Hm. That just might be a bit trickier. Spreading the love. There can be no stronger calling.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

Today I am sharing the blog I wrote for Neff Road.


At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ides of Everything

Ides of March. Yep, March 15. A day we think of the demise of Julius Caesar. However, since that was in 44 BC, I see no reason to don togas and sing soulful dirges. Perhaps we should embrace an event more upbeat this year. Maybe even a little known holiday that we have failed to recognize in the past.

According to Holidays and Observances.com, we have been missing a wide variety of special days. One will surely suit your fancy. For those in rural areas, we have Ag Day, a celebration of our bountiful food supply. Of course, if your cupboard is empty, this might not be your holiday.

This day has also been called Brutus Day. So, we say, "Et tu, Brute". In keeping with the death of a murdered ruler, it seems apt that this is also Buzzard Day. I found that Buzzard Day is a notable day for many Ohio residents who, on this day, look to the heavens watching for the return of the buzzard. Hard to imagine waiting joyfully for a bunch of bald heads and red beaks coming in for a landing. 

It is ironic that the next notable day is Dumbstruck Day. Not at all surprised since we just passed Buzzard Day. I am rather dumbstruck myself.

Happy Kick Butts Day!!!! Yes, indeed this is KBD. Now, I have worked with greeting cards for a long time and have not as yet seen a card for this occasion. However, I guess if the need arises, celebrate.

I think that this next one happens not only on the Ides of March but many other days as well. National Everything You Think is Wrong Day. So if this column does not show up on Wednesday, March 15, please understand that it is indeed an 'everything you think is wrong day' at my house.

If you are Greek, you might want to celebrate National Pears Helene Day. Yes, I had to look that one up. Pears Helene is not a name but a dessert that was served in celebration of  the operetta La belle Helene (aka Helen of Troy). Auguste Escoffier offered a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup. Might be worth celebrating just to eat the dessert.

And, we come to True Confessions Day. My aunt Bess had a stack of True Confessions (and True Romance) next to her bed when I was a kid. I did find that this day has nothing to do with publishing unless you want to confess all of your secrets publicly. It is a day to free yourself of all of those little hidden treasures you have kept to yourself that occasionally give you pangs of guilt. Or, you can still get the magazine and read the secrets of others. Your choice.

Happy World Consumer Rights Day. This day came into being way back in 1983. It is a day set aside to promote basic rights for all consumers. JFK outlined the definition of consumer rights, and today we are protected by these rights.

So much to celebrate on such a simple day in the middle of the week in the middle of the month. You could chose to celebrate all of them which would involve wearing a toga to a local market to buy pears and a magazine being aware as you walk home that buzzards could be coming in for a landing, because then it would be a day with everything going wrong as you are trying to take home your bounty hopefully not to be dumbstruck when you have your butt kicked by some bully who was trying to interfere with your consumer rights. Hm.

Happy March 15!

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.