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.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The courage of living

There is a courage in living. A heroic strength to face the tribulations in life and to continue on. A victory over pain and illness, fighting to see another day and to be with those we love. There is a courage in living.

In the last year I have lost several people I love. The loss is painful, yet in the loss, I find truth in living. The innocence of youth is limiting. But the living we gather during adulthood makes us stronger and able to love more deeply. I noticed when I was entering my sixties that my eyes carried a sadness in them. I have since seen that same look in others who have experienced loss. It is that little piece of us that is lost. A sorrow I do not deny. I see the world through new eyes, knowing how quickly time passes. I know that after loss I will find peace. It takes courage to move on and allow ourselves to be happy again.

Sometimes the battle seems hopeless, the sorrow too deep. Disappointment seems to find us at an early age. We seem to be chased by those things that want to pull us down all the time. How often are we at the bottom looking up? We learn to crawl then we learn to walk. A life lesson. A lesson in finding courage.

When my friend died of MS, I truly saw raw courage. Lying helplessly in a bed did not take away her sense of humor. There were no pity parties. She did not have time for pain. She cared most about lifting up those around her. She rarely talked about herself and always asked about what was happening in our lives. Raw courage. A woman who, to the end, was a ray of hope. A woman who understood life.

I learned from my mother how to be a loving conversationalist.  Rarely did she talk about herself. Her joy was in the conversations with others about their lives. She truly cared. I learned that the best part of a conversation was in the listening. Mom was strong; no matter what happened in her life she did not bend. She always had time for others. Despite the sorrows that plagued their lives, she had the courage to find the best in life.

Courage to face adversity and to be strong. Courage to survive heartache and disappointment. Courage to know that sadness and despair will pass. Courage to make the lives of those around us better. This is called the courage of living. Sometimes we wonder if we will find our smiles again when the burden is heavy. Courage in living will bring peace every time. Embrace your courage.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pomp and Possibilites

Cap and gown. Pomp and Circumstance. Forty to eight hundred students (depending on the school) enter the hall. Parents and grandparents stand with tears in their eyes. For many this day signals an empty nest. For others it just might be the first grandchild stepping into the unknown. For those youths standing in wait, it is the beginning of their futures.

So what advice would you give the students, Pam? Well, I think the best I could share would be this: Find what you love to do then imagine the possibilities and do it. Soar into a future that serves this world and the people in it. Do not fear what you do not know. You will succeed. You have potential to create change. Do not hold on to the past; it only makes going forward more difficult. Dreams can come true. They will find you if you cannot find them. You can always change your mind. Do not regret mistakes for in stumbling we find stronger footing. Never compare yourself to others. You are the best you that you can be. There is no one finer. Do not be afraid to try new things. Look to your heart and let it sing. You never stop learning. Open your mind to all views then find your own. Each day is a new lesson. You have only tapped the very tip of your life. Soar, fly, step into an unknown world and be what you were born to be.

For me, life was scary once I left that lane on Neff Road. I had graduated and was going to college. I wanted to move away, but my past history reflected only homesickness at sleepovers. No one taught me how to survive on my own. I dreamed of dancing, writing and acting but had no encouragement. I blamed others for my fear of life outside of Darke County. There is no one to blame but myself. It took me until I was thirty-seven to have this realization. I began acting and taught drama as well. I worked with kids at risk. Kids wondering if there were such things as dreams. I had friends of all colors and all beliefs. I learned from each and every one. I could look back and see the possibilities I had never recognized at the time. I thought I was to be a daughter, a wife, a mother. All perfectly good, but for me there was so much more. I knew that I had a purpose in this old world. I had a duty to learn, change and open my mind to possibilities. Finally I followed my heart and began to write.

I sat in front of a couple of students at a graduation. One young lady asked the other, "What is that symbol on the top of that mortar board?" The other girl answered, "It is the symbol for Mercedes Benz." Let us pray that the youth of 2017 will look for more than a fancy new car. Perhaps they will look for peace and a better world.☮

Monday, May 15, 2017

A song unwritten

In searching through some papers, I ran across older pieces I had written many years ago. Some were as far back as my high school years. Slightly yellowed papers written by the hand of a teenager. In later writings, my poetry told of the loss of my parents, of the farm. My pen captured the joy of becoming a grandma and the world that awaited me as I traveled through life with these children. A woman of many feelings, many faces and emotions that found her answers through the pen in her hand. Many times I questioned why life was so difficult and where my place was in it. Never at a loss for words, they poured onto the paper for release and revelation.

This is a short column today. It is a piece to contemplate and understand. In its simplicity, I found my own answers. I hope in some way you might find your own.

I am a pen in the Writer's Hand
A spark in dry tinder
A tool in Skilled Hands
A drop in a rising pool
A silent voice on a distant page
A compass for a traveler
A yes in a world of no's
A mystery yet unraveled
A valentine overflowing
A note in a symphony
A song unwritten
A page waiting to be read

The list could go one, but this pretty much says it all. Perhaps you will find yourself in my list. Perhaps you will make your own. Wherein lies your truth?

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]

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.