Saturday, October 15, 2016

I am one of you

She reached for the heavy stack of books. The teacher said, "Let me help you with those." He put his arms around her back and pulled her close. The 8th grader suddenly felt the admiration for this teacher turn into fear. She felt nauseous. Wrenching free, she ran from the room trembling, hopped onto her bicycle and rushed home. Her story was never told. Who would believe her? Who would stand by her? She had no words for what happened, because no one ever talked about it. She was me.

 A woman was beaten. Everyone knew it. No one talked about it. No one went to her rescue. She suffered his misuse. When he died, she lived in poverty. She had no means of support. Her children were raised on her love and the kindness of others. She did not ask for the life she got. She expected more. She was a family friend.

The woman saved her pennies. She hid them in the baseboard. Her parents wanted her to marry this man of substance. They wanted to see her well taken care of. He was a hard man. She hated him. She took her pennies and tried to escape. When she missed the train, she returned home to a life she did not want. She was my grandmother.

The child was used again and again by her father. No one came to her rescue. She had a child and was just a child herself. The child was ragged and did not smell very good. Other children stood away and teachers failed to acknowledge and parents failed to act. She was a friend.

She was 18. She left the farm and went to work in a classy office for NCR. She was naïve and a bit scared of the world she had entered. The vice president in the office took notice of her. He flirted with her, always stood too close to her and asked for her address. Something felt wrong. She gave him a bogus phone number and prayed he would leave her alone. I was young but already knew the signs.

She was in middle school when her brother was killed in a car accident. She was a senior in high school when she handed me a note: "I want to die."  I called the girl making her promise not to do harm to herself. The girl confided that she had been abused by the older brother. She had been used and abused. No one knew. She had no words for it. She was torn between the aching pain of loss intermixed with the hate of her abuser. 

There are so many more stories just from my life story. Inappropriate touching, lewd behavior, dirty stories and language that proved that the speaker had no respect for a woman. And, we women laughed it off and hid our disgust maybe we didn't feel we deserved more. I heard it as a child. I hear it as an adult. But now I can say to all of this, IT IS TIME TO STOP! I stand up for all of those children and adult women and men who have been used and abused. It is time for respect in all ways of men and women. It is time!

You are not weak. You can find help sources. You can talk to those you trust. We can stand up and say "no more". I have been a woman who has seen it all. I think perhaps that is what has made me a person who naturally could work with kids at risk. I may not have been there for you, my friends, but I am here for you now. You are all worthy women who are smart, strong and who can make change. I know because I am one of you.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

For adults of all ages

Old. Young. It does not matter. Parent. Single. Still does not matter. Child. Yep, that matters. Cannot deny that we are all children. Some of us have lost our parents. Some are fortunate (even though at time it feels far from fortunate) still having parents with us.

Fall is here. It is a grey, drizzly time of year. More time is spent indoors. Lives get busy with school activities, sports, travel. Parents are busy caring for family. Fall is here.

There is a benefit of living into these older years of our lives. We have an awakening that we never had before, and we sometimes shake ourselves realizing that we should have noticed when we were younger. We learn that there is no money, hobby, sport, career, anything that is more important than those we love. We learn this lesson because of loss. I, for one, will make this confession, a truth that came to light when I sat by my father's deathbed. I held his hand feeling the last moments we would share. I held it so tight, trying to absorb what I could. I left Darke County coming home to Oregon a different person. I came home with a tremendous sense of loss. Loss of parent, of childhood. I was oblivious most of my life to the gifts I had been given.

We all get busy with our lives. Raising children. Making a living. Striving to reach our dreams. It takes time and energy. The regiment of everyday is overwhelming. I know. I have been there. I ran the race. I had the clean home and the neat and tidy children. I was the perfect wife (with all my imperfections). I had no time to think or act. No, wait, I had the time. Anything beyond my own life was an inconvenience. I did not realize that the living should never be an inconvenience.

Please hear my words. The time with those who have raised you, grown up with you (family, neighbors, church family, etc.) is limited. You cannot get any of it back. This is the time of the year that can be very lonely for those who love you. Even the toughest of men and women need loving attention, to be in the thoughts of their loved ones, to feel a loving touch. Those who have lost partners hold on to precious memories. They have an emptiness that greets them every day. Those who are struggling with a partner who is failing are frightened and lonely. We all age. We all experience it. So will you.

We parents/grandparents will not ask for help. It just comes with the 'parent' territory. We take care of and bulk at being cared for. We will struggle and not want to make our struggles your worry. We will protect you at our own expense. It comes with the territory.

A visit does not take long. A trip to the grocery store. A fall bouquet. A batch of cookies. A child to hold. A phone call. An invite to lunch. Anything that says, 'you are not forgotten'. Being included is a lifeline for someone who is alone most of the time.

So will you help me out?  Someday you will be older and experience loss. Someday you might be the only one of your family who still remembers the past. Someday you will be thrilled when someone else cares. Time is ticking. Embrace those you love. There is still time.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jump into the flames

The car burst into flames. Four men dashed from their cars, working in tandem to save the elderly woman trapped inside the burning car. They did not turn away from the flames. They did not run. They stayed. A life was at risk. They did not know the person in the car. They did not know each other. They did not stop to see what color she was or what her religious affiliation happened to be. They did not ask if she could speak English or if she was a legal alien. They did not know if she was rich or poor. They jumped into the flames. They did not ask.

My daughter-in-law Lisa and I walked past the library where a class was doing Tai Chi. "I would love to do that," I said. She laughed at me. I saw nothing funny in my comment. "Pam, your mind runs faster than anyone I know. You would do it for about three minutes, then you would be looking around bored with the class. You probably would start talking to the person next to you and end up sitting in the grass in deep conversation."

She was right. I probably would end up inviting the person to come over for  coffee. Being an observer has its drawbacks. I never stop taking in all the things around me be they alive or not. So when hearing this story about these four heroes, I asked myself a question: Am I a runner or a stayer. I had to ask.

The lost child stood crying in the aisle. No other adult was in sight. I sat on the floor of the big store and softly talked to the child. I was not a threat.The store manager came over and asked if I would stay with the child while he paged the parents. I sat there for a very long time wondering about these people who did not miss this small boy. Eventually, they came plodding down the aisle. When they reached the child who was now sitting in my lap, they said, "Come on" and walked away. The store manager and I just looked at one another. God bless the children. They do not ask.

The woman sat sobbing in her car. A car full of children. We were at the middle school heading for home. She was starting to pull away. I got out of the car, much to the embarrassment of my children, and tapped on her window. "Are you okay?" I asked. She looked at me and sobbed. I put a hand on her shoulder and told her to be careful. She dried her eyes and said she would. As she drove off, I said a prayer. She did not ask.

Little things. Not just the big things, but the little things. Yes, my mother embarrassed us over and over again when she reached out. "Mom, it is none of your business!!!!" we always said. Yes, I dreaded adventures with mom. We never knew what would happen. Mom loved people. She went out of her way to erase pain and sadness. Her arms were ready to comfort and care about another in distress. She took in the world at a moment's notice. I am my mother's child.

We are a world of different circumstances, different languages, different ways of living. Being a white American woman does not make my way the best way. Whether we like it or not, we are a small bit of the entire picture. I cannot judge by what I know. I can only judge myself by what I do not know. Too many of people in this world, in this country, fail to realize that all lives matter. But, they do not ask.

I am blessed by the colors of this world, by the people, by nature, by the very breath I breathe. I take it all in and hope I give back. We do not own this earth. We are not the leaders. We are part of the whole. Would you jump into the flames for a stranger?  I have to ask.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Finding your seniorism

We do not talk about it. In fact, it seems to be a taboo subject. We can look it up online, but it really doe not explain it. We get a notice from AARP, but that is just advertising it. Companies make money off of it. Some even abuse it. Yet we really do not talk about it. What is seniorism all about?

-ism  /ɪzəm/, /ɪzm̩/
Definition: Used to form names of a tendency of behavior, action, state, condition or opinion belonging to a class or group of persons, or the result of a doctrine, ideology or principle or lack thereof.

Seniorism. Of course, it is another of my made up words that seems to fit what I feel. Why not invent words that are non-existent for topics that are of the same? So seniorism comes to mind, because it is something we fail to approach in real terms.

I am tired of commercials that treat seniors as idiots. They try to sell us insurance, prescriptions, anything that might possibly pull in anyone over 60, thinking that we are all ignorant, because we are older. Actors tell us how scared they are of dying and having no insurance. Marketing teams brainstorm on ways to draw in what they consider "the weak-minded" by waving fear and worry in the direction of their focus audience. Pull us in because they feel we are stupid. Well, marketing people, insurance companies, drug manufacturers and all the rest of you, we are not ignorant of your ploys. We are not fooled by your lack of respect for the senior population of this old world. I stand up against you. I am older....and a whole lot smarter.

We do go through changes that no one seems to care about. The memory has a few bumps. The body aches. There are some things we can no long do. For me, I cannot write letters by hand. The arthritis in my hands makes it too painful, so I correspond only by computer. Financially, we might be weaker, a weakness that TV commercials and businesses pray on. The old eyesight is weaker. We lose more friends and family as we age. We think more about our own mortality. So why don't we talk about these things. Why don't we talk about what we have to give and what we really possess inside?

So, I might be older, but truly I am better. I remember those days of wanting to have the perfect family and perfect home. I learned that perfect wasn't really so perfect after all. I remember those days of wanting the perfect hair, the perfect body, the perfect glow of youth. I wasted a lot of my life trying to perfect it. I think seniorism teaches us more than in any other time in our lives. Perhaps it comes when lose our first loved one. Our hearts learn truly about pain and loss and makes us more aware of  passing of time. We learn that we can't go back. We learn that the people in our lives are very precious. Time is precious.

I believe I have found my seniorism and have come to accept it. I can grow, learn. I can adapt with the weaknesses I discover with age. I can embrace what I have with the people in my life in a way I never could have before. I am better then ever, because I know that life does not last forever. So do not put me into a category of uselessness, empty headed, senile, weak category you younger people put those of us into, because I am a strong woman of 69 years who can love, learn, change and embrace a world that needs a lot more understanding care. We are a blessing to those around us, because they benefit from the lessons we have learned and those we are learning. If we fail in that effort to be kind, loving and adapting, then we have truly failed.

There is a responsibility in this seniorism that all will be part of one day. We owe it to our families and friends not to be grumpy and difficult. We owe it to them to see our doctors and to listen to them. We owe it to everyone on the road not to drive if we have been asked to stop driving. We  owe it to our grandchildren to be an examples of kindness, love and peace. We owe it to ourselves to allow our families to care for us and to seek help for us when needed. We must own our seniorism when time finally takes a toll on our health and our ability to care for ourselves. We have had our lives and the freedom to make decisions. If we push and shove our ways into the lives of others because we believe we deserve it, then maybe we are not so deserving. We need to be a plus not a minus.

So today I embrace seniorism. I cheer you all on in your life journey, in making good decisions, in participating in your children's lives, making pleasant memories for everyone in your family. We are blessed to have time to leave a behind a legacy of love.

Monday, August 22, 2016

United in one diversity

United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

Last night I watched the closing of the 2016 Olympic Games. It was one of many days that I sat in front of the TV, watching a cross section of the world population participating together in 'games'. Throughout this Olympics, it seemed to me that the media was catching moments of caring and supporting, of reaching out and embracing.  There was no difference in color. There was no language barrier. There was a unity among the athletes who knew what it is to struggle, to succeed. Who knew what it was to need support. Who knew what it was to win and to fail.

When the refugees came into the stadium that opening night and a universal cry erupted from athlete and the crowd (and those of us at home).  It was cry that said we are in unity. We stand up against hate. We embrace those who are in pain and lost. There was not only a sense of country. There was a sense of world.

There were problems and mistakes in Rio. There was scandal. But that is not the story here. For me, it it a story of the heart. The Today Show took us into the hills and poor community talking about the lives of these people living in extreme poverty. Not a new story. The same is true for many of these places where tourists play and poverty sits on the sidelines looking on. Many of the athletes came from extremely poor areas and many without a home or family. We can celebrate victory but must not forget those who suffer. Everyone needs a nation of support. A nation of people who care.

I thought often of Clayton Murphy coming from the small rural area where I grew up. Immersed in a world he did not know. Standing among seasoned veterans who understood the pull of the excitement of the Games and the lure of this new atmosphere of celebration. I think perhaps that we fail to realize what participating in the games means to those who come from outlying areas. Being caught up in a whirlwind. Being tossed into a sea of humanity....a human sea so different from that they know.

I grew up in a white community. There were no other colors living in our pale community until I was a senior in high school. Part of the reason I left the area where I grew up was to experience the world outside. Having questioned so much in my life, I needed to find my own answers. We moved to Wisconsin where I was an outsider. Not only did you need to be pale, you needed to be a native, born and raised in the frigid state. We moved to Oregon, and I finally found what I had hoped existed. A place where I could truly learn about the world. We came at a time when things were changing here. A state that had been mostly white was changing its colors. I was surrounded by a population of all races, all religious beliefs and a celebration of all people, surrounded by a sea of variety. My granddaughters' friends were black and Hispanic. My son's best college friend was from India. My friends were different shades of lovely. I learned about God from those who knew him differently and by different names. I learned to have a deeper faith and a much clearer understanding of people. I was in that sea of humanity no better, no different.

I thought of Clayton entering that door into that new world. A black hand in white. A language barrier not separating but initiating a new language of kindness. An athlete giving up a chance of a medal not thinking of herself but reaching out to help a fellow runner. A sea of athletes entering an arena not separated by county. They entered in unity. No barriers. No hate. They left with new understanding.The Olympics are over, but new avenues of hope, of acceptance will continue. Hopefully, for us all.

 United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I am the light

Today I am posting the same post on both of my blogs. This is for you.

The gulls call overhead as I sit watching the blue Pacific kiss the sandy shores. The immensity of it, the roar, the wind, the smells fill my heart with longing and love. It calls to me from a primitive place that I have yet to discover. It takes me to a place I have no words for and leaves me there with every sense alive.

I was a teenager when I first saw the Atlantic Ocean. I was the only one of the Loxley girls to travel alone with our parents. It was dark by the time were arrived at the ocean's side in Pompano Beach, Florida. Dad took my hand and lead me to the water. I was afraid. The roar sounded like a giant monster coming at us from the unknown. I wanted to leave, but Dad made me stay to listen. I could not comprehend the vastness that I could not see. I could only feel the depths of it in my heart.

We grow and learn. We learn to face fears and to overcome anxiety. We learn to understand monsters in the night. We learn to listen with our hearts. We learn and grow if we are wise.

Dad taught me to love beach combing. Of course, that beach was in Michigan on Lake Hamlin. This is where I discovered what would be my favorite fishing pole washed upon the shore. Driftwood, rocks, a feather or maybe dead fish crossed our path. He taught me to be surprised and awed. He taught me to be curious. In Florida, he showed me a new beach. Shells I had never seen before. Sand that whispered when my feet skimmed the glistening surface. Waves that the giant ocean cast around my feet.

The world is full of rumblings, revenge, guns, hate, most of all fear. A roaring body in the night. A darkness that falls completely. I was taught to look beyond that roar for what is beautiful and am still surprised and awed by what I find. I have learned that looking for good in all allows more good to flow in all directions. Beautiful pearls of hope that wash upon my heart. I would never pick up a weapon or write about hate. It is not my belief and would only feed the darkness that already prevails.

I sit upon the shore. The gulls call to me looking for a scrap of bread. The ocean calls to me asking me to keep it safe and clean. The earth beneath my feet cries for love among all with hate dissipating as each wave retreats. I stand in the night before a roaring ocean and say, "I will not be darkness. I will be a light."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Grandparent baby steps

The little bundle wiggled in my arms. A newborn. Instant Grammyhood. Picking up where I left off when her mother was a baby. Well, not so much. Let's back up here.

I don't know about you, but for me, becoming a caretaker of a new addition to our family was not as easy as falling off a log. It was exactly like falling off a log. Sure I loved holding that new bundle. My heart was overflowing. That immediate overflow that silences the trepidation that waits beneath. (Jaws theme here)

When my first child came into our lives, I was lost. I never babysat. I wasn't even sure I liked little kids! This newcomer was an alien who came to invade our quiet, adult household. Since this little one is impossibly inept at everything, I had to learn the ropes....more times than not, the hard way. She was our test drive. Two rather reasonable adults thrown into chaos and totally oblivious as to this thing called parenting. All of the thrill of having a child dissolved into panic and shock. Random crying, sleeping too soundly, spitting up, poopy diapers! I was sure she was out to get us.

Well, we managed to pull up our bootstraps, courage and survival skills enough to welcome a second child. Both children survived their parents and grew into reasonably normal adults. Adults who foolishly decided to follow in our footsteps.

Since my daughter and husband fell into the childcare oblivion previously experienced by prior generations, everyone looked to the grandma for help. Didn't they know? Didn't they realize that this child brought back those feeling of inadequacy?

Something happens when we become parents and grandparents, its called trial and error. I knew the mistakes I had made with my babies. My children were born to a family who lived away from extended family. We had no one to rely on, to answer our questions, to give us a break. So when this beautiful little girl was born, I understood that I had to suck it up and be a Grammy.

I learned to fake it acting as though I really knew what I was doing. Things had changed since my daughter was born 25 years before. Confidence became the mask I wore. Sitting with a crying mommy, crying baby and frustrated daddy taught me to put on my 'calm' personae. My performance as a seasoned mother and grandmother should have earned me an Oscar. I was fantastic.

Since then, I have gained three more grandchildren. The twins have in themselves brought on another level of experience. It is not easy to be a grandparent. We stand on the outside and watch the drama unfold, trying hard to let the parents make their own mistakes while wanting the best for all. We play until the kids are worn out. We read books with our failing eyesight. We play on the floor with aching knees and backs. We encourage manners to the point that we want to toss Miss Manners out the door. We try to see the world from a child's point of view, always in tune with their needs. We are the shadow in the room. We are the ones depended on to babysit, comfort the sick child, feed the pets, water the plants, the comforting hand and the listening ear. We are the grandparents.

I write with honesty so must make a confession here. Sometimes I don't want to do the things that I am asked to do....or even offer to do. I go home exhausted. Sometimes I agree when I am not so sure that I do agree. Many times I swallow my pride and my words in order to avoid conflict. Sometimes I am hurt and work through it on my own. Often I feel on the outside of my family's lives. I do not believe in self-pity, but I need to allow myself to feel. Sometimes I feel used. Sometimes I feel sad.

Parenting on all levels is a difficult thing. Each phase of our lives presents a new set of rules. Life evolves and changes. If we do not do the same, we lose. In this growing and learning, I have been self taught. I choose positive over negative. I choose to advance rather than retreat. I choose to be active instead of pathetic.

Yes, the journey is hard. And a big YES, the journey is fraught is things like love, hugs, kisses, successes, laughter, sweet moments cherished each and every day of my life.

My days as a Grammy and a MeMe are ever evolving. My days as a parent have changed. The babysteps I took in the beginning have continued with each change in my family dynamic and each change in these people I love. There is no rating of me as either a parent or grandparent. I have done the best I could do. Failures have been followed by successes. Doubts set aside by forgiveness. The loss of older family members has made me view life in a different way. I cannot pass on what I have learned to my children. They must learn for themselves. I cannot make the way easier, but I can be their support.  I know the preciousness of each moment I have with my family and friends.

Life is a lovely journey. A journey of baby steps.