Monday, October 15, 2018

An empty space

Last night my granddaughter's old Honda was stolen. Not a fancy car. Just a car for a teenager to drive to school and back. A car to take her to her Health Career studies at another school. A car to give her that first taste of trust and freedom. She awakened to an empty spot where her car had been last night.

I was living in an apartment for a couple of years and knew my neighbors fairly well. Kevin and his partner lived in an upper apartment. I lived on the lower level next to resident parking. I had just gone to bed, when I heard glass breaking. I ran to the window in time to see someone had broken in the back window of Kevin's car right outside my apartment. The guy was still in the car! I called 911, and brainlessly, ran out of my building yelling at the guy who by then was running to a car on the street. I ran up to Kevin's door to tell him the news at the same time the police pulled in. Needless to say, I was the witness eyes on the crime. Kevin was heartbroken as many things had been ripped from his car. It was a beautiful car now covered with glass. How could someone be so bold! The actions of that thief took away more than what was in the car. It took away trust and security. It shook me to my very core.

We see news about thefts. Articles that perhaps we pass over if we don't know those involved or maybe some people look just for a reward. I remember when someone was stealing gasoline from the tank by the back driveway that lead to the barnyard. Dad picked up his shotgun and headed out the door. By the time he headed out, the culprits were gone. Who would steal from a neighbor? I remember Dad saying it was probably just kids. Well, that's not an excuse, is it?

What bothers me is that like my parents we would give anyone the shirts off their backs. We would do anything to help someone in need. Dad would have filled a gas can if someone needed it. In fact, he would have driven it to them. Kevin is such a dear person that he found it unbelievable that there was someone so cruel or so desperate. As for Gabby, someone took her first car. Someone hurt her in a way that she has never been hurt before or ever should be. Her world of security has been broken. Gabby has a tender heart and for her there are no words.

So where do we go from here? Well, social media has allowed us to spread the word and picture of the car. The police here are very vigilant. We will all be on the lookout. My two granddaughters just learned something about being a target. We will do our best to support them and protect them even more ardently.

I do not believe that someone can purposely hurt someone else and not feel remorse. It is a guilt that will follow these thieves throughout life. As for our family, as for Kevin, as for our farm family, the peace we had has a chink in it. Trust in humanity is shaken. Safety even in our own home has been violated.

Be vigilant. Know your neighbors. Care for one another and protect each other. Listen to the news and know what is happening in your area. Be aware of your surroundings. Take steps to protect yours and those around you. We want no more empty spaces in our lives.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The web we weave

"Aunt Pam! Aunt Pam!" my great grandniece's little voice echoed throughout the house. How I love this little girl and her curiosity. Seldom do I get to be in the same state where she lives, but coming back to Indiana and Miss Della is always the same. We pick up where we left off, having adventure after adventure.

A spider had made a nice home on the porch. I knew it would be swept away, so I asked Della to help me move the web. We talked about all the good things that spiders do and how they do better away from people outside even though inside has so many fun places to build a web. Carefully, we detected the web, her carrying one side and me the other. We placed the web on a shrub along with the eggs the spider had so safely stored. For the next couple days, we watched as the spider hid her eggs behind a leaf. Then on the third day when we checked, the spider had made a new web with her eggs safely tucked into the silken strands. Lessons learned.

If you are a follower of my writings, then you know how much I include learning experiences in all I do with my grands. Isn't that my job as a grandparent? Well, it is for me. I want them to open their minds to possibilities and exploration. I hope to add to their curiosity and to make them custodians of the earth. I hope to give them opportunities to make their own observations not mine. Has this type grand parenting paid off? Indeed.

Many of our neighbors spray for spiders. Maybe it is Charlotte's Web or maybe just common sense that we prefer to allow the spiders their lives. On a morning when I was out feeding my hummingbirds, I noticed a perfectly round spider web. It hung midair on thin lines between two trees. Perfectly round. The ultra violet rays of the sun shining through the web created rainbow colors. Colors not seen unless the sun kissed the web and created a living piece of art. How could I ever have hurt a creature who created such beauty.

I know. You don't get it. You hate spiders and, most of all, the webs that seem to find their places everywhere you look. Well, take some time to really look at this artistic little insect. It labors to survive. It creates a web that captures and stores food. It lays eggs in that flimsy web and cradles them with the strength of her creation. Beauty is all she can create. She does not take away. She adds to. Rarely do they bite. And, rarely do I bite. Win win.

Remember when you squash a spider or tear down a web, that spiders are an important part of our eco systems. They feed on common indoor insects like roaches, earwigs, mosquitoes, flies and clothes moths. If you don't mess with them, they will consume most of the insects in your home. Thus less chemicals and costly pest removal. They are natures balance. We are their protectors. The web we weave.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dodging the grim reaper

So parent or grandparent, it really doesn't matter. It is a decision of watching time pass or being part of it. We are the ones who determine what our lives will be.

I learned this lesson late in life. There were always things needing to be done, people to see, exhaustion after a workday. And, as all this progressed, time was lost. Children grew. Parents died. Yes, some days are just days we watch pass until there are no more children at home, no old friends to visit and adventures never experienced.

It takes patience and energy to make changes. It takes a new outlook and observation. Change is never easy as there seems to be more reasons not to change than there are to adjust accordingly with life's progression. This came to mind during a conversation I had this last week when talking to a friend about adjusting to retirement.  Loren and I decided not to get a condo for this new adventure of ours. We had already gotten rid of the old, keeping only family treasures, and building on this new phase we have chosen. I had done this earlier when moving from a house to an apartment. I found it freeing and rather exciting to find new things for the new place and the new, changing me.

Loren and I decided on a home that would fit our needs now and later. Smaller in size, bedrooms and bath on the main floor. Little yard maintenance with no grass and mostly paths, decking and self-contained landscaping. It is a home in which to create, entertain and, most of all, find peace. We found that by living in this house, our lives can grow and change, adding more to us without losing as too many think you do when you change how you live.

Our friend was talking about her father's refusal to move out of his home.  He did not care about imposing on his family nor did he treat them well. He was becoming the same grumpy, old man his father had been. So why would he be like his father, having lived through the same scenario? Why not change? Why not be a joy in a new way?  Why not be happy?

First of all, you have to realize that stuff is just stuff. It deserves no loyalty. People, however, deserve the best we can give to them. So what constitutes this digging in? I think that it is fear. People who don't change and grow throughout their lives have no idea of the adventure and pluses of change. They are only secure when surrounded by the past and all that involves. They do not think their children understand, when in essence, their children are trying to help them have better lives.

My friend is in poor health. She lives in a house full of good memories and some really bad memories. Her garage is full of her mother's boxes that have remained sealed for decades. So she sits in a house that is a reminder of loss and is entirely too big for her to care for and should not be a burden for her children. She asks me what I think as her daughters prepare to get her into a smaller place. My comment, "About time." She is failing sitting in her chair doing nothing.  She is failing by her own isolation and lack of interaction with others.

So why remain stubborn? Why sit and wait for the grim reaper, when there is always time to change and make those moments with children special. Whether you are 20 or 90, you have time to take notice of the world around you and decide if you will open up your hearts to those around you and to open your minds to the adventures that surround you. Or, well, you have seen the alternative. Let's change old patterns and live.

Monday, August 27, 2018

No child should miss out.

A child cries next door. His sobs are heart-wrenching. He has come home from the first day of school, begging not to return. I feel his pain. School has started, and year after year, I have the same concerns.

All children learn differently. We are as different as our fingerprints. We all think differently, see things differently, capture and hold things differently. So how can we toss kids into a classroom teaching them all the same way? I know from experience what it is to be different.

My mind travels over everything all at once. I don't miss much. Never did. I was/am an observer. That means that when I am in a conversation, I am  also taking in everything around me. When I walk down the street, I take in the people, the sites, the sounds. My senses are tuned in to everything. Is it overwhelming? Not in the sense you might think. I know that by what I am, I add more to my life and those around me. I empathize, feeling what others feel. I am open to learning constantly. However, learning in a classroom was boring for me. I was not a book learner. I am a visual learner even though I love to read. I do not like silence. When it is too quiet, I find myself looking for sounds and getting distracted. I could never do homework without music or the TV. Yes, I had trouble with school.

As a child, I lived as an introvert. Only as an adult did I learn that I am really and extrovert. I always felt like the odd girl out never quiet fitting in. Our home was always filled with people, but we girls learned to serve and sit on the side. In school, we had limited activities, so I never really found my niche. I understand that little boy next door. I was just like him every year of my youth.

So what can be done to help kids like me and kids who are not tuned in the way education tells us they should be? Perhaps there needs to be more thought put into individual learning and exploring ways to turn kids on to those things that make them want to learn. New ways of teaching might be considered. We have certainly done it the same way ever since schools began. New, creative ways to reach kids and to help them soar. Allow them to learn individually.

I just talked to the twins about their first day in first grade. Their favorite part of the day was lunch. Ah, kids after my own heart. Lunch and recess. Most kids would agree. Wouldn't it be great if the kids came home thrilled about a new thing they discovered, that they are excited to go back tomorrow to learn more? Shouldn't every child find their dreams where they can create and build us a better world through those gifts with which they were born?

A child cries, and I want to lift him up and tell him that there is a path to his laughter and joy in learning. No child should miss out on possibilities. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

An independent step

We watched soap opera, Ruth Lyons, Liberace and just a few other shows. I watched because my parents watched. I don't think we ever thought to watch anything new. A pretty small picture on the world.

As I have grown older, and even more so over the years, I have become aware of how essential freedom of the press is not only to personal growth, but by enabling us to see a bigger world that we are part of. I only saw a tiny bit for 18 years.

When I moved to the city, I was far behind the people with whom I worked. I didn't know a thing about office apparel. I had no idea what it was like to go to fancy restaurants. The world was so much bigger. As a writer, I am saddened at the smallness I knew. Was I scared to reach beyond it? Darn right. I didn't fit in. Comments were made about my hairstyle. My clothing was far from stylish. I was visiting homes like those seen in magazines and meeting company executives. There was a long learning curve in store for me.

The world was changing. A man was on the moon. Riots were rocking the country. Russia was a foe. A larger world was opening up to me with pros and cons. I no longer was tied to local media. I was learning from the many races that surrounded me at work. A man from India. A Jewish inventor. A black man and a lot of white people. I was learning. I was interested in learning. I questioned. My opinions changed.

I learned the good and the bad of the world around me. Newspapers might disagree; still I read them to figure out what I believed. No one told me what to believe or who to listen to. The free press gave me eyes to see for myself and protected me from one sided conversations. 

When the press is manipulated, I am angry. They are our eyes and ears on the world. They keep the checks and balances working, because they demand it. They keep us protected by the very thing that they do. They report. They report one side and the other. But if you don't get both sides, then you have a problem. It would be like a basketball game being played by two teams in the same uniforms.

The media has a right and a duty to inform us even if it is something we don't like. That is Democracy. The press is on the side of the truth. If that truth is challenged, then that is okay. It has to be an open playing field. If you are presented with only one view, you have lost your freedom of choice.

I know many will not like this column, and at times, I think it is time to stop writing. My heart is saddened at the state of our country. As a writer, I am saddened that there is such narrow thinking still controlling people. I hope for more for all of us and our country. 

All I write is as truthful as I can possibly state it. You have seen my life dance before you and my heart as well. I am an opinion and a story you can chose or discard. However, by just reading it, you have taken an independent step forward. From this writer's hands, I thank you.

Monday, July 30, 2018

All Aboard

Dinosaur Train streamed across the screen. Nolan informed me that there are dinosaurs. I told him that they do not exist any more. He again informed me that indeed there are, because he saw the bones. About that time a Dodo showed up on the TV screen. I told Nolan that we have not had dodo birds for a very long time that they are extinct. Now there is nothing worse than breaking a child’s heart, and I was the heartless villain. Nolan sat next to me weeping. “I want to see them, and they are all gone. I don’t want animals to go away.” Yes, gone away. More and more every day we are losing those beautiful creatures. Extinct. A word not expected out of the mouth of a 6 year old.

“Do you want to help save animals?” I asked. Of course, he did. It was time for grandparents to step up and make it happen.  National Geographic Kids was the answer.

I truly don’t think there is anything better than turning your grandchildren on to ways to make the world better. We can actually adopt an animal for the kids to read up on and follow. We can do fundraisers and save pennies. We can teach those bright minds that are caring and open to channel their concern. Yep, we will support them in an effort to make a difference.

“The dodos will come back again, right?” Oh no, I’ve already crushed his little heart once. What can I say? “I don’t think so, Nolan, but we can always hope.” Maybe I didn’t lie. Maybe someday someone will take DNA and come up with a new dodo. Maybe Nolan will be the one to do it.

There is wisdom in these children. The strong child who rebels and is opinionated will become a leader. She will have the drive to make things happen and build a better world. The quiet, observing child will make changes and fight for what is right. Opening doors for these children is an honor. Offering them new experiences and new opportunities enlarges their worlds. More times than not, they teach us. We find new parts of ourselves in these eye opening moments. They are capable of great things.

Perhaps one of these kids will be the very person to save some endangered creature or to find a new drug that will save lives. Every door we open just might be the one that makes a difference in this world.  We are all aboard the Dinosaur Train.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Beyond the plastic barrier

Shapes loomed and elbowed throughout the new house. Large plastic mounds hugged the middle of each room. Loren is known for his photography of plastic wrapped buildings. I think perhaps he should start shooting shapes that haunt rooms in the process of being painted.

Far from the olden days when a drop cloth was tossed across your worldly goods, the current mode is to wrap everything in plastic in the middle of the room. The pile is wrapped in multiple layers as masking tape companies reap the profits from the rolls of tape used to secure the furniture so it will not escape. Yes, indeed, every blasted thing in the house was wrapped in lumpy bundles. Hence, when it came to finding my phone and computer chargers, clean clothes, etc, they were not to be reached. Hm.  Looked like I would be washing out underwear for a few days! Ah, plastic. Can't get rid of it, and it separates you from just what you need.

The contractor brought Isaac and his team in to paint the entire inside of the house. And, truly it was in need. A house that was built in '84 had had no new paint on the ceilings or in the closets. The musty smell that greeted us when we entered would soon be gone. Isaac brought with him four men.  All were Hispanic, speaking broken English. Of course, we greeted them with open arms, since these four men would be part of our family for the next week.

I argued with our contractor on bringing in a port-o-let. It was to be in the upper 90's all week, reaching over 100 one day. "They can use our bathrooms," I said. Our contractor said that they needed to use the big, green, stinky thing in yard. When the men arrived, I informed them that they were to use the inside bathrooms. The contractor insisted that they could eat outside, hooking up their microwave in the hot sunshine. "You can use our microwave. We have water in the fridge and cups for you to use," I told them.

So why I was breaking the rules? I was raised when migrants were lodged in sheds with dirt floors and no running water or bathroom. They used the outside faucet and outhouse if they were lucky. They slept on wood pallets or on the floor. Whole families lived in a room. As a child I didn't understand it. I still don't. These people were my people. We all came from the same God. They were doing jobs that we didn't want to do. They were trying to make a living in a safe place just as we were with our families. No, there was no way I was going to treat these men less than I would my friends and family. They are my brothers whether they speak my language or are my race. I love them with no expectations. I was taught that as a child.

Over the week, we started joking and having a great time. We left the house all day leaving computers out and telling the men to come into the house to stay cool on their breaks. They worked hard and did a beautiful job. I smiled whenever I heard the toilet flush. Yes, we could show them what America is all about. We could show them what love means. One person at a time.

Our furniture was wrapped in plastic. We thought our lives would be complicated in having no access to what we used daily. Instead we found that on the outside of that plastic barrier, friendship was alive and kicking. We found joy and delight in another culture. Our newly painted walls broke down barriers.

Now we have our space free of plastic. I can write again. We have new friends we hope we will see again some day. It is time to move forward. I think we did.