Monday, December 17, 2018

This is the season

A Jewish baby was born in a manger to an unwed mother and an adopting father. Contrary to what is celebrated, this baby was born in the warm months of August or September when the sheep were returned to the fields and when more than likely a census would have been taken, so travelers were not hampered by winter weather.

My friend wrote, "Why are most songs Christ based this time of the year?" His celebration of Hanukkah has just ended. A time of family and remembrance of their own religious freedom. A sect into which God decided to send a baby. Some other friends will soon be celebrating Kwanzaa. A celebration of people, community.  Throughout the winter months, there are celebrations of numerous beliefs and cultures. A season rich with love of humankind, a season of celebrating the earth, a season of celebrating a higher deity, a season of celebrating one another.

I know. We Christians have a tendency to make this all about us, but Christmas isn't about us. It is about what that manger represents, what we learned from that baby turned man. It is about love without judgment. I am no better than anyone else. That is what I learned. I learned that sinner or saint, they are loved. I learned that embracing man/womankind is my task. I learned not to judge and to embrace all cultures. I was raised to believe I could make the world a better place. I grew to understand that not everyone had to believe what I believed. My journey was my own and not to expect others  to fit what I believe.

When I see that baby in our nativity, I see the birth of one who would not want adoration. He would turn away from wanting anything for himself.  He would want us to be active in this world in the name of love. His parables tell us over and over about helping others. He does not ask us to idolize him. He asks us to include everyone. He was Jewish. He never denied that fact. His parents and grandparents were Jewish. He was a dark skinned man with black hair, not the blue-eyed brunette we see so often. He asked that we believe in him and, in essence, believe in the God in every human being.

I remember being teased once for having a new creative hair style. We have a tendency to look at differences instead of offering understanding and love. God came to us in many different ways. None are wrong when they all lead back to Him. Do I say "happy holidays?" Indeed, for I respect all people and wish them the happiest of the season that brings love and laughter into their lives.

So I say to you, "warmest, loving wishes" in this season of hope and love. Be that shining light in the world that brings joy to all around you. This is the season.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Oh, oh, oh

So the candle table wasn't there. Oh, and there was food on the table that was not ordered. Oh, oh, and there were no outside lights for the invitees. And, oh, oh, oh, this is a good one, the cello player informed us a couple hours before that she could not play. She has carpal tunnel.

Well, despite this and more, we managed to get married. Yep, Mr. and Mrs! Gather about one hundred people, get an ordained friend, sign a paper and you become a married couple. Marriage. I'm all for it if it fits. We decided it fit, because we wanted our grandchildren to have married grandparents. And, we sorta like being a married couple. However, we did keep our own names.  I see no reason I have to give up my name. I like it.

I couldn't invite all of you, but I know you would have had a great time. It was a time of old friends, family who traveled to Oregon and lots of fun and laughter. We are old enough to know that we cannot take anything too seriously. All glitches in the plans became improv moments. Nolan hugged his ring bear as tight as he could with it's precious treasure of our rings. Emma dumped piles of snow along the aisle, looking a little like Lucy from Charlie Brown, tossing snow with attitude. We laughed throughout the ceremony and shed tears with friends who shared their feelings with us. It was a celebration not a ceremony.

I'm a little disappointed. When we found that our music was not to be, I had suggested that we have all of our guests hum "Here Comes the Bride". No one seemed as delighted with the prospect as me. We had iPod music, but I still wish I'd heard that humming crowd.

If you are contemplating a wedding, make it your own. Create your own special day. Make sure that laughter is a priority. So I greeted people as I walked the aisle with my son. So I kissed the groom when I arrived at his side. So we teased and laughed during the ceremony. Why? Because it is us. It is what we do. When the ceremony was over, our dear friend Jo Anne who married us held a white branch with mistletoe on it over Loren's head, "You may kiss the groom."

If you learn nothing else from this blog, know that life is easier with light and laughter in it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Not even a mouse

Emma ran ahead of me. I yelled just before she put her foot down. There beneath her foot was a newly departed mouse. A large one at that. "Gross. That was just gross, Meme. That was really gross." Well, yes, it was gross, and for a woman who hates rodents, I did well in not grabbing the child and running for cover.

I am reminded that on the farm at this time of year mice sought refuge in our basement. My sisters had seen them in the upstairs where we slept, but I had not. Had I seen them, I would have moved in with Brenda. Mice. My sworn enemies.

We are caught in a dilemma at present. Several hummingbird feeders hang on our deck and our trio of tinies come and visit regularly, eating when they are not chasing one another. Our house is surrounded by trees, so feeding the other birds would be a delight. We believe in equality. However, with birdseed comes those critters with long, creepy tails. Thus continue to seek a way to draw birds, yet repel rodents.

There are so many rhymes about mice running up clocks, three that were blind, movies about rats that cook and mice who reside in Disneyland. Seems to me that there is a fascination (that I do not share) with these sneaky, wicked little creatures. I know, love the creatures great and small. Well, not this girl. I say where's the trap and the cheese?!

I was visiting my niece's preschool class when one of the little darlings came over with the class rat. Now I find it hard to put class and rat in the same sentence; however, being a grandma, I knew the rule that you suck it up and do not scare the children. I smiled. Would I like to pet it? Well, not really. Would I like to hold it!!!! Well, there is a point where a grandma must just stand up and say, "Oh, honey, I think someone is calling me." Yes, lying is permissible when it comes to protecting children, er, grandmas.

Truly I must admit that I do occasionally scream when I see a mouse. Can't help it. The shout just pours out like a siren going to a fire. My toes curl, my body tenses, and I am absolutely sure that the little mouse will run up my leg and bite my face off. I blame it on my sister Peg. I remember when I was little and she often stood up on a chair screaming. I used to think she was practicing singing then once I saw a mouse. So, I, too, took on her persona as to the meeting of a little nasty piece of work. However, I do believe that if a mouse can climb up on shelves and up stairs, it surely can climb up on the chair with the screaming girl.

I bet you thought this was going to be a Christmas story. Sorry. I'm still struggling with the mouse Emma about stepped on.  Gross.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Let grateful days be endless

Forever on Thanksgiving Day. The heart will find the pathway home. - Wilbur D. Nesbit

How many times did we sit around the table, focusing on food instead of understanding the preciousness of those moments? No longer can I sit with my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. Little is the family that remains, yet I am not saddened. I am blessed to have had those times, those people. Each Thanksgiving those faces once more come into view. The dialogue we shared. The laughter and memories that made my family so wonderful. The love that I always knew was there. Even as a child, I was thankful. Now as an older adult, I am truly blessed.

This Thanksgiving I hope you look into the eyes of those surrounding you and understand the gifts of giving. Tuck those moments in your heart for you will take them out and look at them time and time again. Even in the darkest of times, in those of loss and sorrow, the heart that laughed and loved will find warm memories to ease the pain.

Many are not as fortunate as most of us. Perhaps we are their thanksgiving by what we can do to make their lives easier. Perhaps that smile you share with a stranger or the hand given to someone in need will be the giving and the thanks. For in giving we truly receive and are thankful to be tools of hope and joy.

My column is small this week because I want to add this Thanksgiving Song. I am thankful for each of you. Please reach out this week and give others something for which they can be truly thankful. Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table. From far and near we travel home, blessed that we are able. Grateful for this sheltered place with light in every window, saying "Welcome, welcome, share this feast. Come in away from sorrow." Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone in the gift of loving kindness. Grateful for what's understood, and all that is forgiven; we try hard to be good to lead a life worth living. Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone let grateful days be endless. Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table.

Many blessings, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

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.