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.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dum Dum De Dum

Tricky tune, right? Hm. The second set of notes are the same. Dum Dum De Dum. What does it mean? Well, just in case you have no musical sense. I will continue. "Going to the chapel and we're....". Yes, Loren and I are going to be married.

At one time I would have wondered why anyone my age would want to marry again, especially since I have been single for over twenty years. I would be the first to say I was pretty pathetic. However, Loren Nelson did enter my life a year and a half ago. We have tested this relationship. Questioned if this would work with a woman who loved her freedom. Through it all, we discovered that there is so much life and love we have ahead of us. He is my best friend and just a silly guy who loves his woman.

Loren is a professional photographer. His work is shown in many galleries on the west coast. A gifted photographer who has a wonderful reputation. He comes from a family of potters and artists. I come from a family in the performing arts. We are a good match. We have much to learn about one another and many adventures ahead of us. (https://www.google.com/search?q=loren+nelson+photography&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1)

Loren and I had a conversation on our return from a gallery show in Astoria about being at the perfect age to marry. Our priorities are so much different than those we had at a younger age. We both have been on our own and in other relationships, so we have a pretty good idea about love. We have no desire to move into a home where we will raise children. No jobs to bother with. We are focused on family, volunteering and creating with our own artistic interests. Plus, we have all the time in the world, any day of the week, to have a new adventure. What could be more perfect!

Perhaps you wonder at this strange column, but I am a child of Neff Road. Maybe I need your permission. We have it from our kids. Maybe you and I are, by now, old friends once a week. I will be bringing him back this summer. He is very interested in meeting all of you and walking down Neff Road with me. He plans to bring his camera and capture the house back the lane.

We are not sure when we will be married. Perhaps late summer or fall. Nolan is thrilled to be the ring bear. Yep, I said bear. Emma is ready to toss flower petals at people. What could be better? So we invite you to be part of our new adventure. Looking forward to our meeting you when we come back to farm country.

I just had to tell you.....dum dum de dum.

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Mother's Day

Mother's Day is on the horizon. We think of mother in terms of  caring and loving. Inspiration and role model. Commander and chief. Doctor, arbiter, bouncer, counselor, teacher and more. Each year I write about all the mothers in my life. This year is different.

One thing that comes to mind this time of the year is just what kind of mother have I been? I do not want flowers and accolades just because I birthed a couple of children. As a mom, I know that I did my best, but it was not always enough. As my children grew, I grew up as well. I remember those days when I was lost with that first baby. I had rarely babysat and had no idea what to do with this wiggly thing. I was depressed, having just moved away from my roots. Flying by the seat of my pantaloons, I did the best I could. I was learning what it was to be a mother.

There are no perfect mothers. We all have flaws. Many children have truly wicked mothers. I cannot forget those children. My mother and I had our differences. As wonderful as she truly was, we struggled in our relationship. There are no perfect mothers.

How times have changed. Some families have two mothers. Some have a father who carries both roles. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. All of these mothers know what it is to worry, wonder and wait. We are all in the same boat when it comes to not knowing if we are doing it right. We are the teachers of love, friendship, truth and trust. We teach our children by example and pray our example is good enough.

Every stage of motherhood is different. We raise our children, nurture our children, support our children and then watch them go. Not a day goes by that we do not think of those children. When they bless us with their children, we learn even more about love.

Really, for me this Mother's Day thing is overrated. I consider every day that I have been blessed with my two children and those of theirs to be my Mother's Days. I am not big on these days of recognition. I should not be honored for what I chose in my life. I receive my blessings every day and am not a pedestal mom. I do not want to be honored. Being a mom is honor enough.

Mother is indeed a beautiful word. So blessed that I am one.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Rewards are timeless

They sat on different sides of the room. Neither had seen the other before. A glimpse and at once they were friends from the past, for the future, for the moment. Eyes locked across the room.

Okay, this isn't a mushy story. This is really not a love story. Wait, this is a love story. Eyes locking across a room. It does not mean that two lovers will meet and be carried away in rosy words and dreamy eyes. Nope. It is a love that comes from another part of us. I find it a love so overwhelming that I cannot deny it. This four letter word is a spiritual freedom that erases all walls and builds a world of all people. Eyes lock and something new happens.

Last week Loren and I once again squeezed ourselves into the cafeteria seats, waiting for the twins to join us for lunch. The twins' beautiful African American friend Samara came and gave 'MeMe' a hug. Another little girl wandered over to our table and stood there looking at me. Emma leaned over to tell me that she does not speak English. I ask her how she is doing in Spanish. Her eyes widen and she walks away. We meet up on the playground, and I explain that I speak 'poco' Espanol. She shakes her head and says 'no English'. Before we go into the school, she pops up again. She is told to go to the end of the line, so I say "vamos" and take her. I put a loving hand on her head as we part. I am touched by the quiet conversations I have with these children who accept me as Emma and Nolan's grandma. I am aware of how my roots immigrated to this continent, while this sweet girl and my nieces people are the true natives of this land. I am so grateful to be able to bridge gaps and not make them.

We are listening to great jazz with friends in a small wine bar. The music from the 60's fills the room,  and I start singing along. I look across the room, and a woman is singing, too. She points a finger at me and shakes her head yes. We are on the same wave length. I can tell that she moved and grooved to the same music from all those decades ago. Our group is deep in conversation when I feel a tap on my back. This woman came over to give me a hug and tell me that we are sisters. I felt the same connection. A connection of music and the past feelings that went with it. A final hug and she said, "I just love you." Two strangers who shared the words of songs, remembering different childhoods, sitting across a room but connected by the memories of another time. I will never see her again yet will carry her in my heart.

She gets it. She knows the secret that I hold so dear. That secret that says that we have an opportunity to love everyone in this colorful world. Instead of looking for the differences that separate us, we should look for those that bind us together.

Perhaps this is a mushy column. I am awed each time I leave the house at the opportunities I have to love. The more I give, the more I receive. The more I receive, the more I give. I know I talk about love a great deal, but in the long run, is there anything more important? Why stay stagnant in your own world when you can experience the world with open arms and an open heart. The rewards are timeless.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The struggle to get there

So you start the day out with good intentions. Ah, that time when you first awaken tucked down in that warm nest that lulled you to sleep. Well, good intentions flew out the window when I did that first stretch of the morning. It has been years since it happened, but on this morning my back decided that any intentions would be impossible.

I hate how incapacitating back pain can be. The only relief, if you can call it that, is not to move a muscle. So I managed to find some pain pills and popped one down before painfully making my way to the coffee pot. Yep, got to have that coffee to at least jump start my basically immobile body. I am ready for that second cup of coffee now but wondering how quickly I can get is poured so I can get back to the heating pad and immovable position. Coffee? Pain? Hm. I'm sure I can get that coffee if I really try.

Back pain is indeed incapacitating. Having had a history of it, you would think that I would plan my supplies for the eventuality of such an attack. The heating pad should be at chest height, not on a bottom shelf. Ouch! A tray with the remote, phone and place for coffee should be placed in same location within easy reach. Instead the tray is on bottom shelf, remote and phone in locations calling for my aching body to bend. I could lie down, but that at the moment seems a little like climbing the Himalayan Mountains. Not going to happen.

I try to get sympathy, but that seems in small supply. My son James is quick to point out my stupidity from yesterdays events. My guy Loren is right up there, too. So what if I lifted Emma on Easter Day. Those days of holding her are almost over (well, maybe over). I am blessed if she has time for her MeMe. So why would I pass it up? Okay, our games ended me up with a black and blue chin when we connected head to chin. Isn't it worth it to have an all out day of play? What's a little, er, big bruise when you make a memory. So what if I can't move today. I need sympathy!

I sit here weighing the facts. Partly because I don't want to move and partly because I am sure you understand. Our grandchildren (especially those who are last) make us push our limits. We want their memories of us to be full of the fun and the closeness we shared. I have learned to sit longer on the floor, to once more move down the stairs on my derriere as we play train. I can do the hokey pokey and turn myself around. Frankly, that's what its all about.

Our Easter was extra special this year. Our church has a cross that on Easter is wrapped with wire fencing in which the children can insert the stems of spring flowers. Emma and Nolan were the last to leave the cross as they were having such a great time making it beautiful. The Easter egg hunt on the church lawn was different this year since the kids are older and their baskets filled more quickly. My son created a wonderful meal that we shared with those we cherish. The house was filled with Easter love. For Loren and I, we are looking for a home together and want so much to continue lovely, new traditions. So why not give it my all this year.

My heart is content, but my need for coffee is ever so strong. I look at the pot and am considering the heating pad that is cooling rapidly. This big event that will include much pain seems to be worth the effort. I know the pain will disappear in a day or so. Just as Easter will fade until we come around the calendar once more. Emma, I won't be lifting you next year. You will be a couple inches taller and a few pounds heavier. I will be a bit older and maybe a little smarter (not counting on that). But the memories we make, the efforts we put forth to build relationships (and get a cup of coffee) are well worth a little struggle to get there.

Well, here goes!