Sunday, January 31, 2010

In A Family

Forgive my lack of writing for a few days. Hand surgery on my right hand will certainly cramp my style. I’ll be back ASAP.

Family. It’s a way of life.

My mother and father welcomed anyone to stay with us who needed a home. Sometimes family stayed with us, sometimes strangers. It was a way of life. Mother and Dad took everyone to heart.

When working at the high school, I found that many kids needed the same from me and my family. I became mom to many kids and they became sisters and brothers to my children. The cycle has never ended.
But then, aren’t we all of the same family. What befalls our brothers and sisters does indeed befall us all. So why don’t we do better at taking care of one another?

With separation of family, comes a loss of something that ‘way back when’ was just common knowledge: You always were there for a neighbor or friend. As family is strewn across the globe the once tight nest becomes not only empty but also a bit tattered. Some people find another nest to crawl into, sometimes a group of friends. Some communities are still embracing and always there is the church community.

Yet, we all look for that one person we can go to with all of our flaws, our misery, and to be embraced by unconditional love. I’m nothing special, but I like to think that I have a door open to anyone who needs a friend. I hope I am a friend to all mankind even if it is nothing more than a ready smile.

We have a large family that consists of childhood friends, past students, my children’s friends and past workmates. We are all family. Maybe someday all of the pockets of small families will consolidate and the world will have peace.

It’s a thought.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Lens

Cameras. They capture a moment, an image of what the camera eye sees but perhaps we do not. They peek into a moment echoing signs of sadness, contemplation, simple joy. How do we know? A small piece of paper holds tight the image.

Pictures show us a history, stories that we had no part in. The black, grey tintype with ancestors stern in pose and forbearing in posture, tell us of another time when families were patriarchal and children were many. When frivolity was rare and family members knew their places. In one picture a woman is hidden by a black cloth as she sits on a chair. A small child sits upon lap of the darkened shape, a child too small to sit alone. Once when my daughter was a baby, I was asked by the photographer to sit behind her draping her blanket over my hands, balancing the wobbly child. Perhaps times had not changed so much.

The camera sees beyond. Eyes that reflect sadness or pain are easily read. The posture of hands on the hips and a stern face paint a story of conflict. Soft eyes staring into another’s reflecting the same paints a lovely picture of love. Stories without words come from this method of capturing time. People pass from our lives yet we hold their images, hold them dear.

My aunt before she passed, asked me who would want their travel slides when they were gone? Who would care? “I would,” I told her, and I meant it. What I would do with them, I did not know, but giving her a sense of caring was the gift I could give her. I would cherish those pictures because they were hers and of their life. Yet, the slides were tossed and no one there cared.

I don’t know what it is within me that holds so dear those I have in my life, those who have passed before and even those I have yet to know. It is not an easy thing to wear, but it is a burden I cherish. Pictures of places seen 100 years ago, families standing before a photographer looking through a big box under a black cloth, a look of love that passed between two lovers two weeks ago are not only for today, but a history for tomorrow as well. Truly, we pass this way only once. Someone should care. Someone should be the keeper.

Look at picture. Look at the color, the background, the faces, the captions that are missing. Look at day in time the happened for a fleeting moment. We are the keepers.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Thief

Apologies for not finishing my blogs this morning. A call took me to a visit with a friend ending with a visit to another friend who has MS and is bedridden.

Now I find it hard to find the words to express the emptiness I feel every time I leave the room with my lovely friend able to only move a few fingers. She tells me that she knows that my prayers are sustaining her. Yet, a voice inside of me asks why God is allowing such suffering. What finger points the finger and says, “You will suffer.” Such is life, right? Well, it just feels lousy.

Three women met 20+ years ago working on plays in a high school theatre department. Over decorating hats and dressing kids in costumes, we became best friends. Friends, whose lives went separate directions for many years, later would find one another once more. Now two of the friends are able to babysit their grandchildren, enjoy walking in the sun and driving their cars wherever they want to go. Tari cannot lift her granddaughter or wrap her arms around her little body. She cannot tuck her into bed. I’m sad. Where is the sense of it?

Diseases are thieves who rob from the body. The thief is the winner in the end. I can send prayers for Tari and her family. I can hold her hand and kiss her forehead when I leave her room. Her two friends decorate her room for each season, watch movies and eat lunches with her, but we can leave. She has no escape from her mattress prison.

Perhaps the lack of power we feel in this fight against disease reminds us of the strength we have in the love we give one another. Each time I leave Tari’s room, I hold more dearly those in my life, I don’t take for granted my children, my grandchildren. I will smell the fresh air and flowers for her, I will walk on the beach for her, I will appreciate a world she can only remember being part of. I can bring her stories of life and family. I bring to her a bit of the outside. Most of all I can still be her friend.

MS. A thief.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let's Talk

My old computer went to the great computer cemetery in Best Buy. After being drawn to a new, faster computer, one that would not be so hard on my hands, I found that all of the information that was to be downloaded was missing. Long story short: For 3 days I’ve been trying to get my computer set up with all of my files in residence. Downside: Computer is faster than the user. A new learning curve.

Also, the following is necessary dribble about future missing blog days: I am having 3 hand surgeries this year. The first will be next Monday. I am going to see how I am feeling so forgive me if I miss days of writing. Believe me, I miss it as much as maybe you do. I will be using my left hand as much as possible to keep up. So please be patient. I will do my best to stay on target and on my blog.

How was school today? So how is your book? Do you want to make a project, too? Is everything okay with Addy today?

Dialogue. Communication. What do we do to keep doors open? It doesn’t begin when children are teenagers. We give up a piece of us when we have children. We give up a piece of us in order to maintain who we are and who our children will become. I didn’t do well with this when I was a young mother. I was too caught up in my own happiness and needs. I forgot the best of me. I forgot the commitment I made to be the best mom and to give my all to my children….they were just children.

Each day I pick my granddaughters up from school, I put myself aside and listen. I know that Addy and Gabby had a disagreement earlier in the week. Gabby was sad, but on this day, when I bring it up, she is eager to tell me that they are once more friends. She rambles and I listen. The ramblings are more than stories, they are her feelings, her observations, a sharing that is essential for a good relationship and a healthy child. I put away my thoughts of what I have to do yet this day, all my worries about money and health, a house to clean, an errand to run, the list goes on. For a brief bit of time, I will be with these children before they go off on their own. I owe it to them and me to make the best of it.

Syd tells me about her new book. She is excited by the author and ready to write her book report. “You can read the book, Grammy”. She isn’t just asking me if I want to, she is offering me a chance to communicate. A simple request becomes another step forward in our relationship. I will read it so I know what she likes, to talk over the book, to grow in our communication adult and child.

We took a walk. Syd and Heather, a friend, ran ahead. Gabby and I talked of flowers peeking out from the winter earth and her friend’s chickens. Out of the blue, “I love you, Grammy.” Oh, if she only knew what those words meant to me and how I will cherish them. Our communication goes both ways.

Syd decided to scrape a large stick to use in a project. She tried using another stick, but it did not work. I could not give her knife, too risky. So I pulled out one of my father’s Indian scrapers. I figured if it worked for them, it should work for her. “Grams, will you come keep me company in garage while I scrape the stick.” Ah, she asked for my company. Another sign that communication and companionship are healthy. She knew that I would go because she knew I listened and cared.

Communication often is something we see, not hear. It is done by watching the children, listening with our eyes as well as our ears. A comment about something ordinary can also be a need to talk about what is left unsaid. We have good relationship, these girls and I. A similar one I failed to understand when I was in my 30’s and 40’s. There is nothing or anyone who should stand between a child and parent. No time, no space, no business that cannot wait. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children and my grandchildren. It is never too late to learn. I’m getting better at it.

“Grammy, Hannah got pushed out of wall ball from her group. I told her to go back and stand up for herself.” Lessons are learned…..we are the teachers. “Gabby, I’m so proud of you.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet Scent

The small bottle sat on the dresser. Channel No. 5. I wasn’t supposed to snoop, but she was my older sister. Why not?

This is probably a silly subject, but I was struck during my writing yesterday that I always associated the smell of dishwashing soap, flour, pie filling, all the things associated with keeping house with my mother. On laundry day, Mom smelled of detergent and fresh air from hanging clothes. Dad always smelled like grain and sweat. Not unpleasant. Just the smell of Dad. My sister informs me that since we only took a bath once a week and our clothes were not washed often and were few, we probably were smelly as were all the kids who lived as we did.

My childhood friend, Vivian, always wore Evening in Paris perfume (first formulated in 1929) that came in a pretty, little, blue bottle. It sells on ebay now under vintage. However, in 1992, Chanel (once more) reformulated it and now sell it as “the most popular fragrance in the world”. A small, blue bottle can be purchased for $39.

I don’t think I wore perfume until I was in high school. Then it was probably some Revlon or Max Factor brand. Boys coming into the picture made me want to smell better. In fact, with the advent of automatic washers and dryers and indoor plumbing, we all smelled a bit fresher.

Now I find that some fragrances make me feel ill. Some formulation is determined to tackle me as soon as I pass the perfume counter. All too often I fail to escape the attack of the lady standing there with a gigantic bottle of scent in her hand. I feel like a mosquito being stalked.

Finally a few years ago I found a fragrance that is me. Soft and sweet, it found me in a clothing store. Only one store in town carries it, and I treat each bottle with respect. It sits on my bathroom counter on a Spode plate along with a spray fragrance of lavender and one of vanilla for the girls. Last Wednesday after my granddaughters left, I went upstairs to the bathroom immediately drawn by a familiar scent. Gabby had evidently decided to try my fragrance along with enriching the bathroom with the same scent. How could I be angry? I once smelled a bottle of Channel No. 5.

I wonder if Vivian has any old blue bottles. Maybe I should tell her about ebay…….

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sparking the Brain

Now in this part of the brain……Occasionally, I get sidetracked. Well, quite often I get distracted and the mind takes off on a new adventure. This morning Alan Alda was on a PBS show “The Human Spark”, a show about the human brain. I didn’t catch all of the show, but what I watched was fascinating.

One line that has brought me to this point of distraction was that we are transported back to the past and into the future through debate and conversation, listening. By hearing new ideas, opening our minds to new thoughts and questions, we increase our own brain power. We are a people who are gaining in knowledge by this opening of new avenues in our brains. Well, I knew all that but did not know that learning to argue through debate could be a catalyst.

The day and age of ‘do what you are told’, ‘children should be seen and not heard’, the submissive wife and controlled child are gone….in some cultures. Perhaps this is one reason why women are enjoying new freedom, why people fight for their rights, why people can express and accept their sexuality and why progress seems to be moving faster than ever before. Brains are increasingly opening up to the wonders that we each hold.

When I am around my grandchildren, I am constantly reminded of communication and changing myself to deal with each new feeling seen or unseen that befalls each girl. I must reinvent my thinking, looking for new possibilities and probabilities, trying out the new thinking and adjusting as needed. I will not treat my children and grandchildren with a blind eye. For all that I can offer is what I learn and continue to learn. I cannot learn their lessons. They must do it on their own.

I like this discovering myself. Before I leave this place, I hope to have trekked into this grey mass opening more doors of thought and idea. Perhaps writing words on paper is a conversation I can have with myself allowing glimpses into a deeper part of me. How about you???

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fingers Crossed

"Grammy, we went to the school open house. I really want to go there. They have dancing, writing, Scrabble club. Oh, Grammy, I want to be picked."

Our school district has three specialty magnet schools. One is the Arts and Communications school. This school focuses arts in all classes from art to science. For a girl who loves to write, paint and draw, it calls to her.

I went to a small school. We did have music. I did some writing in English. Of course, I was thrilled to be in the class plays, but where was the encouragement to find my niche. My parents did not believe that you could make a living in the arts. Of course, they didn’t think of careers in writing for media, journalism, marketing, etc. My sister and I took dancing but had to hide the fact since our church did not believe in it. My next oldest sister was allowed to take art. Brat. Mom always did like her best. We all played the piano and an instrument. Mine was a saxophone. Yet, the arts were viewed as frivolity.

What path would my life have taken if I had the support I needed back then? I had some college credits under my belt before I got married. Later in my life I decided to go back to school. In investigating my options, I found that I could gain the maximum credits from my adult experience. At the time I was writing and producing social dramas and teaching acting classes. Twice I had gone to the college to find some encouragement. Both times I spoke to the head of the communications department and was told, “You are already doing what you love and making money. Why would you want to do this and end up with a big debt at the end of it?” Single mom = huge debt. Hm.

I did find my own path. It has not been easy. Maybe being laid off has helped push me in that direction. Maybe nothing could have prevented me from writing, from loving music and from teaching myself to draw, from teaching acting and writing plays.

My granddaughter is 10, almost 11. She will go into the 6th grade next fall. Already she is making decisions about her life direction. She understands that none of her friends will go to that magnet school. Since it is a school of 6th to 12th graders, she will have no prom, no sports and other things big schools present. She does know that she will be immersed in the things she loves. She is willing to make new friends. She is strong enough to walk into the unknown and grab on for the ride. She is my champion.

Her parents are listening to her and giving her a chance. I am proud of them. It would be easy for me to toss in my opinion, but this is a decision for which my granddaughter needs to be responsible.

“My fingers are crossed,” she said. Oh, Sweetie, my fingers are crossed, too.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Magician's Elephant Came to Visit

“Grammy, do you want to read the book Uncle got me when I’m finished?” she asked. “I have to write a book report.”

Before Christmas I had seen that Kate DiCamillo had written a new book, “The Magician’s Elephant”. A couple of years earlier, my son had wanted to buy Sydney the author’s other book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” but was told by the bookseller that he didn’t recommend it for a then 9-year-old. Then her teacher read it to the class. Sydney fell in love with the book and Kate DiCamillo. Sydney asked me to read the book. Can’t turn down a request from a grandchild.

I read this journey of Ed Tulane’s. I cried and cried as I followed him from page to page. The beautiful story was deep, inspiring. I marveled that Sydney could embrace this beautiful story so deeply causing her to cherish the book.

Then came the movie, The Tale of Despereaux. Again, Kate had written a story that made the shy brave and the weak strong. Already hooked, I became a total fan.

Last night I read the 201 pages wondering where the journey Ms. DiCamillo had offered me would end. Simple dialogue. Mental pictures coming to life. After finishing the book, sleep evaded me. The deeper meaning of the story rattled around in my groggy brain trying to take shape. The magician’s elephant had entered my head and would not leave.

What is it that draws my granddaughter to these books? Does she feel, realize the richness of the stories or does she merely read them as a tale? I know she cried when she read Edward Tulane’s tale. I am eager to talk this new story over with her today. I want to learn from her.

Books are an important part of my life. Usually I have two books going at once. One resides in my car for those times I eat alone. The other follows me around the house. Having a grandchild who loves reading as much as I do, pleases me. Having a granddaughter who wants to share her favorite books with me is awesome. Communication opens. Sharing evolves. Letting her know that she can inspire me, builds trust. It is the giving and taking that makes relationships grow more precious.

An elephant dropped into my life last night bringing with it hope, forgiveness, freedom. Kate DiCamillo. You are never too old for one of her journeys. You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Age

65, 75, 85, 95…….65, 75, 85, 95…….65. Oh, heck, I’ve been out of school for 45 years! Why didn’t someone tell me? No, that can’t be right. 65, 75, 85….. Well, darn.

Quietly, it comes when we aren’t looking. My bathroom mirror must surely be enchanted, because it makes me look pretty good. I later pass a mirror in another place and wonder what became of me between locations. My nose looks bigger, more wrinkles have attacked my eyes, the rings around my eyes have darkened. Hm. Maybe it’s the light. My mirror couldn’t lie.

My knee hurts, my hip hurts and my hands are looking at three surgeries this year. Oh, well, I guess it is true. I have gotten older.

But what of my brain? My memory is good……except for an occasional ‘oops’. I can still dance like I did as a kid. I can still sit on the floor and play horses (well, not for very long). I still like to play softball at a slower pace and color in coloring books with my granddaughters. So what’s with this aging thing????

How did I get to where I am so quickly? I remember my mother saying to me one of the last times I saw her, “It went by so fast. I didn’t know it would.” Yes, it goes by too fast.

A decade has become just a flash of passing time. The decades seem to have passed like a month. Of course, now the life span has extended. Centenarians are not rare. My grandfather and uncle lived into their nineties. I guess it is possible that I have a few decades left in me.

It comes quickly, this realization of age. I think I will start counting with anticipation and excitement. It’s time to embrace time, to see how good I can make my years and how much I can contribute to a positive future.

65….75…85….Ah, still comes out the same.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sweet Moments of Love

My mind is reeling with all of the activity of the last week. What a beautiful time we all shared! However, something was missing….my blog. I missed writing, emptying this brain full of words and finding out what lies within this woman. Thank you for coming back to hear ‘A Grandparent’s Voice’.

Poised, in love and gracious, my son waited for his bride.

This son of mine is a deeply sensitive man. The love he has for family is a love he shares with friends. No one is left out. I sat watching as I had since he was a baby reading the look on his face, knowing what he felt. Maybe it came from knowing when a child has a dirty diaper of is just discontent with being in a small body that cannot accommodate the desire to do more. Moms know their kids. And, here I sat looking at this man who had overcome his own struggles to evolve from that small child to this handsome, sweet man.

Even though I knew I was not losing a son, my heart was full of emotion. I wanted once more to see his little fingers tap the piano keyboard as he stood on his toes enabling him to barely touch them. I wanted once more to hold him in my lap and kiss his downy head. I have tapes of he and his sister singing children’s songs when he could barely pronounce the words, this boy who became a man with a voice that reaches the soul. I wanted once more to play Star Wars with him, watch White Christmas all year long as we always have and to share long chats about things he shared with a friend called Mom.

He stood there in his black tuxedo coat, white vest and white tie. He is a silver fox with his white/grey hair. Everyone commented that he looks like Anderson Cooper. Maybe he does. He is a handsome man. His eyes sparkle with love deeper than he has ever known. He said his vows to this woman of his heart. They were words of love that we were permitted to hear even though you would have thought they were alone sharing a private moment. The ceremony was filled with laughter and joy. Guests became friends sharing this moment next to one another. A marriage.

I have a new ‘daughter’ now. I love her very much. How could I shed tears with so much love in the air? I asked my youngest granddaughter what she was going to say to the bride and groom after the ceremony. In all sincerity she answered, “Now you have to go to the doctor and get your baby.”

Ah, sweet moments.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Blog Until Jan. 20

Wedding week. Company coming and the time has come for my son to be married. I will resume writing late next week. Please come back and visit with me then.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nobody Understands Me

‘You don’t understand me. Nobody does.’ Ah, echoes….I hear echoes.

No one can know the origin of that phrase. I would imagine that cave teens had a way to express the same feelings. ‘No one understands me. You aren’t listening.’

I’m sure that my first use of those words came when I was quite young. I was always trying my parents for one reason or another. Most of the time, I was probably trying to get their attention. My daughter started with attitude in middle school. The butting of heads, the slamming of doors, words that at another time you will wish had never been said. My son was a senior in high school when he began his rebellious dialogue. It seemed to happen overnight.

It’s a hard thing we do, this growing up, leaving home. The realization that we can make up our own minds and actually have opinions to express doesn’t always make for good communication with those we love. Children want to be heard and recognized. Parents find it hard to let go and to control. Soon no one is listening to anyone. As my son has said, “It made it easier to leave home.”

Sydney is 10 and already beginning rebellion has begun to bud. Feelings worn on her sleeve are easily brought to life by a younger sister. A younger sister feels the age difference as her older sister picks on her. A positive grandma is just fuel for the fire.

I want to yell, “You’ll be sorry. I’ll be dead some day.” Probably not the best approach. “I love you, but right now I don’t like you” doesn’t work when inviting reconciliation. So what does work?

Last night Syd was watching The Nanny. I caught a bit of it when the nanny told the mother, “Only say it once and expect results.”

This morning I woke up to a girl with attitude. I tried the soft voice and understanding. I tried the firm approach pointing out that treating someone the way you want to be treated might be a nice change. Finally, I decided that there really wasn’t anything I could say to pull this 10-year-old out of her 18-year-old rebellion. So I ignored the attitude and started to look at old pictures. I passed fun photos back to the girls on the sofa. Soon Syd was on the floor looking at pictures, the attitude remained on the sofa.

Sometimes I want to rebel. I want to say, “I don’t like my life. No one listens. No one understands me.” But over the years I have learned that I am in charge of how I view my life and how I respond to it. How do I teach my grandchildren to embrace life instead of fight it?

Lead by example. Learn with love. That’s really the bottom line, isn’t it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Whoop, There It Is

‘Grandma didn’t quite get ‘whoop, there it is’. She is 82.’ One never knows what will pop up on Facebook. This caught my eye. A friend’s grandma didn’t understand the phrase. The post brought on more dialogue from younger women about their aging parents and grandparents.

This image we have of grandparents being out of sync, too old to try new things, illiterate in the use of the computer, etc. is archaic, not true. I need to set the record straight. My qualifications? I’m a grandma.

My mother was a trail blazer. In her later years after Dad was gone, she began reading more. The books opened her mind to new ideas. She looked at things differently than she had before. Her faith, the world, her family, she found new meaning and discovered new questions.

In retrospect, I think that I was always trying to push buttons, to find new ways of doing things, questioning everything and even rebelling. I guess I am not much different at 62. I seem to absorb the world around me looking for reasons, looking beyond what I see, learning in new ways, learning new things. Now how exciting is that!?!?!? The computer became almost a game, an adventure. I could look through all parts of the computer and not destroy it. I could create by trial and error. I could step into a world of technology and succeed…..or fail and learn.

Perhaps I found this freedom when I was divorced and had to do more on my own. I had to establish credit, buy a home, be laid off and survive, date. Yes, failure. Yes, learning. Yes, sometimes success.

I just bought a pair of 2” heel, leather boots. I wear a leather jacket. I listen to classical music as well as new artists. I still love to dance. I’m teaching myself the ukulele. I’ve put myself on the line trying to get my writing published. I have a list of places I plan to visit and things ‘I will do.’ I still experiment with make up and new styles of clothing. I love to be challenged, to learn, to reinvent myself.

I am on a one person campaign to change this image of grandma. I want my grandchildren to see that there is no end to their creativity, their evolution. There is no end to what I can be and what I can learn.

Come on, Grandparents, unit! There’s a new world coming.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Purse

The Man Bag. The Today Show is doing a segment on ‘Men’s Bags’ better known by we women as purses. Two football players come in carrying bags. A clutch bag! I’m laughing out loud. The ‘man’ element is strong while they talk about this usually ‘woman’ subject. Most of them look like brief cases. Some are duffle bags, Some are backpacks. I love it!!!!

When my children were little, I carried a diaper bag, a purse, a baby carrier. I was the champion of carryalls. When I worked, I thought fashion. Black shoes=black purse. Jeans=casual bag. I had bags for going out, for staying in, for evening wear. Bags were for summer, bags were for winter. When I traveled, I packed purses for every possible occasion or I tried to find one that was both black and brown matching any pair of shoes I wore at any given time.

Being a short woman, I soon discovered that I needed to carry a bag that was in proportion to my size. Instead of the bag carrying me, I needed to be in control. Closets were cleaned, purses taken to Goodwill and new purses took up less closet space.

What do we women carrying in our purses? Well, when my children were younger, I carried snacks, toys, paper and pen along with the standard fill. It was a survival kit. Band aids, safety pins, Chap Stick, Tylenol all resided near at hand ‘just in case’. Make up was a staple in case I cried, ran into a rain storm, found a random kiss or perspired my face off. Small scissors, nail file, hair brush, hand cream, etc. were handy in case of hang nails, broken fingernails, wind storms and soft hands in case of a random chance to hold hands.

When I worked, I carried a book, fat wallet full of coupons, pictures, credit cards, ID and business cards. It gave the impression of holding great amounts of money. Ha! The makeup kit was larger in case I was asked out later. Sometimes even a pair of nylons or a pair of shoes would find residence in the bag.

When I hit 50, I decided that this huge purse thing was highly overrated. There wasn’t a lot that could be done to make me look 30 again. I had no children to entertain or feed. I carried my book in a backpack in my car in case I dined somewhere alone. Hang nails could wait until I got home. A Kleenex could staunch the blood if I was wounded. My hair was a lost cause so no brush or comb would be needed. Hand holding and kissing were now focused on my grandchildren. Chap stick now substituted for lipstick.
I had no credit cards. I had no money. I had 2 pictures that I cherished. The wallet gave way to a compartment in my purse. The check book was replaced by a debit card. Yes, the small purse was perfect.

At 60 the aches set in. My back was constantly reminding me that I was older. I still carried the small purse on occasion, but found that I could carry ID in my back pocket, my Kleenex in my front pocket and all else could wait until I got home or back to the car. No bag to weigh on the shoulders and all was well.

I don’t know why men want to carry a purse. I always envied that they could get by with pockets. I even recently saw that some designers are putting pockets into the seams of wedding gowns.

My next transition: a Kleenex stuffed up my sleeve.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is Your Mommy Lost?

“Mommy! Mommy!” his little voice cried out. The boy, no more than 3 or 4, stood alone in the aisle sobbing and crying for his mother. Not a sole was in sight. Even though I teach my granddaughters not to go with strangers, there was no choice but to help the boy.

“Is your mommy lost?” I asked.

“Mommy!” he sobbed. I told him we could walk over to the service desk, so they could call his mommy. He took my hand. I asked the clerk if she would call then sat on the floor and asked his name. His weeping frame crawled into my lap. I lifted his face again asking his name. Big elephant tears made their way from beneath his little round glasses running down his little round cheeks. I could not understand the language he spoke. I did understand the language of security when is arms wrapped around me and he sobbed into my vest.

“I’ll stay right here with you until your mommy comes.” I sat on the floor next to my cart holding this precious child. We had formed a trust in just a few minutes. I would protect him with my life, and he would let me. For about 10 minutes we sat as such, me rocking him as I would one of my own, him snuggled as close as he could get seeking safety. Where was she? Didn’t she realize her small child was missing from her side?

How often do I go into a store passing the toys only to find children playing in the aisle with toys scattered around them? Not a parent in sight. Toys are dirty and broken, boxes opened. I am angry at the parents who are concerned about their shopping and not their children.

There is nothing I would not have done for my children. Yes, maybe I should have taken more time for myself as they were growing up, but I have no regrets. Whatever I did, whatever decisions I made, I tried to think first about my children. They didn’t see things the way I did. I needed to see things as they did. As my friend said, “How can kids understand what adults expect or tell them when they are just trying to learn to tie their shoes?”

I sat on the floor with this little boy because I understood that looking up at strangers would be terrifying. He needed someone at his level, bending to his needs. I knew that a comforting tone not drilling him with questions was important. Should I have held him? I had no choice. The mother in me kicked in, and I would have stood off a pack of wolves for this little boy.

The woman eventually moseyed down the aisle talking to a man a bit younger and holding a toddler. She looked at this grams holding her son not even picking up her pace. Eventually, they got to us. She said his name. Still he clung to me unable to hear her over his sobs. Gently, I pulled him back and told him to look behind him. She called again. He quickly got up and ran to her hugging her knees. She hardly touched him, said thank you and walked away.

For a few seconds, I sat there. I wanted to grab the woman and shake her up. Did she realize what a precious gift she had in this son of hers? Her response said pages to this little boy. Did she care? Too bad she was inconvenienced!!!

The store manager thanked me for what I had done. Thanks? I’d done nothing special. Aren’t we the protectors of children? Aren’t we a part of the whole who does what we are supposed to do? Maybe I was placed in that place, at that moment for a reason. Who knows? I do know that a piece of my heart went with that little boy. Maybe it will be enough to give him a glimpse of something more than what he now possesses.

Bless the beast and the children for in this world they have no voice…..they have no choice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cast Forever

The driver fit into the front bench seat of the carriage. Four horses stood ready. The man and woman fit into the back of the carriage. Their knees bent and a little bump on their butts fitting into the seat. The cast iron carriage at Grandad’s house was the best.

Mom and Dad had a cast iron carriage as well with fewer horses. They also had an Amish couple who stood watch in the kitchen window. At Christmas the cast iron skier and skater took to the glass mirror surrounded by fake snow.

When we moved to our house on the old Lawrence place, we found many treasures that had been left behind. The barn was full of old magazines that had never been thrown away over the years as well as piles upon piles of newspapers. Mice abounded, and I stayed out of the barn. Among the pieces of broken furniture and old crockery, we found a cast iron Model T still blue after many, many years and pieces of a cast iron train with one engine minus wheels and in bad shape, a train car rusted and another engine in perfect condition. We loved it.

One day we left the farm to go to work. The cast toys in the garage. Our area was one where people did not lock their houses. When we came home from work, we found the perfect engine gone. It had been stolen. Our neighbor only noticed the oil man coming to our house. We never saw it again.

Original cast iron toys are now treasures. I think old is better than new. These old toys mean a great deal to me. I remember playing with the cast iron toys at my grandfather’s home thinking that my father had played with them, too. These toys endure forever carrying memories for generations. Sturdy, no buttons to push, no screen to entertain.

I wonder if the train engine was sold or if someone else treasures it as much as we did. These toys will be passed on along with the stories….cast forever in time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Where Are My Keys

Why do I get my best ideas in the car????? What is it that triggers the thoughts that immediately need to be on paper when I am sitting in a car? Yes, I have a voice recorder, but it cannot capture all that is going through my brain. Plus I guess I can get a ticket now if I have it up to my face. I compose stories and poems. I even write songs in the car. Whatever it is this ‘talent’ sometimes causes me to take side trips.

Sydney’s 5th grade teacher asked if I would see if I could come up with some sort of theatre games or skits pertaining each of the three mandatory topics that must be covered before the end of the year. Having just met with my friend, Heather, talking over our theatre projects, my mind was ripe for this ‘auto’ brain power.

I began making up a rap song about smoking. Soon the rap gave way to a choral rap that could be done by the entire class with each kid having a solo. Wow, my car is magical!!!! I pulled into Dairy Queen which is only about ¼ mile from my house deciding that I would stay more on task if I didn’t go home to work. Writing on receipts and napkins, I penned as fast as I could empty this grey mass. Running out of paper, I was forced to hurry home.

By now I had the choral presentation started and was on to the next topic of drugs. That plan was easy. The class would write their own play with help from a class grandma. Yes, the wheels were turning.

A couple of answers have come to me this morning. Answers to the dilemma on how to present a verbal and visual program for kids that will influence their lives and that of those around them. The next answer that came to me was a surprise. I have been laid off for a very long time. Not many people want to hire a 62-year-old grandma with arthritic hands. But there is something I can do. I write. I have written programs in the past for performance for students on many topics. Maybe I can put together a non-profit that can provide programs for teachers and students. A way for them to learn and grow together creating a step forward in understanding and change.

I don’t know how to put together a business as these ideas abound in this head of mine. Maybe if I sit in my car for awhile, more answers will come or maybe someone will knock on the window and have a suggestion.

Hm. Where are my keys?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mesmerized

Mesmerized I sat at the traffic light watching the trees. They moved to an unheard melody that made them dance in unison. I knew the light would change soon and would take me away from this display of movement. For just a moment, I thought I heard their song.

As a kid I would sit by the fireplace with my dad watching the flames reach for the flue. He would tell me stories of the past. I would listen. We talked of the dancing fire in shades of red….yellow….blue. At Camp Sugar Grove we walked past the girls cabins down the path to the campfire circle. There we sang Kum Ba Yah and Kookaberra. Stories were told as we watched sparks fly into the darkness. The fire warmed us and took us more deeply into ourselves.

The beautiful Pacific Ocean does that for me. As waves fade and roll back to the open sea, they form once more bringing me back again as they kisses the shore. I’m not sure what holds me there, but I cannot look away. As I walk the beach, I sing at the top of my lungs and often shed tears of sorrow or of the overwhelming feelings embracing me as I realize the power of God. I cannot look away even though I am not sure what I am seeking out there in the blue.

I guess I do the same with the sky wondering what lies out there in the darkness full of twinkling lights. The realization that I’m sitting on a ball floating in the mass of space pulls me back to the reality of the fragility of this globe that holds our lives.

Mesmerized.

The same feelings grab hold of me when I look at my grandchildren. Sometimes I want to cry at the depth of loving. I want to hold on to each moment replaying these fleeting glimpses that will some day pass away to other moments just as precious. How often did I hold my children’s small hands and feet marveling at these perfect miniatures? A kiss of a downy head and am as touched as if I viewed a mountain vista, the roaring ocean, a volcano fresh from eruption.

Mesmerized. I should have been an adventurer.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Receive. It Does A Body Good.

The invitations were out, a huge anniversary party planned. Their daughters were not there.

Raised in a faith that stresses that it is more blessed to give than to receive, this receiving thing was a bit uncomfortable for me. I love giving gifts. The thrill of finding something that will make that other person beam is a real high. Doing something for someone in need, involvement in a project, anything that makes someone else smile makes us feel really good. It is what we should do. Well, that’s just half of the story. For every giver, there must be a receiver.

Mom and Dad didn’t like to receive anything from anyone. It had something to do with this thing called pride. My parents had to be doers. Receiving was not something they even considered. This was never so evident than in their senior years. They who had always been the caregivers could not easily accept the care giving.

I wrote a play about receiving, about the humbleness we need show when accepting something from someone else. This thing of receiving was new to a lot of people. Not many stop to think that someone needs to receive in order for someone else to experience the thrill of giving.

Mom and Dad had their 50th wedding anniversary coming up. The Loxley daughters wanted to make the occasion special inviting friends from our growing up years as well as community and lifelong friends. Mom wouldn’t hear of it. She did not want us having all of these people come in to celebrate them. Wow, that hurt. We three girls wanted to see these faces from our past. We wanted to give to our parents a huge gift from our hearts, but Mother forbade it. Strongly forbade it.

Then the news came. Some people from the church were having the big celebration for them. Mom and Dad were thrilled. Pictures for us were taken of the church social room packed with people, people we hadn’t seen for years and would possibly never see again. Mom and Dad were thrilled and loved every minute. Wow, the people who did this for them were wonderful. However, their children weren’t invited. I’m not sure any of us would have gone had we been. It hurt. We could never do anything for Mom and Dad without an argument. Yes, it hurt.

There is a need for more receivers. Where is the graciousness that comes with accepting something from someone else, whether we need it or even want it. We givers are excited to see the smiles and to see the difference in someone else’s eyes. Christ accepted many gifts with great joy and thanks. So what was up with our church not promoting receiving?

If I want to give something to you, please take it. Be a grateful receiver. Understand what your children want to do for you. Understand that your grandchildren need to see that you are a humble receiver saying in all humility a simple “thank you”.

I am trying to be a receiver delighting in the effort put for the by the giver. I wonder if the givers realizes the gift I give back in my receiving.

My new year’s resolution: Receive. It is blessed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010

Today involved spending time with my son. We watched Northwestern lose a great game. We packed up Christmas decorations. And, my back went out. Did this deter me? No.

I went to the house of good friends to watch Buckeye's pounce all over the Ducks. Feather flying and good friends picking on one another.

Finally off to dinner with another good friend at her sister's house. A friend I've known most of my time in Oregon.

It was a good day. A good start to a new year, a new decade. Sometimes I find my life lonely. I long for more time with my kids like I had when they were little. I miss my sisters with an aching that continues day to day. I find that I am content living alone, but miss that companionship at the end of the day.

With anticipation and hope, I walk into a new year. I walk in faith.