Monday, May 31, 2010

Bouffant to Beatnik


What to wear? What to wear? Next weekend my son and wife are having a 1960’s themed party. All guests are requested to dress accordingly and to bring an appetizer in keeping with that decade. Baloney layered with cream cheese, right?

1960’s. A time of rebellion. A step from the past into the many shades that would become the 60’s. A transition from reserved to extreme, from cries of war to cries of peace. Perhaps one of the most turbulent, changing decade in American history. I know. I was there.


My children have never asked me about my life in the 60’s yet they enjoy the freedoms brought forward from that time. From teenager to bride, I saw the many changes those years created. When I was in high school, we wore bubble hairstyles, mohair sweaters and skirts. No jeans or pants were allowed. One of the boys was kicked out of school, because he had long hair. Of course, he wore a leather jacket as well…..obviously, a bad example for the rest of us. Oh, we were fighting the bonds that held us. I went from wearing pleated and straight skirts when I graduated in 1965 to mini-skirts just a few years later.


It was a time of change. We were the change.

In my search for ‘party attire’, I paged through some old Life Magazines I still have from those years. They hold stories of the Kennedy’s, Martin Luther King, blacks allowed in the churches and men walking on the moon. Ads filled the pages: Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Pizza in a box, Chesterfield King, cars that could seat 16 (I exaggerate), Alcoa siding and Mrs. Filberts Margarine were just a few of the ads filling our lungs with cancer, our diets with fat and introducing pizza to our kitchens and cars that would rob our atmosphere. Ah, the good ‘ol days.

What other period in time encompassed such an expansive clothing evolution? It began with the remnants of the 50’s, with little print dresses and sweaters for the women and suits and hats for the men. In an age of beatniks and hippies, of hairstyles changing to natural from teased and clothing from bell bottoms and tie dye to see-through and bra-less. Pencil skirts were replaced with mini-skirts and go-go boots. Pegged jeans turned into frayed jeans covering our feet. Women wore wine-glass heeled shoes as men turned to dress boots. Platform shoes found both sexes. Nehru jackets, fringed vests, ties that changed yearly from thin to extra wide, from plain to flowered gave men new freedom. It was a time of extremes, a time youth finding a voice.


Hair changed as much as the clothing. Afros came into style for whites as well as blacks. I rolled my hair on huge rollers in high school for that straight look later cutting it short in the pixie style that Twiggie made popular. Wigs were in fashion. Every woman I knew had a wig box, a faceless holder and wig to make life easier for the new working woman. I actually got a wig for Christmas in 1969. Make up ranged from carefully applied in the early 60’s to pale and invisible in the mid-60’s. Pierced ears came into fashion. And beads made a statement. Gloves became vintage and non-existent. The youth of America had found their voice in a decade of turmoil in a cry for change.

My granddaughters dress up in old clothes from earlier times. Peasant dresses, old net formals with crinolines beneath, hats once worn by fashionable women. Of course, none of them fit me, so I’m going for a simpler look, one that I discovered one night back in the 60’s. My boyfriend, Gary, and I decided to step out of our comfort zone. These farm kids made their way to Dayton and The Lemon Tree, a coffee house. A man sat at the back of a lit platform playing bongo drums as a woman sat in the spotlight on a stool reciting poetry. At the end of her reading, the audience snapped their fingers in appreciation. It was a new age. We who were raised in the remnants of the conservative ‘50’s were stepping out to sample the changing decade.

I have plenty of black and, even though I cannot grow a goatee, I can be a beatnik. I wish I had the old bongos that my sister June had given me way back then. They were at the farm when we had sale, but somewhere over the years, the skin had been torn. I didn’t know how to skin a goat to repair the damaged bongo so they remained in Ohio.

Our children may not ask, but there is a story in our past, a story that should be passed on.

Where are my sunglasses?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The World We Hand You

Oil pours from the ocean floor. Trees are stripped from mountains once teeming with growth and wildlife that resided in the branches, hid in the darkness of a forest. Plastic bottles and nets float in our ocean snagging the creatures who have known this home from the beginning of time. Lack of food source, disappearing glaciers, those who hunt and still think they have a right to take from the earth, create a growing list of extinct animals. Where does it stop?

The drive from Portland to the Pacific Ocean is a drive through nature paradise. Deep forests line the highway, a highway that was designed to do as little to nature as possible. Once I saw an elk and her baby standing next to the road. At places the rambling stream can be seen rushing over rocks. Logging roads meander off away from the road into the depths of the forest. Coming once more to the beach, an Oregon shoreline protected from Astoria to the California border.

Part of the scene in the drive to the coast includes patches of lumber taken from the forest creating bald strips across the landscape. Yes, as the lumber is taken, new trees are planted to preserve the forests. The view was different this time. I stood on the balcony overlooking the coastal range. The hills were nude, raped of the timber that had so beautifully graced their peaks and valleys. The only deep forest I could see was on the cape.

Last week two whales washed up on our sandy beaches. One was a baby. Cause of death is still unknown. The calf was bleached white. They both had signs of starvation.

When I was a child, we played in the trees, drank fresh water and didn’t know anything about ecology, about recycling, about saving our planet. We hoped to have our children live and thrive before the end of the world came about some thousands of years away. We wondered if we would live to see the year 2000.

Some people do not believe in climate change. They still believe that despite the signs, we will continue to survive a normal world. They believe that there is no change, only people trying to scare us. No arguing will change their minds. They will still cut down trees to build homes and corporations while many stand empty. They will still use pesticides. They will still justify their passions, the passions that scar and injure and destroy.

I am a mother and a grandmother. What is going to be left for my family? I know I have talked about this in the past, but seeing mile after mile of raped forest, knowing that the mighty whale (mammals of the sea) are dying by our hands, traveling from Florida to Indiana seeing hill after hill of buried trash, scares the dickens out of me.

No answers here, only regret and concern. How do we explain this to our grandchildren? The beautiful earth that was handed to us will be passed on along with the problem, the changes. I have no answers only apologies to my children for the world we hand you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In-laws or Outlaws

Tears filled his eyes. I hadn’t seen him in a few years. Now he was fading laying in the bed next the window. A father and daughter reunited for a final time.

I called them family. It didn’t start that way but ended with my heart wrapped around these two people. Oh, we had our ups and downs these people who came along with my new husband. They were not my parents. They were his.

It’s a difficult thing this blending of families. My in-laws were nothing like my family. I really wasn’t even sure I wanted them as family, but I loved their son and was determined to make them my own. Over the years we had our battles. Some were painful yet in looking back, I think they were times of building a relationship that would remain and embrace our children.

When my daughter married, I found that having a son-in-law was equally awkward. This relationship between two families viewed from the other side, that of the mother-in-law. I wanted a relationship with this wonderful young man similar to that which had grown with my in-laws. I wanted to hear him call me ‘Mom’. I wanted to have that connection that I had worked so hard to have with Miles and Anna. When my son married. I knew right off the bat that I would not be ‘Mom’. She had a Mom, and I was a mother-in-law. I would never gain that title. Each relationship is different. Ours will be different. That’s okay.

The bond I formed with my in-laws was important to me. I wanted us to be a family. I wanted my children to understand how much we loved one another. I walked through the fire to forge that relationship. I have no regrets. I learned to be humble. I learned to bite my tongue. I learned to negotiate. I learned to accept differences. I learned tolerance. I learned to love two people who were strangers to me. I learned that divorce did not separate them from me. I learned to call them Mom and Dad and to love them with all my heart.

Dad’s eyes lit up when he saw me. He knew how hard I had tried all of those years. He knew that he got to see his grandchildren because I saw to it. He knew that I loved him with all my heart.

“Oh, I love you,” he said. Oh, I loved him back.

My tears reflected his. I held his hand and knew at that moment he was a father to me. He had loved me as a daughter. I said good-bye to Dad knowing that this was the last parent I would hold.

In-laws. In love. In struggle. In a lifetime. The other parents of my heart.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Stroll Through the Past

What's My Line, My Little Margie, Alfred Hitchcock, Sugarfoot. All of you over 60 know what I'm talking about. If you want to take a fun stroll through the past, check out my other blog at www.neffroad.blogspot.com for a smile or two.

Winging It

“Grammy, what is an on-i-on?” asked Gabby.

“What?” I asked once more scrambling to get a handle on a question that came out of nowhere.

“An on-i-on?” she repeated.

The grandmother’s handbook must have a section on translation. I remember when my daughter would ask for more skapetti. Of course, sitting at the table looking at the evening meal, I knew that she meant spaghetti. Maybe I’m on the page. I’ll check the index for ‘adorable pronunciations.

Okay, I lied. I don’t have a handbook for grandmas. No, I’m writing my own handbook each day I spend with my grandchildren as I did with my own children. If I had such a book, the intro would include: At no time show fear or doubt. They can detect phonies. Wing it whenever possible.

“On-i-on.” I replied looking around the store. Of course, on paper, it is evident what she is asking, but standing at the coffee cart, I was drawing a blank.

“There, Grammy. On that sign.”

She has learned to divide words to sound them out. Well, duh, Grams, onion, onion!

Redeeming myself, I said, “You are awesome. I never looked at the spelling that way. Good job!”

Once in awhile I still say “refrigalator” just to remind myself of the once innocent moments of my now 38 year old daughter. I chuckle remembering the small, curly headed sweetheart. Now her daughter has given me a new chuckle. I will never look at an onion and not think of her, probably repeating ‘on-i-on’.

This winging it gets more difficult as the grandchild grows. The questions are deeper with more meaning. The answers must be honest and appropriate for the child’s age. Sometimes the questions are silent, and we grandparents must read them anyway finding a way to create dialogue. Those moments are equally as memorable and sometimes very difficult.

Now I try to find ways to communicate with my grown child. The separation began with my divorce 28 years ago and never quite healed. She never knew the questions to ask. I had no answers, only pain. Maybe I will do better this time with her children. I’m still winging it.

Maybe the next time you make skapetti, going to the refrigalator to get an on-i-on, you will remember to add your pages to the grandparenting handbook. Each page is important, you know.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Step On A Crack

‘Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.’ The rhyme ran through my brain as I walked down the Promenade that ran parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Of course, as the words rotated through my brain I noticed that my feet refused to step on a crack. The more I watched, the more amazed I was that they had set a rhythm that dodged each break in the sidewalk.

“I just noticed that I avoid cracks in the sidewalk,” I said to my friend.

“You know, I do, too,” she replied.

Two women long past their youth, with no grandchildren in sight, and still they walked between the cracks.

My mother never had a broken back. I noticed that my sister, June, doesn’t hesitate to step on cracks. Mom would have been a pretzel because of her if the rhyme was true. I don’t have a broken back and my kids trounced on the lines. Maybe they did just to see if I would fall over broken. Wouldn’t put it past them.

Perhaps second childhood is making a comeback for my friend and I. Or maybe old habits are just hard to forget.

“Grammy, do you know what happens if you step on a crack?” Gabby asked when she was younger. Everything is new for children. It seemed wrong to tell her that my grandparents and great grandparents probably repeated the same rhyme. So I let her tell me what it meant and avoided cracks….well, I was probably avoiding them anyway and didn’t realize it.

I decided to check online to see what origins I could find for the saying. The explanations run from simple to terrifying to stupid.

Well, I feel stupid when I don’t step on cracks, and it is terrifying to discover that I am on ‘auto avoidance’. I think I’ll start walking on the lines. I can’t break Mom’s back. I might trip on a crack and break my own, but I’m willing to take the chance.

Time for change! Go wild! Step on a crack!!!!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I Missed You, Too

“Grammy, when will I see you again? I missed you,” my granddaughter asked after staying at my house the day I returned from the beach. “I really missed you.”

I missed her, too, but hearing it from her lips meant the world to this grandma. Precious words that will reside in my heart with all of the other precious actions and words that have come from this sweet girl.

I swear she has grown since I left four days earlier. She seems taller and our conversations seem a bit different. This eleven year old is becoming a young woman. Our relationship will change. For now, I will take what I can get and savor each moment. For all too soon, these moments with my granddaughters will be grown, and I will warm by the fires of these precious times.

I wish I could remember all of the wonderful things my children said, all of the cute surprises that caught me off-guard. As a busy mother, I didn’t take time to jot down these antics or believe that I would ever forget them. Once in awhile one is shook lose by some tiny thread bringing back the smiles that accompanied the moment. How I wish I could sit with a notebook in hand and read the entries, that I could giggle and recall the pictures in my mind as vividly as the actual events. Ah, our moments with our children.

Today was the first I saw Gabrielle since my return. My hand was never cold from loss of a small, warm hand in mine. Eating lunch was snug with her pressed against my side. We were puzzle pieces once more finding the niche. I relived my trip to the beach and she relived the week at school. Yes, I was home.

How do we tell our children how important these moments are and will be to them in their older years? How do we tell them that a hug from the heart, a moment to stop what you are doing to listen to the child, the nights you don’t sleep with a little one kicking or laying on top of your head are the best moments they will ever experience?!

Maybe the time I take with these young ones will be memories they will carry on. My children did not have grandparents nearby. So we’ll try this generation.

“Syd, why don’t you just come live with me? I missed you,” I teased her.

“Okay,” she replied.

My bet is that she will always know that she has a place of refuge, that she has will always be home in my home, that she has a grandma who is capturing the moments and writing them on her blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where Was I?

Where were you when Mt. St. Helens blew? Today Oregonians are asking the question. The day is remembered by televisions specials and retold in the classrooms. Where were you?

We had only been in Oregon a couple of years. James was six and Stacey nine. Every day for the last few weeks before that event in 1980 we Oregonians were watching news reports. Washington’s lovely mountain stood regally overlooking Portland. It was part of our landscape. Now it was spitting plumes and rumbling beneath the earth.

I was at home the day it blew. Glued to the TV screen I waited along with everyone else for Mt. St. Helens to wake up from her ancient sleep. Of course, there were the non-believers, those who didn’t think the pyroclastic blast would reach them or didn’t believe the mountain would blow at all. We were believers. We had felt the earth quake and had seen the emissions increase from the mountain. What was not to believe?????

The enormous cloud billowed violently from the crater. Lightening caused by ash friction streaked throughout the cloud. Flashing light against the hellish grey. As soon as it blew, we hopped in the car and drove up into the hills overlooking the city. This cloud, this site that really can’t be explained, slammed the message right into our faces. The power of nature had awakened, and we could do nothing but watch. In those moments, I felt very small and vulnerable.

As we sat there, the kids played in the rocks where we sat pulling on grass and not aware of the surreal occurrence happening right before their eyes. I sat wondering if the ash would find its way to Portland, to our water source. We had masks at home. We knew that we were not to wipe ash from our cars since it would scratch the vehicles. We knew that you were to stay inside when the ash fell. We were as prepared as we could be.

The cloud did reach our home. I knew it was coming. We had been warned. I was at home alone with the kids. My husband was on business in California.

“I’m getting out of here as soon as possible. If the plane can land, I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” he told me as I stood on the back stoop wondering when it would arrive.

“I don’t think you will make it in. I can hear it coming,” I replied. I could hear the ash fall to the earth, sounding like rain making its way to our house. It covered the picnic table, the roof of the house, the street and filled the gutters.

Not long after the mountain had calmed from its violent journey, we took the kids and drove up the Toutle River following the road that lead to the mountain. The ash line on the trees along the river was at least fifteen feet above our heads. A house had been swept away. Only a half buried rug remained. Further up the road we saw a car packed to the roof with ash. A home was filled with ash above the windows. How amazing more had not vanished with the blast. Trees laid over stripped of limbs. All plants and wildlife vanished blackened from the burn of the angry volcano. We could not see Spirit Lake for the burned timber that covered it. It was a volcanic graveyard.

We are a part of history with our small jars of ash as souvenirs and old newspapers recalling the event saved let our children and grandchildren glimpse of what we experienced.

Where was I on May 18, 1980? I was watching God’s earth in her fury reminding me to be humble.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Look, Listen and Don't Get Eaten by a Snake

A walk in the woods with grandchildren is a lesson in the senses. Shhhhhh. Listen. I’m talking in a quiet voice so I don’t disturb the sounds nature.

The skateboarder comes barreling down the path, his radio blaring.

“So what do you think of that?” I asked the girls.

“He can’t hear the sounds, Grammy,” Sydney replies.

“Listen to the sounds, Grammy. Hear them?” Gabby adds.

Yes, I could hear them. We didn’t need a computer, TV or one of the other ways that youth are entertained. Nope. We had the nature trail with its own music.

The Nature Centre is a place we like to hike. Well, we really don’t hike. We stop every few feet to check out something that has caught the eye of one of the three of us. Tree shapes are noticed. Toadstools grow in fascinating forms. A chipmunk romps beside us.

“Okay, this is something you knew last summer. What is that grey stuff growing on the tree limbs?”

“Moss,” guessed Syd.

“No, it is lichen,” I replied.

“Why don’t they call it grey moss?” she tossed back.

Always questions. Always debate. Always thinking.

“That would make more sense,” I replied.

We sat on a bench eating our snack. Cheetos and lemonade. I know. The snacks may not be healthy, but they are the bread crumbs leading to a walk through the trees. A baby squirrel looks down on the scene as we look back enjoying the antics. People pass by. They don’t realize that we are bonding. It’s hard to see from the outside.

Gabby looks over the side of the small footbridge. “Look! A snake.”

A tiny snake wriggles its way across the water. Gabby and I hang over the bridge watching. Sydney latches on to my arm. I should have realized at the time that this might be a sign. It became obvious when Gabby announced the next little snake sunning itself on a rock next to the path. Panic set in, and Sydney sobbing clung to me like a bat with its prey. We passed the snake quickly.

“It’s okay, Honey. Snakes eat mice and bugs. I don’t like them either, but they won’t hurt you.”

“I hate them! They scare me.”

Well, what can I say? I was the same exact way as a kid….er, adult. Only in the last few years had I permitted myself to overcome my fears and pet a snake at the science fair. I have lived to tell about it. No way I could convince Syd of that.

We didn’t see the owl that was sitting on a tree limb near the path on our last visit. Obviously, it had long ago flown away. We still looked. We didn’t see the deer that once stood back in the trees staring at us. We weren’t eaten by snakes or attached by rabid raccoons. We did make new memories and learned more about one another.

“I don’t want to go back there again, Gram,” Syd said.

“We’ll, give it, Honey. We’ll give time.”

Friday, May 14, 2010

I Am The Change

The 60’s. We carried signs, we protested, we stood up to prejudice, we were going bring about a new world. Did we?

An invitation was sent to each member of the graduating class of 1959 in Macon, Georgia.

“I never went to school with any girls or any black kids,” explained Jay. “We were all segregated. The blacks went to school with the blacks, the girls with the girls and the guys with the guys.”

Jay had gone to his class reunion, a reunion the graduates were not expecting. In past years each segment of the class of ’59 had met separately, the same way they had gone to school. However, this year one of the graduates who had a fruitful career paid for a different reunion, a reunion with assigned seating.

The initial invitation met with moderate response. The organizer sent a second notice telling the older graduates to get over it and go to the reunion. A few more graduates replied.

“So what was it like?” I asked.

“I sat with three black women and three white women. It was great. I loved it!” Of course he did. Jay was one who saw the divisions when he was a boy wondering if it would ever change.

After 51 years, the class was finally integrated. Shades of humanity were intermixed as equals. Men and women sat together. Classmates who were never in class together sat together at the reunion tables. The lines of discrimination that we had sworn to erase in the 60’s were finally tackled by a man who said “Get over it.”

I’m disturbed that there are still people full of anger and prejudice. I’m disturbed that there are groups continuously plotting against others. I wonder what happened to those kids of the 60’s. Yes, many did go on to make change, but we still have hate that threatens, kills and destroys. Children are still raised believing that not all are equal.

I belong to a large family. It is the family of man and womankind. It is a family that has no color. I believe that if all parts of this family are vital to the energy and survival of the earth. I believe that we are all part of God. I guess I can’t change the world. I admire those who step up with the power and resources they have to make a difference. Still I can make a difference in my family and with every person I meet. I am the power. I am the source. I am the change.

So are you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

For All The Right Reasons

For all the right reasons, yes indeed, they were married for all the right reasons.

“Like Uncle and Lisa?” Sydney asked when we were talking about feelings and relationships.

Uncle and Lisa waited until they were in their thirties to get married. Careers had occupied their lives and kept them busy until they found one another. When they finally meet on a national musical tour, it was love.

Two young girls observed every aspect of the wedding. Decisions that Lisa and James made imprinted on a junior bridesmaid and flower girl. Of course, trying on pretty dresses, finding little heels and pampered with makeup and fresh curls, was every little girls dream, but there was much more.

The first decision made by the bride and groom made was to have a wedding about family. Their siblings were their attendants, best friends married them. It was a family event. My son, having no brother, stood with his sister, his stepsister and a friend who is like a sister standing next to him. The bride was attended by her sister, her brother and her stepsister. Far from traditional and far more lovely.

Before the wedding began, the family gathered in the small chapel. The bride and groom each stood next to a beautiful candle that resembled a log from a birch tree surrounded by bits of nature. As the family of the bride and that of the groom surrounded the couple the family candles were lit. From these candles representing each of us being added to the whole, the couple lit their unity candle. The little ceremony was personal, private, moving; it was family.

The bride, groom and those attending the wedding laughed loud often during the ceremony. Friends from the east coast embraced new friends from the west coast. Two families became one.

Two girls dressed in white watched and learned.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Join The Journey

“Tickle me, Grammy.” “Sit here and play this game with me.” The words poured out of Sydney’s chatty mouth. This girl who was usually very quiet when I picked her up from school, who was dealing with tween mood swings, was all smiles and cheer.

She swings between childhood desires and preteen feelings. She is tossed on a sea that I remember quite well. There were moments I hated the world and others that I wanted to know all I could about it. Being alone became more desirable and conflict with adults more prevalent. Yes, I remember it well.

Gabby had gone to a dentist appointment with her dad. Only Syd and I were in residence. Not often do I get the girls separately. The one on one time is precious. Each girl relishes the individual attention while I am freed from the pull of both girls at once, freedom to see them more clearly. I was seeing the girl I once knew full of teasing and giggling away from the tweening and into the bonding we have always shared. We talked without interruption and focused on grandma and granddaughter. Conversation flowed along with the laughter.

I feel for grandparents who live away from their grandchildren as my parents did. I know from those visits to Ohio there was always a ‘getting re-acquainted’ period. The comfort level for both grandparents and grandchild took time to settle in and for the home to feel comfortable again. I am blessed to have my girls so close to me.

I have friends who have never had their grandchildren over night. Some grandparents watch over their grandchildren but miss diving into the fray having a blast playing with them. Being a grandparent is a last frontier. It is an adventure into who you are as an adult. It is more than just having descendents to carry on the family name

Grandparents offer much to the child, but believe me, in essence, it teaches us to be the best we can be. Grandparenting challenges us. We must learn to relax and enjoy. We must toss aside pre-exisiting ideas and learn new ways. We become real. Grandchildren teach us to be better people.

This is a grandparent’s voice. This is a woman who stepped out of her comfort zone into the kids’ zone. This is a grandmother on a journey into herself with the help of a granddaughter in her tweens. C’mon take join the journey. It’s mighty fine.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do You Hear Me!!!!

“Lumber shortage in Northeast...high demand may mean lumber shortage….sawmills unable to expand production….lumber prices in New Zealand climbing….” 2010 lumber shortage.

There it sits in my driveway, wet from the evening rain. I will once more pick up the unsolicited package and toss it directly into the recycle bin. Oregonian, I do not want the weekly Food Day supplement. I do not want the plastic bag that contains it.

Daily mail. Another day of solicitations for bells and whistles that I do not need added to any utility, bank account, cable service, phone service or service I do not have. Another flyer of weekly specials for neighborhood businesses flies to the recycle bin. Gift catalogs, “to occupant” propaganda and even political proddings add to the paper that accumulates in my recycle bin.

Argh!!!! Listen all of the above! Stop wasting paper! Stop sending information we do not want on paper we need to conserve. STOP!!!! If you want to send something, send the message of conservation. Show our children that we are not a wasteful nation. Helloooooo! Are you listening?????

And, this is only one of my complaints for the day. Every day I pass office complexes that wear “for lease” signs. Building after building with empty parking lots and darkened windows echo the message. For sale signs stand in front of houses. Still new homes are built and huge office complexes spring up seemingly overnight. Land is needlessly eaten up. Wild critters are forced from their homes. Still this ridiculous wasteful obscenity continues.

Billions of dollars are pouring into the recent oil well incident trying to stop the oil pouring out of the ground. Again, nature is attacked. I personally have a theory: the oil we pull out of the earth might just be fueling the fires that warm our earth. Just my own theory. Many fuel alternatives are being pursued and viable. So why continual drilling?

Who is in essence really cutting our trees, fueling the energy fire? What do we as American citizen do to put our power and action to work? What voice do we raise in protest to an earth that is being used up and destroyed? This is not a new question. Ecological organizations desperately work to raise awareness, to make changes while other interests pour money into ‘urging’ politicians to see things their way.

Remember the 60’s when we protested, we raised our voices for change? Where did we go? What happened to our voice of injustice? What happened to our desire to make a difference, to the voice that cared?

Newspapers, stop wasting paper. Businesses, quit sending me ads and promotions. Corporations, quit wasting our land and our resources. Politicians, step away from the pack and make a difference. All of you, stop padding your pockets with our lives and our land.

Whew, I feel better. How about you?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Under a Crystal Glaze

Mother’s Day and everyone goes for pancakes….just like us. My daughter and granddaughters sat protectively at our table. Why protectively??? Because we waited an hour to get this valuable table in a busy restaurant.

Pancakes ordered, we settled in to celebrating. I received a great planter for my yard. Yes, Grammy would be digging in the dirt soon. Then came the gifts of the hands. Those things my granddaughters had made for their mother. You know, schools are great. They realize that some mothers are single and do not have a dad to take their young child to find something for mommy. This year the classes had made tissue and wire flowers in small pots painted by the children. Truly, a mother’s delight.

This year though Dad had done a good thing. He not only gave his children the opportunity to create a lasting treasure for their mom, but he also gave himself the experience of spending time with his children showing them that he does care for their mother despite the divorce.

Stacey unwrapped the tissue surrounding the package exposing a beautiful hand painted vase. Dad had taken the girls to a ceramic shop where sponges were used to create the background on the vase. Fingers pressed in paint dabbed bright colors all over the piece making the centers of the flowers, flowers whose petals were then drawn by freehand. With all of the lopsided petals, the sweet finger prints forever captured beneath glaze, the vase was priceless. A mother was given a gift she will treasure forever. A mother learned something more about the girls’ father.

The rest of the day was spent at the zoo. God provided weather for a perfect day. We provided the giggles. Time bonding child with parent. Time capturing memories in new ways.

A friend once told me that after her grandchildren had come to visit, she noticed small handprints all over the patio door. Handprints she refused to wipe away wanting to keep the memories a bit longer. Fingerprints of a time that is all too soon gone.

Fingerprints forever captured in brilliant colors under a crystal glaze.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mother

Mother.

For those of us who have experienced the birth of a child, for those of us who have been in the arms of a loving mother, for those of us who have wrapped our arms around a child in need, that title has given us love, most times acceptance and always memory.

“You and Jim were always there for all of your students. When our parents weren’t there, we came to you. Your house was our house,” Heather explained to me.

Echoes of my childhood sat across from me telling me that I was not so different from my mother. As a child our house was always full of children, children we envied for their relationship with Mom. When my children were growing, I worked in the high school theatre department with my husband. Our home was always full of kids. I wondered if my children felt the same as I had those many years ago. I have worked hard to take away that doubt.

We were involved in a car accident soon after my son got his driving permit. My daughter had a broken nose. I fractured a foot and had a slight concussion. My son was terrified.

“Mom, I called Heather. She’s on her way.” Heather was a teen herself coming to take care of my children. James hadn’t called his father or another adult friend. No, he called his ‘sister’.

When the accident had happened, another of our ‘children’ ran to our car.

“What can I do?” he asked. Well, we were in no shape to know what to do, so he took our valuables out of the car for us and stayed by our side until help came.

The mother of one of our ‘kids’ called telling me that she was at the hospital. Her husband had just died suddenly. Her son was about 4 hours away at college.

“Can you go get him and bring him home?” Of course, I would. He was one of my ‘kids’. My daughter and I gather him up and brought him home. We grieved. This young man had called me every Friday night since he had been away at college. He was indeed one of my ‘kids’.

Mother.

My children embraced these kids who needed a hug, a listening ear. They became their brothers and sisters. When my son was married, one of these ‘syblings’, Scott, played the guitar.

“Mom, I was so nervous,” my son said of his wedding day. “I was in the room by myself and didn’t know what to do. Scott came in and stayed with me and talked to me. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”

Heather was an attendant for James along with his sister. I am ‘God Gammy’ for Scott and Marjorie’s children. Family.

Now I am ‘Grammy Pam’ to my granddaughter’s friends. The girls love sharing me always knowing that they are my ‘real’ girls. They are proud of what I offer their friends.

We are mothers. We are mothers of all who pass through our lives needing a mom. Our children learn by example to embrace their fellow travelers in this life journey. Our grandchildren learn to be kind and not to judge. I learn that being a ‘mother’ is a gift.

Mother. What a nice word.

To you mothers: Happy Mother's Day. Live in the moments of each day with your children. You are the builders of the future.

To you grandmothers: Happy Mother's Day. You are a gift to your family, those born to you and those given to you in your life journey. Embrace, enjoy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Hallmark Day

My mom is a never ending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and being. I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the tune. ~Graycie Harmon

A Hallmark day. A day to celebrate one more thing. A day for florists to rake in the money. Mother’s Day.

Why do so many people develop a negative attitude about days of celebrating those we love? What is it in us that looks for excuses to complain?

I grew up in a home where we didn’t recognize birthdays or special dates other than the holy ones. My father never took me to buy a gift for my mother nor did my mother do the same. I don’t remember celebrating my sisters’ birthdays. Did other families in the rural community take these dates to heart? We learn by the hand that raises us.

Shouldn’t we embrace those days, those few days that call us to recognize those we love? I cheer the business owner who can make a few extra bucks. What a great way to do it! Flowers, candy, cards, small handmade gifts are treasures to a mom who works all day providing care for her family. The job of a parents doesn’t stop when the lights go out. Always there is a listening ear for a child needing comfort. So why not celebrate this woman?

I didn’t have anyone to teach me about this celebrating. I found out about it because I had a husband who remembered. So what do our children lose if we stop to take them shopping for a gift, we sit next to them as they create something special for a parent. What do we lose by making special arrangements to celebrate those we love? We lose if we do not take the time to love, to show our appreciation. Our children lose by default.

My days of telling my mother how much I love her are past. The fleeting moments of those years have taken opportunity forever away. My ex-husband was very good at remembering. Flowers often found their way home. Cards from him remembered. We embraced special days so that our children, too, could understand the respect and love that comes with recognition. That lesson in remembering has carried on to their children. A lesson in giving from the heart.

We are the keepers of tradition. We are the teachers of loving. We are the past that makes for the future. A gift from the heart to someone who gave her heart is what Mother’s Day is all about.

Mom, it is still your day, a day I miss you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Rainbow Connection

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?”

A row of first graders stood on the stage, little voices nervously singing out. Handmade, paper rainbow headbands wrapped around little heads. Each child held the string of a helium-filled balloon creating a row of rainbow colors.

“Rainbows are visions, but only illusions…”

I was a young mother who had just returned from a trip back to Ohio, to the farm, where I needed my nest to help me heal, to protect me while I made a major decision for my children, for myself. I had been in Oregon about eight months trying to reconcile with my husband. Oregon was to be our new start; however, the new start had taken a huge slide backwards.

There is a part of parenting that is extremely tedious, so difficult. Making decisions that affect a family are something we do every day, but some of those decisions can also change lives in permanent ways. My daughter’s teacher and school principal understood our flight from Oregon for a few weeks. My parents were supportive despite their belief that divorce should never be an option. This was a decision only I could make. One that hurt each night I tucked my toddler son and small daughter into bed.

“…and rainbows have nothing to hide.”

Two of us were responsible for our problems. We brought our own histories, our own deficiencies, our own doubts to our marriage. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Some take a life time to learn. I was at a crossroad without a map. I was facing a test of strength, that of going forward alone or that of putting the past behind and trying again.

“So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.”

I came back to Oregon. I came back for my kids and myself. Life began moving forward one step at a time.

“Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection ”

My beautiful daughter was dressed in the one and only homemade dress I would ever make for her. I had purchased a pretty, pink half slip for her to wear beneath it. Sitting on the front row watching my daughter who stood proudly right in the middle of the stage, I saw her half slip hanging a couple of inches below the dress hem and the string of her lovely deflated balloon draped her hand. No matter how rough life might be, we would face adversity, both big and small, together. We would survive.

“The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me.”

A mother’s love for her children…..a rainbow connection.


“Rainbow Connection” by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ruth

This week I will be celebrating mothers. Some of writing you will recognize from past blogs or from my Neff Road blog. This week is dedicated to my mother, my sisters, my family and all women who make a difference. This writing is especially dear to me.

The woman lived almost her entire 88 years on the same square mile of land on Neff Road in Darke County, Ohio, yet she touched more lives than we can ever know. Her mission was the life she led.

No one was ever a stranger in our home. No one ever wanted for a meal or a bed. She took in homeless youth and gave them a family, gave temporary shelter to kids in trouble and babysat for anyone who ever asked never saying ‘no’ to any request. The house was never locked. And, many a morning we would wake to find someone who had come in during the night sleeping in our guest room.

The church was her life. She was choir director, custodian, pianist, Sunday School teacher, on every committee. All were her students learning love, compassion and humor. Her reach was far and results followed her generation after generation.

Waking before the sun and throughout the day, she cooked meals for a dozen hungry farm hands never once using a cookbook. She killed chickens, made soap, canned food, planted crops and raised three babies never once considering there was something she couldn’t do or even something else she might want to do.

Ruth fought for children’s rights before anyone admitted they them. She was colorblind to the shades of humanity. Never did she know a stranger and opened her house to exchange students, travelers, cousins ten times removed.

As a child she tagged along with her sister who dated a notorious gangster and fell in love at nine with her future husband. She buried her parents, her three siblings and her sweet husband.

Always she had a song on her lips and in her heart. Into her later years, she would sit crocheting with aching hands and continued to play the piano like a ragtime pro. Loving and loved she influenced the women her daughters would become.

At the end she lived in a world growing more silent as her hearing failed. She was frail and tiny in her last days yet her song still remained. She was bright and had the handwriting of her twenties. With a loving heart she continued to question the narrow-mindedness of mankind.

What a lovely sight to behold, this mother of mine. She gave me a mission in life. No, she gave me a way of life: One, to change it for the better. I had a good example. I think I’ll pass it on.