Monday, February 28, 2011

Panic Room

Close the door. The world outside dissolves.

Shhhh.

Do you hear it? What do you mean, you don't hear anything? That's the point.

Shhhhh. Listen.

Ah.

Thirteen years: coming and going as I pleased, eating when and whatever I wanted, a clean house, grown up TV shows, no homework, no responsibilities, quiet at all times of the day, no tension.

Yesterday our little home had an invisible storm cloud hover inside just waiting for the right conditions before the storm hit. I have no 'kid responsibilities' four days of the month. I try to get out of the house on those days. Yesterday after my away time, I returned to the storm. One snap at me and I headed for the panic room.

My room is my panic room. I leave the chaos and stress outside and walk into a welcoming aloneness. I try to leave the outside in place, but it does follow me into my oasis. It is not easy.

The relationship between my granddaughters and I has changed since the combining of homes. I miss that once companionship we shared, the excitement of coming to grandma's house, the times we snuggled and talked. I am a stranger in my own home.

In fairness, this is not easy for my daughter having a mother on a fixed income. Having me with her children when she is not. We have not had an easy relationship since she was young. Now I am here every day. Maybe we both need a panic room.

I struggle to keep my feet on the ground and a positive attitude in place. At this late time in my life, I am lost as to where I belong.

I applaud all of you who are raising your grandchildren and those of you living with your children. This is not an easy thing we do. Our dreams of a joyful retirement have changed. Now we take it a day at a time. We savor the moments of peace and quiet, of love and sharing. We have all raised our children and had no inkling that we would be raising our grandchildren as well.

I go to my panic room lighting candle, reading my book. A knock at the door.

"I love you, Grams," my granddaughter tells me as she crawls up on my bed.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"Uh huh," she answers.

"I love you, too, Honey."

Tomorrow will be better.

Friday, February 25, 2011

mufd me moww

Muf mundmrl fjeklnne kdimf. Hard to talk with my foot in my mouth.

Sometimes there just isn't enough room in my mouth for my foot. Still I continually try to fit it into the limited space. Often I think I must have two on their way in.

There is a fine line between trying to help and adding pressure. I weigh it more now than when my mouth ran off leaving my brain behind. Sometimes trying to protect our own only leaves us out in the cold when it comes to communication.

I'm always reminded of the line from Free to Be You and Me, "Some kind of help is the kind of help some can do without."

I hated unsolicited advice. Many times it was because it hit a sensitive part of me. It hit home. 'Not asked for, don't offer'. So, puppy and I sit this morning chewing on our feet.

I want more for my daughter than I have for me. I don't want to see her struggle. We put our children first. We put their fathers first. But what example do we show our children when we expect so little for ourselves?  I expect so little for what I contribute. Yet I try to maintain balance.

So this morning I did well at stuffing my foot into that gapping mouth. Open wide, insert foot. I cannot protect. I cannot make her decisions. I cannot change the histories of us both. Heck, at my age, I have enough trouble not tripping over my own feet let alone stuffing them into my mouth.

Oh, I slip. I backtrack. I often find myself in a self-imposed time out. We do the best we can and slip up now and then. Every time a new lesson learned or an old one needing reassessment.

It's not easy being a parent or a grandparent. All we can do is to do the best we can with feet planted firmly on terra firma.

Have a good weekend, my friends. Each day is a new beginning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Minus/Plus

Anger = minus

Positive attitude = plus

Sad = minus

Happy = plus

Selfish = minus

Giving = plus

Defeated = minus

Hopeful = plus

Hateful = minus

Loving = plus

I want to be a plus.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Love your coat!

"Love your coat," I said to the stranger who seemed to have a chip on her shoulder.

She looked up from her newly lit cigarette, "Oh! Thank you," she said looking down at her coat. She smiled.

I need to make a confession. I seem to do this a lot. I really didn't like the coat. It had bright orange and yellow stick figures on it. They might have been smoking as well from what I could tell.

This isn't unusual for me. I love to change the mood of strangers with a compliment, a smile. I've even hugged strangers who for some reason tell me their life stories in a matter of minutes. It's like a game show. 'How much can you tell in 60 seconds.' I don't mind. If it helps, I'm there.

But as I sat in the waiting room, looking at all the strangers around me, I was suddenly saddened. As a child I grew up in a small community. A trip to town meant passing people we knew and those we did not. It didn't matter, we said 'hello' to all of them once in awhile standing for a long conversation. Over the years, I continued to greet people. It made my day even if it didn't theirs. Those bits of recognition were little gifts wrapped up in smiles.

I am more cautious now. A woman alone must be careful. We have learned when and when not to make eye contact and when to blend with our surroundings. We have learned not to smile or greet just anyone. We have learned to stay in lit areas and always with a companion. We have learned to eat at a restaurant and walk behind a grocery cart holding on to our purses. We have learned to protect our children by keeping them informed. We watch the news to see what dangers are in our neighborhoods. We are cautious in opening emails and postings online. We have learned to be afraid and to hide it.

I refuse to hide from my world. I refuse to let the evil in our world dictate where I go and who I am. The part of me who walked down a small town street greeting those I passed is still with me. I refuse to let the negative win.

BTW, you look great today.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dissolving Resistance

Should I? Shouldn't I? I sat in the drive thru at DQ waiting to pick up my soda and sandwich. Hm. I wonder if there are rules about leaving your car in a drive thru? I wonder if someone will come out after me. Maybe the person in the car in front of me will turn me in. I look into the rear view mirror. No cars. Hm.

There are some things that are simply irresistible. Sooooo irresistible.

I understand why it is difficult for a toddler or puppy to resist touching those things deemed off limits. Heck, as children grow, they want to do the things off limits. It is almost a red flag. Sure we teach them not to touch. We tell of the woes that can result from breaking rules. Yet none of that takes away the desire to go ahead and do it....even at age 63.

Alternatives. Take away the irresistible and replace it with a 'can have'. Take away a potential problem by replacing it with an alternative. Well, I'm here to tell you that some things are just too difficult to walk away from. Believe me!!!!

The puppy ran into the house. She hadn't seen me for at least 10 hours. I was licked, softly gnawed, pounced on and totally loved. All rules and commands took a seat for a few minutes. My granddaughter was determined to hold on to her boredom until the paint supplies hit the diningroom table. Distraction. Eh, sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. All we can do is try.

I have a confession. My ladylike behavior went out the door. My battle to resist dissolved. The winter doldrums insisted on action. I jumped from the car. I left the door open in case the drive thru line began to move forward. I ran to the other side of the car and ripped a twig from the shrub.

The sweet smell of daphne. Ah.......

Monday, February 21, 2011

Silent Messages

"Sit," the trainer said. I started to sit then realized she was talking to puppy, Millie. Training. The dog or the master?

"We will eventually command the dog only through hand signals," she went on as I dusted off my jeans. Silent messages.

Life is full of silent messages. The roll of the eyes. The exhalation of breath. Turning a back, looking away, shirking a touch. So silent. So deadly. Yes, they train.

When my granddaughters were just babies, we taught them to sign for 'eat' and 'more'. They are born with the natural sign for 'up'. Silent signals. We listened. They were just babies.

Years ago I was sent to training for high school counselors. We were roll playing. One person took on the role of teacher while the rest of us took on the roles of students. I had worked with kids at risk. I had been a lost and lonely child. I was an actress. This was right up my alley.

I slowly edged toward my teacher no matter how much she tried to find her space away from me. I didn't look at her. My advances were barely noticeable. We finished the exercise. Discussion began.

"Pam, you were the silent child. Thank you." she said. "We cannot overlook the silent child."

My phone rings. "Hi, Grammy," a small voice says. The conversation doesn't move on. I know from the few words and the softness of the voice that something is up. Might as well head right into it.

"What's up, Honey?" I ask. "Everything okay?"

Silence follow by, "Uh, huh."

Well, I know something is up so continue the questions. Still no headway.

"Do you want me to come over?" I ask.

"Uh, huh," she answers.

I crawl into her bed and just hold her. Soon the anger and hurt surface and the well begins to empty. She had no words for her pain. I was the doorway. I just needed to find the door.

We all send silent messages. We sit close. We hold a hand. We are really good at the cold shoulder. Sure we can send them, but do we realize what we are sending? Are we really able to read them?

Silent messages.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Old Dog New Tricks

"Do not use verbal commands for sit," the obedience instructor said. "Eventually, we want to use only hand signals."

Wow, I must have missed something over the years. When we trained our puppy, it was push butt down and say sit. Repeat. I was an old dog discovering new tricks.

I grew up with a yardstick and spankings as a child. Oh, the message got through to me; however, I'm not sure what crime I could possibly have committed that would justify raising a hand to me, but I learned from those actions. I learned anger from supposedly loving hands intentionally hurting me. I learned that spanking was humiliating. I never remembered the crime I had committed but did remember the anger my parents took out on me.

When I raised my children, I, too, spanked. Not proud of it. I had not learned to control my anger and my own issues. I did not learn to embrace my child in their time of need and to give them understanding from their perceptions at that age. I did not learn to love myself and always walked a fine line between anger and self-doubt. I had little to draw from, except for Dr. Spock. Who had time to read!

I don't think I was so different from many parents who were lonely, lost in this thing of child raising and facing difficulties in their lives. I moved away from my core support when I was just pregnant with my daughter. We moved to an area that didn't embrace outsiders easily. Winters made us hermits with snow up to the deck. My husband was promoted and loving his job. Back then wives were not included in company activities. I sat at home with babies. Then infidelity sneaked in when I wasn't looking. No, I had little to draw on.

My divorce was a pivotal time in my life and that of my children. My view of myself and my childhood began to improve. I became a woman of positive attitude and determination. I threw out what I had known, what little I had known, about child rearing. I decided at that moment to have a wonderful life of laughter and fun. My time with my children would be one of discovery and understanding. I realized my children needed something different from me. Did I still make mistakes? Oh, yes. Do I still? Sure enough. But the patterns of the past had changed.

Now as a grandma, I embrace the challenges. If I am to be of any use to anyone, including myself, I need to pick up the pace. I need to learn the signs without the yelling of commands. The gentleness of a whisper in the ear of puppy Millie works wonders. The hand on my grandchild's arm (the silent hand signal) and a soft, caring voice have replaced the yardstick and anger. Compassion has replaced exasperation. Not only for the child. No, for the grandma as well.

Is it too late to teach an old dog new tricks? Woof.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Not About Falling

It's not about falling but about getting up. -Scott Hamilton.

Ever notice how you can be going through your day, the TV in the background, then something catches your attention. Well, that happened to me this morning. Today Show. Matt Lauer quotes. Scott who has had a journey with cancer as well as to a gold metal knows about getting up. It sets my mind to thinking.

"Grammy, I've been doing this all day. I don't want to do it anymore," said Sydney after a loooong night of homework. I'm losing her. She is on the anger edge.

How do we explain about getting up? How do we tell our children that they will survive the current crisis? How do we teach them that they can be strong and not give up? How do we help them?

Synonyms. We had been at it for over an hour. Luckily English is my forte.

"Grammy, I need a dictionary for this part." Argh! The dictionary is in a box in the garage. We have come to the evening crisis.

So how do we handle the falling? This is a girl who wants to go to college. She has begun saving her change hoping to help with her tuition to Stanford or Northwestern.

"Honey, high school is going to require more homework than what you have now. You can do it. I'll sit with you while you do it."

Was it what I wanted to do? Heck no. I hate their homework. It sucks that I'm home and their parents are not. I've done this job once. I would like to have my time for me. Most of my life has been about my kids. Isn't this supposed to be my comfort years?

Every night my daughter comes home exhausted and hating her hours of work. She makes very little. We struggle this unemployed mom and her hard working daughter. In her wake, the kids hear the same dialogue about her lousy day. Last night was the last straw. The females in my house were driving me crazy. My patience is pretty good, but there is a limit.

I explained to my daughter that she cannot come into the house talking in negative terms about her work day. Her children need to know that she is a strong woman making a living as best she can, giving her children a good life. She needs to show her children that she is strong and does what she does with love. I told her how proud I am of facing this every day to give her children a good life. I am proud of her for facing adversity and surviving.

"Honey, I worked two jobs I absolutely hated. They were mean to me every day, but I had a job and did it. Many people go to jobs they hate. At least you have a job and an opportunity to help your family." Whew. That felt good.

Conversation was pretty much nil after that word-release. I wondered if it mattered.

It was Syd's bedtime. "Honey, when you do homework, I want you to set a length of time that you will work then take a break. I think it might help you," I said.

"How about every 20 minutes," she replied. A big hug and kiss followed.

Progress.

It's not about falling.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Unexpected Joy

Snow. The morning began with huge flakes journeying slowly to the earth. Whish, whish, whish. Like a small child, I ran to the window laughing. Our first snow of winter.

For months my granddaughters and I have been hoping for snow. We asked Santa. We asked God. We prayed that maybe the snow on our mountains might find its way to the lower elevations. We asked the weather man for snow. Last month he informed us that if we were to get snow, it would probably need to get here by mid-February or we would be looking at spring. Wow, February 16th, and we have snow.

The snow will be gone by noon but is predicted to return off and on for the next two days. That bit of wonder that falls from the sky will draw every eye to the window occasionally hoping for one more glimpse of a flake or two.

When we first moved to Oregon, we found that little snow fell here. Over the years the snow seems to be coming more often and sometimes heavy. It shocks those Oregonians with webbed toes. Rain is the norm, and snow the exception. True Oregonians don't really care about the weather. Rain is rarely heavy. Our landscape is green year round. But this morning, children cheered and grandma had her nose against the bedroom window.

 Wonder. Unexpected joy. Innocent thrill of rediscovering nature and her voice. Grandparents and parents can still thrill at a snowfall or at the simple pleasure of a dog chasing her tail. We can allow ourselves that child in us to delight and to express that joy. My granddaughters love it when they can share something with me knowing that I might act silly in my response or that I might just sing their praises at the top of my lungs. They know I will lay down on the ground with them to watch a bug struggling to carry a bit of leaf. They know that Grammy will not let them down in their joy, in the times of trouble and in the constant thrill of the world around us.

The snow fell silently on a none existent breeze. The earth greeted the snow with warmth and the faces turned to the windows.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Looking at my Books

Border's Bookstores going into bankruptcy. Powell Books laying off workers. Bookstores in trouble.

I sit looking at my books thinking of my mother picking up a children's book for her daughters. I'm sure she took her time reading each one finding the one that made her chuckle or one that drew her to the pictures, those her children would love. She didn't pay attention to the authors. No, Mom went for what she knew a child would love. I sit looking at my books.

I love going to the library where I can follow my favorite authors. Titles call out to me. I can take a couple of books to last me for enough days to get them finished between watching kids and puppies, writing and household chores. The history that surrounds me is incredible. I feel at home.

"Grams, can we go to Powell's?" Sydney asks.

Powell's has been referred to as the largest private bookstore in the world. A map is needed to get through the store of new and used books. What a great place to get lost for a couple of hours. For my girls and I, it is an one of our favorite places to go. http://www.powells.com/

"Grammy, will you go with me?" Gabby asks when we get to the bookstore. She leads me down the aisles showing me books she has read and those she is sure she needs. We take a couple of books to a table and look at them together. Her list of wants grows longer.

"Grams, can we take our sketchpads?" Syd asks. We often take our pads to the bookstore settling into overstuffed chairs in the art section. The pencils come out along with the pad filling with new efforts.

"Grammy, can you help me find a book?" Gabby asks as Sydney heads off to find her own.

I settle them in then go to find a drawing book of my own. We are each lost in the silence of our art despite the noise of other shoppers. This is our niche. An hour passes. Time to move on.

"Grams, can we come back soon?" my oldest grandchild asks.

We will return as long as there is a bookstore. We will peruse the books as long as there are shelves to hold them. We will cherish those we have of paper and ink, those we remember from the day we picked it out or the day we received it as a gift from someone who made the effort to find the perfect one. I sit looking at my books.

Our technology is vulnerable to anyone who could plant a virus into it eliminating everything. Maybe it isn't probable, but it is possible. Hm. What would happen then?

I sit looking at my books. I sit wondering if I am looking at a time past. I'm wondering if we are wise to give over our books to technology. We can share them, but the need for a bookstore is to this writer very important. I'm wondering if I will lose those precious moments spent walking the aisles of the bookstores.

I sit looking at my books.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Every Day

My daughter's post on Facebook this morning: From the words of my 11 year old.....why do we have a special day about love? Shouldn't we love every day?

Wise words. Very wise words. Why do we? Most people would probably say that it is a marketing ploy. A way for those who sell cards, candy, flowers, jewelry, whatever, to make their financial quota for the first half of the year. I can't disagree with that since it is a time that, obviously, love is exploited. Restaurants have special deals for lovers as well as hotels for a night to remember.

Hm. I'm trying to recall a Valentine's Day that stands out in my mind. Only one surfaces. It was back in the early 80's. Our family decided to spend a weekend at the beach. Typical of Oregon, we had rain, but I came prepared. Valentine's Day was the next week. The kids needed decorated boxes with that all important slot in the top. With glue, colored paper and markers in hand, we created incredible boxes. The lion had a tail that even swiveled on a fat pipe cleaner. A labor of love. Family time to remember.

I have an old photo album full of Valentine's I received over the years. As a child, I remember poring over them, looking for special words from a special boy. Checking to see if the teacher sent a card to me. Discovering who sent the most beautiful card to me. Kids. They love the stack they receive and count every one.

1929
In the days when my parents were growing up, no one considered what might be proper and what might not. There were thoughts that probably left the recipient wondering.

1922
Then there were those that promoting violence to get not only one's attention, but to shot them down in the process.(I love that the girl is running the fort.)

Personally, I like the little one who talks to dogs claiming that just because Rags can't send a Valentine, doesn't mean he isn't loved.

Maybe Valentine's Day is for most of us a special day to declare a love that we do give every day. Maybe it is for those of us who chose not to make it about candy and gifts, a day to tell our families, our friends what they mean to us. Hallmark might have the right wording, but our hearts have wording of their own.

So for today, I will take that plunge into the day of hearts and tell you, my reader, how much you mean to me. Your comments, your daily stops by A Grandparent's Voice, those of you who encourage me to stretch and write for more venues, the daily trials and errors we share through this source of contact, mean the world to me. It is nice to know we are not alone in this parenting, grandparenting, family love. It is nice to know that others care about our earth.

I love what Sydney asked her mother this morning. And, with a voice reverberating around in the world through this blog, I answer her with this: Sydney, we should love every day giving love to the earth, to those we don't know, to those struggling to survive, to those who touch our lives daily. We should learn to love better by learning from our mistakes, by gaining more knowledge, by keeping abreast of the happenings in around our world. We should love every day in the actions we show to one another.

Oh, Sydney, I have learned much about love in this 63 year journey. I have learned by the most difficult means of loss. I have learned by the beauty of birth. Most of all, I have learned from the love you give so freely each and every day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

You are the Pen

Pick up a pen. No, don't put it down.

On the computer? Don't leave. Stay right where you are.

Oh, I guess if you are reading this, you are on the computer. I'm a little slow sometimes. Okay, now write.

Whining: What will I write? I am not a writer? Who will care what I write? I don't have time to write (my favorite). My hands hurt (so do mine). Excuses, excuses, excuses. Well, I don't buy them, folks. There is always a way.

I was afraid to write because I was afraid that I might upset my family with what I wrote or would uncover some secret in our family history that would cause the world to crash. Oh, I knew I could write. But could I bare my soul? Could I say something that would make a difference. And, a difference in what? Who would read it? Who would care? Because I can write, it does not mean that I don't understand those who find it difficult. Truly, I do.

We have a gift to give. I didn't learn that until I got into my senior years. I wonder at my predecessors and their lives. I wish I had asked more questions. We all have such rich, wonderful stories in that past from where we hail. We have the champions and those who made mistakes. We have the talented and those who struggled just to survive. This is our history. This is the history of our families.

Writing a sentence that says "Grandmother wrote with the pen of an angel" vs "My Grandmother did washed clothes, cooked for farm hands and raised five kids". Each are rich. One is poetic while the other is real and earthy. Both are wonderful. Individual and true.

My hands hurt. That's putting it mildly on most days. My thumbs are slowly becoming disfigured. I cannot hold a pen or pencil for long. The computer has been my paper and pen. It is my dictionary, my research tool and a drawer where I store my writing, my pictures. If I didn't have my computer, I would wish for a recorder so I could tell my stories. Maybe a voice from my grandchildren's history would mean even more to them then the written word.

We are the ones who bring our histories alive. We give voice to those who no reside with us. We give tribute to our family tree and those swinging from the branches. Why not?

"Grammy, did you really have a lamb?" my granddaughter asks.

"Grammy, are we really related to Robin Hood?" If I only knew.

"Grammy.....Grammy.....Grammy.....". On and on it goes. I will not be here someday for a future grandchild to say my name. I will not be here when my children are older and wish they would have asked. Now is the time I can answer the unrealized questions.

Parents, Grandparents, pick up that pen. Tell you story to someone who will write it for you. You do have time. Time is what you make it. In unraveling my past, I find a richer present. I embrace my family once more. I discover things I never knew.

You are the pen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Purseless

Oversized seems to be the rage. Too small? Not enough space. Too large, can't find anything. The rage? I'll pass.

Why in the world do we women carry purses? We've gone through the time when the man purse was trying to take hold. If necessary, they now carry backpacks or some other type of 'manly' bag. In researching the origins of the handbag, I discovered that men did indeed carry the first ancient fanny packs and shoulder bags. In the 1400's, a groom presented his bride with an embellished purse. Personally, I think this was the time when men decided that purse carrying should be handed off.

My chiropractor told me to stop carrying my shoulder bag. My back and neck were hurting. I also found that I seemed to list to the left when I carried the bag. It was then that I decided to rethink the necessity of the purse.

I happened to hit a real deal at TJ Maxx a few years ago. A little black, leather purse was tucked to the back of the rack full of grocery bag-sized purses. Added bonus: It was a Ralph Lauren. I paid less than $20 for the purse. Took it home and then evaluated what I really needed inside of this purse.

Why we women think we need to be prepared for anything and everything is beyond me. If someone needs a bandaid, why did I think I needed to provide a first aid kit? Why did I need a complete make up kit at my side at all times? Did I really think I would get ugly during the day? Why did I need to carry pictures of every member of my family for 5 generations? Why did I need tape, scissors and glue? Another pair of nylons? A sewing kit? Some purses are so large I'd expect them to hold pots and pans? Why?

My mother carried paper and pencil, little toys, even little activity books in her purse. She was prepared in case a child might be in need of entertainment. As a child, I loved her purse. I even have an old notebook that Mom carried with little pictures of pigs, bunnies and tic tac toe from the hands of a little girl sitting on the hard church pew. Mom held my history in that little book.

Now my mom was notorious for leaving her purse behind. We made so many return trips back to restaurants, church, weddings, friends we had visited. She always misplaced her purse. In reflection, I have a feeling she got tired of lugging that small piece of luggage around. Why did she feel responsible? Did it make her feel special ready to supply an answer to a need?

My little black purse goes everywhere with me. I have a tube of lipstick which I rarely wear, my ID and pictures of my two granddaughters and two grandnephews, a pen, a Kleenex or two, a couple of dollars, contact case, breath refresher and Advil. Do I ever wish I had something else in there? Do I ever find myself in a bind needing a bandaid, piece of paper, ironing board? No. My back and neck no longer hurt. And, I rarely look in my purse.

Sometimes I even shop without a purse. I'm not sure yet what to do with my hands. I feel a little naked without it, but my security is not in my purse. My self-confidence is not in my purse. My confident 63-years in not in my purse.

I still walk down the purse aisle. I think to myself that maybe I shouldn't carry the black purse while wearing my tennies or brown shoes. I wonder if I should buy another little purse for variety giving my black one a rest. Then I look down at my side. I'm not even carrying a purse. Free at last.

Perhaps if it is too difficult to give up the purse addiction, one should give their male counterpart a gift, a reminder of that handed to the women in the 1400's.

Purse free and stylin'!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

No Words

There are no words. There are no words for feelings too deep, for feelings to rich, for feelings too painful. There are no words.

I am a woman of words. Words come easily. They flow to the written word and flow from my lips. Yet there are no words full enough of the feelings I that flow through me.

When my parents passed, words seemed empty and much to shallow for the depth of feeling that enveloped me. When my babies were placed in my arms, there were no words for the joy that filled my heart. When I lost my job, there were no words for the anger and fear I felt. So often there are no words.

Valentines Day is just around the corner. Yesterday I stood in front of the card rack looking for cards for my granddaughters. Avoiding those that cost as much as a small pizza, I searched for those that said just the right words. Cards that would make them smile or maybe make them understand the depth of my love for them. There were no words.

I have written verses for card companies. The pictures arrive, and I set to the task of writing the sentiment. The task is challenging, sometimes frustrating. Once in awhile, I look at a picture, and it touches my heart. I try to convey the feelings in less than 10 words. There are not enough. I cannot crawl into the shoes of the reader and say the words they wish to convey. I can only pull from my experience, hoping that maybe, just maybe the words will be understood. Will they speak for someone else?

Maybe that day will come when we can read the mind of one another. Maybe then the depth of feeling will be understood. Maybe then we will not need the words.

Valentines Day. Maybe a box of candy or a diamond necklace should convey the feelings, but I think that a night out, a dozen roses, whatever, should be accompanied by words from the heart. The simplicity of expression, the struggle to say the right words, the use of words by the most intimate conveyance of the spoken word. Though they may not be enough, there are words.

Words. Expressions from the heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bein' Cool

When hanging with parents isn't cool. When hanging with a grandparent is really uncool. When hanging with family cramps their style. When children try to find their own voices. Ouch.

I fought with my parents all the time. Always thought I understood the reasons, but then maybe I didn't. I thought I wanted independence and to just get away from the farm. But this morning another thought crossed my mind. Perhaps I was afraid to move away from all I knew. Perhaps I was afraid because I knew I could never go back. I was changing, and it scared me.

The empty nest starts long before the door finally closes on that last graduated senior. Really it begins at birth. Never is it more evident than those teen years. The changing child, the parents realizing that the days of cuddling and obeying are in the past, all add even more to the tension. The parents still wanting those days back. Afraid of the world that will greet the child. Afraid to be left behind and in a different relationship with this child they tended and loved unconditionally. Afraid to be uncool.

I remember all too well the feeling of leaving my last child at Northwestern driving back across the states to Oregon. I cried for two states, then my daughter told me to 'get a grip'. The nest was empty.

My granddaughters think I am a great grandma, but I get the sense at times that I need to back off. Those days of greeting my oldest with "How was your day?" are gone. I was informed that she doesn't like to talk about school when she gets home. A step away. Only eleven and a foot out the door.

It's okay to be uncool. In being uncool, we are in reality being cool.

"Mom, I'm so proud of you," my son said not too long ago. Wow. I felt cool.

"You're are a fun grandma," said Gabby.

Gee. I can't let this go to my head. In fact, I know that I need to temper my reactions with my family. I need to work at being cool in an unassuming way. I need to know when to be silent and when to encourage. I need to learn as they change. I need to learn as I change.

What worked when my children were small does not work as they age and with their children. It is not an easy thing for those of us with a lifetime of experience to stay in the background. It is not easy to let our families make mistakes. It is a gift we give to them doing this balancing act in order to stay involved in their lives. We have a choice. Only through awareness and a listening ear can we learn. Not always easy. Sometimes hurts.

I intend to hold on to some of my coolness.

"Mom, can you not sing in the store?" my daughter said once more.

Hm. Not cool, I guess. Works in musicals. "The store is alive with the sound of music...."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thought He Found Religion

We sat in the living room, knee to knee, eye to eye.

"Remember how much we played together as kids?" I asked.

"We did? I don't remember ever playing with you?" he answered.

His parents had asked that I make copies of the pictures I had of the two of us over the years. Best friends playing together. He didn't remember. To him I was a total stranger.

What happens when children leave home and enter into a world that controls them? Would we be afraid to step in? Would we be afraid to get help in releasing them from a powerful church? Would we get them the help they needed for the brainwashing they had experienced? How far would we go?

We live in such a large country. I have often said to my foreign born friends that they cannot criticize a county in which their small country would fit several times over. Some of our states are as large as countries. We are a government of many. Are we flawless? No. Sometimes we are surprised at what is permitted within our boundaries.

Pods of destruction live in our country. Those who would control. Those who would take over. Those who would destroy.

So do we bury our heads? Do we justify ourselves? Do we turn a blind eye to the evil that waits for our children, for us?

He sat with me, a blank page stripped of his history and his family. I mourned the loss of this once boy I loved. Of the child who sat with me in a wagon of freshly-combined wheat and rode up in the air with me in the loader on the tractor. Of the boy who ran from a bee attack and who shared the family events with me. Of a boy who lost himself on the west coast. Where was that boy? Where had his memories been mislaid?

Vigilance. Involvement. Participation. Communication. Being brave adults, we can make a difference. Standing up to the unknown, we can make a change. Sometimes following our children into hell and dragging them back again is the only way to save them.

A little boy grew up and thought he found religion.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Longer Leash

PUPPIES! ARGH! I could leave it at that, but I guess I'll try to write find something in this worth reading.

For the next nine days, I will be puppy sitting for a friend. I get to live in this lovely home with time and space to write. Then there is Finn. Finn is a darling beagle full of romp and play. My romp and play disappeared a long time ago. I'm better with 'I'll watch. You play." Finn has a leash on when in the house so if puppy is unruly all I need to do is step on the leash. The problem is that the leash is not long enough for my aging bones.

He grabbed my glasses case and took off for every piece of furniture under which a pup can scamper evading the grey-haired enemy. The leash was at least 12 inches away from my step at any given time. Finally I gave up the chase and walked to the dog bowl pounding it against the water bowl. Finn went for the bowl. I went for the abandoned case.

While taking my luggage into the bedroom, Finn managed to grab a belt and head for the door. Luckily the strap was wide and awkward for Finn's puppy mouth. I dashed for the belt praising God that I didn't need to go in for a dive before he dropped it.

My arms are chewed up from Millie. As soon as a spot heals, a little tooth manages to pierce my thin skin. This morning I stopped by to tell her I wouldn't see her for over a week. She really didn't seem to care. I'm to go to a book reading tomorrow and will indeed need to wear long sleeves so I don't look like I'm trying to shred my arm. Puppies.

I love puppies. I have had many over the years. Gradually, the bad points of having a new puppy are resurfacing from my memory of an older canine friend. Also comes the realization that I don't want another dog. I like the fact that I can leave the puppy for a time then go back to visit after I have partially healed. Nine days. Hm.

Finn just went to the door with an 'I want to go out' attitude. I opened the door, took off the leash and the dog would not go out. Hm, again. So pulling from my vast experience with dogs, I ran out on the deck stomping my feet. Finn sat inside watching. I closed the door and disappeared around the corner. Ah, I had Finn's attention. I opened the door, and an eager Finn ran out to play. Quickly, Finn ran out with great enthusiasm. As quickly and eagerly as Finn ran out the door, I ran into the house and closed the door.

I probably can't leave him out for nine days, can I?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't Discount the Discount

I pulled up to the window.

"Do I get a senior discount?" I asked. When she said 'yes', my day was made.

I was not yet a senior when I was first asked if I wanted the discount. My children were with me and saw the terror on my face. A senior. It has taken me awhile to put on the title and to feel comfy with it.

Since my decrease in income, I find the small amounts I can save as a senior are important. I always ask, "Do you have a senior discount?" That 60 or 70 cents is just a little more gas in the tank or maybe a soda fountain Pepsi once in awhile. I cherish change....the kind that rattles in my pocket.

I have a feeling that more and more people around my age are coming to accept that senior tag. Lack of employment, living on a fixed income, realizing how much each penny, dime and nickle means has taken on a new appreciate of the senior discount.

My parents scraped and saved. Years when the crops didn't produce well, each penny counted. In my Dad's old journals, each piece of change spent was logged. Now I find myself doing the same.

I still feel a little funny asking for a discount, but since I'm here at this age, I might as well do what I can for myself. When I feel a little awkward asking, I remind myself, "Don't discount the discount."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Time for Lambs

'Good morning, Sunshine'. Ah, the sun. Nature's smile on us. Well, on some of us.

I feel guilty. For the last few days we have had sun beating down on us. Sweater warm and spring like air cause us to smile and puppies to romp. I feel guilty.

"Grammy, why can't we have snow?" my granddaughters ask again and again. For the second year in a row, we are having a la nina winter. The rains came as usual with mild temps and sunshine over the last couple of weeks. Snow? Maybe by the middle of the month. If it doesn't show up, winter chill is probably not going to happen.

On the trip to Ashland, this farm girl saw small lambs next to the ewes. We were at the very end of January. Lambs came in the spring. What was happening? Did spring fever hit early? Do the sheep adjust with the la nina? What is going on?

The puppy and I like to look out the window. We check out the yard to be sure no interlopers have wandered astray. I talk. She listens. Yesterday I noticed that the succulents planted last year in the yard were popping through the ground. Bulbs are up and considering whether or not it is time to bloom. What is going on?

I feel guilty that we don't have bad weather....sort of. I want snow for the girls. I want snow for me to watch from the warmth of the fire inside and soft flakes outside.

So, what is happening? Will it change again? Will the northwest become the new south? We are living in a world of changing climates, of revolution, of freak storms. Changes are happening in our world.

My friend and I in our long conversations while driving across Oregon talked about Heaven. My belief in Heaven is that we all come together for one purpose. We all join in an energy that encompasses everything, a power called God. Not everyone believes as I do and that's fine. We all have our own journeys. Perhaps the biggest journey of all is at hand.

The the lion of winter rages across the east, while in Oregon, the ewe brings forth the lamb.


Let there be sunshine in our souls and peace on earth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mailboxes

Mailboxes. Mounted on a pipe, in a flower barrel, surrounded by a little brick house, lined up in a bank of other mailboxes needing a key.

When I was a child, I loved to walk the gravel lane to the mailbox. I'm not sure if it was the walk I liked or the anticipation of something special inside that white box that said 'Loxley'. Later I would have one of those boxes that requires a key. I always wanted a mail slot in the front door. Perhaps I got lazy over the years or maybe it was the 2' of snow outside of the door of our Wisconsin home.

My granddaughters are excited to check the mail. Gabby wants to rip the junk mail in half. Sydney likes to prove that she is tall enough and old enough to check the box. I still love to check it in hopes of a card, a letter, an unexpected check.

I didn't mail out my Christmas letter this year. Due to the cost of postage, I did an online letter for most people. In contrast, I received many cards from friends along with their family letter. I loved each and every one.

We are becoming correspondents via email, Facebook, etc. Written word is no longer in long hand with twists and flair. We don't wait days to hear from someone. News is instant. I'm not complaining. Oh, maybe I am. In my possession are letters that my grandparents wrote as well as those of my parents and sisters. I have a scrapbook full of old valentines from grade school and those cards and letters sent when my children were born.

Some emails I have saved over the years that pertain to important times in my children's lives as well as those from my parents and other relatives. The written word is all we have of our history. The increase in postage is taking away the once important days of sitting on the hill waiting to see the mailman arrived at the white box at the end of the lane. My grandchildren don't know the thrill of waiting for a letter from a family member. No, now they check their computers.

Guilty as I am for using email instead of writing, I long for those days when I found a letter from my mother in the mail or the days when my sisters wrote a note to me from college. I know that I will print off emails from my granddaughters as they grow into young women. I will cherish those notes from my sisters, my children. My hands don't work so well any more, but, by golly, I will still write those special letters that say "I love you."

Mailboxes. I think I'll go check mine.