Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Red Flag

"It's not easy," I said when Sydney pulled out the game.

"I can do it," she replied. 

Determination. Nothing I said was going to sway her from playing the game. Stubborn? Bull-headed (as my dad would say)? Rebellious?

It is all part of the process of growing up. I know by experience as a child and as a mother. If someone said black, I said white. If someone said you can't, I was sure I could. I learned many lessons the hard way. Some left deep scars. All are remembered.

Millie is a determined pup. She knows the rules but pushes the buttons constantly. She is not a dumb dog by any means. This dog wants to try to do the things she shouldn't. Saying 'no' makes it more enticing. I see it in her eyes when she looks at me after being scolded then goes for it again. Golly, it would help if she talked. I guess if she talked, we could take her on the road as the talking dog and make a few bucks. Still she has to learn the hard way.

My ex-husband would ask my son to help him do things around the house then commenced to do them without allowing James to do it himself. He was frustrated wanting to try things he was sure he could do with or without supervision. The older he got the more determined he was to do things his way. I learned early on that I only fueled the fire if I gave him advice when he took on a project. My input only made him more determined to do things the opposite way.

When I lived in my little house, I decided that my son could do projects the way he wanted. Mistakes were made and the house became a bit flawed here and there, yet they were lessons well-learned. He learned to investigate before tackling. By his mistakes, he learned that he wasn't always right. And, I learned to let go. Still working on that.

We all learn by our mistakes. We all learn by not paying attention. Some mistakes leave scars. Some bring disappointment. Some actually teach us to do things a new way or to ask advice.

The red flag still goes up with my children and grandchildren the same as when I was a child. Parental input is difficult for many. The determination to do the opposite of a parent's input seems to stay with them. Yet, when I am asked for an opinion, I am delighted. Knowing that my grandchildren and children respect me and my life lessons, shows me that they are indeed going to find life easier in the long run. Open mind = an incredible journey through life.

"Grammy, I told everyone in my class that you live with us," Gabby said.

"Oh," I replied.

"I told them that you are fun."

Ah, those precious moments of recognition.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Picture of her Sister

"Grammy, I need help with my homework," Gabby informed me.

Don't let it be math. Don't let it be math. Sure she is a third grader, but I do not understand her math. Argh!!!!


"Can you cut for me?"

Things are looking up.


"I need to paste pictures on a bag."

Ah, I can do this. Gabby hands the list of instructions to me. 

Paper bag:

Side 1: Things liked/disliked.
Side 2: Words that describe you.
Side 3: Things you like to do.
Side 4: Words that describe things you can do.
Inside: Three things you care about.

Easy? Yes.....if you have magazines, if you take a paper, if you are a hoarder and have a lot of media available. We are none of the above. Luckily, we had just received the local Food Day with ads. Usually, I hate this waste of paper tossed into our driveway weekly, but yesterday it was a God send.

Quickly, the paper was chopped into a variety of pieces. The paper had been stripped and still we didn't have enough to cover the bag. I started through the pantry trying to find words. I rummaged through the garage. We definitely had a word shortage. I clipped phrases from grocery sacks, candy bags, the comics. 

Gabby was well into the things she liked by the time I got on board. Dogs, flowers, money (?), berries, Christmas, asparagus,  chocolate, boots and jewelry. Yep, no surprises there. Words to describe: Love, scrumptious, take it or leave it, smart, extra extra special, fashionable, free, good, warm welcomes. Oh, yes, they were all Gabby.

This project was telling me a good bit about this granddaughter of mine and her opinion of herself. She was not proud, but sincere. She did not clip pictures of toys and material things. Her love of animals and nature was obvious.

Things she likes to do: Concerts, theatre, train the dog and piano music. Again, all about Gabby.

It's nice to know what goes on inside of a child's head. Many of the things Gabby chose stood out as things she cared about. The biggest of those was nature.

"Can I clip this one?" I asked.

"It's a rabbit."

"I know, but, Honey, you are the Energizer Bunny."

"Grammy, do you have a picture of Sydney I can have?"

Why did she want a picture of her sister for the bag? Then she told me she was gathering her three things to put into the bag. One was a dog toy. Two was the dog's picture. Three was a picture of her sister.

Homework. A time of learning for a girl and her grandma.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's all we can do

"Saturday night we lost four of our senior boys coming home from spring break in Alabama.  Another car crossed the median and hit them head on.  These four boy's grew up with my children since babies and we are friend with all four families." 

My niece seldom emails, yet this morning the unopened message sat in my inbox. I already knew what had happened yet hesitated to open the message. There was pain in that message, a pain too far away from me. I am in Oregon. My niece is in Indiana. Too far, especially when you want to wrap your arms around a family in pain.

When I was young, the teens didn't go anywhere on spring break. In fact, I'm not even sure we got spring break. Now the kids pile into a car and go celebrate a week away from school. Mine never did. It wasn't even a question posed to me by my children. They were not old enough to go off on their own for a week with other kids minus adult supervision. I would not have even considered putting my children at risk. But this is the way I think. Not all families agree. I cannot and will not judge.

Years ago I worked as a volunteer at the local high school. I ended up being one of the adults in the school that worked with kids at risk. Many of these kids had suffered extreme pain. Some affecting their entire family. My job was to find these kids and get them to talk and into counseling.

One day a student handed me a note....a thought about taking her life. It was at the end of the day on Friday. The girl was leaving on a weekend retreat. I immediately called her and made her promise not to hurt herself. The promise was given. I then went to the counselors asking what I should do.

"You need to call her parents."

What!?!?! I was just a 'mom' the kids came to. Why should I call? Isn't that the counselor's job?

"Because she came to you."

I knew the parents. I knew the horrible tragedy that had struck there family when they lost a son. I made the call.

There was nothing I could do for the family except tell them to get counseling and to see that this other child, their only remaining child was in counseling.

We are not the cure-all for those in pain. What we can be is an unbiased ear available any time night or day.

My niece is roommate to the sister of one of the deceased boys. My nephews grew up with the boys. The families had known one another for years. I'm in Oregon. They are in Indiana.

I love Facebook for the immediate contact it gives me to those who are not nearby. I love that I can be in contact so easily. On Saturday, I chatted with my niece with the grieving roommate. I checked in. This morning when I read the email, I got on Facebook and wrote to my two nieces explaining how they can help their brothers, their family. Perhaps the focus on helping their family will help them through the pain of loss.

We do not have all the answers. We cannot protect the children from tragedy. We cannot make it all better. This morning I gave my phone number to my nieces.

"Call me if you need to talk. Call me for anything at any time. I am here for you."

It's all we can do.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Games People Play

Go directly to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Games.

This morning while looking at a sleeping dog, who got me up at 4am, drinking my coffee, the newscaster came on talking about the bathing suit sold by Abercrombe and Fitch. Now my mind doesn't stay on one topic very long. No, it takes off into unexplored territory at unexpected moments. This was one of those moments. This is not about responsible manufacturers.

This is about what we teach our children. This is about games. Now don't get excited. I don't intend to slam games, but I am wondering what we teach through these games. Yes, they are harmless, but what do they say to the child?

I have played Monopoly my entire life. I guess I learned that I could get rich if I bought property and could drive others to poverty. I learned that going to jail was as easy as a card telling me I needed to go there. There are games that tell you that you can get rich fast if you go to college. You have to pay off your debt, but that's as easy as moving down the road. Most games allow the player to knock another player back home if the pawn is in the wrong place. Games. We all play them without thinking of the lessons they teach.

I love the Cranium games. My favorite is Balloon Lagoon. The game is fun, fast moving and no one goes to jail. Games like Scattergories makes you think quickly. Some games like Apples to Apples calls for creative thinking....and lying. Games. They don't really harm. But maybe some of them do not teach the correct things.

Then there are video games. The Wii games my grandkids play are fun and none threatening. Most require an amount of skill, and all usually lead to a lot of giggling. Yet, I see violent games advertised on TV. Games that show bullying and violence. What are they teaching? Why do adults sit for hours playing them?

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here. We love to play games. There is always a winner, but we try to focus on the fun of the game. The time for family gathering around making memories if priceless. Still we have a responsibility and opportunity to teach through these games. Children are sponges. They assimilate everything. It is the processing of that information that might need clarification and understanding. Adults need to be vigilant.

"It's not about winning." No, sometimes its about teamwork. Sometimes it's about skill. Sometimes it's about luck. Every time it is about adults being responsible for what is put before the child.

The games people play can often be the games that affect life.

Friday, March 25, 2011

So Nice to See You

"It's been a long time," the standard comment. "Let's get together soon."

"Let's do......."

We don't. We've all done it. We met up with an old friend or acquaintance, hug or shake hands, smile and laugh at the chance meeting. In a matter of seconds, we catch up on children, moves, jobs, etc. Shortened versions lasting all of about 3 minutes.

"We should get together when we have more time to talk."

Well, yes, we should, but we don't. I'm terrible at this; however, the other person never calls either. I have found phone numbers scribbled on a receipt or a piece of paper with no names attached. Whose number is it? I certainly don't remember. I keep the number on the kitchen counter for a few days then pitch it or toss it into the desk. Then at some odd time, the name comes back to me. Darn! Why don't I remember to write the name to begin with?!?!

My question is: Do I really want to talk to these people again? It seems like once in awhile when those random meetings occur we talk awhile then run out of things to say. Or do I just zone out thinking, "I never did know this person all that well." Still we exchange numbers and never call.

We lose touch with people. Our children grow up and friends change, school parents move on with their kids and neighbors change with each move. We join organizations and leave them again. We add people. We subtract people. Changes over our lives change those who go along with us.

Still I would not change those chance meetings. They bring to mind once good friends, wonderful memories and days long gone. I find these people in my thoughts more often. We add. We subtract. We change. But that thread that binds us all together continues. And a chance meeting takes us back again.

"So nice to see you again......"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Happened to Commitment

"What happened to commitment?" my friend asked me yesterday. "Why do people think that there is always a way out?"

There is a new movement in many marriages to stand by their commitment. Instead of looking for ways to part amicably, they are going to counseling to find their way back to a commitment they made 'for better or worse'. These couples are struggling with their relationships feeling trapped, so they turn to their commitment realizing that they need to find their way back. Bravo for them.

Commitment should not be a tangible word. It should mean what it means.

Commitment. The act of pledging oneself, obligating, involvement.

I think that continual lack of commitment is a weakness. Giving oneself to a pledge shows strength of character. For the other person, it shows true trust in accepting the commitment. Shouldn't the word mean more?

Over the years I have seen parents slough off a commitment to a child. Children are not born with an understanding that someone would 'break a promise' or just ignore a prior commitment. We adults know it happens. Disappointment is not a surprise. In fact, I think we often expect it. But for the child? They are so innocent. They believe in we adults. The words we say to them must be true. Why wouldn't they be? So why is it that so many adults don't hesitate to put off the child?

Breaking a commitment should not be done lightly. A commitment is like a promise. A commitment is a trust. A commitment should be 'our word' given.

We weren't given commitments when I was a child. I think Mom and Dad knew that they might not be able to follow through financially or if something came up on the farm, plans would change. Our parents were committed to one another and the farm. They were committed to the health and safety of their children. Those things we knew and trusted.

I value the word commitment. I don't know that I always have, but I have seen what happens to a child when a commitment is broken. Yes, it happens, much too often. Commitment. A very strong word that can scar if not handled correctly.

My grandchildren are precious. I hope that I teach them about commitment by the life I lead and the decisions I make. Disappointing one of them is not acceptable, and if by some chance it has to happen, they will know that it is not done lightly.

Commitment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers

Today's blog is a copy of my writing on my Neff Road blog yesterday. So those who read both. I apologize. Tomorrow a new one.

I feel rather silly typing the title. Feel a little silly mentioning it. I still look the same. Still the same girl from Neff Road. Not much changed since yesterday, except, today the book came out with my little page and a half contribution. #99... A short story about a Sliver of Bed. In fact, I should maybe rename it to  'Sliver of Story'. Humbled? Heck yes.

I'm not sure why people who have the ability to express themselves should have the right to promote a book or a song or maybe even a piece of art. Those of us who do this type of artsy thing know that we couldn't stop doing it if we wanted to. We put down what insists on finding the paper. We draw what the eyes present to the fingers. We write songs that play over and over again in our heads until they are silenced when committed to paper. It's just what we do.

"Aren't you excited that you are published?"

"We are so happy for you."

"It's about time."

On and on the wonderful sentiments come, but don't they know that I had no choice? Don't they know that the words were destined to find their way to the written page? It's not something writers can control. The words are just insistent little things that prod, manipulate, drive the writer to place them on the page.

So why do writers send their copy in to be published? Beats me? I do some writing in order to make a little money. I do other writing because I challenge myself to write the best copy possible to see if it attracts a publisher. I sometimes feel that maybe my words can make a difference if I put them out there in my blogs.

I began by writing social dramas in coordination with the drug and alcohol program for the local school district. Much to my surprise, the plays became such a positive tool that they were used for the next 12 years. Words connected and made a difference in the lives of families. It wasn't about me. It was all about the words.

Words have a life of their own. Sometimes I think I am the keeper of words. I don't really know where they come from. They just appear. Often I write something and wonder how it all fell onto the page so eloquently. It surely was not by my hand. I think maybe I have been given words to give away. They aren't my words. I came with them already embedded in me. I am just a keeper of words.

Today Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers (http://www.chickensoup.com/) came out with my little story #99. There are only 101 stories in the book. I'm just lucky there weren't only 98 stories in the book. I might not have made the cut. It is a story of love between a grandma and her granddaughter. It is a story preserving a precious memory.

Today I was published. Hm. Don't feel any different than I did yesterday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Controlling the 'No'

No. Just that simple. A two-letter word. A powerful two-letter word. No.

This struggle to control the two-letter word definitely comes into play when a child hits two and actually can say the word. The child is as little and mighty as the little word. Too bad there isn't another two-letter word that could take it's place.

Possible alternatives:  So, do, go, to, be, me, ma, my, etc...... Why no? I'm sitting here trying to roll the alternatives off the tongue. I must admit that I like saying 'no' the best. That little pucker of the lips, the hard hit off the hard palate, the finality of closing the lips at the end of the word. I rather like the feel of the word. But.....controlling the 'no' is much different than the saying of it. Plus I look really stupid sitting here saying the word over and over.

As a young mother, I remember my first struggle with parental patience. Here was a child who was alive all of about 24 months who was controlling a woman in her late twenties. I had used the word many times in my growing up years and was really good at saying it. Being on the other side of the 'no' was not so easy.

My experience of the 'no' is well-honed. I know the repercussions of a misplaced 'no'. The sense of defeat. The thrill of a successful 'no'. Yes, my years of experience had taught me to use the word skillfully. Yet when a grandchild looks at me and says 'no', my confusion alarm goes off. I immediately start through that file in my brain looking for a resolution. I know that a 'no' met with a 'no' gets us nowhere. From experience, I know that a retorted 'no' said louder has an effect of the resounding 'no' getting angrier. Ach! The battle of the 'nos'.

I have learned a few things. Probably the most important is to keep my mouth shut and to think before I answer the 'no'. The face-off of wills gets us nowhere, and there are no lessons learned. There is no communication taking place. I have even learned that sometimes the 'no' is right. My retort would be from my point of view. Maybe I need to step back and look at the 'no' from the source.

Perhaps this blog is meaningless today. But this word and I have had a long journey together. In dealing with my granddaughters and the 'no', I find that I can open doors of understanding. We can have conversation instead of arguments. We can both learn co-operation. Maybe I can even help to make their lives a little easier.

Controlling the 'no'. Understanding the 'noer'.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Peace....Pass it on

Peace.

Let me say it again. Peace.

How often do you say it in your home? Peace.

I grew up post-war. Peace was a word that was spoken. It was a word that meant no more dying. Families reunited. A world recovering from the granddaddy of wars.

Peace. I know what the word means. I remember a war in my time. A war in a strange land that took away the boys from my high school class. A war that shattered our lives....and a time of rebellion. "No more war!" We understood.

So I ask my granddaughters, "What does the word 'peace' mean? There are no right or wrong answers. Just tell me what you think it means."

Gabby immediately holds up her fingers creating the peace symbol and yelling, "Peace!" Nothing more. Just a word and a symbol. Interpretation of a girl, age 9.

"I think I know what it means," Sydney said. "I think it means world peace."

"Okay. So what is world peace?"

"Where people get along?"

"Yes," I answered. "Where people get along."

Peace. Have we let you down? Have we grown complacent? Do we forget to tell the children what sacrifices have been made for peace? Have we dropped the ball? What happened to 'no more war'?

My son is writing a musical about WWII. He wants to honor those who died. He wants to honor his grandfather who never talked about the war. Peace.

Turn on the news and war rages. It seems to be a staple in the news. The girls are on the computer, playing with the dog or occupied in some other way. No longer do families gather around the radio to hear what is happening in the world. No longer do we crave news from outside of our cocoons. War. It happens to someone else.

I learned a song when I was young. In fact, I played it on the piano and sometimes cried when I sang the words. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Peace on earth. We sing it at Christmas. We pray it. We wish it for everyone. But, do we explain it to our grandchildren.

Nine eleven hit us right between the eyes. The pictures, sounds, horror of it is etched in our brains. Yet, these children do not remember it. Gabby wasn't born yet. She would arrive in October 2001. Sydney was two. They have no memories of that tragic day. They have no understanding.

Our world is small. So is the word Peace. We are all bound by an invisible thread. My brothers and sisters live in Japan, in France, in Peru, in India, in Indonesia, in Egypt, in Somalia. We are all bound together in this family of humankind.

Sydney and I watch the news together. She asks questions and we talk about world events. I insist that the girls watch world events and understand what is happening. Evidently, I have not told them enough about peace. I want them to care about and understand this world family.

Teach the children.

Peace.....pass it on.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hot Pink Shoes With Velvet Bows

She walked through the door. "Who is this girl?" I asked. A gorgeous girl dressed like a teen model. Wow, when did she grow up?"

When I was about her age, I remember going places with my parents, meeting up with friends or family. It was the same every time. "So this is the baby," they would say. Or, I would be introduced as the 'baby' of the family. "My how you have grown." I hated it. I was a teen and supposed to.

Sydney saw a pair of funky plastic shoes with big velvet bows on the toes at the end of the summer season. They were so goofy and yet beautiful on her young feet. $10! Not bad.

"Can we get them?" she asked.

I explained that it was the end of the summer season. Her feet would grow by the next summer. Disappointment. But the shoes were never forgotten.

Her birthday was coming and I had yet to decide what I would get my twelve year old granddaughter. I found a darling pair of Donna Karin capris and a fantastic shirt. One more stop, and I had the perfect gift. Spring shoes were beginning to hit the shelves.  Returning two seasons later, I found the same hot pink shoes on the sale rack. Her gift was ready, all for $24.

When Sydney opened the shoes and pulled them out, my family looked at me wondering if I had indeed had no taste in clothing. Not so for the birthday girl. She laughed and immediately put them on showing everyone her new plastic shoes. They just didn't get it. Sydney had a style of her own.

Yesterday she walked into the house, new shirt and new shoes with her skinny jeans. Suddenly I was catapulted back to when I noticed that my own children had grown up right before my eyes, yet it took a special moment for me to realize that passing of time.

They grow up quickly. We watch but fail to realize the impact of that one moment until we experience it. The time of stepping into herself and away from the nest has become a little more evident. I am in awe of her beauty and poise. I saw the woman she would be.

I guess I'm still the baby. An old baby at that. We move into our lives not realizing that we leave behind a space that cannot be filled by anyone else.

Hot pink shoes with velvet bows stepping into tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wearin' the Green

Anger flared.

"I don't have anything green to wear tomorrow!" came the words from Sydney's bedroom.

Her mother said something met with Sydney's reply, "I want bright green!"

Well, maybe it is her Irish roots. The green runs richly on her dad's side of the family. Evidently, so does the Irish spunk.

My new daughter-in-law is a contrast from Sydney's other aunt. One has fiery red hair while the other had dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. Both from Irish roots. I think we are being invaded by the Irish.

Ah, I not be wearin' the green today. Not even sure I have anything green. Should anyone try to pinch me, they're achin' for a fight. No. Not a drop of the Irish in this old girl. However, I love Irish based novels. I've made my way through Ireland via books by Edward Rutherford. Now I'm reading Whisperer by Carla Neggers. Yes, for some reason Ireland draws me in.

A friend of mine had a great idea. She and her little sons hide sparkly trinkets around the house in hopes of catching a leprechaun. This morning they checked the traps. Ah, no leprechaun, but a nice 'green' pile of pancakes.

I wrote in one of my earlier blogs about driving through a rainbow. Driving in the far left lane of the highway, I actually drove through the place where the rainbow touched the ground. Believe it or not, everything it touched turned a golden color. The pot of gold ran along next to my car, a car in which the driver was laughing with delight.

A friend recently moved to Ireland. Someday I hope to visit. I will look for the faeries and magic of the country. The places I have only read about will be real. Maybe my roots are not from that mysterious country, but something draws me to the magic it holds.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, my friends! May you find your pot of gold.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Calico Grams

"So what do you think of my hair?" I asked Gabby having let my natural color grow out these many months.

My question is greeted with a few moments of silence.

"Well," she said with her nine year old, mother voice. "I like it better all light. You have a lot of colors now." She continued listing off the colors, "White, kinda yellow, black, that brownish color....."

Color by color, my new confidence to natural is weakening. "That yellow color is blond," I say defensively. I should know better than to ask a child.

My friends like my hair....or do they? Now I'm wondering if people pass me by and wonder at my calico hair. Maybe I'm a brindle. Oh, I'm in trouble. I'm comparing my hair color to that of animals.

"I wish my hair looked as good," said a friend. Hm. Does she really?

With my top layer of white (or fading yellow, as Gabby would put it) and dark hair beneath, I see myself as having low lights, or is it highlights? In my mirror, it doesn't look too bad. Yes, the blond is still there, but fading more and more beneath a blanket of white. I wonder if my mirror lies.

In a few weeks I will have a reading of my short page and a half in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers. Do I go as is? Or, do I once more start the cycle of hair coloring? If I do, am I being honest with myself? Grey and white hair might make me more credible with the others toting the same colors. Maybe I should shoot for a younger look?

This process of allowing my hair to go natural has been a bit of a journey. I've had to ignore the awkward stage of 'roots'. Thinking that I was mostly white came as a surprise when I noticed the dark low lights. Most days I'm oblivious to the color. Other days, I wonder what color it is. Still on other days, I wonder what I'm doing.

My hair is healthier these days. I think maybe I don't primp as much. I seem to feel a bit better about myself by not worrying about this aging thing. Maybe this new color is still a little sexy and attractive. Perhaps with the longer life span, this is the color will be more popular. Maybe, just maybe, my hair isn't me. I'm very lucky to have light hair that just gets lighter. Were it darker, I might reconsider. Men with greying temples or those with white hair are very classy. Perhaps I need to think of myself as classy.

"Grammy, maybe you color it again," Gabby adds.

Maybe she doesn't understand 'classy'. Hm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Being Not Normal

"No, Grammy, we are not normal!" Sydney said.

"Noooo, Grammy, we aren't a normal family," Gabby added.

Gabby and I had a day all to ourselves while Sydney was off celebrating her birthday on Sunday. It was like old times. We giggled, acted silly and found a place we'd lost several months ago when households combined.

"I miss having time alone with you," I said to her.

"We don't see Mommy enough so we spend time with her," she replied.

"Well, I miss the mornings when we all snuggled on the sofa all warm and cuddly."

"And the way we danced around the living room and tickling matches."

"Yes, Gabby, I miss that, too."

Our relationships have changed. I miss that one on one time away from 'our' house. I miss my old house and the memories and routines we left there. The girls have changed. Our relationship has changed. Having a day with Gabby and finding a glimpse of those days is a gift.

Mom is working late. The girls and I sit at the table eating when the rhyming begins. We love to rhyme. It kills time in the car and has been fun at bath time. Minds work quickly and rhymes move faster.

"Grammy's rhymes make sense, Gabby," Syd explained. I guess I set the bar high.

Before long giggles begin.

"Grams, let's pretend we are normal," Sydney said.

Normal? We aren't normal?

"Sure. Are you sure we aren't normal?" I asked.

"Ooooooh, noooooo, Grammy," Gabby adds. "We are definitely not normal."

"Well, maybe we should be normal."

"That wouldn't be fun," Sydney chimes in.

"So why aren't we normal?" I ask thinking that maybe I have created monsters.

The girls went on to tell me how boring other homes are at dinner time. We laugh and have fun. I didn't tell them, but they also eat better.

"Okay, let's be normal." I began with a British accent.

I think I like not being normal. My grandchildren have wonderful manners. Any restaurant would be delighted with their behavior. I love that my granddaughters can pick up a conversation and make it absolutely delightful. Yes, we are a bit unconventional. It's a Grammy's privilege.

"Grammy, what rhymes with orange?" Hm. That's a tough one.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Country Girl Meets Sexual Harassment

Pack the bags! Your kids are going off into life. Are they ready?

This morning I was watching the news about the young woman who is suing a major clothing company for sexual harassment. Question asked by reporter: Why did you stay at the company?

Country girl. I wear the banner proudly. I lived in a rural community surrounded by people who loved me, who watched over me. A community that had not changed much since my mother was a child. Our way of life was wonderful. I knew little of the outside.

I was eighteen when I went to work in the city for the largest company around. An acquaintance got the job for me. This farm girl was going to work in a fast moving research and development office of men. I certainly looked like a country bumpkin in my homemade dresses and straight hair. I stepped out of rural Ohio into a world I was not prepared to meet.

The men in our office were wonderful. They adopted me as their own, protecting me from city dangers and watching over me when the other women in the office decided to be mean to the rather colorless girl I was back then. However, situations did arise that I was not prepared to meet.

I was a lowly file clerk when I started working. Being low woman in the office, I was sent on errands, and took on any task that no one else wanted. I didn't mind. It was the first time in my life that I had money. I got my first apartment, purchased furniture and bought my first wardrobe. My life was moving quickly from simplicity to exciting. The file clerk was moving up.

When I first started work, I was often asked to oversee the needs of the executive office. The vice president had requested that I bring coffee, make copies, clean up after the meeting. I was thrilled that I had caught the eye of the vice president.

More and more I seemed to run into this vice president. If I worked on the weekend, he passed by my desk for a chat. Then began with the flattering informing me that I would make a great model. 1966. Farm girl. I received a phone call from him one evening asking if he could come over. My mind was racing. It felt wrong. I wasn't prepared to handle this kind of situation. I had no prior experience. Heck, my parents would have said, "Come on over. We'd love the company." I was at a loss. Sensibility clicked in.

"I have plans," I said awkwardly. He told me to let him know when it would suit.

Immediately, I called the man who would eventually become my husband. I told him that I was scared  of what would happen if I didn't allow the man to come over. I was scared I would lose my job. I was scared of what this man would think of me. The kindness he had shown me in the beginning had turned into nightmare. My stomach still turns at the thought. Jim was furious. He calmed me down. We decided that I would change to a new, unlisted phone number then treat the VP as if nothing had happened avoiding him as much as possible.

I was lucky. I wasn't caught in a web without help. I followed my inner instincts, that inner voice that told me this was wrong. Not every young woman has help; she can easily get caught. I knew that I could go home and give up my apartment if I didn't have a job. I knew that I was in trouble when I got the call and knew I would have support from some who would understand the office hierarchy. I was so young and naive.....and very fortunate.

Yes, this young lady was not smart. She was afraid. In this day and age, I don't understand why anyone would not know that this behavior of her boss is wrong. Yet, I do understand that fear of job loss, of retribution.

Our children leave our homes. We send them with every bit of knowledge we can impart. Still they will be met with the unknown. We can arm them with ways to protect themselves, but they will learn on their own by experience. All we can do is be sure that they know that no matter what, they can come home to a safe haven and loving arms.

I stayed at my job. After finding excuses to walk away from the executive, he began to ignore me. I went on to become a secretary with a great job still surrounded by those men who protected me. I feel for those who are in that situation and do not judge. I could have been in those shoes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11, 2011

We sat watching in horror. What we were watching was live. A day ending in Oregon while a new day was in progress in Japan. Buses tossed like water toys in a babies bath. Cars bumping like bumper cars at the carnival. Ten minutes. They had ten minutes to evacuate. We watched in horror. As with any major event, we wonder, "What if it happened here?" I cannot comprehend what I am watching. Dear God......

Oregon is predicted to receive a huge quake off our coast at any time. We live on the other side of the mountains often going to the beach just an hour away. I have sat overlooking the ocean when a quake shook the plates and cups on our table. I sit watching Japan.

We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. In just minutes, lives are tossed into chaos. People die, the earth is flooded or charred. Mountains erupt taking land and all in the path. Life as it is known changes with the wim of the earth. I sit feeling very small. I sit wanting to hold my family close and not let go.

This morning I checked in on Facebook to see what comments were posted. Did others feel the same vulnerability? Only one other posting mentioned Japan. Of all the people I know from different parts of the world, only one mentioned this event that has devastated a country. Only one. Have we become immune to the  events in other parts of the world? Or, are we wordless watching this horror unfold? I'm confused.

I sit watching our local news covering our Oregon beaches. A young man walks toward the ocean. Warnings have been sounded up and down the shore. Yet curiosity and defiance bring those curious to the water's edge. Do we think we are immune to the power of this world on which we live? What is wrong with us? Are we really so detached?

Last night I sat feeling powerless. Understanding that I was watching a horrible event unfold was almost more than I could comprehend. Nothing could be done to stop it from happening. Lives were being lost right before my eyes. I could do nothing more than sit here and pray for them. I could do nothing more than watch, telling these people that I care. I could do nothing for them but mourn what I was seeing.

My heart aches. This is not another country. This is not a different culture. This is not out of my neighborhood. These people are my people. We live in this family named Earth Inhabitants. When they suffer, we suffer. When they lose, we all lose. When they cry, the world weeps with them.

Today I celebrate the birth of my granddaughter twelve years ago. She is a bit more precious to me today as are the other members of my family. I fear more for her today in a world that has shaken and changed families forever. There are other birthdays today. Some of those are washed away by the ocean's rage. Today I will hold my family closer thanking God that we are safe. Today I will carry the thought of those suffering the earth's fury.

Sydney, I love you. Oh, how I love you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A New Lease on Life

A new lease on life. The other name for 'a good night's sleep'.

Two nights this week, I laid awake with nigglings of bits and pieces of my life, that of my children, my grandchildren and just words vying for a place to live. Then I had a 12-hour night. This late night reader found herself asleep by 9:30. Sleep. Sometimes it just avoids me regardless of my extent of exhaustion, the warm glass of milk or a pill that is supposed to make me slumber like a baby. Sleep.

I know I'm not alone in this quest for quality shut-eye. Many of my friends tell me that the older they get, the more illusive the sleep. For me, my entire life was plagued by sleep deprivation. In those of us in the next 50 years of our lives, we get cranky. Nothing worse than a cranky adult. Small things are big. Insignificant things are irritating. Children are noisy and in need of attention we just don't want to give.

I remember elderly visitors falling asleep during adult conversation when I was a child. The head would bob jerking up occasionally then falling once more to the chest. Occasionally, a little snore would escape the lips of the nodding senior. I'd giggle. My mother would stop it with one look....that look that can kill.

When my grandchildren (and my children) are missing some z's, confrontation sits on that chip on the shoulder just waiting to for me to make a baaaaad move. If I haven't had my sleep, the battlefield is ready and waiting for the first move from the opposing side. Sleep.

When I'm tired, I think that I should never be rested again. My body sags. My mind wants to find a dark place in which to shut down. My resistance to irritants is gone. I just want to lie down and wait for sleep to take me away.

Sleep. We need it. Our families need it. Our world leaders need it. Sleep. A new lease on life.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Life Comes at You Fast.

STOP!!!! Stop the clocks! Don't look at your calendars!!! Oh....don't look in the mirror!!!! STOP!

Whew. Had a moment there. Once more time has caught up with me. On Friday, my granddaughter turns twelve. Twelve. Next year she will be a teenager. Where in the world did the time go? 

Seems like yesterday that my daughter said the words, "We have a surprise for you." When she said the words, "I'm going to have a baby." I was stunned. Not that she was going to have a baby but that I was going to be called 'grandma'.

Then little Sydney was born. The name fit well. The name "Grandma". I grew to love my new name. I immediately fell in love with a baby girl. Over the years, I have delighted in being the grandmother of a sweet girl who jut gets lovelier with time. But babies grow, and time seems to be racing to the finish. My first grandchild is growing up.

Was it so long ago that I was a teenager? I still feel the same in this skin of mine. Of course, the skin has changed over the years and what's inside aches a little more with that passing of time. But those feelings of being young never go away. I remember thinking that my parents didn't understand what it was to be a teen. They didn't tell me that they, in truth, remembered it well. No one told me that I would embrace those memories of a younger me more and more as I age. Was it really so long ago?

I gave up having panic attacks when I reached a new decade. Twenty came with great gusto and excitement. Thirty was busy with babies. Forty settled in with new adventures. Kids were leaving and I was finding a new life. Fifty arrived with a bit of a start. Yet along with the age came a new peace I'd never known. Sixty was inevitable because it follows fifty-nine. Might as well go with the flow. But somehow I didn't expect the same aging speed with my children and grandchildren.

Twelve. About as preteen as you can get. The thirty-nine before the forty. Argh! Speaking of thirty-nine, my daughter will be thirty-nine this year! 

Pull out the candles, light up the cake! On Friday Sydney turns twelve. Turn around and she will be twenty.

Life comes at you fast.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Uh Huh

She sat next to me. Sponge Bob was trying to ride a sea horse. In her arms, she cuddled a soft, stuffed lamb.

"Where did you get your lamb?" I asked trying to draw her into conversation.

"From Heather," she replied.

Sponge Bob didn't stop for the conversation or allow Gabby to focus on her Grams sitting next to her.

"Sure is cute."

"I know."

I laid my hand on her leg. A small hand sneaked beneath my own. Sponge Bob just had his spatula eaten by the sea horse.

"Isn't that silly," she commented.

"Uh huh," I replied.

"I change her earrings with the seasons," Gabby commented.

"Oh, on your lamb?" I asked.

"Uh huh," she replied.

"Hm," I added. "They're very pretty."

"Uh huh. They're green."

Sponge Bob sent his sea horse away. Gabby grabbed her coat and headed out the door to school. She stopped for a moment to give me a kiss.

"Love you, Honey," I said.

"Love you, too," she replied

Uh huh, I think my day is off to a good start.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stepping out of the Zone

"Do you do readings here?" I tentatively asked the manager of the Barnes and Noble bookstore. One question and the ball starts rolling.

I guess you will need to share this journey with me into publication. I may be a grandma, but I'm still able to make new journeys. I'm still allowed to be nervous and a bit scared. So come on! We might learn a few things together.

Step up and step out. That's the name of the game, all of you adults.

This weekend I worked with a young lady preparing an audition piece. Ten years old and wanting to capture the dream of attending the Arts and Communications School. I know those dreams. I had them. I know those dreams, because I have helped other kids try for them. The competition in the arts is sometimes wicked and often disappointing. So why try?  Because the voice will not be silenced.

"Use your energy, your fear," I told the budding actress. "You have a gift that no one else possesses. No one can do the monologue like you. Don't be intimidated by those around you who brag about their shows or those who seem to have more confidence. Remember that everyone who steps out of their comfort zone is a bit scared, or maybe really scared. Only you can do what you do."

Only you can do what you do. I told this to a young man I met today who has asked that I help with marketing of his new business. He has a wonderful idea that has nagged him over the past few years. Finally, he has the courage and encouragement to step up and try it.

You would think that after the many years we have lived, that our self confidence would be strong enough for us to try something we've put off for one reason or another. I've had the excuses: I'm too old; I don't know how to do it; yada yada yada. I've said it all. All in all, I was too scared to try to write. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid that I had no talent. I was afraid to put myself out there for the public to scrutinize. Well, no more. If I don't try, I fail myself.

I've never done a reading before. I've never signed a book before. This will be the first of several readings that I will do with other authors who have contributed to the series of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I don't know how I will do but look forward to the adventure. I am learning. I have taken that step out of my comfort zone.

So, come on out of your comfort zone dreamers. The only way to fail is not to try. You can do it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

For Those Men Who Care

Daily I write about being a grandma, a grandma without a grandpa. Today I write about the importance of a good man in the life of a family.

Men, you are important. The time that you take to call your child, the effort you make to attend special events, the special times that only you can have with the child need to be recognized.

My father was an important man in my life. I was his shadow. He was my hero. Many times my dad and I took walks talking the entire time. Dad showed me things and taught me lessons that have carried on through my entire life. He gave me one on one attention on a daily basis even if it were no more that a short conversation on our way to the barn. He always stopped what he was doing to greet me. Dad taught me that men could be kind and thoughtful. Oh, he had his temper and lost it often. I learned the bad side of Dad along with the good. Not until I was grown did I realize more of what made Dad tick.

I didn't know my grandfathers well. They were farmers with little time for a grandchild. I truly can't remember a conversation with either grandfather. When we moved to Wisconsin, my mom's father kissed me on the cheek, a memory I treasure. A once in a lifetime. My grandfather died a few months later.

My brother-in-law is a fantastic grandfather. The boys adore him. The youngest called him maw. He gives attention to the boys and warm, loving arms. He knows what a gift it is to be a grandpa.

Men, you are important in the lives of your children and grandchildren. They need that time alone with a loving man. They need to know you, to share with you, to have that love only you can give to them.

More than anything, I miss having someone to share the wonderful experiences with me as they happen.

For those men who wouldn't miss a moment of the children's lives, bravo. For those men who spend quality time with their children and grandchildren, you are my heroes. For those of you raising your children, your grandchildren, I admire you. For those men, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, friends, who take time to help with the children in their family, to teach them, to care for them, to build their self-confidence, you are appreciated.

Today, I honor those men who care. Thank you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Dangling Life

Hid when I meant hide. One segment of the sentence in present tense, the rest in past tense. Argh! I need an editor!!!

No matter how many times I re-read my blogs before posting, I still find in the end that I've missed something. Dangling participles, dangling sentences, major butchering of the English language. Well, I try. I always think I'll get better, but still I find the danglers.

I've decided that my writing is a bit like my life. No matter how hard I try, there is always a dangler I missed. Something I should have done. Something I did that I shouldn't. Something I should have said, and, most definitely, those things that would have been better left unsaid.

Word have a funny way of manipulating us. What comes out of my mouth well-formed often is misinterpreted. What is meant in jest is taken the wrong way. In our English language, we have many words with multiple meanings. The hearer may not understand the term the speaker is using. Ack and alas! I need an editor.

I've come to the conclusion that if I make a mistake in my blog, it will be a challenge to my readers to interpret or correct the error. It's sort of like a test. That way, I won't look so stupid, and you will look brilliant.

I'm trying hard to do my own editing of my written word and my life. Oops, sometimes I slip up, but I'm still developing my story.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hiding the Obvious

"It's not going to work," I told the dog. "Did you hear me? It's not going to work."

The dog not speaking English ignores me and continues.

"Okay," I said as I walked over to the food bowl. "Let me help."

Again, the dog doesn't say 'thank you' or really care whether I'm there to help or not. So I move the food rug over exposing more available rug. I turn one corner over to make it easier to grasp.

Puddles continues the process making no more progress than before.

My dog, Sadie, did the same goofy thing. She stood on the sofa or backseat of my car digging an imaginary hole, a place to hide a bone.

"Where's the bone?" I would ask. Sadie looked at me. Was she wondering if I could see where she hid the bone or was I just stupid since the bone sat where it first began?

Puddles covers his food every day with the edge of the rug beneath his feast. With his nose, he coaxes the edges up and hopefully over the food. He then stands back observing his work. Sometimes the process goes on for what seems like forever. In all the times we have walked pass his food, none of us have claimed any. Still he protects his own.

There is no message in this page I write. Only a observation of trying to cover up the obvious, hoping no one can see what is right in front of them when all the time is still sits in plain sight.

"Yeah, sure Puddles, I do not see your dog food." Oh, dear God, I need a life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Think I Have an Agent

A quick knock on the door and the roar of a truck. Gabby and I looked at each other then ran to the door just in time to see the back of the UPS truck driving away. A box sat on the stoop. Return address: Simon and Schuster. For a moment I couldn't move.

"What is it, Grammy?" my overzealous, box-ripping-open, granddaughter asked.

"Gabby, it's my book," I answered with butterflies slamming against the sides of my stomach. My book.

This book industry is new to me. Because my story was accepted, I get a box of free books. This is pretty good since I can't ask my family to go out and buy my book. Plus it will be nice to sit in the middle of them realizing that I have been published. An industry new to me. I feel like a kid at Christmas.

On page 338, my little story, "A Sliver of Bed" sits waiting. Book release is March 22. It certainly does sit waiting.

"Grammy! 9 is your favorite number!" Gabby exclaims.

Yes, nine is my favorite number and my story is number 99 out of the 101 stories in the anthology. I'm wondering how many people will find their way to the end of the book and my little story. It's only a page and a half. Shouldn't take long to read. Again, how could I ask anyone to pay for the book when I am only on a page and a half.

I'm wondering if a page and a half really qualifies me as an author. I think I'm just a lucky person to have been accepted for a page of print. I went to Borders to see if Chicken Soup for the Soul has shelf space. Sure enough, there is a section of three shelves. I stood there wondering if anyone would find my story. Glancing around, I wondered if anyone would notice if I dog-eared my story when the books came in. Maybe I could sit there for a few days and see if anyone picked up the book.

"Hi, I'm an author. Want me to sign your book? I'm on page 338."

Tacky, huh? Well, it was a fleeting thought.

"Can I take your book to school, Grammy?" Gabby asked.

Sure, why not. The story is about her, so why not let her have her moment.

She hopped in the car at the end of the day. "Grammy, I sold one of your books to Hannah! She's gonna pay $20!"

Hm. I think I have an agent.