Friday, April 29, 2011

I've Gotta Be Me

Sometimes life just isn't the way we want it to be. Family problem, financial difficulties, disasters just make our lives more complicated and definitely not the way we want it to be.

Some days I think my life sucks. I now do parenting for my grandchildren when they are in my care almost every day. I don't want to help with homework any more, but I do. I don't want to be the one to discipline, but I do. I don't want to have my evenings taken up with kid things, but I do. I do it. Yes, I do it. It is not the way I want things to be.

My problems are small in comparison to those who truly suffer. Tornadoes have ripped homes, towns apart. What was a normal life on Wednesday is a life far from normal on Friday. There is no going on for those people in the usual way. For those who suffered the tsunami, those war torn countries, those who are daily living from bit of food to bit of food, those who live with terminal illness have no normal days.

Sometimes I lose my perspective. The small things that irk me are so insignificant. My battles should be easily worked through instead of controlling me. Maybe I need a sign that reminds me daily that life is good. That I am indeed a lucky woman. Maybe I need a sign that says, "Remember those who are suffering". My little problems are just that. Little.

There are days that I don't feel that I'm armed for battle. A mother living with her child, her grandchildren, is difficult. Often I feel that I lose myself. I miss my life alone. I miss having my grandchildren visit. Yet my life is full. I have an opportunity to teach these girls new ways of dealing with problems. We have opportunities to laugh, to work through difficulties, to learn.

Today is a rough day. One of those days where you want to run away. There will be no running away. It is okay for me to have these days. I sometimes forget that I am allowed to still be me.

We are lucky, those of us who have a new day, even those with minor problems.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Shall Don a Hat

I need a hat. A wedding is going to take place in England. I need a hat.

In 2006, I went to England with a friend. More precisely, we went to Nottingham. With all of the hoopla going on about the royal wedding, it brings into focus a heritage that belongs to my family. The British roots.

Never having left this continent, a trip across the ocean was a lesson. The first part of the lesson came at Heathrow Airport. As soon as we deplaned, I notice the armed patrol. Service men carrying machine guns walked the terminal. Not long before, there had been a bomb threat at the airport. Obviously, they were taking no chances.

My second observation was noting that I was definitely a minority. I had never been in an airport where so many other countries were represented. And, I felt alone. The friendliness that I knew in the states was not welcoming me in this place. I knew no one and couldn't even understand some of the heavy English spoken here. It was a new feeling. One I didn't like.

Our week in his home country was a growing up time for me. I learned a great deal about myself. I learned a great deal about our world. I even learned a few things about the roots that ran from Nottingham to Oregon. I absorbed every place and every moment.

When I was growing up, my parents wished for me a good education and a good marriage. I would echo my mother's life with a good husband, children and a lovely home. For my children, I tried encouraged them to find their own lives, however that was to be interpreted. Since then, I've changed my tune even more. For my grandchildren, I want them to experience this world they live in, expanding their minds. I want them to find their place in the world by what they learn from these experiences. I'm not sure we can find where our lives will lead unless we experience the world we live in.

A royal wedding. Many are just ready to get it done and to move on. The pomp that was in 1947 will move into a new era. The past ways of the royals will be updated by a new generation. My ancestors were Brits. The Loxley's roamed the forests and sailed the ocean to land here and begin a new life.

I shall don a hat and watch the taped wedding. I shall enjoy a moment away from my life looking into the life of the royals. I shall be on the other side of the ocean looking at the land of my roots. My ancestors would marvel that such a thing could happen. Perhaps I will marvel as well.

Oh, which hat shall I wear??????

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Change is in the Air

Child One: I don't like it there.

Child Two: Well, I like it better over here.

Mother of child One and Two: Why do we have to move it?

Grandma: Never mind.

The first three walk away and ignore the last.

Conflict. Disagreement. How do you settle anything when no one is ever on the same page?

In this house full of females, we have hormones, moods, age differences and lives reflecting our personalities. Agreement is always fraught with the clinching of the stomach knowing that it will only come after disagreement. So how do I handle it?

My daughter goes off to work or, when home, buries herself in her knitting. The girls do what normal 12 year and 9 year olds do, hanging on Mom's every word. I seem to work my life around the previous three often finding myself the one who just carries the burden instead of facing the conflict. I'm too old and wise to fight. No one else seems to care. And, due to my station of unemployment, I am at a disadvantage wanting take hold on to my portion of this life together. I am not complaining. It is what it is.

"You need to finish your homework," I tell the youngest.

"I will when Mommy gets home," I try, but gave up the battle long ago. This is not my responsibility to do it all on my own. I'm learning to hand off.

A moody preteen gets into the car after school. I have been told not to ask if she has had a good day or if she has homework. She doesn't want to talk about her day. So we drive on without conversation involving questions. I walk a thin line.

I've decided that we need to learn a new way of conversation, a conversation with respect. I have set the pattern I had as a child tweeking it as the years have passed and awareness smacked me between the eyes. I realize now that we need a new tweek. The females in my home are wonderful, but for their sakes and mine, we need to step up our game and learn to communicate.

I don't know if the days of long afternoons of visiting are gone. I'm not sure how to wear the cloak of today. I've begun having coffee with my daughter-in-law every Tuesday. She has a busy schedule so I have an hour before she goes off to work.

"Do you mind if I put on my make up while we talk?" she asked.

I had no problem with it except I didn't know where I was supposed to be. I sat on the sofa.

"Can you hear me?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied from her post at the bathroom mirror.

I found sitting in a room with the dog, Millie, was fine but lacking. So I meandered to the bathroom door. I wasn't sure if it was okay so I asked.

"No problem."

I stood there for awhile then sat down on the toilet lid. She looked over at me.

"Is this okay?"

"Sure."

Was it okay? I'm not sure. My granddaughters and I have our best conversations over bath and sink time. My sisters and I always kept one another company in the bathroom of the farm house when we all came home to visit.

This new 'conversation' awareness is still settling in. I'm missing 'visiting' days. I'm missing that comfort of conversation that has no expectation or time limit. I miss the focus of those conversing showing interest in the words of another. I miss the silly things that surface during such conversations.

Yes, I'm finding new ways to converse. I'm learning not to be apologetic for who I am or what I say. I'm learning to give back to the other females in my family their portion of the conversation without it changing mine.

Never too old to change.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't Tell

"You wanna know what we were going to do?" Gabby asks her mom who was having a birthday.

"Gabby, let's just let it go for now," I quickly say trying to turn her away from the subject.

The girls wanted to give their mother a surprise party this year. It was going to be their present to her. Since next year will be her fortieth, I suggested we wait a year and have a real blow out for their mom then. Yesterday we had a wonderful evening with Mommy. Decorations filled the room. She got flowers at work. The girls had presents for her that their dad took them to buy. It was a good time. Next year would be the big surprise party.

Gabby can't keep a secret for anything. She gets so wrapped up in the excitement of the secret that sooner or later it is exposed. There is no safety zone with this girl.

I wonder who told the first secret? My guess it was the first cave women talking about her husband once he left the cave with his club in hand, off to clobber some beast for the evening meal. Secrets. We have all had them and all have told them.

I stood with my granddaughter while two of her friends stood to the side whispering. My stomach clinched. I knew what it was to have friends talk about you behind your back. I knew what it was to have people whisper when my marriage was threatened. I knew about whispers. The hurtful secrets. Gabby didn't notice.

Gabby is innocent where secrets are concerned. She experiences them as something so exciting that they beg to be told. She is bubbling with excitement even on a calm day. A secret just feeds the fire. She wanted her mom to know that they had planned to do something really special for her this year. The secret screamed to pop out.

And after Gabby almost let the secret out of the bag, her sister scolded.....

"Gabby!!! Don't spoil the surprise for next year!"

Argh.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheek to Cheek

The saddle block was wonderful. It allowed me to lie back and take in the unfolding scene, the birth of my daughter, my first child. I sometimes think that perhaps it was the first time I had truly found love.

It was a scene from a movie. It was someone else having the baby I watched being born. I felt no pain, only a tremendous sense of awe.

"You have a girl," Dr. Green announced. "A beautiful baby girl with a lot of hair."

The tiny baby made a mewling attempt to cry as she shook in the doctors hands. I looked at her feeling nothing. Who in the heck was this baby? I had trouble realizing that this baby I saw and the one I carried were one in the same. I had expected an instant maternal power to take over. Hm. I was crying with joy, but who was this baby?

The baby was placed in a tray beneath a warm light. Her head was turned toward her parents. I had as yet to touch her. Her teeny hands were pressed together as in prayer and tucked beneath her sleeping head. Dark hair clung to her tiny head. It was at that moment that I fell in love.

Back then, they didn't give you your baby until you were back in your room. We waited....and waited....and waited. Finally a nurse I secretly named Tugboat Annie (because she always carried two bundled babies into our room, one under each arm) brought the tightly bound little girl to my waiting arms. She gave us permission to unwrap the small package so we could check all working parts.

Two tiny fist, smaller than an egg, shook as we unwrapped her. Gingerly we checked her tiny feet marveling at the softness of her skin. She had her first tantrum as the cold hair touched her newborn skin, flesh that had not yet been touched by an outside world. I held her tiny head in the palm of my hand.

"She's mine," I said over and over to myself.

This was right before the realization hit me that I'd never taken care of a baby before. This maternal thing had still not yet clicked in. I was even afraid to turn her over unless I had permission from Tugboat. A bit of fear was niggling at my insides. Maybe I could send her back.

The next time the bundle came to the room packed like a loaf of bread, I was alone with her. I think it was a moment I share with any person who has a baby, be it by birth or by adoption. I introduced myself saying the word "mother" for the first time. Again, the butterflies attacked my stomach and expressed themselves by the tear on my face. I told her I didn't know what to do with her, but I would try my best. I told her I couldn't send her back, so she would have to cut me some slack now and then. Then I held her to my face, cheek to cheek, and told her that I would always love her.

We have come a long way since that day on April 25, 1972. The struggle for mother and daughter to co-exist began with a strong-willed toddler. The overwhelming joy of watching her grow from baby to adult has no words.

A child comes into a family asking for nothing more than unwavering love.

The day my daughter was born, a mother was born as well. Happy Birthday to us both.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Bunny Visit

The baskets full. The eggs hidden and will probably turn up for months. The older, the younger. Times are a changing.

There was a time when we sat up waiting for the kids to get up. Now the kids stay up later and we wish for another few minutes of sleep. Well, not all of us. Gabby and I are up and excited for the day.

Yes, the years have taught me that time is precious. Each moment I spend with my grandchildren is a gift. I wouldn't miss a moment of it.

Blessings to you and your families this Easter Day. No matter what your faith, today is a day reminding us that life is precious. If we are going to look at it from the other side some day, then let's leave behind a legacy of love, kindness, peace and hope.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sniff and Wash

"Do you think maybe we should wash that jacket," I ask my granddaughter.

"I don't have another one," she replies.

I can't remember the last time the jacket was washed. With the girls going back and forth between their Mom and Dad, I can't keep track of what needs to be done. So, I do the sniff test. Her jacket smells like her, the school, the playground and the dog.

"Okay, you can wear it tomorrow, but then I need to wash it," I inform her.

The jacket is from Justice, the young girls place of divine clothing. I found the jacket on Marshall's sale rack. Still, the name of the company is written across the front of the jacket. Good marketing, I guess. A banner of pride for Gabby.

I find it remarkable that kids are aware of labels at such a young age. In fact, it's a little frightening. It's a little costly and silly as far as I'm concerned.

We try to teach the kids to shop wisely. Hand-me-downs are  treasures. Bargains are delightful surprises. Gabby can wear a name brand sweater and no one be the wiser. (Well, all of you know now.) We try to teach them that they need to decide what they want for the money we have to spend.

One of the neatest things to come out of this attire awareness is the relationship between older sister and younger sister. Sydney is generous with praise for her sister's choices. They share time talking over pluses and minuses. Sister bonding over clothes.

I am trying to teach the girls that what they are on the inside is much more important than what they wear. With a strong sense of self, all clothes look great!

I think I'll get that jacket washed this weekend. Might even throw in Syd's dance clothes. Can't remember the last time I saw them in the laundry.

Sniff and wash.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sheaf of Paper

Sheaf of the past. Sheaf of another time, of new beliefs. Sheaf of the history of a teenager.

I came across a file of old writings of mine from 1964-65. I was a senior in high school. I knew I had the sheaf of papers yellowing with time. Why I kept them is beyond me. Maybe I kept them unknowingly for a day like today. I would like to share these papers with you. Both blogs will have the same writings until I feel I've come to the end of my reflecting. These papers are the story of us as teens, parents and now grandparents. The buds of thought that began to take root in those years have come to full bloom. We see in the words, a time long past but still viable in the present. We see the farm girl's view of world events so far away from her home on Neff Road.

I hope you don't mind my sharing this, but I need this history for my family, my grandchildren. I hope you will note the date this was written.

September 11, 1964
Segregation vs. Integration by Pam Loxley

Segregation and integration are two words heard almost every day. Some blame the southern states for the fight against integration, and yet, many northerners are determined not to integrate. Others are not concerned with the problem. Many fool themselves by standing up for the negro until faced with coming in contact with a negro. Every day steps are being taken to give the races equal privileges.

It is stated in the Constitution of the United States that all men are created equal. And yet today many are afraid to associate with the other races. Intermarriage is a fear of both the negro and the white. Many white Americans treat the negro as trash and feel that they are superior. This feeling is held over from slavery days and some other reasons.

Intermarriage is a big step for any couple to take. The couple may not be accepted by either race. Their children could be either white or black and neither society will accept them.

Many states and cities have started a rehabilitation plan for slum areas. If one was to drive through a slum district, he would find blocks and blocks of apartments and houses run down and dirty. Porches on some home might be broken down. Others would be only shacks with holes in walls. Rats are probably a common menace in these homes. Many places have windows broken or none at all. There is little grass area around these places. Children have no place to play.

In many areas where slums have been torn down, housing projects have been started. For many blocks in these areas one would find rows of apartments, all indentical. Green lawns surround these places.

(Please remember that this is the 60's and the writings of a child raised in an all white rural area)
The negro is of two classes. The first is the lazy negro. This negro has no ambition. He sends his family out to work to support the family while he sits at home. This negro is both unconcerned and uneducated. His children will never be any different unless education is available to these unfortunate children.

The second type of negro is the ambitious one. If he can acquire a high school education, he has a chance to get a good job and a comfortable home for his family. If he can go on to college, he has a great chance to do what he plans to do. Yet there are many barriers that even the highest educated must face. The barrier is too often color.

Too many Americans do not realize that there is also many white people classed the same with one exception: color.

With these new laws that are now being made, these barriers are being broken. If younger white children can start school with negro children, this barrier will be broken sooner. Younger children have no strong knowledge of this barrier and are yet in the impressionable age. They have not yet formed opinions. To bring these younger children together will be a big step in the direction of integration.

It is our responsibility as citizens of the United States and children of God to treat the negro as a brother. There is NO difference between them and us except for their color. It is possible that some day we will all be as one race. Integration is the only answer to the race problem, but this will take time and patience for both races.

Pam Loxley
English IV
Grade: A

I hope no one is offended by this blog. It is a piece of my history, a piece of me and the woman I have become. I am currently reading the book The Help. A history taking place as I wrote this piece. How little I really knew back then.

Thank you for sharing this piece of history found in a sheaf of paper.

Pamela Loxley Drake
47 years later

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hmmmmmmmmm

Hmmmmmmmmm. The fish tank hums. I always wonder when I see a fish tank if the fish are truly happy. Hmmmmmmmm. They look bored. I'm bored.

"Drake," the lady calls.

They told me to be at the appointment fifteen minutes early to fill out papers (the same papers I fill out every time I come in with the same answers to the same questions). Hmmmmmmmmm. After that ordeal, I'm finally called in for the x-ray.

Hmmmmmmm. Now I'm humming. I've been sitting in the little room in my paper shorts for an hour and a half. Every fifteen minutes someone comes by to say, "He's running late." Now that's an understatement.

"Looks like you have some arthritis and swelling in the knee," the tardy doctor said. He continues to yank my knee back and forth. I'm wondering if he would let me yank on his knee after I jump on it a few times.

I've birthed babies. My pain threshold is pretty darn high, that is, until someone purposefully takes a wounded joint and tried to make it hurt.

"Does it hurt there," he asks after he yanks the knee around.

"It does now," I reply.

Repeat.

"How about here?"

"You know, it still hurts where you yanked it around before," I answer.

We really aren't getting anywhere. I think he is just biding time making up for my elongated wait. In truth, he wants to go to lunch.

"It is swollen, that's for sure," he concludes looking at the one knee hidden behind the other. "Hmmmmm." (Now I know where the fish get it.)

I get a couple of white sheets of paper. For only $68 I can be free of inflamation for three months.

All I can say is, "Hmmmmmmm."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Whose Voice?????

A grandparent's voice. Shhhhhh. Don't be telling me what it is because I'm finding it for myself.

My 'gp' voice began by giving advice. Cooing to babies. I heard it in a child's tale and in a late night answered call with a baby crying in the background.

Later, I heard the voice silently in my head telling me to be quiet.

"Keep your opinions to yourself," I said to myself.

A grandparent's voice.

This morning I had coffee with a friend who is two years older than my daughter.

"I'm the invisible person," I said to her. "Sometimes I think it would be easier if I lived far away."

"I'm scared of my kids," I admitted. 

"I know you are...."

What do you do with life learning? Where do you tuck it when no one asks about it? What do you talk about if no one cares what you say? If I say something wrong, a cold shoulder or battle ensues. Golly, what in the heck is a grandparent's voice? Could someone tell me?!?!?

I remember my mother pushing my buttons when I was a young mother. We never seemed to find a safe venue in which we were both comfortable to talk. I was determined to do things my way. She didn't know when to stop with the advice. Doors closed and now they can never be opened. She is gone.

I sometimes wonder if old people sit quietly on the sidelines while there families live around them, because no one cares to take time to learn from them. No one cares to hear their voices. Retirement homes are full of seniors just waiting for the next illness or death. What has happened to their voices? Did they just shut down? Did their voices fall on ears that could not or would not hear? Am I just rambling? (more than likely)

What is a grandparent's voice?

I'm not angry at anyone today, and nothing happened to bring on this conversation except for coffee this morning.

"You have always tried to be what your kids want you to be instead of who you are," my friend informed me. "You are wonderful just the way you are."

"I'm trying," I replied.

"I can tell."

Maybe I am just afraid to stand behind that grandmother who has a voice.

I am a grandparent's voice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Greasepaint in the Veins

Age 5: Small child in Curious Savage.

Be it good or bad, my son grew up with greasepaint in his veins. We spent hours on the stage at the local high school. My children grew up with young actors and actresses, painting scenery, building sets and endless rehearsals and shows. After homework, the kids joined in making the stage their home.

They really couldn't get away from it. I was writing and producing social dramas working with the schools and community. The kids both acted in the shows. When my children were older, I was acting and teaching as well. They were raised in a different type of home.

My son had theatre in his blood from childhood on. His grandfathers singing voice was handed on to him. James went on from Northwestern to perform, living the ups and downs of an actor. He curses his life and loved it as well. Finally, he landed an national tour and met his bride.

Tonight is the first onstage workshop reading of a musical he has written called The Dance. Once more he is putting himself out there to experience acceptance or criticism. I am in awe of my son and his silent strength.

His struggles have been mine as well. I have had to be the silent strength that has followed his career. My fears have were pushed aside and the strength of a mother taking its place. From early on, I sat through vocal contests, watching my son share his voice with an audience. Often I was so nervous I thought I would be sick, but I thrilled at his courage and his voice that always amazes me.
 
Over the years, he has become a survivor of the disappointments and has found his successes. His voice has lured many to his shows. He has become a name known in the area for his talent. The silent strength is now the silent support. Not as easy as it might sound. I'm a parent. Parents protect. Being silent has not always been my forte. If he fails, if he stumbles, I can no longer make it better with a mother's kiss. I can no longer pick up the child, hug him and give him an ice cream cone to make the owie better. He is an adult.

Tonight my son will present a show he has written. The music and lyrics are those of a talent from Chicago. This is her debut as well. As I did many years before, I will sit in an audience watching the faces of those around me, silently praying that all goes well. I will be his silent support.

Tonight is not just a show. No, it is a gift that has been handed down from generations before. It is a song that must be sung. It is the greasepaint in the veins.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Electricity

This writing is for me. So if you want to check out other blogs or go for another cup of coffee, please do. I'm writing this for both of my blogs this morning, because this is for the children filled with a power they don't understand. This is for the adults who can help the child. And, this is for the little girl who lived on Neff Road, a child who danced on the wind.

Last night my son and his wife took me to see the musical, Billy Elliott. The movie had been one of my favorites. Both shows have something different to offer, but the young man we watched last night who danced across the stage understood the power within Billy, a boy who heard a voice alien to his community and family. These miners had no time for dreams. Neither did farmers.

There is a scene in which Billy explains to a panel of judges what he feels when he dances. The boy sings about an electricity that comes from within him, an feeling that has no words, only movement. A power that is full of anger, excitement, passion. He danced, and we were all inspired. As a child, I was like that boy. I knew it and felt it once more as tears ran down my cheeks.

Our old farm house had a huge playroom upstairs. It had been my oldest sisters bedroom years before. Now it was my stage. I was very small when I realized the electricity that was part of me. When the music of my old records began to play, that electricity filled me to overflowing. I had to dance.

The church did not sanction dancing. My oldest sister took dance and could not tell anyone. Mom and Dad surprised me with dance lessons when I was about twelve with the addendum that I could not tell. I stood in the first class with six-year-olds and never returned. Still the music, the dance filled my soul to bursting. A feeling that is so strong that you think your skin will burst for trying to hold it in.

I sat in the packed auditorium, tears spilling onto my dress, wondering if anyone else besides me and the writer of this story understood the feelings this boy and I shared. His father could not hear understand the electricity this boy possessed. My parents couldn't either.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Walls Have Ears

"First they turn to their friends, then they turn to their mothers."

The dialogue caught my attention. A segment on young girls hurting themselves was on the Today show. Of course, it doesn't take much to get me thinking.....and this did.

They went on to talk about how important it is for mother to give her daughters praise. Yes, girls have the emotional roll-a-coaster, but boys do as well. Boys may not express their feelings as easily, but they have feelings they may not know how to express.

I was listening to another show last week talking about what women want men to know, about men wanting to be able to better understand women. I'm not sure what I'm getting at here, but I know what I've observe.

I often hear women talking about their husbands in front of their children, in front of their sons....and daughters. But I think that boys gather an attitude about what they are supposed to be as a man. I grew up in a time when women were geared to make the man the head of the house. Dinner was on the table when Daddy got home. The house was clean, the children eagerly waiting for Dad to walk through the door. Life was orderly and seemed perfect.

When I was divorced, I learned that sons need to talk. They need to learn to express their feelings and to feel okay about it. They need to learn respect for both sexes from their parents. That requires both parents respecting one another, or at least trying not to bash the other person.

"Walls have ears," my mother always said. Yes, indeed they do.

"Grammy, you complimented the people who make the game," Gabby said. "You didn't compliment me."

Who would think that you could compliment Mario? Sometimes what we say comes out differently to the ears of the child.

Fathers are just as important if not more so to their daughters....and sons. Fathers can set the stage for the type of man their daughters will look for some day and will open door for their daughters to talk to their husbands. Parents sharing with their children will encourage the child to share with the parent.

Well, I've talked myself out. This isn't so much for you, but more for me. I know what I missed in my life. Working with teenagers, I know what they needed. Having children and grandchildren has opened new pages in my book of life lessons.

Parents, Grandparents, we have a duty to our families to be honest, open, full of praise and available. It's a good thing we do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Other End of the Line

"Mom......."

A voice at the other end of the line. The phone answered. A reaching out caught in a warm embrace, an embrace of words.

"Hi, Honey. What's up?"

Calls. We make them to share happiness, to share problems, to get advice, to give love. Calls we make and those we receive. The people we depend on to be at the other end of the line.

"Mom, I'm going with Melissa for coffee."

My children were never told to call home before they went to a different location from where they started, yet they always called to let me know. My children knew if they called, I was always there. They always knew I would care.

Every weekend and often through the week, I talk with my sisters both far away from me. When the phone buzzes and I see the name cross the screen, I set aside all else and focus on my sisters. The voices at the other end of the line, those voices that have traveled with me over the years, are welcomed and cherished.

Text:  Hi.

My text: Hi.

Text: Where are you?

My text: Picking up your sister.

Text: K

Nothing important. Sydney, my granddaughter, is on the bus and bored. She is just checking in with her grandma.

Calls in the middle of the night from a child in college needing a listening ear. Calls from a child caught up in emotion. Calls from a sick child. Calls with exciting news. We get them. all make them.

"Mom, I just wanted to hear your voice," I said trying not to cry.

My mother was in a care home. These were the last words I would say to her. How I wish I could say them again.

A simple call says it all.

"I love you, Mom."

"Oh, Honey, I love you, too."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, parents came in one pair. A man and a woman. Once upon a time, a family lived in a family unit of a mom, dad and kids. Once upon a time, wives were to remain quiet if battered. Once upon a time.....

Once upon a time was a long time ago and an antiquated way of thinking. Women suffered alone beneath the bonds of the family male. Children were taught to be silent. They knew they had better do it, or else. Men and women were shunned and taunted for their sexual preference. Once upon a time.....

Television is often a great teacher. The old family structure has stretched into a new one. Children question, experiment and share their feelings. Couples come in many forms having healthy well-adjusted families. Single dads and moms raise children. And, sometimes, a grandparent does the same. It is a new "once upon a time" on the TV screen.

Living with my daughter and granddaughters has taught me a lot. We have all grown through the experience. We are a house full of females. We watch these TV shows together and talk about them. Stacey and I encourage the girls to think for themselves.

I embrace this 'new family' attitude. I cheer the protection and help we have come to know for those who feel alone, those in distress. I love that we have a family of man/womankind who comes to the aid of those they do not know. We are becoming a colorless society, an embracing people, celebrating all the varieties held on this globe.

Once upon a time, the world lived in shades and prejudice. Now upon a time, we live with progress and hope. Our once upon a time will lead to a better one tomorrow.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sitting on the Sidelines

"Grammy, sit right here," Gabby said. "You are my good luck."

I sat on the sofa next to her both of us cuddled up in a blanket. Mario was jumping up and down on the TV.

"Now don't be nervous, Grammy. It's okay."

Most of the time I zone out when the girls play the Wii. I can't play with my bum thumbs and the repetitive songs drive me crazy. Last week I decided that I was being passive. What was wrong with me anyway? So I sat down and watched her play her way through the landscape dodging one monster after another. I was amazed at her quick thinking and control. Before I knew it, I was hooked.

"Watch out!" someone yelled. Oh, it was me. Hm. Somehow I had been drawn into Mario's task as well.

"It's okay, Grammy. I'm right here."

How often are we passive to what is going on around us. It's not always fun to sit down and color, read a book, play a game, watch re-runs of Full House we had to watch when our kids grew up.

I was tucking my granddaughter into bed. "Grammy, you can get your book," Gabby said holding her bedtime literature. I grabbed my book and crawled next to her in her twin-size bed. Little reading was done on my part as Gabby chattered on about her book. Before new pages were ever turned, she was cuddled down and ready to sleep.

"Grammy, can you come up with me while I do my homework?" Sydney asked.

Without a second thought, I grabbed my computer and followed her up the stairs. With her books scattered across the bed, I found my corner. Soon long legs were propped up on mine. As needed, I helped with the homework. Time well spent sitting next to my granddaughter.

So many opportunities present themselves for that interaction with our families. When I grew up, no one took time to play with me. When my children grew up, I was buried in my own problems and the chaos of just being a mom. Now I'm a grandma and have one last chance to do better.

We all experience that dread when a child asks us to do something we really don't want to do. There is that negative feeling that pulls us into finding excuses, pushing child off to do something with someone else, offering TV or a movie or a video game instead of our time and involvement.

I have one last chance to do it better. I am honored to have opportunities to find new parts of myself. This doesn't just apply to children. It applies to all of those times we make excuses. Excuses that just might take away opportunity.

If you sit on the sidelines, you might as well get a stadium seat because it can be mighty hard sitting alone watching. As for me, I try to push back the negative and say, "Why not?"

"Grammy, if you get too nervous just close your eyes. I'm right here."

Does it get any better?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

1940 Revisited

Yesterday while working on my book about my growing up on a farm, I came across a post I'd written last year on my Neff Road blog. In 1971 my husband and I bought a farm house on a half acre of land. We paid $25,000. I pay $557/month for my health insurance premium. Take a step back in time....not all that long ago.

Yes, I have the Family Farm Record Book from Dad's farm for the year 1940, the year my sister was born. It is a history of the farm, a history of my family and a record of the struggle of those on farms the year before US involvement in WWII.

Dad's income consisted of the crops he sold at about $478 per year making up the rest of the $3,176 yearly income that already consisted of income from selling poultry/eggs, dairy products, livestock and $60 loaned to Dad. The farm operating expenses included feed; machinery/auto repair; farm upkeep; livestock expenses; hired labor; taxes and insurance (and repaying the $60 loan). Total: $1,011.

Family expenses including food; clothing; personal; medical; household, furnishings; equipment; school, church, recreation. Total: $522. This is for the year. Capital goods were $365.

Income: $3,176; outgoing: $1,898. A difference of $1,278. The money to start the next farm year including output for seeds, fertilizer, feed for livestock, gasoline, heating oil, etc.

Observation: Baby June born on June 1st brought additional expenses for Mom and Dad. The hospital bill was $26.50. A girl was hired to help at $9 for the month. There wasn't enough money to pay the doctor so that bill was outstanding. The baby carriage purchased in July was $6.14. Note. The gas bill for the stove was $.75. I didn't see where clothing was purchased for June who evidently wore hand-me-downs and gifted clothing.

I noticed that Dad sold 4 muskrats in the winter for all of $4.20 and 4 dozen eggs for $1.12. Chicken feed was $1.71.

Dad's cows and horses had names. Horses: Spike, Ginger and Bill each worth $150. The colt, Mike, was worth $40. The cows were Blackie, Nellie, Spottie, Guernsey, Daisy, Goldie and Flossie each worth $60. The calves, Cherry, Bill and Bertha, were worth $25 each. 2,000 lbs of wheat was worth $31.66. Lumber for the granary and tobacco beds that same month was $31.80.

On and on it goes, this history of the farm in 1940. In almost 70 years, prices have inflated beyond belief. My parents struggled. Doctor bills nearly flatten my mom and dad over the years. Today we are flattened by insurance premiums, and we don't have a doctor coming to our door all hours of the day or night as they did.

Family Farm Record 1940. History. Yours and mine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Finding Your Oasis

Oasis: something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.

Looking out over the Pacific from Cannon Beach. Sitting in Timberline Lodge at the foot of Mt. Hood. Sitting in a restaurant overlooking the blue water in Key West. Or, maybe more realistically, curled up on a sofa at Starbucks with a big cup of coffee within reach. Oasis.

Morning is my blog time. I sit to write with Matt Lauer in the background. World news and info I need for better living echo as I concentrate on the task at hand. Oddly enough, this works when I blog. This is my writing atmosphere that keeps me on task. Ideas, observations

However, this doesn't work for the other writing I do. I need an oasis. I want to look out at the ocean and be inspired. I want nature singing around me, background music for my words. I dream of a place where I can sit in my bathrobe looking out over a beautiful view surrounded by a breeze and the smell of jasmine. Well, that's not going to happen!

At home the chores call to me. The dog needs to go out. Kids need to be picked up after school. The list of 'to dos' surrounds me. It's stressful to stay home all the time. I did it when I raised my kids. Big mistake. I don't care how old we are, we need to get away from home to refresh ourselves, to have a new perspective. We don't need to have children. We don't need to be writers. We all just need to escape our lives for a time.

Yesterday I visited my friend who resides in a care home. She has MS and will never leave her bed. Yet this woman is happy, inspiring and a lot of fun. Every Tuesday my friend and I go to visit. We laugh, we sing, we even sometimes dance around her room. Each season brings new decorations. We are her oasis. We bring that space away from home to her. An oasis in a dreary room.

"Grammy, I'm taking a break," Gabby informed me yesterday during her homework session.

Yes, even children need an oasis, a space all their own that revitalizes them, relieves tension, gives a fresh outlook.

Gabby and the dog dash across the room laughing. Dog toys are flying around. A few minutes away and homework isn't quite so bad.

Most days, I wander away from home to a local coffee shop. With a hot cup of coffee at my beck and call, I sit with my book in front of me waiting for my edits. The clamor of patrons, whish of the coffee maker, activity buzzing around me allows me to float on my own little island.

Oasis: a pleasant change from what is usual. Everyone should have one, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stop the Pain, I Want to Get Off

"How does one forgive herself," she wrote. "Feels like the weight of the world."

She made a mistake and lost her job. A dedicated employee for twenty-nine years lost her job with one mistake. Corporate back East fired her. Her boss fought for her. Her sister died of cancer less than a year ago. Her life was looking up with a recent job advancement, one whisked away with one mistake. The weight of the world.

"How is your job going," I asked another friend last week.

"I got laid off."

"Weren't you the vice president?"

Loss of job, loss of a loved one, loss of health. We all know the feeling of 'the weight of the world on our shoulders'. It's that sick feeling that follows you day and night. A darkness that seems to blur everything on the outside. A feeling of inadequacy. A feeling that the floor has fallen from beneath us and seems to continue to fall. Some of us seem to be on that shaky floor more often then not.

I often wonder if anyone is immune to those wobbly floor boards. What is it like to escape a shaken world? Do those people know how lucky they are? Or maybe I should reverse that....Do I know how lucky I am? You know what?! I'm a survivor. Let the darn boards shake.

It's not easy facing a world without employment, especially in a time when jobs are scarce, and, for me, when age comes into play. Sometimes I think my children believe I'm not looking for a job or that I don't care. It's not that at all. I have learned to embrace where I am and to live each moment the best I can. This is something I can control.

No one promised that life would be easy. I have seen what happens to those who have experienced a life of ease. Sooner or later the wall hits and stops them cold. Life is about learning to survive. Life is about learning to love oneself and to love a world that is often cruel.

What can we do to help ourselves when we are down? I don not have the answers. I only know my journey. My faith has been the core of my strength. "For when I am weak, then am I strong" has been my daily mantra. We are born weak learning about this world. We learn by the pains of growing up, the losses of those we love, war, hunger, tsunamis. We all learn by pain, loss.

Going forward is difficult when the wall is high, and we are weak. The wall is there not just because of the seemingly impossible hurdles we face but also because we are suddenly carrying fear and doubt  from pain and loss, disappointment and rejection. How much can the human body take? Well, I'm here to tell you that it can take a great deal.

Yes, I give the impression that life is good and all is well. It isn't an impression. It is real. I choose not to dwell on the negative and the loss. I choose not to dwell on the things I don't have. I am blessed beyond belief. Even if I didn't have family, friends, a home. I have self-love. I am worthy. I am a good woman who has much to offer. I am finding a new path because the old was closed to me. I am open to growing and changing. I want to move forward full of love and hope. It is my choice. I am fortunate that my choice is that easy.

I stopped the pain and walked forward. I found a wonderful woman I didn't know before that pain took away the old me. We are not the losses that hurt us. We are much, much more.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Frame Up

"Do you think you have enough pictures?" a friend asked when she came to my home.

Enough! How many are enough?!?!

Many years ago I heard someone say that you should have pictures of your family on your desk at work reminding you of why you are working. It made sense. When I looked up at pictures of my children and grandchildren, it not only reminded me of why I needed to keep that lousy job but always managed to make me smile making the day better. Those pictures pulled me through a very difficult time.

I don't carry a fat, photo wallet. I have pictures of my grandnephews and my grandchildren in my purse. I carry them to remind me to drive carefully, to be smart. Rarely do I take them out to show off my family. No, they are there as reminders of the children I love and who love me in return.

Yes, my home is full of pictures. My children know that these photos are important to me. I have pictures of happy memories, of my children and grandchildren at various ages, of weddings.

Maybe these pictures are a little more important since I live so far away from my birth home. My pictures hold these people close to me every day. I can look at them and am back on the farm once more. My sisters for a moment are not in other states. No, they were as close at the photo on the piano.

I have a few pictures that have been with me on my life journey. One is a black and white of my sisters and I on a cold winter day in Ohio. I was just a little kid of about five. The old house is in the background. Marilyn, Merrill and Geneva, the neighbors, are also in the picture. Marilyn is gone now but remembered a framed photograph. I have pictures of my entire family when my father passed away. A rare moment in time when we were all together. A picture of my best friend and I in dress up clothes brings back wonderful memories. One of my mother winking at the camera is a prize beyond words. She winks at me every morning when I go to the kitchen.

"Grammy, you don't have a picture of me in your bedroom," Gabby informed me. She looks at the pictures often.

"Honey, as soon as I find the box of pictures, I will get one of you and Sydney for my room," I said.

"Can I have this picture?" she asked holding a picture of her with her mom.

"Of course, you can."

"I'm going to put it in my bedroom."

I have a wonderful large picture of my daughter when she was in high school. We didn't realize that she had written her homework assignment on the palm of her hand. Her hand posed beneath her chin tells a story that has delighted us over the years.

Pictures. They tell a story of our lives. They tell those around us that we care. They take the precious moments in our lives and allow them to visit us again and again. Pictures. They show more than just a moment in time.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Changes

Changes. Those moments in our lives when we change and move on not the same as we were before.

I remember when I went through menopause (sorry, guys). Having been a mother carrying her babies for those nine months, I had an extreme feeling of loss. I remember my doctor asking if I wanted to have a hysterectomy. He must have been a bit taken back when I barked a resounding "NO". There was no major reason to do the surgery. Didn't he know that was the first home of my babies????

Our bodies change. Men and women wake up to a few more grey hairs. A new ache from out of nowhere finds it way to a joint. Sitting on the floor with grandchildren tests the not-so-limber limbs.

I remember back a few years ago when I had squatted down to look at books on a low shelf at the library. An older woman stood next to me.

"I wish I could do that," she said. "If I got down there, I wouldn't be able to get back up."

Of course, I popped right up showing off my agility. Now it is a different story. My hands no longer grip very well. My hip joint and knee give me a great deal of pain. Now I get down and think how am I going to get up gracefully. My body has changed.

Life changes come in all forms. Health, marriage, babies, disappointments, losses. All of them change us from who we were into a new 'us'. This isn't all bad. I realize that I am a grandmother. I realize that I am getting older. I refuse to let my grandchildren see this as a bad thing. It's just the way it is. I have inherited bad joints, but I am still a very lively woman.

Our children and grandchildren go through these changes as well. A once girl becomes a young woman. A young boy has a new voice trying to take hold and downy hair on his chin. A child looks back at dolls and wishes she were once more a little one who crawled up on your lap where you rocked her to sleep. A mother looks at her child and wishes the same.

We cannot slow down this change that leads us through life. A friend of mine once said when he turned 55, "I have never been this age before. I think I'll try it."

I talk to my granddaughters about this thing of aging. No one ever shared any of this with me. I went into this aging blind to the pros and cons. Once in awhile an opportunity pops up where we talk of aging and later on death. Not dwelling on it, but sharing our thoughts. I cannot talk to them from the other side, but I can let them know now that I will love them forever and more. That there is joy no matter what age we reach. We can enjoy what we have at any given moment.

Changes. Sometimes I wish that they would stop. I would like to have a couple of years that just stay the same.....or get better. I would just like to have time slow down.

The child returns when a grandchild is born. We are given a chance once more to color, to play games, to toss a ball. As the child grows, we do as well. Perhaps our lessons coincide for a reason.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends. Cherish the moments of change for each have their reward.