Monday, January 30, 2012

The Sideshow

"....she made a sideshow of all the places we have been".....he wrote on Facebook later correcting the words to 'slideshow'. Ah, sideshow. Sounds like my life.

Sideshow: In America, a sideshow is an extra, secondary production....... 

Confession time (again): Most of my life would qualify as a sideshow absolutely secondary to the production. All of those little times that lead up to the main event. All of the bumps and bruises gathered along the way that consisted of temper, mistakes, impulse, as well as the stupidity that seemed to sneak in more than needed. Ah, yes, sideshow.

As a child, I stood with my friends outside of the sideshow tent at the county fair. We had a choice of the man from the Artic Wilderness, the two-headed calf, the fat lady and a few other oddities. I only went into one of those tents. For some reason, I was drawn to the man from the cold north. The poor man sat in a chair while people gathered around to stare at his enormous feet missing some toes and covered with bumps. I felt sorry for that man whose eyes never met those of his audience. He was vulnerable to the lies told and his disability. Never did I step inside of one of those tents again.

We all live with vulnerability. We all make mistakes and feel that we wear them on our foreheads for all the world to see. We create our own sideshows holding on to them sometimes when we should in reality incorporate them into our 'life slideshow'.

I've learned to laugh at my mistakes. Those that haunted me or embarrassed me. I've learned not to take life so seriously. I am blessed with the abilities to fall over my own feet and get back up again. I have made my mistakes. At this ripe old age, I embrace them and accept that I am "me" today because of not the mistakes but all I have learned from them.

I think perhaps a carnival tent carrying the sign "Woman with Imbedded Foot in Mouth" might evoke laughter from her audience. I think maybe I would meet their eyes with humor and hope that they could learn something from my mistakes and all of those "darn its" that have happen in my life.

Maybe I already have that tent sign posted. It reads "A Grandparent's Voice".

On Neff Road: Where is Your Neff Road?
www.neffroad.com

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A CSI Education

What can you teach me?

This morning I decided that education needs a face lift. We have done children an injustice. We are teaching and not learning. Just maybe we have failed to understand how to use this brain of ours and how to encourage others to use theirs. Many students are uninspired. So how do we inspire them?

Well, this morning in my quality car-driving time, I had one of those "aha" moments. We are educating kids instead of learning from them. We teach children what we know instead of asking them what they know. I think that education should be more like a CSI. Gathering of facts, investigation and evidence. I think we should rewrite text books asking more questions and leading children to find answers.

We all know those names of great men and women who have made enormous discoveries and those who have opened our eyes to new awareness. Those who traveled their own paths. Obviously, we do not get all we can get from each other, from ourselves. We tap into such a small part of our awareness let alone discovering who we are and what we can give. In my opinion, our educational system is antiquated. We shoot ourselves in the foot every day.

Yes, there are basics, but there are basics in every CSI case. It is how we interpret the evidence, how we investigate that draws our conclusions. We need to use brains more thoroughly. I can't imagine what would happen if we tapped into all of bounty that grey matter contains. Children inspired and excited to discover themselves. Teachers eager to learn from each discovery and to pass on the results. More labs and chaos, more chances of discovery.

Ah, if I ruled the world. But, alas, I don't. I have seen the results of students finding themselves. I have seen what it is like to see a child grow from a quiet seed into a glorious tree. Once you have seen it, you never forget. I believe that we can all find our niche in life. We just need to have the opportunity and avenues to explore. We are all explorers.

Everyday we overlook those who could make our world better. I would like for us to offer every person a CSI kit and let them find answers that might just save a life or a world some day. I think every child would crave such an adventure. I know I would.

CSI: Children Seeking Information

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the Waiting Room

Grandma. One of my favorite names, especially when it pertains to me. I didn't know it would be such a special name until my first grandchild was born. Maybe not until that child was placed in my arms for the first time. Grandma. Hm.

Gabby came after Sydney. Despite the fact that I was already a grandma, I found that holding this child opened even another part of me, of my heart, that I didn't know existed. For the last almost thirteen years, I have grown to like my name even more.

Babies. They wrap a small hand around a finger. Perfect little fingernails. We sniff their heads recognizing our own. We introduce ourselves and begin a journey together.

Twins. Twin babies will join our family this summer. A new experience for this one called Grammy. A baby for each arm. A baby for each grandma. A baby for each of my granddaughters. Two at once.

I don't know how I feel. I won't know until they are each placed in my arms. I will not know until I sniff their tender heads and kiss their tiny fingers. I await with the same anticipation I had with each of the girls. This grandma thing is not old hat. It is new each time. I sit in the nine month waiting room wondering about the two babies preparing to join our family.

Grandma. Could their be a finer name? I think not.....unless maybe it is Grandpa.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Croix en

"Does anyone know what Croix en means?" the dance teacher asked her ballet class. Parents...and grandma...looked on. The students shifted nervously. A couple of hands raised. My granddaughter looked over at her father and me with a small smirk on her face. Obviously, she didn't know.

Once a year, family members are invited to the dance classes at the Communications and Arts Academy. Last year the students took the mandatory class as a PE credit. This class is made up of students who have chosen to take dance. Monday/ Wednesday ballet, Tuesday tap, Thursday Jazz. I will go back on Thursday.

There are two things that took place this morning. First was my delight seeing in my granddaughter the beautiful woman she will become. Her poise and grace so natural. I was in awe of her beauty, the capturing of the dance and the dancer.

The second thing that happened was in observing how few parent showed up for this class. Four students were represented while at least twenty students had no one. No one! Yes, parents work. Yes, there are appointments to keep and duties to do. I hope that my children would think to ask another family member to cover for them should they not be able to participate. I would hope that we have good enough friends and family to work together. Of course, not every event will be attended by someone, but I feel it should be the rare occasion and not the norm.

We all need that kind of support in our lives. That knowing that someone cares enough to give of themselves to go that extra mile. Too often that race to be richer, in great shape, more beautiful, a supporter of causes, takes away from family.

I didn't have support when I was a child and always missed it. There is a silent message of love when a parent surprising shows up unexpectedly. I saw it today in my granddaughter's eyes when she saw her father and me already there waiting. Love was given and taken in.

Croix en. Steps that resemble the four corners of the cross. Graceful movement. Breathtaking beauty. Perhaps it is a dance that represents all that comes with faith. Emotion the speaks loudly in the movement of the body. Croix en.

Today a grandma was very proud.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ilities

Birthdays, holidays and all of those others days of remembrance. Dates that can be difficult for those on a fixed income, a low income. Dates that cause most to wonder what we can give. But we are creative creatures. There are ways to make the most of what we have to give to others. A little imagination and can be a gift beyond words.

When my granddaughters come to visit, we often do crafts. My favorite are their paintings. Of course, I have some of their very first pictures packed away in a box of treasures. What parent wouldn't love a framed picture? One they didn't know existed. Gathering a few frames for almost nothing at garage sales and Goodwill will always come in handy. Again, a framed handprint is a gift beyond words. A photo of fingers and toes.

Finding a planter at those same places can be made into a wonderful gift. An old clay pot with paintings by a child or even by you with a starter plant is a gift every woman appreciates. Travel sizes packed into a 'new' basket, an emergency box starter with a box of bandaids and other things under $2.00.  A photo album from a discount store filled with pictures from the past, a letter of love written by your hand, a box of little pieces of paper on which a memory is written to be opened every day. There are so many things we can do by simply giving from our hearts and our creativity.

For Christmas two years ago, I gave my children copies of my mother's farm recipes. They were thrilled. A small flashlight for a child. A creative kit of Play Doh, paints, markers and crayons. My kids always loved the little notebook hole reinforcements. They can be made as part of fun drawings. Let your imagination flow.

It's not just the gifts we give. It is mostly the time and attention we share. A planned potluck picnic at a new location for all the family. A special tea for the grandchildren perhaps allowing them to invite a friend. Of course, they need to make the cookies to go with it. A special meal planned by the kids for their parents and cooked by their loving hands. A hike, a nature walk, a visit to a museum or state park. Bits and pieces of ourselves are worth more than anything money can buy. We are not with means. We have the sky, the earth and our own ingenuity.

I could go on and on with these ideas, but I think it is important for everyone find what works for them. We all have 'ilities'. There is no end to the possibilities and abilities.  What a fantastic gift to pass on to our children and grandchildren. The gift of ourselves.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2012 Reader's Choice Awards Competition

Once a year About.com/Grandparents runs a competition to discover favorite grandparent blogs. If you are a reader who enjoys the blogs, I encourage you to participate. This is not about my blog, but about the grandparents who spend time each day sharing their lives, their thoughts, their hopes in the form of blogging.

There are no financial awards for this competition. It is truly to find which blogs are reaching the public. Even if you don't want to participate in the voting, please check out Susan Adcox at http://grandparents.about.com/. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Extraordinary Life

The wall was lined with wooden boxes filled with straw. The big, fat hen sat on the nest refusing to move when the young girl approached, basket in hand. She looked at the chicken. The chicken looked at her. No one budged. A small hand reached into the nest beneath the wary fowl finding an warm, freshly laid egg. I lead an extraordinary life.

I didn't know about this uniqueness of my life while living those years. For all the things I envied that was available to city kids, I failed to understand the richness of the life that was just outside of the house back the lane in Darke County, Ohio.

The baby bunnies wriggled beneath the white fur a the cozy nest inside of the birthing box. The mother rabbit came out to feed on the pellets in the crock bowl. Dad lifted the box showing me the pink babies with eyes yet open. I did not realize the extraordinary life I lead.

We all lead such lives. Even those who live in difficult circumstances have much to understand from their past. Lessons are not always easy, but they are unique with each of us. Yes, we learned about life on the farm, but death was always a shadow that followed. A horse dying from foundering on corn. A ewe passing painfully after the birth of her lamb. A pet calf taken to market for butchering. A neighbor girl drowning in the creek. Yes, with any good came the difficult as well.

I'm not sure where I am going with all of this. Perhaps it is not about the life we lead, but what we take from that experience. I turned mine into writing in hopes of making a difference, a connection. Perhaps I also write in order to share a life I that has taught me much. Not everyone can reach a hand beneath an old hen hoping that she will give up her prize without protest. But we can share one another's experiences expanding our own, awakening things we might have overlooked.

Extraordinary lives.

On Neff Road: more of Will Rogers "The Bark and The Bite"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pam's Follies

"Never met a man I didn't like." The actor crossed the stage twirling a rope. My son was in the cast of Will Rogers Follies. I'd heard the music before from a CD my son had given me. Will Rogers was a name I remembered from my childhood. A man of humor. A man of great wit. A man of great wisdom.

I plan to quote this man over the next few days. I'm a lover of quotes. They just sit there waiting for us to glean out what seems to speaks to us. I have gleaned a great deal from Will Rogers. Of course, keep in mind that I also glean a lot from the quotes of Winnie the Pooh. I'm easily captured in thought....thoughts that take me to writing.

Will Rogers believed that we needed to try to understand our fellow man, er, people. He looked for the good in people and the humor in life. His life was given to his work with his family sometimes suffering the absence of a father. There are those people who seem to belong more to the people than to themselves and their families. There are those who are given to us, who give to us and who end in tragic ways. Today I think of Dr. King.

I am thankful for these later day trail blazers who step out of the wings in order to turn the world just a bit on it axis. Perhaps I find pieces of them that speak to me in ways that allow me to find myself and a voice for the words I know but have not spoken. Perhaps it is that piece that all of us possess that belongs to the whole. We all have a chance to change the world even if is it is only our own little corner. We all have a chance to change.

Rogers made another statement that I like much better than the first. "Never met a person I didn't want to like." What fantastic words! What a high bar of expectation!

My granddaughters and I sat in the car watching people pass. "Let's try to find something we like about each person," I said.

They latched on to the idea and loved it. A smile, a hat, sometimes struggle, but we found something beautiful in each person. Small steps, but those we can instill in the next generation. Looking for that something to like in each person.

Thanks, Will Rogers, for giving me food for thought.

On Neff Road: I Had A Dream, Too

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ergo Ego

A special thanks to you have written such kind words of support for this grandma in transition. Your kindness is deeply appreciated.

In the eyes of a child. A baby is born. A dark pair of eyes stare at a new world. For the first time we are assailed by sounds that have no basis and blurry faces that keep pulling, squeezing and dampening our faces with kisses....kisses that have no name as yet. A baby is born. A baby is born to confusion.

I'm in awe. At my young age for sixty-four, I'm still trying to figure out life. I should be better at this with all of my experience. But then, I've never been a senior. I've never been in the situation I am in now. I've never had middle aged children. I've never been this me before. Sometimes I feel just as confused as a newborn child. One exception: I have experience to help me.

I was raised in a time when the motto was pretty much "Children should be seen and not heard." Oh, our parents listened as much as they could from their experience that began when they were children, yet they didn't really 'listen', and we really didn't 'talk'. Something that would last until we lost our parents.

Well, I like to think that I'm a sponge for information. I can absorb, learn and change. In trying to find my own voice, I try to listen to others. It's rather egotistical to think I have all the answers and that they are the right ones, or that they apply to everyone. Ego can very easily get in the way personal growth. It is never to late to change.

How are my granddaughters adjusting? I don't know. I can't be in their shoes. They are going through changes that they don't understand. So what is my role in their lives? What can I do to introduce them to the world around them that began with a blurry vision?

As grandparents the best thing we can do is to back off and listen. As seniors, we better darn well have learned the listening lesson. If we cannot learn and grow, we are of no use to our families. Listening is not just verbal. Listening is with the eyes, with body language, hearing what is not said. Listening is a skill that begins with asking the right questions, with putting ourselves aside, with interacting with no expectations.

I don't remember what it was like to start learning about this world after I left the warm isolation of the womb. I don't remember what it was like to take a first step or eat my first solid food. But I do remember feeling powerless when no one took time to listen to me, when no one seemed to understand. I didn't have anyone to talk to. I didn't even know how to express the turmoil within me.

I think perhaps being the head of the family means being the rump as well. We have to follow those we love in order to be able to guide. I remember trying on my mother's shoes playing grownup. I wish that my mother had tried on my shoes and tried kid. There is an ego that rides on our shoulders that tells us what we deserve and how we seem to know everything. Perhaps ego is indeed the enemy that creates war and pain. Having high self esteem is different than ego. Ego. Three letters.

What a wonderful opportunity to be a grandparent. What a fantastic time to learn about ourselves and to find new ways of listening. To find new ways of conversation.

Ergo ego, I walk away from you and into a world of discovery.

Today on Neff Road: Today Sixty Years Later

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Good Day

"Can I pick them up after school?" I asked him. The answer was 'yes'. Today is a good day.

It seems as though I have traveled many miles since I moved out of my home over a month ago. I have seen my granddaughters twice during that time. A change from seeing them most every day. As I'm sure other grandparents feel, those who deal with an estrangement of a child, I worry that my grandchildren will turn against me and believe me to be the 'bad' person in all of this. Yet, I know that my granddaughters are loving and aware of the problems we faced every day. I know that they know I am a kind person who wouldn't hurt anyone. I know that they have come to me seeking peace and consolation. I know they know.

Truly no one can understand what it is to be a grandparent unless you have tasted the sweetness of its breath. A child is born as well as a new kind of love. A bond begins that is different than that experienced with our children. God has truly bestowed on us the perfect gift.

My granddaughters have learned much from me about nature. They have learned to handle anger. They have learned to look for beauty where there seems to be none. They have learned to find understanding instead of judgment. They have learned much from me. I have no regrets.

Today will start off a bit tentative. We will find our footing and a new future together. Sydney and Gabby will always know that I am available to them any time of the day or night. They know I will not judge but will listen with an open mind. We will have a journey forward that will be better.

We are blessed, Grandparents. We have the future of our families and world in our hands. We have the ability to change and to teach that change is good. Today is a good day. Tomorrow will be, too.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Out with the Old

Out with the old; in with the new. I had three piles of items to move. One would go to storage. One would go with me to my new place. The last would go to the Salvation Army. Oh, and one would go to the trash. Four piles. Over the days that I packed, some items jumped from pile to pile. Once in awhile a piece would go home with someone who came to help. Out with the Old.

The piles left the house and went to their appointed locations. My current room looks like a mini storage unit as I try to organize.

"Mom, why don't you just get rid of most of it?" my son asked.

He doesn't realize how much I have moved and downsized to the point that what I have is what I cherish. He won't have a house to go through when I go. Only a storage unit the size of a small room.

Out with the old; in with the new. Hm. It occurred to me that I was not only doing housekeeping sorting through what I would keep and what I would not, but I was also doing this with my life. I am putting aside what I cannot control and that which is hurtful in order to find the new 'old' me. Over time I became someone different. My smile seemed to hide and I spent more time away from the friction trying to hold on to my self. I lost my 'old'. I became something that wasn't new, but someone who was wearing the cloak of fear and loss.

It is a new year. A start over. My piles of things are safely stowed away. I am in an atmosphere of peace and love. Yes, I will heal and move forward, but I will not be the 'old' any more. I have learned much in this sorting into piles. I have learned much from this sorting through my life. This is not about what I have learned, but truly this is about what I can learn.

The car was loaded when the key turned in the lock for one last time. A sense of relief came with that locking of a door, a door that held good times overshadowed by much hurt. I had done my grieving for what I was losing in living apart from my grandchildren. Now I was dreaming of what I could give them from a healthy heart.

Bring it on! Bring on the new! I'm ready.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Hold For a Few Days

Well, I am moving once more and will be off my blogs until next Monday unless I get myself moved and back in the groove.

Thank you for being part of my journey. I hope I am part of yours.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Smell of Passing Flowers

So I watched a parade of flowers moulded into shapes that moved, floated and had purpose. People waved at the crowd. The crowd waved back. I sat watching wondering if it smelled good when the flowers passed.

A year left us and a new one came to take its place. There wasn't a gap or a need for the new year to take its place, because it just butted up next to that is taking over. The problems of the last year didn't end with the first day of the next. The politicians seem not to notice just spending dollars and using up TV time  as usual. I will have to wash the dirty clothes from last year. That sounds like it should be a big pile, but since I did it last year, or last Friday, the pile isn't too large. A new year came, but nothing really changed.

I haven't seen my granddaughters since Christmas. That was last year, you know. I miss them terribly, but know that I have to heal; I have to find my way to the new year learning to leave the worst of last year behind. Out with the old and in with the new, but it doesn't work that way. The last year that butts up to this new year spills over. We still pick up the pieces and do the best we can regardless of the year on the calendar.

I don't believe in resolutions. If I have to make a resolution to change myself, then I'm well aware that I can do it on my own if I care to try. I can put in place the new resolution, but I'm still bringing the old me along with it. Perhaps it would be better to just work on what I have without a verbal contract with it in the form of a resolution.

The parade of yesterday is gone. It is resting on a shelf in the memory bank. I sit here on this second day of the new year and wonder, "Did I take time to smell the flowers?"