Monday, February 27, 2012

Of, By and For

I decided that all politicians should be 'qualified' for their positions before they campaign and have participated in the following in order to qualify for current positions. There are rules.

Political Mandate:
  1. 1 month living under each of the same conditions as their constituents. Those in the following categories: unemployed, on food stamps, unemployed and not receiving benefits, social security, disability, living on street, etc.
  2. Each politician will permanently be on an HMO along with all constituents.
  3. Politicians will renew their licenses to be a politician every two years. If they don't renew, they are fired and cannot collect unemployment.
  4. Politicians will be investigated yearly for sources of financial backing and associations with anyone seeking their own end through aforementioned politician.
  5. Each politician will live up to their promises or be sent to a time out serving their constituents for a year in social services.
  6. No politician can make foreign policy without having served the people in poverty stricken countries for one year.
  7. All politicians must take a test at the end of each year that will be graded by the public. If they fail, they must double all time sets in the above and take a cut in pay.
  8. All pay grades will be set by the people they serve. No increases or benefits can be increased by the people who will benefit from the aforementioned.
  9. All increases in spending will be approved by the people who will 'pay for it' in the end.
  10. No media sources can take sides in political campaigns. They must report unbiased facts.
  11. We the people will take an active interest in the people we have 'hired' to serve us, serving for the people, by the people in a country of the people.
My thoughts of the day.

(This will be my post on Neff Road today.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

A job. After so many months and a couple of years of unemployment, I am going to work today. A friend saw the sign on the door of the Hallmark store. A freshly made sign: Help Wanted. I had been in the store a couple of weeks ago. "Not hiring" was the reply. So after the updated news, I took my resume' in and landed the job. Twenty hours a week and less than a mile from home. Perfecto!!!!

So I find this morning that I have a few butterflies. I have them for two reasons. One: Been a long time since I last worked. I'm gun-shy. Being laid off shakes your confidence. Two: The younger set who currently work at the store have requested that the new employee be a younger person. Hm. That's not happening.

There is give and take with everything. I will settle in and work well with the 'younger' girls. I have comfy shoes that will support me through the day. I am well worth hiring. Confidence. That's really what it comes down to.

It was a sign when I finished the book, Neff Road. One more thing off the plate. I should have it out by summer. My trip back for the signing will be delayed, but twins are coming, so I need to be here anyway. I am at a better place than I was the end of last year. I moved and climbed back out of that hole of depression that was pulling me under. I have a new lease on life. My family is relieved. My granddaughters are excited for me. My friends are supporting me 100%.

I have worked in the business world for many years. I did not want to return to the stress and turmoil that hides in offices. I wanted to find a job where I could have each day all new with new people to greet and new opportunities to spread a few smiles and positive energy.

A job is more than money. It is self-confidence. It is a stress reliever. It is a woman who, when the door opens, says, "Welcome to Hallmark".

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go.......

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One More Page

"Can we read one more page?"

These words that might not mean a lot to most people; however, these words to this grandma left me with tears in my eyes.

My youngest granddaughter has struggled with reading. When she was born, she had a disconnect between her brain and vocal tools. After learning the skill, she talked constantly. When it came to reading, she struggles. She has improved with special reading help at school and at home. Still she is not up to speed and does not like to read.

My friend, Heather, suggested that Gabby and I read over the phone to one another. Still I could not get the fire started, the reading fire. So, she and I made a stop at Powell's Book Store to find two books. One for her and one for me. Our books were about a girl and her horse.

Last night we had our first session. Gabby and I skyped so we could see one another as we read. The call came,and she appeared on the monitor.

"Hi, Grammy," Gabby said all curled up on her bed in her pj's.

"Are you ready?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered. "You have a picture of a horse on the wall behind you."

"Yes, and you have a purple wall behind you. Now let's get started."

She began with long pauses and reading interrupted by random observations. Page two got more interesting. She read one paragraph; I read the next. Soon a couple more pages had passed. So had the time. Our half hour of reading together was at an end.

"Honey, let's stop here," I said. "It's bedtime."

"Grammy, can we read one more page?"

"How about we read again tomorrow night," I said. "Maybe we will read one more page."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Not A Competition

She smirked. A smirk that said, "I knew it." A roll or the eyes that said, "I told you so." A child making a nasty comment putting down another child. Gossip that makes the gossiper think that he/she has the upper hand.

A coach telling his team that winning is the only option. The child who is chided for not being aggressive enough. Fans watching their team yelling profanities, taking the game personally. Employers brow beating their employees trying to make an impression or to meet their monthly goal.

On and on it goes. Dressing to make a statement. Pushing a child to shine above all others. Living a life to impress others. On and on and on.

My friend and I play Scrabble almost every evening. I would prefer not to keep score. I love to challenge myself. I am not a competitive person. I love to cheer her big point words. I don't care if I lose. The game is fun without feeling the competition.

I guess there is a place for competition. Maybe we have made gains due to competitive. But in my many years growing up (and I include my sixty-four years as part of that growing up), I have seen competition grow more damaging. Television is full of competitions mostly showing the bitter side of people. Shows depending on the mean side of contestants to boost rating. Show that seem to prove that relentlessness wins.

I don't expect the world to give up competing. I have never pushed my children or grandchildren to compete. I support them at their activities. I want them to realize that many working together can do wonders. All part of being a team.

You may not agree with me. I have many friends who are vehement about their football team. Those who push their children to show up other kids. Some have even been driven in their careers....they managed to give their boss stress that caused a heart attack when they undermined the company. A kind man who was trying to make a company about his people. I would like to see a people who took their gifts and did the best they could with them, regardless of everyone else. Perhaps I'm a dreamer. Maybe I'm a fool.

Life is not about who wins at the end. I think it's about how well we play with others along the way.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Treated as Equals

They were full of questions: So what do the babies look like now? What is it like in there? How do they eat? On and on. Question after question.

Ages ten and twelve are children old enough to understand. Their questions needed to be answered. Never have I been tentative about grabbing hold of the reins on sensitive subjects. So I stopped at the bookstore today. A clerk joined me in looking for a book to share with the girls. One that explains the stages the twins are going through as they grow through these nine months.

When I picked the girls up from school today, I told them that I had the book. They were very excited. Snacks gobbled down, we sat on the sofa. Me in the middle, of course. It was my idea. We started at the front of the book where across the page spanned the growth of the baby in the uterus for nine months. Page by page we saw the baby grow from tadpole to a child covered with fine down. A baby going from a dot to one wiggling fingers and toes. The girls were fascinated.

My daughter-in-law came home (we were at her house). The girls had not seen her for a week. A week with twins means changes. The girls immediately looked at her tummy then exploded into explanation of all they had seen and learned from the book. Lisa sat down with them and answered questions. No question was overlooked. She drew them into this big family event. She was honest with them. Two girls were thrilled to be treated as equals.

Someone once told me to be honest with your kids when they are small, and they will never need to go looking for answers. they will know where to find them.

Today we shared a special time talking of babies and birth. We talked about the role of the mommy in keeping the babies safe. We talked of twins and the future...a future of which they will be a part.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Double the Fun

Boogie Wipes, Pacifier Wipes, diapers with a strip that tells when the baby should be changed....I'll tell you, shopping for a new baby is a whole new ballgame this ten years after last baby shopping. I wanted to get one of each. Well, I did get a few of the items....a few.

I have baby fever. This realization that in about five months, twenty more toes and fingers will be added to our family. Twins. This is all new me. It is a fever I have developed that is increasing with each passing month. Tiny things are so much cuter than those available when my children and granddaughters were born. Ballet slippers for little girls with tutu onesy's. Little boy fashion statements. Argh! I need to know if we have boys, girls or a little of both. Argh! I need to win the lottery.

My daughter-in-law has a rapidly growing tummy. The youngins' seem to be enjoying the nest eager to meet the neighbor sharing the womb. I fall back in time remembering the first stirrings of my children. The hours I sat watching my child romp and play against my ribs. It was the most precious time of my life this sharing of life, this time alone with my unborn child. Now I am excited for Lisa to know the experience and for my son to share it with her.

Each child is a gift to a family. We as grandparents have the opportunity to go out and discover the world of babies once more. We have the opportunity to catch up on the newest information on caring for a newborn. Best of all, we have the wonderful experience of watching our children become parents.

Boogie wipes. Hm. Twins. I wonder if I should get more.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Never too Old for Adventure

We left rainy Portland heading south for a 4 1/2 hour drive to Ashland, Oregon. Off to see the grandson of my friend, Paulette. Her oldest. It seems to be a trip we will make yearly. Our first was last year....just testing the water. How would a college boy react to two grandmas coming to visit?

The trip to Ashland was beautiful, especially with the weather improving as we covered the miles. Ashland is a small town of the Arts nestled in the mountains in southern Oregon. But this is not about going to the theatre or shopping in the sweet, little college town. It is about a young man and two 'older' women.

My parents never went to see my son when he was at Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, and they in Ohio. She and Dad just never made it. But we are progressive grandmas! Well, maybe.

Justin was excited that we were coming for a visit. We liked to think it was about us; however, we did carry in dozens of cookies and groceries to last for quite awhile. A trip to the grocery with him didn't hurt either. Okay....we might be more attractive visitors if we could buy him off.

Soon we settled back into the same groove we had found last year when visiting the then freshman. We played Scrabble. We ate at his favorite places. I stayed back while he and his grandma went to a movie. He studied and ran while we spent time peeking into stores. No pressures against his time and his responsibilities. We were there to just spend what time we could with him.

We can't forget how important we are to our grandchildren no matter how old or how far away they are. The visit was not about us. Sometimes we found ourselves giving a word of advice, but soon found our stride in how to back away.

The love between Justin and his grandma was endearing. Sitting next to her during breakfast, he laid his head upon her shoulder. She patted it. A gift to a grandma. Never did he leave us that he didn't give his grandma a hug. They are never too old.

After a long leisurely breakfast, we took him back to his quad. A grandma reluctant to leave her grandson. A grandson eager to get back to his life, but equally reluctant to see her go. Warm hugs all around, and we were once more on the road heading back through the mountains.

Sometimes it is an effort to drive somewhere not familiar. Sometimes it is awkward to step into a world of young people. For all the years we have lived, we can still be nervous stepping out of our comfort zone. My parents never went to see my son in Chicago. They preferred to stay on the farm where they were comfortable. They missed seeing a grandson graduate. They missed watching him perform. They didn't have a chance to see him in his element and meet his friends. And for him? He missed the times he could have had with his grandparents in the few years before my father's passing.

The drive might be long and the bed lumpy. The food might not be home cooked. Leaving the nest to fly for short time into uncharted territory can actually scare us the older we get, but there is nothing to compare to the look in a grandchild's eye when they first see you approach. To learn about the child's life instead of expecting them to give in to your wants. There are gifts for giving and those for receiving.

We are never too old for adventure.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

There is a Real Choice

The topic was not easy to approach, but it was important that it was all said in the right way. There is a lack of comfort when some conversations with children require us to quickly come up with the right words. A child asks a question and suddenly our minds draw a blank. Our brains try to grasp the correct words. We must quickly decide how a topic should be addressed.

Maybe you don't agree with me, but this is about acceptance. I have been involved in theatre most of my life. I hear brainless people express that all theatre people are gay. Well, theatre is full of all types of people the same as any place else. My experience has been that  those in theatre are more accepting of differences, embracing and supporting one another. We have a problem in our society. We tag people who are different. We condemn people who do not fit 'our' expectations. We judge without understanding. There is a false justification in thinking that someone God has created was indeed created wrong. Wow!

I have many gay friends. They are no different from anyone else. They cannot control who they are any more than someone can control the color of their skin or that perhaps they are left brained. It's just that simple. Who are we to judge? Why do we want to?

I am always upset when churches turn their backs on the gay community. Christ would never have done it. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, he hung out with pretty much everybody without condemnation. He loved. He accepted. He found beauty where others were blind.

We teach the girls to be accepting. Acceptance through understanding. It was a simple conversation explaining that sometimes we are just wired differently. Different is not bad. In fact, different makes life a smile. Questions were asked and simply answered.

If I were gay, I would want the world to understand that I had no choice. I could be a good mother or father. I would want to be accepted as just a person like anyone else with the same rights and freedoms. I would want to be accepted for just being me.

I'm very proud of my granddaughters. They think of acceptance and love first. A cruel thought would never enter their minds. They see each and every person as a person of interest.

There is a real choice. I choose acceptance, love and understanding. I choose to pass it on.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On Being Grand

Amazing the fun time you can have hanging at your child or grandchild's school. Certainly fun times for this grandma.

Today was the last day of filming the 5th graders. With each day the kids have gotten more comfortable with me. Today was a bonus. Smiles greeted me along with "Hey, Pam." I've never had the kids call me Mrs. Drake. I want them to relate to me easily without that age barrier between us. Truly it is amazing how children want adults as friends. I know that many come from homes where attention is minimal, where compliments are rare. I have an opportunity when I visit the school to give them recognition.

I decided to have lunch with Gabby. She beamed when she saw me, taking my hand and leading me through the lunch line. I sat with Gabs and her friends chatting as if we did it everyday.( I  had a little trouble with quiet time.) After lunch, we went to recess. Gabby played wall ball running back to me after her turn. I cheered for each kid and again thought how absolutely lucky I am.

To finish off my 'school day', I was thrilled to watch Gabby give a speech to her class. She stood poised before the group, held her head high and looked at her audience. A smile was plastered on my face and my heart swelled three times its size.

Grandparents, it is a joy to be involved with our children at their schools. We can volunteer and offer our talents to the classes. We can sit on benches at tables snuggled among their friends eating 'healthy' food. We can be their support and their fan club. We can be 'GRAND' parents.

Today I left school hoping I to return again soon. The teacher said he wanted me back to help. I'm going to hold him to it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Camera Rolling

As dependable as lemmings migrating to the cliffs, kid are just kids.

"I don't like this project," a boy said. He sat at the table looking everywhere but into the eyes of the teacher and me.

I love teaching theatre. When asked to help with the 5th graders, I hesitated wondering if I still had the same enthusiasm as I had years ago when I freelanced. All it took were kids who wanted to learn....and one who didn't.

The kids memorized their lines then figured out who would be where.

"Sorry," I said. "You cannot sit on this side of the table for two reasons. One: I can't see faces or hear you speak. Two: (which might be three since One consisted of two, but I digress.) You are blocking other actors."

Well, obviously the kids weren't all onboard, because they had no idea what blocking meant. It was right up there is voice projection and interpretation, or in essence, stage directions.

We finally got the scenes into place where I could see everyone as I taped. Five, Four, Three, Two, One......and rolling!

The young man playing the lawyer read the Will. The boy next to him was correcting his lines and a girl on the other end of the table was talking.....not-her-turn talking.

"Now, we are going to film. Remember: Talk loudly so the camera will pick up your voices. Don't sit like a kid. Be your character which is an adult. If someone makes a mistake, ignore it. Have fun but stay on task."

"Five, Four, Three, Two, One and Rolling!"

The scene finished. Few mistakes occurred, except for an occasional kid watching me film instead of staying in character.

"I love acting," said one of the girls as she left the room." She was the shy one.

The boy who had been reluctant was one of my best actors. "So was it fun?" I asked.

"It was okay," he said with a smile.

It was okay. Mistakes and all were just perfect. Kids learned something new, and I was reminded of something old. I've decided to see if I will have students if I start teaching acting again. We should all teach what we love in order for others to find pieces of themselves.

Five, Four, Three, Two, One......

On Neff Road: Absolutely Dashing

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I've Got Class

Priorities. We pick. We choose. We sometimes make them according to our own pleasure. Such was my choice on Friday.

Sydney's past 5th grade teacher asked me to help with a class project. The class was writing scenes from the book The Westing Game, a wonderful book...even for adults. We worked on the project all week with filming on Friday. Monday we finish filming with the class, watching the video of all scenes on Tuesday. So, my priority for a few days will be students.

Every day after  I leave the 5th grade, I make my way around the library passing Gabby's room. She looks up and waves. The best part of my day. On Tuesday, I will stop in to listen to a speech she is given. Her grandma is visible in her school.

Children are our priority, aren't they? Be they ours or belonging to someone else, even those we don't know. We protect the children. We are aware of language when out in public. We watch over a child roaming around alone in a store wondering if the child is lost. We might even give a speech to kids on bikes who don't look when crossing the street. We protect.

I love giving my time to these children, helping them by what I know. We all have gifts to give. A watchful eye, a simple smile, volunteering in a child's class. All signs to show that someone cares.

I will be a bit unavailable the next couple of days. I'll be in class.

On Neff Road: A Man. An Experience.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Cast of Characters and A Herd of Turtles

For about twelve years, I was a freelance acting teacher. My students were elementary schoolers, teens and adults. No one ever told me I could teach acting. I never got a degree to teach it. But then again, no on ever told me I couldn't do it. In fact, the kids I worked with informed me that I should teach. So I did.

The email came last week, "Could we meet for lunch?" Hm. Evidently Sydney's fifth grade teacher was needing a bit of help in class. It had been two years since I had offered my services to assist in class. Ah, you never know when the call will come.

The 5th graders read the book "The Westing House" (a really good mystery I read in about 2 sittings). I was asked to help the kids write scripts and prepare them for video taping.

(Now I am off subject for a bit. Stick with me.)

A very long time ago I was afraid to try anything. I had low self esteem and in what I lacked in confidence, I made up for in an gregarious personality. A counselor once asked me if maybe I wasn't a very confident person hiding behind the word 'introvert'. "Hm," I thought to myself. "Could be some truth in this."

We will never know our niche if we don't try to find it. We can never answer that voice, that gift inside of us, if we don't give a listen. What in the world is there to be afraid of? So we flub. We goof. We might even embarrass ourselves!! Who cares....because....we just might find ourselves, too. I found in side of me a person who ended up teaching, acting in films and acting on stage. Amazing what lurks behind closed doors.

(Now I'm back on subject. Thank you for sticking with me.)

The class was divided up in groups, each to pick scenes, assign parts and to write the script from the book. Now the term "herding turtles" is akin to organizing eleven-year-olds. Some are focused, some are not and some just don't even realize that they are indeed in class (those with heads in shells). The trick is to give them a bit of excitement for what they are doing and to turn that excitement into creative energy.

Their teacher is amazing. His kids respect him and are eager to please him. He recognizes each child's strengths and weaknesses. I'm honored to work with him and his kids. I get to learn even more.

We are all a herd of turtles. Well, there are quite a few hares as well. But when everyone finds their own strengths, the progress is incredible. In the end, all of us are on the same path. It's nice when we can help one another find their niche, their own input into this thing called life. There are the leaders, the followers, those who handle props and those who direct. Those who act and those who try. It's all about allowing ourselves to interpret who we are......

This week I'm hanging with 5th graders learning to be characters, maybe learning more about their own character.

By the way......what character are you?