Sunday, August 13, 2017

Never too old

Days of summer are dwindling. School is just around the corner. The twins will be going off to kindergarten. I know what this means. Having seen it with my older granddaughters, I know that time with MeMe will not be nearly as exciting and our adventures will change. Days of leisurely playing will disappear until next summer.

We stood in the hull of the bulky aircraft, staring down the 218 ft. fuselage. The big plane, as Emma and Nolan call it, is a favorite. We are all dwarfed by this huge plane built in 1947. So when we gave the twins the option to return to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, they jumped for joy. However, Emma had a request. "Can we swim on those slides?" Ah, yes, the museum also hosts a building called Wings and Waves. An ideal way to end the summer no matter how old or young you happen to be.

Being a grandparent offers so many opportunities. We get to play with cars, push dolly strollers, play with Play Doh, paint and do art crafts, play games and pretend to eat meals the kids cook in the toy oven. We have had a great time taking the kids swimming, but this adventure was a success in an all new way. The kids loved the slides that twisted and turned then spit the duo out drenched and laughing. In the Wave pool, we were tossed as in the surf and held on to kids in life jackets waiting for the next wave. In the Vortex, we swirled in the current carrying us around and around. We laughed, we played, we made memories. And, that's what it is all about. Maybe not their memories since they are only 5, but truly it is all about our memories. A small hand in mine. A laughing child who can hardly speak so full of joy and soaking wet. The chatter in the dressing room about toilets, wet suits, soap dispensers and paper towels that shoot out when you wave at them. Children who fall asleep on the way home and capture your heart all over again.

This week we are taking them to see a wood carver, a true artist. Simple experiences that reside in our own community. Exposure to the different ways of life and the world outside of their own backyard. Yes, we have added page upon page to our memories this summer and opening a wider world of experience for our grandchildren.

We stood in the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes's folly. The kids do not know the history yet are awed by the very size of this beast. They will talk about it again and again until it takes residence in their memories. They just might hear a story about how their grandparents stepped away from all decency in donning bathing suits so they could enjoy precious time with their grandkids. My son asked me if I wasn't exhausted. Oh, yes, exhausted, by the very best kind of being tired.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The courage of living

There is a courage in living. A heroic strength to face the tribulations in life and to continue on. A victory over pain and illness, fighting to see another day and to be with those we love. There is a courage in living.

In the last year I have lost several people I love. The loss is painful, yet in the loss, I find truth in living. The innocence of youth is limiting. But the living we gather during adulthood makes us stronger and able to love more deeply. I noticed when I was entering my sixties that my eyes carried a sadness in them. I have since seen that same look in others who have experienced loss. It is that little piece of us that is lost. A sorrow I do not deny. I see the world through new eyes, knowing how quickly time passes. I know that after loss I will find peace. It takes courage to move on and allow ourselves to be happy again.

Sometimes the battle seems hopeless, the sorrow too deep. Disappointment seems to find us at an early age. We seem to be chased by those things that want to pull us down all the time. How often are we at the bottom looking up? We learn to crawl then we learn to walk. A life lesson. A lesson in finding courage.

When my friend died of MS, I truly saw raw courage. Lying helplessly in a bed did not take away her sense of humor. There were no pity parties. She did not have time for pain. She cared most about lifting up those around her. She rarely talked about herself and always asked about what was happening in our lives. Raw courage. A woman who, to the end, was a ray of hope. A woman who understood life.

I learned from my mother how to be a loving conversationalist.  Rarely did she talk about herself. Her joy was in the conversations with others about their lives. She truly cared. I learned that the best part of a conversation was in the listening. Mom was strong; no matter what happened in her life she did not bend. She always had time for others. Despite the sorrows that plagued their lives, she had the courage to find the best in life.

Courage to face adversity and to be strong. Courage to survive heartache and disappointment. Courage to know that sadness and despair will pass. Courage to make the lives of those around us better. This is called the courage of living. Sometimes we wonder if we will find our smiles again when the burden is heavy. Courage in living will bring peace every time. Embrace your courage.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pomp and Possibilites

Cap and gown. Pomp and Circumstance. Forty to eight hundred students (depending on the school) enter the hall. Parents and grandparents stand with tears in their eyes. For many this day signals an empty nest. For others it just might be the first grandchild stepping into the unknown. For those youths standing in wait, it is the beginning of their futures.

So what advice would you give the students, Pam? Well, I think the best I could share would be this: Find what you love to do then imagine the possibilities and do it. Soar into a future that serves this world and the people in it. Do not fear what you do not know. You will succeed. You have potential to create change. Do not hold on to the past; it only makes going forward more difficult. Dreams can come true. They will find you if you cannot find them. You can always change your mind. Do not regret mistakes for in stumbling we find stronger footing. Never compare yourself to others. You are the best you that you can be. There is no one finer. Do not be afraid to try new things. Look to your heart and let it sing. You never stop learning. Open your mind to all views then find your own. Each day is a new lesson. You have only tapped the very tip of your life. Soar, fly, step into an unknown world and be what you were born to be.

For me, life was scary once I left that lane on Neff Road. I had graduated and was going to college. I wanted to move away, but my past history reflected only homesickness at sleepovers. No one taught me how to survive on my own. I dreamed of dancing, writing and acting but had no encouragement. I blamed others for my fear of life outside of Darke County. There is no one to blame but myself. It took me until I was thirty-seven to have this realization. I began acting and taught drama as well. I worked with kids at risk. Kids wondering if there were such things as dreams. I had friends of all colors and all beliefs. I learned from each and every one. I could look back and see the possibilities I had never recognized at the time. I thought I was to be a daughter, a wife, a mother. All perfectly good, but for me there was so much more. I knew that I had a purpose in this old world. I had a duty to learn, change and open my mind to possibilities. Finally I followed my heart and began to write.

I sat in front of a couple of students at a graduation. One young lady asked the other, "What is that symbol on the top of that mortar board?" The other girl answered, "It is the symbol for Mercedes Benz." Let us pray that the youth of 2017 will look for more than a fancy new car. Perhaps they will look for peace and a better world.☮

Monday, May 15, 2017

A song unwritten

In searching through some papers, I ran across older pieces I had written many years ago. Some were as far back as my high school years. Slightly yellowed papers written by the hand of a teenager. In later writings, my poetry told of the loss of my parents, of the farm. My pen captured the joy of becoming a grandma and the world that awaited me as I traveled through life with these children. A woman of many feelings, many faces and emotions that found her answers through the pen in her hand. Many times I questioned why life was so difficult and where my place was in it. Never at a loss for words, they poured onto the paper for release and revelation.

This is a short column today. It is a piece to contemplate and understand. In its simplicity, I found my own answers. I hope in some way you might find your own.

I am a pen in the Writer's Hand
A spark in dry tinder
A tool in Skilled Hands
A drop in a rising pool
A silent voice on a distant page
A compass for a traveler
A yes in a world of no's
A mystery yet unraveled
A valentine overflowing
A note in a symphony
A song unwritten
A page waiting to be read

The list could go one, but this pretty much says it all. Perhaps you will find yourself in my list. Perhaps you will make your own. Wherein lies your truth?

Monday, April 17, 2017

In the backseat of the car

"Let's count buses," I said to the twins on the way to preschool. They were three at the time. The two restless toddlers zeroed in on the search for buses. The most we counted was about twenty-five on one trek. When they wearied of buses, we moved on to large trucks. The sizes of the trucks became an issue, so we returned to buses.

When my oldest granddaughter was the same age, we managed to have some pretty interesting topics in the car. My favorite was when she decided to make up a song called Pinky Pinky Pink. As we passed by things along the side of the road, they were added to her lyrics. At one point she informed me that she had another song. Oddly enough, it sounded just like Pinky Pinky Pink.....and had the same words. An imagination allowed to run rampant. Imagination brought to life by a toddler sitting in the backseat, looking out the window and an adult in the front paying attention.

Time in the car. With my children, I found those times together were some of the best. Problems were solved. Debates were had. Conflicts were worked out in a reasonable manner since there was no escape. A long time ago I decided that being a good parent/grandparent involved staying in the present. Never let opportunities slide by. Never ignore those kids riding in the car with you. In working with kids, I discovered that most of them felt their parents never listened. It made me think that maybe that was due to lack of involvement with them when they were small. For if you interact with them when they are small, your relationship with the struggling adolescent and teen is much easier at a later date. There is a foundation that supports a lifetime of love. It is built piece by piece starting when they are young. Maybe even in the backseat of a car.

"Okay, today we are going to look for heather plants and willow trees," I informed the dialogue-dueling duo on the backseat. "You mean Sydney's friend, Heather?" Emma asked. (Be prepared at all times for random comments and questions.) I slowed down as we passed a hillside of heather pointing out the pink flowers. "How can that be heather and Heather be heather?" (Oh, my). I explained to Emma that names like Heather, Robin, Lily, etc.can be shared with plants and even a birds. We passed the willow tree on my street and with great excitement, Nolan yelled, "A crying willow!"

Now no one said that it is easy being an older person and keeping up with little ones; however, I find that my mind works just about as quickly as theirs, and I can teach them at every opportunity with new, fun ways of learning. I can keep up with them. Just have to try.

The mind of a child is open to all information. They ride in that backseat just watching the scenery. Why not teach them the wonder of all they see? Why not interact and make the ride a joy for all? When the kids are no longer in the car, I will look at all the fun we had together and be thankful for each adventure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Resurrect the spirit

[Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra-, from PIE *aus- "to shine" (especially of the dawn).Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Ultimately related to east. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal). (from Dictionary.com)]

Oh, my, the hubbub about a word. Easter, Pascha, the celebration of the Resurrection. People demanding the word Easter. A word that has come to the Christians to mean a great deal in their faith. A word that was originally a pagan word for the goddess of fertility and spring. A word like Christmas and other words that have more than one definition or even date. Easter was adopted by the Christians, yet it was a pagan feast.

Truly God must be laughing as was I when I saw that people were up in arms over a package of Easter eggs with no mention of the word Easter on it. We have Easter parade, Easter eggs, Easter bunny, lovely Easter bonnet and, of course, the handy Easter basket. My bonnet is not holy. Nor are the eggs or basket. Yes, they are items that have come to be as did Santa for all people. The holiness of the days lies not in the name, it lies truly in the heart of the believer. We all worship differently and all are loved by the same God....yep, even the sinner as we are told. I refuse to be upset over a package of candy eggs that does not say 'Easter'.

I hold my faith not against others and their beliefs, but by the love of God that I accept as mine. Not by a special day but by my every day. My church is the world, and I get to love every one in it not by what I expect from them or what they believe, but by the word of Christ that says for me to love everyone as I would myself. For someday I will be judged by my love of all humankind not separating out immigrants or Muslims or people of color or by belief. But by my hope to lift people up, to open my heart and to give of the gifts I have been given, I truly will be judged.

We color eggs of different colors. Colors of the rainbow. A rainbow that holds the promise of God. A rainbow that encompasses all people of all colors, creeds, sexual orientation, ALL people. No judgment. Just love. No labels. Just love. No holidays just for ourselves but days of love for all people. Eggs of all colors hidden away by a big bunny so that children might find them. People hidden away that we might find them.

I wish you a rainbow day of celebrating your uniqueness and gifts. A day that will resurrect your spirit and let it soar.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Move over Easter Bunny

Tools: arcrylic paint, canvas paper, paint brushes in various sizes, cookie cutters, pencil, stickers and two four-year-olds. Ah, nothing could be finer.

Creating cards for Christmas and hearts for Valentine's Day brought us up to Easter. "Meme, remember the lady we gave the Christmas card to?" asked Emma. "She cried." Yes, I do remember and, yes, she cried. Someone took time to look into her eyes and give her a card. Someone who was four going on forty. "Can we do it again?" Words of pure joy.

So I gathered supplies. And, for two days little fingers held paint brushes and created all sorts of colors and designs on paint paper. I took the painted sheets, once dried, and outlined eggs, butterflies and rabbits with cookie cutters. Then the designs were cut out of the paper, and the kids added the bling with stickers. Their scribbled sheets of paper became beautiful little tokens ready for the Easter outings to spread some joy. The Easter Bunny was about to have competition.

After two days of painting and cutting, we must have around eighty eggs to distribute. I am so proud of the kids as they hand out the cards. I stand in the background watching. This is their thing not mine. To begin with, the kids stood frozen with the cards in hand. Gradually, they have come to delight in giving the card then walking away not looking back. We want nothing in return. It is a free gift of love from small hands and a grandma's love.

What do we give as freely in our lives not asking for anything in return? Do we see those forgotten faces that go unnoticed? Are we too busy with our phones or our own lives to notice the strangers we pass? What do we teach children in our actions? A little paint, a little paper and tears of joy. That is the legacy I hope to leave.

As I cut each design from the pages slathered with paint, I discovered beautiful pictures, composition from chaos. We marveled at what we had created. Over the next couple of weeks, we will delight even more at what these little cards from little hands will accomplish.

"Can we do this again, MeMe?" Nolan asked. "We have Mother's Day next," said Emma. Hm. That just might be a bit trickier. Spreading the love. There can be no stronger calling.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

Today I am sharing the blog I wrote for Neff Road.


At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ides of Everything

Ides of March. Yep, March 15. A day we think of the demise of Julius Caesar. However, since that was in 44 BC, I see no reason to don togas and sing soulful dirges. Perhaps we should embrace an event more upbeat this year. Maybe even a little known holiday that we have failed to recognize in the past.

According to Holidays and Observances.com, we have been missing a wide variety of special days. One will surely suit your fancy. For those in rural areas, we have Ag Day, a celebration of our bountiful food supply. Of course, if your cupboard is empty, this might not be your holiday.

This day has also been called Brutus Day. So, we say, "Et tu, Brute". In keeping with the death of a murdered ruler, it seems apt that this is also Buzzard Day. I found that Buzzard Day is a notable day for many Ohio residents who, on this day, look to the heavens watching for the return of the buzzard. Hard to imagine waiting joyfully for a bunch of bald heads and red beaks coming in for a landing. 

It is ironic that the next notable day is Dumbstruck Day. Not at all surprised since we just passed Buzzard Day. I am rather dumbstruck myself.

Happy Kick Butts Day!!!! Yes, indeed this is KBD. Now, I have worked with greeting cards for a long time and have not as yet seen a card for this occasion. However, I guess if the need arises, celebrate.

I think that this next one happens not only on the Ides of March but many other days as well. National Everything You Think is Wrong Day. So if this column does not show up on Wednesday, March 15, please understand that it is indeed an 'everything you think is wrong day' at my house.

If you are Greek, you might want to celebrate National Pears Helene Day. Yes, I had to look that one up. Pears Helene is not a name but a dessert that was served in celebration of  the operetta La belle Helene (aka Helen of Troy). Auguste Escoffier offered a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup. Might be worth celebrating just to eat the dessert.

And, we come to True Confessions Day. My aunt Bess had a stack of True Confessions (and True Romance) next to her bed when I was a kid. I did find that this day has nothing to do with publishing unless you want to confess all of your secrets publicly. It is a day to free yourself of all of those little hidden treasures you have kept to yourself that occasionally give you pangs of guilt. Or, you can still get the magazine and read the secrets of others. Your choice.

Happy World Consumer Rights Day. This day came into being way back in 1983. It is a day set aside to promote basic rights for all consumers. JFK outlined the definition of consumer rights, and today we are protected by these rights.

So much to celebrate on such a simple day in the middle of the week in the middle of the month. You could chose to celebrate all of them which would involve wearing a toga to a local market to buy pears and a magazine being aware as you walk home that buzzards could be coming in for a landing, because then it would be a day with everything going wrong as you are trying to take home your bounty hopefully not to be dumbstruck when you have your butt kicked by some bully who was trying to interfere with your consumer rights. Hm.

Happy March 15!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

You might not see me often. You might know me by birth or by becoming family not of the womb but of the heart. You might only be an acquaintance. You might be a stranger who just wandered into my world. Well, you are all loved. When you entered my thoughts, you entered my heart. Today I thank you and give you my love.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Behind the greasepaint

Clowns are pegs on which the circus is hung. - P. T. Barnum.

We walked down Clown Alley after the circus performance. Trunks scattered the area. Trunks full of oversized shoes, brightly colored wigs, bow ties and ruffly collars. Clowns were changing from clown to selves once more. The children marveled. Wow, we got to go down clown alley to see the back side of the circus.

I sat in a front row seat above the circus floor. The student I had brought to sample an audition for Clown College was surrounded by Ringling Brothers' clowns. A couple of clowns, Tuba and Tommy, wandered over and kept me company. I was a bystander loving every minute of this wonderful atmosphere. It came time for the auditionees to show their stuff. A clown would set up the scene then work with the applicant improvising as they went along. The auditions were complete when one of the clowns asked if I would like to try it? Well, how could I resist?! This was right down my 'alley'. The clown inside of me surfaced, and I had the time of my life. Caren did not get into clown school. I was accepted. Of course, running off to the circus was impossible with two kids to raise. And, Mom would have been horrified.

This experience brought into my life a few new friends. Scott Linker was the Little Usher clown who to this day is a dear friend. I met Tommy and Tammy, a married couple of clowns. Tuba went on to be Ronald McDonald in commercials. Scott took me onto the circus train to see how he lived. Small compartments lined the hallway. His compartment was tiny. A bed and room for little else. Here was his life for most of the year as they traveled from place to place. The common toilet was so small that one could hardly turn around. This was the life of a circus performer. Elephants, lions, horses all had a place on this train. Children traveled with their families and most performed as well. A world removed from the rest of us. Unusual and strange to me, yet it spoke to the child in me. I wanted to run away with the circus.

Aunt Bess gave last dolls to the Loxley girls. Peg and June were given lovely dolls. I got an Emmett Kelly, Willie the Clown, doll. A sad faced, weary clown dressed in rags with a derby on his bald head. When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by Mr. Kelly. The way he conveyed emotions without saying a word spoke to the silent child in me. I understood him. He understood me. Aunt Bess gave me the best doll of all.

Now the tent comes down. We who are blessed to have experienced the thrill of the circus will pass on the memories to future generations. We will tell of the smell of the circus. The excitement of walking into that big, white tent. For me, it was the day the Little Usher played to me as I sat with my children in the stands. My heart was won over and has stayed there ever since.

I did not go to clown college. I did some Christian clowning. I discovered what it was like to be behind that white face. One of the most powerful experiences I ever had was praying alone with another clown in an empty sanctuary. Behind the white face, I felt my very soul. I finally understood the clown.

To my clown friends: Thank you, thank you, thank you. To my children: Remember what we were given. To my grandchildren: Come here. Let me tell you a story. A wonderful story about a circus.

Truth will answer

The masks we wear. Yes, we all have them. We put them on when we leave the house. We put them on when we are trying to train the child. We put them on to please our partners and families. We wear them well, because they shield us from change, from truth, from exposure.

It was 1977. I packed my toddlers into the car and drove to my estranged husband's temporary dwelling. The kids were thrilled to see Daddy. I was not so thrilled, but his car was in the shop, and he needed a ride to work. We pulled up in front of the building, dropping him off. Before we pulled away from the curb, we saw him walk into the building with his girlfriend. I share this because we wear masks.

For many years, I wore the mask of a dutiful wife and mother. I tried my best in this new residence in Wisconsin to blend in and accept the change. I wore my best face and cried when no one was looking. There is nothing lonelier than being in a relationship with no way out. I was a child of the past in a time when women were just beginning to step out of that old belief of the little housewife. I wore a mask, an identity of the past. Yes, we all wear them. They are all different. In fact, we have a drawer full of them.

I tossed off that mask and walked away. The shy wallflower became a working woman who would offer her life to her children. My ex said he did not like the change. Well, he didn't like me much before, but, darn it, I liked me.

I have learned over the years that honesty is crucial for any relationship. Kids can see through our put-together facades. We talk differently, relate differently, keep our parental distance. They know our games. Even the little ones understand. We keep friends at arms-length and let our other half have his/her way. Kindness? Maybe. But from a woman who lived thirteen years with a heavy mask on her face, I can tell you, that truth in action is the only truth worth living.

I realize this is a fairly different column. Many of you have asked that I keep including my Grandparent's Voice. I like to think that perhaps you find some truth in my writing. Let's throw away our masks and give future generations freedom to experience, to believe, to grow into themselves. Maybe we can make a difference in this new year for ourselves and our world.

When I was a child trick-or-treating, I hid my identity behind a mask. I became someone else for a brief period of time. There was a world outside from which I was temporarily removed. The mask itched and poked me. When it was lifted off my face, fresh air whispered to the real me. It revealed a child who for a moment hid away from the world. Share the truth of yourself with other; truth will answer.