Monday, December 2, 2019

Today we decorated the tree

No. Nope. I am not happy when we send them home. I miss them. I see the time pass in their lives. New teeth, longer legs and new questions that come with the awareness of an older age. Today we decorated the tree.

What is the difference between me at 40 and me at 72? Oh, that's easy. For those years in-between were filled with loss, sometimes pain and often fear of what would happen next. It's not easy being me. There is, however, another side to all this. I grew up. Pain and loss do that, you know. It teaches you in the harshest ways, yet it works. We learn to cope with loss if we are lucky. We learn to embrace it, understanding it is not what is gone but more about what remains. I sometimes think I could relate to just about everyone, because I have been everyone. And, I came through it liking myself. A real revelation to a woman who didn't think there was more.

We get side tracked with pain, age, sadness and loneliness. It doesn't matter your age, it just happens to all of us. No one gets through this life on a happiness card. Just doesn't happen. I am thankful for the struggle. I am thankful for all the parts that have made me the person I am today.

Today we decorated the tree. The twins come into our house as if they are in their own. Nolan talks my leg off while Emma is organizing me. They approach the day with enthusiasm that gradually turns into The Grinch on TV. It's all good, because the dialogue never ends. I cherish these moments and take in each and every part, because of all the things I have learned about life. Yes, I will always be watching over you. Yes, you can talk to me about anything, and I will be available 24/7. I listen to your jabber not missing a syllable. I can do that for you. Time will teach you what I have learned, so for today I give you memories.

I think aging is good for us. We never understand the next older age, because we have not yet lived it.  We cannot undo what has been done in our lives. We can help our families through those similar times. We can be our parents in decorating the tree, or we can be in the moment making our own memories.

We made little pots with succulents in them for the school janitor, teachers, office workers and kitchen help at school. The kids took hold of the idea and were totally focused on the people to whom they want to gift these cute pots, explaining why they wanted them to have them. I embrace the time I have with those I love not because I am living the past but because I am storing up for the future. I am making myself available to them in their joys and later in their tough times. I would keep them forever and will in my heart. Today I just made a place for myself in theirs.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Cornucopia of colors

The beast hid beneath the knobs and ridges surrounding it. Yellow tentacles twisted and stretched resting behind shades of green and gold. What was this beast lurking, waiting, capturing my imagination?

Gourd; noun: hard-shelled fruit whose dried shell is used for bowls and other utensils, used ornamentally.

How in the world am I supposed to make a bowl or dried anything out of a ten-legged gourd? Hm. At a foot across, it doesn't just blend with the centerpiece. It is the centerpiece. What in the world type of vine did this monster come from anyway? I sense a jolly green giant.

Yes, I saw the legs of this giant gourd snaking out from under the small gourds in the bin. Upon digging down, I found this incredibly wonderful gourd. Being a fan of fall decorations, this rock- mushroom-shell hunter had found the treasure. In fall decorating I use colorful leaves, gourds, pumpkins and Indian corn to blend into a cornucopia of fall delights. I gathered my tools and set to work. Well, I tried to set to work.

What do you do with a gourd that resembles a bunch of bananas run amuck? I tried placing small gourds around it. Had I painted eyes on it, the massive gourd would look like a giant octopus, taking over the gourd patch. Oh, yes, I was proud of this unusual gourd. It was a stand-alone beast that was beyond imagination.

You know, we are each in this bin of peoples of the world. There are treasures in the bin. Every one of us is special. We stand alone in our uniqueness. Let's make a beautiful centerpiece together. We are all gourdgeous.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

We are the difference

First of all, this is not about me. It is about our society. 
Yesterday I went to the store. In front of me as I was waiting to check out, a young mother was struggling with her three children. The most trouble was the two-year-old in the back of the cart. I started paying attention to his firetruck socks. Soon he was focused on me and not dropping groceries from the cart. The couple behind me started talking to me about their grandkids. It became a little community all its own. 

As I left the store, I came upon a woman in a wheelchair struggling with her keys. I asked if I could help her and did. We hugged and said we loved each other as surely we did. I had three opportunities in less than ten minutes. I had no agenda. I had no message. I had looked around me and seen what was needed. 

We all should be doing this. It isn't about praise or accolades. It is about being a tool to serve others and in turn serve ourselves. It is about being aware of what is around us and how we can make a difference. So help me. Keep your eyes and hearts open. 

We are the difference.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Heinz 57 roots

Trees. All sorts of trees. Evergreen, coniferous, shoe, family, all sorts of trees. The evergreen and coniferous feed the air we breathe. The shoe tree tells us where our shoes are located. And that family tree tells us just who we are and where we came from. DNA is sort a tree. It holds all the things that make up you and me. Things determined way back on that family tree. As the family tree shows our sides of the families, our DNA shows what we get from those families that make up who we are as well as a bit of whom our children will be.

So I did 23&Me as well as Ancestry.com. Of course, my DNA matched on both. I am likely to be afraid of heights, have blue eyes and blond hair, dislike cilantro, be a light sleeper and have a real like for coffee. All true. It was rather like reading a book of me that no one could really know, yet my DNA told the story of me without me telling it. Hm. DNA.

I am a mixture of about every culture that inhabits the earth. I like that I am not a purebred. In fact, none of us are. Can't deny it. It is in our DNA. I found that this information was humbling. It ties me more closely to every person in this world. We all have a tiny amount of us that comes from Africa. I was even tickled to find that I had an equally tiny bit from China. I am a mixed breed! As Dad would say "a Heinz 57".

I have found new cousins and those I haven't seen since I was much younger. I have pieces of my ancestral history filled in, and I can add to that chain with what I have access to. I am on the discovery route to who I am. I am on my discover 'root'.

My son did his history as well. It has been interesting to see what matches and what does not. Obviously, that other half of parent-pairs adds to a new genetic tree. Some of our traits are the same and some are definitely from his dad. I guess we never really know where we came from and who we are without investigating. I know who I am more than ever now because I checked my genes.

Yes, I took root in the past.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunsets, kites and pancakes

It crested just past the wave-foam on the ocean. The spray shot up, and I gasped. I had not seen a whale since going to the beach in 1996 when Keiko, and I had our time alone at the Oregon Aquarium. Funny thing that happens when you see a whale. It's rather like when Millie hears the word squirrel. People pick up on the word and look to see where you are looking. Excitement fills the air. I'm not even so sure my ears didn't perk up and my tail wag.

Depoe Bay is a bay, which touts the fact that it is the smallest navigable bay in the world. Not sure if that is true, but it seems right. We decided to pull over out of traffic to take a peek over the railing on the bridge when I sighted the orca. It was cresting just beyond the edge of the sea foam. An awesome experience for us all.

So we took Emma and Nolan to the beach for two nights/three days. If you haven't seen an Oregon coastal beach, you haven't seen the wild beauty of an ocean coast. The place we stayed was just a short walk to the beach. We looked for agates and shells, flew kites, watched the kids climb on the rock-lined beach. Two days we moseyed down to Newport Bay where we watched the fishing boats and ate lunch, looking over a bunch of sea lions playing in the water and sleeping on the docks. It was noisy but delightful. We went to the Oregon Aquarium and discovered what is out there under that water we were playing by each day. Yes, it was wonderful. Then we sat on a hill overlooking the ocean, watching the sunset. The fading sunlight awed and inspired. Would we like a place at the beach? Not now. Hm. Nice to dream.

My grandchildren inspire me to work harder for the environment. We have decided to take our own cloth napkins to restaurants that only use paper. Along with those, we will pack our own take out containers for leftovers. We stopped using plastic straws. The beach is a reflection of who we are and how we care about our impact on nature. Loren carried out cans left from nighttime beach goers. The kids and I talked about our responsibility to the creatures we were seeing. They asked questions as we tried to fill in the blanks.

Making memories is what this grandparenting thing is all about. We aren't just babysitters. We sometimes have to give up sleep or get up earlier than usual. So what!? It is about allowing kids to make pancakes and eat huge ice cream cones. It is about grabbing a child's hand with a kite or two in the other hand. It is about teaching them, but in the long run, us as well. I wasn't much of a parent who had time enough for my kids. Who does? But as a grandparent, I want the time. I can do what their parents aren't able to. I can even hold a homesick girl until she sleeps.

School starts this week. We will miss the kids like crazy. Second grade twins. We wonder how much longer they will want us in their lives. "Wednesday is pizza day," Nolan informed us. "So do you want us to come to lunch every other Wednesday?" I asked holding my breath, thinking maybe we had our last year with pizza on Wednesdays. Emma gave us a big "YES". Nolan reminded us that we shouldn't forget.

My heart has been on a roller coaster. It had been a rough week coming into the days at the beach. Our friend Erika died during surgery when they were trying to give her a new liver. CNN came through, but it was just too late. I lost two friends from Darke County. Barbara Rhoades Motes left us. I am so glad we saw her at the meet and greet. Yes, those hugs count. Clark Lease just passed away. He was Brenda's uncle, but always Uncle Clark to me. My dear friend Sandy lost her father then the next day lost the love in her life. There were more passings and news of cancer in a dear friend all in the span of two weeks. So the time at the beach was much needed healing. Grandchildren make it easier. 

We all influence many lives by the warmth and love we give one another. Sunsets, kites and pancakes, my new mantra for good mental health and well-being.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Call of the homeland

The sun was setting over the lake. Shades of yellow, pink and blue reflected from sky to water. Mountains loom behind us seemingly asking what we are doing here. Here. Here in their vast wildness. Here is the reality of past and present.

After twelve hours in the car with five people packed like sardines, we arrived in Polson, Montana. Flathead Lake stretched before us reflecting the sun waiting to set. Shades of pink, yellow and blue scattered across the water. The air is fresher, the water deep and wonderful, the mountains hiding mountain lions, black and grizzly bears, moose and deer. A zoo wild in its own habitats.

It was dusk when we arrived at the reservation. Tiny houses and trailers dotted the streets and fields. In 1970 I had been on a reservation in Arizona. This same scene greeted me way back then. The poverty and culture of a nation still trying to make a home on land they did not choose. Tears stung my eyes. I could not turn away nor get my thoughts around all this beauty and what was done to the people who our country belongs to and who in turn belong to it. Freedom was not theirs. And, for a few days, I will mourn their loss even more than usual.

My niece Jobi is of the Flathead tribe; therefore, she owns this piece of land overlooking the lake. Her children can not inherit this home once she is gone unless they marry into the tribe. I get it. And, for this family, every moment here is priceless. Jobi left Montana when she was three. My sister and her husband adopted her and moved her to Indiana with them. We all fell in love instantly with this beautiful girl. Yet over the years, her voice has yearned to answer the call of her homeland.

This is all quite timely. I just finished sending my DNA in to check my lineage. For all the years we were told we had Native American blood, I find that indeed I have none. So I really am an immigrant. I am mostly French/German, Swiss and British/Irish. I am more than a half breed. I am a breed so diluted that there are no numbers to cover the genes that have feed into my little pool of DNA. 

Birds are singing. The scat from a black bear was found in the yard this morning. My niece faced off with a mountain lion in their driveway some time ago. Eagles perch in their trees and the earth is alive with bird song. Hm. These animals, too, are native to this land. Yes, I am the intruder.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Shoes of a different color

Hers didn't match. In fact, one shoe wasn't even hers. One belonged to Gabby's friend. The girls decided that they would have a little fun and wear two different shoes. Funny I never thought of that before. I am pretty good at coming up with weird, unusual ideas. Then I began noticing something else. Something more than footwear.

Emma has a drawer full of socks. When she gets them out, they match but don't. One might have a bird on it and the other with a frog and the same background. Or maybe the critter matches but the background is different. It is a bit mysterious this 'unmatched match-up." 

And again, I find myself looking around. Not just those of my grands, but those of other kids. Shoestrings mismatched. Tights not matching the shirt. Shorts conflicting with a sweater. My mind was swirling with possibilities I had missed.

We are getting ready to go out tonight. I have a new, shorter haircut that is an interesting challenge. I want one side to match the other. No matter how hard I try, one side turns to the back and the other to the front. Now, I ask myself (which I do often), why do they need to match. Why can't I just have fun and do it my way. I was raised that everything needed to match. I always felt that I needed to look like everyone else. And we all did! None of us knew that we did not need to follow the same old path. We could dare to be different and if no one liked it, that was their problem. But we never thought of it. Hm. 

It isn't just about clothing. Nor is it about matching other people. It is truly about finding yourself. Maybe finding a new self every day. It is about having a voice and not being afraid to be different. Seeing yourself in new ways, finding new ideas, doing things for yourself you have never tried before, are all possibilities we missed long ago.

Yes, I found out something that day I saw two different shoes. I found that my granddaughter was not the copy of her mother or grandma or any of her friends. She dared to be different and own it. Now that is pretty awesome. Makes me wish I were a kid again.

So tonight we are going out. My hair is a combination of all the genes that are on my DNA chain. Maybe one side of my family looked forward and the other looked back. I seem to be the result of my past and the enlightenment of the future.  Now I can wear all my mismatched socks that have lost their partner. Ah, shoes of a different color.