Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Passing Strangers

Two young, black men stood at the end of the row. I sat next to the window with my pillow tucked against the side, my book in my lap. The two men both argued as to who would sit in the middle. I wasn't about to give up the window. The shorter man lost the toss and ended up next to me. He and his friend settled in trying to look and sound cool. It was a red eye flight from Atlanta to Portland. Everyone settled in quickly.

"Would you like to lay your head on my pillow?" I asked. "You can lay against my shoulder. I don't mind." Soon soft snores were drowned out by the roar of the plane. I read and he slept. His leather jacket slid down. I pulled it up around him. "You okay, Lady," I assured him that I was just fine.

The plane landed. The taller man handed me my suitcase from the overhead. My sleepy friend stretched. "You sure are a nice lady." I never even his name.

They walked up the ramp ahead of me never to be seen again. But that quiet moment, with a sweet head resting on my shoulder, I'd found God. He was wearing baggy pants and skull and cross-bone jacket.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Exquisite Moment

There is a moment, an exquisite moment when every fiber of your being is perched on a precipice waiting...holding a breath, waiting to exhale into perfection.

Several years ago I was reminded of this moment when watching Randy Newman accompanying Sara McLachlan on the piano at the Academy Awards. For anyone who has ever played an instrument, especially anyone who has played accompaniment, you will understand this, I hope.

A mysterious thing happens when playing for a soloist. The vocalist pauses then goes on to the next phrase giving his or her own interpretation to the music. Style. There is this feeling of anticipation, an intuition that kicks in allowing the musician to sense the moment when along with the vocalist they lift off and fly over the precipice. Even when playing a instrumental solo, this deep sense is experienced, this knowing gives life to the music.

I don't know that many will understand this feeling, but I think perhaps this same thread weaves in and ou of the rhythms of our lives. Perhaps it is a thought that fills one with excitement, anticipation. A moment that excites, that is savored, that is held close yet yearn to share. Maybe it is a thing of magic this feeling that comes when something is just right. A natural harmony that lies within waiting to be tapped, waiting to move us to another part of our awareness.

How does the musician know when the singer will sing the next note? Two spirits soar on the same wings, expressing the same depth of feeling and landing on the next note at the same time. A mystery wonderful to hear, to see, to feel.

Perhaps we should read one another a bit better, complimenting one another instead of rushing ahead, listening to our hearts instead of with our haste. I bet the song would be memorable.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Never Go BackTo Before

If memory serves me correctly, it was in the spring of 1998. I had just received a call from my son who was auditioning for three musical theatre touring productions in Kansas City. The audition had gone well. Now the waiting.

How far do we go to capture a dream? Do we set limits on who we are, what we expect or maybe where our decisions will take us? I was proud of his courage. He had driven alone from Chicago to Nashville to his present location to face the toughest casting directors in the country with nothing more than his '87 Honda, his voice, his calling card and his dream.

I had moved from Ohio to Wisconsin then lastly to Oregon for a reconciliation that didn't take. I was raised to be pratical and responsible. Now I was 2500 miles from family on my own with two small children. I didn't know I could follow dreams. I'd forgotten I had them.

In the musical "Ragtime", Mamma sings a song, You Can Never Go Back To Before, about her life changing when she steps out of the role of society woman to raise an orphaned, black child. She lives what she believes in, a journey across generations, a journey into unchartered territory. 'Before' no longer exists.

Courage comes in all forms. That day my son found his in a long drive alone to sing three songs for strangers who held his future in their hands.

He did not get any of the shows, but his determination and resolve finally lead him to his theatre career. I found my dream in words and writing in my quest to find myself and my way alone in Oregon.

I never went back to before. Neither did my son. And, with all that is in me, I will encourage my grandchildren to follow their dreams.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Love at First Sight

The older gentleman sat next to the window drawing notes on musical staffs. I was on my way back from visiting family. Both were lost in our own thoughts. The announcement came that we would be arriving late at our flight destination. We both groaned looking at short layovers. Suddenly we became comrades in our race to the gate.

In those last 20 minutes, our conversation covered children, music, flying, lost loves and Portland. We became fast friends eager to share more conversation. Frank was a music professor. His wife had sent him on a trip to visit an old girlfriend who had remained a friend. My visit consisted of days with my son at Northwestern, traveling south to my parents' anniversary party. The last they would have. It was a friendhip quickly shared.

The plane landed, I took Frank's hand. "Follow me". Everyone stepped aside as I pulled the elderly man down the aisle. I took him to the gate desk where they immediately dispatched a tram. A quick hug, and I was standing alone.

A couple of days later I received an email: "Even though I don't believe in love at first sight, I almost thought it had occurred."

What a lovely thought! I believe we are all connected in some wonderful, mysterious way. I believe the word 'love' binds us all together, each and every one of us. That love binds all mankind into one. That love ends war, feeds the hungry, warms the cold and lighten's one anothers burdens.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could look into one another's eyes and really see that other person? Even those we do not know? I believe the greatest adventure of our lives has been given to us...the adventure into ourselves and relationships with everyone else in this world. By surrounding ourselves with only what we know, we only grow to that end. Maybe we should all try to embrace a new world. Maybe it will embrace us back. Perhaps love at first sight.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Hand Held

When my son was graduating from Northwestern many years ago, I wrote this piece. Now my granddaughter is 10 and beginning to become a young woman. I am once more reminded of the passage of time.

Time holds a mystical power of disappearing before our very eyes. Only 16 years ago I was taking my small, blonde-haired, blue-eyed son's hand as we crossed the street embarking on his advancement to "real" school. Having been a single mother, one who never had a brother, raising a male child was a journey into the unknown. I wasn't sure how the men I knew had gotten to adulthood and some had still to arrive.

However, we mothers do what must be done. I learned a great deal over my son's younger about a boy becoming a man. I learned that little boys don't change physically as slowly as girls. Their feet grow at an uncontrolable rate. Then the voice gets lower. You call a boy to dinner and a strange voice answers. After checking to see that no stranger has intruded, you conclude that the wobbling voice has once more taken a turn. This all takes place in about 3-4 months, even though it seems like overnight.

Then one day you realize that you are no longer looking down but up to talk to him. And, from this point of view, you discover he has a fuzzy chin and the beginning of a fuzzy chest he hides behind a buttoned shirt. He also begins to smell pretty good when he goes off to school and picks out his own clothes.

All too quickly he graduates from high school. He discovers that his sister is his friend and that he actually loves her. He discovers he can go out into the world alone and survive. No longer does he need someone to give him advice; now he asks. Sixteen years later, I will get off the plane to take his hand as we cross the street, this time embarking on his journey into life.

Time holds the mystical power of disappearing before our eyes. But the memories it leaves behind are priceless.

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Friday, September 25, 2009


Pets. There are lessons to be learned. By parents as well as children.

I will be the first to admit that I hate rodents. Wild or tame. Living on the farm, we constantly battled the long-tailed beasts. Then my son asks for a hamster. Cute little fuzzy RODENT! I'd like to admit that I came to love the little critter, but that is not going to happen. My son, loved and took very good care of "CHRN (Can't Remember His Name)".

I was in charge of buying wood chips for the borttom of the cage. However, on one occassion (and it only takes one), we were out of chips. Of course, I forgot to check that little point before I cleaned the cage. So, I did the next best thing....kitty litter. Now in case this happens to you, keep the following in mind: kitty litter is not the way to go.

Soon after cage cleaning my son came running into the house yelling that "CRHN" was acting strangely. Oh, yes, indeed. Had he a top hat and cane we might have made some money off that smiling, dancing chap. But, lo, I was once more beaconed to the little habitat. "CHRN" was flat on his back, stiff as a board and smiling like a Cheshire cat. He had gone from stoned to stone cold in a matter of minutes. He was a rodent, but still... The sobs of my son ripped out my murderous heart.

A quiet ceremony was held over "CRHN's" small shoebox coffin. The box was buried with the same dignity given to any family member under 5" long.

To make matters worse, the next morning my son found the box dug up and "CRHN's" little dead body gone. It's not hard to convince a small child that God actually dug up the box and took "CRHN" to a better place. But little boys do grow to ask questions.

Argh! I hope I don't need to tell him what happened to the goldfish.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Love You, Too

My daughter once asked why I always say "I love you" whenever we say good-bye in parting or at the end of a phone conversation. "Mom, I always know you love me," she said.

I explained that life is short and unpredictable. If anything happened to me between now and the next time we spoke, she will at least remember my last and most important words.

Some years later my daughter and I were ending our nightly phone chat. "I love you, Mom," she said. I smiled. No doubt this phrase would be carried on to her children. It is a good thing.

Even as the last light bids me "goodnight", I will be saying, "I love you, too."

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Call Me Bekins

An apology: My writing has been a little slow. I clumsily broke and dislocated my right pinky. The finger has been 'relocated' but pain meds and difficult 'keyboardmanship' are making this difficult. Please hang with me.

How many times have you moved? My guess is that unless you lived in a military family or a family 'on-the-run' your moves have been less than five. Since I left home at 18, I have moved fourteen times (most short moves within Portland). Wow! That is a great deal of packing and unpacking. No wonder is doesn't seem like a big deal any more.

I was born in Ohio, had babies in Wisconsin, was divorced in Oregon. I had hand-me-down furniture in my first apartment, new furniture in my house and am back to used (antique) furniture in my present home, I went from a studio apartment at 18 to 2400 square feet in my 30's to a duplex in my 60's. I lived alone, with my family, alone, etc. Things have been lost, broken, given away, garaged 'saled'.

What does this all amount to? Well, I have seen things that I thought were treasures become nothing more than tokens. I have learned that what were dreams were just that. I have made friendships along the way keeping those who neither distance nor time can destroy. I have learned to pack and unpack like Bekins. I have found it exciting to say "hello" to new situations and to never say "good-bye" without tears.

Each time I move, I move with memories. Some not so good, and some will last a life time. Moving accomplishes clean cupboards, discovers dust balls under beds and takes me to new adventures. Each time I filled a box, I packed my hopes and dreams. And, with each cherished item I place on a 'new' shelf in a new location, I come home once more.

I just tapped my heels together.....there's no place like home.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Confessions of a 5' 2" Amazon

Small, petite, darling. My youngest grandchild is precious yet children treat her more like a toddler than her 8 years. Adults carry her around failing to see the pain in her eyes.

My daughter and I have a good understanding of being on the petite side. I made it to 5'3" before my height decline began. We know that being short is not a deficit. Yet I recognize that being short does have its drawbacks.
Clothing selection is sparse and usually polyester. At Disneyland, children taller than the height-requirement line, move ahead on rides while the shorter yet older child is required to step aside. It's not easy.

Mom always believed that her daughters should neither be proud nor consider themselves pretty. All three of us have struggled to find self-confidence and to allow ourselves to be proud of our accomplishments. It has been a lifelong struggle. Yet, I look at the old photos to see three lovely girls beneath the dowdy clothing. Mom told me I was going to be the biggest of her daughters since I was the largest baby. And, today instead of my 5'2", I feel 6' tall. Her words or lack thereof stuck.

All children need support, encouragement, patience to survive this sometimes thoughtless world. If I can give nothing else to my grandchildren, my children, I will always give ample praise for their accomplishments, a sense of pride and positive support in their efforts. I am a 6' Amazon in a 5'2" frame. I know better, but some words echo no matter how old we become. I will not let them echo for Gabby.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Dance In Her Leaves

Don't you love autumn? Dad would make long rows of leaves piled several inches high. And, when I was tagging along, he would make the rows into big squares surrounding the 'leafless' grass. I would pretend that this was my house of many rooms. We burned leaves back then. I would toss bits of my leaf-house into the the blaze watching them shrivel, burn, then drift away. The air was full of a scent that only fall can offer.

Years later I had children. We lived in Wisconsin. Fall meant a definite chill in the air. Bedecked in mittens, scarves and heavy coats, my kids would follow their dad as he raked, and, much to his frustration, scattering his pile of leaves. Finally, he would relent and rake the crunchy leaves into one, enormous pile. Immediately, small, bundled bodies were flung the pile of leaves and filling the air with the sound of wonderful, childhood laughter. When they came back into the house, the were red faced and starry eyed.

What beauty and memory the seasons hold. Firey reds, shades of yellow decorating the landscape. Fleeting autumn visits. Somehow the fading memories of summer, the graying plants, the barren trees seem not images of a season gone but rather more like a season bearing the natural colors of a napping earth.

Smell the fragrance of fall. Enjoy her beauty. Most of all, dance in her leaves.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

What A Doll

Eight-year-old Gabby often drags out the bag of Barbie dolls and an old overnight case full of doll clothes. Chairs became houses. A string tied across the legs becomes a place for hanging dresses. Once in awhile Sydney will join in moving her dolls to another chair. Oh, and, yes, I am often invited to join the community of Barbies.

I don't usually see ten-year-old Sydney play with dolls, especially with her friends. Friday she walked in the door with an American Girl doll in her arms. Later the doll rode in the car safely tucked in a seat belt. I asked Syd if she like the American Girl dolls. "I like to play with all my dolls, Grammy."

She plays soft ball, loves to paint and write, is learning to play the piano, and, in a time when all little girls are fans of Hanna Montana, emulating teenagers in clothing style, trying hard to be grownup and sophisticated, she still has time for her dolls.

Why rush, I say. Why be in such a hurry to grow up?

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Far Away Is Heaven

A special treat for my granddaughters and I is the time we spend watching the stars. At one time I had a hot tub; we would toss the sleeping bag on top, bring out the pillows and settle in for quality star time.

Last night the girls begged to sit beneath the stars. The evening was cool. We sat in lawn chairs bundled in blankets and cuddling pillows. Airplanes crossed the sky. "Grammy, the stars really twinkle." We break into "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".

"Grammy, do you think wishes on stars do come true?" "I don't know," I answer. So we recite "Star bright, star light" each making her own wish.

We talk of infinity, discuss God. "Grammy, do you believe that dead people come back?" Well, the questions are getting deeper as does the evening. I don't have all of the answers, but that's okay. We are looking for answers together, discovering ourselves and sharing a very special time. Just me and my girls.

We watched those distant stars we each wonder,"Is anyone looking back?"

Twinkle, twinkle......

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Granddaughter's Love Note

Ah, to be loved. To see the light in a child's eyes each time they see you. To experience the random hugs and kisses, sweet words of love and hands that reach out to hold yours.

I sometimes think that all of those things we craved as a child come back to be the things we crave as grandparents. I am blessed. Blessed that I have a family who express their feelings and blessed that I am aware of how important a touch, a look, a smile is needed for every age.

Twice a week I walk to the elementary school to pick up my granddaughters. The school is two blocks from my home. I know the girls have a sense of security knowing that I'm just down the street at any hour of the day. Plus I can pop in for lunch, attend special events and occasionally volunteer.

Reaching a grandparenting age, allows new freedom. A freedom to change, to learn, to express myself and to discover new possibilities. A contentment that eluded me in my earlier years seems to have settled in. I can fail and not be crushed. I can do make mistakes and not be embarassed. I can be a positive force in my family, my community, in my own life that creates change, stability and hope. How do I know?

Yesterday Sydney, age 10, came out of the school and handed me a note:

Dear Grammy,
I just wanted to say....
I had a great day at school. I'm giving this to you right now while you are picking us up so here you go. I was going to ask you if I was going to 'back to school' night? Well, am I, am I? Just wondering.

When I get to your house, I'm going to be reading "Beauty". (for a half hour) Also, I was wondering how long I will be at your house. Again, just wondering. :) I just wanted to say I had a great day of school. It was great. And I can't wait to see you. Wait! You're right here! I love you so much. You are awesome. Again, how long am I staying at your house? I can't wait to see you, then again, you're here.

Love, Sydney

Yes, Sydney, you did go to 'back to school' night. You did as always spend 30 minutes reading. You know that you can always come to my house, and I will always be here for you. A smaller hand casually reaching over to hold yours, a child reading leaning into your arms, an unexpected love note. Ah, to be loved.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dusty Line

Prejudice is alive and well in the world. In the 60's we tried to pull down that wall of hate. In the last year we elected a black president. Still prejudice and hate continue. Wars are fought over differences in politics, in religion, in color. Where does it end? When do we allow a generation to live in a world without hate?

This is a piece I wrote many years ago. It has always echoed in my mind. I hope you don't mind if I share it with you.

Dusty line of discrimination
Dusty line of right and wrong
Dusty line of humiliation
Telling who and where to belong

Whose hand holds the chalk
Decides the place to draw
What anger feeds the fire
Who breaks that final straw

On and on it goes
The rhythm fails to end
The silent, long, white line
Separating foe from friend

I do not know the answers
That wipe the chalk away
If no one looks for them
All mankind will pay

Take that small white stick
Hold it in your hand
Draw a big, wide circle
Encompass every man

Stand them all in order
Tell them all the news
"For the next 2000 years
You will wear your neighbor's shoes

Carry someone's burden
So different from your own
Learn what is important
For life is just on loan"

Then find a big eraser
And each can take a turn
Erasing that white line
Of pain that made us learn

No lines of discrimination
No lines of war and tears
No lines of separation
No lines of hate and fears

Some say it cannot happen
That hate too deeply lies
How will we ever know
If no one ever tries....

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stop the Hand that Hurts

One of my first memories of grade school was walking past the principal's office and seeing the big strap hanging on the wall. I knew what that strap was used for as did all of the kids.

My mother had often talked of how my grandfather would beat his daughters, and my father was always quick to pick up a belt or, in my case, a yardstick in the belief that he was teaching us a lesson.

I was no better. I raised my hand to my children. Yes, I continued the pattern. It was when I was in the midst of a divorce, that I learned that I could change the flow of anger and change this pattern in our family. I learned through my divorce many lessons but this perhaps was the most important.

As a child, I was an observer. Hard to believe, huh? I questioned but had no one to listen or to guide me to my answers. Dad would hit my horse if she misbehaved. I knew he wouldn't hesitate to pull out the shotgun and shoot any animal that was a menace or problem. I could not reconcile this man who sang so beautifully, who was a Christian, who taught me so much about nature, with this man who could be so angry and cruel. As an adult, I now realize he was a product of his upbringing.

In our family, we never talked about problems. As childeren weren't allowed to have problems or concerns. Mom and Dad were pillars of the community and every child envied us the honor of being their daughters. We had no one we could turn to. I know we were not alone. It was a time of transition. For all youth. Cnage came in the 60's.

Oh, if I could do it all over again with my children. But I can't. I can't go back and remake me as I was at that time. I can't return to the time when I could hardly take care of myself to allow myself to do the best for my children. Only when I became angry enough at life, could I pick myself up and try to do better.

I apologize if this is rambles, but this the journey I took to make life better for my grandchildren. I can tell them I am angry when they misbehave but that I love them and want to understand their actions and to give them options to make changes. I can still feel that yardstick across my backside. I can still see my daughter's face when I spanked her. Like with my parents, I created anger in my child. I taught a lesson of cruelty to someone I loved more than life. The anger, the action stops here.

We grandparents are so blessed with second chances. We are the keepers of knowledge even if that knowledge comes from memories that hurt. We are a guidance to our families, not that they learn what we tell them but that we can teach them to listen to their families, to walk away from anger, to listen to what is not being said and, most of all, to remember love first.

My children must live their lives making their own mistakes. But I can lead by example. I can lead by following. Most of all, I can do my best to insure that no child will feel a parents hand in anything but tenderness.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Videos, Tapes and Pictures

What do you cherish and why? I have an old trunk loaded with pictures of me and my family as well as yellowed fragile pictures of relatives long gone. A stack of audio tapes sit preserving my children's voices when they were toddlers and James' growing voice all the way to college. Video tapes fill a box. All are of old play and musicals in which the kids performed, my industrial films from my acting days and those taken of the family over the years. What to do with this mass of memories.

I love estate sales and auctions. The treasures I gather at these sales become my treasures. But more and more I see old family photos and other personal treasures that, evidently, no one wanted. When my Aunt was ill, she cried, "Who will want these old films of our trips? Who will care about our dreams?" Who will care?

Maybe I care too much. I look at the old pictures of relatives I would never know and delight in the fact that they are my past. I love that I can still listen to my babies's first words, first songs. I have a tape of my oldest granddaughter telling her first story. I can remember plays and wonderful memories of family and friends through the videos. I could no longer part with these than I could any other family treasure.

My grandfather had a picture basket on his coffee table. In it were old postcards. I would sit for hours looking over the old cards. Now I have those cards. In fact, I have 2 baskets. One is my favorite pictures and the other? Of course, my grandfather's basket and cards. My granddaughters love to sort through the baskets. We snuggle and share observations and my memories.

I think I'll hold on to these treasures. Maybe the tapes and videos can be put onto discs since tapes are obsolete. But these will be tucked away for my granddaughters to deal with at some other time. I have never heard my grandmother's voice. I have never seen videos of an older generation. But I do have the pictures.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

A Fearsome Roar

Alas, my junior year in high school had begun. One more year and I would be off to college. Strange things happen to parents when they know their children will be gone. Perhaps even more so when this child is the last to go. Mom and Dad decided that this was the year we would take a trip to Florida. Just the three of us.

I was a terribly rebelious teen or may be just a terrible teen. I'm not sure what demons I was fighting, but most of my frustration was taken out on my parents. Bravery is the only word I can use to describe these parents willing to travel with this rebel teen.

Mom suggested that I drive most of the way. In retrospect, I'm sure that she knew that if I concentrated on the road, I couldn't spend time coming up with reasons to complain. Dad narrated the scenery and mother crocheted. We sang and actually seemed to enjoy one anothers company.

Darkness had fallen on the Atlantic when we arrived at the motel in Pompano Beach, Florida. Taking my hand, Dad lead me to the beach. Florida wasn't nearly as populated then. Dark was dark. How an entire ocean can be heard and not seen is remarkable. I was terrified. The ocean roar was like nothing I'd ever heard. Dad pulled his crying daughter to the water. For the first time I felt enormity of God. For the next few days, we searched for shells and walked miles of coastline. Walls between parents and teen had taken a holiday somewhere else.

Last month my granddaughers and I went to the beach. I packed sandpails, shovels, and kites. Our beaches are more often cold than warm; however, in recent years more and more summer days are perfect along the Pacific Northwest coast. My oldest granddaughter spent most of the time with feet in the water just looking at the ocean. The youngest busily tried to build a sandcastle with a grams who failed building construction. Finally, the time was growing late, and it was time to go home. My oldest granddaughter began to cry and continued until she could hardly talk begging me to stay. With feet in the surf and an open heart, she had fallen in love with the sea. I understood.

How can something so awesome, so terrifying, so lovely pull so strongly at our hearts? The art world adores it. Songsters praise it. And, some of us feel part of it. Perhaps it is that tidal pull that begs to call us home. Or, just maybe, we are awakened to the knowledge that our world still beacons to us to learn and to protect.

Ah, my parents were so wise. I hope I can be the same.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Free Willy

I'm sitting here watching "Free Willy". I bought the film for two reasons. One is that I want my grandchildren to know how important it is to take care of nature and to be the caregivers of this incredible earth we all share together. The second reason? I want them to know Keko and my story of this magnificant creature.

December 15, 1996, my daughter heading to Hawaii on the first day of her honeymoon. Family and dear friends from back east had come out to Oregon join the celebration. I decided that since it was a gorgeous Oregon day, I would give them a real taste of Oregon by heading down the coast. We visited lighthouses, walked on the beach reveling in the beauty of the rugged western shore.

Finally, we ended the trek at the aquarium in Newport. Even though it was closing time, we were given a few minutes to make a wild dash to see what we could see. Of course, we all took off to see the most famous attraction.

Keko made a few rounds in his pool as we ran from viewing window to window trying to get the best possible view. After a bit, everyone else ran off to explore the rest of the aquarium. I stayed behind.

Three months before, my father had died. Changes were happening in my life. Changes I could not control. Luckily, at the time, I had the wedding to occupy my thoughts, but now that was over. Now was the time to deal with endings and beginnings.

I stood by the viewing window wondering how I was to do this thing called living. Sadness descended over me like a blanket. Silently, Keko swam over to the window his enormous body filling the wall of windows. As if suspended by invisible strings, he floated there his huge eye looking at me. It was as if he could see into my very sould. He sensed my loneliness, and I felt his as well.

Keko gave something to me that day. Maybe it was hope. Or something more. One thing I did know for sure was that I had a great deal to give to my family, to myself. I found a way into my own nature allowing that voice in side of me to sing.

When Keko was freed, I cried. When he died, I felt the loss. But the lesson, the compassion I felt that day will forever be in my heart. I hope I can pass this on to my grandchildren. I was indeed given a gift.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the Sidelines

I yell. I cheer. I'm so caught up in the moment and so proud I could just burst. Soccer. Five second graders take to the field in their first game against five other little girls. Does it get any better?

My granddaughter is a petite little one much like her mother was at that age. She is a powerhouse. In the years she has played soccer, she has never backed off or been afraid of kids much bigger than her. So far she has made 3 goals and stands once more in alone in front of the goal. Without hesitation she passes the ball off to a team mate allowing her to score the point.

Pride doesn't always come in what we accomplish but in what one does to encourage others to succeed. Gabby turned, smiling at us, her family, sitting on the sidelines. She knew that she had done a good thing and that we would find great pride in 'her' goal. Today Gabby learned what makes a true athlete good. Today she learned what makes humanity better.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Handbook for Grandparents

Handbooks for parenting, grandparenting and raising livestock (just tossed that one in to see if you are paying attention) have been around forever. Yes, some information is helpful, but nothing tells the entire story until that baby is placed in your arms. This is so true for grandparents.

When we divided up my parents' household items, I ended up with a 'handbook' that was used by my grandparents' generation. It was first written in 1906. Here is a paragraph on how to honor a grandmother on her birthday: (Note. This is in no way my opinion so don't shoot the writer.)
Honor the dear old mother and make your love plain to her. Doubtless she is the object of much tender love and holy reverence. (Ha! Sorry.) Have you manifested your affection as plainly as you should? You feel a worthy pride in her long and useful career. (Useful!!!! Makes the hair on my back stand up. Oh, I don't have hair on my back.) But to her own retrospect, life's history is largely a record of failure (Yes, this was written by a man.); of efforts defeated and anticipations unfulfilled. (Might as well put her on an iceberg and send her off to sea.) She needs encouragement. Let her hear the praise that you feel she deserves. It will not make her vain,(Certainly not since she is so depressed from remembering her lousy life.) but may give her needed comfort.

Ah, that should get your blood boiling. I like the 'honor' thing but let's face it. Honor is deserved, not just a given. I'm not sure when I read this if I should get a shawl or a mini skirt. I'm thinking the mini skirt. Once a rebel always a rebel. Yet, this is a part of my history. This idea of the grandmother sitting in her rocker contemplating her life (and, obviously her failures), watching her family pick up the baton and move on certainly created many a lonely woman and many children losing out on the richness that grandmother could have given to their lives.

We are a generation of grandparents who can make a difference, who have much to offer and much to discover about ourselves. I know that all cultures are different, but are we so different in what we want for our families?

I'm sorry if this is lengthy but I'll try not to get too carried away at this time. We are writing the new 'handbook' for grandparents. We ARE the new handbook. Yes, it takes a bit more energy and tolerance. It takes setting aside what we know about ourselves allowing us to try new things and to listen in a way we never have before. We are a strength for our families. Snow capped Mt. Hood reigns over the landscape of Portland. It is silent yet inspiring and challenging. A small bloom of the ginger plant hides beneath leaves where no one can see it, yet we can lift the leaves and see what beauty it possesses. We must look inside of ourselves to find the strength and creativity we can offer our families.

Let's write a new handbook. Only from the past, from the present, can it be complete. And, maybe in the end, complete us as well.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009


We live in a time when everything is done for us. We can fix a meal in seconds, shop without ever leaving home. No longer to we need to go to the library for information. Days of courting are cut in half. We can make our own travel arrangements, order our drugs, diagnose our own illnesses, find a recipes for dinner, find long lost loves and indulge in delightful clipart. There is no end to the level of ease our lives have attained.

I once went shopping for work clothes and found this darling suit. I loved the jacket which is why I was drawn to the suit in the first place. Better yet, there was a necklace hooked to the blouse which was hooked to the jacket. Boy, I really wanted this jacket. Who cared what tagged along.

The, uh oh, (as my granddaughter would say)there were no buttons, snaps or zippers. So I had to shimmy into this 'blacket', er, 'jouse'. Not an easy task dressing your entire top half into three items at once. However, the finished look was fantastic. It was quick, time efficient and darling not to mention that it all matched! Don't need to worry about losing any of the pieces since they are all attached. Saves on closet space because it all fits on one hanger. Don't even need to have good taste in clothing. The term "dressing myself" had taken on all new meaning.

When shopping for my granddaughters' school clothing this year, I found that things have not changed. Vests are part of the shirt, necklaces are attached to the shirt and more times than not, a scarf is tossed in for good measure. Camisoles with straps crossed in the back become a challenge to put on with the entire shirt drooping in the front and strangling the child at the same time. Ah, clothing. The challenges continue.

Needless to say, years ago I bought that suit. I was continually complimented on my good taste in clothing. Not bad. I just dread the day that they attach the pants. Argh!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

An apology

Tonight I owe you an apology for not writing. I've been with my granddaughters most of the day and evening so need to apologize that I have no energy to write.

No, wait! I offer no apologies. I did the best thing I could do today. I helped a child read, I was captain on the monkey bars pirate ship, I had dinner with my best friends and walked around a pond twice. I joined my girls in walking the family beast, bath conversation and bedtime routine. I tucked in one small sweetheart and read beside the other.

It was a good night and I spent it well. Ah, I love being a grams.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Never Raise A Clone

Today the President encouraged school children to succeed, to accomplish great things, to make a difference in this world. Wow! Pretty awesome. Yet there are those who would make decisions for their children and channel their views of those children to match those of the parent. For me, this is no different than keeping an animal in a kennel allowing it out only to eat.

The freedom of speech, the freedom of self-expression, the freedom to choose. I hold these truths to be quite evident. (excuse liberties taken here). I worked with kids who had been channeled by religion or by abusive parents. There really wasn't much difference in the way the kids related to others. They had walls around them being told what they believed and believing that what they were told was the truth. We only progress when your ideas and mine challenge each other and blossom into new ideas. Some kids never have that chance. They aren't allowed to grow.

What is it that parental denial of hearing the President's speech would accomplish? Well, in the child's eyes, it will tell them that we don't need to listen to others....even our esteemed President. It will tell them that their ways is the best and no one else can tell them otherwise. It will tell them that we are not a government working for the good of each other but one that should be torn down and ridiculed.

I can guarantee that every child I ever worked with or have been around needed to know that they were special. Their ideas and views need to be listented to and nourished by exposure to other ideas and views. Cloned ideas, especially really ignorant views, continue to keep hate and war alive. What kind of parent insists that their child not listen to the President as he talks directly to them asking them to stay in school and be the best they can be? What kind of people hold to their views so tight that they suffocate their children?

I worked with kids at risk. They needed neighbors, parents, teachers encouraging them to think for themselves and to recognize their achievements. They needed applause and praise. They needed encouragement, wow, how about from a President.

When we hold back our children, we fail our society and most definitely fail as a parent. God save us from the kind of people who would not trust their children to grow into fabulous adults who can make decisions for themselves. Stay in school and graduate. Hm. Don't think those words ever killed anyone or caused society to fail.

Sorry if I'm a little angry. I can still see the silent pain and the physical marks of children who were raised to be like their parents. God help us.

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Monday, September 7, 2009


"Grammy, can you come over? We have something to show you". "Grammy, will you pick us up after school tomorrow?" "Grammy, what are you going to do the rest of the day?" "Grammy......

My Granmother Loxley died when I was a little girl. I only remember sitting by her death bed then by her casket when she died. Mom Johnson died when I was about nine. She was not a warm snuggly woman. Neither were either of my grandpas. I never remember being held by a grandparent or even having a conversation with them. I don't remember looking forward to going to their homes. They were strangers to me.

When I hear a small voice on the phone eager to tell me something or asking to come to my house, I am in bliss. I think that maybe I am doing something right. I don't want to be the center of their world, but I do want to be someone they can always go to and to offer a place where they feel at home. I'd like to know that I have perhaps taught them something that will make their lives as well as those of their children better. I want to give them skills to make wise decisions. I want them to know that I will support them in anything they do. I want them to learn to express their talents and to learn more about their world.

I love those calls, I get from the girls. I love that they run to meet me. I never had my grandparents, but my family will know what it is to have one who cares.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Common Denominator: Food

I'm watching a nature program this morning on PBS. I love PBS because it inspires me to learn and helps me to teach my grandchildren.

Once a year, off the coast of South Africa, the warm water of the north siddles up to the cold water of the south. The waters remain in their own realm neither influencing the other. During this time, thousands of sardines visit the area creating a silver blanket that lures preditors from both cold and warm waters. Seal lions, dolphins, cormorants, sharks, all ignoring each other gorge themselves on this delicacy. Those who would pray on each other dine side by side. Only when the whale comes into the waters to feed do the other step, er, swim aside.

As children, we were raised watching Lowell Thomas and his adventures to places we never knew existed. We saw naked natives with plates in their ears and lips. We saw the jungle teeming with animals. His adventures were ours. I raised my children watching Marlin Perkins on Wild Kingdom. Now I do what I can to expose my grandchildren to a world beyond their own through movies and PBS.

Maybe I can make a small difference in the world by helping two small girls to understand that we can swim in waters with those who would gobble us up especially if we are all hungry and needing to focus on more than agression. Maybe we can be that big whale that slows down the action and demands that everyone share. Perhaps what we do as parents and grandparents can give this earth of ours a chance. We are the teachers but a teachers is only as good as the knowledge he or she can impart. Only as good as the methods they use to teach.

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

I Do It

"I do it" was one of the first phrases out of Sydney's young mouth. What can you say but, "Yes, you can." Of course, after the words leave your mouth, the child falls off the bike or drops a plate of spaghetti enroute to the table. Perhaps you sit for 30 minutes watching the child put a sock on a foot of maybe for what seems like 30 years, you was as they tie a first shoelace. "I do it."

One thing that age affords us it the time to reflect mostly on what we didn't know. Just as Sydney learned to do simple tasks, we all learn through interaction and observation. I learned that a firm hand does little compared to a thoughtful ear, watchful eye and heartfelt encouragement.

I was married to a man who had little time or patience to give to his stepchildren. I will never forget my young son's disappoinment when he would try to build something and his stepfather would step in and take over.

We all need the opportunity to try, a chance to show our stuff. Age, experience, education, these are all wonderful but not the entire story. I believe we all interact much like nature. The rich soil that fertilizes the young seedlings to grow can only maintain if strong young roots hold back erosion. Seeds are only as strong as the soil that nurtures them.

We all must add to ourselves, renew who we are, discover who we can become.
We are our opportunity.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Playing School

"Let's play school, Grammy". Let's play school. Sometimes there is just no getting out of it. It's part one of the lessons you must take to get the grandparent badge.

Grandparenting 101

Lesson 1: Love child unconditionally
Lesson 2: Try to remember that playing on the floor is fun
Lesson 3: Dress up clothes will not fit you.
Lesson 4: Playing school requires you to believe that you actually liked school when you went at age 6.

The girls were here all night. We went through our usual Friday routine of snuggling first thing in the morning, maple bars and hot chocolate at Bales, garage/estate sales. The girls were great. Good day for cheap goodies. Syd got a beautiful globe on a stand for $5. Gabby got a light for her room for $8. I found a great old picture and crock with a lid. So, how could I not do whatever they wanted when we got home?

"Let's play school." Time to work on Lesson 4. I combine the fun things of my elementary school years with their new workbooks much more advanced that what we had at Franklin Monroe. Just let the new workbooks have all of the answers in the back, I pray. So, I put the daily school schedule on the chalkboard. Gabby offers to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the patio umbrellas as our flag. Syd reads the story, "Where the Wild Things Are". We do math and reading, recess, huge snack and art. We close our school day with a history lesson talking about Dad's Indian stones. History ended with Syd reading Chief Seattle's speech about Mother Earth.

I would probably have liked going to a school like this one we created today. There were times of giggling, playing the piano and pretending. It was a good day in class.

I wonder if Sydney and Gabby realize how much they teach me. My, I feel very tired and very content. The classroom will fell mighty empty tomorrow.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Crack in My Heart

Is there anything that tears at a parent or grandparent's heart as much as the pain their child feels either physical or emotional? I think not. Truly it puts a crack in my heart.

Learning is a struggle. We all had to take babby steps to get anywhere in life. Heck, I still take those tiny steps only because when I take a big one I land on my face. I have the scars to prove it. And, most of those are in my heart.

Yet when a child struggles you get all twisted inside wanting so hard to do it for them. Some things are easier for one child then for another. It makes it all that much more painful for the child who struggles. Tonight I am twisted.

I wish I could take myself out of the equation, but I can't. Can any of us take ourselves out of the mix with any child, in any society? Can we just look away and hope that someone else will do the work for us or that things will just get better if we ignore them?

We are all responsible. We all have a duty to the children who have no voice, to those who cannot have a voice heard, for those who don't know how to use their voices. Let them rebel! Cheer them on for those are our future leaders. Let them ask for help. It will make them compassionate to others. Let them fail, but let them know that through failure they succeed. We cannot be their voices, we cannot mold their futures, but we can always listen to what we hear and what we do not. We can always teach in any situation. We can cry along with them when they need to know you understand and we can be strong when they need our strength.

I will fight aliens, demons and most of all other people who try to hold my kids down. And I will cheer my kids on to grab the world by the ears and make it look at them. It's not easy being a grandma. I wish I'd had someone there for me.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Just yesterday, I was published for the first time in hard print. It was a life dream and wonderful step for me in my writing career. Seeing my face and bio along with the article was surreal. Yep, that was me looking back at me.

I come from a long line of writers. My journey began at around 5. My granddaughter, Sydney, began her journey around 4. Another generation of people who love to use their imaginations and learning about themselves.

Yes, it was amazing to have my writing acknowledged, but the real thrill came when my granddaughters saw their grandma's face in a magazine.

Maybe I really write for them, perhaps I write for the memories I hope to pass on. But most of all, I think I write in hopes to inspire not only my grandchildren but everyone who reads my words. Worlds expand with words. Memories survive with words. Inspiration attaches itself to words. And love can break down borders, heal hurts and teach the writer as well as the reader. Mighty is the pen but mightier yet those who bare their souls to experience their world.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Only If You Look

Walking down the street, standing in a hallway, in a crowded elevator, standing at a counter, waiting for a bus....oportunities all to make someone smile, to lift someone's spirits, to look into another's eyes recognizing their worth.

The small child stooped to pick up the key. It was a magical key. She lifted it to her eye and peeked through the loop seeing a lonely man sitting on a stoop, his head hanging down, his hands tucked beneath his arms.

He looked up and saw the small orb looking at him through the magical Key. He saw not the eye of the child but the recognition of another. He raised a soiled finger touching it to his thumb then looked through the circle returning her gaze. She smiled....a smile returned across years and loneliness.

Her mother stood over her scolding her for looking at the dirty, old man, failing to understand. The child placed the key into her mother's hand saying, "Only if you look can you find the magic."

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