Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call

Well, not Ghost Busters. Nope, our family has a soft spot for ghosts. I guess that would be admitting that I believe in ghosts. There are three of us who certainly do.

My daughter was in middle school and my son in grade school. We had lived in our 1970's house for about two years. I loved the evenings when I settled into bed with a book and Sadie, snuggled next to me. As I was reading, most nights I would feel the bed mildly vibrate. I'd put my hand on the mattress feeling it shake. On occasion my daughter felt the same with her bed. Since we lived in the hills and away from a highway, we could eliminate truck traffic. We lived on a cul-de-sac so residents were the only traffic. I wondered if we lived near a fault. So far I was not a believer.

Remember how kids always came into your bedroom, when you were almost asleep, wanting to get another drink or to tell you they were heading to the bathroom? I never understood why they had to tell me. On this night, I had several such visits before the kids settled in to the idea of sleeping. All had been quiet for a long time. My back was turned to the bedroom door. I felt three taps on my back. "Go back to bed," I said. No answer. I rolled over finding no one there. Curiously I checked on both kids. Both were snuggled into deep sleep. My dog looked at me. I looked at her. And I was a believer.

One night my son called to me from his bed. He explained that he had seen the ghost standing in the doorway wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. He wasn't afraid. In fact, he was fascinated. A long time after this event, my children and I went on a trip leaving Sadie and the house in the care of a friend. She settled into my son's room. Now we had never shared the story of our live-in ghost. Who would believe us? Upon our return, our house sitter told us that all went well and, 'by the way, you have a ghost'. She described a guy standing in the door wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. Yes indeed, we had a ghost.

Years later I moved into my cute little house. My aunt back in Ohio was very ill. I had prayed and prayed for Aunt Kate. In the middle of the night, my music box started to play. Sadie sat up looking at me. I sat up looking at her. We both sat there dumbstruck looking at a playing music box. This music box hadn't been wound in years. Yet, here we sat, woman and dog, listening to a music box that was supposed to play only when the lid was opened. Lid closed it was playing Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago. My aunt improved. And the music box played no more.

Am I a believer? Ooooooohhhhhhhh, yes. Does it frighten me? No. My granddaughters know of our ghosts. They thrill people continue after they have passed on. I find it exciting knowing that I don't know all there is to know. What is it that opened my mind to the real possibilities of what I cannot see? What force brought these events to us and why? We were blessed to have these experiences. We were invited to peek into an invisible world.

Halloween might lose some of its punch if it were to get out that ghosts aren't so scary after all. Is your house haunted? Good for you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Monsters Behind Doors

Last night a news topic on Trick or Treat and how child molesters live in areas where parents are unaware of their presence. Monsters behind doors.

I worry about the kids knocking on those doors. Not just my grandchildren but all children. I worry when they play outside in the summer wondering if anyone is watching them. What's wrong with this world allowing us to live with such a hideous fear hanging over us?

Kids no longer have Halloween parties at school since there are those parents who don't believe in celebrations. What fun we had as children walking around classrooms dressed in our costumes. It was perhaps the safest part of Halloween.

There are monsters out there in costumes. They are dressed as normal people, yet they stalk and harm and try to get past our doors. Protecting children while trying to give them independence is difficult. I walk up the sidewalk as the kids go to each door. I watch over them. The candy is checked when they home. Dad usually steals a few pieces when the kids aren't looking.

A darling gothic zombie and Cleopatra will knock on doors tomorrow night. They will come home with bags bulging. We will smile as they talk about their adventures and dig into their goodies. And we will be thankful that they are home safely.

Evil is lurking. Not just on Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

All For One

Alcohol was a presence in our house. It was a nail in the coffin of a marriage. I could not make it better. I could not eliminate it. A fog settled over the house daily. A fog settled over this family of four.

A friend, a high school counselor, asked if I would write a play for use with the Insight program. Insight was developed to find kids at risk and to help them and their families find a healthier life. Many of these kids were substance users and many times from families dealing with a parent who was a user. Sessions were held monthly for these families. My play would be the hub of the program.

The subject of alcoholism was easy to write. I knew the feelings of the family trapped with the bottle. I knew what it had done to my children. In my work at the school, many kids at risk surfaced. Yes, I knew the subject well.

The play focused on a dysfunctional family of five: I was the wife of the alcoholic, my stage husband was the alcoholic (in real life the son of an alcoholic) and many of our stage children came from such families. My own children grew up acting in the show. We were a family healing. Often we cried together while doing a show. Sometimes we opened old wounds. Our casts of "All For One" always became family. Over 12 years of performance, we had many families.

This show began my journey into social dramas. This show began to reach beyond Insight. We performed for health days, teacher training, community programs, corporate training, etc. Soon a request came for shows on teenage pregnancy and AIDS. Shows created to change lives, to provide a oral message reinforced with the visual trying to reach as many people as possible.

We are not alone in our pain, in our problems. Sometimes our help comes in helping others. Mine came in a script and on a stage.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guardian Angels

Do you believe in guardian angels? I had never given it much thought. From childhood, I'd heard about spirits. A neighbor said she had seen a dove fly from the chimney of my grandparent's home when my grandmother died. Other stories had been told of unexplained happening. Thus one open-minded woman.

I was going through a rough time and started seeing a empathic counselor. She seemed to be able to read me. Heck, I couldn't even read me. Before we began, she told me that I was an observer and supposed to write. I knew I was nosy and always asking questions but didn't consider calling it 'observing'. "You have a guardian angel", she said. A guardian angel?
"She is behind your right shoulder. She has white hair and loves you very much." Hm. This was news to me.

The more I thought about her words, the more I believed that either my Aunt Alma or Grandmother was with me. I knew there was a voice that urged me on when times were rough, or I'd made an error in judgment. I knew there was an urging for me to write.

Aunt Alma had sent off one of my stories to the Gospel Messenger when I was a senior in high school. I was thrilled that this once teacher thought I had talent. My grandmother was a poet. She had been published. So maybe I was a writer.

A couple of days later I went to my chiropractor. When I walked into the office, the woman at the desk said that she needed to talk to me right away. She pulled me into a little room. "When you called, I felt your name bounce off of the walls." Well, I was ready for this weirdo. "You are an observer. Pam, you are supposed to write." Hm. I knew she didn't know Celeste so was vaguely confused. "You have a guardian angel. She is an older woman with white hair standing to the right of you."

Some things just make you a believer. I didn't need to have it posted on a billboard. I didn't need it tattooed across my forehead. Something spiritual was afoot; it was time to pay attention.

I began to write. People began to notice. The more I wrote, the better I became, the more I saw and the more I listened. Maybe my guardian angel is telling me what I need to know and clearing my vision, so I can see more clearly what needs to be said.

There is a voice in nature, in sound, in the silence we do not understand. Listen. Be thrilled by what you do not know and what you cannot see. I know from experience and maybe from my guardian angel.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Protectors of the Young

H1N1. Finally it has hit our family. I have my granddaughters today while my daughters ails.

Birds and beasts fight to save their young. They will fight to the death to protect the young. I will do no less for my children, my grandchildren. But I cannot save my family from the flu, from the germs that would attack them. I can comfort. I can try to ease their discomfort, but I cannot take away the attacker.

Are we born with this instinct to protect? Is it something that kicks in when we become parents? What is it that makes us care enough to sacrifice ourselves?

Perhaps this instinct to save ourselves goes farther, deeper. Maybe we have this same instinct to save one another, i.e., heroes. Maybe we have this instinct to save our world from our primal instinct of survival. Or just maybe we are blessed with a love that surpasses what even we realize.

My girls are snuggled up next to me. We are watching Casper. I will protect and provide.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Precious Gift

Today my youngest granddaughter turns 8. Where did the time go? How did she get there so quickly? Wasn't it just yesterday that I picked her up from the warming bed, all remnants of her birth cleaned away, swaddled in a pink blanket with a little knit cap? Where did the time go? I want it back!!!

Where has the time gone for me? We all ask that question. Perhaps we ask it more when we reach our grey years. Experiencing loss of loved ones, aches and pains, loss of hair and gain of wrinkles. Where has the time gone?

Today I celebrate the birth of this beautiful little girl. When she was supposed to be learning to talk, she couldn't. The receptors between her brain and her speaking tools didn't connect. Having had a cousin who was deaf, I feared for her future. Yet, with hard work and therapy she conquered her weakness and hasn't stopped talking since. She is a courageous young girl.

Rarely do I walk beside her that she doesn't take my hand. We talk about trees, count spiders and share opinions. She wears a red formal from the 70's surrounded by layers of red netting and rhinestones with a tiara crowning her blonde head. I see her transformed into the beauty she will be one day. Then once more I will say, "Where did the time go?".

Fortunately, I realize how precious each moment is with this child. I know the things I missed with my grandmothers and the things my children missed with us living so far away from home. I try to create a safe, comfortable home that belongs to them when they walk into the house. I give her my attention, my guidance and her freedom to express, to try new things and to find new parts of herself she has yet to discover. She wears my jewelry, my shoes, my scarves. She feels safe and has someone who listens.

Where does time go? It goes into being the best grandparent I can be by letting her learn, by listening, by allowing myself to change with the times. My time goes to a good cause. To memories, to small hands changing to those of a grown woman, to new adventures and to new beginnings.

Happy Birthday, Gabrielle. Your birth was a precious present. One I cherish.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A New Canvas

My little granddaughter was just 7 months old. She had gone from having an unfocused view of the world to one of intense study. The once wobbly back now supported her while she sits on the floor. Soft mewlings had turned into continuous ramblings that occasionally echo Ma or Da. It was an exciting time to say the least.

One day I witnessed an action that totally blew me away. A simple act so profound, I was captured by the moment. She was trying to retrieve her pacifier. Obviously, the objective was to find the thing on the end of a ribbon and place it into her mouth. Up to now she either relied on someone assting her with the effort or luckily she would find her own mouth usually getting the pacifier into in backwards or sideways. Not this time. Her little hands, all of about 1 1/2" to 2" held the pacifier in front of her face. She watched her hands as she turned the pacifier the correct direction then put it into her mouth. The process took all of about one minute.

I was fascinated by the look in her eyes as she thought about the task at hand...or in hand. All of sudden she seemed ages old and ages wise. I'm not sure what struck me so soundly. No one had taken her hands and shown her how to turn it. She reasoned it out on her own.

Every child is an artist. They are the keepers of all knowledge. We just need to provide a clean canvas on which they can learn, can create as only they can.

What happens to our canvas? Do we allow everything else to color it for us and in the process we lose interest? Do we find it easier to let the world carry us along instead of stepping out of it once in awhile to find out what is yet undiscovered inside of each of us? With Sydney, no one had to free her spirit to learn. She had to wait for her body to help her fly.

So what was my excuse? If Sydney could achieve such a feat at seven months, I should be able to do so much more. Maybe it's time to get out the paint set and start a new canvas.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dog on the Loose

She had an innocence about her that made me smile. She was undisciplined, noisy and overzealous. When she hurt, it broke my heart. When I hurt, she remained by my side trying to comfort me. She loved unconditionally and gave 100%. Never was I alone with her by my side. The world was an adventure; she an adventurer.

When my daughter moved into her new home, I decided to take my little schnauzer, Sadie, along on move-in day. This little apartment dweller would delight in running free in the backyard. Despite our prior investigating, there was a small escape hole in the fence. Hole in fence = dog on the loose. I set off to find the little runaway.

New neighbors I met as I passed their houses offered to drive around the neighborhood looking for the wayward pooch. I continued to walk but no dog. Sadie was a sweetheart but not too smart. Oblivious to her surroundings, she would happily wander and roam. I looked for this daydreaming dog knowing that she would make someone a great pet if they picked her up...or, as I feared, a lab experiment. For at least an hour I combed the neighborhood sobbing, envisioning the worse, fearful we would never have her back again.

Finally, a woman in her van stopped asking if I was looking for a small grey dog. She'd first seen Sadie visiting a garage sale then later jogging with a couple. Sweet, carefree pup. The woman returned where last she had seen Sadie and brought her back to the end of the block. The little delinquent ran full speed ahead with ear flapping straight into my arms. Thrilled from her adventure she licked my tears.

When Sadie died, my youngest granddaughter often walked around the house calling Sadie. My oldest granddaughter was worried that we had flushed Sadie remembering her dead goldfish. Yes, we all missed Sadie. We all had our memories of Sadie, especially the one of a puppy I swear was smiling when she ran to my arms that day.

A pet....a special kind of love and learning.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Better Left Behind

What to write. What to write. Never know what will land on the page. Never know where the next inspiration will show itself. Mine appeared heading toward me in traffic. I can't say that it was really a thing of inspiration. I can't say that I really derived any deep meaning from the observation. However, it gave me pause to wonder and, in truth, an opportunity to giggle.

We are a people of routine. Up in the morning to grab a cup of coffee, stop at the bathroom, eat breakfast, hop into the car, drive to work, and hopefully, somewhere in there managed to get out of the pjs into clothing for the day. Routine. Day in. Day out. Then once in awhile you miss the mark. Maybe you overslept, had an argument with your toothbrush. Perhaps the dog needed to go out earlier than you planned. All the things that can just throw the day off that wee, little bit.

Obviously, the person driving the green van had such a morning. One day I remember wearing my shirt backwards....felt silly when discovered. Once I left my purse on top of my car, again felt like an idiot. The list goes on with unmatched socks, etc. But this morning all of my embarrassing moments seemed small.

I was waiting for the light to change as the opposite traffic moved forward. Then I spotted it. One handle of a child's brightly colored wheelbarrow was lodged in the grill of the van with the remaining wheelbarrow protruding, mid-air out front. Not something you see every day. I couldn't miss it. There was the wheelbarrow seemingly pushed by the van.

As I said, there was not inspired, deep meaning. Just a child's toy wheelbarrow appearing to pull a van. Just that simple. Something moving ahead following something that should have been left behind.

Hm. Maybe there is something in that to ponder after all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Little Bird Told Me

Every day I drove to work over the West Hills into Portland. Each day I drove Barnes Road passing through Finley Cemetery. Acres and acres of graves on both sides of the road. Some days it was a very sad place with new earth turned or perhaps fresh flowers taken from the earth only to adorn another piece of earth in remembrance. Every day across Barnes hardly glancing at the seldom changing scene.

Then one day I was stuck in traffic. There I sat surrounded by the green hills, brass plaques and headstones. Most of the trees are eons old except for this the young tree I discovered that day. There, much to my delight and surprise, hung a little bird house. I realized that someone did not see only markers and lawn but a place that represented life.

I began to look at this quiet cemetery as a place of stories, each life touching that of many, the cycle of continuing life. The little house with its tiny entrance, a little peg outside the front door, somehow gave me a tremendous feeling of peace knowing that someone did not see this as a place of ending but a place of ongoing life.

I still look for that little birdhouse when I drive down Barnes Road. It makes me smile. When all is said and done, there is no end, only stories that continue forever. I know because a little bird told me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beautiful Harmony

Creativity. Not a big word. Not a complicated word. And yet, not a word used enough. Having worked in the fine arts at the high school, working with kids at risk and teaching acting privately, I quickly learned the importance of that word.

I played the piano. I played the saxophone. I was in school plays. I sang in a group. However, none us were encouraged to go into the arts as a career. In retrospect, I'm sure my parents feared that we wouldn't be able to survive on the stage or behind a palette. As a child, I didn't understand since Dad had traveled and sang with a group.

The arts give students a place to fit in, to be accepted, to have recognition. Doors of expression heal wounds while minds eager to expand find their canvas. Those with excess energy as well as those silent few who are never noticed thrive on the stage, in a band, behind a canvas. Young children learn to be articulate and confident. Doodlers become artists and pencil thumpers become drummers.

There is a piece in each of us that wants to expand its own voice. I have a theory. Mid-life crisis comes to people expecting the outside world to meet their needs, failing to understand that their needs lie within begging have expression.

I wanted to be a dancer but belonged to a church that did not believe in dancing. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a writer. And an adult, I gave myself freedom to try each and every one of these arts, even allowing myself to fail.

Often the good intentions of parents fall short. Children are grouped together in school by scholastic levels, encouraged to be in sports, brought up to participate in clubs and organizations. All are wonderful opportunities. But what do they do to help a child discover their own creativity?

I played make believe as a child, danced for a pretend audience and acted out plays with musical accompaniment (early musicals). I was a lost and lonely child who found her own creativity because she had time, much time, alone. What of those who never find that freedom to create? Perhaps you think that not everyone has an artistic side. Wrong. A farmer who plans out his crops or finds a better way to raise them, a truck driver who daydreams listening to the radio, an executive making a speech all touch on their creativity.

I wonder what would happen if everyone expressed their creative side, their gifts.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Jump If You Can't Swim

For twelve years I worked at the local high school in the theatre department. During this time I began writing and producing social dramas for the schools and community. One such show was based on the book THE LEMMING CONDITION written by Alan Arkin. This little book for older grade school children quickly became one of my favorites. One I felt a need to share. One we took it to the stage.

Lemmings for some unknown reason migrate to the ocean cliffs and jump in. Certainly makes me happy that I'm not a lemming. In this book, Crow asks his friend Bubba, a lemming, if he can swim. Of course, Bubba doesn't know because he never tried. Crow takes Bubba to the pond. The lemming finds that swimming in a fur coat could be fatal. Crow saves him.

Bubba dashes back to his burrow yelling to his family to stop packing for their trip to the cliffs because their day at the beach isn't the holiday they expect. Of course, no one believes him. Generations of the adults in his family have trekked the same path. The babies stayed behind in the burrows continuing life as usual. The little ones didn't seem to notice that the parents didn't return with pictures or tans. They just didn't return.

So in spite of Bubba's warnings, the doubting adult lemmings migrate....all but Bubba. He races among them begging them to stop as they trek the same path worn by past generations. Defeated he returns to the burrows. Baby lemmings anxiously ask Bubba about the trip while they daydreaming of their future adventure. Bubba simply walks on realizing that he cannot altar this world in which he lives; he can only change himself.

In our world, Bubba would be the rebel, the odd ball and probably the protester. Maybe even the forward thinker. Hopefully, he would not fade into oblivion but perhaps change the world just enough to save it from oblivion.

A book for children? I think not.

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Monday, October 19, 2009


A good friend of mine had a 10 lb. 4 oz. baby boy. Of course, new birth brings on stories of large babies and labor. Having seen my children born and being around animals, sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, cats and dogs, I am well-versed on motherhood.

Sheep have a nasty habit of not accepting lambs once in awhile. Cows just let their newborns drop onto the ground at birth. Cats, dogs and pigs are so busy feeding their litters that their babies lack quality time. Chickens have little to do but sit around on their eggs and chicks.

My vote goes to the bunnies. What other mother makes such a warm nest lined with the fur she pulls from her own pelt. This doe will act as a decoy to lure danger away from the nursery.

We women might do the decoy thing but pulling our hair out? That comes later.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Just A Dot

Oregon is not known for large earthquakes. When St. Helens wakes, some areas of the Northwest do feel a little shimmy and shake. I have felt four such shakes since living here. The first I happened while at a friend's home. I felt that something, such as a dog, had brushed past me. An alert crossed the TV screen that indeed we had an earthquake. On returning home, we found that most of our good crystal had fallen from a ledge in the cabinet breaking into a pile of glistening glass.

The third I felt was at the coast sitting in a restaurant watching the ocean as we ate. This time I felt that someone had bumped my chair. The woman behind me turned and looked at me. I mentioned that I thought we had an earthquake at which point everyone around us began to tell what they had felt. Indeed, the mighty earth had taken time to do a little shaking far out in the blue Pacific.

Small shakes. We are not the hunted. We are not the animal fighting daily against man and nature just to survive. But just a few seconds of the earth trembling, and we are reduced to ants trying to hold fast to a trembling leaf.

Life is fairly dependable. We go through each day taking all of the basics for granted. We kiss our loved ones good-bye in the morning and head off to work. We go home to a friendly meal, a warm bath and bed. But when Mother Earth decides to have a little activity, our world is suddenly shaken, not just literally.

When experiencing the last earthquake, I was at work. Suddenly, everyone was standing looking out the large windows facing the building across the street. We swayed back and forth. Back and forth. In spite of what we knew about earthquake safety, we froze, held fast by the swaying building and our fear. I felt much smaller that day and suddenly vulnerable. I felt this huge ball we live on shudder like someone shaking a snow globe. Buildings swayed to a rhythm unheard in a deafening silence.

I wanted to cry because it frightened me. I was fascinated and terrified. I hope I never become immune to reality of the immense power of this earth. Because of these experiences, I do feel smaller. Bigger in knowledge but somehow smaller....just a dot in this magnificent, powerful universe.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Give Up Every Preconceived Notion

We all remember Koko, the gorilla, holding the kitten. Posters hung everywhere reflecting a loving wild animal, but not telling the complete story. Here is a story I wrote after watching a show about Koko.

She knows how to love, how to express sadness, how to paint beautifully expressive pictures. She knows how to tease, she desires a child, she participated in video dating to find her mate.

One Sunday morning I passed by the TV to see what my dog, Sadie, was watching. Yes, the dog was watching TV. An hour later I moved on. Sometimes a series of incidence coincide giving a strange sensation that it is more than coincidence.

Two nights before I had watched the movie, "Instinct", a good movie about a man most considered crazed who stepped away from his life to live among the gorillas he studied. Now here I was two days later watching a documentary on Koko, a gorilla raised in captivity learning to sign a vocabulary of over 1,000 words. A gorilla who taught as well as learned.

The first mate chosen for Koko was Michael. They didn't end up mates but more like siblings. The story of Koko paused to focus on Michael, who developed a signing vocabulary of over 500 words.

Caregivers were quite surprised when Michael began signing the story of his captivity. He had seen his mother killed and mutilated then carried away by poachers. He signed, "mother-flat".

I always loved animals and thought myself to be an animal rights activist who wasn't very active but who cared. After this revelation I asked myself who really was the animal. Where have we missed the boat? How many things do we take for granted, because we fail to understand that there is so much more? Did you know that gorillas have compatible blood types with humans? Did you know that they cry tears and mourn as deeply as we do? Did you know that they are endangered?

Something changed in me that Sunday morning. Something that has to do with where we've come from and where we are going. Maybe I can't make a big difference, but I can pass the story on to others.

Sit down before fact as a little child. Be prepared to give up every preconceived notion......

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Friday, October 16, 2009

A Band Aid Named Grandma

Yesterday I learned that I am only a band aid. I can't heal wounds. I can only hold a soothing salve next to the wound protecting it until it heals, even if it becomes a scar. I can only do the best I can by offering comfort.

Wisdom! I need wisdom! Most of my life I've struggled to find answers, love, happiness. We all do. Broken marriages, empty relationships, job loss. Argh! My basket is full of poor judgment and mistakes. The older I get the more I learn that I know very little. I want more time.

My grandchildren are experiencing their parent's divorce. My daughter is trying to find herself, and through her divorce, my son is tossed back to when he was a child. Scars. They remain.

'For better or worse'. No one really explained that some days I would feel absolutely nothing for that man I married. No one told me that he might feel the same about me. For then valid reasons, we divorced. And, I'm very sorry it came to that end. I have not had that man to share memories of babies born, of family vacations, of loving each other's families. I will not have his hand to hold in my old age or someone who will remember me a his young bride. All our of firsts become seconds. For our children, there is a void in time wondering where they fit into their parent's decision to separate a family.

Some marriages need to be undone. But I think we live in a time that most people believe only in 'for better'. Me? I feel sad for the pain my children suffered and for missing those times with my children when I was just looking out for myself.

I cannot go back. I cannot take away those scars. As a mom, I wasn't a good band aid. And now my granddaughters are struggling to understand the same as did my children. Divorce. The word makes me hurt.

As much as I want to make it better, I can't. I can only watch and listen trying to be open to whatever the girls need, helping them come through this time still admiring and loving both parents, not feeling guilt and growing into the beautiful, healthy women they will become. Sometimes it just hurts, but I work to be strong.

I am a band aid. I cover the wound when it opens with words of love and arms to hold. I fight my desire to get involved with parents who need to find their own way. I pray for the healing of everyone and try to be a protect all of us who are hurting. My band aid? The sweet voices of little girls who tell me they love me, who want to come to my house and who make themselves at home when they walk through the door. Perhaps in some way I'm not so much a band aid but the salve that calms the wound.

God help me. God help all those children who struggle and need a grandparent to just listen and love. Band aids. We can do it.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Have Never

Daily I go the Hunger Site. Doesn't cost me anything but with just a click of a button sponsors send money to the cause. On the same site, I can also support other causes: breast cancer, literacy, rainforests, animal rights. Just the push of a button. (

Visiting this site reminds me just how fortunate I have been in my lifetime. I have seen the pictures and films of children whose tummies are swollen from starvation, flies sitting on their empty eyes, small fragile bones poking at their papery skin. The mothers seem equally as empty and lifeless as they hold their dying babies. How many others did they embrace and lose as well? They love their babies as much as I love mine.

I think of my grandchildren and the terror I would feel if they had no food, and we had no way to save them. I sit in my home surrounded by the bounty I possess, but when I go to this site, I'm reminded that I'm not alone in this world. I can't see those faces up close, but the ghosts of those visions never leave me. How can I not try to help?

Never have I had my home bombed.
Never have I had to flee my country.
Never have I had to tell my child that there is no food.

I remember 'trick or treat' for UNICEF when I was a teen. Perhaps I remember it because the treats I gathered as I went door to door did not fatten up a greedy child with sweets but gave another child a chance to live.

We do so little, don't we? We live in our own oasis with an emptiness around us we ignore. Maybe it is time to pack the camel and try to improve this world with even baby steps. The push of a button, teaching a child to read, building a house for a needy family. How many ways can we 'treat' so no one need experience the 'trick' that life plays on too many?

I never experienced true hunger or the despair it brings. I really don't want anyone else to either.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sometimes It Is What It Is

Hanging from a lofty berth
Reaching down to kiss the earth....

A few years ago I passed through a rainbow. It was a rather strange experience since during my life time I'd always stopped to look at rainbows, sang about rainbows and as with everyone else, wondered about the pot of gold at the end of it.

I had never realized that rainbows actually touch the ground, but, by golly, they do! I had been driving through a torrential rain when the rainbow appeared in the distance. Before I knew it, I was driving in the lane next to the place it touched the ground. No pot of gold, folks. Although the bands of color did come together blending into a gold curtain through which the ground on the other side of the band reflected the Midas touch. It was a moment when time seemed suspended. Sadly, it was gone as suddenly as it had appeared.

The experience followed me through the day and night. Finally I crawled out of bed around 2am deciding to write about my time spent beneath a rainbow. I ended up emailing my "rainbow" poem to several people who I thought understood quirky me. One wrote back that she was thrilled to receive my beautiful poem (no mention of the experience with the rainbow); another wrote that he was pleased that I had thought of him at 2am (waaaaay off the mark). To top it off, my sister called me the next night worried that the poem had deep meaning. She had spent the day trying to decipher my crisis.

Mountains out of mole hills. The arrow missing its mark. Was it so hard to understand....I just passed through a rainbow.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Pen In The Writer's Hand

My friend asked me how I come to write the words I write. Hm. Beats me. I just sit down and write what happens to be on my mind, or in my mind, at that moment. Somehow the thought just pops up. I find this true in everything I write. It is as if the words are are already in my mind just waiting to be placed on paper. Really quite strange. In fact, I have written pieces and reread them wondering how the words fell as they did and where in the heck they came from.

We are all born with certain gifts; however I'm not so sure that I understand what this means. If I am already programmed with this inside of me, then I certainly do not have a gift. It came with the package. As with an artist who sees the picture in his or her mind, the brush finds its way. Or the musician who touches an instrument just once and knows it well. Not only does this happen with artists but with everyone. Why can some easily know what clients want without really being told or know how to put things together without instructions? How does the dancer know the movement or the drummer know the beat?

Maybe there is a link with these kindred spirits who know understand these 'gifts'. Maybe those who understand the way we think add to our evolution. There are parts of us that have a voice. A voice that cannot be denied.

I hope that each of you listens to the voice inside. Set it free. Encourage our families to find their voices. What a wonderful world it would be if the bits of harmony we each possess were released, completing the great masterpiece called humanity.

I am not a writer. I am only a pen in the writer's hand.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Better Enjoy The Ride

Riding toys, tricycle, bicycle with training wheels, no training wheels. Steps.

Small steps
keep them small
the bigger they are
the harder the fall.

James was ready to take the training wheels off of his bicycle. Age five and ready to tackle the world. He had the knowledge, the desire and the new bike (no helmet back then). The trial run consisted of me running behind the bicycle with one hand on the seat. Seemed to go quite well. He was ready.

Both of us were laughing and excited about this first ride alone. He started down the cul-de-sac a little wobbly at first gradually gaining more courage, stability and momentum. Proud mom cheered him on. Around the curve and out of sight. He was doing great. Seconds later a loud crash. As I rounded the curve, James came walking out of the neighbor's garage a little shaken, dragging his bicycle, "I didn't know how to stop."

Many times in my life I've run into that "garage" not knowing how to stop. I did learn that we never know what lies around the corner. Better enjoy the ride!

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lines of Laughter, Lines of Communication

Amazing what we can do when we don't think we can do it and have no idea how to do it. I know, a bit confusing. I began teaching my granddaughters to paint and draw. Now I don't have any such training and have no idea how to create final masterpieces let alone stick pictures yet this did not hold me back from trying.

Yesterday my granddaughters wanted to spend time at Commonwealth Park drawing wild life. I had gone to the Dollar Store and purchased bags for each girl for their pencils and pads. My philosophy is that if you are going to be an artist, you might as well look like one then possibly some artistic ability will surface. So far this theory is working well. So, with equipment in hand, we head off to the lake.

We sat on a bench in the sun looking over the water. First order of business was snack eating and debating our artistic focus. Evidently attuned to the sound of food containers being opened, the ducks began to swim in our direction. The girls were in awe of the lovely pattern created across the water as the ducks, seemingly swimming in formation, headed our way. The web-footed visitors surrounded us waiting for their snack. We knew that it was posted that we not feed them, so dejected beaks migrated to the grass behind us except for two lone ducks

We each began drawing the drake. I was reverting to the oval process creating a chain of odd shapes for my basic duck pattern. The girls went directly to the subject. We sat quietly drawing, sharing the eraser and commenting on nature, unruly people and how much more time we had to be together with pencils in hand.

Soon we were laughing at our efforts. Sydney's duck no matter how many times she tried always looked like a flamingo. Gabby giggled and drew comical looking ducks with bowed legs and boots. I had a decent looking duck with feet turning backwards and swollen ankles. There were no mistakes. I showed the girls what fun it is to draw in abstract. The first duck looked like a cartoon character the kids had seen on TV. More laughing. More freedom to express.

We ended our time at the lake when a man much resembling Santa Claus stopped at our bench. "A heron is standing by the bridge if you would like to see it." Immediately, gear was stowed, and we were off. The huge, grey heron stood stately on one leg across the lake. Santa stood next to us.

Our conversation turned from ducks to Santa. We were glad that maybe he was watching the people at the lake to see who was naughty and who was nice.

We started off to sketch. We ended up with learning a bit more about each other by listening to one another, supporting one another's efforts and by experiencing new awareness. Wow. Sounds like a pretty good recipe for peace.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. – Carl Sagan

Listening to the cry of geese on a quiet night or standing by the ocean in the darkness. Looking at the clear evening sky humbled by the vastness, the beauty. Have you ever seen a newborn animal still wet from the journey into life? Have you seen empty cocoons, the evidence that nature once more renews herself? What things stir you, inspire you or perhaps even give you chills?

I believe that I am either cursed or blessed. Can’t decide which. Most days I’m sure it is cursed. I care very deeply about Mother Earth, her creatures, the people who pass through my life. This isn’t anything new. Nope. Been cursed with this since I was a child. I cherish these things that touch me, that are to me simple blessings.

One night I was stopped at a red light. I happened to look up and noticed the clouds, how they rolled and moved. The nebulous clouds boiled, swallowing up the unsuspecting cumulus clouds. I wanted to watch much longer than one “red light”.

Often I have heard the distant cry of geese making their way through the darkness following that internal, silent call. The cries make me yearn to see them yet the eeriness of their cry is haunting.

What inspires you? What touches your soul? What makes your heart sing? How much time do we spend absorbing the beauty around us? Do we really savor those sight and sounds that so seldom come our way?

I miss the fireflies we chased as children or the thrill of finding wild mushrooms after hours of walking in the woods searching for those yearly treasures.

When my granddaughter was about two, she noticed a robin as it hopped across the lawn. I watched her taking it all in. Curiosity, questioning, delight, all of it there in that little 28 lbs. of awe and inspiration.

What do we bring to this world? Where did we lose the eyes of the child, the excitement of life as an adventure? Do we continue to grow on that spiritual journey begun at birth?

I challenge you. Be inspired. Take time to look up. Take time to marvel. Take time to savor this thing called life in the limited amount of time you have to explore it.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

That Wonderful Mother Of Mine

Who guided my footsteps when I learned to walk
Who heard my first words when I started to talk
Who listened to me say my prayers every night
Who taught me the difference between wrong and right

If you were next to me, you would hear me singing this song that I did not sing fifty years ago. Mom, bless her heart, was sure her girls were singers. She volunteered her daughters for the special music slot on Sunday mornings. I don't remember the first time I stood in front those people who had known me from birth. My knees were knocking and my voice somewhere other than in my throat. I sang for her.

Finally Mom asked me to sing a song my sister had sung in collge.... much too difficult for me and out of my vocal range and probably all of age 10, I did it. My swan song...the last Sunday morning Painter Creek Church would hear my little voice. I had become a rebelious preteen.

Mom formed our little quartet that sang at churches and events. I went on to take conducting lessons (probably so I could become a future choir director), yet any voice I might have had back then was certainly impaired by those fearsome Sundays staring out at the congregation...and they staring back.

I was in high school when my mother made a final request. She handed a song to me and asked if I would sing at the Mother/Daughter Banquet at church. Hm. It didn't happen.

That wonderful, wonderful mother of mine
How could there be anyone always so fine
Surely she must have been sent from above
For hers is a heavenly kind of love

Hm. I wonder why? Be careful what you ask of your children.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Held Her Hand

Today I'm late writing because I had something better to do. My granddaughters and I spent the afternoon walking around Commonwealth Lake. Syd and her friend, Heather, ran ahead of us speaking some newly created language destined to drive me nuts. Gabby walked along with me holding my hand.

We talked about Queen Anne's Lace and trees that would make good tree houses. We sat on the bank and watched ducks splash and tiny minnows swim in waves along the side. Small birds flitted in and out of the weeds. There was bench sitting, railing leaning and play equipment playing. The girls had voted to come to the lake for a walk on this beautiful fall day. It was a good choice.

While the children investigated and played, I became aware of the absence of the usual Canada geese and fat, white and brown geese that usually swam in these waters. Scum and debris that filled the slough was creeping into the lake. The water was brown and murky.

Gabby held my hand never leaving it for long. She smiled up at me telling me that she was having the best time doing what we love to do, looking at nature. I looked at her little, sweet hand in mine and said a silent prayer, "God, help me protect this for her and her children. Please."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Best Part of the Day

Rituals. Daily rituals that perhaps we take for granted. My granddaughters and I have several rituals that are just Grammy and the girls. I love revisiting them and the girls seem to as well.

Living near my granddaughters has been a gift to my life. I have been with them since day one. Syd was just a baby when she first stayed over. In fact, we didn't quite make the entire night since the baby ended up with Mom and Dad on their one romantic night away from home. After that night, the sleepovers managed to last all night.

Every morning since then the day has started with teeth brushing and a nice warm (almost hot) wash cloth lovingly wiped over the child's face. This ritual has continued for these 10+ years.

There is a reason that I automatically began this process with my granddaughters. It began when I was a child. My mother was not a very affectionate woman with her daughters. I think that changed more as she aged maybe missing it as much as we had. But I do remember as a small child Mother washing my face with that warm, almost hot, wash cloth. It was a daily ritual. I'm sure that on those cold mornings when we slept in a freezing cold upstairs bedroom that the warm cloth passed over chilly cheeks felt mighty good. Mom was not a tender woman when she washed my face, but she did it lovingly. It was a moment we shared.

My granddaughters are older now. I turn them loose with their morning rituals. When it comes time for the wash cloth, the girls still call me. I run the hot water, they test the temperature then try to get away from me. Always the same. Always the giggles and anticipation. I hold their heads lovingly and pass that warm cloth over their entire faces ending with glowing faces and another moment shared.

I miss Mom. I miss the warm washcloth. And, I hope my girls pass it on.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Had She Been A Unicorn

I love surprises. Who doesn't?! And I've learned to expect the unexpected. Who knows what will happen in the next moment? Who knows what adventures lie around the bend? And just what affect will each new surprise have on you? I had a pleasant surprise while walking my dog, Sadie.

The two of us always went for a short morning jaunt through the apartment complex I was living in at that time. Usually we didn't walk toward the forest part of the complex but decided that on this wram morning we deserved an extra long walk. After a short distance, Sadie began whimpering. Of course, I was lost in my usual morning fog and not paying attention. When I looked up, I saw a beautiful surprise. A lovely young doe was standing on the lawn watching, more aptly watching my little schnauzer. There, with apartments, parked cars, noises from a waking world drifting around us, was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. With her only about 6' away, we were locked in a stand off both studying one another not wanting to look away, afraid one or the other would move.

Sadie finally decided that this was no lawn ornament and began making even stranger noises. The doe began to move down the slope deeper into the complex. I ran to get around her and force her back into the trees. Of course, as we advanced, she did, too. When we retreated, again the same. One last time we looked in farewell then she dashed into the woods.

I know that I was supposed to be there at that moment. She had come to see me. The look in her eyes was hypnotic. Had she had a horn in the middle of her head, I'd not been surprised. Sometimes we have moments that move us. This was one. Maybe she came to tell me that she lived in a fragile world just as I do. Maybe she came to tell me that true beauty lives right next door, and I never see it. Perhaps it was a quick glance at the true importance of life or a sign of what is sacrificed by progress. How I wished my granddaughters had been there to see this lovely sight for Sadie and I knew immediately that we were in the presence of something special. Indeed we were.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Have You Listened?

Have you listened to your heart? Do you take time to listen to the silence inside yourself? We talk a fast game about taking care of our bodies, our recreational lives, our social lives, but how often do we take time to listen to that internal mystery that is ever unfolding?

Remember how as a child you loved to make believe? That is if you were fortunate enough to have that option. My friend, Brenda, and I would dress up in oversized clothing, drag armloads of toy dishes and utensils, old curtains and dolls to the corncrib to create our 'home' for the summer. We were mommies, actresses, whatever idea presented itself.

So what happened to that wonderful world of imagination? I know some would say that I still reside there. If so, thank goodness. I can't imagine a life with no daydreams or crazy, spur-of-the-moment escapades. Perhaps instead of pulling great thoughts from inside of minds we are too busy crowding outside stimuli into that spongy, grey mass.

Returning to the farm always opened doors once more. I could not walk into the barn without remembering the swing that carried me in Tarzan mode from one side of the barn to the other. I could not walk into the playroom without remembering all of the wonderful times I danced my way from farm to stage. Standing on the old bridge, listening to the rippling water, my mind filled with words and thoughts I'd not yet discovered.

How thrilling to discover that there is no end to what we possess inside. A treasure chest often unopened.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Empty Pews

One day I was home sick and quite bored wondering if my eye balls could still see if I was asleep and my eyelids were pulled open. Yes, I was truly bored. However, a constant thought would not leave my delirious thinking.

What if all faiths, all churches, synagogues, believers in a higher power were given a field day? A day off from worship. What if churches, etc. were courageous enough to relinquish one week's offering in the name of humanity? What if everyone was told to make Sunday an off-site day? To practice what is preached? Each member of whatever congregation is given a task: volunteer for any project involving Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Visit the sick or elderly, volunteer at the humane society, pick up litter at the beach or in your neighborhood, read to a child in a children's ward. Volunteer as a 'big sibling'. Deliver meals on wheels or go to a neighborhood in need and make a difference.

Can you imagine? Empty pews but a full world. If every place of worship actually supported this, it would give a hurting world a positive boost. It would make evil take a back seat for a day...and maybe longer. It just might make people change and actually impact the direction we are headed. People could volunteer their skills. Children would learn by example. Hate might actually retreat from the advancing force of good. Mother Earth might actually have a chance to survive. Just one day. How many millions of people would be part of this force?

Of course, churches would need to actually believe that such an action can change the world. The mother bird would need to take responsibility to push her fledglings to fly in order for the flock to survive. Could the church risk its life in order that the world might live? Wow, it a thought. A pretty good one.

Those were just some thoughts of an ill woman lying on the sofa playing with her eyelids.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Good luck?

Amazing what we learn from our children. Their innocence, their compassion, their tender hearts.

Once when my children were small, we took on a long car trip west. We made a quick potty stop at a Stuckey's to stretch legs and to fill up with gas. Stuckey's were oases that appeared along the highways across the US with their blue roofs calling to those of us with children. Stuckey's offered everything from local souveniers to hot dogs. On this trip the kids were each given the privilege of choosing an item to add to the chaos already in the car. My son determinedly settled on a rabbit pelt.

We got back into the car ready to put more miles behind us (Note. Kids were not in seat belts back then). We hadn't traveled very far when this sweet little head popped up behind the front seat. His face was wet with tears. Dread...dread grabbed my heart as my son opened his mouth, "Mommy, did the rabbit die?"

I had raised rabbits as a child not knowing that when they took a ride with Dad in the car they ended up at the butcher shop in town. Stuckey's were probably stocked with new lucky feet and pelts from my snuggly little bunnies. Suddenly, as I contemplated an answer to my son's question, I wondered why someone would feel lucky through the ill-fate of some poor little rabbit who was being fitted with little paw prostheses and fur coats. There are those who believe that a dead animal head on the wall represents prowess and skill when in reality it just takes 'aim and fire' at some poor unarmed creature just doing its thing. I explained to my son that, yes, the bunny did die. Truth hurts in the telling and listening.

This began as a story about luck and ended as a story about ill-fated luck. Obviously, the rabbit's pelt and probably four paws were not so lucky for the bunny.

I'll let the clover loving bunnies in the field of green where they belong. I'll allow animals to keep their parts. And, I think that instead of luck, I'll depend on wisdom and faith. The pelt? Still sitting in a box somewhere kept in memory or a once naked rabbit.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Red and Orange

Gourds, squash, color, textures course and hard. Quite a contrast to Spring with all her delicate buds and flowers springing forth in vivid color trumpeting rebirth while the colorful Autumn leaves and matured vines whisper in an aging quietness. In Spring fields bustle with tractors and planters, followed by birds pecking at the newly turned earth. Fresh air is filed with the smell of Spring, the scent of fresh, dark soil. Earth reborn.

Fall brings the heavy, musty smell of fallen leaves and rotting pumpkins. The sky is grey with the wind trailing dust and Fall debris. So why do we still love Fall? Perhaps it is because we need time, as does the earth, to rest, to wear our fall colors and to hope for a renewal upon awakening in the Spring. We enter into a time of reflection and perhaps even sadness. We are aware that the year and time pass all too quickly.

For me, Autumn means fireplace and hot cider, warm comforters and sweaters. The furnace replaces the air conditioner, books become best friends and puzzles make their way out of the closet.

Maybe the seasons change to remind us of nature's constancy. No matter how much technology progresses, no matter what events move our lives, nature continues her ageless journey from season to season, from birth to Autumn slumber.

Shhh. A new season of sleeping earth begins.

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