Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bloomin' Weather

What if you had a Rose Festival and no roses came?

Portland has the second largest floral parade in the US. Summer festivities come alive the beginning of June. The City Festival on the waterfront just ended. The Rose Gardens are in full bloom. No, wait. They are not in bloom. Oh, wait, the festival was a muddy event.

It was announced on the news last week that scientist predict that by the end of this century the weather in Chicago will be more like that of Baton Rouge. City planners are now planting trees suitable for that climate. Swamp white oak, sweet gum and bald cypress trees. Change is here.

We have had record setting rainfall. I remember when Dad wouldn't mow because the grass was too wet. Not so here. We have liquid sunshine this year. It is happening everywhere. There is no normal any more. The roses refuse to come out unless we provide sunshine. The cooler nights have the plants confused.

Climate changes, storms become more violent, glaciers melt, new climates are passed out by nature. Can we change along with it?

I seem to be more isolated with my book. Typing, editing, adding, deleting. A day goes by quickly. For my granddaughters, the changes are not so easy. They get cabin fever on sunny days let alone on these eons of grey days. Last week we pulled out the paints. The kitchen and dining room became an art studio. The hours passed quickly. This session was a study in color, blending, testing, creating. How creative can we be in the coming days?

Beneath the boredom lies something more. I know it is there by the occasional questions the girls ask. I know by the way they take in the news on TV. I know because I worry about their future. What is happening to our earth? How can I give them a sense of well-being?

I will not let our changing world stop mine. I will not avoid talking about the weather or turn off the news to isolate the children and their questions. We're in this together. Might as well work together. So we talk.

"Grammy, will the world end soon?" my granddaughter asked.

"Honey, it has been predicted my entire life time, and I'm still here," I answered. "Who knows when or if it will end. Worrying won't stop us. We will make the best of each day."

The wind blows. Storms are predicted. Gabby is afraid.

"I love storms," I said.

"Me, too," piped in Sydney. "Remember when Mom told us that God is bowling?"

Good for her. 

We only have today. We cannot make the roses come out for their big day. We cannot pack up and move to another place because who knows what the weather will be there someday. We only have today. So let's make the best of it.

The Rose Parade takes place this weekend. I hope the roses come out to play.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What I Do Not Know

I am boggled by what I do not know. If I focus on it long, I could be massively overwhelmed. I have no answers for life....only questions. I am no sage when it comes to raising kids or helping with grandkids. I have a pretty full plate. I am part genetic make up, part past experiences, part pain, part love, part the observer and part the child. I am so many parts that I can't keep up with the parts. Put them all together and I might just be a mess.....or I might be a person who tries and sometimes fails.

There is no substitute for the inner voice. When I was in counseling, the counselor asked me often if my heart hurt. Looking down I noticed my hand pressed against my chest. At other times my throat became so clogged with swelling that I could hardly talk.

"Put your hand on your throat," he said. "Just allow yourself to feel and be soothed by the warmness of your hand."

My warm hand was soothing the child in me, the parent in me, the grandma in me and the spiritual me. You'd think I'd weigh a ton with all of those people in me. Instead I just carry them around until they call to me perhaps by a pain in the heart or tightness in my throat.

"I didn't know that hurt," I said to him. "So is that why these things happen? My body is talking to me?"

He explained that my inner self knows what maybe I don't realize. It recalls when I cannot. It studies while I live. It waits until I understand, so I can learn from it.

I call that inner voice God. That inner voice that has opened doors for me. The inner voice that will not allow me to experience pain alone. That voice that allows me to see beyond myself.

I do not have the answers for grandparenting or parenting. I do not have answers for anyone else. I am on a journey learning about a woman, a past, a present. I am a woman growing a bit older learning about herself in her mirror. Sometimes my best is not enough. Sometimes it falls short not just for myself but for others. I know when it does that they have an ache in their chest or a tightness in the throat.

I am humbled by what I do not know.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Scissor Girl

School. A place where children should be safe. A place where we send them to learn. What lessons do they learn outside of the text book?

"What's wrong, Honey," I asked  my oldest granddaughter when she got into the car.

Something was very wrong.

"The girl behind me in class cut my hair."

That maternal protectiveness kicked in.

"What did you say to her?"

"I didn't know what to do."

My granddaughter wouldn't hurt a flea. She has always been the type of girl that everyone likes. Being popular is not important to her. She would rather spend her time just being herself. So what's with scissor girl?

"Do you know her?" I asked.

"Not very well."

Evidently, the girl cut a small piece of her hair dropping it on the floor then turned around talking to the kids around her ignoring what she had just done. Not acceptable.

Stacey sent an email to the teacher. She did not receive a response; however, Sydney was called to the principals office the next day. When she walked into the office, scissor girl immediately apologized. She had no excuse. She just cut the hair. Nothing against Sydney. She doesn't even know Sydney. So what's up?

School days are difficult. I had my hurts in school as did my children. My youngest granddaughter is picked on all the time. She is full of energy and so sweet. I don't get it. Why are some children mean?

Learning experiences. They are all learning experiences even when difficult, even when unfair. School is the mini-model of the world they will grow in to. My heart goes out to those kids who have no one to help them make this journey. They bring their anger and disappointment to school. They are wrapped in a cloak of loneliness and anger. And, some just take their meanness to school.

Scissor girl had gone immediately to her teacher after class telling her what she had done to Sydney. She had no idea why she had done it, but she did know it was wrong. Sydney did not leave the experience with anger. Instead she had compassion for a girl and learned a bit more about this thing called life.

Darn, life is hard.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Get the Kit

I cannot know your pain. You do not know me, but I hurt for you. Our paths will never meet, but I hold you in my heart. I cannot get there to help, but I am thankful for those who can. I cannot know your pain.....but I am here. I care.

Towns gone. Houses leveled. Dogs, family, rescue units and neighbors searching. Oh, God, let them be found. Please let them be found.

A child ripped from a mother's arms. A grandparent gone. Pets scattered. Food, bank cards, personal documents, medications gone. Stripped of lives. I cannot know their pain.

"We need an emergency kit," I told my daughter.

"Why? We don't have tornadoes," she replied.

"It might not be a tornado. We need a kit."

Years ago I had a kit. Life moved on and I got complacent about keeping it up. As time went on, the flashlight left the kit. The batteries for the radio were old. The water needed to be used before it was outdated. The kit was lost to daily living. I was kitless.

No, we don't have tornadoes. They are about as rare at St. Helens erupting. We have experienced a handful of earthquakes. Nothing major. We live far from the coast so no tsunami danger. The forests are on the outskirts of this place of rivers and streams. Emergency kit?

The human kind of threat frightens me. We have no preparedness for an attack. We have no preparedness should the silent nuclear plants foul the water and land. We have nothing to help us should the unexpected find us. A kit. What can be wrong with having one?!

"I'm making up a kit," I told my daughter.

"Whatever, " she replied.

Where there are no basements, a kit would be blown away. Where there is no place to hide from a major event, plans must be discussed.

"If anything happens while you are at school, stay there," I told Sydney.

"What about you and Mommy? Who will watch over Gabby?"

"Honey, whatever happens, you worry about yourself, so we don't need to worry about you. The school will protect you. We will find you."

The storms back east worry my granddaughters. TV makes is a very real. Their fear is real. As a responsible adult, I need to listen, answer their questions and help them handle their fears in a positive way.

"Where would we hide if we had a tornado and you weren't here?" Syd continues.

Our townhouse is on a slab. Looking at the damage on the television screen, I realize that no place in this house is safe should we have the same. Next to the washer and dryer? Under the table? Obviously, the tub thing didn't work for many people. Under the stairs? In the pantry? Where????

This weekend my daughter and I are going to talk over plans for our family should an emergency rise. We will plan as best we can for the unknown in order to give the girls an action plan. Phone numbers will be added to their phones in case they can't reach us. Hospital numbers, police numbers and fire department numbers will be added. We can do what we can to prepare. In fact, it is all we can do.

I cannot know the pain of such tragedy, but I can learn from it. I hope you will work with your family in preparing your own emergency plan. Even you single people, be prepared! You might not think it matters, but it does to those who love you.

Emergency Kit:  www.ready.gov/america/getakit/index.html

Maybe a gift that will save your family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Spark in Her Eyes

A spark. Just a little spark, but still a spark of interest.

"Grammy, can I see?" Sydney asked looking over my shoulder at the picture in my hand.

Every day I try to write my blogs. My Neff Road blog is much different from this blog. I go back to my roots daily embracing the good and even sometimes the bad. The blog began as a history for my family. Remarkably, it has turned into a piece of history for more than this Loxley girl.

Up until now the my granddaughters have been uninterested. But for the first time, Sydney, age 12, asks to see the picture. Something has changed, and she wants to know about my parents, about living on a farm. She finds it interesting that I grew up where chickens, sheep, cows and a horse roamed the barnyard. In an instant, I see a spark, a spark of interest.

The life I lead was so far removed from what my grandchildren experience. My children remember the farm and my parents, but rarely talk about it. I miss my sisters, those who remember and share those precious years. I want to talk to my granddaughters about my wonderful childhood and am waiting for the time when they ask. In their time, not mine.

"Grammy, I wish I knew your mommy," Gabby said.

"She saw me," Sydney brags.

Oh, my girls, I wish your great grandma had known you. How proud she would be. Perhaps your curiosity will one day take you closer to her. Perhaps my memories will take you to Neff Road.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Coincidence: Synonyms - Accident, Luck, Fate

Vaguely, I hear the news while writing my blog yesterday. A few words penetrate my concentration. "Next, the smell of marijuana."

For a few moments I sat wondering if the problem with our neighbors has a solution. The police couldnt' help us. Maybe the newscaster can. In fact, I'm wondering if once more my concerns have been heard by a higher power who solves my problems.

My son marvels when I am financially strapped and a random check arrives in the mail. It has happened to me time and time again. A story is published. I get a check. The bank finds a refund. And....this isn't just with money. Time and time again solutions, answers to prayers, whatever you want to call it, it happens. I've almost gotten to the point that I wait with anticipation. What will the answer be? When will it arrive?

Life is full of surprises. The disappointments and the pain often to override the awareness of the pluses instead of the minuses. I know I'm not the only one blessed with this phenomena. Maybe I've learned to accept the ins and outs of life a bit easier as I've aged. Maybe I've learned that faith is a cloak I wear, not a banner I wave.

The song "High Hopes" often rings in my head.

Once there was a little old ant
Thought he'd move a rubber tree plant
Everyone knows an ant can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he has high hopes
He has high hopes
High apple pie in the sky hopes

So any time you're feeling sad
Stead of getting mad
Just remember that ant

Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.

High hopes. Faith. Acceptance that with life's constant changes, there is always hope. Coincidence? Not for me. I prefer to walk in the warmth of a hand that guides me knowing it is always there.

I didn't get a solution to the smell of marijuana wafting to our home from the house next door. I found out that if I walk in the forests of Oregon and see the marijuana plants or smell the odor of the burning plant, I'm to immediate leave the area and call the police. Hm. I wonder if our backyard would qualify as a forest.

I have high hopes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mowin' the Grass

The girls and I sat at the table where they do homework on days when the sun shines.

"Grammy, there it is again," Sydney said with her face wrinkled in disgust.

"Grammy, call the police," Gabby piped in.

Argh! I'm so tired of this.

"What do you think?" I asked my daughter. "Do you think I should call?"

"What if they retaliate?" she replied.

It is Spring. What will this be like when summer comes? So I called the police.

"I don't know what to do, so I'm asking advice," I explained." Our neighbors smoke pot all the time. We smell it in our house and strongly in the backyard. What can we do?"

The sheriff was very sweet. He explained that they probably had a card for medical marijuana whether it was legit or not. I told him about their loud parties late at night. He was very sympathetic.

"Call us when they have the parties. We'll take care of it," he said. "Do you want me to stop by and talk to them. I'd be happy to knock on their door."

"Do you think it would help?" I asked.

"No. They won't answer," he replied.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Embracing Boredom

She sat in the grass holding her phone. The 'finally here' spring day warmed her. 

"Grammy, I'm bored," Sydney said.

"I know," I answered.

The limbs fell around my feet as I sculpted the winter growth from the tree in my son's yard. I continued my project. Gabby sat with her aunt doing homework and talking to Millie, the dog. Sydney sat with her phone in her lap.

Boredom. We all experience. Some embrace it giving reason to complaint. I always found it to be a catalyst to creativity and imagination. I understood how Syd felt. Often as a child, I sat in a chair hoping we would go home from a visit with adults and children I didn't know; however, I learned something from those long periods of boredom. I learned patience.

My first impulse was to find something to occupy my granddaughter. We could have gone home with my project incomplete. But this boredom was good thing. There was no computer or TV to occupy her mind. Only nature and family was available. It was good for Syd to be alone with herself and her boredom, to find her own solutions to her situation. Just maybe her surroundings would talk to her in a new way.

Boredom is part of learning. It insists on tolerance and endurance. I have often heard parents say that they will not take their children to an event because they would be bored. So how do they learn to handle those empty times in their lives when they are not entertained if we don't allow them to experience it? I'm pretty good at boredom. I'm pretty good at mundane conversation. I've learned to wait in a car with a book or paper and pencil. I've learned to stand in a long line or sit in a waiting room meeting new people. I've learned to ask myself just what I'm made of. Does my circumstance control me or do I control the circumstance?

Boredom. Maybe we should teach our children more about that word. Maybe we need to teach ourselves that boredom can be exciting.

There is adventure in those times of empty. I'm adventurer. How about you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

In All My Natural Beauty

Two boxes of hair color sit in the pantry. One is light blond. One is ash blond. The boxes have left the closet a couple of times. I go from mirror to mirror wondering, wondering what I really want.

This morning I once more stood before the mirror looking at my taupe hair. Since it has grown out, the natural color looks highlighted. I notice that the color of my clothes and the color of my skin and eyes seem to be more in sync. Could it be the hair. My natural color?

I watched the Today Show this morning. Topic....hair color. I wanted them to hear my opinion. I wanted to shout at talk shows and commercialism. I wanted to tell them all to STOP! Don't continue to make us over. Let us embrace who we are.

On Facebook this morning, a friend posted pictures of little girls, probably about twelve, getting ready to go to a dance. They looked like mini twenty year olds. Make up in place. Hair styled. Dresses more appropriate for a prom than for a middle school dance. What are we telling the children?

It's not just about hair color. I don't care what anyone else does with their hair. I care about the message. I care that we are all trying to look as young as possible. I know that I am more likely to be hired with my hair colored. But why? Men are hired with grey and white hair. Why not celebrate who we are at all ages? I want my granddaughters to know that they should be proud of their looks. I want them to know that I am proud of my looks.

"Can I see your ID?" he asked.

"Are you looking at me?" I replied.

"What year were you born?" he continued.

"Are you and idiot? Do you think they sell this hair color?!" I wanted to shout.

He  rang up the Pinot Gris.

Ah.....in all of my natural beauty.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Traveling with Kids?

This piece was published a few years ago. We all have memories from our past about traveling with our parents, and we all have those butterflies when faced with a trip with our grandchildren. The article is entirely too long to include, but here is a portion. I hope you enjoy it.

Traveling With Kids? Good for You (from a mother and grandmother who has been there and back)

Traveling with kids? Nervous? Don't be. With a little investment in time and planning, this can be a wonderful opportunity for building relationships and making memories from beginning to end. I know. I've been there and back.

Sundays in my youth were considered a day of rest. Rest that consisted of riding in the car for miles. This
was the one day that our parents spent with their daughters in the close confines of the old Packard going off on a Sunday drive. Dad loaded his three daughters into the backseat, his wife into the front and off we would go. Thus began my first-hand prospective, from a child's point of view, on the ins and outs of traveling. 

Every one of our vacations began and ended in the car. We couldn't afford to go by train, and airplane travel wasn't even on the list of options. Cursed as I was with Mother's bend toward motion sickness, I viewed the car as a weapon of my imminent demise. Yet I don't remember being bored or dreading those trips. Dad talked about the crops and wildlife as we drove along, or he and mom would relate stories from the past. A history lesson in the car. Eventually, Dad would 
break into a song with his beautiful tenor voice. Mom joined in with her brassy alto. Peg took over with her lovely soprano. June usually mumbled along with Mom when she wasn't tormenting me. Me? I sang with a small child's soprano harmony. What precious memories we captured in sound, scenery and companionship. All in the confines of a car.

My own trials started as a mother crossing the states three times with her children at various ages. Stacey was six and James three when we moved across the United States from Wisconsin to Oregon. Later with kids ages eight and ten, we made the trip from Oregon to Ohio via the northern route. Finally, the teenagers and I drove a southern route to Ohio.

Now I am a grandmother traveling with my granddaughters. Even an old hand at this traveling business, I'm learning more all the time. We fly when going on long trips instead of piling into the car. Benefit: faster travel. Drawback: missed opportunities. 

Time with our families goes by quickly. Don't be nervous. Go pack your bags. We're going on a trip. Let's make it a memorable one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Toe Tap Away

Summer vacation is tapping its toe waiting for the middle of June to arrive. Classes are winding down. Field trips, class picnics, dance recital. Tap, tap, tap. Just around the corner.....

I will be away from my family for the month of July. That leaves me about 10 weeks of enjoying my granddaughters and summer vacation. It's not cheap this entertainment of children, that is, unless you have granddaughters who enjoy the simple things in life.

"Grams, can we have piano lessons this summer?" Syd asked.

"Of course, we can," I reply.

The girls came up with things for us to do this summer. We will paint, we will take long walks, cookies will be baked and dogs will be spoiled. We will play the piano and dance around the room. Summer offers opportunities, and we will not miss a one.

With me going to Ohio for a month this summer, my days with the girls will be cut short. Getting away sounds great, but I will miss my girls. Summer goes by quickly. So does childhood. I hate missing a single moment. Knowing this, I will plan some special surprises for them to open while I'm gone. I plan to send postcards and make phone calls. Hopefully, we can Skype and spend some time talking.

Summer vacations should be embraced. What wonderful adventures can happen even if children spend a great deal of time in child care while parents work. We grandparents can make memories and spend quality time. Special vacation time can be set aside just for this time of the year. Inviting grandkids to visit. We are so blessed to have the opportunities.

I'm counting the days until the girls are home all day. I'm excited to see what the summer will bring. I salute you, parents and grandparents, who embrace this time with the kids. Memories are there for the making. Just in case you are a little nervous about it. Here are some ideas:

Trip to the zoo, local aviary, pet store, aquarium

Hikes to local landmarks as well as to the different stores at malls and downtown. My fav is the garden center.

Sightseeing local attractions. Give everyone a camera and turn them lose. Treasures will be shared at the end of the day.

Picnics in the park, back yard, tree house and any other place that offers adventure.

Cook a meal for Mom and Dad, make cookies for a friend, have a tea party.

Make a summer album filled with ticket stubs, pictures, and other memorabilia.

Take in summer concerts. Let the kids pack the picnic. Take games and flashlights.

Visit the Audubon Society, local library, historical museum, art museum.

Learn something new together.

Summer. Just a toe tap away.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is She Looking?

They ran from game to game. Parents stood in groups laughing and oblivious. I watched.

"Grammy, are you coming to the Carnival?" Gabby asked.

"Wouldn't miss it," I replied.

I've noticed the same pattern in the past. Ballgames, scout meetings, all sorts of events, sometimes even including family events.

I'm not criticizing here. I am making an observation as a former child, parent and grandparent. We don't need to glue ourselves to our children, but we do need to sometimes stand back and look at what they view.

I was an invisible child. My parents were busy with the farm, their church, the youth. My sisters left the farm seven years before me. I knew when I had kids that I would not be that parent. I knew that the attention I gave to my children was important. Even that silent attention.

Gabby took off across the gym looking over the games. I followed. Yes, she is old enough to go on her own, but this wasn't about safety. This was about taking part in her life. I knew that when she stepped up to toss a bean bag, she would look to see if I was watching. There an invisible communication that takes place. A question is asked: Is she looking? A question is answered: Of course I am.

I stayed at the carnival for awhile then realized that I needed to leave. My son-in-law was giving that attention to his girls. I needed to step back and allow his to be the face she saw. As I left, I again saw the groups of parents chatting away. The children were busy playing games. They all seemed happy with the arrangement.

During the years I worked with teenagers in high school theatre, one question came up time and time again before the curtain went up.

"Have you seen my parents?"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

'Aha' Moments

I walked out the front door to see if the house number was correct. Could I still be in the same house? Yep, I live here.

Sometimes we turn a corner and don't realize we have until a priceless 'aha' moment. I love that feeling. I think it begins when your toddler finally doesn't say 'no' to everything. Maybe it happens when we accept our age? Maybe we are surrounded by those moments and don't notice until the 'aha' hits home.

My life has been a trail of those moments. Moments when a sadness turned into warm memories. When my children phoned me as much as I phoned them. There are so many of those moments.

Grandparents do a lot of holding back unsolicited comments. We try hard not to step on toes when handling the grandkids. We try to allow our children to live their lives without interference. At least we should try to do those things. Living with adult children and their families is not easy. The lines of demarcation are tripped over, stumbled across and in the way most of the time. Finding middle ground is difficult. Sometimes it is found but seems to come and go at will.

Last night I had an 'aha' moment. I felt a bond that was lost with my daughter starting to form once more. I'm not sure how it is happening, but it feels good. Stress seems less evident and the core of our home is much warmer.

We should embrace those 'aha' moments. They are landmarks in the evolution of relationships. They are our growing up no matter what our age.

Life is an 'aha' moment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In the Attic

The children went to the attic. Trunks, toys, boxes and treasures filled the room. The girls and I were watching the movie Jumanji.

"I wish we had an attic like that," Sydney said.

I agreed. I always wanted an attic that held treasures. As a child, I lived for dress-up and make believe. I was one of those kids who snooped. An attic would have been paradise.

"Grammy, guess what I found in a box!" Gabby yelled from upstairs. Like Grandma, like granddaughter. Bit by bit the found treasures were shared.

Perhaps this is why I love auctions and estate sales. Even garage sale tickle my interest. Perhaps I should have been and explorer. I know I should have been an archeologist. Always looking for a treasure. Always knowing that whatever I find will be be cherished in my home.

So when I wrote my blog yesterday, little did I know that I would discover a even better treasure. I sat looking at the pile of children's books next to me and thought I might see if I could find more information on them. The book I have in French would be much more interesting if I had a copy of the English translation.

I scanned the sites for the book and began to notice a pattern. A dollar pattern. My book of wonderful illustrations, the book I thought perhaps my son and daughter-in-law might want to take apart to frame some pictures is worth around $200 depending on condition. Well, my day was made.

"So how are you going to sell it?" my friend asked.

Sell it? Sure the money would be nice, but sell it? Give up my delightful book with wonderful pictures? I don't think so. I buy these books because I love them. I delight in looking at the artistry of the books over and over again perhaps encouraging my own creativity. Part with my book?

Well, no matter what the opinion on whether or not I should sell the book, my treasure hunting has just become a bit more attractive.

I guess we don't need the attic to take us to new places and encourage imagination. Sometimes a treasure is found that would have maybe resided in such an attic taking me back in time when I was once a child.

$200. Hm.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Once a Leopard Saw Her Spots

Once a leopard saw her spots
lots and lots and lots and lots.

The book was tattered and worn. Pages turned time and time again by small hands. As a child, I played school. Every morning in my pretend classroom, a poem was read from my Jolly Jingle book. To this day, I still remember several of the rhymes.

"Grammy, you make good rhymes," Sydney informed me. Perhaps I do because of a little book that sat in a basket next to my bed.

Our library has semi-annual book sales. The spring sale has just ended. My favorite section is the children's books. I don't follow critiques on which books are the best. I look for stories that call for me to read them to my grandchildren. I look at the illustrations wanting books that show my girls the use of color and design in the pictures. That ideas can be expressed in a variety of ways. I came home from the book sale with two more books. They are not new books, but maybe books that are still found online.

Here are a few treasures that I have found at estate sales, used bookstores and book sales in my quest for good literature for children. You might want to check them out.

On a Wintry Morning by Dori Chanconas, Illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson (a winter story about a little girl and her father)

Yes, Dear by Diana Wynne Jones, Illustrated by Graham Philpot (a grandmother listens and understands her granddaughter's discovery of a golden leaf)

Goupil by Samivel (a very old book from an estate sale all in French/illustrations are incredible)

Brer Rabbit From stories collected by Joel Chandler Harris, Illustrated by Don Daily (an old story retold for newer generations/illustrations are great)

Were You a Wild Duck, Where Would You Go? by George Mendoza, Illustrated by Jane Osborn-Smith (a story about duck searching for a home in a polluted environment/watercolor illustrations are beautiful)

The Django by Levi Pinfold (a story about a famous European jazz musician) This book I bought for me. I love the story and artistry.

Books by Jan Brett (her art is beautiful and imaginative)

Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman and Sylvia Long (A book about 10 little Indian rabbits/delightful)

Ten in the Bed by Penny Dale (an all time favorite of Gabby's/repetitious dialogue and very sweet illustrations)

These are a few of the books I have gathered over the last couple of years. Maybe I pick them up just for me. Throughout her life my mother bought children's books. Sometimes I think we forget that books are art...not only the creative writing but also in the creative ways that the illustrator captures the imagination.

As I have said, most of these books are probably out of print, but should you come across one of them, enjoy.

Once a leapard saw her spots......

Monday, May 9, 2011

From Their Hands

She ran across the room and embraced me. "I love you, Grams."

Not a bad start to Mother's Day. In fact, it was a precious moment, hugging this tall twelve year old. Time speeds by so quickly. These hugs are priceless.

I'm not one who dwells on whether or not my kids make a fuss over my birthday or Mom's Day. They are just days. Yet it is important for we parents and grandparents to help children realize the importance of those days celebrating those we love.

I found the girls in the pantry with paper and pencils whispering.

"Since we don't have much money, we want to fix something we already have here." They informed me. The pantry wasn't offering much.

The girls wanted to make dinner for Mom. Obviously, it was going to require a Grandma going to the store and to assist in the kitchen. The kitchen is small, and the chefs were elbow to elbow. There is an element of trust and breath-holding that takes place with the girls a year older. Sharp knives are now used with supervision. Responsibilities are handed off with overseeing by an invisible grandma.

"I want to do as many things as Sydney," Gabby insisted entering the kitchen a bit late.

Jobs were handed out. Work spaces designated for each girl. Me? I was the organizer, the equalizer and the referee. Wow.

Chicken skewers
Grilled asparagus
Homemade bread
Fruit kabobs

Sydney made the bread (from a box) earlier in the day. Herb bread. She prepared the asparagus. Gabby washed dishes and cut up the melon. I did the strawberries, and Syd took on the pears. Each girl stabbed the fruit with skewers, a job perk for any kid in the kitchen.

The table cloth was spread across the table. Candles were lit (one for each girl). The fruit became a centerpiece. The feast was on.

It was a meal offering the girls opportunity to do something special for their mom. Their hands provided her with a beautiful table. They learned to do new tasks, to take on responsibility, to work to provide something wonderful for someone else.

The hugs were there at the end of the day, too. We had done a good thing. An evening of fun began with a meal from our kitchen, from hands of children.

Ah, moments to be remembered on other Mother's Days.

Friday, May 6, 2011


This piece will be on both of my blogs today.

Sometimes I called her Mom. Other times I called her Mother. Once in a great while I called her Mommy. Those times were when I was an adult. My mom.

I wrote this piece years ago. Once more I post this for my remarkable mother.

The woman lived almost her entire eighty-eight years on the same square mile of land.
Yet she touched more lives than most of us will ever know.
Her mission was the life she lead.

No one was ever a stranger.
No one ever wanted for a meal or a bed.

She took in several youth who were homeless giving them a family.
Gave temporary shelter to kids in trouble.
Babysat for anyone who ever asked.

The church was her life.
She was choir director, custodian, Sunday school teacher, on every committee.

She'd wake before the sun did and cooked each meal as the day progressed
for a dozen hungry farm hands.

She killed the chickens,
made the soap,
planted crops
and raised three babies.

She saw her sisters date gangsters
and fell in love at nine with her future husband.

She was a fantastic cook who never used a cookbook.
She never said 'no' to anything.
She fought for children's rights before we admitted they had them.
She was color blind to the shades of humanity.
She never believed that there was anything she couldn't do.

She never saw a stranger and opened her house
to exchange students,
cousins ten times removed.

She buried her parents, her three siblings and her husband.
She always had a song on her lips and in her heart.
She was loved and loved like few ever have.
She impacted more lives than we will ever know.

Now she lives in a world growing more silent as her hearing fails.
She is frail and tiny, looking at her last days.
But she is beautiful.
The song still remains on her lips and in her heart.

She is bright and has the handwriting of her twenties.
Still she has an open heart and fails to understand the narrow-mindedness of mankind.
She sits and crochets with her aching hands and plays the piano like a ragtime pro.

She is a lovely sight to behold, this mother of mine.
We should all have such mission in life to change it for the better.
I had a good example.
I think I'll pass it on.

My mother passed four months after I wrote this piece. It became her eulogy. The real tribute to her life is the legacy she passed on. My mother was laughter and love. Her name was Ruth Johnson, my mom.

Oh, Mom, I miss you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In Memory of Kane

Today in Clark County, Washington, a memorial will take place for a dog. Not just any dog.

On April 11th a K9 unit was in pursuit of two men who had fled from a stolen car. Kane, the canine part of the team, was stabbed and killed.

Kane was going to retire next year. He had served the police force for six years. The beautiful black German Shepard had been one who served and protected. Now canine units from all over the Northwest will be paying honor to this brave dog who was killed doing his job.

Many years ago we had a very ill dog. In fact, she was dying. We spent many hours with her at the vet's office as he tried everything to save her. She was lying on the table when a big, gorgeous German Shepard was brought in. If I remember correctly, her name was Suzanne. She, too, was a police dog. Her owner, her partner stood by her as I'm sure the dog had stood by the officer many times. Now the dog was breathing her last breaths. We stood by our dogs guardians over those who guarded us. We grieved losing our dear friends. In those few moments with our dying dogs, my daughter decided to be a Vet Tech.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking my son's now fifty pound Airedale puppy, Millie. She is handful, full of mischief and energy. I had taken her out for her hourly walk. The ground was soaked with Oregon rain. We were running up the small rise at the side of the house when I slipped in the mud and went down on all fours, letting go of the leash. Without hesitation, Millie ran back to me. She licked my face and stood close to me walking around my head waiting for me to get back up. I stood up covered with mud. Millie stayed by my side. I saw in this dog a protector of my family. A future protector of a small child. Millie would give her life for any of our family.

Today I pay homage to those dogs who protect and serve. I pay homage to those who know their family and will protect them at risk to their own lives.

Thank you, canine friends. Thank you.

In memory of Kane.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Toy Wall

The house was never without toys. Generations of children knew where to find them and headed for them the minute they walked into the house. I didn't pay much attention to the thrill of finding the toys because the toys were always there.

As I grew up my old room became the nursery as well as the spare bedroom. When we returned for visits, we slept in the room along with stuffed toys, children's books and dolls. The house wasn't necessarily kid proof, but it was kid friendly. Mom loved children and made her house a place of childhood delight.

A favorite part of the house during my growing up and that of my children and grand nieces and nephews was the basement. Toys from generations sat against the back wall of the old stone room. Even those who were long gone from the house, knew that they could find toys from their childhood. As an adult I would often peruse the toys looking for a bit of my past. For my children, it was a piece of history.

Many of the toys from that wall now reside in Oregon. They were always out an available for my grandchildren. They, too, would come into the house and head for their favorite toys. A few old favorites sat in my bedroom. The girls loved the old toys and promised that they would love them forever. We shared stories and shared my past on the farm. Old dolls that once laid in an old baby bed now played with little girls in a house a century newer.

I always promised myself that I would have my own toy wall, a place of history, a place that everything was still a toy to be played with. I knew how important it was for my grandchildren to feel at home. I wanted that same space of imagination to wrap around them. Perhaps somewhere inside of me, I wanted those old toys to continue to have life and to light up little faces.

The toy wall.....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where is Your Oasis?

Oasis: something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from that which is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.  

My daily oasis lies in an empty house, a glass of wine and a good book. Time for myself in my own home. In the winter, the fireplace completes the picture. The cuddling up immersed in something other than family is my renewal time. 

Of course, nature always takes me away to that place where the spirit breathes and expands, where the heart sings and refreshes. Entertainment from quacking ducks and chirping birds. Canada geese flying overhead. Even the feel of the earth beneath my hands as I work in the yard anchors me to my very essence. My roots give me peace.  

Sometimes I feel guilty wanting my own oasis away from it all. Responsibility and the 'mom' complex fight against that need to refresh, that need to be selfish for a little bit time. The girls know that the adults need adult time just as they need time with their friends, doing the things they love. Not every activity needs to involve everyone. We can all feel good asking time for ourselves.  

My friend had a birthday. I decided to surprise her with a pedicure. The place where I took her had an upstairs room with only two pedi chairs. I took a half bottle of wine, and we celebrated on our own little oasis. Pampering. It does the body good.

I have no idea where all of this came from today. Perhaps from looking at the piles of laundry and clutter that needs gathering. Maybe it's the glimpses of sun that calls to me. I have given up guilt in order to find my oasis. 

Ahhhhhhh. Don't bother me. I'm on my oasis.

Monday, May 2, 2011

They Will Not Remember

They will not remember. We will not forget.

Each generation has those same questions asked: Where were you? What were you doing? Each generation has those historical moments that haunt us, that refuse to sleep. We each have those times that are etched in our memories forever.

Our generation has had everything from the assassination of JFK to the today's headlines. For all of my lifetime, we have been in search of a peaceful world. Wouldn't it be nice if our grandchildren would never experienced such horror?

Last night I sat crying when I heard the news. It was an emotional moment. I am a pacifist. I don't like violence. Yet sitting with my son on September 11, 2001, watching as the Towers collapsed, I felt hate for the mastermind behind it. Now he is dead.

Pictures are etched in our brains. We cannot erase them. These events happened. We, living in a time of immediate news, are there.

We try to live above the fear. We try to raise children protecting them from the fear. We put the fear aside so we can move through life finding the joy, celebrating what we have at any given moment.

It's all we can do.