Monday, October 31, 2011

The Haunting....EEEEEEEEK!

Okay, there are no 'eekings' here. We have a ghost the girls have named Gloria. We don't see her, but we hear her. We discovered her when the floorboards in my bedroom creaked as steps crossed my room. Step, by step, by step Gloria made herself known. Since then, Gloria has opened doors and slammed them shut. She surprises us once in awhile with some new noise. The dog crate opens and things fall in odd places.

"Grammy, Gloria knocked a vase off the dresser!" Gabby yelled. I followed her up the stairway to her room. When we entered, she gasped, "Grammy, the vase was on its side when I came to get you." Now the vase was standing upright.

A friend knows the people who lived here before us. They indeed verified that a ghost lives here. They actually saw the old woman walk down the hallway and smelled food cooking. I'm hoping she likes to cook and takes over the kitchen duties.

We had a ghost in our home many years ago. He would shake my bed and that of my daughter even as we sat there awake. The bed would shake. Stop. Then shake once more. My son had seen the man standing in his bedroom doorway.

Once a friend came to house-sit for us.....she slept in James' room.

"Do you know you have a ghost?" she asked upon our return. She was unaware of our silent resident yet went on to describe him exactly as my son had previously. Oh, yes, we had a ghost.

When my grandmother passed, the neighbor swore she saw doves flying from my grandparent's chimney. Spirits. There are many who might be unbelieving, but I for one have no doubts.

One night in our house where the man ghost resided I was trying to fall asleep. Night after night undoubtedly one of my two children would tap me on the back. "Can I have a drink?" "Would you tuck me in again?" etc.

On this night, I felt the tap on my back. "Go back to bed," I warned.

Again....the tap.

"I said, go back....." and as I turned over, I saw that no one was there. I got up and checked on both children who both in deep sleep.

My granddaughters do fairly well with Gloria. Having a ghost has given me a chance to talk to my children and grandchildren about fear and about accepting that there are some things we just can't explain. We talk about death and afterlife. We talk about the lives we imagine for our visitors turned ghostly. We accept that we have no answers....but we do have a ghost.

If Gloria is looking over my shoulder, I hope she understands that we can live peacefully with her and wish for her final peace.

As for me, I ain't 'fraida no ghosts!

This post will also be on Neff Road today. Happy Halloween!!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Holiday Overload

Deck the Halls with ghouls and witches. Falalalala lalalala. Evidently Halloween was tossed aside this week because Christmas commercials have taken over the TV. However, the kids will not trick or treat until Tuesday. I'm confused with this mixture of the two. Where in the world is Thanksgiving in all of this? I'm on holiday overload. HELP!

In our home, we have Gabby's birthday streamers, Stacey's Christmas knitting and Halloween decorations. There isn't a bare spot in the living room. Holiday confusion could overwhelm a small child. For us, we can keep the separation between decorations. I'm almost dreading the time we get the Christmas decorations out. I'm not sure the rest will be gone yet. I think I'm frightened that the room will become a Party Place.

So what of our attitudes towards these dates that have residence on calendars when they come out the beginning of each year? As kids we toss off the mask, dive into the turkey and make a list for the jolly man. For me, I see a long list of dollar signs all running into one another. There is sparkle in the eyes of children and panic in the hearts of parents who cannot afford the holidays.

We say that it isn't about the gifts, but we know what we wish for our children. Children live in cars and on the streets with their families. They sit in hospital beds wanting to go home. They are hungry and afraid. Yet our children can't comprehend what those children suffer. What a wonderful time to show children how important it is to remember other and to weaken that dollar sign holiday.

When I was a child, we trick or treated for UNICEF. When my kids were teens, we served dinner to families in the children's cancer wing of the hospital. As children, we caroled at the nursing homes. Our church started the Heifer Project. We were surrounded by opportunities to give.

I'm trying not to be bogged down with this influx of holidays. I'm trying not to think of what we cannot provide and to think of the difference we can make. Maybe you would like some ideas, too.

Sponsor a calf for a family:
Trick or Treat for UNICEF:
As a family, serve Thanksgiving dinner at a food shelter.
Find your child a pen pal in another country through Pen Pal World, church mission program or the school might even have a sister school.

It's time to take charge of the holiday instead of charging to make it happen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

She is 10

A whirlwind of wonder came into our lives ten years ago. We had no idea what we were in for when we looked at that little bundle of new life. My first thought when I held her for the first time was of my mother. I looked at her and said "little Ruth.".

Over these ten years, she has proved that statement true. She has that inner energy that Mom possessed. Her face knows more about smiling than frowning. Everyone is her friend. She is fearless and strong. I often think of how my mother would have laughed at her antics. Yes, she is little Ruth.

Gabby has yet to understand her potential. Her compassion and depth of caring are as strong as perchant for fun. She could be a diplomat, a doctor, a teacher, a builder of hope. Gabby would talk the same to her classmate as she would the President. She is full of hope and fails to understand cruelty of words and actions. She is an dog whisperer. Her spirit reaches out to all who come within her reach.

Gabby is blind to the color of man and prejudice. She wears her heart on her sleeve, because she feels so deeply and loves so strongly. Kindness is another name for her.

Today I celebrate my beautiful granddaughter who makes me laugh and who sometimes warms my heart to tears. My granddaughter is another year older and our lives another year richer.

Today she is 10.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Focus

My apologies for not writing every day. Weekends are always down time. Now I'm extending some of that time due to the work I am doing on the book Neff Road. I will try to write at least three times a week. I appreciate the time you take to visit my blog and love your comments. Hopefully, the book will be in final editing before the end of the year.

Thank you for visiting a grandparent on A Grandparent's Voice. I look forward to more conversations with you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Scrooge

X   Plastic table cloth
X   Pumpkins
X   Carving tools
X   Candles
X   Cookie Sheet

Let the carving begin!

Today two pumpkins sit on the stoop. Been a lot of years of pumpkins sitting out front of the house. Each generation has their own memories. My pumpkin carving days began with my children.

I have to admit that I really don't like to carve pumpkins. I detest putting my hand into the gooey mess. However, carving has improved with time. Tools are designed for easier carving. Patterns are available, so designs can be more intricately created by even a child.

We've roasted pumpkin seeds for years. Anticipation is always great when we take them out of the oven. A day or so later, they sit unnoticed. I guess I sound a bit of a Halloween Scrooge.

"Don't you love that smell," Gabby yelled to me.

"What smell?" I asked.

"Pumpkin, Grammy!"

"Sure," I answer as I stood at the sink washing pumpkin seeds separating pulp from seed. The Scrooge of the Orange Globe has retired for another  year. Two more pumpkins have met their fate.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Northwest Perfection

Hoda and Kathy Lee in Seattle this morning: Seattle ranked 6th in worse dressed city in America. So on the show they go around the city picking out people telling them how lousy they dress.

Does this stuff really sell with the average American? I came from a generation where you dressed the same as everyone else minus your own taste in comfort and style. Yes, I have been the career woman who spent lots of money on clothing and was never caught off guard in case someone decided to drop in. I wore make up every day thinking that I needed to look my best 'every day' for my husband. I didn't know who I was for myself.

I love the Northwest. One thing that strikes most people who move here is the freedom to be who you are dressing comfortably and enjoying a beautiful life surrounded by nature and other people who are content to be just who they are. I love that the is no pretense and that everyone accepts everyone else.

Obviously, when it is suggested that someone needs a makeover, it suggests that they could be better. A young woman this morning, typical of most of us out here, had on a fleece vest, t-shirt, jeans and old comfy shoes. After the makeover, she had on a cute little outfit and new hairstyle.

"Do you get more attention now?" the girl was asked. And, yes, she did. My thoughts: If I get attention, I want it to be for who I am, not what I do to make myself different.

How many of the people getting makeovers can afford to keep up with the new look? Hair color costs a good bit of money over time. Clothes are not cheap. A wardrobe is for those who can afford it. Why do I need to look different? Why am I not great just the way I am? What kind of message do we send to young women who watch these shows?

I'm tired of those who have money telling those of us who don't have as much that we need to improve. Quite frankly, I don't want to spend an hour in the bathroom getting 'pretty'. I don't want to spend money I don't have on clothing I will only wear once in awhile. I don't want to be something I really am not. I want to be accepted just the way I am.

I'm tired of makeovers. I'm tired of the average person being criticized on national TV. I'm not sure why someone feels they have the right to pick apart someone else. We live in the Northwest. We live a casual life. Many of our executives wear casual clothing to work. Some offices allow people to bring their dogs to work. We hike around and bike around and comfy shoes are not frowned upon. The main staple in every wardrobe is jeans. We wear vests over shirts because our weather is fairly mild. Nature is preserved here. Homes are built considering the same. We are as natural as our NW environment, and we like it. Maybe those who think we can be better should try our lifestyle.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mother and Son Reunion

The fall day was warm in Wisconsin. My husband was mowing the lawn. My daughter, age two, was next door with a neighbor. Her husband was following me around the house timing contractions. It was the day my son would be born.

After his birth my son was quickly taken to the warmer. His parents were only given a look at their new family member. We went back to the room and waited and waited and waited. The evening meal came, and I waited some more. Each time the nurse came into the room I asked for my baby I'd yet to touch. I was told he was fine and sleeping. Maybe I would get him later. I stayed awake all night waiting to meet my son. He wasn't brought to me until morning.

Times have changed. Dad's were just beginning to be allowed into the delivery room. Birth without meds was new. Heck, paper diapers were new!

I don't know what it was that held up this first visit with my son. My first born came to me not long after her birth. I'm thinking perhaps the nurses all fell in love with this baby and didn't want to part with him.

Time has gone quickly....those thirty-seven years. We mothers never forget those moments when our children are born. When they are first placed in our arms. We check out every bit of this child who had shared our bodies those nine months. I remember looking at him thinking, "So this is you." We find new parts of ourselves in the new life. A new love takes hold and doesn't let go.

In a hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin, a mother and son reunion began. Happy Birthday, James.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On a Park Bench



"Grammy, why do friends change?"

" I don't know, Honey. Some just do."

"Is it me?"

"No. It's not you. Kids change friends quite a lot. So do adults."

"Have your friends changed."

"Yes. Sometimes they change. Sometimes we change. Some times things change. It's all normal."

"I don't like it."

"Me neither."



"I love you."

The sunshine is warm as a grandma and granddaughter sit on the park bench. I smile,  "I love you, too."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back Against the Wall

Hold your chin up
Stand up straight and tall
Feet together, Girl
Back against the wall.

Looking at the sidewalk
Same as day before
Hoping for a meal
They ask for little more.

Bringing home a check
Never is enough
Providing for a family
Sure is gettin' tough.

Every day a battle
No employment call
Look into the mirror
Stand up straight and tall.

Applications sent
Rejection comes the same
So many of us out there
Who hate this sorry game.

Hold your chin up high
Show no fear at all
Don't let anyone know
That your back's against the wall.

For all of us seniors, non-seniors and families who understand, my heart goes out to you. I share your fears. I pray for an answer. I pray for a call. I pray that soon we will not have our backs against the wall.

Monday, October 17, 2011

House of Leaves

The color of fall. Slowly it creeps into Oregon. The leaves still cling to the trees and refuse to change color.

In Wisconsin, the trees changed quickly as did the weather. Leaves fell and snow was not too far behind. Bundled in warm coats, my children played in the leaves tossing them to the air just as I had as a child. Tossing them to the air without a care in the world.

In Ohio, Dad raked leaves into little rows making a leave house for me to play in until he was finished raking. A wise man knew who his daughter would get in his way if he didn't create a distraction. I played in the rooms jumping over the leaf walls. Dad's listened to my chatter and carried on a constant conversation with me.

What is it about leaves that make us want to walk, to jump into them? Is it the smell of fall? Is it the crunch they make when we moosh them beneath our feet? Is the the crispness in the air that says a new season is coming? Whatever it is, I love it.

I wonder if our kids and grandkids know that we still have that child residing inside of us who remembers crunching crisp leaves in our hands and rolling in the leaves. We still have that urge to scatter leaves carefully raked. We still have the same feelings we had a a child and always will. The oneness that is us when we are born does not go away. We still dream of adventure and retain the silliness that makes us good playmates for our grandkids.

I want to play in the leaves tossing them into the air. I want to feel the crisp clean air nip at my cheeks. I want once more to play in a house of leaves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gentle Gesture

My granddaughters got their flu shots today. I sat in the waiting room waiting until the ordeal was over. Time spent in waiting rooms is fascinating. I've never been too bothered by it. This adventure in observation, in humanity, causes the book in front of me to sit there unread.

Two men about my age sat across from me. The wife of one of the men came out from the office and walked over to them. Her husband reached over putting his hand on his old friends shoulder letting it rest there. "I found an old banker," he informed her. An old friend. It was obvious from this gentle gesture.

I remember my dad reaching out patting a male friend on the back. Men who were not demonstrative to other men, those men of an older generation, even old farmers had their ways of showing affection, companionship. I sat smiling at these men who had history together.

Time in a waiting room makes for good writing along with a smile or two.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spirits and Spiders

Three boxes find their way into the living room. Well, they didn't really find their way. They were buried treasure hidden under storage containers in the garage. I carried them in one by one with Gabby hot on my heals. The first box contained costumes. Each girl tried on every costume whether it fit or not. Monsters, poodle skirt, Statue of Liberty, bumble bee, kitty all came out of the same box....a history box. Baby costumes were saved. Small and sweet. The poodle skirt had become a mini skirt on Sydney.

The next two boxes were full of decorations from my house and from Stacey's. Pumpkins came to life as candles were lit. Spiders sat on window sills and spider webs covered the front porch.

The girls fought over who would wear what out of the costume box. Stacey and I were to the point that we wanted to pack it all up and take it back to the garage. Then the girls quietened and disappeared with the orange and black streamers. Soon the house was transformed into a Halloween haunted house. "Do not enter" signs were posted on the front door. Spiders hung over the upstairs railing. Streamers hang over each bedroom doorway.

The house is cluttered and a bit of chaotic. I run into streams and spiders every time I pass through the hallway. Spiders can come to live here for awhile since they will just blend into the collection already occupying the fake webs hanging from corner to corner. The October adventure has begun and 'spirits' are high.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Confessions: Good for the Heart. Good for a Start.

Quite innocently it began. "I have a confession......". I'm not even sure who started it, but it gained interest, giggles and opened new dialogue.

Stacey and Sydney were busy knitting. Gabby was sitting on the floor playing with Puddles. A silly, simple confession was made, "Once I dropped a cookie and put it back." Sydney joined in with her small confession. I popped in with a confession of when I was little and broke something then hid it. One by one the game progressed. Mommy finally joined in. It was a cleansing game.

"I feel better," said Syd. I agreed. "Can we play some more?"

By then we had pretty much run out of minor infractions and self revelations. But something had happened in this innocent dialogue. We had learned to trust one another with our secrets. We had learned that we all supported one another no matter what cookie was dropped or what toy was broken. A bond was formed and children learned that adults have their faults, too.

I noticed that one of Sydney's friends on Facebook was posting her confessions. I wondered if Sydney had passed on the game. In removing the bits and pieces of guilt, we open ourselves up to allowing more good to seep in.

I have a confession to make. There are days that I don't feel like writing. Sometimes I just take time for myself without guilt. So please don't feel guilty if you take a vacation from my blog. I understand.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Things that go Bump

She hunkered down closer to me. "Do you want us to turn it off," I asked.

"No. I'm not afraid," she answered as the monster on the screen opened his slobbery mouth once more.

What is it about kids that they love scary things.....or so they say. They love haunted houses. They aren't above hiding behind a door and scaring the bejeebers out of me. Yet, when it comes to bedtime, Sydney hates being upstairs alone.

I can relate. I had many a fearful night sleeping alone in the upstairs of our old, creaky house. The dark was full of farm sounds, a barn owl, barking dogs, an occasional squeal from a nocturnal predator attack. Thunder shook the windows and rain pounded on the old tin roof. Floor boards creaked as night settled in. In the winter, the old radiator pipes knocked and burped. A little girl's imagination went wild.

Occasionally, I go upstairs to read when the girls go to bed. I don't want bedtime to be fearful. Still, I need to allow them to work through their fears alone. I want them to be strong. Isn't it that way with all of life. We want to spare our children pain but know that struggle and survival will only make them stronger.

There isn't much I'm afraid of any more. We've had a ghost, so they hold no fear for me. I love to sleep in a pitch black room. Creaks and groans are usually my own. Even noises in the trees behind our home fail to terrorize me.

Underbrush crunched as something passed through the trees. "Mom, quick close the door!" my daughter whispered.

I went to the door. As I closed it, I yelled to Stacey, "I have a gun!"

Stacey snapped back, "You don't have a gun!" Well, so much for scaring the noisy visitor in the backyard.

As to the scary movies? I guess there will be more snuggling during the month of Halloween. Things that go bump in the night.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It All Changes

She dropped down on the stair, turned her head away from me and cried. "It's all changing." I remembered.

My sisters one by one left home they went off to college. I was eleven when my next oldest sister left. They married and were gone one step further away from home. One by one the differences between me and my sisters became more evident. It was a lonely time for this girl on the farm. I longed to have my sisters.

Gabby full of energy was asked one more time to keep the noise level down as she and the dog ran around the sofa, through the kitchen and down the hall. Her older sister was doing homework. Sydney's homework load had almost doubled from a year ago. After the last request, Gabby disappeared upstairs to play.

It's hard to watch our siblings move on. There is a gap in our lives, a hole that can't be filled. The older child gives up playing with toys for makeup and girl friends. The older child has less and less in common with the younger child. I remember my children going through the same thing only in a bit different way. Boy versus girl is different. Still the change comes and there is a time of confusion when the younger child is no longer included in older kid events.

"She doesn't play with me anymore, Grammy," Gabby cried. "Some day she will go to college and leave me."

Choked with tears, I tried to give her comfort. All of the missing I have for my sisters sat heavily on my heart.

"Well, that's a long way off, Honey," I said. "What do say we do lots of fun things now?"

She looked at me and nodded. Growing up is hard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kid Blanket

Cooler weather brings on warm blankets and throws. Once more we are reacquainted with sweaters and jackets. Best of all, kid blankets are back again.

The homework was finished. I sat down on the sofa next to Sydney. Before I knew it her feet were on my lap. After a bit, the feet are replaced by her head. Grammy's foot rubs and face tickles seem to be back in season. Soon I hear Gabby bopping down the stairs.

"Grammy, can you sit in the middle?" she asks.

As soon as I am situated, her sweet head is on my lap. Sydney, who is now too tall to lie down on one cushion, leans against me. Her head on my shoulder. The dog runs around looking for a space as well.

The kid blanket goes away during the warm months. Too hot to cuddle. Too much to do inside the house and out. The kid blanket goes into storage. It's not that I didn't notice the change during the summer. I missed having the girls cuddle up snuggling in for Grammy time and warmth.

"I love you, Honey," I said to my almost teenage granddaughter.

"I love you, too.

Some day the kid blankets will be in storage only revealed in an occasional hug or kiss. Mom teasingly wanted my then college son to sit on her lap. I now appreciate what my mother must have felt in that one loving act of her grandson. For one last time, she held him. The kid blanket had peaked out once more.

Kid blankets. They are the best.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the Audience

Children grow older, and we sit in the audience. Quietly, we watch. Silently we sit on the sidelines as our children perform this thing called life.

Last night I sat in the audience watching my son's show in the second step moving it on to a major production. The readers, the actors, played out the script my son has written. I sat nervously watching in a crowd of other audience members. I was struck with watching a scene unfold on stage as I was watching a scene unfold in my son's life. I am an audience member.

The active part of our involvement in our children's lives changes constantly most notably when they become adults. We become an audience member. I sat in that audience revisited by butterflies that have sat with me through auditions, school programs, plays and almost every phase of this life with children. A first speech, a first recital, a first dance, a first date, graduation, marriage, all of it. We try to let go and seem to do a pretty good job most of the time, but those darn butterflies never completely rest.

The story played out on the stage and backstage in the life of my son. I sat in the audience trying to be objective. I sat listening for comments, responses. I told the butterflies that it was no longer my duty...they just laughed at me.

We sit in the audience as our children move forward in their lives contributing here and there. Silently, we watch their lives unfold, and we pray.