Friday, December 28, 2012

The Joy Evolution

This morning I went in to check on Emma. The twins are now almost six months old. She was up on her hands and knees screaming at me because I insist she is tired and needs a nap. It is a new beginning.

We have gone through many new beginnings with the twins. From the first signs of recognition to solid foods, each change has been a new journey into a new phase of their lives. I realized that I am still going through phases. Even at my beautifully ripe age of sixty-six, I am evolving, becoming someone different. What goes on inside of me does not have to affect what happens on the outside. In fact, what goes on on my outside truly affects what goes on inside. I call it joy evolution. The more I smile and find the positive in all things, the more my happiness increases. The more my happiness increases, the more I feel beautiful.

My great niece sent an email to me. She called me youthful and high spirited. It gave me pause to think. First of all, I consider myself youthful inside and out. I love high spirited, because I feel the energy inside and love sharing it. Age is just a number. Our lives evolve more each day.

For this approaching new year, I wish you the joy evolution. You have an opportunity to make your life so much richer. It only takes a smile and positive thinking. The joy increases daily.

Happy New Year, my friends. May your blessings many and your joy abounding in 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hope in a Snowflake

The rain hit the windshield a little thicker than normal. I put my nose next to the window for a closer look. Snow! By golly, that is snow mixed with rain!!! The first snow of winter.

The timing was good. My heart was heavy with the events of the day before. I couldn't quite get my usual light spirit on as I prepared to meet customers all morning at the store. But now I had snow. I turned up my radio allowing the Christmas music to wash over me. It was a new day and a day to move forward.

I am not going to write about the tragedy for we all know the information, and we all are changed. I write today about hope. I write about taking pain and creating something positive. I write about love for all people. I write about action.

I live in a very warm pocket of humanity. I always have been surrounded by loving people and a warm home with plenty of food. When I was laid off, I discovered a life I had not imagined where I wasn't sure where I would live or where I would find  money to move forward. I discovered desperation in my life. I am not sorry for these lessons in living. I found a new compassion for those who have so little. I have been humbled by this experience and perhaps made more understanding of others who live in such different places and in lives that are nothing like mine. Those who live as have generations before them trying to just survive day to day with starvation, war, homelessness, violence. These are my people, too. It doesn't matter whether they live in Oregon or in Africa or China or the North Pole. We are all one people whose survival depends on one another.

In my time of despair, I found my writing. I found an outlet that gave me a voice as well as a place for reflection. I had worked with kids at risk and know that they search until they find their gifts. I know that schools cutting programs, teachers and counselors will result in more violence.

It is time for hope. It is time for the peacemakers to do their jobs. It is time for those who seek good to be active. It is time for us all to care about each other. Time to seek the goodness in others. It is time to put away blame and heal as individuals and as nations.

I went to work yesterday with tears in my eyes and determination to make a difference. I worked hard to find the smile in each customer. I wished them a happy holiday by looking directly into their eyes and meaning every word. I touched the arms of those looking for sympathy cards and gave them my warmest regards. I did not just wait on customers. I cared about each and every one. A gentleman came into the store full of grumpiness. He snapped at one of our workers. I waited on him at the register noticing that his hands were purple. I looked into his eyes and told him that I hoped he would feel better soon. His anger abated and his manner changed. It is so simple this love we can give one another. Instead of talking about ourselves, we need to listen and care about those around us. Instead of barreling through our lives, we need to see the people around us. Oh, people, we are hope. We are the answer.

It is a time of good cheer. Good cheer that may not be easy to find, but it is there. Small steps lead to great strides.

A snowflake is one of God's most fragile creations, but look what they can when they stick together...Anon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finding the Spirit

What a mixed bag!!! I go from being pumped now that the holidays are here then crashing to a quick low that takes me a bit to understand. It's all about finding the spirit. Sometimes I think I find the spirit among the spirits.

December is a very difficult time for me. My mother passed on December 14. My daughter and I had our falling out the beginning of last December. We lost a good friend on New Year's Eve. December is a wonderful, horrible time.

"Sometimes I just want to cry," I told my friend.

"You know I feel the same. I just miss everyone,"she replied.

I know we are not alone in this feeling. We all have memories that take us back to a time when family was together celebrating. Many have children and grandchildren living away from them. We raise our children to have wings then sort of wish we could clip them and bring them home once more. Tis the season.

I put energy into this celebrating the holidays. I work hard at keeping the sadness and loss at bay. I work on myself trying to improve on last year's model. Even if I feel the blues coming my way, I'm learning to replace the sad with something new. I have wonderful memories to draw on and beautiful grandchildren to love and adore. The scent of evergreen. Bright packages under the tree. Watching the tree lights and remembering. There is so much good to chase away the sad.

I think the spirits of my family members now gone help me to find the Christmas spirit for it does lie within the human heart and is ours to share maybe even after we are gone and in what we leave behind.

I hope you will all look at my care list and keep these people in your thoughts. For many this is a time of terrible loss and pain. We do indeed share this world with one another. I love the words of No Man is an Island which I learned long ago.

No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man's joy is joy to me
Each man's grief is my own
We need one another
So I will defend
Each man as my brother
Each man as my friend.

Finding the spirit........

Monday, December 3, 2012

We know by what's left behind........

Each night I go to sleep, I look at two pieces of artwork sitting on the wall next to my bed. Pictures painted by their hands. The last school year pictures that I have of them from two years ago sit in the frames with the pictures. A small lamb that my sister sent when the babies were born sits in between the paintings. The drawings my granddaughters left behind remind me of the last day I was with them and the love we have for one another.

My daughter-in-law asked if  I would wash the windows. About 30 inches from the floor all of the glass in the back doors and French doors have dirty smears. Oddly enough, the smears are about the height of Millie's (the Airedale) nose. I look at them and am filled with love for this big lummox of a dog. I'm reminded of my past pets and another big dog named Odie. They are indeed the remnants of loving pets.

Sometimes I come home from babysitting the twins. I come home smelling a bit of baby burp accompanied by a discolored shoulder where one of the two managed to spit up. No matter where I put the burp cloth, the babies seem to miss it. Honestly, I smile every time I take off the offended shirt remembering the feel of a grandchild's head on my shoulder. A grandma's cheek resting on the tiny head of the infant are memories I cherish. I can feel each of my grandchildren's downy heads by just closing my eyes.

I remember how Mom refused to wash the glass of the window in the kitchen hall. Her grandchildren all lived far away. When they came home, they left behind their fingerprints and sometimes a cheek smudge against the kitchen window. She recalled each moment of the visit by the spots on the window glass. She smiled and probably said to my dad, "I sure miss those kids."

I find that I am a little slower in cleaning up after my grandchildren come to visit. I sit for a minute with a smile on my face and savor the time we shared. The little smudges are those tiny toes and fingers I love so much. That little bit of spit up on my shoulder and the sticky spot on my face where a little mouth found my cheek can wait a bit longer to take care of. The game on the table or a few crumbs on a plate remind me of my older grandchildren.

We know by what's left behind........someday they will know, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mama Millie

Fox doesn't look like much. Fox has been gutted of stuffing and torn a bit from nose to tip of tail yet Millie loves Fox. Fox is her favorite toy.

For some time we have noticed that Millie is very concerned when Emma cries....Nolan, not so much. She lets us know if Emma is crying or distressed. She licks both babies, but hovers over Emma sometimes standing over her little body looking into her face.

This week Millie's mama gene really kicked in. She has become the nanny to the twins. I am constantly reminded Nana the dog in Peter Pan. Millie would refuse to wear a cap, but she does watch over her wards. A second blanket was placed on the floor for the second twin to have some wiggle room. At the time both twins were under their play gym. Millie walked over and laid on the second blanket with her head towards the twins. She didn't let down her guard. Then I noticed that she seemed to take over when I left the room. If I left, she laid by the  twins. When I returned, she got up.

 We all know the dedication of our pets. The endless love they give to us even at risk to themselves. Miss Millie is about seventy-five pounds of Airedale. The babies are accustomed to seeing her big head over them as she licks their downy hair. Now they manage to grab a bit of fur when she come close. Yet, Millie doesn't mind. Our pets love us with all the love they can give.

The babies laid on the floor. Millie dug in her toy basket and pulled out Fox. She took Fox over to the babies laying her favorite toy between them, nudged it with her nose then walked away. Millie loves her puppies. I love Millie.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


1.lacking hue and brightness; absorbing light without reflecting any of the rays composing it.
2.characterized by absence of light; enveloped in darkness: a black night.
3.soiled or stained with dirt: That shirt was black within an hour.
4.gloomy; pessimistic; dismal: a black outlook.
The store opened early. I pulled my weary bones out of bed and put on the clothing I had laid out the night before. Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho…. "I'm here!" I said into the phone. "There are people camped on the sidewalk."

My boss was on her way to unlock the door and let me in. There wasn't a sign of anyone on the sidewalk let alone the parking lot. I knew that in other parts of town and in other cities, crowds stormed the doors. Black Friday. Black: lacking hue and brightness.

It doesn't take much to understand that Thanksgiving has been made into a three ring circus. Businesses count on the money from Black Friday to make their goals for the year. Their employees get overtime to compensate for the time away from friends and family, away from a day off with the rest of the country. Hallmark starts Christmas in July. Thanksgiving and Christmas have turned into the power of the almighty dollar.

Yesterday I decided that it is time for a change. Thanksgiving needs to be renamed. Now don't get alarmed. I don't want to call it Black Friday Eve. No, I just want to call it Thanks Day. A day that we all give Thanks. A day of being with those for whom we are thankful. A day of peace and love. Thanks Day.

The next day should be Giving Day. A day we give to others. A day of sharing the love we have, the bounty we have, even the simplicity of a smile that we can give on this one special day, give to someone else. Giving Day.

There is no room in my life for the excess we have come to expect. The greed, the selfishness, the rudeness that is expressed on a Black day. Indeed black does absorb reflection. Two types of reflection. One, being the reflection of the human spirit, of compassion for all. The second is the way the Black absorbs all of the days surrounding it as well as the almighty dollar. How people can change from giving thanks on one day then into a rude pushing mass the next is beyond me.

So, I say to you,  I challenge you. We have another holiday coming up. Please make it one of loving, of caring for every person you meet. Pray for a world of peace and be part of that peace. Paint the blackness that brings out the worst in people with a reflecting light that shines wherever you pass. I'll do my part. Won't you do yours?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It's Puzzling

Thanksgiving on the farm. Out came the card table, a place for the children to sit. Once the meal was over, the eating table was transformed into a puzzle table. Not everyone in the family puzzled. Dad would once in awhile place a few pieces, Mom puttered in the kitchen or crocheted most of the day conversing with the puzzlers. Cousin Betty, my sisters and I would be glued to our seats puzzling over the puzzle. Puzzles are addictive, especially if you are the addictee. (I wonder if that's a word?) Working together to complete a picture was only part of this puzzle ritual. We spent time together. I was much younger than the rest yet was treated as an equal. I joined in adult conversations or just listened learning what it was to be an adult. I grew up on puzzles.

Now we know that our memory improves with this putting together of puzzles. Not 'puzzling' considering the fact that you sit for hours determined to locate a piece of puzzle either by shape or by color. We are not deterred, refusing to surrender to 1000 pieces of challenge. I have no idea if my memory is better, since I don't have any idea what it would be like if I didn't do puzzles. Hm. Are you still with me? My granddaughter brought with her a puzzle that she had received from her grandpa one Christmas. 1000 pieces of Labrador retrievers standing in a grassy marsh. 1000 pieces of green grass and black dogs. My thought was that she should have taken it to her grandpa to complete since he bought a puzzle that was entirely too difficult for this child. Each time Sydney walked through the door she asked, "How are you doing on the puzzle, Grammy?" Argh! Determined not to back down from this broken up picture, not to allow my granddaughter to think her grandma is a failure, I finished the puzzle marveling at what I had accomplished alone.

Most people are eager for skiing and winter fun when fall comes on. I love to stay inside with a puzzle on the table, justifying the time I sit at that table as a memory building exercise. I recall memories of my cousin Betty and time spent in conversation around a puzzle. Memories that continue to warm my heart. My memory may not be better, but my determination is impressive.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. May your day of food and family be full of laughter. And, if the card table is available, pull out a puzzle and make some great memories. I am thankful for my wonderful readers. God bless you all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Bugs

The Bugs! The BUGS!!!!! I was enraged. What in the world was wrong with my parents???? Didn't they pay any attention to anything that interested me?! Again, I felt that no one really paid attention to me. No one cared enough to catch on to this teenager in 1964. Christmas was marred.

Well, years teach us a lot, don't they? We go through so many stages in this growing up we do starting at birth. We continue to do it all the way through to the end of our lives. We continue to learn by our mistakes or by the mistakes of others that leave a mark on our lives.

My children were in elementary school. I was trying to record our Christmas morning for my parents so they could see their grandchildren who lived on the west coast. My daughter unwrapped her gift from my parents and did what her mother had done back in 1964. Mom had sent a bright red purse full of little toys. Stacey must have been about ten and indignant that her grandma didn't know what she liked. Needless to say, the tape was not sent to Grandma and Grandpa that year.....or any after.

In looking back, I realize now that my sisters, who were eight and ten years older than me, were the focus of my parents when along came a little girl who would be part of a new generation of youth. The mistake my parents made was that of not paying attention to the changes that affected their daughter. A new generation of youth voicing their feelings. A generation changing in ways of dress, music, dreams for their futures. Mom and Dad came from a generation not so different than all the generations before them.

I have been a parent who tried to keep up with "what was happening" in the kids' world. We listened to their music. Their friend hung out at our house. I was involved with my kids....and now with my grandchildren. I had the girls on Tuesday. I knew they were really into New Direction so I tapped the Today Show performance by the group so the girls and I could watch it together. The girls were thrilled. I always take note of the clothing the kids wear. I listen to what they say to know what they like. I work at being involved. Being a senior citizen is no excuse for being out of the loop.

I sat by the tree that Christmas of 1964 and opened the thin package. I wanted so much to have an album of The Beatles. I prayed that the gift I held would be it. I tore the paper away. The Bugs. A group I'd never heard of. Pretty sure no one had. I probably owned the only album they ever sold. Beatles not Bugs!!! Recent research informed me that The Bugs was a garage band that went on to become The Grains of Sand (never heard of them either). The gift that long ago was such a disappointment is probably worth money now! Oh, well. I learned a lesson in listening.

Still waiting for that Beatles album.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Flying Solo

Never know what going to come flying at you from moment to moment. Never know. Out of the blue something comes at you that knocks you right off your feet. It's called life....and death. Transition always follows. Sometimes it needs a boost.

Last night I had a message that my cousin's widow had died suddenly in her sleep. Age 57. A woman who always had a ready laugh. A woman who was raising her grandchildren. Life as her family had known it changed overnight.

We are farmers. Well, I was a farmer. Well, I grew up on a farm...farming. To farmers the land is everything. Often farms are handed down father to son. The land is our history. My mother lived on the same square mile of land all but a short period of her life. When we gave up our farm after my parents died, it was the same as losing another parent. The land had been our lifeline. But for three sisters living in various states, we could not keep the farm. A fact that still hurts.

the original Johnson homestead
 My cousin was trying to reclaim all of the land that had once been the Johnson homestead. It was a passion returning the land to the family once more. When a local farm would sell, he would buy up the land. He decided to form an LLC giving equal portions to his children and to their spouses. His intent was good. Or was it? A few years back, my cousin died leaving the corporation to his child and stepchildren (and their spouses). A well-intended plan ran amok. A divorced and a death of a stepson changed the face of the LLC. Grandchildren stepped up to continue the farm work. Now one more of the original members is gone. This is the second LLC I've seen work against the children who are part of it.

My cousin is at a loss as to what to do now. She feels obligated to keep the LLC going yet she is ready to put it behind her and for once move on with her life the way she wants it. The roots to the soil have been an anchor that controls her life. The guilt of giving up on it borders on painful. It wasn't my business, but I am one of the last of the Johnson family, and she is very dear to me.

"It's time to move on," I told her. "Break up the LLC and live your life."

"Do you think it's okay. I feel like I'm letting Dad down."

Obligation is a very strong word. Often guilt and sadness follow in its wake. Walking away from tradition is not an easy thing. Giving up soil that has the sweat of all of our family within its dark depths is no easy decision. She wants to move on with her life with the new man in her life. She is tired of the stress of the LLC and her obligation to her father. It is a new day and age. She has paid her dues to the past. I gave her permission as the family elder to give up the LLC and move on.

We have no right to burden our children with our wants and desires. In trying to protect his family, my cousin locked them into a situation that has used them as pawns. One could not move without affection the others. We need to give our families their freedom. We are the past starting the day we are born. We should be born with wings to fly. As a parent, it is our responsibility to help those we love. To help them fly solo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Of the people

.......government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abe Lincoln said some very powerful words in the Gettysburg Address. A government of the people. Of the people, not just those who believe what we believe. Of the people, not by those who have the money to sway politicians. Of the people; even those from other countries who come here to be citizens of our nation. The people of the United States have changed since these words were said. Or have they? Seems to me that Mister Lincoln was indeed thinking of a new nation that included those taken from their homes in Africa.
This beautiful government includes all people regardless of race,  religious differences, and beliefs. Each and every one should be heard and protected.

By the people. We should all have a voice. I know it seems that money seems to control much of our government right now. We have a system where our representatives can actually vote for their own raises and job benefits. It is a little more difficult to find our voices when we are often fed hearsay through the media. If we want to have a voice, we need to do our own research and make our voices heard. We are the people.....all of us, including those who cannot make their voices heard.

For the people. For me, this means that I need to think of all people, not just myself and my way of life and beliefs. Everyone has a right to be heard and protected. Everyone should have the same rights that I possess. We don't all need to believe the same thing. I am a Christian, but that means that I follow a Jew. I also follow a man who did not judge and who embraced ALL people regardless of sinner or saint. He loved them all. For the people. Not just my people.

I guess I am feeling relieved that the end of the current election is finally here. I am saddened that more people don't truly take time to investigate what is on the ballot. I am saddened that we allow ourselves to vote party line instead of being educated about the issues and people running. I just ask that all people truly learn the facts for themselves. We have a responsibility to all peoples. We have that responsibility to look at a nation of people as varied as the flowers that cover our earth. We are blessed to be able to embrace what we believe individually and an obligation to allow others the same without malice or judgment.

I appreciate those who have upheld the platform on which our country was built. We have a government that needs to look beyond their own beliefs and protect that of others. It cannot be an easy job, but it is what a democracy is all about. A politician should go into office wanting to hear all of the people he or she works for. We hire our politicians to hear every voice of every color, every belief, of every persuasion.

We are a the people, of the people, for the people.

Thanks, Abe.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Grandparent's Voice

World English Dictionary
voice (vɔɪs)
- n
7. written or spoken expression, as of feeling, opinion, etc 
8. a stated choice, wish, or opinion or the power or right to have an opinion heard and considered

A Grandparent's Voice. I had to grow into my grandparent's voice. In fact, it took me years to figure out how to express that voice that I had been honing for so many years. A voice that sometimes needed to be quiet. A voice that could be heard if presented in the correct way. A voice that needed to be heard in order to preserve my needs and desires. I had to find my own voice.

I was surprised to find that the first dictionary I checked did not have the above descriptions of the noun voice. I was surprised to see it listed as 7 and 8 in the World English Dictionary. Yes, the sound that emits from air passing over our vocal cords is an important voice, but learning about our own voice, a voice that can express and be heard, is equally important in my estimation. 

A friend of mine informed me that her family was talking about what to do with her now that she is alone and sixty-eight. I must say that it caught me off guard that her family would be trying to decide what to do with her when she is an active business woman who seems in control of all of her facilities. Then it dawned on me that even my sisters and I had often talked about what we were going to do with Mom and Dad when the time came. 

I am part of that generation of women who were housewives. My circumstances took me back to the work force when I was forty-six. I had not planned for my senior years. Way back when, the elderly just moved in with a family member or tried to stay in their own home as long as possible. Even with the best of plans, no one knows what lies awaiting at any point in time. When my father passed, my mother stayed on the farm until she died. We were fortunate that they had a community who looked after them since we all lived away in other states. So who takes care of us? How do we keep our children from worrying about us? 

Since my layoffs, I have been at the mercy of my savings from the sale of my house. I had unemployment, but that was far from keeping me afloat. When I still had no job, my house money dwindled. I ended up moving in with my daughter (big mistake). Now I live in the lower level of my friend's home. This is not the life I chose. I am working part time, but still I know that some time my body will not continue to tolerate the hours I work standing on my feet. My voice doesn't seem to count for much at this time. Still, I'm a young sixty-five. I embrace life and live it to the fullest. I am a positive person who does what I can to move forward. I do have a voice in my future without my family making those decisions for me. We can have dialogue.

I know I am not alone. I know that many people are afraid of the future, especially when there seems to be no answers, only more problems. There is no dishonor in asking for help.There is no shame in looking to what agencies are available to help you. There is no reason you can't still help others and perhaps find in helping others, your own way. We are a vital part of our families and communities. We cannot sit back and let decisions be made without at least giving our own opinions. Yes, sometimes health and circumstances take us to places we would rather not be, and we have to be accepting of those situations. Yet we can have conversations that allow us to express our feeling of entering into those changes in our lives.

I have a grandparent's voice. I have a woman's voice. I have a voice the same as every human being should have even if we find that our voice must be expressed in ways that keep us safe. Not everyone lives in a country where their voices can be heard. Not everyone knows they have a voice. Remember that with that voice comes the listening as well.

voice. the right to have an opinion heard and considered

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Ah, this aging thing is a mixture of peace and pain. Today it is the pain that sits in the forefront. Ouch!

Like many others I am suffering from a degenerative disease in my thumb joints. It started a few years ago with often achy pain in my left hand and has progressed to severe pain in my left hand with my right hand chasing closely behind. the deformity in my left thumb becomes more pronounced. Most time I deal well with it. Not so today.

I cannot have the surgery to save my thumbs. Being part of the poor part of this society, I have no means to pay the co-pay for one surgery let alone two. When I hear of women and men getting their bodies updated, I cringe. There are many of us who have to make do and suffer. It would be nice if more money was put into helping those who cannot find their way out of their circumstances. If I lived in England, I could have it all done for free. Oh, I know, I would be paying higher taxes, but I have seen their system at work and am jealous. So I deal with my pain, and, for today, try to keep my chin up.

It is difficult at times to keep up with that mind inside of our heads when our bodies hurt. We try to overlook the pain. so we can play on the floor with little ones and once in awhile chase a baseball. I gave up rolling down hills and doing cartwheels. Just not sure I would survive. Yes, I'm smiling. We grandparents do what we can to keep up. For myself, I want my grandchildren to remember me as an active person. There is plenty of time for sitting and watching when I am older.

Someone brought a card to the counter at the store last week. I have tried to find it since but have drawn the conclusion that it is sold out. The card was for a ninety year old woman. On the front it had a picture of an elderly woman in shorts and cowboy boots going up a slide...the wrong way. All you could see was her backside and determination. What a great card! I loved her individuality and carefree attitude. We should all be so young at heart.....despite our aches and pains.

Okay, so my thumb hurts today. I see what it will become and am saddened to loose that part of me that did needle point and once wrote with a pen. My crooked thumb is like that of my father's. Perhaps I am just carrying a memory in that thumb. Ah, this thing of getting older is a quandary.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gabby is Eleven

She came into my life eleven years ago. I was the first to hold her after her parents. I lifted her from the warming bed and cried. I knew that my deceased mother had kissed her before she entered the world. I knew that she was a blessing.

Gabby is light. She is all love and happiness. She is curious and creative. She is a bouncy ball and star in the sky. And, to top it off, she is one of my very best friends. She listens to me, and I listen to her. More than anything, I learn from her.

Can't isn't a word in Gabby's vocabulary. She is willing to tackle any task. It doesn't occur to her that she can't do something. Indeed she goes forward with energy and laughter. Should someone need help, Gabs is there. She gives her all for those she loves. Her heart is a tender leaf.

Gabby, like her mother and Grams, is a little on the short side. I equate her to Tigger. She  bounces, flips and seems to have wings. Thus, she is in gymnastics and taking her energy to a lovely form of art and body.

Tomorrow my granddaughter is eleven. I knew that first day that I held her that I was given a gift. I know each time I am with her that my life is better because of her.

Happy Birthday, Gabby. I love you very much.

Monday, October 22, 2012

I am a Tool

She joined the sales team at the store. A woman who had not worked for a long time but had extensive experience. Finally I had someone to work with who was over twenty-five. Not that I mind the younger women. They just seem to have a different work ethic. Well, that what I thought when I started at Hallmark.

I got a call from my boss asking if I would come in earlier. Evidently one of the younger women was being moved to a different store. There was unrest and I was needed. I guess I must be the restful, so I entered the friction that hung over the store. One problem stemmed from this new employee telling one of the other employees what she expected to happen when they worked together. It was a 'hm' moment for me. A warning bell went off in my head. I did what I usually do in such circumstances. I listened, I tried to stay neutral. Then I became aware of something that brings me to this page.

Working with teens years ago taught me much. I learned a technique that helped me open doors of communication. I learned not to judge. I learned to listen, even when what I heard was very disturbing. I learned to be quiet and to use intelligence instead of reaction. I learned that I am a tool. I am not the answer. This was true for the kids as risk, this was true for my family, and this is true in my every day life.

Sometimes as we age, we think our way is the only way. We come to our senior years full of opinions and judgement. We are to some degree the worst culprits. "I'm too old to change!" Well, we are not too old to change. We might as well just go to the end of our lives and drop off the earth if we honestly believe that to be true.

I learned with the teens as I have with most of my life that we walk softly into relationships. No one will do things as I do. No one will have the same craziness in their brains that usually follows me each day. I love having fun and want everyone around me to enjoy life as well. That doesn't happen if I step on them.

I was a bit nervous going back into the work arena after so many years of being out of a job. I didn't want to be the old woman. The girls wanted someone young in that position. I did not fit the bill. So I listened. I watched. I learned to care about them and their lives. I asked them for help. I asked for their opinions. We became friends and love working together. I continually learn.

We have a lot to give but cannot give it to those who are not ready to listen. Perhaps in the listening, we will make better relationships. Perhaps putting our opinions aside, we will learn to expand what we already believe and might even change our minds. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can build bridges between people. We can make the world better. We can expand our minds. We can create peace in an atmosphere of pain. Perhaps we can be more.

I am a tool. Not the answer.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Role of the Grandparent

She ran to the car hopped in and kissed me. We both smiled and caught up on the activities of our time apart. Nothing had changed between the granddaughter and her grams. We stopped at the school; Gabby ran out before everyone else in her class landing in my arms. My heart was overflowing. Yes, I finally saw my granddaughters after three months apart.

The girls were full of questions about the new babies. We caught up on school, dance and gymnastics. More questions about the babies. We did homework and played games. We did all the things that we always love to do....the best just being together again.

I tell my little twin grandbabies about their cousins. I hate that my family is torn apart. I cannot heal the differences. I feel for grandparents who are estranged from their grandchildren. I feel for those children who have no grandparents who are involved in their lives. Grandparents have a definite role in the life of a family. We have an opportunity to make a difference in the future not just that of the children but perhaps the world. Learning to love and accepting what it is to be loved affects the rest of our lives. Knowing that we have unconditional love from adults teaches us what that kind of love looks and feels like. Safety in the arms of a grandparent. Freedom to be ourselves with those who do not judge us. Freedom to be in a home away from home where we can be ourselves. All of these are gifts we grandparents can give.

It's not unusual for me to end the day with a backache. I sometimes am so tired that I just roll into bed. That distance from sitting on the floor to standing again sometimes feels impossible. But I refuse to give up. We have such little time to be with our families. We have such little time.

My week has been full of blessing. They come in ages thirteen, ten (almost eleven) and three months. I hope someday they remember bits and pieces of their time with their grams. I hope that my older grandchildren will pass on the things I have taught them to their young cousins, to their children. We are gifts to our families. We need to be a gift that gives to the best of our abilities and creative spirits. This week I had all of my grandchildren. This week I have a smile that does not stop.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'll Get Around to It

Each night I go to sleep, I look at two pieces of artwork sitting on the wall next to my bed. Pictures painted by their hands. The last school year pictures that I have of them from two years ago sit in the frame with the pictures. A small lamb that my sister sent when the babies were born sits in between the paintings. The pictures my granddaughters left behind remind me of the last day I was with them and the love we have for one another.


My daughter-in-law asked if we could wash the windows. About 30 inches from the floor all of the glass in the back doors and French doors have dirty smears. Oddly enough, the smears are about the height of Millie's (the Airedale) nose. I look at them and am filled with love for this big lummox of a dog. I'm reminded of my past pets and another big dog named Odie. They are indeed the remnants of loving pets....of loved pets.

Sometimes I come home from babysitting the twins. With occasional spit up, I come home smelling a bit of baby burp accompanied by a discolored shoulder. No matter where I put the burp cloth, the babies seem to miss it when the time comes. Honestly, I smile every time I take off the offended shirt remembering the feel of my grandchildren's heads on my shoulder. A grandma's cheek resting on the tiny head of the grandbabies are memories I will cherish forever. I can feel each of my grandchildren's downy heads by just closing my eyes.

I remember how Mom refused to dust away tiny fingerprints and smudges on furniture and on windows after a family visit ended. Her children lived far away. Visits home were few and far between. "I'll get around to it," she would say. She loved those reminders of the days of her grandchildren in the house.

Sometimes my chores get set aside when I am asked to spend the day with a grandchild. Sometimes I sit for awhile after they visit and cherish each of those moments with them. A small email from a granddaughter is truly a gift from the gods for me. Those remnants of time spent with our grandchildren are so priceless that none of us could afford to pay for them. And we get them for free. Give me time with my grandchildren. As to the rest of my life....I'll get around to it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Knee Deep

In case you wonder where I am, I'm knee deep in babies and working on days I don't have babies. Will probably be down to once a week until life settles in. Missing my daily talk with you.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pack your bags....

Pack your bags. Where? Into parenthood and grandparenthood. The question is: Can you really pack your bag? I think not. No one can prepare enough for the challenges of being a parent and even a grandparent. Each child is a new journey. Each step with a first child is sometimes difficult and yet amazing. Still, you can't pack everything you need, because it changes each day.

"What worked yesterday doesn't work today!" a comment shared by many parental type adults. So very true.

When we lived in Wisconsin, I was fortunate to have classes given by Visiting Nurses that gave us a bit of insight into what we faced as first time mothers. Of course back then, dads were not included. The nurses in the hospital taught us to bathe our babies and to care for their needs. Still with all of that knowledge, I struggled on my own. I learned by hands-on experience. I don't know how often I stumbled onto some way that made my life as a mom easier and wondered why no one had told me about it. I had no family around. We rarely had a babysitter. When I had two sick babes, I tried my best but often fell apart in the process. It is an exhausting job.

So many grandparents say, "Well, at least we can leave them at the end of the day."  That is not always true. Being a grandparent doesn't always come naturally. For many of us, it didn't mean we left at the end of the day. I do not have access to my granddaughters now. My daughter will do anything she can to justify keeping them away. Being a grandparent away from my granddaughters cuts me right to the heart. I sit with my grandbabies wanting my granddaughters to play with these darling babies. But it cannot be. I am learning to be a grandparent without my grandchildren. It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

Recently, a new grandmother confided in me that it is taking her awhile to get 'back in the saddle' again. Being away from babies for twenty plus years just might make a grandparent tentative at first. I had two beautiful little girls teach me how to be a decent grandma for these twins. It has been a long journey. My bag is packed pretty full by now.

We can't pack that bag of tricks that makes us instant parents and grandparents. Each child is different and at each age, we, too, are different. I won't be packing any more baby bags. This is the end of my grandchildren. I embrace every minute of watching them grow. I embrace watching my son become a father.

The moments fly. Pack your bag.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Sea of White and Grey

The audience was a packed crowd. I sat about three-fourths of the way up looking down over layers of seats below me. It was a sea of white and grey. The theatre people refer to it as an audience of grey hairs, i.e., elderly. The topic became a conversation between me and myself. We both seemed to come to the same conclusions.

Seniors get a discount. Also, many have the financial wherewithal as well as time to attend plays and concerts. There is one other piece. I believe that we just might get a bit more out of plays than what we did at a younger age. I know that I, as one grey/white hair, take in much more than I did when I was younger. I'm much more aware of the acting as well as the staging. Many plays are old and have been staged again and again. I love to see what the director does with an older piece. I enjoy the stage much more than a television screen or a movie. (However, I cannot wait for the Hobbit and Les Miserables out this Christmas.)  An orchestra, a brilliant painting, oh, how I apprecite them more.

In noticing the grey and white heads of hair, I am also aware of the lack of other colors. They are interspersed but definitely in the minority. There is also a lack of older children missing at those shows that are appropriate yet more adult than childrens' theatre. Thank God for the adults who do take the children to museums, plays, art exhibits and concerts. I for one, if I could, would take my grandchildren to all of the aforementioned as much as possible. The gifts I give my grandchildren come back to me twofold.

A sea of white and grey.....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Heart the Mediator

Frantically, she talked on the phone. I stood at the baby clothes' sale rack and couldn't ignore her sobs. In my head I had this conversation.

"Should I ask if I can help?"
"Better stay out of it."
"But she is so sad. Her cry is heartbreaking."
"Look at her! She is doesn't look so good!"
"Well, you don't know anything. I'm going to talk to her."

Well, I don't know if both sides of your brain often argue, but mine do it quite often. The mediator is usually my heart. The woman got off of her phone and started to walk past me.

"Are you okay?" I asked. Well, that certainly brought on dialogue as well as tears.

"I just got out of drug rehab today. I'm clean. I went home to see my kitty. My neighbor is watching her. She didn't take care of her. My sweet kitty was only skin pulled over bones. I just took her to the vet. My kitty is my life," she sobbed as the words poured out.

My work with kids at risk kicked in. "I'm so proud of you for making it through rehab. Good for you."

I went on to ask if her cat could be saved. She didn't think so. I tried to explain that maybe if they did actually put her kitty to sleep, she could get a kitten to start her new life over. I tried not to lose sight of the success this poor woman had with her struggle with drugs.
My farm kitties

"It's my fault. If I didn't go to rehab, my kitty would be okay."

"You are not responsible for this terrible thing your neighbor did. You did nothing but love your kitty. You owe it to your kitty to stay clean."

Her phone rang. She thanked me, and I walked away with one last word, "Please stay clean."

Walk away. How often do we walk away? I know that talking to strangers is a big 'no-no', yet I can not turn away from someone in pain. I never have and never will. I don't know if I helped this woman, but she was being tested in the worse way. Raw from rehab she was trying to make sense of this tragedy. I know that sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger. I don't claim to have answers; experience has taught me that I cannot be the answer, but I can be of support.

I'm adding this woman to my Care List in the right column. This woman along with others who decide to fight against addiction need all the support they can get....even from those they don't know.

She stood sobbing. I could not walk away.

Friday, September 14, 2012

They Belong to Their Parents

They are not ours. Oh, they belong to our family tree now, and they are our grandchildren; however, they are not ours. They belong to their parents.

I find my relationship different this time around with the new babies. Not bad. Just different. With my daughter who was younger when she had her children, I was quite involved in how to raise babies. It was like getting back in the saddle again and learning to feel at ease once more. My daughter and I had a closeness over those babies that was very special. Maybe it is that process of watching your own child go through the process of pregnancy. Her pregnancy was difficult. We spent much time together at the hospital and doctor's office. Knowing my daughter was going through birth was a very tense time. She was my baby.

With a daughter-in-law and her family, it is a time of trying to feel my way into my place in all of this. Often I feel like an intruder. I feel much closer to my daughter-in-law with a relationship that grows with each passing day. Yet so often I feel on the outside. It is my problem. Not theirs. I am missing my granddaughters and their relationship with their cousins they have only seen once. I am missing my family.

In all of this, I ask myself what I really feel about the situation. I love my son dearly. He has been one of my best friends. I struggle watching him struggle with crying babies and the times he feels helpless. He was a colicky baby, so I do understand. Yet with older parents I find that my place is different than that with my daughter who had babies in her 20's.

Things I adhere to:

1.    My son and his wife are in charge of the babies.
2.   Their way of raising a child might be different from mine, but I have a responsibility to follow their lead.
3.    I am there to help them. Not to take over.
4.    I should not shoulder all of the responsibility of the house, because it is again their responsibility and their home. Life will be normal one day.
5.    James is the father and Lisa the mother. I am there to encourage them with their children and not take over the children.
6.    The children have a routine. I need to do all I can to support that routine.
7.    I need to follow the rules and not play the grandma card when I watch the babies.
8.    I am a parent of a parent. My son needs me to support him in learning about his children. He and Lisa are the doers. I'm on the sidelines waiting for the team to need me. If babies cry.....parents are on the first line of defense.
9.    I need to keep my mouth shut if I get frustrated and to be the peacemaker not the problem solver.
10.  I need to leave me outside the door when I visit and find joy in watching them become parents.

It is different scenario this time. I love Lisa and James and watching them grow into the role of parent. I think maybe I understand the grandma sitting in her rocker watching the family. I think perhaps she sits watching as the family she started grows into a family of their own. Perhaps that is really what grandparenting is all about. We pick up where needed, especially those raising their grandchildren. We are the Red Cross of parenthood. We do what is necessary to keep our family protected. We also step aside when the young family is learning. We hand over the present and the future to these young parents having done our job with our own families. Now we get to hold babies and give our grandchildren all that we can to help them grow into loving, caring adults.

Isn't it nice that we are never too old to change and to learn. I celebrate you grandparents who are learning along with your children. Good for you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Stand With You

I know there are many grandparents raising their grandchildren and those who cannot see their grandchildren because of family estrangement. Your notes do not go unnoticed. And....I am one of you.

The fragility of childhood. Children who have no voice are placed in situations which they do not understand. Situations that we often don't understand. I sometimes ask myself what I did wrong. I answer, "I did the best I could." So why do the children suffer from loss of parents and all too often loss of grandparents? What fuels such actions that our children either walk away from their responsibilities or use their children to hurt their others? Each child walks his or her own path. "I did the best I could."

There is something that happens when we get 'older'. At least I have learned that other women and men have grown into this golden age much the same. We learn that hate and anger do nothing but destroy. We learn from the loss of loved ones what it is to cherish those we love. As grandparents, we know that we can still teach our grandchildren what love and respect look like. We can teach them our history and show them ways of peace and understanding. We learn to forgive, and we learn to be patient. We bear the anger or separation of our children as well as we can despite the deep hurt we feel. We revels in the happy times.

"Some day the girls will understand," my friend tells me. "They will always know that you are a loving person who would never use them or hurt them. They will make the decision to see you."

In the meantime, I miss them terribly.

I don't understand people walking away from their kids or using them to punish someone else. I don't understand bitterness that people cling to instead of finding help and hope in their lives. I don't understand any parent walking away from their child, their family. I know that many of you are hurting. I know that you carry burdens that you thought were long gone but are now revisited. Just know that you are not alone.

The best gift we can give to our grandchildren is a love that doesn't change regardless of everything that is thrown at it. A love that will be there when they know they can come on their own to find it. Yes, there will be a time when our grandchildren know that they can make their own decisions. A time when they learn that not everything in their lives is as it seems. A time they will understand your loving care.

I stand with you, grandparents, in this life we did not expect in our later years. We stay steadfast waiting patiently, doing whatever we can, because it is what we must do. We keep our hearts open wishing only the best for our children, for help for our children. We cherish the grandchildren we love deeply.

I stand with you.....and pray for better world.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic

School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick

Hm. I wonder how many people know all the words to the chorus of "School Day"? Hm. I wonder why I know all of the words. I have a feeling that my mother sang them to us over enough years for us to know them by heart. "School Days". A song full of words that my grandchildren will not understand.The last line of that phrase is well outdated. Of course, "Taught to the tune of an understanding teacher who cannot deliver a spanking" does not rhyme. It was the way of it back in 1907 when Will D. Cobb put the words to the music by Gus Edwards.

There was a time when going to school was a privilege. Children walked miles to get to a little one-room school house. School hours were arranged so farm kids could do their chores at home then go to school. Summer months were necessary for the children to help with crops and summer chores of garden tending, canning, candle and soap making. There was a time when communities cared about having a place of education for even a few children.

Schools now are overcrowded and seem to be more political then concerned about each child's success. Teachers are underpaid and overworked. School is nothing like it used to be. My granddaughter learned quantum math in the fourth grade. My other granddaughter is an Arts, Communication and Music Academy which is part of our school district. I love that instead of one big school, our district offers smaller magnet schools in medical careers, the arts, an environmental school, a language school and a science school. What a fantastic way to educate children! Yet the schools are always struggling for money. That is one thing that has not changed from the days when I was young. Who will fight for the education of children?

I think I miss that one room school house that focused on learning. A school where someone went to get wood for the wood stove and drank from the well. A time when education was a privilege and a community learned the importance of readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic. I love that many high schoolers take some of their classes at the college so they can graduate and already have college credits under their belts. I am willing to fight for the privilege these kids have in their schools. Changes come because parents care. They cared then. They care now.

You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I love you, Joe"
When we were a couple of kids. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brought to our Knees

In case you haven't noticed, I started a Care List found in the column next to the posts. It is a place where concerns and needs are posted for anyone anywhere. In the last week, I have seen a trend that concerns me. Young mothers.

My daughter-in-law was one young mother who was in trouble when she delivered the twins. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia which is most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. It can affect the mother and children the rest of their lives. So why didn't the doctors do more when they saw that Lisa was retaining so much water in her body and not throwing it off? Why weren't they more aggressive in preventing lifelong possible problems for all concerned? Why did they wait until it was full fledged preeclampsia to make their move?

Yesterday my friend told me of another friend whose daughter was rushed back to the hospital after going home with her newborn. She suffered peripartum cardiomyopathy. Her heart was crashing. A new mother with a rare heart condition that had not been diagnosed was fighting for her life. Was she thoroughly checked before she was released? Did they take enough time with a seemingly healthy mom to make sure she was indeed healthy? It is a rare condition and easily missed, I guess. But tell that to the baby.

My friend and I were talking that maybe doctors are afraid to do too much because of the risk of lawsuit. I find more and more that doctors don't really check you out by touching you. They ask a list of investigative questions. Far be it for a doctor to actually diagnose by hands-on. I'm not blaming the doctors. I think I'm blaming the lawyers who are so eager to take cases to court. Watch morning TV and see all the ads for ambulance chasers. I blame those people who decide to make a case where there is none causing hospitals and doctors to pay higher insurance fees and to avoid anything that might turn into a lawsuit.

We have a fairy tale vision of birth. Birth is not a done deal. Mothers and babies are at risk until that child and mother are home and well. A mother gives all for the welfare of her child. Sometimes she truly does risk all. Women often died in childbirth back in the 'olden' days. Even when I was having my babies some forty years ago, women were at risk. I'm wondering if we have become so dependent on a system that we believe to be modernized that we forget the problems that can still take lives and alter the future health of the mother and child. I know there are grandparents caring for their grandchildren because of such circumstances.

Today a care was brought to me for a new mommy who was hit by a semi truck. She is in very critical condition. Another new mom struck down. A child who may never know her mother. My heart goes out to these new mommies who are so excited to begin this journey with their new babies. The fathers who are looking forward to sharing a life with the new mom raising their children. Parents who have their hearts torn out when their child suffers. Parents beginning again in their later years helping to raise babies. Mothers torn from their children.

Perhaps I'm a bit pulled under today by the sadness I feel for these families. I'm feeling helpless. We live in unknowns. We live trusting doctors to care for us. We live trusting that happiness comes with new babies. We feel invincible most of the time. All too often we are brought to our knees. This is the reason I added the Care List. There is a power in the energy we all have within us. Combine this energy, and we can create miracles. We can create a world of the caring heart. Each day on Facebook posts inform me of concerns. I add the names to my list. Each day at work I help people find get well card, encouragement cards, sympathy cards. I add these people to my list. This is a list not just for me. It is for you and your concerns as well. You can email me your concerns, and I will add them to the list.

The power of the caring heart. You and me. A list that brings us to our knees.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Small Steps and Big Leaps

A baby book is full of 'firsts'. My baby book firsts consisted of sitting up, first word, first step, first tooth. For new generations, the books now probably have a section for first password, first text message and first word read on a Kindle. Instead of learning to tell time, the children learn to look at a digital clock. It is a new world where small steps are now leaps that seem to pick up speed as time progresses.

We sat in my small living room apartment. It was July 21, 1969, about six weeks before our wedding date. We sat on the sofa while on the TV on the opposite wall, Neil Armstrong literally touched down on the moon. The moon. This big round thing that had been hanging in the sky since I first was aware of the world around me. It had been unoccupied and unblemished by any human. Yet here we were watching the first footstep imprinted upon the soil of a celestial moon. We were part of that new generation where in 1961 Alan Shepard first went into outer space. In 1962 we watched John Glenn return from orbiting the moon. We had our first astronaut. A small step from that moon hanging in the sky to the leap of a man walking on it, all captured and viewed live in my living room.

I'm not so sure how my parents felt about a man walking on the moon. A universe of mystery was suddenly another piece of land in the sky. Perhaps Dad chuckled trying imagine a farmer with his plow working up the ancient moon soil. Maybe for all of us the moon became something more tangible, a place where perhaps water had once flowed and life began. A giant leap that changed us and our thinking forever. Perhaps the greatest adventure of all.

What great discoveries will greet our grandchildren? What yet will we see in our lives? Most of those who risked their lives as space explorers are now gone. What an honor to have lived in this time of adventure. What thrills we have experienced through this journey in space. Neil Armstrong's small step was indeed a giant leap for man...and womankind.

We sat on the sofa watching a black and white TV screen. A hatch opened, and a man took a step. I think perhaps I should add a section in my old baby book. One that captures the firsts of our times.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Mirror Lies

There is only one mirror that really tells the truth. It is the one in my bathroom. Every morning I look into it and ask "Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who's the short woman who used to be tall?" Well, I really don't talk to my mirror, but you get the point.

It's funny how we don't really see our age as we age. Or at least we are really good at being blind to what the mirror reveals. I never used the mind what the mirror showed me. I was never a beauty but had lived with myself long enough to get used to the face on the opposite side of the back of my head. It was the day I went shopping after spending thirty minutes in the bathroom 'putting on my face'. I passed a mirror in a store, stopped, paused for thought and put myself into reverse. My mirror at home lied. Who was this older woman looking back at me? How dare I leave the house looking like that!!!

Destroying all the mirrors in the kingdom is one solution. Surgery is a second option; however, I like to smile and have worked hard for those laugh lines that appear around my smile. So time to toss vanity aside and get used to this face. I do wonder when my mother discovered herself away from the bathroom mirror. She was always beautiful to me.....always. I don't remember when she got her wrinkles and grey hair. It all just seemed to appear along the way. The only thing I noticed was that she was getting shorter. I seem to be experiencing the same. May need to get a step stool, so I can look into the magical mirror in my bathroom.

I've done a bit of talking to myself about this vanity thing that seems to be the topic commercial ads and magazines. Lasers, tucks, injections. Hm. I'm pretty sure that no one else will embrace me, if I can't embrace myself. Truly I love the pieces of me that I am discovering along the way. It's a bit like going through puberty. I wonder what I will look like when it all falls into place (or maybe out of place). I know I will still have the twinkle in my eye and a big smile on my lips. I will still appreciate the mirror at home that tells me that I'm still 39 and will know that all mirrors away from home lie. I will know that I am the real me.

Perhaps you have experienced the same thing. It can come as a bit of a shock. Were I to see an old friend who has probably aged at the same rate as me, I would know it was still the face that I held dear all these many years. I have tried my age on, considered the options and decided that I just keep getting better. "Mirror, mirror on the wall. I think I like me after all."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Removing the Can't

Movin' with the times. Come on grandparents! Let's move with the times!

"I can't.....". The older I get, the more I hear this word. CAN'T! Hey, with all of the life and work experience we have gathered over the years, we CAN. The old brain still has places unexplored. Come on, be an explorer.

"Grammy, isn't Niall cute?"

"Ah, sure. Uh huh." I reply smiling. "Sure is." (Who the devil is Niall?!) Okay, I refuse to be left behind. I remember with my children listening to their music. I do the same for my grandchildren. So, to the computer I go. Niall from One Direction. Now I'm ready to be one cool Grams. Wait! Do they still say 'cool'? I will not be left behind.

Several of my friends are afraid to use Facebook. I don't think it is the social media they are afraid of but perhaps the use of a computer. Hey! We are the 60's generation. We can do anything!!!! Someone once told me that a computer just contained lots of files. So I taught myself to use the computer as I would a filing cabinet and became creative enough to design media materials doing public relations. I was over 57 when I began. We can do it. Facebook has brought Neff Road to me as well as friends from all over the world. I can share new grandbabies with old friends and YouTube with my grandchildren. The age barriers are lessened by what we learn about one another. Being computer savvy is a case of deciding if you can or can't. Take can't out of your vocabulary, and you are at least ten years younger.

We are lucky to be from our generation. Well, I guess I feel like I'm from all generations since mine began, because they are all added to my generation. I have lived through them all, so I should have picked up a few things along the way. So why just because I'm older should I forget that I have been able to learn and grow along the way? We are what we allow ourselves to be.

Now you might say, "I can't do what I used to do. My memory isn't as good. The brain is willing; the body" I understand. But sometimes in stretching away from our own shells and reaching beyond what we think we are capable of doing, we find new life in our later years. A book with a child, a memory shared, a listening ear, a journey through pictures. Ways to stay active no matter what our age. Sit down with a child and a computer and learn new things. Watch a child light up when showing you all the wonderful things that touch the life of that child.

We can change the way we age. Remember, you still have a lot of brain to explore. Perhaps what you discover will be the best discovery of your life. If I can, you can.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grandma's Point of View

The small body cradled in my arms. Moments ago Nolan was crying. Now comforted in arms that love him he sleeps. I look down into his face and find within me a love that has blossomed and bloomed. It is when I look down upon that sweet face that I find my life beginning all over again.

"Who does she look like?"
"I see a bit of me in her."
"He has my chin."
"Maybe he will have the cleft in his chin that Grandpa, Mom and I have."

We look to see our history in the little faces. A turned up nose. A hairline. Broad hands, and little toes that echo Daddy's. Parts of us passed on again and then again.

It's not so much their appearance that I wonder about as much as it is what we pass on in our personalities, the gifts we have been given. Will she be a painter, a poet, a dancer? Will he be the fourth generation of male singers with a passion for nature? What can we teach from what we have learned? What parts of us are worthy to pass on?

I look down into Nolan's small face and think of all the things I wish to teach him. He is my first grandson. I hope I have given his father the tools he needs to be a good father to this son. I see in Emma the dreams that all little girls embrace. I wonder if she will adore her daddy and be his shadow just as I was with my father. Will she idolize her cousins? Will they get a chance to know her and play with her? Will these cousins all bond for a lifetime?

A small face is cradled in the crook of my arm. The sweet little features are treasures. I want to capture each little smile and coo then tuck them away, so I can remember again and again the sensation of holding a sweet grandchild in the crook of my arm.

It is a view unrivaled by any others. It is a Grandma's view.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Plucking Memories

She plopped the fat chicken into the sink. A naked chicken is disturbing. Most of the feathers were gone, but I had the job of removing what was left. The poor old bird had been in the chicken yard yesterday, now today it would be dinner. Now I had to girl handle the naked chicken.

I love my growing up. How many of my friends today watched a headless chicken dance on the clothesline or got to pluck feathers? How many of them know what it is like to have fresh chicken on the table or to taste potpie made with rich chicken broth? Chicken was one of the staples on our table. It was the way of life. I can't imagine my past without it.

In my parents' growing up, chicken was even more important. Feathers were used to stuff feather beds and pillow. Almost every part of the chicken was used. Pieces that weren't fried were cooked up for the broth. The giblets were treasures. Generations grew up depending on those chicken for eggs, feathers and meat.

The best part of chicken dissection was the egg sac. The little transparent eggs waiting in the sac for their hard shells to develop were tasty morsels. Mom cooked them up in the rich broth. Some no bigger than a pencil eraser. Those little pieces of egg yolk persuaded me that egg yolks are healthy no matter what the doctor says.

I wish there was a way to instill in my grandchildren what it was like to be in my mother's kitchen. Many of us still have old pots and pans that Mom used daily. My daughter has Dad's old popcorn pan. The richness of life was in the richness we savored every day. The old rolling pin that rolled out the dough for pies and noodles. The potato masher that got a workout most every day. It all turned into memories for us. Memories that I can only pass on in words. Memories that usually centered around chickens.

I have not plucked a chicken since my childhood. I still crave those little eggs and laugh remembering the chicken on the clothesline. Perhaps those naked chicken bound us together in that kitchen. We spent much time over the old bird. We spent time with Mom. Sometimes I can sense her essence that followed her through each day. It was a bit of soap and water, a dusting of dough and flour.

I will not gather eggs in the old hen house any more. Brenda and I will not sit on the hill beneath the close line. Yet, I still pluck the chicken I get from the store. The skinny, overpriced bird is lacking in so many ways. It seems that the chicken pluckers at the plant have no idea how to clean a bird. It is at those time I wish I was a vegetarian.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

There is Always Something to Do

The girls were unsure. They had never been to an art museum. What in the heck was Grammy up to now?

A horse sculpture by Deborah Butterfield greeted us. It was just like the horse sculptures at the Portland International Airport. All three girls love horses. It was a good beginning.

The Portland Art Museum is free to children under the age of 17. I, of course, had to pay the senior rate which was not all that cheap, but four for the price of one was well worth a day with my granddaughters and their friend (and my honorary granddaughter) Heather. I had been threatening to take them for a long time. Their enthusiasm was lacking and my feelings about taking them was a little shaky. The girls love to paint and talk about art, so why not take the chance and either bore them or capture them with the many faces of art.

I had only taken one camera. Gabby took it and was off. She captured every item she passed as well as the description, until I informed her that she would run out of space on the camera and might want to do a bit more 'picking and choosing' in the items she captured. Heather was off with her camera exploring along with Gabby. Sydney was cameraless and very content. She wanted to stop at each item and investigate the history as well as the art. She observed and marveled. Each girl had her own path in this journey into art and history.

The girls found beauty created by the hands of artists. They found pieces of history from a past they had only read about. We all had our favorites. The orchid was indeed a favorite that drew us all together. We began in the Asian wing of the library. It was a world foreign to the girls. How did they wear a kimono? What did they cook over a ceramic brazier? We went on to other rooms full of pottery and silver. Then we moved on to the art. We all seemed to like the same artist. Walls full of lovely art much older than all of us put together. A simple landscape was Sydney's favorite.

We went on to another wing of the museum. Native American tools and art filled the rooms. A history the children had read about was now real. We tried to envision the new twins on the cradle board. Incredible bead work looked as new as the day hands put the beads to leather. Every day items that the Native Americans used that were all pieces of lovely art that we were now privileged to view.

Art surrounded us. We learned that we needed to up and all around us or perhaps we would miss something. A wall that was only partially revealed was an expansive artwork if you happened to look up.

On our way to the other wing of the museum, we found a fascinating silver sculpture. A man holding a tall pyramid of men graced the hallway. Behind it was something that only I seemed to appreciate. A few days ago I wrote on Neff Road a comment stating that maybe some day we would see the washer and dryer in a museum. If you look in background of this picture, you will see two shop vacs from the 70's stacked in glass cases. A chuckle for a Grams.

We were time travelers on a journey through art and items created by hand, by cultures long ago and far away. We were surrounded by others interested in experiencing the same. We were together joined in a new adventure. One we will take again and again.

There is always something to do with grandchildren. There are places to be explored and adventures to be had. Through the lens of the camera, beauty was captured. Through the eyes of the child, history was made alive.

"Grammy, look at the thick paint on this picture," Sydney said. Perhaps she will use this technique herself.

Yes, we looked, we explored, we learned, we made memories together. There is always something to do with grandchildren. Things that might open up a new world for you both. It is an honor and an opportunity to be with these children we have in our lives. We are given a chance to open avenues of thought and experience. We are given a chance to bond in new ways with our grandchildren.

Yes, there is always something to do. It may in fact be very beautiful.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Ugly Disease

Estrangement with a child is never easy. Years of feeling guilt for her problems. Years of trying to find solutions. Years of saying, "I'm sorry" and never hearing them echoed back. Yet, I hung in there. It was what I was supposed to do, right? Hm. Maybe not.

Some people thrive on being dramatic. They live in such turmoil inside of themselves that they find it the norm. If there is no crisis, then life feels awkward. I came to realize that many people thrive in such conditions afraid to find help. What are they afraid of? I think perhaps they are afraid that they have no identity without the chaos their lives possess.

I'm a pretty flexible person. This was not always true. The older I have gotten, the more I find pieces of myself to either keep or toss aside. I find I can still grow and learn at any age. I want to grow and learn. I want to be a better person, a happy person, a person who makes a difference. In trying to always be there for my child, I hindered her. I lost myself.

Example of another family:

She came home from college with an illness that confined her to her bed. She could not move from her bed. For years she remained helpless. She could not leave the house. She could not sit at her computer or read. Doctors had no name for her illness, only speculation. A counselor had suggested that she needed therapy. The parents immediately disregarded the information. What is it that makes people hold on to things that are harmful to them? As parents, why do we assist in this slaughter of independence? These parents have given up everything to enable a child who would not step up to the challenge and make her life useful. A child not willing to respect the life of her parents. Children with physical handicaps have done more than this healthy young woman who embraced her condition long ago.

I thought tough love would be an option with my child. Neither unconditional love nor tough love seemed to matter. Whatever I did, it was wrong in her eyes. I have learned though. I have learned to say to her that her happiness is dependent on her, not me. She can move forward in any way she wishes, but I am off that train of self pity. I think perhaps along the way, she forgot to respect me. It took me a long time to get past the pain and to announce that yes, indeed, I do deserve respect.

My daughter may never come around. She loves to punish me and will where it hurts through my granddaughters. Maybe, just maybe, by my strength and love, my granddaughters will learn and be healthy thinking young women. They will understand what it is to be a healthy person. I truly pray it be so.

We take away our children's struggles. We shouldn't. Struggles teach us strength. A family is made up of those wanting the best for one another and to help each other achieve their own goals. A family is made up of those who will help when called and stand aside as needed. A family is not angry words, it is conversation and resolution. A family should be a peaceful unit that learns to function through the difficult times together....and maybe even going to a counselor for help.'s and ugly disease.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

One on One

One on one. No, not basketball. I'm talking grandchildren here. One on one time. It's important.

Sydney was off doing her thing, so I had Gabby twice this week by herself. I treasure these times when it is just a granddaughter and me. There is time for talk and time for focusing just on our time together. I learn more about my grandchild, and, hopefully, she learns a bit more about and from her Grammy. I see the world all new with Gabby. We consider ourselves twins since we enjoy so much of the same things and seem to think the same things quite often. Yep, we are twins fifty-five years apart.

I remember when Gabby was born that I felt that she was an old soul, a spirit from the past full of knowledge and wisdom. She is indeed. She is a bubble of energy who delights in everything she sees. Nothing escapes her. Nothing escapes her camera.

We were at the zoo. She took pictures of all of the animals. Wonderful pictures that filled the lens and brought closer these creatures where the wild things reside. Her patience amazed me as she vied for the perfect shot. She concentrated on her shots, while I concentrated on the photographer. Had she not had my camera, I would have shot pictures of her in action.

Going to the zoo is always full of surprises. Baby elephants playing in a pool. An American Eagle soaring above our heads. A tiger cooling off in his den only visible through the camera's lens and a young girl's eye. She captured a day and memories for both of us.

This one on one time with our children, our grandchildren is a gift. I have cherished each age with the girls. I have enjoyed the relationship that has grown over the years. I know that my girls will always love me and remember. They will judge me by the life I have with them. They will know that even after I am gone, I will watch over them.

One on one. Gabby and Grammy. I love you, Gabby. Thank you for a wonderful day.