Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Door Opens

The door opens to the store. I send the customers off to find different cards: Sympathy, Birthday, Get Well, get the point. With each door opening, a story enters. With each card, a story is told. Most days are filled with laughter and good feelings. Some days catch me off guard.

The man came to the counter with his card. He didn't say much. I know how to read the signs. I just took the card and rang it up. He began sorting through the glass rocks next to the register. Each has only one word on it. Joy. Hope. Love. A word for a feeling.

"I think I need one of these," he said. He then looked through the coins in the angle display, handing both to me.

"It sounds like you're not at a good place right now," I said tentatively.

"No.......". He went on to tell me that he and his wife had just lost their twin babies who were conjoined at the heart and stomach. Two babies clinging to one another and clinging to life. Neither could be saved. Their first child had been a miscarriage. I had no words to offer. I wanted to take him in my arms and hug him. But I guess that's not in the sales associate handbook.

I let him talk. Seems he needed a stranger to hear his words. He gathered his package and walked to the door.

"Thank you," he said.

"I will pray for you," I replied.

The door opens and each time a new story enters.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Stupid Is as Stupid Does


[stoo-pid, styoo] Show IPA adjective, -er, -est, noun
1. lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.
"Grammy, you said a bad word," Gabby informed me.
"I did?"
In her lecture voice, "You said the 'S' word."
Hm. The 'S' word. I guess it is a bad word to say about someone. And....I guess I use the word to comment saying, "Well, that was stupid!"  But in reality this first definition of 'stupid' seems to fit me quite well of late. 
I seem to be doing a lot of things wrong.  It's not for lack of trying. I do it quite easily. I wonder if there is a cure for this? Perhaps the word is more of a personal word for me. I wouldn't dream of calling someone else dull or a little slow in the 'git along'. I wouldn't use the 'S' word on a whim. I know how words can hurt. So why do I use a cutting word on myself?

The older I get the more I seem to forget. I know from talking to other friends that I'm not alone. I walk into a room and forget what I went after. Walk back out and remember. Get side tracked. Walk back in the room and forget again. It's like the room erases my memory as soon as I walk into it. I'm sure it does. 

I remember long ago my sisters and I talking about how scattered Mom was at times. Well, Mom had been scattered all of her life. She was a fun, wacky woman. Her mind was quick. And, like I am finding, her mind could not process all of the eighty some years of data that was stored in her brain in order to remember what she had walked into the room to find. It was part of the aging process.

I find, too, that the 'S' word comes into play when I open my mouth expecting my family to know all that I have learned in my sixty some years when they are not ready to understand yet. We make the journey to find our answers sometimes forgetting that others have just begun their journey. We hold the answers for ourselves, and, I'm learning that I should keep them to myself. Argh! Stupid is as stupid does.

Well, my granddaughter is correct in her assessment of the the 'S' word. She doesn't understand that sometimes we just feel stupid. The good thing is that I can laugh at myself and my mistakes. It has taken those sixty some years to learn that skill. 

So I'll close with this: Perhaps you feel a bit stupid at times, but whatever you do, don't say the 'S' word.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Traveling the World from Home

The place where the world comes together: the counter of Mark's Hallmark. It's true! I absolutely love my job. I get to meet new people every day. I meet people from all over the world, all backgrounds, all occupations. You might think this is about them, but it's not! It's about me.

Yesterday I chatted with a woman from South Africa and another from Australia. A simple "Can I help you?" sometimes turns into a long conversation about life or laughing over something silly. I learn about them; they learn about me. I'm sure that Hallmark benefits from this contact, but I benefit more. I am just a person hanging onto this globe called earth. These people are hanging on with me.

I find more and more that when I buy something one of two things happens. The clerk has a set script that she says in order to show the store's goodwill or there is no interaction at all. Well, opportunities are certainly missed. Not talking about dollar signs. I'm talking about shaping the world we live in.

Most of my life I've wondered how people can be in contact with one another and not want to know more about them. I remember my mother talking of people who 'put on airs'. I was shy when I was a kid and am sure that some thought me to be arrogant because I didn't say much. Well, I got over that. I found that life is fun and wonderful when I look for the good in others and take an interest in them. I found parts of myself that were missing in the communication I discovered with other people. My parents' friends became my own. My relationship with my older relatives changed. I made new friends of casual acquaintances. I found joy in my life with a hope to pass it on to others.

There is an energy in this exchange of interest in one another. I truly believe it is an energy that spreads as we allow ourselves to be part of it. I often write of peace. I try to live my life spreading peace and love. It is not something we are taught. Truly is something we feel. I'm careful in my outreach as we all should be. We do live in a world where danger lurks. Not everyone is to be trusted. Sad, huh?

We are an energy, you and I, that seeks to find more of the same. We are all part of a strength that is stronger than evil, strength that blends all people together as one. It's a journey that is as old as time. A journey that demands to be met.

Sometimes spreading the peace is as simple as a 'hello'. We don't need to travel far to find other countries. They might just live next door.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You are Mine

I grew up knowing I was part of a family. I knew my family tree. My grandparents lived down the road. My aunts and uncles were close by as well. I knew I belonged to the family tree.....but what about family?

My granddaughter ran to my arms. As I hugged her, a feeling of deep love enveloped me. I don't know if it was the love I was giving or the love I was receiving, but I knew that there could be no deeper love than this. She was mine.

When working with teenagers in the theatre department, I was reminded often by them of how they felt alone. They yearned for the attention of their parents. Sure, teenagers seem to want little to do with their parents, but when we did productions at the high school, the kids looked for those two adults to appear. Many had trouble going onto the stage because no one came to see them. No one else mattered as much as seeing those two people, their parents, in the audience.

Over the years I worked with kids at risk. I worked with two young men. I learned a great deal from these two. They were druggies. One boy from an affluent home was just bored being at home all day alone. He risked his love of soccer for his love of drugs. He was bored. No one cared what he did. So he found solace and entertainment in drugs. The other young man was a dealer. When he shared his story with me, it was riddled with comments regarding the lack of caring by his family. He (supposedly) took charge of his own life by dealing and using. Teenagers who seemed not to care, in truth, cared deeply. They want to belong to their parents....parents who care.

My granddaughter hugged me, "I love you, Grammy."

The words I replied did not even touch the surface of the feelings I have for my grandchildren.

"I love you, too," I replied. Perhaps I should have said, "You are mine."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stepping Away

My apologies for not writing. Sometimes the words do not come. Sometimes the heart is heavy and tired.

In the last thirty hours, I have talked to two women who are being verbally battered by their children. I'm surprised how many mothers and grandmothers are treated poorly. It makes me wonder about respect. What have we taught our children about respecting those who are older? What have power have we turned over to them that allows such disrespect?

A mother is has not seen her adult daughter for a very long time. The daughter comes to stay with her mother and is ill. The entire visit she suffers in bed. Her mother cares for her and for the first time in years is able to do what mothers do best in caring for their child. Her daughter returns home sending back a note in which she tears her mother down for the way she keeps her house and the way she lives. A single woman finally finding her own nest is criticized and compared to a mother-in-law. The mother's love is tossed back in her face with cruel words.

A grandparent dies. A piece of furniture is given to one child. The sibling is furious because he wanted the piece. Never had he voiced the desire. He was given an equally wonderful treasure as a reminder of his grandparent. The anger festers and turns the son against his sister. He feels justified in his anger at his parents and find more and more things he despises about them. He is a ticking time bomb waiting to throw daggers at whoever passes too closely.

Where is the respect? What is it that gives a child a right to criticize and and degrade? What went wrong? Did the parents give too much? Too little? Maybe they were lousy parents. Maybe they had their own problems when their children were growing up and didn't give their children what they needed. Or (this is a big 'or') maybe the children were raised with the best that the parents could give. Maybe they tried their hardest to do what was right. Even sometimes under the most difficult of circumstances. Maybe they were trying to overcome things from their pasts.

My friend has a wonderful outlook. She has had her bumps and bruises. "Seems to me like their old enough to get over it. They need to take responsibility for their past and present. I'm done with it. I did the best I could."

True. We do the best we can with what we have come from and come through. We make mistakes and pay for them in ways our children cannot understand. We have spent the years worry over them, trying to make their lives better often sacrificing our own. Perhaps we just need to get old in order to understand that we cannot turn our backs on ourselves, even for our children.

The mother who was criticized has lost a husband this last year, has poor health and is finally climbing back on her feet, finding for the first time in decades a life as a single woman. The other woman has given 100% of herself to her children. She is trying to keep quit feeling responsible and to hand off the responsibility of the past to her child even realizing she might lose him in the end to his own pettiness.

My grandchildren and I often talk about finding the best in everyone. We talk about the damage from gossip. We talk about honesty and kindness. We talk about alternatives to anger. I guess I sometimes wonder if I will be remembered for these things I tried to teach this generation. I wonder if the lessons they learn will come from a kind heart. Or, do children only remember the pain of growing up?

Perhaps in stepping away from the hurts that come from harsh words and actions, we learn to love ourselves a bit more.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Good Day to be Thirteen

The day came and went. It was a day like any other. (Really, are any days like any other???) A girl who was twelve one day is thirteen the next.

"So how do you feel about being thirteen?" I asked.

"I'm scared," she said.

"Why are you scared?" I asked. She wasn't sure why she was scared.

I have had a lot of time to think about it. Maybe teenagers are scared. Perhaps we underestimate their feelings. They watch shows about high school and hear stories. Bullying, popularity, grade average pressure, all of it. Here they are on this earth only thirteen years and faced with an overwhelming amount of knowledge.

Life was simpler when I was young. Even more simple when my parents were young. My kids didn't seem to have the pressures that now fill our airspace. This digital world with social networking has closed in around kids. They have a right to be apprehensive.....I should hope they are apprehensive.

I'm glad that Sydney felt she could express her feelings to me. It helps me to understand what she is going through. Sydney is a sweet, compassionate girl. Her inner beauty is something I hope she keeps with her during these years of teenage highs and lows. Knowing that she came to me with these feelings, gives me hope that she will come to me whenever she needs a listening ear.

I loved working with teenagers years ago. I found them in need of adults with whom they could talk to about anything without judgment or recrimination. They want adult support. They want adults to listen to them. As grandparents, we have an opportunity to be the listener. They don't want solutions yet sometimes they need someone to help them see their options. Grandparents are a vital part of their grandchildren's lives. Don't ever underestimate your worth.

Sydney turned thirteen. I called her at the end of the day, and she didn't seem any different than she did the day before when she was a year younger. So far, so good.

It was a good day to turn thirteen. Happy Birthday, Syd.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kony 2012 - One Voice

Believe it or not. Listen to it or not. Take part or don't. However, Kony 2012 represents much more than taking down a dictator. Or getting publicity. Perhaps, just maybe, it means a new way of thinking.

Children taken away from their parents and forced into prostitution or into guerilla gangs killing  parents, mutilating others. Children turned to the dark side by one insane individual. Hm. Heard that story before. I think there was a war based on one such dictator.

I like to believe that a creative man took his skills in PR and Marketing and turned them into a powerful voice against violence. A voice for a people who are not being heard. Many criticize the group for the money it is taking in. Well, there is a cost involved in peace just as there is in war.

I watched the little video on YouTube. I know there were people kidnapped and killed just as I know there are other atrocities going on in the world, but I am just one person. What the heck can I do???

Last night on our news here in Portland, a young man from Kenya told about his escape from a guerilla camp. He considered himself one of the few lucky ones to get away from his captors. He applauds this effort to free his people. To protect the children. To erase one more tyrant.

Each person must choose their stand against crimes in the world. I cannot preach to you. I can only be responsible for myself. I do have a voice through those who represent me in our government. We are, by the way, a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It seems that perhaps we are also a little responsible for ALL people.

I'd like to think that we can change the world by working together for common goal. Perhaps there will be a generation who will work through peace and unity to create a new world without war. Perhaps the end of one angry world will bring the beginning of one made in peace and love through the very voices we raise.

There is an energy in this world. That energy is each one of us. Feel it? Dig deep. Feel that power that wells within you? That compassion that cares about others' pain? The feeling of anger you feel when a child is ripped from the home and made to kill and whore? Can you feel it? That, my friends, is your power. A power when combined with the power in all of us can change a world for the better.

Kony 2012. Believe in it or not. But, please, believe in yourself as a power in the world, a voice for those who have none, a voice when raised with others makes a difference. "Bless the beast and the children for in this world they have no voice....they have no choice."  

You do.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

After the Screen Darkens

The screen came up. A huge eye glared at me. Should I tremble? Should I close my computer against this single eye? Probably not.

"Hi, Gabby." I said.

"Hi, Grammy."

"Okay, now back up so I can see your pretty face."

She crawled to the end of the bed, the eye retreating along with her. We chit chat a bit about her day at school and her science project. We snuggle in to reading time. Another night of Skype togetherness.

We began this nightly meeting in earnest three weeks ago. We decided to meet just before bedtime enjoying a book together.

"Do you have your book, " I asked again as I do each night. The picture on the front of the book filled the screen much the same as had the eye.

"Well, now that I can see it so well, why don't we read it?"

For the next thirty minutes, we read paragraphs back and forth to one another, she from her book.  Me from mine.

"Wait a minute, Grammy," she she does each time we read. She disappears from the screen, the computer falls back and I'm looking at the ceiling. Conversation filters through from the hallway. Soon the departed figure jumps back into view. The speed at which the ceiling disappears and the girl appears is enough to make one nauseous.

"I'm back," she states the obvious. We read on for another fifteen minutes. It's just about time for it to happen as it does each night.. A yawn breaks her reading, along with a rubbing of the eyes.

"Just a little more then you need to go to sleep, Honey." We get a little more mileage out of her then she is eagerly ready to find her pillow.

"Same time tomorrow night?" I ask.

"Sure Grammy. I love you."

"I love you, too." Our call ends.

A darkened screen and another night of grandma and granddaughter comes to an end.

Little moments linger long after the screen darkens.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

1 girl

1 girl

The text came across my phone while we stood in the middle of Nordstrom Rack. I think I screamed. Yes, I'm pretty sure I did. At least people turned around and looked at me. Yep. I screamed. 

"We have a girl! Not sure what the other one is yet," I told Paulette.

My son and his wife were having the ultra sound to find out what twin lie lurking in the womb. We didn't really care if it was girl and girl or boy and boy. However, a girl and a boy would be nice since these would be their only children. Twins. The reality had not yet taken hold.

I immediately walked to the baby section looking for newborn girl clothing. My mind wasn't really on the baby clothing. It was on the phone. What in the world was taking so long?!?!?!?! I had informed everyone in the store that we had one girl and were waiting for the other. Not many people seemed to care. I could stand it no longer. I called.

"We don't know yet, Mom," James said.

"No, wait. She's going to check now."

His end of the line got very quiet. I was thinking that a crowd should be gathered around me to hear the news but that was all quiet, too.

"Mom, we have a boy!!!!!"

Squeals came over the line as my son hung up. I think I must have yelled. A woman popped her head around the rounder, "I take it you have a boy." (Well, someone cared.)

A boy and a girl. For some reason all at once this was all more real. We would eagerly wait for these children, this future son and daughter. One of each. More grandchildren.

Uncle had text Sydney to tell her. I called Gabby.

"Gabby, we know!" I announced.

She laughed and screamed, "A boy and a girl???? Is it?!?!?"

When I answered, she went crazy. Finally, after what I assume was a happy dance, she came back on the line.

"Grammy," she said. "You know what?"

"What, Honey?"

"I can play play house with one and play legos with the other."

1 girl...1 boy 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What in the World!

She stood on the stage full of self. She thought she was beautiful. I thought she was anorexic. Arms thin as twigs, a face with bones poking at the flesh. Dressed and posed thinking she exudes sex. Instead I saw a woman struggling to stay in the limelight. What in the world are we showing our young people?

This isn't an "I remember when" moment. This is about what we accept, what we support. I watched the Oscars as I always do each year. I love the movies, and I admire actors who know their craft, not those who try to sell themselves on the runway and on the stage. What do those images tell our young people? What in the world does it say about us????

This week I saw "The Artist". It was an incredible piece of work. The acting ...without words....was superb. There was no sex, no foul language (obviously), no violence. A lovely movie, a winner. "Hugo". A delightful movie with a deeply moving story. Again...none of the above. It takes me back to the musicals of another era where men and women, families, were entertained by wonderful stories that are still classics today. We still sing the songs. We still quote the lines. We aren't afraid for our children to watch them.

I'm concerned that many adults have become immune to what is good and pure. Seems to me that sensationalism is replacing simplicity. Anorexia is replacing beauty. Our heroes are stripped of every bit of privacy, and it is shoved in our faces. What in the world is wrong with us, people?!

I applaud those who strive for art in the purest form. I am sick of watching half naked people on the screen at home and in the theatre. I'm tired of foul words and actions pushing the envelope. Reality shows seem to thrive on backstabbing and deceit, fighting and "losers". What in the world is wrong with our society that we accept this??????

Oh, well. I am thrilled to see that winning movies are purely works of art. Perhaps we are learning something? Hm. I hope so.