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.