Monday, December 19, 2016

The Empty Manger

"So, Emma, do you want to be Mary this year?"
"No, I'm going to be an angel. You know there are three?"
 Nolan is not sure what he wants to be this year. Last year he was a lamb. I think he is contemplating the role of shepherd this year."

A few years ago I wrote a play called The Empty Manger. It was about a young woman who stopped into a church to warm herself. Due to illness, the role of Mary was up for grabs. The minister talked her into sitting by the manger. It was all she had to do. Just sit there.

As she sat there, three people came by to see the babe in the empty manger. A king. A woman. A child. They saw hope, love and peace. An heir, a friend, a master. 'Mary' was confused because she saw nothing in the manger. "I don't think this is the way the story goes," she said.

A light shone upon her face, and she began to cry for she realized that the manger was full of forgiveness, possibilities, love. A Jewish baby born in a barn. The crude manger and the humbleness with which we come to it. He was a dark child unlike her with fair features and blonde hair. It was time for Mary to face her reality. Could she accept this dark child? Could she believe that He  embraces her warts and all? Could she believe with all her heart?

Well, just as she had little choice in playing the part of Mary, she had little control over the depth of love she felt from this empty manger. The minister came back and told her to be ready as the congregation had settled. Confused Mary looked at the minister. What had just happened? She then understood that she had been given a blessing. A step back to a time that was foreign and strange. A step forward in peace and love.

Last year Emma held baby Jesus in the pageant. She pulled the blanket from his face and tucked it around him. She rocked him and saw nothing else but Him. For Emma, the manger was full. For all of us who watched, our hearts were overflowing.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. May you be blessed with peace, love and hope. Please, pass it on.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bearer of heart gifts

My grandniece and her two year old daughter Della were here for a visit. "MeMe, Della can play with Spotty," Nolan said. Spotty. The best stuffed toy ever because he and Daddy picked him out together. The stuffed toy never leaves him. This was quite a big deal.

"I don't want her to play with DogDog," Emma said. I assured her that it was just fine if she wanted to put DogDog up until Della left. The kids played and the evening passed. Emma crawled up on my lap, "MeMe, I asked Della if she wanted to play with DogDog, and she didn't." Generosity. Generosity of the heart, generosity of gifts, generosity in the spirit of giving. No one told the twins to share. No, wait. Their hearts asked them to share.

In their innocence, I saw my selfishness. My selfishness of my time, my ease, my comfort. What do I give?

I was sitting at a pancake house waiting for a table. A couple of young ladies came in and sat next to me. I realized that they were a couple and delighted in getting to know them. These dear young ladies were new to the area and struggling to settle in. It was a time when jobs were impossible to find. We were all in the same boat. I continued on to my table and they to theirs. When the bill came, I found that they had taken care of it. My heart grew 10 times its size.

We are blessings to one another. A gift in our actions. The interaction with everyone we meet is opportunity. Giving time to serve meals or time to visit with shut ins. Buying a toy for a child or books for a hospital. We are creative creatures that can serve in many ways....if we just give up a bit of ourselves.

This is a difficult time of the year for many. People alone. Those feeling the loss of a dear one. People unemployed and those homeless. People who have no family close by. So much pain and sadness seems to happen this season. We each have the ability to make the holidays easier and more comforting for someone out there. An extra plate at the table. A visit with an old friend. A plate of cookies to the fire house or police station. A phone call long overdue. So easy. So very easy.

Generosity is a wonderful word. The quality of being kind and generous. The heart speaking and the hands acting. May you be the bearers of heart gifts this Christmas and the receivers of great joy.

"Honey, there are children who do not receive toys at Christmas," I tried to explain. The 4 year old duo had just scoped out the toys and were making a list and checking it twice. Of course, the little cuties have no idea what poor means. They cannot fathom a child without a toy. As we were walking out of the store,  Nolan looked up at me. "They can have mine."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

God help us all

1. open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values
2. concerned mainly with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience
3. broadly construed or understood; not strictly literal or exact

The young boy was pushed into a hole covered by a grate. Kids stood around him throwing rocks and other debris at him. A sweet boy who never did harm to anyone. Yes, he was different. He was born different. There was no pick and choose. He was gay from the moment he took his first breath. He is one of many who have had to hide themselves away and pretend to have 'normal' lives. A man who was my neighbor and friend. My faith has always told me that we are not to judge. I will stand up for every gay and lesbian person.

The child had two children by her father. She lived in hell and no one cared. The man could do what he wanted. She was a daughter, a mother, a sister......a child. Another girl stood at the top of the stairway.  She was a young woman terrified of her future. She threw herself down the stairs and lost the child. Now her parents would not throw her out of their house. A woman was raped. She bore a child and carried the reminder all of her days. At least until she ended her life. Another child was born. It did not cry. It was deformed beyond recognition. The parents stood watching her die. Suffer the little children to come unto Me. And forbid them not for such is the kingdom of Heaven.

They cried for help. They crawled into their boats and crossed the raging water. They walked for miles seeking freedom. They were our ancestors. They came to a land that was not theirs and took it away from those living here. Those who taught them to forage and hunt. A wall came down in Germany. A wall that took away freedom and independence. A wall. People risk all wanting freedom...American freedom. They knock and the door fail to open.

I grew up a Republican in a very Republican home and community. At a young age, I could not connect what my faith told me with the party of my parents. It was an oxymoron. I felt that the savior I believed in would certainly have been liberal. He fought against a church that did not understand God's love. He accepted all people. All. All colors, all conditions, all nationalities, all of those who were outcasts. Today I see that the outcasts have lost again. I see people  begging for food, shelter, freedom to live the lives they choose. Freedom to just live and raise families. We took our land from the Native Americans and Mexican people. Now we build a wall to separate us more than ever. That is not what my faith tells me. I am ashamed today. I am frightened and angry. I fear for my family. I fear for the world.

My heart is broken by those who voted red. They were so ready to believe the worse without checking facts. They have put my family and my earth at risk. Sometimes people who live in shells refuse to get out if because it is comfortable staying separated. They don't have to make decisions. Well, a decision was made. God help us all.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I voted

I voted thinking of those who do not have the freedom to do so. I voted thankful for the democracy I live in. I voted as a proud woman who is allowed this right to do so because of the struggle, the fight for the right by courageous women who came before. I voted thinking.....

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I am one of you

She reached for the heavy stack of books. The teacher said, "Let me help you with those." He put his arms around her back and pulled her close. The 8th grader suddenly felt the admiration for this teacher turn into fear. She felt nauseous. Wrenching free, she ran from the room trembling, hopped onto her bicycle and rushed home. Her story was never told. Who would believe her? Who would stand by her? She had no words for what happened, because no one ever talked about it. She was me.

 A woman was beaten. Everyone knew it. No one talked about it. No one went to her rescue. She suffered his misuse. When he died, she lived in poverty. She had no means of support. Her children were raised on her love and the kindness of others. She did not ask for the life she got. She expected more. She was a family friend.

The woman saved her pennies. She hid them in the baseboard. Her parents wanted her to marry this man of substance. They wanted to see her well taken care of. He was a hard man. She hated him. She took her pennies and tried to escape. When she missed the train, she returned home to a life she did not want. She was my grandmother.

The child was used again and again by her father. No one came to her rescue. She had a child and was just a child herself. The child was ragged and did not smell very good. Other children stood away and teachers failed to acknowledge and parents failed to act. She was a friend.

She was 18. She left the farm and went to work in a classy office for NCR. She was naïve and a bit scared of the world she had entered. The vice president in the office took notice of her. He flirted with her, always stood too close to her and asked for her address. Something felt wrong. She gave him a bogus phone number and prayed he would leave her alone. I was young but already knew the signs.

She was in middle school when her brother was killed in a car accident. She was a senior in high school when she handed me a note: "I want to die."  I called the girl making her promise not to do harm to herself. The girl confided that she had been abused by the older brother. She had been used and abused. No one knew. She had no words for it. She was torn between the aching pain of loss intermixed with the hate of her abuser. 

There are so many more stories just from my life story. Inappropriate touching, lewd behavior, dirty stories and language that proved that the speaker had no respect for a woman. And, we women laughed it off and hid our disgust maybe we didn't feel we deserved more. I heard it as a child. I hear it as an adult. But now I can say to all of this, IT IS TIME TO STOP! I stand up for all of those children and adult women and men who have been used and abused. It is time for respect in all ways of men and women. It is time!

You are not weak. You can find help sources. You can talk to those you trust. We can stand up and say "no more". I have been a woman who has seen it all. I think perhaps that is what has made me a person who naturally could work with kids at risk. I may not have been there for you, my friends, but I am here for you now. You are all worthy women who are smart, strong and who can make change. I know because I am one of you.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

For adults of all ages

Old. Young. It does not matter. Parent. Single. Still does not matter. Child. Yep, that matters. Cannot deny that we are all children. Some of us have lost our parents. Some are fortunate (even though at time it feels far from fortunate) still having parents with us.

Fall is here. It is a grey, drizzly time of year. More time is spent indoors. Lives get busy with school activities, sports, travel. Parents are busy caring for family. Fall is here.

There is a benefit of living into these older years of our lives. We have an awakening that we never had before, and we sometimes shake ourselves realizing that we should have noticed when we were younger. We learn that there is no money, hobby, sport, career, anything that is more important than those we love. We learn this lesson because of loss. I, for one, will make this confession, a truth that came to light when I sat by my father's deathbed. I held his hand feeling the last moments we would share. I held it so tight, trying to absorb what I could. I left Darke County coming home to Oregon a different person. I came home with a tremendous sense of loss. Loss of parent, of childhood. I was oblivious most of my life to the gifts I had been given.

We all get busy with our lives. Raising children. Making a living. Striving to reach our dreams. It takes time and energy. The regiment of everyday is overwhelming. I know. I have been there. I ran the race. I had the clean home and the neat and tidy children. I was the perfect wife (with all my imperfections). I had no time to think or act. No, wait, I had the time. Anything beyond my own life was an inconvenience. I did not realize that the living should never be an inconvenience.

Please hear my words. The time with those who have raised you, grown up with you (family, neighbors, church family, etc.) is limited. You cannot get any of it back. This is the time of the year that can be very lonely for those who love you. Even the toughest of men and women need loving attention, to be in the thoughts of their loved ones, to feel a loving touch. Those who have lost partners hold on to precious memories. They have an emptiness that greets them every day. Those who are struggling with a partner who is failing are frightened and lonely. We all age. We all experience it. So will you.

We parents/grandparents will not ask for help. It just comes with the 'parent' territory. We take care of and bulk at being cared for. We will struggle and not want to make our struggles your worry. We will protect you at our own expense. It comes with the territory.

A visit does not take long. A trip to the grocery store. A fall bouquet. A batch of cookies. A child to hold. A phone call. An invite to lunch. Anything that says, 'you are not forgotten'. Being included is a lifeline for someone who is alone most of the time.

So will you help me out?  Someday you will be older and experience loss. Someday you might be the only one of your family who still remembers the past. Someday you will be thrilled when someone else cares. Time is ticking. Embrace those you love. There is still time.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jump into the flames

The car burst into flames. Four men dashed from their cars, working in tandem to save the elderly woman trapped inside the burning car. They did not turn away from the flames. They did not run. They stayed. A life was at risk. They did not know the person in the car. They did not know each other. They did not stop to see what color she was or what her religious affiliation happened to be. They did not ask if she could speak English or if she was a legal alien. They did not know if she was rich or poor. They jumped into the flames. They did not ask.

My daughter-in-law Lisa and I walked past the library where a class was doing Tai Chi. "I would love to do that," I said. She laughed at me. I saw nothing funny in my comment. "Pam, your mind runs faster than anyone I know. You would do it for about three minutes, then you would be looking around bored with the class. You probably would start talking to the person next to you and end up sitting in the grass in deep conversation."

She was right. I probably would end up inviting the person to come over for  coffee. Being an observer has its drawbacks. I never stop taking in all the things around me be they alive or not. So when hearing this story about these four heroes, I asked myself a question: Am I a runner or a stayer. I had to ask.

The lost child stood crying in the aisle. No other adult was in sight. I sat on the floor of the big store and softly talked to the child. I was not a threat.The store manager came over and asked if I would stay with the child while he paged the parents. I sat there for a very long time wondering about these people who did not miss this small boy. Eventually, they came plodding down the aisle. When they reached the child who was now sitting in my lap, they said, "Come on" and walked away. The store manager and I just looked at one another. God bless the children. They do not ask.

The woman sat sobbing in her car. A car full of children. We were at the middle school heading for home. She was starting to pull away. I got out of the car, much to the embarrassment of my children, and tapped on her window. "Are you okay?" I asked. She looked at me and sobbed. I put a hand on her shoulder and told her to be careful. She dried her eyes and said she would. As she drove off, I said a prayer. She did not ask.

Little things. Not just the big things, but the little things. Yes, my mother embarrassed us over and over again when she reached out. "Mom, it is none of your business!!!!" we always said. Yes, I dreaded adventures with mom. We never knew what would happen. Mom loved people. She went out of her way to erase pain and sadness. Her arms were ready to comfort and care about another in distress. She took in the world at a moment's notice. I am my mother's child.

We are a world of different circumstances, different languages, different ways of living. Being a white American woman does not make my way the best way. Whether we like it or not, we are a small bit of the entire picture. I cannot judge by what I know. I can only judge myself by what I do not know. Too many of people in this world, in this country, fail to realize that all lives matter. But, they do not ask.

I am blessed by the colors of this world, by the people, by nature, by the very breath I breathe. I take it all in and hope I give back. We do not own this earth. We are not the leaders. We are part of the whole. Would you jump into the flames for a stranger?  I have to ask.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Finding your seniorism

We do not talk about it. In fact, it seems to be a taboo subject. We can look it up online, but it really doe not explain it. We get a notice from AARP, but that is just advertising it. Companies make money off of it. Some even abuse it. Yet we really do not talk about it. What is seniorism all about?

-ism  /ɪzəm/, /ɪzm̩/
Definition: Used to form names of a tendency of behavior, action, state, condition or opinion belonging to a class or group of persons, or the result of a doctrine, ideology or principle or lack thereof.

Seniorism. Of course, it is another of my made up words that seems to fit what I feel. Why not invent words that are non-existent for topics that are of the same? So seniorism comes to mind, because it is something we fail to approach in real terms.

I am tired of commercials that treat seniors as idiots. They try to sell us insurance, prescriptions, anything that might possibly pull in anyone over 60, thinking that we are all ignorant, because we are older. Actors tell us how scared they are of dying and having no insurance. Marketing teams brainstorm on ways to draw in what they consider "the weak-minded" by waving fear and worry in the direction of their focus audience. Pull us in because they feel we are stupid. Well, marketing people, insurance companies, drug manufacturers and all the rest of you, we are not ignorant of your ploys. We are not fooled by your lack of respect for the senior population of this old world. I stand up against you. I am older....and a whole lot smarter.

We do go through changes that no one seems to care about. The memory has a few bumps. The body aches. There are some things we can no long do. For me, I cannot write letters by hand. The arthritis in my hands makes it too painful, so I correspond only by computer. Financially, we might be weaker, a weakness that TV commercials and businesses pray on. The old eyesight is weaker. We lose more friends and family as we age. We think more about our own mortality. So why don't we talk about these things. Why don't we talk about what we have to give and what we really possess inside?

So, I might be older, but truly I am better. I remember those days of wanting to have the perfect family and perfect home. I learned that perfect wasn't really so perfect after all. I remember those days of wanting the perfect hair, the perfect body, the perfect glow of youth. I wasted a lot of my life trying to perfect it. I think seniorism teaches us more than in any other time in our lives. Perhaps it comes when lose our first loved one. Our hearts learn truly about pain and loss and makes us more aware of  passing of time. We learn that we can't go back. We learn that the people in our lives are very precious. Time is precious.

I believe I have found my seniorism and have come to accept it. I can grow, learn. I can adapt with the weaknesses I discover with age. I can embrace what I have with the people in my life in a way I never could have before. I am better then ever, because I know that life does not last forever. So do not put me into a category of uselessness, empty headed, senile, weak category you younger people put those of us into, because I am a strong woman of 69 years who can love, learn, change and embrace a world that needs a lot more understanding care. We are a blessing to those around us, because they benefit from the lessons we have learned and those we are learning. If we fail in that effort to be kind, loving and adapting, then we have truly failed.

There is a responsibility in this seniorism that all will be part of one day. We owe it to our families and friends not to be grumpy and difficult. We owe it to them to see our doctors and to listen to them. We owe it to everyone on the road not to drive if we have been asked to stop driving. We  owe it to our grandchildren to be an examples of kindness, love and peace. We owe it to ourselves to allow our families to care for us and to seek help for us when needed. We must own our seniorism when time finally takes a toll on our health and our ability to care for ourselves. We have had our lives and the freedom to make decisions. If we push and shove our ways into the lives of others because we believe we deserve it, then maybe we are not so deserving. We need to be a plus not a minus.

So today I embrace seniorism. I cheer you all on in your life journey, in making good decisions, in participating in your children's lives, making pleasant memories for everyone in your family. We are blessed to have time to leave a behind a legacy of love.

Monday, August 22, 2016

United in one diversity

United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

Last night I watched the closing of the 2016 Olympic Games. It was one of many days that I sat in front of the TV, watching a cross section of the world population participating together in 'games'. Throughout this Olympics, it seemed to me that the media was catching moments of caring and supporting, of reaching out and embracing.  There was no difference in color. There was no language barrier. There was a unity among the athletes who knew what it is to struggle, to succeed. Who knew what it was to need support. Who knew what it was to win and to fail.

When the refugees came into the stadium that opening night and a universal cry erupted from athlete and the crowd (and those of us at home).  It was cry that said we are in unity. We stand up against hate. We embrace those who are in pain and lost. There was not only a sense of country. There was a sense of world.

There were problems and mistakes in Rio. There was scandal. But that is not the story here. For me, it it a story of the heart. The Today Show took us into the hills and poor community talking about the lives of these people living in extreme poverty. Not a new story. The same is true for many of these places where tourists play and poverty sits on the sidelines looking on. Many of the athletes came from extremely poor areas and many without a home or family. We can celebrate victory but must not forget those who suffer. Everyone needs a nation of support. A nation of people who care.

I thought often of Clayton Murphy coming from the small rural area where I grew up. Immersed in a world he did not know. Standing among seasoned veterans who understood the pull of the excitement of the Games and the lure of this new atmosphere of celebration. I think perhaps that we fail to realize what participating in the games means to those who come from outlying areas. Being caught up in a whirlwind. Being tossed into a sea of humanity....a human sea so different from that they know.

I grew up in a white community. There were no other colors living in our pale community until I was a senior in high school. Part of the reason I left the area where I grew up was to experience the world outside. Having questioned so much in my life, I needed to find my own answers. We moved to Wisconsin where I was an outsider. Not only did you need to be pale, you needed to be a native, born and raised in the frigid state. We moved to Oregon, and I finally found what I had hoped existed. A place where I could truly learn about the world. We came at a time when things were changing here. A state that had been mostly white was changing its colors. I was surrounded by a population of all races, all religious beliefs and a celebration of all people, surrounded by a sea of variety. My granddaughters' friends were black and Hispanic. My son's best college friend was from India. My friends were different shades of lovely. I learned about God from those who knew him differently and by different names. I learned to have a deeper faith and a much clearer understanding of people. I was in that sea of humanity no better, no different.

I thought of Clayton entering that door into that new world. A black hand in white. A language barrier not separating but initiating a new language of kindness. An athlete giving up a chance of a medal not thinking of herself but reaching out to help a fellow runner. A sea of athletes entering an arena not separated by county. They entered in unity. No barriers. No hate. They left with new understanding.The Olympics are over, but new avenues of hope, of acceptance will continue. Hopefully, for us all.

 United in one diversity we are even stronger. - Thomas Bach, IOC President

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I am the light

Today I am posting the same post on both of my blogs. This is for you.

The gulls call overhead as I sit watching the blue Pacific kiss the sandy shores. The immensity of it, the roar, the wind, the smells fill my heart with longing and love. It calls to me from a primitive place that I have yet to discover. It takes me to a place I have no words for and leaves me there with every sense alive.

I was a teenager when I first saw the Atlantic Ocean. I was the only one of the Loxley girls to travel alone with our parents. It was dark by the time were arrived at the ocean's side in Pompano Beach, Florida. Dad took my hand and lead me to the water. I was afraid. The roar sounded like a giant monster coming at us from the unknown. I wanted to leave, but Dad made me stay to listen. I could not comprehend the vastness that I could not see. I could only feel the depths of it in my heart.

We grow and learn. We learn to face fears and to overcome anxiety. We learn to understand monsters in the night. We learn to listen with our hearts. We learn and grow if we are wise.

Dad taught me to love beach combing. Of course, that beach was in Michigan on Lake Hamlin. This is where I discovered what would be my favorite fishing pole washed upon the shore. Driftwood, rocks, a feather or maybe dead fish crossed our path. He taught me to be surprised and awed. He taught me to be curious. In Florida, he showed me a new beach. Shells I had never seen before. Sand that whispered when my feet skimmed the glistening surface. Waves that the giant ocean cast around my feet.

The world is full of rumblings, revenge, guns, hate, most of all fear. A roaring body in the night. A darkness that falls completely. I was taught to look beyond that roar for what is beautiful and am still surprised and awed by what I find. I have learned that looking for good in all allows more good to flow in all directions. Beautiful pearls of hope that wash upon my heart. I would never pick up a weapon or write about hate. It is not my belief and would only feed the darkness that already prevails.

I sit upon the shore. The gulls call to me looking for a scrap of bread. The ocean calls to me asking me to keep it safe and clean. The earth beneath my feet cries for love among all with hate dissipating as each wave retreats. I stand in the night before a roaring ocean and say, "I will not be darkness. I will be a light."

Monday, July 4, 2016

Grandparent baby steps

The little bundle wiggled in my arms. A newborn. Instant Grammyhood. Picking up where I left off when her mother was a baby. Well, not so much. Let's back up here.

I don't know about you, but for me, becoming a caretaker of a new addition to our family was not as easy as falling off a log. It was exactly like falling off a log. Sure I loved holding that new bundle. My heart was overflowing. That immediate overflow that silences the trepidation that waits beneath. (Jaws theme here)

When my first child came into our lives, I was lost. I never babysat. I wasn't even sure I liked little kids! This newcomer was an alien who came to invade our quiet, adult household. Since this little one is impossibly inept at everything, I had to learn the ropes....more times than not, the hard way. She was our test drive. Two rather reasonable adults thrown into chaos and totally oblivious as to this thing called parenting. All of the thrill of having a child dissolved into panic and shock. Random crying, sleeping too soundly, spitting up, poopy diapers! I was sure she was out to get us.

Well, we managed to pull up our bootstraps, courage and survival skills enough to welcome a second child. Both children survived their parents and grew into reasonably normal adults. Adults who foolishly decided to follow in our footsteps.

Since my daughter and husband fell into the childcare oblivion previously experienced by prior generations, everyone looked to the grandma for help. Didn't they know? Didn't they realize that this child brought back those feeling of inadequacy?

Something happens when we become parents and grandparents, its called trial and error. I knew the mistakes I had made with my babies. My children were born to a family who lived away from extended family. We had no one to rely on, to answer our questions, to give us a break. So when this beautiful little girl was born, I understood that I had to suck it up and be a Grammy.

I learned to fake it acting as though I really knew what I was doing. Things had changed since my daughter was born 25 years before. Confidence became the mask I wore. Sitting with a crying mommy, crying baby and frustrated daddy taught me to put on my 'calm' personae. My performance as a seasoned mother and grandmother should have earned me an Oscar. I was fantastic.

Since then, I have gained three more grandchildren. The twins have in themselves brought on another level of experience. It is not easy to be a grandparent. We stand on the outside and watch the drama unfold, trying hard to let the parents make their own mistakes while wanting the best for all. We play until the kids are worn out. We read books with our failing eyesight. We play on the floor with aching knees and backs. We encourage manners to the point that we want to toss Miss Manners out the door. We try to see the world from a child's point of view, always in tune with their needs. We are the shadow in the room. We are the ones depended on to babysit, comfort the sick child, feed the pets, water the plants, the comforting hand and the listening ear. We are the grandparents.

I write with honesty so must make a confession here. Sometimes I don't want to do the things that I am asked to do....or even offer to do. I go home exhausted. Sometimes I agree when I am not so sure that I do agree. Many times I swallow my pride and my words in order to avoid conflict. Sometimes I am hurt and work through it on my own. Often I feel on the outside of my family's lives. I do not believe in self-pity, but I need to allow myself to feel. Sometimes I feel used. Sometimes I feel sad.

Parenting on all levels is a difficult thing. Each phase of our lives presents a new set of rules. Life evolves and changes. If we do not do the same, we lose. In this growing and learning, I have been self taught. I choose positive over negative. I choose to advance rather than retreat. I choose to be active instead of pathetic.

Yes, the journey is hard. And a big YES, the journey is fraught is things like love, hugs, kisses, successes, laughter, sweet moments cherished each and every day of my life.

My days as a Grammy and a MeMe are ever evolving. My days as a parent have changed. The babysteps I took in the beginning have continued with each change in my family dynamic and each change in these people I love. There is no rating of me as either a parent or grandparent. I have done the best I could do. Failures have been followed by successes. Doubts set aside by forgiveness. The loss of older family members has made me view life in a different way. I cannot pass on what I have learned to my children. They must learn for themselves. I cannot make the way easier, but I can be their support.  I know the preciousness of each moment I have with my family and friends.

Life is a lovely journey. A journey of baby steps.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Let there be peace

Let there be peace on earth with every person loving, not judging, not hating.  Let every man, woman and child strive for understanding. Let cruel words dissolve and positive thoughts prevail.  Let there be peace.

Let creativity flow from every person. Let them find joy in the gifts they possess. Let them dwell on ways to build together creating a universal canvas celebrating all humanity. Let us all raise voices full of hope and joy. Let there be beauty.

Let us embrace this earth that provides life. Let us work together to save trees that provide for every living creature. Let us protect and love each creature that wants life as much we do. Let us tend their roots as we must do our own. Let there be action.

Let us embrace our differences, the uniqueness we each possess. For in that embracing we experience the love of God. Let all cruelty, bigotry, bullying, oppression fade into oblivion. Let there be hope.

Let the sun shine on a world where unity and cooperation prevail. Let us all choose love over hate. Acceptance over judgement. Where color, religion, sexual preference, origin and circumstance of birth are accepted by all. Let there be joy.

Dear God, let us be what you created us to be. Let there be love.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lest we forget

Meet Haruka Weiser. Many of you have already seen this beautiful face in the newspaper or on television. Haruka was brutally murdered on the University of Texas campus on April 3.

Sydney, my granddaughter, called to ask if I would go to her tennis match after school. Well, what's a grandma to do. Of course, I would be there. Little did I know at the time what story would unravel.

"Grammy, we just received a message on our phones from the school that someone from our school died in Texas." Sydney and her friend Emily are students at ACMA but play tennis at one of the larger schools. The girls sat huddled with their phones trying to discover the name of the student. Finally..."Grammy, we think it is Haruka. She graduated last year and went to Texas." We didn't know for sure at that time, but the next morning the news would be confirmed.

ACMA (Arts and Communications Magnet Academy) is part of our public school system along with other magnet schools: Health and Sciences, International School, Rachel Carson Environmental Sciences, School of Science and Technology. Sydney started ACMA in the 6th grade. The schools have small student bodies. The teacher/student ratio is fantastic and the kids know one another. All ages working together in their arts and looking to college. A small student body with a like purpose.

Sydney is a Senior next year. Haruka graduated last year. Syd was one of those kids who dreamed to dance like her. Gone too soon. It is hard to know what to say to her. Having worked with kids for twelve years, you would think I had a handle on it but not so. Her hurt was mine as well. I was hurtled back into the past when I was a freshman, I believe. A cheerleader had died. Three of us had gone to the funeral home. Teens mourning teens. Something I will never forget. I knew what Sydney was feeling.

I know there was crime and violence when I was growing up. Some of it was covered up by families. Some was never reported. For women, there was a terrible shame and more than likely she would be blamed. We had silent children in our classrooms that no one asked or wanted to know how they lived. Now we hear about it almost as soon as it happens. As for Sydney and her friend, there was no time to prepare them. A message on the phone.

We become more protective of our kids when things like this happen. I know this will influence many students' college decisions. It affects the amount of freedom we comfortably give our children. It makes the gut tighten when they walk out the door.

So what can we do? We need to be vigilant. We need to be sure that our children know about safety and what to do in an emergency. Wise parents check the to see if any registered child predators live in the area, because registered or not, they are there. Be sure that your children do not pass on their names or where they live to strangers. Warn our teenagers to never walk alone at night. If they leave a destination, make sure they call home to tell you. Be aware of who your children are talking with online and on their phones. Responsibility comes with those devices. We know what is out there. Our children do not. We must be vigilant.

For me, bringing Haruka's story to light is an important step in helping Sydney heal. A gift to the arts was stolen. A daughter was lost. A young woman torn from the hearts of her friends. I pray that along with you, we can do more to save the children. Thank you for listening.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Coloring outside the lines

The envelope said MeMe on the front. "What's this?" I asked the twins. Nolan informed me that it was my mail. "You can look at it," he said. "I will help."

Being a parent or grandparent is full of surprises. I used to feel sorry for those who never had children. Or those who had grown children who did not have children of their own. I was wrong. I was terribly wrong. Opportunity knocks.

Did you notice? There are children everywhere. They lurk in the neighborhoods. They reside with family members. Churches are full of them. They are everywhere. Opportunity. The world is full of it.

We all, each of us, have a chance to make a difference in a child's life. Young parents need help in getting their children from one place to another. Someone to watch the little ones. Someone who cares. Children need to have people around them who can nurture them, care about them. I grew up in such a place. The homes of my family members always welcomed me. My Aunt Welma and Aunt Kate made a difference in that little girl who loved being with them. The church women and men were familiar faces and people who paid attention to each of the kids at Painter Creek. Most of all, the neighbors loved me and never failed to show that love. None of these people were my parents, yet they made an impact on my life. I them with all my heart. I hope to some degree, I impacted theirs as well.

When I worked with teens throughout the 80's, I didn't want to be their parent. I wanted to be a safe place where they could go to talk. Someone who would not judge. A bit friend. A bit parent. A bit counselor. Contrary to what many think, teenagers are the easiest age. They are intelligent, looking for answers, trying their wings. They love to be treated as an equal. So many of them felt alone. They just wanted to be recognized and heard.

You do not need children of your own to receive the blessings that loving a child can bring. They are a gift to the world. We can look for children who need help. Children around the world are hungry, have no family, have no home. Children are abused. The number of foster children is outrageous. Thousands of young girls are lured or stolen into trafficking and a life of pure hell. You need not be a parent to give a parent's love. To stand up for children who have no voice or hope.

Nolan looked on as I opened the envelope. Tiny pieces of paper peppered the table. A scribble from a three year old hand covered each piece. A big piece of pink paper had scribbles from the same hand. Next came a page from a coloring book. Again, the black and white picture was covered with sweet swirls. It occurred to me that we don't need to live within the lines. We don't need to be a parent to make a picture worth saving.

I placed the envelope back where I found it. "I will make you more mail," Nolan said. Oh, sweet boy, I look forward to it.

I dedicate this column to my sister June who taught me to color outside the lines and who brought pure joy into our lives when she adopted Jobi. Thanks, Sis.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Personal lives of other people

gossip: (first definition listed) per Merriam Webster Dictionary
Simple Definition of gossip: information about the behavior and personal lives of other people

Downton Abbey. Name of a PBS program produced by the BBC. A long running series that has taken viewers through the lives of the Grantham family. The narrator of the special took the audience through the halls of Downton Abbey explaining the culture of the family before the advent of television. When visiting was a way to pass the time and gossip the focus of most conversations. News was most often passed from home to home in the same way.

As I watched the documentary, I was awakened to something I already knew but had never given it much thought. Now that it was planted in my fairly active brain, I had to deal with it. Ï explained the show to June and this awakening that had taken place. "Remember when we played the telephone game?" she said. Of course, I remembered. I also remember how the messages were completely changed by the time they made it around the circle of kids whispering one to another. Aha!

Gossip. My mother had a lively imagination and often a simple story turned into a very different version of itself. It was not something the daughters appreciated and often caused problems. Loved her dearly, but life with Mom was an adventure. Learning to tell things accurately and not to judge others came from living in that territory of storytelling.

Our phone was on a party line. Occasionally, someone would pick up the phone at another house and listen in on the conversation of two other people. It was not just a party line. It was a hot line to the neighborhood. A hot line for gossip.

This whole thing got me to thinking about how gossip often appeals to a dark side that we all possess. A part of us who want to see someone get their just rewards. News that justifies what we think of someone else. That chance to say, "You know what I heard?" Yep, that two minutes of fame.

The problem is that gossip is not only shared with others, but picked up on as a norm for children. In working with the school district for 12 years, I saw first hand what gossip can do. The permanent damage it causes. Prejudices brought to school from home.

What is it that causes someone to feel joy in tearing someone else down or that desire to be the center of attention passing on 'the news'? The trend began so long ago that it seems impossible to think that it can end. TV, computers and cell phones certainly made this all easier. We no longer need to pass on the news. And, I find that I can take all negative messages off of my computer or phone if someone posts something unkind. Yes, gossip continues.

You never know when a new story will niggle in your brain. Mine was niggled in Downton Abbey.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

For the children

Give up every preconceived notion. Toss away the old and hang on for a great ride into the new. Why? All for the children.

When I was a child, I was told that the world would be around for thousands of years. I was told that animals did not think like we do. Their behavior was all instinct. I was told that you could not make a living in the arts. I was told that we had endless natural resources. Then I grew up. Then I got older. Then I got smarter.

I think perhaps this awakening began when I had grandchildren. My children are very dear to me, but I was so busy raising them and learning to be a parent that I failed to have time for reflection, let alone change. Yep, I knew as a child that animals did indeed have feelings and thoughts. Proof was in the loving. I figured that maybe Dad would figure that one out on his own one day. He never did. I know my grandkids understand.

Yes, making a living in the arts is not easy, but the rewards of each accomplishment are stunning. Finding an inner voice and expressing it in an art form certainly answers the call that was born in many of us. To deny those gifts is truly taking a gift away from God.

I learned not to think as others do or did, but to find out what was true for me, what my inner nature knew to be true. In this I found it easy to love everyone regardless of faith, beliefs and most of all race. I learned that my life is richer by understanding others and where they come from. I have no right to judge and love that I can celebrate that with kindness.

With open eyes and ears, the discovery of environmental decline hit me right between the eyes. I could choose to be a critic and a hindrance, or I could change the way I lived and be a champion for this old world.

Why? Why be concerned about any of this? Why take action? Who wants to change when it is easier to stay the same? Why should we be open to change? Well, my big answer would be: Because of the children! They deserve our best. They deserve to see us active and involved. They need to know we can be wrong. We can be caring. We can be leaders. We can change.

As a girl I observed and wondered. Somewhere within that child, I sought answers to questions I'd yet to ask. So now as that adult, I watch world news for this, too, is my world family. I recycle and conserve energy as best I can. The earth is calling to us. The people on the earth are calling, too. I share art and nature with my grandchildren and open conversations where I focus on what they have to say. Yep, I even talk to the dog. Life changes. We have our own questions to answer. In doing it for us, we do it for the children.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Round up your sheep

Hearts. They keep the blood pumping and, as the Greek once thought, they keep love alive. Well, over time the shape of the heart resembling our own certainly became a symbol of love. But, the heart cannot love. Love comes from the brain. So why doesn't the shape of the brain show up on Valentine's cards? A thought to ponder.

Obviously, the brain sends out signals to other parts of our body to react to feelings of attraction and emotion. It says, "Wake up! Something new is afoot!" (I am taking liberties with what the brain actually thinks). Maybe if we concentrated on the brain first and the heart second, we would have less break ups and sad endings. But again, who wants little brain cards in their Valentine's box?

Here is something to put into that brain that picks up romantic activity this time of the year. According to USA News, over $19 billion will be spent on Valentine's Day this year. Those between 35 and 44 are will more than likely celebrate the day, while less than half of the people at least 65 will commemorate the occasion. Now we know who is spending the most money. The average person will shell out around $142. Guys on average spend around $190 on loved ones while women spend $96. I personally have never received anything remotely close to $190 worth of goodies and laugh at the thought of spending over half  the average woman will spend. Call me cheap. Or, call me a woman that thinks you should not put a price on love. Again, using that brain.

I liked Valentine's Day best when I was young. The shoe box was decorated with hearts. A slit was cut in the lid. One by one the Valentines were dropped into the box. (I always dug deep to find the one from Dickie Neff first). One Valentine's Day I remember most was back in 1965 when my then boyfriend wrote on the back of each card in a kid's valentine card pack, then hid them for me to find. No flowers. No candy. A little imagination and adventure.

At the end of this holiday, we who work in the card industry will take all of our left over stock (as we do each holiday), negate it out for store credit then toss it into the trash. Thousands of dollars going into landfills. The cards cannot be donated nor can they leave the store before they are destroyed. Card companies are not the only ones to follow this procedure. Again, a dollar sign. Seems that the brain could work better on this one.

I would like to say that we should go back to the roots of Valentine's Day, but in my research, I find that might not be such a grand idea. According to the first story, the Romans invented the day in the 3rd century AD. the pastoral holiday honoring the god Lupercus. Shepherds would take flocks to the pasture on the outskirts of Rome where pack of wolves would surround them in wait for stray sheep to prey on. They believed the Lupercus would protect them.  I found no statistics on how well the wolves dined. While this was going on, girls in Rome put their names in a box and boys drew to find their new girlfriends. They would be a couple for a whole year. Juno was the goddess over this event. Definitely a cheaper way to find a girlfriend.

All in all, I guess it is up to us how we wish to show our love....or protect our sheep....or find a mate. It all comes down to that brain in our heads telling us to love. The God over my event says to love one another. That doesn't cost a dime.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sweet comic Valentine

Frank Sinatra crooned it. Every Valentine's Day the words come around and hang out in my head. I do not know all the words but sing the parts I do know and make up the rest. However, since it is approaching this day of love, I thought perhaps I should get the words straight for once. That is when the chucking began. Ah, this silly thing called love.

Of course, many of us still remember the beginning words of Funny Valentine....'sweet comic valentine who makes me smile with my heart'. Well, then we go downhill. 'Your looks are laughable, unphotographable....'. Now really on a roll it goes on to ask if my figure is less than Greek! Well, unless I am in love with Adonis, I imagine he is much less than Greek. And, how dare he ask if my mouth is a little weak. I could let that mouth tell him a thing or two! Next comes insult to injury: 'When you open it to speak, are you smart?' Well, I guess that is an honest question, because if this guy is the love of my life and I put up with this dialogue, I must not be very smart.

So, what is love. For those of us who have been there (maybe more than once), we know what science has proven. Those beginning attractions and feelings of overwhelming love are brought on by levels of dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine, (good luck pronouncing that) increasing when love comes into being. Dopamine creates that euphoria while adrenaline and norepinephrine give that pitter-patter that hits the heart, bringing with it restlessness and preoccupation that seems to erase all else when love knocks on the door.

It is interesting that in an MRI love lights up the pleasure center of the brain. Blood flow increases. It is the same part of the brain implicated in obsessive-compulsive behavior. Makes sense since love seems to eat up all of our concentration when it walks through the door.

Maybe Frank was right. It is not until we stand back from all those chemical reactions that preoccupy our time that we understand love. For me, I know that love must allow freedom for the other person to be his best, creative self. Not someone to move mountains for me. But someone to climb those mountains with me. Perhaps I am a funny valentine. Love should not ask me to change. It should allow me to soar.

But don't change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is valentines day.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

This is the past

Memories of today. I think by now most of you know that I do not write about the past for the sake of holding on to days gone by. We are living memories now. It is a shame to be so lost in the past that we overlook the present. Today is a time to set good memories into motion.

We love looking back but sometimes forget the struggle. The now 'primitive' tools we used in the 50's and into the 60's may have kept life simple, but they didn't always make life easy. Still we hold on to the memories remembering it as a simpler time. In another few decades, voice command and even mental telepathy will probably be more common. Computers will be obsolete as will cell phones. Already terms like telephone, automobile, stove, slip, nylons, CDs, classified ads, landlines, camera film, yellow pages, catalogs, fax machines, wires, handwritten mail, video stores are fading from use.  As fast as something new arrives, there is something in the works to replace it.

I predict that in the near future cars will no longer need gas (or gasoline, another old term). Cell phones will be replaced by something easier yet. Legg Eggs will be collectibles. Skype has already replaced that letter that takes days to get there. Videos are streamed on computers. And, global warming will demand that we think in new ways. We no longer bury or burn our trash. We drive cars that are good for us and the environment. We become more responsible if not for ourselves then for our grandchildren. For future generations.

We are indeed living the memories. We are setting in motion what our children and grandchildren will remember of us. The times we spend with them are important. The image we give them is just as important. How we live. How we adapt and change with the times. What we do to improve ourselves and the world around us. We are from the past. We are setting up the future. What we hand over in those ways will not be obsolete. This is the past.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mannequin in the window

She stands there. Face painted. Body in fixed position. Her clothing changes with the seasons as does the backdrop. She is placed there to influence the buyer. A glance at her good looks and beautiful clothing draws the patron in and the purse open.

I was a child standing with my parents, looking at the dreams I could not have. Did I dream of having more? Did I want to emulate that skinny, well-dressed woman? Life-sized Barbies influencing us more than we realize. I know my mother wanted more than her cotton dresses that had to last year after year. She had no time for the spa or the gym. She had no time or money for dreams in a storefront window.

We are all in a storefront window. Mannequins that stop for moments in our lives, influencing those around us by what they see. We are formed by our religion, our past, our genes. We are examples for the children whose lives we influence.

As my grandchildren grow, I see the parts of us that they mimic. I hear our words that they copy. Some of them we learn to erase from our vocabulary as well as theirs. For me, I see the parts of me that I need to change in order that my grandchildren will not take those bad traits with them. I find that I can bend and shape this person to be something different, someone better. Sometimes those changes create dialogue with my older granddaughters. Sometimes sharing thoughts teach them to be open and honest about their feelings as well.

Of course, we are not mannequins. We make choices in our lives. We can look in that store window and see what we want to see, admiring it and desiring it. (I have a tendency to see the marketing tool used to make more money for the store.) We can look into our hearts and see what is real and important to pass on to our families. We can be more than images with plastic ideals. Those are the dreams worth passing on.

She stand there. Face painted. Body in fixed position......and no heart.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Old dog and new tricks

Remember how scared and unsure you were when you had your first child? Remember how much easier it was with the second? Well, no one tells you what it will be like when you have your first, second, etc., grandchild. The role changes for the grandparent. What we learned from raising our children is really a moot point when it comes to our children becoming parents. We have an all new learning curve.

Having my older granddaughters as teenagers when the twins were born has probably taught me the most important lessons in this senior career as a grandparent.  My daughter was younger when she had her children. I was involved in helping her. The 'mom' in me seemed to be stronger than the grandma at that point. My son was thirty-six when he and Lisa married. It was a completely different scenario. I had to find my footing and learn an all new way.

The day I say that I am too old to change or learn is the day you might as well send me to my grave. I am perhaps an old dog, but I sure as heck can learn new tricks. I believe these old sayings are a cop-out. We age more quickly when we dig in our heels. For some reason, many people fight to stay just exactly as they are without thought to others or to themselves. If we cannot change and learn new ways, then we have lost our usefulness. Harsh words? Perhaps. But we seem to be living in a world where no one wants to budge. What are we teaching our grandchildren and our children?

The twins brought with them a whole new set of rules. I learned the hard way to keep my thoughts to myself. If I was not asked for an opinion, then I needed to understand that it was selfish to think it was needed. It was not about my son and his wife. It was about my ego, thinking I was the one who knew best. Changing is difficult. First it requires recognition. Next it demands a new mindset. Lastly, it teaches us to grow and adapt to a new way of thinking about our children and, more than that, about ourselves. Standing around with my feelings hurt did not serve any of us well.

I admit that I have a long learning curve. There is so much I do not know. It is mind-boggling that I was so stupid. I found that in supporting my son, I learned about this new generation of parents. I also found that my son asked more and more for my opinion. Doors that could have closed opened. I found that I had handed my children off to their own lives. I had done my job. Now I needed to concern myself with myself.

Amazing what we miss when we close our minds to new ideas. So many become hardened as they age. Why? Is it fear of stepping away from all they know to learn more? Are we afraid of failure to the point that we put up walls? Do we stick our noses in where they are not wanted because our lives are lacking? I have no answers, but I feel sorry for those who cannot change. They fail to learn from their families. They fail to be amazed by the new lessons in life. It must be lonely in that cocoon.

I guess I am becoming an old dog. Yet I feel excited about what I learn from my grandkids. I love the way James and Lisa just drop by. It says a lot about a relationship that continues to grow. We have a choice as we move along life's path. We can move ahead or be left behind.