Monday, December 18, 2017

Turn on Love

The wrapping paper is piled on the floor, waiting for me to get busy. I have not been up long, but upon awakening, my house shouts Christmas on every shelf and all the walls. The tree lights up the room like a ray of sunshine and hope. Then I turn on the TV.

I struggle with my writing today. So many stories were twirling around in my head ready for mind to meet the blank page, for today to reflect yesterdays and tomorrows. Then I turned on the TV.

So what to write with a heavy heart. What can I find in that bag of ideas that last night was so ripe and today so empty. Well, there is much to write. The writing is not about despair. It is not necessarily about hope. No, today it is about embracing, loving, caring beyond what you believe, beyond what you have in your comfort zone, beyond your own home and neighborhood. Yes, I turned on the TV.

Two young people ran from car to car calming the inhabitants. They did not look at the color of the people, the religion of the people, not even if they were rich or poor. They ran to save lives and to offer comfort. For me, Christmas reaffirms my belief that we are more than what we allow ourselves to be. We are indeed light in world of darkness. We are the hands that reach out. Not the hand that stops to question. A baby was born to teach us to love one another. Nothing more. Love one another without judgement, with compassion, looking past ourselves and rushing to embrace all others. We are Love. We are Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Sharaf (Baha'i), Shinto (Japan), Iroquois Midwinter, Shalako Kochina (Zuni), Posadas Navidenas (Mexican), Hopi Holy Cycle. So many faiths sharing a month of celebration and remembrance. Our celebration of Christmas is for a baby not born in December. So many seek separation this time of the year instead of inclusion. Indeed, I turned on the TV.

This time of the year is that of embracing those we love, understanding how precious our time is with them. We need to get out of ourselves as did those young people this morning and run person to person, making sure they know they are loved and cared for regardless of their beliefs, country, status in life. We are those coming to the rescue. We are those who need to put aside prejudice in order that peace can come to this world we live in not just now but always. Christmas is my time of renewing my belief in unity. A belief that is instilled with the birth of a baby who wanted to love all, asking us to do the same.

Yes, I turned on the TV. I saw a train broken, lives broken, a holiday turned to tragedy for so many. I write this morning not to pull you down but to lift you up, to tell you how powerful you are right now.  We are not about our own homes and lives. We are the pieces of a puzzle that is not complete until the last piece is laid in place. We are all the same family regardless of faith, color, rags or riches.

I send this off to the Advocate this morning with love for each and every one of you. You may not know me, but I love you. You may not care, but I love you. You probably don't agree with me, but I love you. This is the season for me of a baby's birth. I know that baby would agree with me. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A season of kindness

Thanksgiving is over. It seems that Christmas trees have already brightened many homes. The shopping frenzy has begun. My friend Jo Anne joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. With tummies full to bursting, we all settled into conversation. All of us swore to never go Black Friday shopping. So on Friday morning I was surprised to receive a text from Jo Anne saying that she decided to return something she bought at the outlet mall. Contrary to the conversation the night before, she wanted us to go to head out into the chaos. Well, we knew it was Black Friday, but more than that, we knew how much fun we have shopping together. Conversation and laughter kept us company on the twenty-eight mile drive. Before we could even see the mall, let alone the off-ramp, we maintained the mighty speed of a Belgian mare pulling a full load of straw through a mud pit. For the next hour and forty five minutes we looked for a parking place. Hm, seemed like a decent idea when we left home. As we shopped, people plowed mindlessly into one another, others walked side by side five across, doors opened and smacked passer-byers (? so many options so I make up my own spellings). We stood in lines, dodged children set loose by unconcerned parents and found that rudeness was alive and in full swing at the mall.

It was indeed a study of humanity.  A lesson in behavior lacking the smallest amount of concern for others. Kindness seemed to take a holiday, and, indeed, I realized why it was referred to as black. I have a weird tendency to love crowds like this. They offer an opportunity to change the worn-out, stressed workers and shoppers by a mere smile or kind word. Maybe I wasn't there to shop. Giving thanks and encouragement to store employees, telling an exhausted mother that her child is beautiful, holding a door for a man and watching his startled face, telling someone standing in front of a mirror that she looks lovely. Yes, it was my day of shopping for people. A day to make black warm and loving.

Christmas is approaching. My grandchildren are making cards for the family. Well, Emma made fifteen. Nolan made three and informed me that he was done. It is a time of thinking of others and not just the presents we will buy and the celebrations lining up on the calendar. It is a time to think outside the family and to embrace a world needing to be uplifted. Please remember that those children in your lives learn by your example, the very person you show them every day. They think, they understand, they have their own thoughts that are shaped by the experiences that surround them.  Forget the presents. Forget the parties. Forget the bah-humbugs. This is indeed a season of goodwill. A time to set in motion actions that are not just for the holiday.

On Facebook I posted a story that I think is a good lesson in looking for the positive when there seems to be so much negative. It is a story about you and me and the world we can create together. It is about changing from black/white into a world of color.

The bus driver was a tired school bus driver. He didn't pay much attention to the kids. They got on, they got off. He looked straight ahead until he was rid of his load of noisy children. The last day of school before break, when I picked up the twins, Nolan bounded off the bus yelling "Happy Thanksgiving!" We got over to the car where the kids wait to wave at the bus driver as we always did. He stopped, opened his door and motioned to me. "What's the name of that boy with glasses?" he asked. I told him. "He is a great kid. He is something else. You've got a good one there." From the very beginning, Nolan always said good-bye when he exited the bus. Gradually, over the next couple months, the bus driver started nodding when Nolan pursued his exit conversation. Now when the bus pulled away, the driver waved back at the waiting twins. I am thankful that we can change the world with kindness one person at a time. Even if we are only five.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

All hands on deck

Hands. The one appendage that is used the most and gets the least amount of recognition. Today I present to you HANDS. Well, I'm sure that got your attention. You see, these words are appearing because my hands are busy doing what they enjoy. Type away, Pam!

Yes, I have had a fascination with hands since childhood. One of the first things my mother did to entertain me was to draw around my hands. Once the imprint was on paper, she would put little faces on each fingernail. It was a way to keep her little one quiet during church, but unbeknownst to her, it was by her hands that I learned. At this time of the year, our imprinted hands with faces took on a new look. My little hands became turkey feathers.

If I sat next to Dad, my hands turned into a church with and without people. He also played the game of pointing to one of my fingers in my clasped hands asking me to move it. Being poorly coordinated and lacking in concentration, I struggled. He was also pretty good at the game of alternating hands in a pile then pulling the bottom hand out to place on top. His hands were about twice the size of mine, and he showed no mercy.

When I had children, I was captivated by their small hands. First, a hand wrapped around my finger. Then a child eager to walk beside me reaching for my hand. Watching those hands grow till one day hold their own children. And now, my grandchildren reach for my hands, and I am doubly blessed. I am still in awe when I look down and see our hands together. My heart swells with love, knowing that each time is a gift to savor. Hands that will grow and grow away. Hands that reached for me when they were babies, hands that pulled my hair and grabbed my nose. Hands that held the hands of the other twin. Precious.

Years ago I found in the family Bible outlines of my grandmother's hands along with those of my mother at various ages. I hardly knew my grandmother, but seeing these hand prints gave me a little insight into the woman who took time to play with her daughter. Her large hands are now closer to the size of mine. In some strange way, I feel connected.

Our hands are full of memories. They are full of love. They are full of talent. They are helping hands and sometimes hands that need help. We clasp them in prayer, and wipe away tears. They welcome old and new friends and help those who need a hand. They applaud excellence and sometimes save a life. They throw a ball and play the piano. We can hand on goodwill and aid because our hands are indeed hand-y. With all of this to contemplate, I will wave farewell. I hope this has been a hands-on column.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Out the front door

A friend once told me that she loved living in her area, because it was away from crime and the cities. It is a quiet community that hasn't changed that much for generations. The people live in the same neighborhoods where their ancestors resided. They marry local people. Their children go to the same schools. Nothing changes but the clothing with the seasons and the babies replacing those who have passed.

Well, as we all know, that is not reality. It certainly is not part of our religious background that tells us to go out into the world and to love all people regardless of their color, their beliefs, their lifestyles. We are told not to judge and to be lights unto the world. It isn't just about prayers. It is about us as God's hands. Seems to me that we all are failing on that topic.

This isn't just about the shooting in Texas but much more. It is about the people who criticize, who are close-minded and who allow their religion, party affiliations, and families to dictate what they believe. We have come through this last year with hate being allowed to have a voice. A time when being mean to someone is accepted and our values lowered to accept things we never would under different circumstances. We joke about harassment saying women are just pushing the issue. We ignore when one more African American or Hispanic person is brutalized. We ignore pleas from other countries for help. We have an ego that just doesn't stop! Where is the heart, the love, the compassion and understanding that we all know we are supposed to have? Yet, we believe lies and ignore injustice, because it happens elsewhere.

Please, I implore you to become part of the system and not just an audience member. Vote, vote, vote. Don't vote party.  Vote for the welfare of ALL people. Call your people in congress and let a voice be heard. Support organizations for peace and equality. Support mental illness agencies. Embrace and understand those outside of your community. Don't support an issue if you do not know all sides of it. Don't believe what you read unless you check out all sides of the issue by doing your own research. Rethink what a gun can do and the necessity of it. Don't be a pawn. Be a player.

When I grew up, no one talked seriously about family problems and how to help loved ones in need to find their own help. I know in our house Mom tried to solve problems; however, I learned from working with kids at risk that we are to help them help themselves by finding resources for them to pursue and encouraging them along the way. We can't just shut out problems. Be active. Not passive.

A small community not so unlike where I grew up lost 26 people in just a few minutes. As many are in the hospital. We are not communities separated by state or country or religion or sex or belief or color. We are a united world. Americans are no better than those in other countries. We have a right to protest when we are hurt and no one seems to listen. We need to listen, folks. We need to stop judging. We need to look out the front door and see the bigger world. Please.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

On your mark

A bell is ringing in the hall. Voices are heard behind a closed door. I look at a bed mussed and a monitor no longer clicked. At least for now. I wonder at the changes that can come so quickly for which you have no time to prepare. I wonder at that very word. Prepare: to get ready to put into motion. This all involves that process of: On your mark: Ready. Get set. Go! So, here we go.

On Friday I did all three. I bypassed 'On your mark', leapt over 'Ready/Get set', landing directly on 'Go' and did not collect $200. So now a bell rings in the hallway and conversations are going on as well. My hospital bed is messed up and minus me, because finally, today (Sunday) I am allowed to move around on my own minus IV lines I had plugged into my arm. Free at last! Yes, my friends, I was not prepared.

For almost 10 days, I had been on an antibiotic for my ever-aching gut. But, alas, the meds were not fixing the problem. At 3:30, I went to urgent care, informing the doctor that above mentioned medical condition was not resolved. Well, let me tell you, this doctor went into action and sent me immediately for a CT scan. At 7pm I got a call to go to the hospital immediately. A bed would be waiting for me. Oh,, by the way, I might have surgery.

Now let me tell you a thing or two about missing those steps of preparation. My 'Ready' got trampled on as I ran out the door. Luckily, no one here at the hospital was nearly as concerned even though they prodded and poked and slammed me into bed with a couple of IV's becoming my current dinner table. Yes, my innards were a mess. I had an abscess in my colon that needed to be resolved. Well, yep, I'd say so.

So how prepared are we if we only have time to grab a bag? I went to an earthquake preparedness session a couple of weeks ago and learned what I need to do to help myself, family and community should we get the big one. In both instances, I have learned that no matter what the best laid plans are at the time, your plans just might not work out the way you want them to. I have an earthquake bag ready to grab if need be. I had no plan for this trip to the hospital. A will, a directive, a sack lunch on the way in? All are good; we never really know.

So lessons I have learned the last three going on four days: Live each minute of your life to the fullest. Make life wonderful for all of those around you and even those you are yet to meet. Do not dwell on what you cannot control. You just get frustrated and your health goes sour. If you are ill, take care of yourself for those who love you, including yourself. Do not dwell on your health. When your body requires attention, it will certainly let you know. Prepare for what you can so there are no worries later, but live life to the fullest every day.

Tubes are out and I am called ambulatory. I am dressed in my own pajamas, sitting in a huge, soft chair with my feet up (looking a bit like a miniature Alice in Wonderland). A pull down TV hangs above me, so I can watch movies whenever I want. Life is not the best but pretty darn sweet right now. Wait! What do you mean I can only have chicken broth and orange jello?!?!? Nooooooo. Be prepared!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Ready for a retread

I figured since I was doing it, I had better check out what it meant. Little did I know the number of options from which I could choose. So many options.

Definition of RETIRE per Merriam Webster Dictionary (1) to withdraw from action or danger: retreat (2) to withdraw especially for privacy: retired to her room (3) to move back: recede (4) to withdraw from one's position or occupation (5) to go to bed.

It was time. I was only working part time, but at a certain age your body rebels, and you wonder what it would be like not to have that hassle of working when perhaps you could be learning a new form of art, traveling, going to concerts and museums. Oh, heck, I just wanted time to enjoy my grandkids and my life.

So what does this look like? Hm. Definitely a withdrawal from danger (No.1). I could get a paper cut or trip over my own feet falling into a rack and ending up in the hospital. I could go with the No.2 definition and retire to my room. Boring! No.3 would be wonderful. I could move back to Neff Road and enjoy my friends there. But it is different now. Mom and Dad are gone. So is my home back that lane. Yep, you can never go back. And, most important, my family is here. Now No.4 seems to hit the nail on the head. I didn't just withdraw. I walked out the door with a lively step and a smile on my face. Withdraw makes me feel as though I should have been hiding inconspicuously behind a shrub, sneaking my way to my car. Ah, and then there is No.5. No more early rising. No more dreading the next morning. No more noisy alarm clock to intrude on my peaceful sleep. Ah, yes, I will do my fair share of No.5. So many choices, and I get to do them all.

I was surprised that  the list of definitions  did not include 're-tiring', as in re-tiring a car. I get new tires and have my tires rotated. I am a bit like a worn out old tire. The tread is getting thin. When I park the car, the tire seems to relax into itself. When its flat, its flat. Seems that this is a pretty good description of my next phase of life. I am getting 're-tired'.

Ah, yes, this special time of my life will be full of love, family, home and probably some new tires. A spring trip back to Ohio. Adventures I've yet to find. And, a new man in my life. Sweet retirement. I think I like it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This little light of mine

Light in just a few moments turned to darkness. A barrier settled in front of the sun. A little moon up there in an orbit manages to block out that great big sun. Darkness erasing light.

Oregon was a mecca for the eclipse. People from all over the world flocking to see this once in a lifetime shadow across the sun. Small rural towns were overrun. Service stations ran out of gas. Not enough toilets, not enough food, not enough of everything, including law and order, to cope with the masses who came to see the two minutes of darkness.

As you can see, I am not one of those who rushed out to find my observation spot. Seems to me that all of these people could be doing something more useful. One of the national forests is burning and canceled all campers from entering. Reservations made a year ago are useless a year later. Much ado over two minutes. Much ado.

I am wondering if all of these people are equally interested in the mudslides in Sierra Leone leaving hundreds dead and homeless, bombs, cars driving into crowds, wars on foreign lands, nuclear war looming closer all the time, prejudice.  We seem to want to bury our heads and only think of wonderful things. We pack up our bags and drive away from the daily news. We want our two minutes of awe and wonder. Yes, this is a big event but then there are more important things blocking our lives.

Some ancient cultures believed that the eclipse happened as a mythical figure ate or stole the sun. Others thought it might be a sign of angry gods. In Vietnam, people thought a giant frog was chowing down the sun. The Norse believed it was wolves. Ancient China went with a dragon. The Native Americans believed that a hungry bear caused an eclipse. I personally believe it was blocked out by the thousands of people waiting around for their two memorable minutes.

The sun waited for the moon to stop by. The dark spot blocked out the light. Yet even with the darkness covering the brightest light known to man, a small edge glimmered. Glimmers of light. Glimmers of hope, of renewal. Darkness does move on. It moves on when the light it tries to banish will not be hidden. We know the light is there. We have seen it. We should fight for it, so there is light for everyone. For in allowing darkness to stay, we blot out the son.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Never too old

Days of summer are dwindling. School is just around the corner. The twins will be going off to kindergarten. I know what this means. Having seen it with my older granddaughters, I know that time with MeMe will not be nearly as exciting and our adventures will change. Days of leisurely playing will disappear until next summer.

We stood in the hull of the bulky aircraft, staring down the 218 ft. fuselage. The big plane, as Emma and Nolan call it, is a favorite. We are all dwarfed by this huge plane built in 1947. So when we gave the twins the option to return to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, they jumped for joy. However, Emma had a request. "Can we swim on those slides?" Ah, yes, the museum also hosts a building called Wings and Waves. An ideal way to end the summer no matter how old or young you happen to be.

Being a grandparent offers so many opportunities. We get to play with cars, push dolly strollers, play with Play Doh, paint and do art crafts, play games and pretend to eat meals the kids cook in the toy oven. We have had a great time taking the kids swimming, but this adventure was a success in an all new way. The kids loved the slides that twisted and turned then spit the duo out drenched and laughing. In the Wave pool, we were tossed as in the surf and held on to kids in life jackets waiting for the next wave. In the Vortex, we swirled in the current carrying us around and around. We laughed, we played, we made memories. And, that's what it is all about. Maybe not their memories since they are only 5, but truly it is all about our memories. A small hand in mine. A laughing child who can hardly speak so full of joy and soaking wet. The chatter in the dressing room about toilets, wet suits, soap dispensers and paper towels that shoot out when you wave at them. Children who fall asleep on the way home and capture your heart all over again.

This week we are taking them to see a wood carver, a true artist. Simple experiences that reside in our own community. Exposure to the different ways of life and the world outside of their own backyard. Yes, we have added page upon page to our memories this summer and opening a wider world of experience for our grandchildren.

We stood in the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes's folly. The kids do not know the history yet are awed by the very size of this beast. They will talk about it again and again until it takes residence in their memories. They just might hear a story about how their grandparents stepped away from all decency in donning bathing suits so they could enjoy precious time with their grandkids. My son asked me if I wasn't exhausted. Oh, yes, exhausted, by the very best kind of being tired.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The courage of living

There is a courage in living. A heroic strength to face the tribulations in life and to continue on. A victory over pain and illness, fighting to see another day and to be with those we love. There is a courage in living.

In the last year I have lost several people I love. The loss is painful, yet in the loss, I find truth in living. The innocence of youth is limiting. But the living we gather during adulthood makes us stronger and able to love more deeply. I noticed when I was entering my sixties that my eyes carried a sadness in them. I have since seen that same look in others who have experienced loss. It is that little piece of us that is lost. A sorrow I do not deny. I see the world through new eyes, knowing how quickly time passes. I know that after loss I will find peace. It takes courage to move on and allow ourselves to be happy again.

Sometimes the battle seems hopeless, the sorrow too deep. Disappointment seems to find us at an early age. We seem to be chased by those things that want to pull us down all the time. How often are we at the bottom looking up? We learn to crawl then we learn to walk. A life lesson. A lesson in finding courage.

When my friend died of MS, I truly saw raw courage. Lying helplessly in a bed did not take away her sense of humor. There were no pity parties. She did not have time for pain. She cared most about lifting up those around her. She rarely talked about herself and always asked about what was happening in our lives. Raw courage. A woman who, to the end, was a ray of hope. A woman who understood life.

I learned from my mother how to be a loving conversationalist.  Rarely did she talk about herself. Her joy was in the conversations with others about their lives. She truly cared. I learned that the best part of a conversation was in the listening. Mom was strong; no matter what happened in her life she did not bend. She always had time for others. Despite the sorrows that plagued their lives, she had the courage to find the best in life.

Courage to face adversity and to be strong. Courage to survive heartache and disappointment. Courage to know that sadness and despair will pass. Courage to make the lives of those around us better. This is called the courage of living. Sometimes we wonder if we will find our smiles again when the burden is heavy. Courage in living will bring peace every time. Embrace your courage.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pomp and Possibilites

Cap and gown. Pomp and Circumstance. Forty to eight hundred students (depending on the school) enter the hall. Parents and grandparents stand with tears in their eyes. For many this day signals an empty nest. For others it just might be the first grandchild stepping into the unknown. For those youths standing in wait, it is the beginning of their futures.

So what advice would you give the students, Pam? Well, I think the best I could share would be this: Find what you love to do then imagine the possibilities and do it. Soar into a future that serves this world and the people in it. Do not fear what you do not know. You will succeed. You have potential to create change. Do not hold on to the past; it only makes going forward more difficult. Dreams can come true. They will find you if you cannot find them. You can always change your mind. Do not regret mistakes for in stumbling we find stronger footing. Never compare yourself to others. You are the best you that you can be. There is no one finer. Do not be afraid to try new things. Look to your heart and let it sing. You never stop learning. Open your mind to all views then find your own. Each day is a new lesson. You have only tapped the very tip of your life. Soar, fly, step into an unknown world and be what you were born to be.

For me, life was scary once I left that lane on Neff Road. I had graduated and was going to college. I wanted to move away, but my past history reflected only homesickness at sleepovers. No one taught me how to survive on my own. I dreamed of dancing, writing and acting but had no encouragement. I blamed others for my fear of life outside of Darke County. There is no one to blame but myself. It took me until I was thirty-seven to have this realization. I began acting and taught drama as well. I worked with kids at risk. Kids wondering if there were such things as dreams. I had friends of all colors and all beliefs. I learned from each and every one. I could look back and see the possibilities I had never recognized at the time. I thought I was to be a daughter, a wife, a mother. All perfectly good, but for me there was so much more. I knew that I had a purpose in this old world. I had a duty to learn, change and open my mind to possibilities. Finally I followed my heart and began to write.

I sat in front of a couple of students at a graduation. One young lady asked the other, "What is that symbol on the top of that mortar board?" The other girl answered, "It is the symbol for Mercedes Benz." Let us pray that the youth of 2017 will look for more than a fancy new car. Perhaps they will look for peace and a better world.☮

Monday, May 15, 2017

A song unwritten

In searching through some papers, I ran across older pieces I had written many years ago. Some were as far back as my high school years. Slightly yellowed papers written by the hand of a teenager. In later writings, my poetry told of the loss of my parents, of the farm. My pen captured the joy of becoming a grandma and the world that awaited me as I traveled through life with these children. A woman of many feelings, many faces and emotions that found her answers through the pen in her hand. Many times I questioned why life was so difficult and where my place was in it. Never at a loss for words, they poured onto the paper for release and revelation.

This is a short column today. It is a piece to contemplate and understand. In its simplicity, I found my own answers. I hope in some way you might find your own.

I am a pen in the Writer's Hand
A spark in dry tinder
A tool in Skilled Hands
A drop in a rising pool
A silent voice on a distant page
A compass for a traveler
A yes in a world of no's
A mystery yet unraveled
A valentine overflowing
A note in a symphony
A song unwritten
A page waiting to be read

The list could go one, but this pretty much says it all. Perhaps you will find yourself in my list. Perhaps you will make your own. Wherein lies your truth?

Monday, April 17, 2017

In the backseat of the car

"Let's count buses," I said to the twins on the way to preschool. They were three at the time. The two restless toddlers zeroed in on the search for buses. The most we counted was about twenty-five on one trek. When they wearied of buses, we moved on to large trucks. The sizes of the trucks became an issue, so we returned to buses.

When my oldest granddaughter was the same age, we managed to have some pretty interesting topics in the car. My favorite was when she decided to make up a song called Pinky Pinky Pink. As we passed by things along the side of the road, they were added to her lyrics. At one point she informed me that she had another song. Oddly enough, it sounded just like Pinky Pinky Pink.....and had the same words. An imagination allowed to run rampant. Imagination brought to life by a toddler sitting in the backseat, looking out the window and an adult in the front paying attention.

Time in the car. With my children, I found those times together were some of the best. Problems were solved. Debates were had. Conflicts were worked out in a reasonable manner since there was no escape. A long time ago I decided that being a good parent/grandparent involved staying in the present. Never let opportunities slide by. Never ignore those kids riding in the car with you. In working with kids, I discovered that most of them felt their parents never listened. It made me think that maybe that was due to lack of involvement with them when they were small. For if you interact with them when they are small, your relationship with the struggling adolescent and teen is much easier at a later date. There is a foundation that supports a lifetime of love. It is built piece by piece starting when they are young. Maybe even in the backseat of a car.

"Okay, today we are going to look for heather plants and willow trees," I informed the dialogue-dueling duo on the backseat. "You mean Sydney's friend, Heather?" Emma asked. (Be prepared at all times for random comments and questions.) I slowed down as we passed a hillside of heather pointing out the pink flowers. "How can that be heather and Heather be heather?" (Oh, my). I explained to Emma that names like Heather, Robin, Lily, etc.can be shared with plants and even a birds. We passed the willow tree on my street and with great excitement, Nolan yelled, "A crying willow!"

Now no one said that it is easy being an older person and keeping up with little ones; however, I find that my mind works just about as quickly as theirs, and I can teach them at every opportunity with new, fun ways of learning. I can keep up with them. Just have to try.

The mind of a child is open to all information. They ride in that backseat just watching the scenery. Why not teach them the wonder of all they see? Why not interact and make the ride a joy for all? When the kids are no longer in the car, I will look at all the fun we had together and be thankful for each adventure.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Resurrect the spirit

[Old English Easterdæg, from Eastre (Northumbrian Eostre), from Proto-Germanic *Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring, probably originally of sunrise whose feast was celebrated at the spring equinox, from *austra-, from PIE *aus- "to shine" (especially of the dawn).Bede says Anglo-Saxon Christians adopted her name and many of the celebratory practices for their Mass of Christ's resurrection. Ultimately related to east. Almost all neighboring languages use a variant of Latin Pascha to name this holiday (see paschal). (from]

Oh, my, the hubbub about a word. Easter, Pascha, the celebration of the Resurrection. People demanding the word Easter. A word that has come to the Christians to mean a great deal in their faith. A word that was originally a pagan word for the goddess of fertility and spring. A word like Christmas and other words that have more than one definition or even date. Easter was adopted by the Christians, yet it was a pagan feast.

Truly God must be laughing as was I when I saw that people were up in arms over a package of Easter eggs with no mention of the word Easter on it. We have Easter parade, Easter eggs, Easter bunny, lovely Easter bonnet and, of course, the handy Easter basket. My bonnet is not holy. Nor are the eggs or basket. Yes, they are items that have come to be as did Santa for all people. The holiness of the days lies not in the name, it lies truly in the heart of the believer. We all worship differently and all are loved by the same God....yep, even the sinner as we are told. I refuse to be upset over a package of candy eggs that does not say 'Easter'.

I hold my faith not against others and their beliefs, but by the love of God that I accept as mine. Not by a special day but by my every day. My church is the world, and I get to love every one in it not by what I expect from them or what they believe, but by the word of Christ that says for me to love everyone as I would myself. For someday I will be judged by my love of all humankind not separating out immigrants or Muslims or people of color or by belief. But by my hope to lift people up, to open my heart and to give of the gifts I have been given, I truly will be judged.

We color eggs of different colors. Colors of the rainbow. A rainbow that holds the promise of God. A rainbow that encompasses all people of all colors, creeds, sexual orientation, ALL people. No judgment. Just love. No labels. Just love. No holidays just for ourselves but days of love for all people. Eggs of all colors hidden away by a big bunny so that children might find them. People hidden away that we might find them.

I wish you a rainbow day of celebrating your uniqueness and gifts. A day that will resurrect your spirit and let it soar.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Move over Easter Bunny

Tools: arcrylic paint, canvas paper, paint brushes in various sizes, cookie cutters, pencil, stickers and two four-year-olds. Ah, nothing could be finer.

Creating cards for Christmas and hearts for Valentine's Day brought us up to Easter. "Meme, remember the lady we gave the Christmas card to?" asked Emma. "She cried." Yes, I do remember and, yes, she cried. Someone took time to look into her eyes and give her a card. Someone who was four going on forty. "Can we do it again?" Words of pure joy.

So I gathered supplies. And, for two days little fingers held paint brushes and created all sorts of colors and designs on paint paper. I took the painted sheets, once dried, and outlined eggs, butterflies and rabbits with cookie cutters. Then the designs were cut out of the paper, and the kids added the bling with stickers. Their scribbled sheets of paper became beautiful little tokens ready for the Easter outings to spread some joy. The Easter Bunny was about to have competition.

After two days of painting and cutting, we must have around eighty eggs to distribute. I am so proud of the kids as they hand out the cards. I stand in the background watching. This is their thing not mine. To begin with, the kids stood frozen with the cards in hand. Gradually, they have come to delight in giving the card then walking away not looking back. We want nothing in return. It is a free gift of love from small hands and a grandma's love.

What do we give as freely in our lives not asking for anything in return? Do we see those forgotten faces that go unnoticed? Are we too busy with our phones or our own lives to notice the strangers we pass? What do we teach children in our actions? A little paint, a little paper and tears of joy. That is the legacy I hope to leave.

As I cut each design from the pages slathered with paint, I discovered beautiful pictures, composition from chaos. We marveled at what we had created. Over the next couple of weeks, we will delight even more at what these little cards from little hands will accomplish.

"Can we do this again, MeMe?" Nolan asked. "We have Mother's Day next," said Emma. Hm. That just might be a bit trickier. Spreading the love. There can be no stronger calling.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

Today I am sharing the blog I wrote for Neff Road.

At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ides of Everything

Ides of March. Yep, March 15. A day we think of the demise of Julius Caesar. However, since that was in 44 BC, I see no reason to don togas and sing soulful dirges. Perhaps we should embrace an event more upbeat this year. Maybe even a little known holiday that we have failed to recognize in the past.

According to Holidays and, we have been missing a wide variety of special days. One will surely suit your fancy. For those in rural areas, we have Ag Day, a celebration of our bountiful food supply. Of course, if your cupboard is empty, this might not be your holiday.

This day has also been called Brutus Day. So, we say, "Et tu, Brute". In keeping with the death of a murdered ruler, it seems apt that this is also Buzzard Day. I found that Buzzard Day is a notable day for many Ohio residents who, on this day, look to the heavens watching for the return of the buzzard. Hard to imagine waiting joyfully for a bunch of bald heads and red beaks coming in for a landing. 

It is ironic that the next notable day is Dumbstruck Day. Not at all surprised since we just passed Buzzard Day. I am rather dumbstruck myself.

Happy Kick Butts Day!!!! Yes, indeed this is KBD. Now, I have worked with greeting cards for a long time and have not as yet seen a card for this occasion. However, I guess if the need arises, celebrate.

I think that this next one happens not only on the Ides of March but many other days as well. National Everything You Think is Wrong Day. So if this column does not show up on Wednesday, March 15, please understand that it is indeed an 'everything you think is wrong day' at my house.

If you are Greek, you might want to celebrate National Pears Helene Day. Yes, I had to look that one up. Pears Helene is not a name but a dessert that was served in celebration of  the operetta La belle Helene (aka Helen of Troy). Auguste Escoffier offered a dessert made from pears poached in sugar syrup, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup. Might be worth celebrating just to eat the dessert.

And, we come to True Confessions Day. My aunt Bess had a stack of True Confessions (and True Romance) next to her bed when I was a kid. I did find that this day has nothing to do with publishing unless you want to confess all of your secrets publicly. It is a day to free yourself of all of those little hidden treasures you have kept to yourself that occasionally give you pangs of guilt. Or, you can still get the magazine and read the secrets of others. Your choice.

Happy World Consumer Rights Day. This day came into being way back in 1983. It is a day set aside to promote basic rights for all consumers. JFK outlined the definition of consumer rights, and today we are protected by these rights.

So much to celebrate on such a simple day in the middle of the week in the middle of the month. You could chose to celebrate all of them which would involve wearing a toga to a local market to buy pears and a magazine being aware as you walk home that buzzards could be coming in for a landing, because then it would be a day with everything going wrong as you are trying to take home your bounty hopefully not to be dumbstruck when you have your butt kicked by some bully who was trying to interfere with your consumer rights. Hm.

Happy March 15!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

You might not see me often. You might know me by birth or by becoming family not of the womb but of the heart. You might only be an acquaintance. You might be a stranger who just wandered into my world. Well, you are all loved. When you entered my thoughts, you entered my heart. Today I thank you and give you my love.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Behind the greasepaint

Clowns are pegs on which the circus is hung. - P. T. Barnum.

We walked down Clown Alley after the circus performance. Trunks scattered the area. Trunks full of oversized shoes, brightly colored wigs, bow ties and ruffly collars. Clowns were changing from clown to selves once more. The children marveled. Wow, we got to go down clown alley to see the back side of the circus.

I sat in a front row seat above the circus floor. The student I had brought to sample an audition for Clown College was surrounded by Ringling Brothers' clowns. A couple of clowns, Tuba and Tommy, wandered over and kept me company. I was a bystander loving every minute of this wonderful atmosphere. It came time for the auditionees to show their stuff. A clown would set up the scene then work with the applicant improvising as they went along. The auditions were complete when one of the clowns asked if I would like to try it? Well, how could I resist?! This was right down my 'alley'. The clown inside of me surfaced, and I had the time of my life. Caren did not get into clown school. I was accepted. Of course, running off to the circus was impossible with two kids to raise. And, Mom would have been horrified.

This experience brought into my life a few new friends. Scott Linker was the Little Usher clown who to this day is a dear friend. I met Tommy and Tammy, a married couple of clowns. Tuba went on to be Ronald McDonald in commercials. Scott took me onto the circus train to see how he lived. Small compartments lined the hallway. His compartment was tiny. A bed and room for little else. Here was his life for most of the year as they traveled from place to place. The common toilet was so small that one could hardly turn around. This was the life of a circus performer. Elephants, lions, horses all had a place on this train. Children traveled with their families and most performed as well. A world removed from the rest of us. Unusual and strange to me, yet it spoke to the child in me. I wanted to run away with the circus.

Aunt Bess gave last dolls to the Loxley girls. Peg and June were given lovely dolls. I got an Emmett Kelly, Willie the Clown, doll. A sad faced, weary clown dressed in rags with a derby on his bald head. When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by Mr. Kelly. The way he conveyed emotions without saying a word spoke to the silent child in me. I understood him. He understood me. Aunt Bess gave me the best doll of all.

Now the tent comes down. We who are blessed to have experienced the thrill of the circus will pass on the memories to future generations. We will tell of the smell of the circus. The excitement of walking into that big, white tent. For me, it was the day the Little Usher played to me as I sat with my children in the stands. My heart was won over and has stayed there ever since.

I did not go to clown college. I did some Christian clowning. I discovered what it was like to be behind that white face. One of the most powerful experiences I ever had was praying alone with another clown in an empty sanctuary. Behind the white face, I felt my very soul. I finally understood the clown.

To my clown friends: Thank you, thank you, thank you. To my children: Remember what we were given. To my grandchildren: Come here. Let me tell you a story. A wonderful story about a circus.

Truth will answer

The masks we wear. Yes, we all have them. We put them on when we leave the house. We put them on when we are trying to train the child. We put them on to please our partners and families. We wear them well, because they shield us from change, from truth, from exposure.

It was 1977. I packed my toddlers into the car and drove to my estranged husband's temporary dwelling. The kids were thrilled to see Daddy. I was not so thrilled, but his car was in the shop, and he needed a ride to work. We pulled up in front of the building, dropping him off. Before we pulled away from the curb, we saw him walk into the building with his girlfriend. I share this because we wear masks.

For many years, I wore the mask of a dutiful wife and mother. I tried my best in this new residence in Wisconsin to blend in and accept the change. I wore my best face and cried when no one was looking. There is nothing lonelier than being in a relationship with no way out. I was a child of the past in a time when women were just beginning to step out of that old belief of the little housewife. I wore a mask, an identity of the past. Yes, we all wear them. They are all different. In fact, we have a drawer full of them.

I tossed off that mask and walked away. The shy wallflower became a working woman who would offer her life to her children. My ex said he did not like the change. Well, he didn't like me much before, but, darn it, I liked me.

I have learned over the years that honesty is crucial for any relationship. Kids can see through our put-together facades. We talk differently, relate differently, keep our parental distance. They know our games. Even the little ones understand. We keep friends at arms-length and let our other half have his/her way. Kindness? Maybe. But from a woman who lived thirteen years with a heavy mask on her face, I can tell you, that truth in action is the only truth worth living.

I realize this is a fairly different column. Many of you have asked that I keep including my Grandparent's Voice. I like to think that perhaps you find some truth in my writing. Let's throw away our masks and give future generations freedom to experience, to believe, to grow into themselves. Maybe we can make a difference in this new year for ourselves and our world.

When I was a child trick-or-treating, I hid my identity behind a mask. I became someone else for a brief period of time. There was a world outside from which I was temporarily removed. The mask itched and poked me. When it was lifted off my face, fresh air whispered to the real me. It revealed a child who for a moment hid away from the world. Share the truth of yourself with other; truth will answer.