Thursday, December 27, 2018

A year of change

2019. As a kid I never dreamed I would live to see 2000. I don't know if I couldn't count or if I was just planning on a short life. However, the number seemed overwhelming. Now we face one more year then we hit 2020.

What did I discover in the past year? Well, obviously I discovered my new husband. For all intent and purpose, I think this must be the top perk of the year. Next, we spent every Wednesday having lunch with the twins and the first grade. We learned that all kids need hugs and someone to care. We had our ups and downs and learned more from the downs than we did from the ups.

For all of us, it has been a year of fear. I found that many people want to be lead rather than find their own answers. It reminds me of how wives always followed what their husbands and community expected rather than think and act for themselves. Through this same vein, it was time for the degradation and abuse of women to have a voice. I grew up in times when jokes about sex and women were considered funny though degrading. Boys were raised by men who thought being a man was the highest honor. Stand up and be a man. Well, we women said, "Stand up and be a woman." Perhaps our daughters and granddaughters will be allowed to change the world for the better and encourage sons to know what it is listen and to have empathy and compassion.

To my dismay, I feel like we have regressed back to the 60's and even earlier. Racism, prejudice, hate, intolerance seem to be on the rise. I cannot criticize anyone for their color or their sexual choices. I cannot judge anyone for their religious beliefs. I will protect the environment but  to my best to fight  climate change. I learned that I can make a difference. I can listen and learn. I can be a leader and not a follower. That was 2018.

Many times I have thought to stop writing. Yes, I am an opinionated woman. There is a voice in me that just will not be silenced. When I write something a bit controversial, it is because a raging voice tells me I have to write about it. I am led by that voice that allows the words to fall on the page. It is not my voice. I have learned to listen and not to be afraid of my words.

I got a year older and found that I think of the end more than ever before. I believe in this mantra for aging adults as we enter 2019: If you have health issues, talk to your family or see the doctor and tell him. Do not let your health go downhill so your family must do for you. You have a choice in that decision. Don't let them down. Do not be a burden. Take care of yourself, so you can stay as healthy as possible. Eat well. You won't live long if you don't. Your family needs to know the status of your health. Go to the dentist and the doctor for yearly exams. Do not SELF-MEDICATE. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Be active in your well-being, because there are people who want you healthy and around for a very long time. The decision is yours. Aging doesn't mean that you get to be irritable and cranky. Life is a gift. Don't waste it. Embrace it. You are capable. This year give your family the greatest gift you can. Take care of yourself.

Yes, a year of change. In 2019, I promise to walk more and eat more veggies. I promise to love more deeply and more people. I promise to take care of the environment. I promise to be more active and not inactive in the things happening in our country and on our earth. I promise to give you, my readers, the best of me. Many blessings be yours in the New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

This is the season

A Jewish baby was born in a manger to an unwed mother and an adopting father. Contrary to what is celebrated, this baby was born in the warm months of August or September when the sheep were returned to the fields and when more than likely a census would have been taken, so travelers were not hampered by winter weather.

My friend wrote, "Why are most songs Christ based this time of the year?" His celebration of Hanukkah has just ended. A time of family and remembrance of their own religious freedom. A sect into which God decided to send a baby. Some other friends will soon be celebrating Kwanzaa. A celebration of people, community.  Throughout the winter months, there are celebrations of numerous beliefs and cultures. A season rich with love of humankind, a season of celebrating the earth, a season of celebrating a higher deity, a season of celebrating one another.

I know. We Christians have a tendency to make this all about us, but Christmas isn't about us. It is about what that manger represents, what we learned from that baby turned man. It is about love without judgment. I am no better than anyone else. That is what I learned. I learned that sinner or saint, they are loved. I learned that embracing man/womankind is my task. I learned not to judge and to embrace all cultures. I was raised to believe I could make the world a better place. I grew to understand that not everyone had to believe what I believed. My journey was my own and not to expect others  to fit what I believe.

When I see that baby in our nativity, I see the birth of one who would not want adoration. He would turn away from wanting anything for himself.  He would want us to be active in this world in the name of love. His parables tell us over and over about helping others. He does not ask us to idolize him. He asks us to include everyone. He was Jewish. He never denied that fact. His parents and grandparents were Jewish. He was a dark skinned man with black hair, not the blue-eyed brunette we see so often. He asked that we believe in him and, in essence, believe in the God in every human being.

I remember being teased once for having a new creative hair style. We have a tendency to look at differences instead of offering understanding and love. God came to us in many different ways. None are wrong when they all lead back to Him. Do I say "happy holidays?" Indeed, for I respect all people and wish them the happiest of the season that brings love and laughter into their lives.

So I say to you, "warmest, loving wishes" in this season of hope and love. Be that shining light in the world that brings joy to all around you. This is the season.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Oh, oh, oh

So the candle table wasn't there. Oh, and there was food on the table that was not ordered. Oh, oh, and there were no outside lights for the invitees. And, oh, oh, oh, this is a good one, the cello player informed us a couple hours before that she could not play. She has carpal tunnel.

Well, despite this and more, we managed to get married. Yep, Mr. and Mrs! Gather about one hundred people, get an ordained friend, sign a paper and you become a married couple. Marriage. I'm all for it if it fits. We decided it fit, because we wanted our grandchildren to have married grandparents. And, we sorta like being a married couple. However, we did keep our own names.  I see no reason I have to give up my name. I like it.

I couldn't invite all of you, but I know you would have had a great time. It was a time of old friends, family who traveled to Oregon and lots of fun and laughter. We are old enough to know that we cannot take anything too seriously. All glitches in the plans became improv moments. Nolan hugged his ring bear as tight as he could with it's precious treasure of our rings. Emma dumped piles of snow along the aisle, looking a little like Lucy from Charlie Brown, tossing snow with attitude. We laughed throughout the ceremony and shed tears with friends who shared their feelings with us. It was a celebration not a ceremony.

I'm a little disappointed. When we found that our music was not to be, I had suggested that we have all of our guests hum "Here Comes the Bride". No one seemed as delighted with the prospect as me. We had iPod music, but I still wish I'd heard that humming crowd.

If you are contemplating a wedding, make it your own. Create your own special day. Make sure that laughter is a priority. So I greeted people as I walked the aisle with my son. So I kissed the groom when I arrived at his side. So we teased and laughed during the ceremony. Why? Because it is us. It is what we do. When the ceremony was over, our dear friend Jo Anne who married us held a white branch with mistletoe on it over Loren's head, "You may kiss the groom."

If you learn nothing else from this blog, know that life is easier with light and laughter in it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Not even a mouse

Emma ran ahead of me. I yelled just before she put her foot down. There beneath her foot was a newly departed mouse. A large one at that. "Gross. That was just gross, Meme. That was really gross." Well, yes, it was gross, and for a woman who hates rodents, I did well in not grabbing the child and running for cover.

I am reminded that on the farm at this time of year mice sought refuge in our basement. My sisters had seen them in the upstairs where we slept, but I had not. Had I seen them, I would have moved in with Brenda. Mice. My sworn enemies.

We are caught in a dilemma at present. Several hummingbird feeders hang on our deck and our trio of tinies come and visit regularly, eating when they are not chasing one another. Our house is surrounded by trees, so feeding the other birds would be a delight. We believe in equality. However, with birdseed comes those critters with long, creepy tails. Thus continue to seek a way to draw birds, yet repel rodents.

There are so many rhymes about mice running up clocks, three that were blind, movies about rats that cook and mice who reside in Disneyland. Seems to me that there is a fascination (that I do not share) with these sneaky, wicked little creatures. I know, love the creatures great and small. Well, not this girl. I say where's the trap and the cheese?!

I was visiting my niece's preschool class when one of the little darlings came over with the class rat. Now I find it hard to put class and rat in the same sentence; however, being a grandma, I knew the rule that you suck it up and do not scare the children. I smiled. Would I like to pet it? Well, not really. Would I like to hold it!!!! Well, there is a point where a grandma must just stand up and say, "Oh, honey, I think someone is calling me." Yes, lying is permissible when it comes to protecting children, er, grandmas.

Truly I must admit that I do occasionally scream when I see a mouse. Can't help it. The shout just pours out like a siren going to a fire. My toes curl, my body tenses, and I am absolutely sure that the little mouse will run up my leg and bite my face off. I blame it on my sister Peg. I remember when I was little and she often stood up on a chair screaming. I used to think she was practicing singing then once I saw a mouse. So, I, too, took on her persona as to the meeting of a little nasty piece of work. However, I do believe that if a mouse can climb up on shelves and up stairs, it surely can climb up on the chair with the screaming girl.

I bet you thought this was going to be a Christmas story. Sorry. I'm still struggling with the mouse Emma about stepped on.  Gross.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Let grateful days be endless

Forever on Thanksgiving Day. The heart will find the pathway home. - Wilbur D. Nesbit

How many times did we sit around the table, focusing on food instead of understanding the preciousness of those moments? No longer can I sit with my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. Little is the family that remains, yet I am not saddened. I am blessed to have had those times, those people. Each Thanksgiving those faces once more come into view. The dialogue we shared. The laughter and memories that made my family so wonderful. The love that I always knew was there. Even as a child, I was thankful. Now as an older adult, I am truly blessed.

This Thanksgiving I hope you look into the eyes of those surrounding you and understand the gifts of giving. Tuck those moments in your heart for you will take them out and look at them time and time again. Even in the darkest of times, in those of loss and sorrow, the heart that laughed and loved will find warm memories to ease the pain.

Many are not as fortunate as most of us. Perhaps we are their thanksgiving by what we can do to make their lives easier. Perhaps that smile you share with a stranger or the hand given to someone in need will be the giving and the thanks. For in giving we truly receive and are thankful to be tools of hope and joy.

My column is small this week because I want to add this Thanksgiving Song. I am thankful for each of you. Please reach out this week and give others something for which they can be truly thankful. Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table. From far and near we travel home, blessed that we are able. Grateful for this sheltered place with light in every window, saying "Welcome, welcome, share this feast. Come in away from sorrow." Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone in the gift of loving kindness. Grateful for what's understood, and all that is forgiven; we try hard to be good to lead a life worth living. Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone let grateful days be endless. Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table.

Many blessings, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 15, 2018

An empty space

Last night my granddaughter's old Honda was stolen. Not a fancy car. Just a car for a teenager to drive to school and back. A car to take her to her Health Career studies at another school. A car to give her that first taste of trust and freedom. She awakened to an empty spot where her car had been last night.

I was living in an apartment for a couple of years and knew my neighbors fairly well. Kevin and his partner lived in an upper apartment. I lived on the lower level next to resident parking. I had just gone to bed, when I heard glass breaking. I ran to the window in time to see someone had broken in the back window of Kevin's car right outside my apartment. The guy was still in the car! I called 911, and brainlessly, ran out of my building yelling at the guy who by then was running to a car on the street. I ran up to Kevin's door to tell him the news at the same time the police pulled in. Needless to say, I was the witness eyes on the crime. Kevin was heartbroken as many things had been ripped from his car. It was a beautiful car now covered with glass. How could someone be so bold! The actions of that thief took away more than what was in the car. It took away trust and security. It shook me to my very core.

We see news about thefts. Articles that perhaps we pass over if we don't know those involved or maybe some people look just for a reward. I remember when someone was stealing gasoline from the tank by the back driveway that lead to the barnyard. Dad picked up his shotgun and headed out the door. By the time he headed out, the culprits were gone. Who would steal from a neighbor? I remember Dad saying it was probably just kids. Well, that's not an excuse, is it?

What bothers me is that like my parents we would give anyone the shirts off their backs. We would do anything to help someone in need. Dad would have filled a gas can if someone needed it. In fact, he would have driven it to them. Kevin is such a dear person that he found it unbelievable that there was someone so cruel or so desperate. As for Gabby, someone took her first car. Someone hurt her in a way that she has never been hurt before or ever should be. Her world of security has been broken. Gabby has a tender heart and for her there are no words.

So where do we go from here? Well, social media has allowed us to spread the word and picture of the car. The police here are very vigilant. We will all be on the lookout. My two granddaughters just learned something about being a target. We will do our best to support them and protect them even more ardently.

I do not believe that someone can purposely hurt someone else and not feel remorse. It is a guilt that will follow these thieves throughout life. As for our family, as for Kevin, as for our farm family, the peace we had has a chink in it. Trust in humanity is shaken. Safety even in our own home has been violated.

Be vigilant. Know your neighbors. Care for one another and protect each other. Listen to the news and know what is happening in your area. Be aware of your surroundings. Take steps to protect yours and those around you. We want no more empty spaces in our lives.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The web we weave

"Aunt Pam! Aunt Pam!" my great grandniece's little voice echoed throughout the house. How I love this little girl and her curiosity. Seldom do I get to be in the same state where she lives, but coming back to Indiana and Miss Della is always the same. We pick up where we left off, having adventure after adventure.

A spider had made a nice home on the porch. I knew it would be swept away, so I asked Della to help me move the web. We talked about all the good things that spiders do and how they do better away from people outside even though inside has so many fun places to build a web. Carefully, we detected the web, her carrying one side and me the other. We placed the web on a shrub along with the eggs the spider had so safely stored. For the next couple days, we watched as the spider hid her eggs behind a leaf. Then on the third day when we checked, the spider had made a new web with her eggs safely tucked into the silken strands. Lessons learned.

If you are a follower of my writings, then you know how much I include learning experiences in all I do with my grands. Isn't that my job as a grandparent? Well, it is for me. I want them to open their minds to possibilities and exploration. I hope to add to their curiosity and to make them custodians of the earth. I hope to give them opportunities to make their own observations not mine. Has this type grand parenting paid off? Indeed.

Many of our neighbors spray for spiders. Maybe it is Charlotte's Web or maybe just common sense that we prefer to allow the spiders their lives. On a morning when I was out feeding my hummingbirds, I noticed a perfectly round spider web. It hung midair on thin lines between two trees. Perfectly round. The ultra violet rays of the sun shining through the web created rainbow colors. Colors not seen unless the sun kissed the web and created a living piece of art. How could I ever have hurt a creature who created such beauty.

I know. You don't get it. You hate spiders and, most of all, the webs that seem to find their places everywhere you look. Well, take some time to really look at this artistic little insect. It labors to survive. It creates a web that captures and stores food. It lays eggs in that flimsy web and cradles them with the strength of her creation. Beauty is all she can create. She does not take away. She adds to. Rarely do they bite. And, rarely do I bite. Win win.

Remember when you squash a spider or tear down a web, that spiders are an important part of our eco systems. They feed on common indoor insects like roaches, earwigs, mosquitoes, flies and clothes moths. If you don't mess with them, they will consume most of the insects in your home. Thus less chemicals and costly pest removal. They are natures balance. We are their protectors. The web we weave.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dodging the grim reaper

So parent or grandparent, it really doesn't matter. It is a decision of watching time pass or being part of it. We are the ones who determine what our lives will be.

I learned this lesson late in life. There were always things needing to be done, people to see, exhaustion after a workday. And, as all this progressed, time was lost. Children grew. Parents died. Yes, some days are just days we watch pass until there are no more children at home, no old friends to visit and adventures never experienced.

It takes patience and energy to make changes. It takes a new outlook and observation. Change is never easy as there seems to be more reasons not to change than there are to adjust accordingly with life's progression. This came to mind during a conversation I had this last week when talking to a friend about adjusting to retirement.  Loren and I decided not to get a condo for this new adventure of ours. We had already gotten rid of the old, keeping only family treasures, and building on this new phase we have chosen. I had done this earlier when moving from a house to an apartment. I found it freeing and rather exciting to find new things for the new place and the new, changing me.

Loren and I decided on a home that would fit our needs now and later. Smaller in size, bedrooms and bath on the main floor. Little yard maintenance with no grass and mostly paths, decking and self-contained landscaping. It is a home in which to create, entertain and, most of all, find peace. We found that by living in this house, our lives can grow and change, adding more to us without losing as too many think you do when you change how you live.

Our friend was talking about her father's refusal to move out of his home.  He did not care about imposing on his family nor did he treat them well. He was becoming the same grumpy, old man his father had been. So why would he be like his father, having lived through the same scenario? Why not change? Why not be a joy in a new way?  Why not be happy?

First of all, you have to realize that stuff is just stuff. It deserves no loyalty. People, however, deserve the best we can give to them. So what constitutes this digging in? I think that it is fear. People who don't change and grow throughout their lives have no idea of the adventure and pluses of change. They are only secure when surrounded by the past and all that involves. They do not think their children understand, when in essence, their children are trying to help them have better lives.

My friend is in poor health. She lives in a house full of good memories and some really bad memories. Her garage is full of her mother's boxes that have remained sealed for decades. So she sits in a house that is a reminder of loss and is entirely too big for her to care for and should not be a burden for her children. She asks me what I think as her daughters prepare to get her into a smaller place. My comment, "About time." She is failing sitting in her chair doing nothing.  She is failing by her own isolation and lack of interaction with others.

So why remain stubborn? Why sit and wait for the grim reaper, when there is always time to change and make those moments with children special. Whether you are 20 or 90, you have time to take notice of the world around you and decide if you will open up your hearts to those around you and to open your minds to the adventures that surround you. Or, well, you have seen the alternative. Let's change old patterns and live.

Monday, August 27, 2018

No child should miss out.

A child cries next door. His sobs are heart-wrenching. He has come home from the first day of school, begging not to return. I feel his pain. School has started, and year after year, I have the same concerns.

All children learn differently. We are as different as our fingerprints. We all think differently, see things differently, capture and hold things differently. So how can we toss kids into a classroom teaching them all the same way? I know from experience what it is to be different.

My mind travels over everything all at once. I don't miss much. Never did. I was/am an observer. That means that when I am in a conversation, I am  also taking in everything around me. When I walk down the street, I take in the people, the sites, the sounds. My senses are tuned in to everything. Is it overwhelming? Not in the sense you might think. I know that by what I am, I add more to my life and those around me. I empathize, feeling what others feel. I am open to learning constantly. However, learning in a classroom was boring for me. I was not a book learner. I am a visual learner even though I love to read. I do not like silence. When it is too quiet, I find myself looking for sounds and getting distracted. I could never do homework without music or the TV. Yes, I had trouble with school.

As a child, I lived as an introvert. Only as an adult did I learn that I am really and extrovert. I always felt like the odd girl out never quiet fitting in. Our home was always filled with people, but we girls learned to serve and sit on the side. In school, we had limited activities, so I never really found my niche. I understand that little boy next door. I was just like him every year of my youth.

So what can be done to help kids like me and kids who are not tuned in the way education tells us they should be? Perhaps there needs to be more thought put into individual learning and exploring ways to turn kids on to those things that make them want to learn. New ways of teaching might be considered. We have certainly done it the same way ever since schools began. New, creative ways to reach kids and to help them soar. Allow them to learn individually.

I just talked to the twins about their first day in first grade. Their favorite part of the day was lunch. Ah, kids after my own heart. Lunch and recess. Most kids would agree. Wouldn't it be great if the kids came home thrilled about a new thing they discovered, that they are excited to go back tomorrow to learn more? Shouldn't every child find their dreams where they can create and build us a better world through those gifts with which they were born?

A child cries, and I want to lift him up and tell him that there is a path to his laughter and joy in learning. No child should miss out on possibilities. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

An independent step

We watched soap opera, Ruth Lyons, Liberace and just a few other shows. I watched because my parents watched. I don't think we ever thought to watch anything new. A pretty small picture on the world.

As I have grown older, and even more so over the years, I have become aware of how essential freedom of the press is not only to personal growth, but by enabling us to see a bigger world that we are part of. I only saw a tiny bit for 18 years.

When I moved to the city, I was far behind the people with whom I worked. I didn't know a thing about office apparel. I had no idea what it was like to go to fancy restaurants. The world was so much bigger. As a writer, I am saddened at the smallness I knew. Was I scared to reach beyond it? Darn right. I didn't fit in. Comments were made about my hairstyle. My clothing was far from stylish. I was visiting homes like those seen in magazines and meeting company executives. There was a long learning curve in store for me.

The world was changing. A man was on the moon. Riots were rocking the country. Russia was a foe. A larger world was opening up to me with pros and cons. I no longer was tied to local media. I was learning from the many races that surrounded me at work. A man from India. A Jewish inventor. A black man and a lot of white people. I was learning. I was interested in learning. I questioned. My opinions changed.

I learned the good and the bad of the world around me. Newspapers might disagree; still I read them to figure out what I believed. No one told me what to believe or who to listen to. The free press gave me eyes to see for myself and protected me from one sided conversations. 

When the press is manipulated, I am angry. They are our eyes and ears on the world. They keep the checks and balances working, because they demand it. They keep us protected by the very thing that they do. They report. They report one side and the other. But if you don't get both sides, then you have a problem. It would be like a basketball game being played by two teams in the same uniforms.

The media has a right and a duty to inform us even if it is something we don't like. That is Democracy. The press is on the side of the truth. If that truth is challenged, then that is okay. It has to be an open playing field. If you are presented with only one view, you have lost your freedom of choice.

I know many will not like this column, and at times, I think it is time to stop writing. My heart is saddened at the state of our country. As a writer, I am saddened that there is such narrow thinking still controlling people. I hope for more for all of us and our country. 

All I write is as truthful as I can possibly state it. You have seen my life dance before you and my heart as well. I am an opinion and a story you can chose or discard. However, by just reading it, you have taken an independent step forward. From this writer's hands, I thank you.

Monday, July 30, 2018

All Aboard

Dinosaur Train streamed across the screen. Nolan informed me that there are dinosaurs. I told him that they do not exist any more. He again informed me that indeed there are, because he saw the bones. About that time a Dodo showed up on the TV screen. I told Nolan that we have not had dodo birds for a very long time that they are extinct. Now there is nothing worse than breaking a child’s heart, and I was the heartless villain. Nolan sat next to me weeping. “I want to see them, and they are all gone. I don’t want animals to go away.” Yes, gone away. More and more every day we are losing those beautiful creatures. Extinct. A word not expected out of the mouth of a 6 year old.

“Do you want to help save animals?” I asked. Of course, he did. It was time for grandparents to step up and make it happen.  National Geographic Kids was the answer.

I truly don’t think there is anything better than turning your grandchildren on to ways to make the world better. We can actually adopt an animal for the kids to read up on and follow. We can do fundraisers and save pennies. We can teach those bright minds that are caring and open to channel their concern. Yep, we will support them in an effort to make a difference.

“The dodos will come back again, right?” Oh no, I’ve already crushed his little heart once. What can I say? “I don’t think so, Nolan, but we can always hope.” Maybe I didn’t lie. Maybe someday someone will take DNA and come up with a new dodo. Maybe Nolan will be the one to do it.

There is wisdom in these children. The strong child who rebels and is opinionated will become a leader. She will have the drive to make things happen and build a better world. The quiet, observing child will make changes and fight for what is right. Opening doors for these children is an honor. Offering them new experiences and new opportunities enlarges their worlds. More times than not, they teach us. We find new parts of ourselves in these eye opening moments. They are capable of great things.

Perhaps one of these kids will be the very person to save some endangered creature or to find a new drug that will save lives. Every door we open just might be the one that makes a difference in this world.  We are all aboard the Dinosaur Train.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Beyond the plastic barrier

Shapes loomed and elbowed throughout the new house. Large plastic mounds hugged the middle of each room. Loren is known for his photography of plastic wrapped buildings. I think perhaps he should start shooting shapes that haunt rooms in the process of being painted.

Far from the olden days when a drop cloth was tossed across your worldly goods, the current mode is to wrap everything in plastic in the middle of the room. The pile is wrapped in multiple layers as masking tape companies reap the profits from the rolls of tape used to secure the furniture so it will not escape. Yes, indeed, every blasted thing in the house was wrapped in lumpy bundles. Hence, when it came to finding my phone and computer chargers, clean clothes, etc, they were not to be reached. Hm.  Looked like I would be washing out underwear for a few days! Ah, plastic. Can't get rid of it, and it separates you from just what you need.

The contractor brought Isaac and his team in to paint the entire inside of the house. And, truly it was in need. A house that was built in '84 had had no new paint on the ceilings or in the closets. The musty smell that greeted us when we entered would soon be gone. Isaac brought with him four men.  All were Hispanic, speaking broken English. Of course, we greeted them with open arms, since these four men would be part of our family for the next week.

I argued with our contractor on bringing in a port-o-let. It was to be in the upper 90's all week, reaching over 100 one day. "They can use our bathrooms," I said. Our contractor said that they needed to use the big, green, stinky thing in yard. When the men arrived, I informed them that they were to use the inside bathrooms. The contractor insisted that they could eat outside, hooking up their microwave in the hot sunshine. "You can use our microwave. We have water in the fridge and cups for you to use," I told them.

So why I was breaking the rules? I was raised when migrants were lodged in sheds with dirt floors and no running water or bathroom. They used the outside faucet and outhouse if they were lucky. They slept on wood pallets or on the floor. Whole families lived in a room. As a child I didn't understand it. I still don't. These people were my people. We all came from the same God. They were doing jobs that we didn't want to do. They were trying to make a living in a safe place just as we were with our families. No, there was no way I was going to treat these men less than I would my friends and family. They are my brothers whether they speak my language or are my race. I love them with no expectations. I was taught that as a child.

Over the week, we started joking and having a great time. We left the house all day leaving computers out and telling the men to come into the house to stay cool on their breaks. They worked hard and did a beautiful job. I smiled whenever I heard the toilet flush. Yes, we could show them what America is all about. We could show them what love means. One person at a time.

Our furniture was wrapped in plastic. We thought our lives would be complicated in having no access to what we used daily. Instead we found that on the outside of that plastic barrier, friendship was alive and kicking. We found joy and delight in another culture. Our newly painted walls broke down barriers.

Now we have our space free of plastic. I can write again. We have new friends we hope we will see again some day. It is time to move forward. I think we did.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dum Dum De Dum

Tricky tune, right? Hm. The second set of notes are the same. Dum Dum De Dum. What does it mean? Well, just in case you have no musical sense. I will continue. "Going to the chapel and we're....". Yes, Loren and I are going to be married.

At one time I would have wondered why anyone my age would want to marry again, especially since I have been single for over twenty years. I would be the first to say I was pretty pathetic. However, Loren Nelson did enter my life a year and a half ago. We have tested this relationship. Questioned if this would work with a woman who loved her freedom. Through it all, we discovered that there is so much life and love we have ahead of us. He is my best friend and just a silly guy who loves his woman.

Loren is a professional photographer. His work is shown in many galleries on the west coast. A gifted photographer who has a wonderful reputation. He comes from a family of potters and artists. I come from a family in the performing arts. We are a good match. We have much to learn about one another and many adventures ahead of us. (

Loren and I had a conversation on our return from a gallery show in Astoria about being at the perfect age to marry. Our priorities are so much different than those we had at a younger age. We both have been on our own and in other relationships, so we have a pretty good idea about love. We have no desire to move into a home where we will raise children. No jobs to bother with. We are focused on family, volunteering and creating with our own artistic interests. Plus, we have all the time in the world, any day of the week, to have a new adventure. What could be more perfect!

Perhaps you wonder at this strange column, but I am a child of Neff Road. Maybe I need your permission. We have it from our kids. Maybe you and I are, by now, old friends once a week. I will be bringing him back this summer. He is very interested in meeting all of you and walking down Neff Road with me. He plans to bring his camera and capture the house back the lane.

We are not sure when we will be married. Perhaps late summer or fall. Nolan is thrilled to be the ring bear. Yep, I said bear. Emma is ready to toss flower petals at people. What could be better? So we invite you to be part of our new adventure. Looking forward to our meeting you when we come back to farm country.

I just had to tell you.....dum dum de dum.

Monday, May 7, 2018

A Mother's Day

Mother's Day is on the horizon. We think of mother in terms of  caring and loving. Inspiration and role model. Commander and chief. Doctor, arbiter, bouncer, counselor, teacher and more. Each year I write about all the mothers in my life. This year is different.

One thing that comes to mind this time of the year is just what kind of mother have I been? I do not want flowers and accolades just because I birthed a couple of children. As a mom, I know that I did my best, but it was not always enough. As my children grew, I grew up as well. I remember those days when I was lost with that first baby. I had rarely babysat and had no idea what to do with this wiggly thing. I was depressed, having just moved away from my roots. Flying by the seat of my pantaloons, I did the best I could. I was learning what it was to be a mother.

There are no perfect mothers. We all have flaws. Many children have truly wicked mothers. I cannot forget those children. My mother and I had our differences. As wonderful as she truly was, we struggled in our relationship. There are no perfect mothers.

How times have changed. Some families have two mothers. Some have a father who carries both roles. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. All of these mothers know what it is to worry, wonder and wait. We are all in the same boat when it comes to not knowing if we are doing it right. We are the teachers of love, friendship, truth and trust. We teach our children by example and pray our example is good enough.

Every stage of motherhood is different. We raise our children, nurture our children, support our children and then watch them go. Not a day goes by that we do not think of those children. When they bless us with their children, we learn even more about love.

Really, for me this Mother's Day thing is overrated. I consider every day that I have been blessed with my two children and those of theirs to be my Mother's Days. I am not big on these days of recognition. I should not be honored for what I chose in my life. I receive my blessings every day and am not a pedestal mom. I do not want to be honored. Being a mom is honor enough.

Mother is indeed a beautiful word. So blessed that I am one.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Rewards are timeless

They sat on different sides of the room. Neither had seen the other before. A glimpse and at once they were friends from the past, for the future, for the moment. Eyes locked across the room.

Okay, this isn't a mushy story. This is really not a love story. Wait, this is a love story. Eyes locking across a room. It does not mean that two lovers will meet and be carried away in rosy words and dreamy eyes. Nope. It is a love that comes from another part of us. I find it a love so overwhelming that I cannot deny it. This four letter word is a spiritual freedom that erases all walls and builds a world of all people. Eyes lock and something new happens.

Last week Loren and I once again squeezed ourselves into the cafeteria seats, waiting for the twins to join us for lunch. The twins' beautiful African American friend Samara came and gave 'MeMe' a hug. Another little girl wandered over to our table and stood there looking at me. Emma leaned over to tell me that she does not speak English. I ask her how she is doing in Spanish. Her eyes widen and she walks away. We meet up on the playground, and I explain that I speak 'poco' Espanol. She shakes her head and says 'no English'. Before we go into the school, she pops up again. She is told to go to the end of the line, so I say "vamos" and take her. I put a loving hand on her head as we part. I am touched by the quiet conversations I have with these children who accept me as Emma and Nolan's grandma. I am aware of how my roots immigrated to this continent, while this sweet girl and my nieces people are the true natives of this land. I am so grateful to be able to bridge gaps and not make them.

We are listening to great jazz with friends in a small wine bar. The music from the 60's fills the room,  and I start singing along. I look across the room, and a woman is singing, too. She points a finger at me and shakes her head yes. We are on the same wave length. I can tell that she moved and grooved to the same music from all those decades ago. Our group is deep in conversation when I feel a tap on my back. This woman came over to give me a hug and tell me that we are sisters. I felt the same connection. A connection of music and the past feelings that went with it. A final hug and she said, "I just love you." Two strangers who shared the words of songs, remembering different childhoods, sitting across a room but connected by the memories of another time. I will never see her again yet will carry her in my heart.

She gets it. She knows the secret that I hold so dear. That secret that says that we have an opportunity to love everyone in this colorful world. Instead of looking for the differences that separate us, we should look for those that bind us together.

Perhaps this is a mushy column. I am awed each time I leave the house at the opportunities I have to love. The more I give, the more I receive. The more I receive, the more I give. I know I talk about love a great deal, but in the long run, is there anything more important? Why stay stagnant in your own world when you can experience the world with open arms and an open heart. The rewards are timeless.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The struggle to get there

So you start the day out with good intentions. Ah, that time when you first awaken tucked down in that warm nest that lulled you to sleep. Well, good intentions flew out the window when I did that first stretch of the morning. It has been years since it happened, but on this morning my back decided that any intentions would be impossible.

I hate how incapacitating back pain can be. The only relief, if you can call it that, is not to move a muscle. So I managed to find some pain pills and popped one down before painfully making my way to the coffee pot. Yep, got to have that coffee to at least jump start my basically immobile body. I am ready for that second cup of coffee now but wondering how quickly I can get is poured so I can get back to the heating pad and immovable position. Coffee? Pain? Hm. I'm sure I can get that coffee if I really try.

Back pain is indeed incapacitating. Having had a history of it, you would think that I would plan my supplies for the eventuality of such an attack. The heating pad should be at chest height, not on a bottom shelf. Ouch! A tray with the remote, phone and place for coffee should be placed in same location within easy reach. Instead the tray is on bottom shelf, remote and phone in locations calling for my aching body to bend. I could lie down, but that at the moment seems a little like climbing the Himalayan Mountains. Not going to happen.

I try to get sympathy, but that seems in small supply. My son James is quick to point out my stupidity from yesterdays events. My guy Loren is right up there, too. So what if I lifted Emma on Easter Day. Those days of holding her are almost over (well, maybe over). I am blessed if she has time for her MeMe. So why would I pass it up? Okay, our games ended me up with a black and blue chin when we connected head to chin. Isn't it worth it to have an all out day of play? What's a little, er, big bruise when you make a memory. So what if I can't move today. I need sympathy!

I sit here weighing the facts. Partly because I don't want to move and partly because I am sure you understand. Our grandchildren (especially those who are last) make us push our limits. We want their memories of us to be full of the fun and the closeness we shared. I have learned to sit longer on the floor, to once more move down the stairs on my derriere as we play train. I can do the hokey pokey and turn myself around. Frankly, that's what its all about.

Our Easter was extra special this year. Our church has a cross that on Easter is wrapped with wire fencing in which the children can insert the stems of spring flowers. Emma and Nolan were the last to leave the cross as they were having such a great time making it beautiful. The Easter egg hunt on the church lawn was different this year since the kids are older and their baskets filled more quickly. My son created a wonderful meal that we shared with those we cherish. The house was filled with Easter love. For Loren and I, we are looking for a home together and want so much to continue lovely, new traditions. So why not give it my all this year.

My heart is content, but my need for coffee is ever so strong. I look at the pot and am considering the heating pad that is cooling rapidly. This big event that will include much pain seems to be worth the effort. I know the pain will disappear in a day or so. Just as Easter will fade until we come around the calendar once more. Emma, I won't be lifting you next year. You will be a couple inches taller and a few pounds heavier. I will be a bit older and maybe a little smarter (not counting on that). But the memories we make, the efforts we put forth to build relationships (and get a cup of coffee) are well worth a little struggle to get there.

Well, here goes!

Monday, March 12, 2018

For the love of humanity

March. A month, a verb, a high stepping musician, a group of people making a difference. March. On March 24th March for Our Lives will take place. It will take place here in the US, but I know that people of other countries will stand up and stand behind us. Our children have a voice just as we did in the sixties when we were crying inside thinking no one would listen. Our constitution gives us all a right to gather and have our voices heard. The march for me is my one chance to tell my grandchildren, the children of my neighborhood and those of my friends that I will do anything in my power to protect them and to speak up for them.

We are not a world unto ourselves. We are not a community that hears only our own voices and own opinions. Whether we like it or not, we belong to everyone in this dear, sweet world.

I wanted to see just what this month of March means to people all over the world. I guess I am curious because I watch world news every night. I want to know what the rest of my 'neighborhood' is experiencing. So in this month, what are my neighbors doing? To find out I went to the United Nation's site. They seem to be concerned with everyone else on this planet, so maybe they could tell me what they are celebrating. This list is long; however, I think it says a great deal about this living planet. 

March 1st/ Zero Discrimination Day; March 3rd/World Wildlife Day; March 8th/International Women's Day; March 20th/International Day of Happiness, French Language Day; March 21st/International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, World Poetry Day, International Day of Nowruz (Iranian New Year), World Down Syndrome Day, International Day of Forests; March 22nd/World Water Day; March 23rd/World Meteorological Day; March 24th/World Tuberculosis Day, International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims; March 25th/International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members.

I ask you to keep this list posted on your refrigerator. Look it over and put your minds to the people of the world who are part of your community. We cannot have a blind eye ignoring the people of this earth, the earth itself, the universe that surrounds us. I will keep a list each month for you to follow. I hope you will check out the United Nations International Days and investigate what is this organization is all about. It might ask you what you are all about.

We do march on. The essence of who we are relies a great deal on our compassion and caring and action for others. I would stand in front of anyone I love to protect them. I would stand in front of anyone against anyone for my love of humanity. Will you stand with me? Time March's on.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Searching for beauty

Beauty.  Beauty from the inside out or outside in? There is no question on the beauty of a flower. What we see is what we get. A grandparent sees beauty in a few lines drawn on a page by a grandchild. Beauty can come in special moments, in a song, in a sunset. Beauty. It seems to be the thing that sells magazines and cosmetics. It draws in the eye and captures it.

What is beauty in these upright moving creatures called people? Like most women I have been through years of make up tips and products. I have had my hair frosted, colored, chopped and teased. I was proud of my thin frame and great legs. I wore so many different styles of clothing over my seventy years that I could be a history of fashion. I wore shoes that pinched my toes and those high heels that made my good looking legs even better. My ears were pierced, my nails polished. I roasted in the sun to get a tan....or for this blond, it was a deep shade of red. I was on a path to find my true beauty.

Well, at this wonderful age I find that I was mistaken. Had I discovered this earlier in life I might have saved a good deal of money and split ends. Beauty applied to the outside possibly allows a person to feel more self confident and perhaps more attractive to themselves, but is that real beauty? Does that outside layer create a safe place for the true essence of a person to come out? Hm. Seems logical.

Never would I have gone out of the house without make up in my younger years. My friend laughed at me when I told her that I put make up on first thing in the morning so I would be attractive to my husband. Feeling less than beautiful as a country girl with all the insecurities of living in a small rural area, I tried to find what could make me better. Ha! Silly girl.

No longer do I color my hair. In fact, I love the white/grey color it has become, because it fits me. It is my halo, my symbol of a life well lived, my crowning glory. My skin is changing, so I am changing my mindset. I don't need chemicals to puff up my cheeks and erase my lines. I embrace this new part of my life. Nothing is sillier than someone trying to erase those years and doing it badly. Nature has a way of making us beautiful at all ages.

Let's go back to that beautiful flower. That one that we see from the outside. That plant started with a little homely seed that was planted in some dark, brown soil. A cute little green bud pushes that crusty earth up and faces whatever is above regardless of the barrier. It stretches and grows and opens, a face seeking the sun. It captivates us and draws us to it. Yet, if you look closely as my father taught me, you see the inner beauty. My guy is a photographer. He knows what it is to see inner beauty. He even sees it in the death of a flower. His media is black and white. Sometimes I wish it was in color, so I could savor each part of the flower in it beautiful array of color pointing us to the birth of the flower. The inner beauty that causes that flower to grow and thrive, whither and die. A good, loving heart is that seed that creates the beauty we possess.

We all have that inner beauty. It doesn't come from a bottle. It may not get us on a magazine cover. It is that same openness as with the flower. It comes from that seed that makes us individuals. We are all blooms that need to be nourished to grow into our beauty. We need to stop believing that we need improvement. Men do not need to be buff or need a comb-over. However, I can do without the bushy eyebrows, but that's my problem. We don't need to be something for someone else. We just need to be better people.

Yes, I put on make up. Yes, I try to look my best. Yes, I love beauty. Yes, I think you are beautiful just the way you are.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My very gentle Valentine

"Je suis desja d’amour tannĂ©" (I am already sick of love), "Ma tres doulce ValentinĂ©e" (my very gentle Valentine)

Charles, Duke of Orleans, was imprisoned in the Tower of London after being captured by the Brits during the Battle of Agincourt. The year was 1415. The love note was sent to Bonne of Armagnac, his wife. She died before these words of love reached her. They are forever preserved in the British Library. A loving Valentine message sent that would remain unopened by the recipient, yet it has been viewed by hundreds of people, keeping this love alive.

"The rose is red, the violet's blue, The honey's sweet and so are you." Yep, that little poem is from the 1784. It began life as a nursery rhyme.  The poem's origins reach back in time to Sir Edmund Spenser's 1590 epic, The Faerie Queene. "She bath'd with roses red, and violets blew, and all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew."

Shoppers look for that perfect card or gift. Always they look for words to express their feelings.  Words written by someone else. If you are like me, the verse means very little. Those words written by hand at the bottom of the verse are those treasured. As my son said, "Don't send me a card if you don't write in it." Yes, those are the words that are important. They need not be poetic. They need not flow in rhyme. Sometimes just the word 'love' written by hand is enough.

I run my finger across the words and hold the card to my face. In her flourished writing, she tells me she loves me. As my fingers touch the lovely words, I am once again with my mother. It is as close as I can get now, but I know that her hand wrote each letter as loved filled her heart for a daughter who lived far away. The love in those words, in her writing, still holds me close to her. They are all I have left and are more treasured than those in the British Museum. For these words are meant for me only.

We all need to express words of love. Words from our own hearts written in our own hands, spoken in our own words, recognizing that love is an action word needing to be said and needing to be heard.

In the 17th century, Shakespeare expressed it beautifully in his play Hamlet.  Ophelia waits, "To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, 
And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.

Monday, February 5, 2018

I hand you love

Valentines Day is just around the corner. Thoughts turn to love....and sometimes loves lost. Roses, candy, a night out on the town. Love of family, love of life, love of all sorts fill that love bank we carry within all of us. Love. That word has great significance for me. Merriam-Webster defined it for me. But the definition is only words unless it is believed and shown in actions. 
The fourth definition of love
 a : unselfish, loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: such as
(1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind
(2) : brotherly concern for others 

Wherever we go I end up in a conversation with strangers. And, always as we part be it from a five minute conversation or one that truly evolves into friendship, we end with an embrace and sometimes tears. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a counselor I worked with at the high school. She said, "Pam, you love the dregs of the earth, and they love you back." Wow! What a treasured comment. I knew from the time when I was a child back the lane that there was more to love.

(Back to my dictionary) be·nev·o·lent: kind, kindly, kindhearted, big-hearted, good-natured, benign, compassionate (synonyms) caring, altruistic, humanitarian, philanthropic; generous, magnanimous, munificent, unselfish, openhanded, beneficent.

If ever the world needed love, it is now. Love that has no boundaries. Love that should wrap around us all making us kind, compassionate, humanitarians thinking only in altruistic terms (selfless concern for the well-being of others; unselfish). We cannot be Christians if love lacks all of the above. Love does not dwell beneath only one flag. It does not come in only one color. Love is not only for those of one race, one belief, one country, one lifestyle. Love is a universal language singing from the hearts of those who believe in it and understand it. Love. Meant to flow out. Meant to embrace. 

As you all know, I believe we are to love everyone we meet....and even those we never meet, but those who share Planet Earth. We are all pieces of a puzzle that is not complete until we find that love of one another. Isn't it, in fact, what we are told in the words of Christ? Love one another. As simple as that. No discrimination, no theology difference, no race, no creed, no judgement of any kind. A simple four letter word. LOVE. Red and yellow, black and white. He loved the sinner and spent time with those who all others turned away from. He gave us an example because He was 'love come down'.
I cannot make others love one another, but I can love all I meet. I can look beyond differences and find similarities. I can reach out a hand to those in need instead of slapping it down. I can share the light I find in myself calling forward love and handing it out to every person I meet without asking them to change. 

Today I hand you a valentine. I hand you love.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Because I love you

MeMe (after dinner out with the family): I need to go home now. (I had been with the kids for 3 hours)
Nolan: No, you go home with us.
MeMe: Nolan, why would I go home with you again?
Nolan: (leaning into me and in a soft voice) Because I love you.

Moments in time. Those precious moments we want to savor now and always. How I wish I had a journal of every sweet, silly, wise word my children and grandchildren have ever spoken. Those words that touch me so deeply that I could weep. Okay, sometimes I do shed a tear or two.

We are planning our trip to Ohio in August. I like to schedule my time away when I will not  miss any family events big or small. My son James told me that we can go whenever we choose. They will work out the kinks in schedules. Then I explained to him that it is not the fact that they will need to fill in the time for my absence. No, it is because I don't want to miss a minute of this precious time with them. The twins grow so quickly. In my estimation, there is nothing more important as that time with them. James surprised me when he said that he totally understood. He feels the same way.

Perhaps it is because the older I get the less important travel, possessions, things that separate me from 'potential moments' become. I see more clearly that all we have in the end are those we love. The rest is just garnish.

With my parents living across the country, they never partook of the special events in their grandchildren's lives. Finances were a key player. And, I don't think Mom and Dad ever thought about it. But I knew it. So when my family expanded, I swore that I would always live within a distance where I could be part of my children's lives. Those children would never wonder why their grandma was absent.

Last week Loren and I had lunch with the twins. His 6'2" frame scrunched into the seat next to Nolan. I sat between the kids. We were instructed by them as to proper cafeteria behavior and the recess rules that would follow. Quickly we learned the names of the other children who were eating or staring at us and were often asked if we were Emma and Nolan's grandparents. Children who saw me the last time came up for a hug. It was a win-win for all concerned.

'Grandparent' should be a verb. It is not passive. It is not a good noun. It is another word for loving, for playing, for caring enough to give up time to focus on what is fleeting. There is so much joy in this word. It is a title we share with friends who have no grandchildren. It is a gift.

Wednesday I had a full afternoon with the twins. When the weather is nice, we play a game where they ride their bikes up to my chair (the pet store) and order the things they need. Emma always orders 1,000 of all the animals she can name and food for each. She delights me in her determination and imagination. Nolan.....well, this will explain it.

MeMe: Nolan, what would you like to order today.
Nolan: 100 frogs, 100 turtles, 100 chickens, 1 horse, 1 cow, 1 leopard and a bucket of paint.

These are precious moments....because I love them.