Sunday, October 6, 2019

Cornucopia of colors

The beast hid beneath the knobs and ridges surrounding it. Yellow tentacles twisted and stretched resting behind shades of green and gold. What was this beast lurking, waiting, capturing my imagination?

Gourd; noun: hard-shelled fruit whose dried shell is used for bowls and other utensils, used ornamentally.

How in the world am I supposed to make a bowl or dried anything out of a ten-legged gourd? Hm. At a foot across, it doesn't just blend with the centerpiece. It is the centerpiece. What in the world type of vine did this monster come from anyway? I sense a jolly green giant.

Yes, I saw the legs of this giant gourd snaking out from under the small gourds in the bin. Upon digging down, I found this incredibly wonderful gourd. Being a fan of fall decorations, this rock- mushroom-shell hunter had found the treasure. In fall decorating I use colorful leaves, gourds, pumpkins and Indian corn to blend into a cornucopia of fall delights. I gathered my tools and set to work. Well, I tried to set to work.

What do you do with a gourd that resembles a bunch of bananas run amuck? I tried placing small gourds around it. Had I painted eyes on it, the massive gourd would look like a giant octopus, taking over the gourd patch. Oh, yes, I was proud of this unusual gourd. It was a stand-alone beast that was beyond imagination.

You know, we are each in this bin of peoples of the world. There are treasures in the bin. Every one of us is special. We stand alone in our uniqueness. Let's make a beautiful centerpiece together. We are all gourdgeous.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

We are the difference

First of all, this is not about me. It is about our society. 
Yesterday I went to the store. In front of me as I was waiting to check out, a young mother was struggling with her three children. The most trouble was the two-year-old in the back of the cart. I started paying attention to his firetruck socks. Soon he was focused on me and not dropping groceries from the cart. The couple behind me started talking to me about their grandkids. It became a little community all its own. 

As I left the store, I came upon a woman in a wheelchair struggling with her keys. I asked if I could help her and did. We hugged and said we loved each other as surely we did. I had three opportunities in less than ten minutes. I had no agenda. I had no message. I had looked around me and seen what was needed. 

We all should be doing this. It isn't about praise or accolades. It is about being a tool to serve others and in turn serve ourselves. It is about being aware of what is around us and how we can make a difference. So help me. Keep your eyes and hearts open. 

We are the difference.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Heinz 57 roots

Trees. All sorts of trees. Evergreen, coniferous, shoe, family, all sorts of trees. The evergreen and coniferous feed the air we breathe. The shoe tree tells us where our shoes are located. And that family tree tells us just who we are and where we came from. DNA is sort a tree. It holds all the things that make up you and me. Things determined way back on that family tree. As the family tree shows our sides of the families, our DNA shows what we get from those families that make up who we are as well as a bit of whom our children will be.

So I did 23&Me as well as Ancestry.com. Of course, my DNA matched on both. I am likely to be afraid of heights, have blue eyes and blond hair, dislike cilantro, be a light sleeper and have a real like for coffee. All true. It was rather like reading a book of me that no one could really know, yet my DNA told the story of me without me telling it. Hm. DNA.

I am a mixture of about every culture that inhabits the earth. I like that I am not a purebred. In fact, none of us are. Can't deny it. It is in our DNA. I found that this information was humbling. It ties me more closely to every person in this world. We all have a tiny amount of us that comes from Africa. I was even tickled to find that I had an equally tiny bit from China. I am a mixed breed! As Dad would say "a Heinz 57".

I have found new cousins and those I haven't seen since I was much younger. I have pieces of my ancestral history filled in, and I can add to that chain with what I have access to. I am on the discovery route to who I am. I am on my discover 'root'.

My son did his history as well. It has been interesting to see what matches and what does not. Obviously, that other half of parent-pairs adds to a new genetic tree. Some of our traits are the same and some are definitely from his dad. I guess we never really know where we came from and who we are without investigating. I know who I am more than ever now because I checked my genes.

Yes, I took root in the past.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunsets, kites and pancakes

It crested just past the wave-foam on the ocean. The spray shot up, and I gasped. I had not seen a whale since going to the beach in 1996 when Keiko, and I had our time alone at the Oregon Aquarium. Funny thing that happens when you see a whale. It's rather like when Millie hears the word squirrel. People pick up on the word and look to see where you are looking. Excitement fills the air. I'm not even so sure my ears didn't perk up and my tail wag.

Depoe Bay is a bay, which touts the fact that it is the smallest navigable bay in the world. Not sure if that is true, but it seems right. We decided to pull over out of traffic to take a peek over the railing on the bridge when I sighted the orca. It was cresting just beyond the edge of the sea foam. An awesome experience for us all.

So we took Emma and Nolan to the beach for two nights/three days. If you haven't seen an Oregon coastal beach, you haven't seen the wild beauty of an ocean coast. The place we stayed was just a short walk to the beach. We looked for agates and shells, flew kites, watched the kids climb on the rock-lined beach. Two days we moseyed down to Newport Bay where we watched the fishing boats and ate lunch, looking over a bunch of sea lions playing in the water and sleeping on the docks. It was noisy but delightful. We went to the Oregon Aquarium and discovered what is out there under that water we were playing by each day. Yes, it was wonderful. Then we sat on a hill overlooking the ocean, watching the sunset. The fading sunlight awed and inspired. Would we like a place at the beach? Not now. Hm. Nice to dream.

My grandchildren inspire me to work harder for the environment. We have decided to take our own cloth napkins to restaurants that only use paper. Along with those, we will pack our own take out containers for leftovers. We stopped using plastic straws. The beach is a reflection of who we are and how we care about our impact on nature. Loren carried out cans left from nighttime beach goers. The kids and I talked about our responsibility to the creatures we were seeing. They asked questions as we tried to fill in the blanks.

Making memories is what this grandparenting thing is all about. We aren't just babysitters. We sometimes have to give up sleep or get up earlier than usual. So what!? It is about allowing kids to make pancakes and eat huge ice cream cones. It is about grabbing a child's hand with a kite or two in the other hand. It is about teaching them, but in the long run, us as well. I wasn't much of a parent who had time enough for my kids. Who does? But as a grandparent, I want the time. I can do what their parents aren't able to. I can even hold a homesick girl until she sleeps.

School starts this week. We will miss the kids like crazy. Second grade twins. We wonder how much longer they will want us in their lives. "Wednesday is pizza day," Nolan informed us. "So do you want us to come to lunch every other Wednesday?" I asked holding my breath, thinking maybe we had our last year with pizza on Wednesdays. Emma gave us a big "YES". Nolan reminded us that we shouldn't forget.

My heart has been on a roller coaster. It had been a rough week coming into the days at the beach. Our friend Erika died during surgery when they were trying to give her a new liver. CNN came through, but it was just too late. I lost two friends from Darke County. Barbara Rhoades Motes left us. I am so glad we saw her at the meet and greet. Yes, those hugs count. Clark Lease just passed away. He was Brenda's uncle, but always Uncle Clark to me. My dear friend Sandy lost her father then the next day lost the love in her life. There were more passings and news of cancer in a dear friend all in the span of two weeks. So the time at the beach was much needed healing. Grandchildren make it easier. 

We all influence many lives by the warmth and love we give one another. Sunsets, kites and pancakes, my new mantra for good mental health and well-being.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Call of the homeland

The sun was setting over the lake. Shades of yellow, pink and blue reflected from sky to water. Mountains loom behind us seemingly asking what we are doing here. Here. Here in their vast wildness. Here is the reality of past and present.

After twelve hours in the car with five people packed like sardines, we arrived in Polson, Montana. Flathead Lake stretched before us reflecting the sun waiting to set. Shades of pink, yellow and blue scattered across the water. The air is fresher, the water deep and wonderful, the mountains hiding mountain lions, black and grizzly bears, moose and deer. A zoo wild in its own habitats.

It was dusk when we arrived at the reservation. Tiny houses and trailers dotted the streets and fields. In 1970 I had been on a reservation in Arizona. This same scene greeted me way back then. The poverty and culture of a nation still trying to make a home on land they did not choose. Tears stung my eyes. I could not turn away nor get my thoughts around all this beauty and what was done to the people who our country belongs to and who in turn belong to it. Freedom was not theirs. And, for a few days, I will mourn their loss even more than usual.

My niece Jobi is of the Flathead tribe; therefore, she owns this piece of land overlooking the lake. Her children can not inherit this home once she is gone unless they marry into the tribe. I get it. And, for this family, every moment here is priceless. Jobi left Montana when she was three. My sister and her husband adopted her and moved her to Indiana with them. We all fell in love instantly with this beautiful girl. Yet over the years, her voice has yearned to answer the call of her homeland.

This is all quite timely. I just finished sending my DNA in to check my lineage. For all the years we were told we had Native American blood, I find that indeed I have none. So I really am an immigrant. I am mostly French/German, Swiss and British/Irish. I am more than a half breed. I am a breed so diluted that there are no numbers to cover the genes that have feed into my little pool of DNA. 

Birds are singing. The scat from a black bear was found in the yard this morning. My niece faced off with a mountain lion in their driveway some time ago. Eagles perch in their trees and the earth is alive with bird song. Hm. These animals, too, are native to this land. Yes, I am the intruder.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Shoes of a different color

Hers didn't match. In fact, one shoe wasn't even hers. One belonged to Gabby's friend. The girls decided that they would have a little fun and wear two different shoes. Funny I never thought of that before. I am pretty good at coming up with weird, unusual ideas. Then I began noticing something else. Something more than footwear.

Emma has a drawer full of socks. When she gets them out, they match but don't. One might have a bird on it and the other with a frog and the same background. Or maybe the critter matches but the background is different. It is a bit mysterious this 'unmatched match-up." 

And again, I find myself looking around. Not just those of my grands, but those of other kids. Shoestrings mismatched. Tights not matching the shirt. Shorts conflicting with a sweater. My mind was swirling with possibilities I had missed.

We are getting ready to go out tonight. I have a new, shorter haircut that is an interesting challenge. I want one side to match the other. No matter how hard I try, one side turns to the back and the other to the front. Now, I ask myself (which I do often), why do they need to match. Why can't I just have fun and do it my way. I was raised that everything needed to match. I always felt that I needed to look like everyone else. And we all did! None of us knew that we did not need to follow the same old path. We could dare to be different and if no one liked it, that was their problem. But we never thought of it. Hm. 

It isn't just about clothing. Nor is it about matching other people. It is truly about finding yourself. Maybe finding a new self every day. It is about having a voice and not being afraid to be different. Seeing yourself in new ways, finding new ideas, doing things for yourself you have never tried before, are all possibilities we missed long ago.

Yes, I found out something that day I saw two different shoes. I found that my granddaughter was not the copy of her mother or grandma or any of her friends. She dared to be different and own it. Now that is pretty awesome. Makes me wish I were a kid again.

So tonight we are going out. My hair is a combination of all the genes that are on my DNA chain. Maybe one side of my family looked forward and the other looked back. I seem to be the result of my past and the enlightenment of the future.  Now I can wear all my mismatched socks that have lost their partner. Ah, shoes of a different color. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

A story waiting to be found

A story once told. A memory captured on the page. The people who were once creating the story now gone and never forgotten. Why? Because it is a story once told.

Often it is difficult to pull something out of the air to create a column. So sometimes I need to wait until almost deadline time to find a story that is waiting to be found. Interesting words, right? A story waiting to be found. Now, realize that you are a trove of wonderfulness.  No matter what your age, you are full of stories waiting to be found. You might think what I do is difficult, but it is not. You must just open your mind. Look around. Allow the world to touch your soul. Then write it down.

We are nannying for the twins this summer. Most of the days will be filled with camps; however, there are weeks that we will entertain them. Or maybe, they will entertain us. This last week was an eye opener. I am not 30 anymore. Nor am I just a couple decades past. My knees rebel and my energy needs a swift kick in the....well, you know. But what an opportunity. We get to make memories that we hope will last forever. Will they? You and I are the memory banks for so many people, for so many events.

I picked up the kids at 7:30, fed them and then brought them to our house. "MeMe, you have a really cool house," said Nolan. Making themselves at home, the toys came out of the closet. A bucket was lowered over the upstairs gallery railing with a note for me and pencil and paper for return mail. They finally settled in with freshly made scones and morning TV shows. I settled into my morning computer time. Well, sometimes it is good to look up from what interests you. For when I looked up, the twins had turned Mom and Dad's old chairs around to see the screen. Emma rocked away in hers while Nolan curled up in his with a raspberry scone still warm from the oven. How could I look away? My thoughts carried me away. Mom and Dad received these precious chairs as a wedding gift. Back then, people often gave away something of their own. The Loxley girls have always cherished the chairs. We played on them, our children sat in them when conversation filled the living room, and when we cleared the house on Neff Road, my sisters had already decided to give me both chairs. Now I was looking at their great grandchildren filling a couple of hearts in Heaven.

Later Nolan walked over to the glass topped cabinet that holds the Native American stones from the farm. Each sister has the same. I opened the top. He picked up a small one. "This was used to shoot birds," he echoed from a past conversation. "It's my favorite." I knew what he was hinting at. Yes, he wanted it to go home with him. It probably will some day, but it is the one and only one I ever picked up in that field that ran along the lane.  I am not quite ready to part with it.

Stories surround us. They are waiting to be found. If we don't pass them on, they will be lost forever along with those people who were and are part of our lives. They are waiting. Each time you find one of them there will be an explosion of other stories that will find you. The stories are waiting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Let there be love

This is a piece I wrote three years ago. I feel it is as important today as it was then. Maybe even more so. I hope you take it in and pass it on.

Let there be peace on earth with every person loving, not judging, not hating. Let every man, woman and child strive for understanding. Let cruel words dissolve and positive thoughts prevail. Let there be peace.
Let creativity flow from every person. Let them find joy in the gifts they possess. Let them dwell on ways to build together creating a universal canvas celebrating all humanity. Let us all raise voices full of hope and joy. Let there be beauty.
Let us embrace this earth that provides life. Let us work together to save trees that provide for every living creature. Let us protect and love each creature that wants life as much we do. Let us tend their roots as we must do our own. Let there be action.
Let us embrace our differences, the uniqueness we each possess. For in that embracing we experience the love of God. Let all cruelty, bigotry, bullying, oppression fade into oblivion. Let there be hope.
Let the sun shine on a world where unity and cooperation prevail. Let us all choose love over hate. Acceptance over judgement. Where color, religion, sexual preference, origin and circumstance of birth are accepted by all. Let there be joy.
Dear God, let us be what you created us to be. Let there be love.
By Pamela Loxley Drake

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A helping hand

Tragedy strikes, and we who live in the country know what that means. Neighbors step up. They don't need to be asked. They don't need to be called. They don't need to feel guilted into helping. It seems they just show up with tools, food, clothing and whatever it takes to make life easier for those who are hit by an unforeseen force.

Online I am seeing posts of people finding things on their properties that do not belong to them. Pictures, toys, even a pet seemed to have ended up far from home when the tornado hit. They are all symbols of the power of nature; those things picked up and carried for miles. They are items seeking their owners by the grace of those who find them. This is what neighbors do for one another.

There is such a pride we have in this unsaid love and concern. It is a way of life we grow up learning by the actions we see by our family and friends. We are part of it, and it is part of us. You can take the girl out of the country, but you cannot take that neighborly love out of the girl.

None of us are immune from extreme weather conditions. A storm takes out a neighborhood, and we who live far away hold you all in our hearts. Even Loren asks if the farmers are in the fields yet. Yes, rain or shine, we care.

There are garage sales all over the Painter Creek area on June 20 from 9am-6pm. A list of the sales will be available at each residence. Forty homes are participating, including Pleasant View Church. Go. Go see what the farmers are doing. Enjoy a drive in the country. These are my good neighbors. They and their relatives are the ones who pitched in when our family had scarlet fever, when June had rheumatic fever, when Dad lost his herd of cattle and helped us care for our parents. I wish I were there. Gotta love a sale!

So while attending the garage sales in Painter Creek, remember to look for items that might go into a goodwill basket for someone needing a boost. Remember the less fortunate. Take used clothing to a clothes closet in a church or other organization that gathers good, used items. One of those things you look over might just be a plus in someone's life.

Yes, we are all a community. That desire is born in us from Neff Road. I could go back today and ask anyone of them for help, and they would embrace me with all they could give. Remember to think of those who have lost so much. They are family.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Old lady tug-of-war

Message from my granddaughter Gabby: Grammy, when were you born? Reply: 1947. Gabby: So you were alive during the 50's and 60's. Reply: Well, it would seem so. (Where is her head!) Gabby: Well, two of my friends have to do a report on someone old (There she goes again!) who lived then, and they are fighting over you. Reply: Hm.

Anabel won the 'old lady' prize. I set up the deck so my yearbook and other items from my ancient years would be in view. I played 50's music, hoping to set the mood. Admittedly, I was nostalgic as I gathered up old cut out dolls and old 45's. Still in love with Frankie Avalon. Soon I was dancing to the music of my elderly past. I had pictures of the wedding styles from my grandparents to my own. It was quite a stretch. West Side Story and Peter Paul and Mary albums looked on. I even had my old curls that were cut when I was about 3 or 4. I wanted to toss the blonde ringlets, but Loren wouldn't let me.

Gabby came along with Anabel. I sat on the hot seat. Gabby sat with chip dip and chips in front of her, and Anabel had a thick tablet that had 15 questions in it for me. The first thing she asked me was what would be my most memorable event. I started to tell her about JFK's assassination, and much to my surprise, I began to cry. This is an event I have talked about with friends many times over the years without this reaction. What was wrong with me!?!?!? Was I really an old broad losing it?

No. No, I was not. As I sat there with these two beautiful girls about to go into their senior year in high school, I was struck with the fact that I was their age when it happened. Suddenly the fear and confusion I felt back in 1963 was as raw now as it was then. It wasn't about me. It was about so much more.

I turned the table on Anabel and chip-munching Gabby. "Do you read the newspaper and follow news?" Both girls said 'no'. It was too scary. They didn't want to know.

When back east I was asked why I was missing the Today Show so much. I watch it faithfully every morning here at home. I watch the news and read about what is happening in the world. It is my duty as an American, a mother, a grandmother and a woman trying to help a world in distress What I saw was disturbing and sometimes made me angry and feeling helpless. But I watch. I cannot have an opinion if I do not know all the information. Yes, I am a Democrat. But it might surprise you, I do not follow any sites posted by the Democrats and do my own research on all parties. I try to keep an open mind and a level head. This is the responsibility of parents and grandparents. We are the examples who need to open doors to clear thinking so that our young ones know how to make their own decisions. How could this father and grandfather have opinions if he was not opening his mind and changing the world for those he loves? As far as I was concerned, if you don't open doors, you will remain locked behind them.

Anabel and I continued our little interview. I rambled about playing with paper dolls, twisting to Chubby Checkers and occasionally making out in an old Chevy. I laid it all out. They could ask what they wanted. I learned long ago that you can't fool teenagers.

As we finished, I had one question to ask them. "If you don't know what is happening in your world, how can you protect it? You will be going to college. We have not left you with the same world I had when I graduated. You are the future. You are the ones who will make a difference. How can you not be interested? I challenge you to step up to the task. I am trying and would like your help."

Yep, Anabel won the old lady tug-of-war. My guess is the she got more than she bargained for. In fact, the chips and dip seems to slow down with the conversation. Maybe, just maybe, a new page was added to my history.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ironing the wrinkles

We do it, don't we? Yep. We look at everyone else who might possibly be our age and wonder if we look that good, or maybe that bad. Age. We seem to be defined by it. How do I know? Well....

There has been a change in my visits to the doctor. For some reason I don't seem to get the same attention to my concerns as I did before. "It is just part of growing older." Hm. Well, I don't really buy that. I know my body pretty well and know that some of the changes have happened quickly. All of a sudden I seem to have red spots that pop up over night. They are the size of a dime. If I was thirty, I would be sent to dermatology. But for me, "It is just part of growing older." Another hm.

I notice that my son treats me differently. Not necessarily in a good way. Just because I can't jump down from the bleachers as quickly and could use a hand, he doesn't need to say "Hey, need a little help, Mom?" Of course I do. I just don't need his chuckling as he does it. My grand twins even inform me that I am old. Hard to understand since I sit on the floor to play with them. I play basketball with them. I will try most anything to keep involved. I'm not old!

On top of everything else, I keep getting AARP info wanting me to join and get oldster benes.  I'll get there. Just not feeling it yet. I get ads for wheelchairs, first alerts for when I tumble over my own feet, hearing aids, life insurance, walk in bathtubs, all sorts of 'old' ads. Not interested! If I am, then I will check it out. Anyway, how did they know my age?!?!?!?

We aren't old. No. We are all on a path to finding out what we will be when we grow up. We are full of adventure and eager to learn new things. We can contribute because, believe me, we have learned a few things over the years. We are a walking encyclopedia on life. We have made the mistakes so the younger generation will not need to. We have seen the worse, so we understand what is the best. We have suffered through wars, drought, flood, death and broken hearts. We know that nothing is gained without change and new ideas. Yes, we have much to offer.

I no longer compare myself to others. I applaud everyone who has leaped over adversity and survived pain. Each age is beautiful. And, the faces that accompany them are precious.

Here's too long life, lovely faces, new adventures....and wine.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Get your daily paper

On each corner. Yep, on each corner of the city, a newspaper boy was hawking papers or there was a newspaper stand. I know, I'm showing my age. There were also shoeshine boys, buses on electric cables, policemen walking a beat and people wearing their Sunday best. Dayton was a different place back then. Most of all, I remember the newspaper boys and their cry, "Get your paper! Get your daily paper!"

The newspaper has always been an important part of our society. Besides the radio, it was the only source of news. Local news was only carried in the paper (and on a party line). I remember a newspaper was always lying around at our house and in those of my grandparents as well.  Dad always headed to the mailbox first thing in the morning. He and Mom read the paper from page to page, column to column not missing a thing.

We took the Greenville Advocate, the Arcanum Times and the Dayton Journal Herald. Our household was up to date on all the news. We grew up hearing Mom and Dad talk about the news. And, it is where I learned to read the paper and to take an interest in local, regional and national news. I read the comics: Orphan Annie, Blondie, Dick Tracy, Lone Ranger, Nancy, Pogo, Li'l Abner. My favorite was Brenda Star.  I followed it to find out who sent the black orchid. Could it be Basil St. John? Every week I waited to see if the identity would be revealed. Well, yes, that was the drama in my life when I was little. Alley Oop came in for the comedy. What fun! Yes, I grew up on the comics. Every Saturday it was a battle to see who would get the color comics first. 

When my kids were small, I was clipping newspapers for major events for their scrapbooks. In looking back through family papers, I find obits tucked into the Bibles. News items important at the time were saved, recipes filed away and newspaper birth announcements tucked into birth announcements sent to our home. Each part of the paper was important.

Things are changing with online news not to mention all the other sources of news, i.e., TV, computer and phone. (Oops, I guess I just mentioned them.) My oldest granddaughter Sydney and I loved to watch the Today Show together. Even apart, we both still watch it. Our favorite part is the news. I learned about our political world through the news and more about which party I wanted to belong to. I watched our government in action through the newspaper then progressively through other media. But nothing has replaced the rustle of the newspaper and the familiar warmth of reading the paper as I have all my life.

Newspapers give us a broadened view of the world. We can hold it in our hands and reread it. We hold our newspapers to a high standard expecting unbiased views and truthfulness. We learn about our neighbors and find out what events are happening in our areas. We are drawn closer through those paper pages. 

In preparing to go home, I will go through the old picture trunk and look for old news clippings. I will bring home pieces of the past. I can't do that on the TV, my phone or computer. Sometimes progress isn't nearly as good as the past. 

Get your paper! Get your daily paper!

More precious than diamonds

Take me home, Country Road. To the place I was born. The place that holds my heart, my roots, my past. Well, really I just lied, because Oregon holds my heart and the roots of my grandchildren. I have been here since 1978.

I remember when I was newly married and living in Wisconsin raising two small children, we found that every holiday was spent on the road going back to the farm. I resented not having the holidays in my own home. Then when we moved to Wisconsin, we found that our big trips were those back to Ohio. In Oregon, we found our trips were few. My roots called me home by way of guilt. I felt I had to go home. Yep, guilt is a mighty power that grabs you by the suitcase and points east.

Over the last couple of decades, I have lost many people. Most of them have been family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and friends who were as close as family. I know I don't have to explain this as you have found this to be true. We cannot go back and add to those times we missed. And, I mourn those times when I could have sat with all of these people, knowing the questions I would ask now. Absorbing their essence and tucking it away for when I would no longer have them with me.

I love hearing from you who also live away from home. It feels rather like making a quilt with all the threads that tie us together. The patches of lives woven by joy, sadness, faith, love. So many of us passed by one another and never knew it. Now we can be in touch and feel as though we have always known one another. We can reminisce about church, county fair, Bible school, driving the circle in Greenville on a Saturday night and, sometimes, tobacco fields.

Growing up, I was the youngest in my family. Hanging out with older people was normal to me. Now as one of those older people, I realize what my visits meant. I realize how loved ones watched over me and followed my life. Perhaps I am a better person now for understanding the gifts of love and recognition. Maybe I can pass on an understanding of the fragility of life and write about the past for those 'young'uns' who will someday, many years down the road, understand how I feel now.

Yes, I am going home. A suitcase is packed. Summer clothing for Key West and St. Augustine then layers and sweaters as we meander our way north. When I asked the twins what they wanted me to bring back, the combined answers were shells, crystals, diamonds and toys....in that order. Hm. I intend to come back with stories more precious than diamonds. I will absorb every bit of the earth, the sky, the towns and the feelings I left behind. Watch out, Neff Road! We are on our way. See you all May 4 from 1-5pm at Turtle Creek Country Club.

Monday, April 8, 2019

As they grow

As they grow, so, too, do I. The distance in their ages grows more and more each year with Sydney a soon to be junior in college, Gabby a soon to be senior in high school and the twins soon to be seven. The distance between them grows, and this grandma wants so much to slow it down. What bridges have I made that will last the test of time. When will the gap lessen and understanding awaken?

I was born ten years behind my eldest sister and seven behind the next. I remember only glimpses of them when I was small. A sister who teased. A sister in college and her life. Vague memories that peek in once in awhile. I long to have had more of them in my childhood so try to make up for that gap as an adult. We build bridges over time that lessen that gap in age. We set age aside and became closer.

Sydney held Nolan in her arms. Her sister held the other twin, Emma. "I wish we were closer in age," said Sydney. My heart lurched. The past came pouring over me. I got it. I get it.

These adult granddaughters love their twin cousins. They do not see them often, and, when they do, it is a struggle between begging little ones and adult conversation that interests them. The gap widens. When Gabby goes off to college, that gap will widen even more. When Sydney begins life out in the world, the leap will be enormous. I see it. I feel it. How I want my family to always remain close. How I want to live to see it. Yes, it is not always easy being a grandparent.

I have talked to Sydney and Gabby about how important their presence will be in the lives of Emma and Nolan. We cannot leave behind who we are and what we feel unless we do something about it now. The girls know that I hope they will always strive to be in touch with the littler ones. To tell them the stories about their growing up and their family. They are the keepers of the future and the family. A heavy burden? No, a gift.

The beauty of any family relationship is that is shapes itself constantly. What we teach the children of their past is not only the passing of information, but it is showing the example of caring to relate history with all of its foibles and tears. The people I hold dear who have left this sphere are so embedded in my heart that I cannot keep their history quiet. It fills me with love and laughter that I can do nothing with but share it. Pictures. Old trunks and boxes of memories. All of the parts of me  and my family.

So many older people are reducing their households. I have gone to auctions and seen a suitcase full of snapshots, old postcards and letters tossed into a box. So many things that are of a past tossed aside, because who will want them. Well, let the next generation make that decision. Don't lose your past.

When my parents passed, we three girls were the only ones allowed to go through the house room by room, going through absolutely everything. Our children told us what they would like to have. We drew numbers, so in each room, we followed the draw. Truly it was an emotional experience. We found things we never knew Mom and Dad saved. We read cards, sorted through pictures and looked through scrapbooks. We learned about our parents in a new way. In returning to our homes, we packed away memories, finding that most of the things went home with us. We found a new friendship in one another. We said good-bye together, feeling the same sense of loss and thankfulness for what we had.

So, you see, as they grow up it is important to realize the importance of ourselves. For in watching and listening to us, they will build their own history. They will know us better. And for us? Well, we leave more of ourselves behind, knowing that we leave it all in good hands.

Monday, February 25, 2019

On a wagon in a field

And, the movie of the year is......Green Book!!! Oh, yes, I cheered. We saw the movie and fell in love with it. Not only did it take me to the past but also to the present. The acting was superb. The film well written. A true story brought to light. A story of us.

Four brothers were born in Piqua, Ohio. (So was I) John Jr, Herbert, Harry and Donald were sons of a local barber who founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. His sons learned from their father just as we did from our parents. This vocal group grew into one of the longest-lasting oldie acts in American popular music, entertaining audiences for decades. Even before Pentatonix began making their own instrumental sounds, this oldie group made their own. In the late 20's this group charmed radio audiences. This quartet went on to record with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong. In 1943 their Paper Doll became one of the biggest hits of the decade with 12 weeks at the top of the charts with six million records sold.

June and I got into a discussion about where Myrtle Mack had lived and about the house across from my Uncle Bob's house on Yount Road where I was sure her son Don moved with his lovely wife Nancy. "Remember the field between that house and Uncle Bob's? It was where a wagon was pulled into the field for the singers to stand on," I said. Dad and his quartet sang warm-up for that group of boys from Piqua. June came back with, "You know Dad's quartet (a group of young men lead by Mr. Paulsgrove) travelled with them. They sang mostly in churches. Dad got a serious ear infection and had to come back home for surgery." Well, yes, I did know that, but it raised a question, especially after having seen Green Book. "Dad's group stayed in one hotel and the Mills Brothers stayed in another or maybe a tent." What?!?!? I thought that was only in the south!!! All these years I had never thought about it.

The bus pulled into the driveway. They came to do laundry at our house. We girls were thrilled to have them. When they found me in the basement singing along with my record player (which was a daily occurrence), Marva Jo Dixon lifted me onto her lap, and the girls joined me in song. Often June and I have questioned why Mom and Dad never had them stay in our house which was always open to anyone we knew or didn't know when they needed a place to sleep and have a good meal. These beautiful young women from Piney Woods Boarding School in Mississippi were not allowed to sleep in our beds. Oh, they used our outhouse and used our old ringer washer, but did not stay in the house. When their bus was parked at the church, they had no access to the inside bathroom but used the outhouses. A school based on Christian principles with students who sang in church after church were not as welcomed into homes as a white group of students would have been. It was a day and age. And, it was wrong. And, it was not the south.

The old belief that we are of different races is quickly coming to an end. Genetically, we are all the same. The colors of our skin are determined by how melatonin is affected through our genes and affected by where we live. Research the information. It is fascinating. We all began in Africa. We are all related. There is no denying it. We found this more clearly when my son did his DNA. He is indeed .01% black. He is also .02% Jewish. Our genetic makeup over the thousands of years has been influenced by mutated genes and the blending of cultures. We all started in the same place and are one race. Wouldn't it be so much better to look at the positive things we have in common rather than the differences?

Green Book brought it all home. I stepped away from that sign I saw on a bathroom door in Georgia back in the 60's: Coloreds Only. I opened the back door of my life and saw that discrimination was not only the south but right outside my door on a bus and in a field on a wagon. We can always learn and grow. I thought that we in the 60's would change race discrimination for all time. Yet, we didn't, did we? Maybe my .01% is crying out to have a voice that began for all of us in Africa.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Thoughts of love

Bump ba da da, (one note down) bump ba da da, (another note down) bump ba da da, (up one note) bump ba da da. Oh, come on, you know the song. I'll just bet you played it over and over. My friend Vivian and I played this duet so often that I'm sure the piano could have played it by itself. We sang it in the car. We sang it with our friends. The sound is immediately recognized. Oh, yes.....

Heart and soul, I fell in love with you
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do, madly
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night - Hoagy Carmichael

Valentine's Day. Ah, the love that pours from our hearts for our loved ones. Candy, flowers, little tokens and mementos of the love we embrace in our hearts. (At this point if you were here in this room, you would hear the screech of the needle flying across the record. Scratch!!!!) Wait a minute!!!! My love does not come from my heart. It is really centered in the brain. My brain may tell my heart to beat a little faster and my palms to become sweaty, but it is the brain not the heart that sends those messages. All the heart does is keep the blood pumping while our brains embrace thoughts of love. They hold memories of loved ones. They know what love is because they create the feelings. That darn heart just pumps and pumps while the brain takes on the great task of love.

I realize that a brain posted on cards or sweet verses about the brain are not necessarily pleasing; however, maybe through a contest, we could find a lovely symbol of the true keeper of love. I can see it now. Songs about the yearning brain, a brain burning with love, a brain that you are willing to give away on Valentine's Day. Ah, yes, it makes my heart, er brain, sing.

However, you would think the brain could be a little smarter in helping you not to make mistakes in love. And, maybe it does with whatever side of the brain is saying this must be love, the other side is saying not so fast! You would think that the brain would make infatuation impossible where instead it makes the heart beat faster and that rush of blood that blinds the tender heart, er brain. Ah, it is something to ponder. And, as usual, I ponder the ridiculous.

As you can see, this transition from heart to brain is a bit difficult. It was in medieval times that the heart shape came into being, so we will have a long time to change the concept of brain over heart. I close with this:

Bump ba da da, (one note down) bump ba da da, (another note down) bump ba da da, (up one note) bump ba da da. Brain and soul, I fell in love with you.

Sending love to you on Valentine's Day. Love from my...oh, well.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Defining age

Defining age. Oh, yes, I grew up knowing about defining ages. I have heard it and seen it in action from when I was a small child to the present.

When I was growing up, I had an older male cousin who married late. Most boys where I lived were married in their late teens or early 20's. I remember my parents saying that he was a confirmed bachelor. It was too late for him to find love and make a family, since bearing children after mid 30's was dangerous. Women by the same token married young and were considered spinsters if they weren't married after a certain age. Defining age.

Back then children were not immune to this age thing. Children were to be seen and not heard. You really didn't have a valid thought of your own until you were at least around the 5th grade. If you were a talkative child or one who had an opinion, you were maybe ignored or the adult nodded and smiled. We were not considered having minds that took in info and had opinions. We were just children. Impatience with an over active child was usually met with discipline instead of understanding. It was something passed on from another age.

Young women back in the 50's and 60's had little future beyond being a wife, secretary, nurse or teacher. Even then, women working with children at home was frowned on. Women did not think in terms of careers. It was a defining age.

Defining age. My mother thought that clothing should be dark and not 'frivolous' after the age of 40. She seemed to wear navy blue often. I noticed that other older women were doing the same. Their clothing became more dated, and they didn't seem to care about changing with the times. The hairstyle was the same as it had always been. When my mother was older, her daughters encouraged her to wear bright prints and pants. She loved it.

As a young parent, I tried to follow everything I was taught just as my mother had from hers. I didn't think outside the box. I was defined by the past. Those messages that were embedded in my head had me on a path that would later lead to navy blue if I didn't change. It was then that I decided to define age. In my forties, I made the conscious decision to open my mind to new possibilities and to break away from the confines of my own past. My idea about parenting and grand parenting changed. The only thing that had held me back in the past was myself. I found that as this new awareness expanded so too did the gifts that were given to my life.

Last week Loren and I were playing basketball with Nolan and Emma. Now I was never good at the game and not sports-minded in the least. Being 71+ years old and having just had a bad fall, I was a little gun shy of running around guarding a 6 year old. I envisioned all the old people in my growing up years who sat back and watched kids. Those who didn't talk to children, because either they didn't care or didn't know how. One thing I have learned and have experienced is that no matter how uncomfortable or scared it makes you, if you don't try to be involved, you short change your grandkids and yourself. I definitely could not keep up with Nolan. He is like a crab, skittering side to side with the ball; however, he (and his grandma) were quite surprised when she made a few baskets. I had so much fun! I never played basketball with my kids and missed that experience. Loren said that even if I was only able to sit on the sidelines, I would still bounce and toss a ball. I have been awkward at times in new experiences with my family, but I will not let my age and discomfort define me.

We are defining age. You and I. There is less navy blue and black and more red and green. on me and my friends. There is no old age in our lives. We drop everything to listen to the children. We are capable accepting new challenges, learning new games, finding new ways to help our children. We are not letting age define us. There truly is no defining age. There are only defining people.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Face in the mirror

On Facebook, pictures abound regarding this challenge of then and now. 'Challenges'. I laugh when I see them.

I could post a couple of pictures. Yes, I am a bit lumpier than I was years ago. I have a lot more white hair. The years have accumulated, and I show my age. And, I am beautiful.

Don't take that the wrong way. I can look in the mirror and see what could be there, but instead I see a woman who has had many blessings in her life. I see a woman who has felt deep pain and sadness. I see a woman who has loved and lost and loved again. I like that woman. Inside her are memories preserved, love of family that makes her glow, a heart that she wears on her sleeve and is ready to share it with anyone she meets. Yep, she is a pretty good looking lady.

I don't need a challenge. My life has been a challenge. I am perfect and getting more perfect all the time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Be a power

When I grew up, there were two walls. One was the Great Wall of China which did not stop their enemies. The other was the Berlin Wall, which we cheered when it was brought down. We have no walls separating our border countries. We do not consider those countries and the people in them as enemies. The problem is not with the Mexican people. It is with a disease that has invaded our country. The money in this country and the evil here feed the drug cartels. Terrorists, drug smugglers, those seeking to hurt our country, use our country, will still find a way in.

When I was a child, row fences separating field from field and neighbor from neighbor were torn down. There was more rich soil to till, and neighbors learned to work together. Nothing is accomplished by anger and hate. Nothing is accomplished with barriers. Only by tearing them down.

This wall between Mexico and the US is a diversion by someone thinking we are dumb enough to fall for his repetitious folly. His game plan (which he uses all the time) is boring and tiresome. We are a nation made up of immigrants. My family and yours. This country became the home of slaves, not by choice, but this country is theirs as much as mine. They, in fact, are more deserving for what they suffered. Shame on those who participate in atrocious acts against any of these.  

We need to get past this arrogance and realize that we are no better than any other country, any other people. Our soldiers have died for this country and other countries. They fought together for the greater good. Hopefully, we learn that we do not need to kill to make a difference. We do not need to rule. Lives have been lost because of power hungry, arrogant people. Shame on us. We should do better. 

Let there be peace and peaceful ways of living in a world that belongs to all of us. Don't be a pawn. Be a power.