Wednesday, December 31, 2008
That is how 2009 will begin for me. It is my 62nd New Year's Day. This is the year I will begin to collect Social Security, and Jim & I hope to make a long-anticipated trip to Europe this year and perhaps another trip across the US, taking a different route and seeing different things.
This is a good time of life.
We measure so much by beginnings and endings, and yet, truly, time is unimportant. Each day is a gift, each smile, each embrace, each touch of a hand - whether it's a hand marked by age or a hand still sticky with a cookie, each sunrise, each rising or sleeping, each is its own precious and special moment.
I really never make New Year's resolutions. When I was younger - a teenager - I would draw up lists of things that seemed to fill the bill for resolutions, but my heart was never in it. Beyond the vague "I really need to lose weight," it has always seemed to me that this great creation of mankind - time - is really immaterial to our lives. It drags on, it speeds by, it escapes our notice, or it becomes all we can think about. And yet all we really have is each moment.
This year, I plan to appreciate the moments. I hope I can live my days without anticipating what is to come tomorrow, without wishing away the moment I am in.
My mother used to tell me that I was wishing my life away. You know the wishes, I'm sure: I wish my birthday/Christmas/prom would hurry up and get here. I wish it was time for vacation. I wish my kids were older and I could __________.
Well, my kids are older. Adults, every one of them. And sometimes I long for those far-away times when I could hold them on my lap and listen to their dreams. The days that I muddled through in a haze, or wished away in anticipation or frustration, each of those days is gone, never to return.
I hope to look at each moment in 2009 with the eyes of a child, as a unique event that will never happen again in quite the same way. I know, even as I write this, that I will fail in this expectation; it's the way I'm made - perhaps the way each of us is made. But I'm going to try.
And so I will end 2008 secure in knowing that, across the hall, Addison is curled up with his blankie and his Winnie-the-Pooh. I will think of him and of all my grandsons - Andrew, David, Matthew, and Adin - as they embark on all the hopes, joys, disappointments, successes, and even failures of this life - and hope that they can find within themselves a lifetime of seeing the new in each day, each moment.
I wish for you, everyone, a bright and beautiful 2009, beginning with tomorrow's sunrise!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Since Ben, Briana, and Addison are hoping to head East tomorrow to spend Christmas with Briana's family, it was a nice opportunity to have a few hours together prior to Christmas. Jim plowed his way out of the driveway, using his truck bumper as a plow, and brought my dear ones to me. After work, Ben made his way to our house and took his wife and son back home. It was a treasured interlude in a snowy, cold, and otherwise quiet day at home for just the two of us.
The worst of the storm seems to be over, although more showshowers are forecast, and temperatures are said to be on the rise. We will still have snow on the ground for Christmas (and I love the idea of that!), and the "kids" will spend the rest of the holiday in a winter wonderland on the north slope of Mt. Hood. I will miss spending Christmas with them, but know how fortunate I am to spend time with them for most of the holidays and am glad that Briana's parents and siblings will have time to be with each other for this rare snow holiday.
The photos included here show the progression of snow over the past week (December 14, 19, and 22). Our front yard decorations are flamingoes, and I've been intentional about taking photos of them to show the increasing depth of the snow. For a Florida gal, this is truly a winter treat!
Merry Christmas to all!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Good friends and gingerbread houses - or Why Good Housekeeping Will Never Hire Me As Their Christmas Decorations Editor
Two such friends are our neighbors, Mary and Gary. Although Mary & Gary don't have grandchildren yet, they are very indulgent of Ada and Addison, and the attraction is mutual. Addison has been known to follow them to the bathroom!
So Mary, in what was either a gesture of extreme kindness or a diabolical plot, brought two gingerbread house kits over a couple of weeks ago - one for each kiddo. All she asked was the opportunity to see the finished products. I, who had never put a gingerbread house together, was charmed by the thought. I had briefly considered getting one kit for the two of them to share, but dismissed the idea when I realized that coordinating kid visits at this time of year was going to be problematic. Mary, of course, was untroubled by the mechanics of such coordination.
So when we unexpectedly had Ada overnight last Thursday, I seized the opportunity. I knew that I would be babysitting Addison on Friday evening, and could arrive early enough that he and I could work on his house; Ada and I could decorate hers before I left.
What I learned about gingerbread houses:
- It takes longer than the recommended 30 minutes for the walls and roof construction to set; overnight is better - and may be mandatory!
- Gumballs do not work well as roof decoration unless an adult is willing to hold them down for 10-15 minutes EACH while the icing sets up enough to hold.
- Gumballs DO make a good cap for the peak of the roof, but if you press down too hard, the roof will start to slide.
- Neither gumballs nor jellybeans are recommended decoration for the sides of the house; gravity takes over even more quickly on the vertical than it does on the slope.
- Not all kids are thrilled with sticky hands and fingers, but all of them are thrilled at the sight of unlimited bite-sized candies!
- A gingerbread house is a good opportunity to get rid of leftover Halloween candies if you have a creative mind.
- There's really nothing quite like the memories created when you decorate a gingerbread house with grandchildren. Some of them are even good ones!
But in the final analysis, it was fun and the kids were proud of their creations. Grandpa observed while Ada and I labored, and Addison's mommy actually got into the act and was quite creative with candy canes and mints.
So, thank you, Mary, for the gingerbread houses! I'm including pictures so you can see the finished products. It was very thoughtful of you and I can hardly wait till you and Gary have grandchildren so I can return the favor.
I'm thinking drums...
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sears (formerly Sears, Roebuck) far exceeds the standards and requirements of providing for their employees who are called up to active duty in the military. In addition to holding their jobs for them, as required by law, Sears pays the difference between what they make in the military and what they earn as a Sears employee; they accrue to them all benefits - vacation time, raises, bonuses - as if they were still working for the company.
At a time when corporations are "rewarding" their employees with layoffs, Sears deserves not only our gratitude but our shopping loyalty. This is truly a company that understands that loyalty is a two-way street and one that epitomizes the spirit of this season all year long!
For more on their programs, be sure to read this. And don't forget to read about their Heroes at Home Program as well.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Ada and Addison were secure and joyous in the heart of family and friends, engagingly "clinking" their glasses of bubble juice and saying "cheers" to each other before drinking, and using toy badminton racquets as guitars. The adults ate, drank, laughed, decorated the tree, took turns hiding my wine glass (an annual event), and then chronicled it all on the blackboard in the kitchen, where it will (mostly) remain until next year.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
One of our simple pleasures is the morning paper. By the time I arrive downstairs in the morning, Jim has usually been up for an hour, the coffee is ready to brew, the morning news is on, the fire is burning in the woodstove, and Jim is in the early clues of the daily crossword puzzle. For the next hour-and-a-half or so, we drink coffee, read the paper and pay attention to the weather forecast. We also occasionally get updates from t.v. on news stories and make random guesses at the answer to the daily question.
Neither of us is an avid sports fan, so that section of the newspaper almost always gets short shrift. Jim isn't crazy about human interest stories, while I devour them along with all the local news. I usually just skim the news from Far Away Places With Strange-Sounding Names, but Jim stays current on all the international events. We both love the editorial pages, the comics, and The Edge.
Throughout this very special time, one of us will interrupt the other's reading with a tidbit that we think might be of particular interest, or if we recognize a name. Sometimes the news will elicit a bit of personal history from one or the other of us. In short, our morning news is a shared activity. Some days there's so much sharing that it takes a couple of hours to get through the paper; other days there's so little of interest that we're done in an hour. Whichever it is, it's shared, special time that means a lot to both of us.
But I think it's going away.
The newspaper is getting smaller (except for the Christmas ads!), and more and more often there is a teaser, followed by "for the rest of the story, logon to www.OregonLive.com/something ." Now I have to point out that I am no technophobe. I love computers. I've built them, repaired them, upgraded them; I've written programs, been a beta tester, and designed and published web pages. I've been on the internet since before there were graphics. When I'm not reading, I can frequently be found with my laptop - well, in my lap! And I read the occasional news story, forwarding interesting tidbits to the people in my life.
But it's a solitary activity, not shared in the sense of reading a newspaper together. And sometimes I want to read more of the story, but not badly enough to drag my laptop downstairs. And by the time I've finished the paper, I'm usually not in the mood to look up some story that briefly caught my interest - I have things to do!
I know that a lot of people enjoy getting their news online, and more and more people choose to not subscribe to a daily newspaper. I understand that the costs of ink, paper, labor, and production are all reaching prohibitive levels and that newspapers are looking at more cost-effective ways to disseminate information. I'm just sorry that this time-honored tradition of news is falling out of favor, and that it will soon fall by the wayside.
I used to think that it wouldn't happen in my lifetime, but I'm slowly coming to accept that it's going to happen a lot sooner than I'd like. I think "USA Today" will soon be the only way to get our news in print, and I think that's too bad. I love the feel of the paper in my hands. I love the unexpected surprises I sometimes get from stories I probably would have missed online. I love the activity of reading something I can fold up and swat a fly with or balance on my knees while I eat a bowl of cereal.
Somehow, I just don't get that same feeling from a computer!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Andrew, born 1998
David, born 2001
Matthew, born 2005
Addison, born 2005
Our longstanding tradition at Thanksgiving is to join hands before we bless our food and ask each person - young and old - to say one thing they're thankful for. There are no restrictions - sometimes it's a new video game, or a day off from work, or a job, family, friends - whatever each one is thankful for.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Within about six months of my marriage to Ed, my gynecologist looked at me and said, "Yep! Sometime in May!" I was ecstatic and began to dream more specific mommy-dreams from that moment. When Martin was placed into my arms and I examined each part of him, from head to toes, it almost didn't feel real to me. How can a dream really come true?
This, my oldest son, has taught me much about life! He was the first to teach me that having a baby reorients the center of the universe. He taught me that, no matter how exhausted I was, a smile or a giggle could re-energize. He taught me that a baby with a fever can shrink your world to a pinpoint and raise fears that even today give me chills.
Martin, as the first child, was always the trailblazer. He astonished us when, at age 2-1/2, he could identify every make of automobile in the parking lot as we walked into a restaurant. He loved excitement, whether it was bicycle motorcross, building ramps on the sidewalk for his Big Wheel, or towing his younger brother behind his bike in a wagon. Even today, Martin wants the biggest and the fastest - whether it's a roller coaster or a car. He's an adrenaline junkie and proud of it!
As with all first children, Martin was the test case. He tested every limit and pushed against every discipline. Sometimes, I despaired of ever getting him into adulthood. When, at age 18 after one of our more spectacular arguments, he told me that he is gay, we clung to each other and cried. Although my heart was broken for this, my oldest, I knew that I would never desert him, would stand beside him no matter what. When he joined the Navy the next year, I worried; when he was rejected by the Navy just two short years later, I was distraught. The career path he had chosen - and many others - were closed to him forever. It is to Martin that I owe my unyielding support of gay rights, that every man and every woman be treated fairly and equally, regardless of their circumstance.
I am so proud of this, my oldest son. He loves family and is a generous and devoted uncle to his nephews. I will always be the woman in his life and we share a bond that still amazes me sometimes. Oh, I know we frustrate each other from time to time, and he still doesn't like to follow my advice - even when he's asked me for it! - but I treasure each precious memory and am so proud to be his mom.
Fourteen months after Martin was born, the doctor once again said, "It's a boy!" As I held that baby close and examined him for all his parts, it was almost like being transported back in time. Although they don't look a lot alike as adults, when they were small they were occasionally mistaken for twins! But Jason was different from the start - a much more docile, laid-back, uncomplaining child. He slept through the night (six hours) when he was only two weeks old. Of course, that meant I had to find ways to entertain him during the day!
He adored his big brother and tried hard to keep up with him. Martin, on the other hand, wasn't too thrilled about this new addition to the family! Jason, from very early on, loved music of every kind. He sang as soon as he could talk, and would sing about anything! He was filled with curiosity, and saved his money to buy his first computer when he was only about 11 years old! He took great pride in writing out simple commands ("Hello World!") and loved the astonishment on my face when he showed me how to connect to the outside world with a modem.
Although both Martin and Jason took piano lessons as young children, only Jason persisted. Even when we moved and the lessons stopped, he continued to practice and play, and he always had a fine voice. When the time came for college, Jason chose to major in music and had to audition for entrance to the university. He competed against young men and women who had taken lessons all their lives, and yet he gained admission due to his own perseverance and talent.
After only 1-1/2 years of college, the company their dad worked for closed and Jason had to drop out. After much discussion, he joined the Navy Reserves, and eventually moved to Illinois, where he lives today. Jason has always worked hard and I marvel still at how diligent and creative he is. He is the father to his children that I always wish I had known. He loves them, he plays with them, he cares for them. He is a helpmeet to his wife; chores and responsibilities are shared and the love in that home is almost palpable. My pride in this, my middle son, knows no limits. He is a joy.
Nearly ten years after the birth of my first child, the doctor laid Benjamin on my chest and I fell into his eyes. He was the only child for whose birth I was awake, and I will never forget that moment of falling in love. Once again, a boy. No argument from me! I was used to raising boys and was happy, quite frankly, that I wouldn't have to share my clothes, my makeup, or my curling iron!
Martin and Jason loved their baby brother from the start, and I have always given them credit for having helped raise him. It wasn't always easy for Ben, I know. Kind of like having four parents at times! But he grew and thrived, and wanted to be like his brothers in every way. That nearly drove ALL of us crazy!
When Martin joined the Navy and Jason went to college, Ben came to me in tears. "Our family is falling apart," he said. As the child who was so much younger, it must have seemed to him as if his time would never arrive. And yet, even as young as he was, he became a strong support for me. When he I and flew to New York to bury my mother, it was Ben who took control when it appeared that we would miss a connection. He brought me a cup of coffee and then went to the gate agent and explained the situation. I was still exhausted and in tears when he came back and told me that he had worked everything out. He was a hero to me, and he was only 13.
When Ben and I moved to the Northwest, he helped keep my spirits up as I questioned over and over again if I was doing the right thing. He never wavered that he let me see. When I was down or afraid, he was there with a hug and words of encouragement. When he went back to visit his dad, and when he started college, I was lost and lonely.
But as Ben grew, so did I. When he went to college in 1998, I had been "mothering" for 28 years and it was what I knew how to do. When he and his wife chose to live in Portland near me following their marriage, it was a gift beyond compare. I could watch this, my youngest son, grow into the roles of husband and father in a way that I had missed with Jason. It seemed only fitting somehow that the child who had borne the brunt of my insecurities and anxieties would also be the child who stayed close enough to enjoy the contentment of my later years.
Ben is a loving and devoted husband and father, and I take great pride in him and joy in sharing his world.
So, these, my sons, are my great gift in life. Without them I would be so much poorer in love, in joy, in every meaningful way. The memories that a mother holds in her heart can never all be written down, nor should they be. Some are too intimate to share; some would involve a betrayal of trust; and some are so precious that sharing them would almost seem to trivialize them.
Martin, Jason, Benjamin. Never doubt my love for each of you, or the pride that I have for each of you. You have given my life meaning beyond compare. When asked of what I am most proud in my life, I always answer, without hesitation, being a mother to my boys.
And for this, I am truly thankful.
Monday, November 24, 2008
My brother joined the Navy in 1961 and went across the country and, eventually, across the world. I married my first husband in 1964 and began my own life's journey. My sister and the man she eventually married moved to this corner of the world in 1972. Over the years, through marriages, divorces, the births of children, moves both near and far, we - my siblings and I - did not stay close, but did stay in touch. And we all remembered the difficulties of growing up together and the stigma of being "children of divorce."
We remembered stopping at the 7-11 on the way home from mowing yards (my brother) or babysitting to pick up a loaf of bread, milk, cigarettes - the staples of life that required our earnings to help purchase. We remembered the evenings mom had to work when she sold cars, or encyclopedias, or Avon; evenings we had to fend for ourselves and fend off our siblings! We remembered when she worked in an office and the last one home from school made the obligatory phone call to let her know we had all arrived. We remembered arguments, fights, tattling on each other, putting off our required chores till the last minute (you can clean an entire house between 5:15 and 5:30 if your older brother is yelling, demanding, threatening - and all of you work to get it done!). My sister called our brother "The Chief Spanker-in-Charge."
We also remembered our mother's oft-repeated fear that, if we didn't behave when she wasn't there we ran the risk of being "taken" from her and separated from each other. That seemed to be her biggest fear. I still don't know if it was true, but it had the desired impact. Most of the time.
Fast forward to 1992, when mom went into the hospital in Portland. We all feared the worst (and, indeed, we were right), so I flew out here from Florida and my brother (who hates to fly) came from Colorado. We stayed with my sister in her home as we made our 3 or 4 daily visits to the hospital, walking three abreast down hospital corridors to confront doctors, locate clergy, or find the coffee stand. For almost a week we were together again, this time looking after each other and our mother. When the doctor told me he wouldn't allow me to see mom if I was crying (it will upset her, he said), both of my sibs turned on him and said, "It would upset her more if Cheryle wasn't crying; that's what she does!" When the family (Episcopal) priest commented on my brother's cowboy hat, saying, "I need one of those! Maybe it would attract women!" we all laughed and Peggy and I looked at our tall, handsome brother with pride. When each of us had to return to our respective homes, my brother and I knowing we were leaving our sister to make hard decisions, we both said to her, "Whatever you decide, whenever it becomes necessary to do it, we are with you in our hearts. We will never allow anyone to second-guess your decision and we will accept it as if we had all made it." And we have stayed true to that promise, knowing that she had to do something a child should never have to do: tell the doctor when to let mom go.
After the emotion of that time, we took up the strands of our separate lives but tried to be better about staying in touch. It's been easy for us sisters; we now live near each other and spend time together whenever we can. Our brother still lives in Colorado and we don't see him very often. And he's a man who was raised in a time and place when men kept feelings mostly to themselves and relied on no one. But we email back and forth and speak fairly often. At our insistence he keeps up updated on his wife's ongoing battle with cancer.
My big brother has brought into our family the gift of his dear wife, our sister-in-law, whom we love and worry about. A few years ago, his daughter, whom he had not seen since she was an infant, was reunited with us and added her husband and son to our family. The "Chief Spanker-in-Charge" has become a doting father and grandfather even as he approaches late life.
My little sister - the only one who is still married to her original spouse! - has added to the family not only her husband but two wonderful kids - my niece, who taught me that I could love another child as much as I love my own; and my nephew, the baby of the family, who always wraps me in his arms and gives me wonderful hugs when we meet and when we part. She and her husband gave us a home when we moved to Oregon, and provided lots of emotional and moral support while we adjusted to our new lives.
My siblings - Martin and Peggy. Shared memories. Shared DNA. Shared lives. Shared love. Undivided gratitude for the many ways they enrich my life.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Due to economic changes and a reorganization, Jim retired in the fall of 2000, and I missed him immensely. I truly never thought to see him again. Imagine my surprise when he showed up one Tuesday morning at the end of a staff meeting, looking for me! He was in the market for a computer and wanted me to help him buy it. I was really happy to see him and to have the opportunity to spend time with him; and, of course, I've always enjoyed spending other people's money!
One thing led to another, and we were soon dating - something I hadn't done in 40 years! Jim was twice-divorced - as was I - and we were both leery of long-term commitment, but there was no question that we enjoyed a lot of the same things and each other's company. As a lifelong Oregonian, an avid hunter, and an accomplished white-water rafter, Jim introduced me to parts of this glorious state that I had only dreamed about visiting. We briefly discussed marriage, but Jim had been single for more than 20 years and was reluctant to re-enter a legal commitment. Although I was disappointed (I'm a marriage-believer) I agreed that it was probably best not to spoil a good thing!
In 2001, I lost my job with Parks (another reorganization!) and was unemployed for nearly a year. Unable to keep up with my mortgage payments, I also lost my condo the following year. After much agonizing and equivocating, Jim asked me to move in with him. Although the transition was rocky (I have lots of "stuff"; Jim's "stuff" is mostly garage-related), and we had a fair number of rough minutes, we have now "lived in sin" for 5-1/2 years. We're as happy together as any other couple we know (and happier than many of them), and our life together has taken on the easy familiarity and comfort of age. One of our greatest joys is reading and commenting on the paper while we have our morning coffee and listening/watching the morning newscast. When one or the other of us is away from home, it's a big hole in the life of the other.
In many ways we are different. Jim is a very logical and concrete thinker; I am more philosophical and idealistic. He is somewhat family-phobic; I embrace large gatherings and close family relationships. My Christian faith undergirds my life; Jim is an avowed atheist. I am clean but untidy (I build "nests" wherever I spend time and my shoes can be found in nearly every room in the house); Jim always puts everything right back where it belongs! But we are undergirded by mutual love and respect, and a healthy sense of humor about each other's foibles.
We have traveled extensively together, first in our trailer and now in our 5th wheel. We spent a month together in Mexico in very close quarters, and earlier this year took a two-month trip across the US in our 5th wheel - stopping to visit all of my family members along the way! My children and my siblings and in-laws all think the world of him, and Addison calls him Grandpa Jim.
Jim surprises me with marvelous gifts: our first Valentine's Day together I went in to take my morning shower and found my bathtub filled with heart-shaped mylar balloons! I have come to anticipate cards under my pillow, decorative hearts or rose petals scattered between the bedsheets, and a constant flow of holiday-themed gadgets - pencil-toppers, spider rings, wind-up chicks - awaiting discovery in my bathroom or under my pillow. My birthday presents are almost always something that I can share with my sister - a trip to have a mineral bath and massage, a weekend at the Oregon Coast. This year he took me on an Alaskan Cruise - my dream for many years.
He has also graced my life with the addition of his son Mike (I refer to myself as his "Kindly Old Pseudo Step-mother - KOPS-M), Mike's wife Christina, and their baby girl, Ada. Mike is a blessed addition to my son-filled life and Christina is a dear and well-loved almost-daughter-in-law. Ada is a joy, and I am her "Gran."
We enjoy our home, the thrill of feeding "our" birds and squirrels and watching them at play outside our windows, working together to bring beauty to our yard, the relaxation of an evening glass of wine on our deck in the summer and near the woodstove in fall and winter, and the simple joy of knowing and being known. As we age together, not always gracefully, but always with joy in our companionship, I know that I am so blessed and remain ever-thankful for this man who has come to me in our evening years and taught me so much about what sharing life is all about.
My companion, my partner, my love. I am blessed.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
I've had women friends, but none have stood the test of time, and I've had rocky relationships with two mothers-in-law and a sister-in-law. Just not a "woman's woman" I guess.
Funny how things can change.
In 1994, when my children's dad and I called our middle son to let him know we were getting a divorce, he was with a young woman whom he called his friend. When our sad and distressing conversation ended, Lisa was there for him, giving him loving support and providing strength for a young man who was far from home and whose world had just tilted on its axis. Two-and-a-half years later - on my 49th birthday - Jason married his best friend, Lisa. Their marriage has blessed all of our lives and provided three beautiful boys who call me "Gran."
I don't get to see my Midwest family very often - the distance is great - but I always stay with them when I visit. Lisa always welcomes me with open arms and I feel welcomed; not just tolerated, but genuinely welcomed. Let's face it, having your mother-in-law camp out in your house isn't most women's idea of a good way to spend a week, but Lisa actually seems to enjoy having me there! I can talk to her like I do any other member of my family - we tease and laugh, bad moods (mine and hers) are overlooked, and she's always game to go shopping with me! (She even, on one memorable occasion, donned rubber gloves and cleaned the bathroom after I became violently ill on the last day of a visit. Now, that's love!) Best of all, she loves my son and I love seeing them together and being a part of their family for that brief time. She always makes certain that Jason and I have some mom-and-son time together and there is an easy friendship and love that we share. Lisa is a blessing to me and I am thankful that she is my d-i-l.
When I moved to Oregon following the divorce, my youngest son, Ben, came with me. I agonized and worried that I was ruining his young life. He was just starting high school, and I had dragged him 3,500 miles away from the only home he had known. Family, friends - the relationships of a lifetime - were now a continent away. I rationalized that the Northwest was a more wholesome environment and he would grow up around his cousins, and his aunt and uncle. But still, I worried.
During his second year of college in Oregon, he mentioned to me that he had met someone he really liked. He'd had one serious relationship in high school and had dated other girls briefly, so I didn't give it much thought. But I began to hear her name more often: Briana. In fact, hers was the only name I was hearing! But he was young still, and I know how transient young love can be.
The summer of 2000, Ben came home and brought Briana with him. I was captivated by her immediately. The love they had for each other was obvious and they, too, were friends; best friends, in fact. Four years later, they married, and not quite 18 months after that I was in the delivery room when Addison was born. Having your mother-in-law in the delivery room seems to rank right up there with having her in your house for a week, so you can see how the love flows both ways.
I have been Addison's "Granny Nanny" since he was about 2-1/2 months old - and that is a gesture of trust and generosity on Briana's part that humbles me. Briana and I share many personality traits (a comment that makes her shudder, I know!), but we also share the joy of a comfortable and open relationship. She loves my son - the one thing I have prayed for all of my children - and, as with Lisa, Briana makes sure that Ben and I have mom-and-son time together. She, too, is a blessing in my life, and I am so grateful for my d-i-l, jr.
And so, I give thanks for these two young women, born not of my body but into my heart. They truly are my daughters-in-love!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Occasionally we wander off into discussions of politics, other religions (both Christian and non), and current events. We make prayer requests, have a link for daily devotions, and even have a bit of irreverent humor. We Episcopalians are a versatile bunch, you see.
Today an article from The Guardian in the UK was posted entitled Blogging and the Meaning of Life: Does the internet make discussion of things too easy to be worthwhile? It's an interesting premise, and one I've struggled with on a low level from time to time. The author discusses, among other things, how many of us use the internet not only for legitimate research (guilty) but also for information to bolster our own point of view (also guilty). We write blogs or emails or comments to and about people we don't really know (guilty again), and find it easy to be abrasive or judgmental toward people who exist only in our cyber-world (okay, okay, I'm guilty of this, too).
I'm an opinionated person. You've probably already figured this out; especially if you're related to me. And I have a family full of opinionated people (you know who you are!). And often we hold opposing opinions. This doesn't mean we don't care for each other, and - thankfully! - it doesn't mean that we don't get along. What it does mean is that we accept each other's differences of ideas and philosophies without feeling threatened by them. It also means that we listen respectfully to each other, allowing each of us to have our opinions without tearing the fabric of our relationship. We're in this relationship thing for the long haul. I'm very blessed to have a family like this one I find myself in.
My cyber-friends, on the other hand, are people who read and comment on my blog because they are mostly like-minded. This doesn't mean that I don't value their readership or our tenuous connections with each other. One of my dear readers even called me her friend in a comment, and I floated for days on the strength of that remark. (Of course, she also said I was beautiful and that didn't hurt!) But I know that these followers of my blog, however happy I am to have them in my cyber-world, and even though I also follow their blogs, could disappear from my blogosphere as easily, as quickly, as mysteriously as they arrived. My world would be poorer for it, and I would miss them for a while, but someone or something would eventually fill the hole.
I'm writing this to put all of my thoughts into some perspective. In a post prior to our recent election, I made a comment about conservative Christians (actually, I made a couple of comments!) that one of my family members called me on. On re-reading my post, I understood why she felt that I had made a blanket statement, even though when I wrote it I didn't mean it exactly the way it sounded; it was not meant to be derogatory toward all conservative Christians. However, because it was made in a forum that doesn't allow the back-and-forth of a good face-to-face (or even voice-to-voice) conversation, I should have been more careful. No, she's not angry with me. No, we aren't feeling tense about each other. We have that good relationship that I mentioned in paragraph 4 above. But I felt bad that I had caused her to feel I was making a statement about her faith.
So. I am going to try harder to be more thoughtful about my posts. I expect I'll still do research to "prove" my point of view. And I expect I'll still get pissed off and write a diatribe from time to time. But I really am going to try to be more even handed and fair-minded. Because I value all of the people in my life: those of you I know and love as well as those of you who are only connected to me through this mysterious thing called the internet (or smoke-and-mirrors, as I often think of it!). I expect I'll screw up now and then, but I'm going to make the effort and I hope you - ALL of you - will help keep me honest!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
So, what do to on a dreary, wet Portland day? We went to the mall, of course! Some of the Christmas light are already up and there's lots of stuff to see and do, including our favorite - a visit to the bookstore and a mid-morning vanilla steamer for him and a latte for me!
For years, I colored and curled my hair, put makeup on every morning, and tried to present an attractive and professional appearance when I went out the door. But I'm 61 years old and retired now. Comfort is a priority, and while I don't go out looking slovenly, I don't spend a lot of time getting ready to go to the store! I shower, use deodorant, brush my teeth, comb my hair, put moisturizer on my face, and wear clean clothes. Yes, I know it's a minimalist approach. Yes, I know my hair is 90% grey and tucked behind my ears. Yes, I know my nails are ratty-looking. But I never have to tell Addison to be careful of Gran's hair or Gran's makeup. I never have to worry about getting dirty or smudged if he's overly enthusiastic with his affection. And I like it that way!
I was approached by no fewer than FIVE young people working in kiosks and selling everything from hair products to skin and nail products as we cruised the stores yesterday! All had a variation on the same line: "Ma'am, may I ask you a question?" Or, "Ma'am could I see your (hands, skin, etc.)?" "Sure," I said, showing them the offending body part as I continued to walk past, following my young perpetual motion machine. Did they really think that they could sell me anything, that they would have even a nano-second's worth of my attention?
Yes, I know. They're just doing what they've been told to do: Look for the woman who looks as if she jumped out of the shower and into her clothes. Ask if you can ask her a question. That's your target - the woman who needs HELP! And they're bored and trying to earn a buck. So you can't really blame them, I guess. But it is offensive to me. I'm being singled out because I don't fit someone else's idea of what I should look like. They didn't go after any of the women who looked "put together," just us plain-jane folks.
And, I guess, that's as far as it goes. I don't care that I'm not acceptable to them; I'm pretty darned comfortable with who I am. But I do just want to be left alone when I'm mall-surfing with my cutie. If I want your product, I know where to find you!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Ben's words to me were comforting and poignant. He said that he thought of me and how important this moment must be to me, a woman who had lived through the horrors of a segregated South, replete with Jim Crow laws and blatant discrimination. How thoroughly this child of mine understands me! His insight and empathy are humbling, and his appreciation of the sea-change that has occurred during my lifetime is astounding to me.
I remember vividly the signs that designated water fountains in Tampa, Florida as "White Only," and "Colored Only." I remember the all white neighborhoods. I remember the feeling when my high school was integrated with two young African-American boys who stood out in the sea of white faces. I can only imagine how frightening that must have been for them.
I remember my mother's fear that we would be targeted as "nigger lovers" because we dared to champion the cause of desegregation. This was not a frivolous concern. We were a household of three white women - a divorced woman with two teenaged daughters. She feared for our safety.
I have heard the jokes, the explicitly racist remarks, the hate-filled rhetoric. I have known the people, I have been related to the people, who wore sheets and hoods and were a frightening presence in the communities in which I lived. I have seen the signs that said, "Nigger, if the sun rises on your black head in this town, don't let the sun set on it." I have seen eyes filled with fear and anger and submission.
Tonight I have wept tears of joy and tears of great release. Tonight I have witnessed something I never thought I would live to see. Tonight I have wept and laughed as an African-American man was elected President of these United States. Tonight, I, the great-granddaughter of slave owners, have rejoiced as Barack Obama stood in front of a crowd of Americans, men and women of color alongside men and women who are white. As sons and daughters of men and women who, even as recently as a generation ago, were not considered human; men and women who are the grandsons and granddaughters of people whose servitude to this nation was not of their choosing; men and women whose skin color has labeled them before their mouths can even speak in their defense; as they wept openly, laughed openly, rejoiced openly - for now, in this Year of Our Lord 2008, they have been redeemed and released.
I am so proud of this country. I am so proud of my fellow Americans. I am so proud of our new President. May God hold him safely in His care. May he stay true to his promises and his vision. May our trust in him be fully realized, and may God bless him and this Nation.
I am so grateful to have lived to see this day.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Oddly, this is not a photo that I took! I've been recreating my son and d-i-l's photos (see here for the story), and this photo happens to be one of theirs. It was taken in Florida (I'm guessing Disneyworld - gee, I don't know why I think that!) in November, 2003, when they went to visit my ex and his wife for Thanksgiving.
The cuties are David on the left, who was just about three weeks shy of his 2nd birthday, and Andrew, who was 5 (and turned 6 the following January). It was so cool to open this folder and see these two guys when they were so much younger - and smaller!
I'm going to tag my sister Peggy, and my two d-i-l's, Lisa and Briana. You're IT, kiddos!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I grew up in this Florida, mostly in Tampa, but for a few years in Lake Wales, a nearby town. This was in the 1950s, when the South was littered with signs saying "White Only" or "Colored Only," over water fountains, bathrooms, and other public places. This was a time when it sometimes seemed that simply having dark skin was a crime, and anyone with light skin could be your judge, jury, and sometimes, executioner. In towns like Kissimmee, if you were black, being on the street after dark in the white area of town could cost you your life, and your executioner would most often be found blameless.
Last night on television, I watched in awe as a reported crowd of 35,000 people stood in Kissimmee, Florida, in the midnight chill of 42 degrees (cold for the Sunshine State) and waited to see and hear Barack Obama speak. There were old, middle-aged and young; black, brown and white; men, women and children, all gathered to hear a mixed-race man speak to them about the future of their country. He was cheered and respected, and I was enthralled. Forty years ago, Barack Obama's parents could not have shared a hotel room in Florida without being arrested. Today, their son stands an excellent chance of being the next President of these United States.
Now, most people don't think of Florida as "the South." Today it is mostly thought of in terms of Miami, DisneyWorld, white-sand beaches, a repository for Cuban and Haitian refugees, and retirees from the North. But when I was growing up there, at least in Central and Northern Florida, the state was as southern in attitude, societal values, accents, and segregation policies as any other southern state. To have witnessed via television the gathering in Kissimmee last night was as miraculous to me as anything I've ever seen. My spirits soared on the wings of Sen. Obama's words and the cheers of the crowd.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I guess I'm not very smart. I've been trying to figure out why people are so hell-bent on believing John McCain's interpretation of Barack Obama's platform instead of believing the man whose platform it is.
I know people who make less than $200,000 a year - people who would clearly benefit from Obama's tax plan - who don't understand that they will pay less tax. I don't understand that.
I know people who think that we should continue to give tax breaks to big business because they believe big business will create jobs. Well, all the jobs that big business has created have been overseas, while we watch jobs that pay a living wage disappear in this nation. I don't understand that.
I know people who listen to McCain/Palin showcase "Joe the Plumber" - a man who lied to Obama not only about his ability to buy the company he works for, but also the amount that company is worth. Yet these folks believe that Joe is the face of America. Does that mean that most Americans lie about their financial position? Does that mean that wanting to buy a company equates with being able to buy it? Does that mean wanting a company to make a certain amount of money means that it actually makes it? Does saying you're a plumber actually make you one? Even if you don't have a license? I don't understand that.
I know people who think the Iraqi war was justified, even though it's been proved that the man who started it (George Bush, in case you've forgotten) lied to the entire nation. Yet they still support the ongoing killing of innocent men, women and children and sending our sons and daughters into harm's way. I don't understand that.
I know people who claim that this nation was founded as a Christian nation, yet they ignore the fact that most of our founding fathers were Deists and that this nation was not founded as a Christian nation, but as a nation with no national religion. I don't understand that.
I know people who claim they are followers of Jesus Christ, yet judge and condemn those who believe differently than they do. I don't understand that.
I know people who think John McCain is qualified to be President because he was in the military and was a POW during Vietnam. Why does that make him qualified? I don't understand that.
Perhaps if I were smarter I could understand these things. Perhaps then I would understand why it's okay that John McCain has his own connections to ACORN and why his involvement with the Keating Five is ignored(yes, I know he was cleared of charges, but he was criticized for "poor judgement" - and he was 58 years old at the time; old enough to know better, one would think!).
Perhaps if I were smarter I could figure out why it doesn't matter that Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, an organization that promotes secession and "Alaska First." And why it's okay that Gov. Palin has shown her support for this organization.
I guess I'm just not that smart.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Then, in 2005, we were blessed with the arrival of Matthew, my little Irish boy! My d-i-l's mom says at last she has a grandson who looks like her! And she does; the Spanish genes are quite evident in Andrew and David, but Matthew definitely favors his mom's side of the family - and particularly his grandma.
He is a cutie and, as the youngest, has learned early how to make his wants and needs known! He also learned, while still using the baby carrier, how to swing his arm to make the carrier rock - an important skill when mom and dad are rounding up your big brothers!
So, I'll have the cd ready soon to ship off to the Midwest, but in the meantime I thought mom and dad - along with the rest of my readers - might like a little preview.
I do love being "Gran"!