Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's just me again!

Across the hall from me, a little boy is sleeping. Tomorrow morning he'll come into my room, touch my face gently, and say, "Hi, Gran. It's 6:30 (or whatever time it will be)." He'll climb into bed with me and we'll cuddle for a few minutes before he says, "I'm hungry."

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

I hope I'm not boring you

Okay, I know you've probably had it with my waxing poetic over our recent "winter event" here in the Portland area, but I do hope you'll indulge one more post. Today, Jim drove to my son's house (about 12 miles away) to retrieve my daughter-in-law and grandson, saving them from another day of being housebound and to spend a few hours with adult conversation, a movie, and admiring the wildlife at the feeders in our yard.

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

Let it snow!

I know that there are lots of places where snow is an annual occurrence, on levels far greater than anything I've ever seen. (Except I have been to Glacier Bay and THAT'S a lot of snow!) But here in the Pacific Northwest our usual Winter Wonderland is wet, rainy, muddy, soggy, flooded, and rainy. Oh, did I mention rain? It is much more common to worry about slipping on algae than on ice, and we're far more accustomed to tracking in fir needles than snow and ice.

But this year... Oh, this year! It's a winter wonderland around here. We've had some kind of wintry precipitation - snow, hail, freezing rain - for almost every day since Sunday, December 14th. And we've only been above freezing once or twice, when temperatures zoomed all the way up to 36 degrees!

So we're staying in. We could put chains on the truck and go to the store, but we don't need to. At our ages, need trumps want and there isn't anything at all we need. We have a good supply of wood for the woodstove, and the woodshed is only a few steps from the back door of the garage. We have plenty of food and wine, we have working indoor plumbing, we have plenty of things to read, and we have (so far) electricity to power lights, television, computers, and the stove.

Our kids, on the other hand, are doing what kids do. Of course, they are adult children, but Ben and Mike are really kids at heart and they love driving places and doing things. For them, adventure trumps comfort. They've visited friends, been sledding, went out to buy cupcakes for Addison's 3rd birthday (Happy birthday, Bubs!), and have just generally enjoyed this rare event. I love knowing that they're so adventurous, and am happy that they're young enough and healthy enough to fully appreciate this incredible weather.

Of course, being Portland, we do have our little issues. One of our news channels has pre-empted all regular programming for the past week, filling our lives with more information than anyone really needs - although I'm sure people who are heading out appreciate knowing what's going on. We're always unprepared for snow - our cities and counties don't have the equipment to handle a winter event of this magnitude, and we aren't accustomed to driving in this weather so there are lots of cautionary stories and lots of reports of cars sliding down hills and minor accidents. Unfortunately, there have also been a few deaths, most of which have resulted from unsafe behavior under the guise of "fun."

But for the most part, it's gorgeous and exciting and FUN! And for a Florida gal, it's like waking up inside a Currier & Ives painting!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good friends and gingerbread houses - or Why Good Housekeeping Will Never Hire Me As Their Christmas Decorations Editor

It is said that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. My family is pretty remarkable, if somewhat weird, and I enjoy being related to them. Once in a great while I've been lucky enough to have friends who fit right in with my family. If that's troublesome to them (and perhaps it should be!) they've managed to conceal it gracefully.

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

A company that has earned my loyalty

I heard a report on last night's news that I had heard before, but had forgotten. I think it bears mention on my blog and I hope that others of you will share it on your blogs as well.

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

Trimming the Family Tree

In the 5-1/2 years Jim and I have lived together we have developed a few traditions that give us much joy and feelings of family togetherness in this grouping of individuals that we have cobbled together from broken marriages, intact marriages, births of children, and assimilation of friendships. Perhaps the most "pure fun" of these traditions is the annual decorating of our Christmas tree.

For this annual event, our respective sons and their wives and children, along with assorted in-laws and my sister and her family and a neighbor or two gather in our home to put ornaments on the tree, drink Jim's Famous Eggnog, wine, "bubble juice" for the young 'uns, the pregnant, and nursing moms; eat assorted easy-to-prepare-and-you-know-there's-going-to-be-leftovers food; engage in popping the "Crackers" that my sister and her husband bring and sharing the corny jokes inside; watching the little ones at play, and just general hilarity and memory-making activities. Yesterday was tree-trimming at our place and it was just as much fun as it always is!

This year we had the very unusual (for us) benefit of about 4" of snow, which began shortly after dawn. Because we live at the top of a small hill, Jim went out twice to serve as a guide to bring our guest safely here using back roads to avoid the dreaded "slide back down the hill" syndrome.

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.

We enjoyed a fire in the living room fireplace (seldom used, but appreciated more for its rarity), gatherings in front of the wood stove in the family room, Christmas music, and the accustomed teasing that carries over from year to year. In between times, we caught up with those we don't see as often as we'd like, and missed those who were snowed in or had made other plans.

After everyone had left, the dishes washed and food put away (I am constitutionally unable to face chaos in the morning), Jim and I enjoyed a glass of wine in the quiet warmth of our home, reliving each precious memory and being grateful for the many things we enjoy together.

I hope family and friends play a role in your Christmas preparations this year!
(You're invited to view more of the party here.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Okay, I'm excited!

Although you wouldn't know it to look at me today, when I was a small child I was very graceful and flexible. At age 4, I was the youngest child in the "Virginia Rey and Frank Dunn School of Dance" in Tampa, and was in both tap and ballet recitals. I had big dreams of finally reaching an age where I could wear toe shoes and become a toe dancer. Unfortunately, my dad decided we needed to move to Lake Wales where the opportunities for me to break into The Big Time were decidedly limited, and so those dreams died aborning.

I have, however, always thought ballet one of the most beautiful and enchanting forms of entertainment, and yet... And yet, Dear Reader, I have never in my life seen a professional ballet!

That is on the immediate verge of changing! Tonight, this very evening, my sister and I are going into Portland to have dinner and then see The Nutcracker. Peggy has arranged for seats that will give us an astounding view and - this is truly the best part - we sisters will enjoy a purely "girly" evening of dinner and entertainment. (Not that men don't enjoy ballet! But this is for US!) I am so excited that I can hardly stand it!

Now, you might like to know that the evening's forecast for sisterly fun is accompanied by an evening forecast for snow and freezing temperatures. I know for many of you that seems like No Big Deal. However, in the 14 years I've lived in the Portland area, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times it's snowed - and that usually happens in January, not before Christmas!

Snow. The Nutcracker. An evening with my sister. As an old friend used to say, "It don't get no better than this!"

(Note: The photo above is from February, 1952, when I was 4-1/2 years old. I am the cutie front and center. Please forgive the info about the show and the costumes; it was the 50s and it was the South!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Annual Christmas Tree Purchase

Last year, Jim & I took Addison and Ada to cut the "family tree" for Christmas and had a great time. So we thought we should make it an annual event and arranged to have both kids this afternoon. Since both toddlers are now in preschool, and both Jim & Addison are moderately ill (I'm just barely recovered), and with the cold weather and the early onset of dark... well, let's just say a trip to the tree farm wasn't in the picture for us. So we went to a local stand where organic produces is sold year 'round and where the trees come direct from the farm and made our purchase.

The kids didn't give a hoot that it wasn't a "real" tree farm - they explored and played and just generally had fun. After we took the tree home to put in water until Sunday's tree-trimming event, we went out to dinner - but not before Ada and Addison played "Tackle Grandpa" for about ten minutes and spent some time on their rocking moose and rocking horse.

(Prior to getting the tree, we kept them occupied with "Little Bear" on t.v. If you have a toddler and don't know about "Little Bear," you're missing a good chance to garner a little free time for yourself! There are some episodes on YouTube and it also runs on a cable channel called "Noggin." Just be careful with YouTube - there are idiots out there who will sexualize anything they can!)

We then went out for dinner - when we have Ada, dinner is always Mac & cheese. The girl really loves it! Afterwards, we looked at the lights, then I brought Addison home to bed and Ada stayed with Grandpa. She'll be with us overnight tonight and we'll see the local family on Sunday for tree decorating.

I love the memories we create with these two - memories for us and for them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The times they are a' changin'

As with most couples, Jim and I have routines that we cherish. You know - those simple, not-a-big-deal kinds of things that you miss when your partner's not around and that you look forward to even if you don't always realize it.

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 ." 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

Giving thanks is a way of life

Top to Bottom:

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.
I always have a hard time choosing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Givng thanks, Part V

Throughout my childhood, teen years, and young adulthood, the only thing I consistently wanted to be was a mom. I love children and always have. I babysat from the time I was 11, and frequently imagined myself growing up to have my own children. (I never imagined childbirth, but that's another story, for another time!)

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

Giving thanks, Part IV

When my parents divorced in 1957, my mom was left to raise my 14-year-old brother, 10-year-old me, and my 6-year-old sister by herself. Although dad hadn't really been part of our lives for many years, this was official: a divorced woman, 1950s, three kids. Somehow, we made it.

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

Being thankful - Part III

In 1998, I changed work positions at Portland Parks & Recreation and went to work for Jim, the manager of the Operations division. He had a strong work ethic and brooked no nonsense, but was also a funny, interesting, and compassionate man. At the ripe old age of 51, I developed a crush!

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

Being thankful - Part II

Over the years, I have known very few women who remain important to me. My mom, of course, was the primary woman in my life and I still miss her every day. My sister is my best and dearest friend, and I have a sister-in-law whom I love, but see infrequently. My best friend from high school, Sandy, has returned to my life, and I love her, but she, too, lives far away.

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

Being thankful - Part I

As you know if you follow this blog - or if you know me - I am the mother of three boys and Gran to four more boys. My family is heavy on the "y" chromosome, and I like it! Although I think, deep down, every woman wants a girl (it's a doll thing - at least that's MY take on it), I was never disappointed when my obstetrician said "It's a boy!" I have many fond memories of being surrounded by tall, handsome young men and feeling like a queen. Besides, I also have vivid memories of what I was like as a young girl and as a teenager, and I was always quite certain I didn't have the temperament to raise a girl.

However, in 1988, when I was fundraising for hospice, I was put in touch with an 11-year-old girl whose mom was dying. Virginia was very concerned about what was going to happen to her daughter, and was actively seeking a family to adopt her. I didn't think about adoption, but I knew I could help by taking Tammey to visit her mom at the hospice inpatient unit and perhaps introducing her to my kids and giving her loving support during a difficult time.

Tammey and I spent many hours on the road going to visit her mom, and her joy in life along with the tenderness and adult-like behavior she exhibited around Virginia and the hospice staff endeared her to me. She could morph from mature, sensitive, caring young woman into a carefree young girl swinging in the park and scarfing down food from McDonald's in the space of 20 minutes. I thought she was pretty remarkable.

The Saturday I brought her home to meet my sons and my then-husband is one I will always remember. Before I took her back to the residence where she lived, each of my boys had come to me quietly and individually, and asked if we could adopt her. I was so proud of them (they were 18, 17, and 8 years old at the time), and so hesitant to make a commitment. My marriage was shaky even then, and I was afraid to think about embracing adoption - especially of a young girl whose life had been filled with difficulties that I, in my middle-class world, couldn't even begin to imagine. But there was no question that she had captured our hearts.

She began to spend her weekends with us, taking part in our family activities, going to church with us and meeting other young people who also embraced her and welcomed her into their activities. It was on a Sunday after church that I got the phone call that Virginia had died, and it fell to me to tell Tammey the awful news. It was a heart-rending day that lives vividly in my memory. She was a part of us by then, and I began to speak to my husband about the possibility of adoption.

Only a few short weeks later, Tammey's father - who had been absent from her life for many years - was located and came to Miami to claim his child. We were heartbroken, but she would be among people who had known her mom, who had known her as a baby, who had photographs and memories of her family. We cried more tears than I thought possible, had a party for her, and sent her with love and prayers and promises to stay in touch, to her family in Kentucky.

We were to see her only once more. She was miserably unhappy, her father died, leaving her with an aunt she didn't like (the feeling was apparently mutual), and she made many threats to run away to be with us. And so we were forbidden all contact.

Over the years, through changes in our family - divorce, marriage, moves across country, and the births of children - I would periodically try to find her. Every year on her birthday, my heart broke a little over the loss of this, the only daughter I had ever thought to have.

In 2004, just days before the wedding of my youngest son, I had a phone call from my son in the Midwest. Tammey had found him online and had contacted him! Almost 16 years after losing her, she was back in our lives and we were all ecstatic. She flew out to Oregon for the wedding and the reunion was as if the years had melted away. She was married and beautiful - and taller than I!

In the years since, she has had a baby - my fifth grandson - and we have kept our relationship alive. There is not the closeness of her childhood, of course, but there is a mature friendship and love that thrills my heart. We have visited her and her family, and it was Tammey who helped with my two oldest grandsons when their little brother was born. I am able to tell her that I know her mother would be proud of the woman she has become, and my sons and I remain the people who share the memories of that long-ago, most difficult time.

And so, in this season of giving thanks, I am thankful for Tammey, my almost-daughter, her husband (who never thought he'd have a mother-in-law!), and sweet Adin, who calls me "Gran."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reality check

I'm a member of an internet discussion group called "Episcopal/Anglican/Religion Community." Most of us are either Episcopalians or Anglicans, but not all. However, a lot of our posts/discussions revolve around what's currently happening in the Episcopal Church. You know - ordaining gays, same-sex marriages, defections of various parishes/dioceses - your normal, everyday discussions.

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

Grouchy old woman

Since yesterday was a holiday, and Addison didn't have school, he spent the night with us on Monday night. That gave his mom and dad an evening together, and meant that I didn't have to get up and get dressed quite so early. Besides, we love having him here.

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

We return now to our regular programming...

With all the excitement over the election and the things I was involved with in the preceding days, Halloween was almost overlooked!

We did have a lovely time with the kids. Ada spent the day with us, then Grandpa got her dressed in her costume and we took her trick-or-treating to the neighbor's house before her mom picked her up for the evening.

She was a cowgirl, replete with the cute outfit Jim got for her when we were in Taos last Spring. She had also worn this to the rodeo in May, so it was really special that she got to wear it again before she outgrows it - and it's close! Her "horse" was made by her mom's grandfather, and her mom and Uncle David played with it when they were kids. I do love those memorable things that are passed on through the generations!
She's just so darned cute, and her Grandpa is so proud of her.

We had a "shift change" that evening after Ada went with her mom and dad and Addison came to spend the night with us.
I picked him up at home after he had been with his parents and Grandma to a party and brief trick-or-treating. Here, he shares a candy bar with his Grandma. (Both of his grandmothers were dressed as witches, poor boy!)
Addison was dressed as Winnie the Pooh, and was just as cute as he could be! His mom even painted his nose so when his hood was off, he was still a willy-nilly-silly old Bear!
After I brought him to our house, we made the rounds of a few of the neighbors where he added to his "stash."
So even though the post is late, the Halloween memories are good, and still vivid in minds and hearts!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A witness to history

Tonight Jim and I watched the election returns at a neighbor's house, among friends. When I returned home there was a message from my youngest son, Ben. He had called early, before the election results were known. I called him back to rejoice with him in the election of this country's first African-American President.

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

I've been tagged!

Well, this has never happened to me before, and it's kind of exciting. (Yes, I'm weird, and yes, I know it!) I've been tagged by one of my readers. It's a "4th of 4th" tag, which means I have to post the 4th photo in the 4th folder in my pictures.

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

The way we were/The way we are/The way we can be

Kissimmee (pronounced Kuh-SIM-me; if you pronounce it wrong, the ghosts of ancient Indians will rise up and smack you!), Florida is a smallish town in Central Florida, located near DisneyWorld. When I was a small child, the population was a few thousand and the area was mostly cattle ranches and poor folks. African-Americans of the time were often victims of violence, frequently for the "crime" of being "uppity" or talking back to white people.

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.

This morning, as I was returning from my morning walk, the little girl across the street called out to me, "Obama rocks, doesn't he?" "Yes," I replied, "he does!" "Maybe," she said, "he'll be our first brown President!" "That would be great, Tiana!" I replied to her, my 9-year-old Mexican-American neighbor.
Upon reporting this conversation to Jim, I realized what an exciting idea that must be for this child and her family, and for so many others whose skins aren't white. Despite the conservative Christianity this family practices, they are able to visualize a world where hope and acceptance are more important than labels.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I guess I'm just not that smart


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

You must have been a beautiful baby!

A few years ago - 2006, to be exact - I was visiting my middle son and his wife and three kids in the Midwest, when their hard drive bit the big one. Unfortunately, most of the pictures they had taken of the kids went down in flames with it, and there was great sadness in the land.

The other evening, I pulled out a few old cds and, lo and behold! there were some "old" photos of the kids. "Old" is a relative term here, since the oldest child, Andrew, will be 11 in January! But there they were - pictures of my Midwest grandsons! And, man, are they ever cute!

I'm in the process of putting together all the photos I can find of these three charmers to send back to Jason & Lisa, but couldn't resist sharing this one of the three brothers as well as each of them individually. These guys are really something special - and I'd think that even if I wasn't their besotted Gran!

Andrew, the oldest, is the one who introduced me to the joys of grandparenting. (And, incidentally, to my first opportunity to tell one of my children that he'd finally know what I'd been talking about all those years!)

The first time I saw Andrew, he was only two weeks old, and my youngest son and I had traveled to Illinois for his baptism. When they met me at the airport and I looked at that sweet face for the first time, I cried. What a joy he was then, and is now. And how proud I am to be his Gran.

Next in line, almost four years later, was my David. If ever a child looked like his parent, this one does! Sometimes when I'm around him, I literally can't take my eyes off him! I am transported back to his dad's childhood and have to remind myself that he is his own person. It doesn't help that David has his dad's sense of humor and silliness!

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"!