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!