Saturday, December 26, 2009

Anticipation

It's late on the day after Christmas, and I'm suffering (quite annoyingly, I might add) with another cold. Or something. Achey body, snotty nose, fatigue, etc. Given the random thoughts that have been tumbling in my brain today, I suppose I could be hallucinating, too. Or perhaps it was just the three cups of tea with rum that I've had tonight. Excellent cold medicine, I might add!

I've had a really good Christmas this year, one that will be hard to top, since Jim's gift to me was an engagement ring! But - while I always enjoy the gifts and decorations and family time - I am also happy that we can soon settle down to the business of regularity.

There is something about the way the holidays seem to interrupt the regular flow of life - added trips to go shopping; more time spent online at Amazon and less at my favorite blogs or my genealogy site; extra pots and pans and baking sheets to unearth, use, and then put away for another year; remembering to buy more eggs, more butter, more chocolate, more everything! And then it's over.

Now, there are gifts to be put away, and - perhaps - old possessions to be discarded to make room. There are address books to update for next year's Christmas cards, and - sadly - names to be removed from the old card list. And, of course, resolutions to write actual letters to some on my card list who don't have email (and some who do!). I really am going to do that this year. Really, I am!

My mother always said, "Each year has its own tree," and so we took our Christmas tree down on New Year's Eve. Of course, this was in Tampa, so she may have been more worried about fire than tradition, but we just didn't have our tree up into the new year. My Christian tradition says that Christmas doen't end until January 6th (thus the 12 days of Christmas), but if I were going to be rigid about that, we wouldn't even put our tree up until Christmas Eve - and that's not a happening thing! So probably sometime later in the week - perhaps Saturday, the 2nd (that seems like a nice compromise, don't you think?), I will de-decorate and put things away for another year. I always promise myself that I will weed out old and broken ornaments rather than packing them away for repair next year. Maybe this year I'll even do it. Or not.

You know by now that Christmas cookie baking is low on my list of favorite things to do. Yet this year I found myself really thinking about what I was doing, and how much my kids look forward to getting cookies from Mom. I think they're less important to Ben, since he's here in town and we see each other often, but I know for Jason and Martin they provide a tasty and anticipated memory of Christmases past. And so, my cookie-making was less of a chore this year, and more a gift to my sons and their families and others with whom they share them. There are others, of course, who get cookies from me - my sister, Jim's son and some of our extended family - but only for my sons does the memory thread reach to childhood, and for them I will continue to nurture that memory, that time that means so much to them - and to me. And I will be thankful that they care, and try harder to remember the "why" instead of the "how."

Is there anything more exciting than the face of a child who anticipates the magic of Christmas? Despite the cold, the work now to be done, the after-Christmas let down most of us feel, I still anticipate, I still feel stirring within myself the magical anticipation, the belief in a Santa who brings those special, long-desired, but barely hoped-for gifts. I feel within myself that little girl who believed, and, in believing, helped to create that magic, even unto new generations.

I hope your Christmas was as magical as mine, and that the magic will carry you through these post-Christmas days.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

God and applesauce

Cooking isn't something I enjoy, so I do it as seldom as I can get away with. Fortunately, Jim is understanding and we eat out a couple of times a week and each prepare our own meals most of the rest of the time; when the weather's good, we frequently barbecue and make a meal together. This singular behavior is something we both learned during our individual times of living alone, and it suits us well. Oh, he or I will cook for the other on the odd occasion, but truthfully we're both quite comfortable with our arrangment.

I do enjoy "event" cooking - holidays and other special occasions - and periodically I'll be consumed with the need to make a special meal. Jim likes my lasagna, and a freezer full of clams will occasionally call my name, turning into delicious clam chowder. I do bake Christmas cookies every year, a holdover from when my boys were small and something they still look forward to having. I don't really enjoy baking cookies, though, and anticipate that some day one of my daughters-in-law will take it over. But I'd probably miss doing it, even so.

In the fall, however, I find that I want to make applesauce! Now, applesauce doesn't really qualify as cooking; it's too easy. The prep is the difficult part for me - not hard, mind you, just stultifyingly boring. The coring, peeling, cubing - well, my mind wanders on to Deep Thoughts and before I know it (usually), the task is done and the easy part is upon me.

This morning I set upon about 10 pounds of apples with paring knife in hand. As I peeled each apple, I thought about how nice it would be to take the scraps home to put in our compost bin, and how soon - amazing, how soon! - they would mingle with tree and grass trimmings, coffee grounds, eggshells, leaves, and all the other biologic detritus of yard and kitchen, becoming a rich addition to the soil for next year's garden.

Since my mind tends to take strange and not always obvious turns at times like these, I was soon reminded of a book about space that my youngest grandson carries around and reads to anyone who will listen. It mentions in there that everything that exists today had its genesis in the instant our universe came into being. Science tells us that matter cannot be created or destroyed, only changed. And so, in some mysterious way, the apples that I peeled this morning are as old as the universe; in the process of composting their trimmings, I will be part of the process that will change them into something else!

As I continued along this seldom-traveled path in my mind, I thought about us - you, me, all the people we have ever known, all those who wish us well and those who wish us harm. We, too, were there in that instant of Creation, Big Bang - whatever you choose to call it. We are made of recycled parts, as are our children, grandchildren, people in other nations, people from other times. We don't even have to wait to die to become a part of this continuum; our bodies shed cells constantly, hair falls out, fingernails are clipped, and our own body waste returns to again be used through this mysterious (to me, anyway) process.

My final hairpin turn (the apples were in the pot and on the stove) was one of those moments that have just been waiting somewhere in my brain for decades! Why, given this natural process of which most of us are aware, and to which most of us subscribe, do some of us reject the concept of Evolution? Is it not just another example of how matter changes? If my apples in Oregon were once a pterodactyl on some other continent, then why could I not have once been an emerging single-celled sea creature? Oh, I know the analogy isn't exact, but the concept is valid.

I happen to believe in a Creator; not everyone does, of course, and others believe in a Creator to the exclusion of everything else. But I like the idea of a God who recycles and re-uses. In Psalm 139 (one of my favorite Bible passages) we read:

My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.


How remarkable is that?

Happy Thanksgiving!






Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feeling good while feeling bad

I'm sick. Nothing serious, I think, but a sore throat, a cough, a mild headache, and sneezing and dripping. It doesn't feel like the flu - swine or otherwise - but just one of those illnesses that enervates and makes you glad you don't absolutely have to do anything!

I had the foresight yesterday to bring in enough firewood to keep the woodstove going until Jim gets home in the wee hours on Monday. I have a pot of homemade clam chowder to soothe both body and soul, I've got the remote in easy reach, a comfy sofa to doze on, my computer close at hand (obviously!), and with Jim out of town, I have the luxury of thinking of no one but me.

So, of course, being who I am, I'm thinking about my family - specifically, my middle and youngest sons and their wives.

Jason and Lisa were married on my birthday in 1996. They had been friends for several years before romance blossomed, and I first met Lisa when I was moving to Oregon in 1994. One of my fondest memories of that trip can still evoke strong emotions in me: Lisa had changed the startup sound on Jason's computer to say "I love you, Jason." Every time he turned on the computer, he was greeted with that affirming statement, and it resonated with the sentimental in me - and thrilled the mom part.

Jason and Lisa are the parents of three absolutely wonderful boys: smart, loving, handsome, funny, and all of those other superlatives that grandparents apply to their grandchildren. Of course, in this case, they're all true! They're a busy, happy, involved family. They play with the boys, they tease, they participate in scouting - generally doing all the things that good parents do.

But more importantly, they love each other - and it's obvious. Every couple of years I board an airplane and fly to the midwest to visit them. For several days, I'm right in the midst of their daily lives and get to experience their relationship up close and personal. They are such a perfect match and it warms my heart to be around them. I'm also privileged to be their "Friend" on Facebook, a medium where it's not uncommon to see see the comment
Jason > Lisa: I love you
Lisa > Jason: I love you, too


Jason and Lisa: I love you both. Thanks for being friends, lovers, excellent parents, and wonderful role models on how to make marriage work and make it fun at the same time. You make it look easy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ben and Briana celebrated their fifth anniversary this summer. I first met Briana when they were both in college, and was immediately drawn to her - not only because she's a warm, loving woman, but because she and Ben so obviously loved each other. And how can you not love someone who gives your youngest child that wonderful glow?


One memorable summer, they, along with my oldest son, shared my two-bedroom condo with me. It was a great opportunity to really get to know Briana and to observe their relationship. They are now the parents of two smart, loving, funny children: a boy and a girl. They, too, are good parents, and I love to watch them as they raise their children to take their places in this world. (Although Drew is still just a baby and her major focus is currently bubble-blowing and getting her teething ring into her mouth - she excels at both activities!)

Again, though, their biggest contribution to their children's well-being is the love they share and the time they make in their busy lives to reinforce that love. I am a more intimate part of their lives simply because I've been Granny Nanny since their oldest was only two-and-a-half months old. I'm in their home several days a week, and I see them at the most stressful times of the day - leaving for work in the morning, and coming home in the afternoon. We also have family events that we share, and I'm always thrilled to be a part of those. In times both stressful and relaxing, busy and laid back, their love and caring for each other shines through.


I'm also their Facebook "Friend," and love to see:

Ben: I'm making tea for my baby wife.
Briana: I'm curled up with my hubby watching old movies.


Ben and Briana: It has been and remains one of the great joys of my life to watch your love grow and to see the many ways you complement and care for each other. You reinforce my belief in marriage, and set an example for those who are privileged to be an intimate part of your life together.

Could I ask for more? I think my headache has even gone away!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Personal Best!

Today I have set a new personal standard for sloth. Not something to brag (or blog) about, you might think, but I've had a day that I get to enjoy only once a year, and the kind of day I used to dream about when the kids were small, and throughout my working career.

First, I slept till after 7:00. It meant I missed my local morning news, but I did get to watch Good Morning, America, which I enjoy.

Next, I read the newspaper, front to back, at my own pace, intermittently watching news, checking email, reading blogs, and drinking coffee. The only difficulty at this point was that I had to walk the 15 or so feet to refill my coffee cup periodically, and the bathroom is upstairs. If I'd had the foresight to move the coffeepot to the family room and rent a potty chair, I'd have been in hog heaven!

I then ate breakfast, watched a few t.v. shows that I had recorded, and resumed surfing the 'net and stoking the fire in the woodstove.

In the early afternoon, I actually went outside and brought in firewood so that I could keep myself warm while I loafed (it gets chilly when you aren't moving around, you know!), and watched some more television.

I had frozen fish filets and peas for dinner (yes, I did cook them), and then made clam chowder from the razor clams Jim and I dug last summer. I'm having dinner with Ben, Briana, Addison, and Drew tomorrow night, and had offered to bring food. It looks (and tastes) really good, and I'm proud of having found a good use for the clams since Jim doesn't care for them as much as I do.

I then sat here and watched 90 minutes of videos on YouTube that my oldest son had sent for me. They were all Wanda Sykes' HBO special, and I laughed so hard my sides hurt. She's a very funny lady, and if you don't mind some heavy-duty language, I recommend them highly.

I've had a couple of cups of tea, a glass of wine, and as soon as I finish this, I'm going to watch Grey Gardens, which I recorded in September. (While Jim's off hunting, I take advantage of the time to watch all of the shows I've saved that he isn't interested in!) After that, I'll be off to bed, and maybe I'll sleep in tomorrow, too.

The truly slothful part of this day is about to be revealed: I am still in my nightgown! I did put on my bathrobe to get firewood, but the only neighbors who could have seen me are out of town, so even that concession wasn't absolutely necessary. I'll put clothes on tomorrow.

Several weeks ago, at a family gathering, d-i-l, jr. and I had a brief exchange:

ME: I have the best life of anybody! (I was enjoying the family and especially being with Addison, Ada, and Drew.)
D-I-L, Jr.: No you don't. I do!

I win! (But I'm glad she feels that way!)

Night, all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cronies

I've never been one who sustains long-term friendships. Oh, I still have one friend from my high school years, but we were out of touch until about three years ago, so that probably doesn't count. And my sister is my friend, and we've known each other longer than either of us would like to think. And I count my daughters-in-law among my friends - and probably always will! - but, if not for my sons, I wouldn't even know them! There are a few others, female and male, who I've known for several years, but not in sustained relationships, just the kind that you call each other every year or so and catch up.


But let me tell you about Jim and Tom.

Last month, both of these "boys" celebrated their 65th birthday. Tom's wife was out of the country, but he attended Jim's bash, and on Tom's birthday, we had him over for dinner and conversation, along with a tiramisu with candles for dessert.

Tom and Jim met when they began attending Jesuit High School at the age of 14 (that was when Jim still had hair, I'm told!). Each of them has been heard exclaiming recently, "Fifty years! We've known each other for fifty years!" It's nearly as amazing to me as it is to them, even if for different reasons. I can't imagine knowing anyone I'm not related to for that long, and they (bless their hearts) can't really, deep down, imagine that they aren't still teenagers getting into some kind of mischief!

Their friendship has survived Jim's stint in the Navy back in the 60s, Tom's job move to Memphis in the 80s, marriages and divorces, raising children, travel, and most recently Tom and his wife living in Mexico for most of the year.

But every fall, without fail, finds Tom here in Portland for their annual elk-hunting expedition. After days and weeks of planning, organizing, discussing, reorganizing, packing, and double-checking their equipment and shopping lists, they're read for adventure. When Tom lived in Memphis, most of the packing up and preparation fell to Jim, but these days they work together.

This morning at about 6:45 the two of them, along with Tom's son Jeff, headed for parts east, reminding me a lot of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn! Jim's son Mike will join them tomorrow and, although I'm pretty sure it's less and less about the elk each year - at least for the two old guys - the friendship always benefits from the time they spend together at elk camp.

Happy hunting, Jim and Tom! May there be many years of it left for you to share!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Grief

Dear Daddy,

Daddy. A child's name for her father. It was only in my childhood that I knew you, so I suppose it's natural that, in my deepest heart, that's how I think of you. I saw you only twice as an adult, that last time in 1985 at your mother's funeral.

I learned today in an email - an email! - that, at the age of 93, you have died. I once said that when you died at least you wouldn't be able to hurt me anymore. Because each day of my life I have borne the pain of your abandonment. I have tried to forget, but I never have.

Tonight, feeling the loss of you, I would choose to remember only the good. I would prefer to think of the tall, handsome Cowboy, the man who taught me to fish, taught me to shoot, the man whose love for the wild and the woods gives me such an appreciation for the places of trees and water and silence where I live today. I would choose, if I could, to remember only the pleasant times. The trips to the state fair, seeing Roy Rogers in person, the rides in the back of your truck down long, dark highways and the rides on the Ferris wheel when you kept me safe from my fears.

If I could, I would choose to remember only the man whose shoes I lovingly untied at night after you had worked long days. The man who always seemed larger than life, who was, when I was a child, my Hero. I would like to remember only how special I felt as a child that I - only I! - have the same dimple in my chin that you had. And how, secretly, I loved seeing that dimpled chin in my youngest son and youngest grandson, knowing that even unto the third generation there was a mark that connected me to you.

But into these thoughts and memories and secret treasures, reality will intrude. I'm compelled to remember the callous way you left us without food while you spent your time with your cronies. Your unconcern when we lost our home after you and mom divorced. Your refusal to see your daughters and your grandchildren when you last had the chance.

I can't escape the sorrow I have felt for my sons, for my niece and nephew, because they have never known a grandfather. When I told them you had died, none of them shed a tear; their only concern was for me and for my brother and sister. You, their grandfather, were only an abstraction. A man whom they knew I loved and missed having in my life, but who had no relationship to them.

Your loss was much greater than theirs. You have five wonderful grandchildren: four men and one woman who are the pride of their parents and were the joy of their granny's life - our mother, the woman you left to raise us alone. And from these five young people have sprung a new generation - your great-grandchildren. Beautiful, intelligent, loving young people who will only know you through the bitter screen of their mothers' vision. You could have been surrounded in your old age with love and joy and the knowledge that you live on. Your loss, but also theirs.

Your other sons, Rodney and Jimmie - your second family - will miss you, I am told. Perhaps your redemption was in being everything to them that you never were to us. I hope it was enough for you. I hope you found peace and solace in their world.

My heart is heavy tonight, but I am pondering how to mourn a man who left my life so many years ago. I certainly don't feel the raw, heart-rending grief I felt when mom died. I've had many, many years to absorb the sorrow of your loss. But this time, of course, is different. No longer can I hang onto even that very thin thread of hope for reconciliation. Oddly, I feel the loss of you afresh; it's almost as if a hole has been rent in the fabric of my life.

Daddy, I love you and I miss you. I pray that God will welcome you and hold you close. I pray that someday we will be reunited, and that all the pain and sorrow will be forgotten. I commend you to God. May you truly rest in peace.

Your daughter,

"Girl"


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Isn't she lovely?



I realized today that I really haven't written about my granddaughter since right after she was born! BAD Gran!

Since I resumed my role as Granny Nanny in mid-September, we've developed a comfortable routine .Briana and I crafted my schedule quite carefully, since I didn't want to completely give up my days with Addison. On Thursdays, when he's home from school, we enjoy putting puzzles together, playing games, and - when the weather allows - taking walks. One of our favorite pasttimes is for him to sit next to me while I feed Drew, and I read to him while he turns the pages. Once in a while we share the reading part, but it's all about being together!

Drew is a cutie, of course. I've never taken care of a girl-baby before, and was a bit apprehensive about diapering her girl parts, but I think I've got the hang of it now. Somewhat different from all my boys, but the mechanics of the operation are pretty much the same.

What I have found is that it's really hard to pass the sale racks in the baby department of our local store! I've bought things for all my grandsons, of course, but they were just never quite as cutes as onesies with ruffles on the butt. I do try to be judicious, though, since she has a ton of clothes that her mom got from friends with little girls. And when I say a "ton," please believe that it's not that far from the truth!


She's become very social and is getting more and more vocal, too. I love her cooing sounds, and she can blow and bubble quite well! Like her brother and several other family members, she's teething early and chews on anything she can get to her mouth. She's also mastered the art of thumbsucking, which is a good thing since she absolutely refused to take a pacifier!

She's sleeping now and I'm going to take advantage of the time to eat my lunch, but I knew you'd want to know all about her, right? I thought so!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fall in the Northwest

Among all seasons, Fall is my favorite.

Having lived in Florida almost exclusively until I was 47, I grew up feeling somewhat deprived of all the seasonal changes I read about in my "Dick and Jane" primers, and even yearned for the cold, blustery, bone-chilling winters of Laura Ingalls in "Little House on the Prairie." In Florida, there are really only two seasons: summer and not-quite-summer. Let the thermometer drop below 70, and I was pulling out sweaters, wool skirts, and whatever could serve as a coat. I wanted cold!


I did spend one fall in Portsmouth, VA when I was 17, but was really not aware of the beauty of the season. I'm sure it must be lovely there in the fall, but I have no memory of it. And I spent another fall in Indianapolis in 1991, where I reveled in the beauty of the season, the chill in the air, the smells of woodsmoke. But when I moved to Portland in 1994, I truly soaked in the marvelous colors that grace our landscape as the weather begins to change.

I especially love to be on a winding mountain road this time of year, when the oaks, maples, and birches show off their glorious colors against a backdrop of graceful fir and pine trees. I love to watch the birds coming to our feeders and birdbath in search of food and drink - and a quick bath in the late afternoon. I love to watch the squirrels frantically digging places to hide their treasured food, knowing that they will only find it again by sheer luck; but knowing, too, that I will replenish their feeders during the fall and winter months, so they won't suffer hardship.


I love the way the sunlight comes through the trees in the afternoon; that's usually the first sign for me that the season is changing, and I always feel a thrill of anticipation when I first notice it. I love my quiet evenings with Jim in the family room, basking in the warmth of our woodstove and the joy of each other's company. I even like to cook in the fall - a big concession for me! I love the smells of pots of vegetables and beef, or Great Northern beans, and I enjoy the fragrance and taste of freshly-made applesauce.


Right now, as I sit in Ben & Briana's living room, I can see the tall trees swaying in the wind, their leaves sailing across the sky like small boats being tossed to and fro. I can see birds battling the currents of air as they seek a place to land and shelter from the rain that will be arriving soon.

There's something satisfying to me about this beautiful place I live as all of its inhabitants prepare themselves for the fallow season.

I love Fall best of all!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Branching out!

I started this blog last year because I like to write. I enjoy the creativity and increased brain activity that results from organizing my thoughts and from looking at the world around me as filled with stories - or blogs, in this case.

However, this expression that was initially intended to be devoted primarily to my children, grandchildren, travels, and life in general, has lately evolved into a political forum. And that's decidedly NOT what I want it to be!

On the other hand, I do have strong political opinions and I feel a need - perhaps even a responsibility - to express them. Therefore, I am branching out and invite those of you who are interested to participate in my new blog, From the Left Side of My Brain.

I will still post here, of course; after all, it's my first blog-love and the main focus of my life. But I will keep politics largely out of the picture here and indulge the other parts of my thinking processes.

I hope to see many of you in both places!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Memoriam (thank you, Peggy!)

I remember civility in public discourse. For all the mention made lately about the courtly references made by Members of Congress to those on the other side of the aisle, it's certainly preferable to name-calling and thinly-veiled threats.

I remember when religion and politics weren't discussed at social events - or even within families if there were strong feelings on both sides.

I remember when children's eyes didn't have to be sheltered from television ads and bumper stickers.

I even remember when the only bumper stickers on the road were from your high school or college - and they didn't tell me that your kid was an honor student or could beat someone else up.

I remember when the doctor came to the house, and if you couldn't pay him in full you could pay a little as you could - and he didn't send dunning notices.

I remember when our elected politicians were treated with respect, even if they didn't really deserve it; the respect was for the office, not the person.

I remember when a newsman, Walter Cronkite, was among the most trusted people in the nation, and when we believed what we heard on the news.

I remember when the only people who said "fuck" were "hoods," and they only said it quietly and to peers; certainly not out loud on the street in front of children.

I remember when a kid who misbehaved in class was sent to the office, and then got punished again when he got home.

I remember when only kids who lived in the country rode a school bus; the rest of us walked or rode our bikes. It was safe enough to do that.

BUT...

I also remember when all of my classmates were white, like me.

And when my Jewish classmates were part of a chorus that sang Christmas songs, and we never heard of a dreidl.

And when my mother was denied a job, because they gave it to a man who had a family to support. She did too, but that didn't enter into their reasoning.

And when girls who got "in trouble" were sent away to have their baby, often forfeiting their education.

And when bathrooms were separate for "whites" and "colored." Water fountains, too.

And when incestuous actions were covered up and the victim was blamed.

It was the best of time; it was the worst of times...
Charles Dickens

Saturday, October 3, 2009

I'm pissed-Part II

(Warning: This post may make you angry. If you agree with me, I hope it makes you angry enough to take some action. If you disagree, that's okay; this country is great because we can disagree publicly with each other and with our elected officials.)

So, Chicago lost their bid to bring the 2016 Olympics to the US. According to the voices on the far right, this is a GOOD thing. Why was it a good thing? Well, because in their mean-spirited world they perceive this loss to be an indictiment of the President's powers of persuasion, and they are gleefully chuckling and applauding this decision, despite the anticipated boost it would have given the US economy. Oh, and also despite the fact that, just last year, George W. Bush (you may recall he was the darling of the Right) strongly supported Chicago's bid, saying that the Olympics were "really...coming to America."

Rush Limbaugh, the head of the Republican Party, was gleeful over the loss. Michelle Malkin, the press secretary for the right, was her usual mean girl self. And Fox News actively campaigned against Chicago's bid.

Now all of this may be surprising, in light of the fact that the GOP loves to claim that they are the only true patriots. One would think that promoting one's country would be a normal outgrowth of such patriotism. Instead, the far right's so-called patriotism is far more interested in finding petty adolescent joy in anything that - in their eyes - diminishes the man who was elected by the majority of Americans to lead this country. But, perhaps, not so surprising when you remember that Limbaugh is the man who stated that he hopes this President fails.

So there you have it: Situational Patriotism. As defined (by me): Love of and/or devotion to one's country, as long as everything goes my way.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I'm pissed-Part I

(Warning: This post may make you angry. If you agree with me, I hope it makes you angry enough to take some action. If you disagree, that's okay; this country is great because we can disagree publicly with each other and with our elected officials.)


Max Baucus-D, Montana
Tom Carper-D,Delaware
Kent Conrad-D, North Dakota
Blanche Lincoln-D, Arkansas
Bill Nelson-D, Florida


A note to the Senators listed above: Even though I don't live in any of your states, I am publicly pledging to contribute money during your next campaign to your opponent. It may not be much because I rely on Social Security for my income, but I will do it. Each of you is a disgrace to the party you purport to represent, and obviously care little for the will of the American people. Polls have consistently shown that the majority of citizens are in favor of a public option; these Senators, however, prefer to bow to the demands of the insurance companies.


Look around your cities and towns, my friends. Who has built and owns the largest, most spectacular buildings? Banks and insurance companies, in most cases. Guess who pays for them? You do. How can we continue on the path we're on without becoming partners in our own destruction? Why do we allow our elected officials to stay in the pockets of the very people who are sucking us dry?


I don't blame Republicans for this mess; they are staying true to their leader, Rush Limbaugh, and his stated desire to see this administration fail. But the Democrats were elected by the people to get things done. This travesty is, in every way, an inside job.


From a report issued today by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:


Researchers from the Urban Institute used their Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model to estimate how coverage and cost trends would change between now and 2019 if the health system is not reformed. The report shows that under the worst-case scenario, within 10 years:
  • The number of people without insurance would increase by more than 30 percent in 29 states.
  • In every state, the number of uninsured would increase by at least 10 percent.
  • Businesses would see their premiums increase—more than doubling in 27 states.
Even in the best case scenario, employers in 46 states would see premiums increase by more than 60 percent. 
  • Every state would see a smaller share of its population getting health care through their job.
  • Half of the states would see the number of people with ESI fall by more than 10 percent.
  • Every state would see spending for Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rise by more than 75 percent.
  • The amount of uncompensated care in the health system would more than double in 45 states.
"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back by popular demand! :-)

It's been a long while, and I appreciate those of you who have asked when I will resume blogging. The answer to your question is, "now!"

When last you saw me, I was heading home from visiting my Illinois family, and you're excused if you thought my plane has been sitting on the tarmac in Minneapolis all month! Truth is, I arrived home safely - and nearly on time - and have just been really busy (with a little "lazy" thrown in for good measure).

I've thought about blogging, and have let several good opportunities pass me by. However, with the state of things in our country, I'm sure I'll have lots to say in the coming weeks and months! And, if the truth be told, I do enjoy writing this blog and staying in touch with the blogging community. Writing has always been a creative - and therapeutic - release for me, but I'll never make it in the Big Time because I simply let too many things get in the way of doing it.

Last week I began Phase II of my life as Granny Nanny. As you know, we had a new little addition to the family over the summer and Ben & Briana are once again honoring me with the joy and responsibility of taking care of Miss Drew during these formative (and fun!) months until she is old enough to broaden her horizons and spend her days with other children on a regular basis.

So on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Drew and I bond, laugh, play, take walks, and just generally have a good time getting to know each other. Our first week was a little bumpy since she was pretty p.o.'d at me for not being her mommy. The bottle of mother's milk was NOT an acceptable subsitute for the original packaging, and she spent two days carefully studying my face so she would know me when I showed up again! It did make all of us laugh because she was so intent and looked so angrily at me every time I tried to feed her. Even when we saw her over the weekend she was quite wary with me. I'm happy to announce that so far today we've had good success, and I am no longer cast in the role of Bad Gran!

At least that's the status this morning; we'll see what the rest of the day brings...

On Thursdays, Addison is home from school, so I watch both kiddos then. Last week was fun. Addison is very good with Drew, and she thinks he's just the best thing ever! She laughs and smiles for him and he's teaching her the States and their capitals. Oh, and that there's a Portland in Maine as well as in Oregon! It should be interesting when she's old enough to start talking!

We've had a camping trip, a couple of barbecues, and, although fall arrives in about 4 hours, we're expecting temperatures in excess of 90 degrees today. It's been just over a year since I started this blog, and it's been an interesting experience so far. I've made lots of friends and have enjoyed reading their blogs. Now that I'm back, I hope you'll all resume reading!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Going Home


My week in Champaign is coming to a close. In just a few short hours I'll be on a plane heading west, and these days with my Illinois family will be just a memory.

We've had a great time: we've played, laughed, talked, reminisced, and have made lots of new memories. I never know just how long it will be till we're all together again, so leaving is always hard, even as I look forward to being back home with my dear ones in Oregon.

Jason and Lisa have made me feel at home - as they always do - and although I know they'll be glad to reclaim their sofa and their privacy, I know that they will miss our time together. I am so blessed.

My grandsons are all strong, intelligent, healthy - and gorgeous, I might add! - and I will miss their silliness and their hugs and kisses. The two older boys are back in school next week, so their days will soon be too full for missing me, but I know that all three boys have good memories of our time together.

Andrew (11-1/2), David (7-1/2), and Matthew (4) are boys that any grandparent would be proud to claim. I'm so thankful that I can call them mine.

And so, I am homeward bound. Leaving ones I love to return to ones I love. I'll see you on the West Coast!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A birthday party and AGYG, redux


From Champaign, IL

I'm having a great time! Jason has been at performances each night, of course, but we've still managed to have lots of day time together since he took the week off from work.

Today we celebrated Matthew's 4th birthday with a party at home. His Godfather and Lisa's parents were here, making it a semi-quiet celebration. Matthew's actual birthday was last Tuesday, and he was quite upset when his daddy's special day arrived Thursday, complaining, "But what about MY birthday?!" We assured him that he was still four years old and that his party was coming up. He got lots of toy vehicles, with an emphasis on "Cars" (the movie) figures - still his all-time favorite.

After everyone left, I went with Jason to the theater, and Lisa and the boys followed after a stop at McDonald's for a quick bite of dinner.

The play was fun again, and I was lucky to enjoy it with Lisa and all three boys this time. Andrew, the oldest, sat mostly entranced throughout; David was good and seemed to enjoy it most of the time, although I think parts of it were boring for him. He was a trooper. Matthew was tired and not real interested, although popcorn at intermission helped Act 2 pass more quickly for him.

Jason and Lisa have gone out for a post-performance party, the boys are in bed, and I - well, I'm uploading pictures and writing!
I'm really enjoying being here, although the humidity is killer. I was never a fan of damp air, and fifteen years away from Miami haven't changed that. But I'll live through it and won't even remember how hot and humid it was once I'm back home.

In the meantime, this is a great vacation with my Midwest family!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A marvelous day!

I'm in Champaign, Illinois, visiting my middle son, his wife, and my three oldest grandsons. I arrived Thursday morning, the 6th, and am enjoying being in the midst of my Midwest family.

I'm going to quickly note the horrendous flight here and get on to the good parts.

The very best part of my overnight flight from Portland was landing at the Atlanta airport. If you've ever had the misfortune to be routed through Atlanta, you'll know right away that the flight itself was truly awful. We were late leaving Portland because our plane was late arriving. That was the good news. We experienced turbulence for about 2,500 miles of the 2,700-mile flight. I don't mind turbulence, and ordinarly would have been able to sleep. Except for the 9-month-old baby who was flying with her grandma. She was cute as a button - when she wasn't crying. But she only stopped crying during the approximately 200 non-turbulent miles! We all felt so sorry for her and her grandma, but she would not be comforted. And every time she quieted for a few minutes, the turbulence would start up, and so would she. All of this was exacerbated by the noxious perfume the person in front of me was wearing, and which gave me a headache. Not to mention the fact that I had to fly all the way to Atlanta and then fly BACK to get to Peoria.

Not a lot of fun, but it's over and I'm here!


Today (the 6th) is Jason's birthday. I haven't spent his birthday with him for about 18 years, so that in itself is a special treat. To make it even more special, tonight was opening night for the community theatre production of "Annie Get Your Gun," in which Jason plays the part of Foster Wilson. Those who know me, or who have read this blog for a while, know that Annie Oakley is my all-time favorite historical woman.

Jason has gotten tickets for all of us for Saturday night's performance, but I decided that I wanted to attend tonight, as well. After all, it's his birthday, it's a musical I love, and my son has a role!

It was fantastic! I wish I could go to every performance, but will be content with tonight and Saturday night. I had my picture taken with the actors who played Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and Frank Butler. What fun it was, and how like a child I feel when soaking up the wonderful songs written by Irving Berlin. The acting is good, the pride I have in my son is even better, and the anticipation of a whole week with these loved ones is the best of all!

You'll be hearing more from Champaign, but for tonight I am enjoying the glow of the memories already made.

And the Flight From Hell is fast becoming a distant memory.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When you're hot, you're hot!


There is nothing that means more to me than my family.

Today - our third day of 100+ degree temperatures (with another hot one promised for tomorrow) - I invited my daughter-in-law, jr. to bring the kids to our house to spend a few hours in the air-conditioned comfort of our 5th wheel. With a three-year-old and a one-month-old, I knew Briana would be facing one more uncomfortable afternoon, looking for ways to entertain two children without having to face the crowded "comfort" of a mall, a park, or some other form of entertainment. She graciously obliged, thinking, I'm sure, that she would find some respite and some company while we endured another day of our heat wave. And, since I know her pretty well, she was also thinking that Gran would enjoy some time with the kiddos!

She's such a smart woman!

After she called to say they would be coming over, I extended the invitation to my son Ben, and also to Jim's son and daughter-in-law, and our granddaughter, Ada. Unfortunately, they weren't able to join us, but we had a fun and impromptu gathering of Ben, Briana, Addison, and Drew. We were cozy in the 5th wheel as we enjoyed slot cars, movies (Elmo and Winnie-the-Pooh), a light - and cool - dinner of shrimp, cucumber salad, strawberries, cantelope, and a little beer and wine.

I'm basking now in the afterglow of a family afternoon, spent with people I love, doing things that were enjoyable across the generations, and knowing that I am, without question, among the most fortunate of people!

We can always weather the vagaries of life, of weather extremes, of misfortune, as long as we have people whom we love - and who love us right back!

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's been a great summer so far!



Oh, gosh, where to begin?


I guess I should show you my beautiful granddaughter, Drew Alexandria, born just two days before my birthday. I haven't had much time with her yet, but am planning to remedy that tomorrow. I'll pick Addison up from school, take him home, and spend the rest of the afternoon with Briana and the kiddos. Then I'm invited to stay for dinner so I can have a little more time with Drew. After all, I have to learn to change those cloth diapers and she and I need to get to know each other a little better!


On Sunday, July 6th, Jim & I took off in our 5th wheel for a few days at the Oregon Coast, clamming with friends. Razor clams are quite the delicacy here and digging them is loads of fun. Cleaning them, not so much. Eating them is awesome!

So, the way to dig is with a "gun" (actually a tube about 3 feet long and 3-4" in diameter), in the wet sand, while the tide is going out. This entails getting to the beach at about 4:30 or 5:00 am (morning tides are best), rain or shine (mostly rain here in Oregon), and being willing to get very, very wet in the process! There is a per-person limit of 15 clams per day, and Jim and I both limited on each of three days, but only dug 15 between us on one day.


That's 105 razor clams in my freezer, folks!









But it was fun. We were with people we enjoy, we had mostly good weather, we managed to take late-morning naps (required when you get up at 3:30 and spend two hours in the surf!), we drank a couple of glasses of wine, had bonfires, roasted marshmallows, and just generally put the cares of the world aside for a few days.

As always, though, it was good to come back home!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What happened?

I'm 62 years old. No getting around it. Social Security checks will start showing up in late August, gravity is winning, and my oldest grandchild is now into double-digits of age. (Of course, he's the smarty who first called me old, back when I was barely 57!)

I love my birthday. Hell, I love everybody's birthday! I think they're important milestones. Yes, I know age is just a number, but birthdays give us an opportunity to reflect on the year - or years - past. People do that on New Year's Eve, too, of course, but birthdays are more personal I think.

It's been an interesting week around here. Tuesday morning I got up early and met my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson at the hospital where Briana was scheduled to have labor induced. The plan was for me to spend Tuesday, and, if necessary, Tuesday night and Wednesday with Addison, making occasional trips to the hospital to visit mom, dad, and baby sister.

We had a pretty good time. Addison is pretty easy-going and I've spent enough time with him to know his patterns of behavior and he knows when Gran means business, so we seldom have more than the occasional 3-year-old (or 62-year-old) lapse in routine and manners.

After an abbreviated nap on Tuesday, we spent most of the afternoon with his best friend, Jascha, and were planning what to do next when we got the phone call that Drew Alexandria had arrived in the world! So off we went to the hospital to meet her. Addison was pretty excited (you always have to wonder what kinds of images their minds conjure up; I think that mostly they think life will be exactly the same and may even think that the new baby is a passing incident - surely not someone who will take up permanent residence!), and, yes, so was I!

Drew is a cutie, all 5 lbs. 15 oz. and 19" of her! She has lots of black hair and makes sweet cooing sounds nearly all the time. She's my granddaughter!

After dinner, off to home and to bed for Addison and me (and everyone else, I think!). Wednesday, we went to the hospital for a visit and Addison got to hold his baby sister for the first time. He was very gentle and very sweet, but did not want to leave his mom when it was time to go! He clung and cried and had to be carried to the car. It made me feel so bad for him. I knew it would happen, of course, but I still felt bad.

At home, after lunch, he did not want to take a nap and fought it with all that is in him, becoming quite put out with me:

Addison: "It's almost 2 o'clock Gran. Mommy says I only have to sleep till 2 o'clock."

Me: "But you haven't slept, Addison; you need to sleep till at least 3 o'clock. You need to rest for when mommy, daddy, and Drew come home tonight. And tomorrow's my birthday party; you don't want to be tired for that, do you?"

Addison: "I'm going to be sick tomorrow. I can't come to your party."

Me: "What? You're going to miss my birthday? I'm sorry; I don't like it when you're sick."

Addison: "I'll be well again when your party's over. Then when it's over I can have some cake."

He eventually settled down and did actually sleep for about an hour, but not without making me aware that I was just not playing fair!

So, an eventful week in many ways, but especially with the birth of my first and only granddaughter. As I told her on her birth day, I'd been expecting her for 39 years! She and I are going to have a lot of fun, and I look forward to getting to know her in the ways that I know her Big Brother, Addison.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In 1996, my middle son, Jason, called and told me that he and Lisa were planning to get married, and would it be okay if they got married on my birthday. Okay? It was more than okay!

Happy 13th Wedding Anniversary, Jason and Lisa. You two make it look easy! I love you both.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers' Day

(The following article appeared in The Miami Herald's "Tropic Magazine" on Sunday, May 23, 1993 as an original and true composition.)

He was a poor choice for a first love, but I was too young and taken with his rugged good looks and the casual way he called me "Girl" to know that. In our early years I would run to meet him at the door on the rare occasions that he came home, and would sit adoringly at his feet, unlacing his shoes, peeling off his socks and rubbing his feet. If he bothered to come home on the weekends, he'd cook a big breakfast on Saturdays and maybe we'd go for a ride to the river, where we'd ride horses, or target shoot, or fish.

I remember Sunday mornings spent lying in bed reading the Sunday papers. I try to forget Sunday mornings when his side of the bed was a big cold emptiness. Oh, there was no shortage of unkept promises, and nights I spent crying, not knowing where he was or when he would come back. But I was young and I loved him, and I was sure that if I were better to him he would want to spend more time with me. So I tried harder to be his "Girl." Sometimes he responded and sometimes he didn't; I never really figured out the right formula. He moved in and out of my life, a dream-like man.

In 1964, when our relationship was unusually stable, I started making plans for a wedding and tried to include him in every detail. But one day he called and said, "Well, girl, I can't stick around for the wedding. I'm moving to Alaska." I was crushed. I cried. I tried to figure out what I did wrong. My mother told me some people just couldn't be figured out.

The years went by; I settled down and had children, moved from Tampa to Miami. One day he called again. "Hey, Girl. I'm back in Florida and I'd like to come see you and your young'uns and meet your husband." Even after all the pain he'd caused me, I basked in his presence, hanging on every word. I knew our relationship was different. My love for him was still strong, but was tempered by the wisdom of age. Besides, he was no longer the No. 1 man in my life.

Then he went back to Alaska as suddenly as he'd arrived. This time he didn't call to say goodbye; I heard from his family that he had left. Once again I searched my mind for clues to where I'd gone wrong, what I'd done to make him leave without a word to me. I really had tried to be better, to be the kind of person I thought he would want me to be. Despite the fact that I was married, I still wanted to know that I meant something to him. After all, he was my first love.

I saw him again in 1985. He was back in Central Florida for his mother's funeral, which I attended. He acted as if he didn't recognize me and avoided me as much as possible. That wasn't difficult since there was a large gathering and we were always surrounded by dozens of others. I confess, too, that after our initial greeting I didn't seek him out.

Two years of therapy helped me put his memory behind me and I vowed not to ever impose myself on him again. It just wasn't worth the pain. When my mother died last year, my sister called to tell him, but I never heard from him. That was hard to take, since he had been close to my mother. But I hadn't really expected him to contact me; it would have been out of character.

This spring, my sister and her children came from Oregon for a visit and we drove up to Central Florida to visit our old haunts, our grandparents' graves, and some of our living family, too. We were
visiting Mary, a long-time friend who had been especially close to our mother, when he came to her door. I had heard he was back in town, but didn't really expect to see him. My heart beat faster when I heard his voice asking after a mutual friend, and heard her responding, "Come on in for a minute. Your daughters are here with their kids."


But my father refused. He turned his back and walked away. As Mary followed him out in the yard trying to persuade him to stay, my sister and I tried to pretend we hadn't heard any of it, making small talk, avoiding our children's eyes. We heard the car door slam, heard him drive away from us.

Mary came back in the house. She looked at us. "I don't understand," she said. "I've never understood him, Mary," I replied. "I used to think it was something I did or didn't do; but it's just him."

A few nights later as we sat on my back porch, Jennifer, my niece, began to cry. "What's wrong, Jenny?" my sister asked.

"Why didn't my grandfather want to see us?" she replied. "Is there something wrong with us? Do you think that maybe someday, if I try harder, if I'm a better person, he'll want to see me?"

I got up and came inside to write.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A happy Fathers' Day to my beloved sons, Jason and Ben. You have embraced fatherhood with grace and love. Your children are blessed by the love you show to them, and I, too, am blessed to know that I am the mother of such wonderful men, husbands, and fathers.

To Ed, my ex-husband, the father of my three sons: Thank you for the gift of these fine children. Thank you for the camping trips, the Boy Scout packs you led, the love you gave and still give to our boys.

To Jim, my partner, a man who loves his children and grandchildren. Who is never too busy or too distracted to show love to all of our children and grandchildren, yours and mine.

To Mike, my son of the heart, who gives of himself as a father and who accepts and loves me, my sons, my grandchildren.

I love all of you. You each have played a part in erasing the bitter memories of my own father and demonstrating what a father should be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

On being a mother-in-law

I've had two mothers-in-law, neither of whom was particularly happy to have me as part of the family. In fact my first mother-in-law actually threatened to kill me if I "ever hurt her Joey." I did hurt him - badly, I'm afraid - but lived to remarry and have another mother-in-law! Lucky me.

With apologies to my sons, who loved their grandma (my second mother-in-law), we never quite hit it off. I did provide her with her first grandson, and she liked that, but if it could have been done via another method (someone other than me, for example) I think she would have been happier. I'm sure our lack of rapport and our failure to bond was as much my fault as hers. We came from vastly different backgrounds, had diametrically opposed ideas about child-rearing, where her son's loyalties should lie, and whether or not I actually qualified as family.

But bad experiences can have good outcomes if we pay attention. I vowed, when my sons married, that I would be the best mother-in-law I could be. I accepted - mostly gracefully, I think - that I would no longer hold the role of the most important woman in their lives, and that any attempts on my part to hang on to them would only cause bad feelings and could damage their primary relationship: the one each son has with his wife.

I know I haven't been perfect, but for the most part I think I've done pretty well. It helps a lot that I truly love my daughters-in-law, and am thankful for the partnerships they have forged with their husbands, my sons. I think they're both good moms to my grandchildren, and we enjoy a mutual love and respect that I treasure in the deepest parts of my heart.

Both of them - Lisa and Briana - have shown remarkable respect and restraint when I have opened my mouth inappropiately, and both of them have gone out of their way to ensure that I have time to nurture the mother-son relationships that mean so much to me.

So now you're expecting some big revelation, some "uh-oh, I really f****d up this time!" Au contraire, Dear Reader; I am here to tell you that I have waited patiently for ALMOST TEN DAYS to write this blog. Never let it be said that I cannot show restraint. Just because I have nearly chewed my foot off waiting, well please accord me points for keeping my mouth shut until d-i-l, Jr (known in the family as Briana) posted her own blog today, in which she detailed the recent events surrounding the anticipated birth of my first granddaughter!

Drew was originally due around July 4th, but recent events (which I will not repeat here; cruise on over to Briana's place) have conspired to advance her birth date to next Tuesday, June 23rd. Because Briana has been ordered to conserve calories, I have had the pleasure of spending more time with Addison than I ordinarily would. And I've had the pleasure of some unrushed conversations with Briana. Since most of our exchanges revolve around Addison (quite literally sometimes, as he insists, "It's my turn to talk now!"), it's been nice to indulge in girl talk with a young woman I love and admire.

So now you know. In just a few short days I will hold in my arms a little girl, my own flesh and blood. I'm excited and a little afraid. Even today it's not an easy world in which to be a woman, but I know that her parents, her big brother, her aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, will all be for her a source of love, strength and comfort.

I can hardly wait to see her face, this girl-child. Perhaps I hope to see in her a bit of me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why?

I've written earlier about bigotry, racism, intolerance, and growing up in the segregated South, so you'd think nothing could surprise me any more. And at some level I am not surprised at recent events, but I am angered.

The recent murder of Dr. George Tiller during worship services at his church in Wichita; the murder of 23-year-old soldier William Long outside a recruiting office in Little Rock; and the murder last week of Tyrone Johns as he courteously opened the door for his assassin at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, are all appalling indicators of the intolerance that afflicts this nation in the 21st century.

All three of these men were going about their lives in locations where they had a reasonable expectation of safety. All three have left behind people who loved them, people who needed them, people who admired and respected them. Mr. Johns' 11-year-old son referred to his dad as "my hero." And yet... And yet, three bigoted, small-minded, intolerant, and, yes, ignorant men acted as judge, jury, and executioner.

How have we become a nation of haters? When did we leave the path of respect and decency and veer onto a side road where hatred and ideology became the guiding forces? Why do so many people spew vitriol and intolerance against people who think differently? Why are there blogs and religions and websites dedicated to inciting people to violence? I know that most of these are fringe groups, but why do we allow them to continue? Why haven't we risen up in protest? Why do we read them, post to them, discuss them? Why, when we have a man in the White House who attempts to promote consensus and inclusiveness, do so many of us ridicule these methods? Even if you don't like the President, why does anyone think that partisan bickering and the continuation of "my way or the highway" attitudes is preferable to attempts to find common ground, or even to disagreeing in an agreeable manner?

One of my daughters-in-law and I had a recent exchange on Facebook regarding an issue that we view differently. We both have strong, well-thought-out feelings, and do not agree on several issues. But we don't hate each other! We agree on those things that we can and respectfully disagree on the others. We have mutual love and respect, and we each trust that the other is thoughtful and sincere about her opinions. Why is that so hard?

I'm a female heterosexual Christian. One of my dearest friends is Buddhist, my life's partner is an atheist, and one of my sons is gay. All of these men have taught me tolerance simply because I was willing to listen. I have learned that there is value in respecting all life, all manner of religious or philosophical beliefs, all manner of consensual sexual expression.

I am not so naive that I think intolerance, or even its violent expression, is new. I know that intolerance and violence have been the hallmarks of our nation for much of its existence. You have only to look at our treatment of Native Americans, Blacks, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Japanese across the years. But as a nation we have learned; why have we not learned as individuals? Why are so afraid of those who are different, who have different beliefs, different politics, different values, different ideas?

Why?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

We're havin' a heat wave...

Here in the land of slugs and moss, we're still usually having rain this time of year. Frequently we're still even having the occasional fire in the woodstove! But not this year. This year we're having warm - dare I say "hot"? - weather. Not hot like in South Florida or other parts of the south and northeast, but still... Mid-80s is pretty darned hot for us in May!

Of course, hot weather has some advantages. Such as yesterday's barbecue at Ben & Briana's, with Christina, Ada, Julie and Erich - and Addison, of course! It was a gorgeous day, spent mostly outside admiring their garden, watching the kids play, and complaining about the heat. But what else can you do about the weather?

We finally got the deck furniture out today. Well, Jim got it out while I played inside on the computer. Later this afternoon we'll sit out there with glasses of wine, enjoying our yard that we love so well. Our new honeysuckle vines are twining around our newly-installed arbor, and the star jasmine has exploded with growth and lots of buds that hold the promise of sweet smells in a few weeks.

The maple trees we planted 3-1/2 years ago are now providing enough shade that we don't hide from the afternoon sun any longer. And our ducks will swoop in later to enthrall us with the simple fact of their return.

As a teen in Florida, I loved the summer. It meant beaches, shorts, long and lazy days. As a young mother I was less thrilled with it, but can still conjure up the smell of sun-drenched little boys, all sweaty and puppy dog-like in their odor and behavior. And now - dare I confess? - I have occasional flashbacks to what summer in Miami was like and there's an elemental longing for hot afternoons, cold drinks, and then retreating inside to the airconditioned house.

Here, we don't have a/c - seems a little wasteful to us for these few days or weeks of heat. And, here, too, I know that these hot days will be quickly followed by drizzly rain, and then before I've had a chance to get a really nice tan, it will be fall!

So, here's to summer: However long it lasts, however hot it gets, it's a lazy time of year and I'm enjoying it so far!

Ask me again, though, in August when we start edging toward 100 degrees. I will likely be singing the praises of rain and snow by then!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Traveling Fool


Over Memorial Day Weekend, Jim and I - as is our custom - headed east to the tiny Oregon town of Spray to watch their rodeo. Spray boasts a population of about 150 people, but it swells to nearly 15,000 over the Memorial Day Rodeo weekend! There is one motel, with only five rooms, and in-town camping facilities for about 30 trailers. The rest of the folks camp either in "nearby" towns (meaning anywhere from 40 to 50 miles away) or in the Umatilla National Forest. And that is where we choose to camp.

To add to our enjoyment, we took the grandkids with us this year, leaving on Thursday. Ada's mommy and daddy joined us on Friday evening, and my sister and brother-in-law arrived on Saturday. The kids were not particularly impressed with the rodeo, but did enjoy seeing the animals and definitely enjoyed the freedom of playing in the forest! We arrived home on Monday, exhausted, but with lots of happy memories.

Upon my arrival home, I found an email from one of my eFriends, commenting on our recent travels to Europe, and outlining her adult children's travels, along with a few of her own. She closed her email with a question: "Don't you think it would do most people good to travel outside the US to see how others live?" (I do hope she doesn't mind that I'm blatantly using her comment in my blog!)

I've thought about that over the past couple of days, in light of our recent European travels as well as our trip across the US last year, and even this past weekend in a small Oregon town. And I've come to the conclusion that travel of any kind is good for us. It opens our minds and broadens our horizons. It keeps us from becoming too comfortable with our way of life, and it challenges our assumptions.

By encountering people of different cultures - whether it be a foreign culture, or just the culture of a different region of our own country, or a town of a different size - we frequently come face to face with people whose ideas are opposed to ours, but who hold those ideas with the same fervor we feel. By taking on the role of guest in another culture, we have the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a minority position - language, religion, government policies, food preferences - the list is long! - and to be for a short time in a position that is outside our usual comfort zone.

I am a woman who is not known for being submissive or feeling insecure. However, in a foreign country, or even in Spray, Oregon, I am much less assertive than I am in my "natural" environment. I am aware that I am a guest (with all that this status implies, thank you , Mom!), and I am always aware that my views on everything from politics to religion to the environment may be diametrically opposed to those whose space I have invaded. It makes me listen more carefully, examine my own comments more carefully - perhaps even editing what I want to say, and even putting myself in others' places to try to understand why they feel as they do.

So, yes, I do think it would be good for all of us to have the experience of travel. Not just outside the US, but outside our communities, our cities, our states, our geographic regions. I think the key to understanding is meeting each other face to face. It doesn't mean we will change our minds about anything, but it at least allows us to see that those who think differently are not demons, but our fellow travelers on this planet. Broadening our horizons in whatever ways we can will only make us more whole, and will certainly go a long way toward lessening our fear of that which is "other."

Thank you, Holly, for asking!