Friday, August 28, 2015

The Funniest Thing My Granddaughter and I Did This Week

Since her brother and sister have returned to school, only Avery visits me Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We attempt a type of school program, though at not-yet-4, she’s not yet very disciplined and I never force her to learn (she’s quite stubborn), so she learns in a variety of ways. We also play at the park and go to the library.

Avery putting on a puppet show for me at the local library

Yesterday, though, we did something a little different – we washed our hands with peanut butter!

Maybe I should explain. Avery, like every child I’ve ever met, loves to learn. Give her a puzzle and she’ll have it put together in no time. Give her a laptop and she figures out how to play all kinds of learning games. But in order for Avery to work in a workbook, I have to be a little creative. So yesterday, I had her bring her backpack to the park across the street. 

“After we finish one page, we can play,” I told her, so she worked on one page in her workbook while I planned on incorporating other types of learning later ( offers lots of learning games, and I have lots of games for her to play on my iPad too).

On our way home for lunch, Avery discovered pine cones high in the trees, most of which I couldn’t reach. But I found a low hanging branch, pulled it down, grabbed a pine cone, and allowed her to pull down another one. Unbeknown to me until I let go of the branch, the pine cone was saturated with a heavy, very sticky sap. I never pulled a pine cone from a tree before, so I didn’t know it would be so completely covered in sap. I usually find pine cones on the grounds – sticky, yes, but not that sticky.

Because I had one hand free from sap and both of hers were stuck together, I insisted she not touch anything until we made it home to the sink. When we returned home, I turned on the water with my free hand, poured liquid soap into both of our hands, and washed them beneath the flowing water. 

Still sticky.

So we tried bar soap.

Still sticky.

“Stay right her. Don’t move. Let me look online to see if I can find something that will help,” I told Avery.

And there it was, on wikihow, How to Get Tree Sap Off Your Hands. Thank you, Internet! 

The suggestion that sounded the most fun was using peanut butter, so I grabbed a jar, scooped out a spoonful of it, and brought it to Avery, who was still obediently standing at the sink. 

If you want to surprise your kids or grandkids and have them look at you like you’ve lost your mind, have them wash their hands with peanut butter. And guess what! Peanut butter worked to remove the sap!

We followed the peanut butter with soap, by the way, and we have vowed to each other that we will never again grab a pine cone from a tree. Better to pick up pine cones from the ground and maybe keep a small jar of peanut butter by the sink.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Boys Have Nipples Girls Have Boobs"

"Boys Have Nipples. Girls Have Boobs." 

So blurts out my not-yet-4-year-old granddaughter, Avery. We were sitting at the table on a Saturday morning while she ate her cereal and I drank my smoothie, talking about everything from the movie we watched the night before, The Perfect Game, (great movie, by the way) to the bug bite she had on her foot.

We often discuss a variety of issues, all of which appear randomly throughout our conversations with absolutely no transition from one subject to the next, and I often find myself choking back laughter so it doesn’t explode out of me like a volcano.

Sometimes I wonder if her brother and sister come up with some of these “insights,” because I can’t imagine her parents making a distinction between nipples and boobs in reference to sex identity. I can only imagine their philosophical discussions when it comes to making sense out of the world in which they live.

“Girls have nipples, too,” I told her. In true Avery style, her eyes popped open and her vision focused on some distant space, filled with thoughts and memories as she tried to incorporate my statement with everything she’d previously learned about life. Everything suddenly probably made sense, considering at their ages, she and her brother and sister have chests that look pretty much the same.

Funny little girl. I think the reason I look at all the funny little cartoons and blurbs on Facebook is to relieve the pressure of holding in so much laughter throughout my days with all of my funny grandkids.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Butterfly Release In Honor of My Dad

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? Butterflies released in a beautiful dance across the sky to honor your deceased family member or friend?

The Plaque Wall – we thought only family members
of the deceased whose name appeared on this wall
would attend the Butterfly Release Ceremony.
But actually anybody who had a loved one
in the entire cemetery was invited to attend. 
When my mother invited some of my family members to a butterfly release event to celebrate my father, who had passed away this past March, I envisioned a group of people gathering together to hear a few loving words about each participant’s family members, and then we would release our beautiful butterflies into the air and watch them fill the sky with color. I brought my camera along to take photos of the event.

The temperature, combined with the humidity, made the event uncomfortable and hundreds of people were sprawled out on chairs or standing in the hot sun or under a canopy waiting for the event to begin.  Earlier somebody had passed out makeshift envelopes that held our captive butterflies. 

One of my nephews holds our family's envelopes 
with the butterflies we waited so long to release. 
Next to him stands one of my sisters.
In front of him stands one of my daughters.
Behind her is my mother under the canopy.
The speaker spoke not one word about anybody other than his own family members. And he spoke on and on and on and on and he prayed on and on and on and on – about his relatives. 

And then his brother began playing music to honor their mother, and then a woman read to all the children at the event a book, written by their mother, and then they played more music devoted to their mother, while in between all of these events the speaker talked on and on and on and on about his mother, his father, his grandfather, and his uncle – I think – I kind of lost focus after the first 20 minutes, and prayed on and on and on and on, and I wondered about the poor butterflies that had been stuck inside envelopes in the sweltering heat for such a long time.

So while the rest of us were there for our own family members, though not one word of respect was spoken to honor them, we listened to this family drone on and on about their own loved ones and wondered if perhaps they thought the entire ceremony was about only them.

When the speaker finally came to the end of the ceremony, he spoke these words before we released our jailed butterflies: “Hopefully not too many of them will get trampled.” 

Those words should have clued us all in to what was to follow, because as soon as we “released” our butterflies from their cages, the poor lethargic things dropped to the ground and we had to coax them to fly. 
Finding them was difficult, but if you look above and to the right
of the shadow located on the lower left of the photo, you can see it.

Notice people searching the ground for their butterflies.
Found one!
As you can see by the photos, no grand fill-the-sky images existed. In one photo you can see people bent over searching for the butterflies they released. Hundreds of butterflies had to find enough energy to get up off the ground before hundreds of feet trampled them to death after their excruciating captivity. 

Out of the hundreds of butterflies released that day, I saw only about 5 butterflies flying above ground. What a disappointment! Sorry, Dad. And sorry, butterflies.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Will You Still Read Me When I’m 64?

In 1966, I was 15 years old. In that year The Beatles recorded, When I’m Sixty Four, a number that sounded so old to me back then, I couldn’t imagine ever living that long. Maybe not so surprisingly, 64 still sounds old to me, and yet, this month, if I live for another 15 days, I will be 64!! years old. 

Me at 15

Me at 63

Thinking back to the me that I was at 15, I remember wondering how anyone would want to be THAT OLD. I pictured 64 year-olds to be old, decrepit, falling-apart hags with only death to look forward to. And with my life-long back and lung problems, well, I assumed I’d be dead by now, too, to be honest. Or at least in a retirement or nursing home, watching my body decay with each passing day. I never realized, when I was 15, that if I took care of the body I was given, no matter how badly it worked, I might be able to change my perceived future into something more attractive – and I might be able to live a reasonably healthy life.

My mother, at 81, still gets on her treadmill every day – twice a day – and looks young enough to be mistaken for one of my sisters. She inspires me to take care of myself. Another inspiration is Jane Fonda. I recently watched the Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, and I thought the amazing 77-year-old Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda (her birth name) looked better than some women half her age. I realized that if I worked at taking care of my body, I could look a whole lot better than I do – maybe not as good as Jane Fonda, but probably better than I do now. And yes, I know, Fonda has had plastic surgery, but you can’t fake muscles, can you? Even Lily Tomlin, Fonda’s co-star, looks amazing at 75.

The funny thing about getting older is that the older I get, the younger those older than I am seem to be. But as I age, I discover that people of all ages tend to ignore people who are my age and older, unless we’re celebrities, of course. The first time I understood how it felt to be ignored was a day when I walked through a shopping mall with two of my daughters, both of whom were teenagers at the time – nearly 20 years ago. Suddenly all eyes were on my daughters, and people looked through me to gawk at them. I shook my head and laughed silently wondering, when had I become invisible?

This month I will be 64 on July 21st. All those many years ago, when I first listened to that Beatles song, I honestly believed I’d be hunched over in a shriveled heap, incapable of caring for myself. But I find myself busier today than I ever thought I’d be at this age. My book shelves are lined with books I purchased years ago with the intention of reading one day – when my days calmed down long enough so I could relax and actually have time to read them. 

Those days aren’t here yet. Today, unless I take a quick bathroom break to read a portion of Reader’s Digest, I still have no time to relax long enough to read an entire book. I focus a lot of my time on my grandkids, and I devote a lot of time to writing and crocheting. People to see, places to go, errands to run, take up a lot of my time too.

Though I try to focus on completing tasks I’ve created for myself (my blogs and other writings, crocheted items, jewelry, etc.), my days are filled with incessant distractions and interruptions. In order to compensate for not having become the successful writer I always envisioned I’d become, I have comforted myself over the years with a promise I’ll never be able to keep to myself – that I’ll be posthumously successful, because I haven’t been what I would consider to be a successful writer the whole time I’ve been alive. 

Then again, I haven’t written anything worthy of that kind of praise – yet, and maybe my best is sitting in my brain awaiting its turn at my fingers. I’m still alive, after all. And so what if I end up in a nursing home? Unlike the nursing homes of today, I’m betting that future nursing homes will be equipped with wifi so that those of us who never had time to write our books will finally find the time to do so.

Until that day, I will continue to write, to crochet, to live. I will be grateful for the life I live. And if I should end up in a retirement or nursing home, at least I’ll have lots of unread books to keep me company.

Oh, before I leave you, I should probably bring up the title of this blog post – sorry if I was a little presumptuous when I asked if you would still read me when I’m 64, especially if you’ve never read me until today. But please indulge a nearly old woman, okay? 

By the way, can you guess my favorite 1966 Beatles song? Well, Paperback Writer, of course!

As always, thank you for visiting!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mom Learns Patriotic Pride from Her Marine Son

Previously published in 2008 or 2009 on Associated Content / Yahoo Contributor Network, stolen from another website and reported! Please keep in mind that this article was written several years ago.

I wasn't always patriotic. Although I stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, held my hand over my heart, and even said the words, I didn't FEEL as strongly for my country as I suspect my grandparents did. Having grown up during the Viet Nam War era when vets were condemned, and pacifists, along with protesters and anti-war activists, hid behind the borders of Canada or Mexico, I decided long ago that if I had a son, he would never join the service, whether he was chosen by lottery or chosen by self. I was on the side of the pacifists.

Then, in March 2001, my son joined the Marines – against my will. I should have guessed Greg would become a Marine. Even as a toddler in the early-1980s, my son liked order and organization.

When he was about four or five years old he asked me to cut his long curly hair. A former hippie-type, I couldn't understand how anybody would choose a Marine-style haircut – especially MY son, and especially at such a young age. I loved his long curly hair.

But I cut it anyway, into the popular mid-80's style of Bears Quarterback, Jim McMahon. Greg looked absolutely adorable. He was so proud that his choice resulted in something he liked.

For his graduation from boot camp, two of Greg's sisters and I flew to California to be with him. Though all the uniforms would be the same, I knew I would be able to find my son among the hundreds of Marines graduating in Camp Pendleton, California, that June 2001. After all, he had always walked like a Marine – straight and powerful, with a stride that commanded attention.

What I didn't foresee was that by graduation, every Marine would walk the way my son had been walking since he was nine months old.

In his finest Dress Blues, carrying the United States Flag, my son stood proud and tall. I suddenly knew how the Viet Nam War families felt, the indignity they suffered, the crushing spirits their sons, husbands, and brothers endured, and the pain that lingered. I felt the anxiety of all those mothers who waited, before home computers, for any word of their son's well being during both of our world wars.

And I knew what it felt like to be the mother of a Marine and to share the glory of pride that all Marine parents feel in a son grown up.

I wanted the world to see in him what I saw, his growth, his maturity, and his resolve, after years of having been raised with only females in a single-parent household, to make something of himself.

The years between his birth and that graduation ceremony felt as if we had both been running a marathon. At the finish line, a hand reached down and pulled the man out of my little boy, making 18 years feel like one day.

And then, like the Twin Towers of The World Trade Center, our lives crumbled on September 11, 2001. My son was home on leave the week after Labor Day that year. After having been hooked to my computer screen at work all morning, I came home to spend lunch with my son. Our eyes locked in a moment of silence, followed by Greg singing words from an old Beatles song, "I read the news today, oh boy."

When Greg was an infant I held him tightly in my arms to comfort his cries. Now he held me tightly in his arms to say good-bye. We didn't know that in the months to follow, Greg, along with thousands of other military personnel, would be traveling a road to Baghdad because our president took it upon himself to punish one dictator for the behavior of another.

I was angry that my son's choice to join the military was perfectly timed with a president who waged war without absolute proof that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction. I wanted my son home. What sense did it make to wage war to protect peace anyway?

And then I saw, "The Pianist," a moving account of survival during World War II. I credit that movie for testing my beliefs about peace and war. Could we allow another Hitler to bully and torture his own people? On the other hand, could I handle losing my son to that cause?

I heard everybody from the Pope to local demonstrators advocating peace, but not one of them offered a viable alternative to war that would convince religious fanatics to stop killing themselves for insane causes.

As a mother who suffers from separation anxiety, I had already endured a difficult time watching my son leave for Japan and Thailand, but I had an especially difficult time when he was in Baghdad. The thought of losing him forever was a daily struggle when even the mundane was stifled and filled with fear. Every day I had to envision him coming home. Every day, several times throughout the day, I had to pray for him and for all service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan just so I could get through my day.

I couldn't allow myself to think of his conditions, their conditions -- being away from loved ones, some of whom were pregnant; enduring sweltering heat; living in fear every millisecond of every second of every minute of every hour.

I couldn't help but wonder why, after all these centuries of continued primitive and barbaric wars, we didn't have a more civilized approach to dealing with dictators. When will an intelligent leader provide a viable alternative to war? Until that time, because we are intelligent human beings with consciences, we cannot allow ourselves or our neighbors to suffer if we can do something to prevent it.

My love for my son and my love for my country were in perpetual battle with one another. I was grateful for any diversion. During one of my son's tours in Iraq, I attended a local high school's Spring Concert. In a moving tribute to the men and women in our Armed forces, Veterans were asked to stand when their branch's theme song was played. Wild applause greeted each service person who stood. And when the theme song for the Marines played, I found myself engulfed in tears.

During these past 7 years, time often seemed agonizingly slow as I awaited my son's return. But lately the years feel like they are speeding into overdrive.

When my son joined the Marines, he was single, and no matter where I moved, I kept a bedroom open for him. Greg just returned form his fourth tour in Iraq. I now hold two open rooms for him, his wife*, and their three children when they visit me in Illinois from their home in Camp Pendleton.

Like their parents before them, Greg and his wife* are discovering that no matter how much time or distance separates parents from their children, love never waivers. Though parents may sometimes grimace at the choices their children make, they will stand beside them to offer support so that when their children fall, they will be met with loving arms, a warm embrace, and encouragement to try again.

They will reward the right choices their children make or institute consequences for wrong choices. They will offer guidance and pray their children make the right decisions. And they will start by accepting little choices, even those that don't meet with their approval, like haircuts.

Before they know it and before they are ready for it, one day, on their own Independence Day, like their forefathers before them, their children will leave to begin their own little colonies.

I thank my son for teaching me the meaning of patriotism. And I thank every man and woman who has volunteered to protect the freedom of our country and the freedom of other countries.

No matter what my personal opinion about this war is, I admire and respect all of our uniformed men and women who are performing their patriotic duty.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli...
is a mom who's very proud of her United States Marine.

*ex-wife now

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Can You Say, "Specific"?

Three of my grandchildren and I were playing the popular television and board game, Family Feud. When my granddaughter read one of the prompts, she stumbled over the word specific.

Her experience reminded me of earlier times when my younger sister couldn't pronounce, cinnamon or aluminum, and when my sister and I found new pronunciations for caterpillar – pillicator, patakiller, callapitor, our mother doubled over in laughter.

Anyway, after numerous attempts at trying to pronounce specific, I grabbed my camera to record my grandchildren trying to pronounce it. Enjoy!

Say Specific

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How Does Jim Carrey Calm Down Long Enough to Meditate?

We all think we know celebrities enough to assume certain things about them. I’m guilty of doing exactly that! I just naturally assumed, for instance, that Jim Carrey was too high-energy to calm down long enough to meditate. To discover that he engaged in transcendental meditation astounded me.

The reason I came to that assumption was because I made the mistake of comparing Jim Carrey’s energy level to my own energy level. I couldn’t imagine how any one with Jim Carrey’s energy could slow down long enough to meditate. When my oldest daughter took me to a meditation event held at a nearby spiritual shop, I found the whole experience so confining, I felt the need to leave.

An hour? I was supposed to sit still for an hour? I found my feet bobbing up and down and my mind wandering so fast, I wished I had something to record all my thoughts before they entered oblivion. My heart beat so wildly in my chest that I might have thought I was having a panic attack. Time slowed to a near halt around me where motionless bodies “got it” and became one with the meditation field around them. I, on the other hand, wondered how quickly I could jump out of my seat and escape this aggravating ritual. 

What good was meditation when I had so many things I needed to do? This experience was more an invasion of my time than it was a welcome relief. How do you calm an erratic mind?

A few years later I again attended a meditation event, this time with a male friend. Once again I found myself practically jumping out of my mind. I enjoyed the music, but I couldn’t relax into the meditation. And that, I’ve come to understand, is my biggest problem when it comes to meditating – I can’t relax.

So how does anyone with high energy calm down long enough to receive the benefits of meditation? How do people prevent their minds from paying attention to every single thought that enters their heads? 

Maybe those thousands of ideas that pop into my head all the time are worth the attention I pay them. Obviously not all of them are great ideas, and obviously I can’t remember all of them, but what if I miss a great idea for a book, a blog, a screenplay, or I’ve come up with a great idea for a new craft item? How can I filter out everything long enough to slow down my heart rate and benefit from meditation?

I’ve read and heard about the benefits of meditation. I know that meditation would be good for me, but I need to know from somebody who has – not just high energy – but erratic high energy how to settle down long enough to meditate. 

You see what I did? I assumed that Jim Carrey’s high energy was similar to my erratic high energy. Maybe Jim Carry’s energy is not erratic at all, but focused, which makes his energy very different from mine.

I honestly believe that meditation would help me, but I may have to wait until somebody with my kind of energy comes along to tell me how he or she is able to successfully meditate. Maybe a massage before meditation would help, but I'd like to learn how to meditate without relying upon massage to do so. 

If you have high – erratic high – energy, if you get distracted way too easily, and you have been able to bypass your erratic mind successfully, please tell me how you do it. I’ll even accept links as long as they refer me to a legitimate meditation blog, video, or website.

Thank you for visiting!


Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (short version)

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (long version)