Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Hat and the iPad

Avery sitting with most of the Christmas presents I made.

A couple of days before one of my family Christmas get-togethers, I grabbed any available box I could find so I could wrap my handmade crocheted items and jewelry gifts. I was running out of options, though, so I grabbed my old iPad box for Avery’s gift, forgetting about the story I’d heard only days before:

10-year-old Audrey, Avery’s sister, had a broken iPad and she asked Buddy, the family’s Elf-on-the-Shelf, if he could fix it. Miraculously the next morning, the iPad was fixed!

4-year-old Avery, upon learning about how Buddy had fixed her sister’s iPad wondered out loud, “How come Buddy didn’t fix my iPad?” Mom and Dad exchanged glances. Avery’s iPad was graveyard material – waaaaaaay beyond the repair stage. 

Soooo, when Avery opened her gift from me, she exuberantly exclaimed, “I got an iPad?!” She was practically dancing in her seat.

She ripped open her present and found – a hat, a hand-crocheted hat. Biggest letdown ever, but trooper that she is, she didn’t complain. From other family members, however, I heard, “Way to go, Grandma, break a little girl’s heart!”

Oh, yeah, uh oh, I forgot.

Oops!

That event occurred on December 19th. A couple of days later, a little girl approached Avery’s dad when he was working a couple of towns away, and asked him if he wanted to purchase a raffle ticket for – some organization – I can’t remember what (there goes that memory again). He did, and then he forgot about it. (I’m not the only one who forgets.)

A couple of days later somebody knocked on the door to my grandkids’ home and when my son-in-law opened it, he found a stranger standing on his front step, holding a package for him. 

“You won the raffle!” 

So on Christmas morning, when Avery opened her presents and found another iPad box (I laugh just thinking about it), I wonder what through her head. Would she ever again be able to trust that what she was about to open was a fair representation of what was depicted on the outside of the box, or was this another form of deception? I wonder if she asked herself, “Am I getting another hat?”


Afterword: When I met with a few more grandchildren a couple of days later, I made sure to write a message on the outside of their boxes: “Don’t be deceived by the packaging.” Good thing, because not knowing that one of my grandsons had broken his phone, I had folded his scarf inside an old Walmart phone box.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Logic of a 4-Year-Old

Three days a week, I care for my 4-year-old granddaughter, Avery, and we sometimes play games. Yesterday we played BINGO. She loves to spin the wheel, and getting her to look at the little balls teaches her how to recognize numbers and match them to numbers on her card.

The last time we played, I won. Yesterday, as Avery’s card filled up and mine sat nearly empty, I laughed when I looked at my 3 numbers and compared my card to Avery’s, whose card was filled with so many numbers, she was one number away from winning two BINGOs. 

Knowing how games go sometimes, I laughed, “Wouldn’t it be funny if I won after all, even though your card is nearly full?” She looked at me with one of those looks that told me she very clearly knew she was going to win and that what I had just said was preposterous. Responding with an emphatic, “No!” I realized that my winning at that point would not have been funny to her – at all. Fortunately she won. 

We ate lunch and Avery went to the bathroom. We usually have a quiet (not nap) time after lunch when we grab pillows and blankets, recline on the couch, and watch an afternoon movie, but I soon learned that Avery had other plans. 



“I think I peed my pants,” she said. I told her that she probably didn’t because she had just gone potty. She insisted that she had peed her pants and that she had to take a bath. So I set up a bubble bath for her and neatly folded her clothes, so they wouldn’t wrinkle. 

As I grabbed her underpants, so I could wash them, I noticed something. Her underpants weren’t even a little bit wet, so I immediately realized I had been roped into giving her a bath that she didn’t need (I learned later that she had had a bath just before she came over). As she sat in the tub, surrounded by bubbles, happily playing with bath toys, I held up her panties and said, “Avery, your pants aren’t even a little bit wet.” 

“I know.”

“So why did you tell me they were wet?”

No answer.

She didn’t need to answer. I knew why she lied about them being wet, so I told her that the next time she wanted to take a bath, she just had to tell me. She didn’t have to lie about having wet pants. “OK?”

“OK.”


And, good grandma that I am, I wrapped her up in a towel and took out my blow dryer to warm her up. Maybe I make bath time too comfortable for her.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Back in Time


 



From 1969, when my first child was born, to 2002, when my youngest child graduated high school, I cared for children, mostly alone, because I married two men who contributed virtually nothing to caring for a family (I know I sound bitter, but I’m not – I just made stupid decisions, which actually turned out to be OK, because four beautiful children and lots of amazing grandchildren resulted from those decisions).

I spent several more years providing care not only for my own kids and grandkids, but also for other children. I usually had a job or two in addition to providing day care, and when I got cancer in 2009, I went on disability and, thanks to the cancer, was able to retire.

Retirement – whatever it is you think that word means, know this, it’s not at all what you might envision. I saw myself sitting in a lakehouse overlooking the lake from my screened-in porch as I penned my books and drank coffee or iced water with lemon. Ahh, serenity. 

Retirement, like my home on the lake, turned out to be a fantasy.

The reality is that I’m just as busy now as I ever was during those 32 years caring for children (actually busier since I give myself tons of projects to complete), and I’m remembering that busy with kids is an entirely different experience than busy without kids. About two to three times a year I get to experience being both Mom and Dad – again – but those two to three times a year these days allow me to replay that role with three of my grandchildren. 

How soon Grandma forgets what is entailed from the moment my grandkids awaken in the morning, as I scurry to prepare breakfasts, make sure they brush teeth and hair, pick out clothes for them to wear, pack lunches and backpacks, send the two oldest ones off to school and spend the entire morning and afternoon entertaining the youngest child until they return.

Then it’s homework – and WOW has homework changed – did every educator out there have a meeting and decide, “Let’s complicate math to the point where it drives everyone crazy! No more simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division – uh uh – let’s add a thousand more steps to each problem!” No wonder homework takes so long these days. Here’s how I see the way math was taught when I was growing up compared to the way math is taught today:

The Old Days
Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree to get to the top.

Today
Problem – go to the top of the tree.
Solution – climb the tree halfway, jump to a branch on a different tree, follow the branches until they reach almost to the next tree, jump on that tree, climb that tree to the top, hop around the forest several times until you return to the original tree, jump on one of the lower branches, hop up to one of the higher branches, flip over to a different tree, climb that tree to the top, then return to the original tree and go to the top of that tree.

Well, that’s how math seems to be to me today anyway. After homework, we have dinner (or not, because one of the kids might be practicing some sport that night), attend after-school activities, take showers or baths, if possible (homework for the oldest takes nearly the entire night, due mostly to math problems), and if we have time, we squeeze in some fun (by that time, I’m so exhausted, though, fun time means movie time), then we make sure everyone brushes his or her teeth, puts on pajamas, and then we all go to bed, where I will attempt, but will fail miserably, at getting alone time, because I will fall asleep.

I usually think I’m doing fairly well until some “crisis” occurs, and all four of us might spend an hour looking for somebody’s tablet or try to calm down whoever is arguing after a quarrel. Or Grandma might forget something – one time I sent the two oldest kids to school with yogurt and no spoons. No problem, I later discovered – schools today provide spoons! Crisis averted! Success for Grandma!

Little crises occur every now and then too, like the time (then) 10-year old Audrey spent the night at a friend’s house. Nolan, who was 7 at the time, and Avery, who was 3, decided to sleep together in Nolan’s bunk bed. However, Avery couldn't figure out how to get her mammoth stuffed animal to fit on Nolan's twin mattress. Because she used that big-as-a-child stuffed animal as her pillow, she HAD to have her pillow! And because it was a late night for them, Avery sobbed when she discovered she couldn’t position the animal in a way that was comfortable for her without knocking her brother off the bed. Fortunately, minutes later she was sound asleep.

Beginning on Halloween, I will again play Mom and Dad. Once again, every organizational ability I have will be put to the test, though my daughter has assured me that she has made every effort to streamline my work, going so far as to bribe the kids with money to keep their rooms clean (insert smiley face) and set up clothes for the school week. 

Will everybody get to where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there? Will clothes and sports uniforms be freshly washed? Will meals be prepared on time? Will I know how to help with homework? Has common core math taken on an even newer dimension? I mean, will I need to know how beings from other solar systems teach math? Martian Math, anyone?

So I’ll deal with the cooking, cleaning, laundry, homework, sibling rivalry, rushing to get ready in the morning, rushing to finish homework in the evening, and watch the kids try to trick Grandma into staying up late every night. 

But then I’ll also have moments like the last time I cared for them, when Avery ran up to me while I was folding towels and hugged me tightly. I dropped the towel and hugged her back, saying, "How much do I love you?" And Avery responded, "Free." 



Friday, October 16, 2015

Mom's Favorite Flower

What you are about to read is something I wrote several years ago. I published it first on one website, which disappeared into cybermist and then on another that, for reasons not necessary to explain, I vacated. Because this post brings back special memories and because my son is now home, I wanted to post it again – for me and for anyone else who receives these precious gifts.

One of My Favorite Memories
originally written May 10, 2009

Gentle breezes and a warm sun play across my face as I monitor my children from our front step.

Though he is not allowed to wander far, my son rounds the corner and hands me a beautiful red rose, obviously from a neighbor's garden.

Not to be outdone, his older sister hands me another beautiful flower, probably from the same neighbor's garden.

My 3-year old, unaware of where her older siblings found these treasures, searches and searches until, beaming with pride, she emerges from the corner of the house to drop remnants of dead dandelions in my hand.

I fawn over them as I did over the other gifts bestowed upon me by my babies.

Years later, I sit in a Dairy Queen parking lot with my youngest daughter, when a little girl approaches my window. Her father smiles bashfully as he watches his daughter hand a perfect stranger a precious gift, a memory. The dandelion sits in my palm, a lovely reminder of that warm sunny day when my children placed their gifts in my hand.

Today my grandchildren - their parents the givers of more than a dozen bouquets of dandelions - carry on the tradition. I gratefully place each droopy dandelion in a glass, careful not to drown the bugs flitting around the yellow flowered weed.

My children are grown now. I miss our daily contacts, especially those with my Marine son who is often stationed overseas or living across the country. I long for the day he comes home.

And if he brings me nothing else, I would welcome with laughter and tears another red rose, or even a handful of bug-infested dandelions, my favorite "flower."


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Introducing Breast Cancer Survivor's New Business During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

What better time 
for a 
Breast Cancer Survivor 
to begin a new business than during 
Breast Cancer 
Awareness Month!

Yes, I’m playing the Cancer card! Why not?

Choose any of our messages or
Write one of your own!
We also invite you to send your
or our already-written

Birth Announcements
Birthday Greetings
New Businesses Invites
Old Businesses Reminders
Pregnancy Announcements
Shower Invitations
Wedding Invitations

Or anything else you can imagine

to your family
to your friends
to your customers.

IN A BOTTLE – 
A Crystal Butterfly Creations Bottle!
Curious?
Check out Crystal Butterfly Creations! to see sample messages!

For everyone who is currently undergoing treatment for breast and other cancers, 10% of all profits during the month of October will go to the American Cancer Society for research, not only during the month of October, but also every other month all year round (because I was not the only one in my family affected by cancer – one of my grandsons just finished his last round of in-patient chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcoma. (The American Lung Association will receive 10% of profits from Crystal Butterfly Creations during the other months due to lifelong respiratory issues.)


Thursday, September 24, 2015

UPDATE on Request for a Stuffed Spider and Snake

As promised in my previous blog, Funny, Funny, Four-Year-Old, I am posting an update because, applause-applause, I figured out how to knit a snake and crochet a spider for my 4-year-old granddaughter who wanted them for her birthday. Here they are!


If any of you crochet or know somebody who crochets, I posted instructions for the spider (and explained how I knitted the snake) in this blog, Crocheted Spider Halloween Project  FREE INSTRUCTIONS.


As always, thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Funny Funny Four-Year-Old


One of my granddaughters had a birthday yesterday and is now 4 years old. I took her to Toys R Us to find the birthday present she wanted me to get for her – a “stuffed animal” (you’ll see why I put those words in quotes in just a few seconds).

“What kind of stuffed animal do you want?” I asked her.

“A snake or a spider.” Yes, Avery is not a girly-girl. You won’t find her playing with Barbies or baby dolls and you won’t find her wearing "pretty dresses," unless she is forced to wear them. So my little granddaughter chose a stuffed spider or a stuffed snake for her birthday present.

I didn’t think snakes or spiders qualified as stuffed animals, but OK, I told her, we’ll look at Toys R Us  and if they don’t have either one, we’ll check out Meijer, because I have to shop there, too.

Surprisingly, Toys R Us had neither a stuffed snake or a stuffed spider (imagine that), though one of the employees told me Toys R Us used to carry stuffed snakes. So we went to Meijer and, surprise again! No stuffed spiders and no stuffed snakes.

So what’s a grandma to do? I try to get my grandkids what they want (and what I can afford), but I was running out of options. Aha! I know! I’ll crochet a stuffed snake and a stuffed spider. I have no clue how to make either one, but I’ll showcase my masterpieces in a future blog.

In the meantime, please listen to this Jim Stafford song. Mary Lou wasn’t anything like my little Avery:


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 (Nickjr.com 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!


Related:

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (short version)

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Speech (long version)


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson – Something in Common


In Memory of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, who both died, June 25, 2009
Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network June 5, 2011

I don't know you
or maybe I do 

but we have
something in common because

at some point

today
tomorrow
whenever

like Farrah Fawcett and
Michael Jackson 

we will move beyond this life
into time everlasting

leaving behind 
life
friends
and family

and when we leave this Earth 
we will depart


on the same day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fight Bullies by Embracing the One Being Bullied


By now we’ve all learned that we can’t fight bullying by bullying the bully, but so far not a lot of remedies have been able to curb bullying effectively.

Until now!

The best example I’ve seen is the way a community of loving individuals embraced a man who was bullied online for dancing. Yes, you read that correctly – dancing. His crime according to the abusers? He was fat. Instead of shaming the bullies, though, some Hollywood celebrities took it upon themselves to embrace the man by throwing him a star-studded party!

Sean O’Brien, known as the “Dancing Man,” became a victim of cyberbullies, who posted a video of him dancing. Some warm-hearted individuals, after seeing the vicious attack, searched for him by posting a social media campaign using the hashtag #FindDancingMan. The hope was to fly him out to California so that he could attend an event focused on raising money for a variety of anti-bullying charities. 

Writer Cassandra Fairbanks, music artists, Meghan Trainor, Ellie Goulding, Moby, Pharrell Williams, Andrew WK, and anti-bullying advocate Monica Lewinsky, banded together to throw Sean O’Brien a party he would never forget.

What a great lesson for all of us! Don’t attack the bullies! Embrace the ones getting bullied! If you see somebody being bullied, stand up for him or her. Don’t participate in cyber-bullying – ever. Don’t get caught up in “mob-mentality” and join forces with the lowest common denominators of society. And if you are being bullied, TELL SOMEBODY YOU LOVE about the crime and try to learn how to stand up for yourself!

For more information on how you can prevent and put an end to bullying and how you can respond to bullying, visit StopBullying.gov.


Related Reading: Cyber Bully Compassion Crisis and Empathy Deficit (Monica Lewinsky)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Avery’s Hotel California

Photo taken May 5, 2014

My delightful 3-year-old granddaughter is a forceful, bright, engaging, intelligent, and imaginative little girl. Because she is so young, everyone who plays with her is either her brother’s or sister’s ages, 7 and 10, or adults. So when kids come to play, Avery is so excited and happy, her little eyes brighten with glee and she asks, “Wanna play in my room?”

Her room is her favorite place to play. Under the canopy bed is a room all its own, complete with a small table, lamp, and couch. A book shelf filled with books and miscellaneous toys, a doll house, puzzles, games, a basket of stuffed animals, and a glider (for grandma) are all so inviting to anybody who wants to “play” in Avery’s room 

But once you enter Avery’s room, you are commanded to play whatever Avery wants to play. We celebrated Avery’s 3rd birthday at her house last September where several people attended, two of whom were young neighbor girls who were enticed into playing in Avery’s bedroom. Once there, though, the little girls found they couldn’t leave. They fell victim to Avery’s guilt trip, and that kept them captive for quite a while.

As I climbed the stairs to her room, I noticed the two of them playing with Avery. Avery told me nonchalantly that they were playing house and promptly closed the door in my face while the two little girls who, I believe, are between the ages of 7 and 9, begged with their eyes to be let out.

I smiled wickedly and ran downstairs. I too, have been “captivated” by Avery as we play, “picnic” and “park” and “Dora” – among other games. We also read books in her “house,” the space under her bed. Leaving her bedroom is an assault against Avery who thinks that once you enter her boudoir you must play for a significant period of time before you’re allowed to leave. Nobody is quite sure how long that time is though. Once there, Avery believes she is in charge of whomever enters her room for as long as she wants them to stay.


Her little friends didn’t know that all they had to say was, “It’s time to go downstairs for (whatever),” and they would have been let go. Somehow Miley slipped out unnoticed, but Savannah was left to her own devices. After a while, it was time for cake, so I opened the door and Savannah let out a huge sigh of relief, “Finally! I can escape!”

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How Alcoholism Affects Loved Ones


Originally posted on Yahoo August 5, 2008, later posted on and then removed from Persona Paper

(All stories with names changed came from various Alanon meetings.)

Linda scrambles to finish the dishes after dinner and quickly dresses her children in warm fall jackets. She rushes outside to a spot behind the bushes and bends low, embracing and shushing her four babies who by now are so accustomed to hiding, they know the routine.

Daddy's car pulls into the driveway. He ambles into the house and walks directly to the refrigerator. He opens a beer and gulps it down. One can after another finds its way to the mound of empty cans piling up on the floor next to the recliner.

In their position behind the bushes, Mom and kids watch Daddy pop open each can and flip through the channels. Nobody moves in the bushes until Mom gives the signal. She knows how long it takes her husband to pass out in front of the television. Once again she has successfully managed to avoid the beatings and emotional torture she and her children have been suffering for years.

Linda's children are only four of the millions of children whose parents are alcoholics. She wonders if staying with her husband will build character in her children or if leaving him will be more painful for them. She wonders how many of them will become alcoholics themselves.

Jerry's wife, Amber, has blessed her husband with a child. Sadly, Cassie's facial deformities announce her disability, fetal alcohol syndrome. Amber is pregnant again – with Cassie's sister. Amber admits she drinks too much, but says she can't handle the stress in her life without a couple of glasses of wine each day. Unfortunately "a couple" to Amber is actually four to six to anybody who counts.

Literature from a variety of sources on fetal alcohol syndrome recommends that pregnant woman drink no alcoholic beverages whatsoever. Many alcoholics refuse to admit they have problems, though, so denial feeds into the continued problem. Though she feels guilty, Amber will continue to drink. The more she drinks, the worse she feels. The worse she feels, the more she drinks.

Unaware of the cycle that revolves around her, she sinks deeper and deeper into depression, oblivious to the fact that alcohol itself is a depressant. What she doesn't know is that she is also a candidate for breast cancer.

Resources such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Alateen, therapy, hospital admission, rehabilitation centers, and prescription drugs exist to help the alcoholics and their family members deal with the effects of alcoholism. All the while, through whatever help they hope will work, loved ones wait for their alcoholic to hit bottom.

"Hitting bottom" is a phrase used to indicate the moment when the alcoholic suddenly discovers he needs to change, the moment when he finally admits he is an alcoholic. Bottom, it turns out, is different for everybody.

Forcing the alcoholic to hit bottom, without clinical support, can result in disaster. And support groups admonish people who try to reform the alcoholic without help from a knowledgeable therapist. What loved ones learn is that people can change only themselves and only if they want to change.

At one open AA meeting many years ago a former alcoholic defined his moment. While shaving and combing his hair in the bathroom mirror he saw, in the reflection, a miniature tuxedo hanging on the shower rod behind him. The suit belonged to his young son who was to be a ring bearer in a wedding that day. Having already lost one family due to his addiction, this father decided in that moment that he was not going to lose another family. From that moment on, he never had another drink.

Friends and family members pray for moments like that. They ask when their alcoholic loved ones will experience their own epiphanies. The emotional torment loved ones endure becomes unbearable.

For all the pain and suffering the alcoholic inflicts upon his or her family and friends, however, no greater pain is felt than that which the alcoholic inflicts upon him-or herself.

Despite efforts made by loved ones, despite fervent prayers to help the alcoholic, despite all of the resources available to people addicted to alcohol, alcoholics sometimes die, leaving in their wake sadness, confusion, destitution, loss, chaos, and unresolved anger. Most of them will never know how much they were truly loved.

The best anyone who loves an alcoholic can do is to change the way he or she responds to the alcoholic. Repeated arguments manifest in the form of a hideous dance where one partner follows the other in predictable and exasperating patterns. Change the pattern and the response changes.

Hating the disease but loving the alcoholic places loved ones in a different frame of mind. Loved ones must learn how to draw boundaries and be firm about not allowing unacceptable behavior.

The effects alcohol has on the entire family are often devastating, but compassion and a commitment to forgive even seemingly unforgivable behavior lifts a burden from the minds and hearts of the people who love their alcoholics the most.

Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn't absolve the alcoholic from past behavior and it doesn't erase memories loved ones will never forget, but it allows the soul to free itself from the misery it has been carrying around and it changes the dynamics of the relationship.

"Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are cause by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” (Eckhart Tolle)

photo courtesy of MindExpansi0n on Morguefile