Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Potty Mouth" Politics

These are photos of my two sons and my grandchildren.  As a family, we have worked at providing these children with a sense of security, an empathy towards others, the knowledge that their opinions count, and the basic premise that kindness matters in this world.  We have talked to them about bullying -- both teaching them that it is wrong to bully others and also how to handle a situation where they see bullying in their daily experiences.

That said, I am absolutely appalled at the current atmosphere of hateful speech, childish name-calling, and crude remarks by the politicians seeking the nomination for President of our country.  The worst offender, obviously, is Donald Trump.  He has been a bully since he first announced his candidacy.  Others have followed suit, even though they don't seem as comfortable doing so.  I believe they may just be lowering themselves to his level in the hopes of competing with him for primary votes. 

Our children are watching!!  My grandchildren are actually vehemently speaking out against Trump.  How bad must the situation be, when 5, 7, and 8-year olds seem to have more maturity than these men up on the podium??

We are not having debates -- we are having name-calling sessions, dissing each others' personal appearances, rather than discussing the terribly critical issues that face our country. There are serious problems in our country and in our world, and we should all be able to listen to these men and women as they carry on an adult conversation about these issues and propose solutions which are serious possibilities -- not just five-second sound bites.

I will not get into the politics of the situation, because I try to avoid politics on my blog.  My concern in writing about this primary season is twofold.  Most importantly, I believe we as citizens deserve better.  Before I vote for someone I want to know where he or she really stands on issues.  Secondly, as a grandmother, I would like all of our children to be able to listen to real substance and learn good citizenship from men and women who deserve our respect.  

We cannot, on one hand, preach to our children about bullying and non-violent methods of handling situations, and on the other hand condone them hearing nothing but the "potty mouth" ramblings of these people who could possibly be running our government next year.  Lord help us!!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Will the Dahlias Bloom?

On a nearby street, there is a little brick house with a red picket fence in the front yard which surrounds the most beautiful little garden patch.  This garden was the showpiece of the neighborhood, tended by a gardener who put hours of work each year into her little patch of heaven.  There are gardeners like myself, who are haphazard in their planning, planting, and tending, and then there are gardeners like Linda who dream and plan and work every day on their knees in their gardens, and these gardens are the ones that thrive and show that they are loved.

I drove past Linda's house countless times through the years, and enjoyed the sight of her tending her lovely flowers.  Each season there were new flowers to savor, but my personal favorites were the tall, colorful dahlias that bloomed in late summer and early autumn.  I didn't know Linda very well; we had casual contact through the years as we raised our children and lived our lives within the same village.  One summer, as I thrilled at the beauty of her dahlias, I sent her a note telling her how much pleasure her garden brought me each time I drove past, year in and year out.  Towards the end of that season, Linda rang my doorbell and handed me a huge bouquet of her dahlias; what a special gift that was.  I will never forget the joy of receiving that gorgeous bouquet. 

Not too long ago, I heard the sad news that Linda was suffering from a progressive lung disease; that summer she kneeled in her garden, working along, her breathing aided by oxygen.  The next year, I saw a group of people helping prepare the garden for the season. Often, Linda's husband was at her side as she worked.  Slowly, it seemed as if the garden was shrinking. Though still beautiful, there was less abundance.  This past summer, I noticed her husband out weeding and tending without Linda, and fewer flowers were blooming.

Both Linda and her husband died this winter, within weeks of each other.  Too soon and too young!!  As I drive past the pretty little brick house now, it looks so lonely and the winter garden so abandoned.  And I wonder who will move into the house, and will they love the little garden as Linda did?  Will they spend time tending it lovingly? Or will they plow it all under and plant grass seed.  Will the dahlias bloom again this summer?  

In memory of Linda and Peter, who brought beauty into our lives through their lovely garden and their kindness and generous giving of themselves to their church and their community.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Light of Christmas

I sit at the computer in the darkness of a winter morning, although the weather feels nothing like winter in the Northeast.  We have had higher than normal temperatures and NO SNOW; there will be no White Christmas here this year.

My heart is heavy as we count down the last three days to Christmas.  This year has been a year of losses for my family and friends.  Death has seemed to touch the lives of so many.  As families gather around the table and in the church pews this Christmas, there will be many beloved faces missing.  The celebrations and traditions will be the same, but they will be accompanied by grief.  

There will also be great joy as new babies have joined the family circles, and engagements and marriages have forged new family relationships.  The little ones in our families are filled with dreams of Santa and longed-for gifts under the tree.  

My cozy house is filled with beloved decorations.  Our little town is beautiful, with its abundance of greenery, lights, and candles in windows.  Regardless of the sadness that has faced so many of us this year, Christmas goes on.  We carry on our traditions with our missing loved ones in mind and heart, but we still hold true to the traditions.

And so, even as I mourn the losses this year, and long for snowflakes drifting down and blanketing the earth, I look forward to that sacred moment on Christmas Eve, when the church is darkened, and slowly filled with candlelight, as we pass the light from one to another down each row, until everyone holds a lit candle, and voices young and old sing my favorite carol, "Silent Night," as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. 

Merry Christmas 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Grandparenting in a New Era

I remember vividly the comfort of my grandmother's lap.  She and my grandfather lived with us when I was growing up, and I basked in the warmth and security of their love.  It wasn't uncommon in those days for extended family to live together, although it was becoming less the norm than it had been a generation before.  By the time I was grown and raising children of my own, most of us set our course differently, buying houses of our own when we were young, and taking pride in our independence.  Our children's experiences with their grandparents depended on the amount of time and energy the grandparents were able to expend, as well as the physical distance involved, as families became more mobile and scattered.  It was not common for grandparents to share in the daily care of our children.   

As a stay-at-home mom, I was never forced to place my little ones into the care of babysitters or day care centers.  I was able to work from home in various part-time endeavors, so I could be there to capture all of the small moments of motherhood in my heart.  It was important to me that I be there to pass on values and provide comfort and solace to my children.  It was also my hope that my grandchildren would be fortunate enough to be home with their mothers.

That dream vanished, though, as the pace of life in our country, the increased cost of living, and the desire of women to chart a different course, meant that my grandchildren would need some type of child care during the day.  For the past eight years, I have provided that care for my three grandchildren.   

As I have walked this path, I have noticed that more and more grandparents are now walking this same path with me.  It seems each time I visit the grocery store, I see a grandma or grandpa shopping with preschoolers happily "helping."  Each year it seems there are more grandparents dropping off and picking up their precious ones at preschool, holding little hands on field trips, and attending the special parties and programs.  I see grandparents at the elementary school, signing out their older grandchildren at the end of the day.  One grandmother I know drives an hour each way a couple of times a week to provide care on the days her daughter works.  Often both grandmothers share in the care of their grandchildren -- alternating days and schedules to suit the needs of all.  Many of these grandparents are retired -- they could be travelling, spending time with friends,  playing golf, instead of rocking babies, washing hands and faces, and entertaining active children.  Many of them are still working themselves, and make huge efforts to arrange their own working schedule so that they can be available to fill in on the days when they are needed.  One 82-year old great-grandmother remains "on-call" to care for her granddaughter.  

What we are doing is a gift of love to both our grandchildren and our children.  We lighten the burdens of our children when they know that we will be there to keep things running smoothly each day, to provide loving care to their precious children, and to help them avoid the significant cost of child care.  Most importantly, we are providing our grandchildren with consistent love and security in today's world, which is fast-paced and often confusing to children.  We answer their questions, listen intently to their joys and worries, and provide that "comforting lap" that my own grandmother provided for me.  

To cite an example, one day a week, I wait with one of my granddaughter's preschool classmates as his grandmother rushes from her job to pick him up.  I hold his hand, and my little Emma chatters away to him, and he stands there quietly.  As soon as his grandma comes into view, I feel the tenseness vanish from his hand, and his face relaxes -- when she reaches out for him, he suddenly starts chattering away to her.  She is there; he is secure; he is loved.  What greater gift could we grandparents possibly provide.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Owned by a House

We all carry our childhoods with us in one form or another, either as baggage that weighs us down or as wings that encourage us to expect happiness and success in our lives.  My family was fairly poor when I was young.  That wasn't uncommon in the rural community in which we lived; however, we didn't own our home, so I vividly remember the fear of being evicted from our little house each time our lease was up.  Would our landlady decide to sell the house, or would we be safely at home for another year?  How I loved that little house; I was happy there, with its cozy rooms and large yard, surrounded by fields.  I did envy my friends who lived in houses their parents owned; they never knew the uncertainty of whether they would stay or go, as I did.  And then, as I entered my teens, we were forced to leave.  My parents were able to buy a house then, but I was very unhappy there, uprooted from the home I loved and distanced from my best friend.

Perhaps that is why I fell in love with the old house in which I have lived for over forty years.  This precious old Victorian had been in my husband's family for almost fifty years, and had a sense of permanency in its walls; when the chance came for us to buy it, I was thrilled.  We were young, and I looked beyond the antique kitchen and fading wallpaper, picturing myself tucking babies and little ones in at night in their own bedrooms.  The house has always been a work in progress; by the time we finally had finished stripping wallpaper, renovating the kitchen and bathroom, and repairing the porch, family life had taken its toll; there was always something that needed to be done.  Most importantly, though, I was happy that my children were being raised with the security of being in a home that was theirs -- they never knew the uncertainty I lived with as a child.

Maybe this uncertainty was the reason that I have always been a "nester" -- content to stay in the same house and the same town all these years, while others feel the need to stretch their wings and easily move from place to place, storing up memories and experiences as they go.  But I am content and feel rooted here.  My children don't understand my strong desire for them to own homes and be secure; sometimes I feel like I am a bit provincial -- never having experienced life beyond my little town.  Who ever really knows what life would have been like if we had made different choices.  Fortunately, the consequence of my choice has been contentment and security.  I am reminded of a quote from a book I read several years ago:

"It struck me that there are stayers, who always stayed, whether they should or not, and leavers, who invariably left, no matter what they were leaving, or whom, or how, or when."
Paula McLain, in Like Family


Sunday, September 13, 2015



September is a beautiful month of transition from the heat and humidity of summer to the cool, crisp weather in October.  Fields of purple loosestrife and goldenrod seem to arrive overnight, gracing the landscape with their vibrant colors. 

While many of the summer flowers have faded and gone to seed, our gardens still are filled with a variety of colorful flowers -- sunflowers, zinnias, morning glories, and assorted autumn show-offs.  There is a sense of quiet to September; the early morning birdsong is muted and sparse.  The late night air is no longer filled with raucous cicadas and crickets -- there is merely a quiet thrumming from the crickets now and then.  The mornings are often misty and cool, only to be replaced with bright sunshine and warm temperatures as the day progresses.  Darkness falls earlier and more heavily on us each night. 
 September's weather is erratic.  One day we feel again the heat of summer, and then a storm will roll through and leave us with a taste of the crisp, frosty weather to come. 
How lovely this month is, with its quirkiness and beautiful reminders of what was and what is to come.  We visit the apple orchards and the farm stands, and savor the beauty of the bounty to be found there.  Our thoughts turn from summer barbecues to the spicy scent of apple pie baking in the oven.  We buy small chrysanthemum plants to repot and replace the summer flowers on our porches, and provide beautiful color into early November. 
We are at a crossroad -- looking back at the pleasures of the summer behind us, and looking forward to the "gathering in" of October and November.  Our hearts need this special month of September to gently lead us from one season to the next.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Water Under the Bridge" -- Living With the Decisions That Define our Lives

The book I am reading is fictional, but the story revolves around one woman's experiences as the wife of a member of the German Resistance during WWII.  I find myself drawn into the decisions made by so many Germans during the reign of the Nazis, and especially this elderly woman, who married the love of her life, only to lose him before their life together really began. 

When I am upset and feeling sorry for myself, I often blame fate for my predicaments.  However, as I read this book, I am more and more aware that it is most often our own decisions which lead us down one path or another -- and determine the eventual outcome of our lives.

Looking back, I realize that I made numerous decisions which, while well-intentioned, were obviously not the best.  In hindsight, there are several life choices that I should have considered more carefully than I did. Sometimes, one wrong choice can impact the path our life takes in such a way that it is virtually impossible to change the forces that have been set in motion.  We must move forward on the path we have chosen and make the best of things as they are.

Blaming fate is easy, yet taking responsibility for our own choices is difficult and sometimes heartbreaking.  We do the best we can, but we must live with our decisions, and hope that our poor decisions do not create a ripple effect for our children and grandchildren.  Life is not always fair; fate does throws us curves, but, ultimately, we make decisions and choices, and we must live with the consequences.  Sometimes those consequences break our hearts and break our spirits, but, it is all "water under the bridge."  We must move on and find happiness in the small things in our lives.  We cannot change the past, we can only do our best to appreciate whatever good has resulted from the choices we made.