Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween and birthday

 The birthday girl is still just as sweet as ever! I cannot believe Nicole is already nine years old. I love making birthday cakes for the grand kids. I also like placing a picture of them on the cake. Seeing the surprised look on their faces is a priceless reward.
 And this is what Nicholas, her 14 year old brother, looks like after a bonfire party...with only four hours sleep. He is a fantastic lacrosse player, thus the long sweeping hairstyle. He wants to look like the pros, he says. I am 5'5". Look how tall he is. We are blessed with the best! He is such a good kid, straight A report card, a positive attitude and active Christian youth group member. I am one proud Nana!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wants and needs...what's your opinion?

The leaves are beginning to fade. IF the weather ever cools, the trees will be bare, and I will curl into myself and cocoon. The temperature here has been in the 70s and will continue to be mild through Halloween. I am not complaining about that. I love fall. Life has been difficult the past few days, but the changing seasons are like life...wait a while and more changes will occur.
I saw this blue heron in the middle of the lake. Sometimes I feel like this: alone, trying to make a catch, hopeful, doing all the right things, and still waiting. I have submitted 70 essays this year. It seems all I do is wait, and half the time there isn't even so much as a rejection letter. It gets frustrating. When I landed an acceptance it was that "one that got away." Such is a writer's life.
This photo reminds me to have hope, stay strong, and believe in a power greater than mine or any physician, as we await results from my son's pathology report. He had melanoma on his right ear. Last week he had half of his exterior ear and also two lymph nodes removed. His ear was reconstructed, and it is now only half the size. Waiting a week to ten days seems like years. Jason has such a positive spirit and strong faith. I am proud of him.

During the week my aunt passed away, and now her sister is at risk due to a serious heart issue. Life is as hard as a stone sometimes, and can also be as beautiful as these wild flowers.

My cousins and I were all at our aunt's hospital bedside, and although she was in pain, she was lucid and spoke to each of us. We stood hand in hand and prayed. We hadn't seen one another in a long time. It was almost like a changing of the guard. Now WE are becoming the oldest generation in our family.

 I am thrilled to babysit  one of the youngest generation on Mondays. Liam happened to see the Halloween lawn inflatables at Wal-Mart. He asks each Monday if he can go see them, so on our way home I detour to the box store so he can look at them. He reassures himself and repeats everything I have told him to calm himself down. He has this little boy voice, "Don't be scared. It's okay. They won't hurt you. Just big balloons with a fan inside. Hot air blowing in. Right Nana?" He trusts and believes with the faith of a child.
 Well guess what? They had one inflatable left, but it was not the fire-breathing dragon he wanted to see. Life is full of disappointments, and also joy.

I attended an early education seminar once about "wants and needs." It's okay to WANT. If we routinely deny small children what they want, they sometimes grow into teens and adults who are unable to ask for what they NEED from a partner, a parent, a supervisor. We were urged to turn off our automatic NO response, and not over talk it: "You already have a ball and you don't need any more."

Often young children merely want the experience of holding an object, and when that need is satisfied, they can be distracted and onto the next thing in their lives.

When he saw a bin of balls he squealed, "Balls! I want the orange ball." I talked to the orange ball, NOT Liam, and said, "Orange ball, Liam is going to hold you, and then I will put you back in your bin."

 Bill looked at me like I was crazy. Liam was trying to process it all as he kept asking for one color after another until he was surrounded by balls. He was delighted. Then I took one ball at a time and put them back. I told Liam to say goodbye to the balls and tell them we'll be back soon. No fuss, no wailing. He had his wants and needs met. We were soon on our way home. That's really not spoiling. I did not buy all the balls.

We took a walk to the pumpkin patch on the corner, a little shop that sells seasonal things. He WANTED the biggest pumpkin. I acknowledged, instead of denied, and I did not reason with him on an adult level.

He realized he couldn't lift it. I didn't have to point out his inability.

I said, "Find one you can carry."

Well what do you know? That little one at his feet was just his size. And he came to that conclusion with out my convincing.
He sat in the grass with his pumpkin and was so excited when I told him we were going to color it with crayons.

And then I brought out a package of golf tees, and showed him how to hammer them into the pumpkin. We had a great time outdoors on this glorious, sunny fall day. If you wish to do this activity with a little one, you can further extend the educational part. Have the child scribble a paper, then cut out small shapes. Hole punch the center of each shape, then insert a golf tee into the hole and hammer a shape onto the pumpkin. Have fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A frozen smile induced a spontaneous one

What a nice surprise to discover these scare crows on our evening walk on the school grounds down the street.

Their expressions are so sweet and reminded me to pass a smile on. Smiles are free and they cost nothing.

When you give them away it makes others happy. Even if a smile is not returned, you never know why...or how yours affected someone else's day.

Liam and I spent the morning at Suson Park. He is a little monkey see-monkey do. He ran to the big kids' climbing wall. He climbed this high before I reached him, and he slipped and banged his knee. But that did not stop him.

He took off to see the horses in the pasture eating hay. He wanted to see the pig more than anything, because he has a best stuffed buddy Arnold the pig.

"Want to see the pig? Hey, there's the pig!"

He saw the flock of geese which are used to people. He wandered this close, and as they started waddling off, he tried to stop them. See those little hands "talking?"

Because the temperature reached 91 degrees on October 17th, breaking all records, we were hot and sweaty and worn out.
After a nap, I filled a pan with warm water, bubble bath, and water balloons. He has been terrified of balloons since balloons popped at his birthday party. One was hanging above Bill's head, so he has blamed him ever since. "Papa Bill pop my balloons!" We couldn't convince him that Papa did not deliberately pop his balloon. The heat did.

Every time I mentioned balloons he would squeal, NOOOO!
But leave it to his friend.

 I believe adults should help children gently face their fears, not avoid them. So I have been finding ways for Liam to become more comfortable with balloons. He watched a video of someone popping water balloons, and thought he'd like to try it. So, we stopped at the Dollar Store and bought a package of balloons. He asked a grandpa to help him open the bag. He refused with a hearty laugh.

We talked about how air is the only thing in balloons and they make a loud sound that can't hurt you. The noise is scary. By the time we arrived at home he wanted no part of his balloons. In the end, as I inflated one he screamed, "No! I scared."

I filled half a dozen with water. He did remove a few from a container, and he laid them on the lawn, but he would not toss them on the driveway. He feared they would make a popping sound (his only frame of reference).

Then his little eight year old buddy next door came over. The moment I pull into our drive way on Mondays when I babysit, he starts calling, "Ron, oh Ron where are you?" He loves him. Ron happened to be off school on Monday.

When Ron held a balloon and encouraged Liam to hold one, of course he did. When Ron showed him how to yo-yo them, of course he did. When Ron showed him how to toss them on the concrete and pop them, well, you know he did.

I think I have started something with balloons. I drive him to a commuter lot to meet his mom at 5:00 p.m. Sometimes we have to wait a few minutes.  I inflated balloons and released them in the car. He giggled and belly laughed as they zig-zagged all over the interior of the car. He shouted, "Do it again, Nana! The red balloon. The green. The yellow one. Now the orange."

Well, guess what I did for fifteen minutes, until I was dizzy? No comments about how full of hot air or dizzy I am.

I hope something in this post made you smile, and I hope you pass a smile on.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

When things are not what you expect

 Kitty got what he didn't expect. Usually he has his nose up against the glass. My honey was kind enough to rverse the storm door screen from top to bottom so Kitty No-No can look out and smell all the wonder and temptation carried on an autumn breeze. The other day when my son called with news of his melanoma cancer, I was heartsick, praying in the living room. Kitty perked up but didn't make a sound. I peeked out and saw our entire front yard covered with sparrows.

That was a reminder, and hopefully a sign, that reinforces what the Bible teaches: His eye is on the sparrow,  and I know He watches me (and my son).

Surgery scheduled for Thursday, 10/20. Would so appreciate prayers and good thoughts.

 Kitty was not too thrilled with sharing his space with the little scarecrow and fall flowers. He kept one eye on the display. He likes to sit on the table when we sit on the patio. We all enjoy the great outdoors. Yes, he sits there and does not jump down. His nose twitches with every shift in the breeze.

 Liam went to the pumpkin patch with his parents and grandparents last weekend where he lifted and carried real pumpkins. So when he saw our display, he ran right for the pumpkin, expecting it to be heavy. As he picked up the jack-o-lantern, you can see his confusion. He said, "Hey, Nana!" As if I would trick him. It just wasn't what he expected.

Our little scarecrow and his friends. BOO!

Friday, October 14, 2016

A hint of what was, still is.

Every year at this time, as the pink sedum which provides nourishment for the bees, butterflies and other insects begins to lose its pinkish shade and fades away, and the leaves begin to fall off the trees, I am reminded of my dear, late friend, Rose.

We were next door neighbors for many years while our children were young. This is a homemade gift from her, a one of a kind, priceless treasure. Here is the story that goes along with it, published in Voices of Breast Cancer in 2007 by LaChance Publishing.

Twenty years later, the leaves have lost their vibrant color and lustre, but a hint of what they were still remains. Rose told me I could trick the kids with the pieces of bark. Often I did as they counted. But soon they got wise and observant. So many lessons taught and learned with this and others like it.

                                                                 Autumn Gift

At 51, my friend Rose sported a wig and a raspy voice, the result of the debilitating cancer which had robbed her of her hair and her strength. She had more bad days than good, and as the weather cooled, the dark, wet skies mirrored her situation. After nearly a week of rain, the clouds lifted and so did Rose's spirits. When I came for a visit, she was alert, her voice halting but strong and assertive for a change.

"Take me outside. I want to sit in the sunshine."

She shuffled into the yard with her oxygen tank in tow. We sat in silence under the sugar maple tree enjoying the brisk breeze. I tucked her afghan around her. Hundreds of orange, gold and yellow leaves rained down upon us and made Rose smile. Memories of our twenty-five year friendship whirled in our minds like the leaves overhead. We were entranced by the waltzing leaves and watched as wind gusts swept them up and sent them dancing at our feet. The yard was very much alive, and so was Rose that day.

"Will you please get me that red leaf," she asked, "and that yellow one?" She pointed here and there, and I bounded about gathering brilliant orange, red and golden leaves in a huge bouquet as she orchestrated the activity. Rose soon tired and asked to go inside. I placed her leaf bouquet on a table beside her, tucked her in, and I told her I'd see her the next afternoon.

When I arrived the next day, she was glassy-eyed and weak.
"I have something for you," she said pausing breathlessly gasping between words. "Do you remember the big maple tree in the old neighborhood?"

When we were neighbors, the gorgeous towering tree, Mother Nature's masterpiece, was the focal point of our neighborhood each autumn. We were blessed to have it right outside our doors. We collected leaves with our children when they were young, and we made centerpieces with the colorful array that blanketed the lawns and sidewalks.

"I made you a gift." She handed me ten sheets of white paper on which she had arranged  and scotch taped the colorful leaves that she had collected the day before.
Tears welled in our eyes. "Do you like them? Can you use them?" she asked.

"Yes. I love them! and I will treasure them forever," I said.

Like the autumn leaves, Rose completed her life cycle at the end of fall. I laminated the colorful leaf collages, and every year I use them as a teaching aid with my preschool students. And I think of Rose as I tell my students about her and the leaves. We count and sort how many, talk about same and different.

"Leaves are like people, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Redwood trees are the tallest of all. Their roots intertwine. They support each other when the strong winds blow, sort of like when you hold hands with your best friend and it makes you feel safe."

This simple treasure is a priceless gift bequeathed with love, and it will keep on touching lives, just as my friend Rose did.

I am retired now, but Liam will be introduced to this on Monday. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Should you tell it like it is or show it as it was?

A few weeks ago, my writing partners, Sioux, Lynn, and I went to the main county library to see guest speaker, Mary Karr, author of The Liar's Club, Cherry, Lit and her new book, Art of Memoir.

She was personable, real, a little salty, and likable as she revealed her techniques for writing memoir. She admitted she is 27 years sober, does her best writing in the early morning and once she's distracted she loses it and must stop. She tossed out 1,200 pages of Lit. She said many writers develop an attachment to their words and are afraid to delete. The delete button is a friend. Some
days she tosses as much as she writes. I got the idea she is  little hard on herself, a bit of a perfectionist.

Her last published book does not make it any easier for her to write the next. Mary Karr, like the rest of us, still has her doubts and insecurities. "It's like pounding on a corpse shouting, "Sit up!"

I agree with Mary, you uncover so many buried truths when you write memoir.
"As you remember through the filter of SELF, your self changes, and therefore your truth changes.You become more yourself. Being cathartic is a side gift."

You have to decide what to resurrect. She says she runs her memories by the people she's writing about.

"Every dysfunctional family has more than one person in it." Mary often omits dialogue because she doesn't want to contrive it if she can't remember it.

The audience laughed when she said she told her mom what she was going to write about, and her mom said, "Oh hell, Mary, everyone in town knows about that. Write it. Get it off your chest. Do you mean they'll pay you for our story, even if the words don't sell?"

Mary Karr's finest points for me:

"Memoir is knocking yourself out with your own fist." I had to agree. The tough stuff requires some hard gut punches.

"Truth is what you remember, but truth of memory is not history."

"If memory has an emotional consequence, it becomes real, and you can recall things most important to you."

"The face tells a story."

"Write deeply, emotionally. What would you write if you were not afraid?"

"Write about dysfunction with you were then, not with revenge or your suffering at the time."

In her book, Art of Memoir, Karr said " took me fifteen years of scribbling- first poetry, then fiction- to tell my childhood story in a voice that fit my face. I hid from my readers on pages that sugarcoated any emotional truths about us all., part of an overall effort to sanitize our past and remold myself into somebody smarter, faster, funnier than harsh reality had afforded me to become."

"Labels are an easy way out. I never labeled my mother an alcoholic. I showed myself pouring out her vodka."

We all have a story inside. 

Are you ready to write yours?

A paragraph a day. Just get started. It may be a prettied up poem or even a harsh one. Write it for your eyes only. But write it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

THE END isn't always the end

My story is the last one in this book, at the end, and if you read it you will understand why. But I learned something upon examining my copy. 
The end isn't always THE END.

Mom for the Holidays is so much MORE than an anthology filled with great stories.

Included at the back of the book is a reader's gift, a holiday planner with these page headings:
  • Holiday Weekly Planner for November and December 
  • Holiday Budget, Holiday Cards Send to List
  • Gifts to buy, Re-gift or Make
  • Notes for Holiday Meals and party Planning
  • Notes for Holiday Travel
  • Notes for Holiday Guests
  • 30-Day Holiday Gratitude Journal
  • My Holiday Self-Care Tips
Mom for the Holidays is a candid peek into the homes and hearts of moms, young and old; a glimpse into the lives of  today's hurried moms; a nostalgic peek into the past of moms whose babies have babies of their own. Mom for the Holidays, is a refreshingly honest, contemporary blend of humorous, heart touching, tell-it-like-it-is stories.

Imagine a group of moms sitting around sharing their true feelings about the holiday season: the good, the bad, the real, the happy. A relatable, enjoyable read. Moms of all ages will enjoy this book.

Praise for Lisa Nolan and Rachel Demas (and all others involved) for producing this collection.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I'm taking the helm

Just when I thought I'd have less exposure, it seems I am in for a great deal of exposure this Saturday.

Come on out to Manchester Days, a fall festival in Schroeder Park, located at 358 Meramec Station Road in Ballwin, MO 63021

I have been invited to read some of my published works at 1:20. There will be other local writers who will be reading, during twenty minute time slots.

The weather is going to be perfect, and there will be something for everyone. I'd love to see you there.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Exposing less and less of me

There was a time when I wore shorts, not just stretch band granny shorts, but nice, tailored,
above-the- knee shorts. I had a stack of them. My once knobby knees are flabby now, and I haven't worn shorts at all this summer. I have come to the conclusion, if everything else is heading south, the length of my pants should be, too. 

I sent that stack of shorts packing today. Fall weather makes me want to grab a flannel shirt.

I did keep out a couple pairs of my very favorite multi-season pants. My mom called them pedal pushers. In high school we called them knee knockers. These days we call them capris. I love my capris, especially the ones with a little stretch, that hover a few inches past my knees.

But as the days are getting shorter and colder, I am ready to trade them in for jeans and long pants. I refuse to wear sweats until winter, though. 

Flip flops have been replaced with tennis shoes and flats, and I am beginning to nest, although I am not ready to hibernate. I thoroughly cleaned all of the blinds and windows, and straightened the basement. Donated a trash bag filled with clothing. And dug out my fall clothing.

Tonight I found my soft-as-bunny-fur throw cover for snuggling under when I watch evening TV. I am readying myself for hunkering down.

How about you? Does the seasonal change affect you in any way?