Monday, February 19, 2018

You can do it

Canasta. Euchre. Uncle Wiggley. Scrabble. Games. We all grew up with them, didn't we? Well, let me tell you that being the youngest was not all that great back the lane on Neff Road. Coming along late in life, I was often alone. Had it not been for my relatives and neighbors, I would not have known what it was to play a game or to have an adult play with me. Mom and Dad were great parents, but they were busy with the youth group and my older sisters. I was the tag-along.

However, I was given a wonderful gift by this alone time. I developed a wonderful imagination. And, by tagging along, I learned to observe. See, being shy has advantages. You get to be invisible thus giving you opportunity to learn by what you see. You pick up little things that outgoing people miss. You learn to listen to adult conversation. You learn to play independently. You learn to create your own world of imagination.

I didn't really realize this wonderful gift I was given until I became a parent. It was then that I found my voice. It was then that I opened that box of wonderful ideas that had hidden so deeply in my past. My home filled with musical instruments and no holds barred on the handling of them. I gathered art supplies for everything from coloring and cutting to painting and creating. Those observations I had as a child showed me what I missed. I determined that my children and theirs would never lack for creative outlet. They have been exposed to concerts, plays, museums and other events. Throughout all of this, conversations and a closeness develop. With stepping into a world of creativity, windows are opened into what is possible.

I was at the end of the kid line in our family, but the experiences (as well as lack of) made me into who I am today and gave me insight to offer my family more.

What has made your heart sing? It is never too late, you know. Those of you who worked hard all of your lives and put off trying something new, do it now. Maybe you  were shy and silent. Find your voice. You can't fail. You only fail when you don't try. Too old to try to paint, write, draw, sing, dance? No, never too old. The beauty of being older is that you learn that you cannot embarrass yourself. You do not need to be perfect. You can try anything you have wanted to try and not go through life wondering if you could have done it. You can open doors for the children in your life by your example.

So today, I hand you your dream. I challenge you to take that first step. Perhaps it will be a new beginning. I know you will find joy. Go for it!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Love comes in remembering

Focusing on Valentine's Day just around the corner, once again I turn to love. Nothing could be more worthy of my attention.

Yes, it was long ago that I was a child back that lane on Neff Road, but there are things that crop up from those years that almost catch me breathless. Little acts of love that I had forgotten or taken for granted. We sat at the table ready to eat. I usually sat by Dad. He would cut up my food (an act of love) and tuck the napkin into the neck of my shirt. Wow, I had forgotten about that tuck. My small frame dwarfed by the large piece of cloth placed there to keep me a bit neater, placed there by hands that loved me. Love comes in a piece of cloth.

Mom loved to make her pies saving the scraps for a very special reason. She squished the odds and ends together then rolled them out with her old rolling pin. She dusted the dough with sugar and cinnamon then rolled the dough tightly finally cutting the pieces into small rounds. After baking these to a soft brown, she gave the hot, little rolls to her children. We were at her elbows through the entire process. Sometimes she allowed us to complete the process on our own. I think she enjoyed seeing her daughters learn the beginnings of baking. She loved to give us sweets from her hands. Love comes from flour and a rolling pin.

Doris Lavy watched over me. She sat on the porch and watched for me from my earliest memories to the last when I came as an adult. Margaret Stager saw me in her house almost as much as she saw her own children. She was my other mom who scolded me as well as loved me. I never doubted these neighbor women's love for me. Love comes from the front porch.

Aunt Welma Johnson played cards with me, made cookies with me and allowed me to play beauty parlor as I combed her hair. She taught me what it was like to have the complete attention of an adult. Aunt Kate Loxley taught me about respect. She loved me with all her heart from the beginning until the end. Uncle Phil Barnhart took time with a little girl answering her questions and listening as no other adult ever did. Love comes in the interaction with adults.

I laid my head across the front seat, resting my head on Dad's lap and my feet on Mom's. (good way to get your head crushed) We often took to the road on a Sunday afternoon. Love comes in the touch of a hand.

My sister June was the other part of me from my childhood to now. She teased me and loved me by those very actions. Even though years parted us, our hearts grew closer together. Geneva Lavy Yoder held me when my father passed. She loves me like a sister and perhaps holds that other part of my heart. Love comes in the embrace of a sister.

A napkin tucked, a mother's purse filled with wonderment for a little girl wiggling on a church pew, a voice raised along with your own song, a mother's hands on a rolling pin covering those of her daughter, a few coins tied in the corner of a handkerchief, a large sugar cookie straight from the oven, a string and a Cat's Cradle, a licked finger wiping a bit of chocolate from a cheek, a large hand lifting some leaves to reveal baby bunnies, a hand reaching out to hold your own, all of those little things we knew but didn't understand as the ways of love. Love comes in quiet moments.

Little things do reflect love. Truly I believe they are the reasons we all try to stay in contact by mail, Facebook, all those ways of saying I love you. I remember. Pictures of the old neigborhood from Janet Rhoades, a letter in the mail from Janet Douglass filling me in on the family news, Cousin Patra Loxley Sengsy finding me after all these years, reconnecting with the Eliker kids, Linda Newbauer, friends from high school and relatives and friends after years and miles of separation. A column for the local paper and old friends. Love comes in remembering.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Beating of the human heart

tick tock, tick tock, tick tock....
tick-tock (dictionary.com) 
noun: A clock; also, by extension, the human heart

The sound of a clock ticking drew my attention to the TV. I was thrown back to another 'time'.  I landed in Pop and Mom Johnson's living room. The clock ticked and tocked throughout my childhood. A sound that was soothing, relaxing. A sound that was so familiar that I do nothing else but remember.

When I was a child, clocks were a part of the sounds in a household. They chimed, they tick tocked, they played music and sometimes they mesmerized a little girl as she watched the gold pendulum swing back and forth. Mantel clocks, pocket watches, huge wall clocks that hung in banks and other city buildings. In some homes, Cuckoo clocks announced the hour. Small figures danced around the bottom of those same clocks.

I remember walking into a jewelry store and hearing the clocks on the walls playing tick tock tunes so randomly that one could get lost in the chaos. Yet when the hour arrived, they played in unison. Some clocks were part of bronze sculptures, while others were merely clock faces with no adornments. 

Then came digital. Hm. The numbers glowed and the tick tocking ceased. The lovely wall clock was obsolete and the mantel clock became an antique. The grandfather clock seamed incongruous with modern interiors. Clocks were seen less in businesses, probably in hopes that customers would shop longer if not watching a clock. Indeed employees would work harder. Now the clock resides in our phones. More arms are free of watches and the tick tocks I listened to on Daddy's watch are now silent.

I have a mantle clock that doesn't work, but it reminds me of another time and of other people. The large key that opens it is a treasure in itself. It holds a history of other hands winding the gears, keeping time on time. An action that began the tick tocking for another day. An action that probably was accompanied by putting out the lights, checking the children and saying good night. 

For those of us who are older, we have memories of places and of people stirred by the sound of one of those old clocks. Today that ticking and tocking took me back to the farm on Yount Road. A trip home to visit my grandparents once more. A sound of a clock...and the beating of the human heart.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A noble cause

Standing sentry over my little domain, it gave its life and limbs. The noblest of nobility. The beauty of the holidays greeted me and held me wrapped in delight each time I looked at my lovely Christmas tree. Indeed it brought new life to my home.

Trees. They have indeed been a huge part of my life. With Dad and his family being true naturalist, at an early age, I learned to love trees. I embraced many a tree in Dad's company. His explanations of bark, leaf and bloom gave me the backstory on every type of tree on the farms on Neff Road and Byreley. Moss and lichen, toad stools and mushrooms, woodpecker holes and birds' nests were all part of my earliest education. Dad knew his trees, and I was the blessed recipient of his wisdom.

I never had a tree house. Oh, how I would have loved to play in one. A few curtains. An old fruit box. I believe I could even have fashioned a lift so my faithful dog could be part of the fun. Perhaps the tree house could have become a pirate ship. An old pipe from the brooder house would make a fine cannon. A bit of old tin would make a great wall. A couple of tobacco lath for swords, a red handkerchief, and a patch over one eye, and Captain No Beard would be on her way. Ah, the dreams of a little girl without a tree house.

We picked pears and apples off the trees. A bucket of apples fell out of a tree cracking my head open. I sat in the shade of the mulberry tree.  I played on hug rocks beneath trees and swung from a trapeze hanging from a tree. My horse about knocked my head off under a low limb. Lavy's had two trees that passed lightning from one to the other. An old tree rested comfortably for years in the creek bottom. A few initials were carved there. My dad carved he and mom's initials in a tree in the catalpa row. A tree had fallen over in the old pond where Dad said the bass were ever present. Dad chopped down trees to build the barn. I sat on many a teeter totter that was made with a board from a tree. Fire wood burned in our fireplace, in bonfires and in the tobacco strip shed. Trees enriched our lives.

Yes, it was time to take down the Christmas tree. The sweet noble hadn't dropped a needle and was as fresh as the day I got it. I said farewell to this sweet tree. I knew it was raised on a tree farm to be chopped down, yet it was sad to see it give its life for my delight. I was blessed to have this beautiful tree for a couple weeks. I celebrated the holiday as it looked on. Boy Scouts picked up my tree and had it ground up. Perhaps it will be return back to where its roots began. Good bye, dear noble. Your time with me was a noble cause.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The clock chimes

The clock chimes and suddenly it is 2018. 2018! Two years away from 2020! The clock chimes.

Many of us are struggling with health issues and losses in our families. We want to leave difficult times behind and step into something all brand new. But the chime of the clock means nothing more than stepping from one day to the next. I vote that we make that step worth something.

On Neff Road, I learned to always think of others. I sit here writing feeling as ill as the rest of my family. (Sweet Emma gave us all something for Christmas.) As I sit here trying to recover, I think of all the times my parents struggled going into a new year. Yet, they had hope. A new year brought a miracle drug to my sister with rheumatic fever. New years brought grandbabies into the family. New years were a time of hope for better crops. There was much to leave behind. Hope was that none of it would flow past that chime of the clock. Yet sometimes it did.

A clock chimes and in New York's Time Square a ball drops. In neighborhoods, fireworks are shot off and pans banged. Often there is a kiss for the new year and a bottle of champagne. But we only go from one day to the next. What differences will there be in that step into the new year?

Well, we are the difference. In our families, in our neighborhoods, in our world. To me, the clock chimes a call for all of us to do what we can to make the new year different and better. A time to leave your mark be it ever so small or ever so large. Indeed it is a call for action.

2018 is upon us. I sit here feeling lousy and not at all excited about banging a pan. In fact, I would really prefer no one bang a pan. I write this on Sunday, New Year's Eve. Right now I pray for a stuffless nose and a new box of kleenex. However, this time of isolation has opened my mind to new ideas and new hopes for this upcoming year. You are my hope for the future. Happy New Year, dear friends. Happy new adventures. The clock chimes.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

We are the New Year

Santa's suit is at the cleaners and the elves are taking a very long nap. The reindeer lost a bit of weight on that nightly trek and children are coming off a present high and sugar overload. The recycle bin is a little fuller this week. All of that time spent shopping and wrapping is over in less than a couple of hours. That stack of gifts looks much smaller once they are opened. The bows are piled high and boxes collapsed. All of that wonderful food was either eaten or became cherished leftovers. Sales in stores are starting. Stores hoping to recuperate their losses. Yes, that one time of the year has come and gone. What now? Diet? Self improvement? Organized? Fuller life? Financial success? Travel? Health?

What will the new year hold for me? What about you? Never have I made a resolution. With all the surprises life brings, it seems nonsensical to make changes by mere resolution. Those pounds I put on over the holidays will be great if a famine strikes. I work on improving myself every day so with that in place, I can just move on doing the same. Also, I could promise to live life to the fullest, but, again, I feel that I do that with great gusto. I would like to be healthier this year. Last year was a little frayed around the edges. Some like to get more organized in the coming year, but I find comfort in chaos. Maybe I should work on improving my financial status. Perhaps I will play the lottery. I would like to travel more. Going back to Neff Road seems to be a pretty good resolution. I think I can keep that one.

We go through a great deal of activity over Christmas and New Years. Laughter seems to be more plentiful, and, by the same token, with little, overzealous ones, the tempers can be tried. We leave the old enjoying the new. Those dreams of sugarplums turn into hope for a peaceful future. For a couple of days, we embrace one another and enjoy blessings we are given. Then a few days later we are wondering what 2018 has in store.

On Neff Road, we played in the snow oblivious to the year ahead. The crops depended on good weather and the market. The year of planting, hoeing, reaping would tell if a few more presents would be beneath the tree in December. The days in the tobacco shed were over and thoughts turned to seedlings and the big steam engine that would rumble down Neff Road when the weather warmed. Crops would own our lives when spring came, so for awhile, we hibernated and enjoyed the winter.

Yes, we have ended the festivities of Christmas but hold the memories of moments near and dear. That is what the new year is all about, resolving to love more deeply, to be kinder, to keep hope alive and to embrace those who need our help. We are the new year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Turn on the Love

Today I am sharing my post on A Grandparent's Voice. Please read my Christmas message at www.agrandparentsvoice.com.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pac Man Christmas

It was a craft packet of eighty ornaments that seemed to call my name after the holidays lastyear...and it was half price. Last year's adventure wi th handing out ornaments may not seem quite as exciting this year. The twins were only four. What would this look like at five? So I asked. Emma asked if we could go to the place where 'that lady was'.  I knew exactly where she meant. Last year, if you remember, Emma gave a handmade ornament to a lady sitting alone on a bench at the mall. We had continued through the mall when this same woman caught up with us. She told us that she had been looking for us to thank us. With tears streaming down her face, she told us that she had been feeling lonely. She had no one and felt no joy in her life. Emma gave more than a gift to a stranger. She gave little girl eyes looking into a hurting heart. She gave love.

So this year Loren joined us in creating a basket full of new ornaments. Emma went for quantity, slapping sticky pieces onto the foam ornaments. Nolan loved the little ornament toppers that resembled Pac Man ghosts. The receiver will have no idea what they are, but Nolan set loose his own creativity, and it was just right. Our first stop was one of the fire houses we plan to visit on our Christmas giveaway this year. Instead of giving only one to a fireman, the kids each handed out one, thus they were disappearing two at a time.  But as Nolan informed me, we can always make more. Instead of the timidity they experienced last year, they were all about the task at hand. As always, the firemen made them feel important profusely thanking them for their efforts (probably chuckling at the little Pac Man ghosts on their trees).

We didn't have much back that lane on Neff Road, but I don't think we realized it when Christmas came around. Our house was always open to the alone and lonely, travelers and visitors, old friends and new friends. They gave the gift of love to everyone they met. It was part of who they were.  Sometimes we missed not having the holiday for just our family, but in retrospect, I understand the gift Ruth and Willard gave to their children. They gave us open arms to show love, respect, warmth and most of all acceptance to everyone we met. They definitely had trouble receiving, knowing only how to give. We knew that when we came home, we would be blessed by seeing the faces that knew us as children. Welcoming arms embraced us every time the back door opened.

There is no money needed to give warmth to a cold heart, to dry tears and bring joy. As Emma found, we are paid back in full by the bits of love we can hand to a stranger, a friend, a fireman, a loved one. We are the gifts of the holiday season. Gifts we can give freely. Our little decorations might not seem like much, but they touch the hearts of those who receive them and teach two small children the joy of giving. Be a blessing to someone this holiday season, a gift to both the giver and receiver.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

That paisley time of year

There was a mystical room in our house back that lane on Neff Road. June and I often talk about it. At the top of the stairway was a very small room. In it Dad had configured pipes to create a rack on which to hang clothing. Across from the rack was a large bin containing one small section and one that was larger. Dress up clothing was in the small part and blankets were in the larger one. Our shoes were placed in a row on the top of the bins. Next to that was a wardrobe containing hats on the top shelf. Sheets on the middle shelf. Gloves and all sorts of odds and ends were on the bottom shelf. Dad and Mom's shoes filled the bottom of the wardrobe. It was a room that reflected days of poverty and those years that were more prosperous. The clothing grew in size along with the girls who wore it. So why was this room so special?

My mother loved paisley. Almost every blouse she owned was of a paisley designed fabric.When  Mom and Aunt Welma Johnson were wallpapering barren wall, they tackled the closet. On the last day I walked through that precious house, I stood in that closet of red paisley wallpaper and thought of the memories stored there. One reason this closet was so special was the big box hidden beneath the clothing in the back corner of that closet. Sometimes I would crawl back there just to make sure that big box was still in place.

It was this time of the year when Dad carried that huge box downstairs. It was a box of Christmas miracles. Each piece would be lifted from the box and placed where we could see it. Bubble lights, glass balls, an angel with spun glass hair, small figures that would dance on a mirror and memories galore. It was always so wonderful to find familiar items that took us all back in time. They were like old friends come home again.

Another item in that paisley room was a full-length mirror. I watched my older sisters apply make up in that mirror before leaving the house. Brenda and I paraded our dress-up clothes in front of that mirror. And, later I would stand before it checking out my own make up and take a last look at my wedding dress.

I never walked into that room that I was not surrounded by the presence of Mom and Dad. Dad stood at that mirror to tie his ties. Mom hounded her daughters to get ready for church. And on special days, Mom would get down the hats from the top shelf for her girls to wear or a furry muff for her youngests hands. It was a closet that held the essence of my family. A little paisley room.

When I step back through that mirror, I am surrounded by holiday laughter. Dad carrying that box in the corner, while Mom pounded out carols on the piano. The Loxley family paraded across that mirror and sealed their essence there forever. As I open my own box of Christmas delights, I am once again standing in that little room, watching Dad lift that box once more. It is that paisley time of year.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Turkey on crutches

Drumstick (Webster) 1. a stick for beating a drum  2. the segment of a fowl's leg between the thigh and tarsus.

Ah, definition 2. Oh my, whenever I look something up it just makes me do even more research. I should have paid more attention in anatomy. Tarsus! What part is the tarsus? Well, this can be a bone in the foot, connective tissue on the eyelid, part of an insects leg or a country in southern Turkey. The last definition was the closest to the name of the bird even though I cannot find a direct connection  to the drumstick.  Thus, we have come to the subject of this column. I think.

My son was in the National Tour of Evita which stopped in California. What a great excuse to have a Disney vacation! We packed up the family and headed south to meet up with him and some of his cast at Disneyland. Now I know you are wondering what this has to do with turkey legs, but please bear with me. (Oh, don't let me get started on bears!) One of the new delights at the park was turkey drumsticks. Now I am not a white meat fan, but let me at a drumstick, and I'm a happy girl. One of their drumsticks would feed a family of five. It was huge. A conversation ensued on the size of the bird with these hefty legs. This was around the time that Gabby learned that the birds we eat do not  survive the removal of said legs. Those drumsticks did not look quite as tasty.

I had begun to rethink this meat devouring thing. I'm not headed towards the vegetarian diet yet. But I think that the native cultures who thank God for the animal lives that are given in order to feed and clothe their people are teach us something very important. We are learning more and more about the cognitive power of not only animals but also fish. We are learning more information about a that makes us think. I find that it makes me look deeper into who I am and about the animals where I was raised. I think I missed a great deal when I was on the farm.

So, this is a column about not only drumsticks but also about being thankful for the food we eat. It is about the life of a turkey. Most of all, it is about defining who we are in how we look at new discoveries about the creatures of this earth.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. My blessings include each and every one of you. Much love on this special day to you and your families. I am thankful.