Sunday, January 20, 2019

Yellow striped pajamas

bee: noun
A bee is an insect with a yellow-and-black striped body that makes a buzzing noise as it flies. Bees make honey and can sting. (Thank you, Collins online dictionary).

Yep, most dictionaries say the same thing, yet they say nothing. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life.
Pollination: We would not have flowers without bees, and we would not have bees without flowers. In fact, we would have a lot less food without those guys in yellow striped pajamas. Some vegetation would become extinct. Crops are dependent on our little buddies. Imagine a world without apples, pears, cucumbers, cherries and the list goes on. All those plants that grow because of the little wings to get these fuzzy insects from one plant to another, spreading the pollen that gives us blooms and fruit. 

I love Burt's Bees. My lips are softer and my health in general is better. Bee products. We all use them. My grandkids love honey by the spoonful. I still revert to honey in the comb. When I eat honey, I forget to thank the bees for the vitamins and minerals they provide in this spoonful of gold. And for centuries people have burned candles made from bees wax. Beauty products often contain honey. Crayons are sometimes made of bees' wax. Even the venom of the bee is used to treat stings and to relieve arthritis pain. What's not to like about bees?

Bees are an important component for our ecosystem, for farmers, for health, for our planet. Without bees, we would have few vegetables, no alfalfa, some trees would be extinct. I found a list of things that need pollination from bees and found it impressive and frightening all at the same time. Animals would be affected as well as people. Our way of eating would change drastically. In the end, we, too would be extinct. Yes, they are the important.

Seven types of bumblebees, who is also a pollinator, were just added to the endangered species list. A list already listing endangered honeybees. Yes, all bees are in trouble. Why? Because of pesticides and other chemicals used on farms, yard maintenance, gardens and also due to climate change. Mites kill off colonies of bees. Albert Einstein: "Mankind will not survive the disappearance of honeybees for more than five years".

So what can we do? Stop the use of chemicals that are harmful to bees and other insects on fields, grass, gardens and trees. Plant flowers that encourage bees. Go to the library or check online to find out what plants will help. My son has a flowering sumac tree that hums with life from the hundreds of bees who visit its blooms. Do some research. Buy local honey to keep local beekeepers in business. Protect bee habitat. Bees are thirsty. They need flowering trees to give them sustenance. Place small stones in your birdbath, so the bees can sit on them and drink. Start your own hive. Research and be part of the solution. Educate your children and others about the bees and the need to protect them. Get those grandchildren involved. We know bees give us honey. Honey and life. 

Yellow striped pajamas.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Just call me fern

Yep, just call me fern. I reside in memories as well as having once lived in the homes of both grandparents. I sat in a brown and green pot that resembled a ceramic basket. My pot resided on a stand that was about 36" tall and had a small shelf under it. I had a place of importance there by the window. Yep, just call me fern.

Remember? I do. The fern pot that sat in Mom and Pop Johnson's front room later resided in our home. I have the plant stand but the fern never made it. Most of the grandparents' homes I had ever been in as a child had similar pots and stands. Fern. Was she a good luck charm, a fad, a tradition?

There were many things that I remember as a child that I really didn't understand. There was that ceramic dog that sat in front of the fake fireplace mantel in above-mentioned home. Often I had seen other breeds of dogs in other homes. Again, why? Was this what you had in place of a real dog? Was this the only way to have a dog in the house, since it was the belief that dogs were livestock and belonged outside? What good was a real dog in the house?! Did people shop for their ceramic pet? I could have taken that dog home with me when my grandparents passed. Somehow I didn't think it would get along well with our schnauzer.

Doilies were on the chairs, on the tables, on anything that had a surface. I always thought they must be a way to have a dust pattern on the surface when removed. It was like stained glass only in dust.

And, as always, that silly glass bowl that came with the TV. Why? Of course, as I have said before, we would never have dreamed of removing it. I think it was still at Mom and Dad's when we prepared for sale. In fact, I think the same flower was still in it.

Then there was the velvet cloth that covered the top of the old upright pianos. Again, a dust catcher? Maybe something romantic to go with the music? Perhaps long ago someone listening to the music whipped the cloth off the piano and danced around the room. My Aunt Bess would have done it in a heartbeat. And, yes, I do have that cloth.

We lived in a different day and age. I wonder if my children will have the same questions of our decor. Those old things decorate my memories of the people in my life. They accompany my reflections on the day and age of my parents, my grandparents. I look around the room and see the old fern stand. My grandfather's picture basket is a little more ragged but full of memories. I sat looking through old post cards it held when I was a child. Perhaps it was my TV before they had one.

What color are your memories? Where are the dust catchers, the ceramic dogs, old fern stands? These are a history, yours and mine. So for now, just call me fern.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Roller skates, nylons and giggles

We laughed. No. We giggled. We made prank calls, "Is your refrigerator running?". We ran through the sprinkler and flirted with boys.

Yep, we all have a friend who shares those memories with us. Mine was Vivian. The Force family lived on Pitsburg Gettysburg Road. We passed their house on the way to church and most times we picked Viv on the way. After church she either came home with me or I went to her house. The Force family was always part of our lives. My sister Peggy was friends and classmate to Sammy Force. Viv and I babysat for Janice's kids in Greenville. Every Saturday night Raymond would drive back the lane to pick me up. It was rollerskating night! Yes, we had great times together. We played kick the can with her brothers and did our best to pester them.

Music was always a part of our friendship. She was the first person I knew who played the piano by ear. She and I formed a singing group with Donna and Marilyn. We sang at churches and any place else Mom could find that needed a cute little singing group who performed for free. We went on to win the local rural arts show with our childish rendition of "When Molly was a Baby" finishing second in the regionals. I sang harmony, and Vivian sang alto.

Vivian's parents tolerated our silliness. We jumped on the bed, played games and had a seance. Silliness was the best description of our adventures. No one laughed or giggled more. 

Vivian has been tucked in that sweet part of my heart where childhood memories stay as delicious as they were when first experienced. My children often heard stories of Vivian's sleepwalking. She was a marvel. I truly don't think there was a night that she didn't find something to get into. One night I found her going to the attic and maneuvered her back to bed. Another night I awakened to this feeling that someone was watching me. In opening my eyes, I found Viv with chin-resting-on-elbow leaning over me staring at my face. I was determined to follow her one night, planning to gather feedback information as to her nightly walkabout. We tied our ankles together with a nylon and giggled ourselves to sleep. Of course, we awakened the next morning without a bit of nighttime activity. Well, not really. The nylon was off the ankles and tucked behind the bedroom door. Yep, she was a marvel.

Anyone who knows Vivian has been blessed with pure delight. I swear she is a spirit that was given to us, so we would know joy. We have been friends since we were small children. There were years we drifted apart until one day when visiting the farm, I called Viv. She and her daughters came to the old skating rink to meet me and my children. We picked up where we left off. A couple of Junior High girls swapping stories of days gone by.

I am writing this today because my friend has been in critical condition fighting for her life. Many of you know her as the child I describe and as an adult who continues to brighten the lives around her. I wanted to share just how remarkable this woman is even in this fight for her life. Please keep her in your thoughts. We are keepers of memories which are meant to be shared.

Friends make you smile - best friends make you giggle "till you pee your pants." - Terri Guillemets

Monday, December 24, 2018

Memories are made of this

"We all met at the church," June reminisced. "Mom and Dad took us all caroling." Well, yes, they took us ALL. I can well remember being a bit taller than knee-high when Mom and Dad pushed me out in front of the teens caroling at the Brethren Home. Back then it was a dark, dreary place that really didn't smell all that good. I was terrified. Of course, when Mom said, "Sing!" there was no dodging it. In my child voice, I sang Away in a Manger. The residents wanted to touch this little girl who was none too receptive. This is one memory that is very vivid from my point of view, which was mostly of knees and coattails.

My sister has different memories which mean the world to me. Being seven years her junior, my memories are limited. I don't remember Junior Stuff playing the accordion as the teens sang. Nor do I remember Cousin Gene Johnson and some other boys wrestling and breaking the back off of Mom and Dad's sofa after caroling. However, I do remember going from home to home singing to seniors: Grandma and Grandpa Force, Jess and Rosie Riffell, Rene Beane, Becky Groff and so many others who were the cherished in our community. We were often asked into their homes, tucking in like chicks beneath the brooder.

The youth group was made up of kids whose parents grew up together included Edwin, Miriam, Nancy and Martha Royer, Art, Larry and Gary Fourman, Junior Stuff, Lynda Fourman, Ruth, Kent, Terry and Dan Snider, Lois McBride, Barbara Rhodes, Judy Reck, Carol Stager, Margaret Dohner and so many more teens blessed our lives. The faces I remember over that decade of Christmas carolers, the older church children who filled our home regularly. They caroled then came back to the house for a wiener roast over the fireplace and ate green and red popcorn balls. Dad always went to North Star to get a couple of tins of potato chips. The atmosphere was full of laughter and fun with farm kids who grew up together.

Mom and Dad no longer had the youth group when I was a teen. How I wish we had those same experiences, since we were all siblings of that older group of carolers. Doris Royer, Mary Kay Snider, Vivian Force, Shirley and Janet Riffell, Karen and Kenton Loxley, Eddie Reck, Brenda Stager, Gary Rhoades, Darrell Fourman, Marena Neff and more grew up the same way as those older sisters and brothers. Yes, we missed things like caroling, hayrides and wiener roasts over the old fireplace.

My memories are made of this....and of all the things my sister remembers to share with me. We are the sum of our parts, plus those parts we find on our own. Christmas is over, but what we leave behind goes on forever. So when Santa comes next year, be sure to make sure he leaves memories that will be related for generations to come.

Monday, December 17, 2018

This is the season

A Jewish baby was born in a manger to an unwed mother and an adopting father. Contrary to what is celebrated, this baby was born in the warm months of August or September when the sheep were returned to the fields and when more than likely a census would have been taken, so travelers were not hampered by winter weather.

My friend wrote, "Why are most songs Christ based this time of the year?" His celebration of Hanukkah has just ended. A time of family and remembrance of their own religious freedom. A sect into which God decided to send a baby. Some other friends will soon be celebrating Kwanzaa. A celebration of people, community.  Throughout the winter months, there are celebrations of numerous beliefs and cultures. A season rich with love of humankind, a season of celebrating the earth, a season of celebrating a higher deity, a season of celebrating one another.

I know. We Christians have a tendency to make this all about us, but Christmas isn't about us. It is about what that manger represents, what we learned from that baby turned man. It is about love without judgment. I am no better than anyone else. That is what I learned. I learned that sinner or saint, they are loved. I learned that embracing man/womankind is my task. I learned not to judge and to embrace all cultures. I was raised to believe I could make the world a better place. I grew to understand that not everyone had to believe what I believed. My journey was my own and not to expect others  to fit what I believe.

When I see that baby in our nativity, I see the birth of one who would not want adoration. He would turn away from wanting anything for himself.  He would want us to be active in this world in the name of love. His parables tell us over and over about helping others. He does not ask us to idolize him. He asks us to include everyone. He was Jewish. He never denied that fact. His parents and grandparents were Jewish. He was a dark skinned man with black hair, not the blue-eyed brunette we see so often. He asked that we believe in him and, in essence, believe in the God in every human being.

I remember being teased once for having a new creative hair style. We have a tendency to look at differences instead of offering understanding and love. God came to us in many different ways. None are wrong when they all lead back to Him. Do I say "happy holidays?" Indeed, for I respect all people and wish them the happiest of the season that brings love and laughter into their lives.

So I say to you, "warmest, loving wishes" in this season of hope and love. Be that shining light in the world that brings joy to all around you. This is the season.

Monday, December 10, 2018

For better and better

On December 9, 2018, Pamela Loxley Drake married Loren Lee Nelson. Pam is the daughter of Ruth (Johnson) and Willard Loxley of Neff Road. Loren is the son of Lorraine and Dell Nelson from Zion, Illinois.

The bride wore a navy blue gown. The flower girl, granddaughter Emma, wore a dress very similar to her MeMe's. Nolan, the ring bear bearer, wore a navy suit the same as the two above mentioned. However, no one was blue. In fact, there was much laughter and fun. June stood up with me and a friend stood up with Loren. A dear friend married us. It was perfect.

Okay, now that we have the announcement finished.....there is something about marrying your best friend that is similar to having a piece of you put back into place. And, our wedding was all about what we are all about. We commented this morning that the reception felt like you were sitting in your living room with one hundred friends. They mingled and made new acquaintances. They laughed and stayed with us all through the event. They are people we love and loved having with us.

There should always be laughter at weddings. They need to be less structured and more fun. The love that we share we share freely with those people who are in our lives. Yes, this is a mushy column about loving one another. Okay, so I did wave at people as I came down the aisle and might just have had a few moments of picking on our minister. But it was all delightful fun. Our 'minister' topped it all off by lifting a white branch with mistletoe hung on the end, holding it over Loren's head saying, "you many kiss the groom". Yes, we had a memorable wedding.

Today is our first day into our marriage. We start it surrounded by love of family, friends and beautiful moments. We feel like the world is embracing us.

We love the Facebook comments we have received from you, our friends back home. We know you have patiently followed this journey. Today and always I say thank you. We are truly blessed.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Let grateful days be endless

Forever on Thanksgiving Day. The heart will find the pathway home. - Wilbur D. Nesbit

How many times did we sit around the table, focusing on food instead of understanding the preciousness of those moments? No longer can I sit with my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. Little is the family that remains, yet I am not saddened. I am blessed to have had those times, those people. Each Thanksgiving those faces once more come into view. The dialogue we shared. The laughter and memories that made my family so wonderful. The love that I always knew was there. Even as a child, I was thankful. Now as an older adult, I am truly blessed.

This Thanksgiving I hope you look into the eyes of those surrounding you and understand the gifts of giving. Tuck those moments in your heart for you will take them out and look at them time and time again. Even in the darkest of times, in those of loss and sorrow, the heart that laughed and loved will find warm memories to ease the pain.

Many are not as fortunate as most of us. Perhaps we are their thanksgiving by what we can do to make their lives easier. Perhaps that smile you share with a stranger or the hand given to someone in need will be the giving and the thanks. For in giving we truly receive and are thankful to be tools of hope and joy.

My column is small this week because I want to add this Thanksgiving Song. I am thankful for each of you. Please reach out this week and give others something for which they can be truly thankful. Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table. From far and near we travel home, blessed that we are able. Grateful for this sheltered place with light in every window, saying "Welcome, welcome, share this feast. Come in away from sorrow." Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone in the gift of loving kindness. Grateful for what's understood, and all that is forgiven; we try hard to be good to lead a life worth living. Father, mother, daughter, son, neighbor, friend and friendless; all together everyone let grateful days be endless. Grateful for each hand we hold gathered round this table.

Many blessings, my friends. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Chill in the air

That time of the year when summer is tucked away and fall has taken her leave(s). The grey skies that
make you think that it is evening all day long. And, most of all, that chill in the air that only comes with the first frosts. Winter.

I sit in my writing place in our 'crow's nest' looking out over the valley. In the distance I see Mt. St. Helens glowing with winter's first mountain snow. Outside the window our little hummingbirds seem to fight just for the heck of it. The huge fir tree looming over the back of the house is alive with birds of all types. I can hardly take my eyes off the view from the window.

We sat by the window in the kitchen back the lane. Mom always wanted a big window with a bar and stools below it, so she and Dad could sit there watching the comings and goings on Neff Road. The red maple outside the window was filled with lively activity. The bird feeder was enticement to draw them close enough for the window viewing.

By the time the kitchen was remodeled, the Loxley girls had all moved away. Coming home meant that we got to enjoy that beautiful kitchen and even more so, the new bathroom with a tub!!! Sometimes we lament that we had an outhouse when we were growing up, and as I child I took a bath in the kitchen sink until I outgrew it. The new kitchen had a dishwasher, so the previous dish washers could retire. Perhaps we enjoyed the new room more having experienced the old.

We all took turns sitting on those stools, enjoying the view as much as Mom and Dad did. We sat our toddlers on the counter, showing them the wonders of Neff Road. Long talks were held by the window. Long talks and a pot of coffee.  We watched as cars came down the road, maybe coming to the Loxley house. We watched for family and friends as they drove or walked up the lane. We watched Dad go down the lane for the mail, and for family members returning from a walk to the bridge. This was our window on the past, and one we still visit in our hearts now and then.

I look out my window over the valley to the hills far away and think how my Dad would have loved this lofty view, especially of the birds. There is not a time that I sit there that I am not drawn back to the farm and that wonderful window. We should all have such windows. Those that tug on the heart. Those that evoke smiles. Windows into the creation of all who care to look.

There's a chill in the air. Perhaps it won't be long until I see snow.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Run, Turkey, Run

Not being much of an athlete or a follower thereof, I must make a confession. I thought the Turkey Trot was for turkeys trying to escape hunters, looking for a Thanksgiving bird. Hm. Well, at least it should be. 

This time of the year I have turkeys on the mind. I hate that the birds are raised just for eating. What a life! And, I feel the same for all food animals even though I do partake of said critters. As you know, I am a believer that animals have souls as well as do people. Then we come to those being hunted with guns. First of all, it is my belief that we should arm all turkeys with weapons to make the hunt equal. Makes sense to me. However, as you know, I am on the animals' side. 

I wish I could be a vegetarian. I actually like veggies better than meat, yet a great prime rib calls to me now and again. I remember when Dad loaded my pet calf on the trailer to become someone's dinner. "Pam, you did such a good job with the calf. He walked right onto the trailer." Well, darn! I didn't train it to be meat. I trained it to be loved, Dad!!!

I am not against farmers or hunters. I am just for the animals. And, a tofu turkey does not whet my appetite. Not that I don't like tofu, soybean growers. Oh my, it does get complicated. And, I do love turkey sandwiches the day after. In essence, this is a traumatic time of the year for the turkeys and me.

This article seems to be about me and those darn birds. Yet, maybe it is about a bit more. Maybe it is about realizing that animals give up their lives for us. In olden days animals were sacrificed for higher deities. Perhaps we are still sacrificing turkeys to our deity in thanks. Hm. Sometimes I wonder where my mind will lead me. 

So, in keeping with the season, all I can say is "Run, Turkey, Run!!!!"

Monday, November 5, 2018

Just crossing off days

My Halloween decorations sit waiting to be stored for another year. The weather is warm and flowers still blooming. The trees are just glorious this year. And, next to me, Emma sits with her tablet making a Christmas list. Just crossing off days.

I was a little girl living back the lane when I made my first list. I found it in some papers from the farm. The printing is that of a very small child. Some letters are large and some are small. All go uphill and downhill like a silly worm that lost sight of the body parts preceding it. That small girl asked for a black baby doll. Yes, I have always been this way. I knew that beauty was in the doll and not the color of it.

Santa certainly read that list for on Christmas Day Amosandra was sleeping dressed in a long yellow gown with blue trim inside of a grey baby buggy. It truly might be the one present I hold most dear. That little doll went to Washington DC and every place else with me.

Years ago I found the doll in a paper bag inside of a dresser in my old room. Being a rubber doll, she had not made the trip through life in good condition. Most of her was so fragile that to touch her she would crumble. Yes, I cried. The tears were those of a little girl who knew how to love with all her heart, saying good-bye to her sweet friend.

I don't know if Mom and Dad realized the gift that they had given me went much deeper into my soul than just the love of a doll. I grew up blind to the color of people. I grew up with a deep love of color and the beauty it possess, the diversity it adds to my life and most of all the richness that happens with the shades of humanity. It was the gift for a lifetime.

Those days of my childhood are crossed off. I now look at my granddaughter and see the child I was so very long ago. I wonder if I have perhaps given her pieces of who she will become. Okay, she wants a hot tub, a horse (I asked for that most years), a trampoline and a playground just to name a few. I don't know what I give her, but she gives me the reminders of what it was to be a child with hopes and dreams. She gives me words to type and love to express.

We are just crossing off the days from Halloween to Christmas.