Monday, May 28, 2012

Smell of the Earth

Spring. The smell of the earth. It was the way of growing up on Neff Road. Bare feet walked across newly plowed fields. The cold, damp earth felt wonderful. The smell of the rich, dark soil of Darke County was like no other. It was the smell of home.

Yesterday I spent the day pulling weeds and trimming at James and Lisa's. Gotta get ready for those twins! I trimmed new shoots on plants, retied climbing jasmine, crawled beneath shrubs looking for weeds. It was a good day for soil. I am a farm girl.

I never planted flowers back that lane on Neff Road. We didn't really trim shrubs or do much with landscaping. I was introduced to this task when we moved to Combined Locks, Wisconsin. Our sweet house was located on a ravine. The lady who had lived in the house before us had planted every perennial flower imaginable. She and Spring Hill Nursery had very good a relationship. The ravine was landscaped with a small bridge crossing mid-way down. A lilac hedge ran along the side of the ravine. A big flower bed waited for me to do maintenance. Yes, along with the flowers came the weeds.

I had no idea what to do with this beautiful yard. I was a farmer not a gardener. But I learned by trial and error. I found that I loved the time in the yard. Eventually I added two rock beds to the back of house. My rest and therapy was found in the soil.

We came to Oregon. Landscaping and plants were so different. A milder climate welcomed a new beauty I had not seen. I could not wait to get my hands into the Northwest soil. A trip to the nursery for me is like a trip to toy store for a kid.

I welcome spring and fresh scent of newly turned earth. I welcome the memories that come with it. Once more bare toes dig into the warm, dark soil back that lane on Neff Road.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Proposal

Check this out on youtube. My son and his wife are in the video but you can barely see them. This video was done by our friend Isaac for his lovely Amy. Isaac and Amy are part of the acting community here in Portland. Enjoy. The video has gone viral. For us here in Portland, we are thrilled for Isaac and Amy. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Reflection

Aunt Welma arrived wearing a big hat, carrying a bucket and carrying garden tools. Mom and I arrived with a bucket and rags. We arrived at Gettysburg Cemetery. It was Memorial Day. This was a yearly meeting of family at the family plot. Before Pop Johnson passed, he and I would walk around the cemetery, he passing on stories of the people beneath the stone. My aunt and mother cleaned the marker and planted new flowers in place.

I learned to have respect for the resting place of those we love. I learned to wash the year's grim from the stone. I also learned the stories of the family often repeated each year. Many of those brought laughter to these two women. First we cleaned off my grandparents' stone, then we cleaned those markers of other family members. We then visited Newcomer Cemetery where my other grandparents and extended family lie. Mom and I repeated the same with me eventually wandering off to read the stones in the old part of the cemetery.

It doesn't need to be Memorial Day when I visit the site where my parents rest. I visit it in my heart and mind this time of year. I sit once more before their marker as I do with each visit to Neff Road. Their daughters' names are on the back of the stone. A wonderful tradition keeping our family record. I sit looking at my reflection between their names carved in black stone. In the background sits the house where Mom and Dad first lived. I sit there talking to them cleansing the stone with my tears. I feel closer to them there. I like to think that they, too, are looking back at that face reflecting onto the stone. The face of their child.

It is a time of remembering. My yearly trip home to Neff Road.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pizza the Appian Way

A conversation today began with a comment from my boss about his mother making pizza at home. She spread the dough in the bottom of a rectangular pan. It was a family favorite every Friday night.

Junior Shuff was like a son to Mom and Dad. He was a regular at our house during my entire lifetime. He often brought surprises when he came. One such surprise was a boxed pizza mix. None of us had ever tasted pizza. Mom for probably the first time in her life read the instructions. About 30 minutes later we had our first addictive taste of pizza. From that night on Mom stocked either Appian Way or Chef Boyardee Pizza Mix in the pantry. Sunday nights usually meant pizza.....and Junior.

Those box mixes were just the first step into our pizza history. My sisters and I sat at the pizza place in Arcanum a few years ago waiting for our pizza. The Loxley girls had come a long way since those days of boxed pizza. It still seemed to draw family together.

I tried to find the history of when the first pizza mixes hit grocery shelves. I didn't do very well in finding the information. However, I think we weren't to far off the mark when Junior brought that box of pizza mix into the house back in the 50's. I think he loved doing these little things just to watch the Loxley family experience new things.

I learned to love pizza the Appian Way. Now I go the Papa Murphy's way.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Story of Me

There is the me I started out to be. That baby that was born in Piqua, Ohio, back in 1947. That was the beginning of me.  For the last three years, I have been writing about all of the things, the people, who have made me me. But I have not written about where that history has lead me.

I left the farm when I was eighteen only returning for a bit when my new husband and I moved to our little farm on Teagues South Road. From there we were transferred along with our division at NCR to Appleton, Wisconsin. My children were born there. It snowed a lot. It was cold. Mosquitoes carry away small children in the summer. Dogs refused to go out in the winter. We lived there seven years before trying to save our marriage when my husband was transferred to the beautiful Northwest. The move didn't save the marriage, but I was in love with my new home state of Oregon.

I married again. He was an older man, a theatre teacher teaching in our local high school. In many ways, he was more like a father and indeed my mentor. He encouraged me to write and produce plays. He encouraged me to teach private acting classes. He even encouraged me to act on stage and film. I owe him a great deal for allowing me for the first time in my life to find out what I was made of. He encouraged me not to take classes but to discover for myself what inner talent I possessed. He taught me to try instead of doubting myself. Our marriage didn't last. Parenting was not something we did well with generations separating us. But it was during this time that I found me.

I became a single woman trying to survive on her own. This new found me wasn't afraid to take on jobs she'd never done. I ended up in public relations and marketing. New creative ways to express myself and to find new parts of me again. But jobs such as this are the first to go when layoffs arise.

It has been a rough journey for the most part, but I did indeed discover myself. I produced social dramas that changed lives. I taught students who went on to use their talents, their self-confidence, in their careers. I raised two beautiful children mostly on my own. I learned to be a positive person instead of letting the negative control me. I found that I have a knack for teaching, for acting, for drawing, for using the lens of the camera. I discovered that I could try and fail and try again. I found that life defined is the search for self.

This is the person who left Neff Road. All of the roads seemed to lead away, but in the end, I have discovered that they all lead back that lane where me began. We are all on a journey to find ourselves. Some of us take the long way around.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding Neff Road

"I looked up Neff Road on the map," wrote a local reader of my column. Finding Neff Road.

Neff Road is just a little country road. Not much to see. A few houses. A dog, a cat, a bridge. Cows in a field. A small woods my father planted. A pond that Barney Bucholtz dug. The creek that probably needs to be dredged. A big white house back a lane. It all that I knew when I was growing up on R.R.#2.

Neff Road is a state of mind. A place where we rest as well as remember. In essence, Neff Road was all my experiences growing up in Franklin Twp. That place we go back to time and time again because of the memories and those people who shared them. I don't know if younger people appreciate their Neff Road. I'm not sure I appreciated mine until I began losing those who lived there and finally the loss of the place where I grew up. There is not a day that I don't go back there finding a memory, a smile. Every day I remember those people....those who remember as well. I find that I cannot pass on my memories of Neff Road to my family. My children have their own. But perhaps I can pass on those parts of the Neff Road that were passed on to me. A compassion for others, a loving heart, a deep love of nature, an appreciation for the soil, an appreciation of those who bring food to my table. There are many parts of Neff Road inside of this almost sixty-five year old woman. I could not separate them out if I tried.

Neff Road is just a road. A sweet country road like so many others in Darke county. Like so others across the nation. A small community of caring neighbors. A history that is carried along with those who know it's past. Neff Road is your road as well as mine. For those who remember, we can say, "I am Neff Road."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Get Your Paper!

"Get your paper! Get your daily paper!" I was a little girl when we went to Dayton when the newspaper hawkers cried out these words. "Get your paper! Get your morning paper!" Didn't matter what time of day, they were there with newspapers in hand.

Well, we got our paper and mail at the end of our lane in the mailbox. Usually, it was a big event watching for the mailman then deciding who would walk the lane to get the mail. It was much more popular in the summer to get the mail than in the winter. Sometimes getting the mail meant waving to Victor and Doris sitting out on their porch across the road. Sometimes it ended up with the errant mail gatherer sitting on the same with Victor and Doris. Once in awhile someone would drive down the road about the time the lane walker got to the end of the lane. Since there was little traffic on Neff Road, conversations often went on for awhile.

We lived on Rural Route then. We didn't have a house number. We lived on R. R. #2. I'm not sure how the mailman knew who lived where since we all lived on R. R. #2. Maybe he had a good memory or a map. It was probably because there were fewer people back then. I'm pretty sure that if someone only wrote to Willard Loxley, Arcanum, Ohio, the letter would still find our mailbox. In fact, it could just read Willard Loxley, Arcanum, and still get there. It was right up there with the party line and doctor who came to the house.

The paper was simple back then. The major crimes were more than likely a cow tipped over or corn shocks knocked over when fall arrived. Crime was minimal then. Over the last five to ten years I've seen more and more crime mentioned in the paper. Rapes, drugs, murder. What is going on in my beloved county? More and more drugs are finding their way into outlying areas where they can be manufactured and sold without much notice. Here in Oregon these people hide illegal crops in our national forests and manufacture in neighborhoods. I don't like it. So what can I do about it? I am trying so hard to teach my granddaughters about drugs, about their safety. I try to be vigilant about who lives around me. Last year I called the police on neighbors who were growing marijuana next door by our house. It was being grown legally for medical use, but these people loved to share it with friends. The police could do nothing; however, because of my call, these guys were now on the police radar. Perhaps we can change the kind of news that makes the headlines.

Missing the old days of walking down the lane. The days of simple news. Now I support the local paper, because it is is still a history of a place called Neff Road. "Get your paper! Get your Daily Advocate!"

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Just Like a Mom

What constitutes a mother? I've learned in my lifetime that she is certainly more than a woman who gives birth. A mother, a good mother, is one who gives and forgets about the receiving. She is one who steps up when needed, heedless of her own needs. A mother is a woman who finds contentment in just watching her children, even when they sleep. Sitting with them over a cup of coffee just glad to be there with them. A mother thinks first of the love she has for her child and secondly of the finger paint on the wall. When once she sighed at the sight of a room strewn with clothing, she later wishes for that teenager to be in that room once more. She doesn't forget the little thing, those that matter. And forever she holds in her heart her baby's tiny fingers and toes.

A mother, however, doesn't need to be one who gives birth. She doesn't need to be the one who even lives in the house with the child. The heart of a mother resides for the child often in the heart of a friend, an aunt, a cousin, a grandmother. What sometimes we did not receive from own flesh and blood we found plentiful in the love of another. A mother who holds a child for the first time, that child she did not carry, finds a new love given to her. There need not be an umbilical cord that says she is the mother. She loves the child the same as if she gave birth to the beautiful babe in her arms.

I was blessed with many mothers in my life. My mother and I didn't always see eye to eye. She was a busy woman living on the farm. Often I was left alone. Sometimes I was scared. Many times for her I was a struggle. Communication between mother and daughter often is strained and damaged. But then one day we are without a mother. One day we are older and understand what we could not then. I find in looking back that the gaps my mother and I experienced in our relationship were filled by other loving women in my life.

Aunt Welma and I baked cookies together. She allowed me to be her hair stylist and taught me to play cards. While my mother was in the field, she was filling in a gap. Her daughter-in-law, my cousin Betty, was my friend, especially when a teenager needed a woman's advice. My neighbors, Doris and Margaret, watched over me daily, especially when I'm sure Mom had no idea where I'd wandered off to. Margaret raised me with her own. Her house was my second home.

When I became a teenager and in love, I met Jennie Miller. This last week we lost Jennie at ninety-four years. I loved her son, and she loved me. I'd never been in a family where everyone laughed so readily and loved doing things together. I learned what it was to camp and hike.  I found a place where I belonged. Jennie held me as her son left for Viet Nam. Their home during that time always welcomed me. When I started my first job, she made my dresses.

I have a dear mother in my life now. One I wish I'd known better my entire life for she is indeed a woman I love and adore. My cousin Alma Lea and I became better acquainted over the last couple of years. Oh, we always knew one another, but she was older, and I played with her children. In the last couple of years, we have formed a bond that means as much to me as any. This beautiful woman has brought  warmth to a sometimes saddened heart, one missing those of her own family. She brings to me all the things that are a mom and a friend.

My mom was indeed a wonderful mom. Her life was hard. She gave it to serve others. Sometimes her daughters got lost with all of the others taking their mom away, but she loved us. She is indeed 'like a mom' to so many people on Neff Road and around the world. She gave all that she had for others. As a grown up child, I appreciate what she did and am proud of what she did for those who needed her. I blessed to have had such a wonderful mother.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there. Mothers can indeed change the world. Those 'just like a moms' changed mine and taught me how to be just like a mom.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A New Kind of Horse

Yesterday a couple friends and I were talking about old cowboy shows. We began rattling off each show and all of the characters we remembered. This was followed by "Are any of them still living?".

I grew up loving cowboys. Can't deny it. I had the biggest crush on Roy Rogers. Oh, not when he was married to Dale, but when young Roy along with Gabby Hayes chased cattle rustlers and bank robbers. I probably learned phrases like "yer durn tootin', dadgumit and young whippersnapper" from Gabby. He'd twitch his beard and dispatch words of wisdom. Then there was The Cartwright family. Most women liked Little Joe. I was rather partial to Hoss. Have no idea why. Perhaps it was because he was like a big teddy bear with a ready smile. Ah, cowboys.

Each day I read the Greenville Daily Advocate. Sometimes I even read the Classified Ads. Today I noticed that someone was selling saddlebags. Ah, the cowboy memories struck again. I'm pretty sure that Kit Carson had saddle bags draped over Apache's rump. Never knew when a cowboy might have to spend the night on the trail. Always needed to have a bedroll and saddlebags ready.

I went on to find another item in the Ads. Just a few steps below the saddlebags were chaps for sale. Once again, the cowboys flashed through my mind. Rowdy Yates wore chaps. Darn, that boy wore them well. Needed those when you were on the cattle drive. Mr. Favor drove his cattle and his men hard. Yep, they wore chaps.

Well, it seems that nowadays those items are also used by those cowboys on their Harley's. Big black saddle bags and black leather chaps. They don't herd cattle. They don't even fight gunslingers. I think perhaps they miss that leisurely pace where the deer and the antelope play.

I miss the old cowboy shows. I didn't notice the violence back then. I guess it's not as harmful when it is in black and white. Ah, the good 'ol days.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Monday, May 7, 2012

When I am

When I am older, I will still feel same
Answer when someone calls my name
I'll still be silly and act like a loon
Dance in the starlight throwing kisses to the moon.

I'll carry my book and sit for a read
My knee I will offer to a tot in need
A golden oldie, I'll be till the end
And thank the dear Lord for family and friend.

When I am older, I'll say, "Job well done."
Then I'll sit by the window watching the passing of the sun
Nature will carry me on still the same
And then, too, I'll know when it calls my name.

When I am

I wonder how long it is until I need to add the 'er'. Today I spent a good part of the morning in the bookstore. I perused the shelves of the children's books looking for my favorite writers and illustrators. Don and Audrey Woods, David Weisner, Jan Brett, Mem Fox, Penny Dale. I could go on, but you get the point. I'm drawn to the artwork and the simple stories said so beautifully....sometimes even without words. I plan to get a book bag then each time I go to visit the newborns twins (once they get here) I will take a book or two. We need to start reading together early, you know.

The reality of when I am old  dawned on me while walking the bookstore, sitting on the floor revisiting "Flotsam", finding a beautiful new version of "The Lion and The Mouse". I am setting in place now the way my grandchildren will view me.....when Grammy is considered old. What do I want that vision to be?

My mother set down many a guideline for other mothers and memories for her many 'honorary' grandchildren. She wasn't afraid to act silly with the kids. Her house was theirs whenever they walked into the kitchen. She hung their pictures and sang songs to them. When she grew old, the music she had created in her lifetime was rich and full of memory.

My children are trying to help me grow up. I'm afraid it is impossible. When I am 'er' I will still carry my book bag. Perhaps a child will need to read one of our old favorites to me. I will sit quietly smiling as each word is read with a hand resting on my grandchild. I will hum to myself for the joy in my life. My children will shake their heads thinking I am at last losing it. I will sit smiling by the window and count the blessings of my life. Perhaps someone will ask me, "What's so funny, Grams?" Each line that now graces my face and the white of my hair reminds me of the precious time I have with my family, especially before I get to "er".

Yes, when I am, I will see the sunset and rise again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A May Morning

Grandmother holding Uncle Keith, Uncle Harold, Daddy, Grandad
Today it seems like a good time to post one of my grandmother's poems. I believe this is one that was published. A sweet reminder of a grandmother I never had the chance to know. A May morning with my Grandmother.

A May Morning

A bright new day now greets our eyes
With rosy tints and dewy sunrise;
The silver lining has a sun-kissed rim
And its chalice of gold is pure within.

The hand of God has wrought it with care,
It's filled with moments, precious and rare;
We touch them once, then He takes them away
And keeps them so ably against that day.

Will we trample it down and ruefully say,
"Oh, it's just another live-long day?"
When we'll wish so much we had it back
To use those moment we so woefully lack.

No challenge is greater the whole world round,
Than the challenge of sunrise, at our doorstep found;
No comfort is sweeter, no blessing so rare
As a challenge fulfilled and left in God's care.
                                                      ---------Ethel H. Loxley