Wednesday, December 26, 2012

By Candlelight

This is a piece I wrote some time ago, but with the snow in Ohio, I think it is just perfect for you today.

Forecast: Ice and snow coming in Friday night, leaving on Sunday. Hm. Time to get some food, just in case. Maybe I should grab a log or two in preparation. What will I do without a TV and computer? Another, hm. Wow, not nearly as exciting as ‘no power’ on the farm, or when my kids were young, and we were electricless.

Me on Dad's sled
When the power went out on the farm, we moved to the basement. The fireplace kept us toasty and offered a wonderful place to roast hot dogs.  Mom always had chips and dip on hand, hot dogs and buns, and, at this time of the year, nuts and popcorn balls. It was an event. Seems like we never minded it too much.The gravel on the lane wore an icy coat that offered no traction, yet Dad would bundle up and hop up on the tractor with the scraper on the front and a chain on the back. Neighbors would have clean driveways and cars would be pulled from the ditch when Dad passed by. Food could be brought in to neighbors, rides given to stranded travelers and Dad having a blast doing it all. Red faced he would return to the house full of stories and laughter. Once in awhile he even brought a visitor.

When my kids were growing up, we loved the ‘powerless’ times when games were played, the fireplace roared and boredom was replaced with creativity. We really weren’t powerless. In fact, I think perhaps those were some of most bonding times with my children. I considered it our camping time since I'm not camper. We were roughing it.

Rarely does the power go off here in Oregon. Everyone here goes to Mt. Hood or Mt. Bachelor for the snow. If we do get that white blanket of snow here in the valley, I will bundle up by a fire with a good book or two in hand. Perhaps even a few new stories will venture into my head. Of course, they will need to have some staying power, since my computer will be down and my hands cannot write for long. Still it is always an adventure that I love working and reading by candlelight.

Being without power reminds us of a time when there was no electricity, when lives were simpler and dealing with the quirks of nature just part of life in the country. We reached back in time to make do with what we had available. We were not powerless. The snow was a gift.

I miss seeing Dad ride off on that tractor with a big smile on his face, and his return with the stories of his adventures. I miss seeing Doris walk into the house from a hike up the lane coming to visit her neighbors. Red cheeks and bundled head to toe, she joined us by the fire. I miss the silence that accompanies a world without power. The white quiet that can indeed be inspirational.

I didn't get a white Christmas, but I know it snowed back the lane on Neff Road.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

You are my angel

Little girl:  Daddy it won't bubble
Daddy:  Let it warm up, Pam. It will in a little bit.
Little girl:  Daddy, it still won't bubble.
Daddy:  Just flick it with your fingers.
Little girl: Oooooo
The bubble lights brought the tree to life.

Daddy:  Come here, Pam. (The Daddy lifted the little girl holding the blue angel.) Can you reach it?
Little girl: Ooooooo. She's beautiful.

Dad: A car is coming down the road! I think its them. It is!
We all run to the door when the gravel scatters beneath the wheels of the car. I was first out of the house. My sister June was the next to arrive.

Baby Stacey was in bed. Jobi, Brad and Trevor opened presents laughing as paper scattered around the living room. Mom and Dad laughed. I swear he had a tear in his eye.

The family would gather only one more Christmas. James was added to the family by then. The family was even more scattered. The old bubble lights were replaced by snowball lights. The angel more tattered resided in the box while a star took her place.

I placed the old red bell on the tree. A piece of thread looped over the branch. To my grandchildren it looked old and outdated. To me it held all the years of Christmas on the farm.

The bubble light was firmly pushed into the socket. It was time for the store to open.

Nathale: Just tip the light over so it will bubble.
Pam:  No, just flick it with your fingers.

Once more the little girl was seated beneath the tree watching the bubbles rise. Once more she was home.

Pam:  Dad, can I put the angel on the top of the tree once more.
Dad:  Oh, Pam, didn't you know? You are my angel.

Merry Christmas and season good wishes to you all. I send each and every one of you my love. Pass it on.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let there be peace on earth

Red twinkling lights welcoming the Christmas season.

"When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings." Irving Berlin gave me the words I think of often. This holiday season I am truly counting those blessings. I am surrounded by blessings.

For days I have started this writing only to find myself at a dead end. Now for a woman who has a head full of words, this is alarming. This holiday season began with excitement and anticipation then this changed. The change came with red flashing lights. Just a few days ago there was a shooting at the mall. I heard from many of you checking in to see if me and my family were safe and well. Thank you for your concern. The Clackamas Mall is on the other side of the city yet one we visit. The woman who was killed was the hospice nurse for a friend of ours. The man was a friend of one of my friends. Too close to home. Flashing red lights.

This morning I wake to find that there has been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. My heart is heavy. So much pain for so many families. My granddaughters are afraid. The asked me what to do if there was a shooter, a fire, an accident, an earthquake. The children are afraid. It has come out that people carrying guns for protection at the mall were trying to shoot the running murderer at the mall. Guns firing wildly. Fear causing chaos. Flashing red lights. Lives changed forever.

I don't write this piece as a downer. I write this piece to tell of the pain in the world. The pain of those children raised in homes of violence who become angry adults. Of those who are starving and have no help in sight. Of those suffering in the arms of war. Of those with illness and loneliness. I write this piece to ask for help. The kindness of a warm voice, a caring hand, a look into someone eyes can be a simple gift to another. Attending school programs for friends, neighbors, relatives tells that you care. A visit with a shut in is a gift in itself. Helping those who are depressed and/or angry to find their help sources. To send cards with a note. To reach out beyond your comfort zone to make a difference in someone's life. Let us be part of peace on earth.

All babies are born in innocence just as that baby who was in a manger. We all have a chance, a choice to make a difference in what happens in life of the child as that child grows into adulthood. Red lights flashing.

"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Notice for Neff Road readers

Movie News!!! I just found out AN AMISH MURDER (based on my novel Sworn to Silence) will premier on Lifetime Sunday January 6, 2013 at 9:00 Eastern time. I am officially excited!!!!!
Linda Castillo writes Amish murder mysteries based on the area of Neff Road. She uses names of roads and surnames of the residents. Instead of Painter Creek it is Painters Mill. Her books are some of my favorite being a mystery buff. I hope you join me in watching and let me know what you think. 

In Her Eyes

I sat looking at the picture of the Johnson women of our family and was overwhelmed with emotion. It wasn't the first time this has happened. So I have decided to investigate a bit and figure out why this picture of my grandmother affects me as deeply as it does. Who was this woman and who now has her face? To begin with, I know very little of my maternal grandmother. Mom Johnson was not the warm, sensitive grandma. At least that is what I have heard. She was a tough woman being married to Pop Johnson, my grandfather. Pop was a hard man with a temper. His discipline to his daughters was often severe. My grandmother never interceded.

Pop and Mom Johnson
I'd always been told that  Mom Johnson was barely a teen when she married Pop, but according to the records, she was seventeen to his twenty years. She raised three daughters and a son. Raising daughters with a man who had no respect for women must have been terrible. I can't begin to imagine her life. She had rebellious daughters who left home as soon as possible leaving my mother who was much younger behind. My uncle was, of course, the apple of the family eye. He would be the one to continue the family name and to work the soil his father and grandfather had cleared.

I see in my grandmother's eyes a tenderness or perhaps a longing. My heart breaks wondering what she endured, knowing that her voice was silenced giving all power to my grandfather.  She had daughters who demanded their freedom, a freedom she never had in her life. They stretched the limits giving voice to their anger while she had to deny her voice and agree with her husband. There is a sadness in her eyes.

My grandmother, great-grandmother and mom.
What stirs me most is the familiarity I feel when I see her face, in her eyes. Do I see my own in hers? Do I see that of my sister June? I don't know, but I see a face I recognize today. And, I am drawn to her. Perhaps in some strange way, I am getting to know my grandmother for the first time. I'm not sure anyone cared to know her story. But I will treat her story with kindness for in her eyes I see eyes I love.