Monday, August 19, 2019

Skinny pages on the calendar

Cooler weather comes as birds revisit their migration maps, plants and trees pull their resources into the ground and the old brown bear chases critters out of her den. Getting close to nap time.

The birds seem to be swirling and grouping, practicing for travel to their sunny vacations in the south.    Even I find myself wearing warmer clothing in the mornings. I refuse to go inside with my morning coffee until the temperatures fall below 60. Yes, I have added socks to my morning attire. I adjust much like the animals that grow a winter coat.

Teachers are scurrying around classrooms, preparing for the next batch of students. Our twins will go to the school on Friday to see which teacher they belong to. In order to lure them in, donuts will be served. I suggested that Nolan might need warmer shirts, and was told, by his own authority, that boys are much warmer than girls. They don't need anything more than tank tops and shorts. I envision him turning blue as cold weather sets in.

We all prepare. We all set our lives to that yearly clock that goes around the calendar. "Is that Christmas music," Loren asked while the twins were over today. "Yep," I said." Not much use in saying more. It is what it is. The kids will know more words to the songs when they listen to them for months on end. Hibernating is beginning to sound good.

We can food. We pull up dead plants that gave us their best throughout the summer. We trade in milkshakes for hot chocolate. "MeMe, don't forget to get four cans of whipped cream," Emma said today. "We can each have one and fill our mouths at the same time." Now there are some things that I have taught my grandchildren that might not be acceptable in many households....including their own. However, I remember sneaking to the refrigerator and tipping up the can of whipped cream when no one was looking. I'm looking forward to my can.

My mom would scrub the house, shake out the bedding and fill the coffers with canned and frozen foods. Dad had a calf butchered. There would be plenty to get us through the winter.

I don't mind the coming of another season. Perhaps I do get tired of the predictability. Shoes off in May. Shoes on in September. Plant in the spring. Tear out in the fall. You know how it goes. At least we don't hibernate or need to catch a flight south. (No wait! Forgot about the Snowbirds.) We move on with the seasons as we do the seasons of our lives. There is always much to learn and hope to gather. And perhaps a nap or two. The calendar is getting skinny.


Mommy, that means you will die

Sometimes, most times lately, I wonder what has happened to people who are supposed to have a heart, faith, belief in the good of people. Instead I see more and more people trying to justify how they feel, cold to the facts. They use God and their Bible to quote scriptures, while there are people dying of hunger, trapped in cages, begging in the street. I wonder then, where are you people of faith? Faith is an action word. Not a political battle.

faith (noun) 1. complete trust in someone or something. synonyms: trust, believe, confidence, conviction, credence, reliance, dependence; optimism, hope, expectation

This last week I asked my prayer warriors  to pray for a young woman who is dying. Only about 4 people listened. Over a year ago, Erika and her family moved across the country, so she could go to the Cleveland Clinic. She vomits blood, her appendages swell to the extent she feels she is carrying another person. Her skin peels. Her liver is dying. "Mommy can't do this much longer," she tells five-year-old Loie. "But Mommy, that means you will die."

Erika and her husband have been in an ongoing battle with insurance. She has been on the liver transplant list three times. Erika's liver was damaged during surgery. She was finally free of cancer but now needed a liver. Her first donor liver was available but too large for her. So they sent her to the end of the list. She was kicked off again. I won't get into the whole story here, but you can find it on CNN's site. The cancer tried to get her, but she conquered it.

What has happened to faith? It seems to have slipped through the cracks. Faith is not just in a church. Faith is a belief, a trust, a hope, an expectation that things can be better. It is a noun; however, I feel it is also a verb. Faith calls everyone to action.

The thousands came from all over, immigrants and all others. Christ fed them all. He didn't turn away from the sick or the sinner. Faith does not reside in a church. It resides in you and me. I have faith in people and am so hurt when they fall short. Faith is not based on truth. It is based on trust. Yes, this week I am saddened. People all over the world cry out, but few listen. What is worse is that people just don't care. They believe God will take care of them. It's not their problem. There is a song I love: We are His hands;  we are His feet; we are His children, people of the world.

I close this column asking you to pray for Erika Zak. She is beyond being able to help herself.

Monday, August 12, 2019

To sit upon a horse

Emma just started horseback riding lessons. She sits tall in her English saddle, looking as though she was always meant to be there. Our love of horses. June had it. I had it. We sat on sawhorses holding a rope and shouting, "giddyup!" Horses.

I asked June what it is that she liked about the fair. The carousel. I should have known. I, on the other hand, always got sick on the merry-go-round that went round and round and round and round. I think I'd better stop there.

A few years back June was researching carousels. She came out here where we tracked down merry-go-rounds. Then we had grandtwins (Yes, I make it one word. I'm a writer. It's my style.) We have a favorite place in Salem, Oregon, where a carousel waits for us. In the backroom of the building, the kids can actually watch the carousel creatures being carved. The last time it was a cow wearing rain boots. Their artistry is fascinating, and, to tell the truth, Loren and I are captivated with this adventure as well. We love to watch the kids go round and round on their horses. So where in the heck did carousels originate? Hm. Sounds like a column to me. June, this one is for you.

Let us start with the name. Of course, we know merry-go-round and carousel; however, there are a few more names: galloper, jumper, roundabout, horseabout and flying horses. (Hm. Bet you didn't know that little fact.) Carousels started in the days of jousting. Knights galloped in a circle as they tossed balls to one another. In fact, the word carousel comes from the Italian word garosello which means little battle. (You can find this all online.) In the 17th century the balls were tossed aside and the gold ring came into the picture. Shoot a spear through the small ring and hone your skills as a warrior. I personally think grabbing a ring is better than target practice. Of course, kids mimicked adults, as they do now, and this all became a game. An early carousel was set up in Paris where wooden horses sat for the children to play upon. You 'fair'ly well know the rest.

The classic carousels we have today are rare. More than 4,000 carousels have been built in the United States. Today only 150 survive. So when you sit your child or grandchild onto the seat of a carved animal this year's fair, remember the rich past of this, the oldest carnival ride. And, of course, our historical love of horses. Giddyup.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Summer is not over yet

So I walk into the store looking for some fun summer things and am greeted with backpacks, folder, pencils, etc. Wait!!!! Summer isn't over yet. It is 92 degrees!

Our kids here in Oregon do not go back to school until after Labor Day. Yes, they are out the second week of June, so if they went back to school the beginning of August, they would have little summer to enjoy. In past years they had early release on Wednesdays to help alleviate some added expenses to schools during those few afternoon hours. The budget could use a little help, since we do not have sales tax to help out with some of the finances in this state.

I remember when summers looked long and lazy. We were out mid-May and back to school mid August. Of course, the weather in May was not always the best and August was always hot. But having all that time without shoes was worth it.

I saw where some schools in other states are actually going to a four-day school week. That draws out questions, such as: Will teachers be able to cope with a shortened week and smaller paychecks? Will parents be able to afford extra childcare? Will kids get all that they need in four days? Will this affect the length of the school year? Yep, lots of questions.

Computers have certainly changed the face of education. My granddaughter can contact her teacher online and ask questions when she is not in attendance. She can check on her assignments and even get help while sitting in her own home. She can check her grades and do homework online. I certainly wish we have had this opportunity. I recently heard that some kids have a computer day at home where class is held online. Not bad. Of course, they miss the banter at school and the socialization. Still, they no longer lug encyclopedias around, and can go to the library online. It is the future. Oh, and the present.

I rather miss not finding summer things in the stores. It is a bit unsettling to think that I am being forced into fall already. And.... if that is not enough, I just passed a woman putting out Halloween items. ARGH!!!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A flag of red

What is it about water that calls us to it again and again? Why do the memories swarm around our heads like a whirlwind, waiting to pull us into its eye? I sit here by Flathead Lake in Montana remembering the days on Lake Hamlin in Michigan. Aunt Bessie, my mother's older sister, and Uncle Sam owned the store there. They sold everything from bait to hot dogs. First memories of the resort are of a white house on a hill wearing green shutters. It seemed large when I was a child. Now it is a little house tucked into the trees. We wear memories large in our childhoods. Trips that were long as a child are merely a whisper now. Adults that seemed so old were younger than we are now. Perhaps it is due to the shortness in height that we wore when small.

Boats pull in and out from the dock. Visitors, travelers from all over the world, are waiting to travel across the lake or gamble in the casino. I, for one, have never gambled in a Casino. That is, until today. So I sat in a chair next to some people who seemed determined to lose their cash. I thought to myself, "Looks like a good place to start." Much to my disappointment, there was neither an arm to pull nor a slot for my coins. Seems to me that I should get some exercise while I lose my money. I began with my lone dollar. Hm. Big spender. After that I worked myself up to five dollars. I won ten cents. Hm. Should have quit while I was ahead. Five dollars later I did, after winning an entire eighty cents. My gambling days are over. When I left, the losing couple were maintaining.

But why sit inside when shades of blue and green from lake to shore capture my imagination. The lake is 371 feet deep in the deepest part. I don't intend to wet my feet, so will trust it is so. My niece found fresh bear scat in the yard yesterday. Not sure it it was black or grizzly but not going to search for it. "We were sitting on the bed when a big bear lumbered past our window," my niece informed me. Informed me not long after she told me about her face off with a mountain lion. Seems not many people know that mountain lions and pumas are the same critter. (Just a tiny bit of info). I don't know much but like to share the tidbits that make me feel smart.

A red flag flies over me. It is the flag of an independent nation. A true American flag. In the beginning, no trumpets herald the Indians who lived free on the land here in Montana and across the nation. They needed no flag. This was all their land. They did not know that it would be taken away. The red flag now seems appropriate. A tepee, bow/arrow and symbols for hunting and fishing fly between the words Flathead and Nation. I would like to be part of this nation of beautiful people. I would like to live in this land that still rings of what this earth should be. I am impressed that recycling is a big thing here. We received our groceries in compostable bags. We should all be so advanced. This nation respects this earth that gave them life. They will protect it with their hearts, souls and bodies.

Today I write with the wind in my hair and the sun in my eyes. The blue water is so clear and true to what nature created before the white men came to destroy it. In the ocean, our sea life dies from plastic and hunters. Yes, I would like to be a Flathead. They have struggled. I get it. I wish I had helped them.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Blue lips and strawberry fields

Branches that sang in the summer slept in the fall and through the winter. Fields of limbs lay barren by the settling of time upon ground that would soundly sleep. Well, that is until a family came calling in the summer.

We set off to the fields with buckets in hand. Rows and rows laden with beautiful blueberries just waiting to go home with us. My children loved to pick berries. I know because I saw blue lips time after time. One cannot, no, it is impossible, to pick berries of any kind without painting your lips. A sure sign that the berries just might be a wonderful blessing after a long winter without them.

I don't remember picking berries as a kid on Neff Road. We never had any. I know Mom canned and froze produce, but I don't think we ever had berries. I know my sister will correct me if I am wrong. So coming to Oregon where the produce was much more extensive and fresher, I filled the refrigerator and freezer with the season's pick. There were so many fruits I had never seen before. My kids and I decided to try a new fruit once in awhile. Some we liked. Some we knew we would not like just from the smell of it.

The girls were small when we took them to pick berries. Again, blue lips and finger tips. Sometimes we would pick strawberries and hurry home to eat them while they were still fresh and our smiles revealed little seeds in little teeth. Strawberry shortcake. Blueberry cobbler. Memories with each and every bite. Then came the twins. It is amazing that each generation follows the same as the one before without any training. Berry seems to come from limb to lips without a moment's hesitation.

This year our crops of fresh strawberries are bursting with fruit. Contrary to when we raised potatoes and tomatoes, there are no migrants to pick them. This is a major concern as to whether the crops will be saved. Yes, the price will soar. Perhaps they can find enough children to pick them with their parents, but in hindsight we have learned that they eat more than they can toss into the bucket.

Blue lips and strawberry fields. Memories that I cherish. Fruit that we savor. Yep, blue lips and strawberry fields.


Monday, May 27, 2019

When the last bell rings

Painter Creek Ohio, December 24, 1891 Dear Mettie, (my grandma Johnson) your album is a garden spot for all your friends to sow. I'll plant a small "Forget me not" and see if it will grow. Compliments and best wishes, Lucinda Swinger.

Old tattered pages once held and read over and over by a teenager. Cherished friends in a time of one room schools and horses to ride. A time when the school bell told children to get a move on it.

The old school bell. What a history. In the Native American areas where they lived in tepees and children on prairies, a bell was rung to awaken them. The next bell was to call them to school. The teacher stood on the stoop and watched her many ages of children come from all directions. A bell ringing out hope.

There are many things we take for granted in our growing up. Of course, when my grandmother and even my parents were young, life was hard and simple. That bell at the school or the one in the church called out for many reasons. A death, a birth, bad weather, a friend in need. The bell called to worship, to school and to alarm.

I was given an old, heavy, school bell years ago. Somewhere along the way, I passed it on. I wonder about that old bell. I know it came from the Chicago area. It would be too loud to ring here in suburbia; however, I'd give anything to ring it again. In my mind I see a flurry of children bringing in kindling and pulling buckets of water from the well. Children wearing high top shoes, many too small, and most handed down. Girls with braids and boys in hats. The old bell rang, and they came.

School is almost over. Shoes will be tossed aside and crops will tended. Other children will go to camps and go traveling. They are all the same. They race through their childhoods without a care. We see the time race with the ringing of that bell. Another year gone never to return.

When did the last bell ring? What was the last school to remove the bell, the building. Did the children rush to the new school forgetting about that old bell? New replaced old. Many things were lost in this surge forward to modernization and change.

I love these old albums from my mother and grandmother. I hear the ringing of that school bell and know they giggled and laughed writing in classmates' books. The pages were new. Now they are fragile. The bell rang and time passed.

March 7, 1928 F.H.S.
Dear Ruth, When you get old, don't marry a fool. Marry somebody from Franklin School. Freeda Helman

When the last bell rings.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A full life

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude." - A.A. Milne

The door opened and Mary Kay (Snider) walked in. We had not seen one another since we were teens. Growing up at Painter Creek Church together, we were tied by friendship and the heart. She was so brave mastering three-day camp at Sugar Grove while I went home homesick on the first day. Now in our 70's we embraced in tears and still held that love.

What makes the years disappear and the heart swell with love? After going 'home', I found my love had grown for those people I met once more. Their generosity of spirit and kindness to an old kid who left the area in 1971 reminded me that I never left home. As to that man I brought along with me, he was embraced as one of their own. He was overwhelmed with the open arms that greeted him. Yes, he found 'home' as well.

As a writer and as an old native, you wonder if anyone reads your writing (and wonder why they would). You just take a brain full of words with a heart that loves her roots and writing is just something you do. But you took my words in and cherished them. I am humbled. Classmates, neighbors, readers, people I have known and those I did not came to embrace June, Loren and me. You take me to my knees, dear people. Your wonderful faces lifted me up and make me want to do better for you. There was not enough time. Never enough time.

I missed those who are now gone. We shed tears remembering. Loren wanted to meet everyone from my past and see everything about which I have written. "Can we come back next year?" he asked. Oh, yes. Please know that we relived every moment of having you with us. On Saturday we spent time with Carol, Bob, Sue, Martha, Shirley, Ron and Kay, Marilyn and Barbara, Linda, Miriam and Clarence, Doris and John, Ed, John, Jeanette and Jim, Barbara, Chester, Fred and Joice, Janet, Nita, George and JoAnn know that your lovely faces are embedded in my heart. I look forward to seeing you again only over a much longer time. Four hours was not enough. For those who could not make it to the meet and greet, let's try again soon.

"It sounds like we will be coming back for the fair," Loren said. "I was also told that I need to go to it and need to eat a Maid Rite." Thank you for making him so welcomed.

"Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie

We headed back to Angola with thoughts of you whirling around in our heads and Maid Rites on our lips. Thank you, my friends. Thank you.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The beginning and the end

Here I sit once more with a page waiting for words. I wish Emma were here to tell me how to sort through my thoughts, for you see, my heart is overflowing. So much I want to say and trying to say it in words doesn't even begin to capture how much I love the people I have seen in the last three days. Perhaps this will take a couple of columns.

So, I will start at the end. Yesterday June, Loren and I visited my dear, childhood friend Vivian (Force) and her beautiful daughters Melissa and Monica. A lot of tears have been shed and many prayers sent up asking that God give Viv to us longer for we are not done with her. We laughed at all the things we did when little girls. Years of nightly phone calls and so many sleepovers that I can't count them all. "I remember your dad coming over to pick me up when we had a big snow storm. My dad called yours telling him I wanted to come over and play." Well, Dad did pick her up, and she rode on the snowplow. There was not enough time to hold all the love we have for one another in that special hour. So I will take it home and cherish it. "My mom always said that you are as good as anyone but not better." Yes, this is the family I grew up being part of.

Saturday night we enjoyed time at the Bistro with my neighbor and other 'sister' Carol (Stager) DeMaio and her son David. Time with the Stager family was always time with my own family.

On Saturday one by one people came to the meet and greet. I wish I had an entire weekend to talk to each and learn about their connections to my family. Time to spend with old friends...and new. I still feel the warmth of those loving hearts. Memories swirled around June and I. We both were (and are) better people knowing that Neff Road is not forgotten. There will be more to come on this.

Saturday morning was spent on Neff Road. Neff Road. It isn't just a road; it is my other parent. First stop is always with Don and Janet Rhoades. Best welcoming station I know. They sent us on our special trip around the block. We stopped next to visit Janet and Rob Douglas where we were welcomed with open arms and fresh hot bread. Then we went on to visit Geneva and Roy Yoder who live where my mom's parents lived. Next stop was the farm. It has changed and is no longer ours. Loren had heard so much about Neff Road, and it didn't disappoint.

Friday we had lunch with my cousins. Alma Lea Gilbert and Ron and Angie Dapore spent a long visit with us. We had seen my Alma Lea's other daughter Kathy in Marathon, Florida. Family is so special and keeping the generations together is an honor to those who passed before. These people are a big reason why I come home.

So we are at the beginning and the end. We leave Angola for Oregon on Thursday. Time will be spent here with family. My son informed us it will be 88 when we get back. We began this trip in Key West in summer clothing and will return to the same. The most difficult thing of any trip is saying good-bye. For all of you who have so warmly embraced us, we will miss you and wish we had more time. Your kindness and open arms will remain in our hearts.

We left with a Maid Rite on our lips and a promise to return some year for the fair. Thanks, dear friend.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The journey has begun

We started off with two full days in Key West. The humidity was a bit much, but Loren loved it every bit as much as do I. We enjoyed the flora, and kidnapped my sister June to take her North.  Yesterday we met up with a cousin I haven't seen since we were children. Kathy (Sharp) Wilkins' Great Grandma and my grandmother were sisters. We met she and her husband Al in Marathon. Then we were off to St. Augustine, where I am writing now.

My son's father-in-law owns a lovely marina where we are staying in a condo overlooking at least 200 yachts and sailboats. I looked out over the marina from my bed last night, watching the water sparkle around the tall masted boats.

Today we heard about pirates and ate at the Florida Cracker (which is named after the sound of a cracking whip). We learned about Ponce De Leon and a man named Flagler. Then, we shopped. Now if you are a Loxley girl or know of one, you realize that shopping is in the blood. Mom was a shopper out of sight!!! So when June and I get together, it is more of the same.

Poor Loren has had to deal with all of the old stories and tales of the past, a past on Neff Road. All siblings should be as close as the two of us. Thank goodness Loren gets it. The years melt away, and we are embraced once more by our love of the farm and of our family. Yes, we are on our way.

Tomorrow we leave for Savannah. Loren will get another look at the old South. And, again, the Loxley girls will shop. Next stop will be to visit our other sister Peg in Virginia. Finally on Tuesday, we tackle the last leg of the trip.

On Friday we will come into Greenville to visit with family. It is indeed a precious time for us. I want to show Loren around on our first day. On Saturday we will hope to see as many of you as possible at the Turtle Creek Country Club from 1-5. It is the easiest way to see many. And, if it is like the last time, old friends will find other old friends and pick up where they left off. One difference this year is that June is coming with us. I know she will be happy to see old friends and once more plant her feet on Neff Road. Please come.

This foot planting on Neff Road is not easy for us. We love that farm. It not only holds our memories; it also holds our hearts.

I will try to keep up my column while we are gone. Right now I am in need of a long nap!!! Be safe. Be happy. See you soon. The journey has begun.