Archive for September, 2012

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. (Robert Brault)

My younger son, Steve, calls Wednesday evening with an unexpected proposal. “If you can collect all your portable phones, right now, I’ll give you two-hundred dollars.”

It doesn’t take me long to figure out the search would be useless. “Ah, you’ve got one of them, right?”

“In Ella’s diaper bag.”

Now I don’t believe in false accusation, but since our little one thinks a phone belongs in the precious treasure category, circumstantial evidence is present. Fortunately, the loss causes no real harm.

“I need to go into your part of town tomorrow anyway and drop off Grandpa’s laundry. I’ll get it then.”

After a re-charge the phone should be just fine. I am grateful for the gift of communication—and for the fact that Steve’s call comes before I searched under the bed, between couch cushions, among scattered toys, finding nothing but frustration.

Instead I find a laugh, as well as the opportunity to celebrate the day again as I look through the kids’ fresh art work, the books they enjoyed, and remember the simple moments that don’t seem like much on the surface, but are part of our common history.

However, in the future I may need to check the diaper bag  for contraband.

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What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. (Jane Goodall)

Our youngest granddaughter politely coughs into her hand. Her hand is full of blue chalk, but it’s the thought that counts. I smile at her blue face and she smiles back before she goes back to filling the chalkboard with her spontaneous creation.

She pauses and hands me a piece of yellow chalk. I get a turn, too, albeit short.

Ella has spent her first overnight with us. I’m amazed at how smoothly it went. I’m even more amazed at her mommy and daddy, Sarah and Steve. They are busy talking to Steve’s daddy right now, in our living room after Sunday breakfast. Steve and Sarah have no idea what words I’m conjuring about them—about what a blessing they are.

It isn’t always easy to care for a child who not only needs physical and occupational therapy, but has medical concerns as well. (Of course Ella helps in her own way. She has the personality of at least three angels and the heart of four.) Nevertheless, it takes time—and money to be the parent of any child with exceptional needs. My son and daughter-in-law both work; then they volunteer for the Down Syndrome Association.

This past summer Steve and Sarah earned over seven-thousand dollars and placed seventh among contributors in Greater Cincinnati for the Down Syndrome Association. Of course they had help from friends and family. My assistance was minimal. I painted a few cups for a raffle. Jay and I babysat while the more organized folk prepared a huge festival.

However, it’s the simple, everyday dedication I love most about my own family, the fact that our little one has learned to cough into her hand instead of into the air, the way she waves good-bye at preschool with three-year-old independence, the fact that she is learning the alphabet with enthusiasm.

Her development is a direct reflection on her parenting, on two of the most wonderful people in the world. Ella is blessed, and so am I.

photos taken at the Buddy Walk

at Sawyer Point in Cincinnati on September 8, 2012

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What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure. (Gene Perret)

Rebe (Rebecca) and I are the only persons in the playground at two in the afternoon on a Wednesday. It’s Grandma and Rebe time, those precious moments when I take our middle granddaughter out of the house so Grandpa can get her cousin Ella ready for a nap. Then, Rebe and I will pick up Kate from school.

The playground soon turns into an imaginative world.

“Come on up to the top with me, Grandma?” Rebe calls from the other side of an orange tunnel, on a metal portion of one of the play structures.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t consider it. I mean, this stuff was designed for children between the ages of five and twelve. I hesitate mentioning how many times I have been twelve. Besides, there’s no sign mentioning weight limit. However, Rebe doesn’t have anyone else to play with.

“Okay, sweetie. But if there is any hint of a creaking sound, I’m going to have to go back.”

The wide, but low tunnel between slide and steps doesn’t groan. I’m grateful that I am barely five feet tall. Perhaps a parent or two has needed to rescue a sobbing child once in awhile. Maybe the engineer had that in mind. Nevertheless, I regret a hardy lunch.

“This is kindergarten,” she announces in her official I’m-the-teacher voice, then begins mimicking the sign language posted in one corner. Good. Reality. I can follow this, even with an almost five-year-old girl as instructor. Then Rebe says she is going to sit in the old person corner of the classroom—the entrance to the slide. (The way downhill, I guess)

“In the where?” I’m lost again.

“I’m an old person now, so that’s where I go in the kindergarten room.”

“Okay.” Rule number one in let’s-pretend interaction: Accept any scene as long as it is innocuous. “How old are you, old person?”


Well, at least that truly is old. I expected her to say nineteen or twelve—or something closer to my age.

I break pretend mode and ask, “When you go to kindergarten next year, can I go with you? I didn’t get to go when I was five.”

She shrugs. “Sure.”

That game ends. Perhaps I broke the spell. We go to a bench with a steering wheel attached at ground level. Rebe is now my mother. The front and back seats merge in the imaginative world—no sense mentioning inconsistencies. That would only confirm my lack of pretending experience.

“Can I drive, Mommy?” I ask.

“No, Mommy has to do it.”

“Because it is dangerous for kids to drive?”

“Yes,” she says with mock certainty.

But I have brought too much adult truth into play. “Why is it dangerous for kids to drive?” she asks later as we leave to get her older sister.

“Because kids don’t know how to do it yet.”

But that doesn’t mean you aren’t someone now, I think. That what you know, decides much of anything. Sometimes simply being is enough. I notice that the tightness in the back of my neck from weeks of stress, has relaxed.

“I love you, Grandma.”

“I love you, too.”

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Let’s stop “tolerating” or “accepting” difference, as if we’re so much better for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference, because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different. (Kate Bornstein)

Ted Kremer won a day as bat boy for the Cincinnati Reds. The story appeared as front page news on Sunday, September 16,  By many folks’ standards, Ted, also known as Teddy, is different. He was born with a tripled twenty-first chromosome: Down syndrome. The full article is worth the time.

 http://cin.ci/PGyzar by John Erardi

This story has been posted and re-posted more than any other on Facebook, and it makes me smile. In fact, I shared it, too. There are enough stories about fraud, murder, and messy politics to pollute the press.

During the game, Ted (Teddy) got excited a tad prematurely. This exchange was taken directly from the article:

We wait until we get three outs before we count this one as a win,” said Votto, gently.

Teddy took the hint and waited for the final out.

And what did Votto tell you then, Teddy?

“He said, ‘I love you, Ted. Thank you for everything.’

It’s an upbeat attitude like Ted’s that makes this world bearable.

I know. I have a three-year-old girl in my life with an extra chromosome that somehow blocks out negative thinking. Ella has sunshine-white hair, and I have often wondered if it isn’t part halo. Oh, she has her human side, too. She knows how to test limits, and loves to throw any object—ball or not. It is not wise to leave eyeglasses within her reach. However, she doesn’t seem to learn trouble-making as quickly as she does love.

Last Wednesday when we had all three of our grandchildren at our house, I was on the phone with Ella’s daddy when I heard some minor fuss between her two older cousins. They were fighting over who got to play with Ella. I doubt she enjoyed being an object in the fight, but I’m sure she realized she was wanted.  She knew she was loved, just as Ted understood it.

Folk like Ted and Ella, who have to work harder to walk, talk, and learn the alphabet take the straight path to the important. Ego doesn’t get in the way.

It makes me want to alter the description special needs, to simply special.

photo from Circle-21

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We should tackle reality in a slightly jokey way, otherwise we miss its point. (Lawrence Durrell, novelist, poet, and playwright, 1912-1990)

Hi there, Refrigerator! Yeah, I know. We haven’t spent time together in awhile. Usually I just take what I need from you, or ask you to hold another few sacks of items from the grocery. In other words I take you for granted.

Oh, I hope your feelings weren’t hurt when you were leaking water from the freezer all over your interior. We threatened to replace you. I never asked whether you wanted to retire or not. I mean, some folk are a little sensitive about their age. But you came through in the end. Thanks—a little late.

But today, well, you looked kind of empty for a change, and I noticed you needed a good cleaning. Yeah, I know, I should have taken care of that weeks ago. Cans of expired soda. Guess it’s a good thing I’m not giving my grandkids junk drinks very often. Besides the cans were taking up shelf space that could be given more worthy attention.

What’s that? I couldn’t hear you over your compressor. Oh, you think this is some kind of metaphor. That the cleaning could really mean something else. That after all these years I should dump out old resentments hidden behind the sour tuna salad—something like that. Heck, I did that years ago!

But then, the oddest twinge comes up in me that has nothing to do with the pile of garbage rising on the floor. Sure I said I forgot all about that misunderstanding, moved on. Uh huh. That’s why I put the rotten lettuce next to the fresh milk right now. Hmmn, wonder if not-good-enough is hiding under the maple syrup ring. And fear of making a mistake is lurking in an unwashed corner. Okay, Ter, one more time, from the top, focused.

Guess you have a point, trusty, rusty old friend. Maybe we should get together more often.

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Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there. (Thomas Berger)

In the past few weeks I have felt surrounded by people suffering with grief or unspeakable pain. Sure, I do what I can, but that desire to take a mystical Magic Eraser and blot it all out for them, is still there. I suspect that is normal. When all the listening I can do is completed, it’s time to let it go, revitalize for the next round.

I decide to pick up a magazine and read it cover to cover—blank out a bit. My husband is watching sports. I don’t know enough about the ways of any ball to join him in that outlet. Yes, my new “Writers Digest.” No, the second article suggests writing grief. Pffft.

Next ploy. A poetry jam. What’s that? It’s a group of writers who bring one poem each, read them aloud, then write another and share again. There just happens to be one on Tuesday evening. The group is open to any poet, but the five of us who arrive also know one another from another group; we can be honest about who we are. Sadness mingles with laughter, two sides of the same day, morning and evening, light and darkness. Every word I hear inspires.

One of the poets has written, beautifully, about a storm. My thoughts go to the candle that fills in when the electricity goes out, and I write:

A candle flame trembles in the darkness.

Its brightness is rich as it casts long, uneven shadows.

Modern lighting claims fewer flaws.

I take its clarity for granted,

but have more in common with the quivering flame.

Peace upon all, through all!

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If God had intended us to follow recipes,
He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.
(Linda Henley)

Sure when Kate demonstrated a cheerleader move I responded with a mighty high kick for a woman my age—right there on the sidewalk at a local shopping mall. Sophistication has never suited me. Of course it is unlikely I would have done it alone or with adult company, but this entry is not about either cheer leading or limber movements. It concerns creativity in the face of limitations.

I have asthma currently controlled with medication. Unfortunately the drugs have side effects. My hands tremble, especially after morning dosing. This doesn’t stop me. I play guitar, do calligraphy, and paint delicate glassware and children’s wear. But baking a custard pie means a spill in the oven and a shrill response from the smoke alarm.

Custard pie is one of my husband’s favorite desserts. It is also one of our best friend’s favorites. We are celebrating his birthday today, and I need to find a way to bake one without calling on the wrath of our ultra-sensitive battery-operated friend. I’ve tried the little-at-a-time trick and the pour-while-on-the-rack ploy. Both resulted in enough smoke to cure a ham.

I have an idea, and hope it will work. I call it bowl pie, made the same way I make any other custard pie, and it is relatively simple.) I figure the mixture will be easier to pour into a bowl without spilling. I make my crust in an oven-safe bowl, then press it against the side. While that warms in a 350 degree oven I heat two cups of skim milk and one-half cup sugar in a pot just enough to steam. Then, I whisk in four eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla, add nutmeg to taste, pour into the prepared bowl and bake. (Heating both crust and filling keeps the bottom from getting soggy.) Bake for about an hour.

Since the custard pie doesn’t come to the top, I add a can of apples mixed with fresh blueberries for color when the bowl pie is done. Cherries would also work. The only problem with this dessert is that it is difficult to cut small pieces.

My guests don’t see that as much of a problem. The scale tomorrow however, could have a different point of view. This isn’t something I plan to prepare every day, however. I mean, I’d like to continue kicking, literally and figuratively, with my grandchildren a bit longer. Don’t care how peculiar it looks to folks who pass by.

Sorry there is no picture of the pie. There isn’t enough left to photograph.

from Positive Inspirational Quotes

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The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy. (Kalu Kalu)

“I’m a grownup,” eight-year-old Kate announces.

She means that she can take care of her almost-three-year-old cousin just fine. I don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed while I tend to other duties. She’s at the helm. But her tone is serious, and childhood is a precious time. She doesn’t know it.  It’s one of those realizations that won’t surface until long after her American Girl doll has stopped being a daily, living story—when riding in a car seat is no longer a recent memory.

I look at her freckled face and large eyes, her hair disheveled from a hot day in third grade. “No, sweetheart. You aren’t grown up yet.”

“Yes, I am.” She sounds confident rather than insulted.

“You aren’t an adult yet, but you can do a great job of helping. I know I can count on you.”

How do you explain childhood to a child? It’s a primordial experience. Actually, I’m not sure words are sufficient. Who does he or she see? A nuisance? The person responsible for the noise level in the house? The one blamed when there are size-three muddy footprints on the rug? Or a unique individual with limitless possibilities? Little people don’t grow into somebody; they have always been someone. Arriving at wisdom, however, takes a lifetime. Maybe longer.

“Let’s make plans for Ella’s birthday party?” I ask.

She thinks it is a wonderful idea. Simple? Yes. I will forget the details of this day by next week. Probably sooner. But pseudo-grownup Kate knows that her choices count, too. Besides, Grandma wants to spend time with her. I’m hoping it makes a difference in her future. It already makes a difference in my “now.”

pic from Positive Words to Love By

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Computers are useless. They can only give you answers. (Pablo Picasso)

Actually, computers create problems, too. Just like people do. They woo you with all their abilities. They save and organize your thoughts and let you speak to people all over the world at the touch of a key. They are insidious for many with an addictive gene. If I’m honest I will admit that I have checked e-mail before brushing my teeth in the morning. I’ve plugged in a line or two of a story at two o’clock in the morning. Not often, but frequently enough to say yes on a computer-addict survey if there were such a thing.

Now my little Asus is struggling. Can’t go into detail. Not now. But her physician, Alan, my nephew, will be visiting tomorrow. That is why there haven’t been any posts the last few days. However, Alan said I should be okay—at least for now. So, I tell my baby she will heal, eventually. And the truth is that my laptop won’t need a sedative during servicing. But I might!

Who knows? Perhaps in this process I will learn a bit more about the 0’s and 1’s that create the infinite possibilities that combine and make me fall into both love and hate for this technology.

In the meantime, paper and pen are good—as long as I can read my own handwriting.

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