Archive for July, 2014

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. (Albert Einstein)

While I loved and admired my grandmother, we didn’t share that many secrets and stories. I treasure the few incidents from her life that she did tell me. Her health wasn’t good. She lacked the stamina for running or getting down on the floor with an active child. Moreover, those were formal times. The generations were held together with a love focused on respect instead of interaction. I’m grateful for a break in the generation barrier that allows me to play with my grandchildren—to enter into their imaginative realm.

During an out-of-the-box moment I try to teach pretending-to-be toddlers Kate and Rebe how to say Mama. They refuse. They can speak in full, well expressed sentences. The word, Mama, however, isn’t on their list. They giggle at the absurdity of it, and I roll my eyes.

“You can say paparazzi,” I say with an exaggerated sigh.

“Paparazzi,” they repeat with perfect diction.

Their laughter fills the room.

“But not Mama?” I plead.

They shake their heads.

“What about historiography?”

“Historiography!” the girls say, not missing a syllable.

Then Kate breaks the tone of the game. “What does it mean, Grandma?”

“That’s a college word. It is the study of history and how it is put together from the tellers’ viewpoint. The South would have a completely different way of seeing the Civil War than the North would.”

She nods, appearing to understand.

She runs to get a note card to write down the information. It is storming, so I am glad that I don’t go to the computer for an official definition. Dictionary.com presents a meaning less easy to process—true, but nowhere near as child-friendly.

“More words! More words!” Kate exclaims returning to character.

But Grandpa enters the room. It is time for a different activity.

I hope we play this game again. We reach from the real into the unreal and back again, with elastic minds. Sometimes I learn from my girls; sometimes they learn from me. Our time is always an adventure.

believe in magic

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Old age ain’t no place for sissies. (Bette Davis)

My 94-year-old mother-in-law sleeps on a narrow couch. She looks as uncomfortable there as she does inside her fragile body. She smiles and seems emotionally touched by the gentle stories I tell her about her grandson and great-grandchildren. But, I suspect she would agree with Bette. I have enough tact, however, not to discuss the obvious.

While my mother-in-law rests I elevate and ice an amazingly painful foot. I injured it the first day we arrived. This isn’t the out-of-town weekend I had in mind.

At the same time I sit with my youngest granddaughter, Ella, on the back porch of my brother-and-sister-in-laws’ house. Ella watches Peppa Pig on my iPad as I watch my ten-year-old granddaughter learn the art of hooking a bass with a lure. Ella and I are at the top of several rolling hills so I can’t see Kate’s face, but I know she has wanted to do this for a long time.

The action on the porch is different, subtle. Several ruby-throated hummingbirds flit close by. Then other species of hummingbirds appear—long enough for me to see their color, nothing more. A striped lizard makes an appearance. The next heat wave hasn’t passed through yet. The shade brings amazing comfort.

I think about my mother-in-law sleeping inside. My limitation, even though this one seems temporary, reminds me to celebrate what I can do—not what stops me. Sure, I can’t trek through the woods right now, but someone needs to stay with our youngest granddaughter. A four-year-old could create a hazard among swinging hooks. And who would have volunteered to be a companion to our littlest one, even if she didn’t have a foot the color of bad sunburn? Uh, Grandma?

Ella points to the screen as Papa Pig dives into the water without making a splash. She grins. Perhaps she realizes the absurdity of diving anywhere without making an impact of some kind. Ella already knows life isn’t easy. She approaches Down syndrome with an up attitude.

I study the striated skin on my arms. The challenges of aging occur slowly. I have no idea how many losses it will ask of me. But I’m not living in tomorrow. Today a blonde beauty smiles at me with a love of life that’s contagious. She doesn’t count wrinkles; she looks straight into the heart.

I chose to spend time with Kate shortly after she was born because my mother-in-law had bonded with my children. She showed me how much that connection is worth. Nothing less than priceless. That lesson isn’t lost because my mother-in-law is now in the winter of her life.

Here’s to the older folk of the world. We’re all headed that way. Eventually.

enjoy little things words of wisdom

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You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgotten—it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive. (Maya Angelou)

Before the temperatures temporarily dropped in my corner of the Midwest, I watched the fluctuating dark and bright skies and wondered if they were playing some kind of game. Either that or the atmosphere has a bipolar disorder with rapid cycling. At the pool on Saturday my husband and I were able to tread water for almost two hours while the sky simply made threats. By Sunday we weren’t in the water thirty minutes before the thunder and lightning started.

Storm and blue sky often coexist in metaphorical ways, too. They just aren’t always as obvious.

I’m trying to figure out a problem with the computer—something like asking a second grader to solve quadratic equations. A message has popped up about the validity of my word processor. My gut suspects it is spam; emotion makes a different response. So, my head suggests that I try the checks I know.

While I wait for my icons to reappear after an update and restart I study my current desktop photo—of my two older grandchildren in matching Sisters-Forever T-shirts. The girls both appear happy, confident in their own styles: Kate’s natural smile shows her readiness to embrace the good in all. Rebe’s closed-mouth grin promises humor, in some form, as well as the blunt honesty innate in children too young to be anyone other than themselves.

Actually I have no idea what the girls thought or felt as the photo was taken. A photo presents only one moment. The observer guesses based on clues.

I’m asking what-the-heck-is-going-on-with-my-computer? I’m also questioning my ability to solve problems. And this waiting feels longer than the minute or two it actually takes to watch for the bizarre message to either reappear or vanish into whence it came. The speed of thought is rapid. It can go backward and forward through decades within sixty seconds.

By the time I was the girls’ ages, I already had accepted false notions of myself. Insecurity could have been my mantra, stated in so many forms I automatically went to the end of the line in almost any situation. If I could I would go back through the years and rewrite history, become a different person. However, that person wouldn’t have walked the same journey, and these two dressed-alike granddaughters wouldn’t exist.

I think about positive attitude all the time. However, the notion that all must be blue skies and sweet-smelling flowers interferes with reality. Sure, I need to have an outlook that says today’s effort is worth it. But, sometimes that effort can cost a few tears—maybe even a complaint or twobefore success is realized. No one or no thing is perfect. Sometimes success means choosing another path, without crying, Why me?

So far, so good in the computer fix department, even if I don’t know how I did it. Not sure it matters.

being happy

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“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.” (Walt Streightiff)

Sometimes the imaginative play of my two older grandchildren makes me laugh out loud. I’m their quintessential audience. They know it; so do I.

Rebe’s doll-under-the-T-shirt-motherhood game expands as she decides she is a mama who gives birth to a new baby every day for ten days in a row. Every doll and stuffed animal comes off the toy shelf: dog, rabbit, cow, even Barney the dinosaur. Rebe glories in her perpetual-motion image. Her ten-year-old big sister, Kate, recognizes the impossibility of it all and expands on the scenario. She decides that she is among the newborn lineup. Not only is she the product of a mob birth, she can talk, crawl, and create mischief.

Naturally, Kate notes, this phenomenon would draw the attention of paparazzi. As soon as a fantasy crowd appears she says, “goo.” After they leave, her antics return.

I write fiction and have been publishing frequently with http://pikerpress.com. However, my stories need a basis in reality. Rebe mimics a rooster to announce morning and then moves the day into evening thirty seconds later. Characters change places midstream.

For a child an empty plastic teacup holds coffee, tea, or a magic potion that turns a bird into a frog or a chicken into a dinosaur. Possibilities are endless. A youngster’s chi embraces the sky and has arm room left to grasp more.

I am in no hurry for my granddaughters to grow up. Sure, I’m tired by the end of the day after trying to keep up with individuals who move with hummingbird-wing speed. My own chores remain untouched. I have written nothing. All tasks have been put off for tomorrow, maybe the day after. But, not many people have been in the presence of a woman who gave birth to ten babies—almost simultaneously.

Besides, there’s something priceless about sitting in front of the television between two girls who both want dibs on Grandma. Actually, I’m not owned by either girl, just temporarily transported into their world where anything can happen. A zombie may suddenly appear and eat us alive. Yet, we can laugh through the experience and leap into the next one, without losing any of the fun.

save the kid in you


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Dare to be naïve. (Richard Buckminster Fuller )

Our youngest granddaughter, four-year-old Ella, sounds out words but doesn’t talk in many sentences yet. Down syndrome has affected her speech. She understands, but is limited in her ability to speak fluently.

I am giving Ella a bubble bath as she plays with water toys. The boat soon becomes a cooking pot where she makes soup.

“What kind is it?” I ask.


As she pours that pot out into the tub, she dips more suds into her boat-pot. “White soup.”

I suspect that she wants to add some dessert to the menu when she says, “pie.”

“What kind?”

She grins—with an energy that reaches across her face, pauses, and then mouths what sounds like flatulence.

That is not the answer I expect. Apparently her interaction with other children at school and daycare has extended her life appreciation in multiple directions. “Fart-sound pie,” I tell the towel rack.

“Fart,” she says, once, the R well-rounded and clear. She giggles. So do I. Fortunately the word does not become a mantra the way it does with most children when they discover minor vulgarity.

She merely laughs, her blue eyes flashing simple delight. After she is dried and dressed she runs holding the boat out in front of her, leading it from one room to the other. She has places to go and is eager to travel—wherever her path leads.

When her older cousins, Kate and Rebe, arrive several days later the first thing they want to know is when they can see Ella next. Since I don’t have a date yet I share the bathtub story. Ella’s sense of humor can be present anyway.

Kate and Rebe repeat the tale as if they are putting it into a mini-drama and need to memorize every detail. It will grow stale, in time, replaced by another incident. But I hope the three girls are always eager to see one another, to celebrate the freshness of who-they-are. May their naivety remain intact for many years. And may they continue sharing it with Grandma.

After all, Ella’s first full sentence was, “I love you.”


bath toys



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