Posts Tagged ‘children’

The day audibly begins at seven am, nearly every day. I hear a greeting, or a bump on the floor above my downstairs apartment, and know that one or both of the dear people upstairs are ready for the routine that puts them above and beyond any married people I have ever known personally.

The sounds morph into a stair creaks, and two sets of footsteps that stop for the next half hour. I know where they stop. It is at the double recliner love-seat that is well named. My daughter and her husband are sitting there in bathrobes with their bare feet up and the morning paper out. If the TV is on, I don’t hear it.

What I do hear is two voices. TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER! Often there is just a comfortable burble of sound, intermittent, and reciprocal. Sometimes, like this morning, there is an outburst– I don’t hear the words. It sounds heartfelt, but I can’t really tell the nature of the passion… excitement, assertiveness, or consternation? Can’t tell.

What I do know is that these people spend the first half hour of each morning at a regular meeting with coffee, newspaper, and each other. They share the news. They offer their opinions. They don’t always agree. But they always talk.

My daughter and her husband have been married for 33 years. They are dynamic, opinionated people with an inbuilt portion of “feist” that is not boring, and is sometimes volatile. They have powered through serious differences of opinion, and some big weather-changes. My own marriage did not survive such stresses, but theirs has.

These two are evidence that love is an action verb.

Living with relatives is a dicey matter sometimes. And I am mindful of the stresses to my own marriage caused by the in-house residency of my own mother in years past. No doubt my former husband suffered somewhat silently. We didn’t talk to each other every day at seven. Sometimes we didn’t talk to each other at all…other than in passing. We lasted 20 rather passive-aggressive years.

Neither of us found success in remarriage. We never learned how to “love”, v. trans. Not at least the talking back and forth kind of love.

Today there was an outburst…just about fifteen minutes ago. Footsteps went rather loudly up the stairs at 7:30 am…to the shower. As usual.

Outbursts are not terminal here, with them. They are fearless about communication of nearly any sort. They work the muscles of this marriage. Sometimes they get sore.

But they talk to each other. And answer. Every day.

I am in awe. And not walking on eggshells here. Seems as if their stability will withstand the presence of a mother-in-law. If not, they will say so. I count on it by now.

Old Swimmer


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No emotion can rip to the bone like confronting the act of killing an innocent. But we don’t seem to really “get it” until we can get our mind around “someone like us.”

The people of the western world are shaken because the little children someone wantonly mowed down with a weapon were the kind we see waiting for school buses and playing soccer and acting in little school plays in our own community. In today’s news, it was the little ones in a privileged community in Connecticut, some of the more well-to-do, and so we are hearing much more press about the slaughter of these little ones. What we don’t seem to have room for in our sense of reality is that little children like these are suffering all the time and in similarly violent ways every day in all corners of our world, every day  in war-torn lands like Syria, and yes, in the cities and rural lands of our own country…the land of the free and home of the brave. We don’t hear about it, but it is going on all the time.  Every day.  Sometimes under our noses.

Some good folks are called to comfort a broken heart; they have the spirit and motivation and courage to spend every ounce of energy giving care to such tender and defenseless young human beings.Healers can be found in hospitals, and in shelters, where the press doesn’t come. It’s ordinary in these places for kindergarteners and ten year olds to own stories of violence and cruelty of the most vicious kind. But we are insulated from this heartache simply because it is so common and un-newsworthy, and we don’t “know’ these kids. They may be the kids of a different ethnicity, or of people who are not in our sort of world. They may be the children of immigrants, or children of the poor or children of addicted parents. Or they may be the hidden children of throngs of “regular” people we don’t know exist… groups we are not famiiar with. And they may be children in our own neighborhoods, behind doors with boughs of holly, and Christmas lights.

Now and again we are appalled to find that a child has been enduring violence every day for months and years on end. It appalls and sickens us. But we forget. We can’t believe it!

Personally, I have always had a strange reaction when my chidren are hurting: my sympathetic pain happens in my inner thighs..maybe because I bore my children by natural childbirth and my body remembers the very reality of that event. The power of parental love is desperately strong. A parent will fight for the life of their child. They will die for their child’s sake.

Remember the account of the Massacre of the Innocents …the devastating art rendition of people slaughtering babies in an effort to prevent the prophesy of Jesus to come true? I could never stand that story or those paintings. How, I wonder, can an artist spend time depicting such an event, without being somewhat depraved by the process?

Can we deal with this? What can be our best response, now that we are looking in the face of the suffering of parents and grandparents like us whose little ones have been shattered to pieces before their eyes?

Is there a way to care for people who have serious mental issues that are still at large and liable to “snap” and take some bloody fantasy as reality? Are we able to derail the culture of violence championed by our entertainment media…and why is it we are so drawn to violence, and attracted to guns and warfare? What makes a human a monster? What makes a human think that other humans are monsters? We are certainly at war with our own kind. We are killing ourselves.

The world is trying to end this way. We decry the “sweat shops” in other lands. Do we think of the actual people when they burn up, or starve? Are we aware that there are routine executions in North Korea of people who have been “ratted on” by their peers, simply because it will be someone else, not me, who will be executed?

Will the murder of Christ ever be recognized as the surrogate death of innocence? And will we ever stop killing God?

NOTE:  12-17-12,  it is still the subject of nearly every conversation,  and I am glad.  If we are appalled, let us get mileage out of this awful event.  Our laws need to be re-humanitized;  we must look at responsibility with as much fervor as we look at liberty.

Related excerpts below:

December 16 2012 : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/syria-refugee-camps_n_2310152.html

December 17 2012: http://gawker.com/5968818/i-am-adam-lanzas-mother

December 18, 2012:  http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/12/18/preventing-next-adam-lanza-requires-action-today/

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Seniors have plateaus just as growing children do, only in reverse. They grow smaller, blinder, deafer, more forgetful and then they begin walking not so well.

They have been depending on the Social Security system to keep them through the downward spiral and tuck them in at the end in some sort of respectable way— not a mass grave or dumpster.

That’s pretty blunt, isn’t it?

Well, blunt is the blow, I am telling you from my current viewpoint, being at the flat part of a new lower ledge of the series of plateaus.

When beautiful winter makes you stiff and exhausted and unable to keep your own fire stoked, it IS a blow. Instead of inviting folks to come by and warm themselves, you find yourself hunkering as close as you can to a frail little lightbulb, and if you are lucky, your grown children recognize that you need a REAL fire, since you have nearly totally lost your own.

Senior Solution; Hermes heading home to Hestia

My travels (the other side of the story–did you click the link in the title?) have taken me on journeys rewarding and then other journeys that were clearly designed to be instructional, often with a large discomfort factor.

“Well, it’s how I am,” I explain to the kids. “I just TRY things.”

The counterpart to Hestia , the stay-by- the-fire goddess, was Hermes the traveler-adventurer god, strikingly different from Hestia, but a very close friend and neighbor to her.they were a duo who were the best of friends who did not marry and likely would  never have been compatible mates, so different were they.

I think I’ve got some humanoid  (sub-godly) traits of each of these opposites and I am now traveling from Hermes-mode back into Hestia-mode for the preservation of body and soul.

I am not alone. The economy, you know has yanked the rug out from under many hard-working retirees. And the cruel winter just past, and the inability of this 74 year old body to spring back in the expected way it always has — it’s a rude surprise that happened in one winter’s time.

Mortality is a subject that comes into stunning focus maybe once or twice during most folks’ lives, especially when a “close call” happens or when a dear one dies. Most of the time we let the matter of death simmer quietly on the back burner to be dealt with “later.” It’s not number one on our list of favorite things to plan for.  Once we have the matter of soul settled, we relax.

A winter like the once we just had in 2011-2012 brings the motality matter into sharp focus. When one has no way out of the cabin but to stumble down the moutainside a quarter mile in ice covered snow up to the knee caps, and one has a trick knee that will not operate properly on the downhill slope. It’s cllimbing down a steep slope so you can get to your car parked in a plowed area below. Then you dig out your car, and go to the store and get supplies. Then you park your car where it was before and get to carry the packages of supplies back up the mountain, and you have to stop every five steps to catch your breath.

This is not ordinary outdoor fun, it’s a real test of your physical plant, and my body did not pass it well at all. I really did feel as if I might die. I actually imagined that the local mountain lion might be considering me likely prey (wounded small mammal), and be planning his attack. I tried to make myself look big while bending over to catch my breath. I dragged my groceries rather than carry them, and I said loud things in all kinds of voices, mostly gruff.  I tried to sound as big as God.

“Mom, we have to get you OUTTA there,” the kids said. And they were right.

So my primeval wonderland is standing out there looking in my big windows, looking at me with sad leaves and the birds are gone because I have weaned them away from regular feedings. The intimacy I have enjoyed with the forest spirits– plants and animals– is being stressed now with the reality that I am having to pack up my belongings and journey away from them.

I do remember that comforting hearth, and the groaning board, and the laughter and pranks of my dear ones around the room. And now my young are strong and seem to have endless energy to fix, and do, and make. Yes, I will, as they suggest, come there and stay a while.

The love has changed hands so often between me and my children, and has been so thoroughly tested by fire and has come through stronger because of it, that I am secure in the bond, and content to lay aside my traveling cases and rest at their hearth and learn their new foods and teach their new generation the old stories.

They can afford me, they say, and I can come and rest there until my strength returns so that I can at least do the things I do well. They will do the things that are too much for me now. And it is with honor that they receive me at their table.

“Mom, you did the same for us for such a long time. You taught us how.”

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One Christmas Day, a Sunday,  in the late 70’s, it was very snowy in Issaquah WA and all family parties were cancelled.  But we had a driver in our house who grew up in Minnesota and we had a good car for snow driving.  We decided that, now that the gifts were all open, we would go OUT to dinner (gift to me, the Mom) and then out to a movie (gift for the Kids.)   The movie we chose was really special, and I feel sure it had been scheduled to attract the Jewish folks who were not doing Christmas, but wanted to do something special on a Sunday.

The film was a Canadian release just now in 2011 restored onto DVD, and it was called Lies My Father Told Me.

Check it out!


We do tell our children lies.  They are called by many names,  including stories, tales, fairytales, traditions, mysteries, fables, wishful thinking, and other euphemisms.  But we do tell them to our kids even while sternly requiring them to always tell the truth.

The first big lie my parents asked me to tell was the memorable moment my father told me to keep my little brother in the dark about Santa.  I had asked the definitive question about Santa and got a straight answer from my Dad (I was about five).  He then inducted me into the world of Lies Because We Love Them.   I was to perpetuate the lie about Santa to be nice to my little brother!

Today, while I was showering, I was thinking of my six year old grandson who is boasting his first ever missing tooth, and is still trying to figure out how the tooth fairy found it under his pillow and replaced it with two quarters without him knowing when or how.  He had been staying awake waiting for her, but she seemed not to have come.  In the middle of the night he visited his dad about some other matter, and his dad took him back to bed, and casually asked whether the tooth fairy had come yet.  Nope, my grandson assured him.  Better check, said his Dad.  The eyes nearly popped out of his head when he found the tooth gone and two quarters in its place.

I was showering and smiling and then I thought…I know…I’ll send a letter from the Retired Tooth Fairy saying that she had heard skuttlebutt about the going rate for detatched children’s teeth having doubled in the space of about thirty years, and she was wanting to know if he REALLY got TWO quarters instead of one.     Then I thought about the lie that would eventually get outed and decided I had better not aid and abet or I would also be in bad graces when all was exposed and the young man was disabused of his delightful belief.  Just one of the disappointments that we run into as we grow into adults.

Do these lies hurt our sense of truth?  Do they help us to use magical thinking when the chips are down and we are really not wanting to know something…like that if we don’t study our vocabulary list we will not pass the quiz?  This could escalate into a habit that affects other more important matters.(“If I sneak off and have a clandestine affair my spouse will never find out about it and so it will be okay.”)

It was quite a long time ago that I found out that lying takes an enormous toll. What a good aha that was!!  The self-blackmail we use to cover a lie is possibly the largest part of the price we pay– how many lies pile up to cover the other lie before it all falls down like a pack of cards and we are then ashamed and must possibly pay lots of retribution to family , friends, or the government.  Not only that, but we have had to keep a close watch on whether other people are suspicious.  All the time.  And the trust that used to be between us and “them” is corrupted… we know they shouldn’t have trusted us,  and we are afraid of any who will eventually learn that we are not trustworthy.  So we act guilty.  And it’s because we ARE.

Getting a clean slate is the most empowering thing.  Keeping it clean is fairly rigorous, too, in today’s ethically sloppy  society which values image over fact, and which allows lies to prevail “for the good of all concerned.”

It’s a full-time job trying to be a Truthteller.  I am flawed by human nature (it’s not a perfect world) and lying to myself is the beginning of lies to others. (“ I’m not going to suffer if I eat this second half of the pie. And no one will notice, and if they do they won’t mind if it’s gone.”)

Even that self-justifying “Serves him right,” when saying a hurtful thing or slamming the door is the beginning of a lie.  The closer that sort of mundane self-justification is followed by an admission of wrong the more quickly it is off the slate.  Things like latent memories of slamming doors can actually fester into lifelong barriers!!  Really!

I am not Miss Goody Two Shoes.  I still say bad words when I drop something into a muddy driveway, or spill coffee grounds all over the counter.  And it’s very tempting to forget certain things I have said I would do.   I am pretty good at forgiving myself, once I have owned up to myself that I am remiss and that I need to clean up my desk in certain areas.

In truth, I am REALLY MESSY about a lot of things,  but at least I am trying hard not to lie to myself or others about it. I just say so, and people are amazingly accepting of that truth and forgiving of my sins.  They are sort of glad to know that I am just a fellow human.  It brings fellowship!

I like Santa Claus.  And the Tooth Fairy.  They make me smile.  Maybe it’s because they fall into the realm of diapers, potty chairs, booster seats, rope swings and tricycles.  These are temporary fixes that work well for little children in wonderland.  It goes with the acceptability of baby talk, and allowing the little ones to believe that we understand “goo goo gaa gaa” perfectly.  (Well, we do, if we’re watching closely and know our child well. Besides, we expect them to believe that the mashed peas are really  “a choo choo train that is coming .. toot toot..and wants to go down the little red lane.“)  Fantasy is wonderful, and long live those things that make life move along more pleasantly!  But not at the expense of Truthtelling.

I wonder what it will be like when my grandson gets to that portal where he crosses over the delicate partition between his belief in the lie, his questioning of the truth of the lie,  and his participation in perpetrating the lie; when his father tells him to let his little sister believe in the Tooth Fairy.

I never considered my father a liar .. at least not a seriously mired-in-the-mud one.  He lied to himself about things we all knew, and he tried not to know…he did more smoking, for instance, than anyone else I knew.  It contributed to his death, which came much too early.  But he mostly told truth as he saw it,  and even ruefully admitted when he had missed the mark and had to own up! He even admitted regrets like this to his children!   This is good parenting, to my way of thinking;  excellent modeling for a child to grow up with.

It helps me to remember a time a month or so ago when I saw a prank afoot in the kitchen of my son and my grandson.  My son had a mischievous look in his 40+ year old blue eyes when he shrugged and indicated he didn’t know what had happened to the six-year old’s plate of ice cream that had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from the table.    My grandson planted two feet on the floor and crossed his arms and said, “Daddy….TELL THE TRUTH!”     This is good stuff.

Old Swimmer

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USING ORDINARY PAPER BAGS and a bunch of added materials we made unique masks for children little and big.  We had some very big children trying them on…including the mommys and daddys!

A really good time was had by all at the Barnyard Garden special Saturday Mask Making and Cooke Decorating Event.  Now that the Farmer’s Market has ended for the season, Barnyard Gardens, a comprehensive nursery and gardening supplies business,  is extending the season by hosting various activities by the Farmer’s Market booth folks in their hospitable space on the plateau part of the little city of Shelton Washington.


The Bridesmaid makes her Mask



The Littlest Maskmaker with her Mom


Kirsten and Paul are very much hands-on parents, and their children are growing up in the heart of their parents’ everyday business.
Here little Ruby is showing how much she wants to get mobile enough to do all the fun stuff.  She is only a few months old, and often is packed about
in a parental backpack.  Ruby and Johnny are very much a part of the summertime Farmer’s Market scene.



Maskmakers decorate cookies too


For the little ones we designed masks with less (or no) face coverage.  Owls and rabbits and cats were useful for this.  Here is a wee bunny.


Ruby the little Bunny


Other thumbnails to larger images of this fun day:



Baby Bunny Mask



The SceneJohnny cutting


Above are some other thumbnails including pictures of my wonderful, unflappable Jo who is my sidekick in all my arty enterprises in the town of Shelton.

Enjoy the fun of crafting things out of simple materials with children.  Sometimes children are the best teachers!

old swimmer

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Hey Buddy– Got a Buck?  (a related page about the Toys for Tots Bin)

Well it’s that season again — the one that happens right after Thanksgiving and begins with Black Friday, you know?   When we watch the little kids in shopping carts crying and whining and getting reprimanded by their parents who are shopping shopping shopping for toys for the miserable little child who just needs some serenity and a bottle and his own bed.

Do we have time to read blogs, never mind write them, at this season? I think we need to re-assess all this frenetic, joyless, “have-to-ism” during the holiday season.

One of the best decisions our family ever made was at one Christmas gathering where we all sat around before opening the stack of gifts and looked at the stuff sitting by the tree.

It filled up a quarter of the livingroom! It was all lovingly wrapped. One gift from each person to each other person. Oh, and several gifts to each child from each person. And extra gifts to certain others who were surrogate family. And the neighbors. And to whomever might stop by and might expect a little something.too-many-gifts-copy

We were all tired! We were all broke and worried about it.  And sort of embarrassed by the muchness of stuff we were about to tear into.  And we said so to each other! (That was the beginning of lucidity.)

Then, after the stuff was opened and adored and sorted into each person’s pile, we talked. We said how much we liked getting nice things, but that we liked even better just being together around the tree.

We decided that Christmas that NEXT year we would do it differently. ONLY CHILDREN get presents from everyone. And the grownups (you know, those broke individuals with credit card bills that would stretch maybe even until next year before paid?) would come to the party with only ONE gift for a grownup. It had to be under, say $20.00 and could be something that was suitable for anyone over 18. It should be wrapped, and surreptitiously placed in a pile of anonymous parcels. This pile would be “auctioned off” by drawing names– everyone having put three slips with their name on it in a basket. You could “take” someone else’s selection if you wanted, or you could take a gift from the pile. When all the names were used up, that was your gift. (you could swap later if you wanted.)

This turned out to be so much fun! The gifts had to be cheap, so they often were very funny. The little kids were jealous, the adults were having so much fun. They could hardly wait to grow up enough to play this new game.

We still do this. It means we can go to the toy store, or order toys on line for the kids. Then we can find one thing for the drawing. We can cook nice food. We can put our babies in for normal naps, and stay away from the sniffling, weeping, cranky- sounding stores with people coughing and snarling and looking like death.

We arrive at our party feeling…well, happy! We go away feeling good, and also smart. We have licked this oxymoron “Merry Christmas”.

Plus, we have time to read and write blogs!

Writing instead of shopping,

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 snowflake-snip-4Maybe grownups in other houses look outside and groan at the state of the driveway, thinking shovel, or they realize that they will have to scrape the windshield before they drive to work, but in this house we old children look out the window and give whoops of “Hey, SNOW” just as we always have, from year one.    (click here to read more)

   Grownups, God love them,  are such sober-sides!





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