2/26/2011

Old Age Has Sprung


She put on her apron and surveyed the area from her spot up on the hill by an old oak tree. It was spring and the church was having their annual family fun day, complete with an afternoon of games for the kids and a picnic dinner. The event, Spring has Sprung, was always held when the flowers were in full bloom.

Suzie was thrilled her mom had remembered to bring her easel and canvas so she could paint this year. She was too old to want to play with the younger children, being close to graduating now. She marveled at the gamut of colors on the hillside, so many shades of blues, yellows, reds and pales pinks as far as the eye could see. She could not even imagine how, with her limited colors of paints she could begin to capture all the colors before her on that blank canvas. But she knew she would have fun trying. And with that, she picked up her brush and began dabbling.

Suzie set to work, working diligently, with no comprehension whatsoever of the time she spent working on the painting. When she was immersed in painting, time stood still. This was a special place for her. She brought blots of color to life on that blank canvas with her skillful deft movements of the artist brush, just a flick here and there with her wrist and presto, form took place and the fleck of paint became life like. She slowly but surely caught the beauty of her surrounding that day in a way she was never able to capture before on any other spring day she had attempted. Perhaps, at some level, maybe she knew she would never return here. After this year, when she went away to college, she would never again return, as going to college would be followed with career days, then marriage and children and then the days of church festivals here in her hometown would be long gone and forgotten.

Suzie decided this time she would do more than sign her painting, she would name it, aptly name it the after annual event. She bent down and picked up her pen she used for calligraphy and started writing on the base of the image when she felt, rather than saw her younger sister’s presence behind her. Without turning she said, “Sissy, come out from behind that tree, I know you are there. You can look at my picture. It is almost done now anyways. Tell me what you think.”

Sissy came out, quickly actually and for once was not interested in the least in the picture. She talked quickly in a flurry of activity and Suzie had a hard time following her quick flow of chatter. She launched into a recounting of what she had overhead her momma and her aunt talking about over tea by the kitchen where the women were preparing the meal. She said it was about Grandma Tressa. They had not seen Grandma in ages and did not know why. Every time they asked what had happened they were told it was best to not bring it up around daddy as it upset him and that it was best to forget Grandma Tressa. But neither sister understood it because when they asked momma if she had died they were told no. What on earth had happened to her that was so horrible no one could talk about it or see her?

Finally Sissy blurted out the final comment she heard, “Grandma Tressa is in a home Suzie. They said her memory is totally gone now and she remembers nothing at all. It is best that she be left that way alone and be undisturbed.” They both looked at each other and hugged holding back their tears. Somehow the thought of their grandmother being alone, with or without her memory was too hard to bear. They told each other, in hushed tones, no matter what happened to either of them, if their memories ever failed them, they would never abandon each other like that, no matter what. For who knows for sure that one’s mind is ever truly gone. What if momma was wrong and grandma did remember some things and wondered why no one came to see her anymore?

Off Sissy ran to go chase some boy she was fond off and Suzzy when back to finishing the title of her painting. She stood back and looked at her final finished piece with admiration. All of the sudden, she felt someone shaking her shoulder. Gently at first, then more rigorously. Then she heard a slight muffled sound saying her name which steadily grew louder saying repeatedly Ms. Suzie. She yelled “Quit shaking me, you are going to knock me over and bump my painting’ but the voice paid her no attention. Finally she realized her eyes were glued shut and she opened them. As she did, she realized someone was peering down over her and she was lying flat down, on a bed. The woman over top of her had a nurse’s outfit on and the place smelled like a hospital, no actually more like an old folk’s home.

Now the voice, the nurse was saying’s. Suzie, you are getting harder and harder to wake up sweetie. I am sorry if I frighten you but I need you to take your medicine now. You always seem to forget to take it.” Suzie held out her hand instinctively for the pills to be placed in her palm. As she did so, she gazed down at the pills. Funny, she could not help but notice, for some reason, the gamut of colors the pills were, shades of pales colors, similar to the colors one would use to paint walls in a new home or to use to paint colors in a picture of pale sea shells. What a nice thought that was to her.

The nurse fluffed her pillow and told Suzie what day of the week it was and then asked her if she needed anything to drink. She half responded and muttered something back. As she went to lay back on her pillow, she saw a picture straight ahead from her. She asked the nurse “Where did that picture come from?” The nurse simply said “Someone mailed that to you and asked us to put it up directly across from your bed and so we hung it there while you were sleeping. Do you like it?” Suzzy said not a word as she stared at the picture. She simply leaned back on her pillow and let a tear slip out of her right eye.

The nurse closed the door quietly and Suzie stared at that picture with her fuzzy memory. She could barely read that inscription on the base of the image, Spring Has Sprung and she closed her eyes. She recalled bits and pieces of that day with joy. She saw the color, and could not help but smile at the thought of it. She thought she even felt that presence again, at one point, of her sister near her, just like in the old days. When she opened her eyes, realizing it was just a dream and time had slipped away, she was over come with a sense of sadness. She knew the memory would pass and one day, the memory of what the picture stood for might be gone. Who could help her remember when no one was there anymore in her life that knew about the festivals?

She decided it is best to put her mind on other thoughts when she again felt that prescence in the room again. Now she noticed, out of the corner of her eye, someone in the room. The stranger moved closer to her. It was a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to her, but a few years younger and in much better health. She was smiling down at her and just sat on the bed with no hesitation and said simply said “I could never stay away from your beautiful paintings for long Suzy, remember?”

2/13/2011

The Grandma Mommy Connection




I am astounded my grandchildren are growing up so quickly! I am wondering what my children are feeding them. I am beginning to think it is some kind of aging juice that is the opposite of the fountain of youth, that I still have not found. Just a few days ago, they were slobbering all over me, cooing and allowing me to change their diapers. Infact, they loved laying still while I sang to them.

This weekend, I had both of my older two grandkids, Ava and Kaleb over night. Needless to say, I was quickly reminded just how different the two of them have become, having them together. Gone are the joy of changing diapers, replaced by toilet duties with two children who, once pants are removed for potty duty , prefer, at Grandma’s house, to leave the pants off and go around with naked bottoms to the dog’s delight running through the house to Grandma’s dismay. They screamed with delight at the sound of my voice yelling “Come back here naked bottoms and put your pants on!”

The slobbering has been replaced with repeated requests for drinks, of one sort or another. And of course, each child has their own individual preferences and at no time, did either child want the same drink. Oh, until the other one had it, then the other one, out of pure envy, insisted on having it. Cousin rivalry was much like sibling rivalry. It was funny to sit back and watch it play out. Thankfully they kissed and made up rather quickly, realizing that hurt feelings are no fun.

As far as baby coo sounds, Ava’s coos have been replaced with high shrills sounds that little girls seem to thrive on making. I daresay the sound of her scream literally made our glasses rattle in the cupboards! And Kaleb, being a typical boy, detested her screams and let it be known. He would yell “bad’ and strongly suggest she go in a “time out ‘ to learn to be quiet like him. Ironic and somewhat amusing as he was yelling these words and not being quiet. As he barked out these orders, I wondered if this dawned on him? Children never see their own faults, but then again, do adults either?

There were moments of sheer joy when little baby smiles were replaced with “Grandma, I love you's” that melt the heart. No longer are they babies, but little personalities capable of expressing their feelings in their own words. The three little words, said with no prompting, make the world a better place. And how can a Grandma say no to little ones when hearing this? I know their parents don't agree but I find it excuses just about everything that could possibly do wrong!

We decorated treats and we made crafts and it gave me time to see their individuality and their uniqueness come out. I knew, from research I had done in college, that art and craft work, lowers defense mechanisms. Thus, true personalities and uncensored thoughts come out. As Grandpa and I interacted with both of them, they become so open. They expressed every thought that came to mind, what colors they liked, what they wanted to do, and which color ribbon they wanted on their plate. We let them do exactly what they wanted to do too. It was funny to watch as they kept waiting to put kept in check, to be told no to this color, or to using the glue or to not use so many sprinkles. It was actually funny to see their faces when they realized there was no bars hold on their craft project. Grandpa and I worked with them, guiding them but letting them make their own decisions and we all laughed and had a wonderful time. There was plenty of I love you's in the air during the couse of these projects too. That was the best part!

I almost hated to put the crafts away and as I looked at my husband across the table I could tell he felt the same way. We both knew, this little moment in time, this would pass. One day, we would have them back at our house and they would be into something totally different. No longer would it be Rice Krispie Treats and paper plates to decorate. It would be something more exotic, and the conversation would be more mature. Our Ava and Kaleb would not be giggly, silly little three year olds. That day would come as quickly as the time had passed from their infant
stage to now.

I knew inside, with God’s grace and also with the blessing that they both had of loving parents, that they would continue to be very special children. I would love them just as deeply as I did now and when they were born, no matter what stage of life my two darling grandchildren were. I know that Grandpa and I will always find the greatest joy in sitting back, watching and listening to them. They light up our world. And never ever will “I love you Grandma” get old.

Is that not what mommies live for?

2/05/2011

Here's Your Sign: CHANGE



Sometimes in life it takes getting hit with a Mack truck for you to realize that you are going down the wrong path in life. It is as if your momentum makes it so much easier to stay in automatic pilot and keep everything at status quo so you continue doing the same things you always do, expecting nothing more and nothing less. You hang out with the same people, expecting the same treatment, going to the same places, using your time the same way. The red flags pop up, from time to time, indicating changes need to be made and God sends in special people to show you need reinforcements and readjustments made to your life but you choose to ignore them.

I spent some time recently with someone who saw the sign. He shared his story with his realization that his life was on a slippery slope where there was only one way to go and gravity was pulling him there, slowly but surely. I am not sure how far back his life was like that but the timeframe he talked about was from high school on. He was a star athlete and had an extremely high IQ. His relatives say he was written in local newspapers, covered on local sports and talked about by everyone in the city as the wonder boy on the court; he was unreal with a basketball what he could do as a point guard! But his life off the court, well, life was a party. He did not take anything serious except partying, basketball and possibly women, at least hanging out with them. I am not sure he was ever into the idea of long term commitment so much. Life was meant to be totally enjoyed, living for the moment. This attitude carried him to an exotic place to live after high school and easily through most of adulthood, up to this point in time.

The dysfunction of a life of nothing but partying sometimes never catches up with folks. With this man, it did. He never got his with a Mack truck per se, I think a light just went off in his head. He decided, on his own terms, he wanted a change, a better life for himself. Maybe it was the DUI, maybe it was for his sons and just maybe for his deceased father to be able to look down from the heavens and see what a wonderful man he had become but he was motivated to change.

Our stories we shared of what was currently going on in our lives were different but then were quite similar. The current of our lives tend to carry us with their ebb and flow down the river of life. Many times, that path may not be the best direction to be going either. And yet, we do not resist; we take the path of least resistance, afraid to confront change, having an internal fear of what is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. This is not the healthiest way to live a life. And yet many of us convince ourselves we have no choice, that this is our chemical make-up, this is our family, our friends and our lifestyle and we cannot change them or ourselves. Acceptance of what is wrong is ignorance.

What he is learning is that conscious choices are our divine human right. It is one of the things that separate humans from beasts, the animal kingdom. We have the ability to choose our paths to walk and can change paths in mid stream with thought and deliberation. We must exercise that right, consciously. He is learning to be sober means to not frequent bars, not go to parties nightly, and find new ways to exert energy. He is renewing his love of basketball. He is letting go of some old friends and finding some new ones that are supportive of his new changes and inadvertently inspires some old ones to be more introspective with themselves. He takes his own inventory and avoids events, family members and friends that trigger feelings that make him more inclined to drink.

He is learning more now that he has learned in a long time as he is experiencing life continually sober. He is sharing his thoughts and feelings with sober individuals continually also. It is like watching a new world open up to him. He even looks different too. Sure, there are still some of the old battle wounds there, some of the same old behavior flaws, and much of the same personality structure but you can sense a change coming over him. He is avoiding those folks that brought out the worst in him and trying to surround himself more often than not with people that bring out the best in him. This is a plan for success.

How many of us make certain our inner circle of family and friends is a group that bring out the best of who we are? Is yours a group that builds you up, respects you for what you are and what you strive to be? If they are not, no matter whom they are, take yourself out of automatic pilot and shift gears. Negative people will drag you down. If your inner circle does not respect you, you will have a hard time respecting yourselves. If they do not respect your choices, you will have a hard time accepting your freedom to choice. Being an alcoholic, he must choose wisely who he is with routinely or risk his sobriety.

We see ourselves through the reflections of others; they are like mirrors to us as we are social beings by nature. We get our affirmation from others. It will be hard to have a good self image if you are surrounded by an inner circle that is not full of loving caring unconditional regard. Pick your friends carefully and make certain your family is a family of chose, that is healthy family members or adopt one if your natural family is not supportive of your right to be free from dysfunction and healthy living.

Know that others look at you and evaluate you in much the same way. What do you bring to others lives, is it positivity, is it the fullness of life, is it signs of God’s goodness? It is important to show others you are supportive of their efforts, to give signs of unconditional regard and to know silence is a statement that hurts when someone is hurting and needs encouragement. Take time to be a friend, even when it is family. Friends and family are always there for each other, in good times and in bad. Love has no boundaries. If your friends and family do put limits on their support, then maybe the love is not without restrictions. You maybe getting the sure sign that you need a family of choice, one that is dotted also with special friend members you adopt as your surrogate family. Many of my friends have done this over the years and love the concept!

Are you real to others about your feelings or just a fabrication of what you think the other person wants to see or what you are trying to project? This week he and I talked about the AA meetings he attends. He said these meetings inspire him to speak from the heart, no more half truths, speak honestly. Mean what you say and don’t just say what you don’t really mean. This week we talked a great deal about people saying things untrue, half lies and how to discern the difference. Many times it is hard to tell the difference. Our conclusion, look to the actions. If someone really loves you, look at what they do. In tough times, do they truly forgive, do they pick up the phone when you are hurting or ignore you? That is a sign of reaching out. Do they allow you to vent or do they shut you out when your view differs from theirs? Do they offer hugs when you need a shoulder to lean on? Are they judgemental of your faults or give you hope when you are feeling down trodden? We all need to feel inspired and that is what true family and friends are for in our lives.

False images take too much wasted energy. First, get real with yourself and then with everyone else in your life that matters. He has the first step down, be honest with yourself. Then, make a plan. You are never too old to make changes in your life. Those that love you will support you and be there to give you what you need to be a better you. Those that fade in the woodwork and let the silence become deafening, well; perhaps that is a statement in and of itself. It may not be, initially, one that you want to hear but maybe what you need to know. Living with an illusion of love, caring or friendship is not healthy. We need to know who is in our court with us. A wise professor once said in college,” change for the better and those that love you and care about you will change for the better with you. Those that don’t, well, maybe now is the time to let them go.”

I am glad he realizes now, before he gets hit by a Mack truck, or dies like his father or grandfather died, that alcoholism is a serious disease. It can ruin lives. It hurts so many others that are affected by it. How many of us have been touched by loved ones suffering from this disease? The pain it causes is immeasurable. He may stumble and fall, but I feel certain, if and when he does, he will pick himself back up and continue on. He now knows what it means to be clean and loves it.

We all need to address major dysfunction in our lives that is causing us pain. The pain of fixing it is a great deal less than the pain it causes to let it go unchecked, unchanged. It reminds me of every time I move the furniture around in the living room. My husband questions why it needs to be moved around as if the change will cause him major heart ache. Once it is moved, he is pleasantly surprised. You may find, the very change folks resist in your life, they will be overjoyed when it materializes much as you will be when you see the new you. There is a cost involved for fixing things but enjoying a healthy life to the fullest extent is worth the price, if it is something you can change in yourself. Ask yourself this question, “What part of this do I control?” You can only change the parts that you can control, the rest is up to others so let go of the other stuff, stop worrying and fretting over it. They can opt out; it is their right much as it is your right to change. They may prefer things go unchecked But it does not need or have to stop you from changing.

Along the same line, allow others that you love to change for the better. That is what makes this world a better place. True friends and family members love and are supportive of our right to be healthy, learn and grow. They embrace positive change and encourage to reach their full potential no matter their age. If you can’t allow it in others, if you can’t accept it, then you need to look hard at yourself in the mirror. Then ask yourself, simply, why?

2/03/2011

Releasing the Reins (By Karen D. Koeppe)


When I read this short prose below, written by a dear friend, I immediately found that the more I read it, the more it said. I asked her permission to print it here on my blog page as I know from the traffic report, there is a following. I wanted her to get the exposure she deserves for writing this and for the piece, I wanted it to have a chance to resound in others as it has with me. I hope you will find it equally moving and share it with others. Enjoy!

I don’t want to be “in control” of the comings and goings in my life. I want to trust in the universe to take care of my agenda. Let me just fly through my day doing, getting and giving the way my guides and angels see fit for me.


I think that if I try to plan “as I have in the past” I shall miss something that might have been important or fun! Allowing the universe to guide my steps will ultimately bring me to everything.


My life is to unfold a certain way. Who am I to block it with my “know it all” thinking and planning. Sure I want certain desirable things and events to happen, but can’t I just wish for those and leave it up to the universe to surprise me? Yes, I do believe I can and from this point on I will.


It may be difficult to give up the reins but the horse always knows his way home and why should I try to lead it differently.


Come now and join my flight, we are all being led to the same spiritual destination. We will all be home in the end.

2/02/2011

Generation Gap - Bridge It

When did my parents get so smart? Why wasn’t I told a long time ago? I would have paid more attention and listened on the first time around had I only known!

I thought they were wrong most of the time. Now, all these years later, I find out they were right so many of the times. Back then, I hated their input and influence in my life, so much so that even when I knew they were right about something, I argued that they were wrong. If they told me they did not care about what the people down the street were doing, I stood up long and hard for those people down the street as a defense, even if I hated their kids just on principle!

In those days, my parents were uncool, not hip and it seemed their childhood was a lifetime away from mine. I recall saying things like “Things were way different when you both were kids in the dark ages.” They agreed, letting me know just how spoiled they thought I was because I only had to walk two miles to school, compared to their five mile walk in snow twice as deep as the snow I was drudging through. Our parents tied to tell us what makes the world go round to no avail. My friends and I thought we knew what made the world a better place, money, good looks, fun times and no parents. Oh yeah, no rules was an added bonus as well with no curfew!

Ah, how simple was life then, looking at life through rose colored sun glasses at the beach. But as the years go by, I got older and realized, so many of their darn rules were for valid reasons and were rightfully enforced. Staying out late at night as a young person, is not safe. I grew up to became the enforcer to my own children and was met with the ‘wicked look’ when they got home that I have given my own parents at about the same age my kids started giving it to me. Wow, did I ever look that mean, my daughter seemed to have it done to a science, heck, she downright scared me!

The facts of what makes true happiness were words of wisdom imparted on me by my parents at a tender age that I simply did not heed. It was lost in the wind, too immature to digest. Slowly but surely, those words circled back to me as I aged. How ironic that they turned out to me so similar to what my parents had said many moons ago but I was not ready to accept the answer would be so simple. Who would have thought it was tied to simply looking within myself and not associated with a dollar sign, a look or another person. No, happiness is not found inside or connected with commercialization and it is not materialistic. All those items do is cover up the emptiness many of us tend to feel inside to avoid feeling.

When I became a mother and a wife, the advice came without boundaries and without limits from my parents, now new grandparents. It was aimed at how to have a better marriage, effective communication standards, efficient parenting roles, strategic financial planning, etc….. Each tidbit of advice was met with a resigned “oh here we go again, unasked for advice” followed by a “and what do they know.” I saw their mood swings change as things changed in my life. I wondered what was so wrong with them that they could not just back totally out of my life and leave me the heck alone. I sometimes thought maybe we all just needed distance from each other but then I saw the goodness and love and that kept me grounded in the relationship. I knew my children needed them and they were heaven sent to my kids also. I also needed and wanted our bond to last a lifetime.

I am not sure what happened, when it happened or why. Perhaps it was recovering from cancer, or maybe it was recovering from the trauma of hitting fifty or being a certified grandmother of several grandchildren but things changed, seemingly overnight. I went through a metamorphosis. I started recalling, little by little, pieces of advice my parents had given me over the years. The more I recalled, it came back with velocity and momentum. My shock grew as I realized how smart and practical my parents really were. I started to wonder also why did I not have that common sense or did I have it and were my own kids wrong as they seemed to question me every step of the way. And I kept coming back to the same point, the same question, how did I miss the fact that my parents were so darn smart on so many practical things in life?

Then I realized the crux of the issue. Kids, no matter the age, do not want to hear what parents have to say. It is only with age, perhaps facing mortality, that we realize our days are numbered and we are just a short time away from our parents demise. We all must one day be willing to put aside the years and the fact that they are our parents and really reflect and listen with open ears and heart. Their words come from a place of love, even if the words are not always perfect or exactly right. To listen like this is not to judge, those who gave us life deserve that from us. Look in your heart and pray, that before your parents demise, you find that place to bridge the gap.