Little Pollyanna Me


naiveThere are times if there is something wrong with me, if who I am is so out of synch with the rest of the world that I don’t even begin to fit. I feel like usually when my perception is not what others around me think and see. It can be very frustrating. It can be lonely.

I live in a culture that has a fascination with guns. Many of my family members, friends and co-workers are gun owners and feel that they are necessary for protection. Some of them are avid hunters or enjoy target shooting with the variety of weaponry they possess. Most of them have no problem with violent forms of retribution, such as capital punishment, “stand your ground laws”, and deliberate attacks on people deemed as threats to our communities or country.

Strange, “naive”, little Pollyanna  me finds all of that abhorrent. I won’t touch a gun, do not see the need for one other than hunting or sport related targeting, neither of which holds any interest for me, and see all sorts of serious problems with the way society deals with problems by throwing violence at it. Conversations about endorsements advocating violence as any solution upsets me greatly. That makes me the odd girl out.

Being of the non-violent sort, a day like today, an anniversary of acts of senseless violence that led to more and more and more violence, violence that continues today, makes me want to curl up in a ball and wish I could just block it all out. The hatred that has exploded, having simmered under the surface for decades as a result of a few murderous men doesn’t seem to want to abate. It angers and frustrates me to hear or read about public figures on all sides espouse violence against the other, without qualm and with malice. It mystifies me that they can’t see past their own pride at the hurt, the destruction, the fury such rhetoric promotes.

I know in this too, I’m weird one, the kooky pacifist who just doesn’t understand how the world works, at least that is how I am perceived to some. I’ve been told, more than once, that this is a trend, the world getting worse and worse until the rapture or some other Christian based end of the world scenario. But I look at history and don’t see it. We’ve always had violence, people have suffered horribly at the hands of others for eons. I read their stories and am amazed that we still haven’t learned a damned thing. I don’t see why doing the same thing we’ve always done in situations like this solves the situations. So, yeah, I don’t understand.

So today, I pray, hope, and try to instill what I do every day…peace. Not the cessation of violence, but something better. For people to stop for a minute hating one another, looking at them as enemy, lesser valued, evil, and to try to imagine walking in their shoes for a minute. For people to ask questions like: Why do they hate us? What about their culture, religion is similar to mine? What if I had to live in their world?

Will that solve the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Gaza, Afghanistan and elsewhere today? Oh, if it were only that easy. But maybe it will have us consider other options that don’t result in more loss of life. Maybe also, it will have us look at the people in our own communities with a fresh perspective as well.

I’m still working on that whole “loving my neighbor as myself” thing, yet it has given me a completely different way of looking at people as a whole and as individuals. I won’t own or touch a gun, because to me, they represent violence, pain, death, and irrevocable loss. I won’t cheer at successful military campaigns that stop murderous thugs in their tracks, it too represents those things, even if they are deemed necessary. I will appreciate and be grateful for our militaries who sacrifice much for safety and freedom of the nations they represent, but I take no joy in what they must at times do. I hope and pray for a day, where my nation feels spending 600 billion dollars a year for its upkeep as ludicrously high. I long for the day where the negotiating table always trumps the battlefield.

There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about beating swords into plowshares. I love the analogy of turning the weapons of war and destruction into implements of agriculture and building. Maybe I am a Pollyanna, naive oddball, completely doped up on a massive case of delusion. But if the writer of that passage in Isaiah could imagine such a thing, then so can I.

Sheer Artistry, Pre-School Style


spilled polish“Mom?” My daughter started, bypassing our usual greetings on the phone. “How do you get nail polish out hair?”

This was, I admit, where I gave to toddler gods, that my own children were grown and gone.

Ashley  called with this quite unique question, because her two younger kids, ages four and two, were not napping like she had thought. Instead they had decided to get out the nail polish and treat each other to mani/pedi’s. The four year old understood the idea of where polish was supposed to go, so he managed to get tint on mostly toes and fingers. The two year old opted for a more free-style method which is why she ended up with sparkled polish glued to her scalp. They both had polish on legs, arms faces. The little one had belly swatches of color.

This wasn’t the first time I’d received a phone call from this particular parent. When her oldest was a toddler, she loved make-up, always wanting one of us to put on eye-shadow or a little lip gloss. I had once made the mistake of leaving my make-up case on my desk, where I was in the habit of checking email while preparing for work.

A few hours, I got that call. “Mom? How much did you like that lipstick in the silver tube? Ashley asked.

“What did she do?” Already knowing my adorable granddaughter was involved somehow. She was the little darling who’d pulled over a potted plant while in her walker and had delighted in spreading potting soil all over my living room.

“I texted you a photo” was her reply.lipstick girl

She looked so proud of herself.

It is something how little ones can make such terrific messes while unsuspecting parents think they are sleeping, or when Mommy or Daddy has to take five minutes to pee, let out the dog, or take supper out of the stove. Their ability to create messes of epic proportions in short amounts of time is amazing considering that they’ve often not yet mastered toilet training, or complete sentences.

A friend once came home to a couple of smurfs. In her husband’s defense, weak as it was, he’d put the children to bed, and then gone there himself. He hadn’t thought to check if they were actually asleep first. So when my friend came home, her two youngest, one still in diapers, had gotten up, found a blue permanent marker and proceeded to take turns using each other as a canvas.

When I did hair, I saw a small but steady stream of children who decided at the early ages of five and under that being a hairdresser was the career for them, with expected results.  Even my own kids went through their own “hairstyling phases”. The most creative example was a little boy, about three who’d managed to climb up onto the bathroom counter, access daddy’s electric razor and shave all his little brother’s hair off. His mom caught him halfway through his own hair.

Thankfully little artists grow up and learn art doesn’t cause shrieks of dismay from surprised parents, and they move on to mediums that turn refrigerator doors into pint sized art galleries. Until then parents, and grandparents will be making phone calls or searching Google to help them find ways to undo what their children have just considered art.

 

As The Toilet Paper Rolls


toilet paper heartWhen my children were small, I knew the location of every clean and easily accessible public restroom in three states. Not really, but it was important for me to at least have a decent knowledge of clean toilet locations in my area, because my little darlings had tiny bladders that never needed emptying at the same time.

Now that they are all grown and on their own, I’m finding myself, once again having to learn where the clean and easy to get to toilets lie, preferably those with toilet paper still on the roll. The reason is thanks to an aging bladder and a gastric issue that began a couple of years ago.

At first it was just acid reflux at night, that slowly but steadily worsened. Next was the discovery that eating would make post meal time, a solid hour of wishing the damned Tums would work already. None of the OTC remedies worked, so I buckled down and got the entire digestive tract checked out. I walked away with a diagnosis of Diverticulosis, IBS,  an extracted benign polyp, a script for Nexium, and a whopping bill.

Six months later, I’ve discovered that my body is starring in a soap opera.   My colon and the toilet are carrying on a torrid affair with the roll of toilet paper acting as  a gleeful enabler. There are some days I can’t keep those two apart.  The indignity of spending more time in the bathroom while these two cavort is  when my stomach begins to serenade rumbling “love songs” to whomever may be in earshot. This is not an issue that is easily kept secret.

I’ve done all I can to keep this affair from getting out of control, trying without any success to see what foods are the siren mating call between intestine and porcelain, but I can’t figure it out.  There is no food, or food combination that can guarantee  whether or not another episode of As The Toilet Paper Rolls is pending.  Episodic renditions of “POOP NOW POOP NOW!!!” , “Bloat Till She Floats”, “The Rock In My Belly” or “Is This Nausea or a Pending Belch?” at least add a bit of variety,

One of these days I will figure out how what it is that triggers all of this. It’s still a mystery, as what bothers my digestion one day, leaves it completely unfazed the next. I just wish there was a hidden benefit to speedier digestion in the form of less of me to lug around. No such luck.

 

“Dating” Daddy


daddy dateThere is a trend happening in evangelical circles that I find somewhat disturbing. Its the trend of fathers dating their daughters.  Yes you read that correctly, and apparently its highly recommended as a means to for fathers to spend time with their girl children. A common event is the Daddy/daughter dance, where the fathers wear suits and the girls dress up and go to a planned evening, complete with photographers, punch and a DJ. Its more like a prom. In fact in some cases it is a prom. Some of these “proms”  are not designed for fun, tiaras, and all the punch you can drink while dancing to Selena Gomez.

If you have clicked on the links and are skeeved out, you are not alone. Those dances with the “purity” theme send a very negative message to girls about sexuality. I find them highly disturbing and coercive. They use fear wrapped in tulle and ceremony to get girls to consider their virginity the whole of their value. Yet they are quite popular in conservative evangelical circles.

Thankfully, some father/daughter dances  do not have the sexual purity undertones, but instead are simply billed as fun events for dads and daughters.

I understand that such events are an attempt to get fathers to spend time with their daughters. I understand that its also an attempt for dads to try to instill  positive views about the male gender, or to try to teach religious ideals about sexuality. I understand that little girls often love dressing up like their favorite princess and dancing to Disney tunes, and think Daddy hung the moon, but I wonder if such events takes away from the natural,  spontaneity  that can exist between parent and child.

I have to ask, do daughters really have to wear frilly dresses just to have some one on one time with their dads? do dads have to go to planned, events where they likely feel completely out of place just to spend time with their daughters?

I don’t think so.

I remember dancing with my dad, at family themed church dances, where he patiently tried to teach me the box step. I happened to like to dance, even if I lacked elegance, but dancing with my dad is not what rates high on my Time With Dad highlight reel.

best bag swing evah!

Best bag swing on the planet.

Instead I remember him taking my brothers and me to the lake, where we learned how to put our own worms on hooks, and catch bluegill. I remember the bag swing he built in our back yard. The bag swing was nothing more than gunny sacks, rolled up together with a rope tied to the middle. The other end of the rope was tied to the branch of an oak tree branch, a good 15 feet up. I still remember the thrill of my dad pulling me back as far as he could make that swing go, then throwing me forward. I’d screech in delight as I’d hurtle to make the arc complete, than back down again.

I remember years of playing cards or checkers with him, and never once beating him. I came close once or twice. The consistent defeat didn’t daunt me, as we enjoyed the game, as well as all the jokes, silly bantering, attempts to catch one of my brothers cheating.

I remember the entire house being dark, and hiding, while my dad tromped around, loudly yodeling the melody of the marching soldiers from the Wizard of Oz, while wearing a KFC bucket on his head. I was always found before my brother. My brother was very hard to find. It was such spooky fun, ending with giggles and a tickle.

I remember Dad being the only person on the planet who could help me almost understand algebra. It is thanks to him that I passed any math class. I remember when I was sixteen being taken to a movie, the first grown up one we’d been to together. It was Alien. He loved it, thinking it the best monster movie made in thirty years. I was scared shitless.

I wasn’t treated like a fairy princess, the idealistic little girl fantasy. The idea of going out on a date with my dad, would have likely horrified us both. For him to take me to an event where I was supposed to ceremoniously hand over my virginity so he could give it later to a spouse of his approval was unthinkable.  I was treated like a daughter, a human being with autonomy, who had a step sister and a host of brothers, each of us special in our individual ways, being groomed to step out into the world on our own.

My own children’s father  proved to  be a poor role model, so I did what I could to share the lessons my father taught me. Lessons taught that being a great parent, was simply spending time with your kids, enjoying their company, showing  a sense of humor, quick to apologize for messing up, teaching practical skills, like cooking, mowing the lawn or doing laundry, to be available to listen, to help with homework or to play Scrabble with, and to do those everyday things that they may never appreciate or remember, but they often do.

I really don’t understand the idea of “dating” daddy. I don’t understand having to plan events, schedule time to spend with one’s child. I certainly do not understand having to suggest to fathers things to do with their daughters. Even busy dads, as any parent often is, take five minutes to listen to her to play Fur Elise on the piano, or help with a Geometry problem, or teach her the trick to throwing a curve ball. They can show her how to check the oil in the car, have her hand him the tools while fixing the sink, and play pranks on Mom. Doing those small things consistently, and willingly will mean more than any fancy dress up dance with a DJ playing Justin Bieber and Pharrell.

Memories of Mamal


I wrote this poem to read at Grace Stewart William’s memorial service. She was my step-grandmother, and a sweet, gentle soul. She will be dearly missed.

Memories of Mamal

Coffee and toast, her usual breakfast
Enjoyed each morning, dressed in her housecoat
A moment of quiet to start her day

Small children, drawn to her like bees to honey.
Who’d hold a disabled child for hours
So his parents could enjoy a family gathering

Her chickens, lovingly tended,
Eggs laid, she skillfully cooked
Her grandchildren feared the meanest roosters in five states.

Hours around the table, playing cards
Friendly competition amongst family
She was tough to beat, a delightful opponent

Peanut Brittle, one of my favorite treats
Delivered by hand from trips up north
Candy, gifts, small statured hugs, infused with love.

Hair, white, permed shoulder length
The sides pulled back and pinned
A beautiful look she never changed.

A tiny woman with a tremendous heart
Gentle, stubborn, gracious and loving.
Thank you for your gift in my life

Bubble Wrap


bubble wrapLast weekend I went to Florida for one of my grandmother’s funerals. The night before all us grandkids went to her apartment and chose a few mementos to take back home. I took mostly photos, plus a cross stitched item, and a small vase.

Among the photos as a picture of me at about age sixteen.

What you can’t really see in the photo along with the braces is that I’m not squintinScan (2).BMPg from the bright summer sun, but because I refused to take photos with my very thick, geek alert glasses.

Damn, I was skinny back then.

Somewhere, after three kids, a failed marriage, a new marriage to a man who feeds me so he doesn’t have to eat my lousy cooking,  a deterioration of those squishy things between my vertebrae, one french fry too many and about 35 years. I now look like this.

easter 2014 085

 

Yes, I’ve been Bubble Wrapped by Mother Nature. Well at least that is what I want to call all that squishy padding I am walking around with these days.  It could be that Mother Nature finally realized how amazingly accident prone I am, and decided it was about time she took some protective measures on my behalf.  A bit late lady, a bit late.

I look back at that skinny girl and remember how awkward I felt, out-of-place, unsure of herself, unattractive and a bit lonely. I was just a few years away from a couple of decades of life of misery, poverty, and real loneliness, thanks to a disastrous marriage that I got myself trapped in. Part of me wishes I could go back to that skinny girl I once was and try to give a big boost to her floundering confidence, as well as warn her away from the man with pretty blue eyes and charisma that hid the evil underneath.

But even if that had been possible, I doubt the younger me would have listened or understood. Instead I honed what was to be one of my better assets, sheer unbridled tenacity.  I used it to keep my children as safe and loved as I possibly could, teaching myself another vital skill, optimism, just so I could face yet another day. Meanwhile, ounce by ounce, the bubble wrap started to appear, wrapping me in courage, in hope, in confidence and in an embracing of myself  as a geeky, heart on her sleeve wearing introverted pacifist with a quirky sense of humor. When I finally escaped marriage hell, that wrapping prepared me for the next stage of my life, where uncertainty was no longer to be feared, but met head on.

Deep beneath the layers of artery clogging layers of life, too little exercise and too much pizza, that skinny girl still lives, still awkward, sometimes lacking confidence, still questioning her attractiveness, but at peace with her former and her current self. She grouse sometimes about all the layering, that may or may not some day be abated somewhat, but she also knows the value of what it portrays. Somewhere along the line she discovered happiness and to be comfortable in her own skin, even if that skin was never going to ever have that much public exposure.

Grumbling


 

contemplating girlThe list is long and tiresome

Of personal disillusionment

Things that erode away,

bit by bit what should have

me satisfied.

 

Pain of mind, of spirit of body,

that marks the passage of time,

of life lived with good times and bad,

Pain, that would have faded by now

If only I had let it.

 

Why do I keep it close by

the list that hinders my sight?

Why do I not instead favor

what comforts and illumines me?

 

Why instead of grousing, complaining

bitching and moaning

am I not content, at peace

seeing all around

the beauty that surrounds me?

 

Its difficult

to trade grumbling for thanksgiving

Its hard to refocus on the good I have

instead of fixating on the bad

Who will it hurt to polar shift my mind?

Who will it hurt if I don’t?

 

Maybe I’ll one day master

gratitude as a focus

thankful for what life has gifted me,

each thing that’s made it richer

Maybe.