Becoming a Grandmother!

I don’t sleep well most nights. Sometimes it’s my back that keeps me awake. But, many nights it is my head that just won’t shut down. I’ve tried all of the tricks of the trade including the one offered by the Hubs. For the record, it involves concentrating on holding your tongue completely in the center of your mouth not touching any sides. Easy peazy…sleep comes…yeah, for him. However, for me sleep has always been difficult.

Many nights I lie awake thinking about incomplete projects or projects yet to be created. Last night, I could not get the word “grandparent” out of my head. I kept going over and over the picture in my mind. Maybe it’s the recent news of two new babies coming next spring. I started to reflect on the grandparents in my life, specifically the grandmothers and how very different they were from each other. So, from the cheap seats, here are my observations.

My maternal grandmother was not very nice; at least that is my impression. I know my sister adored her. Dovie was the first person who made me feel bad about how I looked. Whenever I walked through her door, her first question to me was always “why are you so fat?” I’m convinced my issues with body image were born on her lips. The other side of that coin was my paternal grandmother, Josephine. Her love was absolutely unconditional. I never saw her enough, but when I did she always made a point of telling me how much she loved me and how very proud I made her. I still find myself reading the few letters I received from her when I went to college. I started in August. She died in October. I missed her support!

When I think of the grandparents my own children inherited, their experience most likely appeared bi-polar as well. My mother, Sandy, was the person who believed the sun rose and set in her grandchildren. That’s not to say there weren’t moments of drama as I was witness to my Beauty and Mom going head to head a couple of times. But, even she would tell you her Grandmother always had her back. Whatever they wanted, they got…even if it meant her very last dollar. At the same time, their paternal Grandmother was the distant rule keeper; at least that’s how the kiddos saw her. With job transfers, we moved often and unlike my mother who visited new locations, Emma never seemed to make it happen. I’m not sure whose fault that was and looking back, I think we should have tried harder to bridge the distance. Needless to say, fostering a close relationship with many miles in between is difficult at best. They don’t say it, but I know they see the relationship she has with other grandchildren and the child-like mind wonders…why?

Now, I am getting to play the role of grandmother and I see the differences as well. Linda is the grandmother who sews, hikes and bakes. I am grateful that such skills might be passed on to another generation. While I am the grandmother who can point the way to the Amazon “place order” button, stock a snack pantry with the best of them and can sometimes find her way around a Pinterest craft project. We are indeed different women.

My point in this entire diatribe is that mothers come to the grandmother table with so many differing styles and talents and that is just fine. Children are such resilient creatures and will take away what they need and throw away what is unnecessary. And, even the unhealthy contributions can be healed and forgiven with time and understanding. So, if you are losing sleep over your own grandmothering skill set, let it go. Just dole out a little love, patience and knowledge and you’ll be just fine. Personally, I am grateful for all of the grandmothers I have known and the one I have become. After all, it’s the only one I know to be.

Now that I’m awake, let’s go shopping. I know where the “place order” button is located!

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Desert Time

Anyone else know what it’s like to spend time in the desert? I’m not talking about a Sahara type desert, but, the kind of desert where you feel alone and challenged in long held thoughts and beliefs.  Those who have spent time in the church might call it a “spiritual desert.” I have to be honest, I’ve been here for quite some time and I’m beginning to wonder if I am destined to wander for the remainder of my days.

Since the beginning of the year, I have not attended the church that I had come to consider home. So many people who attend that church still occupy a sweet place in my heart. But, something changed and we left. The Hubs and I have occasionally attended another church nearby. We have even met with the pastor to ask questions about the church and its’ membership. But, I’m not ready to sign on the dotted line. I even explained to the pastor that I no longer felt the pull or even desire to attend church as I had done without fail for the last decade of my life. It has surprised me how quickly I have gotten out of the Sunday morning habit. And, it’s been easier than I imagined letting go of cherished activities I once enjoyed.

Added to the spiritual ache is the personal physical pain that continues to plague the day-to-day. Procedure after procedure offers the promise of relief only to be replaced by dashed hope. You get through the day, allowing others to see the face you provide to them only to collapse when the day is done.

Regular church folks know that Jesus spent time in the desert as he prepared for his time of ministry. No doubt he felt alone and maybe even harbored thoughts that God had abandoned him. I’m certainly no Messiah in the making, but I understand the feeling of being alone. I understand reaching out to my Abba and hearing no response. I understand needing reassurance and receiving nothing but a cold shoulder. There is profound loneliness when a person feels disconnected from community, country and worst of all, disconnected from God.

This is not the first time I have traveled in the wilderness. If, once again, this solitude is intended to test my resolve, I’m in it for the long-haul. I have never been a quitter.  I will keep asking questions. I will continue to wait for answers. I will search with my heart and soul for the direction to travel. It may be this new church or a path I cannot see yet. I don’t know. I will continue to talk, scream, yell, cry, swear and question all of Creation. In time the answers will come.

Until then, I dwell in the desert.

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Father’s Day is Almost Here!

Yeah…Yippee…Hurrah, Father’s Day is almost here. What to do? What to do? For a good many folks, the day serves as an opportunity to heap praise and admiration on their first love or hero. For some of us, it is a day that only serves as a reminder that we were short changed in the father department.

Now, you might think this note is going to be a “trash my daddy post” but you would be wrong. More than 20 years ago, my father taught me one of the most important lessons I would ever need to know in my life. Growing up, my sisters and I were really good at wearing masks that showed no scars. Those masks showed no evidence of what was really going on in our dysfunctional house. Our father was and as far as I know an alcoholic until the day he died. Some drunks are jovial and you can just put them to bed and they will sleep it off. Some are not. Can you guess which category Harry belonged? He was a mean drunk. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. If that meant a meal at 2:00 in the morning then his wife sure as shootin’ better get it on the table. If he wanted his children to witness the punishment for misbehaving, then they sat on the sofa and witnessed one slap and/or punch after the other. And, the next day, we got up, dressed and went to school like absolutely nothing happened. That was just the way things went in our house. I share this not for pity purposes, but for information only.

For so many years, I was angry. I hated him for how he changed our mother because she became cold, distant and unfeeling. That was how she learned to cope. So, in the parenting department I believed we were short changed on both fronts.

Thinking about my childhood, I remembered only wanting to run as far away from home as I could. I knew I never cared to see or speak to him again. And, I made that happen. He was not at my college graduation. He was not at my wedding. And, he did not know his grandchildren. But, that was not punishment enough. I hated him!

One day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I saw a woman who looked like my mother… sad, angry and just plain old before her time. That’s what years of anger will do to you. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on that endless treadmill going nowhere. After forty plus years, I realized I needed to give up punishing myself and offer genuine forgiveness to the one person who had caused so much pain. Now, I was not naïve enough to believe Harry gave a fig about my feelings. But, I knew I had to let go of the anger… not for him, but for me. So, I wrote him a letter laying bare my words of hurt and pain. And, as expected, he didn’t care. But, I knew I had brushed aside his indifference and turned a corner.

So, this Father’s Day, I can, with a clear conscience and open heart, say thank you Harry. You taught me that forgiveness is a powerful gift that keeps on giving year after year. Let’s face it people, whether we had a good or bad father, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers were present in our lives or not, it doesn’t matter. Whether our fathers taught us how to live, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our fathers are one-half of our life blood. We are here because of them. So, this Father’s Day, no longer harboring any hate in my heart, I can introduce myself honestly… saying Hello, I am Jamie, daughter of Harry… and YOU ARE?

 

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NOT IN MY NAME!

“Every child is innocent. Save them from the fear!”

It does not matter how they came to our shores. It does not matter the manmade line they crossed that moved them into another country. It does not matter that small men and women with small minds cannot comprehend why others would risk everything, leave everyone, and abandon all they have ever known to seek a better life for their children. It does not matter that small men and women with small minds cannot comprehend the turmoil created over decades by the US government in the countries so many of these parents are leaving behind. The only thing that should matter is the children. The absolute very least we can do as a people who profess to be a beacon of light to the world is humanely care for the children. The absolute very least we can do as a people so insistent on the letter of the law is to protect the children. And, separating them from their parents is nothing short of criminal. To put it plain and simple so small men and women with small minds can understand; when Americans stand by and watch children torn and separated from their parents, we stand convicted of crimes against humanity. In the aftermath of WWII, the punishment for such a crime was death or life in prison. Yet, this crime continues to be carried out in our name. I for one am screaming at the top of my lungs…NOT ONE MORE – NOT IN MY NAME!

In Matthew 18:10, we read the following, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” I weep knowing that the Father is looking upon children who sob for their earthly parents. I weep knowing that we are responsible for instilling greater fear in their lives. I weep for a country so fearful of the other that children are used as deterrence. Once again, I scream NOT ONE MORE – NOT IN MY NAME!

Find the name of your Congress persons and let them know you are not to be found guilty of crimes against humanity. Tell them to fix this and fix this NOW. Reunite these children with their parents TODAY! Or, are you one of the small men and women with a small mind incapable of understanding?

 

 

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Dead Mothers’ Month

My former pastor and I have many things in common. In addition to being my boss at the church, we learned both of us had Hoosier roots and we shared many of the same political beliefs. That should have been enough. But, my pastor also helped me through the time of my mother’s illness and ultimate passing. During our conversations, she learned of the many difficulties I struggled with concerning my relationship with Mom as well as caring for her the last couple of years of her life. Thru our talks, I learned that her mother also died in the month of March. We found ourselves calling it and continue to call March “dead mothers’ month.” I know that sounds cruel and insensitive. But, for the two of us, it made the anniversaries easier to acknowledge.

Well, here we are again… it is dead mothers’ month. My mother has been gone 6 years this month and new revelations are coming to light. There was a time when my recollections of her were shrouded in the darkness of our relationship. Yes, I have missed her, but pleasant thoughts were hard to name. This year I have noticed and even mentioned to friends that more and more fond memories are bubbling to the surface. Surprisingly, many have made me smile.

I can’t help but laugh as I think about Mom dressing her three girls in nearly identical clothing for Easter or Christmas photos as though she had given birth to triplets. And, there was the strength of a mama lion when she faced down my Dad and insisted that we were indeed paying the admission fee at Lookout Mountain. There were the trips she shared with our family as we traveled from place to place with Steven’s job. Together, we saw the Grand Canyon, the Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Disney World, a mud lodge complete with Native American story-telling in North Dakota, a leaking tent at a campground in Florida, Bridal Veil Falls in Utah and lost far too much money during one of our several trips to Las Vegas. I can also thank Mom for convincing Ashley (and she believes to this day) that painted ponies ridden by Indians were on the ridge in Arizona. And, God knows I will never forget the sight of Mom dancing in the dessert with Ashley, Matthew and Keisha. It was the happiest I had ever seen her.

Sadly, I had forgotten the ear to ear smile on her face when I received my degree from Indiana State University. She was indeed proud of her first born daughter. I like to think she saw the promise of escape and adventure in me… something she had longed for as a girl. Did you know she wanted to join the Navy after she graduated from high school? But, her father would not sign the paperwork.

Maybe I have finally grown up or perhaps I’ve come to accept the old adage “time heals all wounds.” Anyway, I guess you could say I have come full circle and made my peace with our relationship. Rest easy Mom. You did well and I am fine!

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I Get It!

It’s here again; your birthday. I have absolutely no clue where the time has gone since you were physically present in our lives. Six years seems like an eternity since I heard your voice. Can you believe I actually miss hearing it? I wonder if turning 82 would have quieted you at all. Would you have learned to temper your criticism or would you have maintained your “I don’t give a damn” attitude?

I’m now thinking that attitude came with age. As time passes, I remember a period when you were not so critical. I am reminded of a stage of your life when you were not so certain about the way things should be. And, there was a season when you were unsure of what was coming next or how were things going to end. But, time and circumstances changed your voice.

As I age, I am beginning to understand. I realize that time is no longer on my side. The writing is on the wall and there are fewer and fewer minutes to share a lifetime of experiences, successes and failures with people you love…people you will leave behind. It’s made harder when they are not listening so you raise your voice and insist that you know the answer. I get it! I only wish I had understood it before you left.

Anyway, that’s my birthday gift to you. I understand Mom and I’m sorry I didn’t get it until now. Wherever the next life has taken you, I wish you good health, joy and peace. I love you and I miss you.

Happy Birthday!

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Knocked Down, But Not Out

Surprise, epiphany, revelation…a real eye-opener to say the least. That’s what I experienced last week. You think you are tucked in “your” place sheltered from storms; among folks you consider family and you find out your perceptions are all wrong. Suddenly, you are faced with the reality that people you believed to be part of your support system are actually working to erode your foundation. That groundwork is not built on rock after all. It’s only sinking sand.

At the moment, I am resting with this new knowledge. I’m trying not to let my ego or emotions rule my decisions. I am choosing to sit in the dark searching for any flicker of light that may be off in the distance. I am content to wait for that small voice to provide direction. I know I will hear it if I will just “be still.”

As I look in a mirror, I can honestly admit that perfection is NOT PRESENT in the reflection (say that three times). I work every single day to be better than the day before. Some days I am successful. Some days I am a failure. Isn’t that the way for all of us? Oh, well. If it’s one thing I Down Not Outhave learned, it’s that “life hurts” and “it’s not always fair.”

So, lesson learned, prayers and soul searching in the works. Whatever happens next I haven’t a clue. I’ve been knocked down so many times I’m surprised the referee hasn’t reached the 10 count and called the bout. As I shared with a friend, there must be another path for me and time will tell where it leads. In the meantime, I’ll pick myself up and “keep moving” as my husband would say because there are so many good things in my life too. And, I won’t let anyone take those blessings from me!

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Don’t Know About You and Mother’s Day…

What happens when Mother’s Day rolls around and you realize you’re “not enough.” Given the parents you had, you vowed that when you became a parent you would do things differently. And, you did do things differently. You didn’t work full-time so that you could be the room parent for your children. You showed up at every parent-teacher conference. You cheered at sporting events. Your children had the birthday parties you never had. You invited their friends into your home. You thought being open and honest was the way to go. You provided opportunity upon opportunity for your children that you never imagined as a child. You were always in their corner and you knew how to say “I love you” often. To your surprise, it still wasn’t good enough. So, what now? Does anyone ever get this job right? How long does it take, if ever, before a parent feels successful at the only job where failure is not an option?

Do you think previous generations struggled with this question? Or, is this a new phenomenon? I guess I’m forever left to ponder the answer to those questions. In the Forgive Yourselfmeantime, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who feel less this holiday. I hope your day is wonderful. Like myself, my own mother, all mothers before me and all mothers after me, you did the best you could with what you knew. Maybe, one day, we’ll find out that it was enough after all. In the meantime, how about we forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know!

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Dream Box

20170403_184541(2)Got a wonderful gift from the Jarrett family when they returned from their Colorado Spring Break. Ashley shares that Mordecai picked it out and I’m in love. It’s a “dream box.” I know you’re asking, what is a “dream box” so let me share what I found on this practice. “The legend of the dream box suggests writing down your fondest dream, greatest desire, strongest wish on a small piece of paper and putting that paper in the dream box and placing it beside your bed. Every evening as you retire and every morning as you rise, hold your dream box and think on your dream, believing with all your heart that it is so. Legend has it, if done faithfully your dream will come true.”

Now, the Hubs had a look at the box and wondered if he was safe given some of my voiced concerns over the years. I assured him that such thoughts have never been part of my dream requests. But, I was going to have to think about what I wanted to place in the box. Interestingly enough, it was while I was sleeping that the idea came to me. And, I believe it is a dream many would love to see realized in their own lives. I speak of being “pain-free.”

I hope saying your dream out-loud is not like telling your birthday wish before blowing out your candles on the cake. You see, I have spent my entire 60 years dealing with one pain or another. To the casual observer, it certainly appears that all is well. Yes, I’m fat. Yes, the knees hurt. But, most do not know that since childhood I have endured a headache each and every day of my life. Some days are better than others. But, it is a daily journey of what “number on the pain scale am I experiencing.” I remember telling my mother “my head hurts” and being met with the reply “it’s all in your head.” Now, there’s an answer a child could wrap her aching, banging, squeezing, thumping head around. But, it taught me a lesson – suck it up and move on. So, I did and I have. Only as a heart-clutching Fred Sanford would decry describing the BIG ONE (in my case a migraine), would I take respite in the relief offered by quiet, darkness and medication.

Now, at 60, I’m finding other pains creeping up on me as well. I’m equally sure the Hubs is and has been dreaming of a new, younger and more mobile model. But, that’s an item for his dream box…I digress.

My whole point with this lengthy diatribe is that so many people are dealing with pain, most of it unseen and many times unnamed. Some of the pain is physical. Some of the pain is financial. And, some of the pain is mental. We have absolutely no idea what or how they cope with their pain. We can only offer a kind word, a kind deed and perhaps a moment of grace as we encounter folks in our daily lives. That’s what I’ll be asking for in my dream box… a few more pain free moments, days and weeks…not only myself, but for others in our troubled world. Now, not sure about you, but I’m thinking the less pain in the world the better.

Sweet Dreams!

 

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What Gift?

March 14th – Five years…Five short/long years. Where exactly has the time gone? Where’s the Hallmark card for such an occasion? It’s customary to give gifts for a fifth birthday. Usually, it’s a fun board game or a perhaps that new bike seen in the store. Some folks give gifts when a married couple celebrates their fifth wedding anniversary. Did you know the traditional gift for that couple is something made from “wood?” However, they don’t have gifts that commemorate the passing of a loved one no matter how many years it’s been. If you think about it, how do you say “Happy Mourning Day?” What gift sends just the right message? Is it possible to find “just the right trinket” that puts someone in the mood to celebrate such an anniversary? I know what you’re thinking… where are you going with this weird thought? What kind of strange idea is this on the anniversary of Mom’s passing? But, those who knew Mom well were aware of her habit of gift-giving…BIG on gift-giving as a matter of fact. So, it got me to thinking.

Mom insisted on very special gifts. That’s right, gifts purchased by Sandra Stidham always had the tag “collectable” attached, marked or engraved somewhere. She could be watching QVC or an infomercial, at an auction or garage sale and know immediately just what to purchase and for whom. Not only were family members clueless about what they were going to receive; they were always surprised by the method of delivery. One year, my children received their Christmas gifts inside a piñata. Another year, it was a scavenger hunt. I’ve even known her to place gifts inside a tin box and bury them. Then, she would send you on a quest with a map and you had to dig up your buried treasure. Now, depending on the time of year, this could be quite entertaining given the hardness of the ground.

On top of those quirky habits, you have to understand what some folks (insert Mom) consider collectable and 9f05678ab5252398420843ad83e381bdwhat is truly collectable could span the Grand Canyon. If someone told my mother it was “collectable,” well, that was good enough for her. Yes, siree, you always seemed to receive something you “never knew you wanted…EVER.” It was a running joke with family members. But, on this day… this anniversary, I can picture one or two of those dust magnets holding court in a place of prominence in several homes. Collectible or not, I would give anything to receive one of those “as seen on television” tchotchkes one more time just to see her smile.

So, on this fifth anniversary of Mom’s passing, what it ultimately comes downs to is that no card, no gift, collectable or otherwise comes to mine that can help you “miss someone a little less” than the day before or the day before that or the day before that… I’m afraid missing someone is truly the gift that keeps on giving. I miss you Mom!

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