Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are We Great?

Jiggs (left) and buddies in Australia, 1943

"I pray I will never forget the good things that can happen
when our country is united."

Tom Brokaw called them the Greatest Generation. He's quick to point out that they weren't perfect, but that they pulled together when times were tough. I've just finished reading a journal my dad wrote while he was a soldier during World War II. He was very sick when he got his orders to ship home, and he wasn't able to leave with the other guys. Finally he was loaded onto a hospital ship; that day he made his final entry in the form of a prayer.

"I pray to God that the day will never come when I no longer appreciate the privilege of being alive. If I have learned nothing more than appreciation during my 25 months overseas then my time has been profitably spent.

"God, help me remember the heat rash, how I suffered with the miserable heartburn, the hundreds of cankers that I'm hospitalized with, the diarrhea, the impetigo that covers me and spreads so fast, and the unbearable heat.

"If my time overseas has been unpleasant, it has nevertheless been an experience I would never trade for a million dollars. I have acquired a sense of values and an appreciation of life that I never had before. I hope I shall always remember my experiences. I pray I'll always appreciate my country and what my friends died to protect."

Junie (2nd left) and friends on the Homefront, 1943

While I've been reading Dad's journal, I've also been doing research on the Homefront during World War II. The Greatest Generation, whether at home or on the front lines, worked together to keep the peace. Make Do was the battle cry heard around the country. Here are some examples:

House thermostats were set no higher than 65 degrees in order to save fuel, and year-round daylight savings time also helped save electricity. Telephones were not used at night to leave phone lines open for the military. Food items like sugar, meat and butter were rationed.

Encouraging posters were everywhere.

The government needed rubber badly, so there were neighborhood rubber drives. People donated car tires, garden hoses, buckets of galoshes, even rain slickers.

Rubber for rainy days ahead.

Girls bobbed (cut off) their cotton tights in an effort to save material. The shorter stockings were called "bobby socks." Metal was needed for the war effort, so new styles of clothing had buttons rather than zippers. Zippers were ripped out, replaced with snaps, and donated. Women took pride in remaking their old clothes into new styles, and there were even patterns for turning tablecloths into dresses.

Tablecloth Bridesmaid Dresses

A Christmas tablecloth = a summer dress.

To save on rubber, underpants were often made with ties rather than elastic waists. Because silk and nylon were used to make parachutes there was none to spare for ladies' stockings. Women used leg makeup instead, and eyebrow pencil was used to draw a stripe on the back of each leg to look like a seam.

Even moviestars supported the cause.

Cotton and wool material could not be wasted on civilian clothes, so there were no more frilly ruffles or full skirts. Hemlines were shorter, too. A law was passed limiting the amount of fabric that could be used in sleeves and hems. Removable collars called dickeys were worn instead of blouses under sweaters to save material. Cloth diapers were in short supply and rubber pants non-existent, so even babies made sacrifices.

The most shocking new style of all was the two-piece bathing suit, which used less fabric than the more modest one-piece suit popular before the war.


Weddings were planned overnight when a soldier came home on leave. Last minute bridesmaids borrowed dresses from last week's wedding, and neighbors brought the food. Since silk was unavailable, brides were innovative and many wedding dresses were styled from surplus parachutes.

Parachute Wedding Gown

What made this generation great? I'm sure there was some muttering and complaining going on about shortages and rationing. Mothers must have been frantic and frazzled with worry over sons and husbands, working to support the war effort and their families, making do with chipped beef on toast and public transportation, living for three-week-old censored letters from loved ones. Soldiers left school early, ate powdered eggs and slept wrapped in mosquito netting. It doesn't sound fun. How did they rise above it? Why were they so great?

I think it was because they were unified in a cause they believed in. The chips were down. Differences were shelved for a time, and cooperation prevailed.

Tonight President Obama called on us all to unite our efforts and bring about "a better day." How bad do things have to get for us to come together? Are we there yet? Can we sacrifice our suspicion, our cynicism, our pride? Will we be great?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kidding Around

Jess, almost 7.

Jess: "Oma! I'm going to have a yard sale to make some money."

Oma: "What are you going to sell?"

Jess: "All our towels."

This girl has some business sense, and I'm glad.
I want my grandchildren to have everything;
then I want to move in with them.
(I'm not just kidding, either.)

Five-Year-Old Miracles
(Happy Birthday!)

These little guys have been kidding around for more years than you'd think.

Fifteen years ago the doctor said they were never going to come. A couple of years later he said they might come. Then a few years later he said they would come in June. Then they came in April. But after all that, they had to stay in the hospital, for days and days, and days. Finally they came! Read their IVF success story here.

I am a fan of kids. They are funny and honest and loving and forgiving and curious, and trusting. As they are dunked repeatedly into real-life experiences, and learn the ways of the world, they become a delightful mix of mischief and innocence.
  1. "The greatest natural resource that any country can have is its children." Danny Kaye
  2. "Children are the only future the human race has." William Saroyan
  3. "Every adult needs a child to teach; it's the way adults learn." Frank Clark
I'm also a fan of people who like kids: the ones who watch out for them in the parking lot, the folks who open the doors for a double stroller, and look at the mom of the screaming toddler with empathy and an understanding smile. I adore older couples who compliment a family in a restaurant (even after the chair tipped over and the root-beer spilled,) and the grandma who offers the restroom stall to the little boy doing a two-step in anticipation.

My kids are still embarrassed about the time twenty years ago when I marched into Pizza Hut and told off the man at the counter. He repeatedly ignored the children waiting patiently to order, while he served the adults behind them in line. I wrote a stern letter to the manager and Pizza Hut lost my business for a season, because they were rude to my kids. Store clerks and professional people who give kind attention to children, and show respect to them as they learn to be customers, win me over every time.

I fully believe that "children are a heritage of the Lord" and they deserve the very best we can offer. It doesn't take much to make them feel welcome here on earth. Smile at the next child you see, and demonstrate that the world is a friendly place. Instead of hurrying them along, take a minute to notice what's slowing them down—it might be an untied shoe, or a worm crawling along the sidewalk. Don't be irritated as they adjust to the fast pace of society. And if you're lucky enough to have kids in your life, give them each a hug and encouraging word for no reason.

Every child comes with the message that God has not given up on the world just yet.
And I'm not kidding.

Your Turn:

Please comment to fill in these gaps:

What has someone done to help you with your kids?
How has someone supported your kids?
If you don't have kids right now, what can you do to make the world a better place for children?
Parents, what do you wish others would do to support moms, dads and kids in public settings?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Have a Ball!

Lucy's Soccer Warm Ups

The Lavender Tulips faced the Yellow Sunshine
on the soccer field,
and the action was intense.

The first time-out was called when one little Tulip's drawstring came undone and her shorts fell down. The Sunshine girls kept right on kicking and actually made a goal during the pause. Is a cartwheel considered excessive celebration?

Where's the ball?

"Other way! Run the other way!" Nobody seemed to remember which direction they were going. One play had the whole pack of players running down the field while the ball sat abandoned at the kickoff spot. The ball was safer than the little girl who accidentally got kicked instead. While she cried and was cuddled by her mom, the coaches tied a few shoes, and several players retrieved their purple polka-dot hair ribbons. Soccer is a rough sport!

Lucy Sunshine

Our own little ray of Sunshine finally got her chance at the ball. After running all the way around it, trying to decide which foot to use, she remembered her audience. She stopped the action, and turned to wave. Sadly, a Lavender Tulip took advantage of the moment, and the ball disappeared. I don't think Lucy even noticed!

Adoring fans

After the game, all the parents immediately formed two parallel lines and clasped hands, holding them high to make a victory tunnel. The Lavender Tulips and the Yellow Sunshine scampered through with cheers and high fives for everyone. Nobody kept score and all the girls were winners.

Life Lessons I Learned Today
  1. Figure out which way you're going.
  2. Keep your pants up.
  3. Cry if you need to, but celebrate when you can.
  4. Hang on to the momentum.
  5. Let the coach help.
  6. Try not to lose sight of the goal.
  7. Never keep score.
  8. Running in circles wears you out.
  9. Remember your fans.
  10. Look cute.

We're not here to win the game.
We're here to learn the game.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Break Dancing

Pete, 1985

He's not break-dancing yet, but broken bones won't keep Peter down for long. He's home from the hospital, and even with a back brace and a neck brace, he's working, and walking around the block. Thanks for your kind emails, comments and prayers. Anna says they've been blessed. Pete says, "Ma, you don't have to worry anymore! I'm a fully functioning human being." So I guess that means you don't have to worry, either!
(You guys are the best! I'll keep you posted.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Pool Boy at 7 months

We all have our swimsuit issues.

But I've finally overcome mine!
I've let it all hang out every day for a couple of months.
I'm surfin' to the oldies: ♫ Fun! Fun! Fun! ♫ has got me rockin'.
Cute as he is, Baby Benji isn't the only gnarly dude on the beach—
I'm jammin' with the Beach Boys,

It hasn't been easy for me to get mobile. I've struggled for at least 55 years to find my exercise niche. I fall off horses, I'm scared of heights, I hate repetition. I was always the last one chosen for the team, I throw-up when I run, my ability to jump or jog was sacrificed in childbirth, bike seats give me snuggies rather than support, I have poor balance, I'm not competitive: I'm basically a wimp. And I don't really like to move very much anyway.

I did take dance, though. But practicing in the high school bathroom, my pseudo-skills with The Surf, The Mashed Potato and The Jerk inspired the ridicule of my friends. Although it felt good to boogie to the rhythm, I decided dancing was not my specialty either.

Oh sure, I could cuddle on the dance floor, hug and sway and kiss my date's neck well enough, but anything more technical than that gave me wall-flower status. I accepted the fact that I was not coordinated, graceful, or agile. I was a klutz.

But in this new world of technology, I've finally found the answer. It is a mini-iPod-shuffle. And it fits into a water-proof head band that provides music for the pool.

I've loaded it with all the old songs:

♫ Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around ♫
♫ Help Me Rhonda ♫
♫ Surfin' USA ♫


♫ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy♫
♫ In the Mood ♫


Johnnie Mathis
Chubbie Checkers
Bobby Darin
Neil Sedaka.

I position my headphones
and I'm ready to jive.

I feel SO graceful in the water!
I pick a time when I'm alone in the pool
(If I really looked like this I'm sure I'd draw a crowd.)

I get in and dance! It is so dang fun!
I twist and soft-shoe, leap, stretch, rumba, swing, and polka . . .

. . . my balance is improving and I think I'm ready to try
some ballet poses with a partner.

I'd like to be in a water dance troupe, too,
mainly for the outfits.

After a lifetime of searching I've finally found my sport. Water Dancing!
Who knew?
It makes me feel good physically, and emotionally,
and I look forward to doing it.

And it's all because of the mini iPod shuffle swim headband.

This purchase changed my life.

(Just a little something I'm incorporating into my routine
to add years to my life,
and life to my years.)

What gets you moving?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Who do you call on for help?

Illustration by Claudia Heaston

"Quite often we look at a task and think there is no way we can do what needs to be done.
That happens because we look at ourselves when we should be looking at God."
---Joyce Meyer

I spent the other evening calling six of my married kids all over the country, to inform them that their brother was in need. It was a gathering of Heroes by phone. The response was immediate. Pete's little nieces and nephews were roused out of bed to participate in family prayers; grown siblings sent e-mails inviting the adults of the family to participate in a family fast for Pete's speedy recovery; kids designed get-well-cards; calls, emails and generous offers of help and advice were sent off; all in the care of an ailing Unca Pete. I was the go-between for a few of those calls, and the concern, tears and interest refreshed my faith in the blessing of having a family.

"Get Well Soon, Uncle Pete!"

Emergencies remind families of the ties that bind, and the relationships that are sacred and lasting. Offers were numerous: for dinners, visits, lawn care, books, movies, rides—anything that could make things easier for our crippled patient during his recovery. But the thought behind the offer is what actually provides the healing power of love. Just seeing how effective a family rallying call can be is a comfort, knowing there are those who feel responsible and will be dependable in a crisis.

But with all that affectionate help, the most important direction to look for help is from above. God will allow opportunities to develop naturally from this situation. Friendships will be created, hard hearts will soften, and growth will be shared right along with flowers. My experience in this realm of emergency preparation is that there will be an abundance of chocolate chip cookies, but even more prayers asking for, and offering help. The Lord is the master relationship creator, and the right people will be led to do the right things, guaranteeing fellowship, closer bonds and harmony as a result of the situation. Other aspects of life will be affected in a positive way.

Anytime you're a participant in the trauma relief team serving a relative, neighbor or friend, notice the blessings that come to you just by being involved. I guarantee you'll be surprised at the good that comes out of praying as if everything depends on the Lord, and then working as if everything depends on you.

Pete's accident is the catalyst in our situation, but there are sure to be some in your family or neighborhood. When you join in the effort, watch for the miracles. They will come, I guarantee.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hit and Run

We've all seen them. They're the bicycles we almost hit.

When we lived in England and I was driving on the wrong side of narrow, twisting roads swarming with mega buses, honking cars and throngs of bicyclists, I admit I sometimes plunged forward fully expecting to plow into an innocent rider. It terrified me. What a dreadful thing that would be—to ruin some one's life.

It happened yesterday. Not to me, but to some other woman. I don't know who, because after she hit my son, she got out and looked at him sprawled unmoving on the side of the road, got back into her car, and ran away.

Pete was riding his bike to work, down a hill. A car, coming fast from the other direction, (and without slowing or signaling) suddenly turned left into a parking lot and struck him. He woke up to paramedics loading him into an ambulance carefully because they could tell he had neck and head injuries. They told him his helmet saved his life.

Wear a Helmet!

X-rays and CAT scans revealed compression fractures in his skull and back. A front tooth was broken, an ankle was twisted, and Pete won't be back on his bike any time soon. Orthopedic braces on his neck and back will be trademark accessories this season. He has a wife willing to become his home health-care worker and hopefully he'll be as good as new when their first little munchkin arrives in the fall. Pete will be able to pass on his bike skills to the next generation. Luckily.

Pete, 1982

At this point I'm starting to think about the driver. What kind of pain is she in tonight? Her injuries are invisible so she might be able to conceal them for a while, but they're going to sting and throb, and eventually fester.

The trauma unit cleansed the grit from the scrapes that covered Pete's forehead, chin and knuckles. With some time they'll heal completely. Unless this woman comes clean, I don't think she'll ever recover.

Pete will be fine.
The life she has ruined is her own.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Library Fine

The little girls came to play today.

When it was time to go and the toys were put away, I said, "As soon as the dress-ups are all cleaned up, I have a surprise for you."

Rustling and bustling, seven mini-maids stuffed purses, scarves, hats and jewelry back in the trunks and rushed to sit in an expectant circle. "What is it?" "What are we getting, Oma?"

I told them the surprise was that they could each pick a book from Oma's Library and check it out. The bookplate would remind them to bring it back, and when they did, they'd get to choose another book to take home.

They cheered and clapped—it was almost like Christmas! (Actually it was like Christmas; they get a book then, too.)

Chloƫ suddenly looked apprehensive. "When is it due?" "Whenever you want," I answered. "Is there a fine?" she asked. "No," I said, "there's no fine."

Relief spread over her face, and she jumped up in excitement. "Mom! Mom! There's no fine!"

You may have tangible wealth untold:
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
But richer than I you can never be—
I had a mother who read to me.
---Strickland Gillilan

A librarian by the name of Orville Prescott once said, "Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word: someone has to show them the way."

That seems like a fine job for an Oma.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Art by A. E. Marty

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."

A simple typo suggests a general lack of competance. Fair? No. Reality? You bet.

So we spent the hole week-end proof reading. Editing requires viewing the forst, not the trees. Proofrreading - on the other hand - requires viewing the trees...and the branches, the leaves, and even the bugs on the leaves. For 3 hours we sit in front of Mins' computer (while Benji lay on the floor), searching for the tiniest errors in punctuation, spelling, and, tense. Reading aloud....Reading backward. "I said, Its the most unique type of vacation we've ever had!'

Did you spot at least 25 errors?

Proof that proofreaders are necessary.
It's what I do.
What do you do?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All Fall Down

"Anyone who doesn't make mistakes isn't trying hard enough."
---Wess Roberts

Ways I fell down on the job this week:
  1. Didn't call back when I said I would.
  2. Didn't pick up the cues and offer to help.
  3. Didn't recognize a need I could have met.
  4. Didn't plan ahead for ideas I should have had.
  5. Didn't remember what we were talking about.
"Experience enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again."
---Franklin Jones

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tell Me the Truth

Photo by Bernard Mendoza

So how come there's no maturation program when you're turning 60?

Remember the one in 5th grade? My mom came to school and we all got little "gifts" of feminine products, after we squirmed through the drawings and technical descriptions of what was happening to us. Later, I secretly read my booklet to the point of memorization.

circa 1959

Now I was ten. I was reassured to find that the strange changes in my body were perfectly normal. I wasn't the only one wondering about my development. My mom had poured over Dr. Spock from the day I was born to determine when I'd need solids, roll over and cut a tooth.

Baby and Child Care

"An authoritative, illustrated, common sense guide . . . from birth to adolescence."

What to Expect

It's comforting to know what to expect. This book calls itself "the pregnancy guide that reassuringly answers the concerns of mothers-and fathers-to-be, from the planning stage through postpartum." Dee and I went to the hospital for birthing classes when we were new to this stage of life. They walked us through the labor room, the delivery room, taught Dee how to put on his little green outfit, and even showed us a movie so we'd be prepared for the big event. Knowing what's coming takes some of the fear out of it.

I've relied on books for training in what's up next. So I googled Middle Age.

Middle Aged Women

These are what came up!

It's really old-fashioned to get old, I've discovered. With all the treatments, nips, tucks, waxes and enhancements women can get, it's hard to tell if what's happening to me is normal. Do other women get whiskers? What about skin tags and red spots? When changes happened before in my life they were exciting, or at least interesting. Now I get the impression I should be embarrassed or ashamed.

The introduction of this book says, "Aging sucks. As my generation of women hits forty, fifty, sixty, we are discovering icky things such as age spots, crow's feet, gray hair, chin hair, saggy boobs, spider veins—need I go on? The question is, What are we going to do about it? We're going to fight it! We are going to fight aging." This sounds like if we start looking older, we must be doing something wrong. That's not true!

Magazines and commercials give the impression that if we eat salmon and do yoga we can avoid the health problems that come with age. That is guilt producing and naive. And it's not true. It's wise to eat, sleep, exercise and see the doctor regularly, but I think it's important to remember that mammograms and pap smears don't prevent cancer; they detect it. People don't get old because they're irresponsible, or because they let themselves go. Aging is inevitable. We either die young or we get old.

My mom was in great shape, healthy, fit and trim, but she died at 72. She was way too young. On the other hand, my grandma ate well and was fit and trim, too, but she had cancer, arthritis, diabetes, glaucoma and a stroke before she died at 93. She felt way too old. Bad things happen to good people. Our bodies get older whether we want them to or not. All those folks we label as elderly were once our age, and they didn't plan to get old, either.

I'd like these ladies to invite me to lunch and tell it like it is.
I'd ask:
  1. Is it normal to need a full day to recover after a few hours with the grandkids?
  2. Has your voice gotten lower?
  3. Do your hands throb whenever it's going to rain (or after it rains, or several weeks before it might rain?)
  4. Are you always too hot?
  5. Do your knees still work properly?
Now that I'm turning 60, I just want to know what to expect.
I'm old enough. I can handle the truth.

"When you're through changing, you're through."
No matter your age, what changes are surprising to you?
(Tell the truth.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

"Life's real failure is when you do not realize
how close you were to success when you gave up."
---Someone Wise

I might be the only person who hadn't seen this clip of Susan Boyle singing. Just in case you've missed it, you must click on her name to link to her performance. It demonstrates that dreams come true in spite of realities. We can't give up on them too soon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What Are You Waiting For?


From Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein

Opportunity rarely drops out of the sky.
It strolls by wearing a disguise.
It's up to us to recognize it, catch up with it, follow it and tackle it.

What opportunity are you waiting for?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where is Safety in a Dangerous World?

Morning After the Fire

A group of firefighters was working through the devastation of a Yellowstone forest fire, making sure that all the hot spots had been extinguished. In the middle of the path was a small heap of smoldering ash. One man kicked the pile to allow air to circulate and cool the brush.

Suddenly a little flock of baby quail fluttered from beneath the cinders. Other chicks gradually emerged from underneath other smoky bumps. "These piles of ashes are the mother quail," a ranger realized.

The mother's body had covered her chicks, sheltering them from the searing flames. Though the heat was enough to consume her, it allowed her babies to find safety underneath. In the face of the rising flames, she could have easily flown away, but she was the only hope of safety for her chicks. She gathered them under her body, shielded them with her wings, and made herself stay through the raging flames.

Jesus said,
"How oft would I have gathered my children together,
even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
and ye would not."
Matthew 23:37

The teachings of Jesus Christ offer ultimate safety.
His loving sacrifice and triumphant resurrection give me purpose and hope.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Good Hare Day

"Dear! I think you're the Easter Bunny!"

It was going to be one of Rabbit's busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended on him.

It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh, and saying "Very well then, I'll tell Piglet," and then going to Piglet and saying "Pooh thinks ... but maybe I'd better see Owl first."

It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said "Yes, Rabbit" and "No, Rabbit," and waited until he had told them what to do.
Quote from A. A. Milne

Don't be shy.
Today's a day for feeling important,
for filling somebody's basket.

Show your true colors and come out of your shell.
Even if you're not the Easter Bunny, everybunny needs a friend who's all ears.

The first Easter WAS the first day of the rest of your life.
Celebrating that makes Easter the hoppiest day of the year!

This blog was inspired by my friend LeeAnn. Thanks for the email!