Thursday, December 21, 2017

Unexpected Christmas Carols

"Pressure. Pushing down on me. Pressing down on you. No man ask for. Pressure. That burns a building down, splits a family in two, puts people on streets."- from "Under Pressure" by Queen,  released 1981

"As I turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat, this wind is blowin' my mind. I see the kids in the street, without enough to eat. Who am I to pretend not to see their need?" -from "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, released 1987

Those don't seem like joyful Christmas songs, now do they? But hang in there with me.
I have a plan.

How about the old classic "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"? That song was not written from a cheerful time or place.

According to Wikipedia, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem "Christmas Bells" in 1865, which was the basis for the famous carol.

Longfellow had been grieving the loss of his wife, who had tragically died in a fire in 1861. He also had been shaken when his son had been severely wounded in the Civil War in 1863.

Initially, when Henry heard the bells ringing
on Christmas day, he was overcome with misery.

But as they continued to chime, his grief was replaced with a sense of hope!

And isn't that what we want Christmas to represent to us?

The message of hope for all people, as told in the Biblical story Jesus' birth?

A renewed sense of joy for the grieving and comfort for the suffering?

The giving of gifts to those in need?

I'm so glad I learned the true story behind the traditional "I Heard the Bells" song which was written more than 150 years ago. I find it so inspiring!

But I didn't expect to be so inspired by some of the famous musicians from my high school years. Both Queen and Michael Jackson were biggies back in the day, which for me was the 1970's and 80's. I still get down with my bad self when I hear their tunes!

I'll just betcha didn't realize that they produced touching, despair-to-hope, love-your-neighbor-as-yourself Christmas songs. But they did.

Please read the lyrics and listen with an open mind, all the way to the end of each song.

This Christmas, I am not in need of food, shelter, or clothing. And I've been given renewed joy, hope and faith. I'm so grateful!

However I do have some needs right now. One of them is forgiveness for hiding behind a wall of self-centeredness for quite awhile. I kept my pity pool behind that wall too. You know, so I could wallow in it occasionally.

I've avoided dealing with folks who I feared would be too demanding of my time and energy. For a long time, I felt that I just didn't have much to give!* So I've been asking for divine help to love others more freely and unconditionally.

Yep, I need to make that change. This Christmas is the perfect time.

*See my previous "Facing My Monsters" posts.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Scary Campfire Story

Copyright: <a href='
kapu'>kapu /
123RF Stock Photo</a>
Isn't it interesting how one little thing can trigger a very old memory? Then a chain of connected thoughts often follow. Oh the wonders of the human brain and emotions!

My friend and I were recently discussing our gardens. He said that badgers gather in his every night to dig for roots and worms to eat. He sent me a couple photos of them.
I was immediately transported back to my childhood in New Mexico- the first time I went to Girl Scout camp.

I was in third grade. Our group of 8-9 year olds arrived about 4 pm that early summer's day. It was just the beginning of our 24-hour stay in the beautiful wooded campsite. It was located on a few acres of land that had been donated by a nearby dairy farm.

That was the first camping trip for most of us. It was certainly the first time to have such a daring experience without our parents. So exciting and a little scary!

A couple of minutes after our school bus entered the gates of the campground, the twelve (or so) of us were startled by a high-pitched animal sound. My best description for it is a combination of a crow cawing and a rooster crowing. We were informed that we'd be sharing the area with wild peacocks.

Peacocks? Fantastic! But we weren't so thrilled about the rattlesnakes that might be there. Those were common in New Mexico.

After we unloaded our gear, our fearless camp guide gave us a tour of the grounds. Her detailed narration was punctuated ever so often by the screeching birds (that sound continued to make us jumpy for the first hour or so).

We little scouts were in awe of our surroundings! We spotted a pea hen sitting on her nest in a secluded spot. Acorns were everywhere. The scents of pine trees and cow manure. A peacock even strutted by us, in all his green, indigo and turquoise glory.

We had mixed feelings about the lovely latrines. But we knew they were better than risking poison ivy on our bums!

At one point in the tour, we stopped for a short break. Our leader said we could explore, but only within certain perimeters. We had to stay with our partner too, because we were on the "buddy system".

My cohort and I were just exploring near some bushes. Suddenly we saw something move! It was on the ground, under the shrub. It looked right at us and jumped toward us! Then it vanished. We both screamed and ran to the adults. The conversation went something like this:

"There was something in those bushes!" Camp-Buddy and I were stifling sobs. We were truly petrified.
"What did you see? Calm down a little. Can you describe it?"
I think it was HUGE snake! It's head was this big!!" (Little hands guesstimated the size.)
"It was brown and it had stripes on its head!"
The grown-ups seemed concerned. They looked around the area but didn't find anything. After they asked us a few more questions, the campground employee said "It was probably a badger."

When I was nine, I was familiar with some typical forest creatures, but not badgers. So my imagination was in overactive mode the rest of the day and into the night.
The cracking of a twig underfoot, the rustling of leaves from a sudden breeze, anything and everything unnerved me. That mystery monster was certainly nearby, ready to bite, strangle or at least jump on me or one of my friends!

Thankfully, I still managed to have some fun during my first wilderness expedition. I also learned some valuable skills and facts.
Most importantly, now I understand why peacocks make that loud, unsettling noise. It's the voice of sheer terror! You'd screech too if you had to live near rare humongous snakes, that had heads as big as raccoons!

Copyright: <a href=''
>donyanedomam / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wardrobe Malfunctions and other Humilities
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I felt so embarrassed for the man who was giving the seminar. His bright red polo shirt was certainly attention-grabbing! Especially the part of it that was sticking out in front, through the open fly of his khakis. It was like a little crimson flag.

My husband and I were like two children being naughty in class. We were whispering and giggling "I don't think we will remember much of what he is saying!" "Someone should tell him!" "Don't stare at his crotch!"

The poor man did fix his problem after he finished his talk, before he started the question and answer time. I wonder how long he had cringing nightmares about that experience? Hopefully, it became a funny memory for him eventually.

After grocery shopping last week, I noticed something dark on my peach shirt. Eyeliner! It was at the top, a few inches below my chin. No big deal really. I just didn't like the thought of running around the store for 30 minutes with a black smudge, right in front for all to see. Ugh!

While applying stain remover to it later, I remembered a more awkward shirt problem that happened many years earlier.

About 26 years ago, I was shopping with my one year old daughter and her four year old brother. Our outing had taken about an hour.

When we got home, I looked in the mirror and noticed that something didn't look quite right. Lop-sided! Kind of lumpy too.
"OH!! How long has THAT been there?!" I had put my baby's pacifier in my t-shirt chest pocket. Nipple side sticking out, of course!

Hmm, I'd wondered why a few people in the store had given me strange looks...

I suppose I wouldn't have really expected one of my babies or a stranger to tell me about that. But if my husband or a friend had been there, I think they should have! I would hope that anyone who knows me would try to save me from potential humiliation! Right?

Friends don't let friends...

A few years ago, I was having a particularly bad day at work. So I welcomed my lunch break even more than usual that day.

A minor crisis occurred and my employer called me to help. So, I gobbled down one more bite of my spaghetti before going back into work.

We all got through the hoopla. Then I finished the last three hours of my shift, which were almost as hectic as the first part of the day.

Finally, at 3 pm, I had the chance to stop in the restroom before going home. When I was washing my hands, I saw something on my cheek. Closer inspection and turning my face to the side revealed a straight line of spaghetti sauce. Oh yes! From the left corner of my mouth to my ear lobe.

How did my co-workers miss that? And if they saw it, why didn't they tell me?
Well, I decided that maybe they were as busy as I was all afternoon and simply didn't notice my lovely new look.

Once again, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry as I stood at the sink looking at my saucy face in the mirror. So I did both! At the same time. Laughing as a few tears streamed down my cheeks. Pent up stress leaking out, you know.

My life lesson from these mishaps? They're just going to happen so I might as well laugh. There are too many real reasons to cry and stress out. An extra nipple on one side is not one of them.

But! If you can save someone, whether friend or stranger, from public em-bare-ass-ment, please DO! You'd want them to do the same for you.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Love Showed Up

The tiny, hunched-over, age ninety-something woman was struggling. She had some food in front of her, but couldn't eat it. She needed assistance.

That was a scene I'll always remember from my brunch date with my husband last Sunday.

My heart had been heavy that previous week.

First, a child from our area had tragically drowned on Memorial Day. I didn't know her or her family, but the news of her loss was all over the local news and social media. I had been reminded daily of the shocking sadness.

Then we all learned that more innocent lives were destroyed in London. To be honest, it was upsetting, infuriating and depressing, but not shocking. Then I thought "This type of horror happens so often that we aren't very surprised by it anymore!" Dismay. Double-whammy!

On top of  all that, I was carrying the burden of a grudge around with me. I knew it wasn't good for my health, but I just wasn't ready to lay it down yet. That's not tragic, but oh, what an unpleasant and heavy distraction.

It's not that we didn't enjoy our meal. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was streaming in the windows. We joked around and laughed a little too. Gifts for the new day!
But still, I could sense that subtle, extra weight that just sat at the table with us. Like a big, invisible brick.

I was drinking my coffee when I saw a waitress chatting with the two elderly ladies. They were seated a few tables away from ours.

Before I looked away, that employee picked up a knife and fork and started cutting up the smaller, frailer woman's food. She smiled and laughed as she continued to converse with her white-haired patrons.

Now I am not one to become boo-hooey very easily, especially not in public. But when I saw that act of kindness, I was moved to tears. Not sobs, but I was quite emotional!

That young server could've been scurrying about, trying to earn more tips. Instead, she took the time to be gentle, kind and to truly serve.

Witnessing that scene was one of the best things that happened for me all week! It caused something profound to happen: love showed up! It kicked that heavy brick of gloom out of the chair, and sat down in its place.

Please arrive again soon, Love. I'll welcome your impromptu visit!
I'll do my best to recognize you, no matter how you might be dressed.
You can sit next to me, too.
Even if you do make me cry a little.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Passionate Word Nerd

The little red-haired girl (not Charlie Brown's crush) woke up about six every Saturday morning. Although not fully awake, she would pitter patter to the bookshelf, collect all of her Dr. Seuss books and put them on the bed. Then she would prop her pillow up against the headboard, get back into bed and pull the blankets up to her waist.

The wee reader would lean back against that pillow, get comfy, then place the stack of books on her lap.

She'd breathe a contented sigh and think "No school today! Hmm,which book do I want to read first? 'Hop on Pop'? Maybe 'Are You My Mother?'". Her favorite one was 'Fox in Socks'.
She was in first grade.

That ginger child loved school and was always a good student. Well, that is if you don't count Math. For some reason, reading, spelling and writing just came naturally to her; but division, fractions and algebra were often a struggle.

She would dream of what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was just fascinated by sea life! The Jacques Cousteau (famous marine conservationist) tv documentaries inspired her. She decided at one point that she'd be a marine biologist!

When she was about twelve, the fair-skinned, freckled kid already loved all kinds of music. The Motown sound was her favorite. She could really get down with her bad self! She thought she was talented enough to become a dancer on Soul Train. Yep, Soul Train.

Of course, she had more realistic ideas too, like being a wife someday, a mommy, a teacher, and to write books.

Even while her starry-eyed dreams were forming in her mind, the little girl was keeping a daily diary. She'd received it for her ninth birthday. It was a small one, gold with fuchsia roses on it. It even had a lock and key! She recorded the day's events almost every night before bed. At first, she had trouble keeping the words in the slim-ruled lines. Her little fingers just weren't that coordinated yet. But she continued writing. It became very important to her.

The diary keeper's stories detailed the mundane and the exciting events of daily life, but they were full of  her hopes and dreams too. All of which shaped who she is today.

I'm sure it's no surprise that "who she is today" is me: a fifty-four year old wife, mom and grandma who is finally pursuing her dream of being an author.

I've been educating myself online for several years. Many insecurities have been overcome! Putting my work "out there" for all to see and judge was a daunting task for a long time.

Thankfully, I've had a few wonderful mentors and cheerleaders during the beginning of my journey. I learned about the importance of developing my own "personal brand".  My blog reflects this and so do the stories I've been submitting to publishers and various social sites.

My newest adventure is a different twist on creative writing. I was hired a few months ago to write informational posts for business websites. Sometimes, hoity-toity and/or more advanced authors call this kind of company a 'content mill'. I call it an exciting learning experience and a way to actually earn some money regularly.

This work involves research, similar to doing papers long ago in college. Proper grammar, spelling and punctuation can make or break the sale of a blog post. Yet I am still challenged to be very creative in how I present the information. I'm nerdy enough that I just love all aspects of it!

I've been calling myself a word nerd for a long time now. When I recently looked up "nerd" in an urban dictionary, this is the best one I found. It really fits me!
Urban Dictionary: Nerd

True enjoyment for me is when I'm in my creating zone. When my deep or silly or persuasive thoughts, memories and ideas finally come together and just flow through the keyboard.
If you were to peek in on me while I'm in that zone, you might catch me with emotional tears streaming down my cheeks, or laughing out loud. You might hear me exclaiming "YES! That's the perfect word, exactly what I needed!!"

So, I wear the title "Passionate Word Nerd" proudly and gratefully. How interesting to me that Dr. Seuss is credited with being the creator of that word!

Thank you Mom (RIP) and Theodor Seuss Geisel for planting the first seeds of word love in my young mind and heart. I'll continue my writing journey with enthusiasm!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Murphy's Law Babysitting

The tiny dark-haired infant was cold and wouldn't stop crying. She had a soaking wet shirt and needed her diaper changed. The poor child was very hungry too...

You might think that this two month old girl had been neglected. But she was in that pitiful condition because her grandmother was babysitting her. Wait! That doesn't sound right! Especially since that grandmother was me.

I'd happily accepted the opportunity to spend time with my youngest grandchild that evening. I had stayed with her only one time previously. Everything had gone very smoothly that first time. In fact, I loved it!

Baby R. was sleeping peacefully in her little portable bed when I arrived. I just watched her doze. What a gorgeous child!

She started stirring a little after about ten minutes, so I went to prepare a bottle.

There were many clean bottles and nipples on the kitchen counter. No problem. There were a bunch of short fat ones and one tall skinny one. I assumed that she usually used the short fat bottles since there were so many of them.

My bundle of joy was starting to fuss. "Just a minute Baby, I'm getting your bottle ready!"
Warm water, formula, put the nipple on... umm, what's wrong here? It wasn't tightening onto the bottle. I tried several times, as the starving infant's cries got louder. The plastic nipple ring just didn't fit!

So I tried another ring. Same problem. How confusing!                                

My wee granddaughter was getting red in the face by that time. "I'm sorry! I'm trying to hurry!"
I grabbed the lone tall skinny bottle and poured the formula into it, then screwed the top on without a problem. Whew!

I rushed over and picked up R., who continued to wail until I stuck the nipple in her mouth.

She sucked happily for about two minutes. Then she spit it out and started screaming again!
"What?! What's wrong?" Then I noticed that the front of her onesie was soaked. And cold.
"How the heck did this happen?" I put the bottle back in her mouth and checked carefully. Sure enough, milk was slowly drip, drip, dripping from under the twist-on ring. NOOO!

I took the thing off and carefully twisted it down again. Still leaking! And the poor baby was still screaming. (I'd heard that crying doesn't hurt babies and in fact, sometimes it's good for them to exercise their lungs. I was sure hoping so at that point!)

I was trying not to get too frazzled. "Okay, little one, let's get you out of these cold, wet clothes first, then I'll figure out the bottle situation."

The change of activity seemed to distract and calm her for a few minutes. Clean dry clothes didn't hurt either. But she was rather offended when I laid her down in the bouncer again. "I'm so sorry, but I have to go find a bottle that won't leak!"

I looked more closely at the bottles this time. All the short wide ones were the same brand, except one. That's the one I just happened to pick up the first time. It looked exactly the same as the others on first glance. Well, no wonder the nipple ring didn't fit correctly! It was a different kind and slighty smaller. SHEESH!

I honestly don't remember why the skinny bottle leaked all over the baby. Just luck, I guess!

Finally, I got it right and fed the starving child. We eventually enjoyed some snuggle time and she even gave me a few little smiles.
Aww, baby bonding with Grandma! Precious.

I was laughing at myself and my ten minute sitcom-like fiasco before that night was over.

I don't know if anyone else will find my Murphy's law experience amusing. (I'm sure it will be only one of many.) But now I have another funny-but-true tale to tell my grandkids someday. I'll refer to it as "The night I won the 'Doofus Grandma Award'" or something like that.
And it will be so much better to hear Baby R. giggle instead of wail.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Should we all just become Nudists? Part 2

If you are reading this, you are on social media. You probably watch TV too. It can get so discouraging to read and hear ugly attitudes being spewed too often! Criticisms about appearance, clothing, social status. intelligence level. The self-appointed judges usually hurl those rocks at people they don't even know personally!
Forget politics for a minute. I'm just talking about day-to-day life stuff.

Here is a true (supposedly) story I read recently on a discussion forum. The woman who shared it said that she and her female friend were waiting to be seated at a restaurant. She heard someone behind them say "Oh &*%#! We will be here a while. It will take a lot longer for fatty and gimpy to get seated!" Yes, he was referring to her and her friend. In her post, she acknowledged that she was a heavy woman and that her friend was using a walker. They ignored the man, but she was suppressing the urge tell him off. She wanted to inform him that she'd been recovering for many months from a broken back. She had gained a lot of weight because she'd been unable to move! That was one of her first outings since her accident. She was just starting to come out of depression after her long, traumatic ordeal.

What have we become? Why do so many people think it's acceptable to be unkind know-it-alls? And we wonder why children bully each other at school and online. Hmmm....

Another related question: why do some people (of all different ages) strive so hard to be liked or to impress others? A well-known line from the movie 'Fight Club' fits here -"We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like." Or we diet, or try desperately to fit in, the list goes on...

Then there are some who behave just the opposite of those who try too hard. You know who I mean. They are the angry loners who have a tall brick fortress around them at all times. All you can see is their middle finger sticking up above that wall. You can hear them screaming "I'LL BE AND DO WHATEVER I WANT TO! I DARE YOU TO JUDGE ME!"

Neither of those seem like very happy ways to live. So I have a solution...let's all become nudists! Or naturists as the naked ones are sometimes called.

I've been studying some of their philosophies.
One belief is that if everyone wears their birthday suits, it will take away all pretense about social status. No clothing labels means no people labeling! There were other ideas discussed, with terms like "body acceptance", "reduced social stress", and "increased self-confidence".

Could social nudity be an answer? I don't really think so, because we'd all find reasons to compare bodies (including our own). We'd rate some high and some low, according to all sorts of criteria.

Besides, judging others and self is not really a clothing problem. It's an attitude-of-the-heart problem.
Yes and in spite of all my ranting, I must admit that my heart needs an attitude adjustment fairly often.

Self-examination and treating others as we want to be treated (in thoughts as well as deeds) might be better solutions.

Having said all that, please don't think that I'm judging naturists! I'm not, and I don't know or understand all their reasons for choosing that lifestyle. I just don't think it's for me.

However, maybe I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it!

Go ahead and judge me for that if you want to. I'll have my 54th birthday soon. Lately I've been experiencing that freedom that comes with getting older: not caring as much what people think of me.

You know what? It's almost as freeing as running around naked!

Should we all just become Nudists?

I'll bet my title got your attention, didn't it? What is Di up to now?

I've been thinking about judgment for a long time. I've been considering how we all judge others but we hope that others won't judge us.

It's fairly normal to make assumptions about people based on what we initially see, read or hear about them. We do this before we know all the facts. That doesn't necessarily make us bad folks, but I think it's important to stop and realize that first impressions might be inaccurate.

You've probably heard the saying "Never assume, because when you do, you make an ass out of u and me. 

I watched a lot of TV when I was a child. Like many kids, I thought it would be wonderful to be beautiful, rich and famous someday!

When I got a bit older, I realized that even beautiful celebrities committed suicide sometimes. I don't know why that realization is such a significant memory to me, or how old I was when it happened. But it just struck me that even people who seemed to "have it all" sometimes gave in to the ultimate despair.

(As an adult, I now understand that depression and suicide are very complicated issues and not necessarily related to having or not having "it all".)

I didn't think I was very pretty. We certainly didn't have much money. Fame? No. But I was able to be fairly content overall. I started understanding that material possessions, physical beauty and celebrity status must not be the answer to achieving a fulfilling life. My parents taught us good values and that those things weren't important. But I needed to have my own "light bulb moment" about those issues.

A couple of memories from my teenage years were triggered recently.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I had some classes with a poor little rich girl. I'll call her Natalie. We were acquaintances I'd say, not exactly friends. She didn't let anyone get too close to her. She was gorgeous and she wore beautiful clothing! But she seemed much older than fifteen.

Natalie's parents owned a popular business which carried their last name. She opened up to me about it one time. She confessed that she didn't know who liked her "just for her" or who judged her because of her family's position in town. So she just kept to herself most of the time.

Another friend was a beauty queen. Literally. Our high school held a beauty pageant every year (ugh!) and she won it when we were juniors.
One day she and I were discussing boyfriends. I was surprised when she suddenly started to cry. She said "I get attention because people think I'm pretty. I don't think I'm all that great! I never know when a boy really loves me, just for me!  For who I am on the inside!"  

When I was in school with those girls, I would have gladly traded places with them. I even harbored a little jealousy toward both of them. In my immaturity at the time, I was fairly shocked to learn of their personal struggles.

I'd like to think that I've learned a lot since high school- about pre-judging people and situations. But have I really? Have any of us?

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Just call me Mama Duck

One time there was a crazy woman who took seven little girls and one boy to a theme park, without any other adults to assist her. The youngest child was a toddler, the oldest was about thirteen. A few people watched the procession of tots with raised eyebrows.

The looney lady thought "I'll bet they think all these kids are mine!"
(Most of them resembled each other quite a bit, after all.)

But she didn't let it bother her; she laughed it off. She didn't have time to worry about it anyway, because she had to do frequent head counts of her touristy munchkins.

That daunting but fun excursion happened about seventeen years ago. The children of various ages were my six nieces and my two kids. The adventurous aunty/mommy was me!

When I look back on that day, I think we resembled a group of ducks waddling (?) from one exhibit to the next, Mama Duck led the way, little ones in the middle, older kids at the back, helping keep track of the ducklings.

I've always loved children. I've done a lot of babysitting, teaching, and youth ministry work through the years. My role as Mom has brought me the most joy in my life! Being an aunt is high on the list too.

I'm still so honored to be Mom and Aunt, although my experience is considerably different now that all those kids are adults. But I have a new title now: Amma. Translation: grandma. I couldn't be more excited and I know I'm greatly blessed!

My oldest grandchild is four, her baby sister is six months old, and their brand new cousin arrived only three weeks ago.

So, I've welcomed three grandgirlies in just over four years. It has been a wonderful whirlwind of baby excitement! And of course, I couldn't help but recall special times with my first group of darling divas- four from my brother, two from my sis, and my own daughter.

Ah... the tea parties, Barbies all over the house, softball games, jealousy and arguments, sleepovers!

I recently started thinking about "the circle of life" concept as it applies to our family. Every time there was an illness and/or death of a precious loved one, a pregnancy announcement or birth of a baby soon followed. What a gift to receive the wonder and sweetness of new life to help lift the suffering and sadness of saying goodbye.

(And you thought I was going to start singing songs from "The Lion King", didn't you?)

It won't be too long until I can start having exciting escapades with all of my granddaughters!
I'm still crazy enough to host them too. I can hardly wait!

Until then, I'll be reading stories, pretending, getting baby snuggles and changing dideys. Hey, even the occasional tantrum is well worth it.  These days will fly by too fast.

So go ahead and call me Mama Duck, or Amma or any other granny-type name.
I wear the title proudly.