July 14, 2005

"501" - Our "haunted" home???

Gina was my mother's dear friend and neighbor. She's an amazing person and was a dear friend to my mom as she grew older. It was a very mutual relationship, though we saw Gina as an angel, checking on our mom. So when we decided to stop over for a short visit I said,

"Kris, I want to see my mom's house." Kris agreed, "Okay, but I'm not going inside Gram's house yet, I just want to take Ethan's picture on the porch" She wasn't ready, but I was! It was time to go back to the house where I had lived half of my childhood, and where both my parents had lived their lives till they both died. We had moved from Phila. to North Hills when I was in the 6th grade. In those days, moving from the large 3 story, 5 bedroom row house in Germantown to this tiny bungalow in the suburbs, was quite a step-up for my parents.

I tried to take it all in as we drove up Central Ave. The grass was full of that creeping ground-cover weed with the tiny lovely purple flowers. Dad, being particular about the grass would be rolling in his grave, for sure. Kris whipped into the driveway that Sat. morning in April.... We always came in the back door.

"Hello Kristen! This isn't our house anymore, back the car up!!" We both started to laugh, it was just a reflex, she had done it hundreds of times, being close to Mom and living in Newark, she often came to visit. We were both a tad nervous, Baby Ethan was getting hungry too. Immediately a truck pulled up, and we were obviously blocking the driveway! I jumped out and approached the truck.

"Is this your house, do you need to get in?" she nodded yes as I introduced myself. "I grew up in this house..." the lump rose in my throat, oh dear, I thought, God don't let me cry or act sappy with this stranger!! Wendy was a pretty young woman dressed in jeans.

"Oh please come inside?" she asked tenderly. I ran back to the car to tell Kris, but she reminded me she wasn't taking the tour. Walking into the house, tears filled my eyes, not with sadness, but with memories of times long ago .....so much had happened within those walls. Wendy took me from room to room, nothing was the same but I was so touched by her sweet spirit. I walked through the house slowly envisioning the past and enjoying being in Wendy's home with "her" things. Her grandmother's piano sat in my parents bedroom, she had taken it to Colorado and back. I liked this girl and I knew my parents would too.

"When I first moved here, the man across the street told me this house was blessed!" she said she believed that was true. I nodded, she no idea, but maybe she did. We laughed and talked like old friends.

When she left the room for a minute, her quiet fiance, probably a bit uncomfortable with all the emotion, finally blurted out, "She doesn't want to tell you...but she's selling the house!!!" They were getting married and she was moving upstate. Yes of course that was a wise plan to lessen the separation until then. At first I thought she just loved the house, but I noticed she seemed to have a strange connection to my childhood home. I wished them well, but Wendy was quick to say selling the house was troubling, she wanted the "right person" to live there. We hugged good-bye, I wished her well and we took a picture of our baby Ethan on the front steps.

The house finally fell into the hands of the "right person" Mark, Gina's son. When we returned sometime later, Gina gave us the grand tour. I mentioned I had met the former owner and liked her. "Hmmmm" Gina replied thoughtfully, "Mark thought she was a little crazy." "Really...I liked her." I said wondering.

She told Mark, "This house was haunted by the couple that lived here! But don't worry, their daughter came to visit and when she left, they went with her!" We all laughed for a long time.

But I wonder about the soul of my old home, where so much life was lived; and the sweet girl who somehow felt the presence of my parents.

July 4, 2005

Rita & Fourth of July Memories

Happy July 4, 2005!!

I always loved the 4th of July! My first memory of this day was when I was almost 5, I became an aunt. I "insisted" Davy call me Aunt Ginny from the beginning....and he still does, even though he looks much older than I. (just kidding Dave!) Happy 55th Birthday!

There were always picnics and July birthday celebrations, tons of yummy food and of course fireworks! Fireworks over the School for the Deaf, over the Phila Art Museum, over St Peter's Village(they fell on the car), over Veteran's Stadium with the Irish boys, over Miami Bay, over the hill near the lighthouse in Aruba, the Heath Boys display, the Biltmore...but the best were those Jim set up in the front yard. Great memories!

But one of my sweetest July 4th memories was with Rita, my Alzheimer patient and friend. At the end of mass, Father Meyer suggested we all sing America the Beautiful, since it was the 4th! Mass had been held in the assisted living lobby because the chapel was being refurbished. It was an awkward set-up and we had taken seats that somewhat faced most of the group of 30-40 sitting in wheelchairs and easychairs. Everyone began to sing rather weakly without much enthusiasm, a normal response from such a group. Rita stood at my side, and it took several bars of music, but slowly, she started to sing. And did she sing! Suddenly it was as though a spotlight was on Rita, and she was the star! "America, America....." she belted it out with all her heart, standing there in her blue jeans and her red sweatshirt jacket, the top of her head way below my shoulder. "....God shed His grace on thee..."

I felt a rush of emotion, suddenly tears were unashamedly rolling down my cheeks, at first I thought it was patriotism, 4th of July and all, it is a touching song...no, that wasn't it..... but the feeling was familiar. Yes, it was like the feeling I'd get with my girls sometimes. Amazed that I'd be so blessed to even know them, let alone be their mom. Gratefulness..yes, that was it! "God, thank you for Rita, she's a gift," I whispered. Oh, I was so proud of her, singing with all her heart. Some of the visitors and Father Meyers smiled but most the the patients hardly noticed Rita's beautiful song. Mass was soon over, "Go in peace to love and serve the LORD" was the benediction.

"Let's go Darling!' Rita said pulling my arm.
"That was a lovely song Rita, you sang beautifully!" I said, still choked up, wiping my eyes.
"Song? Let's go Darling!" yanking at my sleeve. She had already forgotten her song, but I would always hold that sweet memory in my heart.

Thinking about it tonight, it hit me.....Rita had not only forgotten her song but she had forgotten all the 4th of Julys she had ever enjoyed. I never thought of these things before I cared for Rita. I sang America to her today, she just nodded her head, "That's beautiful, yes, that's nice Darling!" but she'd say the same if I sang the Barnie song to her.

She is now just a shadow of the woman she was long ago, not even the woman who sang "America" on a past July 4th. Rita can no longer "do" but she can "be". And in "being", she still touches me daily. Someday I too, might forget the July 4ths mentioned above but in that dark abyss of lost memories, may I "be".....may I sing a song, and when I cannot even do that.......God, please send someone to sit next to me, who enjoys the gift of a grateful heart, and appreciates the value of "just being"

July 3, 2005

The TRULY handicapped people!!

Gail is an amazing friend, and delightful to be with. Her dry wit keeps me laughing and her kind open caring ways make me deeply respect her. Having been a parapelegic since her late teens, she has totally educated me about being in a wheelchair. I have learned she prefers a kind but simple, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" It leaves the person in the chair in charge.

I went to church with Gail today. In the past, not wanting to be too judgemental or critical, we guarded our conversation about our experiences at church...today I just lost it and cut to the chase as the lady usher leaned over Gail to pass me the registration log.

"Can you sign for your friend too?" she said sweetly. I immediately pushed it back to Gail and whispered, "What an idiot! How do you stand these people and don't give it back to me, I don't want them to have my name!!" She burst into laughter and we giggled through the whole service.

When we first met, Gail often vented about experiences she had with people. "Maybe you're being hard on them", I'd tell her. "Maybe they don't know any better." "And I am supposed to educate the world?" she'd ask crypticly.

The better I knew her and we were out together, she mellowed some and I became a raving idiot! There was the man who always wheeled Gail out of the church backwards as she closed her eyes for the benediction every week. He explained he didn't want her to be caught in the rush of people exiting...hmmm more like she might be in their way!! Then there was the class we were in together, outings were being planned, a lady asked.."Can Gail eat at a restaurant?" This woman had a master's degree. Or the person who asked her to move onto the examing table 10 inches above her chair, a medical person no less. Or the unmovable crowds of people who never stepped aside as she politely asked "Excuse me please?"

I love how she moves beyond all that and always has time for the small child who asks "what's wrong with you?" Or lets a child push her chair.. She's also nice to the TRULY handicapped!!

July 2, 2005

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse?

You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery","Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians...It creates a hostile work environment.

The Flag Thief

My dad was very patriotic, he loved the American flag. Shortly before he died, dad purchased small flags for all the children in the family. He had all the flags on a TV tray set up to distribute to the kids. He called all the children and individually handed them a flag. He had made little flag holders with some clay and a silver half dollar for a base. At nearly 85, in a family that respected age, he left a lasting impreession on the children.

So when Katie came home from school claiming her flag had been "stolen" the following conversation insued.

mom: Stolen? What flag are you talking about?

katie: (with a "duh-mom" expression on her face) My flag from Pop!!!

mom: Oh honey, I don't think anyone would stole your flag. Who would steal a flag, maybe you misplaced it. Is it the money you think is stolen?(finally remembering the flag with the half dollar)

katie: My money is upstairs!! It's my flag, my "Pop flag"

mom: Honey we'll get another flag.(I tried to console her)

katie: No!! I don't want a flag! I want my "Pop-flag" back....and someone stole it"

Katie was inconsolable, so I marched myself to school the next day to talk to her teacher about this missing/stolen flag. Mrs. Portante immediately addressed it as a serious issue. No, she had no clue where it had gone but all agreed that Katie had brought it to school, showed everyone and she had not taken it home but kept it on the corner of her desk, somewhat like a trophy. When it wasn't there the next day, the children were incensed and had searched everyone's desk and the entire room..but no...it was gone and Katie was heartbroken. All agreed this was a tragedy that someone had stolen Kate's beloved flag.

Katie remained sad for quite a while. but several weeks later she came running to the car, flag in hand!! Marlo had arrived at school that morning with her flag declaring with deep regret that his baby brother Ryan Jon had been found in his carseat waving Katie's flag. Marlo rescued the flag and much to his mother's dismay, declared Ryan Jon the true thief! Katie did not blame Marlo, but she had some serious concerns that he had to dwell under the same roof with a flag-thief. and that maybe Ryan Jon would grow up to steal flags everywhere.

I am sure that flag is long gone, and Ryan Jon is a great young man, and maybe Katie will always be my "drama queen" but God bless the hearts of children when they band together to fight against evil!

July 1, 2005

Measure your words before you speak Tom!

Whew!!! This guy is sooo on my nerves!! He may be a scientology expert but he is not a medical expert. First of all I would like to say, I was just as hard on Rev. John MacArthur when he judged this issue several years ago. I don't have it "out" for Tom Cruise, but I read the interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY Show. His arrogance was disturbing. And he repeatedly said "I know, you don't know" to Matt Lauer. (Ritalin & Paxil are not anti-psycotic drugs) He did not seem credible.

Not only does Tom Cruise have resources for "vitamins", professional trainers and even paid nannies, but he also has influence over the masses. People of influence should measure their words before they speak, because it will make a difference in someone else's life. You might laugh and say, "..Not me!" But in this country where Hollywood is a god, that is a true statement.

I too, am not a fan of putting ANYONE on medication, but sometimes it is necessary. His condescending remarks might spurn people to re-consider why they take certain meds in the first place. That's good! But he has also created a doubt in the minds of people who need them. "Am I a bad person?...maybe my son/daughter really doesn't really need a med?"

Some children with ADHD, cannot perform at school even though they live in a consistent, constant, structured environment at home. Even typing the word "perform" is painful but this is especially true of foster children, suffering from neglect and abuse. Some need a psychotropic med such as Ritalin to help them focus and function OR they will loose their placements or get expelled from school, both causing further disruptions in their lives.

If we sent 75 foster kids over to Tom's house next weekend, I am sure he would make project out of them and claim to Oprah/Dave Letterman/Matt Lauer that he had redeemed the children from the clutches of meds/psychiatry. But the real heroes are people who daily invest into their lives, not promising these children a lot of solutions, but promising to work to make their lives a tad better. For these children do not necessarily hold the promise of unconditional love in their hearts.

Tom... there are tons of people out there who don't want to be on meds or don't want kids on meds, and there are all kinds of versions as to who should or shouldn't take medications. You seem to have all the answers! But you don't know their stories, nor do you seem to care. You do care about your new movie, your girlfriend..oh and your religion....I hope you are making a lot of points, because your unmeasured words are self-promoting and harmful to more than you'll ever know.

Later - The above comment sounds noble but my first response was.."what is this guy smoking??" that's how erratic he seemed.

June 29, 2005

Don't give your bad day away!

I used to tell my children, "happiness is a choice", "you make your own good time" and a million more sayings they'd like to forget I am sure!!! But there is something to be said about that. I stood outside the hurricane ruined post office one day shortly after Andrew hit. There was a long line of people waiting under a canopy to finally get their mail. A canopy had been set up to protect those waiting in the hot FL sun.

People had been shaken by their great losses and everyone was finally getting their mail after several weeks. I watched the people as I waited for over an hour. Some were pleasant as they conversed with strangers around them, others were miserable. I even saw a man with a gun strapped to his belt. As I approached the tables, one postal person stood out; he was firm, unbending, telling people what they had to hear..... but he was continually kind to the disgruntled people he served. Surely they must get on his nerves!

When it was my turn I asked, "I've been watching you, you have a great attitude dealing with these people. How do you do that?" Thinking he'd say something spiritual, he looked me in the eye and said, "I just don't give my bad day away."

I never forgot that, it works both ways...don't receive anyone else's either.

June 24, 2005

You learn something new everyday!!

I had a delightful conversation with Jonathan today. He's one of those people you meet and you immediately like him. We talked about raising daughters, the importance of teaching social skills to children, giving back when you might not be financially compensated and God's amazing way of giving our lives direction.

Then I learned that Jonathan was an All-American sprinter (100m & 4x100 relay) at FSU, qualified for the 1996 Olympic trials and ran track professionally. I never even knew there was professionals in track. You learned something new every day! I asked him what he was proudest of in his track career, maybe his 9.99 for the 100m?...no, he said always running clean, no steroids. I remembered watching Ben Johnson in '88, he ran like a machine only to find out he had taken steroids. What a fraud, what a disappointment. Years later a shadow hangs over most professional sports, so sad, and these are today's role models?

Jonathan, I know you are a sprinter but foster care is more like a marathon. True role modeling. But you will never lose if you invest in a child's life. And may your own girls grow to be strong amazing women. Oh, and thanks for that new name "The Bartender" Posted by Hello

June 17, 2005

54 Years! ..."And they said it wouldn't last"

When my mom died in 2000, it would be several years before I truly felt the loss. At the time I was concerned about Kristen, she had been so close to Mom and had driven back and forth from DC to Phila to be with her those last months. They were true friends, what a loss for Kris I thought. But God is so cute, He always sees the path ahead and prepares it for us, with His generous heart. As the Mother Superior tells Maria in "The Sound of Music, "When God closes a door He always opens a window". In this case, it was not a window, but another door....the one across the hall from Kris on the 4th floor.

One could not have ordered a better pair of Jewish grandparents than Corliss and Arthur. Even the cat had to share the loveseat where Kris curled up every visit. Corliss' offered support and solid sound advice... Kris appreciated that. Arthur, he offered critiques and opinions on all boyfriends, Kris thought that was okay.....well not so much, but she knew Arthur would beat up anyone who dared to hurt her, or at least he'd be rude to him!

These good hearted people became our friends too, so when I was thinking of them, I called to say hi! They were celebrating their 54th anniversay today. Talking to Corliss and Arthur is always delightful, their life stories are the best, you feel you are back in NYC with them. I told them how very blessed we felt to know them and wished them many more years of health and happiness together! Corliss quipped "And you know they said it would never last!?!!" I am glad "they" were wrong! Posted by Hello

June 16, 2005


Before I ever had children, I always wanted 4 boys....well we never had boys but I was so happy we had 4 girls. And someone told me once that when you have girls, the boys will eventually come around. How true that was! So when the 4th grandson arrived, I said "OK I have my 4 boys!" Now I thought this baby was a boy too, but so did the midwife, so I was in good company.

But it's a girl!! Pachie and Jorge are having a baby girl, I think even Jorgie was stunned. Almost immediately I started thinking about the "the brothers". My great-niece Hannah calls her older brothers "the brothers" I love it, it's so cute.

This little one, still unborn....she's a blessed girl, because she has two of the neatest brothers God ever made, they will adore her, they will be tender and kind! They will make her laugh from her belly and be sad when she cries. They will teach her about Thomas Train and Legos. They will show her how to swim, throw a ball and even fish. Of course they'll yell, "Mama get this baby!!" when she ventures into their important things! But she'll love them with all her heart! Blessings on you Pache and Jorge, and especially "The Brothers" Josiah & Jack!!

Posted by Hello

June 7, 2005

The Devil Lives in Miami

She stood at our office door announcing, "The devil lives in Miami!!" I burst out laughing, thinking...oh if we could just confine the devil to Miami that would be great. Instead I replied, "Sorry, he's everywhere, even under that big blue Wyoming sky!

Michelle O is a transplant to Miami and the kind of girl you just naturally like. She's also an excellent social worker who does her job well and loves her clients. Unfortunately she has had some very bad experiences here in Miami, everything from the DMV to the pizza guy. A week never ended without Michelle telling a distressing story. It was wearing her down. I don't know where she found those miserable people.

My friend Johanna had said many of the same things. But she was from Philadelphia, so I rebuked her and said "Of course people are just as nice here as in Philly." I should know, I came from there! She never bought that and I'm sure she is much happier living in N.C. working on her PhD, having shaken the dust of Miami from her sandals, hardly looking back!

Then I went to Philadelphia last week. The man sitting next to me in the train asked the conductor for specific directions for me. He said as we left the R1, "I think you might get the R2 on this track." A polite Asian boy abruptly turned, "Where are you going? Warminister? Oh I'll show you where to get off" A woman my age chimed in,"It will be here in four minutes" That was followed by a lady writer engaging me in a very interesting conversation about Irish geneologies. I was quite overwhelmed by this friendliness, and it was that way everywhere I went.

Hmm......maybe Michelle and Johanna were right, I was having second thoughts. Then my husband told me about taking the train in Miami. It was a first time experience, and not knowing where he was going he approached an ominous looking teen with pants way below his boxers. As he asked for some directions and the kid quickly responded, "Poppy, you stick with me, I'll take care of you!" I smiled when Jim told me the kid never left his side.

People are great in the City of Brotherly Love, and probably in Wyoming...but personally I still love Miami. I love the culture, I love the weather, and I love the blue, blue skies, and sunshine. The children are beautiful, the Cuban coffee is great and I love it that strangers greet one another with a Cuban kiss (kissing the air, barely touching cheeks). I hope Michell O will agree before she goes west for good!

And I still think the devil lives everywhere.

P.S. 6/27/05 - K. who is in training and out of the office most of the time dropped by the other day...he went to school in Philly and we often chat about that. Somehow it initiated a conversation about Miami, "These are the nastiest people here! I even worry when I eat fast food that people might even spit in the food!" Yikes!! On an up note, Michelle O came by and I asked, "Is Miami better since you got a better job, less stress?" She admitted it wasn't quite as bad, but she and her husband will go back to Wyoming to raise a family.

May 15, 2005

Self-Help Books - who reads them?

Isn't it so strange how self-help books are often read by the people who need them the least? I recently took the book "Keep Your Brain Alive" to my friend Kathy T. We were waiting for her daughter to give birth. I reminded her she would be over 70 when her granddaughter, Emily graduated college so she should keep her brain in shape! During the day, I saw her other daughter Amy, 25, reading the book quite intently. Later Amy whispered "I just showered with my eyes closed!" one of the many neurobic exercises suggested in the book.

When I first got my hands on the "Side-Tracked Home Executive" I laid for hours on the couch laughing hysterically, while my family walked by thinking me crazy or wishing they were enjoying a book as much. The two authors, incurable slobs, developed a plan to organize their lives. It involved a card system, dividing tasks into daily, monthly seasonly and yearly assignments. The book was so hilarious and delightful, especially for a bag lady like me. (i.e. a person that quickly cleans up by stashing everything in a brown grocery bag.)

Word spread, soon friends and especially my sister Barb and I were discussing it ad nauseum, laughing our sides off. Great entertainment for home-bound moms who sould have been cleaning!

Our older sister June inquired about it, overhearing our rambunctious laughter. We rolled our eyes and said, "Oh please, you've got to be kidding!!" June was and will always remain the most organized, proficient person I ever knew! She was a woman with lists that got checked off, with every task accomplished. Unlike myself who just looses every list I write! June once told me she even studied her Sunday school lesson (she was a teacher) while bathing every afternoon. Being a 50's mom, wives looked pretty when their hubbys came home. Unlike myself who tried to always be out of my nightie and into my sweat suit uniform before my husband hit the door.

We probably hurt her feelings, middle-school exclusion of another because you are actually just jealous of them. Anyhoo...we soon bored, not only of the conversation but the whole thought of organizing our homes. Oh yes, we bought the cards, I even have the metal box I bought to organize them in. I even tried following those wild side-tracked women's plan for a month or two. But like most things, it soon became passé for me and I was on to something else.

June never asked again but we all knew she had bought the book. Years later before she died I spent the month caring for her. One day. days before she died, dosing on her bed, small and weak, she asked "Gin, what are you doing?" While returning a vase of flowers to the dresser I noticed it was getting a little dusty. "Oh I'm dusting the dresser a little, June." Without a moments hesitation she weakly but firmly called. "No! Don't do that! Dave dusts in here on Thurs.!"

I wonder if Dave still dusts on Thursday? I doubt it. But I bet Amy will have a sharp crisp mind at 95, unless she falls in the shower!

Posted by Hello

May 10, 2005

You need to know your mother.....

You really need to know your mother, to really understand who you are. In my generation, if you grew up to be a jerk, people felt sorry for your mom, she was rarely blamed for the person you became. In some cultures it still somewhat remains that way. One of my favorite things in life is watching a game on TV and as the cameras flash to the bench, a huge African-American football player yells "I love you mom!!" I never saw them say "I love you dad" nor have I seen a white guy say it.

Unlike today where mom pretty much carries the weight for most of what her off-spring will become. Working in foster care I see first hand what mom does or did, is monumental in the life of her child.

I was born to my mother when she was 38 years old, and named after her by my father. We both shared the name Genevieve, much to my dismay. I weighed 10lbs 11oz. Just thinking of my huge headsize and her boggy post partum uterus should have been reason to worship her all my life, but I didn't. As a child, having "old" parents was an embarrassment to me, and the fact that my mom limped, furthered my embarrassment. Polio at 4 months had left her left leg atrophied and shorter than the right leg, thus the limp.

Mama was never deterred by her slight handicap, she actively participated in life raising 4 children, doing youth groups, serving as a girl scout leader, PTA president, teaching Sunday School, served on the Baptist Orphange auxillery, the Helping Hand Mission, SS class and missionary groups, always riding buses and trolleys because she never learned to drive and my father was away much of the time. Not to mention she could entertain 50, cooking out of her 4'-7' kitchen. She also kept up with a group of high school friends for over 70 years, who she referred to as "theGirls".

I never chatted about my life with Mom and probably preferred my dad who was outgoing, charasmatic, demonstrative, caring and always the center of attention. My mom was consistant, she was the disciplinarian and she was faithful. If she said she would do something, you could count on her. She was never late and was extremely dependable. Mom never sat on my bed and listened to my chatter for hours, she never knew what secrets a child's heart can hold and she was rather mean to us when we were sick. It was the only time she would let us rest in the big bed she shared with dad, but it was short lived because she seemed to want us to get well and go back to school. So when I had kids I did those things, and was extremely nice when they were sick.

I always felt loved by my mom, and truthfully most of my friends moms acted the same, they were just younger. It wasn't until my life became difficult being a mom that I stopped and looked at my own mother. And it would take even more years till I really looked into her heart and soul. The great part of this story is, she didn't expect anything from me and she probably never thought about these things which frequently torture me. She loved me, was proud of me and thought I was a good mom, when I seriously doubted that. She didn't constantly analyze as I do.

It wasn't until she was older that I started to truly look at her. For some, I don't think she was an "easy" old person. She was often sharp and cutting with her words. But I found her quite the opposite and frequently wondered why I had not taken the time to know Mom better. Daddy died in 1990 and she was left alone at 501 to fend for herself. Others bore the heaviness of an aged mother living alone but living in FL I missed the responsibilities and pretty much delighted in her.

She had an ottoman where she organized her life; Bible, "Daily Bread" devotional book, missionary letters, stationary, remote control, notebook for recording daily happenings, and most important, her prayer list.......they all had a specific place. She chided you if you moved anything out of place. I know now it was the way a highly organized person keep their life together when their mind begins to fail. God help those like myself who were never organized in life!

Mama was amazingly strong and selfless. She refused valve surgery when given only 6 weeks to live, not wanting to take the attention from my dying sister. She was faithful, always remembering birthdays and special occasions. She taught us to celebrate holidays, making everyone special. She was a prayer warrior who prayed not only for you..but for your friends when you long forgot.

But she was far from perfect, her words were often sharp. Once while visiting her, I forgot to do something and she barked "Use your head!" ...my daughter later brought it to my attention, troubled that my mom would speak to me like that. But for me, well I hadn't noticed until I was questioned about it. The next time she did it I asked, "Mom! Is that how you talked to me when I was a kid, no wonder I'm crazy!!" I laughed but she got serious, "I don't know? Oh I hope not!" She was pensive after that, it was healing for me. I was always impressed that at 90, we would talk and she would think about something and perhaps could actually embrace another point of view. We had great talks the years before she died.

I miss my mother, I am sad she is gone, I have so much to ask her and so much to tell her. My sister told me once that our mom truly knew she was loved by me. I blew it off at the time, but I never forgot those words. I am glad Mama knew how how much I loved her. Sometimes grieving comes late.

Nestor's Castle & Dinner with the President

I once knew a boy named Nestor, he was in my daughter Patience's class. I always liked him a lot. He was small and had dark brown eyes. Having moved from Amish country in Pennsylvania, South Florida was quite a change for our family. especially the diversity of cultures. So when Nestor told his classmates he had a castle in Spain, I thought it might be possible. Well I guess I wanted it to be possible because I liked Nestor so much and I wanted him to have a castle. Patience, on the other hand, wasn't so sure but discussed the possibilities of his story with her friends daily. I think most of the other children pretty much thought he was lying, until he returned from summer vacation with a picture of "his castle" Well that silenced his classmates but Patience asked me just the other day if I thought Nestor really had a castle.

I thought of Nestor this week when my friend Abdul told me the President had called him and invited him to the White House for dinner. I knew he was leaving the nursing home and moving out west closer to friends and family, we even exchanged addresses to keep in touch. Such a kind, gentle man...not mentally impaired like most I see at the nursing home, I thought the plan seemed like a good one. Late last week the plans changed, he'd be traveling to D.C. before going west, the President had called him. Tonight he showed me his flight arrangements printed off the internet...yup..going to DCA.

So I am just sitting here, saying a little prayer, thanking God for dreams. I hope somewhere Nestor is having a great life living in his castle and next week I hope big guy doesn't serve pork and he enjoys Abdul as much as I do.

May 8, 2005

Happy Mother's Day!

To My Mama....for being faithful to me and willing to learn even when you were old.
To Jim...I would not be a mother without you, or at least not to these 4 amazing women
To Jen....for following your heart about parenting, going after your dreams and for giving us Madeleine & Carter (Dave..thanks too..and thanks for your sweet MD wish to me!)
To Kristen….okay..there’s no words..girlfriend!! you are tough, I promise to always remind Ethan how tenaciously his mom worked to birth him and nurse him!....and even cut his cord! (Derek..thanks for being there for Kris!)
To Pache.... for showing me the tender souls of children hear God's voice, and for giving us Josiah & Jack (Jorgie..thanks too!)
To Katie...for reprimanding every ungrateful daughter who you sold clothes to at American Eagle yesterday and giving their mothers an unexpected recognition! You probably have some angry well-clothed customers but they'll be back...mom paid!
To Betty, Aunt Nan, Linda....you never had children of your own, but you nurtured children in a ways that changed their lives, and you changed mine
To Barb...my sister, friend and the one I commiserated with all my years of mothering and still do.
To My Prayer MomsKathy T., Mabel, Gloria, Betty B., Kathy P. who prayed for my girls and loved them unconditionally…you are the best!
To Kelly ….for allowing me to share in her homebirth and welcome Emily to this world
To Jissel….may every Mother’s Day be a special as your first! Welcome baby Rozelynn! Thank you for all your support!
To Efrat…I know your next Mother’s Day will be wonderful…hold on to your “HOPE” rock…I’m praying for you always..soon you'll hold your miracle.
To Pam, Shameka, Michael and all the single moms I know who have great kids and parent alone!
To Debbie and all those women at my work who model and give endlessly to our foster children, daily giving above & beyond…God Bless You

Isaiah 40:11(NCV) He takes care of His people like a shepherd. He gathers them like lambs in his arms and carries them close to Him. He gently leads the mother of the lambs

May 7, 2005

I miss my Mama

A favorite memory of my mom took place at our church. The “Mother-Daughter Banquet” was an annual Mother's Day event, held the day before mother's day. The men cooked and provided entertainment following the meal. We were early, and how I hated being early but my parents were religious about promptness. As the tables started to fill I noticed my mother was nowhere to be seen. and the activities were about to begin. Then I saw my mom standing at the door, holding the hand of a rather shy, dumpy looking woman.

My mom was beaming, so thrilled the daughter-less woman had accepted her invitation and actually showed up! The younger woman was the mother of two rumble-tumble rowdy little boys with crew-cuts who attended Sunday School. Her husband was a heavy drinker and life was difficult. I still remember, though nervous and a bit scared, the weary, dowdy woman seemed to feel so happy and safe with my mom. Something about that picture never left my mind. My mother was not demonstative, but there she was holding that strange woman's hand. I now know it was a little window into my mom's soul where she cared for others and cared for the unnoticed. She always did things quietly, she was faithful, dependable and reliable....but she was quiet.

Lately, I miss her terribly. Maybe because I see that we share the same weaknesses, and I need her help. Maybe because I waited until she was 90 to begin to really know her and have a little friendship. Maybe because I went to her house and walked inside where a stranger now lives. Maybe it is because I am beginning to write about the past and there is nowhere to find those answers.

No, I think it's because I remember that Mother Day's dinner and how she held that lady's hand.

May 5, 2005

Be great in act as you have been in thought. William Shakespeare

May 4, 2005

For Mabel and Kathy who think I am a bad grandmother!! Posted by Hello

May 2, 2005

Susie's wig is gone...

Today when I stepped off the elevator I saw her slowly pushing her chair blindly towards me away from the direction of her room. She was deep in thought mumbling incoherent questions, seemingly unconscious of her surroundings as she wheeled by with much effort. "I love you, where am I? Take me to my room" A sadness filled my heart as I gripped her hand and said a simple hello.

That's the sad part about nursing homes...most people go there to die....well no one uses those words, but for the majority of admissions, that is the reason they go there...to wait, but hopefully live well till that time comes. I've gone there 3-5 times a week for over 3 years, so I have seen many come and go. Susie was a perkie lady always dressed to kill with accessories that rarely matched. In the beginning, she looked quite nice, I hardly even knew she was wearing a wig. Her mind had already slipped but she was friendly and outgoing. Not exactly appropriate at times, one day she noticed my adorable grandson in my daughter's arms, and asked about the number of my son-in-law's testicles!

Another day she rolled into the front of the chapel and yelled, "Good morning everyone!" Silence, dead silence..... then..."Well I know I'm Jewish but I know how to say hello!" From the back of the room a voice boomed, "Good morning Susie!!..God bless you!" It was Daniel, a rather large Phillipino man, crippled by a stroke. I recognized him from Mass, he'd say every line of the liturgy with such feeling and always greeted everyone with a "God bless you!"

The road down hill leads to our floor, though it is referred to as "stepped-up care" I remember the day Susie arrived on our floor, I was sad to see her there, surely she was deteriorating. But as her eye caught mine she yelled..."Oh no....it's you, Miss America!!! And you have your own teeth! And I love you!"

Slowly, Susie has gone downhill. Her clothes are soiled with food early in the day, her chair which she once decorated with a million plastic bags tied to it's arms, go unnoticed by her now. Her lap, usually filled with her overflowing purse, is empty. Her pale white face, void of make-up bears the signs of old age, now a troubled, wearied, worried state. But she always has her wig on, even if it's slipping.

I'm a person who celebrates life, all life. I've been to births and many deaths. I believe in life, even when it's broken by time....I believe in the value of every life and celebrate it, even the lives of those who have grown old, whose stories are silenced...but today I am just sad..Susie's wig is gone.

April 15, 2005

These are the kids who call me Marmie! Am I blessed or what!!?? Posted by Hello

April 14, 2005

To my Baby and sweet Munchie!

This, our youngest child taught me so much about myself, for I too was "the baby" Thanks for that Kate and enjoy your day!!!
Happy Birthday!!! Katie Brinton Hammond Posted by Hello

April 12, 2005

Sometimes you have to bend down

Sometimes looking into a person's face is not enough, you have to bend down. I always greet everyone in the nursing home, where I care for an elderly Alzheimer friend. Of course this is not our custom on the streets of Miami. But I feel everyone can use a "Hello!" there, employees and patients alike! It feels right and there is a strange camaraderie among staff, family and patients.

Most days I pass a gentleman sitting in his wheelchair, in the breezeway entrance. He's younger than most clients, suffering from the long term effects of diabetes. His legs pain him and the nursing home diet is very unappealing, so he doesn't eat as he should. I was once a nurse, I understand the changes, and the effects diabetes brings to every part of his body. But truthfully if anyone looks closely, they would notice too, for his face daily reflects how is is feeling.

I reach for his hand as I pass, and inquire about his health. I tell him I will continue to pray. He reminds me that it makes a difference. One day he sat quietly reading his Koran, this time I bent down below his eye level, noticing he was doing poorly. After some brief words he held my hand tightly as I rose. "Thanks for asking" But as I walked away he called, "Thanks for your love too!"

This is something I have learned...especially with kids and older people, get below their eye level, it empowers them to speak from their heart.

April 9, 2005

Not too smart...that's me!!!

Recently #3 daughter shared a conversation she had with her first born following their trip to Miami. She hesitated when she told me, fearing I would be offended. Much to her chagrin it went something like this:

Josiah: Mama, Opa is very smart but Marm is not too smart....
Patience: Hmmm....what makes you say that Josiah?(a little taken back, thank the LORD she didn't readily agree-like "Wow you hit the money! Buddy!!- We've been saying that for years about old Marm!!)
Josiah: Well, Opa knows everything! He knows all about taking care of the pool, he's knows everything about fishing, he knows how to do Leggos! He knows everything!
Patience: And Marm?
Josiah: She doesn't even know how to do Leggos!!

In my defense.... I took care of that pool for years! And when we play Leggos, I try to make him feel important by showing me his expertise (which as a braggy grandmother, I must add...is amazing for a 5 year old) And I used to be great at catching sunfish decades ago but I'll admit, I get seasick now on the flat seas. Last time I went out in Aruba, I threw up on some guy's arm! So...okay... maybe I'm not so hot at fishing!

Patience: Is there something Marm is good at?
Josiah: Hmm..(this is the cute part, he had to really think about it.) Well, she's nice to us and brings us snacks!

I laughed and laughed as Patience apologized profusely. In truth....it was a wonderful compliment. I'm happy Josiah's Opa is smart, I'm married to him! But being nice is something I deeply value in a world that cries for kindness. So thanks sweet boy...I love you very much Josiah!

April 5, 2005

Happy Birthday Beth!

Happy Birthday Beth!!!....I am really proud of you and all your hard work, hope you are relaxing today and enjoying your special day!! Hey! Who are those old guys you are with here?? Posted by Hello

March 21, 2005

A Strange Bedmate

Years ago we had a elderly couple who lived around the corner, Clayton and Irene. Just a lovely little couple who had married after their first spouses had died. They would take slow walks holding hands, circling the block. And if I was fortunate enough, I would catch them as they passed our home. We'd chat for a minute and they would continue on. This excercise was obviously for health reasons, the gentleman being the weaker of the two. I wrote my number on a small piece of paper one evening and told Irene to please call if she ever needed us.

One night the phone rang around 1am. "They've taken my husband to the hospital and I am very afraid to be alone." I dressed and went right over. She said they had assured her Clayton was okay but she asked if I could I stay the night with her. I agreed and relaxed on the guest room bed nearby. "Are you okay Irene?" I called to her in the darkness after we had both settled in. A tiny little voice said, "No....would you mind sleeping in here?"

Her tiny frame had learned to hug the edge of the bed, so her large husband could have more room to rest. I stretched out on his side of the bed, half wondering how I had actually landed there sleeping next to a woman I hardly knew. Before long I heard the purr of her sleeping...she never awoke as I slipped out and went home the next morning.

Clayton died shortly after that, I never saw Irene again but I pray she's enjoying life with her son and grandchildren somewhere. I've never been very good at keeping up with people. But you never know who you might end up sleeping with.