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Are they the sweetest? They are just so cute I want
to hug them. I need to go see them. Soon.
As most grandmothers will tell you, the first grandchild holds a special place in your heart. For me, just knowing I was going to be a grandmother was exhilarating. And then to have one who’s smart and sweet and charming has indeed sent me over the top. And today she is ten-years-old!! Here are some of the facts (unbiased, of course) about Q:
- She loves to read. Lately Harry Potter books are a favorite.
- Q is in fourth grade and really likes school, especially Math.
- This is her second year of violin lessons but she would like to switch to piano. Mom and Dad say maybe next year.
- She is a superb game player. She is either very skilled or extremely lucky – or both. I’ve lost my ability to beat her, although I still like to play.
- Her favorite TV shows are “Ruff, Ruff, Fetch” and “Word Girl”. (House rules – no commercial TV.)
- She’s quite crafty. She knits, does bead work, makes cards and other paper crafts, and all kinds of drawing and art work.
- Outdoors – anything: riding her bike, camping, skating with her new rollerblades.
Q is also quite the storyteller. Her teacher last year said she expects some day to walk into a bookstore and see a book with Q’s name on it. I agree. She has a real way with dialogue. I asked her to let me have one of her short stories to share with you. Here it is.
Why Penguins Can Not Fly
Once long, long ago penguins could fly, soar, or glide gracefully in the skies. But not only could they fly, they also had all the colors of the world: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, gray, black, and white! Their feelings were gentle things and were easily bruised. They also had many fears in their lives like the bears and the beavers. But their biggest fears were the men of Willamette Valley. This is because they stood out and the men would capture them and eat them!
The penguins wanted the men to stop this. It was an injustice. So they flew to the great sun god for he was the oldest and wisest person on earth. So, they asked him,“ How can we get the men to stop killing us?” The sun god thought for a great while. Then the god had an idea and said in a booming voice,
“YOU SHOULD GIVE YOUR FEATHERS AWAY! THEN GO TO THE BOTTOM OF THE EARTH WHERE YOU WILL BE SAFE FOREVER!”
The penguins obeyed the sun god for he was the man! So, they called for all the birds in the forest to gather around. Then the penguins gave all their feathers to the birds.
The birds were grateful that the penguins gave them the feathers, but the penguins were surprised! They thought that they were going to be all pink but instead they were fuzzy, black and white, and had no tail feathers! The animals in the forest laughed at the site of the penguins but they did not care. Even though they had funny appearances that didn’t stop them from going to this prefect and peaceful place the sun god described.
Then finally, five days of waddling and eating plenty of fish, they made it! The place was full of dancing snowflakes and glittering water. Then as sudden as lighting, the sun god’s voice came out of the clouds and said in a booming voice,
“GREAT JOB PENGUINS, YOU MADE IT! BUT,” he said, “THERE IS A RULE THAT YOU MUST DO IN ORDER TO KEEP YOU ALL SAFE!” “And what is that?” the penguin leader asked.
“YOU PENGUINS MUST NEVER FLY AGAIN!” the great sun god boomed.
The penguins agreed but a little penguin asked in a squeaky voice, “If we can’t fly what can we do?” The old god chuckled as if someone had just told a joke at a banquette.
“ WHY MY DEAR OLD LAD!” said the sun god, “YOU COULD SWIM OF COURSE! BUT I MUST BE OFF, SOMEONE NEEDS MY HELP.”
Then he left. The penguins just stood and smelled the great fresh air of this fantastic place. Then they stepped into the water and started swimming. So, that is the story of “Why Penguins Can Not Fly!”
I think my reaction is a normal response of mothers. As my children grew, my concerns changed from what kind of people they would become to what kind of people they would choose as life partners.
I can’t exactly say that I worried about it. After all, my children always had good taste in people. As my eldest daughter, Candice, announced that she would marry a man we had never met, I will confess to being a little bit anxious. Fortunately, my son-in-law, Mark, turned out to be someone I truly love and admire. They have been married for overt ten years now and have given us two delightful granddaughters.
There are many things I admire about Mark from his excellent “daddy skills” to his political savvy. But the number one thing I admire is Mark’s zest for life-long learning. If the Portland, Oregon public library kept statistics, I believe Mark would be somewhere near the top of patrons checking out the most books. His taste in books ranges from classics to non-fiction to various fiction genres to graphic novels. Ohk, and there is also the classic movie/dvds and classic music cds he checks out.
As they used to say in the old Dagwood comics, ” I’m sure glad we married you.” Happy Birthday, Mark.
Today is the birthday of my oldest child, my son Christopher. He’s no longer a child and sometimes it’s painful to think how old he really is. (Mothers of grown children will know what I mean.) On the other hand, the advantage of having grown children is that you get to see what fine people they have become.
Christopher has indeed become a man of whom I am very proud. He has always been a caring person, a deep and wide thinker, a good debater and persistent in attaining his goals. He also knows how to have fun. He has an excellent sense of humor and loves all kinds of games. He’s also a loyal friend. Though many miles away, he’s still good friends with people from his childhood, high school and college. A party at his house can easily bring eighty to a hundred people.
As he was graduating from high school he was voted Most Likely To Succeed. And, succeed he has on many fronts. He is very passionate about saving the planet, one step at a time.
After graduating from St. John’s College he went on to study Permaculture and formed his own company, Holistic Solutions. He’s now a partner with Natural Investments. He and his life partner, Genevieve, just purchased an acre in northern California with the intention of restoring the land and house in line with holistic principles. This will now be a true urban homestead with gardens, chickens and bees. The house is undergoing a “green” overhaul. Their progress is slow but you can follow them at their blog Greening Gumview.
I asked each of my family members to send me something creative to add to this celebration. Christopher has written lots of articles but recently has dabbled in poetry. For Christmas he and Genevieve created personalized poems/limericks and put them on coffee mugs. They were quite humorous and “spot-on” for each person. This week in a leadership class he created another poem. I’ll let him tell you about it. Enjoy.
A Poem – Where I Am From
Yesterday I was part of a workshop that was examining racial, class and social privileges, and how those privileges help or hinder making progress with global sustainability. One phrase the workshop facilitators used was “male privilege,” the idea that guys are not aware of all of the things they can do and get away with that woman have to work extra hard for. I imagine that privilege is obvious to all of the women reading this. There are obvious racial and class privileges as well. To help us clarify our self identity and get to know other people in the class, we did a great writing exercise.
It’s a simple poem exercise called “I am from ….” The idea is that each person writes a poem of six lines. Each of the six lines starts with “I am from …” The first line you answer with a specific place, such as a room, building, city, neighborhood, community, region, etc. Second line you answer with specific smells, for example smells of foods cooking, growing plants, urban smells, crowded subway, whatever smells remain in your memory from “home.” Third line you answer with specific racial, ethnic, and socio-economic customs, daily practices, celebrations, rituals, that remind you of “home.” Forth line you answer with specific sounds, such as music, languages, traffic, animals, etc. Fifth line is answered with specific racial boundaries, whether explicit or implicit, exclusion or inclusion. The final line is specific people, ancestors, family, heroes, role models, those who inspire you. You put it all together into a simple six line poem that gives an idea of who you are.
The usual form is “I am from…” repeated six times. The facilitator did offer that we didn’t have to be constrained by the “I am from …” format and could be more freeform if we wanted. I decided to try and freeform it, and see if I could finagle some rhymes in there. Apparently I was the only one out of the class of 30 who tried this. If I may brag, and why not, it’s my mom’s blog, I completed this poem in about 12 minutes. I guess if you like the poem it’s a brag, if you don’t then it’s a good excuse! Here’s what I came up:
Midwest, Missor-a is from where I come,
Peppery pot roast always filled the tum.
Fireworks on 4th of July; a coke, some lime, a splash of rum.
Roosters called us early, before the sun.
White, well-educated, wealthy, woman-loving, (did I say white?) dude – privilegism, an epitom.
I cry at MLK’s speeches, I credit my mum.
OK, OK, I know the fifth line doesn’t make any sense. In this class we were reviewing all forms of privilege: racial, education level, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, etc, and I was feeling the pinch, seeing how I fit every niche of privilege identified. The facilitator had written all of these privileges as “-isms”: racism, classism, ageism, etc. and we were talking about how lucky and privileged all of us in the room were and someone made a crack about “privilegism.” I thought that was funny, and realized I was the epitome of privilegism. But then I had to make up a word to rhyme with rum and sun, and I thought epitom sounded pretty good. Turns out “epitom” is the Danish and German word for epitome in English, which I think connects nicely to our family ancestors. I know, this is turning into one of those, “if-you-have-to-explain-it-it-isn’t-funny” kind of things …
What do you think Mom? Seems to capture me pretty well, yes?
A Month of Birthdays
In my immediate family (husband, children and their families) there are nine of us. Would you believe that FOUR of them have birthdays in January? I want to celebrate each one of my family members in my blog this year. I’d like to share with you what makes each of them special. So, when you see these two birthdays boys here, Bert and Ernie, you’ll know it’s someone’s birthday.
Today we are celebrating Candice. She is our eldest daughter. How does one go about describing a daughter? Here are some words that come to mind: smart and mentally strong, kind, considerate, tenacious, strong-willed but not a bully, sweet yet spicy – full of zest and flavor.
Candice has several passions: she cares deeply for children – her own two daughters and those she teaches. She cares about saving the planet and is an avid recycler. (I have been known to call her the Recycling Nazi.) She is very well-read, an excellent knitter and a very creative cook and baker. I asked Candice to send me one of her creations so I could share it with you. Here is one of the stories she has written. It makes me laugh, cry and hurt. Enjoy.
The January Surprise
The shock of pain pushed my exhausted body from sweet warm slumber. I struggled from the bed clutching my tight enormously round belly. You were kicking and stretching, kicking and stretching. Moving in and out of your upside down frog-position. Elbows and knees extended, your bottom pressing up into my already compressed lungs. Intense spasms shot through my body, held me on tiptoe, and locked my face in an expression of terror. I held my breath. I was unable to speak or move. I looked at the neon glow of the clock flash 4:03, and this torment ended.
Another wave crashed over me as I lay down on the bed. I gripped the blankets and moaned a low growl. Next to me, Mark slept deeply, completely unaware of the earthquakes erupting in my body. I lumbered to the bathroom as the tremors subsided. I filled the tub with hot water. I sank into the bath, water spilled over the sides of the tub and billows of steam filled the air. My body melted. I relaxed in the water’s warm embrace. The next contraction was manageable. I breathed deeply and allowed the rush of pain to do its work.
Mark woke up and found me floating in the large claw foot tub.
What are you doing?
Taking a bath.
Taking a bath?
Yes, taking a bath.
At 4 in the morning?
Well, um, yes, at 4 in the morning.
Is everything all right?
I am in the tub at 4 in the morning, yeah, everything’s great.
Are you having the baby?
No. I’m sure it’s just Braxton Hicks contractions. I’ll be fine.
OK. I love you.
I love you too.
Mark left for work and I crawled back into bed to try to and get a few more hours of sleep. But they were restless and I resigned myself to get up and move about. I did a lot of hip swaying to help ease the contractions that seemed to be coming every 5 minutes. I phoned Mary, my midwife, when a sizable blob of bloody mucus poured out of my swollen body. Mary instructed me to eat, time the contractions, and relax.
The mind-altering morning reluctantly passed into a frenzied mid-afternoon of slow-motion suspense. I was alone. I was a little nervous. I was thinking. This couldn’t happen today. I was sure it wouldn’t happen today. Mary would come and tell me it was a false alarm. I would go back to sleep and everything would be fine. Normal. Normal and pregnant. Pregnant for two more weeks. They said two more weeks. Two weeks. Not today, not now, but two more weeks. They said the first one is always late. They said February 10th, not for another two weeks. Another glorious two weeks.
A knock on the door… Mary was here. Mary was here to tell me this was just false labor. No big deal. She was here to say everything is OK. She was going to say two more weeks. Yes, because I’m not ready and I’m not due for another two weeks. I know the diapers are folded into a neat pile. I know the impossibly small onesies, teeny-tiny socks and topknot caps impatiently wait to don that sweet chubby baby body. But, I’m not ready. We have a list of names. The middle name will be Quimby, the last name Hayes. But, I’m not ready. Everyone is excited. It is the first grandchild. The tickets are bought and the plans are made. Two more weeks, not now, not today, but two more weeks. There was another knock…
Mary had arrived, and yes, I was in labor, and yes, my contractions were regular, and yes, my cervix was dilated and fully effaced and yes, the baby was coming today. Not two weeks from today, not tomorrow but today. Mary called Mark to tell him to come home. To tell him I was having the baby. It was happening now!
When he walked through the door, Mark’s face conveyed his excitement and joy. He looked a bit like a child on Christmas morning. He was loving, tender, sweet and supportive. Yet, I momentarily resented him. Pregnancy was a lot of work. Nine months of pregnancy was a lot of work. Contractions hurt, in fact, contractions really hurt. And the birth had only just begun.
My labor rapidly progressed and the intensity escalated. I was a good sport. I took the contractions like a champ. I had reached the 10cm mark. I was allowed to push. From a deep primal place inside of me, a goddess was released. She pushed and yelled and my awareness slipped into the darkness. Voices from another world told me the head was out. I didn’t respond. I was no longer present. This magnificent tower of strength, who was immune to both fear and pain, drew in another deep breath, released a powerful shout and pushed this baby out.
Mark caught a bright red, very small child in his hands. He quickly wrapped her in a white blanket and put her in my arms. The blood seeped into the blanket and transformed it to a pink hue. She was crying, trembling and so fragile. I returned from that dark safe place as I held you, dear one, in my arms.
This was the day you were born…I’ve told you the story many times in abridged versions, over the years. But today, today is your 9th birthday. Today you are nine years older than that cold day in January when you surprised us. Today I waned to tell you again, the story of your birth.