“Grandma Joan”


She was an English war bride, named Joan. Losing her first love shortly after throwing her bouquet, she left her homeland and all that she knew to live in America with her second husband while still grieving her first. It wasn’t long after the war, and she had dreams of the new world awaiting her.

Joan was a kind and gentle soul who had a soft lilting voice, the tone of which reminded me of a string of tinkling brass bells moved by mellow winds during the warmth of a late spring day. While I worked outside the home, Joan sat for my eldest son who was just a baby at the time. It didn’t take long before our family more or less adopted her, calling her, “Grandma Joan.” She touched my baby as though he was her own, rocked him gently and bundled him close. Joan took him for rides in a stroller where he dangled a pudgy fist, hoping her black poodle, Pepper, would tickle it with his pink tongue. She taught him to feed fuzzy, quacking ducks in the lime green pond of the park and read him fairy tales before tucking him in for naps before toppling A.B.C. blocks.  And, when my second son was born she joyously added him to the fold, kissing him from head to toe.

Before long, “Grandma Joan,” spent almost every holiday with us including Christmas and birthdays. I remember whipping up her favorite German chocolate cake for a milestone birthday one year, while my toddlers surprised her with presents she didn’t need but loved to receive. One Christmas day, she delighted me with the gift of an angel soft afghan colored in cream. Surely it took many hours of love and toil to make such a dream. Today, nearly thirty years later, I still wrap up in the warmth of it while dozing in her scent. Joan taught my children manners and messages that can never be replaced while giving me memories of proper grace.

Occasionally, I sensed a chasm of pain behind Joan’s golden rims of wire. Reflecting pools of blue never to surface. A life of  youth and love sunken by war and loss.  As close as we were, some things were better left unspoken. People come in and out of each other’s lives at just the right time as part of fate or from a plan high above in Heaven. During the time we spent with Joan, her husband was dying in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s disease. And, before meeting Joan, my own little family had just moved from afghanout-of-state. We craved the love and touch of maternal wisdom. Suddenly, out of nowhere hearts and homes collided providing both with an extension of a family. Kindness, trust, and love.

This morning a chill is in the air. Doodle dog is by my side as I sit by the fire wrapped in an afghan of cream where I am forever thankful for “Grandma Joan.”

 

 

 

Costumed Charm


The other day we enjoyed Trick-or-Treating with two of our grandchildren in my favorite Missouri city, St. Charles. It is the third oldest city in the state. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Charles,_Missouri Founded in the mid-1700’s by a French-Canadian fur trader, St. Charles looks much like it did hundreds of years ago. The city has been preserved, making visitors feel like they’re stepping back into time. Quaint shops line the original cobblestone streets with a beautiful backdrop of the great Missouri river behind them. Rich in charm, original gingerbread architecture, and filled with history, St. Charles is the last known stop of the Lewis and Clark expedition way back in 1804. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_and_Clark_Expedition

Monday was such a perfect day for Halloween with temperatures rising into the mid-70’s. Surprisingly warm, it might have felt even hot to some of the costumed creatures covered in hair from head to toe. A few were sweating with chocolates melting. Still, others didn’t mind, so thrilled they were to soak up the sun. Charming shops shared treats with characters, big and small until our own little Super Heroes stopped to say, “I don’t want any more candy.” The kids were tired. Little legs had walked a long way. Grandpa carried our grandson on his shoulders while I pushed a stroller. Buckets were heavy, make-up dripped on the monster’s face next to me while a hot pink wig suddenly fell upon a bale of hay.

Afterward, dinner was enjoyed at my son and daughter-in-law’s house while a menagerie of children rang the bell. Ghosts and goblins came to the door, witches of black dusted off brooms and cheerleaders shook pom-poms before cheering for more. Our grand-kids donned satin capes, sure to save a mission or two before calling it a night.

Not long before the children’s bedtime, we gathered ’round the television to watch the movie, Room on the Broom adapted from the children’s book by Julia Donaldson, published in the spring of 2014. No tricks here, just one giant TREAT to end a terrific afternoon and evening of delight.

Below are links to a reading of the book as well as the movie. Please enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWB0goTWZic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuIZThG1APA

 

 

More to The Eye Than Black and White…..


She waddled a bit, her growing tummy leading the way. A black and white striped shirt stretched snug across the whole of her belly. Two rambunctious little ones, one with curls flailing to her shoulders, the other a tow-headed toddler of two leading the way to our finished lower level. There, near a fireplace waiting for short winter days, a tea party danced amid pink plastic china with baskets of assorted delights.

Raggedy Ann sat at the head of the scuffed green table where paint had peeled long ago, revealing a thick strong base of walnut brown. Mismatched chairs parked around the sides. Raggedy Andy sat in one, I in another and Toe Head to my right. Grandpa was finishing final computer work at a long table nearby while the belly rested in a plump corduroy sofa.

Soon, the doorbell sounded. Doodle dog barked while all chaos rang out. My son bounced down the stairway with his usual happy face, tossing kids in the air before kissing the belly of stretched stripes. Just then a wave of motion began with movements to the left, slightly up before swinging down. We could all see it.

Yes, there was a baby under the black and white stripes. Deep within my daughter-in-law’s tummy, not far under her heart of beating pink, she carried a mother’s love who had already become part of a family. A great big family…..

A few minutes later my younger daughter-in-law drove up with “Babies of Two” plus their older sister of three. Together, we all went out for an early dinner in a restaurant very much prepared for children of all ages. We needed three high chairs and a booster seat. To my left, a little lady of four-years-old, shared baskets of chicken strips, sides of mixed fruit or small bowls of macaroni & cheese.

Looking around the table, I caught sight of my husband, who sat at the opposite end.  I smiled, grasping the fact that WE began this great big family. For years and years, we were a small family of four, having only two sons. Eventually, they grew up and married, giving us the gift of daughters-in-law. Four became six. And, before I could blink an eye, grandbabies arrived, growing our family to eleven. Yes, you read that right…ELEVEN!!! This year, before the end of it, our family will have grown yet again with the arrival of tiny angel wings swaddled under blankets of flannel for me to rock around the Christmas tree.

By then my husband and I will have six grandchildren. All little ones, ages, 4, 3, 2, plus twins who turn 2 years old in December, and the new baby who will arrive about the same time.

Heaven sent from under stripes of black and white.

 

*striped shirt picture courtesy of Google Chrome

Aged Letters From The Heart


 

Recently discovered in a dark corner of my basement was a nondescript cardboard box. Inside was a stack of papers including my marriage license and birth certificate, old files and paperwork, together with early photographs of the children when they were very young. Deep down, flat and pressed nearly against the right side of the coagulated box of plain paper brown was a long ago forgotten letter saved for many, many years. A treasured gift rediscovered that I’ll pass down to my children who will hopefully pass it down to their own. Part of my legacy was folded into a wrinkled envelope of sixty-three years.

Written in a pen of turquoise ink on five pages of thick, yellowed paper was a letter scrawled from my father to his own. Moving to the windowed stairwell, I held it in my shaking hands where I could read it in better light. Staring at my father’s writing, his cursive, capital D’s curled to the left while the bottom of the letters swirled to the right. ABC’s from his heart as he bared his soul to my paternal grandfather, the man most important to him in all of his world.

Although my grandfather was a warm and loving man, he rarely expressed any emotion to his son, which made reading this letter particularly poignant. Not once was the word, “Love” ever written, yet anyone can read between the lines. I nearly cried the whole way through. My dad was in the United States Air Force and had recently learned his father had taken ill after losing his beloved brother (my father’s uncle). I’m re-writing my father’s letter word for word, exactly as he wrote it at the age of 19. A boy’s hand penning the words of a young man…..

Nov 19/53

Dear Dad,

I’m not much for soft words Dad, but I think it’s about time I told you what a great guy you really are. Ever since you took me to that fair or carnival or what ever it was; all I can remember about it is, that there were some great big trucks. I guess they looked about half as big as the world at the time. On the way back you bought me my first candy bar. And when I used to meet you coming down the street from work and you’d let me steer. Oh, yes, and when we went swimming; you’d hold me up so I could kick my feet.

When I grew up a little, we use to play ball or catch together. Remember when we use to go hunting; when that Pheasant went up, he came down soon, I hardly ever saw you miss.

Well Dad, ever since I was old enough to know anything at all, I knew you were a very wonderful Dad and I was a very lucky kid for having you for my Pop. You are the most, to say the least.

Remember all the trouble I used to get into; stealing fruit, fighting, and smoking, when I was just a kid. Maybe it is a good thing I smoked then, and I don’t have to smoke now, and I don’t.

How about that gate night, that all of us guys broke all those windows and got caught and went to court too. Boy, that was the limit. How did you ever put up with it all anyway?

Well, I have grown up a lot, and this Christmas I’ll be twenty one, and I’m supposed to be a man. Right now I think I’ll be a man by Christmas. I’m not afraid of anything or anybody.

Having wonderful parents like you and Mom are, to have raised me, I know I’ve made it. Mom certainly is a wonderful woman and Mother too. You sure picked the right woman when you married her. You two certainly are the best parents a guy could ask for.

Well Dad, how have you been feeling lately? I hear, not too good, huh. Well, you should go see the doctor right away. You know, I only have one Dad like you. I know Uncle Charlie’s death must have hit you pretty hard. He sure was a great guy, wasn’t he? But let’s not let it get the best of us Pops. Those things happen, but when they do, we just have to remember the pleasant things about them. We’re tough enough, we can take it, we have to, that’s all.

Well Dad, I made it home for your birthday when you were sixty one, and I’m trying to make it home for mine and I’ll be twenty one. Gosh I’ll be old enough to vote now, and buy beer too. When I come home, we’ll go down town and I’ll buy you one, ok?

Well Dad, I guess I’ve rattled on long enough. Take good care of yourself Pops and Mom too. Hope to see you in one short month.

Your Son,

Paul

Dad's letter

 *With LOVE to you and yours, I wish you a Happy Father’s Day!

Miniature Miracles


A few days ago, I was invited by my dear friend to be a guest at a charity luncheon and fashion show, benefiting one of our leading hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU). An annual function, tremendous effort is put forth by a group of tireless volunteers who work to make everything perfect. Donations of graceful blooms are gathered together with assorted gift baskets that hold everything from hand-made jewels to trips to Disneyland. All are proudly displayed on tables of long, draped in berry and gold. Baskets are beautifully wrapped in clear cellophane, where admiring bidders drool while raising funds to save innocent babies born too soon.

Not long ago, another friend of mine suddenly found herself in the midst of a hospital NICU. There, she came to know it intimately. In the beginning, she was shocked with pain and grief. The feeling hit her, unexpectedly. Fast, like a freight train running off its tracks. At the time, my friend’s daughter was six months pregnant with twin boys. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails….Quietly, God whisked one tiny soul off to heaven, leaving behind his fragile brother within the quiet of his mother’s womb.

My friend’s daughter lay in a sterile hospital bed, following doctor’s orders while praying to bring her last little lamb to a full term of “40 weeks.” Tears flowed for the infant angel that had already left an emptiness inside of her. Still, each morning she woke without having delivered, she whispered tears of thankfulness to God as well as both of her sons. One unborn, the other in heaven above.

There may be risk factors or possible causes of premature labor, but very little anyone can do to prevent it. Mothers should never blame themselves. Only God decides when a baby comes into this world. http://www.marchofdimes.org. Still too soon, my friend’s first grandson was born weighing not much more than a pound of butter. Yet, he was breathing and alive! Doctors and nurses rushed him to the NICU, where the child of innocence fought for his life. The whole of his family spent the next three months on a hospital roller coaster ride, thankful for each breath the fragile child took, each beat his tiny heart drummed.

Truly, God works miracles. Through the skill a fine team of pediatric physicians and neonatal specialists together with nurses who surely wear hidden wings under their scrubs, the day finally came for my friend’s grandson to go home. There, an extended family eagerly waited to give the three-month-old newborn more loving care than any child could imagine. Today, the little toddler of curly hair and smiles of pearls is exactly where he needs to be on all of the doctor’s charts! He’s a darling boy loved by all and everyone.

When God’s seed is planted within a woman’s womb, a mother’s love is instinctual, pure and undeniable. It exists the moment she suspects a tiny life-force grows within her. She glows from that moment on, knowing she carries a miniature miracle deep inside while fingertips gently caress a growing belly. Friends and families get excited, fathers support their wives while future sibling’s eyes grow wide with wonder.

Yes, a bouncing baby boy. Truly a gift from God to be forever thankful for…..

*With many thanks to the physicians and nurses in NICU’s everywhere for saving little lives. Bless you each and every day.

premature baby pic

Thoughts On Mothers


“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness, and children sleep soundly in them.”  

Victor Hugo

“There is no velvet so soft as a mother’s lap, no rose as lovely as her smile, no path so flowery as that imprinted with her footsteps.”   

Archibald Thompson

“There is nothing sweeter than the heart of a pious mother.”

 Martin Luther

“She was the best of all mothers, to whom I owe endless gratitude.”

Thomas Carlyle

“All I am I owe to my mother.  I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” 

George Washington

“No matter how old, a child is a babe who carries the heart of their mother inside of their own.

Kim Gosselin

Memories of Missing and Loving…..


The earliest memory of my mother ironically is of missing her. Like I do today. She was and is away. As a child of four, I wasn’t able to reason, or understand why. I couldn’t even try.

A tiny house of six hundred square feet in pale pink. I remember the kitchen having black speckles on the floor and there was a polished white sink. Frilly curtains of sheer at the window above. Two bedrooms, I think. My little brother and I shared a room so small our fingers touched from one bed of maple lacquer to the next.

It was Christmas morning, and Mother was not there. She was in the hospital cradling a new baby sister who was born on the Eve before. Snapshots are in my mind of sitting in warm flannel near a perfect tree decorated delightfully. Full and bright in colored lights, it brushed the whole of the room. Presents galore. A galloping black rocking horse on red springs for my brother, plus a Chatty Cathy doll dressed in a blue cotton dress for me. She was like magic! Pull a ring of plastic white and she talked to me. Yes, really talked to me! Daddy and Grandpa were there too, but no Mommy to see.

My mother was a wonderful mother. Not a perfect mother but she did her very best. She raised five children, one who nearly died at birth, and struggled thereafter. Mother coped silently with severe anxiety and depression, yet pushed through to better herself personally and professionally. In spite of only a tenth-grade education, she surpassed every goal she ever set for herself and was probably the hardest working woman I ever knew. She was beautiful and creative, kind to others and loved all people.

That was then, this is now. Mother’s Day is nearly upon us. Yet, today the same feeling of missing my mother is still deep inside of me…almost tangible. It’s as if I’m a child of four kneeling at the foot of the Christmas tree whose mother is away again. Except this time, I’m all grown up. She’s not coming back. The painful perception of abandonment. For whatever reason perhaps this feeling has never left me?

The rocking horse under the Christmas tree has jumped from his springs of red to ride out to pastures of green where my mother rests in peace today. Chatty Cathy hopped upon his saddle to perhaps watch over her. Pull a string behind her neck to hear three sweet words never to forget,“I Love You.”

Happy Mother’s Day

*Dedicated to all mothers, particularly those who suffer from depression, anxiety or any other mental disorder.mom and dad

*Mother and Father. My favorite picture of them, circa early 1970’s

Breathe Freely


http://www.lung.org/

Raindrops are clinging to the outside window screens of my turret office space. Looking like itty-bitty bubbles, whatever is left drips to nowhere land. Falling between white window panes behind my writing desk, I wonder what happens when they plop to the ground. Do they make silent sounds that only God can hear?

A loud thunderstorm crashed over and above my house last night. The dog shook to wake me up. He hid under the safety of bed covers, fearing what might come next. Getting up to glance between wooden blinds, ancient mottled trees swayed through nature’s bit of forest land. Their long limbs bent far to the left, then further to the right. Swooning so, they nearly touched the budding ground.

That’s when I heard it. An eerie whistling sound swishing through branches on the hill. Raindrops fell fast and hard, like cold tears from heaven. I felt shaken then, much like my dog hiding under blankets. The noise reminded me of the first time I heard ‘whistling’ from my toddler’s accordion chest. Much harder for my little one to breathe out than it was for him to breathe in. A term called wheezing.

Within minutes, a rushing box of red metal on four rubber tires raced my tender treasure to the hospital where he was put in an oxygen tent. Dressed in a small cotton gown printed in teddy bears of green, he was afraid and nearly blue. Finally, he began to breathe freely. The simple act of taking a breath. Not only breathing in but breathing out. In…and…out. “A.S.T.H.M.A,” the doctor with authority, pronounced.

After a few hours in the emergency room, my baby could go home. There, I cradled him in my arms. Not wanting to let go, I delicately brushed wisps of damp curls to the side of his forehead with the tips of grateful fingers. Thanks to God, he slept peacefully then.

Breathing freely…OUT as well as IN.

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Love 146 ~ Update #2


https://randieross.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/love-146-update-2/

A heart warming post of a mother on a mission to help stop Human Sex Trafficking. I was appalled to learn my home of, St. Louis is ranked in the top 20 USA cities for this ugliness. Please join in helping to save innocent children who have no voices when stolen off the streets. Thank you.

Glitter In The Ashes

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If you have been following my blog for awhile, you may have read how I have been walking alongside a team of wonderful people on team Love Wins, and we have been walking 146 miles in 46 days to help the efforts of Love 146 to end child trafficking. We have 5 days left and I was able to finish my 146 miles in 36 days!  I am still walking, and am at 154 miles as of today.  This issue of child trafficking weighs so heavy on my heart.  It hurts to know that these innocent kids don’t have a choice, and I am so honored that I have resources and abilities to spread the word that this needs to stop.  I am blessed that I have an amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing  husband who supports my efforts, and amazing friends who have joined in to walk with me and pray…

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