Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another Candle

"Put another candle on my birthday cake...I'm another year old today", a familiar refrain to any child from the 50's who lived in Southern California. Sheriff John would bring out a lighted birthday cake and sing the birthday song to all his freckle faced, birthday club members but most especially to those who had a birthday.

This morning on the last birthday of my 50th decade, it seemed appropriate to bring out the old ditty and play it on my grand piano. The simple little melody continues to bring a smile to my lips and a sense of childhood to my day. After all it is just another candle and the fact there are so many that I can read by them now is reason enough to celebrate. By virtue of remembering the tune and the words, I have remained a member of the birthday club for over 50 years. I may be a card carrying AARP member but Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade is truly a "badge" of honor.

I was 9 years old. My brother Johnny, sitting by my side, pulling my hair and my little sister, Susie watching quietly on the couch, as my mom turned on the TV to Sheriff John on KTLA channel 5 out of Los Angeles. We watched him in black and white (no color TV) sing the song and tell the birthday child where to find a gift hidden in their house (parents of course, were in on this deal, but who knew?).

Sheriff John read a 100 names a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year for 18 years, you can imagine how many children waited anxiously to hear theirs. The show first aired in 1952 with Sheriff John telling us to laugh and be happy and sharing bits of wisdom like don't play with matches. Kids would send in their own tips that he would read, like "never put a snake in the bathtub without telling your mother".

Today I share my birthday with my granddaughter and I will proudly sing "Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake", because that's what a wise Lunch Brigade grandma would do.

The Birthday Polka by Sheriff John

Put another candle on my birthday cake
My birthday cake, my birthday cake
Oh, put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today.

I'm gonna have a party with my birthday cake
Come on and take some birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

We'll have some pie and sandwiches
And chocolate ice cream, too.
We'll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I'm gonna do.

I'll blow out the candles on my birthday cake
And when I do, a wish I'll make
Put another candle on my birthday cake,
I'm another year old today.
Happy Birthday to you!
I'm another year old today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Man Up!

My father was only as close as the waiting room and believe it or not, with a cigarette in his hand as my mother gave birth to each of their seven children. My husband was not only in the labor room but delivered two of our children. My daughters also had the opportunity to have their husbands in the labor room and my son also was close at hand during the birth of his child. Yes, the times are changing. But there is more left to do according to the September 20th, Newsweek article, Men's Lib.

In a changing economic world, men are finding opportunities to reevaluate their roles in the workplace and in the home. Sweden allows for a 390 day split for new parents to use weekly, monthly, even hourly. But in 1995 they passed a new law - a use it or lose it leave for fathers. If the father did not use a month of his new parenting leave, it was lost. This allowed for a 4% increase in men taking time to bond with their children.

By taking paternity leave, men become more involved as fathers. Seems simple enough but the bottom line is impressive - more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. Gender parity in the workplace creates an optimal balance of fully employed men and women, increasing the gross domestic product by as much as 9 percent as described in a recent study of the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. is currently the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t bankroll a bonding period for either parent. I propose that instead of subsidizing banks and Wall Street, could our money be better spent funding paid parental leave? That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rites Of Passage

Spending the last few days taking care of my daughter and my new grandson has been an opportunity to watch the circle of life from a younger perspective. Having been a caregiver for elderly parents for the past few years, I have been immersed in the circle from the other side.

It is interesting to note that like Benjamin Button, we travel through life only to find ourselves at approximately the same position. The care and feeding at the beginning and end of our lives requires loving, patient hands. There is a certain amount of fear for those in charge of the care and those in need of the care. Together, a trust evolves between the cared for and the caregiver and the journey is made meaningful and rich from the bond that develops.

Traditionally family have filled these roles but whether it is new mothers and fathers, or grown children and elderly parents, the delicate dance is a growing experience for all. I have watched my daughter listen for every breath her tiny son makes. I have seen my son-in-law change diapers like a champ while announcing the play by play. I remember playing this same role with my father-in-law toward the end of his life. My daughter talks about how long it takes to get ready just to go to the market. I share how long it takes to get the shopping done when I take my mother-in-law.

Patience is the virtue we are rewarded with through these rites of passage. And by its very nature, the circle of life encompasses us on one end or the other - someday the daughter I cared for, will hopefully care for me. What goes around, comes around as the saying goes. Hopefully the time we spend in the middle of the circle prepares us to embrace both ends. That's what a wise grandma is learning to do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Honored Tradition

Headed up to Portland to take care of daughter and grandson this week. All the women in my family have done this with the new mothers. My grandmother cared for my mother as each of the seven of us made our appearance. She cooked, cleaned and rocked as my mother took advantage of the help after the miracle/trauma of birth.

My mother came and took care of me, even with the adoption of my oldest. Though not a traumatic birth, I was a new mom and needed to learn the ropes just like any new mom. She cooked and cleaned and told war stories of raising me. The story goes that as soon as I was able to crawl out of her lap, I was off and running. Sounds like me.

Now as I pack to follow in the footsteps of the matriarchs of my family, I remember the overwhelming moments of being a mother. This little person is entirely dependent on me. This life is mine to hold for such a short time and each new moment is precious. I was fortunate to be a stay at home mom. I look back at some of the things I did and marvel at how I ever had the time. I actually purchased wheat to grind to make fresh bread. I made my own yogurt and baby food. The garden produced enough to can for wholesome food and the freezer held organic foods for healthy mom and baby. That was over 35 years ago. Where does the time go?

Time is about the only thing we can't can, freeze or capture. Precious moments are there to enjoy, relish and savor for short periods of time and then only memories are left to remind us. Matriarchs are present in our lives to give us the time to create new memories with our babies. My expectation is that my daughter will do this for her grandchildren, sharing her experience and allowing for another mother to enter the role of mother with loving support. That is what a wise grandmas do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Out Of The Cabbage Patch

Okay, so maybe I am a bit baby struck with grandbaby number 6 making his stupendous arrival last week. But let's face it. How many grandmas have 3 new little ones in less than a year?

But as precious as mine are, the fact is all babies have an affect on the human condition no matter how cynical or resistant to them you may be. After watching the trailer for Babies. With no narrative or subtitles, director Thomas Balmés brings the focus to the early moments of lives of four beautiful babies - easygoing Ponijao in Namibia, curious Bayarjargal in the remote farmland of Mongolia, Mari in her small apartment in Tokyo and Hattie, a pampered American in San Francisco.

A scrapbook of moments in this visual diary of these babies captures the essence of our commonalities and differences as the human animal develops. The documentary chronicles the first year of life and is delivered with charm and humor as Balmés sets his camera and lets each baby move through their world unobtrusively. The result is a magical peek into what goes on in the cabbage patch as these delightful babies crawl their way into childhood.

My son-in-law made a memorable comment when looking at his newborn son. "What's new, son?" "Everything, Dad!" Take a look at life through little eyes and see if some of that "new-ness" doesn't rub off on you. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lucky Numbers

Since I was a young child, I have always felt like the number 6 was my lucky number. I don't know why exactly but it seems to come up a lot and more often than not something good follows. This morning at 6 am, I am waiting anxiously for grandbaby number 6 to arrive.

Taben King will join the ranks of the most beautiful babies in the world sometime today. My oldest daughter is in labor as I write and with any luck, I will make the 2 hour trip in time to witness the next miracle in my life. His mother, I suppose was the first.

We adopted her in 1977, but she was born in my heart in April of 1973. I was there when she was born and when I held her in my arms, I somehow knew then she was mine. She lived with us off and on for the next year until the pain of her leaving was more than we could bear and we petitioned for guardianship. Every time we found a sock under a cushion or stepped on a misplaced squeeze toy, our hearts would break a little more. Fortunately for us, her biological parents and the courts deemed us worthy.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since but worth every penny of the ride. This is her first baby and a lucky baby he is. Taben has a wonderful father, who I am sure at this moment is bringing Taben into the world with gentle loving hands, soothing his mother as they cross together into the wild and wooly jungle of parenthood.

Patience is the order of the day, though my car has been ready to go for the past week and it seems like dawn will never break. I fed the chickens, watered the garden, walked the dog and am trying to swallow one of the blueberry muffins I just baked. Hurry up, Taben! The world is waiting to greet you and oh, what a world it is. But I have no doubt that my almost 6 beautiful, smart, savvy grandchildren will do an outstanding job of leaving their footprints in the sand where ours will inevitably wash away.

Until then, take my hand and let's walk and talk for awhile...that's what a wise grandma can hardly wait to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Reading

Remember when you were a kid and signed up at the library for reading contests? Our library always had fun contests, reading scavenger hunts and summer reading lists that made reading not only fun but productive!

As soon as I got my allowance, a whopping 50 cents at the time, I would get on my bike and head to the library. Armed with a stack of books, I would ride to the Foster Freeze and spend my Saturday afternoon sitting in the booth with a milkshake and a Hardy Boys mystery. Life was good!

This summer, almost 50 years later, I find myself in a familiar situation. Instead of a milkshake in a Foster Freeze dining booth, I am in a wicker rocker with a glass of iced tea. But in my hands is a book. August has been a slower month at work, allowing for more leisurely afternoons to devour the printed word. And though I am not ready to give up the turning of the page for the swish of the Kindle, the stack of summer reading books is getting smaller as September approaches.

I highly recommend Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas and At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. Not being a romance novel fan, I often challenged to find a book that offers a story that carries me from page to page, anxiously waiting to find what happens next to the charming characters in these two books.

Prayers for Sale has a setting in a mining community in 1936. The main character Hennie comfort, welcomes a newcomer, Nit Spindle to town, telling her stories about her past life before and since she arrived on the Colorado mountain. Creating a bond between the two women, the stories weave their lives throughout the book bringing the past full circle as dark memories and hardships are endured and shared. Sandra Dallas uses colorful phrases and moments to artfully bring this story to life with enduring characters.

At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball had me laughing within the first 20 pages. A delightful set of characters set in present day, decide to purchase Blackwell Farm. Now what? The story is a series of mishaps, calamities and touching relationships between the three women, a confused but determined young daughter and a troubled teen. The language was modern and believable without profanity, a rare treat. The characters were witty and charming and the quiet community surrounding the farm is filled with the history of the old farm, which eventually becomes known as Ladybug Farm. Donna Ball has written a wonderful, funny book - great way to spend a warm summer evening.

Well, those are my picks, although I have started another book, I can't help but think about what is happening to Hennie and her travels beyond the Colorado mountain or how much I would love to see the restored fountain on Ladybug Farm. Don't you love a book that works its way into your heart? That calls for another glass of iced tea and the raising of my bookmark. That's what a wise grandma would do.