Friday, December 25, 2009

Wrapping it Up!


As the holiday season begins its inevitable crash into the New Year, I am grateful to have a moment of peace beneath the warmth of my down comforter.

From today's newspaper comes a story that wraps up Christmas with clarity and humor, helping to define the blessings that we often take for granted. 

A Chicago man came home to find his entire apartment wrapped up as a prank by his friends. It took 16 people and 35 rolls of wrapping paper to turn the apartment into a gift of many delights. For eight hours these dedicated masterminds wrapped everything from the couch cushions to the beer in the refrigerator. 

Although the owner has only managed to unwrap about 10 percent of the packages, he says each time he does, he finds just what he needs. I found this to be quite profound. Perhaps Christmas doesn't come with ribbons and bows, as the Grinch finally discovers. Perhaps it is a little bit more. A place to sit or sleep, a roof over one's head, a glass to drink water, a lamp for light to read. 

Bravo on a prank gone well! A great way to remind oneself of the gifts we already have. That's what a wise grandma would do. 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Cup Of Holly Jolly


I am, once again, graced with the wisdom of my friend, Dr. Hoolala. His words on gratitude provided wisdom to the Thanksgiving feast and now his wishes for the holidays are like presents for both Scrooge and Elves.

Here is the Doctor's prescription for peace on earth.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a Christmas wish-list. This year is different, I've been discovering what I want and learning how to ask for it. Are you ready? Are you really ready? Here's what I want:
 
Compliment a stranger and tell me how they react.
 
Volunteer for two or more hours at a non-profit that you've never heard of before and tell me what it was like for you.

Give a sandwich to a homeless person and tell me their name.
 
Ask a coworker what their dream job would be like and tell me about it.
 
Try to learn a song backwards, sing it at a restaurant, and tell me how people react.

Write an inspirational message inside a bathroom stall with dry erase marker and tell me what you wrote and where.
 
Think of a question you've never asked me before, and ask me.  Make it something that you really want to know, too.
 
That's what I want, any or all of those.  Take your pick.  My only wish is to believe I've made a positive difference in the world, and to help others realize that they too can be positive influences in the world.  If you get this message, it's because you've been a positive influence in my world.
 
Thanks for another year of tears and laughter,
Dr. Hoolala

Right back at you, Dr. That is exactly what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On A Need To Know

Both of my parents are journalists. At one time, they owned a local newspaper, Mission Press, in Southern California. Everyday several newspapers were on the doorstep, morning and evening editions. The news was considered a sacred trust whose primary focus to inform us on a need to know basis. 

There has been a critical shift in the focus of the news. Today we are bombarded by news that on a need to know basis - we don't. At the top of that list right now - Tiger Woods. Why do we need to know this man's private life? Why do we need to know how many, who they are and where they met and what they emailed? Why do we need to continue the humiliation for his wife, children, parents? On a need to know - why do we need to?

Since there has been no criminal action, there should be a cease and desist order on this avalanche of this gossip column style journalism. Enquiring minds can find tabloid magazines who are in business to handle the scandals are available for purchase at the checkout stand. Making a conscious choice to give Mr Woods and his family privacy in this painful, none of our business moment and choose on a need to know basis, not to  - priceless. That is what a wise grandma would do. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful


Here I am bundled in layers of clothing, socks, gloves and sock hat trying to remember what my toes feel like. The temperature outside, although still in double digits, is no longer in the teens and plummeting as we speak. And as luck would have it, my heater is out. 

Why is it, when it gets hot the air conditioning goes out and when it is cold, the heat goes out? It's as if Mother Nature wants to remind us in no uncertain terms, that she is in charge. Despite our best efforts to remain comfortable, she can be a harsh mistress with us at her mercy.

But despite the fact that I can see my breath, I am grateful that I have shelter, food, water (albeit in buckets in the bathtub) warm clothes and wood for the stove. With the temperature below freezing both day and night, I can not help but wonder about those unfortunate souls on the streets with little more than a bush for shelter. 

Support local chapters of Salvation Army, St. Vincent De Paul, warming shelters. Donate your extra blankets, jackets, canned foods, socks, gloves or start a clothing drive in your area. These items will be passed along to those in need. While you sip your hot chocolate you will be warmed by the thought that someone sleeps inside, has socks on their feet or a jacket to protect them. There but for the grace of God, go I...or you or a family, a child, the elderly. That's what a wise grandma would do...as soon as the heat comes back on!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My husband’s aunt called the other night. Her tears drowned out most of her words, as she spoke of  her late husband. The holidays had snuck up on her and suddenly the thought of spending them alone was overwhelming.

For those grieving the loss of a child or spouse, they are not ready for the flood of memories as they set the table for one less person, or unwrap a favorite ornament. They are not ready to be normal again. They may look normal, even act normal in their daily lives but for the exception of the holes in the family fabric, one would never know they are not ready yet.

“Grief work is exactly that: work. It is exhausting, it is lengthy, it is terrifying, it is often unbearable. It is work that is best done with others, for the hallmark of grief is loneliness. The bereaved are often shunned, a result of others’ fears of death and loss,” says Cendra Lynn, founder and director of Griefnet.org. The web site offers ways to cope with grief especially during the holiday season. 

Listing resources for both adults and children, the support at Griefnet.org opens doors for families and friends looking for opportunities to talk with loved ones and how to cope with grief. One of the links on the site is Kidsaid.com, grief support 2 Kids, 4 Kids by Kids with questions and answers, a safe place to help kids deal with grief and loss. There is an inspiring section where kids can share their stories and artwork with other kids.

This season, while spreading the joy of the holiday, listen and comfort those who find the challenge of seeing beyond the humbug. That's what a wise grandma would do. 


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Youth Is Wasted On The Old


The word is out. Our fountain of youth has finally arrived, neatly tied with a 20 year old ribbon. All that is old is new again. 

Apparently 60 is the new 20. Sixty year olds have more in common with 20 year olds than any other generation. For those of us who thought these would be the golden years of retirement, we find ourselves with diminishing retirement funds, out of work, difficulty getting health insurance and fewer options. Surprise! Interestingly enough, that is also where most 20 year olds find themselves in today's economy. 

Our commonalities now afford us a bridge over the generation gap. Both age groups find themselves downsizing, working several part time jobs to make ends meet and looking for affordable health care. Neither generation is in a position of retirement. But with the sharing of a few tricks from old dogs and the learning of new tricks from the young dogs, we might just have a shot at getting out of this economy alive...or at least with a sense of humor.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Stuffed!


The turkey was not the only thing stuffed this Thanksgiving. My frig, my house, my yard, my inbox...all stuffed. I opted to spend this holiday connected only to my family. But tonight when I opened my email, I found a very profound message from a friend. It made me laugh and think about how fortunate we really are. May his musings stuff you with gratitude, or at least a good chuckle. 

I'm grateful to my enemies because they test the limits of my ability to love and help me learn to stretch them, like Darth Vader did for Luke Skywalker.

I'm thankful for my friends who remind me that there's a reason to bother loving in the first place. 

I'm glad to have my family, as dysfunctional as they are at least they love me no matter what.

I'm happy to live in the world I live in because it's so full of everything I like and dislike. Also, even if it does self-destruct in my lifetime, at least it'll put on a hell of a show.

I'm thankful for time because, although I can't make it go backwards, I like the future I look forward to.

I could go on, but food is ready, so I'll wrap up by writing that I'm also thankful for you, for whatever part you've played in my life, pleasant and unpleasant, happy and sad, silly and serious.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Moment of Clarity


"What we need is a moment of clarity," said Ambassador Nancy B. Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure

I must admit that after a week of hearing, disbelieving and reading, that is an understatement. 

I am a breast cancer survivor. Without self exam at age 39, the tumor would have gone undetected with a mammogram for another two years. In other words, I would have been dead. As I now approach the age of 60, I realize that in that 20 years, it is obvious that we still need to close the huge technology gap in mammography. That is what this scientific study says to me. We have the players. We have the home field advantage. We have the coaches and now that the playbook may be changing - We need the equipment!

The one tool in our arsenal has been and always should be - know your body. The technology for mammograms is not equal to the task.  The organizations who can make that change are in play already. Join them and make your voice heard

I invite survivors to lead women calmly to a reasonable and trusted solution. Women are often categorized as emotional and hysterical. Wrong? Prove it! Read, understand and then engage other women to do the same. The health care debates continue. I do not believe this to be rationing but an approach that may be better for us in the long run. 

The truth is, more often than not, we survivors found the lump ourselves. For us, regular screenings are now a way of life. For those of you confused, angry and threatened by this study - you are wasting your energy. What the studies failed to collate is that women worry about breast cancer - period. False positives are no more worrisome than the nagging feeling that crops up every now and again. My advice as a survivor and more importantly a woman - Do a self exam and discuss the issues with your trusted health care physician. Be informed. There is no mandate, research or guideline that will ever replace knowing your own body. That is what a wise grandma, mother, sister, daughter, friend and colleague would and should do! 

Do you have a story to share? A bit of wisdom? Speak up and share your comments here at Wise Grandma.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Following the Bouncing Ball


If there is one thing that keeps my teaching fresh and creative, is the opportunity to introduce students to works that are outside of the box. Ping Pong Polka by Dr. Walden Hughes is one of those rare pieces that brings fun and musical challenges to students. A fresh approach to playing ensemble music and explore new ways to tweak musical boundaries. 

Ping Pong Polka is a six handed piece. Three players at one piano is challenging enough, but this piece has the added imaginative quirk of 30 ping pong balls placed inside a grand piano. As players tickle the ivories the balls bounce and ping as the pong across the strings of the instrument. The sound is at once intriguing and compelling as each note produces the unique prepared piano piece. It is a wonderful exhibition piece and I never tire of watching the faces of young children and adults as they gather around the piano watching the antics of the little white and yellow balls as they hop merrily around the sound board.

I have engaged students with other of Dr. Hughes' ensemble and duet pieces. Duet for Four Grapefruits has been performed in 50 countries. Although Dr. Hughes does suggest oranges for smaller hands or baseball or tennis balls, as long as the title of the piece reflects these changes. But he does suggest that pomegranates and  nectarines are indeed poor substitutes and not recommended. 

Yes, this is why I became a teacher. To work myself out of a job by teaching the art of thinking and playing outside of the box. That is what a wise grandma and teacher would do!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Truly The Wonder Drug


All through my childhood, Bayer aspirin was touted as "the wonder drug". I suppose that was because no matter what ailed you, the doctor was sure to prescribe an aspirin as the cure but it is the oldest medication known today. And although it was seen as the wonder drug, the effects of aspirin-like substances date back to ancient Greeks. Used as a fever reducer the leaves and bark of the willow contain salicin which in layman terms is similar to the chemical name for aspirin.

The origin of aspirin came through the collaborative research work of several aspirin inventors rather than one specific person. In 1897, Friedrich Bayer and Company came up with a stable compound as a result of a treatment for arthritis pain. A few years later, The Bayer Company introduced aspirin to physicians for pain relief for their patients.

Today the tiny wonder drug is given to hundreds of thousands of heart patients as a daily low dose and preventive for heart disease and stroke. Approved by the FDA, aspirin is the only analgesic that can help save your life when taken as directed during a suspected heart attack and can also lessen the damaging effects. Experts agree that your first line of defense is to call 911 should you suspect a heart attack and then chew a couple of aspirin. The best kind? The granular generic - the big bottle with the crumbly pieces at the bottom is truly your best bet says Dr. Nancy Synderman, NBC's Chief Medical Editor, because it breaks up so easily and quickly gets to work.

But if the symptoms are stroke related, Dr Snyderman, warns that taking aspirin at that time may be more harmful than helpful because it is designed to increase blood flow, something that may cause the heart or other arterial passages to throw clots. Aspirin is recommended for prevention of a second or recurrent stroke. And as always, one should talk to their doctor before beginning and aspirin regimen to be sure it is right for your body. 

But wait, there's more this little wonder drug can do. Stuck with a dead battery and no cables? Drop two aspirin into the battery to give it a little spark to help get you to a service station. Have a itchy bug bite or unsightly blemish - crush aspirin mixed with water to make paste. Smear on the area to take down the inflammation. Nasty stain on your favorite shirt? Dissolve aspirin into lukewarm water and wash the stain away. And of course, the all time favorite, add a an aspirin to the water when you fill that vase with fresh flowers, or as the season approaches your live Christmas tree.

I can think of no better word to describe this little pill than "wonderful". So many practical uses both medical and aesthetic, it has every reason to claim the name "Wonder Drug". With few exceptions, such as bleeding disorders, pregnant women and not for children with fevers due to Rhys Syndrome, aspirin remains a staple in our daily lives. Simple, I like it.  That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Make Room For Girls and Boys


There is a local campaign that has offended some, though its intent is to inform and motivate women to take charge of their health care and make regular breast exams. The campaign slogan is "Make time for the girls".  As a breast cancer survivor for 17 years, I think I can speak for those who have survived and those that have not - know your body

I spent 2 years in treatment, from biopsy, four surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. I was 39 years old when I was diagnosed two weeks before Christmas. I had a mastectomy on December 27, 1999. From the moment I found the lump, my life was forever altered. I had 3 young children, my son was only 2 years old. I went through the two years with fellow travelers -  my dear friend lost her fight to breast cancer, shortly after I finished my chemotherapy. All total, there were 5 of us who were in some stage of treatment together. I am the only survivor.

Barbara Welsh discovered she had breast cancer. She had a different partner. Her husband was diagnosed with breast cancer during her course of treatment. The news was at once devastating and yet created an immeasurable bond between them. 

"We've got one another," says Barbara. "We will be together doing whatever in sickness and in health." Barbara and Mike have been married 41 years. Barbara's cancer was less than stage 1 but Mike is in stage 4. Both have had a mastectomy and Mike will begin his chemo treatment shortly after Barbara finishes hers. 

Only about 1% of men are diagnosed with breast cancer and most are in their 60's and 70's. Finding the markers for breast cancer in women is similar for men and the research shows that about 20% of the cases are hereditary. A very good reason why we should make room for the girls and the boys. That's what a wise, survivor and warrior grandma would do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Finger Lickin' Good!


Searching through the recipe box for a dinner entree to brighten a cold and dreary night. Approaching the 6 - 0 means your recipe box has a few tasty menu items that may be gathering a bit of dust. With fewer people at the table, you tend to cut your time standing at the stove and opt for a quick sandwich at the end of the day.

Which is why this recipe stands out. It makes enough to freeze for later, make sandwiches or have an impromptu dinner party. The author of this finger lickin' good recipe is my Auntie Cecile. Her biggest claim to fame in my memory is the fact that she had lots of kids - the four legged kind. The Swensons lived around the corner from us and every time we came over, Auntie Cecile welcomed us with a cup of goat milk. 

This recipe was one of her favorites. With four strapping boys and one girl, she had a hungry brood when the dinner bell rang. Her big house and huge backyard that was an endless opportunity for exploration, always drew hungry kids to the table. Auntie Cecile, was my aunt by choice rather than birth. She was an outstanding woman, character, mom and cook. 

Apricot Chicken Divine

2T margarine
2T oil
8 chicken breasts (can adapt to a smaller amount)
1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1/2 c apricot preserves
1/2 c yogurt
slivered almonds

Melt margarine and oil in shallow pan. Shake chicken in plastic bag with flour and salt.
Put chicken in single layer in pan and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.
Combine preserves, French's Honey Dijon Mustard and yogurt and spread on chicken baking an additional 25 minutes or until done. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Prepare to lick your fingers clean! Then toast my Auntie Cecile with a cup of goats milk! That's what a wise grandma would do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Mother's Cry For Help


"We have got to stop this. We need to stop this now," cries Valerie Brewer, the mother of 15 year old burn victim, Michael Brewer from Broward County, Florida. 

This story is playing out all over the world. Violence has become a child's plaything. The United Nations World Study on Violence Against Children reports show that 60% of today's children have witnessed violence. It comes at the hands of a loved one, bullies or street violence. 

Doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire, Michael was called a snitch for reporting to the police that his attackers attempted to steal his father's bike. The attackers? Five teenage boys, one is 13 years old and now the charges have gone from attempting to steal a bike to attempted murder. They could also be charged as adults. For most of us, this may make sense but despite the actions, the mindset is obviously still that of a child.

Barely alive with burns over 80% of his body, Michael struggles to hang on. Dr. Namias, the boy's doctor spoke from Jackson Memorial Hospital saying that Michael was not out of the woods because he had not yet entered the woods for doctors to see the other side. The road ahead was filled with fears of organ failure and infection for a boy who was doing the right thing. 

As parents and grandparents were at once horrified and sympathetic to the plight of this family. But as a people, we must listen and respond to Michael's mother. She is not asking for revenge, but for action. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Until Death Do Us Part


In Western culture we believe that marriage is a union between two people and that union can only be separated by death. Pretty stiff penalty for sticking out a life that should be hallmarked with marital bliss. But it signifies the solemnity of a vow that should be made with the intent - to love and cherish despite any unforseen circumstances short of death. 

As a witness to my niece's wedding recently, I heard the minister charge all of us in attendance to see that those vows are honored. She eluded that it was our concern that this young couple have every opportunity to comply with these vows and our duty as loving friends and family to help them do so. This really struck me as I heard my niece and her groom say "I do" indicating they understood and agreed to these vows. It is my charge then, to offer support to mend rather than end from this day forward. After thirty eight years of marriage, I still take the vows I made seriously. There were no crystal balls handed out at my wedding, nor the 20/20 visions of hindsight. And yet, I knew that perfect marriages exist only in fairy tales and that better or worse was bound to come our way. Both have come our way and as at the end of every storm, there comes sunshine. 

I came home from the wedding and looked up the familiar Corinthians verse. Perhaps on their anniversaries, married couples should read the words again as a reminder that although the vows seem easily spoken in the white gowns and tuxedos of the day, that repeating them when the bouquet has wilted and the cake is eaten, may be an even more significant pledge of unity. 

Therefore, for your consideration, read this fine print.

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn't love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn't love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

And that's precisely what a wise grandma will do, until death do her part.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What's In A Name?


We have always had animals of one sort or another around our little piece of heaven for many years. The dogs and cats are usually named after baseball players. There was a beautiful yellow lab named Babe because of his gentle giant ways like the King of Swat, Babe Ruth. A handsome tabby we called Casey and our current boxer mix, named for Ty Cobb, the meanest, roughest player to ever put on a pair of cleats. 

But when it comes to the chickens, rabbits and ducks we use pet names only to designate those who may end up in a stew or roasting pan as the main course. There have been the Buffys, Fluffys and Quackers and it was duly noted that their life on this planet was safe and secure. We always thanked the others for the eggs and manure, offering up the occasional treat for their efforts. The words free range and organic were not yet common place other than in our own backyard.

A pair of British researchers are the winners of the Ig Nobel Veterinary Medicine Award for their study of the affect of human behavior on animals. The Ig Nobel awards are preceded by the Nobel Prizes. They honor people who not only make people think, but that also make them laugh. This year they celebrate turning tequila into diamonds and whether it hurts more to be hit over the head with a full or empty beer bottle. An among these interesting award winners, these British researchers, Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson of Newcastle University in Newcastle UK, have found that cows with names produce more milk than the other moo cows in the field.

Not sure what this information will mean to dairy farms with hundreds of cows but don't be surprised to see the newest book on Best Seller List - A Thousand Animal Names for Guaranteed Productivity! 

For now, I'll stick with  "here chicky, chicky". That's what a wise grandma would do. 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Behind The Wheel


My Mom and Dad must be gloating and my kids, especially my daughter with two teens, are now looking at us with a little more respect. 

The Today show aired a feature about the influence of parents on the driving habits of their teen drivers. It seems simple enough to me, since my parents kept close watch on everything we did and getting behind the wheel was no exception. 

Realizing that my first experience behind the wheel alone involved much of the same rules, I set down for my teenagers, made watching this Today Show feature even more satifsying. Guess Mom and Dad do know best. Here are a few of the rules we had in the 60's, we laid down for our teens in the 80's and 90's and apparently are still going strong in the 21st century.

#1  No one else rides in the car with you.

#2  No radio, CD or other distractions.

#3  Use the family car. No car of your own.

New rules for today's teens include no talking on the phone, no texting and no taking phone calls while driving.

Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg is an adolescent specialist, studying more than 6,000 teen drivers, found that teens with strict rules set by the parents were half as likely to be in a crash, twice as likely to wear seat belts and 70% less likely to drink and drive. The study found simple rules are the most effective at keeping teens safe on the road. Since car accidents are the number one killer of young people, it makes sense to lay down a few rules to save a few lives. The study reveals two important messages. One, that parents can have a huge influence on teenagers driving and they should think twice when deciding to give teens their own car.

Although hard to imagine that your child (or grandchild) will grow into a teenager with keys in their hands - it happens all too fast. My advice, keep in mind that teenagers are craving independence. Rules are the best and safest way to drive them there. That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Guess What I Got For My Birthday


Months in the making and hours in the delivery, my birthday gift came with all the drama and excitement one would expect from a miracle. 

The stork dropped Miss Emilia in my arms on my birthday. Wrapped in a swaddling blanket and baby bonnet, I quickly unwrapped my gift to be sure that all parts were assembled. I had to stand in a long line of expectant siblings, grand parents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles to pass the bundle of wiggly parts around the room. First glimpses, smiles and flashing cameras all gave rave reviews to a tired mother and beaming father.

I hugged my daughter, who told me this was all she had time to get me for my birthday. Interestingly enough, I felt that my daughter was the real gift. One way or the other, we all knew a baby was coming. But my daughter was the most beautiful face in that room. I was so anxious to see her, to hold her, to make sure she was all right. The hours of waiting wore deeply in both our faces and the joyous crowd made it difficult to be heard. I hope she knows that she will always be my baby, no matter how many babies she puts into my arms. 

In our heart, in our arms, in our lives, in our thoughts, from the cradle to the crib, to school, down the aisle, to the delivery room and beyond, our children are engraved, sculpted from our very beings. And like any work of art, are priceless and enduring. Today, I celebrate my mother, and her mother, myself and my daughter as we again lay claim to the title "mother and child".

That's what a wise grandma would do.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Labor - Before and After


I have yet to determine which is more difficult - the labor of a natural birth, the labor of an adopted baby or the labor of your own child.

Each of my two natural births were long from 26 to 32 hours. The labor of adopting my oldest daughter was an arduous year long process. But watching one of my daughters going through labor, is an even more difficult ordeal.

Ask any mother, and she will tell you in a heartbeat that she would gladly take the pain to spare her child. Truth is, most of the time you are helpless to do little more than watch.

Today I watch as my daughter brings my 4th grandchild into the world. Interestingly, it is no easier than the first time. As a bonus, this precious spirit will make her arrival on my birthday. This begins another cycle of labor - my mother spent this day decades ago laboring to bring me into the world. I wonder how difficult this is for her. Does she know how grateful I am for my life, for my daughter's life and for the life of this new grandchild?

From daughter to daughter, we share a bond. This new grandbaby will be welcomed by mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers. That is a birthday gift that is truly priceless.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going Bananas


My middle daughter is allergic to bananas. Just the thought of one, well, makes her go bananas! Her children, my grandchildren, come over to my house and like monkeys eat bananas as if they will never see one again...they literally will eat several bananas each.

So although there is no need to disguise this delectable fruit from them, I do have a wonderful, delicious recipe that I have passed on to other moms who are looking for ways to get the yellow fruit into their kids bellies. My granddaughter and I call it "Banana Pudding".

Already you are sneering, thinking this is some old grandma recipe with vanilla wafers, but oh ye of little faith. This healthy recipe contains no added sugar, cookies, or otherwise junk food. The big surprise is that kids love it despite its wholesome ingredients. Give it a try and then let this wise grandma know if she steered you wrong.

Banana Pudding

2 ripe bananas (the riper the sweeter the pudding)
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 c quick oatmeal (as opposed to regular oatmeal)

Blend the bananas and yogurt in a blender until smooth. Add the oatmeal to mix. Depending on how thick you like it, you can blend until smooth or just until mixed. My granddaughter likes it on the thick side. Pour into serving cups. Makes two 8 oz servings or 4 smaller servings.

Place in refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to set. Delicious, nutritious, satisfying for breakfast or snack. I also add granola on top for a crunchy treat or raspberries for a bit of color!

My daughter won't come within a mile of the stuff but my grandchildren will look for it in the fridge before they hit the cookie jar. True story! Eat healthy!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Happiest Place on Earth


Where is the Heart of Your Home? When posed this question by Megan Calhoun at TwitterMoms as part of a Samsung Appliances contest I had to admit my answer was probably unexpected. Seems like no matter what is going on in the house or how many people are over, they congregate in the kitchen. You are trying to cook and they are standing with fingers poised to dip, lick or sip your culinary work. What's that old saying? Too many cooks spoil the broth?

That is probably why the best meeting place in my house is the music studio. What cooks in there requires cooperation, collaboration and imagination. Sweet sounds, tasty melodies and tempting rhythms percolate from the hands of many cooks. The music studio is where my grandchildren run to when they arrive (that is after they hit the cookie jar) and parents flock to hear budding musicians marvel at their own concoctions.

The room is filled with musical instruments from the mundane to absurd. From piano to water bottle drums, there are a variety of ways that the non-musician (though I don't believe there is such a thing) can add a bit of spice to the mix. It is fun to watch their faces as they discover some new thing I found at a garage sale or junk shop that can be used to make savory sounds. We play, sing, dance and most of all laugh at the cacophony of youngster and oldster and in-betweener in a room cooking up a recipe for fun.

The recipe is simple. Create a space where people can at once feel compelled to join together and contribute. Whether it be your kitchen, your family room or in my case a place that speaks the language of music, the best room in the house is where family comes together to laugh, love and communicate. That is the happiest place on earth. 

So where is the heart of your home? That is what a Wise Grandma wants to know!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Technology Friend or Foe


I just finished a wonderful read - The Black Berry Diaries, Adventures in Modern Motherhood by Kathy Buckworth. Being a grandmother of three and one who tends to resist the tether of technology (try saying that three times fast), I found myself being drawn to the BBSP (abbreviated moniker BlackBerry Smartphone) if only for the comedic value.

With style and humor, Kathy explores the challenges of being a working two jobs mom - motherhood putting her on the front lines and the Blackberry Diaries are the journalling of how she incorporates tantrums and technology in order to keep her writing career on track. Between diapers, teen angst, hockey practice and games, Kathy takes us through the challenges, realities and humor of the 21st century mom.

As she journals her fast paced life with BlackBerry in and out of it's holster, she chronicles her first year with Seamus, her personal tech assistant and main character in this funny, well written look into her life. Mother of four, Kathy infers that Seamus, her BBSP, has become her fifth child, demanding her attention every bit as much as the other four. But Seamus somehow has her best interests at heart, making sure she has the critical information to continue her writing career at her fingertips.

But can she truly be saved from the foibles of children, husband, (yes, not even he is safe from her crafty wit) and those with Berry-envy, by this little technological wizard? Read more to find out.

As for me, I am trying to avoid the thorns from the Oregon Blackberries that have taken over my backyard...maybe a BBSP is a less thorny challenge. That's What A Wise Grandma Should Do!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hungry Minds Need Full Bellies


Lately, we have little respect for corporate America. Between the banking and auto industry, it seems promises are not worth keeping and the days of a handshake was a man's word have been replaced with bailouts and corporate bonuses. 

Well, here is one that should reflect the winds of change. Oscar Mayer is launching a campaign we can all get behind. First of all, it doesn't cost us a dime, except to get the word out and to make a promise. A simple promise to put a note in your child's (or grandchild's) lunchbox that offers a slice of encouragement to go along with that sandwich. What is Oscar Mayer's stand on that promise?

For each promise, a Lunchable meal will be donated to Feeding America. Oscar Mayer is shooting for 100,000 promises to make 100,000 Lunchable donations for hungry kids. Feeding America is our nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. It serves an estimated nine million children each year. To add to that number, all you have to do is tell your kid how great they are or how much you love them or have a super day! I can't think of a better win/win. 

So get out your pen and paper, find a cute card or sticker and let's fill a few hungry minds and bellies. That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do...and she would also tweet the heck out of this! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Eye Catching

I can sit in my backyard each night, warming myself by the fire and marvel at the beautiful stars that grace the night sky. Or I can walk out on my front porch to pick up the newspaper in the morning and see colorful stars of different shapes and sizes dangling on the fence across the street in the school yard.

No, this is not a midsummers night dream. There they are, in all their splendor - 350 magnificent stars! The project was born from the imaginative, Eileen Nittler, a neighbor on the other side of the school. Her children have been attending the community school, River Road/El Camino de Rio in Eugene, OR, for many years. She had seen a school in Portland, OR where they had put salmon on an old ugly Cyclone Fence and thought it would be a great idea for our neighborhood to see stars in the sky day and night.

Why stars? She says the students are known as the Shining Stars and she along with an artist in residence, Alex, helped the children design their own stars to put along the fence. Each student made two stars that would be attached through the fence for both sides of the neighborhood to see.

Working feverishly the last few weeks of school, they managed to get 350 children to create these works of stellar art. At first, Eileen thought she could cut the stars from plywood with a jigsaw. When this became an overwhelming project, she turned to the internet and found stars in Vermont. Ash stars to be precise. She picked two sizes, 3.5 inch diameter for students K through grade 2 and 5 inch diameter for grades 3 to 5. Her son Henry felt this was a bit unfair, since little kids always get little stuff. But this project was already two years from concept to completion and Eileen was determined the stars would come out this summer.

So all through the summer, she and her husband Greg, have been hanging the stars along the fence, one of them on each side of the fence working in tandem to connect each matching pair of stars. Locking their ladders up each night along the fence, I found that neighbors walking by began the conversation around the ladders. Were the stars going up or coming down? As the length of the starry trail, grew, the question soon became, whose putting up the stars?

A small neighborhood community drawn together in conversation and thought over stars that appeared in daylight. Who would have thought that these shining stars would rise to such heights? That's something a wise grandma should have thought of!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes


Raising kids, from any generation, is challenging. From the moment they poke their little heads out, you worry about them and more importantly you worry if you are up to the challenge of being a parent to this helpless creature. My oldest daughter is about to embark on this journey and was sharing her concerns about her qualifications for being a good parent.

I tried to reassure her that most of those jitters come from the unknown. And more than one parent has lamented the fact that babies do not come with directions or manuals. But I think I have found a book that puts it all into the right perspective - from that of the child.

Always Kiss Me Good Night by 147 Kids Who Know, is, for all intents and purposes, an instruction manual on raising the perfect parent. Compiled by J.S. Salt this little book tackles the big subjects of Caring, Guidance & Independence and Family & Friends. Written in the children's own handwriting, we find such sound advice as "Keep your promises better" from Jeanette 10 years old. And Stuart age 8 writes, "Don't leave me in the car when you go to do stuff."

"Think when you were a kid and not yell so much" writes Joe and from Suzanne we have the wise words, "If you get mad at me remember to forgive me." At age 11 1/2, Julie writes, "Don't laugh at me when I need to ask ?'s." And Britney speaks with the voice of experience as she writes, "Please don't kiss me in front of school." Aaron, age 9, strikes me as an attorney in the making as he pleads, "Don't punish me for doing things by accident."

"We were embarking on the most important job of our lives and we didn't have instructions" said J.S.Salt who had the privilege of compiling these profound thoughts. "But I discovered the advice I'd been looking for: kids with greater wisdom that I'd ever imagined."

Yes, out of the mouths of babes often comes the most sound and often dismissed advice. But if we listen carefully, we will find kernels of truth and keen observation. This one in particular, from Christine age 10, I found to be most profound. "More free time! Don't fill my life up every minute of the day." Yes, Christine, that is precisely what a wise grandma thinks, too.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The New Face of Society


Brother, can you spare a dime was the cry of the thirties from a society depressed by the economy. Skid Row became a place to seek shelter for a night and stand in line for hours for soup and bread.

Today we find an economy with a new cry. Families are sleeping in their cars and motorhomes are standing in the parking lots of Wal-mart. Food banks are filling orders beyond their capacity and free clinics have lines around the block for health care. And the cry for help shouts out from Twitter.

From Google News comes a story about Brianna Karp, a young woman who had a great job one day and found herself unemployed and scrambling for a place to live. Not an unusual story these days, except that she found a way to shed light in her very dark tunnel.

Brianna turned her nightmare into a 21st century fairytale when she began blogging about her homeless experience. She bought $5 coffee cards from Starbucks to use the Wi-Fi to send out resumes and blog. She was surprised by the number of people that were using social media to change their situation.

Her tweet promoting her writing read "Tips for surviving homelessness. You may be homeless, but you do not need to be a bum!" Her blog at girlsguidetohomelessness.com was a way to reach out and hang on. Then she ran across a casting call for a reality show but nerves resulted in a dismal audition.

On a lark, she emailed hoping to get another shot. The question "how does one get another shot when one screws up a job interview?" went on askejean.com and in the August edition of Elle magazine. The response "Miss Homeless, my dear: You don't 'get' another shot. You take it."

Brianna took the shot and was offered a telecommuting internship for four months with Elle magazine. Carroll, from the magazine, explained "You knocked me out with your courage and spirit."

Social media is changing the face of society for the better. Texting and tweeting for change is what a wise grandma would do.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Daddy Knows Best


Apples do not fall very far from the tree, but in our family of nuts, I have fallen very far from my Dad's side of the tree. But I have to thank him since he is why I am not only a writer but an Executive Director for a youth theatre company.

My Dad does not like musical theatre. He can't understand why anyone would break out into song in the middle of a conversation. Not being a big opera fan, I have to agree but musical theatre is driven by the tunes that surround the story line and the toe tapping results are magical.

So why do I thank my Dad for this passion? As a reporter in Southern California, he received complimentary tickets to the new Melodyland Theatre in Anaheim. Its unique format of theatre in the round graced the scene on July 2, 1963 with Annie Get Your Gun. My Dad was given tickets to Fiddler on The Roof. The last thing he wanted to do was to sit with these musical yahoos singing and dancing around him with no way to exit easily from the carousel seating arrangement.

My Mom LOVES theatre and gladly took the tickets and brought her three young children to watch the magical fiddler guide Tevye through his Traditions! We revisted that magical moment over 40 years later in Portland, OR. Sitting next to my mother at the Schnitzer Theatre, we watched Topol, who has played the role all over the world not to mention the movie 38 years ago, take command of his little town of Anatevka. We marveled at his agility, his voice and his personal and humorous conversations with God. An outstanding performance by the man born to play the role.

So thanks, Dad, for once again giving me the opportunity to spend a great experience with my Mom and enjoy one of my favorite musicals. My Mom and I have shared this off Broadway experience a few times, celebrating my birthday in the process. It is becoming Tradition! And that's exactly what a Wise Grandma intends to keep on doing!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Reason To Party

I have always been the go to gal for a great party. Since my mom gave me my first book on cut-up cakes and my first backyard carnival as a kid, I love the challenge of event planning. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm for creating the party as much as they do sitting back and enjoying the party.

One Hour Parties serves up the best of both worlds. This unique service comes to you wrapped with a bow of selections, themes, creative ideas and helpful staff. Their menu of one hour parties is extensive ranging from chocolate fountains to mocktails and breakfasts. You can choose what type of party and then what you want to serve at the party. The price includes the one hour set up and is priced by the number of guests and designed to be either self serve or you can order additional staff hours so you can sit back and relax. An option rarely given to a host or hostess at a party.

The One Hour Parties web site is easy to navigate and allows you to compare products and services in an easy clear format, saving hours of running around town shopping for the best price, or spending time on the phone trying to get quotes. The testimonials give you an opportunity to check references and the directions for ordering are straightforward and concise, detailing everything from the procedure to the customer service.

Now here is what I like the best about One Hour Parties - it is a franchise. For those of us who love the planning and are always in demand, it makes life a bit easier with the one
 stop shop. Everything is there from forks to centerpiece. In an economy where finding work is near impossible and more mothers are choosing to stay home with their children, this opportunity is affordable, creative and makes the catering business a bite any entrepreneur can sink their teeth into. I wish there were more information on the cost of the franchise on the web site but the details as to what type of training and the support you receive once you own the franchise was remarkable.

One Hour Parties was listed as one of the top entrepreneurs in Seattle and has been featured in several magazines for its outstanding products and service. Next time you are thinking about throwing a party, whether it be a wedding or backyard carnival, take a peek at what this service can do to make it a sure fire winner! That's What a Wise Grandma (and party planner extraordinaire) would do!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Impressions Mean Everything

The fear that accompanies that first day of school can be different for every child. It may be hard to express exactly what that fear is - being alone in a room full of strangers, being away from their comfort zone, where is the bathroom and how do I let my teacher know I have to go? All real concerns and despite our best efforts to reassure our children, sometimes it is just an experience they have to go through.

Dr. Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist and regular contributor on the Today Show, weighs in on the fears that accompany the back to school anxieties. From Kindergarten, Tweens to High School, every phase and transition brings its own brand of coping with the unknown. Most of these concerns are based on the social aspects of the daily routine of the classroom, cafeteria, bus ride and recess. Talking with your kids with empathy can help discover and resolve some of the critical issues.

The challenges of academics, homework, the right clothes, even the right backpack cause apprehension as students approach the class room door. Talk to your kids and find out what is on their mind as the school bells begin to ring. That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lost and Found

One of my biggest fears is being lost. Unlike my male counterparts, I will gladly pull into the nearest gas station and ask without shame or embarrassment, Where am I?

Perhaps my fears are based on my lack of navigational skills. I am hopelessly lost when it comes to compass directions. I turn the map to face whatever direction I am presently heading which, in my mind, is always north.

On the other hand, I am excellent at giving directions. The writer in me provides touches of color, sign posts, scenic pictorial views to let the driver know exactly where they are or how to get back should they happen to lose the breadcrumb trail.

For years, I depended on a suction cup with a ball compass attached to my dashboard. My husband has tried to teach me which way is truly north. He insists I navigate using compass directions and relay information based on coordinates other than the little pink house with the white picket fence or two houses down from the maple tree on the corner.

Surprisingly, my eighty-year old parents decided that technology was the answer. Sitting next to the bonfire of candles on my birthday cake this year was a GPS, a global positioning system. This technical marvel relies on satellites orbiting the earth transmitting signals that can pin point your exact location. It relays this information to guide you to your destination, point by point.

Some of these modern mapping marvels, talk to you as they direct each turn of the wheel. From “Turn right in 100 feet” to “You have reached your destination”, your journey is detailed by a precise, often commanding voice coming from a little black box. Some GPS have names like “Tom Tom” but the woman’s voice in my cockpit is Majel. I named her after Majel Barret, wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. She was the voice of the computer navigational system on the Star Trek Enterprise. Since she went where no man had gone before, I thought it appropriate that she lead this woman through the highways and byways of Oregon.

Majel and I have a sort of love hate relationship. I taunt her by finding alternate routes or short cuts. Her voice becomes increasingly frustrated as her satellite positioning blinders continue to direct me to turn right…turn right…turn right. When she realizes that I passed on her recommendation, she hesitates for just a moment. She is not happy that I have chosen not to follow her explicit directions and replies in an annoyed tone, “Recalculating”.

Wouldn’t life be much easier from the cradle to the grave if we had a GPS to guide us through the tragedies? Turn right, turn right, turn right...but then being human, we would probably go left and that frustrated little voice would say “recalculating” in the hopes of steering us back on course.

What I like the most about Majel is her Go Home button. No matter where I am she recalculates and brings me to my favorite destination, home sweet home.

I must admit, I enjoy the banter and giggle mischievously when she has to recalculate. But I always follow her directions to the letter as she finds the way home. Because that is what a wise grandma would do.

Twitterfied!


Help! I’ve been Twitterfied, Tweeted and Retweeted. I have been Facebooked, MySpaced, and LinkedIn. I am followed and I am following. Welcome to the wonderful world of social networking!
Looking for old classmates, trying to remain on top of our techno game, and too old to cruise the bars, boomers have converged to reconnect and keep up with our kids and grandkids. From October 2007 to August of 2008, Facebook users increased by 179%. Just six months later that number jumped to 276% with users ages 35–54..
Twitter is a quick 140 characters telling your followers what you are doing at any given moment. Facebook and MySpace are more or less social scrapbooks where you can post bits and pieces of your life. It’s a virtual “Cheers” Bar where everybody knows your name and is always glad you came. LinkedIn is an online professional resume or dossier posting. It is a good place for people to network with other professionals in a given field or market yourself as an expert in your industry.
Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief and senior vice president for publications at AARP, is a self proclaimed Facebook addict. His recent article, Confessions Of A Facebook Addict, in the June/July AARP magazine, speaks to his personal journey through the mire of social media networking.
“What really got me hooked on Facebook, though, was the ‘friending’ thing, the addictive process of making new friends and reconnecting with old ones online,” Delehanty admits. “I was consumed by an uncontrollable drive to reconnect with everybody I had ever known.”
Everything in moderation, especially social networking. As for me, I prefer facebooking with the llamas out in the fields of Melrose, Oregon. The hawks tweet as they fly over the Callahan Mountains and my space is a bench by the pond watching it all. That’s What A Wise Grandma Would Do.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Simple Things

The journey of grieving has many twists and turns. It presents crossroads and fellow travelers. There are unexpected delays and few shortcuts. The path, although well traveled, remains uncharted.

Knowing that her great grandfather was close to the end, I told my granddaughter that his bags were packed and he was ready to go to heaven. She wanted me to ask him to say hello to her pre-school teacher who had died the year before. She thought maybe they could have a tea party when he arrived at heaven's gate. I did tell him. He died a few hours later.

It made telling my granddaughter easier, I suppose. I told her that Fa was so excited to hear about the tea party, he decided to go right away. This seemed reasonable to her.

"What will be on his headstone?" she asked. I told her that Fa wanted to be buried at sea since he loved fishing so much. There would be no headstone. This, too, seemed reasonable to her. Orville had chosen to be cremated but I did not think this was an explanation I wanted to tackle with a 6 year old.

The next day, she asked if Fa had been buried yet. I told her no. She wanted to know where he was. I replied, in heaven at the tea party. She said it didn't seem right not to have a rock or a stone on the beach, so we would know where he was buried.
"It's important to know," she said. I told her we would think about it and find someway to mark where he was.

On Fathers Day she sang Amazing Grace for him. Although he didn't know who was singing the sweet melody, his eyes lit up and a smile came to his lips. She wanted to sing it again for him. We will plan a memorial in a few weeks and promised her she could sing it for him then.

A fisherman, with nothing more than a high school sophomore education, is dearly loved by a small little girl, who for most of her life, he didn't know. Yet she remembers and wants to keep on remembering. Not through tears but through the simple things, a song, a stone - bookmarks to return to, a place to honor, a moment in time that says he was here.

The journey continues.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Who You Know

As we sat by my father in law's bedside, we wondered if he could hear us. He has been suffering through the ravages of Alzheimer's for the past decade. We knew that we were no longer names he could recall. I had become "that girl" and my mother in law was "his best friend". "Do I know you?" was often the question he reserved for his grandchildren and his great grandchildren were twinkles in his eyes but little more.

None of that really mattered, though, since we all knew him. We knew the fisherman who would rather be on a boat fishing than any place else on the planet. Unless it was working out his frustrations on the dents on a car. We knew the man who went to church each Sunday and McDonald's to chat with old friends every morning. The woman behind the counter at Taco Time knew his order, since he had been coming in for almost 20 years. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't know him. We often laughed that we had never been anywhere that someone didn't know Orville.

We sat by his bedside knowing that the time was near. He had cheated death so many times in the last couple of years, I suppose there was a piece of us that wondered if he wouldn't open his eyes. His signature remark when asked how he felt, was "with my fingers". We wanted nothing more than to hear him say it one more time.

Yet here I am filling out an obituary form, filled with facts, dates, timelines that seem devoid of the essence of the man we have lost. Though we never know the exact moment of our earthly departure, even if we have the luxury of knowing it is close, it is still a shock when that life exits this mortal coil. Within a half hour of his release, the life force that we knew was gone. From his skin color to the texture of his hair, there was no hint of his presence.

Through the tears, the paperwork, the phone calls and all the little details that follow in the next few hours and days, it is comforting to know that somewhere Orville is baiting a hook.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ask A Silly Question

If curiosity killed the cat, it surprises me that there are so many children alive still echoing the age-old question “why?” You will lose the challenge by answering them. Your answer will simply lead to the next why, and undoubtedly, the next. Why? I don’t know.

My father’s response to our questions was “Look it up.” In those days, the encyclopedia was the information highway. Today, of course, the web is the blazing fast way to get information. My parents’ attitude was to teach us to be independent thinkers by reading to get the answers. Children today are pretty savvy at navigating their way through the maze of web based resources creating new and improved independent thinkers.

Questions Children Ask by Edith and Ernest Bonhivert compiled a series of questions on a variety of subjects. Children submitted all of the questions. Why don’t fish drown? Do I breathe when I sleep? Can a bird fly backward? And despite the age of the 1974 publication, there are relevant questions about why there are different kinds of families and who belongs to a family.

Between the swimming and the camping this summer, plan a Game Show Mania day. Have books and computers at the ready along with a list of questions and see how quickly your grandchildren can come up with the answers. Prizes can range from cookies for each correct answer (of course if the answer is wrong, they must forfeit a cookie) to higher stakes for the grand prize – a banana split!

Trivial Pursuit is available in a children’s edition and the Cranium series offers great ways to make questions and answers a less painful way to increase your grandchild’s knowledge and retain your sanity. Play a game of "when you chauffeur them to their summer activities.

You don’t need a teaching degree to mentor your grandchildren. You not only know things, you have lived in places and times in history that make you a living resource. One of the questions that our generation can certainly answer is “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” One that readily comes to mind is “Where were you when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon?"

Offering our grandchildren fun and simple ways to explore learning, supports and develops their natural curiosity and intelligence. Summer vacation may be a time for slipping out of a desk and into a swimsuit but it doesn’t mean we should stop teaching them. Why? Because that’s what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Battle is Over, But The War May Have Just Begun

Technology - friend or foe? For years we have been under the delusion that technology will make our life easier. And yet research does not bear this out with the increase of stress disorders. Instead of working less, we work harder at accomplishing more. Why? Because technology makes it easier to do more in less time. 

For some of us the learning curve for the continual upgrading of computers, software, cell phones and even our appliances has either left us in the technological dust or swept us into a tsunami of wanting more. Now the ultimate technology battle has been won.

Since the debut in 1956  of the wireless TV remote, the same argument has been playing out in homes all over the country. Who is in charge of the remote? The truth is 91% of American households with televisions fight over the remote. And 12% of these arguments become physical. We now have remotes for just about everything in our technological world, from our music to our temperature controls. In the palm of our hand lies the control of our world.

Well, from the vision of two engineers from Australia, we will now be able to control these devices with the wave of a hand. We've been seeing this technology on the big screen as futuristic cops and crime investigators wave their hand in front of a screen to bring up information or pictures. With a few hand signals, you too, will be determining the channel, the temperature, the volume, even the lighting in the room. 

The new gadget incorporates a camera that can recognize hand signals and converts them into commands for the television. A clenched fist means start, a wave of the hand changes channels, pointing a finger selects and clapping hands turn it off.  No more looking for the remote as long as you know where your hands are. But I have to wonder if despite the winning of this battle, we have begun an even bigger war. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome seems likely to be the next major statistic or perhaps atrophy of the buttocks or legs, since we will no longer have to get up to turn on anything. Once we sit down, we can stay in one place and control everything around us. I do wonder what will happen to the 12% statistic of physical confrontation for the remote. With all that arm waving and clenched fisting, is it a far stretch to accidentally take a swing at your partner or sibling to regain control? Apparently this remote camera will be able to recognize its owner and is set for a dominant user. 

Technology - friend, foe or instigator? My siblings and I used to race to the TV and the first to get to the dial was the winner. Saturday morning cartoons were a mix of aerobics and sibling rivalry. More challenges in this technological warfare. I say let's give the remote the heave ho and return to fewer channels with more substance, more board games, reading a good book and taking a long walk after dinner. Then let's check the statistics again in a year. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Moving On

In the blink of an eye, children become young adults and as if that were not difficult enough to comprehend, we have to accept the fact that means we have also moved on. My grandsons graduating from 8th grade this week, was not nearly as difficult to understand as the fact that they will be entering high school come Fall! How did that happen?

The interesting thing about these milestones is that although we pass that mile marker, another looms ahead. We find ourselves once again at the top of our game and ready to plunge to the bottom of the next. From 8th grader, to parent and now grandparent, I have been there, I have done it three times with my own children and now have a t-shirt with my grandkids names on it! Seriously, how did that happen?

My granddaughter informed me that she is having a kindergarten graduation....what? Now I will have to draw the line here. These age defying moments are piling up. My 40th high school reunion, my 4th grandchild, yes, even my parents' 80th birthdays. It is tough to grow old gracefully when these milestones keep telling us how far down the road we are.

So to all of us whose children and grandchildren are hell bent on making us feel our age, remember that candlelight is your friend. Meanwhile, enjoy the road trip between the milestones!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lawn Mowing is Not Rocket Science

I have come to the conclusion that I am reaching a time when technology can go on without me. My children and grandchildren know more about cell phones, social media like Twitter and Facebook. Why should they listen to anything I have to say when it comes to learning something as mundane as mowing the lawn or cleaning their room?

The rocket science involved in mowing a lawn is beyond the younger generation. They will mow around anything in their path, rather than pick it up. The lawn will look more like a bad hair day than a pristine baseball field.

Weeding is another extreme sport where they have no athletic ability. A neighbor boy was weeding a flowerbed and pulled out everything that bloomed. When I asked him about his weed vs flower choices, he explained he figured if it bloomed it was a weed. Being the consummate gardener for decades, I must admit there is a thin line.

The house cleaning chores are just as challenging. If my son can get his dirty dishes from his room to the kitchen, they stop at the dishwasher. It is like a road block. I have introduced him to the trash can, his closet, and even the washing machine. He recognizes them but that is the extent of their relationship.

Perhaps if mowing the lawn or cleaning up could be done with a video game controller on the Wii, these skills would be well honed by age twelve. And yet, in this day of working parents and seniors staying in their homes longer, it seems that yard work or housecleaning would be a profitable business for some enterprising young person.

Gone are the days of the backyard carnivals and lemonade stands that we remember. Kids today need to make some serious cash. Have you seen the price of anything with an “i” in front of it? Babysitters are charging $5 an hour. That is a far cry from the going rate of 50 cents an hour forty years ago.

Helping our grandchildren understand the value of a dollar may be a more daunting task than helping them find a job. Tom Sawyer tricked his friend into painting a fence by making it sound more like fun than work. Go into business with your grandchild. They can be the bookkeeper and you will be the front man. Invest in a summer business that will not only help them buy that jumbo box of popcorn ($4.75!) at the movie but they might learn a little business savvy along the way.

Be imaginative with the name of the business, like Yard Hogs or Green Giants. Teach them how to mow, edge, trim and weed. Call your family, neighbors and friends and ask them to recommend this lawn and yard service. Help your grandchild to set up a schedule and provide transportation to the jobs. Once the business is going, you can suggest the need for more employees, creating more jobs for their friends. And what is your interest on the initial investment? Your lawn will be mowed once a week and spending time watching your grandchild taking steps toward independence.

If you are not into capital investments, check the web site TeachingKidsBusiness.com. It is an excellent resource for young people ages 8 to 18 years old to dip their fingers into the entrepreneurial pool. The free site is easy to navigate and encourages parents to be involved. TeachingKidsBusiness.com home page links kids to games, programs, a variety of resources and products to get kids doing business related activities. A very innovative and educational website for parents, grandparents and especially kids.

There are many books and web sites on kids in business you can share with your grandchildren. Remember - give a child a video game and you entertain him for a few hours. Teach him the value of work and he can buy his own video games and not spend as many hours playing them. That’s what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nature or Nurture

Every child has, at one time or another, wondered what it would be like to pick the perfect parent. The movie, Coraline, is about a little girl who finds out that indeed, you should be careful what you wish for, when her dream of the perfect mother, suddenly turns into a nightmare.

In the small town of Heppner, Oregon, two women found out that their DNA proved they had been switched at birth, resulting in 56 years of living a life with the wrong parents. The two women, Kay Rene Reed and DeeAnn Angell, were born in 1953 at Pioneer Memorial Hospital. They grew up, got married, had children of their own and are now grandparents. 

One day a neighbor of the the Angell family and friend to Kay Rene's mother, called Kay's brother with a secret that turned the lives of these two families upside down. The neighbor, now 86 years old and living in a nursing home, told a story of how Marjorie Angell was sure she had been given the wrong baby while she was in the hospital. Her concerns were brushed aside and after a year, she couldn't imagine giving up her daughter and let her questions go. 

Kay's brother, Bobby, was stunned by the news but decided to follow through with the information. There had been rumors and family stories that had eluded to the mix-up. Hard to explain one blonde, blue eyed beauty amongst a family of brunettes, and vice versa. When DeeAnn was told of the switch she jokingly asked if it meant she would not be invited to the family reunion. After the two women had their DNA test results prove there was a 99.9 percent chance of being related to the other's family, the truth was undeniable.

With both sets of parents deceased, it was left to these women to determine what course their lives would take. Pioneer Hospital agreed to pay for counseling for the women, but they both declined. Choosing to embrace their lives and share a birthday, the women are moving on rather than looking back.

They were no less loved, no worse for the wear and had the blessing of yet another family to fill their lives with even more memories. These women had the courage to accept what they could not change and the wisdom to recognize that a parent is the one who cares for you and about you and may not necessarily be the one that gives birth to you. 

My husband is an adopted child and I am the mother of an adopted child. My grandmother married a man with three children and no one ever knew she was not their biological mother. People are often surprised to learn that my daughter's two sons are from her husband's previous marriage. They are her sons. They are my grandsons. And no one can convince us otherwise. So I know first hand that the labor of love is just as binding as the labor of birth. Sometimes it is more about nurture than it is about nature. Families come in all shapes and sizes and apparently sometimes as a complete surprise!