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Monday, February 29, 2016

Tech Wrecks

I wouldn’t trade my computer for a typewriter but there are times I’d like to throw it in the trash can and get something more forgiving. Security is all well and good but when it locks me out from my e-mails because of my not remembering the password I’d gladly give up the security. I know; I should have kept a copy of my passwords but after not needing them for a good length of time I just presumed I won’t ever need them again. Right now I’ll wait for someone else to help. Before long maybe Julian will be the one to unravel my dilemmas but I’ll need to wait a while for that. He’s only six months old. 

Today, this week, I’ve been mostly alone since Robin has been up in Oakland with the baby visiting Erin and Rachel, the ones who will eventually adopt him. There’s a lot to do around here since my move to a bigger villa. Boxes left to unpack. Pictures to be hung, but all I seem to be able to do safely is wash dishes, sweep the floor and so forth. I’ve gotten used to letting Robin do things and she’s been so busy with the baby I don’t push her. 

At least I can blog so here I am doing that again. The e-mails will have to wait. I remember the days when I’d need to stop and erase every typo and if I wanted to make a more excessive change, like moving a paragraph around I’d need to start over. Now all I need to do is erase the paragraph or edit it to be moved. So I don't want to do without technology, I just want it to be easier.

It’s election time and I’m stuck on watching the TV for the latest news about that. If I were a Democrat (which I’m not), I’d be for Bernie Sanders just to help him beat Hilary Clinton. I could even overlook his Socialistic ideas to do that. In fact I could subscribe to many of them, like free college tuitions and fairer tax rates. 

Life has become a waiting game for me, especially when I need to wait for technical help on my computer. I can read magazines, books, and catalogues. But it’s quiet as can be without anyone else in the house. I haven’t made any close friends here but everyone seems cordial to me. And Jenny and Jack, my granddaughter and great grandson, have been here a lot of the time to keep me company.

Tomorrow Robin is due to come home with Julian. It will be fun having them both back. I love the baby and could watch him all day. Tech problems can wait I don’t get many e-mails anymore anyway. For the time being I’ll neglect technology. It’s a wreck that can wait. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Make Mole Hills Out Of Mountains

What are the mountains in my life? In yours? And what are the mole hills? Even these are pesky. I remember how my son, Wally, when he was a young boy went to visit his grandparents in southern Minnesota one summer and Grandpa gave him a gun to shoot gophers with. He told me later how he found a gopher hole and situated himself to wait until he saw the gopher. It didn’t take long. Little gopher’s head appeared above his hole and Wally’s gun went off. He'd hit and killed the little gopher.

Wally went back to the house and cut off the feet to take to the county office where he got money for the gopher’s feet. But he couldn’t spend that money. He had caught just a fraction of a minute’s glimpse of the little gopher’s eyes looking into his before he’d pulled the trigger and they were so innocent and pure that he wished all his life he hadn’t pulled that trigger of the gun.

I found a little sign with the words of the title of this blog on it somewhere and pasted it to my computer. It always reminds me of that incident in Wally’s life. 

Farm life is full of hard moments. We lived on a ranch in southern Oregon for eight years  and I found out this. We had inherited a flock of hens from the previous owners and I never killed one of them except, and here’s my own true confession. There was one little black hen that started eating the eggs in the nests of the chicken coop. She wouldn’t quit and  one day I grabbed her by the feet and took her squawking to the wood shed where I chopped off her head. I’ve never forgotten that. I’m sorry about it whenever I think of it. I can still hear her cries. It's the only time I’ve ever killed anything but an insect. 

There is no way to make a mole hill out of a mountain. It would be absurd to even try. But a mountain can become a mole hill And in time it can even be reduced to nothing. How? By seeing it properly through the lens of intelligence. Get off the mountain. Climb down and walk away. The farther away we get from the mountain the smaller it becomes Troubles are often reduced when we cease giving them our attention. We can walk away, we can walk around, we can make nothing of them in our own minds by replacing them with thoughts of truth and goodness. Mountains of troubles can be cast out altogether so they no longer appear even as mole hills. 

As I write this blog I am plagued with another mountain. It is a screaming baby who wouldn’t quit. Robin has complete charge of the little guy since I am not able to lift him and she is going crazy. It’s been going on all afternoon. Until now. This moment the air is quiet. The baby has quit his crying and is going to sleep, I think. Sometimes the mountain falls into the sea of tranquility. Let’s hope this has happened now.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

There's A Baby In The House

He’s five months old and his name is Julian Daniel Altman, Katie Altman’s child, but soon to be adopted by her sister, Erin and Erin’s partner Rachel. He will then call Erin “Mama” and Rachel, “Mommy.” From the time he was born until he goes to Oakland to be with Erin and Rachel he’s been in his Grandma Robin’s charge. Katie loves him dearly but can’t take care of him. The father is not able to take care of him either. 

If you knew little Julian you’d be so happy to know that Katie did not listen to the many people that thought he should be aborted. He is a darling! He belongs now to his mother’s family. All of us. And he’s such a joy! He smiles at anyone who smiles at him. Not just an obligatory smile, but a real loving smile that tugs at your heart.

Katie will be able to see him whenever she can get up to Oakland where Erin and Rachel live. She’ll be known to him as her “Tummy Mom.”  

He has another auntie who is Auntie Jenny. She has a boy of her own named Jack who is between three and four years old. The other day some children were telling about their brothers and sisters and Jack, after looking rather sad, soon brightened up and said proudly, “I have a cousin, and his name is Julian!”

In my house Julian has his own bedroom next to Grandma Robin’s bedroom. When he wakes up in the morning, Robin brings him in to my bedroom where I give him his morning bottle. From then on he’s in Robin’s care. She is so good to him and for him. She bathes him every day and he loves it. She knows just what he needs when he cries and what he doesn’t need, like being picked up constantly. But he doesn’t cry a lot. He’s a happy little guy most of the time.

For me Julian has been a lovely addition to my home. He has brought my daughter here too and she is a lovely addition to my home. We’ll miss him when he’d gone to Oakland but we’re happy he will be in the loving care of his auntie mother and her lovely partner, Rachel. They’ve been wanting to have a child but didn’t know just how best to bring that about. Julian is a godsend to them. 

No one can predict the future but I’m betting on little Julian to be a kind, loving, and successful addition to the world. I may not live long enough to see this but I’m sure it will be so. Maybe if I’m good enough I’ll get to be appointed one of his guardian angels. What a joy that will be to his Great Grandma Joy!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Great Grandpa Pulford

Of my great grandies Grandpa Pulford was my favorite because he talked to me. He told me about his childhood in England when he’d sit on the pier waiting for his father to come home. My Great great Grandfather was a seaman aboard a sailing vessel and his coming home was always a joyous time for little Thomas. He’d bring presents from the “New World” and tell them all about that magical place.

One day he took the whole family on the ship across the ocean from England to the land of America. The voyage was rough but they stayed a while in Connecticut and then headed west where he got a homestead in Minnesota from the government and began to work the land. My Great Grandpa Pulford was only eight then but when he got older he learned how to cut down trees and pull out the stumps with oxen. He had a team of six oxen and it became his business to do this for others too.

He also used his oxen to haul supplies to and from La Crosse, Wisconsin for people. Then he married Liza Reese and they began to have a family. They lived in Wykoff Minnesota. My Grandma Hahn was one of his daughters. I remember her very well. She was a Methodist and was my Sunday School teacher. I learned the books of the Bible from Grandma Hahn and read the New Testament.

We’d go to special holiday gatherings at the Pulfords where my Aunt Matie lived with Great Grandpa and Grandma Pulford in their old age. I don’t remember much about Great Grandma Eliza. Only when we came and left did I get close to her and give her an obligatory kiss. The rest of the time she was busy talking with the women in the family.

Great Grandpa Pulford would receive White Owl cigars from the men in the family and I don’t remember him without a cigar in his hand smoking it gently. After a while the menfolk would go off by themselves and talk leaving him alone. He’d sit staring into space because he was blind and I’d go over to stand beside him. He’d push his footstool over my way and invite me to sit down on it. He seemed so happy to have my company and would tell me about his childhood and their coming to the New World after he’d asked me about myself. “How old are you now, Joycie?”and what grade in school are you?”

 I learned later that his mother had met his father aboard one of the sailing ships belonging to her father when she was on a voyage with her mother. They were secretly married by the Captain of the ship much to the displeasure of her parents when they found it out. When she would not hear of getting divorced or having the marriage annulled they threatened to disown her and she would not receive any inheritance. This didn’t change her mind and she left home to live with her husband. They had several children. Grandpa Pulford was their youngest boy.

He told me about the time he ran away from home to join the Union Army during the Civil War. He had not gotten far however before a neighbor picked him up in his wagon and talked him out of it. “You are leaving you mother when she and your father need you

so much?” His older brothers had all gone to war and there was no one to help the father at home but him. The neighbor then turned the wagon around and took him home.

Grandpa Pulford always looked so nice at these family gatherings. He wore high buttoned shoes, a suit with a vest, a white shirt and bow tie. His hair and beard were white and always well combed.I loved him and always sat beside him watching him look out into space and puff on his cigar. He passed away sometime when I was still quite young and I missed him so much. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thank You, Honey

I’m a lucky mom. I’ve had my loving, willing daughter beside me for some time now. I’d reached the point where I thought it was nearly over for me on this earth. But my daughter, Robin, jumped to my rescue, making things easier for me. I gave her my car in exchange for her driving me wherever I need to go.She helped me find local transportation in a GoGo. I bought a new recliner chair, a walker, and settled down to what seemed the inevitable, a gradual giving in to my demise.

But it didn’t happen and I’m still plugging along with her help. She stays with me round the clock one day and leaves the next day to be with her significant other. She puts on my socks, helps me with sleeves, takes me everywhere she goes on my days and says she loves the life style this has brought her. Every little thing she does for me I say, “Thank you, Honey.” It seems to me that I say it a thousand times a day. 

So is getting older still getting better now? Well. I’m not able to do everything I used to do. Sometimes I need help getting up and out of a chair. I can’t put on my socks or shoes by myself. But everything I can’t do Robin will do for me. She’s cheerful and fun to be with and so in many ways life is getting better. I have little or no pain and am still of a sound mind. But because of my limitations I wonder if others think I’m getting better. I think not. That’s why I haven’t written in my blog for some time. But I’ve changed my mind about my demise. I don’t think it will come soon. I try not to think about that at all.

I’ve moved  to a larger place at The Willows and moving is never easy but there again Robin has done most of the work. Not only that, she has taken over the care of baby Julian, her grandchild, Katie’s child, full time. He is a sweetheart and it’s fun for me to see him so much, He is now nearly five months old and has his own bedroom here, but soon his Auntie Erin and her partner, Rachel, will adopt him. They live in Oakland, CA so we won’t be seeing him very often. But we’re all happy he will have a good home and upbringing. Katie isn’t able to do it but she’s happy to see her sister take over so he can stay in the family.

As for me, I hope to keep going for a while yet so my blogs will be be going along too. It’s a strange feeling for me to have passed my 90th birthday. Getting older is getting better still, I think, but it’s different. I have a lot of things to do like writing all I know about my ancestors for the kids. You may get in on these chapters too. 

In a movie we saw recently about older people going to a hotel in India to spend their final years one of them says, “Getting older is not for sissies.” I’m finding this out and I expect most of my readers will too. The hardest part is getting better the older we get. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Missing Chapters In Our Books

If you’ve lived long enough likely you can look back on your life and see where there are missing chapters. My missing chapter began when I was nineteen and said yes to a young Marine fighter pilot. Although I was only half way to a bachelor’s degree in college this fellow held all the credentials I needed for a husband and he was tired of being a bachelor. He’d been looking for a woman to remedy that and, outside of my youth, (he was five and a half years older) I fit the bill. He just had to win me. 

Wallace (Wally to family and friends) had grown up in Minneapolis next door to my grandparents, the Darlings, and only two blocks from my mother and father and me. But my family moved to the southern part of the state when I was five. The picture of Wally had been on Grandmother’s fireplace mantel in her little adobe Riverside California home when I’d arrived to live with her and go to the community college nearby. 

I knew what I wanted to do. I would get married, have children and live happily ever after. In the meantime? I liked school, I loved my grandmother, and those two years would probably open up a path to my future. A degree in art? A model? A military career? It was all a blank. The military career was possible. I could enlist to become a WAVE or a WAC or marry a military man. But first I wanted to get started on a college degree. 

The picture of that handsome young smiling cadet on Grandma’s mantel? He looked cocky and fun-loving. “Who is he, Grandma?” I asked on my first walk-through of her house. “Oh, that’s Wally Wethe. I’ve known him since he was a little boy of about eight. His family lived next door to us and sometimes your grandfather and I took care of him and his brother, Alan, when their parents went out. Now he’s been overseas in a place called Guadalcanal for nearly two years fighting in the war. I started writing to him and he seems to like getting my letters. Anybody’s letters. People write to the boys in the service just to cheer them up you know.”

Before long Grandma got a letter from this young man. “I told him you would be coming to live with me,” she said, “and when she got ready to seal her letter back she'd asked, “Would you like to add a note?” Of course I did and before long he wrote back. “You may know by now,” he said,”that I have a sister too. Her name is Carolyn and she’s about your age. My family moved out to Los Angeles when the war started and Dad works in an aircraft factory. He missed World War I and is too old now for this one so it’s a way he can contribute to the war effort. Alan is out here fighting too but I can’t say where. He’s a Marine sergeant.”

And so after about another year Wally’s tour of duty in the South Pacific was over and he and his family came to visit us. We went to a park and Wally took Carolyn and me out for a boat ride on the lake. It was fun. I liked him and his sister but we didn’t get together again soon. We sort of went our separate ways. The letters stopped. I was busy trying to keep up my grade A standing in school. Wally was stationed somewhere north of L.A. Carolyn was with her folks and in her senior year of high school.

I'd had a boyfriend in high school who was in the Army then and I wrote to him, but things hadn't got serious between us.  Harry was a musician and played the trumpet. I could see myself marrying him someday but my dad had said, '"Don't marry a musician. You'll always be poor." Then one of my schoolmates introduced me to her brother one day. He was handsome, a Merchant Marine, home on leave. “I saw your picture in the paper,” he said. “The one where you had been chosen pin-up girl for Battery C out at March Air Force base. I told Sis she’d have to introduce us to each other. He gave me a flirtatious smile and added, “Will you be willing to go out with me sometime?”

That’s how I eventually got engaged to Richy Thompson. But the engagememt only lasted two weeks. “I’m sorry,” I wrote in the note I sent to him with the ring he’d given me, “we’re not meant for each other.” Richy, I could see, was only after me for one more conquest. Then he’d go on to someone else and I knew it. So did he. The ring had fooled me. I wondered how many girls had been enticed to give up their virginity to this smooth operator. Maybe I was not the first to wear that ring. Maybe it wasn't even a real diamond, but I didn't get it appraised. Don't get the cart before the horse, I told myself. I'd go back to my original plans and wait until I was at least 23 to even think about marrying someone.

Not long after that Wally’s sister, Carolyn, came down to visit Grandma and me at a little cottage she’d rented in Laguna Beach for summer vacation. When Carolyn went home she told her family about my brief engagement. “What? Joyce is old enough to have a guy ask her to marry him?” Wally was surprised.

“I had put you in the kid sister category,” he told me years later. “And I thought of you as a big brother type,” I said. 

“I was never very good at dating,” Wally confessed. “I was always too shy to ask a girl out. At an age where most guys were dating seriously I was fighting a war. Whenever I got stateside I’d admire one and try to work up the courage to ask her out, but then I’d see her with some sleazy guy and before long she’d look sleazy too. Besides, I liked flying and kept busy. But then some of my buddies were getting married and invited us bachelors over for dinner.  It wasn’t long before the four walls of my room in the Bachelor Officers Quarters began to look pretty dull. I wanted to get married and still I couldn’t break the ice to even ask a girl out.”

Then he told me how one of his fellow pilots was a charmer with women. “He and I decided to go up to San Francisco on a five day leave we’d been given. He told me he’d show me how get started with women. Well, we covered every bar in the city but darn if the angels must have been looking after me. Even he didn’t find anyone, let alone me. We decided to give it up and go back. I went to my folks’ house and after telling Mom about it she said, 'That’s funny. I got a call from Mrs. Darling just yesterday and she asked me if either you or Alan had ever thought of dating Joyce. I told her I’d ask you.' 

“Well, when you answered the door the next day you had a big smile on your face and I said to myself then, ‘You’re crazy! You don’t go to bars to find a wife! This may be the kid sister-girl next door type but we have a lot in common. Same church. Good families. And that’s when I started coming down every other weekend to take you up to L.A. I had plenty of money saved up from when I was overseas fighting a war and couldn’t spend it. So, well, we had a good courtship didn’t we?”

“We sure did!” I said. “Gardenia corsages every time, dinner at a new and fancy restaurant along Sunset Strip, then a stage play or symphony concert. I couldn’t say no to you when you proposed. You were too good a catch!” But that little word “Yes” to your proposal closed the door on the chapter most women have when they finish college and get a job or embark on a career. We actually fell in love on our honeymoon. I knew I was going to miss my chapter of single-hood but I never regretted my choice. 

The wedding had been sweet. It took place in the Flyers' Chapel at the Mission Inn. Our honeymoon was thirty days in Laguna Beach. And the 40 years of marriage? Like any marriage ours had its bumpy places. I had to learn how to cook but soon I felt comfortable enough about that to invite other of Wally’s Marine married couple friends over and our forty years together were so good I didn’t seriously miss that missing chapter where I might have had a career, earned my own way in the world and maybe even made a name for myself to be proud of. 

It’s taken me this long to realize I did make a name for myself, even three names. I was Homemaker, Wife, and Mother of Three. Our lives were pillar to post but we loved it. The other chapters of my book didn't need that missing one. In my advanced years I’ve lived alone, twelve years after Wally and nearly ten years after Robby, my second good marriage. Nowadays I’m a mom, mother in law, grandma to seven, stepmom to three, and great grandma to five little ones. I live in as lovely a place as I’d ever want and I’m learning a lot about a wider and wonderful Life. 

Sometimes I think back and wonder what might have become of me if I’d chosen different paths but the one, that missing chapter, doesn’t give me any regrets. Doggone it, I may even be living that chapter now! How about you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Go West!"

The legend of Johnny Appleseed, thanks in part, 
to Walt Disney, has come to children of all ages and it has planted more than apple seeds. I love the songs that made the movie come alive with lessons easy to learn. One of the songs has been teasing me lately. It’s the one that starts, “Get on the wagon going West, out to the great Unknown...Get on the wagon going West, or you’ll be left alone.”

Even the sun appears to go West and I’m thinking that the famous Christmas star led the “Wise Men from the East” westward in their search for the Messiah. So, would that mean progress leads westward literally? 

Without getting too tangled up in geography, let’s assume that the progress of mankind is symbolized by the West. In our time it would seem that progress has led to greater freedom. Tying in to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible could it also mean that the freedom to go west, even into a “far country,” can teach us through trial and error the true definition of freedom? Western society with its broad offerings of right and wrong
 often presents a wide path to destruction. It shows that happiness is lost in “riotous living,” licentiousness behavior, lawlessness and wickedness. Yet that very extremity can prove to be God’s opportunity. 

The grand awakening to a kingdom of heaven within is something we can learn of and live by. We often chafe at the restrictions of law, but experience shows us the freedom that obedience to divine law, while seemingly restrictive at first, opens onto a highway above the dangers of selfishness, ignorance, hate and the ills of error. It bridges over the catastrophes we cannot avoid with a willingness to awake to divine answers. 

The saying, “Go West, young man!” is controversial in origin, and no doubt the literal implications of betterment can be argued, but I’m going to see what I can glean from the idea of a westward way. We could literally avoid the night if we did not stop in our western path. What does it mean to “Go West?” Are we following the Star of Bethlehem, the promise of a birth of our own divinity, preceded by that of the prophets of old and Christ Jesus, or the lure of the fool’s gold of our own selfish desires? 

When I weary of how the world seems to be going according to today’s media, I can only try to figure it all out with the help of the wise men and women of all ages. It’s good to believe that the kingdom of Heaven is within us as Christ Jesus declared. In the lives of most of the survivors of old age I’d like to know we can rise above any circumstance with that promise and “get on the wagon,” West, East? Or within? 

So, when that old demon calling itself death stalks me with questions like when, where and how? I say, “I have no time for you! I’m on the wagon going West! You can just stay in the ditch!” 

Of course, like Johnny Appleseed, I’ve got to see what good I have to plant along the way. Seeds of Love? Truth? Compassion?  And I need to watch out for seeds of weeds like ...well, you know what I mean. Leave them in last night’s bonfire.