The lessons I’ve learned from Grandma Pie

There are no accidents, as in, I do believe that God works in our lives. We can refer to the God power in any number of ways, but to me, it is undeniably real. I believe people are brought into our lives because we consciously or subconsciously need them; in ways we may not even expect.  One experience for me was with the least expected person, my then-husband’s grandmother, Jean.

Jean, better known as “Grandma Pie”, was born in Washington in 1912, and was one of the most genuine, independent, kind and straightforward women I had met. She could whip up a pie (thus the name “grandma pie”), as easily as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  My own grandmother, while she had a wonderful and unexpected impact on my life, found comfort in a couple of “snorts” of sherry from a brown paper bag. Don’t get me wrong, I truly loved my grandmother, but Jean was somewhat of an enigma to me, since I had already imprinted on what a grandmother was—and it wasn’t related to the Ward Cleaver family.

I became very close to Jean over the ten years prior to her passing in 1992.  She reminded me of the importance of your family. My own family, in many ways, had unintentionally chosen a road of self-destruction when I was 13 years old. The landslide began with my mom’s diagnosis of terminal cancer. The repercussions of her illness were much akin to the sinking of the Titanic, as she was the core of our family.

My early life was full of love, laughter and most of all security. My parents were openly affectionate and had a very playful and close relationship. Unfortunately though, they were unprepared to handle the overwhelming emotional impact related to a terminal illness.  Outside support systems to help families in trauma were close to non-existent in the early 1970’s. So, needless to say, by 22, my desire for a close family had been buried deep in my heart, for a very long time.

To know Jean, she was a modern woman, a “Rosie the Riveter”, with ol’ fashion family values. Her energy was spent close to her family. She would bring everyone together with her meat-and-potato style of cooking, homemade biscuits, and of course, pie. In one afternoon, she could sew a smock for her granddaughter and deliver a pie to her son. But she was not only a doer, but a listener. Jean’s advice was usually simple and derived from the Golden Rule. I think that philosophy tends to cover a wide range of issues.

A month shy of Jean’s 80th birthday she passed away. I remember one of the last conversations I had with her she said, “I’m ready to meet my maker; I’ve had a long life and I’m ready to go”. She was at peace with moving from this life to the next. It was not traumatic, it didn’t claim the lives of others, and she didn’t alienate those closest to her. She, with her family, embraced it.

 Jean has been gone for 20 years and her life still impacts me today. Our relationship was special and I’m grateful to God for bringing her into my life. Jean healed my soul when she moved from this life to the next with light on her face and peace in her heart.

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Favorite Word…”Shenanigans”

I have to say my all time favorite word is “shenanigans”. The word in itself makes me chuckle. My family and colleagues have heard me say that my day isn’t complete unless I use that word at least once a day. I even have a co-worker using it–and always with a smile.

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The tortoise is my hero.

I truly love and admire the tortoise with his “slow and steady wins the race” philosophy. Unfortunately, I am the hare. I blast off with great gusto and enthusiasm and half way to the finish line I decide I’m not interested anymore. So, I have to adopt a “slow and steady” attitude. This attitude is especially important to continue with my new endeavor, my blog. My first attitude adjustment was put to the test so my husband and I could head out of town for the weekend.

It is exciting to begin something new. It’s been fun researching how blogging works; including, all the what, where and whys about it.  I have not only learned what a widget was, but implemented mine.  But that’s okay, because I’m a hare and I was going just as fast as I could.  In six days I had set up two blog sites and posted three times. I felt pretty good about how it was going until it was time to head out of town for the weekend.

My husband, Rick and I had talked about getting out of town for a few weeks, so when Wednesday rolled around it was time to get on Priceline and book our hotel. My first wave of panic struck. If I was out of town, how was I going to continue my research on blogging and stay on schedule to post my next entry? I just wasn’t ready to slow my pace. Okay, I thought, I will print out articles on blogging and read them over the weekend.  I soon realized that wasn’t realistic; I would zip through the articles by mile 25! Then what?!

Something I forgot to mention—Rick is the tortoise. Not that he is slow, but he knows how to pace himself. He is very good at weighing things out and managing his time. I, on the other hand, thrive in “over commitment”, which means that time and I are in constant negotiation. So, it came as no surprise to me when Rick stood in front of me with concern on his face and told me how important it is for me to slow down. He reminded me that I could catch up on my magazines and start the book I have been meaning to get to for months; he was looking forward to spending time together; apparently, even though my computer is in the same room as the television, that doesn’t count. Believe me, I asked.  “Okay, you’re right. I agree.” “So, do you mind if I take your laptop; it’s kind of like a magazine, except with a power cord!” Umm, that was a, “No, ma’am”.  Oh, I got it, “The business center at the hotel, maybe I could…” Ahh, maybe not.

So, we hit the road early Saturday morning and got back home late Sunday afternoon. It was wonderful. I read my Bon Appetite magazines and finally started Little Bee by Chris Cleave (love it!). We hung out by the pool (me under the umbrella), enjoyed a wonderful sushi dinner, laughed and had fun. The weekend was a well needed getaway for both of us.

And, I’m happy to report that the hare is down to a hop.

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Scary Books On A Bookshelf

I have to say, “I love to see books in a bookcase!” With the exception of having to dust it, I love everything about it. It may be one of the few places in a house that tells a story about the owner. I admit, the first few times I’m invited to someone’s home the ever elusive “laser tractor beam” engages and I’m pulled towards the shelves, until I am reading titles and asking questions.  

Think about how much time we could save getting to know someone we were interested in dating. What if perusing his or her bookshelf was a prerequisite to a relationship? I would say to the girls, if you see “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell” just run away…run fast and run far.

I have to admit there have been some pretty eye raising books on my bookshelf. I know there was a few on paganism. I had my children out dancing in the yard celebrating a full moon on more than one occasion—Oh, yes, I did! A staple on the shelf was “The Woman’s Room” by Marilyn French. Yes, this is a classic, but it was the dozen like it that would be a bit intimidating. I had to stop reading these books after a while because I couldn’t figure out why I was so anxious all the time.  Let’s see, several books on Tarot reading, accompanied by a few tarot decks. And, books with various combinations on horoscopes…Linda Goodman’s “Love Signs” (of coarse) sat proudly.

 I’m sure I’m not alone with scary books on a bookshelf, or would be considered a bit eye raising to the unsuspecting visitor. What would be yours?

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So that’s what the soul feels like…

I have to admit; I feel I’m behind enemy lines with this social media thing. We are informed and connected in ways I would have never believed possible. I thought a “beeper” was an amazing piece of technology. Now, my “Friends” know who my “friends” are, where I am, and what I’m eating, with a few clicks on my phone. I’m not sure even Ray Bradbury could have envisioned this.

So, it’s always interesting to go through a growth spurt. I don’t usually know when I’m entering one, except that I usually feel dissatisfied with a part of my life for a period of time.  In this case, it happens to be work.

Over the past three years my job, five days a week, 52 weeks a year is to navigate which direction papers should go. Let’s see, does this one have the privilege to visit one of the many VIPs, do I get to send another to be transformed into a check that any number of individuals will be happy to receive, perhaps the most fortune will be scanned and uploaded into a database for all of time and eternity. Okay, so maybe I’m trivializing it, but honestly, some days I feel I spend most of my time building a paper nest, only to rebuild it again the following day.

Yes, I am very, very fortunate to be employed. I have great benefits, and retirement and most importantly, I have made some life-long friends over the past 13 years. I don’t want to seem ungrateful; however, with that said, there are times I just stand back and ask myself, “Is this as good as it gets?”  I know at my “core” there is something more…but what is it? And how do I get there?

About two months ago the pastor at the church my husband and I have been attending challenged the congregation to read the new international version of the New Testament titled, “The Books of the Bible” in five weeks. I had never read the New Testament, even within the 3-4 years I had converted to Mormonism when I was 17. I was actually excited about accomplishing this in such a short period of time. The time line was predetermined and the design of this book read like a good novel. I truly enjoyed it. The message…love, love, and love.  This opened me up to my next book, “Spiritual Partnership”. 

“Spiritual Partnership” by Gary Zukav talks about the alignment of your soul to your personality. In it’s simplest terms, and what I am trying to practice, is to respond to situations from a place of understanding and compassion (my soul) and not react out of a feeling of frustration, or fear (a response from my personality).

I’m trying to doing as the author recommends and that is to pay attention to how my body is physically responding to a situation as it’s happening. If I feel stressed, hurt, or angry my body will respond. I will feel tension in my body, my throat feels tight, my stomach is upset, or I feel like getting away – running.  This is my body’s way of telling me a nerve is being touched that is directly related to a frightened or hurt part of my personality. If I just try and slow down and not respond so quickly, but think to myself, “What am I afraid of right now?” Usually, I’m finding it’s about losing some control, or sense of power.  Isn’t releasing power in itself powerful?

I begin with a mantra of “come from a place of love, come from a place of love…” The tone in my mind isn’t always that calm, as I am fending away the militant voice that is saying, “they don’t deserve it!” Trust me, I have more than the militant; how many in a battalion?  It is literally a ping-pong match until I give way to one or the other. I have to look at it like being at the gym. It’s a flabby muscle; it takes time.

I have made a discovery this week when this process did work. I found that some things really aren’t about me, but the other person’s own fears or insecurities. Unfortunately, I can’t heal that part of them no matter what approach I try. Knowing that, I responded differently. Actually, I felt bad that someone was in a painful place. This is a change from feeling defensive and anxious because I felt I was the brunt of something over which I had no control.

It occurred to me that by staying connected to my “core” or my soul I would find my way to where ever it is I need to go. And maybe, just maybe, it won’t involve a paper nest.

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In of honor of national poetry month…”Middle Man”

In celebration of National Poetry Month:

I seem to have always felt restless in relationships.  So, I wrote this poem when I began to date a man I got to know while sitting together on the bleachers of our sons’ high school water polo games eight years ago.

Middle Man

Where is my middleman?

The man in the middle.

The one who makes his life about living, keeping balance and steady.

I never stay long enough to find the middle for me.

My life continues to press against one side or the other.

Always chasing a life, and rarely a life for me.

Although my heart longs to dwell where it’s peaceful and calm,

I continue down my beaten path;

forever out of step with my balance, my center, my middle.

Are you my man, my man in the middle?

Not leaning to one side or the other.

Can you make me feel safe,

and know when I need to be outside your grasp?

Are you strong enough to stand still for me?

Is it wise for you to wait for me?

And so, you are before me…my love,

with an offering of warmth and tenderness,

so much that I can’t’ seem to slow my spirit,

as she pulls me toward you.

Is this what it feels like to be in the middle?

A spectator in an unfamiliar place.

Feeling like I’ve come home, but needing to run.

I must free my spirit from this beaten path,

to live my life in balance and peace.

Take my hand in yours and whisper to me,

“You have found your man, I’m your man in the middle”.

(Nov. 2004)

Rick and I married four years later.

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