She Made a Difference

I like to think mothers the world over do their absolute best to provide loving arms, direction, laughter, and nurturance to the children in their lives. Some mothers do a better job than others – I know that. It’s not always easy. Or ever easy.

Other women, who haven’t birthed one baby, give their hearts and love to little ones each and every day. In my own heart, I know these women. I feel their love, their pain, their tears of joy, and the sadness in their hearts.

I salute you all. To my family and friends who are mothers, to the mothers of my family and friends, and their mothers, to the women who love and cherish their family, whatever that family looks like, to all our children — we are the lucky ones.

My own life has been heavily influenced by my mother and I wouldn’t change a thing for all we shared together. She taught me to stand by my friends and family, no matter what. She taught me to never give up my dreams and to always stand up for myself and for those in need. She taught me to keep peace in my heart, and in my world.

She made a difference. I love her so much.❤️

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Sunday Morning

I’m sleeping. Sort of. I was tossing and turning all night. Stresses of the day added to a damn head cold.

DING. Cell phone message alert. I think about rolling over to check it. It takes me a minute.

Mom, could you come stay with Micah? He’s still sleeping and the rest of us are leaving to go get Rachel.

I think about saying something smart-ass about the fact that I was still sleeping. But it doesn’t really matter.

Yes. Be right there. I mess around a bit, making the bed, getting dressed until I hear their car rumbling awake.

I walk the 20 steps over to their place, say goodbye to the wide-awake-gang, grab some coffee and sit down for SNL – smiles and laughter, good. I read through the local paper: American Canyon (Inc. city in Napa County) researches becoming a sanctuary city. Great. I was actually wondering about Napa City/sanctuary sometime during my sleepless laying awake bothered and bewildered hours.

Micah’s up now. He’s 4, walking around looking for the family. He lays on the couch, plays with my phone a brief few minutes. He looks a little funky to me, more laid back than the real Micah. “When will they be home?” he asks. “When will Nana be here?”

“In a while, I’m not sure.”

“Wha what..’s…Daddy’s er, Daddy’s daddy’s name?” he asks, the words stumbling from his lips.

“You mean Lowell? Pop Pop? The guy in the picture there? With the beard?”

“Yeah… he …not coming today?”

“No honey. I’m sorry. He’s not, he died. He’s gone now.”

“No, he not!”

“I know it’s sad. He’s in our hearts now, where he’ll always be.”

“NO! HE! NOT!” He rolls away from me, looking up at the picture of his Pop Pop.

This is our first Thanksgiving without Lowell. We are so happy to have Rachel here with us this week. We all need all the love we can get. We miss him so very much.

Micah watches some TV, and asks for a bowl of cereal. “I want it mixed. Honey Nut Cheerios mixed with Honey Oat Crunch.”

Okay.

I go take a shower and go sit down with Micah again, checking my email and Facebook.

“When they be here?” he asks, his little fingers twirling my hair.

“In just a few minutes, they’re right around the corner.”

Mollie just texted me to say so.

Everyone arrives, excitement in the air. The two grandmas hug and check in with each other. She’s had a long day already, having left Arizona to arrive in Oakland at 8 a.m.

I love Sundays. Mollie brought me a donut.

 

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A New Day

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to put my thoughts on this campaign into words. The emotional turmoil has had me stymied, angry, sad, and now, hopeful.

When my mom was a little girl, she didn’t get to live with her mother for many years. My grandmother had to work and had noone at home to care for my mom. My grandmother placed my mom in the care of close friends in Napa while my grandmother lived and worked in San Francisco. My mom eventually was brought in to work side by side with her mother. That was another day and time in 1918, two years before women in this country won the right to vote. I’d like to think my mother and her mother were involved in that struggle. I can’t think of this historic day without thinking about the women who came before us. Especially the women in my own life.

I learned early that we are here on earth to be the best we can be, to help others be the best they can be. Every day. My mom and grandma taught me to take pride in myself and to love and nurture others as well as myself.

From my grandmother on down, my family is one of giving their service to others — to their family, and to their community. When I was a struggling young single mother, I was fortunate enough to receive government support while I made my way through four years of college with three small children at home, with my two older boys living with their father. I was lucky. The financial help was there for me, as was the emotional support of my friends and family that I sorely needed.

Many of those services available to me then, that enabled me to get the education I needed, to support and teach my kids, and to see them become excellent stewards in this land we call America, many of those services available to women trying to get a step ahead were taken away by the Republican leaders in this country in the last two decades.

We know many of the social supports enacted to help those in need have been wiped out. Do you wonder why so many people are uneducated, broken, and unhappy? The socioeconomic system is cracked. It is not broken, but it is deeply damaged.

This election to me is about the difference between the party platforms of the democrats, the republicans, and the libertarians. Each one of them has points I can support. The true leader for me, where my vote is — is with Hillary Clinton. The party’s platform I support is the democratic one.

Hillary Clinton has proven her mettle with her lifetime of service. She has taken hits that many of us can only imagine, and she has continued to stand tall, gracious, and courageous. I can’t think of a better candidate to become our first female president of these United States. She is the one I’d like to introduce to my little grandchildren. I cant’t think of a better man to be our First Man than Bill Clinton. A power duo if there ever was one.

 

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This is my promise. I will stand behind her, and with you, to lift her up, and support her in providing opportunity to everyone in this country to become the best they can be. I will work where I can to revamp the criminal justice system, to provide free healthcare and education to everyone, to support each other as we do ourselves. To stop the fighting and warring.

Behind our backs, greedy, mean, and selfish people who care only for their piles of money have turned our socioeconomic system upside down. My fervent hope is that the rest of us — now that we’ve seen the divide wide open in this land — will work together to make this country whole.

It’s an historic day. A new day. I’m excited, emotional, and grateful for everything good in my life. I feel great!

…and the Cubs Win!

I was over at my daughter and son-in-law’s house this morning, keeping an ear out for my 4-year-old grandson playing in the next room. My fingers paused on the laptop keys as I waited for the creative juices to kick in. Please kick in. I wanted something fresh and funny for the upcoming open mic.

Problem was, I wasn’t feeling fresh and funny. I was feeling worn, torn, and battle fatigued with the overwhelming election coverage this year. The Cubs’ World Series win brought me much needed relief and excitement — even if it was drawn out over and over again. That high didn’t last near long enough. I was missing that consummate Cubs fan who killed himself ten years ago. The big win was just one more in a string of life events he’s missed out on.

An hour later, I was still looking at a white screen without one string of words to be seen.

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You know why?

Well. My friend had some studying to do, so I suggested she bring her 4-year-old daughter
over to play. The more, the merrier is my motto. She dropped off her daughter along with the best of offerings — doughnuts, coffee, and hot chocolate. Woo Hoo!

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Twenty minutes later, it was time to wash and dry those cute little hands and faces. Time
to chase the dog back out after she knocked one of them onto the floor. Time to put that laundry in the dryer. I checked my email. Ah hah! A personal note from the Clinton campaign. Please, would you donate just one dollar? Sure, here’s 5. Would you like to double that? Sure, make it ten. Get out the credit card and load up the webpage with all the necessary information. Thanks – want to give more? No. Not today.

Then I checked Facebook. I peeked at a bit of online campaign news. I clicked around youtube and listened to a couple of tunes. First there was Bob Dylan, then John Lennon. I felt better. Kids were playing nicely. They were chattering away and giggling in their own little world.

So, anyway, I got back to business. It was a sunny day outside and I glanced into the living room. My eyes landed on Mollie’s memorial corner. Three framed portraits hang over the aging upright piano.

Lowell: strong and courageous father of three sons, dressed in his lifelong beard and glasses. Mollie’s husband’s father, he died just last year, after a tough battle with aggressive metastatic melanoma. He was such a wonderful man, full of love and passion… a man who would do anything for his family.

Katie, my beautiful grand-daughter, gone from us much too soon. I look at her smiling, in her pensive way; I wonder what she was thinking when that picture was taken. Our hearts broke the day she died, leaving behind her baby boy Jack. Her laughter had filled our world. We miss her so much.

And Matt, my former husband, father of three, baseball fan extraordinaire, former Stratamatic player and political junkie, a voracious reader who died before Mollie even knew she’d be marrying Matt, her new boyfriend.

Each of them gone now from this world for widely different reasons, each one of them leaving a big hole in my heart. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t imagine Katie or Matt or Lowell standing with us in the sunshine, laughing at a birthday party, playing with the kids, or repairing something or other.

Cheering the Cubs.

Damn. Pass me that doughnut.

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Happy Birthday, Grandpa Fred

My mother was 66 years old when she died. Her mother, the only grandmother I really knew, died when she was 70. I’m 68 now, and thankfully, a whole lot healthier than either one of them were. Not that I wanted them to be unhealthy. You know what I mean.

I grew up with Grandma Gertie and Grandpa Willie at my side. I knew at some point in time that Grandpa Willie was my step-grandfather. The step part never mattered to me. I loved him so much and he showered all of us with love and good humor. It was years after Mom died in ’86 that I even began to wonder who my real grandfather really was. Willie was gone by then, too.

Eventually I learned that Fred Shea was the man who cared for my grandmother when she was just 18 and won a train trip to San Francisco from Missouri as the grand prize in her hometown beauty pageant. Grandma’s father had arranged for his brother Fred, who was living in SF and working for the railroad, to look after young Gertie. Love bloomed, and in the way of the world, uncle and niece fell in love. My mom was born in the spring of 1920.

Sometime, somehow, in the next 15 or so years, Fred was out of the picture.

I tracked down his death certificate. He died in a hospital in San Francisco, from cirrhosis of the liver when he was 63 years old. It was December 23, 1945, 6 days before my parents celebrated their marriage in Grandma Gertie and Grandpa Willie’s home across the bay.

I’ll never know if Mom knew where her dad was. It makes me so sad. Maybe no one he loved knew where he was.

While looking through old pictures just a few years ago, I stumbled upon a picture of my very young and beautiful grandmother sitting next to a strikingly handsome man on a blanket on San Francisco’s foggy Ocean Beach. I knew in that instant I was looking at my grandfather. I also knew why my parents named my brother Fred.

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I jumped in my car, sped to the office supply store to get the best magnifying glass they had on hand and rushed back home. When I glared through my powerful new lens, I was gazing on the mirror image of my brothers and my sons.

Finally, I got to meet my own Grandpa Fred.

Tomorrow is his birthday. October 1, 1883. Happy Birthday, Grandpa Fred.

 

Happy Birthday, Lowell

 

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Dearest Lowell,

You’ve been on my mind a lot today. It’s cool and rainy in Napa, your son here is out back scrubbing the pool after a wet and dirty winter. I’m pretty sure I know where you are, resting in your recliner in you nice warm spot. I bet Rachel is right there with you.

Lowell -CCLowell, thank you for the amazing job you did with Rachel in raising up and teaching your boys to be the best human beings they could be. They are a testament to you. Loving, hard working fathers and husbands, always ready to lend a hand to honor, love, and support those in their grasp.

PopPop, you are the very best grandpa all our little grandchildren could ever hope for. Always ready to listen to their stories, find a treat, teach a new lesson in life or how to fix some thing or another, handing out a drum lesson, or taking them all, one at a time, on a motorcyle ride.

Thank you for being such a warm and strong beacon of light for Rachel. It wasn’t easy all the time, I’m sure. Falling head over heels as teenagers, growing into adults, and marrying the love of your life. Soon enough, picking up to move from your family farms halfway across the country to build a life in Arizona. 

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The Millers

I’ve heard you and Rachel laughing about the years you carried water jugs spilling over to your travel trailer while you slowly but surely built up a home of your own on your own patch of land. I always feel so comfortable in your warm, safe, and cozy home in the mountains of Show Low.

You have so many blessings. I know there were difficulties. And struggles.

I’ve heard about your many adventures. Motorcycle trips, motorcycle racing, drums beating in the porch room and with worship teams. Annual trips to the family farm where you pitched in with the yearly harvest. I also heard you were still sitting up in the driver’s seat this year.100_2628

I’m so very grateful for the long trips you made to California. So happy we all went to the ocean, over the hills and down onto Stinson Beach. Did you really mean it when you said you never wanted to ride on that road again? Come on.

It was pretty comical, I have to say, after all the years of you worrying about our earthquakes, that you would be here for the last big one that summer of 2014. I cracked up when you told me you woke up thinking that it was Rachel shaking the bed. Like she would get up and do that.

Thank you for being there to help Mollie and Matt build their first house. Thank you for the new roof you and Matt put on my house a year ago. Thank you and Rachel for all your help when we first moved into our little compound almost four years ago now.

100_8824Yes. This is how you roll. Always in service. Partnering with each of your sons, and their families, to assure them a step ahead in life with their own families.

I know that you know this latest trip around the sun may very well be your last trip around that particular fiery globe of ours. It makes me so sad.

I’ve watched you and Rachel give this last year the fight of your life. I know the cancer that invaded you early last year hasn’t given up either. I’m so grateful that Hospice is helping you and Rachel to assure your last days on this earth are as caring, supportive, and loving as your first few days of life when you popped in here decades ago, right behind me.

I’m so glad we’ve had this time with together, you and Rachel and myself, growing closer over the years. It’s a special blessing that your dear Rachel and I found each other. Having each grown in a house only with brothers, we each have a sister now in one another.

All in all, you and your Millers are one of the greatest blessings that has happened to my family, and to my life.2015-10-17 12.58.41

My heart is full of love, sad with grief, and happy with wonderful memories. I don’t want you to go. It’s one thing to know that each of us is going to leave this planet for another place one day in the future. It’s another to see it happen in front of us.

So, today, with the joys of your previous sixty plus birthdays brimming over onto Rachel, your boys, your sweet grandchildren, your extended family, church, friends, and your beloved dogs, love must be the frosting on your birthday cake of life.

I wish you could stay here for a hundred more birthdays. And. I know you’re looking forward to a new world of hope and light and never ending love in your next life.

So, Happy Birthday, Lowell. I love you and wish you a birthday of peace and love and happiness. I wish I was there to see the candles.

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Happy Father’s Day

I’m fortunate to know several incredible men who aren’t fathers. They’re men who had fathers; they’re men who nurture and care for those around them – families, students, and friends alike. To them I say, Happy Un-Father’s Day!

In my own game of life, many of the fathers closest to me were nothing like Ozzie Nelson or Ward Cleaver, or even Mike Brady.

Abandoned as a youngster by his own father, a young man grew up to suffer prison camps in a foreign war.  He returned home to San Francisco, broken and worn.  He married his sweetheart, he became a father.  Three children and years later, he took off to live with another woman and her children from a different father, leaving his young family to make their way on their own.  We did fine.

Another father – he hit his sons and he hit his wife.  I knew he had an anger problem.  His mother told me years before, warning me.  Eventually, I left him behind.  He went on to marry his high school sweetheart and live happily ever after.

One father of three walked out when his youngest child was just an infant. Years later, he traveled half way across the country to find us, apologetic, on his knees.  And then, just as we felt comfort settling in, he killed himself with a rope around his neck.

Even as father scars smoulder and rumble today in the tiny edges of my heart, I savor the love and happiness of the very best fathers and grandfathers and brothers and sons in my extended family that stretches from Massachusetts and New York to Florida, from Arizona to Colorado and California.  All I know now are warm embraces and happy endings.

These guys, they create miracles.  They nourish, they love.

They kiss and they hug. They teach, support, laugh and have fun.

They stay.

To all the great fathers in my life, famiIy and friends alike, I say, with balloons and banners flying,

“Happy Father’s Day.”