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A Letter to My First Grandchild

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playfulmeanderings:

I share with you the moving blog of becoming a Grandparent. This is a reblog from Progressivepapa.wordpress.com who shared this life-shaping experience of welcoming new life. A great read for ALL ages.

Originally posted on Progressivepapa's Blog:

Note: My first grandchild, Easton Arthur Steelman, was born Oct. 12, 2013, at 3:45 a.m. in Reno, Nev., to my daughter Carissa and her husband, Brad. Following is my “open” welcome to the latest miracle in my life.

Dear Easton,

A little more than two days ago, on Oct. 12, 2013 — an American semi-holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World (you’ll learn all about it soon enough) — you gave our family new life and new light in a powerful little bundle weighing 8.2 pounds and stretching all the way to 19 1/2 inches. I first laid eyes on you not 45 minutes after you emerged from your dark, warm and crowded-but-comfy home for the prevous 40 weeks, you still in your birthday suit, your proud papa standing at your side, decked out in surgical gown and boots. He smiled and I smiled back. So did your…

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The Future of Print — I Want to Believe, but for the Peeps

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Our relationship has been tenuous at best these last years.

At one time we were linked by family. I am free now to leave and come back. Once in a while I pick you up to just to catch up, check the latest, but I am not committed any longer. Not that you have noticed.

You’ve had your own travails, I understand. The economy, the changing modes of communication, it’s been tough and you’ve questioned your own reasons for going forward.

I sympathize. Still, this latest just may be the final effort from me.

Imagine this: A contest announced. The rules stated. The deadline set. The work put in — hours of fun to put all the elements into place. We entered. We waited. We won!

We did celebrate, we told friends, communicated with people who care about our cause, including a board of directors.

Your congratulatory announcement indicated that our entry would be published in you, our hometown paper, Saturday. I wrote you back, sent you additional materials and you told us just how pleased you were and again said to look for a spread in the paper.

My family, primarily our 13-year-old and I, created a diorama of sorts commemorating the 30th Anniversary of my employer, the Food Bank, for your contest in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Peeps. We even made play-dough mini food, for Pete’s sake! We won — how fun is that? — and then a fail on your part.

On the surface this seems like a witless act, but it’s systematic of the spiral you’ve been in for the past 12 years. All your best reporters have been forced out, mistreated or pushed into an early retirement. You had the brain power, the courage, the talent. At one time you won a Pulitzer Prize. We were proud of our paper.

I always believed in print journalism. The power of the long-form, to educate and to inform to make a difference by being the fourth estate that keeps politicians on the record. Print reigned over broadcast because of its ability to delve deep, give background and establish nucleus and consequences thereby engaging readers to know the core of its community. You knew the difference between an editorial and advertorial.

Now who can tell what is an ad, what is a payback, what is a story you print in hopes for a future ad? The lines are so blurry.

You cared, before.

I can appreciate how unsettling the internet has been for newspapers, trying to adapt to the ways people want to receive the news. But what hasn’t changed is that we love our town, our people, our community and our state. We still want news. We want to know what is happening. Instead we have more columnists with opinions than reporters writing the news. You have bought into a culture where personality trumps substance. Long ago there were two papers here. Alternatives that helped the reader obtain the whole picture of our world. Then there was a merger and still one pretty darn good paper. We had Ken, Warren, Mike, Frank M, Rollan, Pat, Frank C.  Phil, and Catherine, among others. And you valued the workers. They had your faith and they developed sources, culled out leads and had time to probe into issues. No more.

Oh, there’s talent in your midst, to be sure, yet your employees tell of a long line of consultants who come in with promises of the return to investigative journalism. That reporters will have time for the big projects, to stretch and tell stories that can impact our quality of life. Yet every time the reporter gets teeth sunk into topic he/she is told, no, in fact you just need to file your 10-inch stories day after day, the ones that will bring in revenue. And when the bigger package of stories is finally polished and submitted after your game of red-light/green-light, you hold it and hold it, then you eviscerate it, taking out any part that may be controversial. It’s demoralizing to professional journalists.

And then you wonder why people don’t read you.

It’s not that we can’t read, won’t read, it’s that we are embarrassed of you. Your typos. Your jumps that lead nowhere. A byline that said “Insert Name Here.” On more than one occasion we have seen the same exact story in the very same issue of the paper. That’s rich.

So yes, I’m disappointed for me, for my daughter, for my Food Bank, but most of all I’m disappointed in you. You, the paper my father and brother worked for and you the one I once had hoped our daughters could learn from, work for and contribute to and to make this a relevant venue for people to get the community news. For that I’m most sad.

So the contest is done. Easter has had it’s day — you and I must part our ways. Here, to my readers — I do hereby self-publish the photos of our project this will now be seen by someone, somewhere, just not in print. :Peeps Contest 5

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Peeps Contest 8

Mo-Peep took pics.

peep

That, My Friend, Is a Dark Side

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Harry can't help himself.

Harry can’t help his true nature.

“When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends,” Harry Burns says classically in my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally.

Darlings, confession time, I have been known to peek. I know! I know! Bad form. But if I’m falling in love with the book, especially the hero of the story, in about chapter two or three, I get antsy. Is he (she) still alive in the end? I’m not looking for details such as is he destitute?; did he end up with Trudy?; Did he avenge his enemy? Did he learn anything at all?

It’s no more than this – is he alive? I just scan real quick-like. Is his name on the page? There, my eye catches it and I never go there again.

And just seeing it there isn’t even a guarantee that the author has him among the living at the last (I’ve been fooled before by my snooping.) But having acknowledged the protagonist there in the finale I know, we both — the author and I — love that character.  We are simpatico.

Harry’s fear is that he won’t finish the book, that’ he’ll die not knowing. He spends hours, days, thinking about death. He doesn’t care about the literature, the form, the character, the story, the theme, the author – he’s just afraid the New York cabbie may take him out first.

Sally knows better that I that the book should just unfold as written -- no peeking!

Sally  is horrified by the notion — no peeking!

My thing is different – not dark – I’m the Sally Albright. I cheerfully know that I’ll finish, by gosh I’ll stay up all night if I want to drink in the plot with its greater meanings, but succumbing to the temptation of unraveling the ending actually helps me to enjoy the book.  Rather than racing to the end and thereby hastening the delicious details of the author has in store, I can savor it all — page by ambrosial page.

Make Way, Proud Mama Coming Through

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Thunk, thunk, thunk.

That’s the sound of the my full heart.

The sound of my chest beating with pride.

The sound of my love bubbling up from inside.

Other people now see what I’ve known — this child of mine is letting her light shine.

Just about 15 months ago, Momo — as she is affectionately known — our now 13-year-old daughter picked up the camera and began to snap some shots of this and that.  The more photos she took, the more she refined, took note, and used this medium to help her articulate how she feels about and sees her world. Her keen interest and enthusiasm have gotten her up before sunrise, to get shots during the “golden hour.” Her inspirations have her laying on her stomach in the snow, standing on ladders, and having her friends model wherever they go.

 

Gold Key Winner "Jump"

Gold Key Winner “Jump”

Just recently, Marjorie joined the school art club, made new friends and through their and the teacher’s urging, she entered the Scholastic Key Awards.

Yee-ha now– she earned two Gold Keys for two of her photos, plus four Silver Keys and a couple of honorable mentions.

Gold Key Wiiner "Stairs."

Gold Key Winner “Stairs.”

Gallery DebutFriday was her coming out party– all Gold Key works were on display at the Holland Project in Reno, NV. To be on hand for her artistic debut, to see her face shining and her excitement growing — THAT was a Thunk, thunk, thunk.

Gallery Debut

Used to Daydream In That Small Town

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Marjorie, Curtis Sr. and Curtis Jr.

Marjorie, Curtis Sr. and Curtis Jr.

Certain people in the family tree capture my imagination – my husband’s maternal grandmother, Marjorie Barton Townsend Williams is one of those enigmatic people. Born in 1890 in Overbrook, Penn., to prominent blue-blood parents at the cusp of the new century when women were venturing further from Victorian sentiments and sensibilities, she left the enclave of mansions owned by her grandfather, father and uncles to serve as a Red Cross volunteer aid in France during WWI. She arrived as the war ended, tending to those men who were injured and help others transition back to the States. Under these circumstances, Marjorie met her future husband, one-time Minnesota lumberjack, then audacious soldier Curtis G. Williams. Enamored, he followed her back to Philadelphia upon his US Army release to rekindle the romance and finally won her father’s approval to marry her after some months.

From there the newlyweds traveled via train to his natal Minnesota to start their new life. His diary – more a collection of humorous stories than anything – has been passed down to the grandchildren. In it, he describes Marjorie only near the end of these reminisces. Other than this, I can only suppose her reaction to moving half-way across the country to live at first in International Falls (on the boarder to Canada) and later to Duluth.

Main StreetSo when I recently read Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, Marjorie grew in my mind to be main character Carol Milford Kennicott. Also a new bride, Carol and husband Dr. Will Kennicott arrive via train in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota. She looks out the window at the flat dingy landscape and reacts:

“That one word—home—it terrified her. Had she really bound herself to live, inescapably, in this town called Gopher Prairie? And this thick man beside her, who dared to define her future, he was a stranger! She turned in her seat, stared at him. Who was he? Why was he sitting with her? He wasn’t of her kind! His neck was heavy; his speech was heavy; he was twelve or thirteen years older than she; and about him was none of the magic of shared adventures and eagerness. She could not believe that she had ever slept in his arms. That was one of the dreams which you had but did not officially admit.”

Did Marjorie feel this way?

So much of Lewis’ book deals with Carol’s tilting at windmills – trying to change this town, revolt against what she views as provincialism attempting to bring in culture, refined architecture, educational reforms only to be rebuffed by tradition and complacency.  Carol endeavors by turns to fit into established cliques and then break away to blaze trails of originality and single-minded leadership. Lewis’ social satire about small towns was the first to expose certain narrow attitudes and this bewildered readers who commonly idealized American small towns.

But far more than the town and its inhabitants stifling her, Carol feels most misunderstood by her own husband who though he loves her, cannot understand her restless nature.

Was this Marjorie’s experience too?

Or was her life one of isolation – raising three sons while her husband caroused as though still single?

Of note, the book Main Street was published in 1920, the year Marjorie and Curtis married. The book became a modern best seller, with the exception of some small towns in Minnesota because of the book’s genesis from Lewis’ hometown of Sauk Centre, Minn.

Did Marjorie read this book? And if she did, what would she have said? — That she identified with Carol? Or that her life shared nothing with a character living in similar time and place?

We do know that she was not happy. Unlike Carol in Main Street who was able to make a peace, eventually, with Gopher Prairie, Marjorie ended her life at age 47 leaving her sons ages 12 to 16 to cope with the loss.

When researching ancestry, even the lives of those who lived not that long ago, mysteries abound. Through literature it’s interesting and instructive to imagine Marjorie’s life as it might have been, how she felt, what she saw and the choices she faced. Reading something that may have mirrored her life has helped me to understand at least some of the undercurrents in a life that was too short.

Little Things Make Her A Bright, Shining Birthday Beacon

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“It’s a girl!”madeleine infant

Sixteen candles will be on our daughter Madeleine’s dessert – blueberry pie — tonight.

The big moments – her birth, first word, first smile, first day of school, losing that first tooth, first time riding her bike, saying “I Love You,” stand out in time. These rights of passage play over and over in my memory as the playbook of her life.

But it’s the little moments that make her Madeleine.

madeleine painter

  • The time she thought the leprechaun potion had shrunk her
  • The way she sings in the shower with true abandon
  • Her child-like giggle
  • The way she lives out the stories she reads and sees. Go to a movie with her and bring some tissues!
  • Her incredibly kind spirit, especially with children
  • The time she lost her ring and we looked everywhere for such a long time. It was the end of the world until she found it was in her pocket all the time
  • Her new habit of translating everything she thinks, hears and sees from English into Frenchmadeleine snowman
  • The music that explodes from her in song form via guitar, drum, piano and rickety chop sticks
  • Her sudden tempers that melt into tears and really all-too-many “I’m sorries.”
  • Oh so polite and yet suddenly unrefined in just the way teens tend to be
  • The creative touches she has with everything she does – with notes, homework assignments – she’s a cartoonist, poet, doodler, song-writer
  • Imagine this: a flat tire     the very first time she drove with her learner’s permit
  • Nerd to her core, she embraces her Dr. Who, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
  • She loves color – she doesn’t even realize she must own 7 orange shirts and her day-glo orange shoes and backpack help me pick her out in any crowd
  • Dauntingly positive – “We can do it, Mom! Who cares what other people think?”
  • Despite their sibling jabs, she really loves being a big sister and would take on any bully to protect The Mo
  • The way her hugs go on and on
  • How she worries about her friends and is willing to carry their problems for them
  • Her 1000-watt smile that lights up the room

Madeleine’s smarter than most, (I know, I’m her mom, but it’s simply true) she’s got big dreams and though I wish time would slow down because I want to savor every quirk and ancillary anecdote I also am excited to see what she’ll be, do and think as she finishes adolescence and explodes into young adult.montage of photos Madeleine

  Love you my Laney-Loo. Love you all the time!

Beware: Political Quicksand Ahead

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Slip sliding away....

Slip sliding away….

Quicksand is a colloid hydrogel consisting of fine granular material, clay, and water. Quicksand forms in saturated loose sand when the sand is suddenly agitated.

In other words, wow, did I walk into it this time.

I’m not particularly vocal about my political beliefs, though if I find a kindred, like-minded human I can wax on with the best of them. But I do go by the maxim that most individuals have their own take on politics and policies and I’m not likely to move them one way or the other.

With sorrow I report that not everyone adheres to that discipline.

I normally teach 4th to 6th grade students at our Lutheran church on Sundays between services, but Sunday the kids were at a weekend church retreat out-of-state, so I had an early out, so to speak, and was able to socialize with adults in the building next door during a ministry fair. I thought it a nice change after weeks in the classroom. I said hello to several friends and after a while drifted to the side of the room while waiting for my husband who was catching up with some of the guys. A gentleman struck up a conversation with me, beginning his discourse with his passion for fixing things and how he volunteers frequently at church for building maintenance.

As he spoke, I was congratulating myself for meeting someone new, taking an interest in his interests, and practicing my listening skills.

“He seems lonely,” thought I.

He continued to tell me how he has tinkered with the doors to make them safer, rescued stuck keys from unlikely places, changed lightbulbs in precarious positions.

“Really knows his stuff and glad he’s stepped up to take charge of these issues,” I mused.

Now retired, he ran through the path of his career and enlightened me about the intricate internal machinations of mounted cameras in his field of work.

“Well,” I reckoned, “no wonder he has this attention to detail. He’s a lifelong tinkerer.”

While I pandered to myself, I suddenly realized he’d jumped the shark. Now he was talking politics. My incessant nodding became less robust.

I became the civics teacher: “The President doesn’t hold the purse strings on that, Congress has the fiscal responsibility Our Congressman and Senator …”

Oh, he was familiar, by Jove. No, but he’d have none of that. In fact he began lecturing me. Giving me a treatise on how this country was spiraling down.

I’ve been taught to be kind to others; I’ve also been taught to be assertive. I was polite, but not to the point of agreeing.

Then came the quicksand. The discourse devolved as the saturated loose sand was suddenly agitated. “John” gave me all the talking points about why all guns should be legal and how We all should be packing and if We would all just do that We’d all be safe. He was including me in his we.

What I said was, “You and I don’t agree.”

He continued with his best persuasive speeches and I said, “Listen, my mother’s classmate died in that parking lot that Gabby Gifford was shot in last year.”

“Well, that will happen,” he said, “Nothing we could have done could have prevented it.”

“Really? If he — the shooter — had had a lesser caliber gun and had to reload, she would have lived, I think.”

He disagreed and told me about all the public officials who pack guns, basically implying “Then, why shouldn’t I?”

All I could think was, “Just why is he patting his hip right now? Didn’t anyone notice that I was a shade of light green right now with nausea?”

I said there was an armed guard at Columbine, and that didn’t prevent those horrors.

“Well,” he said, “It’s not a perfect system.”

I said, “I have taught for years” — Sunday School, not that he knew it — “And I would lay down my life for the kids, but is that really what we want from our teachers?”

Oh yes, he thinks that’s just how it should be.

He had made up his mind.

So have I.

It's harder than killing.

It’s better and hurts less..

Why didn’t I just say it?  Jesus just doesn’t want us to kill each other. He just doesn’t.

Now it’s back to the classroom and the students for me where I can teach love and not fear.

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