Friday, January 30, 2009

Flashback Friday Free for All

I’m linking this to Anne Glamore’s My Tiny Kingdom Blog. (The link to her is on the right side of the page labeled Favorites. I couldn’t figure out how to get it into the text.)

I spent a Terrible Thursday getting ready for Flashback Friday. I began looking for a video tape that I had made about ten years ago to use for a speech for Special Needs parents and professionals. I happened to have about twenty years of family videos of family events, so with the crude tools available to me, I cut and spliced a series of videos of Walker growing up, had it set to music, and showed it to a packed house, cutting my babbling to about twenty minutes.

Anyway, when I started looking for the video, it was nowhere to be found. We had it out on Walker’s thirty second birthday last August, and his friends got a big kick out of seeing themselves participating in birthday parties and Special Olympics events when they were tiny. I could remember asking my husband to put it in a safe place after the party, because Walker had already plundered my usual stash of kiddie memorabilia under my bed, and I didn’t want this particular tape to disappear.

We began by looking in the easy places. My husband checked the shelf in the closet where other videos were stored, I checked the armoire and the chest beside my bed, and went through the ones under the bed. Then we tackled my husband’s upstairs office, piled high with family memorabilia recently brought back home when his dad died.

Then the big search came…Walker’s room. The last time I had tackled Walker’s room, he was away at camp and it took several long days. I bought organizers of every description. I sorted and categorized his videos, dvd’s, cassette tapes, and various keepsakes. I was probably too respectful of his stuff at the time, and should have thrown a whole lot more away.

About all we could bear to do yesterday was search, not organize. It was like searching for your lost keys in Walmart’s toy department or maybe at Blockbuster's or the grocery store. There were Valentine’s cookies from last year, along with Nutter Butters from a week or so ago. There was an unopened package of Hershey’s miniatures…our reward for conducting the search. There were logo cups from fast food restaurants, and old batteries. Strangely enough though, there were no bugs. Not even one. There were hundreds of VHS tapes, but not the one I needed.

The longer we searched, the more annoyed I became. But I knew that tape was in the house.

We finally gave up and began again at the beginning. This time, I searched the shelf in the closet, and BINGO, there it was, right where I had said it would probably be from the beginning, only one shelf higher.

My husband thought I should be overjoyed to find the tape. I was really just upset that I spent five hours, left Walker’s room still needing organizing, and got right back where I should have been right after lunch all because he had not really done an adequate search.

No dishes were thrown, but dinner was not pleasant.

Walker wasn’t too annoyed that we had plundered his room. He gathered up all snack foods more than a week old for the trash, and I issued an ultimatum. He couldn’t buy another video or CD until he got rid of some and organized them. Now he was annoyed.

I offered to buy old ones at $1 each. He soon found twenty he could part with, and I have new entertainment for the little ones, and he has a small clear spot on the shelf and money for a new CD. I hope I have the patience to continue the struggle to organize our life. It really could be easier on everyone. It's a battle worth winning...I think.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

More Rainbows

The whole rainbow theme has rattled around in my head for several days now. I even went so far as to look up my favorite rainbow song, which I can still hear Katie and her chums performing back in the early eighties. Now I can't get that out of my head either. Want to share the joy?

I wonder how much influence Kermit had on my children’s ability to dream. All are really good at it, and their dreams have mostly come true. What’s more, they’re not even done yet.

I wonder if today's music and theater and dance will inspire dreaming. Sometimes I doubt it, and then I hear something wonderful and think...maybe.

Saturday night Walker had a "social outing" organized by the adult sister of one of his former classmates. It was dinner and a movie with a group of young, "peer adults", who had volunteered to chaperone and parents were welcomed but not encouraged to attend. It was a night out "On Our Own." When we picked him up, Walker was bubbling over with all the details of the evening.

"I talked to Cleve at the restaurant...Did you know it was a deli? And, guess what? Cleve's grandparents have all passed on too. I thought we might go to the new Hannah Montana movie that comes out in February...or is it January?... Cleve's birthday is February 14, maybe we could do it then. Whaddya think about that? Oh, and one more thing..."

Walker was enthusiastically dreaming and planning for an event with a friend, something he had seldom done before. Maybe that night's conversation was Walker's Rainbow Connection. "All of us under it's spell...I know that it's probably m aaa gic...da dum de da dum da da dooo."

I hope we keep finding those Rainbow Connections and loving Kermie forever. I know I will..."it's something that I'm s'posed to do."


Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Flashback My Rainbow

I’m not sure what prompted me to write a love letter to my kindergartener. I do know I didn’t show it to her until she was grown and then began the tradition of writing to all my children and grandchildren, mostly on their birthdays. I ran across it today when looking for a “Friday Flashback” in my albums. It was titled My Rainbow. Warning, it's a little hokey. I guess I was drunk on love and spewing cotton candy.
“She gave a pad of notepaper smeared with a rainbow. A gift bought with her own dollars and proudly presented. “Don’t you think it’s pretty, Mama? Don’t you just love it?”

Yes, little one, I do love it, but not just because it’s pretty. I love it because it’s a reminder that you are my rainbow; God’s promise that things will never be so bad again. You are too little to realize that the blush of your cheeks and the gold in your hair and that clear blueness of your eyes are all blended through the prism of love to make you special. You are the affirmation that I could do something right again, even when it seemed that all my efforts were going wrong.

So keep decorating each page of artwork with your pretty streaks of color, and always keep your eyes on that rainbow, because it may just be inside you.”

Sarah Jane was the fourth child in our family, one that I’m sure many people wondered about being an “accident”. She definitely was not. She was just as wanted as the other three, but maybe treasured more because she was the last. She and Walker were like twins until she was about four and he was almost six. They were both learning to read and swim, but about then she took off, and the little sister became one more big sister. I knew the tide had turned when she used the word "embarrased" and I asked her if she even knew what it meant. "Yes, it's like when Walker acts like a dog in the grocery store." She had it nailed.

When Sarah comes home from California, no one is more excited than Walker. He is always anxious to share his collectibles and hope she might remember playing with them with him. She usually doesn't, but acts like she does, and she's a really decent actor.

I wonder if I can find Melody Mike or the Fisher Price doctor kit on Ebay?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Happy Day!

I'm having to fly by the seat of my pants on the computer which my husband has graciously allowed me to borrow after I infected my own with a virus. Don't get me started...

Anyway, I wanted to post this picture, courtesy of my son-in-law and daughter Katie. I'm so proud that my children have strong convictions and act on them. That may be the real secret to making dreams come true.

The picture was made somewhere in the midwest on the Sunday night before the election. It was truly an "Oh my GOD!" moment for Sarah to meet our new president and his family as a part of a small group of volunteers working to get out the vote.

We've come a long way from Alabama, baby girl. Congratulations! I hope you and your generation keep dreaming for the rest of us.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Hope and Dreams

As I watched footage last night of the historical civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s, I was taken aback by what some have called "the audacity of hope". As I watched the familiar scenes of protesters being sprayed with huge fire hoses and running from angry men with ferocious dogs, I was stunned once again by the fact that those things happened so recently. At least it seemed to be recent, because I remember sitting and watching the same scenes on the news on the huge piece of furniture that encased a small black and white television screen in my parent's den not too many years ago. I frequently rode comfortably in the front of the very bus that Rosa Parks might have ridden on my bi-weekly trips to the library in Montgomery.

As I watched, I realized that those civil rights pioneers had a lot more reason to give up hope as they saw their dreams dashed in various ways than do any of us living in civilized nations today. Yes, our investments might have tanked, our salaries and benefits might have been cut, but look at what's left even to the least fortunate of us.

It's not just a dream that bright, thoughtful people will apply themselves to the task of having a world where people of all faiths and colors can coexist successfully. It's a hope that borders on belief, especially among the young and perhaps among less jaded older people. I can count myself among them today. I'll gladly grab the wisp of hope he offers.

Yes HE can. Yes WE can.

The morning polls showed that roughly eighty percent of Americans believe that Barack Obama can carry through with his plans for a better country and a better world. That's an awful lot of hope out there; that's a lot of faith out there. I really, really, really hope they're right. I hope they get the "I told you so!" that they deserve. Let's give it to them with a light heart and a smile on our faces.



Friday, January 16, 2009

When All Your Dreams Come True

When I was in my early teens, I dreamed of being Scarlett Ohara with her tiny waist and high tester bed and multiple suitors vying for my hand, and actually I got both the tester bed and the suitors in good time. Then I got the only thing I’d ever really wanted…a husband and babies of my own.

I coped with this much better, and with a whole lot less help, than Miss Scarlett. In my own mind, I knew plenty about “birthin’ babies”. (For those of you who are wondering about these references, they are from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind”, a favorite of many of us southern pre-boomer types both in print and on the big screen.)

Then that part of the story ended. When Sarah left for college, she wisely advised me, “Mama, you better find something to do, or you’ll go crazy out here.” Here being the house on twelve acres of woods about twenty miles outside Memphis. It was a beautiful house, and I should have been totally content. It wasn’t Tara, but it was wonderful, except that it wasn’t.

Things change. That big house gradually emptied except for the family gatherings, and these became less frequent for a while. The girls grew older and traveled the world and eventually settled down with new families. This is life as it's meant to be, and I was thrilled to see it unfold, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a bit confusing at times. Actually, it still is.

Through the years, I had been fortunate enough to choose to be a full time mother, my only dream from the time I was about seven or so, but for a time my services obviously weren’t needed. I was essentially laid off from the only job I’d ever loved and seemed to be really good at.

I found something to do. I was offered a job and worked a year or so part time, but I knew I wasn’t interested in doing what I was doing forever, so I decided to go back to graduate school. This worked out well, with the new people in my life helping to cover up the isolation I felt in the country. I graduated at age fifty four and was offered another job by one of my classmates. My husband and I built another house, this time back in the city. Then the grandbabies started to come and my aging parents became ill, and suddenly everybody needed me.

Now, my parents are both gone, the grandchildren are mostly in school, and I am once again rattling around in a big house wondering what’s next. Tonight it will be a sleepover with three of my grandsons and chinese take out. For now, just hoping no one gets hurt or goes home hungry is enough, but it's not really a dream...or is it?

I wonder whether I have a real dream left inside me. I hope I do, and that I’ll find it. In the meantime, I can be content that all my dreams came least so far.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Our book group just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. I made copious notes about this book, but it was not in the reading but in the discussion that discovery occurred. "The Alchemist" is the story of a poor shepard boy, Santiago, who strikes out to find the secret of turning base metals into gold. Along the way he encounters a number of people and lessons are learned, one of which was how important it is to have a dream and never give up on it.

I am not a dreamer and haven't been for a long, long time, if I ever was. When I said this, one of the wise women in my group asked me which character I might have been in the book. Someone else quickly piped up, "You're the crystal shop guy!" Lightbulb moment. I have settled into keeping shop with few dreams or expectations anymore. Not a recipe for success, probably, but comfortable and safe.

Sometimes I think I’m just taking realistic assessments of probabilities and being rational and reasonable, but I really think I lost the courage to dream long ago. According to the Alchemist, who Santiago finally finds and learns from, fear of failure is the most certain cause of failure when trying to turn base metals into gold.

Thursday night Walker and his dad and I attended a dance performance of young adult dancers, all of whom had Down Syndrome. The group is billed as Company D, and their performance was a thank you to sponsors of a recent trip to New York City to kick off the nationwide Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome.

Truthfully, I really didn’t much want to go. My back and knee were aching, and the prospect of getting out on a cold, misty night was not inviting. The very idea of sitting in a theater for a couple of hours to watch other people’s kids perform was about as appealing as watching the out-takes from America’s Got Talent. Thankfully, my affection for the group’s director, Darlene Winters, overcame my inertia, because it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a very long time.

I had seen the company perform before, but never in a packed theater with lighting and makeup and a good sound system. From the time the lights dimmed until we were enjoying punch and cookies in the lobby, the show was a testament to dreaming.

Darlene was previously Walker’s speech therapist at Madonna Day School and a lover of dance and performing arts. Her first year at Madonna she turned their Christmas Pageant into a total extravaganza, writing appropriate scripts for the sixty or so kids with varying disabilities, ages four to sixteen, and identifying their gifts as she carefully cast the roles. One year Walker was actually the lead in the play “The Little Christmas Angel”, something I would never have dared to dream for him once I knew he had Down Syndrome.

Darlene has devoted over five years as a volunteer to develop Company D and was recognized as one of Memphis’ seven top volunteers for 2008. Her greatest gift, in my humble opinion, is that of seeing the beauty in everyone and bringing it out so that others might see it too. She has a knack of recognizing that a lump of brown rock actually might have a diamond inside it. She polishes the crystal and makes it shine, a laborious and sometimes thankless task, I'm sure.

The result was a magnificent performance that left me wanting to see more. The grace, style and joy of her company, not to mention their true talent as dancers, was a gift to all of us. One of the songs they danced that was identified as their signature piece was “The Prayer” sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. The combination of the words to that song and the graceful ballet will always be etched in my brain. They closed with “Somewhere” by Barbara Streisand and Il Divos. (You can find them on YouTube.) Both songs sent an amazing message not just to the audience, but words of constant affirmation to the dancers. This was confirmed by the long standing ovation and cries for “encore” when it was over.

Darlene is a dreamer. Thank God for people like her. I hope I might someday ignore my fear of failure and follow my dreams regardless of how impractical they might be.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not So Bleak Midwinter

Last Saturday a sometimes freezing, drizzly rain that seemed as if it would never stop, settled over the city like a bad mood.

I had gone through a lot of agony on Monday worrying over how miserable Walker would be in and out of that miserable weather getting carts and helping little old ladies with their bags. I hoped that the bad weather would mean fewer customers and that he wouldn’t have to go out too often. I wondered if we should begin to think about finding him an inside job.

On the way to work, Walker voluntarily put some Vaseline Intensive Care that was in the cup holder on his hands. I was kind of surprised, because he had resisted mightily when I first began pushing it because I had noticed how chapped and leathery his hands were getting once the cold set in. His dad must have had some clout with him in creating a new habit, because the hand cream now seems to be a part of the routine of going to work.

When I picked Walker up after work, I asked how his day had been. “Not too bad.” (This is his stock answer most days, no matter how rotten.) As usual I asked what he had for lunch, just to make conversation. Previously, my question might have been answered, “Uh…you know the same thing I had last Tuesday,” leaving me frustrated trying to figure out what that might have been.

Yesterday, he answered promptly, “A fried chicken tender sandwich to warm my fingers up... What’s for dinner?”

“Some yummy turkey soup that Mrs. Jehl made for us.”

“Turkey Soup, I never heard of that? Gobble, Gobble!”

We rode a few more minutes and then he blurted out excitedly, “Oh, and I got a $5 tip today…from Dr. Soto Viera!”

The good doctor has known Walker since he was five weeks old, and has made it a point to let me know how proud he is of his accomplishments when I bump into him in the check out line occasionally. I’m glad he rewarded Walker for doing his job on a miserable day.

Today, it was fifty five degrees and sunny, and so were my spirits. I’ll bet Walker’s are too, even if the tips are smaller. Wonder what he had for lunch.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Year End Assessment

Like most people, I’ve been thinking about last year, what was good and what didn’t work so well, the things I really appreciated and what I’ll try to do differently this year. I don't make resolutions anymore, but here are some things I'll keep in mind for 2009.

We spent a lot of time on our yard last year because we were hosting a big party for a bride. I’m happy we did it, and actually would love to do it again for our own pleasure, providing our bank account and our backs hold up. The pay off for the time and money spent was magnificent.

I spent an inordinate amount of time listening to the political pundits last year, partly because I was so wishy washy about deciding who to vote for. I won’t do that this year, but I will still read our local paper, at least until they discontinue the print edition, which may actually happen this year. I’ll turn to the online New York Times or a good book when I’m bored this year, not MSNBC or Cube Crashers as I did last year.

I enjoyed the few times we “entertained” last year, even if it was just sharing take out with a few friends. I hope I’ll do more of that, and maybe take it up a notch this year. I hope not to let my concern for how I do it overshadow the more important fact that I do it at all. Whether it’s family or friends, or perhaps someone totally random, just the connection is the main thing.

I listened to Walker more and perhaps lectured him less last year; I’ve praised him a whole lot more than fussed at him. I think I should maybe do the same with my husband next year. I think he’ll have to learn that I don’t need to know how to build a clock when I ask the time of day, though, or I won’t be able to follow through on that one.

I didn’t go to church much last year for some reasons I’m still not ready to acknowledge even to myself. I prayed more than usual, though, which leads me to believe that my faith has survived outside the building I once loved so. I think I got an overdose of religion in the year following 9/11, and I have since developed a healthy respect for all religions and and their beliefs that call them to be decent human beings. I hope the day arrives this year when most of them realize that being a decent human being doesn’t ever involve violence against another.

I read less and wrote more this year. I don’t know whether this is a good or a bad thing, but the notes I’ve gotten from some of my faithful readers lead me to believe that I should keep it up, at least when I have something to say.

I plan to be more honest about my own preferences, when I have them, this year. I might not be seen as being quite so agreeable as in the past, but I won’t feel like such a pushover either.

I hope I’ll continue to recognize the things that stress me out, and just say no…something I’ve gotten better with as I’ve aged.

I hope I’ll reread this from time to time to see how I’m doing. I hope you’ll keep reading too.