Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Little Things

Sometimes little things get me thinking... a lot.  My brain is always ticking, ideas swirling around in circles. I grab one, maybe two to mix together, let them percolate awhile, spreading slowing and gradually, then becoming lively, growing until it all comes rushing out, black ink gliding on my paper.

Well, yesterday, a little thing happened. A friend at my school sent me an email... "It's your lucky day. Come down to my office. I have a banana tootsie pop that I've been saving just for you." What? Banana? Since when do they make banana tootsie pops? What about the flavors of my childhood: grape, orange, cherry, chocolate? I knew that later the company had added raspberry, but banana?

Of course, during my planning period, I went to her office to collect my prize.  When she placed it in my palm, she had no idea that tootsie pops were kind of like a time machine for me, transporting me back to my elementary years.  You see, my dad, a former math teacher, is a big, completely bald man. His students used to call him Kojak, after the Telly Savalas character on tv who always had tootsie pops. They began giving him tootsie pops... a lot of them... tootsie pops overflowing our house.

My younger brother and I loved tootsie pops.  We were fascinated by their wrappers.  used to race to find any good luck charms on them.  We always looked for the indian shooting at a star.  In later years, we also looked for three unbroken circles surrounding the logo.  According to the stories we had heard, if a person found either thing on the wrapper, she would have good luck for the day and could redeem the wrapper for a free tootsie pop.

The wonder of a child at tiny things... unwrapping a tootsie pop, popping it into my mouth, tasting the sweet orange candy melt.... flattening the wrapper on the wooden table, smoothing out enough of the wrinkles, holding my breath as I look for the lucky indian with his bow and arrow pointed at the star, my eyes lighting up when I find it.  Good luck for the rest of the day... a glorious promise to a nine year old.

Well, yesterday I replayed that scene, and guess what?  As I smoothed out the wrapper, I found my lucky indian & star.... AND there were three unbroken circles.  A double-lucky wrapper!  Good luck multiplied by two?  Not one, but two days of good luck?  Maybe even more than that.  maybe my luck is changing.  I've been feeling it deep inside, started as a tiny spark that has been growing for the past couple of months.  Part of me has been holding my breath, worried that I might accidentally blow out that spark.  But the fire is strong now.  I'm strong now... and it seems silly that I couldn't articulate that until I found a doubly-lucky tootsie pop wrapper.  My luck is changing... or maybe I've just realized that I don't have to wait for good luck to happen by.  I can make it for myself, for the strong me... the me who is ready to live for new possibilities... to relish every day as a new and different experience... to embrace this world with a wide-open heart and mind.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Summer, 1973

This challenge is taking form in my mind... a triangle...
a meditation of my past, present, and future... spirit,
mind, and body... love, truth, and wisdom... 

As I sift through the pile of snapshots in my mind,
my eyes are drawn to one specific memory... 
and I smile.

Summer, 1973 

Painted steel swing set
in backyard.
Tan legs pumping
to go higher,
bare feet, toes pointed.
Reaching out
past deep grass
over small white wire fence,
caging blurs of pink and yellow
snapdragons in garden.
I lean back, arms extended.
Green eyes squint
to see the cloudless sky.
Looking down again,
my eyes follow shadows
gliding below legs.
Metal chains in hands creak.
The air hums,
cool on my freckled cheeks,
and blows strawberry-blonde hair
from my forehead.
I fly.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces:
Memories of Grandma and Grandpa G

     A house is just a building... walls, ceilings, windows, doors, nails, boards, shingles, and glass.  But a home is much more than that.  My home is made of people, objects, smells, sounds, and memories.
     One thing I like about going home to Minden, Nebraska, is that I am going "home."  A place that is familiar and comfortable.  A place that feels like one of Mom's warm, soft afghans wrapped around my body.  A place that is love.  So many things at Mom and Dad's hold special meaning for me.  These objects trigger memories from my childhood, from times in Minden and from times in Hebron, Nebraska, at Grandma and Grandpa farm.
     Each time I'm at Mom and Dad's, I can sit on the living room couch and look at the oval wood-framed photograph of Grandma G and her four sisters.  I often wonder what Grandma's life was like when she was so young, in her late teens to early twenties, so many years before I was born.  Even though the picture is in black and white, I smile when I think of times when relatives have told me that I have the same hair color that she had when she was young.  I try to imagine the photograph in color, seeing Grandma's soft, slightly wavy hair in shades of dark strawberry blonde.  I remember how the color of her hair had deepened to a reddish-brown with very little gray in her later life.  I wonder if my hair color will change in the same way as I grow older.
     By running my hand over the smooth, polished wood of Grandpa's secretary, his fold-down desk, I can see the inside of Grandma and Grandpa's farm house.  I can almost sense how Grandpa used to sit at the desk to write letters and take care of business matters.  I imagine the weight of his arm on the wood as he wrote, with pen on plain white paper, to his children about the farm.  He wrote about the cows, calling each one by name, which he designated for his grandchildren.
     Whenever I look out the window above the sink in Mom and Dad's kitchen, I can look at two photographs which hang by the window.  One picture is of Grandpa, pitchfork in hand, giving hay to the cows in the corn field.  The other picture is of Grandma smiling contentedly, hands folded in front of her gingham dress, as she stands surrounded by gladiolus and snapdragons in her garden.  The photographs are faded now from being in the sunlight for so many years, but when I look at them, I travel back in time to another place, another home, a warm feeling, Grandma and Grandpa's farm.
     Perhaps my memories have faded a little, just like the photographs.  They come to me in bits and pieces, but they are still pretty vivid.  I remember. . . the chickens scattering as we arrived at the farm, driving the car out from under the canopy of trees into the farm yard. . . standing next to the cow tank, looking deep into the murky water trying to see the gold fish. . . walking into the kitchen to smell Grandma's chicken and dumplings cooking on the oven, smelling her dinner rolls after she took them out of the oven, watching Grandma or Mom rub a stick of butter over the golden brown top crust of the rolls.  I remember. . . watching Grandpa milk the cows in the barn, the pinging sound of milk hitting the sides of the metal pail, the kittens creeping out from the shadows into the light to get a squirt of the milk. . . helping Grandma get a bucket of water from the pump underneath the windmill, standing with my face to the sky, looking up and up. . . playing cowboy and indians with Becky and Rod, hunting for tracks down by the pond to see if any indians had been there before.  I remember. . . the swing under the cedar tree in front of the farm house, the wooden board for a seat always a little crooked, sliding the rough rope so the seat would be level. . . the soft folds of Grandma's purple cotton apron with flowers on it. . . the watermelon rind throwing contest over the chicken coop, the seed-spitting contest for those of us who were not big enough or strong enough to throw that far.  I remember. . . walking out to the pond, being careful not to step on any cow pies. . . playing in Grandpa Hammer's room with the organ and record player, climbing up next to the wood columns in the entry way, stretching my arms to see if I could reach  around them, listening to the old 45 record of "Too Pooped To Pop" and trying to sing along like Dad did.  I remember. . . riding on the tractor with Grandpa and Dad, the gray fender shaking beneath me with every rut and bump on the path. . . flying down the slide on a piece of wax paper, the wind blowing the hair back off my forehead. . . watching Grandpa at the sink in the corner of the kitchen washing his dirty hands with green soap, cleaning up before dinner. . . the sweet smell of Grandma's molasses cookies.  I remember. . . sitting on the glider swing of the front porch, looking through the screened windows at the farm yard. . . watching the dogs and chickens in the yard and the cows grazing in the pasture by the pond. . . rocking back and forth, resting my hands on the glider's arms, feeling the prickly brown paint that was peeling off.  I remember. . . Mom and Dad lining us up outside the bathroom, waiting with Lanette, Lori, Rod, and B.J. for our turn before the long car ride home to Minden. . . Grandma reaching into the white cabinet, lifting off a cut glass lid to a candy bowl, giving me a lemon drop. . . the soft words, hugs, smiles, and waves goodbye.
     All of these images, and so many more, come back to me in bits and pieces, splashes of color.  When I focus on the pictures again, Grandpa feeding the cows and Grandma in her flower garden, they seem brighter, not so faded, and I can't help smiling to myself.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Who am I?  This journey... this evolution of me... has
brought me to a place where I would never have
imagined as a child.  I am so happy to have finally
arrived.  Once a strawberry-blonde tomboy, shy and
self-conscious, I have evolved into a much better
version of me... confident, independent, still quirky
and funny, focused, a thinker, a lover of all creatures,
the most loyal friend, creative... so comfortable in
my own skin.  I am amazed at how strong I have
become.  I am determined... so ready for the "good
stuff," which I can already see, even feel, as I finish
walking around this corner and look ahead at the
sidewalk, the path, the road, the wide open field in
front of me...


I was the blue morning...
cool dirt and rain,
breathing stream,
a delicate seed,
growing breeze,
green dreams.

I was the wild blossom...
whispered chants and
secret burn,
winding paths,
stormy magic dance,
pages turned.

I am the ending summer song...
dry red leaves
on laughing wind,
golden fields and
singing heart,
harvest feast begins.

I will be the purple sky...
early evening chill,
soft low sounds
of earth and truth,
snow and stars
fall gently to the ground.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Slice of My Life

What other way to start this challenge... this
reflection... this journey... than with a combination
of three of my greatest loves:  reading, children,
and writing?  As a child, my love of books was
apparent.  I gravitated toward the book shelf in
the basement of my childhood home.  My fingers
seemed to have a mind of their own.  They were
drawn to the worn books.  I'd find a quiet hiding
spot, the chosen book in my hands.  Run my finger
along the spine.  Open the cover.  Inhale and smile.
Eagerly turn the pages... my imagination taking flight.
This love of reading, which would later in elementary
school develop into a fascination with mysteries like
Nancy Drew, fantasies like The Chronicles of
Narnia, and stories of strong women like Annie Oakley, had a simple beginning:  Dr. Seuss books.  It was through reading books written by Dr. Seuss that I explored language and was hooked into the reading world.  This love of literature is one of my favorite parts of me.  As I graduated from high school, I was able to start sharing this love with my nephews and nieces.  I became the favorite aunt at family get-togethers... the one who would play with them, and, I think more importantly, the one who would read to them any time they wanted.  And what did I read to them?  The same Dr. Seuss books I had read as a child.  The love of reading and sharing with children became so important to me that I chose to become a Language Arts teacher.  For twenty-two years, I've been able to expose my students to a great love, and in many, I was able to ignite that spark in them too.  So here, on the eve of Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday, is a  moment in life... just a small slice... one of my favorites from years ago...


Quiet and insistent,
his voice reaches me first...
     "CC, the fish book.  Read the fish."
Smiles meet
as Brett toddles to me
clutching the book
in his small hands.
     "Read the fish, CC."

As soon as I sit
on the green shag carpet,
Brett plops down onto my lap.
We are a perfect fit--
his blond curls tickling my chin,
the clean smell of soap,
my arms surrounding him
as we carefully hold
the worn book.

We turn to the first page.
     "This little fish..."
I read
without looking at the words.
Instead, my eyes focus
on Brett's hands--
small, pale, soft--
holding onto the sides
of the book, then straightening
a chubby index finger
to point at a drawing
of Otto, the gold fish
who grew too much.

I drink in the murmur
of quiet voices,
laughter, and
the gentle rustle of paper
as Brett turns the page.