Time Traveling

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I’m still new to this grandparenting gig. I’ve only been at it for a little over a year now.

So, these feelings and experiences, which are probably old hat to you veteran grandparents out there are still fresh to me.

My 2nd grandboy, Manny, sometimes looks just like his dad, my son, so much so that it’s freaky. It’s like I have my little boy back for a few seconds or minutes.

And not only that sort of thing but I find that old feelings I had as a young mother wash over me in a wave.

For example, my son arrived on Thanksgiving Day from a trip to Peru where he hiked the Inca Trail. My son is 30 years old. Not my little boy anymore. But when he got to my house, had eaten a good meal and fell asleep on the sofa, the old feeling of peace and contentment that I had as a young mother after my kids were fed, bathed and asleep washed over me. For a moment, he was that little boy safe, warm and comfortable in my care. Tears in my eyes from a warm heart.

Having these grandkids is making me feel like a time traveler jumping back and forth from being a mom to being a grandmom. So weird sometimes.

Peace,

Jill

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JFK Haunts Me

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Just when JFK fades from my memory and I’m not thinking about him, somebody has to pull him back. Now, it’s those hidden files that were supposedly released but then taken back to be released in April. Those files have spawned a flurry of new documentaries and conspiracy theories.

I’m a nervous wreck changing the channels because I never know when I’m going to come across footage of that depressing black limo turning onto the street that led to Dealy Plaza and then the horrifying “crimson burst.”

I was almost one and half years old when JFK was killed. Coming from a family that loves a good conspiracy theory, my home was filled with years of discussion about his assassination. And I can’t help but get sucked into them.

I get the reasons why it was such a tragic event. I get why it impacted America so. I understand how horrible and tragic and sad it was.

I also understand why we can’t leave it alone – because we don’t know.

And it’s for all those reasons why JFK haunts me.

I wish, for goodness sake, we could find out who killed him so he can literally Rest In Peace.

His death is one of those moments that people remember exactly where they were when they got the news. I suppose I was sitting in either my mother or my sister’s lap when I heard the news.

Where were you?

Peace,

Jill

My Halloween Life

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As a kid I LOVED Halloween! I’m an actor at heart and having a whole holiday devoted to dressing and pretending to be someone else was just the best! In the 70’s it was a community experience. Everyone was involved. Your respect could go up or down based on the quality of your costume. Candy was king! My Dad was cheap and was always trying to give out apples or walnuts – I was humiliated. Not to mention angry at having to pick up all the apples and walnuts that got dumped in our yard the next day.

When my kids were really little, we dressed them up every year and they were so cute and we’d take them to the mall to get candy. That was during the period where freaks were putting razor blades and poison in Halloween treats. So, the mall would xray the candy for you and when we got home we went through it piece by piece inspecting it for tampering. Kinda took the fun out of the candy part. But the kids were still cute toddling around in their costumes.

Then we moved into a neighborhood with lots of kids and it became a community experience again. Gangs of kids roaming the neighborhood, laughing and getting their sugar high. I never gave out fruit or nuts, just so you know.

Then we got involved in a church that thought Halloween was evil. And so we participated in alternative celebrations. It was fine and good, but being in such an active neighborhood I always felt like I was letting the kids down. I don’t think my stand against the evils of Halloween did anything except just hurt the neighborhood kid’s feelings, actually.

But then as the kids got older, Halloween was just not a big deal anymore. And then when the kids flew the coop, we just became a candy stop and not part of the main activity.

But through the years even that has disappeared. I think over the past two years I’ve had a total of 3 trick or treaters. I understand. We are more aware of the dangers, more suspicious of our neighbors. It’s just the way it is now.

I miss the “glory days of Halloween” when the costume was important and candy was king. I miss helping the kids with their costumes and spending way too much money on good candy.

Now I’m just that weird old lady at the end of the street sitting in her dark house watching old horror movies eating a bowl of candy all by herself. That’s pretty scary.

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But you know, I’ll have that bowl of candy by the door, just in case.

Happy Halloween! Muhahaha!

~Jill

What To Get A 30 Year Old For Their Birthday?

My son just turned 30 this month and I just started feeling substantially older, haha!

He’s also a new father and while we are spending a lot of time, money and energy spoiling the new guy, I wanted my son to know we still think he’s special, too!

He lives 5 states away and we wouldn’t be able to be with him this year, so whatever we got him would have to be sent.

So, what do you get a man to celebrate a milestone birthday and your not a Rockefeller?

30 Gifts! 

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It seems extravagant and outrageous and that’s the perfect thing to celebrate 30 years!

He’s 30 years old and a new father and I’ve noticed that he’s been more interested in reminiscing about his childhood lately. So, going back in time was a pretty good idea I thought. I sat down and listed 30 things that reminded me of my son from his first word, to his love of reptiles to his upcoming trip to Peru. I listed things he loved as a kid to things he needed for his trip in 2 months. I combined memories with current events so I was recognizing his whole life.

Then I looked at the list and considered what I could get that would represent those memories or events. I thought of things that might be meaningful. For example, my son loved Steve Irwin as a kid and so I ordered a patch from the Australia Zoo. He had a pet duck that he loved as a kid and while I’m not going to get him a real duck, I got a little toy one. He also played basketball and loved soccer, so I got him a basketball and soccer ball neither of which he owns right now and he’s got a growing son and those items will be necessary for his sports equipment arsenal. (You see the Grandma heart is strong in this one! I’m still thinking about my grandson while celebrating his father. I can’t help it!)

And, of course I loved my son as a kid, but I think it’s important to recognize the man he is now, so, I got him a few things he’ll need for his upcoming trip to Peru. His wife is always helpful in putting together a Pinterest board for  holidays with gift ideas and links to items. (She’s cool like that, and I tell you about it.) So, I was able to choose some items that he’ll need.

So, I bought 30 gifts ranging from a little plastic snake to an inflatable camping pillow. Wrapped them all, which was no small chore I’ll tell you, and put a number on each one.

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I also included a handwritten tag on each gift that said why I chose that particular item. For example, I got a sketch book and attached a tag that said, “Because we have always been so amazed and proud of your artistic abilities!” I got a little plastic frog and put a tag that said, “Because of my refrigerator.” We all laughed when he opened it because we remembered the time he caught a box full of tree frogs and put them all over my refrigerator like magnets and I didn’t notice until he pointed them out to me. I thought it was funny until one jumped on me!

I packed it and shipped it with a note that said, “Don’t open until we can FaceTime with you.” I wanted to enjoy watching his face as he opened each item. I’m just that kind of Mom. So they called when they had some time and we were able to share the fun with them! (I LOVE FaceTime!)

So, the box was filled with fun memories and items he could use today. And as it turned out, the 9 month old loved the basketball and crawls around the house pushing it ahead of him! Win-win!

Peace,

Jill

 

 

Throwing Rocks

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When I was teaching the kids loved for me to tell stories about myself, my childhood or tell them about what I thought heaven was like. I didn’t mind stopping a lesson to tell a story because in my opinion our lives are not made up of atoms or equations but of stories.

Yesterday I shared about how I met God on the beach and as I was talking to one of my friends online about it I offered to tell her about how I met my best friend, who happens to be her sister. So, here it is, J.

Most of my childhood stories begin with this sentence: My mother died when I was 3. The reason is because that event impacted my life in so many ways. And, this story, too starts the same way.

My mother died when I was 3. I was raised by my father who was a very silent man. My best friend named him “Stoneface” which she never called him to his face. My dad was a Navy man. “Yes, sir!” was the proper response anytime he called my name or asked me a question.

When I was in 5th grade the city I lived in decided to desegregate our schools. That meant that I couldn’t go to the school that was within walking distance from my house, I had to be bused across town to a school in a black neighborhood.

I’ll never forget riding the bus to school that first day of 5th grade. Black families lined the streets and some people threw rocks at our bus. I did not feel welcomed.

Me and a skinny, annoying white girl named Angel who wore dresses everyday, smelled like Play-doh and nervously picked a wart on her knee all day long were the only white kids in our class. I did not feel we were a good representation of our people which made me embarrassed for all white people in America. And even though there were only 2 scrawny white girls in the whole class, the teacher, an elegant, tall, mocha-skinned queen, gave the class a lecture on the proper way to address black people.I knew the lesson was just for Angel and me. I listened with my whole being while Angel nervously picked her wart.

Needless to say, that year was not a happy one. There was tension all over the city. There was tension in my school and in my class. I couldn’t talk to my father about it because, one, he didn’t like to talk and, two, because whenever the subject of busing would come up he’d fly into a cussing rage. He used all the inappropriate names that my teacher told us not to.

One day, feeling particularly lonely and depressed about the whole state of affairs, I got off my school bus and began to walk home. I noticed a girl I had never seen before walking on the other side of the road. I wondered who she was but I just didn’t feel particularly friendly so I kept my head down and plodded along.

Almost home, I heard the familiar, screeching call of my arch nemesis. I’ll call her A (you can assign any name you want to her, I can think of a few choice ones that start with A). She was my arch nemesis because when I first moved into the neighborhood she decided she’d be the boss of me. And because I didn’t have any other friends I had to play with her. She had a whole playroom with a real dollhouse and a Barbie townhouse with working elevator. She also had a Malibu Barbie while I only had Barbie’s awkward friend, Francie who drove Barbie’s RV. Francie eventually got her leg chewed off by my dad’s dog, Alex and so that made her even more marginalized. A always pointed out that my toys were not as good as hers and I should be thankful that she let me play at her house at all.

Well, A, screeched at me to “Come over to my house right now!” I mumbled a response that I didn’t want to or something like that. That sent A into a rage and she started marching toward me on the sidewalk with her finger pointed at me like I’d seen her mother do to her.

A continued to berate me as she approached and as I continued to refuse to do what she wanted, her scoldings became more and more biting and cruel until finally she said,

“Why should I even play with you, you don’t even have a mother!”

Everything got quiet and then suddenly I heard a voice from across the street, “Hey! You leave her alone!”

I looked and I saw that unfamiliar girl coming across the street toward A. She bent down and picked up some rocks and threw them at A as she said, “That was mean! You can’t say things like that! You better go home before I hit you in the head!”

Well, A, being the superior, stubborn girl she was, gave it right back to her. “You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll tell my parents!”

The girl continued to throw rocks at A and yell at her until A finally retreated, terrified into her father’s car. The girl put her fist into the hood of the car and walked over to me, put her arm around my shoulder.

We walked to 7-Eleven, got some Now-or-laters, ate them in the park and we were best friends from then on out.

We had some of the best times. My friend was the type of person who collected strays. Stray people, stray animals like Barney the “corn face dog.” She loved the hurting back to life. She made us, the strays, laugh like life was good. She would feed us and tuck us into safe beds with clean feet. Music and laughter surrounded her.

Looking back, she was probably hurting as much or more than I was but she never told me or talked about it. She was always cheerful around me. She was strong and brave and even as a kid she knew how to help and clean and cook and make gravy for the biscuits her mom, Pearl, would make for us. I thought she could do anything.

She saved my life and I’m thankful that she came to my rescue.

That’s my story.

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

Lent, the Beach & Spiritual Minimalism

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A friend of mine contacted me and told me that she was following my blog and she asked that if there was a day that I was at a loss for what to write, she wished I would write about the day I met God on the beach.  

I have plenty I could write about today but since it’s the first day of Lent and I was thinking about fasting and I read this quote by Patricia Taylor, “Fasting makes space for God in our lives” and I was thinking about how minimalism is really like fasting – doing without to make room for better things – I realized that what happened to me on the beach 33 years ago really set me on a path of spiritual simplicity and so I felt it all worked together.

So, here you go K.

Let me say first that every step I took, every change I made, I feel was a needed step to get to the beach. I don’t look back on my experiences and say they were stupid or wasted or I was wrong or the people who led and mentored me were wrong. We all did what we thought was the best and I grew and it all worked out for good. That’s how God is.

Let me start again…

I was 22 years old, driving my little orange Volkswagon Beetle as fast as I could down to Florida. My husband was out on the ocean laying cable and I was headed down to visit my sister. I was very upset.

See, I had gotten saved in the Southern Baptist way at 12 years old. The preacher had said, “If there’s anyone you love and they have died and gone to heaven, the only way you will see them again is if you accept Christ as your personal Savior.” My mother had died when I was 3 years old and I really wanted to meet her and I felt this pull in my heart like God had tied a rope around it and was pulling me to the preacher. So, I followed the pull and went down and accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I didn’t know what I was doing but God took me seriously.

In the years that followed I said I was a Christian but I didn’t really know what that meant. I grew older and life happened and then life really happened and it got mean and ugly and dangerous and so at 16 years old I decided I needed to get serious with God because I was going to need Him to get through all the mess.

So, I dropped friends, hurt people, got religious, got serious, prayed, studied the Bible, went to church every time the doors were open, I witnessed and handed out tracts, I worked in the church and worked really hard to be a good Christian. I mean I had to pay God back for what He did for me on the cross, right? They say that’s not what they’re saying but the people in the church act like that’s what you have to do.So I followed their actions. I had to be good enough to meet the requirements to get into heaven, right? They told me that God accepts everyone even sinners, but they gave me dresses and told me how to look and act right to be accepted by Him.

After about 5 years of jumping through hoops, I was getting burned out. I was working really hard, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough. I always felt guilty. I was not enjoying life, but I never told anyone because I didn’t want to complain, seem like a whiner or appear like I didn’t really want to be a Christian. I mean you don’t live for this life, you’re storing up treasures in heaven, right?

Well, the breaking point came. Someone to whom I looked up to as one of the greatest Christians I knew was an absolute jerk to me. Hurt my feelings bad. I mean bad. The funny thing is I can’t even remember what it was but whatever it was gave me the excuse I was looking for to leave a religion that I was already trying to get out of. “If that’s a Christian, then I don’t want to be one!” I said proudly. Lame excuse, I know, but I was grasping at straws.

So, let’s get back in my VW Bug heading down to Florida. All the way down, all 13 hours, I was rehearsing my goodbye that I had planned to give to God. You know, “It’s not You, it’s all the fake people pretending to be your followers” speech.

I decided that I needed to give God a formal goodbye and a reason for breaking up with Him. So, I planned to stop at my favorite beach (the photo above is the place), find a spot by myself and tell God goodbye, bow out and leave.

It’s funny now, but I was really nervous. I parked my car, took off my shoes and headed to the beach. Thankfully it was during the week during work hours and so no one was there. I walked a way down past the boulders dotting the beach and stood with my toes just touching the surf as it gently reached out to touch me.

I took a breath….but before I could speak I heard a Voice.

I can’t tell you where it came from. It seemed to come from behind me, from inside me and surround me all at the same time. The Voice said,

“Before you go, I just want to tell you something.”

I looked around, no one was there. I stood facing the ocean waiting.

“Do you see that ocean?” the Voice said.

“Yes.”

“I thought of you the day I made it. I knew you’d like it.”

I was dumbfounded.

“Before you go, I just want you to know that I love you.”

I fell to my knees in tears as I was flooded with a feeling of love that I had never felt before. I was weeping. My father had never told me he loved me and those were words I had always longed to hear from him. Now I heard them from my Heavenly Father.

The Voice continued, “I don’t care if you ever read your Bible again. I don’t care if you ever go to church again or pray again. I just want you to know that I love you.”

I was undone.

God wasn’t trying to stop me from going. He wasn’t forcing me to do anything. He was just loving me.

In one sentence He had taken that hot, heavy coat of duty of my back and had given me freedom.

I was free to love Him or not. I could go or stay.

But He loved me. He thought of me. He knew how much I loved the ocean. His loving me was not because I read the Bible through in a year or prayed everyday for 15 minutes or went to church every time the doors were open.

He just loved me.

And I loved Him back.

I was free!

But the crazy thing is that all those things that were a burden, Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, became things I wanted to do. I wanted to know more and love more this God who thought of me and knew that I loved the ocean and loved me for just me.

Since that day, it has become my spiritual practice to take off things rather than taking them on. When I feel a church or teacher or spiritual leader begins to weigh me down with things I should do simply out of duty or to meet requirements for salvation and heaven that God has not told me in His Word, I run to that day on the beach and remind myself of my freedom!

It’s funny now that I’m writing this how God sort of taught me how to be a Spiritual Minimalist that day.

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. That’s all.

Peace,

Jill

 

 

 

 

 

It All Came Down To One Basket

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So, I’m back in the saddle (I don’t know what it is about these western metaphors lately) but to be honest I’m slumped over. Like a wounded cowboy coming back on his plodding horse. I need water and some grub.

My brother and I got through the minefield of organizing the funeral and burial of our father. My father and stepmother had been pretty diligent about getting their affairs in order, so they didn’t leave a lot of labor to do – just a lot of paperwork.

My brother and my husband and I cleaned out my father’s room in the assisted living facility and donated some of it, threw out some of it and I have some things to be dispersed to a few family members.

It really all came down to one basket.

Hours after I had watched the dirt being shoveled over my father’s casket, my brother and I went to the attorney’s office. We sat at the conference table and my brother sat the grubby, worn out basket in front of him and began picking through it and verbally sharing what each piece of paper was.

With a pained look on his face, the attorney waved it away and said, “That’s ok, I’ll have someone go through that later.” Is there anything else? Other possessions?

I said, “no” but my eyes wouldn’t leave the basket. He so easily dismissed and waved away the only tangible remains of my father’s whole life. Ouch.

That’s it. All those years of work. The sacrifice, the dedication, the thought, the effort. The making of money, the spending of money. All the antiques, the Persian rugs, the Chinese vases, the silver, the interior design. All the buying and selling of homes and property. All the love, the giving and withholding. The family drama. The constant tension between stuff and people. My father’s whole life was reduced to one basket of papers.

All this decluttering, downsizing and minimizing of my life came into sharp focus. It’s true, we really don’t need this stuff we hoard and hold on to. Because at the end it really comes down to one basket of papers and what people remember about you – good or bad.

My dad was a math genius and we would have arguments over my math homework because I just didn’t get it.

But even I know that you can solve for X if you know the answer, what you’re heading for. So, if we know that the end = one basket of papers and the memories people have of you, shouldn’t you be working toward that end?

Shouldn’t we be making good memories and sharing love?

I think so.

Going to get some grub, find a tree to lean against and probably take a nap.

Peace,

Jill