Sunday, November 18, 2012

Are blessings plastered on your refrigerator door?

It's Thanksgiving week.  Are you consciously being grateful? 

I’ve been making a list  of God's gifts to me. I started last November after reading Ann Voskamp’s 1000 gifts.   My list only to #235, but I’m getting quicker to recognize moments of beauty, instances of kindness, and the abundant evidence of the good things in my life.

Do you need a budge? Go stand in front of your refrigerator. (This won’t work if you have a sleek absence of magnets and the stuff they hold up.)  But my fridge door is a changing exhibit of blessings. At a glance I’m prompted to remember trips, children, answers to prayer, and the last bloom of autumn. 

 The fish magnet (top, R)  is twenty years old.  I’d snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii and sighted the wrasse, a fish that looks like it was painted with pastel watercolors. I followed it through the coral, hardly able to believe the extravagant colors were on a living thing. 

 The Eiffel Tower reminds me of the trip to Paris with my mother-in-law. As we stood at the railing, a bird pooped on her. We scurried to the ladies’ room, grateful for the attendant’s help cleaning up. The unexpectedly warm temperature of the day and the flowering trees of late spring are brought to mind. 

My Sunset Beach, NC bridge drawing evokes the book club’s annual vacation. One look and I can smell  cooked shrimp,  
feel sand under my bare feet, and spy the rise and fall of the dolphins’ backs out in the ocean. 

The travelogue concludes with an ad for traditional roast lamb sandwiches, doner, in Bursa, Turkey. This is a twofer.  
1) It reminds me of eating this kind of sandwich when visiting Bursa in 2006.
2) I'll be prompted to pray for the visiting missionary who recently passed out the magnet. 

The orange calendula blossom is the last bright spot in my garden.  

Baby O is an answer to many prayers -my friend's grandbaby born after years of wondering if her daughter would have children. Yeah, God! 

The tour, and list, concludes with current photos of my grandsons.  

 My list is up to #244.  How many gifts can you record right now? Add one in the comment box.   Happy Thanksgiving, because giving thanks makes you happy!

 “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, I will tell of all Your wonders.”  Psalms 9:1

Saturday, November 10, 2012

B Grandma: a pit of neurosis

      One day while I chatted with a colleague I noted a little side table in her office. On it sat a cup of markers and pencils and a cube of colored sticky notes. Above the table kid-scribbled notes were pegged to the wall. A long chain of paper clips snaked around the table top. The woman followed my glance, and remarked that her grandchildren frequently came over after school. "I'm so glad I get to spend time with them. I'd hate to be  the B grandma."

Was a B grandma like a B team? I don't know if grandmas can drill and skirmish to improve their abilities. In my mind, the B grandma was less available, the less favored, the one lacking grandma zing! 

Was I an A or a B grandmother? I immediately, detrimentally began to compare myself to THE OTHER GRANDMA.

She was available, and watched the baby every Wednesday while great grandma and grandpa joined them for the morning coffee and infant entertainment.  It became known as Samday. He was the star of the morning and they showered him with affection. 

I, however, live 1500 miles away. I only saw him every 4-6 months, too long for toddler memory. My son-in-law invested in pre-Skype technology and Sam learned to recognize me over a TV and telephone connection.  Later, his little sister didn't take to the system as well, and every face to face visit required me to get reacquainted.  I tried to make up for lost time when I visited, but It felt like I wasn't making a big impact on the children. 

The other grandma is wonderfully creative and the kids adore her. As they matured she expanded their world in wonderful ways. When Sam was four she enrolled him in a clown clinic, created a cunning hobo costume, and he presented a solo gig.  I felt sorry for myself because I couldn't offer anything like that. 
When he was in kindergarten she signed up to be the class mystery guest. Well, gosh, I thought, I can do that, so on our next trip west I had my chance. I bought a funny book about a farting dog, which I thought would surely be a hit with Sam. Standing in line to enter class a little boy asked whose grandma I was. "Sam's" I told him. He remembered the A grandma. "Do you do magic tricks and tie balloons too?" 

"No, I read books." 

"Too bad" the little guy grumbled. 

Yeah, too bad for me I thought. I was even a B grandma to a five year old stranger!  

When our granddaughter called to tell us about the other grandma's new a puppy, I briefly, ridiculously, considered building a small corral in our large yard and getting a pony. 

Last week  Em called and told me about her kindergarten costume parade. Of course A-grandma had gone to the parade and sent me photos. Not only had she gone and immortalized the big event, she came in costume! 

Now, I really like the other grandma. I am glad she's a big part of Sam and Em's lives. But I do feel left out and under-gifted.   Like an athlete on the bench I don't get enough playing time and my inner coach says my performance lacks luster.  I've moaned about this for so long my husband now comforts me by saying "You're the best B grandma in the country."

 I've quit contending for the A spot.  I'm trying to shake loose from the comparison altogether. The whole A/B classification has created a black hole which sucks up joy.

And I avoid even thinking about the step-grandma's themed holiday weekends and the boatload of playmate cousins her daughters produced. I could slide right over the edge of sound judgement into C status and a big hole of self-pity. 

I know it's petty. I know children's affections aren't to be won by one-upmanship. I know that they love me. But if I were a kid, I'd rather spend time with the A-grandma too. I thought being a grandparent would be an effortless process.  Perhaps my expectations of the grandchild-grandparent relationship were unrealistic and too rosy. But deep down I feel disappointed by the bond I've been able to create with them, and discomfited to consider that genealogy doesn't guarantee warm fuzzy feelings.

My heart's longing is to have the love of my grandchildren. But the only thing I can control is that I love them with all that I have. Then the children are blessed, and I am blessed.


Thursday, November 1, 2012


 Oh, how I love this time of year. It’s time to ready my heirs, my heart, and my home for celebrating the most wonderful event in history. 

I start preparing for the grandkids months ahead.  Because they are far away, and because they don’t understand waiting, I send one small gift for every day from December 1 to December 24th.  Jesus is my focus. I have sent them traditional advent calendars, nativity sets to open piece by piece with relevant Scripture and Bible story books. This year I'm sending the advent candles and candle holder hoping their families will begin a new tradition. Those are mixed up with crafts projects and inexpensive toys. 

One year I sent Sam two snow globes. When his little sister accidentally broke the first, he was crushed and called to tell me about it. I secretly instructed his mom to find the one labeled for later, and give it to him the next day. He was amazed that I could get it to Denver so fast! (Nothin’s too hard for a grandma.)

In preparing these “Celebrate Jesus” boxes my attention is drawn to the shiver-producing details like the wonderful angel visitations to Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds and their "Yes!" responses. 

"Yes! I will mother God in the flesh."
"Yes!" Joseph said, "I will do as You ask." 
The wise men said "Yes, we will travel a great distance following the star."
"Yes!" the shepherds said as they ran into Bethlehem to find the baby. 

I fill my ears and heart with centuries worth of beautiful lyrics and melodies.  It's hard to limit the choice, but one of my favorite contemporary songs is  Welcome to Our World by Chris Rice. "Yes, Lord Jesus, welcome to my world." 
(The grey letters indicate a link to a site for product information, or the songs. Just click on it.)

Last of all I decorate the house simply. We glean the yard for pine branches, holly, pine cones, and nandina. The natural greenery and the lights in the long dark days of winter transform the ordinary into something special. When we're home for the holiday I decorate a real tree with three generations of ornaments; the beautiful, the well-worn, and the ugly all commemorate Christmases past. 

What are your favorite advent traditions? I hope Janet will explain her Christmas Eve treasure hunt. I think I've fixed the settings so that you can leave a comment. Otherwise, send an email.  I'll do a follow-up blog to share your ideas. I can't wait to hear from you!