Winning over Grandma Oma

May 12, 2009 | My Jottings

My Grandma Oma didn’t like me much. Oh, she tolerated me well enough when we first met. I was three years old, and she and Grandpa Bud had just moved to Southern California from their Hereford cattle farm in Kansas. My parents were happy about my grandparents moving to our town in SoCal so we kids could get to know them. But as I grew older, my maternal Grandma seemed increasingly distant and sometimes even disgusted with me. She thought I was a spoiled little girl; too mouthy, too whiny and demanding.

When I was very young I used to climb up in my Grandma’s generous lap and she would lightly scratch my back while we watched TV on Sunday nights after dinner. She wasn’t critical of me then and I relished those times. She would rock the chair back and forth and I would be very quiet. I thought I could feel her love for me then.

But before long I’d taken too many cookies out of her cookie jar or sassed my mother or turned the TV channels too fast, and she’d knit her brows and purse her lips in disapproval. I’d hear her mutter under her breath to my grandpa, “That child is spoiled rotten!”

Despite my suspicion that Grandma didn’t care for me a great deal and thought I was “too big for my britches,” I enjoyed going to her house. It was small with a good-sized yard and there were lots of interesting things for a young girl to investigate. There was Mr. Clean, their canary who used his cage water dish for a bath several times a day, there were richly upholstered rocking chairs where I loved to curl up and read, and intricately crocheted afghans and lacy doilies. I loved to walk through the rooms and study the different treasures: a Japanese music box that played a mournful tune when I lifted the lid (“Julie, you’re going to wear that thing out!”), a massive Drexel mahogany bedroom set that Grandpa polished to such a shine I could see my reflection in it (“Don’t get your fingerprints on that dresser!”), and a beautiful nightstand lamp that had three settings. I used to sit in my grandparents’ room and slowly turn that lamp on and off, on and off. It was delicate and old, with two milky globes, one at the top and one on the base, and I loved how it could give bright, medium, or very soft light when the key-like switch was turned. But then I’d hear Grandma’s footsteps coming down the hall and she would scold, “Julie, you are going to break my nice lamp, now stop fooling with it! Go outside and play.”

Years passed and by the time I was sixteen Grandma’s feelings for me hadn’t seemed to change much. Even though I wasn’t the juvenile delinquent she felt certain I would turn out to be, she seemed to merely put up with me. In fact, I thought she was more disappointed in me than ever. I never seemed to be able to win her affection. I drove too fast, was away from home too much (“always out gallivanting around”) and spent too much time running with my friends, she thought. I was resigned to the fact that Grandma would always think I was a disappointment as a granddaughter, and I just went on with my own life that by this time consisted of cheerleading, working part time, keeping up with my studies, and spending time with friends at the beach.

In early 1974 Grandpa had a stroke and several months later he died. Grandma was lost without him. She moved in with us and I could tell she was unhappy about losing her independence. She spent her days cooking and helping around the house and her nights sitting in a chair watching TV. She particularly loved “The Lawrence Welk Show” on Saturday nights, and sometimes as I was getting ready to go out with friends I noticed that Grandma would gently tap her foot to the music as Bobby and Cissy danced, or as Guy and Ralna sang a peppy duet. I would roll my eyes and heave a teenaged sigh. I hated “The Lawrence Welk” show. It was certainly not my generation’s style of music and it was just another thing that Grandma and I did not have in common.

One day as my grandma sat dozing in her chair, I studied her, and a pang of regret assailed me. I wondered what had happened to us. Why had we never really been able to bond as a grandmother and granddaughter should? Why wasn’t she able to reach out and love me, shortcomings and all? She was 73, and as I watched her it dawned on me that if anyone was going to change, it was going to have to be me.

The following week I had an idea and told Grandma to be ready for an all-day outing with me on Saturday. She looked surprised and irritated. She questioned me about what kind of an outing I was talking about, but I refused to give her details. “Oh, you’ll see, Grandma. You and I are going to have a wonderful time together!” I assured her. We had never done anything together and I’m certain she was wary and curious about what I had up my sleeve. But she didn’t say she wouldn’t go with me.

Saturday arrived and I helped Grandma into the car. I was shocked that she actually allowed me to good-naturedly blindfold her to keep our route and destination a secret. Her mood was light as we drove along the southern California freeway system and I inwardly rejoiced that she was willing to go along with my little plan.

When we arrived at the entrance of Disneyland, I removed her blindfold and fluffed her snowy hair. It took a moment for her to focus her eyes and realize where we were. “Well I never!” she sputtered. Grandma had never been to Disneyland and I thought it was something she needed to experience. old-disneyland-entrance

“How in the world am I going to walk around this big place?” she asked testily. “Not to worry,” I responded. “I’ll push you in a wheelchair up to each ride. I’ll help you board the rides with me and then we’ll put you back in the chair when the ride is over.” Much to my amazement and relief, Grandma didn’t resist.

We spent the entire day exploring the famous park, going on the tamer rides, watching shows, shopping, laughing. Yes, laughing. I pushed her all over that place until dusk, when, exhausted, we made the forty-minute drive home. Before we went to bed that night Grandma looked directly into my eyes and said earnestly, “Thank you, Julie. This was a wonderful day.”

Soon after that I took her on another outing and she again submitted to my silly blindfold idea so I could keep her in the dark and totally surprised until we reached our destination: Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where we saw the movie Earthquake. Even though she had lived in Southern California for many years, she had never been to Hollywood, never been in a theater like this one. All the way home Grandma marveled about what a nice time we’d had.

Grandma Oma and I gradually became closer after that. Our conversations were light and we even laughed together. I talked to her about my friends and school, asked her questions about her childhood and how to cook and bake, and what she was interested in. I asked her questions about my  Grandpa – she loved to talk about him. I found that she had a lot to share. I felt like I was getting acquainted with my Grandma for the first time. And little by little, she was definitely warming up to me.

I started sitting with her on Saturday nights as she watched “The Lawrence Welk Show.” She told me all about the people on the show as if they were old friends of hers. I learned to enjoy watching Arthur Duncan tap-dance and even tried to imitate him in front of Grandma, making her chuckle. We listened to Norma Zimmer and Larry Hooper sing, and to Myron Floren play his accordion. I learned songs I had never known before and I actually liked them. Most of all, I was learning to appreciate my Grandma, and I think she was learning to love me.

My Grandma Oma died in 1982. Her gleaming mahogany bedroom set sits in our master bedroom today. I treasure it. I also have her beautiful lamp, but about a year ago I accidentally bumped it and it crashed to the ground, shattering the top globe. I try not to hold too tightly to material things, but I was sad about this lamp breaking because it had been such a part of my childhood. I stared at the pieces on the floor and memories came flooding back, of me as a little girl exploring and dreaming, and turning that lamp at Grandma’s house on and off, on and off.

The memory of my Grandma’s “off” years of seeming indifference to me isn’t painful anymore and I don’t question why things were as they were. Instead I have the remembrance of our few “on” years together — how I believe God helped Grandma and me do what neither one of us knew how to do on our own — begin a loving relationship and make a real connection with each other for the first time in years.

Now I’m a grandma myself, albeit a few years younger than my grandmother’s age in this account. Only heaven knows what my grandchildren will remember about me when I’m just a fading memory to them, but I’m determined that they will never have to wonder if I loved them. They know already that my heart is nearly bursting with love for them all.

And all these years later, Lawrence Welk is still in the picture. My seven year-old granddaughter Clara loves to watch that old show with me when she spends the night on the occasional Saturday. She thinks it’s called “The Loren Swelk Show”, and I’m not in any hurry to tell her otherwise. As we sit and watch Bobby and Cissy, Guy and Ralna, Arthur Duncan, Tom Netherton and all the others, I sometimes think about my own Grandma Oma, and I’m thankful for those few pleasant memories we made.

And I say a silent prayer asking God to help me make lots and lots and lots of precious memories with my seven wonderful grandchildren.

I know this is one of the reasons I’m alive.

May’s giveaway winner

May 11, 2009 | My Jottings

Random.org did not have to strain very hard to choose a winner from only three numbers today. Carolyn, Savannah and Rob left comments on What Not To Read, and the Random generator chose #1, which was Carolyn!

Carolyn has won a CD by Chris Rice called “Run the Earth, Watch the Sky” and I hope she enjoys it as much as we have.

I’m already thinking about June’s bloggy giveaway – candy? A book? A gift card? A pair of socks? A package of pencils?  I’ll think on it for a while.

Here are some new blog posts coming up: Winning Over Grandma Oma, Need a Smile?, When Oprah Came Calling, and Seeds of Hope.

As always, thank you for reading…

What Not To Read

May 8, 2009 | My Jottings

I would much rather read a good book than watch television, but when I do watch TV, I get a kick out of TLC’s “What Not To Wear.” So please join me today as we consider “What Not To Read.”

I’ve already written several times on this blog about books I love, and a few days ago my friend and neighbor Rob F. gave me an idea for a participatory blog post. He sent me a link to a blogger who shared about books she hated, and she invited others to tell of their rotten book lists as well. It was pretty interesting. Especially because I liked some of the books others despised. :)

So for this month’s bloggy giveaway, I invite you to leave a comment and share a book you disliked, or even detested. If you can think of more than one title, list them all! Perhaps there’s a children’s book you know of that you would never read to a child – which one is it?

Here’s my “don’t waste your time” list of books:

1.  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – the only book I have ever thrown directly into the garbage after reading. Don’t get me started on why.

2.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – a truly depressing read.

3.  The Haj by Leon Uris – I learned important things about the Middle East in this book, but having to slog through everything else made it torturous and maddening to read.

4.  Beloved by Toni Morrison – The critics say this Pulitzer Prize winning book is “magnificent, superb, brilliant, haunting, glorious”, etc. I never got it then and I don’t get it now. Oh well.

5.  The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – People I respect adore this book and I really tried to like it, wanted very much to like it. I forced myself to read ten pages a day in order to get through the book, hoping it would get better, but it never did.

Now it’s your turn. What book have you intensely disliked? Or maybe you can think of more than one. Why didn’t you like it?  Just think of the public service you’ll be providing to your fellow readers who’ll appreciate a heads-up about what not to read.

Comments will be open until Monday, May 11th at 12:00 noon, and the winner of this month’s bloggy giveaway will be announced later that day.

Happy persnickety reading!

Denel

May 7, 2009 | My Joys

I’ve been waiting a long time to introduce you to Denel. img_0008I hardly know where to begin, because she and I have been friends for so long, and we are such an ingrained and beloved part of each others’ lives that it seems almost impossible to summarize in a simple blog entry what we mean to each other. I feel like it would be more appropriate to embark on a full-length book about our friendship, instead of a humble blog post.

Denel and I met when we were spindly-legged seven year-olds in second grade in Southern California. We were both in Mrs. Lokken’s class and have been friends ever since — forty-four years and still counting. She was the oldest child of Eddie and Millie, who became like second parents to me. Eddie was the principal of an elementary school and Millie was a health conscious stay-at-home mom who always welcomed me in their home. Denel and I became inseparable, and today I can hardly think back to a time in our youth where there isn’t some sparkling memory to laugh or marvel over.

Denel and I even took vacations together. When her family went south to San Diego for a week, I was invited. We sat in the back of their blue-with-wood-grain-sides Ford station wagon and listened to music or made up silly games. When my family drove north to Morro Bay for a long weekend, Denel was invited. We bought salt-water taffy on the Embarcadero, played at the park at the foot of Morro Rock, and we would stop on the way at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo to look at the over-the-top interior and the unique bathrooms with the miniature toilets.

Here are some memories I have of this rich friendship God has blessed me with: riding our bikes (Schwinn Sting Rays with banana seats and plastic-flowered baskets) all over our neighborhood, and later when we were cool enough to graduate to 10-speeds, riding for an all-day excursion to the Eastland Shopping Center. We shopped at C.H. Baker’s for shoes, The Show-Off to buy dresses that were too short, and had lunch at the cafeteria in the basement of The May Company. In the summer we swam at The Plunge, our city’s huge public pool, and we bought candy necklaces at the concession stand there. We went to the beach together dozens of times. Denel always tanned, I always burned. In this photo taken at Huntington Beach, CA, we were nine years old and had been best friends for two years.

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I told you we had spindly legs.

Music was a big part of our lives and friendship. In 1966, when we were nine years old, Denel’s uncle took us to the Beatles concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. We were surrounded by thousands of screaming and swooning young women and the music was almost impossible to hear, but we will never forget that night.

Denel also loved Elton John and we saw him in concert twice, once when he was a new phenom at The Amphitheater and another years later when he packed out The Forum and wore those hideous outfits and flashing eyeglasses. We used to sit in her room, which had pink and lavender ballerina wallpaper, and listen to Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau and Tumbleweed Connection. We spent a lot of time dancing. We would turn up the song “All Right Now” by the group Free, and dance while it played over and over. Denel’s mom would be making manicotti with sausage in the kitchen, and we would close our eyes and wildly dance in the living room with hair swinging and dreams winging. We weren’t even teens yet.

Denel’s father is a USC alumnus, so we went to many football games at The Coliseum, and even had gold and maroon striped matching dresses we wore to show our fervent support for the mighty Trojans. We were certain our dresses would help USC win the game. Denel later graduated from USC as well.

We spent one New Year’s eve together in her uncle’s apartment in downtown Los Angeles, and we went out on to his balcony high above the city traffic and banged pots and pans together and whooped and hollered at the stroke of midnight. Then we leaned over the edge of the balcony and took turns spitting, and watching until we could see the splats on the pavement below. We were having so much fun. We went to The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena the next day.

To try to list the silly things and sayings that made us erupt in laughter over the years would take pages. We could take a simple phrase and turn it into a gut splitting event that we still talk about now that we’re in our fifties. With Denel’s younger brother Brian’s invaluable assistance, we took the simple sentence “I want an apple” and said it with snapping jaws, jutting chins and weird voices that entertained us for hours on end. We hid in the bushes in Echo Park in LA, and jumped out at unsuspecting people, spraying them with a powerful, imaginary mist that we could emit from our armpits. “PSSSSSSST!!” we would hiss as we sprayed, and then laugh uncontrollably when we saw peoples’ startled reactions. In the retelling this sounds so mean, but we weren’t mean-spirited little girls – you had to have been there, I guess.

We went to the movies on summer Saturdays a lot. I remember the year our mothers had to hold a serious conference on the phone, because they weren’t sure that Denel and I should be allowed to see a questionable Elvis movie with a bikini/beach theme. Looking back on how relatively benign those movies were compared with what our young people see today is pretty sobering.

We always spent the night at each others’ houses. At Denel’s, I loved her white Samoyed dog named Yuki and her black cat named Sebrena. We played hopscotch and rode the dizzying whirlybird in her back yard. We listened to music, talked with her mom Millie, and sometimes played foursquare.

At my house we listened to music, shot baskets, ate popcorn balls my mother made, tinkered around on my mom’s huge Hammond B-3, and watched TV. Denel and I both loved to read, and we traded our Nancy Drew books back and forth a lot.

For a while Denel and I were into wearing matching clothes. We would occasionally call each other before school in the morning to make sure we were going to wear the same outfit — my mom helped our cause by making us each a pair of bell-bottoms that were a black print with bright daisies on them, and we wore identical black turtlenecks to match. This was the ultimate in cool, believe me.

And each time we saw a photo booth, we had to get our pictures taken. We’re both twelve here below, and in the seventh grade. Laughing our heads off, as usual. Probably one of us just said, “I want an apple!”

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This is one year later – we’re finally teenagers at age thirteen, and in the eighth grade. I’d already had my braces and am wearing a very attractive retainer. Notice the cool factor with Denel’s sunglasses.

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Big high schoolers now – we were fourteen year-old Freshmen and still having fun together. Who knew that in four short years our lives would be on the trajectories that helped determine where we are today?

denel

 

 

We were sixteen here, Juniors in high school. Now it was Denel’s turn for a retainer.

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And we were no longer spraying people with our deadly projectile armpit mist, but were obviously still acting ridiculous. These pictures make me smile.

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Denel and I were in Girl Scouts together, and were Junior Scouts from fourth through sixth grades and Cadette Scouts in seventh and eighth grades. I remember camp-outs when we slept six to a tent and sang “Taps” and the haunting round “Rose, Rose, Rose, will I ever see thee wed?” around campfires at night. We camped on the beach of Carpinteria and body-surfed the large, foaming waves until dark. We had many overnights as scouts in our local Girl Scout House where we learned how to tie bowline knots and to roll our sleeping bags up perfectly. We worked on earning badges together, and along with another friend, Ann B., we made matching lime green outfits for our Sewing badge, with Ann’s mother’s cheerful and patient direction.

Like most intense friendships, Denel and I had our squabbles when we were little girls. It was usually because one of us needed to be right (I won’t say who, but some readers might be able to guess), and we were both strong personalities who didn’t hesitate stating our opinions, even when we were young. These times of pouting rarely lasted, though, and we always moved on to more fun times.

We had wild imaginations, Denel and I. For a very short-lived time we thought we’d join forces and become a two-girl detective agency, and using portions of our last names, we were going to call our company The Lupi-soo Detective Agency. **Smile**

We both had our own cars by the time we were sixteen. I wrote about my little blue Opel here, and Denel had a light blue Volkswagen bug with personalized California license plates that I gave her for her birthday – they said 4DENEL.

In high school I was a cheerleader for a year, but stayed behind the scenes and began to veer off in a different direction since I had a boyfriend. Denel was involved in student government, journalism and many service clubs at our high school, and was so well-loved she was crowned homecoming queen our senior year. I cried when I saw the crown come down on her head, even then marveling that such a smart and popular girl would call me her best friend. I couldn’t have been more proud.

After high school our lives took turns that hindered our paths from crossing as much. I married my boyfriend, and his stint in the Air Force took us to northern California and eventually Germany. I gave birth to a daughter at each place. Denel went to USC as I said, and then got her Master’s at San Diego State, becoming a licensed therapist.

She has known her share of heartaches. Her first husband was a police officer and was gunned down in the line of duty by a drug-crazed man in our hometown. I was living in Minnesota by then and felt so helpless talking to her from a distance and hearing the pain in her voice, and wanting so much to do something to help my oldest friend.

Denel eventually married again, and she and Jerry have two beautiful grown children, Nicole and Christopher. Denel and Jerry are both skilled and compassionate therapists who help bring hope and change to their clients’ lives. Their own life experiences make them the kind of empathetic counselors that anyone would appreciate. They own and operate the clinic in which they serve, and it’s no surprise to me that the very traits that made Denel a sought after friend even as a child are the same that have brought her to her life’s work today.

Denel and I keep in touch today by text message and by telephone. Once in a blue moon one of us will fly to the other’s part of the country for a visit, and we always slip right back into that love and comfort and intimate sharing that has been a part of our friendship since we were spindly-legged little seven-year olds.

We have such a long and wonderful history together. Our memories are priceless, and we both know that so well; we don’t take each other for granted. We pray for one another and have supported each other through some of the hardest things life could dish out. And her mom and dad are still like my second parents – I love them so much.

As I look back on forty-four years of friendship, I see the hand of God. My heavenly Father knew I would need a friend like Denel. I think she would say she needed a friend like me. Now that the AARP literature is beginning to arrive in our mailboxes (although I’d like to know why, since it won’t be official for another four years) our enduring friendship becomes more precious to us with each passing day. We have years of love and memories, and we are truly sisters in Christ. I trust her and love her with all my heart. I wish you all could know her.

She exemplifies one of my favorite quotes on friendship: A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.  

Wait…I can hear her voice singing to me now…

“Roar”schach indeed

My Jottings

Well, what do you know? Most of you saw the same thing I did in our bathroom hand towel - a lion – and I’m a bit relieved it was obvious to so many. I especially liked Shawna’s comment because she shared what I thought – this quirky lion hiding in the swirly print could be a roaring Rorschach inkblot. Roarschach – get it? Okay, let’s move on…

leo

Did you also see Leo’s other details? I think he’s a male lion with “mane issues” – for some unknown and probably tragic reason, he has wispy, feathered bangs and a bit of a spiky pageboy haircut on the sides. He has a tiny little crown on his head with a teardrop of a jewel hanging from it, and a small Elizabethan ruff at his neck.

If you really use your imagination you might be able to see that he’s got his elbows akimbo and is curling his front paws inward almost under his chin. And he looks a little worried and slightly humiliated to me.

I wonder if he’s upset about what they did to his mane.

Edition 3 – Wednesday’s Word

May 6, 2009 | My Jottings

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Corrie ten Boom

Rorschach inkblot on our towel?

May 4, 2009 | My Jottings

I’ve always been the type of person who tends to see things that aren’t really there. This can be a good thing, as in cloud-gazing, and…well, cloud-gazing. I can easily find the hippo and the ogre’s profile and the Peter Pan hat and the one-eared bunnies in the sky.

I used to be able to see very detailed pointillistic pictures on my sprayed acoustic bedroom ceiling when I was a little girl. I also distinctly remember seeing the silhouette of a small doghouse with the nose of a dog sticking out of it, on a splatter-painted bookcase near my bed.

This uncanny ability of mine isn’t really that useful in other arenas, however.

In our master bathroom we have a brushed nickel towel ring on the wall near our pedestal sink. We hang hand towels on it, and because of germs I try to remember to change the hand towel every other day or so. I don’t see these germs like I see other things. But I know they are there.

One of our hand towels is a black and white print, to go with the black and white toile-toile-and-more-toile theme we have in our bedroom. I actually have a post coming up about all of our toile. Yes, I not only see things others don’t see, but I can occasionally read others’ thoughts, and I know what just went through your mind: this is such a fascinating blog.

Anyway, when I look at this particular black and white towel, I no longer see a swirly and symmetrical black and white pattern. I see something else, and I’ll share later what that is. For now, I’d like to know if you see anything in this black and white towel.

Anyone who has studied Psychology knows about Rorschach and his mysterious ink blots, which would supposedly reveal to a therapist what kind of a personality (disorder) his patient had.

Now, look carefully into our hand towel. What do you see there?

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I’ve seen it so many times now that I can’t see anything but this one thing in our towels.

I’m anxious to learn what you might see in our hand towel. If you can’t see a thing but a black and white pattern, go ahead and say so. But if you see something else there, by all means tell us what it is.

I’ll share what I see in the hand towel soon. But you have to promise not to tell anyone…

Cardboard Testimonies

May 1, 2009 | My Jottings

Last Sunday at a local church in our city, many people participated in something during the morning worship service called Cardboard Testimonies. I didn’t see it, but heard from friends who did that it was very moving, even though the participants didn’t utter a word.

I found a few videos online of other churches who have done something similar, and this one I’m posting is my favorite. Michael and I have watched it again and again, and cried each time. I hope you will watch it and share it with someone who needs to see that God can put broken lives back together. The end of the video is amazing.

I could hold up at least half a dozen cardboard signs of my own. I’m so thankful that God can take any broken person or broken situation, and rebuild the ruins of their lives. He has done it for me, yes, and is still doing it.

He can do it for you. Be encouraged – there is nothing God cannot do.

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