New York, New York

I could get really cheesy and begin this post with Frank Sinatra’s famous line “ Start spreading the news…” from his infamous song New York, New York, and have all of you singing it in your head, but I won’t. A young man sang that very song for Karaoke Idol on the cruise ship I enjoyed this past week. But back to New York….

I have visited NY a couple of times in my lifetime and when I talk about it you would think it was yesterday. But guess what? It was not. Nope. Turns out it was a long time ago. A long long time ago in a galaxy far away…Thirty-five years to be a little more precise. 35. That would be 3 decades plus five years. I was a little in shock because I was 17 at the time. It’s not like I was a wee baby in a carriage or anything. And so this revelation left me with a myriad of feelings.

I guess to begin with I just can’t fathom that much time has passed since I feel eternally, say, oh, maybe 32? It didn’t make me feel old, it just made me realize how time marches on. All the cliches- time waits for no man, lost time is never found again, and you may delay but time will not- they are true. But for most of us, it’s an experience or several that make us realize, hey wait a minute, this ship is sailing no matter what I do.

So as I rode through New York soaking in familiar surroundings, really iconic sights- Time Square, The Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center- I decided to place a mental marker deep in my heart and mind. Enjoy the experiences, make the memories, indulge the wanderlust and continue to live life as an adventurer. So start spreading the news, I’m leaving today, I want to be a part of it…. New York, New York….And any other beautiful blip on the bucket list and the highway of life.

Please, Go Ahead and Stare

My family has spent an enormous amount of time at a local amusement park this past month. King’s Island-where coasters are conquered, swings soar, entertainment excites, food is eaten as if famished, and a good time is had by all- most of the time. I mean let’s face it, there is the occasional upset stomach, from the food or rides, take your pick.

I like to people watch. I think most of us do. And if ever there is a place for people watching a plenty, King’s Island is it. You are sure to happen upon people in all shapes and sizes, skin colors of all shades, and enough languages to think you might be at the bottom of The Tower of Babel instead of standing at the end of the Main Street looking up at the park’s imitation Eiffel Tower.

So if one good turn deserves another. If I am peering with curiosity through my green eagle eyes at others, I should be gracious and put on a show for others when they look at me, right? Actually, that’s a whole other tale for another day. I am just acknowledging I shouldn’t be shocked at the stares of others and I am not.

It’s just the other day, I learned something unexpected during a typical gawking session. Compassion. Tenderness. Love.

I felt compassion for the very pregnant mother who could not keep her gaze away from Cyrus’s feeding tube. As she followed the process to stop the beeping that his feed was finished, to the disconnecting of the line, and then the flushing of water with syringe, she massaged her belly mountain faster and faster and faster. It was as if she was a genie with a magic womb, rubbing one of her three wishes. “Please let my baby be healthy. Please don’t let my baby be sick. Please little one be okay”

I felt tenderness as later in the day I saw a grandmother hypnotized by the feeding aerobics of Cyrus. She stood to the side of her four year old granddaughter tousling her hair. Twirling and twirling strands of blond locks around her fingers as word bubbles began to drift over her head. I could hear them, each one as they popped to float the next thought.

I’m not a mind reader so I really don’t know what either of those two ladies or the legions of others were thinking or feeling or wishing or hoping. I just know I finished the day feeling love. Love for Cyrus. Love for my family. A little deeper love for humanity. Well, and an understanding to realize just because someone finds themselves in a trance in my direction doesn’t mean I need to feign offense. We all have the opportunity to grow, share, enlighten and yes, sometimes just stare together.

Mother of the Year

Mother of the Year

I come from a long line of mothers. BA DUM TSS! But seriously folks, Mother’s Day is a celebrated full throttle festival of homage to those we call MOM. It’s also a day that brings mixed emotions for many- some long to be mothers, some have never met their mother, some no longer have their mothers with them, some wish they didn’t know their mothers, and the scenarios of mother mayhem go on and on.

My sister and I are fortunate to still have our fantastically fun and wildly amazing Mom still on this earth with us- Happy Mother’s Day Mom! You’re the best! And I mean it- this is not your garden variety Hallmark card tribute. I love you, I appreciate you, and thank you for bringing me into this world.

Now legions of us believe the same said statement about their own dear mudders as I expressed about Phylis Greene. And most of our children would echo this for the halls of history with carefully crafted homemade cards and tributes about us. Come on, let’s face it, who hasn’t looked in the mirror at some point in life and then at their brood and thought, “I deserve a medal, I am the stinking Mother of the Year for goodness sake!” And then equally on those off days when the household drama has been at a premium, and those that know us and love us best have already run for the hills, we have with sarcasm and a bedraggled sight glanced upon ourselves and whispered, “ Well, aren’t I the Mother of the Year?!”

I know mountains of beautiful mothers. I have met them in the eyes of my mother, my mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-laws, daughter -in-loves, dear friends, neighbors, and throughout the journey of life. And each of them have a story. All of them have had their unique struggles. And on any given year I could roll out the podium and place each one of them in the middle, on the highest pedestal. Hand over a bouquet of roses and a crown and commemorate their magical feats they have juggled and performed as their role of Mother. I could list my own accolades, mother of nine, grandmother to five, 17 moves…but I won’t. And I don’t want to take away from anyone else’s accomplishments, but because sometimes the world just needs to hear about a stellar mother- the good stuff, the heroic stories. I want to tell you about one such mother I met this year.

In her 19th year, she learned the news she would carry a sweet baby. She made the courageous decisions to become a single mother, leave her job as a military police officer that was her launching point for her overall career goal of detective, and moved over 1,100 miles back home to give her baby the opportunity for the best medical care in the country. She faced the devastating diagnosis of carrying a baby in the womb who was predicted to not walk amongst us. And she believed, and she hoped, and she prayed, and she pressed on. In the hospital for seven weeks, she ate healthy, she walked, she played the ukulele, she embraced visits from friends and family, she constructed puzzles, and played games. She asked how everyone else was doing, and inquired about their burdens and troubles. She resisted the urge to judge the multitude of women who joined her floor addicted to drugs. Many playing the system, a few who wanted to truly get clean and throw their hat in the ring for their own chance at motherdom. All she wanted was a healthy baby but she pushed out the judgement and offered smiles and her food instead, knowing everyone has their struggles. And when pallative care came to help her accept the worse, she whispered and then chanted, “ Cyrus the Brave, Cyrus the Brave…’

On September 11th, everyone cried tears of joy as the sound of the warrior baby’s cry was heard throughout the operating room. His Pop Pop proclaimed, “ He is perfect!” And he was and he is. He crashed and doctors worked on him for over three hours as chest tubes and oscillators became the words of the day. And his mother, wheeled beside him to his bedside and brought out a book, On the Night You Were Born, and declared she was there and was not leaving his side. And there she stayed for over six weeks. Reading, singing, rocking when he could finally be held, loving, cherishing, believing and advocating. Hours have turned into days that have turned into months of round the clock catheterizations, feeding tubes exchanged for g tubes, and constant care. And she reads, she plays, she sings, she dances, she plays peek a boo, she loves and she smiles all for him.

It’s an interesting phenomenon when you consider yourself a pretty good mother and then you watch and you see and you grow and you learn from your own child who is now a mother. And you are overwhelmed with admiration as you observe the sacrifice, the fortitude, the patience, the strength of your child- the mother. Another Momma Bear joining the tribe.

So this year, join me with applauds. Do you hear the trumpets resounding and the band striking up the beat, the crowd clapping and the winds proclaiming the declaration?

Phoebe the Beautiful, Mother of the Year.

The Meaning of Love and a Baby Warrior Named Cyrus the Brave

I won’t pretend to say I have a complete understanding of the true definition of the word love and its meaning. Sure, I have had many experiences in my almost 52 years of living that I have defined as love. Growing up and “feeling the love” of a good family, accepting and receiving the love of my Savior, participating in authentic friendships, marrying my ‘soul mate”, becoming a mother nine times, and a grandmother now five- all manifestations of love that have been joyous and deep. And while those categories of love have been positive, I know I have felt what I would describe as love in the negative. Those dark, deep moments in the crevices – the cracks on the journey. The neverlife of my unborn children who died in my womb, the passing on of treasured friends and relatives, the gut punch heartache of my dad’s death, the shock and toll of illnesses and accidents, misfires and begin agains, all devastating yet beautiful and tender.

Comprehending love alludes me in many ways but just when I thought I could not grasp endearments in my life any richer nor any more crushing, along came a tiny babe named Cyrus. And his magnificent existence has taught me to walk a balance beam labeled love and grief with every step. With each movement as my hips aid in rotating my leg to place my foot gently in front of the other, I strive to strike the perfect balance. We move forward each day. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot- don’t look down-right foot- don’t look to the side- left foot, right foot, straight ahead.

Eight months old today and he lives up to every inch of his moniker, “Cyrus the Brave” – I cherish him. He is a warrior like his Momma, Phoebe. He is defying all the odds. We were told to expect and prepare for the very worse, life without him. Cyrus was delivered by cesarean section at 37 weeks and four days. In utero, our family was given his diagnosis of B.O.O. (Bladder Outlet Obstruction) at 26 weeks. Life living in the hospital began for Phoebe at 30 weeks until his entry into our world. And home became the NICU for his first six weeks and three days ( but who’s counting?) that began the days of ventilators, breathing tubes, chest tubes, surgeries, two steps forward and one step back, and yet he pressed on. Often as I rocked him, I envisioned him on a beautiful golden Palomino or a brown and white Pinto, sitting tall and erect, bow and arrow in hand, storming the machines and diagnosis. And no, I am not completely crazy. I recognize that is quite an outlandish image, a baby warrior- but warrior he stands. Okay, he sits, but he will stand!

And so we live each day watching him grow, appreciating all of the moments with a presence where we are mesmerized by everything he does. We take nothing for granted and celebrate each accomplishment, every milestone, with cheers and marching parades around the house. All of us know there are no guarantees in life, no absolutes of first and last breath, but most of us find a way to trick our minds into not dwelling on the uncertainties. This balance beam my family is walking is because we know Cyrus has kidney disease and bladder issues and small but healthy lungs, yet he defies. We are not so naive as to discount different days await him, await us all. Though all it takes is one look into his clear blue eyes and catching his contagious smile and I literally shake the ominous prognosis from my thoughts and CHOOSE to be present in the moment given. So it is the balance beam we walk- ever so grateful for his miraculous days, playing hide and seek from the medical jargon, falling hard into a love, so precious. And while I have more to share about the days we have walked and the catapult that will vault us into the land of the predicted, yet unknown- I know this one truth.

Today, in this beloved moment as I write- there is a little grandson of mine named Cyrus, and he is fondly my “little puppy” and I am his “Mamie Bird”.IMG_8643

A Giant Died Today

I am sure the thud was heard near and far as a Giant died today. The deep chasm in our hearts has left an imprint so large that I am quite sure it will never be completely filled. 
My Dad- strong, large and in charge, brilliant, generous, loving , tenderhearted, a man’s man, lover of God, his family and his country, left us today to be with his Creator, our great God.
He had one of the brightest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I could list his accolades -too numerous to count-from his years serving our country in both the military and as a civil servant, but I won’t. Because his crowning achievement was the way he loved his family and the people around him.
He and my mother Phyllis shared a life together for over 62 years, married almost 59 of their journey together. And that is how they lived- together. Supporting one another’s careers, hobbies and interest. They were a smashing couple. Stepping out the door to go to a dance in tuxedo and ball gown, bowling strikes together at the bowling alley, waiting all over the country for the announcer to say, “Gentleman, start your engines”, laughing as they played card games with friends and family, shopping for Beanie Babies and glass slippers, traveling the world-they lived and loved having a full life together.
My sister Diane and I can attest to the fact that he was a Papa Bear. We, along with my mother, were the “darlings of his heart.” There was not a day in our lives, he would not have moved mountains for us. And honestly, there were many times, he did. He was strong and loving, teaching us the meaning of unconditional love. We certainly could illicit out of him a ” for crying out loud!” response sometimes, but a “you okay little girl?” far outweighed those moments. And being a father didn’t just extend to his girls. His heart was large enough to make his son-in-laws feel respected, admired and loved. 
His twelve grandchildren and eight great grandchildren were “the apples of his eyes.” Whether taking them to a NASCAR race, playing “booger your neighbor” and other games, watching a favorite tv show together, calling one of the grandsons “Roy” when they were little, feeding them too much candy, tickling enormous giggles out of them, or listening to the latest events of their lives- he was active, present and there for them.
Friends- who were many, and family alike, could affirm the hospitable nature of my mom and dad. My mom may have made the dinner, but my dad served up the jokes. And he never disappointed. He could tell a story that left most grown men in the room crying tears of laughter and quite frankly, women running to the bathroom to see if they had peed their pants. 
For everyone- he always had a listening ear, solid and loving advice, a shoulder to cry on, a dollar to spare, and a chair to sit beside you. 
Many would describe him as tough as nails, but in the same breath they would speak of his kindness and fair approach. He was a lion and a lamb.
John Greene was a child of God, a Boy Scout leader, a military soldier, a WRM Logistical Manager, a lover of John Wayne and westerns, a devoted Steelers fan, a dancer, a bowler, a singer with a rich baritone, a fan of country music- old style the likes of Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash , a NASCAR fan, a deer hunter, a friend, a storyteller, a brother, a son, a beloved uncle, a true gem, a charmer, a lover to my mother, a husband, a father, and a Pap. He lived a life full of adventures and has left a legacy that will carry on in those who loved him and knew him. 
He will be missed. His memory will be cherished. And most of all, he was greatly loved.

 

“A heart is not measured by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

My Dogs are Multilingual

My dogs must be geniuses. My theory is my dogs speak, well understand, many languages. This truth or at least my version of the truth, occurred to me today while I was trying to coax them inside during a particularly cold spell here in “sunny” Ohio.
Facing the elements to beckon in a dog is no small feat. It really is a an act of balance. Trying to figure out just the right amount of your body you have to stick outside so they see you and know you come in peace. My dogs are spoiled, er, I meant well-loved. There are two in particular who do not come right away when called. And there is one tiny, white, alpha dog who shall remain nameless, that completely ignores any pleas to come in. So we have often resorted to bribery, uh , I mean treats.
As we were gathering said treat, I remarked to my number 5 son, ” Dogs must speak or understand all languages. I am surprised I never realized this before today. Because if our dogs were in Portugal or Italy or Kenya, they would understand their owners commands in Portuguese, Italian or Swahili.”
So I tried out my theory with a little Spanish. I took Latin in high school, and while it is an intriguing language- it’s a dead language. I thought a phrase in Latin might be setting the bar too high, even for my little Einsteins.
So, with my head out the door, my right leg firmly planted on the backyard patio, the other in the air behind me like a prima ballerina, I waved my right arm with a tasty treat in my hand in the air with a lively motion. This is not a new trick on my part, but what I said absolutely was a first for them and me.
Okay, so it took me awhile to google the phrase I wanted and my furry beast lived on in the wild Arctic tundra of our backyard a bit longer, but this is what I said. ” Perrito, veni, TRATAR!” I think loosely translated it means “Puppy, come, treat!”
And voila, like the intellectual creatures I knew they had the capability of being, they came running!
After several leaps in the air on my part, not the dogs, I declared, ” They understand other languages, they other stand other languages!” 
“Mom”, number 5 son matter of factly  said, ” I think it is just the way you are making your voice sound.” 
“You mean, the inflection?” 
With maybe an eye roll , he replied, “Yes, you are making it sing songy at the end, like you always do.”
With righteous indignation, ” No, I don’t thinks so. I think they understood me. They came running. I know they understood me.”
So that’s my story and I am sticking to it. My dogs are multilingual.

Reeses Christmas Trees

I know our world and especially social media is full of debates right now. There is never a shortage of opportunities to read people’s opinions, to witness tempers flair and unfortunately much of the time just being generally disgusted by the lack of compassion and courtesy out there.
But I have good news.
I have found a topic that really has no room for debate.
The peanut butter wrapped in scrumptious milk chocolate that is currently being called a Reeses Christmas Tree. 
I guess there was a major brouhaha a few weeks ago about the candy not really looking like a Christmas tree. It was such a HUGE deal that the company who manufactures the treat came out with an ad campaign that was proclaiming “all trees are beautiful” and “we celebrate trees in all shapes and sizes”.
So I just had to know for myself. I purchased a bag, brought it home and opened it to share with my family. Everyone had a thought or two about the treat. Aside from it being delicious, I think Caleb summed it up best, “It looks like a log of poop, but it sure does taste good.”
So I have good news friends, a topic with no real debate. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and we may all have our own idea of art, but I think the candy factory mold was broken this year.
So give the company an A for effort on spin control, an A for tickling our holiday taste buds, but an F for tree making.
Here’s a picture for you. Don’t be the judge on this one, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the fact that this controversy is resolved.