A Wise Man

My great-grandfather was a very wise man.  He was my step great-grandfather, but I didn’t know it until I was an adult, nor did it ever matter.  My great grandmother was a widow raising three children when she met him in Los Angeles.  He worked as a secretary in a large steel company until his retirement, when he went to work for General Electric as a security guard.  

He bought a modest two- bedroom house in South Central Los Angeles.  That house was a gathering place, and often my home when I was growing up.  I called him Nino, but his name was Joseph.  He had a huge backyard where he grew fruit trees and vegetables. He always said that you should grow things you can eat.  He always made sure there was plenty to eat. For lunch he would holler in Spanish, “Ninos, venga!”  Lunch was an array of fruit from the yard and tortillas that my great grandmother made. 

Nino came from Cuba and was diligent about reading.  He told me that Reader’s Digest helped him learn English.  School and church were important to him.  He told me that reading books is the key to life.  When there was a Father-Daughter fashion show at my school I asked him to take me.  He also took me to Dodger games and explained the game to me.  He said that a fan is always faithful.  

When I got married, I asked him to walk me down the aisle.  He was the one constant in my life. Nino would tell me little bits of advice, like, “Brush your hair 100 strokes every day to have it grow long and shiny.”  I think that’s why I still have long hair.  

I never heard him raise his voice.  When he was displeased, he’d shake his head and walk away. 

When I got diagnosed with a very serious illness he gave me a piece of paper with the words, “Take up thy bed and walk.”  I think of his words when it gets hard to get out of bed.  

I named my son after Nino in hopes that my son would be as kind and loving as my Nino.  He is.  


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Children’s Books That Are Inclusive

Children love books they can relate to. They need to see themselves represented in the pages. Books that present differences help students feel less alone, more connected. I have been carefully scrutinizing children’s books that lift children out of a sense of isolation. The following are books I highly recommend. I am not selling or being reimbursed in any way for my endorsements. Check them out to help students learn about the importance of inclusion.

“When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part.” Rudine Sims Bishop

Grow Grit Press  (Author), Jelena Stupar  (Illustrator)



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Random Thoughts

The day I became a grandmother I began evaluating my life, or I should say reevaluating it. I realized that this beautiful child is not mine and I am a part of a much bigger picture, yet only a part. What part do I play? As a retired elementary teacher I know the joy of teaching young children. I have learned things I never knew about when raising my own three. Will I have any credibility when I suggest ideas for my grandchild to learn to read or learn to navigate technology when I left it up to teachers to provide literacy instruction for my own children? Is it my place to offer any suggestions? I know best practices and I have learned to lean on researched methods with proven results, yet this little one is not mine and I have to realize that I am an eager grandmother, one with hopes and dreams, but this child is the child of my child. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” I tell myself, “Enjoy the moment, and let the parents have their shot at raising their own child.” I am going to listen to that not so quiet voice. I will read aloud when I get opportunities and rejoice in my child’s journey with his child. Now if I am asked for advice, well, that’s another story.

The Hike

My son called to ask if we could celebrate my husband’s birthday by hiking near the coast. He has two small children; a two year old daughter and a 3 1/2 month old son. The hike is 4 miles total, and seemed at first to be a bad idea. We met at our favorite cafe for breakfast and then drove to the headlands to begin our hike. I marveled at how much gear my son had for the children. My daughter-in-law wrapped the 3 month old around her stomach as my son put the largest kid seat I’d ever seen on his back. This contraption even had stirrups and a cup holder. My granddaughter had other ideas. She insisted on walking. Her parents went ahead as my husband, the birthday boy, and I walked with Kaia. She walked along dodging dog poop and refused to hold my hand. Other hikers smiled as they passed my independent granddaughter so determined to make the hike on her own. All I wanted was to hold her hand until I realized that this tiny human is giving us all a glimpse of the future. She will make her own way someday. She walked a mile before getting tired and reluctantly got into her 21st century backpack seat to let her daddy carry her. It was so much more than a beautiful long hike.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Exercise

The numbers on my bathroom scale made me dizzy. How can it be that
I weigh that much? When and where did I lose control of my weight? How can I get back to my old self? How soon? Being at home during a pandemic is a recipe for weight gain.

One of the side effects of the medication I take is weight gain, but geez, this much? Being the clothes horse that I am this is unacceptable.

I decided to enlist the help of a trainer at a local fitness center. My trainer came highly recommended and her smile put me at ease immediately. She asked the standard questions and I shared about my personal illness and my goals to gain strength and lose weight. We went to work setting up a routine. My end of the deal is work out on my own 2-3 days a week and meet with her on Friday afternoons. She showed me how to set up and properly use the machines.

I was self-conscious at first, but kept telling myself that there isn’t a soul in the gym that cares if I am a newbie. They are there for their own health and well being. There were lots of smiles and people around me were more focused on their own goals.

I am either committed or not. My trainer could sense that I have a lazy streak, so she told me to think of it as my job to show up for work. Tomorrow I will travel 4 hours to Stanford Hospital for a medical procedure and allow myself a day or two to rest, then I plan to show up and get to work.

Update1 : The pandemic has put a halt to any gym activity. I purchased an eliptical and some stretch bands. I live at the beach where taking a walk is not a chore. I also bought a membership to Body Groove and dance myself silly in the living room. I am going to stick with my commitment.

Update 2: Down 6 pounds in one week. Woohoo!

Update 3: I joined an online group that gathers on Zoom to discuss healthy lifestyle choices. They are a great group of local women and I am happy to be on the same journey.

Update 4: Down 10 pounds. Woohoo!!

Update 5: I make my own granola and morning muffins– healthy and delicious

Update 6: Going back to my gym! Yahoo! What a nightmare these last two plus years have been. Like Maya Angelou said, “Still I rise.”

Update 7: I spent 8 days in the hospital with Covid and pneumonia. It was a nightmare. I was fully vaccinated, but still got it (pre-existing condition). The nurse said the vaccinations saved my life. Anyway, after a long period of recuperation, I am back to the gym to regain strength from reconditioning. I am a determined, strong lady who wants to enjoy life. Here I go……wish me luck.

Below are some archives.



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Unplugged

I did it. I booked a flight to England to visit my granddaughters, daughter and son-in-law. I wrestled with the idea of flying during the pandemic, but felt that with two vaccines and a booster, I am as protected as I can be. The thought of being with family washes over me as I remember the laughter, silly jokes, heart-melting hugs, and general sense of wholeness. I love everything about the life my daughter has made in the UK. There is magic in the way she cooks for her family. Love in every serving. My son-in-law made it a way of life to include belly laughs with the banter that happens the moment he is home from work. My granddaughters share their day at school and everyone settles down for the evening in a very cosy family room.

The flight is my least favorite part of the journey. I try to make the most of it by listening to books on tape or writing in a journal. To truly unplug, I generally prefer not engaging in conversation with strangers. Books and journaling help me pass the hours. I think about places in Wales that I have been shown that literally took my breath away. If fairies exist, surely they live in Wales. The times I have been there have always given me a sense of peace. I so need that. I need to come back home with a renewed hope for happier days. I will have made new memories to hold onto.




What’s Important

I got to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters from Wales. It’s been years since we were together. My husband took our 10 year old out to the beach to teach her to surf.The little ones played in the sand and got their feet went in the ocean. I couldn’t wait to see the cousins meet for the first time. To hear my son and his youngest sister laugh took me back to when they were children. We kayaked, took walks, saw sunsets together and watched their children play. Our otherwise quiet home was filled with sounds of love and joy. These moments are what is important.





Truth

I said goodbye to my family from Wales. They came for a short visit as we have not seen them in years. I stood in line at the airport waiting for their turn to put their bags on the scale and show their passports. I looked at how much my granddaughters have grown since I last saw them. The tears came with intensity. Their presence brought life, laughter and love to my otherwise lonely, quiet house. I prefer a messy house full of love and life to being alone in a quiet, tidy house.

They divided their time in California to accommodate divorced parents. The stark contrast in climate and lifestyle was quite dramatic. They saw the high desert and the beach on their visit. We learned that time spent in a car to travel to any attraction is not worth our time. It was a unanimous decision (after the fact) that enjoying our beach town offered all the excitement that we could ask for. We made the long journey to Big Sur, and it is breathtaking, but being together at home was a much better use of time. The oldest grandchild learned to surf.

I can still hear their laughter. Cousins meeting for the first time is magical. I have a greeting card that says, ” She said she usually cries each day, not because she is sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short.”

Family Time

I like to think that even if you did not have the opportunity to grow up in a loving, nurturing, healthy home, you can still create that kind of home for your own children. It is never too late to start building the kind of life you want. I am blessed with great kids and like to think I am much wiser as a grandma than I was as a mother. Time and experiences along the way helped to shape my priorities. I know how much laughter, forgiveness and feeling confident are essential elements in every day life.

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters are visiting here from Wales. Every second with them is a treasure. Sitting at the dining room table as I listened to my daughter, I thought of how proud I am of her and her capacity to love. My oldest granddaughter helped me in the kitchen. The little one celebrated her 5th birthday here, in the US, complete with a unicorn theme. These moments are precious. There aren’t enough of them. All I want to do is make memories that they will cherish and pass on to their children one day.



Grandma’s First Contact

Featured Post

My youngest daughter lives in the UK. I live in California. When she shared the news of her pregnancy, I began a series of Letters to My Granddaughter. I felt the urgent need to capture all my emotions and keep a living record of my joy and hope for the future. I wanted my words to wrap her in love, and assure her that I will always be grateful for her life. This tiny girl reminds me of her mama; so sweet. As I held her I thought about how love is limitless. She is in my heart wherever I am.

Here are a few letters I wrote before she was born;

December 31, 2011

Dear Granddaughter,

Right now you are preparing for your entry into the world.  We are all very glad that you got this far and we are anxious to meet you.  Your mom and dad smile when they talk about you. I got to see your movements across your mom’s belly via a wonderful invention called Skype.  I knew that a baby in utero can hear sounds outside the womb, so every time I talk to your mom, I tell her to say that I love you. Soon I will get to say that myself.  Your cradle is amazing, complete with fairy lights all around your room.  You are so loved already.  There are a billion things I want to show you!  I live near the ocean and plan to show you tidepools and teach you what I know about the sea.  Summers will be our time. 

   I love you,

  Grandma

January 2, 2012

Dear Granddaughter,

     It is New Year’s Eve and I don’t like to go out of my house on this day.  Some people think that to celebrate you must drink and alter your mind.  I think it is not a good idea to begin the new year with anything but a clear head full of hopes for the future.  I hope you will have an easy birth.   Our celebration will be clear-headed joy and we will be drinking in the moment.  We are anxious to dance with you, sing to you, and hold you.  Birth is the greatest celebration of all.  

     I love you,

     Grandma

January 12, 2012

Dear Granddaughter,

 2012 is the year you will be born, so it is already filled with hope.  I have so many things I want to accomplish this year.  I want to be the best grandma a child could ask for.  It will be a year of changes for your parents because they will be on a new journey, one in which there is no guidebook.  Being a parent will be their primary job.  They are both busy professionals, but you will be their reason for living, and making a living.  They don’t know it yet, but every single second they spend with you is worth more than any time doing anything else.  It goes by so quickly.  My hope for the new year is that I can get to see you as much as possible.  

     I love you,

Grandma






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Son of My Son

I was still a teenager when I had my son. I had no idea how to raise a child. I only knew that holding him was the best feeling ever. I knew that loving him would be easy. I had the luxury of staying home and caring for him while his dad went to work. My son received my full attention. I read to him from a variety of books. Teaching him was my full-time job. Playing with him, singing to him, and resting next to him are sealed in my memory. The number one song at that time was The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. I sang it to him at every nap and bedtime.

When my grandson was born all those sweet memories were visible in his beautiful face. He is inquisitive, fearless, and incredibly loving. I know my son will have the joy of his life with his own son. I am a blessed grandma.

When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.

The Talmud







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Finding Joy

I have taken a break from any kind of “must do” or social media that tends to take me down a rabbit hole. I have been taking an internal inventory of my values to make sure I am living in alignment with them. It has been a journey of the soul, one that has opened my eyes to the many missed opportunities to right the wrong and stay true to what is important to me. My daily routine includes time on the treadmill listening to music that I love. I put flowers in a vase on my dining room table to remind me of the beauty outside my door. An afternoon nap recharges my energy and reminds me that rest is restorative. I now make my own frozen yogurt so I know exactly what is in it. My experiment in eating 90% plant- based food has proven to be beneficial. I discovered how good cherry tomatoes are as a snack. I squeeze a lime into my water and add crushed ice. I am making simple changes that heal body and mind.

My grandson turns two on Monday and he tugged on my blouse the other day. I turned around and he said, ” I love you, grandma, so so much. You’re a good grandma.” I picked him up, held him, and wanted to freeze time. It really is the little things that feed our soul. There is no doubt that when you stop to acknowledge the good, actively move in the direction of your values, and disconnect from anything that gets you off track, you enjoy the little things. I wish you joy.








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Tradition


One of the pleasures of summer is that I usually travel to visit my darling granddaughters in the UK. I established a tradition of buying new shoes for the girls at my favorite shoe store, Clarks. Once they were able to walk, we would go into a city center to get their feet sized properly. The clerk would take a photo and present it to the parents. I extended the shoe buying to include their parents. There is comfort in knowing that I left them with something useful that plants their feet firmly on the land we all love so much. I love the idea of establishing traditions. It’s my hope that the memories will be a source of joy and that they will continue this tradition or make their own. I can’t wait for our next trip to Clarks.






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Find Joy in Simple Things

Grandma’s kitchen holds a variety of interesting things.

I had the pleasure of having my grandson spend the night at my house for the first time. I think my son sensed that I could benefit from a break in my routine. It’s obvious that time with my grandson always makes me smile, so when he asked if I would care for Maverick overnight I eagerly said yes. I don’t have many toys that would capture the interest of an almost two year old. At least I didn’t think so.

As I started dinner, I made sure he wasn’t out of my sight. I also wanted to keep him occupied. Drawing on my memory from when his daddy was his age, I began pulling unbreakable items from cupboards. To my delight he found the random objects fascinating. He may be a musician someday because he kept banging things and shaking a maraca while humming. My small kitchen was filled with joy! When he said, “Sing grandma,” I couldn’t resist, but after one chorus of my version of “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, Maverick said, “Don’t sing, Grandma.” So I will leave the musical talent to my grandson who made me laugh all day. He showed me how great it is to find joy in simple things.







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Gifts From The Sea

Most or these were found on the beach here in our little town. Some are from The Shell Shop.


My granddaughter’s name, Kaia, means “Sea.” She loves all things ocean. Of all the books
I have, and two toy boxes of toys, she prefers to sort my seashells. We spent more than an hour deciding how to sort them (color, size, uniqueness). When it was bath time, she insisted on taking some shells into the tub. Why not? She extended her curiosity to include how seashells are home to some tiny creatures and how they travel from one place to another. Bonus: I even got to shampoo her hair.

After bath time there was more sorting to be done. This time she wondered about texture. So many learning opportunities inside Grandma’s box of shells!

My son and daughter-in-law know the importance of outdoor exploration. Kaia is encouraged to seek answers to questions, and check out the beautiful areas around her.

Play hard, sleep hard. That’s how she rolls!!

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My Baby Girl’s Baby Girl

Katie with Winnie

To me there are indescribable moments in a mother’s life that are forever in her memory. My daughter, Katie, is my youngest. Unlike me, she waited to have children. She was focused on college and a career. She established herself as a lecturer in anthropology and my son-in-law completed his studies as a doctor. After being in secure positions, they were blessed with Winnie. I have watched Katie sing to Winnie from the time she was born. Books and creative play have been a part of family time. My son-in-law, Steven, makes sure the house is filled with laughter. It is a joy to be in their home.

Winnie is 10 years old now, a bright, lovely, avid reader, mathematician with a caring heart and inquisitive mind. I am pleased to say that Winnie has a sister too. Josie is going to be five in August. She is a creative, lovely, inquisitive, adventurous spirit with a love of singing- just like her mum.

It is the greatest joy of my life to watch my children with their children.

It looks like a heart.




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Making Memories

My son took his family to see the area where he attended college. They packed up their camping gear and headed for Humboldt in their newly acquired travel trailer. He told his wife and children about his adventures rowing crew, climbing rocks at Patrick’s Point, and how his path to class was through the forest behind a house he shared with friends. He wanted them to see very tall Redwoods, float on a river, and walk through a tree. The kids learned how wonderful s’mores are after a campfire dinner. To share your most precious memories with your wife and children is a gift they will treasure.

I made them promise to take pictures and come back with stories to tell. The grandmother in me took Kaia (3 years old) aside before they left for their adventure, and gave her a coach’s whistle, telling her to wear it if she goes outside the trailer. I showed her how to blow it hard if she can’t see her mom and dad. I should have known they would have walkie-talkies, and never let the kids out of their sight.


They all hugged trees.


They hiked and explored.


Camping is for taking in the sights, smells and sounds.
My Granddaughter gets it.
A Family of Nature Lovers
Show them a good path. They will follow.





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Grandkids

For me there is no greater joy than watching my grandkids grow, learn, laugh. I love their discoveries, the belly laughs and spontaneous kisses. They remind me of how important it is to make good memories.









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To My Grandchildren


Dear Grandchildren,

I see your tiny bodies and I am grateful for every breath you take. Each of you are the greatest joy of my life. Holding you in my arms takes me back to when your parent was my baby. I had no experience or guide, but a heart full of love. I learned that you have your own personality, but love will help shape it. I learned that time with you is more important than anything that takes me away from you. I am grateful for your parents who share you with me. My hope is that I have given you good memories that you can recall at times when you think of me.

This world is in need of people of courage. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel you can help make a contribution for the good. Guard yourself from harm by remembering good habits of mind, body and spirit. Dance when you heart feels the urge. You will find music and muses that will make you want to dance. Don’t wait to show sincere appreciation. The time to act from your heart will always be now. Steer clear of anything and anyone who makes you feel less than the great, beautiful, treasure that you are. Instead, wish them happiness, but use your compass to regain true north. Each of us has one life on this earth, so make yours the best it can be. Know that you are loved. So loved.

I can be reached at Caysunset@gmail.com

These children are precious gifts from God. I hope that when they think of me they will smile. They make me smile all the time.





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My English roses

When my daughter asked me if she could be a summer camp counselor in the hills of Santa Cruz, at first I said no. The distance from our house to the camp was too far and I was not keen on letting her go by herself. She approached me again, this time she had a plan to recruit her brother who was in college. I relented because her brother could watch over her and that seemed like a good bonding time for the two of them. My daughter, Katie, met a young medical student, Steven, from England who was curious about California and looking for a summer adventure. That summer Katie and Steven fell in love. Then my daughter decided to go to college in England. She and Steven married and began their busy professional lives. Katie gave birth to my granddaughter on a snowy January. Then four years later she had another daughter in the summer. I travel to see My English Roses as often as I can. When the pandemic is over and it’s safe to travel, we all plan to have a grand reunion. Every day I give thanks for FaceTime so I can see their beautiful faces and stay connected. I miss my loved ones across “the pond.”








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