Friday, October 11, 2013

the songbird girl


Her hijab glows persimmon. Her voice, soft yet firm as the fruit.

Her years young, her spirit rich, a caged bird sings and her name a song.


A collective breath heard across the heart of nations as she answers, “If you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib. You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others through peace and through dialogue and through education. I would tell him how important education is and that I would even want education for your children as well. That’s what I want to tell you, now do what you want.”

Peace, her song. The voice of the silenced, a generation of women raped, slaved, burned, flogged. Brutality stifles hope.

A young teen, the songbird girl determines to have her hope song heard. Taliban determine her dead, a gunshot to her head as she rides the school bus home.

“They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed,” her peace message grows stronger with each threat to her life.

Her attack leaves her crooked smiled and warrior spirited and a weapon in her mouth.

Peace.

When a young Pakistan girl breathes peace to all, souls tilt heavy toward her like flowers to the sun.

We crave to be soothed, salve to violence and murder. Balm to broken and beaten. Life to empty. Peace we all crave.

A deer pants for water, and a soul for Shalom.

When the time comes to award peace prizes we root for the songbird girl whose innocence is a melody of peace.

Because we don’t want war and machine guns and chemical blasts to be the answer. What we really yearn for is rest for our soul.

As the songbird girl inspires peace without borders, I find hope in the One who has been singing this song all along.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

a son home


I’m there when he comes home. 

The bus stops and he’s grinning, each eager step a stretch the length of his leg, one arm steady on the rail, the other outstretched to greet my momma squeeze.

I'm crouching and hugging and I remember the mother on the news this morning, she wailed hysterics because her son is never coming home. And I remember a mother who watched from a distance as her Son hung from the tree, bled out from hands and feet. She watched Him die. But was she there when He ascended home?

Politicians fight power wars shutting down government funding to a mother whose son was killed in the very war that protects them. And now her son isn’t coming home.

Sons lost in war, a war on terror and a terror war among the things unseen.

Flesh and blood lost, one son’s body brought home and she can’t be there when they roll him lifeless off the plane. Another Son taken home after His tomb opens empty, and she prays faith in the promise that His Spirit will return.

My heart heavy I link my fingers through his and we take our time walking.

“Mommy, today we had gym and Mr. Armstrong says we can only wear tennis shoes, not Crocs.”

Washington, a stubborn mule, withholds death benefits to a mother, and can she afford to be there when they carry her son’s tomb onto American soil? Washington still gets paid. But who will pay for her son’s funeral? How will she bury the boy who lost his life?

And how does a mother grieve when her Son paid it all?

I tighten my grip on his hand. “Okay, buddy. I missed you today.”

Her son, he lost his life. And her Son, He gave His. And I walk with mine toward home, his words linger love to my soul, “I missed you too.”


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grandma Hollywood and the minis (a repost)

Monday I pulled out cards to write thank you notes to family who blessed our Harper girl with a birthday gift (over a month ago). At the bottom of the list was my Grandma's name. My heart stopped when I saw it. These are the moments that should have been that won't be. Writing Grandma Hollywood a thank you note. And in her most precious way, she would have called me to thank me for the thank you note. And she would have told me that it was hanging on her fridge. She loved us so well.

It's been hard yet good to remember her. Here's another archived post that captures her well. 

During Grandma Hollywood's recent visit to oh-Alison-it's-too-cold-here Ohio, I spent a morning with her and my two minis. The nearly 90 years between them brought forth a range of encounters, some endearing, some frustrating, and some just plain hysterical.

For starters, my kids don't perceive age. They see Grandma Hollywood's thin coarse white hair and say, "Great Grams' hair is funny." Nor do they perceive the limitations that come with age. They expect her to scoop them up to her level, and bless her still beating heart, she tries. And it breaks mine to watch her disappointment when she realizes that her ability to lift a small child is forever in her past. My spunky and gregarious daughter is unaware that when she barrels into Grandma Hollywood's 90 year old legs, she risks knocking my grandmother to the floor, a fall from which Grandma literally might not recover.

And yet Grandma Hollywood lives as if the life-threatening fall would be worth it. When Miss Harper Lynn looked at her and said, "Chase me, Great Grams," Grandma Hollywood looked at me and said, "What did she say?" I responded, "She wants you to chase her." Grandma only grinned, and sure enough, she started her feeble chase, a snail's pace behind my hare of a daughter. And my 2 year old baby girl only knew one thing, she was being chased. The burst of squeals and giggles that ensued were as dramatic and effervescent as if the chase might actually result in a catch.

As I sat with my grandmother listening to her repeat the stories I had heard dozens of times before, I juggled my annoyance of her faulty memory with the constant needs of my kids, "I need to poop! I need to poop! I keep tooting and I need to poop!" No matter how high her hearing aids were turned up, Grandma Hollywood needed clarification on almost everything the kids said, "What is he talking about, Alison?"

Well, Grandma, do you really want to know?

Though I'd love for you to believe that each exchange between my grandmother and children results in pure joy and laughter, there is much harmony to be desired.

Typical of most three year old boys, my son sees pillows and immediately thinks fort. As he pulled the decorative pillows from the couch, Grandma Hollywood became intensely concerned. "Alison, do you see what he's doing?"

Me: "Yes, he's fine, Grandma."
Grandma Hollywood: "But he's pulled all of the pillows off of the couch."
Me: "I know Grandma; he's just playing."

Grandma Hollywood walked away in obvious disapproval of my son's creativity and my kids-these-days parenting. And typical of most three year old boys, it was a mere five minutes before Henry was distracted, leaving the pillow fort glaring at my grandmother. She wasted no time. I've never seen feeble bones move so fast. In record time, she had each of those pillows fluffed and positioned back on the couch ready for a magazine cover shoot, thankyouverymuch.

There wasn't much to say when my son ran back into the room and blurted, "What happened to my fort?!"

I took one look at my now-playing-dumb grandmother and turned back to my son, saying what every good granddaughter would say, "Go play."

As I sat across from my 90 year old grandmother, a woman whose grace has deteriorated while her opinions have intensified, I wonder if she remembers the days when her four children were small, imaginative bursts of energy. "Alison, Henry didn't finish his lunch." "Alison, what is that noise?" "Alison, where did Harper go?" "Alison, don't your children wear socks?" "Alison, Henry went into the bathroom." "Alison, Harper is climbing on the table." Alison. Alison. Alison. The thoughts swirling in my mind were not of a very good granddaughter.

The sweet and gentle Mrs. Claus of a grandmother who I remember has evolved into a nosey, nagging, negative Nancy. And yet as I gather my minis to say goodbye to the woman who still travels solo 2000+ miles from California to spend time with us, she clasps her thin-skinned hands around my face and directs her macular degenerated eyes directly into mine. With pure sincerity and warmth, she says to me, "Alison, I love you and your family so so much." She doesn't let go. She stays there for what seems like minutes. And I begin to melt, remembering only a fraction of what she has survived in a near century: the loss of a twin and mother during birth, the horrors of a wicked stepmother, the passing of a spouse, and the sudden death of a child.

And it's no surprise that within minutes of her departure, I long for her company once again, kicking myself for the moments squandered because of my irritability and impatience. The distance now between us truly does cause my heart to swell, and I become saddened as I think of her now home alone, her only companion the chiming clock that strikes every 15 minutes, a sobering reminder of the minutes passing, her memory fading, her brain diminishing, and her body failing.




Thank you, Jesus, for Grandma Hollywood. Wrap her in Your comfort and peace as she suffers the countless losses that come with her age. Help me to remember the blessing it is to still have a living grandparent. And give me patience and a controlled tongue in those moments when I want to load her back on a plane destined for California.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grandma Hollywood's Birthday (a repost)

This post was originally published in July 2011. As my family mourns our loss and celebrates her life, I want to share this blessed memory.

Remember Grandma Hollywood? The matriarch and queen bee of my family? Did I mention that twice a year she travels over 2000 miles from beautifully pleasant California to Grandma-really-likes-to-complain-about-the-weather Ohio - and she travels ALONE?! I know, I know, she's amazing.

So this year she flew out in June, one month before her 90th birthday. And let me tell you, my grandma looks damn good for 90. When I realized that my maternal grandmother was turning 90, I first thought, "Crap. I don't want those genes. I don't want to live until 90." But then I looked at the gal and thought, "Shoot! Screw 90. I'll live until 100 if it means looking like that." She's pretty hot, a fact that has been confirmed by her neighbor who has offered to "keep her company" if she's ever interested. The man can't keep his paws off of her. But don't you worry. Grandma Hollywoood's lived in Southeast LA for over 50 years making her the Mamacita de Samoline Avenue Locos and she ain't messin' wit no hombre.

So where was I? Yes, my hottie-bo-bottie almost 90-year-old Grandma flew out for a visit, and my always hospitable mamma decided to throw Grandma a surprise birthday bash. It was touching to see how many people gave up their Friday night to celebrate my Grandma - most of these people only knowing her from Grandma's occasional visits.

Her actual birthday isn't until July 24th, so she was obviously surprised to know that all these people showing up were there to honor her.

It was one of those amazing nights where I sat back and breathed in all the love that my family shares.

And I thank God that Grandma Hollywood is still around to share in that love.

While everyone was gathering outside, my parents' dog, Heidi, sampled the birthday cake.
And naturally, these two had to sample the key lime pie. It's a good thing that the dog and kids are cute.


We spent most of the night in my parents' backyard. It was beautiful.
The only thing missing was the rest of the family. My Grandma has three daughters and one son (her son has passed). Aside from my mom, her family, and my cousin Jared's family, everyone else lives in Southern California. The California family would celebrate Grandma's birthday at a later date.


9 candles - one for each decade.


Grandma with her youngest great-grandbaby. 88 years between them - amazing.


It's not easy shopping for a woman who has already started giving away many of her valuables. Nonetheless she had some wonderful gifts to open.


Bless my mom's heart. She read each and every card to my Grandma. Grandma can only read when wearing her magnifying eyeglasses and she can't hear unless her hearing aids are cranked to the max.


Grandma laughed a lot. It was such a blessing to watch her so joyful.


That's Pauline playing with Jenson. Pauline is one of my mom's dearest friends, and Pauline just happened to be my middle school guidance counselor. Pauline is really really good with middle schoolers and toddlers. It's peculiar, really.


My sister and dad. Love.


If you want your face to look thin in a photograph, stick your neck out. See?


I gave my grandmother a framed picture of all 7 of her great-grandbabies. Needless to say she couldn't tell who was who in the picture. She said, "I'll have to get out my magnifying glass and look at this later."


This is what happens when you give a 90-year-old a pair of white capri pants, elastic waist, size 8. She was ELATED. No seriously, she was so thrilled to be given those darn pants. Apparently my mom and Grandma had been to several stores only days before and could not find a pair to save their lives. All it took my fashionably savvy sister was a visit to ONE store to find the perfect pair. Thank you Penny's!


Here Morgan explains how she is awesome and found the magical pants. My Grandma's face says, "I'm in disbelief that you found white capri pants, elastic waist, size 8."


What kids don't love a party? Our friend, Aaron, came over with his niece, Audrey. The four minis were instant friends.


Getting four minis to sit still on a hammock proved impossible as you can see by how blurry the kids are in this picture.


I'm fairly certain this was their second helping of cake.


Harper had some very important "older women" questions to ask Audrey.


Crazy cuteness.


That's Susie. Another dear friend of my mom's. I just adore these women for loving on my Grandma so stinkin' well.


Did I mention that Pauline is also really funny? At least my 90 year old Grandma thinks so.


Audrey really wanted to be in our family picture. We kindly kicked her out.
Grandma with the Nameth clan.


Grandma with her Ohio family. Jared was in Cambodia and Ella & Jake were in California so only Lisa and Jenson made it to the party. Pauline is standing behind the camera trying to get the kids to smile. She was playing peek-a-boo, and instead of smiling, Harper was imitating.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Hollywood. I would not be surprised if in 10 years we are celebrating your 100th. You're a lifer.