Monday, April 14, 2014

Full Moon

Papa and I walked from the station wagon to his Cousin Barbara's porch. The moon was rising high and fireflies danced and frolicked around us. Summer in North Carolina was humid and thick with the smells of cigarettes, beer and pine trees. Just about everyone had retired into Barbara's house that night after a small family reunion. The relatives were quieting the young ones, singing the babies to sleep. In the distance and through the trees I heard drums and saw a bonfire. Papa casually said, "The Indians are out celebrating, too." My eyes went wide, my heart pounded and despite the warmth still hanging in the misty mugginess, I felt a chill shake my body. "Oh, Papa, will the Indians scalp us? Will they burn down the house around us, right here?" Papa turned, set the suitcases and blankets on the porch and took me in his arms. "Liesa, oh no. They're just having fun like everyone else! Didn't you know, you're my little Indian Princess?" I looked at his eyes. The light from the windows reflected in my father's face and I saw calm and sincerity -- and love. "My dad was mixed-blood Cherokee. I'm part Cherokee. You're part Cherokee and you’re my little Princess." "Really?" I questioned. "Honest to goodness. Where did you get the idea that the neighbors were going to scalp us and burn down Barbara's house?" "From the Cowboy and Indian movies I watch on TV." Papa shook his head and said, "The Indians haven't been on the warpath for about fifty years. Barbara's husband Roy is Cherokee too and you know he's a good, gentle man." Papa took my hand and led me into Barbara's home. The men were seated around the kitchen table, playing cards, drinking Colt 45 Malt Liquor and laughing. The older children were punching holes into the tops of jars, filled with fireflies. My heart felt like those jars, filled with bubbling buzzing light. My father put my mind at ease and peace filled my soul. I learned a lesson that night, that we can choose to fear or choose to love, but we must choose to be informed and face life bravely. I took a jar full of those lightning bugs into the dark living room and looked out the window. I saw the full moon. . . and he was smiling.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


My family had dogs while I was growing up. Additionally, my husband and I had dogs for many years. My dad always trained our dogs to STAY INSIDE the fence line. I trained my dogs as well and they all stayed in the yard. No matter where we lived, if the gate was open, or the snow was piled high in drifts taller than the fences, our dogs stayed put. If we saw a problem, my husband and I would fix the fence, etc. We had collies, Rottweiler's, mutts, German Shepherds, a Dalmatian, terriers etc. Then we got Jodi, a Labrador puppy. She grew into a loveable, huge brown dog. The neighbor's lab taught her how to dig under the fence, so we would find the trouble spots and hammer rebar into the ground. She soon learned how to jump the fence. We put her in an enclosed dog run. She chewed a hole through it in less than twelve hours. We had to let her out sometimes in the yard and she'd promptly jump the fence to find the old lady that cruised the street on her power scooter. Scooter-mamma would yell at us and we'd lock Jodi back up in the reinforced pen. Jodi would howl, dig, chew and escape again. One Thanksgiving she got loose. It was night. We yelled for her and searched. In the darkness we heard, "Whoosh, chuckity, chuck, whoosh chuckity chuck," and of course here comes Jodi with a large garbage bag, a turkey carcass inside. She was so sad when we threw it out and yanked her to the porch. The following Christmas Jodi brought back what I thought was a deflated purple ball. I ran outside and went to get it from her. I found that my dog was gnawing on the end of it, trying to get at the Crown Royal whiskey inside! (How the heck Jodi got this prize is anyone's guess). She still hadn't broken the seal and my brother-in-law said he wished his labs (that were trained to hunt) would bring him whiskey for Christmas. I handed the bottle to him and said, "Merry Christmas, from Jodi, Eh?" We tried walking her on the leash, but she walked us. It didn't matter the leash, collar or method, she wouldn't be reigned in and actually obeyed better off leash. We bought her a super long chain and my dad complained that no dog of his ever got out of the yard and why couldn't we just train her? Lord knows we tried! When we had to let her out on our acre, we put her on that thirty foot line, staked to the ground, but some well-meaning person kept unhooking her because "It just isn't right to chain a dog" and of course, she would jump the chain-link fence and try to play with the lady on the power scooter. This went on and on for years. One hot day a neighbor found Jodi and her buddy Hank swimming in her horse trough and said, "If they'd been chasing the horses and cattle, I'd be well within my rights to shoot those dogs, but they were just swimming. Next time I might shoot them both." My husband and I agreed that if it happened again, we'd hold no hard feelings if it came down to shooting our Jodi. One day, I just got fed up and rehomed her. The people she went to live with had acres and acres of farmland and were delighted at how well behaved and smart Jodi was. I know I made the right decision. I didn't want her to get shot. I also valued my neighbors who were beyond patient in this situation. Anyone who says they will NEVER have a dog that wanders might find that one comes to them in a furry, fun-loving and rebellious package. Its name might not be Jodi, Hank, Rover, Fido or Misha. Her name might be Karma and she will show you how to eat your words. They taste a lot like kibble.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That's the Way I always Heard it should Be

The other day during lunch a co-worker was playing her song-list. We both enjoy early seventies music, so we listened together. The song "That's the Way I always Heard it should Be" by Carly Simon came on. I hadn't heard that tune in over a decade -- at least. Today I decided to download it and did a little research into the melancholy ballad. Then I read some comments. One person declared "This song is so beautiful, but very very very depressing. And true. What's the point, everyone ends up hating each other or getting divorced, right?" I noted the date of the comment was 2007 and I hope things got better in that individual's life. I really do. I know seven years have passed, but I answered: "I love this song, the music and the lyrics; but to answer your question I for one have been married nearly twenty-seven years. Marriage and relationships take hard work and very little selfishness. Sometimes the fire goes out, but you have to keep the coals alive to bring the flame on again. The problem is everyone is looking for the ideal relationship, marriage, career, child, romance etc. If you had a hobby or sport that you were really into, wouldn't you put a great deal of your time and efforts into it? I watch my husband referee games and I don't know very much about basketball. Yes, sometimes I want to fall asleep after a day of teaching and housework or I just read my kindle and glance up sometimes. On the drive home I rub his right thigh. (Because he's driving.) He lets me have my own space and supported me through months of post-partum depression with our first baby. We've committed not to "cut-and-run" in the face of trouble. He is my hobby. . . my project. Not everyone breaks up and hates each other. You might not like each other every day of the week, but when two people work hard at something it's valued. Best wishes to you." I didn't intend to preach. Realistically sometimes a person might find that his or her partner is a real selfish jerk. You might be married to a serial killer or a drug dealer. If that's the case LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP-- NOW! If you are just saddled with an average individual realize that you, too, may be run of the mill. All of us are special in God's eyes, yes, but we all have our faults. Those of you out there with pets know that fluffy might take a whiz in the corner or JoJo might shed, but does this mean that you're ready to send them to the pound or rehome your fur babies? I hope not. You might just be the Fido in the relationship, yet your spouse doesn't mind that you snap once in awhile. If you love your significant other half as much as you love your pet, or as the above mentioned hobby, give your grievances some time and forgive, forgive forgive. Don't harbor resentment. Just love. That's all there is to it. THAT'S THE WAY IT IS. I bet you never heard that.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Today I'm on my Soap-box

Probably not. My favorite sports heroes were Alydar, Affirmed and Secretariat. I will add to that I don't think any human "heroes" would go in and give their lives either. Nor would they teach children, day in and day out. Yet we pay these "heroes" and actors huge amounts of money and pay teachers, firefighters, servicemen and policemen very little. Celebrities are worshipped and fawned over while police are accused of brutality when they shoot some idiot threatening the lives of citizens, soldiers were at one time spat on, and teachers are bad-mouthed. I sure hope our priorities change because too many people will realize that when the time comes, most celebrities and sports heroes would not only throw the general population under the bus, but would set fire to it, back over them and party on.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

As time goes by. . .

It doesn't seem so long ago that I was in grade school. My parents were getting old and my grandparents were getting older. Then I went to high school and college. My grandparents were passing from earthly life to Heaven. My parents turned fifty. I got married. I had children. Ten years ago this month, my mother died- then my father- then my father-in-law. Today my mother-in-law joined the rest of them. Just a brief ten years and we lost them all! I have a little grand-niece about to be born. I myself am a grandmother. Next month I will be fifty. My husband and I are now the elderly generation. Life goes on. Today I wished for the healthy care-free days of my high school years. Then I realized that if I had my parents back and my grandparents too, I wouldn't have my children and I wouldn’t be a grandmother. I guess that’s what Heaven is for; a place of rest and a grand reunion waits for us. Who would trade that for any earthly pleasure or material thing? Have a wonderful journey, Shirley. Say “Hello” to everyone and save a place for us at the banquet table. (Sculpture by Jerry Anderson)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Room at the Inn

Whether you’re a non-Christian, atheist or a believer, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of Mary and Joseph who were in a crowded city; Mary full with child, His birth imminent. There was no room or bed available to them anywhere. One inn keeper led the couple to a stable where under the most humble of circumstances, Mary gave birth to her baby – the Savior of all human kind. Flash forward to 2013. My daughter and her husband were doing everything right. They owned their own, small home. My son-in-law is completing his studies at Brigham Young University. His job is tied to his attendance at the school and after finals this week, his position will be terminated. So the kids decided to move to be closer to family. (Believe me, I was delighted that I’d get to spend more time with my two-year-old grandson.) First, their house didn’t sell. So they looked for rentals and because they have a dog and cat it wasn’t easy. All autumn they searched and finally found a duplex. Then right after Thanksgiving, with three weeks until the move, the owner decided she was going to sell her home instead of renting it to them. They figured their verbal agreement was sufficient until they could sign papers just before Christmas. By this time, the kids already had a renter for their home; a man with a written contract. Suddenly, they were without a home. Some rental managers wanted to take advantage of their desperation and hiked up the price of the rentals. Time and again the “actual” amount of rent was higher than the advertisements, once the agencies found out the date that my son-in-law and daughter wanted to move and the reasoning behind the short notice. My husband was on the phone a few days ago. He said that the kids could move in with us. MOVE IN WITH US! Not just themselves, not just the baby, but their dog, cat and furniture. We already have our own cats and furniture. I couldn’t get my mind around it. If I’d only had more time to prepare, not just a week! I could have made the basement a home for them. I could have rearranged furniture, my youngest daughter could have moved upstairs, and darn it, “Now I can’t put the nice heirloom ornaments on the tree!” I was on the phone that night with my little girl, now a grown woman, about to come home. I fussed and fretted until I became hyper-ventilated and seriously doubted my worth as a mother. A one-time tom-boy, my daughter even joked that they’d live in our barn if they could. I wished they would, just so they could have their own space. (The story of Mary and Joseph briefly flashed into my mind.) Then I remembered that there was no electricity to the empty barn; long since vacant of horses, barn cats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Snow was thick and white upon the ground and below-freezing temperatures held the night creatures hostage. Weathermen were urging people to bring their pets inside. My daughter’s little family needed a home. How could I turn them down? My daughter had already overcome so much. At less than two months of age, suffering from a high fever, she’d had a spinal tap. At twelve years old, she nearly died of salmonella poisoning. At nineteen a five found mucinous cyst was removed from her body and she was told that it would be difficult for her to become pregnant. Then there was her husband. One winter at age nineteen he’d nearly died while hiking on a mountain side. He was afraid that his college roommates had not received his distress call because the battery on his cell phone was dead before he could finish his plea for help. He was found in the twilight, shoeless and suffering delirium from hypothermia. He nearly lost a couple of his toes. Years later, the two met and married and soon after, my daughter found that she was carrying her first child! Again, they faced tragedy and near death when the train we were riding was broadsided by a truck. As we made our way to the emergency room via ambulance and helicopter, we were eventually reunited, and I can tell you, the best sound I ever heard was my grandson’s heartbeat in the trauma unit. He was alive! Two months later, the little fellow was born. So if the Lord in his wisdom had gotten my daughter’s little family this far, I just had to believe that with our help, they’d be spiritually and temporally cared for at some future time, if I just felt the same generous sense of sharing, without question, that my husband has. After an evening of prayer and heartache, turmoil and doubt, I awoke with a clearer perspective. The vintage family ornaments could hang on a wreath this year. Maybe I’d make a permanent decoration with them! The kids wouldn’t have the entire basement to themselves, but we could let them have a room upstairs and store their furniture in the basement. Maybe Christmas wouldn’t be perfect in the sense of materialism, but we’d be together as a family. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough time to make them cozy, but I COULD AT LEAST MAKE THEM FEEL WELCOME. Today, I thought about the inn keeper’s wife. Was she so preoccupied with giving her guests and tenants the perfect tax-time-and-census feast that she just couldn’t take in two more souls, let alone tend to a newborn? Was there maybe a tiny room that had been vacated recently that was still a little unkempt or messy? Perhaps she prided herself on having the loveliest inn of all Bethlehem? What about now? Maybe you could have offered your neighbor a ride to church but thought “My car is a mess and the kids spilled gum drops on the seats. Well, perhaps next week.” Did you spend all weekend making the best gingerbread house ever created, when instead you could have been baby-sitting for the single mother down the block that got called to work overtime during the busy Christmas season? What about the old drunk on the corner. Did you step over him and not meet his eye or did you merely throw ten dollars at his feet and walk away? Maybe you could have given him a blanket and bought him a sandwich and spent lunch-time with him. Christmas should be a season of getting out of our comfort zone. I know I had to. I wonder how the Christmas story would have played out if the inn keeper and his wife had shared their room and spent the night in the stable themselves. I may just do that. I may just move out to the barn. At least I know my kids will be warm and happy. That’s all that really matters to me. Merry Christmas. I love you. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------(Image via Simon Dewey)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day December 7

Who here today remembered that it's the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor? My husband David and I went to a veterans' home to hear the few remaining survivors speak. They were being honored, but it was an honor to be in their presence. A Catholic Priest gave the opening prayer and we saw a multi-media production of Native American Vets, warriors and code-talkers. Paiute dancers did their part, and we heard poems and songs from other servicemen. I got to see two men who were actually at Pearl Harbor during the attack and survived the horrors they saw, of burning ships and bloodied men. Another man honored there was three miles away from the harbor at the time the Japanese Zeros began their raid. He fought valiantly where he was. David saw his old friend Dr. Creed, who spoke about the American airmen that served with the RAF. (American Air-fighters who served in England and returned to the USA when we later became involved in the second World War.) I was dismayed that so many people left before the two hour program had ended. I purposely left my cell home. A few times we could hear the chimes of phones. (Even vets can't miss a call these days, I guess.) David Chung, a Vietnam Vet and former liaison to Washington DC also spoke. His late wife Cheryl was supposed to talk as well. A former nurse, she helped get the war memorial honoring women vets in place in Washington DC. She died September 4 due to complications of Agent Orange. I later introduced myself to Mr. Chung. He told me some stories after the program. Chung left his calling, voluntarily when awkward meetings (dare we say, anti-American gatherings) took place between him and the present administration in Washington. At one of these get-togethers, he was introduced as a veteran of Vietnam and a liaison. Nancy Pelosi asked him when he first came to America. He said he was born here. She asked him when his parents came here. Chung said they were born in Arizona. She asked where he was from and he said Utah. Ms. Pelosi was very put out that she was introduced to an American War Veteran and was hoping that David Chung was Vietnamese. She wanted to apologize for the horrors we put the communist troops through. She stormed off. Chung was basically told that he should have played "his part" because he was not being politically correct. Excuse me? He served our country honorably and Pelosi wants the "little old Asian man" in his place? She should know better, she serves the people of California and the entire USA. We come from many backgrounds and ethnicities. Many vets see the writing on the wall, the end of freedom as we once knew it. They are old. They've fought for our freedom, yet most Americans stay home on Veterans Day and watch football or party all night, forgetting that someone gave their younger years, their time, their freedom and sometimes their own lives, just so some pea-brained politician can apologize to other countries for our perceived short comings. Nancy Pelosi, a man like David Chung and all our vets deserve better. They deserve at the very least an apology from you. We should be shaking their hands and asking for their autographs. Bless our "boys" young and old.

A Sideshow Journey by Liesa Swejkoski

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