It was 1958 or Nine

I grew up in a beautiful America.  Dad was Dad, and Mom was Mom and every home had those two individuals.  Kids were either boys or girls, and very generic after that.  When our mom and dad made friends with other moms and dads, we always demanded to know about their children, eager for playmates of our own age and gender.  When two families got together, it was an instant party, a house full of laughing people, with food the mother of the house had grown in her garden, baked in her oven, or “fixed for us” in her brand new kitchen.

It was an era when each American felt freshly vindicated by having conquered the Nazis who tried to murder millions of innocent civilians simply for being Jewish, or having Jewish “sympathies.”  We were born several years after the end of World War II, and knew no suffering, no lack, no fear.  Our parents were children of the Depression who had known hunger, lack, and bone-chilling cold in winters that seemed endless.  By contrast, our homes were heated in winter, and Union Gas showed up monthly to refill the fuel supply in our basement.  As a child I would watch out the window and call out to my mom, “The Onion Man is here!”  When she asked why I called him the onion man, I said, “That’s what it says on the truck.”  (I was a Phonics kid. For me, the word “Union” did not start with a “Y” but with a “U” so UNION man it was.

Our parents would never discuss the war, but the Depression was frequently mentioned.  The tone was unanimously informative and cautionary from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  It was as if they had barely survived total immolation, but for God’s hand, and if we were not careful, we would suffer the same.  This awareness of God’s grace, and their relief at His providential solutions to poverty,  genocide, and starvation was real, and no small thing, nothing to take for granted.  We were occasionally warned that our days of careless play and full bellies could well be numbered.  We laughed behind their backs, certain the stories were only fables meant to teach us manners and godly behavior.

Freshly laundered clothing flapped in the sunshine outside, and long white diapers and sheets caught breezes as my grandmother bent to the heavy basket and pinned up even more.  She would raise a cranky voice and tell us something in Norwegian as we chased each other through the wet billows in an effort to run without being caught in them.  We knew what she was saying, even though we spoke nothing but English.  In those days, children listened for tone, more than the words themselves.  Adults spoke “grown up” and we spoke “child” and it seemed two separate things.  We listened for “angry” or “inviting” or “pay attention” or “stop it.”  Other than these simple tones, we ran freely past them, paying no attention.

50s

We were so confident of their love and provision we took them completely for granted, and when they told us of their impoverished childhoods, they spoke in hushed and embarrassed tones.  They spoke of their memories in shame, and it humiliated us that our own parents had known that kind of lack. We would edge away from their sad narrative, scared and suspicious it might be congenital in nature.  It was not in keeping with the sunshine of our own experience, and we knew they were speaking truth, but we had no place in our hearts and minds to file these stories.  It was important to them.  It marked them.  It was our heritage and they wanted us to have it, but we were not willing to receive it.

to be continued…

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Blood Crying Out from the Ground

Blood Sweat and Tears. Number 2

Blood Sweat and Tears. Number 2 (Photo credit: Jakob E)

When Cain killed his baby brother Abel, he thought he got away with it, but the Bible says God confronted him, saying, “His blood cried out to me from the ground.”  It isn’t that God did not see the murder as it happened, but the death was just the beginning of the story.  Cain, in typical sociopathic fashion had already put it out of his mind.  He felt no remorse.

God asked him where his brother was, and Cain replied, “I don’t know.”  Then in an even more off-hand remark, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” or in today’s syntax, “How should I know?  I don’t care where he is or what he is doing.”  But the blood soaked soil was ringing into God’s ears at that very moment.

To GOD he said this!  Lying to God’s face is a not a good idea, and Cain paid the price.  He was not struck down, but God put a mark on him, and cursed the ground that had been his line of work.  Cain, from that point on, wandered the world as a marked man.

I have to wonder if this is true of all murders.  Because blood is an important life force, I believe it is.  If so, America is a blood soaked land.  In thinking it over, we must stop lying to ourselves, especially but to God in particular.  We should CARE.  And we do, momentarily, but ten minutes after hearing of another victim we forget about her.  We move on, as if we are not her keeper…

Think of the number of outright murders (in the world at large) we have processed during our lives!  Even if you limit it to premeditated murder, it is a huge number!  Limit it to just America and it is still astonishing.  Daily we hear of another and another and another…and we have come to accept it.  But this unending violence in our streets and homes is sickening beyond comprehension.  All this blood!

This blood cannot be disregarded by a civilized society.  We must never even think of saying to ourselves, much less to God, “How should I know?  Am I responsible for others?”

America’s society of tolerance and restraint has arrived at the point we cannot go on and remain a civilized society.  The violence against innocent women and children at least should force us to cry out to each other and to the Holy God Himself.  We are each other’s keeper, and to continue believing we are only responsible for our own selves and our own well-being is just too thin a cover.

F.R.O.G.

I have been reluctant to broadcast my personal relationship to God, because I do not consider myself a very good example of what a Christian should look and act like.  Still, at the very heart of my writing God’s guidance is evident.  Each thing I produce has to past the sniff test of truth, as I understand it before I can expect anyone else to listen!

“Frog” is kind of code among Christian believers.  It is an acronym for Fully Rely On God.

In a confusing array of choices, I take comfort in the guidance of a higher being, one who sees and knows everything.  To know He has a plan, and I am part of it, and not all of it, helps me find security in my reason for existing.  I write from that source.

Often I think about my host of friends who choose not to believe in divine authority.  As God is my witness, I do not look down on them because of this.  I consider them very dear friends, and accept them just as they are, and they do me.  But to drop my pride and reveal I am a “Christian” will cost me something.   To affiliate with those who boldly fly the banner of Christ may cause  finger-pointing by those who consider themselves better Christians…I will never be able to withstand their withering glares, and whispers of unacceptance, and the judgement and rejection.

But to step out and fully rely on God demands I do so publicly.  I have been flamed, brow beaten, disrespected and rejected at times when I timidly shared my faith with someone who was skeptical.  It is a rare atheist who will politely tolerate a Christian’s viewpoint without openly reviling it.  These bullying events have scared me,  and although I remained resolute, I became very cautious.  I became covert, which only served to make me look odd to believers and unbelievers alike!

I do not attend church.  I deliberately work on Sundays because nobody else wants to.  I enjoy sitting quietly at my desk, thinking my own thoughts, praying, working on things I was too busy to work on during the past week.  This day of preparation for the following week is an important service to every one of my co-workers.  I like to think of it as a “sacrifice” I make on behalf of others, to enable them to attend services, be with their families, and so on.  It is pure joy, and I think God accepts it as my Sabbath, or day of rest.

I am deeply embarrassed by “Bible thumpers” and strident Christians who proclaim their own righteousness by disparaging others.  They list their own credentials, and their list of good deeds like a well rehearsed speech on why they qualify to carry the name “Christian”.  When I study God’s Word, I never find where Christ himself ever did this.  It was the Pharisees who acted in such indignant self-righteousness that Jesus rebuked them openly.  No other group received such a severe tongue lashing as this group!

Of course they were angry, and ultimately silenced Jesus by arranging his death.  I think the rest of the story is well-known.  The idea of a human being rising from the dead is a hard thing to convince really happened.  The idea Jesus was a God/Man is even more difficult!  These basic tenets of Christianity are based on faith, not reason.  Each human being is perfectly well-known by God, yet we regard God as a fantasy because of our lack of knowledge about Him.  Our unbelief, though reasonable, does not change the truth of God one bit.  We are free, absolutely free in our choice to bathe in his light, or flee from it.

I relate more closely with the “woman at the well” who  went to draw water at an odd time of day, after all the “righteous” women had finished.  This woman was well-known as a local prostitute, and had a long history in her small town as one who had made wrong choices and was no longer welcome in polite society.  Guess who came to that well at the very same time?  It was the unknown Jesus, a carpenter from the area.

A casual observer in those days would have been astonished and outraged.  No self-respecting Jewish man spoke to any woman in public, much less one of her pedigree.  Yet Jesus did.  But why?  She had no credentials, no authority, no money, nothing of value at all.

Despite this, they had a long conversation together, about her history, her past, and her present.  It was an honest and surprisingly accurate discourse, and she was quite astonished.  But there was no condemnation, despite her record.  She was a Samaritan, not even one of the “Chosen People”.  She had no idea who Jesus was, but she said, “I know that Messiah, (called Christ) is coming.  When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”  and Jesus answered, “I who speak to you, am he.”  This public harlot was the very first person on the planet Jesus revealed he was actually the Messiah!  Openly, and in full view of everyone, she was the first to hear these words.   He is a rule breaker, a man without fear, and one who is able to love someone everyone else condemns.  I cannot get past a person like Jesus!

Neither did she.  She ran back to town and began to tell anyone who would listen about this encounter.  She recognized the truth, accepted it,  and shared it.  She could have refused the offer, but did not.  Each of us will eventually have the same opportunity and choice.  It has nothing to do with our own choices prior to the encounter, but everything to do with whether or not we believe Jesus can find us worth loving just as we are, in all our self judgement, shame, anger, and fear.  The acceptance Jesus demonstrated to such a woman leaves me assured any other person, including me, can be loved and accepted also!

In the coming weeks, I am going to discuss the importance of women in Jesus’ time on earth.  It is an amazing and redemptive saga.

End Of Days…Why Grandmothers Are Like This

I decided to select a photo from my collection from October a few years back, more than a couple of years, really! I chose October 2008, which held a series of pictures of my grandson Cavin on an all day adventure at “Dodie’s House”.   I wish I could insert the entire album! He was maybe twenty months old.   Running in only a diaper, I snapped photos of him in his brother’s cap, my wide-brimmed sun hat, and a bent up cowboy hat. He tried each on in turn, trying out characters, as if to learn who he might become.
He spent an entire day in various get ups, and while I played paparazzi, my photos show him climbing, squatting, licking spoons of brownie mix, wiping his hands on his lil belly. He is inside, outside, devouring slices of watermelon, and patting dogs from the neighborhood. In the series he is never still, and I feel joy in the memory, with a keen awareness of the gift he was to me, and his cavalier disregard for me snapping photos of his antics.
I remember thinking how different boys are from girls in the way they play and do the work of childhood. I had been a mom of girls, never actually knowing how completely my experience differed from my friends who had sons.
Then I got a slew of grandsons, and realized my joy was only beginning!
I admit it was challenging to me to allow the climbing, jumping, and mechanical experimentation that never stopped. Their serious faces, intent on bugs, guns, and machines would change suddenly, brilliantly, into bursts of unbridled movement…and I felt each was on the verge of death if I failed to keep up! It was tiring, aggravating, and scary.
But then there would come this moment in early evening, when the boy would become quiet, truck still in his hand, and the tipping would begin, softly at first, gently, like soft snow falling…the squat became a sit, and the sit, a belly roll, and the army crawl lightly became a rolling over, with one last look at the ceiling before the stillness, a toy truck falling from open fingers, and suddenly silencestillness.
It would come like some kind of spell, right in the midst of chaotic and jerky movement, as if this boy who moments before had been inexhaustible, had accidentally hit the kill switch, the safety switch, the off button, and just fell asleep in his tracks.
This moment, that special and amazing moment happened over and over again, and my mother’s heart would return to me. All of the annoyances of my day seemed sinful on my part, and the shrieks of “No!” and “Watch out!” and “What is wrong with you?” confronted me there, in the waning daylight, and I would silently ask forgiveness for my harshness over his day of development.
It is different when you become a grandmother. We take time. We feel no obligation to get it right.  Yet we are still mothers.  MOTHERS, with all the accompanying guilt, frustrations, hopes, and dreams, while at the same time knowing we will not be there to watch over them when they are growing families of their own unless we are very, very lucky, and do a very, very good job preventing their deaths as we boldly face our OWN.   Whether our time left is short or long, we spend it lavishly, as if we will always be here.

I leaned over him, smelling his breath, turning my face to feel it on my cheek, and counting his eyelashes when I turned back to look at him, marveling at the length of them.  I set my camera on the bedside table, and leaned closer  to study his face for several minutes. The sheer miraculous beauty of the boy with his lashes sweeping over a perfect (but dirty) cheek lying there, with his heavy head crushing his cowboy hat astonished me! I gently tried to take the hat from him, but he stirred, firmly lifting his strong little hand to the top of his head, preventing me from removing the thing. He was a cowboy, at least for that day, and early signs show more of the same. I allowed it then, and allow it today.
I lifted the camera for one last shot. Somehow I needed proof for myself that hard men all over the world had once been like this child. ALL men, all over the world. Yes. ALL.
Were it not for mothers of boys, the world would have destroyed itself long ago. I will never fully understand it, but I am grateful for every girl who is one of those mothers chosen by God to be one of them.

Red cowboy hat

Red cowboy hat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alone Time

Arkansas River Valley

Arkansas River Valley (Photo credit: Pierce Presley)

My mom told my soon to be husband, “Be sure to allow her plenty of alone time, plenty of privacy.  She needs it,” which mystified me at the time.  I had never been aware my parents knew this, or allowed it.  I was one of six children!  We were seldom “alone”.

We were not just an insular FAMBLY.  At most times, we had grandmothers, uncles, stray cousins, and “shirt tail relatives” living under our roof.  Most of my childhood consisted of various combinations of adults and children coming and going, eating and working, and going to school under my Mom‘s watchful eye.  Everyone contributed and behaved themselves, or they did not stay long.  Those who did not pass the test found themselves packing to leave within a short time.   Not many failed the test, and we all benefitted by those who remained.

So where in the world did I get noticed for needing “privacy”?  I was in the middle of the pack.  I was third daughter, with three younger brothers.  I was not the prettiest, smartest, or most athletic, but I say with no arrogance whatsoever I was the most treasured.  The mystery of my life is why.  I got noticed among the crowd and not just by my parents, but by everyone.  I did nothing whatsoever to deserve special attention, but I will admit, I loved EVERYONE, and considered myself an observer of good in others.  I believe this ability to recognize the good in others is what it was that drew people to me.

But the “need for privacy” was a something I did not know I had enjoyed until my mother said so, and by then I was grown, engaged, and nearly out of the house!  Still, when she said it, I felt understood, loved, and accepted.  I was aware for the first time what I was leaving behind.  I left laughing, and with optimism in my soul.

The years that followed left me breathless with public and private demands that sapped my strength, leaving me empty, despairing, grieving for unspeakable losses, and knowing I had never been visible to the family I produced on my own.  I had failed to exist at all, losing myself in the process of attempting to be a good wife and mother.

One day I approached the electric doors at the grocery store, and they failed to open.  I knew they were operable, as I had seen others going in before me, and they were opening as expected.  BUT THEY DID NOT OPEN FOR ME.  I stood before them, and at that moment I knew I had lost myself, and I was not visible even to an electric eye, whose opinion had been universally accepting moments before.  It was real.  I was transparent.  I did not have any substance whatsoever, and it was not my imagination as I had hoped.  I will never forget the day I knew I had ceased to exist.  As suddenly as they had blocked me, the doors opened, and I stepped in, and relief replaced despair.

My parents had died, my sister was gone, and I was living a life far from my parents’ dreams and my own.  I had no one to talk to.  I had left all familiar friends and family in places many hours from Arkansas, and I did not matter anymore, to those closest to me, to those I had invested in most heavily, my husband and half grown children.

It was “alone time”.  I am not able to describe that day with any kind of clarity, but I can say I was keenly aware something had gone very wrong, and it would be up to me to set things right.  This much I knew:  Nobody else could see me, and if I were to become visible, I had to change my life.

I took my groceries home, put them away and made supper, acting out my role the same as always.  Even my closest child noticed nothing.  But I knew, deep inside, that I existed. That I was visible.  That God made me, sent me, and valued me, and would take me home someday.  I knew I mattered, and I realized it was pointless to be “perfect” anymore.  I had given all my goodness away to those who did not even care.

Oddly, this was not the end, but the beginning.

Day One

My name often elicits the question, “Is that short for something?”  Tandy…it is unusual, but has become more common as I have aged.  I have four friends on Facebook with that name.  I “friended them” just because of the name!

The story of day one is one of those defining moments in my life.  Dad sat in the waiting room as I was being delivered into the world and heard a voice in his mind and heart:  “TANDY”.  It came without warning, and he knew of nobody with this name, but when he saw me, he proclaimed me “Tandy” and no protest from my mother could change it.

It was such a terrible argument, I am told they left the hospital with a baby named “Baby Girl Holter” and a promise they would send in my name within seven days.  It never happened.  I became Tandy Joann, with the nickname Tandy Jo.  I could not say it, and Dodo evolved into “Dodie” over many years.

When I entered school, I insisted on my proper name “Tandy” and Dodie fell out of daily use.  It was a hard choice to be Tandy.  School children mispronounced it, made fun of it and made it a much bigger deal than it should have been.  I grew to hate the name.  I dreaded saying it.  I began to hate introductions.  I hated my dad for choosing it.  I hated my mom for giving in to him.  She had wanted “Jane Elizabeth” and I secretly knew I should have been Jane all along…

At eighteen I decided to apply for a passport.  Much to the surprise of everyone involved, a certified copy of my birth certificate arrived, proclaiming me to be “Baby Girl Holter”.  Officially, I mean, legally.  I actually thought I might take that name “Baby Girl” just for fun, but it seemed demeaning to a half grown woman, much less a future achiever.  It fell to me to make the decision about my name.  I could fill in any name I wanted!  Not many get such an opportunity.

I did not make this decision lightly.  I thought about it, prayed about it, tried on Jane Elizabeth in my imagination, and other cool names while looking into the mirror.  Finally, I decided on Tandy Joann.

To step into one’s name is very empowering.  Tandy is not short for anything.  Tandy is a stand alone name and I love it.  It separates me from the crowd, and I still answer to Tammy, Candy, Tanya, or anything close.  I understand such confusion.  I do not demand compliance from anyone anymore, because I could have been anyone else I wanted to be, and decided to be my self.

P. S.  Those grandchildren of mine call me “Dodie” and I consider it an affectionate homage to the “Baby Girl” I will always be down deep inside.

31 Days in October to Write My Story

Portrait of Socrates. Marble, Roman artwork (1...

Portrait of Socrates. Marble, Roman artwork (1st century), perhaps a copy of a lost bronze statue made by Lysippos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The challenge comes from Lisa Jo Baker at http://www.lisajobaker.com.  She suggests I write “my story” over the next 31 days in October.  I have been wondering about this lately.  On a Dr. Phil Show, he said we have 10 defining moments, 7 critical choices, and 5 individuals that have impacted us for a lfetime.  These external factors help to shape the life we live.

CAN THIS BE TRUE?  I will be writing about this for the next thirty one days.  “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  Socrates could not be wrong.  Join me, won’t you?