A letter to younger women

If I could give young women some advice from the lessons I’ve learn along the way, here are a few of my most significant takeaways on this crazy journey we call “LIFE.”

Dear young woman,

I know you think you will never get old, none of us do, but you will some day. That day will come quicker than you can imagine.

First of all, whatever you do, avoid being competitive and territorial. This will cause you great loneliness, and it is something most of us females struggle with due to insecurity. Make friends, and encourage other women on the journey. In turn, you will discover many blessings. Don’t just be someone’s friend, because of what you hope they can do for you.

Secondly, be the best you can be, and strive for excellence. Still, don’t allow giving life your best, to cause you to embrace perfectionism. It’s guaranteed you will fail, but when you fail, you will learn, so get back up and fight the good fight of faith.

Education will be a game changer for you. Read, read, read, anything enabling you to grow, to learn, to embrace new horizons. Be disciplined in your studies, delay immediate gratification to achieve your educational goal whatever that is. The life you change will be your own,

Women my age fought in a societal sense, so that you could have the opportunity to be anything you dreamed of, if you work hard enough. Yet don’t use others to get there. Doors will open, but manipulating them open, will only cause frustration. I promise you, material things and prestige won’t provide lasting happiness.

About your family: They need to be your top priority. Success in a worldly sense will fade away soon enough, but you will find out your family is all you really have.

When your grown children make poor choices or break your heart, don’t wallow in what you did wrong. Their lives are their own. Remind yourself you did the very best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. Give them wings and let them find their way.

As for being a victim, don’t allow others to abuse you or use you for a doormat, even family members. You can pray for them from afar, but forgiveness does not mean permitting someone to wrongly hurt or violate you. Get counseling, seek a support group, but keep yourself and your children safe.

Most of all, about God, put Him first. Let Him lead and guide you. Then when you look back, you will have peace, knowing you did your very best with the time you were given!

    Mike Ullery photo

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist & speaker. Her novel, “Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife” will be released in fall 2018. Her website is: www.christinaryanclaypool.com 

Scoop the Poop Campaign

“No, I don’t walk that way – you have to turn right on the next street – because Steve might be out and I’ll get a chance to see him,” I explained this directional route to my husband on a recent walk through the neighborhood. “Whenever I see Steve, he’s so adorable, I just want to hug his neck.”

Larry rarely has an opportunity to walk with me, so for a minute he looked a little confused, until I clarified that Steve is my favorite neighborhood dog. He barks like a ferocious canine protecting his property, but he is really a lovable pooch with responsible owners who never let him run free or do his business indiscriminately.

Sadly, not all pet owners are as conscientious, when it comes to making sure their dogs don’t infringe on the rights of others. In the most extreme cases, we have seen the horrifying accounts about a loose dog viciously attacking an innocent victim resulting in death or serious injury.

But what about that pesky poop, irresponsible dog walkers leave on sidewalks, at the park, or even at a strip mall? First, please know I am a consummate dog lover, even though I do not have the pleasure of owning one. Yet dogs are a lot like toddlers. When they are well-behaved, they are delightful. When they’re screaming and throwing a temper tantrum, in dog talk – incessantly barking or rummaging through the trash, you probably prefer not to be around them.

The big difference though is that most toddlers wear diapers, while dogs are dependent on the sensitivity of their keepers to handle the disposal of their doo-doo. If you Google the word “doo-doo,” which by the way I’ve never used in any other column in the past two decades, the result is “excrement.” Google dictionary’s sentence usage example is, “They should fine people if they are not carrying a bag for their dog’s doo-doo.” I have to agree with Google on this one. Some organizers have even advertised events titled, “Scoop the Poop,” campaign.

For instance, in my own subdivision I watched helplessly as a little one on a trike, was pedaling full-speed into the path of a large pile of you-know-what left on the sidewalk by a careless owner. Another time in a strip mall parking lot just off I-75, an older lady with a large breed of dog, negligently allowed him to leave his own oversized memento in a tiny dirt filled island with a sole tree in an asphalt parking lot.

The entire time he was doing his business, the woman glanced around surreptitiously, fully comprehending what she was doing was wrong, since she had no intention of cleaning up after her pet. Besides, canine waste can contain roundworms, transmit diseases, and the high protein content in dog food can also cause the waste to be acidic and harmful to plants or even grass according to various Internet sites.

Some municipalities do have ordinances and impose hefty fines for inconsiderate people who leave waste behind. For example, in New York City the problem has become monumental. In May 2017, an article in the New York Post, “De Blasio pledges crackdown on dog poop” reported, “Dog owners who leave pet poop on city sidewalks better cut the crap — or face hefty fines!”

Several months later, another New York Post article claimed that little momentum had been gained in the effort to keep the streets where millions of dogs reside, as a feces free zone. Let’s face it, it can be rather difficult to find out which canine culprit left what, and where. One answer is DNA testing which is being employed in certain areas. Although effective, feces forensics might not be cost-effective at about $100 a sample.

But ordinances shouldn’t have to be officially adopted or enforced. If we are concerned citizens and good neighbors, we should be courteous and responsible when it comes to pet excrement. “Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy,” according to 19th century philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

To heed Emerson’s charge, dog walkers simply need a plastic bag to collect their pet’s waste, and then dispose of it in the garbage or a toilet minus the bag. Will you join the “Scoop the Poop” campaign today? Just think of that tiny child on his little trike headed for disaster, and me, too slow to stop it.

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and Inspirational speaker. Her novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife, will be available soon. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Wings for a Grieving Traveler

mothers-day

Mother’s Day is upon us. Like me, you might be missing your mom. There are also mothers experiencing the painfully unnatural grief of missing children. After all, we assume that someday we will bury our parents, but never anticipate having to grieve the death of a child.

Mother’s Day spent mourning a lost loved one can be an especially, treacherous emotional sea to navigate. Maybe though, your mother or child didn’t die, instead circumstances have somehow estranged you. Life can be complicated, but personally I believe in happy endings.

That’s why I’m a sap for sentimental movie plots like the traditional boy gets the girl or a stranded puppy finds their way home. The holiday classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” always thrills me when a rather bumbling angel named Clarence finally gets his wings.

Although, I must admit I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of a happy ending on that awful afternoon almost eight years ago. I sat rigidly in my cramped seat on an airplane trying not to cry. As I gazed at the oblivious passengers, the business flyers looked weary, but other folks seemed animated traveling for pleasure and family excursions.

Family. That was my problem. My 78-year-old mother, Glenna Sprang, had died suddenly the day before. An accomplished organist, Mom played two church services on Sunday morning. Later that afternoon, pain from a kidney stone gone terribly wrong caused her to be rushed by ambulance to a Philadelphia hospital. By Wednesday afternoon, I stood helplessly at her bedside watching my mother breathe her last breath, just as she had been with me when I breathed my first.

Glenna Giesken Sprang

Glenna Giesken Sprang

I felt isolated by grief, as I traveled back to Ohio to be with family until her funeral. Being a Christian speaker by profession, my mother had left a written request that I “preach” her funeral, if I was able. I was honored by her last wish, but my heart was broken, and I had no idea how I was going to do it.

That’s when a forty-something flight attendant who I’ll call Dan, pulled his beverage cart next to my aisle seat. The seasoned steward shared the same reddish hair color that my four brothers and sister have. The color that caused them to be teased ruthlessly when we were kids.

At that very moment, an obnoxious traveler was mercilessly making fun of Dan’s hairstyle. I gave the flight attendant a sympathetic look, but the undaunted steward defiantly threw his head back while laughing profusely. For the first time in several days, I laughed, too. Suddenly, Dan looked deeply into my exhausted eyes and sounding concerned asked, “Are you going home?”

“My mom just died,” I blurted out. Instantly, I was embarrassed that I had burdened a stranger with my grief.

“It will get better,” Dan said encouragingly. He then shared the story of losing his own mother some years earlier promising me that time would ease my heartache.

It was a short flight, with the airline attendant being busy for the rest of the trip. Minutes before landing safely on the runway, Dan made his way back to my seat at the rear of the plane. Then he ceremoniously handed me a pin shaped like a pair of golden wings. “Now, you can say, you got your wings at the same time as your mother got hers,” he said with a boyish grin.

When I arrived home, I placed my “wings” on the vanity’s top in my bedroom. The following week, I fulfilled my mother’s last wish of preaching her funeral describing her courageous life with the Scripture, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” [2 Timothy 4:7]

Then I allowed myself to grieve. During those difficult months, every time I looked at the golden wings, I clung to Dan’s promise that time would lessen the pain and that someday my broken heart would begin to heal.

There’s another promise that also gave me great hope. It’s the one found in the thought-provoking movie released recently “I can only imagine.” Of course, I still miss Mom, but I’m no longer overwhelmed by earthly sadness, instead I’m excited about seeing her again someday in Heaven where she is now experiencing incomprehensible joy. Mom and me

If you are the one grieving inconsolably, hang on, time can be a great gift in healing grief. For me, it has gotten better, just as the flight attendant promised. In reality, I know that Dan was probably just a compassionate cabin steward, but to a brokenhearted traveler, he seemed like an angel in disguise.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist and Inspirational speaker. Her book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors, is available through her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com 

 

Remembering a Brave Prom King

Corsage and CrownMost people attend a prom or two, but I’ve attended lots of proms. Like most teenage girls, as a high school junior, I was excited about the prospect of my first prom. Truthfully, it wasn’t much fun, since the boy I had a crush on didn’t ask me.

My senior prom was monumentally worse. By then, I was a patient at Toledo State Mental Hospital following an almost fatal suicide attempt. After spending a couple months in a private psychiatric ward, my insurance ran out. I was committed to the decaying institution that then housed thousands of mentally ill individuals. Before Mental Health reform, that horrible place was reminiscent of the one depicted in the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Battling depression and an eating disorder, I looked more like a 17-year-old Holocaust victim than a carefree teenager. The psychiatrist granted me a weekend pass hoping that attending prom would lift my spirits. My date was a classmate who suffered from epilepsy. He must have empathized with my situation, and proudly escorted me to the prom ignoring the stares from a few overly-curious students.

Fast forward three decades to May 2002, when my life looked nothing like that struggling teen. Faith, education, and the support of a few encouraging mentors had positively changed my circumstances. I was also engaged to a wonderful man who was a school administrator, whose job necessitated that we chaperone prom. Never having had an opportunity to go to prom together, Larry and I decided to don a tuxedo and gown and make it our night, too. Larry and me

Since then, my husband and I have attended quite a few proms. The impressive decorations, twinkling lights, and colorful dresses, still take my breath away. But the prom I remember most vividly is the one when a precious senior who was dying of bone cancer was elected prom king. It was the last year that my spouse served as a middle/high school principal at a rural school in northwestern Ohio.

We had all come to love this quiet dark-haired youth whose given name was Anthony-Dillon James. Better known as A.J., he had waged a long and valiant battle against Osteosarcoma. For nine months, he was spot-free, but then the disease turned deadly. Despite his illness, A.J. was compassionate and wise beyond his years.

Somehow in a tight-knit community where folks have known each other forever, tragedy is worse, because everyone is affected. Prom wouldn’t have been prom without A.J. being there, and he knew it. Even though, it had been months since the senior had been able to attend school, he mustered all his strength and accompanied by his dedicated fiancée`, he showed up looking handsome in a white tuxedo.

As the disc jockey played pulsating music, the students danced energetically, while silently grieving the inevitable loss of the fun-loving youth who had always been part of them. When his classmates voted for their prom king, I shouldn’t have been surprised  when A.J.’s name was announced.

There was a moment when the reality of the high school student’s dismal prognosis hit me full force. It happened when a pretty senior asked if she could take a picture with him, and they  posed humorously cheek to cheek with toothy grins. What A.J. didn’t see, was that when the blonde turned away, her expression crumbled into a painful grimace. She had taken the photo as a memory of the boy she had probably known since kindergarten, realizing he would soon be gone. Like a trained actress, before she turned to face A.J. again, the golden-haired girl mustered her courage and smiled brightly. Her affection for her terminally-ill classmate wasn’t romantic love driven by adolescent hormones. Rather it was the kind of caring that country kids take for granted growing up in a close circle of friendship.

When my husband and I visited him for the last time, A.J. sensed that my heart was breaking. He smiled his dazzling smile, and said, “I’ll be okay.” Then the 18-year-old lifted his T-shirt sleeve and displayed a large tattoo of a compassionate Jesus. A visual reminder of the Bible’s promise, “I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”

That July, the bravest prom king I’ve ever known took his last Earthly breath. Still, he lives on in the hearts of those he inspired, forever wearing a white tuxedo and a jeweled crown.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an AP & Amy award-winning journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Defending the local newspaper

Newspapers have changed significantly in my lifetime. If you’re a millennial or younger, you might not realize what an integral part of daily existence the newspaper once was, and why it continues to be important, especially in the local community. To clarify, I’m not on staff at any newspaper, nor do my meager wages as a freelance columnist cause me to write about this topic. Instead because of my training as a journalist, I feel compelled to stand up for the medium that has been such a vital part of American life, and is categorized by so many as obsolete. Or maybe it’s due to the fact that I recently watched the movie, “The Post” which is a profound reminder of the crucial role newspapers played in shaping history.

“The Post [is] a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents,” reports www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_post/. Based on a 1971 true story, most movie viewers will be impressed by the courage of these long-ago journalists and of their pioneering female publisher who risked both their reputations and monetary success to inform the public.

My own career in journalism began at the Wapakoneta Daily News as a reporter/associate editor before I had even finished college. Then as a senior at Bluffton University (then college) I was thrilled to land an internship at The Lima News during the 1981-82 academic year. Yet an intern’s position is pretty low down on the food chain in a news organization.

Mike Lackey

That’s why I was surprised to be invited to a summer 2017 reunion for Lima News staff from the early 1980s. Even though I had spent the academic year writing stories under the direction of then city editor Mike Lackey, I was a little overwhelmed by the invitation. Back then, I had little contact with the newsroom staffers, and some had gone on to achieve rather impressive things. In the end, I decided to attend more out of curiosity and respect than any sense of belonging.

That July afternoon in Lima’s Faurot Park, I have to admit I felt that same awe that I did over 35 years ago as a cub reporter. There were journalists who were or had been on staff at The (Toledo) Blade, Dayton Daily News, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, while others had migrated to a career providing more security becoming educators, a business owner, and even a lawyer. There was also a wheelchair, a leg brace, a walker, and lots of gray hair in attendance that summer day, because these men and women of the press had grown older.

Troy Daily News

Those who stayed in the rapidly changing industry, whether on staff at a metro or small-town newspaper, the reporters, photographers, sportswriters, and editors, etc., all had one thing in common. They had spent their entire professional careers disseminating breaking news and telling the stories of everyday people who are at the heart of every community, while striving to be accurate, unbiased tellers of truth.

But back to the folks who question the newspaper’s relevance in a world where national media outlets stream live reports on our electronic devices in real time. They are overlooking the key point that whether you follow liberal or conservative media outlets, the “local” newspaper remains a watchdog for “local” government and educational agencies. It is also the primary source of a community’s noteworthy information.

The newspaper’s in flux. With increased workloads and decreased staff, still each day the newspaper arrives in electronic and printed form, telling the stories of a “local” teen who gets a new heart, of a “local” business expansion or a school board meeting, and even the sad news of the passing of “local” citizens. The word “local” is the operative adjective here.

In the end, the newspaper has had to change, and will continue to, probably more rapidly than any other media form. Adjustments like: having a digital focus, social media presence, fewer printed pages, being video savvy, while endeavoring to remain profitable. Despite the challenges, starry-eyed young journalists continue to join the ranks with veteran staffers. So, to all my noble comrades in ink, I salute you for keeping your communities informed.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. She is a contributing columnist for Troy Daily News, Piqua Daily Call, and Sidney Daily News. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering a forever young barista

A couple of decades ago, if anyone would have said that people would routinely cough up three or four dollars for a specialty cup of coffee, most folks wouldn’t have believed it. Yet today, it’s commonplace for countless individuals to hand over about that much for their favorite latte, steaming cappuccino, or creamy smoothie.

According to www.foxnews.com, a report from Acorns Money Matters records that “the average American spends approximately $1,100 a year– or $3 each day– on coffee.” But it’s not solely about the beverage, it’s about everything that goes along with it.

Best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, believes that atmosphere has a lot to do with profitability. In his book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, Sweet writes, “Starbucks built an assumption-shattering business by selling an irresistible experience along with every cup of coffee.” “In 2017, there were 13,930 Starbucks stores in the U.S.,” reports www.statista.com. “The total number of Starbucks stores worldwide has almost doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017.”

According to www.amazon.com, “Leonard Sweet shows you how the passion that Starbucks® has for creating an irresistible experience can connect you with God’s stirring introduction to the experience of faith in The Gospel According to Starbucks.” As for the coffee shop itself, Sweet attributes the décor, “appealing music,” and a “melody of complex coffee smells” as contributing to the Starbucks “sensory feast.” If we think deeply, that’s part of the pleasure that we find in most coffee shops whether an independent or chain. We aren’t merely buying a $2.00 cup of java or a more expensive specialty drink, but there’s something else we’re also purchasing. Dr. Sweet explains, “…coffee is a hospitality drink, a sign of welcome and openness to sharing.” It can be invigorating to sit in a coffee shop with a friend and connect in meaningful conversation. Of course, often we’re in a real rush and want our coffee in a hurry.

On other occasions, we visit a coffeehouse, because we not only want something to drink, but the sensation that we are of some significance in this normally impersonal world. A great barista can make a customer feel noticed and appreciated, even though technically their job is simply to politely prepare a tasty beverage.

And that’s how I met Kaitlin. Some years back, I decided to grab a coffee after my husband and I transplanted to a new area. I had been grocery shopping, and was feeling a little lonely and displaced in the way moving has of doing. I was pleasantly taken off-guard by the brunette barista’s thoughtfulness when I initially visited the grocery’s Starbucks kiosk.

While still efficiently getting her work done, the young employee acted like she had all the time in the world for me. That I was the most important customer of her day, even though I was an older lady who had trouble deciding what I wanted. This trait can be annoying to most milennials, but Kaitlin didn’t seem to mind. Maybe because I never had a daughter, I felt privileged that she smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see me whenever I showed up at her counter.

Somehow, the dedicated barista made me feel connected to my then new community. Kaitlin and I would chat a few minutes, while she prepared my drink, if she wasn’t busy. I never knew her last name, or much about her personal life except about her schooling, but I was thankful for our friendly connection during my time of transition. It was a gift, and I’m sure she made countless other customers feel that they were special, too. Then I moved again, and lost track of her.

But two years ago in December, I saw Kaitlin’s winning smile again. Tragically, this time it was in an obituary photo. I learned her last name, and that this vibrant young lady with so much potential, didn’t have all the time in the world. At only 24, she had lost a battle to cancer. I was deeply saddened by the monumental loss of such a gentle soul for all her loved ones. For me, there had been no chance to say, “Good-bye,” or to express my appreciation.

So, Kaitlin Osborne, this long overdue column is for you. It’s also for every barista who tries each day to do more than their job by genuinely caring about their customers, just like you did. Forever young barista, your life truly made a difference, and your kindness will always be remembered. Thanks for taking time to brighten the world, if only for a short while!

 

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. Her first novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife, will be released this spring. 

 

The Japanese Ladies’ Lesson

When I look out of my kitchen window I can see the back of Miho’s house. For a long time after she was gone, when evening’s darkness would settle over the neighborhood and the timed lights would turn on in the empty home, I would imagine she was still inside clearing the supper dishes. I did the same thing for weeks when the school bus would come in the morning to pick up the children who live nearby. As was my daily habit, I would gaze out the same window absentmindedly searching for Tetsu and Haru’s faces among the little ones. Then with sadness, I would remember that they had returned to their native country.

The then 10-year-old twins had grown rapidly through the years as our neighbors. But their father’s U.S. work assignment was finished, and it was time for the family to go back to the country where the boys had been born, where their extended family would surely be anxiously awaiting their arrival, and where their years in America would become a memory of a season past.

Their home in Japan, a nation over 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, greatly contrasted the lifestyle they had experienced in Ohio. I would learn much from Miho during the time we were able to spend together, despite our busy schedules. Language was a barrier in the beginning, but that barrier was bridged by the kindred spirit that we shared. Miho was not my first Japanese friend though. It was Kyoko, whom I originally met in an exercise class at the YMCA, who paved the way for me to understand how courageous the Japanese families who live among us, up and down I-75 are. The women are especially brave, because while their men find identity and professional camaraderie in their workplace, the ladies must find their own purpose in a country that is so foreign to their own.

Their children also have to learn to assimilate into a school setting with a language and customs dissimilar to what they’ve known. Yet it is often said that children are more adaptable than adults when it comes to change. Still, that’s not always the case, as I’ve heard stories about little ones crying themselves to sleep at night, overwhelmed by change.

As for the sense of loss and displacement that children and adults can both experience when they are thrust into a different environment, we commonly refer to this condition as homesickness. Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist, who is a University of Alabama associate professor sees this phenomenon in college freshmen. According to a post on www.hercampus.com, “Dr. Klapow stresses that it’s important to recognize that homesickness is a very normal reaction to periods of rapid change and adjustment…people misinterpret what exactly it means to be homesick. It’s not about missing home – [your] house, [your] bed. Very often it’s about missing what’s normal and comfortable, what we’re used to, and not quite being comfortable with our new way of life.”

Yet, Kyoko and Miho shared a common trait that enabled them to find friends, and rewarding outlets and activities, while in the United States. They both sought diligently to master the English language, even though this can be a daunting challenge. By personality, they were also extremely friendly, willing to try new challenges and social situations, and accepting of others. I miss both of these dear ladies, but they left me with an important lesson about being aware of the transplanted individuals in our communities, not only the Japanese, but others who might be struggling with feelings of isolation.

Unfortunately, in recent history, due to terrorism, senseless mass shootings in general, and the Opioid crisis, we have become suspicious of anyone we don’t know. Sadly, now this distrust is even within our churches. There is legitimate cause for this fear, and we need to use wisdom and keep ourselves and our children as safe as possible.

But at the end of the day, we can’t let fear dictate our daily interactions with those who live, work, or worship among us. We need to reach out with hospitality and acceptance, and fight fear with faith. After all, this is America, “the home of the free and the land of the brave.”

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Ohio APME and Amy award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife will be released in 2018. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

The Grandness of Grandparenting

The other day I saw a newer SUV with the bumper sticker, “Dog Grandma.” I was surprised that someone would announce their identity as the proud grandparent of a canine to the world. Yet most people are passionate about something and when it comes to grandchildren, even four-legged ones, this is a frequently discussed topic among boomers [born between 1946-1964] and beyond. Generations X [born 1965-1976] also comprise a significant segment of those who have raised children and are now becoming proud grandparents. For proof of bragging rights, take a few minutes and randomly scroll through your social media accounts to see the countless posts and photos about grandkids.

For instance, as soon as I opened Facebook the other day, the first post I saw was one of those too-cute-not-to-read stories and it was written by my Facebook friend, Terry Pontius. Terry is a retired Ohio United Methodist pastor, who titled his post, “The joy of being a Grandpa.” Here’s the story: “Today our 5th Grader Grandsons, Jack and Luke, invited Grandpa and Grandma to their school lunch. I crammed my knees under the kid-high table and wedged onto the small, round seat. Halfway through lunch I commented to Luke, “What if I get stuck here? I’ll have to eat cafeteria food the rest of my life!”

Luke smiled and replied, “They have really good pizza on Fridays!”

Terry’s experience gave me a good chuckle, because as the late TV host, Art Linkletter, used to say, “Kids do say the darndest things.” The truth is even though I am definitely in the grandparent age demographic, I don’t have any stories of my own to tell or photos to post, because I’m not a grandmother. When I was a young mother, I assumed that someday I would be a grandma, but life doesn’t always turn out like we assume.  Although most relatives and friends my age, former school classmates, and older work acquaintances have entered this second stage of enjoying children that are the offspring of their own children. Their faces almost beam in an otherworldly sort of way when they affectionately share tales of their grandkids.

Also, if  you ask someone you meet if they have any grandchildren, be prepared for them to just happen to have a few, which will turn into a couple of dozen photos on their cellphone. The love a grandparent displays for the young ones who are of their bloodline can be almost comical. Have you ever seen a big burly-looking older man gently holding the tiny hand of his grandchild? After all, a grandkid can reduce the gruffest male to a doting puddle of emotions.

Since I’m not a grandparent, there were a few years when I was envious of others who were. I had to emotionally work my way through that, because as human beings we have to adjust to whatever life brings. Of course, I still could be some day, but truthfully I’ve come to realize there are a variety of distressing situations that grandparents can encounter.

First, some individuals, through no fault of their own, don’t have the opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren. Whether due to a broken family tie, geographical distance, or another unfortunate scenario, a grandparent either has no relationship or a very limited one. I have listened to the lament and grief not seeing grandchildren can cause. There are even court proceedings revolving around grandparents’ rights.

Secondly, there are self-sacrificing folks who have custody of their grandchildren, and their ranks are growing due to our country’s opioid crisis. “Nationwide, 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren, and about one-fifth of those have incomes that fall below the poverty line, according to census figures,” reports the PBS News hour in a Feb. 16, 2016 article by Alejandra Cancino. (AP) I admire these noble people who have given up their expectations for a peaceful empty nest or quiet retirement, and have opened their hearts and homes to their displaced grandchildren. They are everywhere, and they are a reminder of what the word “family” truly means.

When it comes to grandparenting, it’s been enough for me to live vicariously through other folks’ grandchildren, especially on social media. I enjoy seeing your grandkids eat their first piece of birthday cake, play with their dolls or trucks, or to read the funny stories they come up. So grandparents, please keep posting!

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy award-winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. She is a two-time Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor who has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Her novel, Secrets of the Pastor’s Wife will be released in the near future. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

Purses, junk drawers, and too much stuff

Most Americans own a lot more material possessions than they need. According to professional organizer, Regina Lark, “The average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.” (Los Angeles Times)  Although, sometimes I feel like all this stuff is in my purse.

My personal obsession with minimalizing began when my husband and I downsized about four years ago. When you have a designated amount of space, you have to learn how to use that space wisely. Besides, watching the TV show, “Hoarders,” is a pretty frightening reality check about what can happen if one accumulates massive amounts of unnecessary items.

Taking walks in my neighborhood is also beneficial, because there are countless homes I pass with open garages overflowing with who-knows-what. Apparently, “25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle.” (U.S. Department of Energy) I thought I was keeping my own admiration for knick-knacks in check, until a first-time visit from a family member recently. I had scrubbed and dusted for days, and was proud of my sparkling clean home when the first thing out of my relative’s mouth was, “There are a lot of tchotchkes in here.” Believe me, the statement wasn’t meant to be rude, it was merely an observation. I didn’t know what a “tchotchke” was, but I could tell it wasn’t good.

“What’s a tchotchke,” I asked nervously.

The answer, “knick-knacks,” confirmed my worst fear. I am still a collector of too much stuff. There was no truer validation of this than the junk drawer in my kitchen. When it was opened, often it had to be forced shut. In my defense, I’m pleased to report that many individuals have an unorganized junk drawer in their home. I ascertained this interesting fact through another one of my unscientific Facebook surveys. Dozens of respondents shared about their junk drawers, while some did qualify that they organized their junk drawers. Others commenting protested that a junk drawer would not be a junk drawer, if it was organized. Still, I had to do something about mine, because whenever I searched for a bread tie, magic marker, roll of tape, etc., it was an indictment of my disorganized housekeeping. Like some other folks in the informal survey, I bought various-sized plastic trays to place inside the drawer and filled each tray with specific-like items. I learned this tip from professional organizer, Olive Wagar. Now, the drawer is perfectly arranged, but I’m wondering how long this will last.

That said, I also wonder if there is any hope for my purse, because I don’t think dollar store trays will help. Unfortunately, I’m one of those women who keeps you waiting in the checkout line, while I dig at the bottom of my purse for loose change. After all, everything is in there somewhere.  The purse situation called for another survey, so I asked my Facebook friends if their purses are neatly arranged or chaotic like mine, even though I diligently try to keep it tidy. One honest lady used the words, “hot mess” to describe the inside of her purse, while another used the term, “black whole.” Yet, the majority of the 71 comments either expressed their opinion that they had very organized handbags, or “overall” their purses had everything in its perfect place.

This survey might have been tragically flawed. Most women who have untidy purses are probably not too willing to share that when they stick their hand inside of it, they are unsure what will come out. A junk drawer is one thing, but a purse negatively reflects its owner, and in our brand-conscious society maybe the outside label, even more than the disorganized inside. For instance, the other day I was in a retail store buying a pair of “Grandma” slippers. An attractive young woman with an impressive designer shoulder bag stood in line behind me. I clutched my worn pleather (fake leather) bag close to my body, trying not to envy or feel diminished by this youthful style setter.

Therein lies the problem with the purse. Sometimes, women judge other women or even themselves by their handbag. This war of the purses has to stop. And it will in my little world, as soon as I get my hands on a designer handbag exactly like trendy fashionista. Just kidding, it’s me and my messy, faithful, pleather purse to the end.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning  freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. She is also a two-time Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor, who has been featured on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.