Category Archives: Cha Cha Cha Changes

Are You Ms. Letters?

Are You Ms. Letters?

“At Midnight, even bad days come to an end.” —MsMoem.com

 

Ninety-nine percent of the time I am not naked when I write my blogs. I guess that begs an explanation.

With meticulous detail, I dressed this morning, a new blouse, my cutest crème colored jacket with the cool belt that ties in the front, and my best Antonio Melani slacks. I took extra time with my eye makeup, careful to enhance my blue eyes. I even wore my best bra, not that anyone ever sees one of my bras, but I just wanted that extra confidence boost you have when you know the girls are up in the general vicinity where they belong.

When I arrived at the restaurant where I was meeting my manager for lunch, I jumped out of the car eager to be on time. The only parking place was on Sheridan Avenue, after all, it was Bricktown, Oklahoma City; there is never any parking. A man in a big truck squeezed into the last shaded spot; I inched into the last sunny spot.

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Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

Mary and the Teeth Gnashers

 

It seems to me that if there is a bad taste in your mouth, you should spit it out. You don’t constantly swallow it back.”  Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006

 

Hours on end we sat on those hard pews looking up at the minister.  We listened, my girlfriends and I.  Week after week we learned and prayed and wondered why.  And, why not?

The Good Book was read to us and by us, stories that left us out. We felt less than. God was male, disciples were men, preachers were all men, deacons were men, and choir directors were all men. We felt less than.

So few examples to look to, to emulate. Women were revered because they were obedient and docile. From the bible, it seems the only way for a woman to redeem herself as worthy was to give birth multiple times and preferably to male children.

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I am grateful for the bible stories that do tell other stories of women.  We see the perseverance and divine insight of Anna, the faith of Mary Magdalene which lead to healing of her chronic illness, Pilot’s wife warning her husband of her powerful dream about Jesus, “this innocent man”(which he ignored).  The story of Priscilla was encouraging, as she was chosen by Paul to shepherd a church he left behind, and Miriam who questioned authority and helped Moses lead the Hebrew people to the Promised Land.

There were too few of these stories and unless you excavated them, you never even heard them.

It’s sad when you remember where value was placed when many of us were girls. It was accepted as just the way things were. Girls grew up understanding their worth, and later as adults hid the hurt because mentioning it brought on not just opposition, but wrath. Not only from men, but sadly from other women.

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Where We Came From

Where We Came From

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

 

In the late afternoon I walk out in the garden and step under the Weeping Balsam trees; feathery very low hanging branches brush my skin and I marvel the trees do not fall forward. True to form, the Morning Glories have shriveled back into themselves and the Hydrangeas look like they could use a long drink.

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The little red, citrine, melon, and blue, glass garden lights are glowing.  They bring a smile to my face, primarily because they are so pretty they make me feel like I have entered Fantasia, but also because I have failed twice at setting the timer for them to come on at night as they should.

I was well into my thirties before I ever planted a single plant. I used to kvetch to my Mom that she always wanted me to “grub in the dirt” with her. Gardening was just not my thing back then.  I was my thing back then.

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An Ordinary November Day

An Ordinary November Day

“Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” ― Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

One plain ordinary day in November can change you forever.  You can have dinner; sit down to once again dull that rational part of your brain with mindless television, and it can happen.  Your life can change forever.

I am the same me that I was in the October, the same me I was when I was forty eight, the same me I was last week.  Aren’t I?  No, I don’t feel the same now, not at all.

I remember October, back when I was me.  I was out in the garden late in the afternoon when a colossal gust of wind whipped around me and almost tossed me into the pool. The evening was sooo perfect, the late sun shimmering on the water and that burgundy coleus smiling up at me.  I looked out toward the buoyant elephant ears waving back and forth.  Seeing the wind’s effect on the pool, I attempted to catch the scene with my new camera, the only one I’ve had that requires thinking. (A little late in life to start that habit.)

As I focused on the picture I wondered if that particular gust of wind had ever washed over me before. Where does it go? How far does that same gust of wind travel?  Does it circle around to the other side of the world and then come back?  Did that delightful Massaman curry scent from dinner a couple weeks ago just float through London on its way back to Bryant Street in Edmond?

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Is it possible the same wind could touch you twice?  Could that wind that swept through your hair as you played in the leaves with your nieces so many years ago, the wet breeze that chased you through the parking lot at Rose State the day you won third place in the writing contest,  and that cold current you felt when your life stopped right after dinner be the same wind? Could the wind go all the way back to yesterday when you were still you?

I go back to the words, read my own, and once again see that sad square box that holds me, confines me, and gives me a wretched deceptive sense of security.  No, I won’t be that prim little middle class Pollyanna.  Not anymore.

I didn’t ask for the rose colored glasses and I hate the square box; I am done.  This practice of writing has caused decisive hairline fractures in the box and some of the cloistered me is trickling out.

At the checkout stand in the grocery store I swiped my credit card for payment and the lit words appeared on the screen, asking me if I wanted debit or credit.  I saw a word that surprised me.  Flashing on the screen was “procrastinating–procrastinating”.  What it actually said was processing– processing.  Yes, I was doing both.

So, I slowly allow my tired eyes to see what they never wanted to; my unsteady heart both dreading and wanting the painful truth.  I wish I could unknow this truth, but realize I cannot escape the pain. It does not come all at once; by degrees I let it come.  I have to bear the catastrophe.  I cannot go back and be the fair-haired Pollyanna; I never liked the stupidamnshitty girl anyway.

When I was young I thought I was invincible and invisible and did anything I thought I was big enough to do. I constantly surprised myself.  What happened to that girl with freedom of spirit?  I need her now.  Where is she?  This me-is drained of spirit and light. This me-is in the dark and angry.

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Just get ready for work I tell myself; do what you do each day. Without the ability to focus I am scattered, can’t steady my legs under me which shake uncontrollably.  Just brush your teeth-you can do that, I tell myself.  I look down in the sink and see a fly lying there on her back struggling frantically to right her posture. She and I are the same.  She just wants to survive the day, just function, just feel normal.  Not drown in a stream of sad reality.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  I will not be consumed by this dark hurt; I don’t want scar tissue to build up on my heart.  I will not give over to despair-often. On this ordinary day I will do what I do each day; I will turn inward to God.

“The whole problem with people is…they know what matters, but they don’t choose it…The hardest thing on earth is choosing what matters.” ― The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blink, and One Year is Gone

Blink, and One Year is Gone

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

Begonias are fading, the little button plant’s eyes are closing, enormous elephant ears are going back to the earth and we already feel a chill in the morning air-way too soon.

I love the now and savor the Holy in it.  I walk out in the garden touching each plant, thanking them for their perseverance, their strength – their contribution to my world full of soft summer.

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Is it dread of change I feel with the fading of the summer, some dying some holding on? Always I am trying to make more of the present, and yes holding on with great thankfulness.

Time creeps up and it’s been a year since I started sharing my heart with you.  I thank those who just drop in from time to time, and much gratitude to you weekly followers, my patient tutors who comment, encourage, disagree, and suggest.

The year of blogging has shown me much.  Posts I thought were not so special turned out to be favorites of yours.  A handful that meant more to me had lower readership. The most private one I wrote and the most difficult to write is still the one read most often.

Most of you find delight in the same silly things I do, many thanks for comments that gave me the ear to ear grin.   I know some of your heartaches and stresses; I am sad with you and you have my prayers.

From across the globe, Costa Rica, Germany, Vietnam,  France, Russia, the UK, Bolivia , Brazil, South Korea, and here in the US, you teach me that what we share is larger than what we do not.

On this showy pre-fall morning after a remarkably gentle summer, not doing the work that pays, but pulled always to this exercise in expression, I am humbled by the year past. IMG_0703   A wild love for the written and spoken word prodded me and keeps me here.  I can feel and taste each phrase.  I tuck them away to pluck out later when my spirit runs dry.

These writings, little meditations with God, are only crude thanksgiving. The title I chose for my observations, “Holy and Not so Much”, has proved true. Has my writing caused God to start stress eating?  Are the church elders tearing their clothes and gnashing their teeth? In spite of these possibilities, I carry on.

The  gifts  I  receive  from  the  writing  are overwhelming. The gift is in the writing-the crafting of each sentence, acquiring a new depth of honesty, birthing a willingness to be transparent, the assurance it has been time well lived, and recognizing the Holy in each day.  I am grateful to you for sharing your lives and for this opportunity.

Special thanks to Monica, my daughter in spirit, for illuminating the path and believing I had something worth sharing.

The look and format of the blog have changed. You will see it is very much a work in progress.  When we imported the archived blogs to my site some of them turned out a bit—woogity. We will eventually correct these issues, I think. For now, it is easier to sign up as a follower, I’ll suggest great reads, share more of my dodgy photography, there is a new a search feature, comments should be simpler to post and my new site is full of livin’ color!

And a few surprises. .   There may even be an occasional post from the Sweetie!

The Big Wind-After

The Big Wind-After

May 20th,  2013 is a benchmark day, one we’ll mark time by from now on. They’ll say “It was the month after that second F5 tornado hit Moore.” or “Nothing will grow in that spot since the F5.” and “He was born the year of the F5.”

 

When I report to the volunteer center in Moore I assume I will be assigned one of the cushier duties, organizing donations, distributing meals and water or making boxed lunches.  I am not the most robust appearing individual. But no, they take one look at me, thrust a shovel toward me and announce “debris pick-up”! I don my work gloves and sun visor, exchange the shovel for a rake, and get the debris bags ready. I am assigned to work at Little River Park in Moore.

As I step down off the bus I stare out over the terrain and a feeling of utter hopelessness pours over me.  We all feel it. How can the little we are able to do possibly make a difference? We stand and survey the landscape of splintered trees, bricks, metal, tattered clothing, insulation, broken furniture, boards, dirty toys and broken glass. With miles of debris ahead; there is nothing here that resembles a park.

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Except for the large plastic jungle gym rising out of a massive mountain of rubble no one would recognize this as a place where children played the week before. Every tree is splintered; every home in the surrounding area is in ruins. No one is there now.

I rake piles of rubble, fill my big bags and deposit them onto one of the enormous piles of debris that line the landscape. This debris is so embedded, sticks, boards and metal sticking upright out of the ground, just layers and layers of it, some of which I can understand.  But, I get the feeling I am raking layers from the 1999 tornado also.

I choose to think that our group and others like ours will be of help; I keep raking. Something shiny catches my attention; it is a rearview mirror. How far did this tattered mirror travel? Whose was it? What did its owner endure? And, did they make it? We’ve learned not to stay in our vehicles, but to get out and take cover elsewhere because a vehicle not only fails to protect you, but can kill you in a tornado.

I keep raking and something that looks like pale dirty flesh tumbles out of the pile. It’s a fatally injured Barbie.  I know this is sacrilege in this part of the country, but I’ve never been a fan of hers-you don’t want to hear my rant.  Seeing her here though, headless, her skirt torn and dirty, and missing a leg, I feel sadness for the little girl who wonders where she is. Maybe a tad of empathy for poor Barbie too.  Most everything else here is hard to recognize.

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These victims must start over in the most basic way.

Can you really grasp not having any clothes to wear or even a coffee for the next day?  No cup to put it in? In 1985 I all but burned my condo down and the next day I had no clothes to wear. I do know how this feels. I remember the sinking feeling of wondering how to put my life back together and make a living at the same time.

Mother’s day at church our guest minister spoke of her childhood.  Each day as she left for school her mother would shout out after her, “Mary Kathryn, go out and find your greatness!” Her mom knew small steps each day yield a river of strength and resilience. There is a time that each of us must reach down into the rubble and find our greatness. It waits there for our courage and resourcefulness to grasp it. These victims are reaching down to the bottom of their endurance.

Can you feel the horror and ache of families missing loved ones for days?  A few years ago my beloved cat, Hootie, was missing for five days.  I lost my mind.  He was a cat. I cannot begin to know the heartache of that father whose child was taken from him while he prayed. Natalie Grant’s lyrics say it best, “This is how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive.” Yes, this is how it feels-and you are different from then on.

Hope is often born of suffering.  One news reporter showed us a huge pile of twisted rubble and metal; on closer inspection it proved to be multiple twisted vehicles-unrecognizable.  Inside one of them a light still burned several days later.  Sometimes greatness is just a flicker.

Oh God, we thank you for the gifts in our lives.  Open our eyes to see them more clearly and help us to be willing to extend ourselves for those who have lost theirs. Move us from our comfort zone to do some good today. Wrap your arms around those sad families; hold them until they know it is you. Amen

 

 

Waiting for the Big Wind

Waiting for the Big Wind

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  ― Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living

It is incredibly hot, I am sweating profusely, and I am afraid. My muscles are taut and my back aches from the strain. The sweet little dog in my lap senses my anxiety and stares at me with a knowing look. Our storm shelter is very crowded but eerily quiet; all the adults are praying.  The fear is palpable.

I’ve been in this shelter built under our garage floor before, but this time is different. This time the sweetie is with me, his first time to be in the shelter. Typically he is working twenty seven miles away so I tackle the ice storms, blizzards, earthquakes, 80 mph straight-line winds, destructive hail storms, and the horrific tornadoes that wreak havoc in central Oklahoma.

Another reason this time is different is because this tornado is two blocks from our home, and we can hear it howl.

You gain new respect for your own personal space when you are in a metal box underground with three other adults, four children under the age of ten, (two of whom are crying) an 80 pound Labrador retriever, a 24 pound terrier who has left a gift on the floor, a trembling Chihuahua, and one very nervous cat. Did I mention she still has claws?

It was not our turn this time, but tornadoes strike so often here you feel that sooner or later your number will be up. Tornadoes have begun their yearly rampage through my state; it’s practically a rite of passage. This is something I loathe, dread, and take damn seriously.

Oklahoma City is the epicenter of “tornado alley” in this country. Yep, just south of OKC, in Norman, the Oklahoma University School of Meteorology and the National Storms Laboratory pioneered state of the art tornado forecasting and tracking.

We have storm chasers reporting with moment to moment updates like nowhere in the world.  When I was in England I met a man from Spain who asked where I was from.  When I said Oklahoma he replied “Oh, you have big spinning wind?” Yes, that would be us.

May  is different here. We huddle in front of the TV frequently in the spring; glued to the screen waiting, watching, and listening for news of a new mesocyclone descending with the potential to leave devastation in its wake.

We totally get the meteorology lingo; we know what the “dry line” is, what “PDS” means, what a “sink drain” refers to, and the difference between an F-2 and an F-5.  We surely know a wall cloud when we see one and we keep an eye out for circulation.

And, we know precisely what that moment feels like when you must make a decision about what you will do, where you will go.  You have about fifteen minutes to gather yourself, your family, and pets.  It is not a drill;  it is the worst reality.   We central Oklahomans do this over and over again in the spring.

The meteorologist points to a graphic showing that at 6:30 the tornado will be four miles away, at 6:45 it will be three blocks way, and at 7:00 the stupiddamnshitty thing will be on top of you! So you gather the pets, wallet, water, boots, bike helmets, blanket, iPhone, iPad, flashlights, and head for a windowless room to put as many walls as you can between you and the funnel.

Before we got the storm shelter I would announce (despite Sweetie’s protests) that we were packing it up and heading to Baptist Hospital. Under Baptist there is a long underground tunnel locals take shelter in during tornadoes. There you’ll find people of all ages and their pets lining the halls, waiting, listening and wondering what will be left of the life they have built when they emerge.  Just a typical spring day in Oklahoma City.

These non-relenting tornado strikes are like episodes of atrial fibrillation that keep knocking the breath out of you time after time. Folks show the stress; they now have that post-tornado face. Locals know the look; these are the faces of grave loss, whose lives are forever changed. They go through their days unable to come to grips with what has blown their lives to bits. Whether or not your home is hit, the big wind opens a wound of uncertainty in your spirit.

We never dreamed that horrific 1999 scenario would be repeated May 20th, 2013 to practically the same degree, same location, and same sad path. In-ground shelters are selling like hand warmers in the tundra.  And, the brand new neighbors who just moved here from Hawaii and shared our storm shelter last Sunday—-they have already installed their own underground shelter.

 

“…I’d been caught up in some wild cyclone, like Dorothy throw into Oz, with not a good witch in sight to save me.”  ― Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon

Twenty Five Summers

Twenty Five Summers

That relentless Oklahoma City wind brought a dark cold cloud last week. Those who refer to Chicago as the windy city sure never spent a winter here! This time of year I begin to feel a familiar feeling of dread and an overwhelming desire to flee the bitter weather that is inching toward me. As I drive through my neighborhood I see golden leaves shimmer in the sunlight and know the next couple days will turn them to shriveled brown memories. A chill comes over me that generally does not cease till spring. I am not a fan of winter. In fact, winter scares me a bit. I spent the first eight years of my life in South Dakota and I know how frigid air can change your life or end it. As soon as the cold hits I undergo a transformation. I feel an ache in every part of my body, I become stiff, my muscles grow tight, I become grumpy, and poof- I am Estelle Getty complete with attitude. Summer on the other hand makes me come alive! I can walk in the park at eight o’clock at night, open the door early in the morning and not get chilled, enjoy an extra range of motion in my limbs and sit on the patio and read-just a few of the things I will not be able to do soon.

I was thinking of summer today and how few I may have left, maybe just 20 to 25. That gets your attention doesn’t it? More and more I feel such a sense of urgency about my life. I don’t want to waste the time I have left on lower things that steal my time, my energy, my peace, and my clarity of thought. I worked for a publishing house in the 1980’s and had the summers off. I used to turn the television off all summer, do volunteer work, read, write and walk. I could do without most of the television programs shown now. I don’t want to fill my head and distract my spirit with vulgar mindless prattle. The same goes for loud talking people who rattle on incessantly (regardless of what they are rattling about). I also have grown weary of those extra violent moves, and I never need to see another Transformer as long as I live. Is this how we are choosing to define our lives?

I do not think this is what God had in mind for us. That path leads to unsatisfied lives and fatigued souls. What God has in mind for us is to focus on higher things, fill our lives with books that teach and inspire, programs that both entertain and enlighten, and people who nurture their best selves and encourage us to do the same. The thing that actually matters most in this life people miss completely, doing the work of the soul. This is why we are here my friends.

I read everything I can get my hands on written by Sue Monk Kidd (author of “The Secret Life Of Bees”) who started out as a nurse and had the privilege of being present for the last moments of some of her patients’ lives. From reading her stories, their regrets were not of things they had done, but of things they had not done, of forgiving words not spoken, trips not taken, time not spent with children, and deeds not done for those in need. Marianne Williamson tells the story of a Jewish man named Arlan who dies and meets God. The man is afraid God will ask him why he was not Abraham or why he was not Joshua, but what God asked him was “Why were you not Arlan?” The strongest regret of all is for not living authentically, for not having the courage to express who we are.

Many of us fail to show ourselves, because at the end of the day we feel that cold winter wind come over us and hear that old “Not Good Enough” song playing. I’ve heard it, put it to bed and then felt it wake again. It happens to us all, but what we should remember is that we need to do absolutely nothing to be worthy. We simply are worthy just as we are and we are treasured by a loving God who sees us fully and is our biggest fan. The highest, strongest desires of our hearts are there because God placed them there and wants us to live them out. When we fall short, act like fools, cuss the dog, drop the ball at work, say hurtful things to loved ones, forget who we are, and hate ourselves for it; God is there with us and sad with us. Grace is a wonderful thing; it assures us that tomorrow we can count on God’s renewal to warm our cold tired bodies and assure our spirits that another summer is just around the corner.

60, Thick and Grateful

60, Thick and Grateful

Exactly when did I become thick in the middle? I wasn’t thick six months ago; I was mushy in the middle but not thick. Mushy I understand; I’ll be 60 this month and for 22 of those years I’ve taken Prednisone for Lupus. And although I launched a hostile take-over to get my body back five months ago, I am a senior citizen, according to AARP at least. So, I have earned the mushy. I don’t necessarily think thick comes with age, but I have seen some changes in my friends the past few years. Come to think of it, most of them are thick! Up to now I have avoided thick, it is clearly not working for me. I suppose thick is just one more in that multitude of things I will add to the joys of turning 60.

In truth, there is much to be grateful for at this “senior” threshold. Most of my parts still function really well, I pass most folks walking the trail at the park. This is in part because I inherited my Dad’s long stilt-like legs which look fine on him but ill-proportioned on me. They do however enable me to make great time on the walking trail. And, in spite of living with Lupus, Fibromyalgia and a few more autoimmune conditions-I am out there. This is not a “walk in the park” for me. Well literally it is, but not so much figuratively. Walking is always painful, sometimes very painful. Just pick a joint, go ahead any of them, yep it hurts. Or pick a muscle, yep that hurts too. I don’t saunter along either; I walk as hard and as quickly as I can for the aerobic value. I am emmensly grateful that I can walk.

I am grateful for the years I had before I turned 38, before the pain started. So many people are diagnosed with painful conditions much earlier, many in childhood. They will never know what it is like to walk 20 miles a week with no pain, or ride horseback 16 miles and feel great when you stop. I also have work that provides a livelihood which is something at this age, discrimination is alive and well and I don’t take it for granted. I am in a loving marriage with someone I look forward to seeing and who still makes me laugh each day. And I do have world class friends; I’ve never seen a more engaged, intelligent, caring, resourceful and creative group. (most of them are thick)

A huge blessing in my life at 60 is that my parents are still on this earth. I am able to see them fairly often and hope I make a difference in their lives as they go through these last difficult years. I am also grateful that inspite of all the pain and difficulties that have come my way God is still constant, my desire to know God is still constant and the renewal that affords me is priceless. I can live with the thick.