Category Archives: We Are Family

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

“The warnings grew worse, depending on the danger at hand. Sex education, for example, consisted of the following advice: ‘Don’t ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can’t stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill youself.” ― Amy TanThe Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

 

The rare advice my Mom gave did come from left field, but thank God it was not as daunting as the warnings issued by Amy Tan’s Mom. Moms will dish out advice, generally unsolicited. My Mom was a different bird; she had a unique way of seeing the world and responding to it.

Mom shared her opinions frequently but seldom words of advice. She was terribly in love with her kids and guided us the best she knew how. I found her funny and intimidating in equal measure. Some of her words of wisdom still make me howl with laughter.

You’re not old enough yet to read thatHer response after thumbing through one of my books. I was about fifty at the time.

You and your sister have terrible memories, you shouldn’t eat food with preservatives! She might be right about this one. Notice she did not say “you kids”; our brother can tell you what he ate for lunch on March 1st, 1978!

You should have your Monday Tuesday Wednesday clothes ready ahead of time! When we went on trips she insisted that we lay our “outfits” for each day out on the bed according to day for easy packing. Yes, we’re all just a tad anal.

Sometimes we have to sacrifice comfort to look pretty. The first time she said this to me I was the flower girl in a wedding. The dress was stiff fabric with an enormous thick, ruffled, barbed wire like petticoat and I wore headgear of some manner. The entire ensemble itched and scratched with every breath. Tiny Lady Gaga gone wrong. Although I confess to having worn uncomfortable clothes at times, about fifteen years ago I took them (all high heels included) to the Goodwill.

Children are to be seen and not heard. And they wonder why I’m an introvert.

It was between when we went and when we didn’t. Her recollection of when something occurred.

Hitch your wagon to a star!  When I was small, I wondered a great deal about this advice. Yes, I had a wagon, but it was nowhere near tall enough to reach that high. In hindsight, this may be why I believe in magic.

Go take a bath! This advice rendered relief for any malady. A headache, broken leg, math test the next day, broken heart, or gas.

Ladies don’t drag their bottoms on the Floor! Advice to my one-year-old Chihuahua.  Marley, fourteen now, still strongly disagrees.

Never trust a man who wears a necklaceYeah she was pretty much spot on with this one.

Wear supportive underwear or a girdle if you have wiggle-waggle on the bottom. Still wearing Bikinis Mom, and yes I know I have some wiggle-waggle.

Look at you, that’s not you! For a few years, two little boys lived next door to my folks and followed my parents everywhere they went. (to their delight) The smaller one pointed to a portrait of Mom in the bedroom and asked who it was. When Mom told him it was her, he exclaimed “Look at you. That’s not you! This became Mom’s mantra anytime we had something on she didn’t like.

Nice girls don’t kiss boys. This, as I was leaving for a hay ride with a gaggle of teenagers. Total buzz kill.

I’m not very hungry tonight. Mom was a masterful country cook, me not-so-much. Nonetheless, I did most of the cooking when I was married even though my husband was a chef. When she visited, Mom would cut up her food, stir it about on her plate and try her best not to eat it. To circumvent this display, we just told her my husband had prepared the meal.  She ate it and complimented it every time.

You can’t wear that dress, it’s so short I can almost see your twinkie. When shorter skirts came on the scene, she began this lament.

You need to gain some weight, you have no hips! Well, I have certainly have them now, in addition to several other blobs of unneeded adipose tissue. Happy Mom?

Honey, put this in your Bosom to keep your cash in at the casino. It’s worked for me. Mom’s advice to granddaughter Jessica when she moved to Niagra Falls. She handed her a tiny white fabric pouch.

Be sure and get a cute one. Her response when I told her I was adopting a child.

You don’t like to be told what to do, but everyone looks better with a little makeup. I was fifty before I ventured out of the house without makeup in fear that folks who saw me would turn to stone.

Your mouth. . .never mind. It’s too late now! Mom’s reaction to seeing my sister Jan’s smile after she had just spent a tidy sum on cosmetic dentistry.

If it has tires or testicles, you are going to have trouble with it! The best advice she ever gave me!  Amen, thanks Mom, miss you so.

 

          “When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality.

It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.” ― Erma Bombeck

 

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.

Yellow Daffodil Tiny15

Feather Tree-tiny

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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Love You Tender Memphis

Love You Tender Memphis

Now, they’ve got catfish on the table

They’ve got gospel in the air

And Reverend Green, be glad to see you

  When you haven’t’ got a prayer

But boy you got a prayer in Memphis

   “Walking in Memphis”, Mark Cohn

 

We turned up the radio to be certain we heard the news correctly. It was 1977 and we were driving back from a beach vacation passing through Memphis. Elvis had died. It was so fitting that we were in Memphis when we got the news; I had just moved to Oklahoma from Memphis and had great affection for the city.

Only Memphis could have produced Elvis with that combination of southern charm, overt but easy sexuality, down home familiarity, polite respect and deep generosity. You have to have lived there to know it.

This former small town girl loved her four years in Memphis. I remember my first week there, making my brand new husband drive me around in the rain so I could see the blurry flicker of the city lights through the window of the Maverick. My first steeped exposure to a city of any size; I was entranced.

God does place us where we need to be. What a gift, Memphis in the 70’s!

We lived in Midtown right in the heart of the city, not far from downtown where I worked. Our apartment was on the third floor right over a city bus stop and two streets over was Methodist hospital. At first I woke so many nights to the sound of the bus stopping or the ambulances arriving at the emergency room. After a few weeks I never noticed it again. Each unit was huge and included a study; we paid $80.00 per month back then.  The Dunlap Apartments were built in 1923; there was actually still a little door with a latch in the kitchen where the ice man delivered a huge block of ice for the “Ice Box” back in the day.

I was attending Memphis State University (now called University of Memphis) and he was at Southern College of Optometry, which was right across the street from our apartment. I worked at Goldsmiths department store, the main store downtown. What a wonder it was.

The store was on main street and occupied the space where the Gayoso, one of the old grand renowned hotels built in 1842 once stood. Goldsmith’s was enormous, with five floors and a full time elevator operator. The downtown store  included two restaurants, an employee’s cafeteria, a bakery, drug store, hat shop, appliances, furniture and art, clothing, salon, book store, houseware, furs, candy shop, drapery, luggage, personnel department, training department and administrative offices.  There was also a discount store in the basement, a fully operational display department and the “Enchanted Forrest”. Kids got out of school during the holidays to ride the bus downtown to see the Enchanted Forrest.

Each winter a section of the basement was transformed into a winter wonderland for kids. The white, snowy, magical décor with soft blue lights  transported kids to Santa’s world of wonder. Animatronic-like skaters and animals would spin delightfully, Santa’s elves would greet you and if you were good Santa would listen to your wishes. You could even make reservations for your child to attend “Breakfast with Santa”, an annual event held in the better of the two restaurants. Goldsmith’s was the standard department stores are still measured by today.

The things I loved then about Memphis I still do. I was there two weeks ago and felt the same quickening of my spirit I did when I lived there. It’s the city, the authentic southern values, the music, the food, the Mississippi river, the old, established neighborhoods with craftsman style homes, and that unique Memphis drawl. Memphis is an old city, founded in 1819 by John Overton, James Winchester and Andrew Jackson. Almost two centuries of both change and reverence for history have grown Memphis into a very unique city.

I stayed with my dear friend Deb while I was there, the woman who kept me sane in those early years of cultivating a career and new marriage. Just one of the things that makes Memphis stand out is that within walking distance from Deb’s home you can shop for antiques in cool old artsy shops, hear very good original music, and dine in any number and type of restaurant. You do see the bland cookie cutter chain business around town, but not as many as the unique independents. And, Deb’s neighborhood is only one of many like this.

Memories of my years in Memphis include the streakers, Overton Square and nights out on the town, the Peabody Hotel and the daily duck walk, Beale Street and timeless blues, Rick Dees on the radio, the unmatched Rendezvous barbeque experience, Overton Park with its enormous old oak trees and free concerts, and Elvis at Graceland.

A walk down a grubby alley downtown still lands you in a huge basement haven for barbeque lovers, called the Rendezvous, with its open kitchen drawing you into the experience. The staff, many of whom have worked there their entire lives, greet you donning white shirts and black bow ties with white linen towels draped over their arms. There is truly nothing that matches the flavors, the ambiance, or the unique experience.

The first place we lived was just around the corner from Sun Recording Studio on Union avenue where the greats including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Feathers, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis, recorded their iconic hits.

I never met Elvis but do have memories of him. Rumors flew one day about the Cadillac dealership one block up. Elvis had been in shopping, bought himself a new Cadillac and also bought one for a lady who was shopping.

He called our Goldsmith’s Southland store one night before Christmas and told them not to close at 9 p.m. that he was coming to shop. Goldsmith’s accommodated him. He and his entourage spent upwards of $10,000 that night back in 1976.  I know I was young and everything seemed larger than life to me at the time. But there is still something incredibly provocative about Memphis and its rhythms.

If you are old enough, think back on that time. These were the days of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell, John Denver, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Glen Campbell, and Minnie Riperton. They were days of protests, hippies, MASH, Watergate, returning Vietnam vets, Patty Hearst, pot, sit-ins, love-ins, emerging women’s lib and Peter Max.

Peace and Love

And the threads back then, nowhere in the country did you see peacocks struttin their stuff like in Memphis. Men sported stacked heels, hip-hugging, plaid bell bottoms and flare sleeve shirts. Women wore headbands and miniskirts. I still have a pair of very wide bell bottom jeans that Mom embroidered all the way up both legs for me. Can’t get my derriere in them, but still have them. Curly perms, sideburns and ‘fros were the rage, and sedans in Memphis were pimped out like crazy, driving up and down Main Street.

Memphis was about as much fun as a part cowgirl, part hippie, part serious college student, part closet writer could have. It also helped me say yes to independence, confidence, tolerance, and love for people who looked and spoke differently than I did. It was a time of discovery, creativity, questioning and revelation. It was-far out man!

What We Kept

What We Kept

“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.” ― Crystal Woods, Write Like No One Is Reading

 

I moved recently, and learned some things about myself. One of them is that I am exceedingly and rather pathetically sentimental. I found items preserved for years that reasonable adults do not to cling to.

I have two jewelry boxes, not because I have marvelous jewelry, but because they are both filled with small treasures.  The content, bits and pieces of my life.

I found name badges from jobs gone by; there were many. What do I think I can do with these?

Actually, one did come in handy on a date with a memory challenged bucket head who kept calling me Linda. I went to my car and retrieved one of them, put it on, went back into the restaurant, pointed to my name, Karen, and asked him if he thought he could just read it. Again, boy can I pick em!

There were three large copper colored sequins at the bottom of one box. These were tossed onto me by Bernadette Peters at her concert with the OKC philharmonic. To date, they have imparted no more musical talent than I had before.

Enormous peach colored, dangling, ball earrings were way back in the corner of the larger box. Dad chose these for my birthday all by himself when I was about fourteen. I also found a blue western blouse in the closet he helped me buy for a rodeo when I was in the eighth grade. The man would rather take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than shop for or with a woman. But, do I really need to cart these around for 40 more years?

Varsity Review Small

In that same closet I found a long, glittered, wildly patterned, purple dress I wore in 1972 when Kelly and I were chosen as a duo for the Varsity Revue at Oklahoma State University. I thought I’d wear it to my church’s annual Mardi Gras fund raiser.

I could get it on it on but I could not breathe-much.  I could not bend-at all. I wore stretch pants and a top.

Two little lapel pins that say “Never too Old to Rock and Roll” were in the bottom drawer along with an old ticket stub from a Kenny Loggins concert, circa 1985, marked $8.50. Under the lapel pins was a check made out on my account for one million bucks and signed by Kenny, right after he kissed me. Backstage passes-those were the days!

An extra large, very brittle, medication capsule Dad used for horses when he was in practice rolled out from the back. Really? There was a champagne stained Golden West Broadcasting bookmark signed by Gene Autry dated November 5th 1980, and a worn out “Winnie the Pooh” watch.

So many things I should have let go of years ago, like the three tiny pink buttons from my Aunt Alma’s nightgown that I wore for years. They are what is left of it.

And, evidently I am a Christmas card hoarder. Who knew? You could wallpaper the louvre with the cards I found! To my credit, I kept lovely ones. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all of them one day. . .

Three cat eye marbles rolled out of a tiny marble bag. Dad sewed Mark and I these bags himself to hold our marbles when we were kids. I can’t just toss those can I?

Examination of a crumpled, very old cocktail napkin with a really nice ink sketch on it revealed a little note on the backside that said “Someday, when I get a job, will you marry me?”  I did not.  I suspect this was kept for the ink sketch.

There was also a Christmas list sent to me by my niece Katy when she was about nine. On it, her hearts desires. At the bottom she closed with “I love you more than life itself”.

There were a couple treasured cassettes from my singing days, recorded with Howard, the singing partner of my youth. “Make the World Go Away. . .” I wonder if I even have a device to play them on now.

edited GlobThe pièce de résistance though was a glob of candle wax. Yes, I saved a glob of candle wax.  It is a particularly artful, lovely glob. I saved it not because it held a particularly warm memory from a night of extended passion, but because it was striking. I offer exhibit A, to the left.

Why do in the Lord’s world do we keep these things? Because, they give witness to our lives. It really happened. I still miss her. We were all there. It was a beautiful trip. I wish I could do that again!  I was in love then. My Mom was proud so of that!  That was so much fun. . .

Think back. What are you silly sentimental about? What did you keep?

“Sentimental blackmailing is the melodrama done by heart over our brain.” -Upasana Banerjee

Shall I Go or Shall I Stay?

Shall I Go or Shall I Stay?

There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits. Robert Southey

There have been strangers in my home for the past few weeks. I hate it. Just hate it.  My house has been on the market.

Have you sold a house lately? If not, I can tell you that the process has changed a great deal in recent years, so have the buyers.

To start with, they expect you to surrender your common sense and will to them.  This pisses me off to the absolute highest degree of pissivity.

You love your home, right?  You have updated it a little and meticulously combined styles to create the décor and ambiance you crave. When something breaks you repair it, when furniture needs moisture you polish it, when the pool needs paint you paint it.  When the carpet gets old-well we pretty much ignored that.

Everyone thinks their home is splendid; I know.  But mine really is.

I did not want to sell my house in the first place.  Draped in sunlight with windows across the entire south side-it has given me so much pleasure. I can see the garden, pool and wooded area in the back from any seat. The moment I walked into this house I knew it was the right one.  I feel grateful and blessed to have lived here. I am scrambling to find another solution, before I go broke or exit the sane world.

It has only been the past couple years since I began blogging that I recognized how necessary visual beauty is to my daily routine-how it feeds my spiritual life.

My folks were the same way. Mom had a very distinct sense of style; the artist in her needed to be surrounded by beauty. Dad positioned his easy chair right by the glass door to see the sun come up each morning over the pond and the grazing horses in the pasture. My sister also finds inspiration in her habitat; she and I both seem to need water nearby.  What would I do without that beautiful view out my back door? Yes, I would miss the beauty of this house, this treasured home.

Nothing quite prepares you for the rigors of offering your home up for public scrutiny. Nothing.

You can’t see the pool from the kitchen. What is that spot on the celling?  You have too much furniture. You have too many plants. What is wrong with that window sill?  Do you know you have discolored carpet? I think you need a new roof. Too bad the kitchen is not wired for gas. These steps really limit the number of potential buyers. You can’t have your dogs in here while we show the house. That cat food leaves an odor in the room. Take down all these Asian things. All these family pictures have to go!

My house looks like an exceedingly clean, very sterile hotel. I have no idea where my bras are.  My clients have begun to wonder if I only have three outfits. My neighbor has all my jewelry.  And, I can’t find my checkbook.

Rock Sidewalk

The house showing drill would exhaust Michael Phelps. Scrub everything that can be scrubbed. Dust anything that can be dusted. Leave nothing out on the cabinets, take out the trash, vacuum all carpet, take that stack of books off the bed, take jeans off elliptical trainer, and while you are at it-straighten the closets. Turn on all the lights in the interest of “full disclosure”. Take dishes out of sink, take shoes off coffee table, put all office files in cabinets-or clothes dryer, clean oatmeal off office desk, and sweep front porch and around pool.  Go on poop patrol in back yard. Go on poop patrol behind couch for that matter. Hide anything that could be easily taken including checks, cell phones, TV remotes, paperwork and jewelry.

Do your best to make your house smell like it is not a wild animal sanctuary.  This is very shaky territory.

Put the cat dish up, heat up the car. Did you know that when it is five degrees outside no amount of car heat is sufficient for a Chihuahua? Get the dogs into the car and go somewhere to wait for time to pass while the house is shown.  Pray. This is about as comical as it sounds.

This winter has been record cold.  So, I put sweaters on the dogs, which sounds like a simple task. For Gus it is; he actually helps by putting his head and feet through the holes for you.  Marley on the other hand, falls over on her back-feet straight up in the air in frenzied contractions. You would think I was giving her an enema!

This scene has been repeated over and over the past few weeks. My cat has taken to hiding in my underwear drawer. My dogs hate me.  We all hate the freakin cold.

I’d just as soon be stripped naked, flogged in the town square and made to sing Copacabana, as have to prepare this house to show even one more time.

The Chihuahua has chosen this particular time to become incontinent in some manner of subversive protest. One day just before a showing she peed in the living room.  Not a dainty little Chihuahua dribble,oh no, a bear-down-and-squeeze-that-tiny-sphincter-with-all-my-might pee.  Just the household aroma I was going for.

The offers are interesting too.  One was for the same price paid for the house nine years ago.  Another not only low-balled me but had the temerity to ask for one of my Asian antiques as part of the contract.

A middle aged buyer offended everyone in the cul-de-sac by using profanity that would make Richard Pryor blush, as he  made out with whom he broadcast as his “baby momma”,  pressing her up against my retaining wall. I am not making this up.

Finally got a good offer, accepted it, and the buyer backed out two weeks before closing. I grew weary and took the house off the market to recapture my dimming sanity. A little angelic intervention perhaps.

One day the pilot light went out on the heater when it was about twenty degrees; I thought the heat had gone out.  I was without heat all afternoon so I lit the fireplace which has a gas starter.  About an hour later I came back in the living room to find a haze of smoke.  I had forgotten to open the flue.  For this offense I was gifted with a thin layer of soot on the white fireplace.  Have you ever cleaned soot off a white brick fireplace?

And the stupidamnshitty vacuuming-I swear the carpet has aged from it.  I know I have. When I do move, I am not vacuuming for a year.  Just before the open house I was vacuuming when I smelled burning rubber; I had run over one of the dog toys which was smoldering in the corner. I now must borrow the neighbor’s vacuum. And, buy a new T-O-Y!

I am exhausted. My nails are nubs from incessant cleaning.  I have construction worker hands, my back is jacked up, I am in an exceedingly volatile mood, and I think my neighbors are just a tad afraid of me.

My brother tells me that I am no longer a cucumber. I have been deeply dipped in the vinegar; I’m a pickle now.  I can never go back and be a fresh cucumber. I am worn, and changed by this comedy of blunders, a worn wrinkled little pickle who loves her home.

You are home this night
Home of stillness
Your home of spirit
Being and bliss
You are home this night
Abiding home
Forever home
Your forever home

–“Sleep”, Donovan

That Long Trip Home

That Long Trip Home

“The long and winding road that leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before, it always leads me here
Leads me to your door”

 John Lennon, Paul McCartney

 

The God of full moon watched over me all evening as I drove southeast through the rolling hills of Oklahoma. I welcomed her presence, kept looking up and grinning at her, enjoying her luminous beauty.

It was that long trip home to see Dad.  At eighty seven he worried so I hated that my work, rather my obsession with work, caused me to get a late start and drive in the dark.

Preferring the comfort of home at night, I’d rather just hang out with my pet family and read.  And, I can’t see squat in the dark anymore so I don my distance glasses when I drive at night and the heart thumps a tad faster.

Seventy five miles from Dad’s thin fingers of white fog began to float by me.  I thought it would simply ebb and flow from low lying areas to higher ground, but this fog lingered-much like the new ache in my spirit.

As I meandered through the hills and the threads of fog I wondered how many times I had made this long old trip.  It began when I first left home for college at seventeen; the years blew by so quickly.  I am sixty one now, so many trips. As I drove on through the fog I thought of Robert Frost’s words, “miles to go before I sleep”.  They seemed prophetic to me as I felt my life spiral down.

The further south I drove the thicker the fog became; I slowed down to sixty miles per hour. That last stretch of road is just a two lane state highway for the most part;  it bends and twists along, lined with pine woods on either side.

My feelings about this old trip also meandered back and forth; I hated it and I loved it.  When I was young and full of myself I drove waaay over the speed limit to get it over with. (A grand collection of speeding tickets confirm this.) Back in the day, I could finesse my way out of one from time to time.  Once, Kelly and I actually bribed a young highway patrolman with a baggie of homemade chocolate chip cookies.  He smiled, took them and drove away.

Twilight

My youth and self-absorption resented the trip and having to make it. I would hurry back on Sunday only to find that I had left behind those who would always stand with me.  With passing years I was more likely to drive back with tears in my eyes, wishing I could stay longer.

I hated the physical distance the trip placed between my parents and me over the years.  And, the panic I always felt when one of them was sad or in the hospital, knowing it would take me at least four hours to get there. Every celebration, every holiday, every funeral, and every conversation that needed to take place had to wait-for that long trip home.

But now I loved the solace of the trip, time to collect my thoughts, to record them, and to sing-loudly, and very badly.  It also opened the door to silence, so I could hear God. The long trip home was illuminating more often than not.

On the last leg of this trip I was so weary; the fog had become thicker and thicker.  This was exactly where I hit the deer a few years ago. She came out of the woods on the right side; I saw her stop, stand there, and look right up at me.  I uttered a telepathic prayer, hoping she and God would both get the message for her to stay put.  Why she jumped right in front of me I’ll never know.

Remembering that dreadful day I slowed down to forty miles per hour.  By now visibility was greatly reduced and I switched to fog lights. I could only really see about twenty yards ahead.

I stopped and called Dad, whom I knew was looking at the clock and wondering.

At twenty five miles out I was white knuckled and driving through dense cotton candy. The woods I could typically see to the left and right had simply vanished; I could only see about ten yards ahead. Even the familiar country homes that I knew lined both sides of the road were invisible. I was exhausted and driving on faith.

So many times life requires driving slowly through the mystery, living in the unknowing. Did the interviewer think I was right for the job? Will the sale of the house go through? Will the next commission check be enough? Will this person have the depth of commitment for a long term relationship? Will my body remain healthy enough to enter the 10k?

As the God of full moon watched over me that long night, I thought back over my forty four year relationship with the trip,  the weariness and mysteries it brought. And, I knew I’d miss this long old fatiguing trip home when I no longer had a hug awaiting me at the end of the road.

 

“We had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

Secret Blessings of Muscadine Jelly

“Remember, remember, this is now, and now, and now. Live it, feel it, cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of all I’ve taken for granted.”  ― Sylvia Plath

 

Aunt Helen’s muscadine jelly is all gone, even the emergency jar I kept in case I needed consolation. This generates a pang of deep loss in my gut. But, there are two tiny containers of Mom’s muscadine jelly left! This morning I lathered it on my biscuits. I refuse to share this jelly, ever. Maybe with my sister Jan, if she was here. Maybe.

This is my holding on to Mom and Aunt Helen, who have both passed. I reserve this jelly for hard days when I need their help, days when I can find no inspiration. When there are no more shoulders to stand on, no more jelly, what will I do? These two women, resilient each in her own way, helped light the path for me.

But, the disparities between my mother’s life and mine were significant. She had a way of nesting comfortably at home, right from the get go. She married at eighteen and started a family before you could say “Nuthin says lovin like sumthin from the oven!”windowIMG_0139

Mom and Aunt Helen both knew the art of domestic flourishing. Me, not so much. I can sell thousands of dollars’ worth of darn near anything, but could not make an edible Italian Crème Cake if you threatened a flogging in the town square.

The way Mom nested so deeply at home was always a mystery to me. I could not grasp, not only her satisfaction with her life of domesticity but her enthusiasm for it.

Did I on some level back then believe my world of career advancements and adventure held more value than Mom’s world of domesticity? That her world of being at home was not as significant as my world of exploring?

Mom had dreams of having her own career; she was very bright and capable. She possessed uncanny knowledge, with the most remarkable intuition regarding physiology and disease states. She used to muse that she would like to have been a surgeon. But, times were different back then. And beyond that, she knew that achievement out in the world was not her focus.

Mom consistently encouraged me to go for it; she lived vicariously through my recounted adventures. I imagine she yearned for the level of freedom I enjoyed. Back then women had so many limits on their lives, some self-imposed out of a sense of duty, but also imposed by society, spouses and children.

Mom was brilliant in the kitchen, whipping up something that made your toes curl in delight, a natural at it. When she brought sick neighbors a peach cobbler, they were almost glad they got sick!

She was an authority on tending home; she could do it all. Like a new dress? She’d create one on her Singer. Want advice on minding your garden? The woman had a super green thumb.  Need art for your living room?  Dale could paint one for you in oils, watercolor, or charcoal you would be proud of.

Compelled by a strong desire to be “out there”, I was birthing success in my sales career, exploring yet unrecognized talents, expressing myself creatively, traveling, riding bikes, volunteering, writing, walking for hours on end, and seeking ways to deepen my spiritual journey. In addition, I was single for many years and making a living had to be a priority.

As the wrinkles collect though, the more I nest. I long to see all my little critters at the end of the day. I have been able to rest in myself through prayer meditation for many years now. Domesticity though, is pretty much a messy struggle. Still.

I can see this is how my Mom’s spirituality showed up. It was a lovely gift wasn’t it? It was given often without thanks or ceremony. Mom was very guarded with her true feelings; (but certainly not her opinions) she was not one to verbally express her faith in God. It was always implied, always there, just under the surface-lovingly expressed in gifts of home for her family.

“When did the choices get so hard

with so much more at stake.

Life gets mighty precious

when there’s less of it to waste”

Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

 

Celebrate Me Home

Celebrate Me Home

Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still. —Valentine, K
Sitting alone in the woods with the two monastery dogs, Banjo and Oriole, I gaze out in the distance, they are good company and seem to have taken a vow of silence like me. From the hill I look over the tops of the trees attempting to show their early spring radiance. I can see Lake Keystone as the sun beats down on the back of my neck reminding me that it won’t be spring for long. Before you can say “hotter than hell”, it will be.

Hiking and climbing over the huge boulders I do something I have not done in a very long time, I smell the earth.  It takes me back to a time when I was much closer to the earth, the land, the country, and I am grateful for my awakening senses. For a while I am home.

I country grew up in the country.  Not so much in a small town, although that was part of it, but most of my time was spent out in the country.  Our home was in the country, my families’ livelihood came from the country, our nurturing was grounded in the country and part of my soul lingers there still.

The country is inclusive, and extends solace to all.  It’s gifts are the  healing sight of pastures and farm ponds, the touch of green grass, a soft blanket of needles under foot through the pines, the smell of freshly cut hay,  the whiny of horses, and the feel of a humid  breeze on your face.  And nothing occludes the stars from your vision when you are in the country, a tonic for city worn eyes.

The end of the day did not find me with friends at the Dairy Freeze when I was in school; I was in the country feeding cattle.  My brother and I had a little cattle company when we were kids, the “M&K Cattle Company”.  I’m still pissy that it wasn’t named the “K&M Cattle Company”; after all, I was older and infinitely wiser. (my version) This joint venture provided biology lessons, finance 101, daily workouts, precious time with a treasured sibling, and opened us to the dire truth of forgoing something we liked for something better.

In the country folks just drop in when ”y’all come round” is extended. And you better have coffee and pie ready too, they never turn it down.  They just sit mostly, and talk. Some want to walk quietly around the pond and skip stones across the water, or sit on the bench under the trees and smell the honeysuckle that lines the fence row.   Or, go out to feed the horses some hay, and stand on the corral fence to get a better look at the cattle down in the pasture. You can tap on the fence that extends into the pond and the catfish know it is feeding time; they skim along the top of the pond, huge mouths wide open to scoop up chow.

There is something about the expansiveness of the countryside that makes you feel free in a way nothing else can.  The absolute wonder, beauty and simplicity of the land, the animals, the sunrise, the night sky-even the air bristles with unique enchantment.

I’ve lived in the city now for years and love its rhythm, its convenience, the melting pot of faces, cultures and cuisines, its opportunities, the city lights when it rains, its anonymity, the seasonal events, the synergy of liked minded spirits, and the life I’ve nurtured here. But I sometimes feel a deep longing and know I’m missing that part of me I left in the country. Nowhere can I hear better God’s invitation to sit and talk.

I remember years ago coming to myself, realizing that I was smiling for the first time in about four months. I was out in the pasture, just walking in the country. I was home.

God made the country, and man made the town.  ~William Cowper, The Task

 

Head in the Oven?

Head in the Oven?

“They don’t seem to understand, I’m too far gone to try. Now these lonely memories, they’re all that I can do. And I’m down to seeds and stems again too.” –Bill Kershen

Sometimes life is difficult. Days stretch out ahead with unrelenting demands, some you care about, others not at all. Somehow you will yourself to put one foot in front of the other and keep trying. I have the urge not to.

Drained from years of striving I want to sit right down and refuse to do anything, it’s too much stupiddamnshitty work! You know other people do it-give in to consuming weariness and forget how to try. I want to fall in the floor and whimper like a four year old who’s been told they can’t have McNuggets. This is not the same valley I always crawl out of but a deep trench that has me trapped.

While I’m at it I’ll stop choosing to keep myself emotionally stable. It’s my turn to go round the bend, just veg for a while, refuse to communicate, live in my own self-absorption. I’ll stop digging down to the bottom of my soul to find something worth salvaging. Get in the car and go-just anywhere! Other people go that route, why not me?

I won’t vacuum either; I loathe vacuuming. You push a heavy, deafening, incredibly awkward metal sucking machine around until you jerk your arm out of the socket and ten minutes later the floor looks just as it did before you sacrificed your rotator cuff. I’ve run out of parts to injure. Maybe things are looking up.

Weariness strains your endurance repeatedly to combat a new symptom, new syndrome, new injury, or another body system gone awry; unwept tears flow unrestrained. Coming so frequently that your lashes fall out, you are truly the bluest girl on the block.
“The tide you never valued has gone out.And you are marooned on unsure ground.Something within you has closed down;And you cannot push yourself back to life.” –John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

Life has not been a tidy pleasant picture. It’s been the full catastrophe complete with struggle, omissions, grand mistakes, fear, poor judgment, lies, resentment and anger. But, for twenty two years now I’ve come out swinging time and again if only in the twelfth round. Why? Because of the gifts.

Living with years of unrelenting physical pain gifts you with tender gratefulness for good days. Loss of control gifts you with reliance on God. Years of heart breaking physical struggle gifts you with uncanny empathy for the struggles of others. Inability to continue treasured activities gifts you with new talents. And shared feelings shine the brightest light on those who truly love you.

Years ago after a painful back injury I cried (whined actually) to my ever supportive loving sister that no one understood my physical problems. Her response was one of the best gifts I have ever been given. She said “I want you to start at the beginning and tell me-all of it. Don’t stop till I understand”. I did.

Those who reach the finish line in a car or on cycle do not earn the distance walker’s lessons. I am blessed, not everyone gets gifts like these and there is no short cut that allows it-just suffering.
‘Meg’ Magrath: “Why’d you do it, Babe? Why’d you put your head in the oven? Babe: “I don’t know … I’m having a bad day.”— (Crimes of the Heart, 1986)

Close Your Eyes and Think of Me

Close Your Eyes and Think of Me

We met at school over on the rock ledge when we were kids, new friends who had surprisingly known each other forever.

She gave me then what she offers to all-an open heart, she meets you where you are.

She rubs up against life hard and often, and it hurts her. Authentic always, when her days end she will have the grace of knowing this.

As enthusiastic as she was in younger years, there’s a gleam in her eyes as she shares her plans for the summer. Her weeks stretching into years, she does not want an idle life and has never had an idle mind.

She is such a talker, not one who relishes silence. Even the chatter is worthy your attention, this is an intelligent engaging woman.

In a world choked with indifference she illuminates what needs to change in our world. She starts with herself.

A deep loneliness dwells within her and really always has-but even more so now.

Her trust in me shines through her kind eyes; I am blessed. She knows she is safe with me in all circumstances, and I with her.

What she gives to those she serves is remarkable; she has a vision they can’t have for themselves. They are lucky recipients of her perception, attention and action.

A lover of animals, she protects those she can, giving her time and love to them. She mentors others about their care.

Heart on her sleeve; her wounds are plenty and relived. There is no debridement; the scar tissue seems to multiply.

Deep friendship is her talent, her gift. She’s not as good at casual friendship-always wanting more. Never cunning to conceal her love, she is effervescent in the presence of friends and family.

Bearing gifts from everywhere she brightens a mediocre day-just when you really needed a little surprise. And, she seems to have no idea the sweetness of this.

If you are lucky enough to know her well you have a partner for pizza, a confidant on the phone at two am, a warm honest hug when you are weak, straight forward words when you’re a fool, her prayers when you are lost and the most beautiful smile when you were sure there wasn’t one to be found.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the Pooh