Category Archives: We Are Family

What’s Your Binky?

What’s Your Binky?

“I took that smile and I put it right where the hole in my chest was. It was better than coffee, or chocolate, or a perfect pirouette. I clutched it and held it tight.” ― Cecil Castellucci, Rose Sees Red

Mom believed a hot bath could cure any ailment and ward off the most virulent pestilence. Newly diagnosed with a rare disease? Dale would say, “Go take a hot bath, you’ll feel better”. Get bucked off your Dad’s spirited mare and have eight new stitches in your chin? According to Dale a hot bath was the panacea. Did your husband run amok with the girl next door? For heaven sakes take a bath; you won’t care anymore! I swear I saw the woman take three baths in a day. The steaming hot tub soothed her achy arthritic joints, provided a place of solitude and rekindled her spirit as the worries of the day floated away from her.

Cookies are my comfort, and one of the few things for which I will darken the door of the kitchen. The pièce de résistance is the “Ultimate” chocolate chip cookie with extra brown sugar, pecans, a smidge of coconut, a bit crunchy on the outside and a tad chewy on the inside. I make a batch, cook only a few and freeze the rest of the dough. This keeps me from eating fifteen at once and guarantees the warm elixir is available at a moment’s notice should Sweetie find me curled up in the fetal position at the end of the day. You can’t eat a warm cookie and not begin to relax. That first bite of warm melted semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate and browned to perfection cookie with crunchy southeastern Oklahoma pecans transforms me from Bellatrix LeStrange to Ginny Weasley. A lot just from just a cookie, huh?

For Gus the wonder dog there is only one solace, T-O-Y. The moment he awakens he goes on house patrol to find the T-O-Y. Toy in mouth, he then goes outside to do his business, never dropping the thing. When no actual toy is available he substitutes with anything he can find, acorn, pine cone, wallet or bra! Gus loves his toy like fashionistas love the garment district in NYC. He left the sane world of simple comfort long ago; he is now livin large in full blown obsession. And he’s a talker, “Where’s my toy, where’s my toy, where’s my toy?” You don’t have to speak canine to translate. This is a guy who has his priorities in order; comfort first, the rest of the universe later.

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As Babe Magrath explained in “Crimes of the Heart” when asked what she did right after she shot that good-for-nothing husband of hers. “Well, as I recall I went on into the kitchen and mixed me up a big ole pitcher of lemonade. You know, just like I love it, with lots of sugar.” Evidently all the woman needed was a little southern comfort.

The grand repository of all that represents comfort however is the man cave. Only the male of the species dare enter this grand palace of consolation. There one will find accoutrements for any activity known to man! Into fencing? You will purr with content, fitted with the perfect sabre and mask. If you are a marksman you can chose from any caliber including air pistol or rifle. Feeling weak and need resuscitation, just grab a cool brew from the man cave refrigerator. Later you can try a around of Bocce ball or load you own ammo. Perhaps you feel more like golfing or snorkeling. And if none of this blows your fly fishing waders up, we can take you home on the Harley.

These simple pleasures ground us, comfort us, enable us to transcend the perils of everyday life and sometimes help us remember who we are. And, give us a particular comfort people can’t. Whether it’s a page turner that keeps us up till the wee hours, a magnificent cookie or a jog around the lake, we all have a binky to turn to for comfort. I can only hope that next time I relapse my stash of binky is safe and sound in the freezer!

 

The Battle of Little Valentine

The Battle of Little Valentine

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day. They make me want to slap a dead poet. ~Joanne Sherman

Years ago my brother and I were having pizza at Promenade mall in Tulsa when he gave me a long curious look and said, “Sister, I’m not sure if I trust a person who can eat just one piece of pizza!” I understood our difference. Our fellow homosapiens exhibit behaviors that baffle and sometimes annoy us. WC Fields said he didn’t trust non-drinkers. The Sweetie looses it when he sees someone back into a parking space. For me, it’s the stupiddamnshitty morning people. Waking up with bright eyes, a smile on your face and feeling rested falls into that dodgy not-quite-human category as far as I am concerned. A roommate I had in my late twenties began chirping at 6:00am before her feet hit the ground! I wanted to slap her. The number of times I have awakened with enough clarity to make a complete sentence is about five.

My Dad is a morning person and so is my sister; I’ve wanted to beat them both a time or two also. In fact when I was a kid my Dad was hell-bent on transforming me into a morning person; he thought I was just lazy. We lived in a wonderful three story house in South Dakota (the tundra, not so wonderful) and my room was upstairs. Dad and Mom grew weary of trekking up and down the stairs in failed attempts to wake me for school so they launched a full blown tactical assault.

Dad’s initial campaign consisted of a slapping me on the butt and flipping the bright lights on. Yes, this did wake me at least for a while and pissed me off considerably, but I fell right back to sleep. It then escalated to threatening me with spanking, grounding, and loss of privileges. When I weighed my options, typically I chose to go back to sleep. The next strategic maneuver dad tried was a chicken. Yes, I did say chicken. No, it wasn’t live but may as well have been. It was this huge plastic rooster which produced an absolutely ghastly crow-which he placed right by my head. Yes, this woke me up, pissed me off and I went right back to sleep. Then he bought a cow, same principal as the rooster. Pumping the tail of the cow generated a blood curdling MOOOOO, which woke me, pissed me off and I was right back to sleep. We were at a stalemate until Mom and Dad bought walkie-talkie telephones- yep, just like the army. This was in the day before cell phones you remember. I had no efficacious exit strategy; I was disarmed. Dad kept calling me on the walkie-talkie phone until I surrendered and finally peeled myself from the warm bed. They did not resort to water boarding; the hateful walkie-talkie campaign was successful.

When a child has such strong aversion to waking up in the morning- parents please realize that they just have a vastly different circadian rhythm! God did not make all of us morning people!! Really. I actually used to put my clothes on for the next day under my pajamas so the getting ready for school process would not be so taxing. That is until Mom came in one night to check on me and thought I was burning up with fever because I had on so many layers of clothing. At this juncture I should admit that I have NEVER out-grown this aversion to mornings. Even my career reflects my inability to rise and shine. I’ve been an account executive in sales all these years for a reason. When you office in your home and set your own schedule you can start the day more or less as you want. There is still nothing shining about me in the morning, nothing!

But, I do recognize the gifts of morning; the fresh undisturbed air, the clean slate waiting to be written, the quiet uncluttered dawn, the sunlight beginning to glitter on the wet grass and the precious gift of one more day. The morning seems to take shape best when I consciously intend to have a good day. To set those intentions, I spend some time each morning in the silence. Somehow God finds me there, knows I’m dumb as a rock in the morning, speaks to me anyway, and loves my company.

Life is Short

Life is Short

“I could even feel how perishable all my moments really were, how all my life they had come to me begging to be lived, to be cherished even.” ― Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair

The bed is warm and comfy, the scent of coffee has floated into the bedroom and the dream I’m in is fading. I begin to stir and slowly open my eyes. I stretch a little trying to wake up and start thinking about the day ahead when I feel it begin to cover me. It starts at the top of my head like thick Pepto-Bismol being drizzled over me, creeping down onto and into my entire body. I feel that sad sickening feeling coat my throat and chest and then settle in my gut. I recognize this unwelcome visitor, it is heartache. Then I remember; my Mom passed a few days ago. My Mom passed, with my sister Jan and me holding her hands. Heartache has come to settle in.

I want to be enveloped by God’s love so fully that I can’t feel this consuming pain. I also want some kind of assurance that I was a good daughter; I want to know that I did extend myself for my mother the best I could. I want to feel that I focused on things that mattered with her. When your heart is broken, any level of intuition or discernment you have been fortunate enough to have, to hone, to listen to and act on to goes right out the window. So for now I sit in the unknowing, sure of one thing only-that my Mom and I loved each other dearly.

Life is short. You tell yourself you have time, plenty of time. You don’t. My mom used to tell me she still felt like a girl inside, only now do I understand what she meant. Even though I just turned 60 I feel like I’m 35 or 40, not physically but otherwise. A lifetime will sneak up on you before you know it. One day you’re stealing kisses in the back seat of Bobby Joe’s car with his many octopus arms coming at you from all angles; you’d push one away and here came another. High school boys are just dreadful creatures. The next thing you know you’re 60 with a growing awareness that the ride will be over before your ready.

For me it’s like eating ice cream; no matter what size bowl I have I always want more when the bowl is empty-100% of the time. So I pick up the bowl and lick it clean just like an over stimulated six pound Chihuahua who wants more. I am aching for more of my Mom, more time with her, more laughing with her, more meals with her, more being her daughter. I suppose many of us also yearn for more when we too reach the end of life’s path. Most of us wish to live as long as we can with quality of life. And, some would actually choose more time without quality of life. There is trepidation for our departure for many. The wise old woman I am struggling to nurture inside would be ready. She would as gracefully as she could usher in the next phase of her spirit’s journey, releasing that tight hold on this life.

I will never look at our time here in the same way; I feel a strange oneness with the world I have not felt before. It’s a new awareness that most everything we do impacts someone else. There is also a renewed awareness that even though we are spirit, we are meant to experience fully this short stay in our physical bodies, the tastes, the touch, the sights, the wondrous sounds and love we are graced with. The time we have here is precious; we empty our bodies of youth and fill our spirits with love and lessons we need. My Mom has passed and her spirit has gone to what’s next and I know God was waiting to welcome her and is her biggest fan.

Into the Woods

Into the Woods

The Sweetie and I have escaped for a while, gone to the mountains for solitude and regeneration. He can go unshaven, practice what he refers to as his “manly survival skills”, hike around in the woods, fish, build camp fires and wear those sad, worn out khaki pants (so baggy the crotch sags to about mid leg) day in and day out. He confirmed his superior survival skills yesterday by catching trout, cleaning them and cooking them on the grill right after. Last night he made a really fine camp fire, which obliged me to stand out there with him in the freezing cold to admire his skills as a true mountain man. I attempted to make the most of the time by starting a substantive conversation. “What are your thoughts tonight as we enjoy nature” I asked him. He thought for half a second and replied “Don’t eat the yellow snow.” I went inside and stuffed my need for a soulful exchange with a hot double chocolate fudge brownie with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

For me this is an opportunity to just be, no deadlines, nothing I must get done. I have my cell phone ringer turned off, as is the television. I can read to my heart’s content, meditate, write some, and walk the hills. This part of the country has suffered severe drought for two years now and my expectations for beautiful fall foliage were quite low. But to my delight nature did not disappoint, spectacular golden leaves shimmer in the unusually strong breeze and the reds from the maples are so striking I stop and try to capture them in a photo. This seldom works for me; it never translates, lack of photography skills I suspect.

There is no separation between our maker and nature; the closer I am to the earth, the more attuned I am to spirit. Before I started my walk I turned on my favorite mediation music and did my own 60 year old arthritic combo version of Yoga, Tia Chi and stretching. At one point I stretched my arms to the ceiling of the log cabin as far as my stiff muscles would allow and attempted to pull all the good energy into me I could gather. I remembered a phrase from one of my favorite prayers I learned from participating in the St Ignatius exercises. “Jesus, may all you are flow into me.” I said as I pulled my hands back down over my body, willing the wise old woman to take form. When God was at the sculpture’s wheel molding my life, unfortunately I think he finished with a square. But he must have sneezed several times because a couple of the walls are very crooked; I turned out more of a rhombus. That too defined structure did give me a good foundation for life, but sometimes flexibility comes at quite a price for me. Sweetie was more of a free form shape, a little lacking definition. He helps soften my square corners and I support his foundation some. Grace is a marvelous thing.

I love my country, but recognize our good old American work ethic as something we take to extremes; few of us take ample time for ourselves-for what really matters. I know many people who don’t take vacation time they have earned, for years on end! When I sold pharmaceuticals I generally worked six days a week. I enjoyed my work in the medical field; I started each day with the intention that I get the right medication in the hands of the right patient. I know what I did improved quality and perhaps longevity of life for thousands of people. But, total immersion in career to the exclusion of feeding our other very deep needs has become a societal sickness in this country. The effect it had on me was fatigue, inability to think creatively, lack of deep level bonding with friends, insufficient exercise, resentment for not having enough personal time, and anxiety.

The heart has tremendous capacity for love, but often we reject healthy self-love. I’m not talking about empty narcissism, but that grounded knowledge that we are worthy of self-care. The world’s greatest hurts are born of our inability to feel self-love; as individuals we don’t know how to love ourselves. “Inner pain can be a holy summons” (Sue Monk Kidd) that we are too callused to recognize. We are not still enough often enough to learn to know ourselves and when we do have private time we busy ourselves so we don’t have to see. The process is work and often painful but the yield is transformative. So this week Sweetie and I are in the woods, to administer some self-care and see what we can see.