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11/30/10

"This Is A Soul" a.k.a. The Book of Shame

I just finished reading "This is A Soul: The Mission of Rick Hodes" by Marilyn Berger for our book club.

Rick is a doctor, a truly awe inspiring man doing amazing work in Ethiopia. On top of saving lives - he's adopted at least five children. Many more, with horrible disfiguring diseases, have literally been plucked off the streets and live at his house while they wait for surgery.

But, slogging through page after page after page of selfless acts of goodness, it was not inspiration I felt. Instead, I felt ashamed that I didn't want to move to Ethiopia THIS MINUTE and adopt twenty children.
Ugh.
Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful there are people like Rick, Mother Theresa, this woman, and many, many others, who are (or were in the case of Mother Theresa) moved by the plight of children (and grown-ups) around the world.
And if you're called to that - then get up off the couch and go do it. Stop procrastinating. Go to Kabul, teach, whatever is eating at your gut - go. do. it.
The problem comes when I think there's something wrong with me because I don't feel moved to do the same. Or - when someone who is called to do it thinks there's something wrong with me when I am not moved to do the same.

No, I've not been called to adopt children from and/or move to Siberia, Ethiopia, India, or even Hawaii for that matter. I've been called to be very, very boring.

What if there are no fireworks or fanfare, CNN reports, or best-selling books in your future either?

What if your future [or present] is just a quiet sitting with the aged, suicide prevention, feeding the homeless, rescuing pit bulls, saving the rain forest or lemurs, teenage mothers, AIDS awareness, helping the illiterate learn to read, or raising two kittens you found in a dumpster.


What if all we were meant to do was smile at that person we smiled at today or talk to that woman perusing the bagels at Whole Foods or pay for the people behind you on a toll bridge or write that encouraging blog post (ah, yea, that's not me either). Maybe our sole/soul purpose was to call AAA for the young girl stranded in the bank parking lot.

And that's it.

The point is, don't dismiss what you do do. Because that smile could save a person's life. 

It is, as they say, all good.

11/27/10

Belief-O-Matic

There's this thing going around Facebook, take a twenty question quiz (you know I love those!) and see what religion you come up with.
Well, I came up with 100% Liberal Christian Protestant AND 100% Orthodox Quaker. Third place was 87% Liberal Quaker. 

I was christened a Methodist. My mother looking out for my eternal welfare. Thanks Mom! Guess I'm covered. I don't think either of my siblings had anything of the sort. Hmmm.

We always said grace before meals, you know that "God is good, God is great" one. That was the only religious action in the house, but we weren't allowed to say "God!" or "Jesus!" in exasperation. However, we weren't allowed to say "kid" either - unless we were talking about baby goats.

In Guam I went with my friend Pam McPherson to her Baptist church (with a quarter left on the table for the offering plate). Her father was the chaplain or whatever they're called; afterward we would go to A&W for "Baptist beer" [root beer]. I caused quite the stir when I wanted to be baptized (because she was going to be). The horror. A christened Methodist being baptized. Or something. I didn't get what all the hullabaloo was about.There were parental confabs and then I don't think I went anymore.

As a teenager, I did seriously consider being a Quaker, I did not/do not get war and it appealed to me for that reason. It's interesting Belief-O-Matic came up with that - twice.
Instead I became a Jehovah's Witness, they don't believe in war either.
That lasted about seven years.

Now it's just me and the Big Wide Wonder, the Universal Truth, The Great and Wonderful Oz, The Big Cheese.
I figure we'll sort it out, eventually. He and I.
He knows I mean well.

The Other Oscar Wilde

Doesn't he look like he's pondering some witty saying?

Small Business Saturday

This morning after the weekly Saturday walk, I went out to Pittsboro to celebrate Small Business Saturday.

First stop: General Store Cafe for the usual BBQ sandwich and beet salad. Fortified with delicious food goodness, I walked over to Vespertine for some goat's milk soap and the cute prints by UK artist Amy Blackwell that Ginna said were back in stock. Sorry I didn't get to see Ginna. :(  (Thanks for putting some aside for me!)

 The MEOW is translated as "bah humbug". HA! I didn't see that until I got home. Perfect.


Then I drove down [or up] to French Connections  which is a big house crammed to the gills with all things French and some things African - fabric, beads, linens, baskets, etc. 
It's always fun to browse in here, but today I had a mission. They carry La Rochere glassware and their prices are reasonable; one of my Versailles pattern goblets (isn't that a posh word?) got chipped and needed replacing. Then I spied the shrinky-dink version! So cute! (It's actually called the wine goblet. Funny, that's what I use the big one for...)


Even the bottom has a pattern, which is one of those unnecessary lovely surprises. 
I think Versailles is the only one that does.

TJ Maxx had some Bee pattern stemmed glasses and long drink glasses a couple of years ago for dirt cheap ($3.00 ea.). Even though it's not my favorite pattern, I couldn't pass up the bargain. The glasses are very sturdy, this is the first one I've had to replace in ten years and four moves.

Then it was off to The Wine Authorities for wine (and some chocolate covered figs!) to put in my new goblet. 

It was a win-win day for four small businesses and me.

11/25/10

Happy Thanksgiving

My cunning plan was to stay in my pajamas all day.


 And also eat turkey and pie (not necessarily in that order), but Steffi texted me with an offer of a walk.

I did the right thing and went for a virtuous three miler.  

 Since I was out, I went over to Mom's to drop off a new bra, the pajamas I bought the other night, and a few other essentials.

She was pretty funny with the new bra.
"They're way up here!"
Actually, that's where they should be.
"Are you sure?"

Her back was hurting, so we dug out her back brace. Between the new bra and the brace which acts like a corset, they really were up there.

It occurred to me that two years ago we had Thanksgiving dinner in Hillcrest Convalescent Hospital. It was after she slipped off the bed and got a compression fracture in her back. The crack that diagnosed the dementia and forced the move to Wynwood.
She didn't remember any of it.

Even though it wasn't the plan, we ended up going to K&W Cafeteria for a Thanksgiving lunch.
She had ham.
And felt herself up every five minutes.

She recognized the wife of another inmate/resident standing in front of us as we waited to check out.
I never believe her when she says she knows someone. It seems so odd she'd recognize someone she's only seen several times, but can't bring up a mental picture of her children or grandchildren.
A dear friend sent me this link earlier this week. I'll try that with pictures of her grandchildren.

Now I'm back home fixing to eat some turkey and cranberry conserve. And thankful.
But no more so than any other day.

11/23/10

Cranberries - Saucy Little Things

I love all things cranberryish. (remember the 90's Irish band The Cranberries and the song "Zombie"? That song still gives me the goosebumps)

Anyhoo, I'm glad they're [the fruit] popular and available most of the year now. I used to hoard them in the freezer. Yes, I was the maniac with twenty bags of cranberries in her cart every November, so I could make cranberry bread or sauce throughout the year.

Homemade cranberry sauce is ridiculously easy to make. Some water, some sugar, boil until the cranberries pop. I usually throw in additional things, whatever is handy - grapefruit peel, dried tart cherries or blueberries, (always have some around to jazz up the oatmeal) - whatever suits your fancy. There's no excuse for canned sauce (unless of course, that's what you like :)

I really love this cranberry walnut conserve recipe I heard on The Splendid Table and make it every year.
Obviously it's terrific on a turkey sandwich, with chicken or the other white meat [pork], but if you're a white trash girl such as myself, you'll love it just spooned on saltine crackers (just hush-up 'til you've tried it). Here's the recipe, in time for Turkey Day.

Cranberry-Walnut Conserve
 (from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider)
1 1/2 cups walnuts
3 navel oranges, well washed
5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2/3 cup wildflower honey, or more to taste
1 1/4 cups dark raisins or currants
A few teaspoons fresh lemon juice if needed to brighten flavors

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast until they are fragrant, about 9 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Cut off the ends of the oranges and discard; slice the oranges in quarters through the stem. Then slice each quarter crosswise as thinly as possible, discarding the seeds as you work.
  3. In a heavy non-reactive 3 quart saucepan, combine 4 cups of the cranberries, the oranges, honey, and  1 1/2 cups hot water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened and the cranberries are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and the remaining cranberries and cook until the raisins are plump, another 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Chop the walnuts coarsely and stir them into the conserve, along with the lemon juice to taste. Transfer the conserve to clean dry jars and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate.
Storage: The conserve will keep for at least 1 month in a covered container in the refrigerator. 


    Normal

    Yesterday when I went to CB, Mom was in one of the dining rooms "making" pumpkin pie. A. (an aide) was going to get her, but I asked her to wait, I'd go get her after I put the new sheets and quilt on her bed.
    A. and I talked for awhile, she said Mom was doing so good. Her sugar's been in the low 100's after breakfast (really good).
    Several of the aides know Mom from her smoking days, when they'd all convene in the patio area of Wynwood to enjoy their little death sticks (sorry. just a bit of judgment to start the day). When she saw A. here, she hugged her and said "I remember you!" (Hopefully she won't remember the connection.).

    Mom told A. she moved here so she could be "normal".

    Wow.
    She does seem happier here. And again, I feel like I've done the wrong thing keeping her in a place she wasn't suited for.
    Ah well, I will not should myself today, as my friend Judith says.

    We went to Dillard's to see what the sale racks held.
    I'm a guerrilla [clothes] shopper - go in, hit the target, get out.
    Mom is not. She's a - touch everything, look at every rack, comment on each item from shoes to plus size suits - kind of shopper. Add to that a dash of holy-crap-where'd-she-go and a jigger of champagne-taste-cheap-beer-budget and voila! you have the makings of an exhausta-tini. (a silly drink I made up to explain that shopping with her is tiring.)
    Scored two pair of pants and three shirts. Returned a pair of pants and a shirt later and found her two pair of cute pajamas.

    We decided to go to Rick's Diner, but on the way there, she spied Bob Evans. A mad sideways dash across three lanes of traffic ensued to accommodate the change in plan.

    Later, when we returned stuffed full of open-face roast beef sandwiches and omelets, we tried on the clothes. Turns out she was wearing a pair of pajama pants under her slacks. No wonder they were tight.
    The quilt and sheets were new all over again. (Could probably save a lot of money by telling her everything in her closet is brand new. But how mean would that be?)
    Then we held hands and watched part of a Jack Benny movie in the living room while everyone else ate dinner.
    Normal.

    11/21/10

    The Blank I Didn't Blank

    Here's a prompt that didn't work for me. When they don't, those fifteen minutes can seem like an eternity. 

    June 12, 2010
    ****************************************************************************
    Wow, it's been a long time since I've been here, my brain is sluggish, not ready. So many blanks, so little time.

    What blank haven't I blanked?
    One night stand. Check.
    LSD. Check.
    Oh wait, cocaine is a blank I didn't.
    So f***ing boring.

    My mind is on other things. I'm hot, sweaty, haven't seen Mom in two weeks, guilty, not guilty, my neck hurts, wish I'd gotten more coffee, sweat is running down my back and that is gross. Gack.
    Fawn comes next week for eight days. I hope we don't hate each other by the time it's over. I'm already worried about that.
    F***ing neck.
    Stream of consciousness is not working for me today.
    Some people have already turned over a page - how do they do that?! I have a small cramp just from this much. I wish I hadn't gotten the omelet at Foster's, eggs were overcooked. God, I am such a complainer, really a worry wart.
    God I hate being sweaty. Great, more complaining. STFU. Seriously. Freakin' Debbie Downer. Am I avoiding? More lazy. I am lazy. This is becoming more clear to me the older I get. I am one lazy ass MFer.
    Someone is wearing a sweater! Makes me hot just to think about it.

    Blah blah blah. Shit. Still have to go see Mom. Again more lazy. Mental lazy, emotional lazy.
    The lazy I didn't lazy. OMG. This takes awhile to get into the swing of things. Some good writers in here today, Joelle, Virginia - they've already written a ready to publish article I'm sure.
    [and mercifully, the timer goes off]

    Who's Sorry Now?

    I would B.E.G. my mother to play the Connie Francis record(s). Her and Mr. Clean were favorites of my three year old self. But this isn't about Connie. Or Mr. Clean and my weird attraction to bald cartoon men. That is another post entirely. Or mostly.

    This is yet another prompt. God gave us free will, you're not required to stick around and read this dreck if you don't want to.

    The prompt was: Someone you'd rather be with than your family OR a family meal. Dated 3/22/08.

    ********************************************************************************
    Thanksgiving 1975
    My friend S. was visiting from Alaska. I'd known her since seventh grade, but we weren't really friends until tenth grade. S. was pretty and smart. In spite of me being taller and much less pretty, people thought we were related. We were called liars on at least one occasion when we said we weren't. Oddly, several times even our parents mistook us for one another.

    This particular Thanksgiving I also invited my current boyfriend to dinner.

    Big Mistake.

    He had recently gone AWOL. In the eyes of my military career father this was akin to being the Anti-Christ.
    He had shaved his head (see above) which also pissed my father off for some reason.
    The third strike: he was late.

    When R. came in the door, my father, gracious Southern gentleman that he was, developed a severe "headache", went upstairs and was not seen again for the duration.

    To say that things were uncomfortable is a gross understatement.
    My mother was in a tizzy, trying to pretend that my father having what basically amounted to a case of the vapors was a common occurrence and he'd be right back to carve the turkey.
    She went to get him to come down, but my father was part Georgia mule with a theme song of "We Shall Not Be Moved" and Jesus' second coming wasn't going to get him downstairs.
    Not as long as that bald Commie bastard was in his dining room.
    Good times.

    Several years later, S. came to visit again. The night before she arrived, my darling husband - the bald Commie (did you expect someone different?), told me that she was the one he had really wanted to ask out, but she was going back to Alaska.

    The nice thing about my dad, who did not attend my wedding to R. because he had a headache (I'm not kidding), is that he didn't say "I told you so", when R. left me several years later.
    And he totally could have.

    A Separation

    This prompt was dated July 11, 2009.

    ***************************************************************

    Dementia is a wedge between us. She no longer remembers names of grandchildren or friends without prompts.
    "The one with Lupus," she says when talking about her youngest grandchild. Sometimes I'm "this one" and my sister is "that one".
    I suppose it is a separation between herself as well. A disconnect between her now and her then. A constant game of charades or twenty questions.
    But she still covers well most of the time. While watching slides of her past life, she'd say "You know who that is don't you?"
    I'd say, "Yes, it's so and so."
    "That's right."
    But somehow we both doubt she knows that's right.
    She is separate from her past and her future. Dazed and confused in her tiny one-roomed present, grounded only by an eleven year old mostly blind dog.
    I don't really know her anymore, this woman who holds snakes where once she was terrified. Who tries new foods when "I don't like it" was her mantra.
    She is five or seven or ten and a bit naughty.
    She will slight you for the smallest offense, usually involving the dog. Then the Irish DNA kicks in and she does not forget.
    She is separate too from her filters - the ones that warn about saying something hurtful or unkind. My sister ["that one"] becomes "the pretty one" and I get asked if I'd like to look at pictures of myself before I started eating so much.

    Hallway or Room of Choice

    Prompt from January 24, 2009. Back to Grandmother's house we go.
    **************************************************************************
    My grandmother's kitchen was small. There was a large table in the middle of the room, with eight to ten chairs around it. The table was sandwiched between two sideboards, I don't recall any cabinets. A huge wood burning cast iron stove anchored the room.
    There was a pantry with a window off to the side, open to the kitchen. We took baths in the pantry in a galvanized tub, using water heated on the stove. Back then, this seemed novel and fun. Looking back I'm struck by how much work it was to do anything, even taking a bath.
    On the other side of the kitchen was the room I slept in, a small living room of sorts. Her foot pedal operated sewing machine was in there, a small black and white TV set, where I remember watching Mighty Mouse.
    There were piles of Field and Stream magazine which put the fear of rabid animals deep into my psyche.
    That side of the house was low and the resident hound dog, Brownie, whose world was complete when we were there, could walk right up to the window and look in. He would bare his teeth in a doggie grin and wag his entire body starting with his tail and working forward. Waiting for me to get up so we could run through the woods together (and he would protect me from rabid foxes and skunks!).
    I loved sleeping in that room, so close to the warmth and smells of the kitchen, covered in my grandmother's quilts. I used to sleep in the hallway, in the bed under the stairs, until my father told me some story about a snake coming up through a hole in the floorboard under that bed. True or not, it freaked me out and I never slept there again. I think one of my siblings did.
    The L-shaped screened porch was where everyone hung out. It was on the shady side of the house and so much cooler. The chest freezer was out there and the top of the freezer was where the cakes lived. I always hoped to see my favorite - coconut. Sometimes there was Japanese Fruitcake (okay, but not my favorite), or caramel cake (also good, but again, not my favorite). Or there would be pie or maybe a fresh peach cobbler (second runner up!). A lot of the kitchen work - shucking corn, shelling peas or pecans, churning butter - was done out here.
    Across from the kitchen door, to the right as you stepped onto the porch, was a long shelf that held an white enamel basin. Next to the basin was a wooden bucket with a gourd dipper. That was essentially the bathroom, since there was no running water in the house. It was where you washed your hands and face, brushed your teeth. The water was cold and sweet and delicious.
    The dogs used to lay at the bottom of the hill where the water came out from the pipe attached to the basin. The dirt was cooler there. Sometimes when they were sleeping, we'd pour a dipper of water in the basin and watch them startle awake from the surprise bath. Harmless fun on the farm.
    My grandmother had a play grocery store that I adored. She kept it in the attic and as soon as it was polite to ask for it, I did. I'd sit in the big formal living room on the braided rug in front of the fireplace and play for hours. There were a couple of carts, a grocer figure and at least one woman (smaller than Barbie), and stands to stack the tiny fruits and vegetables in. I was eleven the last time we were there and I played with that thing.
    When I tired of the grocery store, I could sit on the front porch swing for hours by myself . (the budding introvert) Just looking and listening and thinking and noticing.

    Write About A Craft

    Back by popular demand, more prompt writing (okay, one person asked for more). From October 24, 2008.
    *******************************************************************************

    I am distinctly uncrafty. My best laid craft plans usually run amok. I have super-glued countertops, stapled my dining room table, nearly cut my femoral artery with a hacksaw, and all my decoupage projects have at least one cat hair floating prominently in them.
    In sewing class I had races down the hallway in the rolling chairs. I traded sleeves for buttonholes and got in trouble (what? they got done, right?) Patterns puzzle me, nail guns out smart me. I am constantly amazed I have all my body parts.
    My mother sewed most all my clothes when I was young and as a testament to my future as a craft un-doer, I ripped out hems with the heels of my shoes, tore off bows and sashes, and was generally a mess. My father said if given a crowbar, I could destroy the world.
    Not that he had room to talk. If something went wrong with an appliance, my mother would skip telling my father and jump right to calling the appropriate professional. If he tried to fix it, we would need a new appliance, not just a repair.
    I can barely put up a mini-blind - easy assembly my eye. Four hours and twelve drilled holes later it might be semi-functional. Just don't pull the cord too hard.
    I am a sloppy painter, hate finish work, and am not allowed to have a band saw.
    Yet people ask me for decorating advice and say they love how my house feels.
    So maybe I have a knack for arranging - if not making - things. Arranging is safer and no one needs stitches.

    11/19/10

    Signals

    I'd always wanted a truck.
    When I moved back to Florida in 1996, I didn't have a car, then after my dad had served as a cataract-ridden chauffeur for six months, my parents, God love 'em, gave me a small amount of money as a down payment on a vehicle.
    Thanksgiving weekend 1996, Angus Og (the Irish god of love) came into my life - a 1993 V-6 Ford Ranger XLT extended cab pick-up.
    That truck was like a dog or horse for me. He was my buddy, my I-got-your-back-adventurer-slash-partner-in-crime, and perhaps most importantly, my introvert escape pod.

    We spent every weekend together, listening to Fiona Apple, taking pictures, traversing the back roads of northern Florida and southern Georgia.
    Horse Stamp Church Road, Burning Church Road, roads I no longer remember the name of. Jekyll Island, Sea Island, St. Simon's Island, Savannah, St. Andrews Island, St. George, Big Talbot, Little Talbot, the Okefenokee Swamp, Fort Clinch, all those places were our stomping grounds.

    As a pick-up driver, there was a wave - loosely speaking - of camaraderie. When you saw another pick-up, you did this: with your wrist lying over the steering wheel (that's how you steer, duh),  you ever so subtly raise the first two fingers of your hand and give a slight upward nod. Sometimes you just got the two fingers in return - not the nod. Younger people did not know this etiquette, this is a generational gesture and only people thirty and older know it.

    When Fawn and I were in Ireland, we noticed many of the older men had a head twitch when they passed us. Kind of a neck adjustment sort of thing - a quick twist to the left. It was several days before we realized this was the Northern Ireland equivalent of a hat raise.


    Angus at the beach
    .

    The Last One, I Promise

    The final prompt [for now] is from 2/16/06. We still met in the Border's store back then, kinda right out in the open and I remember starting to cry when I read this (you can read your piece if you want). The prompt was "Grandparents".
    *****************************************************************************
    My grandmother was a short (4'9") woman. My grandfather was probably 6'7" tall. We didn't see them much, because my father was in the Coast Guard and the coasts he guarded were far away from the red clay hills of Georgia.
    The things I remember most about my grandmother are love and food, how they wrap around me like welcoming arms. Neither of them were demonstrative physically, but love was as present there as a handmade quilt. I loved them more than I knew at the time.

    When I was three, she made my doll her very own tiny blackberry pie. (This chokes me up every time).
    I remember walking out in my grandfather's truck garden in the early morning before it got too hot and together we would pick the best cantaloupe for the breakfast table.

    I learned early that if I was quiet, I could sit on the porch with my mom and grandmother while they gossiped. There was work involved though, I was given my own bowl of peas to shell or beans to string. I had no idea who they were talking about, but it made me feel like I was part of the grownup club.

    My grandmother's pantry was full of jewel toned jars of emerald green beans, ruby red tomatoes, golden pickled peaches, all the fruits of her hard labors. She cooked on a wood burning stove, indoor plumbing didn't come until the 1970's.

    I didn't know until I was grown that they were "poor", tenant farmers, that they rented the house my father grew up in and sold moonshine to make ends meet.

    All I knew is that some of the best days in my life were spent at their house. Sitting on the front porch swing under the tall Georgia pines watching the red dust swirl up after a passing pick up truck. Using a gourd dipper to drink some of the sweetest coldest well water in the world. Being the only one up with my grandmother before it was light watching her make biscuits.

    Another Prompt

    Can you tell I've been cleaning house? This one was dated 9/16/06 and the prompt was "a letter to me from my house". (For some reason, my house has a Jersey accent.)
    *******************************************************************************

    Hey, you - the one who doesn't go outside in the summer. My grass looks like crap and the damn squirrels have chewed some of my siding. And the deck! Don't get me started on the deck!

    Inside you did good, I feel good inside. It's warm, I like the pictures you hung and the pottery. Like what you dd with the guest bath too, that color - that Mystic Iris - that's real nice.

    Hey listen, don't worry about that crack in the foundation, it's cosmetic only - really. You gotta trust me on this. I wouldn't lie to you. I like you, you're a good egg. I can tell.

    A new coat of paint would be nice ya know, that yellow you picked last year. I know, I know, you're still paying off the gutters. See, you are a good egg. I really appreciate not being all stuffed up with acorns.
    I won't lie to ya, I hear you talking about your house in Florida and how much you loved it. It hurts my feelings sometimes. I get it, first house, like a first love I guess. You're not my first either sister.

    But I do like you kid, you're trying. I can be overwhelming sometimes. I'm glad you picked me over that house in Woodcroft or the one in Trinity Park, you know the ones. You made a good choice, you won't be sorry. You'll see, I'll take good care of you.

    P.S. Please paint me soon.

    Doorway

    Another prompt. Dated 2/21/07
    ***************************************************************

    There are many doorways in the Crane Cottage, an old Italianate mansion on Jekyll Island, Georgia.
    The front door is weathered wood with an ornate doorknob and plate. In the back, the courtyard is surrounded by a U-shaped, double barrel vaulted (also called a groin vault, but that doesn't sound very pretty does it?) loggia leading to french doors on each wing.

    How I loved this old building. Every time I came there was a new surprise, something I hadn't noticed before: the lion's head gutter spout, wrought iron flower pot holders on the balconies, the shutter tie backs (aka dogs) on the faded peeling blue shutters in the shape of clam shells. Then there were the old peach colored bricks peeking through the broken stucco, chairs in the courtyard with wrought iron leaf backs and bright POW! blue seats. She was unkempt then, but oh so interesting to a photographer; wood, glass, brick - so many textures!

    Once, a back gate was open and I snuck inside. There was a beautiful spiral staircase, parquet floor, arches in the hallways all curved angles. When I looked out the front windows, the marsh sparkled and winked at me.

    Now she's been gussied up. They tore down the trumpet vine and the cedar tree in the front. All her exposed brick is modestly covered in a new coat of white stucco. You can stay in one of the thirteen bedrooms and eat lunch in the courtyard by the fountain in the chairs with the bright blue seats.

    I miss her. She seems sad to me somehow, valiantly trying to be new again. She's too clean, too pretty.

    The doorknob's the same, but I don't take her picture anymore.





    Flowers

    This is from a prompt writing class back in 2006 (you're given a "prompt", a sentence, poem, picture, etc. and fifteen minutes to write- no editing). As Nancy says in class - no criticism, you can only say what you like about the piece. After all it's been written in only fifteen minutes.
    The prompt was "Giving/Receiving Flowers".
    ***********************************************************************

    Who made up the rule to give flowers when someone dies? Is it from the past, when flowers masked the smell of death, of decay? Flowers are happy and bright. They don't go with death, sadness, tears, the unforgivable loss.

    I can't remember getting flowers from boyfriends or husbands. I give them to myself, although it seems a frivolous expense for something so short-lived.

    Tulips I love the best. They're like two flowers in one - first closed primly in their stark sleekness, then opening to reveal their inner hearts.
    There's something slightly whorish about an open tulip.
    Disheveled, one petal almost off - like a slip strap sliding from a shoulder, hair mussed and sleepy eyed. Ready to give themselves for beauty, for love.

    Brand New and Shiny

    I wanted a bike.
    Nothing fancy, just a quicker way of getting around. Of course all my friends had one, surely that was another reason.

    It probably came from Sears, ordered from the catalog store downtown off one of the muddy unpaved streets. I'm being generous calling it a store, it was more like a kiosk; six or seven catalogs lay sprawled open in the tight gloom.
    In Kodiak, for those of us who couldn't afford to fly to Anchorage to shop, everything from shoes to jeans to dresses came from the Sears catalog. In the hierarchy of mail order, Montgomery Ward was the bottom, Sears and JC Penney held the middle ground, and Spiegel was the bomb diggity top. First day of school, many of us were wearing the same clothes - plucked from the same catalog.

    The bike came in a large carton, unassembled. Hot pink and silver, she was quite the looker.

    My father, who was not known for his mechanical abilities spent a few hours assembling the bike. I can't say for sure how long, because antsy with anticipation, I left the house. It can be reasonably assumed it went something like this:
    Everything came out of the box. Hopes were high, buoyed by the words "easy assembly".
    My mother, always the navigator of difficult journeys, would have read the instructions to my father.
    He would have paid no attention.
    Eventually, my mother would say "Do it yourself then," and leave.
    There would be swearing.
    My father would sacrifice a piece of flesh. Or two.

    But then, at last - my bike!
    Except...
    wait...
    the front fender was on backwards, long part in the front.

    I pointed this out to my dad.
    "That's the way it came out of the box." He was not one to admit mistakes.

    I thought I could get a neighbor or friend's dad to undo the bolts and I'd flip the fender. But to my dismay, the bolts were on so tight it was like they were welded on.

    The fender stayed on backwards.

    You could always tell it was me - I was the one with the mud spattered pants.

    11/18/10

    Let's See

    • I had some ideas about what to write about earlier today and have now forgotten them. They were mix and match things. 
    • Driving = great place for ideas to percolate - no where to write them down.
    • Everyone should have coffee come out of their nose from laughter at least once in their life. My turn came this morning as I read Hyperbole and a Half's entry about moving with her two afflicted dogs. Omg. No wonder she has 31,000 plus followers. (no, that is not a typo. how does one get that many followers? besides being hilarious.)
    • Picked up some hot chorizo at the wine store next to the Thai Cafe. Obviously, they have a little more than wine; local [and not] cheese, local salami, truffle stuffed/chocolate covered figs (so good!!!). I can't wait to have some chorizo with scrambled eggs.
    • Speaking of spicy pork products, one of my favorite employee meals from my Steve's Bar-B-Q  days (we were Steve's Bar-B-Cuties) was the Bip Bam Hot Damn - hot links, linguica, grilled onions and cheese on grilled dark rye (price - $3.95). Yea.
    • That's me - the one with the circle around her 80's poodle permed mulleted big shoulder padded bad self. (it looks like I'm wearing bedroom slippers. That cannot be right!)
    • It is freezing in this closet/Suite 101/home office. So cold it feels like it could snow in here.

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    This is who has looked at my blog. Wow. Hello world.Well, some of the world. More of the world than I knew.

    Posts that got the most comments:
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    Mom Update

    We went out to dinner on Monday. She kept asking if she was going home, or if I taking her home with me. She introduced me as her mother.

    This morning I received an email from the doctor:
    "I saw your mother this week and she appears to be making the transition to Clare Bridge wonderfully. The staff reported that she was cooperative, pleasant and taking all meds etc. I did find her blood sugars much lower this week. It may be better control of diet, not sure, but have decreased her medications and will continue to do so. Her blood pressure was good."

    Funny, we were paying for a carbohydrate controlled diet in Wynwood (and aren't here), yet her sugar is down, maybe because they don't let her skip meals.

    **********************************************************************************

    I had forgotten about this "special edition" Barbie. This was for a friend who was afraid she was going to get fat and grow facial hair after her hysterectomy. (Helen was a tiny petite woman who regularly "forgot to eat" and had to "make" herself eat half a sandwich. I have forgotten to eat, um...let me think...oh right, that would be exactly never, in my life.)
    Being the sensitive concerned friends we were, we made this care package for her recovery. Mom sewed the hospital gown, wrist band, and cut Barbie's hair into a bob [of sorts] just like Helen's.









    11/17/10

    Cinnamon Toast Sidewalks

    We had a nice whopping rainstorm last night and the sidewalks/streets/driveways are golden brown and crispy with fallen leaves.

    In other news, I smashed two fingers while putting a new container of water in the cooler. Dangit! that hurt. Actually it is still a wee bit throbby five hours later (especially when I press on them).
    What is it about something hurting that makes one want to poke at it more?
    Do the words "hot plate" make you want to touch the plate? They do me.
    What is that?

    11/16/10

    While We're On The Subject


    I can't remember where I found this, so my apologies to whoever wrote it for not giving you the credit. This is as close to truly representing me as anything I've ever read - right down to the traveling, love of quotes and personality tests!
    **************************************************************************************************************************


    INFJ - Cold on The Outside, Warm and Fuzzy on The Inside
                Most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive. But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger.
                The INFJ's thinking is introverted, turned toward the subject. Perhaps it is when the INFJ's thinking function is operative that he is most aloof. A comrade might surmise that such detachment signals a disillusionment, that she has also been found lacking. Experience suggests that such distancing is merely an indication that the seer is hard at work and focusing energy into this less efficient function.

                INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people -- a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul mates." While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood -- particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.
                Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. They have an unusually rich inner life, but they are reserved and tend not to share their reactions except with those they trust. With their loved ones, certainly, INFJ’s are not reluctant to express their feelings, their face lighting up with the positive emotions, but darkening like a thunderhead with the negative. Indeed, because of their strong ability to take into themselves the feelings of others, INFJ’s can be hurt rather easily by those around them, which, perhaps, is one reason why they tend to be private people, mutely withdrawing from human contact. At the same time, friends who have known an INFJ for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise. Not that they are inconsistent; INFJ’s value their integrity a great deal, but they have intricately woven, mysterious personalities which sometimes puzzle even them. Rarely get into conflict, but when it erupts, can be very bitter.

    -  value personal integrity and "being true to yourself"
    -  are on a lifelong search for a unique identity and meaning; spirituality is important to us
    -  can be hard to get to know, depending on the other person (reciprocity)
    -  are sometimes seen by others as cold and hard on the outside
    -  can be difficult to "peg"; sometimes INFJs may not recognize fellow members of their own type
    -  may find it easier to express their deepest feelings and sentiments non-verbally or in writing
    -  abhor evil or injustice, especially that directed towards the innocent or helpless
    -  are sometimes looked upon by others as naive, mostly due to our idealism
    -  can be quite gullible; many INFJs build up a protective armour over the years to protect against  this  and being "used" by others
    - enjoy thoughtful discussion but dislike arguing for argument's sake, as this often degenerates into ugly conflict
    -  are bookworms, love bookstores and libraries
    -  love personality tests and other self-improvement tools
    love quotes/quotations and are often "philosophers" or "theologists"  



    "Mute withdrawal is a major INFJ defense."

                When the INFJ is in a stressful situation, their initial reaction is "flight".  How they do this is by distancing themselves from the situation, usually separating from the problem while buying time.  They need to step back and consider what's going on.  They tend to move away from what isn't liked, and sometimes even stay away from that.  To others, it may look as if they are detached or are fleeing from the problem.  But after they adjust to the situation, they will face the problem with a solution in hand.  When there is conflict, the emotion they tend to express is "afraid."
                It's obvious that the American dream is to be extroverted. We want our children to be "people who need people." We want them to have lots of friends, to like parties, to prefer to play outside with their buddies rather than retire with a good book, to make friends easily, to greet new experiences enthusiastically, to be good risk-takers, to be open about their feelings, to be trusting. We regard anyone who doesn’t fit this pattern with some concern. We call them "withdrawn," "aloof," "shy," "secretive," and "loners." These pejorative terms show the extent to which we misunderstand introverts.
    The majority of Americans are extroverted (about 75%). Introverts are wired differently from extroverts and they have different needs. Extroverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries. Since extroversion is the dominant mode in our society, there are no "closet extroverts," but there are many "closet introverts," people who are so ashamed of their introversion that they try to be extroverts.
    So what then is an introvert? The essence of an introvert is to focus on his or her internal life.
    This does not mean that an introvert is self-centered or is not involved with the external world. An introvert operates predominantly internally by thinking quietly.  (In contrast, an extrovert operates predominantly externally by vocalizing while thinking.). Thus, whether the introvert is working on external or internal issues, he or she will tend to be taciturn and reticent.  (In contrast, an extrovert will tend to talk.)
    However, if an introvert ever gets into a discussion about a topic that he or she has a particular interest in, then his or her internal machinations may be externalized. Such a discussion may be quite beneficial, functional, deep, involved, and/or emotional. The tendency amongst introverts is to have discussions of the most meaningful sort; otherwise, no discussion at all is preferred. From an introvert's point of view, most other discussions are simply chatter.
    Needless to say, there are many problems involved with this. Most people, i.e., most non-introverts, need more communication and feedback. There is useful information and bonding that can be acquired via "chatter." These problems do not mean that introverts should convert into extroverts!  It would be a dull world if everyone thought and operated in the exact same way.
    An experienced (or self-aware) INFJ makes provisory [travel] arrangements to cope with sensory overload by scheduling some "down time" if the duration of the visit permits it.  In fact, INFJs can be rather anti-social while traveling.  They may appear cordial, but they truly dread the taxi driver's, "So where are you from?" or the bellman's rote inquiry, "Are you traveling on business or is this a vacation?"  They would prefer to be ignored entirely.