Mmmm pie…good thing I wasn’t in charge of them last year,/i>
Today we are having Thanksgiving with our friends “The Girls” and this is the first year I get to show up before dinner and enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail: the last few years I’ve either worked or been on call. Bonus points I don’t have to work the day after Thanksgiving so I can stay up too late at their house wii bowling or watching them play guitar hero. I’m also campaigning for them to join us in Mexico this February, we all had such a great time together last year. Because they are both business women with Very Important Jobs and Very Advanced Degrees, I’ve prepared spread sheets with a cost analysis as well as a pie chart.
Speaking of pie, “we” are responsible for the pie. (that’s the royal “we”) TG is making three different pies: key lime (mmmmm yum), pumpkin (mmmm…ok), and pecan (no thanks). I suggested she make it easy on herself: just make a Pumpkin Lime Pecan Melody pie. After she threw up a little in her mouth she thanked me for the helpful suggestion and explained pie making isn’t that hard and these three are particularly easy.
I can’t wrap my head around this concept of pie making is easy. If I tried to make three different types of pie, their would be filling and crust strewn throughout the house; plus every pot, bowl, spoon and dish would be in need of the dishwasher. And if Kipper were alive he would probably have a pie tin on his head and flour on his snout.
Given this disaster scenario, just imagine what the place would look like if I tried to do the whole turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, rolls, yams, cranberry sauce, and pie thing.
It would take the National Guard and a couple of ninjas to clean up that epic mess.
Good thing we’re invited to dinner. Even better I’m not in charge of the pie(s).
Once upon a time I was a pox on the soul of the Nazi breastfeeding crowd
I had several hellish days at the hospital and didn’t bother to look at my mail until Wednesday morning before I drove Beav to school. Imagine my surprise when I found a “Parents’” magazine, “The Early Years” addition. I’m waiting with bated breath for my issue of Modern Maturity and I get a freakin’ parenting magazine! Yes dear readers I laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I laughed again because the date on it was November 2010. Awesome, completely too little too late. Much like my parenting style. Lackadaisical. My only saving grace as a parent when my kids were little I didn’t drink daily. I wanted to drink daily but I didn’t. Prozac was my vodka. Seriously, in hindsight that’s probably why I didn’t drink. That and I remembered what it was like for a couple of my friends who had alcoholic parents. We wouldn’t play or hang out at their houses very often because Mom or Dad always “too busy” or “napping”. I’m actually glad I was completely oblivious to what this adjective and noun really meant when I was a kid.. In hindsight, it breaks my heart I knew girls (whom are my “chosen sisters”) living in those conditions. I have flights of fantasy where adult me swoops in and rescues them as girls–staging an intervention with the offending parent or parents–whisking the girls off to another household where the most horrible thing that happens is getting yelled at for not cleaning your room and that birthday party you were invited to is forgotten until about an hour before it starts so the present is purchased and wrapped on the way to the party.
Well if that weird digression isn’t testimony I have middle-aged hormonal issues…I don’t know what is! So lemme get back on task with the subject at hand.
I didn’t read it when my kids were little. I read “Family Fun” and hippy dippy “Mothering”. In fact, I wrote “Mothering” a letter to the editor in about 1999 taking an ex-professor of mine to task for her shoddy research modalities and her theory that Every. Mother. Should. Breast. Feed. All. The. Time. Um…no was my counter opinion. Crack cocaine is never good for a baby, in utero, via breast milk or secondhand smoke. Neither is alcohol. And some mommies smoke crack and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Which was my point to this professor–who also hated me and told me the last day of nursing school if she had her way I never be a nurse. I believe she was a little put off by my pink tinged mullet and torn clothing–was her research was completely oblivious to the existence of other people outside of the Mary Cassett vision of “Mommy“. Which also explains why a punked out 22 year old wasn’t “Nursy” enough in her stupid jaundiced narrow eyes.
Guess how long I got hate mail from equally oblivious readers of this magazine. Just guess.
Eight years. Eight. That’s a long time to get hate mail.
At first the letters scared me, a couple of them were threatening: telling me my children should be taken away from me (seriously!) because I believed in “negligent parenting practices“. Real fringe lunacy type stuff. One letter used the word “Satan” to describe me. What cracks me up, is most of these women welding their bossy sticks were probably the progeny of Winston Longs and Gordon’s Gin in utero and then they played on DDT covered grass in front of their doctor’s office waiting for their EVUL vaccines when they weren‘t parked in front of the television with only “The Rifleman“ and “As The World Turns“ for entertainment. After a few months all the frothing at the mouth made me laugh. My biggest regret is I never heard from the good doctor; I even signed the letter with my highly unusual maiden name and my credentials. Perhaps I should have enclosed a college graduation picture so she would remember I looked more like Cindy Lauper than Florence Nightingale.
Ok then. I promise I’m finished with the Grandpa Simpson digressions: Back to the November 2010 Parenting: The Early Years.
Here’s what I could read about in my current dotage:
“I did it myself” Teaching the art of getting dressed”
–they paid someone to write this article? Really? Modern parents need to be taught how to teach a child to put on their pants one leg at a time? Did I teach my kids wrong? ARE THEY DOING IT WRONG ALL THESE YEARS??? What was wrong with: “Honey, your underpants are cute on your head but that’s not where most people wear them.“ “…put the pants legs over your feet and then pull them up over your legs until the band is at your belly button…the big hole is for your head and the two little holes are for your arms…” WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY CHILDREN???? THIS IS HOW I TAUGHT THEM TO DRESS!!! I guess I’m gonna have to drop another fifty in their therapy accounts.
“10-minute Workout: Finally! A plan that fits with even your schedule”
–I had a ten minute work out that fit nicely into my schedule and sometimes it stretched into the fifteen minute workout: it was called: “Putting Beav in the Car Seat” Sometimes if we had to go somewhere he didn’t want to be bothered with (this was like 99% of the time) I had to carry his massive three year old self to the car, usually tucked under my arm while he was flailing. So there some core and upper body strengthening. I would then hold him under his arms away from my body and sit him the car seat where I would brace myself with one foot in the car, bent over while I had one hand gently but firmly on his chest to keep him from moving forward and therefore out of the car seat while I pulled the restraint thingy down over his head and buckled it between his legs. I’m thinking this fancy maneuver was good for my core, my back and my legs. My psyche not so much. I’m not sure about his because I’m afraid to ask if he remembers Car Seat Wars and if he does that’s probably good for another C note in his therapy account.
Next up and this is in bold on the cover:
THE BEST TOYS OF THE YEAR
I don’t even need to flip open to page 118 because I know these things are listed:
The big television box
Dining room and kitchen chairs and a couple of old quilts
The kitchen cupboard with all the plastic stuff
A dripping garden hose in the backyard
A big silly white dog named Kipper
The laundry chute in Mommy’s room*
Hooray For Turkey Day
Easy make-ahead dishes
–stovetop stuffing made last November and pulled from the freezer this November?
Super sneaky time-savers
–get invited to a friends house! (duh)
–HungryMan TV dinners (is your three year old really gonna care? Really?)
great games and crafts
–One year the kids got to play: “Watch Mommy Cook Strung Out On Benadryl” The craft project that year was making me a decorated drool cup. At least they never played: “Run and go get Mommy another glass of wine!”
Wally played that with me this Christmas. He’s twenty.
All kidding aside, I’m sure this issue of parenting has valuable articles, tips and tricks for parents of young children who are still slapping themselves at times and muttering: “What the Hell did I do to my life?” I just hope their advertisers are the only Bossy Stick elements because apparently if you had not been feeding your NEWBORN “special Enfamil NEWBORN formula”, YOU WERE DOING IT WRONG AND YOUR CHILD IS DOOMED. I kid you not. This is the ad on the back of the magazine and yes, I’ve contacted the Similac people because of the tone:
“I am NOT A BABY I am a newborn”
Apparently, those of us who didn’t feed our children Enfamil PREMIUM newborn formula deprived them of 25% more Vitamin D Is the subtextual guilt really necessary?
My guess is this is this ad is not on the back of Mothering magazine. Just sayin’…and I was deprived of 25% of my much needed Vitamin D when I was a
baby newborn…and I can still figure that out. Wow.
*thank goodness my kids were too big to push each other down it because everything else was tossed to the basement via the shoot. And if you happen to have small children and a laundry chute, the broom is the best weapon for dislodging things wedged in the silly thing. Just a little parenting advice because I‘m helpful like that.
I went off on a tangent reminiscing about holidays past. A Way Back Machine post about a memory? Meta much June?
Despite my yammerings about how I’m not a holiday person I do like Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why but the concept of a “Harvest Meal” delights me. Of course Thanksgiving in the US isn’t technically set for harvest time like the Canadians. I’ve been to Canada for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful, truly an autumnal celebration: snow hadn’t started flying so there were some flowers left in our friend’s garden and late fruit, too. The meal was a traditional North American turkey feast with the regional tweaks to the stuffing (or “dressing” as I was taught to call it as a child).
I’m not a huge fan of turkey and think it’s a huge pain in the neck to create the whole traditional meal. For a few years I would fix equally complex meals: one year it was quail in a special cranberry sauce, another year it was Mexican fiesta food and another year it was French with a perfect champagne reduction. Just think what I would do in the kitchen if I actually like to cook. The two times I did make a traditional meal it was utter misery. The food was good but it was just such a ridiculous chore to fix the turkey and dressing. Especially given I don’t like turkey all that much.
I don‘t really care about the food at Thanksgiving, it really is about the people. I’ve been to family Thanksgivings, orphan thanksgivings, Thanksgiving with my co-workers and I‘ve a Thanksgiving alone. When we lived in Albuquerque I would always just pick at Mom’s food and then race across the street for OF’s family meal. I can’t remember if Jo fixed anything truly exotic for Thanksgiving but I do remember having lovely little creamed onions which seemed terribly sophisticated at the time. What I thought was an incredibly complex recipe was dead simple and years later when I called Jo for her recipe; she was amused I thought they were exotic. I think the year I first had the lovely little onions in butter and cream was the year my sister’s boyfriend from Texas hitchhiked to see her.
I was gob smacked even as a little girl by the huge romantic gesture. He hitched rides from College Station Texas (yes, an Aggie, we’ll forgive him for this) to Albuquerque in 1970. He had hair to the middle of his back and to get rides he tucked it into a cap. Otherwise who was going to pick up that long-haired hippy fella, right? We had only left Texas a few months before and his leaving for college coincided with our move. Barring my ex-brother-in-law he was my favorite of all her many boyfriends because he was always nice to me even though I was a terrible snoopy tag-a-long. His romantic gesture went a long way with me and Thanksgiving felt really special and unique that year. It’s not every girl that can brag her sister’s hippy college aged boyfriend hitchhiked across the southwest to see her!
When I was five or six I had either the measles or chicken pox for Thanksgiving. I remember getting to come to the big table in my pj’s and sitting next to my silly Aunt Jean who joked me out of feeling sorry for myself. My cousins and Sister, who usually teased me just because I was the youngest, were especially nice to me. No doubt on the threat of death because I would have been a howling crying mess if they had made fun of me. My guess is Mom was pretty much done with Uber Sensitive Child home from school and sick that week. Looking back on the type of kid I was I‘m amazed she wasn’t a drinker.
I’m thankful I can’t think of a single Thanksgiving that wasn’t stressful or angst ridden due to family issues. The holiday I remember spending alone was by choice because I was on call for work and it was just simpler to hang out at home on my own than try to make plans. The worst Thanksgiving wasn’t even bad it was actually pretty hilarious. I was going to fix the meal, a traditional meal with all the trimmings because Dad completely BALKED at the idea I would do otherwise, and if I did otherwise, well they weren’t coming! Hrumphfff! I wanted my parents to visit and see their grandsons so I acquiesced and I was going to DO IT ALL MYSELF THANK YOU SO GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN.
What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and housewives? Did you know it’s almost impossible to fix Thanksgiving feast covered in hives, wheezing and high on double the usual prescribed amount of Benadryl? I believe Mom took over about the time I almost burnt myself on the stove. I can remember lying on the couch and blubbering out an apology that sounded something like this: “Ima shorry thish happen mawwwmmmm. I don know whut I ate bu’ ish no good…” Needless to say, I wasn’t offered any wine at dinner that afternoon, especially after I insisted on filling the water glasses and poured exactly next to the first one, soaking the table. It was so completely opposite to the meal and the holiday I wanted with my parents that even in the moment the absurdity of it made me laugh. However, I pointedly avoid cake mix, bisquick and American Beauty pasta the Wednesday before Thanksgiving because as absurd as it was I don‘t want to spend another Thanksgiving on the couch drooling an apology.
I’ve yet to participate in these festivities in Mexico but I have in New Mexico which is the next best thing.
Today is Dia de las Muertos–Day of the Dead–and I think if I had to choose a holiday to celebrate this would be it. Perhaps it’s my curiosity of Latin American culture and it’s yummy soup mix of Indigenous/Catholic/Magic way of looking at life and the final stage of life: death. To tell you the truth I didn’t really discover Dia de Las Muertos until about ten years ago when I happened to be in Taos for the weekend and it also happened to be November 1st. What a joyful celebration my friend and I stumbled across. After the prayers there was a dance. And everyone who knows me knows how much I love to dance. Which is a lot. I would rather dance than do just about anything else. And what was really amazing about that weekend is my friend Abby met the love of her life at that dance and now they share a life together. What a perfect circle. It was also this weekend I noticed my first ofrenda in a shop. It was an amazing altar dedicated to the shopkeeper’s Grandmother, strewn with red roses, candles, a tea pot, jewelry and multiple pictures of her draped in chrysanthemums. Colorful, festive and joyous like life should be. I was a very shy “photographer” in those days and didn’t take a picture even though she welcomed me to after she gave me a detailed and invited description of this tradition.
I’m not shy anymore and I think it was last year in Mexico when happened to notice a giant nativity scene peeping out at me from the sidewalk in a house adjacent to a store. You can read about it here. She also had an ofrenda off to the corner with a picture of someone and a few dusty plastic flowers. I speak absolutely NO Spanish (aside from maybe asking this woman to use her toilet and serve me a beer with the check) so it wasn’t like I could ask her about it. She saw me glance at it and ducked her head, clearly not wanting to show it off like she did her amazing nativity scene when she pulled me into her home and switched on the lights. Her actions coupled with the dusty condition of it raised about eight thousand questions. All of them nosy. All of them in English. I suppose I could invent my own story but I’m not a terribly skilled fiction writer.
Remembering this episode in Mexico has made me stop and think about what I would include in a table top ofrenda dedicated to my grandmother, Laura.
I would construct it in a Whitman’s Candy Sampler box and trim the box with her tatted lace. The inside of the box would be covered in a crossword puzzle. Somehow I would figure out a way to configure a tiny little television set with jeopardy written in the Jeopardy font. I would include small individual pictures of her eight children and her many grandchildren (12?) . It would be really fun if each picture was at a different stage of their lives so they weren’t all matchy matchy. Next to the collage of pictures would be one of those old small Coca-Cola bottles (the real deal not one of the new one’s). Inside the bottle would be a really tacky plastic rose because one of the things I received from her things after she died was a tacky doo-dad I received from her when I was five. It one of my shoes covered in macaroni, spray painted gold with a plastic yellow rose stuck in it. My grandmother died almost two decades after I made it. That she treasured such small things should be remembered. But the piece de resistance would be the cover of a Rosemary Roger’s <I>Sweet Savage Love</I>. Grandmother’s guilty pleasure was bodice rippers which never failed to amuse me when I was a young woman.
This is where I trash talk Halloween.
this always makes me laugh
Happy Halloween. Yeah. Whatever.
Halloween has become an interesting holiday. For some adults it’s New Year’s Eve in a mask and a slutty dress with fishnet stockings. I think this annoys me more than Christmas in October. My most favorite Halloween was when I was five and Mom threw a little party in our backyard. We bobbed for apples on strings suspended from the swing set and we ate cupcakes. That’s all I remember but I remember being very happy and laughing a lot. I also remember the first year I was allowed to go out Trick or Treating without a parent, I was in the third grade and it was magical to dash along the darkened streets, made all the more menacing by the lack of street lights and the big piney woods along the roads. That was the year a family turned their house into a haunted house and let kids tour it. Can you imagine doing that now? I would have had a heart attack, lectured myself hoarse and then had a seizure if my eight year old boys had gone into a stranger’s home turned haunted house without me. What’s really scary about this new adult focused Halloween is driving the Saturday night before Oct 31st.
Last night my drive home from work at 7:30 wasn’t terribly thrilling but I knew in about four hours it was going to be “interesting” on the roads because so many “adults” have decided the Saturday night before is a great time to dress up in funny costumes– a slutty version of something if you’re a woman and a tee-shirt that says “Costume” if you’re a man–and drink your weight in beer or cocktails or both if it‘s 1983 and you‘re 22. I’m not sure what slutty costumes and alcohol have to do with Halloween which was originally a religious celebration to scare way the evil spirit’s the day before All Souls Day. I guess now the idea is to get the evil spirits all liquored up so they are too hung over on All Souls Day to bother with anything more than a Big Gulp and a greasy burrito from 7-11 with an Ibuprofen chaser and a nap followed by Bloody Mary‘s. (see above IRT 1983 and 22)
Admittedly, I’ve done the dressing up for Halloween and go to a big party thing as an adult. When I was just out of college I went to a huge block party in downtown Dallas dressed as Smurfette but I wasn’t slutty Smurfette and my date hated my costume and dumped me mid date which was ok because bitched up prep didn’t match my punk attitude. I stayed out and had one of those evenings I wish I could fully remember. What I remember was wickedly fun. Ah to be 22 and covered in blue body paint again. The second adult party I went to was years later and I dressed up as the goddess Athena. It was pretty cool, too. Especially the sword fight I got into with Xena. Ward left the party just after the sword fight and right before we were dancing on the fireplace hearth. Poor Athena had to walk home in the bracing and sobering cold night. A few years ago, a woman talked me into going with her to a big party. We dressed up like Trailer Trash. Yeah, I know not terribly politically correct but pretty amusing. She had on a tee shirt that was unspeakably funny with an obscene slogan I can’t repeat. I had rollers in my hair and again…decidedly NOT slutty what with the baby dolls hanging off of me and the ugly Elvis tee shirt I had on…not a picture of vixen Halloween sexay-ness. I thought it was terribly hilarious…my companion…again…didn’t see the humor and we never saw one another again. At least she didn’t leave me to my own devices or make me walk home.
Hmmm…I wonder if this history of rejection is why I’m not fond of dressing up for Halloween. Or maybe it’s because I just move about the world in the “costume” of the person I most want to be 365 days of the year and putting on a mask and a silly dress isn‘t necessary.
This is what happens when you procrastinate in early winter. The other thing that happens when you procrastinate things like the dentist is 22 year old gold overlays fall out of your mouth when you’re eating yogurt. Lucky me I didn’t swallow a grand’s worth of gold. Double lucky me the dentist put it back on…something always has to go “boom” before a vacation in my house. At least no one has broken an arm…yet.
Last week, we had our biggest snow of the year. And because I suck at paying attention to many adult responsibilities I didn’t realize just how bad my tires were until I drove Beav to school. My SUV became a lethal weapon on those streets yesterday morning and I found myself driving much like I once skied: almost at the brink of complete loss of control, any misjudgement would result in a specatacular yard sale and a flalling tumble leaving gloves and hats behind me on the hill. So my first stop after dropping Beav off was not my crack dealer or a coffee shop but the tire store. Luckily, despite my procrastinating style, the people at the tire store didn’t see me swirve into the parking lot and skid to a stop because if they had, they could have charged me oh maybe a thousand bucks for tires and I would have said, “Ok, I‘ll take them.“ Because spending a grand on tires was better than driving anywhere ever again on the tires I had. And I must be living right because the price was actually under what I had saved for this shopping trip. It wasn’t like I was completely clueless to the state of my tires, I had actually saved money for them and I put it off because I like seeing the over inflated balance in my account. That extra cash made me feel as if I really could walk into Sundance and buy the cute $200 blouse without a second thought of: “Dude, what about tires?.“ So I waited until the situation was critical–three inches of snow on the ground with maybe eighteen more coming–and bought tires. I have a tendancy to forget things like buying school supplies and school clothes. I am alwaysalways, ALWAYS stunned it’s the end of August and everyone needs new shoes and backpacks and pencils and crap. I blame absolute denial on not having winter clothing unpacked in October because I hate winter that much. Or when the kids were little, summer would roll around and I would be STUNNED I hadn’t signed them up for swimming or replaced their summer clothing or laid up pool food and extra beer for me (the afternoons, they were long with a three year old and a seven year old, just sayin’) And how dare that cute little oil can light be on, I just put oil in the truck, what, six months ago? But yesterday morning, I knew the Universe wasn’t going to send me out the door and onto the street with protection and blessings so I wouldn’t kill, maim, hurt or distroy anyone or anything in the SUV Of The Bald Tires. Once I crawled to the tire store, I was truly surprised to see I wasn’t the only person who had waited until the first big snow was actually hitting the ground to do something about the safety of their vehicles and I felt lucky the store had the tires I needed and came in under budget. I was so pleased about these things I didn’t mind the–I kid you not–four hour wait.
Worth every second of waiting because I love my new tires and they have the most remarkable feature called “tread”. The grooves are deep and symmetrical with small grooves interlaced around and next to the crevices. I was offered spikes for the little holes but that was pushing this whole driving in deep snow thing so I opted out on the spikes. Which, in hindsight would have been a nice butch BDSM touch to my Big Ass Tires. Now snow is my special Bitch. Driving home yesterday afternoon I was enraptured with my new
toys tires. Even Beav noticed. I had to stop on a dime behind someone and his comment was: “Oh yeah, this morning, we would have hit that guy.” And then he looked up from his endless text messaging to tell me: “Mom, you didn’t skid to the right that time.”
I’m still having a Near Dyke* Moment about these tires. I think I’m in love with them, too. Which is completely unlike me. I fall in love with lipstick, blouses and chairs. Cars aren’t that important to me, I see cars that catch my eye and I have a secret crush on these guys and their cars, so I’m not a complete idiot but I’m not terribly keen on driving . My parents had to force me to learn when I was seventeen and I still don’t have a lot of confidence in my abilities. But these new tires. Wow. I’m almost cocky behind the wheel of my truck. Uh oh you are thinking, watch out for the old green Mitz, June is one of those SUV drivers. You know the type, owning the road, following too close, going too fast on snow and through water? Fortunately, Mitzy still reins it in and moves like a little old lady in the snow but she moves like a little old lady wearing killer snow boots.
It’s a good thing they cancelled school last Thursday because Beav was up banging around until about midnight or so and 0600 wouldn’t have been pretty if there had been school. Wally’s Honda was almost buried and too bad it melted before I could dig it out because I love snow so much. (/sarcasm) Nothing I hate more than being wet and cold. And please don’t tell me “you just need the appropriate clothing and then you would enjoy it.“ I have such clothing and nope, don’t enjoy it. If today is any indication it’s going to be a long winter. Usually, this sort of storm saves up it’s wrath for March, and this storm is making a March dump look like a dusting which is why I’ll be in my room weeping if anyone needs me.
We leave for Mexico in ninety two days. Not that I’m counting.
*being a Dyke is not a bad thing, I mean this in the political sense of the word.
Today marks the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. I don’t think about her every day but almost every day.
It’s been ten days since I joined the “Motherless Daughters Club”. My initiation was fast and you gave me little time to prepare. I mean, I knew this would happen eventually but I wasn’t planning on Wednesday morning while I was taking The Beav to school. What a blessing I feel loneliness rather than regret or relief now that you are gone. Our relationship wasn’t always easy but are they ever between mother and daughter. We weathered a few years of estrangement and moved to a place of loving friendship many women don‘t get to share with their mothers. I just wish we had lived closer and I had had the gift of the daily relationship.
Dad is bereft. But that isn’t any surprise because you were his hero and he was always so proud of you. Did you know he was smitten at first site and was afraid to ask you out because you were so pretty and popular? “Too good for a hillbilly farm kid like me” is how he tells the story. The other night Dad and I were looking through some papers he found and we were discussing my past difficulties with relationships. I told him what a tough act the two of you were to follow. Of course your marriage wasn’t perfect. The perfection rested in how you dealt with difficulties. Dad shared with me a story I had never heard before. During the late 1960’s, he came home and found you preparing to leave us. You were terribly unhappy and felt like a failure as a wife and a mother. The two of you talked things out and were able to work through your angst. You were about 37 when this happened. I remember how hard 37 was for me. How sad for you, to be dogged your whole life by such feelings of inadequacy when you were breathtakingly beautiful and so talented at everything you did. One of your friends, from many years ago, was at your memorial; she said sometimes it was hard to be your friend because you were so good at everything you did. I laughed and asked her to imagine being her daughter. I’m sorry you ever felt like a failure. I’m sorry my sister and I were so hard to deal with and you wanted–in a moment of desperation–to leave us.
Even though Dad wasn’t a big chocolate mess on Wednesday (that was my job)we didn’t want him making the journey home on Thursday alone so me and TG joined him. It was the first time in many years I’ve made that stupid long drive. But we had a good time and the stories we told diverted our attention from the overwhelming and shared grief. In fact, I laughed and smiled so much my face was sore the next day. You would have had such a great time with us. But I ached to hear your side of things. The weather was crisp and clear, too and at midmorning we drove though stratus clouds in the high plains. I think the last time I was that close to clouds we lived in the foothills. I almost asked Dad if we could stop so I could try to jump up and touch them. But just seeing clouds close to the ground made me feel close to your new home in Heaven.
All week long, while we planned the memorial and undertook the unspeakable task of going through your things, I looked for you. Several times, I had to remind myself you weren’t in the next room. TG took such beautiful care of us; making sure we ate properly. Providing the exact comfort Dad needed Friday evening when he broke down because he missed you so much. This has been hard on her, too. I believe she carries the cellular memory of losing her mother when she was a baby and losing her mother-in-law pushes forward the primal loss. I’m so happy you got to know her. She loves you very much.
Your memorial service was lovely. About two hundred people gathered and your old friend gave the eulogy and I read a short note from one of the nieces who couldn’t be there. You touched so many people and they were all anxious to celebrate your life with us.
You would have been so proud to have your favorite nieces and nephews gathered with your children and grandchildren. (It was dear how they called me Laura Ann, I loved it.)
But still Dad and I looked for you. Wanting to share things with you; The Beav said he heard your voice a couple of times. I did too, but it was just the echoes of your sisters in my cousin’s voices.
Kiss your sisters and Grandmother for me.
two years ago, almost to the day I wrote this little piece about remembering to be happy. Some days it takes an effort but I’m finding it takes more energy to be sad or angry than it does happy. Happy feels like breathing.
One of my oldest friends just finished six months of chemotherapy and managed to keep his hair and only lost fifteen pounds through the process. It was an inspiration to watch him on this journey as he faced a life threatening diagnosis with courage and humor. Not only did he never ask: “Why me?” but he pointedly avoided that mind set and continued to do the things he loves, a little slower maybe but he continued to dive, run, bike and play basketball. He lived like he was dying.
His journey has been a lesson to me and it’s made stop and realize I have a tendancy to moan “why me” whenever something gets in my way and just after I start the pity party, I sit down, paralyzed by the obstacle. Sitting on the side of the road is actually counter to what I believe and it frustrates me when I realize I’ve sat down to nurse wounds rather than “walking it off”. It wastes precious time. I believe we are given this life on this planet as a gift and we should treat it as such. Tenderly and with joy.
But joy is hard to reach sometimes, isn’t it? But it’s always there. Like that forgotten bag of chocolate chips in the pantry. They have always been there…even when you think to yourself: “Chocolate would be good just now. I wish I had some.” Somehow they managed to get pushed behind the boring things like the cornmeal, rice and raisins. You can see just the edge of the bag, shiny in the depths of the pantry but you have to stand on your tippy-toes and reach up and out and away from your body and you manage to grasp the edge and slid them gently towards you so you don’t spill the cornmeal or rice. It‘s a tricky maneuver and at one point you just think maybe you will just have the raisins, they‘re sweet right? But not like chocolate. So you wiggle your hand past the stupid raisins and your heart speeds just a little as you grasp the tiniest bit of corner on the bag. Then you pull, and wrestle and wrangle them and when they are freed from their hiding place you give yourself a little clap and cheer because the cornmeal didn’t spill and you didn’t settle for raisins.
Beav escorted me to Washington DC a few years ago and managed to put up with me!
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals;
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all dark night – some are so young;
Some suffer so much – I recall the experience sweet and sad…
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, 1876
DC? Seriously cool. Like raising the cool bar and wiping out NYC for the coolest place I’ve ever been. Dupont Circle? So cool there needs to be a velvet rope around it and Brooklyn has to wait in the back of the line for the head tilt and nod to join the party. So cool that San Francisco hangs her head in shame because despite her best efforts they are furtive and even the tragically hip of The Mission can’t keep up with DC.
What a day! Me and the Beav powered through The Freer Gallery, The American History Museum and The Natural History Museum after we toured the Air and Space Museum.
It’s like my brain had a big meal and all it can do is sit back, sigh and belch.
Love at first sight yesterday. The quote on the walls of the north entrance of the Dupont Circle metro station got my attention (never mind the escalator is terrifically steep and like Orpheus’ Descent to Hell) but the people here have me hooked. We were standing on a street corner and heard three separate conversations in three different languages. The diversity is wrapped in the lovely facade of old buildings–most of them older than the oldest ones in my city–topped of with a friendly southern vibe. The only other place I fell for this hard was Baltimore. The locals here are very patient with tourists, too. Millions of people stumble through their city and yet, they smile and tell you you are walking in the wrong direction like they have never been asked a question before.
The Beav has never been to the east coast before and coupled with the foreign landscape are masses of people. Many more than he is used to on most days in our city. On the airplane, as we made our descent Beav noticed the wide rivers and the lush landscape. I agreed with him and told him this foreign feeling makes me feel like a hick, especially if I’m on the east coast.
“Golly, Lookat fancy old building! They is big an’ old, ain’t they?”
“Hot diggity! I’m from the Western US of A! All y’all is so fancy!”
“Woo Doggies! Look at all these folks! An’ all of ‘em so diff’rent, too!”
Coupled with feeling like a hick I am also an idiot when it comes to directions and I can’t find my way out of a paper bag without directions and maps. My family thinks I’m completely OCD because I have itineraries complete with walking directions to and from sites when I travel. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t mind getting lost, some of my best times traveling are when I’m lost. Fortunately, the kids and TG are like human GPS units so I can leave the directions to them. But today, even Beav was confounded and we spent thirty-five minutes–in the rain–wandering in circles looking for a metro station (this is how I discovered the people here are very patient with tourists).
Aside from the kindness of strangers and the scary escalator the four things which made the most impression on me:
1. Julia Child used The Joy Of Cooking more than any other cookbook.
2. Mamie Eisenhower wore the wrong dress to the inauguration. The dress she chose accentuated her thick torso and the foofy ruffle thingy over her left hip made her look fat.
3. There was a motorcade of Secret Service agents with a shiny but sinister looking Cadillac moving down Connecticut Avenue today. It was cool.
4. Amelia Earhart’s airplane is the perfect shade of red and if I didn’t know Earhart was a serious aviator, I would assume she chose the airplane strictly based on the pretty shade of red.
Beav, being the adult on this trip, was moved by the majesty of the capital building, The Wright Flyer and The Spirit of St. Louis. He assumed they would be models and was thrilled to stand next to the first biplane and the first airplane to cross the Atlantic. When I cooed: “Oh look at the cute little red airplane, why is that here?” I could hear his eyes roll.
It wasn’t the first time this week and I promise it won’t be the last.
“He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones “it’s” rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn’t know, he or she who don’t reply when they are asked something they do know,
Let’s try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.
Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.”
Some people go to church for a spiritual lesson but I read Neruda. I always manage to stumble upon him when I need inspiration, sound advice, or an excuse to sigh over the way poets make love with words.
The hardest, happiest, strangest, amazing, humbling, and provocative year I’ve lived–to this point–is three-quarters over. And it has been a lesson in how I can avoid death in small doses.