Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seven Things I Love

One of the blogs I sometimes read mentioned writing down “seven things I love.”  I’m assuming that’s not a list of specific people or animals and probably a little more profound than “mint juleps.”  Although, I swan, (my grandmother said “I swan”) mint juleps are pretty doggone profound. There are a lot more than seven, of course, and that’s a good thing to remember.  So many more things than seven. 

Sunset Nag's Head

  1. That moment just before the curtain goes up on stage, or just before the conductor lifts the baton.  Get ready to be transported somewhere else.
  2. Train whistles at 2 a.m.
  3. A beautiful garden in the Spring.  I can’t pick a favorite flower. (But it may be an iris.  Unless it’s a peony.  Unless it’s a rose.)  And what about herb gardens?  And cottage gardens with foxglove and hollyhocks?  And the colors!  Purple has to be the best, unless it’s that orangey pink or the creamy white.  There has to be a bench in the shade, where I can sit and listen to the birds and smell the blossoms and feel a slight breeze.
  4. The memory of getting up in the middle of the night in Baja California, and seeing the moon over the Pacific Ocean, in a field of a zillion stars.
  5. The thrill of thunder when it echoes against the mountains.
  6. Watching the sun pop up from the horizon like a glorious magic trick, or go back down.
  7. Feeling like Jacob in the Bible waking from his dream:  “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

What are yours?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blurb & Bourbon

2003 photo album 

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Oh my, I’ve had fun for the past 24 hours. I dragged out all of my photos for 2003, which fortunately I had on a “picture CD” as in 2003 we did not have a digital camera. I’ve made what I hope will be a very nice little 28-page family photo album for that year, with text and some good page layouts. That’s the cover of my album, above.

There’s a tutorial video on the website, and it’s actually quite good. I finished putting the album together just a little while ago, uploaded it, and ordered one copy which should be here in about 10 days. Highly recommended for those of you who take wonderful photos and write terrific stories, as well as those of you who are wonderful cooks. You know who you are! Even if you take mediocre photos and write only mildly entertaining captions for them, here’s a newfangled way to make an album without going to the Hallmark store. The possibilities are endless. Check it out.

In other news, the afternoon was made brighter when neighbor Linda hallooed across the fence that she had fresh mint grown in her own backyard, as well as some Maker’s Mark bourbon with which to make mint juleps. Linda and other neighbor Glo came over forthwith to sit on our back porch under the ceiling fan and partake of same.  Linda, bless her, had brought everything in a well organized paper bag, including ice cubes!  That’s a registered dietician for you. The juleps were delicious beyond description, and we have agreed that this may become a weekend ritual for at least as long as the fresh mint lasts.  Here’s to us.

Friday, May 15, 2009


faceless angels

Once I make up my mind to do it, I love dusting the bookshelves in my room.  It takes a while.  I have to pick up this book and that, planning to read or re-read.  There are so many photos and little things on the shrine-like shelves that I have to pick up and think about, too.  And next to the shelves are the little chairs on the wall, each with something special on the seat.  One has a wonderful bird’s nest that we had in our patio garden in Mexico.  Another has two black, faceless angels.  We have a thing about faceless angels around here.  She started it, and now I like them. 

Anyway.  Catherine, our 80-something widowed next door neighbor, is dying in a hospice room at St. Mary’s, up the road from us.  We went to see her on Monday, but she is in a coma.  It will be any time now.  Dusting, I thought about her and how she used to bring over something Greek that she had cooked for our dinner.  How she listened to Rush Limbaugh turned up full volume, but she openly envied our having each other to love.  I thought about how I could have been a much better friend. 

My hand fell upon a collection of Jane Kenyon’s poems, called Otherwise.  I remember that book arriving in the mail about this same time nine years ago, when we were living in Mexico and my mother was dying.  I took it with me when we went for the day to the balneario, a collection of swimming pools perched on a short cliff overlooking the beach where cows and horses strolled along the Lake, and the mountains on two sides.  The book fell open to this poem, and I cried out in recognition as I read the first lines.  I put it here today in memory of my mother and in prayer for Catherine.

She is like a horse grazing

a hill pasture that someone makes

smaller by coming every night

to pull the fences in and in.

She has stopped running wide loops,

stopped even the tight circles.

She drops her head to feed; grass

is dust, and the creekbed’s dry.

Master, come with your light

halter.  Come and bring her in.

--“In the Nursing Home” by Jane Kenyon, from the book of her collected poems titled Otherwise.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Lucky Mother

Tara age 3

I can’t write about my mother on Mother’s Day. My daughter? Oh, yes. The person who makes me such a lucky mother.

Here’s what Tara has always been and is now:

Creative. Hundreds of examples, but one I remember clearly is the time when she was about 8 and I was sleeping late on a Saturday. When I roused myself, the dog was licking my face. And clipped to the dog’s collar was my wedding veil, complete with big lace bow. When I rubbed my eyes, I realized that Spooky was also wearing big white polka dots all over her black fur (they were supposed to be price stickers from an upcoming garage sale). Tara had dressed up Spooky and paraded her around the neighborhood, to great appreciation that I heard about later.

Smart. When she was 2 ½, she knew our full names, our street address, city and state, our telephone number, and the name of the ad agency where her daddy worked. “Hello,” she said to a strange man in the airport waiting room. “My name is Tara ________. Want to see me do a puzzle?” Whereupon she whipped out a puzzle designed for much older children and slapped it together before he had a chance to say “No, thanks.”

Somewhat shocking. (Same flight; different puzzle.) Tara is putting a puzzle together on her tray table when half of it accidentally falls off onto the floor of the plane. “Shit!” yells out the adorable toddler to the quietest passengers on any plane that ever flew.

Funny. No one can make me laugh at myself harder than she can.

Generous. The first indication was the sign she hand-printed for Santa Claus when she had just turned 4. “Santa Enjoe yor Cookes. Tara.” Five minutes later, it seemed, she was baking cookies for firemen, serving the homeless, helping old ladies (besides us), always choosing the perfect gift for someone, and endlessly giving of her time to provide company and comfort to those who need it.

Happy. She makes the deliberate choice, more than nine times out of ten. In recent times, that has included having cancer, being rear-ended twice in a month, having her identity stolen, and being laid off. “I’m getting sick of counting my blessings,” she said not too long ago. Laughing.

Loving. I can’t adequately describe how loving she is to her mothers, her other family members, her friends, and animals.

Loyal. Got some faults? If she loves you, and there’s a good chance she does, Tara will stick by you anyway, and will never badmouth you behind your back.

An excellent teacher. A couple of years ago, her other mother and I were privileged to sit in the back of one of her college classes and watch her teach. I was terrified that I might be called on, but so proud of the way she drew everyone else out and made them think and respected them that I could have put my head down on the desk and cried.

Faithful and full of faith. Several years ago, after a long and thoughtful search, Tara converted to Judaism. At the beginning of a religious service, there’s a prayer that includes, she explained to me, bowing to your angels. I’ve watched her, and I think she can see them. I know they see her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Tara Cat. You’re the best kid ever.  Love you past the moon, the stars, and all the planets.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do Not Send

stopsign Something really chapped my cheeks today, fried my eggs, and definitely pushed my buttons. This isn’t what I was planning to write about for my next post, but here goes.

Someone I consider a friend and a person who should know better forwarded me and about 50 other people an email that was extremely bigoted and, if the truth be known, originally created by someone who is obviously not of high intelligence and incapable of logic. It managed to be offensive about race, politics, and religion all in one fell swoop. Rather than let it go, which I might have done a few years ago, I responded in a way that made it crystal clear how offended I was. And then I got even madder.

I’ve had it with people mindlessly firing off forwarded emails:

(1) that they obviously do not understand and haven’t thoughtfully considered.

(2) to absolutely everyone they know, whether or not that person might be offended.

(3) that contain no logic of any kind.

(4) that try to build fear and hatred.

Then there are the emails sent out to one and all in a person’s email address book, along the lines of “Your cat will die if you use such and such a product on your floors,” “collect plastic bottle caps and when you redeem them a cancer patient will receive a free chemotherapy treatment,” and of course “Obama is not a US citizen.” College graduates blithely pass such nonsense along to all their friends. I’ve even received emails that say “I don’t know if this is true or not, but….” Here’s a concept: if you don’t know if it’s true or not, why are you passing it along? If you use email, you should also be Internet-savvy enough to check out anything that seems amazing or incredible in some way at or some other solid fact-checking service.

Whatever you do, don’t send your narrow-minded, bigoted, hate-filled, illogical crap to me. Because I’ll just think you’re stupid. And I’m lifting 10-pound weights these days. Don’t mess with me.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hurray For All Of Us

The Reflection at tonight’s Celtic service made me think of our fitness trainer, Jim.  In only three weeks, we have become devoted to him.  Jim knows his business and is able to teach what he knows in a very clear manner.  He’s watchful, making sure that we don’t hurt ourselves and that we don’t slack off from what we are capable of doing.  He doesn’t let us get away with a thing.  And when Jim says “Great form!” or “That’s kickin’ it, Sharon!” or “Excellent pace,” I straighten up and reach higher and move faster and try harder.  He’s a cheerleader, Jim is, but his cheers are sincere and they mean something.  No automatic “Good job!” from him.  (Oh, the ubiquitous and too-often patronizing  “Good job!”  A lot of mothers and teachers tend to roll those out like jellybeans, just for breathing in and out.  It’s another version of “Have a nice day.”  And I think that deep down the kids know it.  How about something specific?)

I was thinking tonight about all the times that we just want someone to notice how hard we’re trying to do something that’s difficult for us, or just need someone to confirm that they love us, or think we’re smart, or look good today, or were seen doing a kind thing.  Some of us are lucky and we get that kind of validation often.  And others, many of whom are trying hardest of all, almost never do.  When that happens to children whose parents weren’t their cheerleaders, I think it leaves scars for life.  In their secret hearts, nothing they do is ever good enough.  But I think no one ever outgrows that need for spoken validation, no matter how self-confident and unbreakable they may seem to others.  Sometimes I’ve found myself jealously guarding my praise.  Why should I give support to someone who doesn’t do the same for me, or who seems to get “too much” from someone other than me, or who “should know” that I love them or am grateful for them?

Tonight I’m hoping to remember to be on high alert for any opportunity I may have to be someone else’s cheerleader.   For one thing, when I see him on Tuesday, I think I’ll thank Jim for being such a good one.