Friday, May 30, 2008


The heaviness of my blessings
Pushes me into a position
Of prayer.
Which means
I dance.

Today I Have Sympathy For The Devil

Roseanne Barr is one of those people whom you either love or you hate. Sort of like cilantro. Yep, I'd call Roseanne the cilantro of the comedy world.

Me? I love cilantro and I can't help but love Roseanne, too. Oh, she gets weird sometimes, but I have a huge (some would say too huge) tolerance for weird.

What I don't have is a tolerance for is Christian Rock.

Which is what my yoga teacher tried to play for us today as we were doing yoga.

Deep breath. Deep, deep breath.

First of all, who does yoga to rock music?

Second of all, who in their right mind plays Christian rock for a yoga class of two, one of them an avowed next-best-thing-to-an-atheist? I suppose I haven't come out and said I was an avowed good-as-an-atheist to her, but after over a year of comments, I'd have thought she'd have figured it out. For example, it might have been a clue when I told her that I was reading a great book called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

She is not stupid, so perhaps she was trying to proselytize to me via the coolness of rock music.

I don't know. I do know that it upset me so much that I thought I might explode. But I'm polite. I was in her house, listening to her music and she is the teacher. Now, to give her credit, she did say when she put it on that perhaps it was too "jazzy" for us and to let her know.

Jazzy wasn't the problem.

And I was afraid to open my mouth because I was afraid that if I did, great burning flames would shoot out, scorching everything in the entire room and perhaps burning up her couch, her entertainment system, and her poor old crippled dog whom I do have an affection for.

So I kept my mouth shut.

Thankfully, my across-the-street neighbor who goes to yoga with me said, very quietly and politely, "You know, this music isn't really working for me."

She's a saint and I owe her a martini.

Now. What does all of this have to do with Roseanne Barr? Just something she said once about how wrong Christian rock is. "What's next?" she mused. "Christian porn?"

I am thinking I might have to invite my yoga teacher over here for some yoga and I'll put on Beggar's Banquet and play a little bit of Sympathy for the Devil. Maybe a little Stray Cat Blues. Maybe a little Street Fighting Man.
I think that would be appropriate, don't you?

Anyway, in other Lloyd news, I went to the Lloyd Community Preservation Trust meeting last night. This was the fourth of these meetings I've attended. The same five people are always there and we always discuss the same thing, which is an old store that is being restored. No pun intended, believe me.

The store is almost done with its restoration and now we need to figure out what we're going to do with it. The answer is- until we get electricity to it- nothing. And there is no money for electricity. So there you go. We are a community body of civic-minded people who are accomplishing....very little.

We also discussed the fact that our local "real" store appears to be closed and this is upsetting as the crack dealers will probably move in. Jefferson County is a very large but very poor county and we have only one town and very few sheriffs. Lloyd is not a real town. It's barely a village. But the little convenience store was at the heart of it and the man who ran it was our eyes and our ears and he was calm and cool and universally respected and liked, as was his wife. I feel that without him, our center will crumble and since nature abhors a vacuum and since crack-heads seem to need a place to gather, I fear for our little village.

We shall see.

And that's about as bloggy as I get. As our beloved Juancho said once, he felt he needed to go wash his hands after being bloggy, and I feel the same.

Please forgive me and just chalk it up to my recent exposure to Christian Rock. I will be fine as soon as I find my Beggar's Banquet CD and crank it up to 10. This will be happening around six p.m. tonight. A martini may be involved.

Stop by if you would care to join me in this powerful and healing ceremony. It will be a spiritual event.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Many Types of Rain Do You Guess There Are?

It's raining. That good type of steady, slow rain that feels like maybe it's found a good book and a comfortable chair and has settled in to stay for awhile.
Should be good sleeping tonight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coming, Going, Here, Gone. All At The Same Time

When I was in the eighth grade, my Girl Scout troop came to Tallahassee from Winter Haven, where we lived. This was in 1968, right after Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated and the entire country was dazed and unbelieving, reeling and anxious. The African-American community was devastated and there had been riots and rumors of riots and since Tallahassee was the state capitol, my scout leader was concerned that perhaps we should postpone our trip until things settled down, but someone calmed her fears, convinced her we'd be fine, and so, dressed in our uniforms and with our little suitcases, we boarded the train in Winter Haven and rode it to Tallahassee.
My scout leader was a woman from Illinois or Indiana or Iowa- one of those heartland states that begins with the letter i. She was a woman who, looking back, must have been abused or molested or perhaps both, in childhood because she was filled with fears and anxieties and was constantly warning her daughter, who was one of my best friends, to be on the lookout for this or that possible threat. And I doubt she'd ever even laid eyes on a person of color until she came to Florida as an adult and she probably had some of the most overt prejudices I've ever seen. Once, when I was in high school, she saw me giving a ride to a black friend of mine and told her daughter that she was no longer allowed to associate with me.
So, given that combination, it's a wonder we did come to view the Capitol at all, but we did, and I don't remember much about the train ride except that it seemed to me that the bar car was where the action was and they served a fine turkey sandwich.
We stayed at the Floridan Hotel and that I remember well. It was fairly old even then, and had that great old hotel smell which is sadly lacking in today's Marriotts and Holiday Inns. It was a smell made up of elements of time and wear and dust and mildew and of all the people who'd stayed there- their clothes, their shoes, their cigarettes, their soap and shampoo and shaving cream, their body odors, their breath, their sex, their room-service meals.
To an eighth grade girl, it was intoxicating.
We were vastly relieved to discover that the black people of Tallahassee were not rioting. The men who toted the bags and the women who cleaned the rooms went about their jobs with no outward display of hatred towards us although who knows? They may have made the sign of the evil eye at us when our backs were turned. I wouldn't have blamed them then and I wouldn't blame them now.
Our visit was entirely uneventful. We went to the Capitol. We met Claude Kirk, the governor. We visited FSU where one of our scout's sisters was matriculating. She gave us a little tour of the campus.
All of those things were fine but what I remember most was visiting the Little Folks toy store which was right across the street from the hotel. We saw Claude Kirk's wife, Erika, shopping for toys there. She was a beautiful, glamorous woman and as close to a celebrity as we were going to see. My friend, Mary Lane, bought a stuffed giraffe that day. I wonder if she still has it.
The other thing I remember was eating our supper at Angelo's restaurant which was also across the street, right next to Little Folks. Mary Lane and I split an order of spaghetti.
I do not forget meals.
I had no idea on that trip so long ago that I would one day move to Tallahassee. That the Floridan would play a role in my future, that I would eat hundreds of meals at Angelo's and that I would buy toys for my first child at Little Folks. I was a Girl Scout, on a trip to the Capitol. I had no idea what my future held.
Things change. They do. The Floridan is long gone, as is Little Folks, as is Angelo and his restaurant which I will forever mourn the loss of.
And I am not going to sit here and say that everything changes for the worse. I know I wouldn't say that if I were black, although things in this country are still not what you'd call civil, and rights are denied people because of the color of their skin every moment of every day.
But there are laws. Things do change. We might have a dark-skinned president by this time next year.
And won't that be fine? Won't that be proof that change can be good?
It was just odd this morning to open the paper and see the report on the ground-breaking of the new Floridan, to remember staying there as a girl and to remember how, when I was pregnant with Hank I worked there, in one of the rented side-spaces, for my friend Ruth in her graphics design business. My friend Karen went into labor there.
Buildings can define space and thus, define human activities and lives. Bricks and mortar will rise up into the sky again and Tallahassee will redefine itself once again when they do. There may be a hotel there and it may be called the Floridan but it will never smell the same.
And me? I'm hanging on here in Lloyd in a house that's been here since the nineteenth century, it's walls and floors defining my life this very moment. It was right here when my Girl Scout troop took the train into Tallahassee and we probably passed right by it on the track that runs through my back yard now.
And there I was, a child sitting in a train, wearing a green skirt, a white blouse, a badge sash and a beret, anticipating the huge adventure of a trip away, never knowing that I was passing within a hundred yards of a place I'd live with my as then yet-undreamed of husband and children.
The me of the past flew right past her future and the me of the present looks back and thinks how the past has flown by.
I could almost shiver, thinking of that, how the present and the past and the future are always happening, as we hurtle through space, passengers on this planet for the short time we're given, thinking we know exactly where we're going, our uncertain tickets clutched in our hands.
Where does the time go? I have no idea. I am not a philosopher or a physicist. I am only a woman, sitting in a room facing a railroad track, thinking of a girl.
I am that girl. I am that woman.
I am sitting still. I am flying foward.
I am hurtling through space.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On Being a Housewife

Let us hope that I am better at the wife part than I am at the keeping house part.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm The Derider

Today is Memorial Day and our president spoke from Arlington Cemetery where he placed the traditional wreaths on the graves of the unknown soldiers.

I heard part of our Chief Expletive's remarks and had to go and look online to see if what I heard was really what he said and it would appear that it was. Here's the part I'm talking about:

'They're an awesome bunch of people and the United States is blessed to have such citizens..."

He was talking about the dead buried at Arlington and if you'll notice, it would appear Bush isn't aware that these are not actual real citizens anymore, and we don't exactly have them, if you know what I mean, unless you mean their bones which we do have. In some cases, anyway.

Is there no end to this man's idiocy?

I doubt Bush wrote the speech but if it were me being given those words to read, I think I would have objected to that part and also the part where he called the dead "awesome." Bush is probably not aware of this, but everything from Taco Bell burritos to Hannah Montana are routinely referred to as awesome, which made his words sound not only ridiculous but insulting when used in the context of human beings who died while serving our country.

It's not just what the president says that makes him sound like a moron though, it's how he sounds when he's saying it. I've heard he's not as dumb as he sounds, but that's not very reassuring because he sounds WAY, WAY, WAY too dumb to be even president of the local chapter of banana sticker collectors, much less to be president of the United States of America.

But here's the thing- we elected the man. At least once.

Oh not me and probably not you, but a lot of people voted for him. I asked one woman I know why on earth she voted for him the second time. I said I could sort of understand voting for him the first time (although really, I can't) but the second as well?

She hemmed and hawed and said something about "life style issues" which we all know means abortions and gay marriage but then she got a bit huffy and said, "Look, my husband and I have worked for everything we've ever gotten. And we don't like giving our money to people who don't want to work."

So, okay, elect an obvious moron because he's a Republican and Republicans keep our taxes low.
Well, if you're wealthy, anyway.

And here we are, about to face another election and perhaps the Democrats have a chance this year with Obama. But there's part of me that worries that there are so many fearful racist people in this country that McCain will win and if he does, we're done for in my opinion, because not only does he want to stay the course in Iraq, he wants to make Bush's tax cuts permanent and he really, really wants to overturn Roe v. Wade which he honestly could manage with a few supreme court appointments.

My husband and I talk about moving to another country sometimes and if McCain gets elected, I'm going to get really serious about it and I'll want to take my kids with me.

Not just because I think he'll be such a horrible president but because I just don't want to live in a country where the people would vote such a man to office and I don't want any grandchildren I might have growing up in a country who would elect that sort of president again either.

Haven't we learned anything? It's not like Bush has done one damn good thing for the country in his eight years of being the decider. Sometimes when I see people who still have Bush stickers on their bumpers I want to stop them, grab them by the shoulders and ask, "Do you like the way this is turning out? Are ya happy now? Are you so proud of the idiot that you just can't bear to take his name off your car? Really?"

I'm trying so hard to believe that Bush's elections were aberrant behavior on the part of the American citizens but I swear to God, if McCain gets elected, I'm going to have to face the fact that it was actually abhorrent behavior on our part and that really, yes, we are a country of morons.

And we'll deserve everything we get and frankly, I don't want it.

And even more frankly, I don't think I can survive it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

She's The One Who Looks Like Me. Only Prettier. And Filled With Light.

Today is Bob Dylan's sixty-seventh birthday but I'm not his mama and as such, I don't have a birth story to go along with with his special day but I am the mama of another child born on this day, thirty years ago. I believe I've written about the births of every one of my children except for my May's and today would be the day.
May was my second baby and I remember distinctly the moment I figured out I was pregnant with her. I was digging a ditch through the hard red clay on the property where her dad and brother and I were living, right here in Lloyd, about four miles down the road from where I live now. I was digging the ditch to lay a water line to run to my washing machine.
For some reason, it struck me as I dug that I was feeling a bit...pregnant.
I know that sounds vague, but I'd been pregnant enough already (besides being pregnant with Hank, I'd had a miscarriage before I got pregnant with May) to know the feeling and what it meant.
I don't think I stopped digging but just registered the feeling and went on with my digging. If indeed I was pregnant, the sooner we got that washing machine hooked up, the better.
We were living then in a 10 by 50 single-wide trailer and I was feeling proud of the fact that I had running water, which I had not had in the house we were living in before we moved the trailer onto our land. That house had been a lovely old thing and we paid the royal sum of seventy-five dollars a year to rent it (and that's not a misprint and I am not making it up) but like I said, it had no running water and it had no heat and it was hotter than an oven in summer and colder than an igloo in winter and the floors weren't level and you could see the outside from the inside inbetween the boards but I loved it anyway. We pumped water with a hand pump and hauled it in for cooking and drinking and we had an outhouse.
It was the outhouse that led to us moving to the trailer. One morning in the midst of a terrible hay fever attack I woke up and took my miserable self to the outhouse and while in there I got stung by a wasp at the exact same time I saw a snake at my feet. The resulting hysteria led to going trailer shopping that very day. Our plan had been to build a house on our property before we moved there but I could see that this house-building was going to take a while and frankly, I needed a bathroom.
By the time May was born, we were settled into the trailer quite nicely. It was small but I liked it as well as you could like a trailer. The bathroom was probably the biggest room in the house and that made me happy. Plus, we not only had running water, we had an air conditioner in the bedroom and if that wasn't living high on the hog, I don't know what is.
Two days before May was born I was in that bathroom in the early morning when my water broke. Yippie! I thought, the baby will be here soon! but as hard as I tried I could not get my contractions to start. I drank tea made of black cohosh which is about the nastiest-tasting substance on earth and took my nine-plus month pregnant self for a run down the dirt road but still no contractions.
By that afternoon I decided to give up the effort for awhile and laid down for a nap with instructions to my husband to watch Hank who was playing outside with his little Fisher Price farm. I had just gotten to the deep part of sleep when the man, in a state of great agitation, woke me to tell me that he couldn't find Hank.
That's a whole story in itself but he was finally found down the road, all the way across Highway 158 which is the same road I live on now, naked as a jaybird and accompanied by our two bull dogs. I promptly went into hysterics and carried him home, crying all the way, and that as much as anything probably got me really started in labor.
I labored all the next day with my midwife friends checking in on me and by dark, they came and settled in to stay the night. I am a slow, slow baby-haver.
My main midwife had another lady on "simmer" and she had to leave in the middle of the night to go deliver that baby and it was just as she was pulling up in her little VW Beetle at dawn that May started to make her appearance.
I can't say that her birth was easier than my first but the pushing-out part surely was. I don't think I pushed three times before her little body slid out and I was able to see who I'd been toting around inside for all those months. I'd honestly thought I was having a boy so it was with some surprise that I discovered she was a girl and I didn't have a name for her but I'd been thinking about "May" for some reason (uh? it WAS May) and my brave and hard-working midwife's name was Ellen so she was named May Ellen. We came to find out after we'd named her that her grandmother on her father's side was named May and her mother's name was Ellen, so there you go. Meant to be.
Now here's the funny thing: I had spent my entire pregnancy with May feeling huge amounts of guilt because I knew in my heart that there was no way I would ever be able to love any child the way I already loved Hank. Just wasn't possible. And so I thought she'd be born cheated and that thought gave me grave concern. But what I learned the second she was born was that the human heart (or at least the mother's human heart) is not limited in the amount of love it can hold and as soon as I saw her precious little face and held her in my arms, I realized that all of my worry had been completely for naught and that there was possibly no end to the amount of love I could have for my babies, even if I had fifty, which I was certainly sure I would never do. In fact, I was pretty sure I'd never have another baby at all, which is what I'd thought after the first one, too. And the third, but there again, that's another story.
So I fell in love with May on that just-dawning morning in May in a single-wide trailer in Jefferson County, that holy sort of mother love which is as close to heaven as I'll probably ever know. The midwives cleaned me up and changed my sheets and then they went off home to tend to their families and my friend Lynn brought Hank home because she'd taken him for me the day before because I'd known I couldn't concentrate on birthing this child with my first baby there to need my attention too. This was the very first time Hank and I had ever been separated for so long and I doubt I would have trusted anyone in the world to take him except for Lynn and I think Hank still remembers parts of that day and night, even though he wasn't yet two and they are good memories.
So there we were, reunited as a family, the four of us, and being only twenty-three, I felt pretty good for just having given birth and for having been up for about three days in a row. We loaded up the old '55 Buick Roadmaster and drove to town for a newborn check and no one at the doctor's office could believe I'd just had a baby.
Youth is great.
We drove home and I suppose we rested some that afternoon and I still remember what I cooked for dinner that night which was oven-barbequed chicken and potatoes from the garden. It was a delicious meal that we sat down together to eat, a father, a mother, a red-headed almost-two year old, and a brand, new baby at my breast.
A feast for the body and a feast for the soul and as with my first child, I felt reborn after the birth, almost as new and pure as she was. I was frankly amazed at how well everything had gone and even more astounded that I'd given birth to this beautiful child who looked so much like Hank when he'd been born that her father said, "Well, Mary, when we make a baby, I guess that's what it looks like," which cracked the midwives up. They still resemble each other which is odd because May looks enough like me to be my clone and Hank looks like his dad.
Genetics are crazy things.
Before I got pregnant with May I kept seeing a light out of the corner of my eye. It would come and then go and of course if that happened now I'd think I had a brain tumor but in those old hippie days, I just took it as a sign that a spirit was trying to "get in" and I still think that's true. May has always had an incredibly strong spirit and is as light-filled and purposeful as anyone you'll ever meet. At the age of sixteen she was hit by a car, walking to school and I still can't talk about that without crying. Frankly, it's a miracle she's alive but she is and she works on her feet and she walks all over Tallahassee and she, like the rest of my kids, is a dancer.
She's also a writer and one of these days, she'll start blogging too and then you'll see that what I'm saying is true.
She's strong and she's smart. This past year has been one of profound and positive change for her and I am standing in amazement, watching this process. As with all my children, she has been, since the moment of her birth, one of my best and most influential teachers and we probably spend at least an hour a day on the phone, discussing everything from books to meals, but mostly just making each other laugh. Besides looking like each other, we move alike, we sound alike and we think alike. We certainly share a sense of humor.
That girl has been a joy to me for thirty years now. She's tried me- don't get me wrong. When she was nineteen she announced that she was going to travel the country in her little truck all by herself and no matter how I tried to dissuade her, she just wouldn't stop making plans.
And she did it. She got in that little truck and drove off and left me crying. This was pre-cell phone days, too, and looking back, I don't know how I stopped myself from throwing my body under the wheels of the vehicle to stop her from leaving but she did fine. There are probably some things she never told me about her journey, but she's here, she's alive, and that light I kept seeing out of the corner of my eye shines now from her own eyes and every time I see them I feel the same joy I felt the day she was born.
Happy birthday, my darling.
Thank you for bringing that light to earth through me and sharing it.
You're a gorgeous, talented woman and it's a better world because you're in it.
And you taught me about the human heart and how much love it can hold which is a lesson that still, thirty years later, is as profound and true as it was the day you taught it to me, just by being born.
Tomorrow we'll all get together for shrimp salad and key lime pie and we'll celebrate you and the day you made your way here but it's today that I'm thinking about all of this, crying a little as I write it because I'm just so glad you're here.
And that I get to be your mama.
Happy birthday.
Shine on.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Fear In The Time Of Anxiety

I have suffered from depression for most of my life but in the last few years, a new disorder has cropped up in the already dis-ordered place I call my mind. It's anxiety and it coexists quite happily with depression, making it a two-for-one, a veritable doublemint gum of stickiness that clogs up my thinking and life.
I hate it.
It seems to occur when things start getting stressful- perhaps unusually so- and then something triggers a tipping point and I fall over a line into that place where anxiety is waiting to come on in and take its shoes off. The trigger is usually some sort of medical situation. Doesn't even have to be my own and this time, it's not. And although the person whose health this may be affecting says she's "not worried but a bit anxious," I am worried AND anxious and that anxiety is touching everything, putting meanings and omens where there should be nothing but regular day-to-day stress. It's sort of like the feeling I get right before I have a hot flash but it doesn't go away. I feel like I can't breathe well, I feel like EVERYTHING is about to end. I feel like I could give Chicken Little a few lessons in catastrophising.
I know how to handle depression because it's made its home with me for so long but this anxiety thing is relatively new and it's all buzzy and constant and it makes me feel like I'm on bad speed. Coffee makes it worse and serendipitously my coffee maker shut down in the middle of a brewing cycle yesterday- DOA. No real surprise there. The faithful appliance has probably brewed me at least 2000 pots of coffee in its lifetime and that's a lot to ask of a middle-of-the-line coffee maker, even if it was a Krups.
I went out immediately and bought a new one. Same brand, same features, but different button set-up. The instruction manual that came with it was printed in fifteen languages, two of which I can't identify because they're those character languages, not actual letters. However, it didn't give instructions on how to, oh, set the time. My daughter and I both tried, punching what should have been the appropriate buttons at random, trying this one and that one and nothing worked. It just kept flashing 888 at us until she went online and found a PDF of instructions we could actually use.
So now I have coffee again and although I think of coffee as my best friend, I'm not so sure it really is. Not today, anyway, when this constant anxiety is making the pit of my stomach feel like I'm about to go onstage and sing the National Anthem in front of millions or even worse, have to go see a doctor myself. Given those two options, I'd pull up my big girl panties and step onstage.
Isn't that crazy?
Yeah. Because I really can't sing.
And I know it's crazy and I even know why I have this neurosis, I think, and of course it goes back to childhood and since I know and because I'm now an adult, you'd think I could just get over it and eventually I will, but for right now- it's here, running around my brain like a rat on meth.
I'm sure there are medications I could take for anxiety. I even know their names. But hell- I'd have to go to a doctor to get them which makes me feel like there's a display in my head right now, flashing 888 and dammit, I just can't find the right buttons to push in the right sequence to make it quit, make it settle down into something orderly and ordinary like the time of day.
I want that rat to go away, pack his little rat bag, put on his little rat shoes and go find another brain to infect with his ratty methness. I want Chicken Little to go screaming about the damn sky falling on another street.
I want the price of gas to come down and the price of groceries to go down and I want a Democratic president and I want everyone I know and love to be healthy and well forever and ever until they're older than God and die suddenly, in bed, of a heart attack without one thought of fear or dread, here one second, flying to glory the next.
That's what I want.
Instead I'm getting 888.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not So Much A Long, Strange Trip As Just A Cozy Little Journey With Interesting Scenery. So Far

While perusing historical Florida photographs from the online archive a while back, I came across this picture. I have no idea who these people are, but it was such a charming picture that I saved it for future use and today is the perfect day to break it out because it was one year ago today that I started up this blessourhearts blog. My son urged me to do it, and I finally sat down and wrote a piece about the weather, which is the human default thing to talk about since it affects us all in one way or another and it's almost always changing. And it's what I was thinking about that day, one year ago.

Since then, on that cool May day when we were in the middle of a terrible drought, I've written 180 more posts. I've talked about menopause, aging, hippies, childbirth, cooking, politics, religion, yoga, travel, depression, sexual abuse, writing, gardening, love, trees, marriage, friends, music, birds, my community, my home, my family, and women who pee on public toilets.
I've talked about birth and midwives and how much I hate this president and how I fear for my country. I've discussed religion and told about how my daddy was a drunk. I've written about asses and falling on my own. I've admitted I'm a terrible daughter and I've bragged about my kids to an absurd degree.
I've gone on and on about the empty nest only to turn around and announce that the nest has refilled.

I've probably talked about death too much.

And the weather has been discussed more than once.

In short, I've written about whatever it is that I'm thinking at the moment. It's one of the most self-indulgent things I've probably ever done.

And I can't tell you how much I've loved it.

Sometimes- not every time by any means- but sometimes, when I write something and I say exactly and utterly what I wanted to say, I feel as if I am doing exactly what I was put here to do and it's so mysterious and wonderful that I can hardly believe it. Which is reason enough for me to keep doing this.

But, just like the Ginsu knife offer on those old infomercials- there is so much more.
There's the community of bloggers who read each others' words and leave comments. Comments make me feel like my heart is being polished, like my baby's soft butt is being patted. And reading what other people are thinking about, doing, feeling- it's being part of a community. I am getting to know people I would never had had the opportunity to meet.

People have reached out to me when I needed it the most. People have given me support and made me laugh. When I have virtually asked, "Have you ever felt like this?" I have received the knowledge that yes, they have.
I am not alone.

One of the things that I have cherished the most about this blog is the way I was able to talk about my friend Lynn who died in January. As her disease spread its black wings over her and took more and more of the light from her being, I was able to say, "Look! This woman danced! This woman's life was important! This woman mattered!" And because I wrote about her, people who never would have known her, got a little picture of who she was. And also, because I wrote about her last months, I am able to go back and remember more clearly the last time she kissed me, the last time she smiled at me. The last time she knew who I was. That alone is such a gift that I can't begin to assess its value.

It's been a year for me. A year of firsts and lasts. A year of staying home and traveling afar. A year of drought and rain and growth and the worry of stagnation. A year of fear and wonder, a year of hope and desire. A year of discovery and rediscovery. A year of weddings and wakes. A year of profound changes for my children.

Yes, it's been a year and I feel like on some level it is my birthday because blessourhearts is me. And I am blessourhearts. It has grown, for me, from being a place where I merely write about my life and what I'm thinking as I live it, to being a profound part of that life and I am quite curious to see what I'll write about next. I never know. There's really no map here.There's just me, on this journey, sending out trip reports.

See that picture? Although some days I feel as old as those two precious people, most days I feel like there's plenty of cake to go around. If I really stop and think about it, I do.
And this blog is surely, for me anyway, part of that sweet, sweet cake.

So happy birthday, blog.

And oh yeah- bless our hearts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Half A Beer Later

But really?
I don't have a brain tumor that I know of, no earthquake or cyclone hit my community, and my children are all safe.
Plus, I'm about to go dig up some potatoes for our dinner.
What the hell have I got to bitch about?

Effing Bummer

Already despondent, feeling old and useless, ugly and tired, I did my best to make that special effort. I put on eye shadow, my silver earrings, and went to town with my daughters.
We had a lovely lunch, then I got my hair cut and was feeling just a tiny bit sassier.
Tiny bit.
Enough to go try a bit of Goodwill shopping.
And then, as we were leaving Goodwill, one of my children pointed out to me that they'd given me the senior discount.
Without even asking.
Thanks a fucking bunch, Goodwill!

I'm having a beer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Change: The Only Thing That Never Changes

My husband owns a 1972 Cutlass convertible which is one of the joys of his heart in the way that only an old car can be to a man who loves cars. It used to run and we've had some fine adventures in that car and once, he even let me and a girlfriend drive it to St. Pete where we drove around with the top down, feeling as young and glamorous and happy as two women with eight children between them can, and looking back, we were young and happy, and even a little glamorous, if only because we were in that car, wearing sunglasses with our hair blowing in the breeze.
But the car, until recently, has been parked for years in one garage or another, undriveable due to a cracked block. I think it's a cracked block but I'm not sure because every time my husband starts to talk to me about anything having to do with car engines all I hear is "waa-waa-waa" like what Charlie Brown hears when an adult is talking to him, and all the waa-waas go in one ear and and out the other, although I do perk up when he begins to talk about the further adventures we'll have when the car is restored.
And the car is in that process of restoration now and it's been down in New Port Richie getting a new engine. On Saturday, the new engine firmly bolted in and connected, we drove down with a trailer to pick it up, me and the husband.
Now as we all know, Ms. Moon rarely gets out of Lloyd, which suits Ms. Moon just fine, but it was with a merry spirit I got in the car to leave on Saturday morning with my stuff all crammed in around my feet, the way I like it. We had decided that we might make an overnight of it and so we had a few clothes packed and I was wearing mascara and my silver charm bracelet and thus, was ready to hit the road. Even with the constant, niggling anxiety about the price of gas, there's nothing quite like starting out a road trip with a not-quite-decided on itinerary, two to-go containers of coffee at the ready and a good book to read out loud.
We drove down Highway 19 which used to be one of the main arteries in Florida before the Rat Ate My State and they cut down the orange groves and the tourists quit visiting all the wonderful old attractions like Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee and McKee Jungle Gardens and just went directly via the interstate to Orlando to dump their bucks, stopping only to pee and buy another Big Gulp and eat some sort of horrid fast food. There aren't a lot of the old attractions left but there's still plenty to see. Bait shops, funky bars, swap meets, family restaurants where the waitresses still wear white uniforms and call you "honey" when they serve you your fried green tomatoes, and a few cement dinosaurs, one of which has a car repair shop inside of it.
So Highway 19 is a a lovely drive, relatively quiet, and when we passed a turtle trying to cross the road, my husband stopped the car, walked all the way back to where the poor critter was and carried it to the other side because if you just put it back on the side it started from it will only try to cross again, and he didn't get run over and I was so proud of being married to a man who would do that.
We stopped for lunch and for gas and more coffee and we were amazed, as always, when we crossed the thankfully never completed Cross Florida Barge Canal which has to be one of the most wrong-headed projects ever to come from the Army Corp of Engineers. Of course, right after you cross over the barge canal, you look up to see the Crystal River Nuclear Power Facility, it's giant reactors belching steam into the clear, Florida sky and although I love my electricity as much as anyone, I have to wonder at the strategy of using nuclear materials to boil water for it, but hey! what do I know?
We also passed Weeki Wachee and I flung a HOWDY! at it out the window of the car. I was proud to see the parking lot almost full and it gave me a sense of optimism that that many people are adventuresome enough to go see real, live mermaids dancing in the crystal waters of a real, live spring.
As we approached New Port Richie, my husband kept warning me that when the car cranked, it was going to be REALLY loud because it doesn't have a muffler yet, but it seemed to me that he was looking forward to how loud it was going to be with great anticipation. And it did make him happy to hear that engine roar into life when the key was turned and there was a great deal of back-slapping and congratulations between him and the guys who'd done the engine transplant there at the Action Auto Salvage in New Port Richie. The bill was paid, the car put on the trailer and the old engine put in the back of the vehicle we were driving and off we went, only to discover at the first red light that the engine in the back of the car was not secured properly because it tumped over and started gurgling out the most foul brown, rusty water with green puddles of antifreeze in it you'd ever want to see. Thank God for the catch-pan and also for convenience stores that sell paper towels and although my husband was pretty upset, I was fine with the whole thing and didn't mind the smell too much and after he cleaned it all up and found another strap and secured the engine again, we were back on the road.
By this time it was getting late and the place we'd thought maybe we'd stay on the Homossasa River was packed with fishermen and drunks and families and general merry-makers and so we headed back down Highway 19, not in the mood to stay at a Days Inn or a EconoLodge and were about to decide to just get on home when we saw, in Inglis, Florida, a tiny sign for a Bed and Breakfast called the Pine Lodge. We found the place and it was charming and clean as a bean and so we got a room there for the night, despite the fact that really, I am not fond of B&B's in general. There's something that goes against my grain about spending the night in home not my own but which is, somehow, a home, with a charming host and hostess, (British, in this case), many rules, and a time set for breakfast which is not served by an impersonal waitress but by the very charming host and hostess. But it seemed a far better option than the Withlacoochie Motel on the highway and in fact, the setting reminded me somewhat of Lloyd so I felt right at home.
It had been a long day so after we found some supper we went to bed with the host's reminder that breakfast would be served at eight-thirty a.m., sharp, ringing in our ears and of course, we didn't wake up until eight twenty-nine which meant I had exactly one moment to shower, dress, and try to iron the creases out of my face before we had to dine with strangers.
It took a little bit longer than a moment and by the time we got to the dining room, our dining companions were waiting, having finished their seasonal berries, fresh, hot muffins and hand-squeezed juices and were waiting on us to arrive to get the rest of the ten thousand calories to be ingested in the form of eggs, bacon (and you know I loved that), and pancakes. We apologized profusely to them and the host and hostess, then sat down to try and eat up all this unaccustomed morning goodness and make polite conversation (so where are YOU from?) and not spill anything on the table cloth, all under the fifty-thousand watts of light emanating from the chandelier above the table (thank-you, Crystal River Power Plant!) and we mostly succeeded, although my husband told me later that I was a bit strident about certain things and I had to point out that I don't even like to talk to family members or my very own dogs in the morning, much less a couple from Atlanta, one of whom was wearing a t-shirt that said Queen of Everything in sparkley letters and one of whom may or may not have been wearing a hair-piece so really, I did as best I could.
After breakfast we packed up and headed down to the Withlacoochie River to explore a little and there we discovered the absolute most beautiful part of Florida I've ever personally seen. Estuaries and jungle with palms and cedars and you could imagine beautiful red-skinned people coming out of the shadows in silent canoes or the camps of the cracker whites who'd settled despite the mosquitoes and heat to live off the mullet and mangrove snapper they caught in the rivers and the sweet potatoes and corn they'd grown on the land. In fact, my husband and I were having a deep, shared fantasy of buying some land and doing the same when we looked to the east and there, belching smoke from its reactors was the Crystal River Nuclear Power Facility, only from the other side, and we sighed and groaned and turned around, our fantasy as dead as spent rods of Plutonium.
Why, why, why I have to ask, did they put a nuclear reactor THERE in the middle of the most beautiful, untouched, unspoiled piece of Florida nature I've ever seen? Why didn't they put where it wouldn't be as jarring- like, maybe Disney World?
I don't know.
But that's Florida, land of contradictions and contrasts. A British couple buys and operates a bed and breakfast right across the street from a home where they fly the Confederate flag and have a sign in their yard that says "A black leader for America? Think of Africa and Haiti!" and yet, somehow I guess it works.
I love this state. It has never ceased to amuse, nurture, infuriate, and surprise me in the forty-eight years I've lived here. And this weekend's little road trip reminded me of that fact.
Perhaps Florida suits me so well because I, too, am full of contradictions and contrasts, as are most of us if we admit it.
And now we're back in Lloyd and the Cutlass is off the trailer and my husband goes out and starts it every now and then, just to hear that powerful, LOUD engine and I hope that by the time it gets restored we'll have the money to drive farther than the nearest gas station because gas will probably cost fifteen dollars a gallon but we'll have a great time, driving with the top down, wearing sunglasses with our hair blowing in the wind to the truck stop to fill 'er up, this great beast of a car that was manufactured in the days when it didn't matter how many miles to the gallon you got because gas was as cheap as, well, I was going to say water, but that's getting pretty pricey too.
Life, like Florida, is constantly changing but it's mighty fine to occasionally find something that hasn't and driving down Highway 19 with a beautiful blue car on a trailer behind you that everyone wants to look at and talk about is a reminder that a lot of people still like the old things, and so is a full parking lot at Weeki Wachee springs.
God give us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, as they say, and bless our hearts, I say, as we drive down the highway, looking for the things that haven't changed, and let us be grateful and enjoy them while they're still here, even if they do have a nuclear power plant right in the damn middle of them.
And no, that is not THE Cutlass convertible in the picture above, but it sure looks a lot like it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rain Song

Friday afternoon and it's raining.
Yeah, I talk about rain a lot but let me just say that when you've suffered years of drought, every rain is a sacred and holy event. Water standing in the yard. The pure sound of a bird calling a note that slides up and down a scale like a blues guitarist when the night is hot and the room is smoky and even the dancers have stopped to gawk at the man, hunched over his instrument, his eyes closed, his mind as far away as God, God right there in the note.
I was going to go to town with two of my daughters. Library, store, Bed, Bath and Beyond. And as we were about to leave the house, I said, "Nah. Y'all go on." And they did, taking a list with them. They're grown-ups. They can handle this sort of thing without me.
I already went out today, to yoga, and it was hard. Maybe it was the front coming in or something but I ached and hurt in all my muscles and joints and I didn't say much although the other two women in the class chatted away about this and that. I just wanted to find that place in my mind where I can go and let the muscles stretch, the joints unlock, but it was impossible with all the chat, chat, chat. When class was over, my teacher asked me if I was depressed.
I said, "No. Just quiet. Thanks for asking."
And I was quiet because if I'd opened my mouth this is what would have come out:
Shut the fuck up. Please.
I would have added the "please" because I'm polite that way.
So I've already been out, thank-you, and I'm going out again tonight to take tickets at the Opera House and it's almost the weekend and people will be in and out and the husband wants me to maybe drive down south somewhere with him tomorrow to pick up his vintage Oldsmobile that he's had work done on and so right now, I just want to be home where for this moment it's quiet and I can give the rain all the appreciation it deserves and maybe write some and maybe just close my eyes and listen to the birds sing their own song about the rain, not chatter, just pure notes of love for it, like the guitarist, like the rain itself, all of that so sweet in my ears that I can't bear to leave it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Empty Nest?

My neighbors have a lot of animals. They have at least twenty goats, a donkey, a turkey, a flock of chickens and at least two or three dogs. They used to have a llama, too, but he's moved to Georgia where he is gainfully employed, guarding sheep. My neighbors honestly love animals. I love animals too, and am quite happy to live next door to so many. They are interesting and cute and I don't have to feed them or worm them or band them, which for those of you are not in the know about animal husbandry, means that they put a tight band around the young male goats' testicles to prevent them from developing.
Uh-huh, yep, that's right.
They used to have some pigs over there but they weren't digging the swine thing, so they gave the poor creatures to Mango and his brother Pinot (I'm guessing that's how you spell his name) who are neighbors and who have probably already had a pig roast instead of raising them for pets as my neighbors do.
Such is life in Lloyd.
Last year they acquired at least half a dozen guinea hens, which are big birds who don't fly a lot, but who walk around in a straight line, one after the other, searching for bugs and tasty bits (like new rose bushes), and making a constant chatter which sounds something like Andy Devine would if you put his head in a bucket. Despite the rose-bush eating, I loved the guinea hens. They were the clowns of the neighborhood, always talking as they made their daily parade through the yard.
Then I started noticing that the number of guineas was decreasing. Soon, their ranks had sunk to only three. But still, three was a good number.
And suddenly, there are only two.
Now guineas are not small birds. They're largish. Not as big as a grown turkey or an ostrich, but still, I figure one guinea could feed a hungry family of five for a day or two at least. And I don't know what's been after them, but obviously, something has. They're not the brightest birds in the world, I'll tell you that. Every night when it's time for them to go home, they spend hours, quite literally, running up and down beside the fence that separates their home from our yard, obviously having forgotten they can fly. I know they can fly because I've seen them do it when my dogs run out to chase them.
But they seem to forget this every evening and the fence line is covered in their feathers which they drop in their frantic search for the magical opening they've forgotten isn't there since the night before.
So maybe an owl or a hawk got the missing ones, although I don't really see how this is possible, or maybe some of them wandered off on their own and got lost. I don't know. But the fact is, there were a bunch and now there's only two.
And the inventory of goats and chickens and large animals next door varies from month-to-month and year-to-year but that's to be expected as animals are known to reproduce (they don't band all the males) and sometimes die and sometimes get sold. Or go up to Georgia to do battle with coyotes on sheep farms.
And all of this leads up to the fact that it wasn't eight months ago that I wrote about having an empty nest as my youngest child was leaving for college. I wasn't sure how that was going to work out, having been a mother with kids at home for over thirty years. Frankly, it worked well for the fifteen minutes that the nest was actually empty.
College is over for the summer, the baby-daughter is back home, and yesterday my just-married daughter and her new husband moved their clothes and toothbrushes and pillows in and took over the second bedroom upstairs. They had been living with his mama, grandmama and brother in order to save money to buy a house but we need the groom to help us with some painting over here and, well, it seemed like a good idea.
So the empty nest thing didn't last very long and it's time for me to get my BIG pots out again and here we go- another phase in life, another shuffling around of the toothbrushes in the bathroom and beers in the refrigerator and schedules and dietary needs and nothing stays the same and the only thing you can count on is change.
The married kids are doing their best to house-hunt and my husband is helping them so they won't be here forever. They'll eventually find a house, pack up all those wedding presents and move into their own place, the youngest daughter will go back to college and it'll just be me and the man again.
In the meantime, here we are, a family. Diverse and interesting, just like the critters next door, and I'm going to enjoy the hustle and bustle that will result from having baby birds back in the nest.
It does remind me somewhat of the guineas, running back and forth beside the fence, looking for a way back in to the safety and dependable eats at home, but who always seem to find their way back out again every morning to range around for the sweet and unexpected pickin's to be found in the great big world.
Kids come and they go.
And Mom and Dad stay right here, making sure the light is on if someone's coming in late, throwing the feed out, providing a safe place where the hawks and owls can't swoop down and grab anyone unawares until they find a place of their own to roost.
And since we might want grandchildren one day, we won't band any of them, either.
Nope. We just show them the way to jump back over the fence, turn the light off and all go to bed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


When I was in labor with my first child, I could not believe that the world could go on outside my house as if nothing were happening. This was too much, too painful, too monumental for the world to just ignore and yet, I knew in my heart that it was not- this is what it took to bring a child into the world and if the world had stopped and everyone in it had stopped, it would still be the way it was for me to labor and then give birth.

Years and years later, I see reports of horrible tragedies that do not seemingly affect me or my life and I avoid, if I can, looking at the pictures, hearing of the terrible suffering. I don't exactly cut off the radio or avoid looking at the paper or internet, but I don't dwell. I think to myself, what good would it do? My empathy, my attention to the tragedy will not change what the sufferers are going through.
And then...something happens.
I was listening to NPR and heard Melissa Block, who is in China right now, talking about a couple trying to find their two-year old son and his grandparents in the rubble of the building where they had all lived.
She narrated the events of a long day as the rubble was finally removed enough for the parents to enter their building and they had such great, frantic hope that even after all this time, their baby boy and parents would still be alive. As she spoke, Ms. Block's voice broke over and over, and then when she translated what the mother was saying, she almost broke down.

"Wang," she cried, "Your mommy is coming!"

Hearing the numbers of the dead, the thousands and tens of thousands, mean nothing.
But hearing one mother, screaming to her undoubtedly dead son that his mommy is coming, it means everything.
With those words, I can't ignore the sorrow and pain going on so far away and although it will not help anyone, I cry.
On this beautiful day in May in North Florida where the sun is shining and the birds are calling and the oak trees tower over my peaceful home, I have to stop and cry.
We are all separate in our pain and in our tragedy and yet- how can we be?
This is something I can not understand. But after hearing this report, I can't help but see in my mind this woman, calling to her son, willing him to be alive, and then shattering into a million pieces when he is found in the arms of his grandfather who himself was in the arms of his wife. All of them dead.
And I know this same story is being repeated over and over and over right this very second and it has been, for days.

So much sorrow. I can do nothing.

But I can stop and pay attention. I am human. I can cry.

Because We Love That Monkey On Our Back, Or Sometimes On Our Nose

It's coming up on a year now that I started this blog thing and I have to say that I've taken to it like a baby monkey takes to a human nose, so to speak, and it's become a major part of my life.
Not sure exactly why but I'm sure it has a lot to do with my natural passion for words, my opinionated soul, and the fact that it appears that some people do read my wordy opinions and even take the time to comment on them!
I feel like I'm late to the party with this blog thing. It's been going on for quite a while (in internet years, anyway, which are like regular years only on meth, cocaine, and espresso all at the same time) but here I am now and here I'll stay unless my magic box (aka The MacBook) dies and my husband refuses to waste any more money buying me a new one. I'm the sort of frustrated writer that would write no matter what- readers, no readers, whatever. I'm like Deacon Fuller, a musician I used to love to go dance to in St. Pete who once ended a show saying, "Thanks for coming out and supporting live music because if you hadn't, we'd all be sitting around our living room, playing for ourselves."
You gotta do what you gotta do.
But I've been trying to analyze what this compulsion to blog means. Not just for me, but for others and there's been a lot of news about it in the media. The mother of all bloggers (in my opinion, anyway), Heather Armstrong, has recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, on the Today Show, and on Nightline. It would appear that the woman is bringing in ad revenues of up to $40,000 a month which is a lot of jingle in the pocket which has allowed her and her husband (who helps with the technical stuff and has a more visual-content blog himself) to stay at home with their daughter and basically live the American dream which is to figure out a way to make the money to support the family doing something you love.
The media is calling her one of the "mommy-bloggers" and yes, she is, but she writes about a lot more than her child. And she's one of those writers who can write about anything and make it funny or heartrending or poignant and that's all there is to it. She's a talented woman and I am in awe of her.
She gets an awful lot of hate mail and most of it boils down to something in the various categories of, "You don't deserve to make money writing about your stupid kid and your stupid dogs," "You're ugly," and "You're profane."
Well, she's not ugly and she is profane and anyone who gets four million hits a month on their blog obviously does deserve to make money with it.
And dammit! I wish that when I'd been a young mama I'd had the blogging outlet. Being a mother is a hard, hard job and anyone who doesn't admit that has either
(A) Never had a kid, or
(B) Is a big fat liar.
And Heather's blog covers the mothering-ground from the moments of such pure-white-blissed-out-wonder at the way she loves her child to the moments of wanting to grab the car keys and hit the nearest interstate and not stop driving until the pavement runs out.
She's honest. And people can't stand that for some reason. Especially if that honesty combined with a terrific talent for writing combines to bring in a healthy income.
Mothering is a strange thing. We talk a big talk about what a hard job it is, how important a job it is, and even how sacred a job it is, but we offer the women who do it absolutely no money, no social status and no health insurance, which makes it mighty difficult for anyone to actually DO it.
It's isolating, it's frustrating, it's constant and it never ends from the moment of conception. Not when the children go to school, not when they leave home for college, not when they get married and not until we die, at which time we can almost positively say we're going to get a good rest.
Until then- don't count on it.
So anyone who's really out there doing it, whether it's the lady who lives in a single-wide on an acre of land in the middle of nowhere, to Angelina Jolie, is doing the hard work. Even women who are doing it who have a lot of money and get to be in movies or on television are still having to get up in the middle of the night and deal with sudden high fevers and vomited-on sheets and the constant worrying that accompanies motherhood. Sure, it has its moments of transcendental joy but there's a lot more poop involved than there is glory, no matter how much money you have.
If you're really doing it right, anyway.
And I admire these mommy-bloggers who have discovered and created their own little world in the blogosphere. They've created a community, a way to be creative, and in some cases, a decent living. And I don't think they're necessarily "using" their kids, either. You get any two mothers together and they're going to start a discussion about their families and their lives and they may end up crying and they probably will end up laughing, but either way, they will go away feeling better because they know they're not alone in how they feel about this monumental task they're doing.
And blogging seems to me to just be a natural extension of that.
So here's what I say to all the people bitching and moaning about Ms. Armstrong and her blog- first off, don't read it. Secondly, admit it- you're fucking jealous.
Start your own blog. If you can figure out how to comment on someone else's, you can certainly figure out how to create one of your own. And if you're a fantastic writer and you have something to say that people want to hear, you might even make some money at it.
Or, like me, you might just find that you love the entire process of it so much that you can't remember what life was like before you started.
Sort of like having children. Without the poop. And very little glory.
But the sort of reward you just can't really explain.
Blog on.

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm Turning Into Billy

So it's the day after Mother's Day and I, of course, am consumed by guilt for many reasons, some of them being having an actual basis in reality, but none of them having to do with the fact that I ate bacon this weekend because I didn't but maybe I should have.
Have you seen this website?
Wow. Really, who wouldn't love a salad served in a bowl made of bacon? Why didn't I think of that? is what I say.

I did eat some pork though. Actually, come to think of it, I believe I may have eaten pork three times this weekend, which is an awful lot for someone who claims to eat mostly plants. It was a pork-filled weekend, as so many of them here in the Deep South are. Friday night I helped out at the Monticello Opera House, taking tickets for a dinner theater and they generously served me a meal and it had pork in it. Indeed it did. I think it was in the form of a paella, although it just seemed like yellow rice with various meat products on it to me. It was delicious, though. And then on Saturday night, we went to Roland's welcome home party and there was every sort of grilled pork imaginable. I only ate a small piece that someone gave me off his very own fingers but it was mighty good.

The party was good too, although overwhelming for me, the country-mouse-who-never-sticks-her-twitchy-little-nose-out-of-the-doorway. Roland looked and seemed terrific and I was glad to have gone just to see what a real Marine looks like. Hot, I think is the word I am searching for here and if that's inappropriate, so be it. He gave a little speech to the many, many people who were there, thanking them for our gatherings and the sending of good energy his way while he was in Iraq. He claims that it must have worked because every one in his company came home whole and uninjured. I don't know if I believe that's the reason, but I'm grateful they all did.

So back to the pork.

On Sunday I cooked waffles and venison sausage for me and the man but that venison sausage is made of both venison and pork and I know it. I ate it anyway and it was damn good.
The Mother's Day feast of sushi and strawberry shortcake had no pork in it but it was great anyway. I suggested we make bacon and tomato sushi but I pretended I was kidding after I said it.

It was more than lovely to have the kids here on a Sunday afternoon, hanging out and cooking rice and rollin' our own sushi. We did the garden tour and then we went over and checked out the goats and chickens next door. The kids were suitably impressed by the garden and who doesn't love a baby goat when it's all curled up in a food bowl? So that was fun. They also admired the hole we've dug in the backyard where we're putting the pond. The man worked hard all weekend on that project and I can't imagine how nice it's going to be when it's done with the sound of water trickling through the bamboo spouts he's making. From our own bamboo, of course. And it will give me the excuse to plant more ferns which always makes me happy.

The kids gave me some great gifts for Mother's Day, although I wish they hadn't. Receiving gifts always makes me feel...undeserving? Something weird. But I'll put that salad spinner (which I actually asked for) to good use with garden greens and I'll eat the chocolate and I love the flowers and the cards and what they wrote in them made me cry. They gave me money to get a massage and a gift certificate to get my hair cut and I'll certainly put those to good use too.
So it was a lovely Mother's Day and couldn't have been more perfect if we'd had bacon-wrapped ham instead of sushi and OH! I almost forgot my favorite present:

My kids know me so well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Being a Mother Is One Thing; Being a Daughter Is Another

We're thinking about making a little fish pond with a fountain type thing in the backyard and I wanted to show my husband some I'd seen at Tallahassee Nurseries yesterday. So after breakfast we took off for town.
We went to the nursery and walked around and had a nice time, looking at flowers and trees and fountains with spouts made of bamboo. The wind was blowing, it wasn't too hot, and it's always a pleasure to walk around a nice nursery.
Then we went to a big box store to check out pond-making supplies and I started feeling weird there. Too many people and stuff for sale that I deem to be tacky and nasty and cheap which will end up in a land fill after people get tired of looking at it or it breaks, which it inevitably will.
I don't know. It all made me depressed.
Then to Publix to buy things for tomorrow's Mother's Day Sushi And Strawberry Shortcake feast and for tonight's Welcome Home Roland Party.
We stopped and had lunch and then we drove home through neighborhoods, looking for leaves for my husband to shred and mulch with, which seems to be his new favorite activity.
By the time we got home, I was ready to weep with the relief of being here. I opened up the front doors and let the breeze sweep through the hallway and put the groceries away and I'm still feeling sort of weird and anxious and I'm not exactly sure why but I think it may have something to do with Mother's Day, which is tomorrow.
Mother's Day is yet another big ol' American holiday that has come to represent a whole lot of shit that it was never meant to including flowers, jewelry, breakfast in bed served by impossibly cute children and impossibly handsome husbands and, oh yeah, all that emotional stuff tied into mothers.
I have no problem with the way my kids treat Mother's Day or me on it. I love getting together and doing some sort of food thing and maybe playing a couple of games. Sounds good to me.
But it's the part where I should be doing something with my own mother that makes my soul feel like it's covered in poison ivy.
My mother and I do not have a great relationship and I'm certainly not going to go into it here, but the fact is, well, I'm not a good daughter.
Just take my word on that one.
And I'm selfish to boot, which means that on Mother's Day, I want to be with my kids and I send my mom a stupidly expensive bouquet of flowers that are delivered and call that done.
Which would be fine if it really worked to make me feel I'd done my best but of course it doesn't.
Yoko Ono wrote a song that had the line in it, "It's that faint, faint sound of the childhood bell, ringing in my soul" and that line comes to me frequently because sometimes the sound of that childhood bell rings faintly and sometimes it tolls quite loudly for me.
And holidays seem to be especially good at creating the strong winds that swing it from where it's hanging, somewhere just right of my heart, somewhere just north of my belly, somewhere just inside my head.
I don't know that I'll ever resolve it, either. Don't know if I'll ever come to grips with everything that has so unfortunately happened between us. I probably could, if I spent tens of thousands of dollars in counseling but really I don't want to.
Just the thought of that makes me want to crawl into bed, turn on the fan and burrow under the covers, even on such a fine warm day as today.
Which of course I won't do. I'm not that fucked up about it. Not anymore. I used to be.
No. I think I'll go make some cobbler and a squash casserole for Roland's party instead. Make a cup of espresso to try and chase this depression and anxiety-fatigue away because right now I feel like I have a pond-sized well of tears sitting right behind my eyeballs, making me feel like I do on those days when the sky is gray and filled with huge clouds that are just not going to let down and rain to relieve the hot, humid air or the ground beneath them, panting with thirst.

It's no wonder I don't ever want to leave my house. It's beautiful here, it's calm. There are hardly ever voices raised in anger and there is no fear waiting behind doors, ready to jump out and grab me. Instead, there is light and there is a breeze that smells of confederate jasmine. There are birds at the feeder and a kind man outside, working in his garden who loves me and loves the kids.
Somehow, I've managed to create a sanctuary here and if I look at myself lovingly, I understand completely why I don't want to leave it.
I wish I could create a better relationship with my mother, too, but for some reason, I don't feel as if that's possible, or maybe that's just an excuse for not wanting to.
Either way, it's not happening today.
Not in time for Mother's Day.
Thank God for my kids. Thank God for them and thank God that I have been able to give them the sort of life that doesn't make them want to avoid me. I don't know how I managed but I know that somehow my mother must have had something to do with it and I am grateful beyond words for that.
I think I'll try and tell her that when I call her tomorrow.
It's a start.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Getting Back To The Garden

A few nights ago, my husband and I did one of our very favorite things which is to make a sunset drink and wander around the yard and garden, checking out everything from how the cucumbers were coming along to the status of the giant oak in the backyard that I was so worried about last year during that drought.
I'm still worried about it.
Anyway, we picked snow peas and squash and dug a few potatoes and onions for our supper and then we strolled around the rest of the yard noting and commenting on how things were growing. Since this house is 150 years old, there are plants and trees that predate our arrival by at least a century and there are things we've planted, too, and I've done my best to nurture both the old and the new and to make the yard something to be proud of in my non-professional, old southern woman way.
My husband has been working very hard on the garden this year and it shows- it's a beautiful garden and although we're already getting food out of it, that almost seems beside the point. As with growing anything, it's the joy of seeing the tiny things flourish under our care.
So we were enjoying the fruits of our labors, so to speak, and the light was that sort of magical light that only comes at sundown and as we walked around this beautiful old house where we are so blessed to live, I had an epiphany of sorts.
When we first moved here, I could barely function for thinking of all the the history that has played out within the walls of this house. It was like being allowed to live in a museum, the velvet ropes that keep people from entering the rooms cast aside and me (me!) given permission to move in my furniture, my rugs, my pots and pans. Although I've not seen much "ghostly" activity, every square inch of the house seemed to me to ring with the sound of others' voices, others' footsteps. I thought of the babies born here, the people who have died here, danced here, courted here, gone through sorrow and confusion and sadness and joy here. The weddings, the funerals, the dinners, the parties, and all the many, many days of regular life- meals prepared and eaten, clothes washed, floors swept and mopped, gardens tended, water hauled, wood chopped, children raised.
Add to all of that the fact that a fairly famous author lived here before we did and it was all almost too much for me. I hardly felt worthy.
But as time has passed, this feeling has faded. I am just as much in love with the house as I ever was, but it's a more pragmatic, less sentimental type of love. After four years of daily life of my family's own, after a wedding, a wake, too many birthdays to count, four Thanksgivings, four Christmases, the Mother's Days, the Father's Days, the music played, the floors swept, it has become a place nothing like a museum at all. It has become our home, the place where we live.
And this was the realization I had as we walked around the house.
After we finished our walk-about, we came inside and I cooked the squash and the onions, the potatoes and snow peas and we sat and ate, just as so many other people have done before us.
But before we ate, my husband pulled me into his lap and held me for a few minutes and my heart was so filled with love for him a that the love spilled out and I cried a little.
It occurs to me that my love for him is much like the love I have for this house in that it started out one way and has grown into something so much more. My love for him is a love based on a reality, not a fantasy, and it is better than anything I ever could have imagined. It has grown through all the changes in our lives, the children, the businesses, the changes we see in ourselves and each other as we age.
When I met my husband and fell in love with him, the idea of a life with him was a dream.
A sweet dream, but a dream, nonetheless.
And when I moved into this house, that, too, was like a dream.
And dreams, like tiny sprouting plants in the garden, are beautiful things but it's what actually grows from the sprouts, from the dreams, that make a garden, a life.
We may have been kicked out of the garden, according to Genesis, but if we are willing to work, if we aren't afraid to dream big, we can, somehow, find our way back in to find that the fruit of the trees is sweeter for our labor, the lap of our love is more comfortable for all the years we've nestled there.
And we can continue to dream as long as we live, sweet dreams that build, one upon another, until life is a sort of heaven, at least sometimes, maybe on a weekday night when you least expect it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Making Love, Not War

I have recently started reading a blog and as blogs sometimes do, this one started out discussing one thing but has veered into quite different territory as the author's wife, Susan, has the bad, bad cancer and sorrowfully, it just doesn't look good. They have young kids and it's pretty much a worse case scenario and even though I do not know these people at all, my heart is broken for them.
And this dear man's readers are very supportive. Yesterday's post showed a picture of Lance Armstrong himself, holding a sign saying, "Win, Susan!" And most of the people commenting are saying things along those lines.
You can beat it! Don't stop fighting! Believe in miracles!
And so forth.
We have such a perception of disease being an enemy within our bodies that we can battle against. And sometimes, with some diagnoses, there are people (Lance Armstrong being the poster boy for this particular example) who can beat it. They can muster the reserves, the strength, the will, the health insurance, the money, the best doctors that money and health insurance can buy, and they can kick cancer's ass. Or some other disease's ass.
I've known a few who did.
But I've known a few who couldn't, either.
There are some diagnoses that simply do not announce a winnable battle. And it's the battle thing I want to talk about.
When my friend Lynn died and we were trying to write the obituary, I wanted so badly for it not to say, as so many do, that she died after "a long battle" with her particular illness.
There was no battle with her disease, no war to be waged, only the inevitable slow decline which ended with her in a nursing home, her last days and months a nightmare of her inability to speak, to walk, to dance, to sing, to do anything that had brought this strong, wonderful woman pleasure in her too-short life.
And then she died.
Which in her case, if there was a triumph of any sort, was it.
But somehow, when the obituary ran, that damn phrase was in there: After a long battle...
And I have seen people, fighting for some sort of miracle up until the last moment, completely denying the only real miracle possible, which is the peace that comes with acceptance.
And I don't know if I could find that peace. I have no idea. But I hope I could because it's nothing but a waste of time and energy and let's face it- money- looking for that miracle in some cases. I have heard that 90% of medical expenses come in the last month of a person's life.
How much better to ask hospice (those blessed angels) into our lives, accept the fate that has been handed down, and do the work that needs to be done before we leave this life? To spend whatever time we have left not battling an unwinnable war, but giving the best of what we have to the ones we love and letting them give that to us.
I understand that it is only human of us to want to fight death. Everything within us, every cell in our bodies, wants to live. That is simply the truth and so continuing to fight even when the fight is futile, is the path that every fiber of our being must want to embrace.
I think that acceptance is probably the harder path to take, although in our culture, we see it as the choice of a weakling. Someone not brave enough for the fight.
But is it bravery or is it merely fantastical thinking?
I am not saying here that this blogger's wife or any person with a similar diagnosis should not explore every option for a continued life but there has to be a point when the exploration, the battle, begins to serve no purpose but to distract us from the reality of what is to come.
Doctors don't always help us know when this point has been reached. They sometimes continue to offer treatment when they know that treatment is, at best, merely going to prolong a life and the attending agony for a short while. Sometimes, the treatment even adds to the agony.
And of course, families and friends don't want their loved one to die and I think that so often they, out of denial and love and an inability to discuss the inevitable, continue to cheer the dying on to find a different treatment, to try and WIN this battle when perhaps the person dying really would just like to let it all go and die in peace.
Is that so wrong?
I don't think there should be any shame in facing death with acceptance or with helping our loved ones do the same. In fact, it may be the bravest, most courageous thing we ever do, for ourselves or for others. To say no more to the chemo, the radiation, to the trips to and from the hospital, the doctors' offices. To stay at home, to accept the help with all that needs to be done to make us comfortable, to say, "I love you," to the ones we love. To say, "Thank-you," to the ones we need to thank. To reflect on what has been, to be at peace with what is to come.
That's what I'm thinking about today. That I hope when my time comes I will know when it's time to fight and I will know when it's time to stop.
And I hope that my family, my loved ones, will have the strength and courage to let me do that and will help me do that.
I would want my obituary not to say after a long battle, but with words along the lines of, Where some may have waged war, she sought peace and resolution, understanding and love.
Some say there can be no joy in death, but I am here to tell you I have seen it. But that joy cannot creep in, it cannot be present, when war is still being waged.
And when we face the inevitable, perhaps the glory comes not in fighting it, but in accepting it, taking that last last breath and sailing across the abyss, over darkness, into light, as unencumbered, as freely and with as much lightness of being as we can muster.
And although I would hope for a miracle for this woman I've never met (and for all of us, really), and for her to be able to get well, to take care of her children, to live a long and healthy life, when her time comes, I would hope that she has no sense of surrendering to any sort of war, of failing to battle her disease properly, but instead, the sense of having surrendered to the light and the love that will surely surround her.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Where Have You Been All My Life?

My neighbor's Poplar tree is in bloom and she gave me this blossom. First of all, I had no idea that Poplar trees grew here and secondly (and obviously), I had no idea they had such a blossom.
Just makes me wonder- what in hell else am I missing?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Cautionary Tale About Love With Really Long Sentences

All right men, listen up. Follow this story closely and learn something.

If you and your woman spend a day in the yard and garden, working your asses off and getting filthy dirty and then, because you have a small party to attend you go in the house and get all showered and cleaned up and she showers and cleans up AND puts on make-up which she hardly ever does, AND she fits into her jeans which is a small miracle in that she's post-menopausal and fighting with every ounce of her being not to become a pot-bellied gnome of indeterminate sex and you go to the small party and you're leaving the party at eight-thirty at night and she says, "Bill's playing at the blues club," do NOT say, "Well, I'm just not up for that," and then proceed to drive her home thinking to yourself, "Oh boy, now I can get out of these clothes and eat leftover venison stew and watch boxing on TV."

No. Don't do that.

Because after awhile, you're going to wonder why your woman hasn't said a word to you in over an hour and when you ask her what's wrong she's going to say, "Nothing," but in a tone of voice that makes you more than slightly aware that actually something is indeed quite wrong, especially if she's washing a plate with far more vigor than it would seem to require and she won't look at you as you spoon leftover venison stew into a bowl.

Listen- women sometimes have a hard time asking for what they want, even after twenty-something years of marriage and you have to listen carefully to ascertain what a woman really wants and if she's put on eyeliner and gotten into her jeans she may actually not want to come right home and eat leftover venison stew for supper while you watch boxing on TV.
AND that after twenty-three years of marriage it is more important than ever that your woman feels that she is still attractive to you and that when she tries to look her best it is important to notice AND that if she hints she may want to go dancing you need to suck it up and take her.

Or, alternately, just go ahead and eat the leftover venison stew and watch boxing on TV because really, she does love you and she won't hold it against you forever.
She'll just wash the dishes and not talk to you and write a blog about it the next day while you're out in the garden, shredding leaves for mulch.

But even if you don't listen carefully to what she doesn't say and even if you don't pick up the hints she's dropping and even if you don't take her dancing, eventually she'll come outside and admire your mulching and then maybe she'll make you the very best sandwich in the entire world with bacon and ripe, sliced, salted tomatoes and lots of Miracle Whip, just the way you like it and she'll kiss you and tell you she loves you because really, she knows that you love her too, which is why you're mulching the garden and why you'd rather come home and eat some leftover stew that she made out of deer that you brought home than go to any restaurant in the world, and sitting there and eating it in the home you've made together is more satisfying and fun to you than going to a loud, smoky blues club, even if Bill Wharton is playing and she's wearing eye shadow.

If you're lucky.
And if she is too.
And you both know it.