Monday, December 31, 2007

Ya-Ya, Y'all

Well, it's 6:35 on New Year's Eve, 2007, as I write this. And I am celebrating.
I'm not especially celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another. That's so random. What is time, really and why do we try so hard to define and mark it?
So we can get to our dental appointments when we're supposed to, I guess.
No, I'm celebrating because New Years officially ends the damn holiday season.
Yep. It's well and truly over. And 2008 will be the last year that we have George W. Bush as president, which is reason enough to celebrate.
I'm on my own back porch, as I write this. We didn't stay in the orange house on Anna Maria Island although it was actually fairly charming on the inside and we probably would have had a lovely time had we stayed there. There was a tree in the yard- I was wrong about that. I guess the orange sort of blinded me to it. And wild parrots feed in the yard every morning beneath the tree. They like the pine cones. So that alone would have been a joy to watch.
But I just wanted to come home. I didn't need to come home so much. I just wanted to be here.
I like being home for New Years. It's a good and safe place to be. An old guitar player friend of ours used to say that New Year's Eve is Amateur Night. All the people who normally never go out drinking and driving think that the last day of the year is a good time to try it, endangering everybody on the road.
But besides that, I'm old and I like being home and that's all there is to it. I wouldn't bet the ranch on me being awake at midnight and that is just fine.
Also, I don't have any firm New Year's Resolutions. Last year I resolved to wear more colorful clothing and less black and even that didn't work out too well. As always, I'll just strive to do the best I can and finish another novel and get in shape and try to be less crazy. Maybe I'll buy a few more blue t-shirts.
And I'm not looking back on 2007 with any nostalgia, either. The most momentous thing that happened in my life this year was that my nest sort of emptied out, although not entirely, since the last baby bird only flew as far as the dorm at FSU and she comes home quite frequently. I certainly didn't discover a cure for cancer or the meaning of life although I did come up with an excellent recipe for salmon which I will gladly share with anyone who wants it.
Which leads me to give you the advice I read about diet from a man named Michael Pollen who has written a book entitled In Defense Of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. His advice goes like this:
"Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants."
I love that.
So I'll leave it at that and remind you to eat your black-eyed peas tomorrow. They are a big bowl of heaping natural plant goodness and if they offer any good luck for the upcoming year, all the better.
And I'd like to say that I've gotten a lot of joy from writing this blog and getting comments and reading a lot of y'all's blogs and thank-you for your words and thank-you for commenting on mine.
Be safe. Be healthy. Don't forget to dream. I hope you get to kiss someone you love at midnight.
I guess that's all I need to say.
Oh yeah. And bless our hearts.
Love....Ms. Moon

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some Things I Have Seen

I have a friend who seems to be operating on a completely different time-frame than I am. It's as if he lives on another planet where time is measured differently or maybe he's discovered some secret time-stretcher or maybe, just maybe, he is more adventuresome, energetic and wastes a lot less time doing things on the internet.

I'm not sure.

When he goes on a vacation he can easily fit some early-morning yoga, a swim, a jog, eighteen holes of golf, three gourmet meals, a nap and a couple of museum visits into one day. And this is how he relaxes.

Me? I'm lucky to walk a few miles and get lunch in. Seriously.

But I have seen a few things on this trip and here I am, wasting time- no! I mean, making good use of my leisure time! by reporting in here.

The most striking thing I have seen on this little adventure was the most amazing comb-over I've ever personally laid eyes on. It was beyond horrible and went well into the absolutely unbelievable category. We sat behind the man sporting it at a busy breakfast place and I could barely take my eyes off the complicated train wreck which was his hairdo. He was accompanied by a relatively regular-looking wife as well as what appeared to be their daughter and her two children, one of which was the prettiest baby I've ever seen despite the fact that she was bald. Granddaddy should take a tip from her- bald can be beautiful!

I've also seen some pretty night skies. We would have seen what was probably a beautiful and soul-stirring sunset yesterday but we were asleep. We did manage to see the right-after-the-sunset-sky and that was real nice, although it lacked the drama of the actual sunset.

I've seen an awful lot of really fat Americans. Whoa. No need to go on about that. We saw a roller-bladin' granny today who was wearing very little and what there was of it was black spandex. To her I say, "You go, girl!" She looked great.

I've seen a lot of bougainvillea, incredible palms of various and exotic species, some lovely, flat Gulf seas rolling quietly into shore with gentle swishes and hisses of foam, a tree fern that made me realize why they call them tree ferns, and the cutest little Yorkie who was so tiny that that my Yorkie could have eaten her for lunch.

And I may have seen Jeff Bridges, although my husband says no, it wasn't him.

I'm as boring outside of Lloyd as I am in Lloyd.

Didn't think it was possible, did ya?

Well, it is and I am.

We did just make a drink and walk down to the beach to check out tonight's sunset but due to an incredibly thick seafog, the sun was nowhere in sight. I'm sure it's there somewhere, but we sure aren't going to see it.

Oh well.

One more thing I've seen is the house that we have so graciously been offered on loan for the last two nights of our little trip. This house belongs to the friend of a friend and I can't believe I'm saying this in a public place but we've driven by it several times now and each time I am shocked anew at the sight of it. Can I just say that without a doubt it is the ugliest and least charming house on the entire island of Anna Maria?
Maybe it's really cute on the inside. And I shouldn't look a gift house in the mouth, right? But honestly- there isn't even a tree in the yard and it's not like it's on the beach. It's orange, okay? Orange cement block. With dark orange trim.

We may come home early.

Unless we decide to take up golf or something.

I'll let you know.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's Working

Despite a million tourists (what are these people doing in my state?), this is a lovely place. Although the gulf is not lapping at our front porch, we're not in a motel by the interstate either.
I can feel myself relaxing.
Sometimes getting away is just the thing to do.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

How Did I Forget? How Do I Remember?

Phew. Wow. It's over.
Not really. Because the melancholy madness of Christmas which always descends on me after the presents are opened and the older kids leave to go to their various second stops for the day hit me so hard this year that I'm still reeling.
I spent yesterday cleaning my kitchen as therapy, I suppose, although it needed a good cleaning. I went from the top of the refrigerator to the cabinet under the sink. I took the aprons that I hang on the walls as decorations down, washed and starched and ironed them and hung them back up. I wiped down shelves and I mopped the floor. I threw out stuff.
I tried to clean my soul of despair.
Didn't work so well but my kitchen is clean.
My husband has suggested that we go out of town today and I think we're going. This, of course, has me twisted even more tightly because of my recent development of what I can only assume is a form of agoraphobia, although it's not necessarily the marketplace I am afraid of- I do quite well in Publix, thank you, and can even handle the mall for short periods of time, once or twice a year.
It's the idea of packing my things and loading the car and leaving my home behind that gets me. We really don't know where we're going. We have the vague promise of a house somewhere near Sarasota on an island and I don't know a thing about the area in general or the house in specific and I'm freaking out, albeit quietly.
I know I need to get away. I need to leave my worries about children and friends behind and just....go.
But first I have to pack and I don't have the slightest idea what to take (do I need towels and sheets?) and I look back on times before in my life when I'd do something like this and it was just a fun adventure and not a grim exercise in trying to stretch my horizons a little. Like my friend Lynn who lost her ability to cook and clean and make a bed and decorate her Christmas tree and type and talk, I find myself wondering when did I forget how to do this?
It shouldn't be scary to get in a car and go wandering down the state of Florida for a little fun time.
Should it?
That's the trouble with depression (because let's call this what it is)- nothing sounds like fun and everything seems overwhelming. I know I have a strong tendency towards depression and nothing can set off a good bout of it like Christmas.
Besides all the emotional baggage that gets unpacked every year with the lights and ornaments, I cease doing the things that keep me somewhat stable. I don't exercise as much, I certainly don't eat well, and I'm thrust into a situation that requires me to do a lot of things I don't enjoy and don't really believe in.
It all adds up to a good old-fashioned melancholy that I believe a lot of people must feel this time of year. The kind that paralyzes you.
I kept waking up last night thinking that I really can't go on this trip. I need to go visit a friend on the east coast who has a new grandson whom I haven't seen yet. I need to help my daughter find and buy a laptop. I need to take the dogs to the groomers. I need to go see Lynn. I need to....
I need to get out of my little world of worry and fear and try to relax and remember why it is that I married my husband and see if he can remember why he married me.
When did I forget how to do this? When did I last smile like I did in that picture?
And will I ever do it again?

Monday, December 24, 2007

So This Is Christmas

And what have you done?
Fed the hungry? Taken in the homeless? Given to the poor, cooled the brow of the ill, provided warmth to the cold and hope to the hopeless?
Yeah, me neither.
Here's what I have done:
So far.
Christmas Eve day and the feast for tonight is in progressive steps towards doneness. The venison for the tamales is in the crockpot and has been since last night. The sourdough is rising. The greens from the garden are simmering, as are a pot of pinto beans. The Moon Family Traditional Chicken Salad is resting in its bowl, ornamented with grapes and pecans, as always. The pecan pie and the lemon chess pie are cooling on the sideboard. Or what passes for a sideboard in my kitchen.
The presents are wrapped and under the tree with two fire grates set around them to discourage the yorkie from lifting his leg to annoint them. The creche is set up on the mantel with branches from the magnolia set around and behind it. Buddha is sitting right beside the baby Jesus in the creche, smiling his big Buddha smile which I translate to mean (this time of year anyway) "Hey Jesus! You're God too!"
The kids will all be coming out soon to feast and spend the night.
The husband is on his way home from hunting and going by the bank to get the kids' Christmas cash.
And I'm sitting here, writing this because...
I can.
A real true Christmas miracle found its way into my life yesterday when my permanent crown (that's the kind for my teeth, not my head) arrived at my dentist's office and he, perhaps wearied by my phone calls to him wailing about my temporary falling off, met me at the office last night, a Sunday night before Christmas, along with his wonderful and beautiful assistant, and put my gold crowns on my old teeth. I am not in pain, I can eat, and I have mouth jewelry.
As I was driving home last night from that visit, I looked up into the sky and there was the biggest silver moon I think I've ever seen.
Silver in the sky, gold in my mouth.
It was a moment.
And I have so much more than that to celebrate and I do and I will. Mostly it has to do with family, of course. I am more than blessed there.
Even though I am blessed with far more than most in every way, I still am not going to have one moment of what you'd call real Christmas joy, I can assure you. Not one. I realize that the spirit of Christmas is not in me.
But I'm taking what I've got, which is this feeling of utter gratefulness and contentment.
For me, that is more than enough.
And tonight I'll look up and that moon will be even fuller and more silver than it was last night and red Mars will be sitting right there beside it, riding high on the waves of lunar light.
I'll flash my gold smile and I'll think of all the ones I love and send them a wish of good tidings.
And if that's all I've got, it's more than enough.
I'll celebrate any baby born, Jesus too. His birth, like the birth of any healthy baby, is a moment to pause and give thanks and ponder the possibility of what a life can mean.
Ponder. I love that word. My favorite part of the New Testament's account of the birth of Jesus is Luke, Chapter 2, Verse 19, where it says,
And Mary took these things and she pondered them in her heart.
I'm pondering, as always, what all of this means- my life, all our lives, war and peace and greed and fear and suffering and death and joy and light and love and generosity.
I can't make any sense of it, and I doubt I ever will, but I continue to try. To ponder.
Merry Christmas, y'all. Look at the moon tonight and think whatever good thoughts you have and maybe, for a moment, the silver moon will look down on us in peace.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When There Are No Words

I went to see Lynn today. I knew it was going to be tough. Christmas- hell, she loved Christmas. She never had much money to buy presents but she'd find that one perfect thing to give, maybe tiny, but perfect. She loved the lights, the things she'd collected over the years to decorate with. She loved the cards and the songs and the colors and the tastes and the joy.

I remember the year her disease really started taking hold in a cruel way. She was still living in her house and a friend had brought her a tree and she got out all her decorations and then....
she couldn't figure out how to put the lights on or how to put her baubles and ornaments on. When I got to her house, she was crying. "How did I forget?" she wailed.

So I knew, between my own fragile state and the whole situation, it was going to be hard.

I went inside and she was parked in that spot all by herself in the hallway, next to the pay phone. I'd brought her some strawberry ice cream and I wheeled her outside to sit under the tree and I started feeding her the pink goop. She's sort of like a baby now - if you touch her lips, she opens her mouth. I fed her some and we sat and let the breeze blow over us and she was agitated. She kept trying to get out of the chair that she was tied to. I usually say something like, "Where are you going, girl? It's okay. Now settle down."

Today all I could do was pat her. It's not okay and I wasn't in the mood to lie about it or try to make it any better than it is.

There's a guy who works there named Lee Roy, who likes to come and talk to me and he came out to change a light bulb that blew in the rain last night. We got to talking, as usual, and then he asked me, "Did you know her before she was like this?"

That was all it took. The dam broke. I started sobbing.

"Oh yeah," I said. And then I tried to tell him what Lynn used to be like. I used words like "Hardest working woman you ever met," and "Oh, my, she loved to dance," and "She loved music so much."

"We can't understand these things," he said. "Only the man upstairs. As we get older, all will be revealed."

I listened politely while I fed my friend like a baby, one spoonful of cold, sweet, pink ice cream after another, but I was mad. Mad at God, mad at whatever evilness had caused my friend to get sick. Eventually, I said, "Yeah, well, all that works better if you believe in the man upstairs." I wouldn't normally say anything like that, but I did today. Lee Roy had tried to make me feel better and it did nothing for me. Not one damn thing. If there is a God, then what the hell is he thinking? There's so much suffering going on in this world that I can't even begin to fathom it. I can't even fathom what Lynn suffers and I'm sitting right there watching it.

He knew how I was feeling and soon took off to go do another chore and I sat with Lynn some more. "I'm sorry, baby," I said to her. "All I have in me is to sit with you some today." I held her hand while I cried, and although usually I don't even think she knows where her hand is, today she pulled my hand to her mouth and kissed it.

I broke down again and when she grew more agitated, I took her back inside to see if I could find a nurse to give her the medication to calm her down.

I kissed her to tell her good-bye when I was leaving and she kissed me back, which she hasn't done in forever, which caused me to cry even harder. The nurse, seeing my distress, asked me several times if I was all right.

I said I was, although that was a lie. She said she'd give her her meds and there was another employee there who really seems to care a lot for Lynn and he said he'd take care of her and so I left.

On my way out, I looked out for Lee Roy, hoping to see him to tell him that I appreciated the fact that he'd tried to make me feel better. His wanting to make me feel better had helped, even if his words hadn't.

But I didn't see him and there was nothing for it but to get in my car and drive away.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Well. Here we are. Five days before Christmas and I am NOT ready. In fact, I feel sort of sick to my stomach. Speaking of sick, my youngest seems to have the flu. She went from a sore throat and no fever yesterday to a sore throat, feeling terrible, and a fever last night. Bah! I hate it when my kids are sick as much now as I did when they were babies.

She's a strong, healthy girl, though, and I'm sure she'll make it through this. I just hope it's in time for Christmas. It's sort of reassuring to remember that she was sick with something similar last Christmas, and the Christmas before that the poor child had poison ivy covering every inch of her body. That was the same Christmas my dermatologist had convinced me to go through a regime of an extremely evil medication called Effudex which is supposed to find and destroy precancerous skin lesions and let me just say that my whole entire face must be made up of precancerous skin lesions because my usually mild complexion turned red, raw and ugly and when I finally got tired of the blood on my pillow and the small children running from the sight of me, I quit using it. We did not take a lot of pictures that year.

Today I figure I can get all my baking done, wrap all the presents and finish up the blanket I'm making for my niece. That sounds doable, right?

Sure, if I'm blessed with a freaking Christmas miracle.

And I'd like to say that a very, very old friend of mine (he must be old, he's the same age I am) is blogging now. If you enjoyed the comment left by B. Boy on my last post, check him out at
The man can rant and he's not afraid to say what he thinks. This could get scary. You might want to wear safety goggles.

Anyway, I hope all of you are having a wonderful time of it and that your presents are wrapped and lying under the tree, unless like at our house where if you put the presents under the tree the dogs pee on them, and that your days are merry and bright.

And so forth.

Try to remember that just because eggnog has eggs in it, it's not actually a breakfast beverage and let's all get this thing done!

Oh hell. What am I saying? Eggnog can be breakfast if you want it to be. I would recommend, though, that you use the light rum before noon.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's The Endtimes, Folks

I have gotten used to, although have not become comfortable with, the use of the songs of my youth being used in the marketing of products and services on television. A lot of people do it these days and I understand why and I hate it.

But this. This is just enough to push me over the edge- which is admittedly, a very short journey at the moment.

I just saw a commercial for a disposable diaper (and yes, there are other types of diapers but that's another rant) and the music playing as the cute little toddler danced and giggled was, and I hate to even say this...All You Need Is Love.

This may not be the end of my world as I know it, but it's definitely one of the end signs.

For those of you who don't understand my rage here, let me just tell you that All You Need Is Love is a song written by John Lennon and performed by the Beatles on the very first ever live global television link in 1967. You can watch the video right here on youtube.

All You Need Is Love. That was the very simple message that John Lennon was trying to get across to the world. He was not saying that all you need is paper, plastic and chemicals that last forever to keep baby poop and pee off your furniture.

I am so angry. How DARE they use that song to catch our ears and get us to buy bags of these damn things that are going to end up crowding us off the planet? It may be legal and I don't even care who sold them the rights. Michael Jackson? Paul McCartney? Yoko Ono?

It's immoral.

Yeah, yeah. I know there's a lot more going on in the world that deserves my rage far more than this commercial should. I should get over my old damn hippie self and let go of the idea that love had anything to do with it. That four guys from Liverpool singing music could ever change the world. That the world, in fact, can be changed.
I still believe the world can be changed. But I'm quickly losing faith that it can be changed in a good way.

Toast. That's how I feel about the human race at this moment. If we can take a song that was written to send a message to the world that love is all you need and turn it into a marketing tool to sell disposible diapers, we're just toast.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's fascinating, sometimes, looking for images to go with a post. Sometimes you find things you certainly didn't expect, and these are frequently pornographic, which can be startling, but somehow, not as much as you'd think. Oh, those crazy humans- they things they'll do with their body parts! In front of a camera, no less!

Tonight, I was thinking I'd write something about rain, which is something I've written about before. There are plenty of things to say about rain, especially when your state has been in a state of drought for years, and most of it goes like this:
Rain, please.
Or if it is raining, it goes like this:
More, please.

So I wasn't sure what I was going to say but it would definitely be something in the way of more, please because it is raining tonight and fairly seriously, too. I didn't have any specific thing in mind, just how nice it is to finally get some rain and how thirsty the world seems these days and how when it rains, it's like the miracle of the dove bringing Noah an olive branch, only in reverse.

So I was flicking through the Google images for rain and the picture above came up and I had clicked on it because- well, it's amazing. Turns out that the man in the picture was a Souix warrior named Rain In The Face and I can't think of a more beautiful name than that to be given to anyone.

The photograph is credited to a photographer named A.L. Huffman and was taken in 1880. That may or may not be true. Things sure can look true on that World Wide Web, even if they're not, but this was posted on the Dakota-Lakota-Nakota Human Rights Advocacy Coalition page (that would be sort of fun to say out loud, but sort of hard, too) so perhaps it's accurate. Then again, perhaps it's not.

I don't really care. Chief Rain In The Face has been dead for a hundred and two years but his picture is on the internet and it's raining in Northwest Florida tonight and anything is possible. Anything at all.

It would be a mighty sweet thing to fall asleep tonight with the sound of rain falling and to dream of a Souix warrior named Rain In The Face. That's what I'm hoping for, this rainy night, ten days before Christmas, 2007.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just Because

I am completely paralyzed with the prospect of all that I must do in the next week and because I haven't begun to do any of it (I tried, I tried to go shopping but the sight of seeing an old lady buying a very pink Christmas tree made of feathers made me retire to my car to weep), I am, instead, here at your service, providing Holiday Humor.
Here's my favorite New Yorker cartoon of all times. So far.
Could someone please come over and kick my ass into gear?
And just in case you don't have your magnifying glass, what Santa is saying is, "Stop avoiding me. I know when you are sleeping. I know when you're awake."
Sorry. I can't find a bigger image and we're all lucky I can figure this picture thing out at all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Virgin Of Guadalupe's Special Day

As irreverent as I am, I have a great fondness in my heart for this little lady right here and today's her feast day.
In Mexico, right now, they are celebrating with parades, music, dancing, and giant icons towed around on trucks driven in from the rancheros out in the country, complete with flashing colored lights accompanied by darling little girls dressed all in white.
And masses, too, I'm sure.
I wish I was there but I'm not so I just wanted to acknowledge this special day for the original saint of the Americas.
Some say that she was created to syncretically (yeah, look it up) represent both the Virgin Mary and an Aztec goddess by the name of Tonantzin, which works for me.
Happy Feast Day, Virgin! And your older sister, Tonantzin, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let's Try Life

Okay. I think time’s up. Time’s up for the current world leaders to try and do something about this mess. They’ve given all the Big Questions their best shots, don’t you think? The Middle East, global weather changes, the whole energy thing, all the religions and boundaries and beliefs and starvation and disease and nuclear treaties and desires and needs and rights and creeds and crimes and well…

Guys. Let it go. Go on home. We don’t like your answer to most of the big problems, which always seems to involve another damn war.

Nah. It’s not working, that death thing.

I think it’s time to let some real experts try to handle the problems.

I say, let’s give the midwives a chance.

Why do I say that? Well, because midwives know what life is all about. They know what it takes to get it here and how to keep it going once it's here. Can't you just see a gathering of women from all over the globe, each selected for her ability to safely and skillfully and wisely work with the forces of nature to deliver life?

And this wouldn't be happening at Camp David either. No, all it would take would be some basic housing and plenty of kitchen tables for the women to sit around. Midwives know how to figure things out sitting around a kitchen table, late into the night, sipping nothing but raspberry tea.

And there they'd be, all these women of every color and creed and religion and belief and age, dressed in saris and mini skirts and burkas and blue jeans, with their strong midwife hands, their wise midwife hearts, their powerful midwife arms, their smart midwife brains and their midwife souls, dedicated to life.

All of that instead of a bunch of men in suits with bodyguards and computers and war on their minds.

Why not let these women get together and try to sort out the problems we face because midwives know what's really important and what's really important is for life to go on. Not just our lives, but the lives of all the things that make this planet livable. Midwives know that it is the tiniest of creatures who hold all of the future.

Midwives know that life is too short and precious to waste our resources on bombs and guns and tanks. They know the money would be better spent on making sure that everyone has enough to eat and that everyone has clean water to drink and air to breath and medicines to treat what can be treated and access to those medicines and to education for all the children.
Midwives know what it means to breathe life into a child born not breathing and what it takes to ensure that that life gets a chance to keep on breathing and be healthy and productive and deserving of the amazing effort it took to get it here.

Midwives are not afraid of blood or work or shit or tears or love. They know that all of these things are necessary for the creation and delivery of life.

I think that if all these women were gathered together with all their skills and knowledge they might be able to figure out some of the things that we are so obviously not able to figure out with the tools and fools we're using now.

It might take time.

But every good midwife knows that birth always takes time. And patience and constant vigilance and maneuvering and the ability to stay awake and pay attention.
And the constant knowledge that nature must be respected in all ways and at all times in order for life to thrive.

At the very least, it would be interesting to try life for awhile, and peace, too, while we're at it.
I'm tired of this death thing. I'm tired of war.

Let's give the midwives a chance.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

No Wonder

I woke up in such a funk.
Twenty-seven years ago.
Bless his heart.
I miss him still.

Power Granny

And on a lighter note...
Last week two of my daughters and I went to the nursing home to see Lynn. We visited for awhile, sang her a few Christmas carols (badly- she laughed at us) and when it was time to go we were saying our goodbyes to her in a little niche in the hallway when suddenly, right in front of us, a therapy session sprang up. Two therapists were trying to help a very, very old lady walk, which wasn't going very well. She seemed to have no more idea of how to walk than a newborn baby but they were doing their best to encourage her.
"That's it! One more step! Make it a big one!" etc. One was holding the poor old lady up with sheer will and strength and the other was standing right behind with a wheelchair, just in case the lady needed to sit down, I suppose.
It was a lesson in patience, standing and watching. At one point the old lady stepped one white-socked foot right on top of the other and the wheelchair therapist had to lean over and remove the offending foot off the innocent one. As I said, it wasn't going well.
All traffic down the hallway ceased as this exercise progressed.
Everyone was patient. I mean, come on- it's a nursing home- who has anywhere they have to be in a hurry?
Well, one old lady, it would seem. She was on a walker and she stood there for a moment and then, realizing that the space was big enough for her but not the walker, simply hefted the walker above her head, passed on the right and booked it on down the hall. I think maybe she was going to Bingo.
It was one of those perfect moments that you just WISHED you had on video. Everyone in the hallway looked at each other as if to say, "Did you SEE that?" And we all smiled.
It was perfect. A perfect moment in a crazy and often sad place.
I love that old woman. She brought joy to my heart and I hope she cleaned their clocks at Bingo.
I bet she did.

Our Black Holes of Despair

We are all born starving for air, hungry and hurt and looking for the nipple. That is the truth. And we breathe that first breath and take that first sip and set in motion a chain of events that never ends until we've breathed and sipped our last.

I've been thinking about this hunger lately and how it relates to that vast sense of emptiness that can open up inside us sometimes. I believe it's that sense of emptiness that drives us to do most of what we do on this earth, in this life. It is for me, anyway.

Some days the emptiness is just a small tickle and one that I can easily manage with a yogurt, say, or a nice walk and a good laugh with a friend.

Some days, though, there seems to be a black hole of darkness inside of me so huge that I can easily imagine falling inside of that which is inside of me, which of course can only be done metaphorically unless perhaps there is a real explanation in string theory, which I don't begin to understand but which seems to explain a lot of weird and magical stuff.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. It would be interesting if we all had a meter we wore on our chests that indicated how big the hole within us was at that particular moment. Sort of like a mood ring, only for existential despair. I think we'd be surprised to see just how empty a lot of people whom we may think of as normal and relatively well-adjusted really feel.

There's an awful lot of emptiness-filling attempts going on all around us all the time. We eat too much, we drink, we do drugs, we have sex, we look to God, we buy things, we paint and sculpt and write and get married and have babies and do all sorts of things we believe will fullfill us and all of that works for a little while and sometimes for a long time, but I don't think anything really works all the time. And don't tell me God does, either. If Mother Theresa could feel an emptiness where her God should have been for a great many years of her life, then damn! I know it won't work for me.

All I know is that if I hang on during the hard, crazy-feeling times, the emptiness seems to get less and there is more light and less darkness in my heart. That's one lesson I've learned from aging- that although when this melancholy is upon me I feel that it always has been and always will be, it hasn't and it won't.

I'll wake up one morning (and probably soon) and for no apparent reason, I'll feel okay about things. Maybe not ecstatic, but certainly okay.

And until then, I just have to accept the fact that I will not fall into anything unless I let myself. I remember a thing that Stephen Gaskin, the Big Daddy of the Farm Commune said once, which is that insanity was just his back yard and he'd wandered around there a few times but mostly he chose not to.

I always liked that. I feel like I've sat on my porch many a time and looked out at what might be a really scary place but I've always known that exploring that particular part of my yard isn't something I need to do.

Not yet, anyway. And I doubt I will because as vast and deep as my own personal emptiness feels sometimes, I know it's nothing but a thimble-full compared to some people's who can't help but jump into that back yard of their Jungle of Despair. I'll never get a gun and mow down people at a mall and I'll never take too many pills and hope for death, either.

It ain't that bad.

I'll just struggle along like most of us do and I'll probably never figure it out, but I do take comfort in the fact that there are great mysteries of life and that's all there is to it.
That's sort of slim comfort, but it'll do for now. It'll do.

And again, I've used a painting by Karen Davidson here and it's called Distressed Woman and I love it. I know just how that woman feels and isn't that what art is all about? Looking at something that someone else did and recognizing our own selves in it?
I think so.
Karen- you're an artist. Send me more pictures, please.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Don't Mess With Santa, He Might Hurt You

Since so very few of you wanted to share your favorite Christmas gift memories with me, (and it's not too late!) I've had to go out and find my own cheer.

Luckily, and quite serendipitously, I am succeeding, as you can plainly see from the picture above.

This is me and my new Santa Claus which I found yesterday at the Goodwill when I went to find a thin blanket for use in a Christmas gift quilt-making project. Of course I I didn't find what I was looking for, (you cannot go to Goodwill and expect to find one specific item unless that is an item that has an owl in it and this has all been discussed in a previous post) but I did find this Santa and I bought him and brought him home and plugged him in. He delighted me so much that I took our picture. I sent the picture around to a few people and got such great comments I thought I'd share them for everyone's Christmas pleasure.

The first person I sent the picture to wrote back and said, "That's a pretty serious Santa there."

Frankly, that was the first I noticed the actual expression on Santa's face. It is pretty serious, isn't it?

Then I sent it to my friend Unca B who wrote back with this:

"wow, that is a very scary santa. what's he got in his
hand, a fucking pick axe? he doesn't look serious
about christmas, he looks like he's seriously about to
kick my ass. but i like that he lights up."

I wrote back and said, "No, he's holding a bell. He's also holding a sack," which got this reply:

"bell my ass. that's a pick axe and his sack is full of puppy heads. I'm sure of it."

Then I sent the picture to Downtown Guy. He wrote back with this:

"Only twenty more chopping days 'til Xmas."

Oh my God. This Santa has already filled me with more goodness and joy than one million Bing Cosby Christmas records ever could.

So- in the spirit of holiday sharing, I am now sharing with you.

Much love!
Ms. Moon

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Dealing With Despair By Using Happy Thoughts

When I wake up in the morning there is a period of time when I'm in despair. This is just the way it is. Doesn't matter how beautiful the day, how sweet the life, my brain will be telling me that I'm a worthless, talentless being who has no business taking up space on the planet.
This is not a good thing and is best suffered in solitude. My husband knows by now to leave me alone until my brain does its daily adjustment and I come out of the deep well of sadness and self-loathing that I'm inevitably in upon awakening.
Bad chemicals. That's what I blame. Purely and simply, just bad chemicals and since I know what's going on, I can almost ignore the bad thoughts, although I do check my forehead in the mirror as I wash my face to made sure there's not a big, bright L engraved on it, because I certainly feel as if one had been placed there in my sleep.
I wonder how many other people go through this every day.
Right now quite a few of the bad thoughts and self-loathing have to do with Christmas. As in, I haven't even really started getting ready. My sweet yoga teacher is giving us weekly tips on how to de-stress during this holiday season when we're so busy and doing so much for others. Since I've not yet become busy and am certainly not doing anything for others, I feel incredibly guilty as we breathe and stretch and clear our minds. Of course, the day I can entirely clear my mind of guilt is the day Satan and Hitler are pelting each other with snowballs, but that's another story.
Anyway, I was thinking it would be a nice thing, a positive and possibly therapeutic thing for me if folks who stop by here would leave a little comment about the best Christmas present they ever got.
(Okay. I am totally stealing all the ideas but it's my blog and my idea and I do really want to know.)
I'll start off.
The best Christmas present I ever received was a used typewriter. I suppose this was back in the early sixties and the typewriter was one of those big, black heavy things that could crush a dwarf. I think it was an Underwood and my mother, who gave me this typewriter, had paid to have the machine (and it was most definitely a machine) refurbished and cleaned and it had one of those snazzy two-color tapes in it so that I could type in either red or black, which was pretty high-tech for those days. She also bought me a typing manual and I spent every spare moment I had for the next few months teaching myself to type with it.
fffffff, I would type.
Then hhhhhhh. My little fingers could barely depress those charm-like keys but I was diligent and did each lesson in its turn and you know what? I did eventually learn to type although I'm still a little shaky with the numbers. I guess I got burnt out by the time I reached that part of the book.
I don't know why my mother got me a typewriter and I don't know why I was so enchanted with it, but she did and I was and that was the beginning of something I'm still not over. These days I love my MacBook with all my heart. Maybe even as much as I loved that big, oily, iron writing machine, but the surprise of getting that typewriter was something I'll never forget. It was as if some magical force had urged my mother into buying me something I didn't know I wanted with all my heart.
Now. What's your story?
Give it to me, come on, I want it. I need it. This could be the very thing that brings a bit of Christmas cheer to this grinchy green old heart of mine.
I'm begging you. Tell me what made you happy. And when I wake up in the mornings, I'll think about those things instead of checking my forehead for the Loser Brand and we'll all be better off.
One note- if your story sounds something like But the best Christmas present I ever got was the feeling I had after we gave all our money and food to the homeless man who lived under the bridge, it's not going to make me feel any better.
But if that's your story, tell it if you must.
Thanks! And oh yeah, Merry....
You know.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Dowager Diaries

Just when you realize how really cute you are, you're not.
This has been my experience, anyway.
I never really thought of myself as an exceptionally good-lookin' gal, but when I happen across old photos, I realize I wasn't hideous by any means. All my life I've been worried about my weight, unhappy with my nose, resigned to being that girl with glasses, too short, too short-waisted, not to mention not really having a waist, and so forth.
I have, though, always liked my legs.
When I hit my forties I really started working on things more seriously. And when I say working, I don't mean anything having to do with getting work done which is our modern euphemism for having our bodies and faces surgically altered in order to turn back the hands of time, or to be more realistic, the ravages of time, gravity, childbearing and God-given, self-perceived shortcomings.
No. I haven't gone that route for several reasons, some of them being expense, my neurotic fear of all things medical, and the realistic realization that no matter what you do, things are going to catch up with you. Get your face lifted and your butt's gonna fall. Get your butt lifted and your breasts look like something from the National Geographic Magazine. Get your breasts enhanced and lifted and you're still going to have that weird thing happening to your legs and arms where the bone and flesh seem to separate into two different entities and if you can do something about that, I don't know what it is so just give me some more bracelets and a pair of black tights. Okay?
I'm just pretty sure that this quest for a surgical solution to aging would never end.
So no, no surgery for me, thank you.
Instead, I have chosen to go with the old tried-and-trues: exercise, a good diet, etc.
And honestly, I think that I was better looking in my forties than I'd ever been in my life and despite a certain amount of face-crumpling, I was happy with the way I looked. I was even carded upon buying alcohol a few times into my forties and boy, did I feel like maybe I'd found the fountain of youth.
Well, I may have found it, but I have since lost my way.
Since entering my fifties, things are happening here that no amount of exercise or diet-watching are going to have much effect on. Seriously. Approximately overnight I went from being carded to being asked if I qualified for the senior citizen's discount and I have to tell you that when I do reach the age of the senior citizen's discount, it better amount to about 75 percent off to make the way I feel when I'm asked if I qualify worth it.
Now I'm not certainly not against the concept of aging and I'm not against the concept of aging gracefully, either, but I'm struggling with both of those things on a personal level.
Last night the husband and I went to one of those work-place Christmas office parties which was sort of a dreadful prospect to me on about fifty different levels, but getting ready for it was just a nightmare. I swear, not three months ago I could still muster up some belief in myself as a not-bad looking woman of a certain age who, despite that age, could and did look not so bad. But everything I put on last night either made me look like a fool or an aging dowager, although I am not completely certain what a dowager is, it was the word that kept coming to my mind.
A friend called and asked what I was doing and I said, "Trying to pick out a costume," which confused him because Halloween is long over. I tried to explain about the office party and said, "I feel like I'm trying to dress in drag," which was true, but still a little confusing.
I finally settled on a black dress with a black lace thing over it and I put my hair up and put on some make-up and I did, in fact, end up looking like a dowager. An aging, widowed dowager, perhaps. The red earrings didn't change a thing, but I put them on and said "To hell with it, like Popeye I am what I am," and slammed a rum and coke and went out the door.
Now the funny thing is, I've taped some pictures to my bathroom wall of some older women who sincerely look like they are not only completely happy with who they are, but also women who are absolutely beautiful and...dare I say this? sexy. They have gray hair but their eyes sparkle and they look like someone you'd want to talk with at a party. Someone you might want to flirt with at a party. Women whose lives are definitely not over in any way.
There are also four tiny pictures of Bill Murray in all his age-ravaged beauty, too, but I'm not here to discuss what happens to men when they age (and it's not fair!).
I put those pictures up to remind me that aging isn't necessarily all about becoming ugly or invisible or unimportant in any way. These women are not models. One of them is an artist and one a designer and although the pictures may be misleading, it would appear that they're having the times of their lives and are not afraid of sparkly eyeshadow.
Sometimes I am inspired by these pictures and feel completely okay about where I am in my life and in my looks. Sometimes, like last night, I am not.
But that's okay. I am quite certain that if I manage to live another twenty years, I'll look back at pictures of myself at the age I am now and think, "Good God, but what a beauty I was!" and I'll regret that I spent one moment doubting that.
That's the theory, anyway.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Went to see that dear girl this afternoon. I wheeled her out of the building into what they call a patio, which is a chain-linked-fence-enclosed area. There is a tree, thank God, right in the middle of all the concrete.
I grabbed an ice cream from the aide giving out the sweet stuff in the dining room and I fed her that while the breeze blew on us and the leaves dropped from the tree. It wasn't glorious, but it was as good an experience as we could share, I think. While she ate the ice cream I talked about the time she made homemade peach ice cream for me on my birthday when my oldest child was only a month old. I don't know if she knew what I was talking about, but when I say these things to her, remind her of things she's done for me, things we've done together, it makes me feel better.
We sat in the sweet, drowsy air for awhile and I talked a little bit to some of the other folks sitting outside. One fellow fascinates me. He doesn't talk (I think he's had a stroke) but he comes out of the building in his wheelchair like a bullet from a gun. Fast. Then he proceeds to straighten up the patio area. He pulls the tables and chairs into an arrangement that he finds pleasing. He does this sitting in his wheelchair with the use of only one hand. I'm always impressed with his ability to do this chore which I'm sure he finds some sort of meaning in. After he's done, he sits back in the sunshine and admires his work.
I admire him.
After awhile, we went back inside and I left my friend in the care of the nursing home staff.
"I love you," I said to her as I always do. "Do you know that?"
She didn't give me the response she usually does and I don't know if she really, actually knew it was me.
But she knows I love her. I have no doubts about that.
And I promise that I'm going to write about something lighter and funnier soon. It's just that right now, this girl is taking up a whole lot of room in my thoughts and my heart.
And that's all there is to it.

These Things Happen

I wimped.
We gathered and had a cup of tea, some cheese and apples. It was time to go see Lynn. I suddenly saw her at the nursing home, either medicated for bed or awake and aware. And it suddenly was quite clear to me that if we three women showed up she would either not know who we were or she'd know all too well and I couldn't see it bringing her one ounce of joy to know that we were going out without her.
I told my friends what I was thinking. I began to cry a little.
"It's okay," they said. "You're right."
And so we went on and had our little ritual and then we went to supper and it was all fine, but I couldn't quit thinking about Lynn, lying in a bed in a nursing home and I couldn't quit wondering where her mind was and what she was seeing and hearing and whether or not she somehow knew we were out without her.
I knew and it was hard for me to keep my mind where it should have been- concentrating on what was going on right then, right there, which was where I wanted to be because I love these women, too.
We ended up the night, toasting to "next year" with a shared last bite of pumpkin cheesecake.
Next year.
Where will we all be?
I pray that by next year, Lynn is somewhere where she truly knows what light is.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Very Best Tradition

Almost thirty years ago, my friend Lynn and I started a holiday tradition which, as good traditions do, bloomed and evolved and changed and became a part of our lives. It began very simply. We were young and had no money to speak of, but Lynn told me that Shaw's downtown was so beautifully decorated for Christmas that we should go down there and walk around the store, just to see it. So we did. We put Downtown Guy, who was a toddler, and his little sister, who was a baby, in strollers and strolled them down to Shaw's, which was on College Avenue. It was a big furniture/decorating store and it was gloriously decorated. We didn't buy anything, but we enjoyed the visit, and it was a lovely day.

We may have done this one other time and then Lynn moved to Houston, sobbing every mile of the journey because she couldn't believe that my babies could possibly grow up without the hands-on care of their Aunt Lynn. Or Aunt Yen, as the youngest called her.

Somehow I managed to get through those years that Lynn was in Houston, and the kids did too. Our friendship remained intact and active, bound together as the best friendships are, by that glue made up of chemistry, love, and a persistent desire to keep it alive.

When Lynn moved back to Tallahassee, she had a baby of her own, born late in her life. She had long since given up ever having a child of her own and then out of the blue, she was given the miracle of her son, which was her heart's greatest desire, as the best miracles are.

We restarted our holiday tradition, but instead of taking babies to Shaw's, we began to go, just us ladies, to LeMoyne to wander and be in awe and buy a few ornaments to bring home or to give as gifts. We decided to incorporate going for drinks and dinner after our trips to LeMoyne and asked my brother if he'd like to come along as our designated driver. He said he would. And then the next year, we asked another dear friend if she'd like to come with us. And then another was asked. And another.

It was always one of my very favorite parts of the holiday. Actually, one of the few of the Christmas season that I actually enjoyed and which held meaning for me.

We'd meet at LeMoyne, dressed up and feeling all festive and go through the rooms, saying, "Oh, look at this! How sweet, how precious. How much?" Before we checked out, we'd all meet up outside in the sculpture garden where we'd head towards the gazebo. We would crowd inside it to stand in a bit of a circle and pass around a flask containing sacred (and I assure you, it was) rum. We'd sip and then we'd each take our turn, saying what was in our hearts. It was never formal, it was never long. We spoke of the things that had happened in the last year. Coming marriages were announced, babies were celebrated, then grandbabies. Thanks were given for grave illnesses recovered from. Sometimes, all there was to say was, "I'm so grateful for this," with a gesture that included us all, the ladies, my brother, the shining twinkling lights around us that defined and bordered the darkness. Some of us had been friends for so long that we were mere children ourselves when we met, although we hadn't known it at the time. And here we were- still here! Wearing lipstick and velvet and able to celebrate or to mourn or to hope or to share with each other.

Then Lynn got sick and the tradition took on new meaning. It became harder for her to find her words. The evening became more bittersweet. She sipped sweet cider instead of her beloved rum. We circled around her more fiercely. Each year I wondered if this would be her last with us.

Last year was her last with us there.

We didn't wait until night time to go, but went in the daylight, and there were just a few of us. The hardcore core of the tradition. We went to the assisted living place where Lynn was living then and dressed her up as best we could and took her out and she was so excited. She even managed to say some words and although we couldn't understand them so much as words, we knew their meaning. She was happy.

This year, tonight, only three of us are going. And we're not going to LeMoyne. We're going to the nursing home to see her and then I think we'll go to Dorothy Oven park. We'll take our flask and find a private spot and we'll toast to Lynn and we'll say a few words that maybe our hearts need to let out. I don't know. You can't plan these things.

And then we're going to dinner. It would just be too sad to go to LeMoyne without our Lynn.
I think that when we go see her in the home, she is going to know exactly who we are and exactly what we're doing and I'm so afraid it's going to break her heart that she can't come with us.

It's going to break mine.

But dammit, we have to do this. It's tradition.

And traditions, the very best traditions, are here to give our lives meaning, to allow us to stop and make a moment special enough to remember for a lifetime.

Tonight we'll celebrate Lynn's lifetime with the sort of joy that can only leak out of a broken heart. It's a lifetime that is going to be way too short, but believe me, I know it's been a lifetime that has been joyously full. I am so grateful to have so many memories we've made together. And the memories of us standing in the gazebo behind LeMoyne in the cold winter night air with the twinkly lights and the warmth of our friends around us, are among the very best.

Here's to you, baby. Here's to you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Just Saw A Face

Prosopagnosia. Ever hear of it? I have it. I think.
You might, too. According to some recent studies, 2 percent of the population may. So what is it? It's a neurological condition which might be hereditary or can be the result of a head injury which causes something called face blindness. So what the hell does that mean?
It means that it's really, really hard for me to remember faces. As in, if I know you from some place, like working at Publix, if I see you at Barnes and Noble I probably won't recognize you. I may not even recognize the fact that I've seen you a thousand times.
Weird. The odds that I will recognize you are better if you have some unusual features or a very unique look. But if you're sort of a generic type person, I probably won't.
I've always had this problem and just thought I didn't pay attention to faces. And then one day, I was reading a book by (saint) Jane Goodall and she described the condition exactly. She said that the hardest part of going around the world on speaking tours was not recognizing people she'd met before. She even got in touch with the famous neurologist, Oliver Sachs, who told her he had the same problem and gave her the name for it- Prosopagnosia.
I think I must have been born with the condition although my mother says I did hit my head pretty hard on the metal dashboard once when I was quite young in the before-the-child-seat era, so it may have been a result of injury. Who knows? But I remember distinctly, at the age of four or so, running home from playing with a friend and begging my mother to put my hair up in pigtails and letting me change my clothes so he wouldn't recognize me. I wanted to fool him. So I suppose I was already making my identifications with the aid of hair and clothing on the people I knew, which is very common in people with prosopagnosia.
It's not that we can't see faces. We can. We just have a very hard time identifying them later and it's very hard for us to visualize what people's faces look like. I know it sounds so odd and ridiculous, but I think it's a bit like trying to explain to a color-blind person what red looks like, or blue.
I've always had a terrible time watching movies and following the story, especially if some of the characters have similar coloring and hair styles. I'm constantly asking questions like, "Is that the bad guy?"
I think this condition is one of the reasons I am sort of socially shy. It's so embarrassing to be in a situation where someone comes up and starts talking to me as if he or she knows me quite well and I have absolutely no idea who they are. I know everyone does this to some extent, but in my case, it almost always happens. When I was a volunteer in my children's classrooms, it was not uncommon for me not to recognize and remember the kids' names after an entire year of being with them weekly. It happens for me with kids, men, women, children, black folks, white folks, all sorts of folks.
I hear that the problem is so intense for some people that they don't even recognize their own family members if they come across them in unexpected places. Thank God it's not that severe in my case, but I do understand how it could happen.
I tell people sometimes that I have this problem and that if I meet them again somewhere and don't recognize them, to please just tell me who they are. Most people look at me when I tell them this like I'm a complete moron and I feel like one, but the truth is the truth.
There's quite a few resources on the Internet, including this one-
which has some links to some quick tests for face and object recognition. Quite frequently, those two things go together. People who have problems recognizing faces may have problems recognizing cars, of all things, and also places. I call myself directionally dyslexic and this may be related. Who knows?
There's a lot of research going on in the field. The diagnosis wasn't even coined until 1947. It will be interesting to see what comes of it as new things are discovered.
At the very least, people may be more understanding when I don't recognize them. But I'll still feel like a moron.
And the image I have used for this blog is a portrait by a friend of mine named Karen Davidson. She has just begun painting and I am amazed at her work. This piece perfectly illustrates what prosopognosia feels like, although I doubt that's what she had in mind when she did it.
Thanks, Karen! Keep painting!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If Music Be The Food Of Love....

Well, it's all over except for the vat o' turkey soup in the refrigerator and a cooler with some oysters in it.
Okay, that and the new roll of fat that makes buttoning our jeans even more of a challenge. I swear, next year we're having pinto beans and rice for Thanksgiving dinner and maybe, if I'm feeling really productive, I'll make some cornbread and if you want dessert you can pour some syrup over a chunk of that.
I say this because despite the fact that on Thursday we had a feast that couldn't be beat, the real Thanksgiving, the good part, the sweetest part, the most magical and joyous part happened the night before and had nothing to do with turkey or sweet potatoes or even pecan pie.
There was food, but it was just a big bowl of pasta with jarred sauce and some salad. And a cooler full of oysters. There were beverages too.
But what made it so special and what made it so magic was the people and the music.
A sort of spontaneous party arose Wednesday night that made me about as happy as I've ever been in my life. The sort of party that almost never, in my experience, actually happens. The sort of party that warmed this old house and this old heart in ways I can't explain. There was family and sort-of-family and friends so old that they might as well be family and new people that are now family and we all had the very best time. I think everyone did, anyway. It sure seemed like it.
There was music- fiddle, guitar, mandolin and singing. There was dancing. There was hugging and oyster-eating and beer drinking and rum drinking and soda drinking and there was a lot of laughter and there was a lot of light and the dogs went from lap to lap, getting the overflow of the love.
It reminded me of the old days when we were younger and music was made for the joy of it and the babies were little and our hearts were lighter and our feet were too. The babies have grown up and it brings me more joy than I can say to have them sing and play and dance to the old songs with us old folks. Really, more than I can say.
It was the kind of night that I wished could never end, but of course it had to. The musicians played Good Night Irene and we all sang and then begged for ONE more and we got it, but then it was really time for the instruments to be put away. Folks started thinking about the turkeys they had to get in the oven the next morning and the pies they had to make and so it all ended. There were more good hugs and promises for same-time-next-year and drive carefully's and my husband washed the dishes and we all made a desultory attempt to bag up the bottles and cans and paper plates and then it was time for bed.
I laid there awake for a few minutes, buzzing with it all. I thought about how good it had been to see folks that I've known and loved since high school, about how proud I am that my ex-husband and his wife and my husband and I are all good friends and how our kids have benefited from that. I thought about how precious it was to see my daughter playing music with folks I've been lucky enough to listen to for over thirty years. I thought about how wonderful it had been to meet a few new people whom I felt like I'd known forever. I thought about how I'd been wanting to have a party like this since I laid eyes on this house. And I thought about how damn lucky I am. How rare it is to have an evening where so many parts of the whole cloth of a life come together to make one vibrant, glowing quilt of joy.
It was as if the whole map of my life had been laid out right there on my back porch and I could trace the history of it through this person, through that bloodline, all the while listening to the songs that have made me happy for a lifetime. The songs that may have, at one time or another, saved my life, played by the people who may have done the same.
And then I slept in my house where all my children were, and when I woke up I felt the same way.
I still do.
You just can't get better than that. The feast we had the next day was terrific and the people there were other parts of the quilt, the map, the whole of my life, but it was different. It was more work and less music, more clean-up and less joy. It was more about the food and less about the love.
But I got both parts and that makes me just about the luckiest woman on earth. Friends and family that blur into one, along with a feast.
And now I have the memories and the turkey soup and it's really good turkey soup. And the oysters, which I will make into some oyster stew tonight for my husband. He loves oyster stew because his mama used to make it for him. He swears she didn't put a thing in that stew but oysters, cream, butter, salt and pepper. I am almost congenitally unable to make a dish so simple, but I'll try to recreate his mother's oyster stew as best as I can because I know what it's like to taste something that brings back the memories of happy times. His mama and daddy are gone now but I can hopefully bring them back in his heart just a little with the taste of salty oysters, sweet butter and black pepper.
Because food is love. And music is love. And on Wednesday night, everywhere I looked was love. I drank it in, it filled my heart and it spills out now.
I swear, I could have done like my dogs and gone from lap to lap. Well, maybe not. Only dogs can get away with that sort of thing. We poor humans have to get ours in other, a bit more subtle ways.
But we clumsy humans do get it sometimes. Sometimes, we do.
Wednesday night I sure did.
And it has left me filled with Thanks-giving in a way that pecan pie never will.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Just a Quick Prayer of Thanksgiving To Whatever Is Making It All Happen

I'm about to make the stuffing and get that bird in the oven. All the kids are still asleep and the rain is coming down. Thank-you, thank-you.
Thank-you, too, for the music last night and the friends and the family and the dancing and the singing and the sharing of hearts. Thank-you for letting me have loved people whom I can still love thirty-something years on. Thank-you for new folks whose places in my heart have been staked out. Thank-you for the children who are coming behind us with so many special gifts and light of their own. Thank-you for their beauty and the joy they bring me.
Thank-you to the man I love for seeing this dream with me and working so hard to make it happen.
Thank-you for this life and it's incredible fullness.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgivings I Have Known

It's funny. I don't specifically remember any of my childhood Thanksgivings. My mother doesn't really like to cook , but she did it, and she put on a very adequate spread every year.
She always made the turkey with a regular type dressing (Pepperidge Farm was involved) and other traditional dishes including broccoli with Cheez Whiz melted over it, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce. I don't fault her for the Cheez Whiz- she was a cook of her time and Cheez Whiz was really quite the treat at our house. If a gun was put to my head, I'd have to admit that I still love that unnaturally yellow goop, as well as it's more solidified cousin, Velveeta.
I don't consider either Cheez Whiz or Velveeta to be cheeses, but just some other random foods, and therefore it's okay to like them. I don't actually eat them, but I know they're out there, just in case I get an overwhelming craving for their golden, chemical goodness.
I do remember distinctly a Thanksgiving when I was attending University of Denver. It wasn't feasible for me to fly all the way back to Florida when Christmas was coming up so soon, so I stayed in the dorm while all the other kids packed up to go home or to Aspen to ski. A great many of the students at DU were skiiers, which is why they chose the school to begin with but I only knew about water skiing and the one time I did try snow skiing I almost fell off the mountain.
Anyway, it was me and the Girl from Hawaii in the room next door, all alone in that great big dorm. Somehow she had an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner and may have even asked me to come with her. However, I was in intense Martyr Training, I guess, and had decided to take the opportunity to fast for four days and so spent that Thanksgiving NOT eating, probably lying on my bed and reading and listening to the Bonnie Raitt album, Love Has No Pride and the Joni Mitchell album, Blue, and as you can imagine, it was not a very happy holiday.
I also remember the Thanksgiving I did go home and made the whole wheat rolls for the feast. I remember this because they were such hard lumps of bread and my poor little Granny, sprung from the nursing home for the dinner, upon trying to eat one, asked, "What is this?" and upon being told that it was a roll, she asked, "Must I eat it?"
Ah me.
The first Thanksgiving I cooked all by myself was in a little apartment on Miccosukee Road that my first husband and I lived in with our five-month old son, Hank. My mother-in-law and her boyfriend came for dinner and she was a saint and did all the clean-up and I still use the recipe she sent me beforehand for cornbread stuffing. Hank grew up to live in that apartment himself, many years later, but I don't think he ever cooked a turkey there.
Since then, I've probably hosted Thanksgiving every year but for a few. This totals out to at last twenty-five of them and you'd think I'd be completely at ease doing it by now, but you'd be wrong. I've developed an eye-twitch in the last few days and I know it's because I can't figure out how I'm going to get everything in the refrigerator that needs to be there and also, because I always worry that I won't have all the dishes done on time and together and mainly that there won't be enough food which is absolutely ridiculous. But still, I must worry and for example, yesterday after I bought the turkey I decided that it just wasn't big enough and have prevailed upon my husband to smoke another outside just in case. So there will be two turkeys, a pot of black-eyed peas, oysters, and hopefully a big pot of venison pozole, just for the protein needs.
There won't be any Cheez Whiz (dammit) but there will be many casseroles wherein perfectly healthy and nutritious vegetables will be rendered into junk food with the addition of "french-fried" onion rings, Campbell's soups, and regular, real cheese. I'd change all that up if I could, but the kids would revolt. I will cook a pot of greens and make a salad from the garden (that chicken shit is working, folks!) and so that'll be healthy enough.
There will be pies, a rice thing, sweet potatoes (and yes, they will have tiny marshmallows on top), two kinds of cranberries, one a relish and one the traditional whole-berry sauce and I make that just because it's so damn beautiful. Good God! It's like rubies you can eat. And gravy (Juancho?) and angel biscuits and oh, I don't know what all else. Every year I put my foot down and say, "No mashed potatoes!" and I mean it, and then I end up making them anyway. But not this year and I really mean it.
But really, it's not about the food anyway. I don't remember what all I cooked the first Thanksgiving that I stuffed a turkey (beyond the turkey, anyway), but I remember my baby at the table and my dear mother-in-law and her long-time boyfriend and my then-husband.
And when we sit down this year, I'll remember all the people who have sat at my various tables for Thanksgiving and I'll have a moment of silence for the ones who aren't here any more. It seems to me that there are too many of those.
That first mother-in-law died years ago. The incredibly precious folks who were my now-husband's parents who died way too young and I miss them with all my heart. My sister-in-law died two years ago and she won't be here, but I'll light a candle for her. My dear friend Sue, who always came to eat with us, left a huge hole in my heart with her passing.
My friend Lynn, who lives in the nursing home came and ate with us two years ago but she isn't leaving the facility these days. Back when she was healthy, we had a tradition where she would come over early, while I was still cooking, just to have a drink with me and then we'd do a little dance to maybe some Jimmy Buffett and she'd taste whatever I had going on, food-wise before leaving to go to her mother's house. Although she's technically still with us, she won't be here for a sip of rum and a hip-shaking dance in the hallway and I miss that more than I can say.
But there will be lots of other good folks here and we'll carry on the traditions as best we can. We'll throw tablecloths on various tables and pull up all the mismatched chairs and eat off the mismatched plates and it'll all be good. The kids are going to spend the night and this big old house will be filled up again which I believe makes the house as happy as it makes me. There will be lots of light and laughter and we'll probably play some stupid games and drink too much and the husband and I will go to bed early and the kids'll stay up until all hours doing God knows what, maybe watching Pants Off, Dance Off, which they swear is a real show, but I don't believe it.
Perhaps there will be music and perhaps there will be dancing. There will certainly be eating of leftovers, which is when I can really enjoy the eating part because by the time I get dinner made, all I want is a big old drink and a nap.
Thanksgiving is a good day, even a joyful day for me, despite all the work, the worry, the eye-twitches and the ones who can't be with us.
And let's face it- any Thanksgiving not spent in a dorm in Denver, Colorado, all alone with Joni Mitchell has to be a good one. I'll probably listen to Blue, at least once while I'm cooking, just to remind myself of that and also because it's such a great album.
And I'll think of the ones who can't be with us and I'll sing Oh I could drink a case of you softly as I chop greens or roll out the biscuits and I'll remember snow falling outside a lonely window and I'll look around me to see all my babies and my beloved and lots of friends and I'll be happy.
I hope you are too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

This Time Of Year

I just spent about an hour trying to write a blog about the way I feel concerning Christmas and this time of year, but basically it all boiled down to me being a bitter asshole who hates the holidays.
Yeah, yeah. I know it. And everybody that knows me knows it. And now you do too.
There are a million good reasons to hate Christmas, not the least of which is that we are constantly reminded that if we don't all go out and buy a bunch of crap we don't need with money we don't have, the American economy will fail, but I think you either like Christmas or you don't and I really don't.
They're already playing Christmas carols in the store and I'm getting about one devastated rain forest's worth of catalogs a day in the mail and all the stores have their decorations up and frankly, I'm wondering, once again, how I'm going to make it through the rest of the year.
Now I do like Thanksgiving just fine. All I'm expected to do is buy a whole lot of groceries, cook up a feast, clean the house and put on a clean apron when folks start arriving. This is fine. I equate food with love and I have a lot to be thankful for, so it works out for me, this Thanksgiving thing.
Christmas, however, is another matter entirely and I just want to say that if you suddenly notice that I haven't posted a blog in over two weeks, it is because I have fulfilled my life-long fantasy of getting on a plane in December and going to some country that doesn't celebrate the Birth of Our Lord with the purchase of salad spinners.
And really, that's all I should say about it right now.
Stay tuned for more options.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Just A Little Heartwarming Story

Well the temperature did a freakazoid nosedive this week, catching us all with our porch plants unprotected. And you know how you're supposed to check your heater before you actually need it to make sure it's working so that when you do actually need it, it'll be there for you?
Well, we had this thermostat that was theoretically programmable, and I say "theoretically" because I couldn't even figure out how to get the heat or AC to come on without going through the book, which never really helped, but somehow in my fumblings I usually managed to get the damn thing on. But I was never quite sure whether it was me or the thermostat and I did try to get the heater to come on before the cold snap, but I couldn't, and by Wednesday morning I was pretty sure it was the heater itself that needed fixing, not me. The burner sound would come on and then it would go off and I'd smell gas.
Bummer. I called the heat repair place and since the temperature was supposed to drop into the thirties that night, they were of course booked solid for service calls, but promised to have someone come out between one p.m. and five p.m. I said I'd be here, and since I was supposed to be going to an event in Monticello that evening, I baked cookies to take with me while waiting for the Heater Guy to show up.
At five thirty, TWO heater guys showed up, brothers, and they got right to work. About the same time they got here I got the word that the event in Monticello was canceled and so I offered the guys some cookies, which they greatly appreciated. As they worked to try to diagnose my problem, the night began to fall (darn this time change) and so I made them a pot of coffee and poured them cups and served them another round of cookies (oatmeal/raisin/chocolate chip/pecan, in case you're curious) and they really appreciated the snack. It was getting cold.
My daughter and a friend of hers came out for supper so there was a lot going on for awhile. Luckily, all seven of the fireplaces in this old house have been converted to gas logs which actually provide heat, so we weren't freezing and I wasn't desperate when the heater brothers sadly told me that they were going to have to come back the next day with parts, leaving us without the central heat for the night.
I was in a good mood so I told them it was okay, not to worry, we had the gas logs and we wouldn't freeze to death. And they were so apologetic and sweet that I almost invited them to stay for supper but I knew they had families to get home to.
It did freeze that night and several of my begonias are now icky green mush and my datura, which was just one day away from blooming, is too.
And I froze all day yesterday. I got warm when I walked but then I got cold again and so I decided to draw a hot bath and when I got out of that, the sweet heater guys were back and had the parts replaced and the heater working. It was like magic, only better, maybe.
I had mentioned how much I hated the programmable thermostat and they put in a new one that you can actually turn off and on and it's so simple to operate that even I can do it. For this, they charged me nothing, still feeling bad that I'd had to go a cold night without heat. Also, I think they liked those cookies.
And the parts were still under warranty so I didn't have to pay for that and they charged me what I consider to be a minimal service charge.
So it pays to be nice and it pays to be gracious, is what I say.
By the time they left I knew a little bit about their lives and had seen pictures on the younger brother's cell phone of the deer he'd shot that morning. "You're a good hunter!" I told him. "That's because I'm from Perry," he said.
So God bless central heating units and God bless fellows from Perry that are good hunters and really care about their customers and their job.
When they left I told them to stop by any time and I really meant it.
Hell, I'd make cookies again for those boys.