Sunday, March 30, 2014

Breaking the Rules

By now it is no secret that I am more than a little embarrassed about how my appearance has changed over the years, and that is something I struggle with every single day.  It took weeks for me to carefully choose something to wear to my niece's wedding that would offer at least a little camouflage but if you cover a tank with camouflage you still know it's a tank.  I ended up wearing an all black, flowing ensemble with pretty jewelry, hoping I could blend in the crowd, and if I was noticed the focus would be on the jewelry.  I figured if the glow of the candlelight caught a prism in the beads I was wearing it would cast a blinding flash long enough for me to escape to the shadows.

The wedding was a beautiful affair, and the mood of the evening was light and joyful. In the spirit of making merry I broke all of my own rules, threw vanity to the wind and jumped in head-shot first and allowed myself to be photographed in some group photos.  Then something strange happened.  It's true you can be high on happiness.  Without the aid of alcohol or drug of any kind whatsoever I allowed the excitement of the evening to overcome my good senses and I fell victim to the selfie trend.  But not just any selfie.  I added someone to each picture, collecting memories like baseball cards.  And they went something like this....

The first one was with my husband.  He cares for pictures of himself about as much as I do, probably the reason why we do not have any family portraits or even couple's pictures that are less than 12 years old.  I thought we needed at least one current picture together.  He must have been in a good mood too, because he agreed without any fuss.  Adding to the family theme I caught my two sons.  The oldest didn't mind, but the youngest one is too much like me.  He fussed.

Husband, Oldest, Youngest
Next I caught up with my sisters.  The Middle Child and honorable Mother of the Bride is on the left, the Pesky One is on the right.  Also in that photo is a cousin who is like a sister to me.  She was a regular fixture in our household when I was growing up, so the lines between cousin and older sister are blurred with her.

Middle (MoftheB), P.O, and Jo the Jo

Two of my brothers were there, too.  The one on the far right is actually my nephew but we're only ten years apart.  He was also a fixture in our house growing up so the lines between brother and nephew are blurred to me when it comes to him.

My Twin, the Musical One, the Nephew of the Evening
 Then comes the nieces.  I seem to have missed one somehow, but no worries I'll catch her at the next wedding in exactly nine weeks.  Each of these girls have touched my heart in their own special way. 
The Bride to Be, The Bride, Godchild 1, Looked Like Me (when she was a baby), Godchild 2, The Intern
The cousins showed their support for the family.  Each one of these women are the daughters of my mother's siblings.  I've never had many women friends, so my growing friendship with each of them is precious to me.  The time spent with my Sister Cousins is never without laughter.  I live for laughter.
The One from Massachusetts, the Writer, the Photographer,
 The Mother, the Artist, the Free Spirit, the Fit One
There was one more I couldn't resist.  This is the youngest member of the family, my great nephew.  I love him and he doesn't even know it.

Too much of me, too little of him
Happy Husband

And lastly, because I could I got my husband to pose once more, and because he was so happy at the servers giving him all of the shrimp, oysters, and pecan crusted chicken he could eat he did not oppose.  Now we have two current pictures.  We should frame them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Gumballs and grocery stores

Writer’s block comes now and then, but when the ice breaks the water flows.  I just now finished my latest contribution to the paper, only three days late.  I had an idea early on, something about grocery stores, but stress at work and taxes have taken root in my brain, and I could not put my thoughts together.  Last night I was feeling the guilt of missing my deadline so I tossed out the grocery store idea and started writing a mush fest about the upcoming weddings of two of my nieces.  I wrote about knowing them as children and how proud I’m going to be on their big days.  I waxed poetic of their beauty and how they will shine as brides and how I will cry, boo-hoo-hoo ----- give me a break.  No one wants to read that. Well, maybe their mothers do, but not the general paper-subscribing public.  I’ll save that mushiness for this outlet and for a later date.

This morning I was thinking about all of this whilst eating my honey-nut shredded wheat with almost soured milk and the grocery store idea came back, probably out of necessity.  Then a thought came that told me I was on the right track and I sat down and pounded it out (cheap cliche) in about thirty minutes.  The irony is the thought that inspired me had nothing all to do with what I wrote.  Yes, the story for the paper ended up being about grocery stores, but it was not the story I had intended to write.  You can read it next month, that is if the paper and I are still in a relationship in a month.  Meanwhile... 

What I wanted to write was about my childhood days in grocery stores.  My mother would drag me around Winn-Dixie until I was a whimpering puddle begging for pennies for the gumball machine.  She would never let me have a whole gumball, not because of how bad they were for my teeth but because she feared choking.  She would bite it or crush it in before she would let me have it.  In her mind a gumball would inevitably get stuck in my throat and she would have to pull my arms over my head in hopes of dislodging it.  The Heimlich maneuver had not yet been invented and back slapping and arms-over-head were the lifesaving actions of the day.

If my mother was taking her elderly cousin, Josephine, shopping we would go to McCaffrey’s because that is where she wanted to go.  I only have three distinct memories of McCaffrey’s: 1) it was far from home 2) it smelled like rotting produce and 3) when I left there the bottoms of my feet were absolutely filthy.  Now, why I was barefoot in a grocery store is beside the point.  That was before the “no shoes no service” days as well.  Come to think of it that is probably why I detest going barefoot to this day.  It was all because of McCaffrey’s dirty floors!  Oh, make that four things.  I just remembered the McCaffrey’s Showtime, 30 minutes (or less) of local late-night television musical entertainment.  The first time I saw Walter Brewer in public, white hair shining, I thought he was a true celebrity.

The other thing I wanted to say about grocery stores but didn’t is about my experience working in one.  It was a short-lived career, two days max, but it was only supposed to be a temporary gig anyway.  My oldest friend and travelling partner’s father owned his own grocery store.  It was from him I learned the meaning of hard work and that Sunday is truly a day of rest.  If I was at their house during the week I would see him for an hour or so the whole day.  He worked from the dark of the morning to the dark of the evening every day but Sunday, taking a break for lunch.  Sundays, after church only, were his play days.  That is when he would take us on extended road trips throughout the South Mississippi countryside, walking through the woods, fishing or all of the above on the same day.  For reasons of his own, probably for his own entertainment, he enlisted us to work at the store a couple of days.  Well, maybe it was just one day.  We trudged in with him at 5:30 or earlier, and spent the day stocking shelves, pricing cans, and doing whatever else he told us to do.  I earned $10 and learned the lesson that I never wanted to work in a grocery store.

But none of this has anything to do with the thought that sat me in this chair and commanded me to write.  The thought was this:  I know now why my mother sends me pennies from heaven.  It’s to make up for all of those crushed gumballs.  With every penny she’s saying it’s okay, have the gumball, take a risk, you’re not going to choke.  And if you do throw your arms over your head, you’ll survive.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A little something about pets

"Ma-rauw, ma-rauw, ma-rauw", say it with me, "ma-rauw."  That is all I have heard from my Fluffy cat since I picked her up from the vet’s office yesterday.  She’s been having problems with her right ear and the good doctor said there was something in there that had to come out.  I dropped her off on Tuesday, she had surgery on Wednesday and I brought her home on Friday.  She was not happy about her situation and she has been making it loud and clear ever since our drive home last evening.  She is calm as long as she is near me or on me, but if I get out of her sight or if her boyfriends won’t let her in their rooms then the ma-rauwing begins again.  Poor, sick Fluffy cat.

The good doctor told me they removed something nasty from her ear canal and he will call me when the pathology comes back on it.  I hope they got all of whatever it was and she will be well. I’m not quite ready to let go of her or my other cat, Kit-Kat.

Both of my cats came from my parents’ house when Mama moved out after Daddy died.  Kit was Daddy’s favorite.  She had her daily meal inside the house so she would not have to fight for her food.  She was allowed to spend time in the house as she pleased and she was locked on the front screened porch at night so the male cats in the neighborhood could not harm her.  She kept vigil over my Daddy from atop the TV cabinet or on the foot of his recliner in his last weeks.  When he visited me in a dream after he died it was not to ask about me how I was doing, but to ask if I was taking care of Kit.

Fluffy was a kitten of another one of his chosen ones, but she lived her life on the streets.  She was fed daily but she had to eat outside with the vagabond cats.  She has street cred.  She knows her way around a garbage can.  Spaghetti and corn cobs are her favorite treats, and she’s been known to climb inside a Popeye’s bag and push it around in search of the food that spawned the spicy scent.  She probably used to sleep in Popeye's bags, who knows.  She leads the life of a princess now, but there were times when she had it rough, really rough.

It was never my intention to have housecats, but cats have a knack for getting their way.  They’ve ruined my furniture, they make sickening messes, and I’m sure they are much to blame for my constant allergy problems.  But on the other hand they keep me company and make me laugh.  As long as they are alive there is a little bit of my Daddy still alive, too.  Every time I look at Kit I think of their loyalty to each other and I think he would be relieved to know she and Fluffy are well taken care of.  Their presence makes him feel close at hand.

I remember years ago my sister, Barbara, had a scruffy little terrier named Lady.  Lady was a gift from Barbara’s boyfriend, Ricky D.  Barbara adored that little dog.  Lady outlived Barbara’s relationship with her boyfriend, but not by much.  Lady must have become pregnant by a large dog, probably our other dog because I think she died birthing really big pups.  I don’t remember all the details of her death except for the grief my sister felt for the loss of her Lady.  I remember someone talking about how terribly sad Barbara was over her dog and my mother saying Barbara wasn’t grieving so much for her dog as she was for Ricky D.  Lady was the last thing she had left of Ricky D., and her grief was more from the loss of their relationship.  There aren’t many things I can clearly remember my mother saying, but I remember that.

There is something to that theory, I think.  I think sometimes we are given a pet by a loved one or we acquire a pet after losing a loved one and we take that unused love and attention and funnel into the pet.  When the pet dies the finality of the relationship we have been subconsciously keeping alive through the pet comes to fruition.  We do grieve because we lost our friend, but we also grieve for the loss of the other relationship.

Maybe I should have become a psychologist. Maybe my mother should have been a psychologist.

I know I will experience this second-hand grief when my cats are gone.  I expect it, and I don’t look forward to it.  So until that time comes I will keep them as healthy, loved, and well cared for as I can even if that means leaving them for a few days at the vet for surgery.

I was trying to quiet Fluffy this morning and I told her I was sorry for leaving her so long but I don’t want her to be sick.  That got me to wondering what pets must think when we leave them alone.  My dogs were always so excited to see us return at the end of the day.  It was as if they thought that whenever we left them it was the last time they would ever see us, so when we returned it was a great surprise and there was rejoicing.  Then that thought reminded me of heaven. If a dog can be so happy to see us return after eight hours apart, then surely our heavenly reunions with our dearly departed, pets included, will be sheer ecstasy. I'm thinking about it.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

There's something to be said about faith

So here’s the other thing….

Yesterday I mentioned there were two things I wanted to address.  One was the dreams, and I did that already.  The other is a thought I had on my way home Friday night when I stopped to pick up Chinese take-out.  As random thoughts are prone to do, one crossed my mind without logic or warning.  The thought was about faith.  There are different kinds of faith, I thought.  I don’t mean faith as in religions, but faith by the definition of the word.  Faith can be confidence or trust in something or someone, or a belief in something that is unproved.  I realized that my belief in God is strong and undeniable, but my struggles stem from my lack of faith that is defined as trust.  I have a hard time giving it all over to Him and letting go.  I like my life now but would like some things to change for the better.  I know for these things to change, then change is necessary.  I don’t trust change; I have too much of my Daddy in me.  In this way my faith is weak.  I worry too much losing control of the things I have today because of what might happen tomorrow, next week, or next year.

God does move in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?  I’ve mentioned here before that I never hear His voice.  Actually, Friday night at Best Wok I heard it clear but didn’t recognize it.  He revealed Himself to me in response to my thoughts through the Gospel of Matthew passage I listened to in mass today.  In this passage Jesus said:

Mat 6:25  Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Mat 6:26  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Mat 6:27  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Mat 6:28  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Mat 6:29  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Mat 6:30  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Mat 6:31  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mat 6:32  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mat 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Mat 6:34  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
“O Ye of little faith.”  I took that as a direct word from God’s mouth to my ears.  

I understand, too, why I was led to talk about my dreams yesterday instead of the faith issue.  God needed me to wait one more day so I could hear His say on the matter.  It is also ironic, or not, that I helped my husband burn a field yesterday.  The grass that was so vibrant green last summer and an earthen brown this winter is now burned to ashes.  From beneath the ashes new grass will emerge and the vibrancy will return. God will again clothe the grass. I am of His image. If He will take care of the grass, then surely He will take care of me.  Jesus said so. 

My trust isn’t magically changed; faith isn’t a magic trick.  It is a little stronger, though.  I am but a weak human with many obstacles to overcome.  

Lord, thank you for knowing my weaknesses and leading me to your strength when I need it most.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lost moments in tornado dreams

I was trying to take a picture of my sister and it blurred.  A real lost moment.

This afternoon I decided that instead of the nap I so desperately wanted to take I would spend some time on my back porch.  When Lily left I sent away her doghouse and set up a sitting area I never find time to use.  The space is at the far end of the covered porch right outside my bedroom door.  It was such a good spot for Lily.  If she was in her house she could look straight ahead into the breakfast room and watch us at the table, or she could look slightly to the right and see me in my sleeping spot.  If she looked slightly to the left she could watch the wild birds eat from the feeders and lie in wait for one to knock itself cold flying into a window.  She did love the taste of wild bird.  I miss Lily.

So instead of sleeping I sit awake in her space and watch the quail as they creep ever so slowly out of the woods and into the open for a taste of cracked corn and sunflower seeds.  A few doves and squirrels and a lone rabbit have been sharing in the feast as well.  The wind chime above my head knocks slightly on this breezy day, and smoke from nearby (controlled) brush fires wafts deliciously through the air, adding smell as another sense that has been stimulated on this lazy warm afternoon.  Spring is so close I could almost touch it, but I don’t dare to wish it aloud.

I wanted to spend this time to write about two subjects, but they are unrelated and I can’t think of a way to weave them together in one essay.  So I guess I’ll choose the idea about my dreams again since dreams seem to be an important part of my life. In the last few weeks a new dream theme has emerged in my sleeping hours.  The count of dreams with this new theme is now four in as many weeks. 
In the first dream I was in a big city on a tour bus, presumably New York City, and I saw a huge clock tower with a lively crescent moon face.  I was thrilled by it and I pulled out my camera to take a picture but the shutter button jammed and I couldn’t get the shot.  The bus was moving so there was no second chance.  About that time a spectacular thing was happening in the sky.  Above the iconic skyline there were flares, like smoke bombs, shooting off and the smoke was making incredible shapes in the sky.  Some of the shapes looked like small tornados.  Again, I was thrilled but when I went for the picture the shutter jammed again; no picture.  The moment was lost.

I don’t remember the details of the second dream, but the sky was amazing.  The clouds had formed to look like a wallpaper pattern of small cabbage roses.  Out comes the camera and the shutter jams again.  Another lost opportunity.

In the third dream a tornado was raging through my house, but it wasn't my house.  Amazingly the house was unharmed by the storm.  There was a large open carport and its ceiling had been recently painted.  The tornado had stirred the paint up so that it was swirled on the ceiling like one of those Easter eggs that you dip in the colored oil.  Everyone gathered under it and looked at it in awe.  It was so cool I just had to take a picture.  What happened?  Yep, camera jammed.  No picture, moment lost.

The fourth dream was last night.  I was at a conference in a beach town somewhere on the west coast.  The scenery was amazing.  The beaches had tall dunes of warm sand the color of lightly browned white-bread toast.  Out comes the camera but this time when I took the picture the shutter released and I got the shot.  There was a problem, though.  All I had was a bad telephoto lens.  Looking through the camera was like looking through a macro lense and everything was magnified.  There was no way I could get a picture of the entire landscape so the mood of the picture was completely lost.  Like the other dreams I had feelings of frustration and disappointment.

These dreams have been so sensorial.  I wanted to capture those moments on camera so I could share them so others could experience them as well.  There was always something blocking me.  I missed the moment.  And what’s the deal with tornados anyway? What am I missing out on in my life?  Or better yet, why can’t I hold onto the good things?

Sitting here in Lily’s spot soaking in the fresh, albeit smoky air, the bird sounds and smattered clatter of the wind chime is better than a dream, it’s real.  I waste far too much time sleeping away the weekend.  Is that what my dreams are telling me?  Get out of bed and go and do! 

Everything today is good, so good in fact I was going to use my phone to take a picture of my serene scenery but the battery on my phone just died.   ??