May 30, 2013

Time to Whack the Lilacs! and other home maintenance tips

We are experiencing thunderstorms nightly, occasional tornado watches, and ants in the house.

In other words, we are running a little late, but it's spring in Missouri.

We had about 6 inches of snow on the 3rd day of May this year, and a few days that got up to about 90, but here on May 30th, the temperatures are only in the 70's.  This means we can sleep with the windows open at night and we don't have to turn on the air yet!  It also means the ants have invaded the kitchen again, but that has come to be a spring ritual.  

Whether they come in due to drought or flood, come in they always do.  I am a Terro girl when it comes to getting rid of ants, but this year I'm doing something else in addition.  I am wiping down the counters with 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 water that I keep in a spray bottle. It destroys the trails they follow.  At least that's what I read somewhere, and it is working.  Vinegar and baking soda have long comprised most of my cleaning solutions.  What one won't do the other will, and in dire cases, pour a little of both on and watch it work.  I also keep ammonia and bleach around, but those 4 are all you really ever need.

Oh, and if you ever need to get rust out of clothing or linens?  WHINK!  Whink is exactly what you need!  My oldest baby left a sweatshirt on the back of the dryer for about 6 months and lo and behold, when he finally got it to his room, it had rust spots on it.  I got on FB and asked if anyone had a sure-fire remedy and one of my oldest and best FB friends, Shirley, put up a link.  I trust Shirley completely, so I clicked on the link and ordered it.  It came within 3 days and all I did was squirt the clear liquid Whink on the spots and they disappeared!  Completely!! Before my eyes!!!!  In 3 seconds!!!!!  It was as close to magic as I had been for a while and I gotta tell ya, you need a bottle of Whink.  Even if your children put up their clean clothes faster than 6 months, even if your dryer isn't rusty, you want a bottle of Whink for when you have to change the toilet lid.  NONE of those are without rust, I am sure.

Tornado watches and being banished to the basement are much more fun with FB, and I found the easiest fudge recipe on there EVER, that does not involve marshmallow cream (which I do not like but will eat, I'm hypocritical like that, but only when it comes down to fudge).  All you do is take a bag and a half of your favorite flavor chips, mix with a can of sweetened condensed milk, bring to a boil, throw it into a buttered 8x8 pan, and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.  My favorite chips are peanut butter, but I seem to be unable to keep them in the house for more than 6 hours, and so I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for our tornado warnings this week and we all survived quite happily.

And last, but not least, I remind you that between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, it is time to whack your lilacs down to about 3 feet high.  I was terrified the first time I did that, but it was well worth it.  Then your lilac bushes will send their energy into their smallest little runners, and the next year your bushes will be wider and more uniform in height.  Don't be scared, be brutal.  It's for their own good, and they will be more and more beautiful for it.  You can also get starts by digging those little runners up and putting them in a pot for a couple of years.  After that it should be ready to be transplanted outside and they make really wonderful funeral or wedding offerings that will never be forgotten.  I have a white and a purple lilac, and while they both bloomed for a few days this year they were covered in snow and frosted severely when they tried to hang on.  Next year I hope they will do much better, but it all depends on the weather.

Happy spring cleaning!

May 28, 2013

Grading My Life......

School's out and my mind is cast back to the days when this meant you got grades that reflected what you had accomplished, or not.  Those days are gone, of course, but  it has had me ruminating on accomplishments and the tangible evidence of them in our lives.

Grades are no longer a good example, any more than promotions or raises are now.  In the olden days, you not only got graded on your school work, but later, in your career, promotions and raises took the place of grades for your lifetime accomplishments.  Unfortunately, Affirmative Action took those away too.  Now having a job only means that they needed a person of a certain age, gender, etc. and you filled the slot.  It can be very depressing because so many jobs seem to have absolutely nothing to do with your effort or worth.

Just because we live in a world now lacking tangible proof of accomplishment does not mean our lives are without accomplishments.  It just means it's up to us to keep improving, a lesson we should not need to be taught to us.

Stay at home mom's have the hardest job in the world simply because most of what they do is never noticed, graded, promoted, raised, or even thought about consciously.

Sometimes what seems to be a dark period turns out, in retrospect, to be a period where you got your most intense training, without which, you would have never been strong enough to have made it through.  It's hard to find the words that are capable of conveying this.  Trying to explain how being isolated and working ceaselessly at small tasks for no pay, sense of accomplishment OR lasting results is like trying to tell a friend about a bad dream: only when you say it out loud does it sound crazy.  This can leave you in a awkward position socially, but it will never leave you in an awkward position spiritually-speaking.

At some point, and I'm pretty sure that point is middle-age, barring a wake-up call from cancer or some other life-threatening disease or disaster, we take stock of ourselves.  Not because we think we will get a raise or even recognition, but just because we accomplish milestones in our lives, and are disappointed or proud of ourselves, and hold ourselves to account.   At least, we should. Our lives pass us by on a daily basis.  If you don't wonder how you are measuring up, I wonder about you, and so, probably, does your mom.

Recently, during a visit with a dear, old friend, she said these words "When my mother died, it changed my life.  It changed everything about my life, and what I found worth in."  I felt the truth of those words in my soul.  Losing your mother, assuming that your mother is not an addled drug addict or abusive alcoholic, is probably the biggest life changing event that will ever happen to you that you expect to happen.  Cancer can come to be seen as a gift, with all the time to get things in order and pay up accounts and say lasting goodbyes.  But you are never prepared for the death of a parent, never, simply because you have never, ever, for one moment up until that time, known life on earth without them.  No matter how you prepare, you will feel like someone has jerked the covers off you in the middle of the night, vulnerable and not equal to the task.  You will feel like you now have to take a huge, long test, and did not remember to study.  How could you not?  Love them or loath them, your parent is always the call you could make, if you had to.  The last best bet, even if you would rather bite your tongue off instead of ask, again, for help.  Your parent will be the last person to help you, again, simply because they love you.  That's the thing about love, it just is, regardless of making sense, and few people ever do anything to actually deserve it.  It just is.

In the 9 years since my mom died, I have set various areas of self improvement for myself.  My mother was very private and non-invasive, polite, deeply spiritual, and gave little away in regard to her personal feelings unless there was a reason for her to do so.  I was always the exact opposite, louder, more opinionated, unconcerned with how I appeared to other people, a bit abusive on occasion,  and wore my heart on my sleeve.  Anyone who didn't like it, well, that was their problem, not mine.   She thought I was brave.  I thought she was wise.  Between the two of us we made the perfect woman.  Were we really brave and wise?  Sometimes.  But the thing about life is that sometimes it is more important to believe in something being true than it actually being a fact.  Without her quiet grace to balance out my bold brashness, I felt imbalanced, expose, and terrified.  Unequal to the task ahead, and for the rest of my life!  I realized how much balance her quiet obedience had always given me, and frankly, without her I felt I better get myself together and start acting like a grown up.

I will never forget the moment I realized that I was on my own, even though my mother was still living.  It was as I entered the dreaded Wal Mart, and some child was having a kicking, screaming good old fashioned temper tantrum, blocking the door.  This seemed like such a small problem to me, at the time, that I almost envied the young mother, red of face and sweaty of body, who was trying to be forceful with her child but keep from being turned in to DFS for "abuse" simultaneously, a fine line for poor parents these days.  Suddenly I went from being serenely sure that I would jerk that kid up and go into the bathroom and soundly paddle that little butt, to realizing that should I give into the (great, powerful, and ever increasing) urge to throw a kicking, screaming, fit of my own, that the only people who would show up would be the police, and even they would probably draw straws for that call.  It's true.  Police do not enjoy this aspect of their jobs, not that I blame them for this.  They signed up to fight crime, not haul off adults who lose control and have temper tantrums in public places.

In other words, I was on my own.  Despite preparation, meditation, prayer, and practical lessons learned along the way, I didn't really feel like I knew squat.  Deep down, I was as scared as I've ever been.  I could see it coming, clearly, and yet there was not one thing I could do to stop it or change it in any way.  Each life has these moments.  Know that they will come, and try your hardest to be ready.  This is my advice now, and it was the only thing I could think to do at the time; not because I was so smart, either, it's nothing more that a survival technique.

The areas I set for myself to improve upon were 1) the elimination of participation in gossip and 2) having more faith that God was truly in control.

It was only 2 areas, but they are two of the biggies, at least in my life.

Eliminating the participation of gossip in my life was relatively easy.  It was one of the parts I hated most when my mother was ill, but I had always hated it.  I bet you know what I'm talking about, too.  You know the way  some people get a light in their eye when they hear something "juicy", which actually really means "hurtful" to someone else and how they can't wait to blaze off and be the first to tell others?  Always a turn off for me.  During my teen years this was one of the ways in which to manipulate others the easiest.  Gossip, for teens or adults similarly emotionally undeveloped, is a currency whose value never decreases, and it's always welcome almost anywhere.  Almost.  I launched a tactic to keep it out of my life, and it has been very successful.

I will never forget how horrible it was to be caught buying groceries, then have someone who seemed to mean well ask about my mother, and then be struck by what to say that could not be bent, however innocently, to come back to my mother's ears, causing pain.  My favorite reply to "How is your mom?" became "Still alive."  It was true and was as much as I was willing to give anyone, because I strongly felt that it really wasn't any of their business anyway.  This may have been a poor attitude to have, I freely admit it, but once you have someone come up and blurt out the most hurtful fact of your life and are so taken by surprise that you immediately fall apart in tears, you may understand that poor attitude a little bit better.  I hope that never happens to you, actually.  It should never happen to anyone, but it does, continually.

So one day I just quit listening to the filth.  I started saying things like "I don't want to hear this", only to have some poor wretch with nothing to offer but hurtful gossip about other people say "That's what I heard!", seriously.  Let's parse semantics for a moment, something I usually avoid.  By saying "that's what I heard", the person is absolving themselves from any responsibility for truth while at the same time trying to entice you into listening, since it's not to be taken literally, it's "just a rumor".  I replied with "Be that as it may, I really don't want to hear it."  This may be too bold for some.  It requires a level stare and no blinking, and it your eyes can shoot lasers out it really helps.  Even with just the level stare and no blinking it usually causes visible signs of upset, like sweating and rapid blinking, followed by rapid changes of subject.  Those are just the immediate results.  Long term it will have the wretches avoid your presence like the plague, which I find immensely freeing.  You trips to Wal-Mart will forever be improved.  The best response, though, when a tidbit has been tossed into your lap, is to use the level stare and no blinking, and say "That's your business?" in a convincing, sincere tone that manages to convey that you generally think well of that person and you are resisting thinking badly of them.  It works almost every time.  If it doesn't work, then you are dealing with the very most obtuse of the wretches, and stepping over that line and actually shaming them with a tongue lashing, especially in a public place, should earn you the equivalent of a medal of honor.  If you choose to take this step, I commend you, and want you to know that you are doing a service for continued, as of yet unknown, generations, who will hopefully be spared the hurt that wretches like this can cause, if taken seriously.  Not that they are usually taken too seriously, even by the people who listen politely, not yet in touch with their inner God/Goddess of hell fire.  Sooner or later, you will be in this position.  It is my prayer for you that you will be the injured one, not the injuring one, and that you will be prepared to take action.

The only downside to this change in my life is that I often am unaware of people having gotten divorces and remarried, or having had other painful scandals in their personal lives.  I'm good with that, as I assume if they feel obliged to share their troubles with me, then I will do everything I can to help them reach peace with it.  I just draw the line at their own troubles, though, and not anyone else's.  It has worked out well for me, and cleared my life of much filth that used to cause drama and heartache in my life.  I don't miss it, and I can't recommend minding your own business highly enough.  At least give conscientious thought to what comes out of your mouth.  Is it true?  Is it kind?  Is it any of your business?  Will saying it out loud to this particular person help or hurt?  I hope it turns into a grass roots effort.  There are entirely too many wretches out there, and it would not take that much to clean them up.

On having more faith that God is truly in control, this one is trickier.  It's easy as long as things go well, but something always happens.  It may be financial, emotional, or physical, but things occasionally happen that just take you out at the knees.  When these things happen, we are confused, often they do not make logical sense, and they leave you so afraid that you realize you want to have faith that God is truly in control more than you actually believe that God is truly in control.  You rationalize that if this is truly happening, then God must want you to go through it.  But it's not fair, you feel victimized, you wonder what you did to deserve this thing that has happened.  I've had a lot of experience dealing with whether or not you deserve things, and it takes some brutal self honesty and examination to accept responsibility for contributing to circumstances.  I will let you work that one out for yourself, but that is a bitter pill of truth.  We all have to take some, do not feel like the Lone Ranger.  I usually get really down and feel in despair, and then what I call my "F-U attitude" kicks in and I go through a period of rebelliousness and something inside me just stands up and says  "Well, troops, we may be down, but we are not beat yet, and we will not go down without a fight."   It carries me through and over the hump of the despair and that's when I realize that what faith really is; choosing to believe.  It's choosing to believe that, despite these trying circumstances, God  really is in control, and while it may be hard to go through, there has to be a reason.  Even if we don't know what that reason is.  Even if that reason does not come to us clearly for years, or even never.  It's choosing to believe, despite evidence.  We are not promised understanding, we are asked to trust and obey.  That can be the scariest thing in the world, but if God be for us, who can really be against us?  If you don't believe that, then I can tell you what your problem is, and the good news is, it's fixable!  It really is that simple, and I think we do ourselves a disservice when we have the arrogance to expect to understand.  Arrogance is unique to human beings, and certainly has it's uses, but ultimately is almost always our undoing.  My advice is to humble yourself, pray for the peace that passeth understanding, and make sure you are in touch with it every single day of your life. You never know what waits around the bend, and no human yet has been prepared for everything.

I am feeling very proud of the work I have done and the progress I have made.  Unlike our jobs in this life, our "work" has no set hours or tangible finish lines, promotions, or rewards on this earth.  Yet, our "work" is what we are here to do.  Choose freely but choose wisely, it all counts in one way or another.  Sometimes, when I take my measure, spiritually speaking, I think God uses us right where we are, all the time.  I really do believe that.  Let's make the most of it.

May 20, 2013

How did I miss Kristen Hannah???

Lately we have been having stormy weather and I have discovered a new (to me) writer that I simply love her. More than that, I trust her.  I don't know how I managed to miss her for so long, but I consider it one of the supreme luxuries of my life that I have found a writer I love who has many books yet unknown to me.  No offense, Stephen King, but I left you for your wife years ago and frankly, I've never looked back.  It was just too long a wait, and I never got over the Gunslinger series that started out so great, only to disappoint me after waiting for years.  I mean, honestly, what the hell WAS that????  It was beneath you, and it was certainly beneath me.  I don't regret walking away because I had just stayed too long.  It was just too much for me.  We had a lot of good years together, SK, but I have moved on.  I know you don't care, and that's fine.  You might spend more time with the Rock Bottom's.  You deserve some time off.

Now that I've got that off my chest, back to the fabulous writer.  Her name is Kristin Hannah and if she wrote it, I will pick it up and read it.  I'm still overly loyal but I've learned to look before I leap.

Last week I found myself in a second hand store and picked up Firefly Lane, I would say that it's light reading but it's really not.  Her style is light but her words go very deep.  I have not-been-hurrying-through-it on purpose, and I'm already dreading the end of the story.  So I looked her up trying to copy a picture from her website, but the keypad remains a challenge for me, so I just put the link if you click on

To my great surprise and joy, Firefly Lane is the only the first part of the story, soon to be continued with Fly Away.  I highly recommend Firefly Lane for young women as this is the story of a deep and abiding friendship that illustrates beautifully the struggle between staying and home and raising children and having a career.  It has been one of the biggest disappointments of my life to see women turn on each other over this issue in my lifetime.  Get us out of the kitchen and what do we do?  Tear each other apart. Greeeeaaat.  I myself am not too proud of that.  I hope anyone who reads this blog is able to see beyond these trifling idiots and realize that life is better when we are all on the same team.  Divided, we fall.  Any "we".  Think about that and have some respect, why don't we?  Have we not all worn various bodily fluids on our clothes?  Is that not a bonding experience????   What is WRONG with us, anyway????  We could at least try it before we have to sign up in order to have a child grown in a lab, which looks like where we are headed to me.

Firefly Lane is the story of two best friends grew up in the 70's and 80's.  They were "liberated" women who chose for themselves, respected each other's choices, and got to about my age and were very disappointed to discover that whatever choices they had made never felt like "enough".  Which begs the question "what is enough, anyway?" and I could go on forever on that.  I think we all could, actually.  The decades they grew up in were that same decades I grew up in, so for me it's not only a soul searching novel but I was there, I remember all the music and what passed for styles.  The 80's were just so bizarre I don't think they would be  easy to understand if you weren't there but she does a great job.  She just sets the scene and you get it, she doesn't waste words trying to explain "why" things were the way they were.  Who could, really?

You will love this writer, I think. I do.  The first book I read by her was called Home Front, about a woman who flew a Black hawk helicopter in the war AND had a family and husband.  Again, you might think it's a light read.  Her books look like light reads, whoever designs her covers does a very good job at selling to people who don't actually read (take no offense, Danielle Steele fans, but you know who you are*no judgement*) but her stories go right to the heart, with your brain fighting all the way.  She spares nothing, leaves no stone un-turned, and I have found each one of her books to be a gift.

It's almost summer.  Get your reading list made, and pick up one of Kristin Hannah's books. You won't regret it.  If you do, I'll bake you a cake. ;D

May 17, 2013

Prayer For Guidance and Protection To Those Who I Love

Time for another prayer.  I found this at
I ask for your prayers for those children who have no voice and have been caught in our corrupt, cookie-cutter, one size fits all legal system.  God help us all.  Help us to lean on You in the darkness, Lord, and to trust that You are in control, whatever the world may do.

Prayer For Guidance and Protection To Those Who I Love

Oh heavenly Father, out Protector and 
Guide, You are the greatest Friend and Joy we have!  To be able to come to You in prayer like this is the most beautiful part of our lives!

It is not for myself that I want to pray 
today, dear Father, but for those who are
near and dear to me and about whom I am
worrying.  You know what they are facing,
dear Father.  And You know most of all the 
deepest reasons why these things have 
come upon them!

And You know how I want to help.  Truly I 
think it would be easier if I could only face
what they are facing.  But You know how
helpless we are to help another even
though we know what is just and right.

Only You are left, dear Father.  Do be with 
them in all things at all times.  Protect them
from enemies and evil, my Father.  Forgive 
them their sins and pt love of others in
their hearts.

Do make them happy in their lives at home,
dear Father, and help them live as You 
would have them live.  Above all, put love in
their hearts for You.

And thank You, my Father, for Your
goodness to them and to me.  Thank You
for Your love and guidance and protection!
May we honor you all the days of our lives.
And be happy and uplifted even as I feel right now!

May 15, 2013

Let's Talk Mammograms.....

I had my first mammogram today.

I just heard you groan. Stop it.

I probably should have had one before, but I just never brought it up and since my mother is gone, eventually    2 of my "other mothers" did.  They made me promise to get one, and I did.  When I put that off, other mother number one (a breast cancer survivor) said she would just make our appointments together.  When she put that off for a week, or maybe a month, other mother number 2 (a breast lumpectomy graduate) chastised her and she got an appointment for us both in a week.  Yes.  A week.  I was thinking it would be 3 or 4 months.  I guess breast cancer survivors have what it takes to get in quickly.

I had heard horror stories from other women for years.  Like, 20 years. I heard that they smash your poor boobies flat. I heard that they stretch your skin.  I heard they were really horrible.  A lot.

So you will be (I hope) relieved to know that this was not my experience at all. Not at all!!

We showed up a little early. I had only 1 form to fill out, with just a few questions and not one was asking whether I had guns in my house or if I felt safe at home. I was cautiously optimistic.  The worst question was about my race, and said "Please understand, we ask this only for govt. purposes", and they gave an option for "unknown".  I checked it and thought they might be all right!  I mean, I thought, hey, they only want to know pertinent medical information. I thought it was REFRESHING!  It was like I was 25 years in the past or something, which was all right with me.

We got in very quickly.  Like, almost instantaneously.  I was more and more impressed as each moment passed.  

I was taken down a hallway with curtained rooms, like dressing rooms, each with a destination above it so we wouldn't get confused. I was shown to Rome, while other mother number one was in Africa.  There I changed into a warm poncho and was asked to go into the bathroom and wash off any deoderant or body powder I might have on.  I have no explanation for this at the time, but I just did as I was asked.  Back in Rome, I was treated to pictures of Rome on the wall, which might sound strange but it was that or a People magazine featuring some Kardashian or another, and I chose pictures of Rome.  It was calming because I was not looking forward to this.  I didn't have long to wait.

In the room the lighting was low, the nurses (or technicians, not sure exactly) were very friendly. They asked me what I had heard and I told them.  They asked my why women would tell such horrible stories to each other?  I said I guessed it was the truth as they knew it.  They assured me that I would have a good experience and asked me to please give them an honest review and to try not to scare other women into staying away.

I am as good as my word.

They explained that one wondrous invention they used is a mammo-pad, which is a cushy foam pad on the bottom, and would help upon the smashing part.  I would feel pressure, but only for a couple of seconds. That was why there were 2 of them.  One to position the boob and one to work the smasher and take the pictures. It only takes a couple of seconds for 1 person to do it, but a couple of seconds is too long when your boob is smashed.  This was sound logic in my book.

My favorite part was that the upper half was clear plastic, so you could actually see your smashed boob if you wanted.  I have always been able to stand anything as long as I can see what's coming at me. As a child I could take the shot as long as I could watch. I guess I just hate being unaware or maybe hate surprises.
Anyway, we proceeded to smash my boobs 4 different times, 2 different ways, NONE OF WHICH HURT FOR A SINGLE SECOND!  It was pressure, yes.  My boobs appeared to be almost flat, which I found fascinating, and the nurse had to tell me every time to raise up my head, but she was very nice about it.  The first 2 shots were straight up and down. The second 2 shots were sideways, and I had to rest my armpit up against the machine.  This explained the washing off of the deoderant.  It was over in less than 10 minutes and I went back to Rome, where other mother number 1 joined me from Africa with a good report.

Now, the truth is that my left one had been aching lately.  Actually, ever since Abigail rolled over on it during the night on September 18, and I had not said one word about this to anyone.  Instead I did self exams all the time. I could find no lumps, but the ache was not going away.  So although I made my mothers ride my butt to get it done, I knew I needed to.  I just put it off, and that was very, very bad of me.

So I wasn't surprised at all when the technician came in about 5 minutes later and said there was an issue with my left boob that would require a sonogram, but not to worry, totally routine, and she would be with me in just another few minutes.   Yes, you read that correctly, ladies, I had my results in 5 minutes.  I am not a waiter, never have been, probably never gonna be.  This was one of the best things about this place.   I felt the dread leaking out of my other mother, so I told her about the poor old girl getting rolled over on (I started wearing a sports bra under my t-shirts when Abigail sleeps with me after that) and assured her that I was sure it was nothing.

The sonogram was uncomfortable.  And I could see that there was a big dark spot.  I started to be a little scared, but I don't scare too easily and honestly, I believe everything is in God's hands anyway. If this was cancer, God already knew all about it.

The technician saw me looking (as I am wont to do) and said "it's not cancer, I can already tell you that, but do you have much of a caffeine intake?"

Do I have much of a caffeine intake.

Oh YEEEEAAAAAHHHH.  I do. If it's not coffee (3 cups every weekday----

Ok. They are big cups. Probably more like 6 cups every weekday)  it's chocolate. Probably a candy bar a day.  How am I supposed to stand having to work without the 3 Muskateers?????

I guess we are going to have to find out.  Sigh.

I have a cyst. That's it.  That's all. A cyst that is no big deal and now that we have established a baseline, at this slightly late date, we will be able to tell if it gets bigger or smaller, depending I suppose on whether I can continue to live without caffeine,which is looking pretty iffy to me at this point.  But considering the alternative, this was a most wonderful and successful visit.

If you are putting it off, I don't blame you. That's how I played it too.  But it was wrong, so if you want to be right, and you are scared of the stories you have heard, here is what you need to do.

Call up Dr. Mark J. Malley, MD, DABR, at Imaging for Women at 816-453-2700 and make an appointment at 630 NW Englewood Road, Kansas City MO 64118.  Their website is and I cannot recommend them enough.  It's a wonderful place, they do a great job and are only interested in pertinent information, not your personal business.  If you are from the area and wondering where it is, it is in Gladstone.  Maybe not technically, but to our minds that is where we were.  You know how funny the lines run in KC and how you can go through 3 technical cities in 20 minutes.

So do it.  Do it today.  Take a friend, there are lots of good thrift shops and good places to eat on the way.
We don't always smash our boobs, but when we do, we do it at Imaging For Women.  Stay safe, my friends!
                  Me and Barb in front of "Rome".  Braless, no less!  We are very wild women. ;)

May 14, 2013

Bittersweet Mother's Day

I need to read over what I have written so that I don't repeat myself.  Being the procrastinator that I am, I haven't bothered to actually do that yet.  If I am repeating myself and anyone can tell the difference, I'll bake you a cake.  However, I'm pretty sure I have not written about this before.

My brother was born the day before Mother's Day in 1968, on May 11.  She always joked that he was the perfect present.  When he grew up, his only child, a son, was born on my mother's birthday, Nov. 1.  It was pretty special, and by far the best birthday present she ever got.  This formed a strange kind of triangle for  us all when she died on May 11, 2004.

That day I called my brother and he spent his birthday driving as fast as he dared on a motorcycle for 3 hours trying to get home in time to be there.  He didn't make it in time, and I spent those hours feeling horrible because I hadn't called him sooner.  I should have insisted he come sooner. I should have known this was it.  I should have.......if only..........maybe I could have............well.  It's just a thing I have, a heartache you could say, that is still tied to my raft on the river of life.  I've let it out so that it follows a distance, I've set it on fire and even filled it full of bullet holes, but I have yet to cut that particular heartache loose.  I am working on it.

That was 9 years ago, and yet every time I pick up the phone to call him on THAT DAY, it all comes back to me.  I tell myself that I just have to keep doing it, and eventually it will not be strange anymore.  Eventually we will have more memories of it not being THAT DAY, and it won't be strange anymore.  Because I'm THE OLDER SISTER and our dad never could remember our birthdays, even when we were little, and I cannot just let his birthday pass without calling. That would be.........unacceptable to my mother.  This is what I tell  myself, and I think it's probably what my brother tells himself, too.  After 9 years it's still hard for me to make the call, and I am afraid it's still hard for him to get it, because usually I leave a message and he calls me back.  The next day.  I guess we will never get over THAT DAY, but I also know that on THAT DAY we are both aware, every second, of what day it is.  We have no need to actually talk to each other, we are brother and sister.  No words are necessary.  

Thankfully, I have 4 children, plus a bonus daughter and 2 pretend grandchildren who made my Mother's Day this year much easier to get through.

Friday night the boys and my other "adopted" 4th son decided to help my get some limbs cut and make a bonfire in the backyard.  I did pretty well when I came out to find one cutting limbs that the other one in the tree above the limb.  I took it in stride.  Don't look a gift horse in the mouth is my motto, so I acted like it was all normal.  It was a big jump, without the lower limbs, for the one up the tree, but boys will be boys and  there were no injuries.  It was a good day.  We roasted hot dogs and made s'mores and sat around the fire till late, when it had burned down so that we didn't have to worry about setting the neighborhood on fire.  Those boys told me that was my mother's day present and I told them it was THE BEST present ever!

The next day I made meatballs, marinated in the blues by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and took them to my bonus daughter's reception for graduating college. So exciting!!  The Beautiful Redhead was supposed to be at the reception, but was not, despite repeated text messages.  Just as I was about to leave she called and said she had fallen asleep but was awake now and wanted me to come there.  This is so.........her.  And I love her.  And she is my only daughter.  So I drove to her apartment and we went to the Olive Garden, even though I had just eaten, and we had a really good time, just us girls.  She had to work Mother's Day anyway and couldn't come home for the actual day, so this was good.  It was good mostly because I was really tired, had had a late night, early morning, busy day, and still an hour and a half before I would be home and able to collapse.

This brings us to Mother's Day, when The Rock Star was coming with his beautiful and wonderful girlfriend. They brought me candy and we got some time at home without the house being full or me having to cook, which is the perfect Mother's Day in my book.  

After they left I sat and drank in the quiet and realized that I could relax now.  It was over. I told Mom I had made it through another one, but that it was just never going to be the same as it used to be.  
She smiled her quiet smile and said "That's true. But you already knew that a long time ago, babe."
That's what being a mother means.  Going on, even when you don't want to, carrying all your memories and making more and never letting anyone know any different.  It's just the way life works, when you're a mom.

May 3, 2013

Letting Go: Teddy Bears and Baggage

I did a rather dark piece last year for Father's Day, and this is the other side of that particular tunnel for me. It was hard to do, but I'm glad I did and I have felt rather badly about just leaving it there, because of course  no broken heart just stays broken.  They mend in all kinds of interesting shapes, none of them perfect.

The other night I was lamenting the fact that I still haven't gotten through the Beautiful Redhead's childhood toys on her shelves, and I spied this guy.  The whole world stopped, and my mind started whirling, and I ran to get my camera and even managed to take some pictures in focus.

This is Leo, on the left.  Leo is my first real love.  He used to be a lion with a music box.  I have no memories, or pictures, of Leo when he still had a mane, or fur, or whiskers, but he has a scar from where my mother had to perform surgery on him to remove the music box. ....after she had washed it.  Laundry would be a demon my mother would wrestle all of her life.  She fought the good fight but could never overcome what she called "the bleaching gene".  I have no memory of the music box and as far as I know, I never missed it.  I was just glad he was all right, sewed up tight and still with me.
 He used to sleep with me every night.  I had a lot of stuffed animals that slept with me every night, and it caused me a great deal of anguish trying to decide how to arrange them in my bed.  I had room for about 3 rows of stuffed animals that I could fit in my bed, and I worried that only the ones on the top row would be able to breathe.  I tucked the covers under the arms of those on the top row that had arms that would bend.
My mother pointed out that stuffed animals didn't have to worry about breathing.  She *may* have even said "um, do know they aren't real, right?" (wondering, no doubt, about the definition of "obsession").
I knew this in my head but it was my heart that was the problem, and I knew this, too.  I was about 7 when we had this conversation/revelation.
Even then I was more worried about my skills as a mother than the more practical things, like the fact that my "babies" did not breathe.  My mother did not believe imagination was a thing to be squelched in children.
But always Leo was beside me, closest to me.  I loved him the best of all.  Leo had been with me since I was a baby.
Soon after we moved to this house in 2001 and put up the shelves in this room, I must have come across him while unpacking and put him up here for safekeeping.  Here he has sat, next to the pig that my daughter loved when she was 3, for 12 years.
There is a black spot on his hand from where I threw him up, high in the air, after being warned not to do that again by Big Grandma, who was trying (desperately) to spray paint some TV trays (Remember those?) when he landed smack dab in the middle of her fresh paint.  Big Grandma was mad!!  I was in trouble!!  She did not spank me.  Maybe because I was almost as tall as her, but maybe because she didn't have to.  I knew better than to do it but I had not realized I would be putting Leo in jeopardy.  I was maybe 8.  You might think that's kind of old to be carrying around a stuffed animal but it would have been the summer my dad left.  Leo was there for me.  We went through it together.  Where I went, so did Leo. It threw both of us  into a panic thinking that Leo had been mortally wounded.  Not to worry, most of the paint came off, and what remained we both thought added character.  Big Grandma had her demons, but laundry was never one of them.

When something terrible and irreversible happens to you as a child, it is right before sleep that your heartache will find you.  Once you are alone and everything is quiet, it will well up out of you.  It becomes a daily ritual.   During the day you can "not think about it", and keep your mind off of it, but it knows where you sleep.  Every night Leo slept crushed to my chest, and every morning there he would still be, and on I would go.
As a teenager he was always on my bed, and usually slept with me, but you will be glad to know that I did not have to carry him around anymore.  I did not cry every night anymore by then, either.  The self-centered-ness of puberty had staked out that ground, and many nights I spent obsessing over acne or what to wear to the dance instead of crying. Some time around the age of 18 I realized that I had not been crying every night for quite a while.  My heartache did not come for me as often, but when it did come for me, Leo was still there.
I got married and moved away from home, Leo tucked into my cedar chest from Nana along with other treasures and keepsakes.  I got divorced and moved back home, went to college, had apartments and parties, had jobs, got married again, had kids, the whole nine yards, Leo was with me always.  Tucked away in my cedar chest until my children got old enough to be careful with stuffed animals.
Sometime in my early 20's, I realized that it had been a long time since I had cried at all, or  felt sad, or even thought much about my heartache.  It was a shock, and I thought I outgrown it.  It wasn't done with me yet, but I treasured the possibility of peace, and started working toward it.
When I was pregnant with twins and at a psychologist's office for one of my children (I thought), I surprised and embarrassed myself by bursting into tears when the man asked about my parents.  Then I got mad at him when he said it was obvious I had some "issues" with that.  Not outwardly mad, (Thank you LORD), but inwardly mad, which is less embarrassing but more humiliating, on a personal level.  That was when I finally broke down and asked for help.  From God, not the psychologist, nice man though he was, he was still, well, .....a man. Plus let's not forget my prejudice toward taking pills.  I'm against it, generally.  Let's just say I had issues in more than one category but do not worry, God could handle them all.
Then the years flew by and one day I saw Leo on the shelf for the first time in such a long time that I had almost forgotten Leo.
HOW could I forget Leo, who was my first "baby" and my staunchest friend?
And I realized that Teddy Bears are really just like baggage.  It was an epiphany.
We carry them so close, our heartaches,  they become so much a part of us, that the thought of getting rid of them hurts as much as cutting out a part of ourselves.
We (I) often (used to) sit around whining about our burden but eventually your realize that YOU are one who is crushing it to your chest, holding on so tight that you are never going to be rid of it until you let go.  It may have even grown into you by then, like those poor people who weigh so much they die in their chairs and only then does anyone know their skin has fused with the fabric!! It's ugly, but take heart, because it's also easy.  All you have to do is let go.  That's it.  Just let go.  One day your head will know that it's time and it will be all right to let go, but your heart will not be convinced.  Listen to your head.  Sometimes, the head must rule.  When it's for your own good, and your heart is paying the price, listen to your head and just let go.
Nothing will happen.  You may think at least a good, resounding cymbal crash at least, is called for, but odds are it will be quiet, and nothing will happen.  No one else will know a thing.  No one else is inside your head, seeing the tragic opera that plays on a constant loop, unless you tell them.  The only change will be the peace in your heart, which will most assuredly make itself known in your face when you smile.  You will be better than you have ever been.  More, even, than you have ever been, and grateful for the lessons you learned on your way to that place.
I have had quite a journey with both Leo and my baggage, but unlike Leo, who I kept safe on the shelf, at some point I cut my baggage loose and let it float on down the river of time.
Perhaps the hurt finally scarred over.
Like arthritis, it didn't hurt all the time, but when it rained there was a deep ache I could live with but not forget about.  Dan Fogelberg did a song that has always haunted me, that describes it much better than I can write, Hard To Say.
"Lucky in love,
 well maybe so,
 there's still a lot of things you'll never know,
 like why each time the sky begins to snow 
you cry"..  
The lyrics can be found here and I think they are brilliant.  Thank you for your service, Dan Fogelberg.  You might have just been writing about a break-up, but I see both myself and my father in this song, and it has touched me deeply.
It's the unexpected tears that you need to investigate and run to ground.
You learn to live with it to survive, but to learn to forgive it is truly an act of mercy, and will bring you grace.  Enough grace to share.
I tried a lot of things, learning to live with it. Denial, Anger, Derision, Blame (others), Blame (self), oblivion, attention seeking....the list goes on.  I thought I needed to mend my broken heart but really I think I needed to just learn that I wouldn't die from a broken heart, and trust God that it would heal in His time.
It took a lot of years but I finally got to the point where, when I could look at my dad as a child, from the standpoint of a mother, (haven't I always been one?) I could see that it was okay to love him and accept him for what he is without expecting him to be the person I thought he was, once upon a time.  His mother, my own Nana, helped me it this by pointing out that this is how God loves us.  We all have children that may disappoint us, do hurtful things, sometimes we may even feel that we don't like our own children, but we always love them.  That doesn't change, no matter what the kid has done, how long ago the end of the rope you were trying to hold onto has slipped through your fingers, or how much it's going to cost to save them.
Parents are just people, too.
Some things just aren't ever going to happen, and your life will be easier if you can accept this.
You see, I still love him. Can we ever stop?  I don't think so.  My answer is no.  Nana's answer was no.  Everyone gets to answer that for themselves.  Does this mean that I invite him up and volunteer to meet more wives?  Good Lord no!  Even Nana drew the line at that!  But at least the kids are old enough now that I am not trying to find an explanation.  For some things, there are no explanations and we have to accept that.  But I do love him, and wish him every happiness, and I have peace with that.
Everybody has their own journey, and I don't think any of them are easy.
Love what you can and keep your expectations realistic.
You have your own life.  Enjoy it and realize how much love is all around you. There are all different kinds of love, all of them good.  Stop letting your heart be broken. You really are in charge of that.  You can still love a person even if you know their patterns and have learned what will probably happen next the hard way.  Choices have consequences, and consequences must be reckoned with one way or the other.
It is always in your power to take the bull by the horns, (and that can be much less violent than it sounds), by just asking God to give your broken heart some peace and help you understand what is next, with grace.
If you can just do that much, it will help.  You will have to do it a lot, and it may take some time, but it's your journey and there is no time limit or shortcuts.  Keep your head up and your heart open to healing.  It will come from some of the last places you would ever expect, and one day, you will just feel..............fine.
You will not cry anymore.  At least, not about that old heartache.  Life may bring you others, so guard your heart wisely.  I hope you will even smile, after your baggage floats off. It will sink under it's own weight soon enough.  Let it go and be at peace.
If you are going through it right now, or just still dragging it around, I hope this helps you.  Just let go.  I think you will be glad you did.  Even if you just let the line out a little, so that it follows at a greater distance, that still counts as progress.  Don't be surprised if, after you think you cut it loose, you turn around to find it following you.  Wish it peace and turn back around.  It's in the past, where it belongs and you will face the future.  You will be uncertain of what will come next, but you won't care all that much because whatever comes next will not involve the same old circular path that was your heartache.
I burned a lot.  I am a burner, an Aries, fire is my sign, I am a ram blazing a path that burns from the friction, dragging Leo along for the ride.  He supports me unconditionally. It's what he does, It's his destiny, and he has fulfilled it heroically.
Do it your way, but do it. Do it today, at least make a start, and it could take quite a while.  You should not have to ask me how I know this, ahem.
What am I going to do with Leo? He is going to keep sitting right up there with the rest of the treasures.  I'm too afraid to wash him and The Beautiful Redhead will someday, eventually be forced to deal with her stuff.  When that day comes I will put him on my own shelf until the day when he will probably be cremated with me. It seems only fitting, as he's been there for everything else.  Leo and I will blaze into heaven, our journey not yet complete, and I expect we'll either be given a sword to fight more battles or go directly to the baby room.
Either one will be just fine with me.  I can do both equally well, thanks to everything I learned on my journey, so far.  Let the journey continue.

May 2, 2013


I love trees.

I love them in cemeteries. 

I love them by themselves.

I love them covered in snow. 

I love them when they grow in bunches.

I love them with no leaves, the bones revealing a beauty much deeper than when adorned.

I love it when they bloom

I love it when the petals shower down
I love them when they have their new little baby leaves peeking out

I love them when they are in full leaf
I love them when they turn

And I love the music they make when they fall.

Even after that I love the sounds they make scooting down the street.

Most of all I love the way they look from the inside.

They make a secret space where all you can hear is the wind and maybe some birds.

Sounds float up from below.

Everything looks different at that remove, perspective can be regained.

Sometimes the leaves sing to you.

Sometimes they busily rustle amongst themselves, seemingly talking to each other, intent on unknown purposes.

Sometimes they sigh and moan.

Always they stand watch, ever vigilant, mute witnesses to whatever comes.

Sometimes they whisper to you, sweet nothings like the noises your mother made to you as an infant.  You don't have to understand the language to know you're in the presence of an older, wiser, nurturing love.  A presence that has seen many things, and endured all.

Sometimes, on lazy days, they make no noise at all, instead bowing their heads, and listening to the music of the raindrops skipping down, down, down,
 and falling to the earth with a splash,
 content to rest,
 sheltering small beings,
 who also rest,
within their steadfast branches.

The cadence of the drops soon turns into a blanket, covering all with a quiet,
rhythmic lull.

A time out.

  A time out of time.

The whole world stills.

As a child I spent a lot of time up trees.

As a mother I often wished I could just climb a tree, attaining a little space for myself to breathe while at the same time keeping an eye (or at least an ear) on my children playing below.

Having the best of both worlds.

I always imagined that would be what it was like to be God.

I still am happiest there.

Not that it happens often anymore, but when it does.........










May 1, 2013

My Patriot Friend....

If you love America and grew up with the idea that the civil rights movement was fighting to make everyone equal, without regard to skin color, gender or religion, welcome.  You will like it here.
If you also find yourself wondering about 1/2 the time if all this is really happening or if it might be a bad dream and how everything (I mean every. single. thing.) got so upside-down and whether we can ever recover balance, I feel your pain.
But it's really happening.
If you long for a day when the best qualified person got the job and one's sex life was not a proper subject for conversation, let alone a call from the POTUS ( "they ain't what they used to be", I think that was Jed Clampett in my head again), I think we will have to work very hard if we are to ever see those days again.  
I know that's crazy.
If you wonder what happened to bring us here, you have quite a bit of work to do.  But it's worth it.
It's enough to make you think those earnest civil rights' workers' got hijacked by evil forces.  You might want to follow that thought and do some research.  Wink, wink.
If you are tongue tied when you try to express some of this, here's a blog by a Patriot Friend of mine you should check out and probably follow. He says it so much better than I do and he makes me feel not only less lonely, but like there are still some adults around.  Also that someday they might be in charge again!
It might save your sanity.  It has mine.
You might not feel better, but you will not feel so alone, I can promise you that.  And you will probably laugh too!
Keep our country, our military and of course Israel in your prayers.  
Your prayers to God.  
Do I need to say that?!!!??