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And so begins my blog anew, retooled and with a new focus on things that make you lose your breath. Moments that make you stop and say to yourself, “Yes–this is what life is for!” And all that mundane stuff in between.
Renaissance means starting over, refresh, reboot. So it’s only fitting that it’s that time of year again: Renaissance Faire time! I know, technically it’s always that time of year somewhere, but here it happens throughout May. Sadly there has been so much rain that we have not yet dragged my nephew off to the land of jousts and turkey legs and the king’s roasted nuts, but there’s time yet.
Gentle readers, in the spirit of the Faire, I ask you: have you ever attended? Participated? Do you think it’s ridiculous? Do you go every weekend?What is your favorite part?
I have two favorite Faire memories–from the first I ever attended and from the last.
The first was in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and it was magical. My friends are crazy, and they love to make costumes. I call this crazy because I cannot sew and would never deliberately make myself an outfit that involves boning in any way. But they are amazing, talented individuals, and they love to dress up, so we all put on their incredible handmade costumes and went to the Ren Faire. The weather was perfect, the dill pickles were icy cold, and we stayed until the sun set over the lake at the edge of the Faire grounds. And as we took emotive pictures together against the pink-orange sky, an old drunkard came up and attempted to urinate in the lake. (That isn’t my favorite memory, by the way, that is just the fittingly inappropriate end to a lovely day at the Faire.)
The very last time I went to the Faire, I went with a different group of friends, including D. Some dressed up, and some did not. Once again I found myself in borrowed bits and pieces, because I like to immerse myself. D showed off his axe-throwing skills, and attempted to climb this tricky rope bridge, and I swooned appropriately. Then he got dragged up to dance (because there are never enough willing gentlemen) so of course I had to join him, and we shared our first dance. It rained and it poured, because apparently May is the rainiest month of the year in Tennessee, and we got soaked to the bone and ditched our friends to change clothes and watch movies all afternoon.
I would love to hear about some other favorite Ren Faire locations and memories, so be sure to leave a comment! Tell me what takes your breath away?
looking at baby Patty with my mom and grandmaLong, long ago, I was a seven year old girl waiting anxiously for my baby brother or sister to be born. It was a warm evening, and I had already put on my pajamas--yellow polyester ones with white eyelet trim. I wandered outside to look at the planting beds around our split level. Most of the tulips in my mother's garden had already bloomed and fallen apart.
Then came the news: my sister was born, and I could go see her! I insisted on clipping the last two tulips out of the garden. I remember one was yellow and the other was red with orange streaks. It's funny; I don't remember which adult was with me. My grandmother? My father? I do know they tried to convince me to let the tulips stay behind, that my mother would want to see them when she got home from the hospital. But I insisted.
After that argument the adult-in-charge likely didn't want to take up the issue of me wearing pajamas. So, clutching tulips and wearing a coat over my pajamas, off I went to the hospital.
They weren't supposed to let me into the baby ward--I was too young. Likely too germ-ridden. But someone sneaked me in--a pharmacist friend? A doctor friend? I don't remember that either, not exactly. I do remember he was kind and he said those tulips were beautiful. And so I got to give the flowers to my mother.
Then I got to see the baby who has become one of my very best friends: Patty. She was so little and red and already she had so much hair. I'd never seen such a beautiful baby. I couldn't wait until she came home and I could hold her.
Since then she has been my playmate, commiserater, confidant, bridesmaid, and critiquer. My sister is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me. Even if she DOES have hair that is twice as thick as mine.
Patty celebrates her birthday in a few days. Happy birthday, Pattyricia! For an early present, I decided not to post any of the excellent family photos I have of you screaming your baby head off...maybe next year!
Oh little Peepsqueak. This picture of you reminds me of something that happened to me when I was little. We were visiting an aunt in Washington. She had a rope that dangled from a tree in her backyard. She also had a big DOG that came running into the yard barking at ME! I jumped on that rope and UP, UP, UP I went! I did not even know I could climb a rope! I just did it! ha ha!
Most of my art comes from my imagination, but it is also from my memories and from my life experiences. All that being said, I think I can still climb a rope!
Now, here's something I've been meaning to post for a long time. For a long long time. Since I had my first solo exhibition over a year ago, in fact. After the exhibition I was commissioned to create two of these 'small blue thing' drawings. This one was for Sally, a surprise gift for her husband (it's a scarab, by the way, Sally), and the other was for the Hughes family. When I delivered the Hughes' drawing I was given this poem, below. Karey had been inspired to write it after visiting my exhibition. I read it often, and have been meaning to come up with the perfect drawing to post with it. But, as yet, that drawing has not happened and as this one has remained un-posted it seemed fitting. Plus, if I continue to wait for the perfect drawing I'll never share the poem with you. And, that would not be right. It's one of the most lovely, and humbling, gifts I've received.
No, there’s pencil, ink, gel pen, crayon, marker
even tippex, in your riotous attention to detail. Thousands of careful lines; such small changes of pressure, shade, direction. How much of your time to draw all those buttons, coins, badges, tickets,
hair grips? Even tiny cat claws.
I can’t look away.
I’m a voyeur reading your notebooks,
a kindred detective with too many clues:
mass-produced, man-made, plastic, metal
or something natural, unique?
Any object is subject.
Nothing escapes a curious eye.
You rummage in the attic of my memory
to conjour your magic; a delicate, crazy art
full of surprises
like your quirky picture-title puns
from songs in your head,
now in mine, old favourites -
Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega.
A kind of give and take
where nothing is too ordinary
or too personal
so you offer up your socks,
like fat birds on a wire,
even a black bra draped over a line,
and in “drawers”- knickers,
blowing in a breeze!
Clothes in a washing machine,
half-submerged in soapy water -
you call it, “slooshy sloshy, slooshy sloshy”
Washed pots draining
and lots of shoes from all angles
and pages of doodles and travel memorabilia,
with whimsical thoughts in curly calligraphy:
“will it ever stop raining?”
“trying to keep out of the rain”.
You must be local. You make me laugh.
It takes time and close attention
to notice everything –
Like peering through a doll’s house window
and seeing my own life,
in every shiny detail:
I want to empty out my pockets!
Karey Lucas-Hughes 2011
inspired by an exhibition of art work called “strictly ballpoint” by Andrea Joseph atBuxtonMuseum and Art Gallery 2011
Above is a photo that I took at my show. For some really great photos check out THIS POST by Pippa, which was another lovely gift I received after the exhibition. I really am a very lucky, ahem, 'girl'.
I took a walk this afternoon. A park sits just to the west of the school stadium, and a nature trail winds through the woods of the park. Years ago, when I taught Emerson and Thoreau, I would walk my English classes to the park and have them sit and experience "nature," journaling about their experience.
I hadn't been on that path for years. It had changed a little. A few taller trees, a little less water in the pond thanks to our summer drought. A felt a moment of nostalgia, but the moment passed.
Earlier this week, I took another walk. The top 10% from our senior class were honored at KU's Memorial Union, and after the ceremony I strolled around the campus. I have very few memories of the campus from my years as a graduate student. I was also a new father and full-time teacher, so most of my memories are blurry at best--not to mention 75% of my classes met in Kansas City at a satellite campus. Most of my memories stem from other times, some distant and some very recent... some slightly bittersweet and some strong and good.
Here's what I've learned about place and memory: time passed isn't as much a factor to how I experience a place as the time in my life when I revisit it. The lenses I'm wearing now shape how I tell the stories of my memories, and memories without stories attached are just vague things without much form or shape.Like ghosts of feelings which, like other ghosts, can haunt.
Visiting those places often exorcises the ghosts and leaves the story. I want the story. The ghosts can stay behind.
For years, I used to feel sad when we left my mom's place in Clay Center. It was a deep, chest-squeezing sadness. I grew up in that house. My formative memories hold it at their core. Earlier this fall, as we drove away from the house for the last time, no sadness came. I was done with that part of my life--I knew it, and this part, where I am now, has no need for that old house. The lack of feeling almost surprised me, but it also reminded me that this is how it should be.The ghosts don't need to haunt us.
I have countless stories from my childhood--countless stories built from memories of that house, my neighbors, and the small town which raised me, but I don't carry sadness anymore. Stories are good, wholesome things. Human things. And I count myself lucky to be able to tell them.
Today, I am sharing books about fireflies with the children at the Allentown Public Library. And we will be making this Karen Maurer original craft: Bugs in a "Jar". (I decided to do away with the crumpled paper at the bottom of the cup. It's distracting.)
I got my inspiration for this craft from an article I read, suggesting that children could use clear plastic take-out cups and the lids as bug collecting "jars". That's a lot safer than the canning jars I used as a kid. One trip on the pavement and there would be shards of glass everywhere. And take-out lids already have holes punched in them for the straw.
To make my "bugs" glow, I used glow in the dark pony beads, available online at Oriental Trading. Any pony bead will make a bug and you can get a bag of 100 hundred beads for $1 at Dollar Tree. The glow-in-the-dark beads go with my firefly theme.
The wings are scraps of tulle. I bought mine at Dollar Tree but any craft store has rolls of the stuff for cheap. Other possible materials for wings include tissue paper, which is a little delicate, and scraps of thin fabric.
My take-out lids were given to me by the good people at Panera on Cedar Crest in Allentown. If you are doing this with just your family, save your take out cups and lids and the craft is truly cheap.
It's Thursday and that means I should talk about Storytelling. One of the best types of storytelling is when people share stories of "when I was little". So instead of featuring a storyteller or a book, I challenge my readers to tell stories of summer nights "when I was little."
When I was little, we chased fireflies, counting them up and trying to outdo each other. The smaller kids would swing their hands through the air and shout out numbers, whether they caught a bug or not. There is nothing worse to a little kid than not being able to keep up with the older kids.
How do I know my little brothers and sisters counted pretend fireflies? Well, when they finally caught a lightning bug - that's what we called them - they got so excited, they gave themselves away.
We lived near a park - the picnic kind of park - and there were perhaps six lone streetlamps casting our shadows long and dark on the grass. The street lamps didn't put out enough light to discourage the lightning bugs.
We ran outside in our pajamas and in our bare feet and we sang snatches of songs. My sister and I liked to pretend we could speak other languages by singing "O Sole Mio" as loud as we could and then gibberish to the rest of the tune. We only did this at night. Night makes anything seem possible.
Those memories are not really a "story" but they were fun to share with you. Catch some real lightning bugs tonight. Check out Firefly.org for information about these amazing little lightbulbs.
Who can resist a book with their name in the title?!
In this Korean folktale, Lady Hahn is a seamstress. Each of her sewing tools claims to be the most important. Lady Hahn overhears them and grows angry, claims to be more important than any of the tools, and throws them into a box. The tools feel mistreated and misunderstood, so they hide from Lady Hahn, who has a miserable time trying to sew without them the next day. In the end, they realize that they all need each other to get the job done.
This Lady Hahn is more likely my mom than me, though. The Lady Hahn who raised and clothed me with hand-sewn blue-ribbon-at-the-county-fair creations made on her little black Singer worked miracles with needle and thread and fabric. She made baby dresses with smocking down the front, recital dresses from purple crepe, baton twirling costumes of velvet with sequins hand-sewn on, a dirndl from a German pattern, and even BARBIE DOLL CLOTHES with buttons so tiny I'm not sure how she didn't go blind sewing them on!
This entire month of blog challenge, dealing with family, led me to yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Obvious, I know. I knew that at some point I was going to have to speak seriously about my mother, and I knew how difficult that would be for me.
The stories I’ve written this month have taken me to places where emotions have near drop-kicked me on many days. This one will lay me out completely and I know it. I was going to write it yesterday. I just couldn’t force myself to do it. I wasn’t ready yet to drown in all of those feelings that had been swirling for a month, just under the surface where they would swallow me at the slightest provocation.
Let sleeping dogs lie is the old adage that covers this situation, and I’m about to begin poking that big brute that lives below the waves. That being the case, I’ll share a part of my mother that has less sorrow for me.
Mom loved kids and animals better than anything else in the world, family excluded, of course. She was a natural mother, who could sooth any child, tame just about any creature, and generally get along with the world regardless of circumstance.
From the time I was about thirteen or so, old bird cages, boxes, baskets, etc. shared Mom’s kitchen with us. Inside those cages, boxes, baskets, etc. were babies. Some were birds, some baby bunnies, or any number of other wild things. She definitely took after her mother in that regard.
There were orphans that stick strongly in my memory. I came home one day to find baby groundhogs nestled inside an old towel in a cardboard box on a chair beside the stove. They were two of the sweetest little creatures I’d ever seen; all brown and cuddly, rolled up into balls keeping warm against each other. Someone had found them abandoned and had brought them to Mom.
I don’t remember how long she had them before the groundhogs were released, and I don’t know that it matters now. I do know that there were few weeks during spring or summer when orphans didn’t come to our house.
Dad brought her the baby bunnies. He was mowing the yard and didn’t realize that one of the local cottontails had made her warren near the edge of the driveway. The rabbits were tiny things and terrified. Dad knew that the mother would never return to the nest warren after it had been disturbed.
On another occasion, a friend brought her a pair of silver fox babies to tend for a few weeks, until they were weaned. He bred silver foxes and needed a surrogate mother for them for a while. Mom did her thing and they soon went back to their rightful home.
One wet, cold spring day, Mom went mushroom hunting. Keeping her out of the woods during mushroom season was unheard of. Having her come home with a baby Great Horned Owl, though, was different. The wee thing had fallen/or been pushed from its next.
She heard it, found it, and scooped it up. It was in shock; its down feathers were soaked, and it couldn’t stop shiverin
I was awoke this morning with a burning sensation behind my eyelids, due to a desperate attempt to hold back tears. Tears I'd held for so long...
It was an early morning in December, my one of my favorite seasons- Although, I didn't have to wonder why I woke up teary eyed-
As of late, I did recognize this feeling...I 'd felt it before- this was not my first wagon ride.
I kept my eyes closed and began to think of the cowboy curtains on my grandmothers drapes, the smell of honeysuckle vines in her yard, her dusty back porch, the clothesline, and talkative morning birds.
My heart sings when I remember waking up at my grandmothers house long ago...When my brothers and I spent the night with my grandmother, we awoke to the smell of bacon popping in a pan, homemade grape jam on toast, and the loudest birds I will ever hear again chirping outside the window; I remember being curious about the birds conversation as they picked their way through the morning dew...
I imagined what they were gossiping about...but, they chirped so fast, that even if I could understand their language, their conversation would be impossible to follow.
I laughed to myself, thinking about how children think, and was careful not to open my eyes as my mind wandered back into yesterday. I remembered my grandmother laughing at my son's Golden Retriever, Wendy, as she raced squirrels from tree limb to tree limb, encircled the tree's trunk, and jumped toward the sky hoping a squirrel would lose their balance and fall. I started to laugh again, but suppressed it...and I'm not sure why-
I wished I was nine again, and squeezed my eyes together tight, willing the past to remain in my mind. Then, the sounds of the world waking up interrupted my trance, and I knew I would have to open my eyes sometime.
As a matter of fact, I knew that "sometime" was around the corner, because I had to wipe the tears that were sliding down my cheeks like rainwater. Why was I crying?- It was a surprise I decided to brush off and rationalize as tired, confused, lost, or "just one of those days."
I lay in bed feeling as though I were awaiting an unwelcome visitor- Nevertheless, I told myself I was strong and thought of good things until I felt better.
After all, it was an early morning in December, my favorite season- So I shrugged off the feeling and decided to focus on secure moments and new beginnings before I met the day.
I always project myself into the future during the fall season and on Sundays-
For example, on Sunday I think of Monday, and during the spring months, I remember long hot summers.
Only, on this day of winter, I didn't think of the summer, I thought of cowboy curtains...
I thought again about the cowboy curtains that hung in my uncle’s boyhood room at my grandmother’s house. They smelled good, probably because they dried clinging to a clothesline on breezy spring afternoons.
It felt good to think about the smells and sounds rich in my Southern environment- In addition to the lasting impression my grandmothers five hundred year old Oak tree left upon my soul.
The agricultural climate in the south blends into your senses and becomes a part of who you are, and what you will remember for a lifetime.
Sometimes, I draw upon my heritage for comfort when I’m having trouble with life's harsh realities. I’m happy I can still smell the honeysuckle vines I pulled from my grandmother’s Azalea bushes, as well as hear the crickets' sing at night. Display CommentsAdd a Comment
by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press 2011
A boy fondly remembers his great-grandfather through the topiary garden he has built over the years.
There's something missing here, something I can't quite put my finger on. Or maybe something off.
We have a boy, ostensibly the main character, going through the garden and explaining the meaning behind all the various animals and objects his
Here's another blast from the past, Coffin Hoppers: Ghost Floats, a fun drink with a spooky pedigree. I offer it word for word as it was in the original text, The Little Witch's Black Magic Cookbook by Linda Glovach.
20 minutes / 2 servings
You'll need a blender, measuring spoon, measuring cup, and glasses.
1 cup prepared powdered milk (fresh milk won't work) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup diet soda
Ask your mother to get the blender out of the cupboard.
Put the milk and the vanilla in the blender. Slowly add the soda.
Blend at medium speed for two minutes. Pour into two glasses and put them in the freezer for ten minutes.
When you take the drink out of the freezer you will see the ghosts floating on top. This is a great drink fro mother witches on diets because it has only 57 calories*. And the little witches who are not on a diet can use regular soda.
*Yeah, I know. WTF? But the book was published in 1972. A whole helluva lot of witches were on diets back then. Or something like that.
Do you remember any recipes or special Halloween treats from your childhood?
One of my upcoming books, Finish Her Off (pub date Fall 2012) is about a girl who wakes up and doesn’t know who she is - and then has to figure it out before the men who are trying to kill her succeed.
So you know how when you buy a new car and you realize suddenly that everyone drives that type of car? It’s the same thing with book ideas. Must be something in the water. So far I’ve read four books with a plot revolving around memory loss.
Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel. A huge international hit. Christine’s memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Every day she wakes up thinking she’s a 20-something, and is shocked to wake up beside a 40-something stranger - and to discover that she’s married to him and she herself is 40-something. She starts keeping a journal to help her keep track of what’s real - and what’s not.
I was totally looking forward to this book, but a) it’s not a real condition, b) you have to get past the idea that she writes a lengthy journal by hand full of sensory descriptions and detailed recaps of events, and most importantly, c) I didn’t believe the solution. Plus the ending is really rushed.
What Alice Forgot. As the publisher says, “Alice Love is twenty-nine years old, madly in love with her husband, and pregnant with their first child. So imagine her surprise when, after a fall, she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and discovers that she's actually thirty-nine, has three children, and is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.” This is a chick-lit book with a lighter tone.
I enjoyed this, although you have to suspend disbelief that in 10 years someone would have completely changed their habits and personality. And while someone who has experienced a head injury might forget a day or two before the event, I don’t think anyone has ever forgotten 10 years.
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. A man wakes up on a beach, naked. Nearby he finds a car with clothes that fit him - and a gun. He realizes that he must be the man who owns these things - a man named Daniel Hayes. And he begins to realize he may have killed his wife.
Like a lot of books that begin with a good twist, the explanation for the twist is a tad strained. But fugue states (when the victim can’t remember anything ab
When I was young, our local bookstore was a Waldenbooks that took up one corner of our Fred Meyer shopping complex. There a bookseller suggested I try LJ Smith’s Night World series while I wiled away the hours browsing the shelves as my mother shopped for groceries. It was at this store that I met the woman who would one day lead me from the reading world into the bookselling one, giving me my first job.
Waldenbooks became part of the Borders empire in the mid 90s when Borders left K-mart. The stores were re-branded as Borders Express, but even rehabbed they were the first closed when Borders began to experience financial problems several years ago. My store, my final store in my bookselling history, was one of the first closed. Now the rest of Borders will be shutting down as well. On Monday the company announced that they will seek approval for liquidation. Soon 399 stores will close and 10,700 people will lose their jobs.
When our Borders Express closed back in 2007, it was clear that the company was having trouble.
“Why are you closing?” customers would ask as we filled their bags with 50% off books. “You always look so busy.”
We were profitable. We were out performing our plan, but it wasn’t enough to save us. “Over-expansion overseas,” we’d reply. “We don’t have the online presence.”
Funny how those were clear even then.
Despite what some claim e-books were not the cause of Borders' downfall. E-books weren’t even on the horizon. The first Kindle would not be released until November of that year.
Closing a store is heartbreaking. Not only do you have the lead up, where the feeling of something bad shadows ever move, but then you have the after. You have the weight of the questions asked - “Why? Where will you go? What will happen next? Will you discount even more?” - along with the boxes you will have to fill and the books you will have to strip.
Those Borders stores will be stripping a lot of books - romance, mystery, any genre where paperbacks are the size of choice to drop in your purse or tuck in your computer bag. As the New York Times points out “Borders was known as a retailer that took special care in selling paperbacks, and its promotion of certain titles could propel them to best-seller status.”
With Borders gone the print runs will be smaller and the market for new paperback titles will be reduced. The loss will be far-reaching.
But right now, it’s about the employees who have held on for months hoping for a continuance even while they knew the end was coming. It’s about the relief that they can finally cry openly about they changes they will need to make in their lives. It’s about the realization that some of these customers they have grown to care about will no longer be part of their daily routine.
When you close your store you want to believe you’ll stay in touch, that the heartache and sweat that went into those last few days will find you together. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.
But you’ll always have books.
I would like to believe that everyone remembers their first bookstore, and for the generation that has enjoyed Borders it will live on forever. For me a Borders always meant an escape from life’s pressures thanks to well stocked shelves and friendly people. A Borders in whatever city I was visiting meant a familiar place to go.
Thank you, Borders, for seeing me through the hard times, for giving me a job, and for being a place I could always find something to r
When I was young I was a Daddy's Girl. I loved my dad- and all that he taught me. He instilled in me a love for reading and not only that, he helped learn to critique and think about what I was reading. When I was in fourth grade, he read The Hobbit to me. Every night before I went to bed, he would read to me. Now, I don't know that I understood every word of that book, but I loved it- I loved the language and the way he read it to me as if I DID understand it.
The next year, we read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe together. I so wanted to be Lucy and stand in that snow covered wonderland. I could taste the Turkish Delight and I cried big, sobbing tears with Aslan died. I remember that my dad had to stop reading just to console me. My dad was crazy about science fiction. I remember him reading A Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy and Dune. He took me to see The Empire Strikes Back at the drive in theater. I would sit in his den while he talked on his HAM radio... KA0DYI. He collected and restored antique radios and he taught himself how to play the guitar. We would sing "Little Brown Jug" and "Drunkin' Sailor" and loads of other songs that I can't remember right now. When I was in 8th grade, life as I knew it changed. My father had a tumor on his optic nerve and he lost vision in both eyes. He developed several complications and lost his kidney function and got meningitis. We almost lost him. He pulled through and adjusted to life without vision. He taught himself braille- to my amazement- and got books and newspapers in the mail. He received books on tape as well, but I knew it wasn't the same as him reading the words on that page. Of all the things he lost when he got sick, I think he may have missed reading the most.
The years passed and I grew up, life got complicated and I drifted away from my family. The last time I talked with my dad was on my wedding day 14 years ago this fall. He passed away 6 years ago, and I never got to thank him for making me the reader I am today. I didn't get to say a lot of things.
Don't take life for granted, dear blog readers. In the words of The Beatles, "Life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friends." Hug your dad, hug your kids. Tell people how you feel every day, before it's too late. Read with your kids, make your kids feel important, be patient and answer all of their questions, no matter how silly they may seem... they will remember and they will be thankful.
It's been said by some that a writer should write about what he or she is familiar with. For I suppose there's nothing quite like life experience as a rich resource for the tales we tell. The life experiences each of us has, add depth to a story. And it is the unique interpretation of those experiences that make those stories our own, told like no one else would or even could.
Each of us captures the world around us through our own particular set of sensory stimuli. And even when faced with the same view of the world before us, we may process the information differently and act on it differently still. Will the fact that I am color blind mean I will miss some things or see them in a different way than others? Do I have a high pain threshhold, making me indifferent to those more sensitive? Was I an only child? The oldest, youngest or somewhere in the middle?
Have I broken an arm or leg, had surgery, been lost? And what if I haven't yet or maybe never will? Have I ever been truly hungry or felt fatigue or cold down to the bone? Have I ever wanted to kill---or had to? Have I had a story to share and should have but didn't?
"Who knows?" you ask. "Perhaps there won't be anyone interested." But if the stories aren't told, we'll never know who might have learned from them or simply loved the listening. So, tell your stories. Write them down or simply pass them on as folk tales or oral history to be recounted again and again. For one day, without our knowing when, the time will pass and the untold stories will fade from memory.
It is the charge of writers and tellers of tales to not let that happen.
A number of years ago, I read this at my mother's funeral mass. I am sharing it today with you to honor my mother and sister. It was the last gift that I could send upward to Heaven dedicated to her.
Our Mother, a Gift of Words
If my mom were alive today, she would thank you for coming here. So her family thanks you today. Besides prayers, the last gift that I can give our mother is a few kind words. She used to say, “If it makes you happy, do it.” And I am happy to share these words with you.
Our mother is gone, but she’s here in our hearts and memories—like Father Jim said. She’s here in her children and their spouses, grandchildren and many others. Yes, she’s here in her grandchildren. She was a “grand” mother to all of them. Whenever we closed a long distance phone call, she would add, “Give everyone a kiss for me and tell them that I love them.”
She even included our dog, Rosco, in her good wishes. Dogs held a special place in my mom’s heart because they asked for so little and gave so much. Dogs like Rudy and Lucy. Mom is here in her nieces and nephews and her friends.
So, who was this woman we call mother, sister, grandma, great-grandma or friend? She was an angel on Earth. That’s who she was. Those who used to watch “Touched By An Angel” know what I mean. This earthly angel wasn’t perfect, but she was as perfect as a person can be. She earned her angel wings by spending most of her teenage years without a father, a father who died in a fire. Her oldest brother, John, became her rock of Gibraltar, her substitute father. This lovely lass fell in love with a hard-working macho Italian man. It was a classic case of “Romeo and Juliet,” except that the relationship survived growing up in two different houses, with two different cultures and lifestyles.
In the first year of marriage, there were challenges and the background of World War Two. Out of love, my mother gave into her groom in many ways. She waited hand-and-foot on a man used to European ways of living. That’s partly how she earned her heavenly wings today. She pleased this tough macho man as much as she could because she knew that he would love her all the days of his life; that he would work hard for her and their family, as long as he could.
She knew a profound secret about him that escaped the minds of his children, even as their lives unfolded into adulthood. She knew that he wa
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On Sunday, June 13th my husband and I attended a retirement celebration at Norwalk High School for Jeff Smith, who is retiring after 34 years as a music educator. My husband played saxaphone with the Norwalk Marching Bears throughout high school. He spent countless hours practicing for local football games and for special events, such [...]
The cultural differences between far North frontier country and Southern deep roots would throw anybody into shock.
The precipitator of this condition of shock may lie in the fact that many in the North tend to categorize the South. Some dismiss those of the South as the eccentric cousins who aren’t discussed in polite society all that often. After all, they say, Southerners are the ones who brought about that wicked Civil War and all, don’t you know.
Believe it or not, there are those that still think that way. Aside from that, according to others, Southerners are known to be just a hair short on the mental acuity scale. Otherwise they would be out in the world far more and be recognized for their entrepreneurial acumen and social hipness.
Sarcastic? Me? Never!
I can tell you two things for certain sure. I grew up with half my family from the South where I spent as much time as possible, and I lived in the western portion of the South for more years than I care to count.
‘Course, living there cured me of one thing–smoking. Couldn’t do it anymore. Didn’t need to be doing it in the first place. Found a way to get rid of the habit for good, and I’ve never been more glad about anything in my life.
because of my age I remember how the older South used to function. I remember the time before the Civil Rights Movement. I remember watching an older black gentleman step off the sidewalk so that my mother, grandmother, and I could walk past him as he tipped his hat to us. I also remember crying because I thought I’d done something wrong that made him not want to be on the same street as me.
My mother, of course, explained the situation to me right there on the sidewalk. I got indignant (I was very good then at doing indignant) and demanded my grandmother explain why her people would ever do such a thing. All of which upset her no end, as you can imagine. I was very young at the time, challenging a elder about social etiquette. And I did apologize later.
Things settled down a bit during the rest of the visit, but I’ve always been able to close my eyes and see that episode behind the lids anytime I wanted. It was a great social leveler for me.
What else do I remember? I remember catching Grandaddy and my little brother one afternoon, down feeding the hogs (my grandparents were farmers–what were known as sharecroppers, actually.) Indignation swarmed up my backside that afternoon, too.
They were sitting in the back of the big cargo wagon that was heaped with little bitty watermelons about the size of half a soccer ball. Grandaddy would cut a melon in half, hand one half to my brother while keeping one for himself. Each of them would scoop out the heart of the melon, eat it, and then throw the rest to the hogs across the fence before moving on to the next melon.
Now, I knew how those little melons tasted. They were like watermelon flavored honey in a bowl, and I wanted my fair share. Well, wouldn’t you know that the good-old-boys party was just wrapping up when I arrived. I only got the one little melon. –Not that I could have stuffed more than one down my gullet anyway.–
Ever Ride A Cow?
There was a neighbor boy named Hunter who lived down the lane. He used a big Black Angus bull for a horse and rode that animal everywhere. My brother wanted to be just like Hunter, running through the woods barefoot, shooting his .22 and generally running wild.
To that end little bro decided one day, while we were helping my aunt milk the cows, that he wanted to ride one of them. Now, my aunt was raised on a farm and knew how a farm and its animals operated. And she had a really good suspicion what would happen if bro rode milk cow.
She couldn’t talk him out of it, though, so when all the milk was
In the words of the first man, I ever adored, Henry David Thoreau,
"If thou art a writer, write as if thy time were short, for it is indeed short as the longest."
In January of this year as my friends and I danced, drank, and spoke of the year ahead as if we were guaranteed the time, the words of Henry David Thoreau rang a different truth for me, a truth I would understand in a different way by the end of the year.
Even some of my own words ring with a bizarre realism, for example, I wrote a little saying on this landing page that reads,
-Most of the worlds' great things were born of adversity and hardship; because these roadblocks encourage us to dream, imagine and believe.-
And now, those words ring more true to me than they did this past January, which I guess I should explain,
You see regardless of my train of thought at the end of last year, by February, my life began to cloud over, I had already been in pour health for some time, and it was beginning to get the best of me…for one thing I couldn’t write, which for me, is like snatching a bottle from a baby or alcoholic, take your pick…writing is my addiction, and I had the worst writers block I’ve ever known, hence, I knew I wasn't happy. In fact, I was simply miserable in every way, and I couldn’t put the breaks on my emotions. I was sick of myself.
Then, came the arrival of one of those typical Louisiana Springs, full of the kind of afternoon thunderstorms that tests your nerves like a colicky baby. I wanted to yell out of one of my windows, "Enough already!" My life was turning into days and days of pouring rain- Mainly because one of best friends in the world was dying of lung cancer. She passed away at the end of June, we met when we were twelve years old, so we were close friends for 35 years-, and now she is gone-
Which brings me back to my words,
Most of the worlds' great things were born of adversity and hardship; because these roadblocks encourage us to dream, imagine and believe.-
It seems to me that when the pain in our lives pull on our heartstrings, it stretches our hearts, thereby creating a greater capacity for love, joy, compassion, forgiveness, etc... In fact, after this year, I think my heart has grown to the size of a bottomless pit- Although, don’t get me wrong, I am not naive, meaning, I do realize, that much of the time pain and tragedy taxes the human heart to the point of pulling it in the other direction. I just believe that life is about paddling through to the other side, in other words, if we make it through the “hardship and adversity,” we win the prize of knowing abundant joy, or I pray this for us all, because, as Thoreau said, “Indeed our time is short, at the longest.”
In closing, I hope that after reading all of these paragraphs, you won't think of me as mellow dramatic, because it's hard to articulate how thrilled I am at this moment. As I write this post, I feel as though I am wrapping my arms around a long lost friend, and indeed, I am. It is a great feeling, because here on this blog, writing to my fellow friends, bloggers, and writers, I can let my soul fly, and my imagination take its course.
I guess one of the reasons blogging is such fun, is because there are no deadlines, judgments, or contracts- just writing and friendship.
In truth, I feel like I did the first time I saw the gulf coast; I was ten years old and so blown away by it's vast beauty that my stomach went in
I haven’t been able to sleep lately, so when that happens I jump on my computer and write. I do not think, I just write…Well, maybe I do think because I could not write if I wasn’t thinking, I suppose. Hence, last night I started 'thinking' about how people say certain words that aren't part of the English language, over and over again, sometimes for years. For example, I spoke to an old friend the other day, who I haven’t spoken to in years, that used to say the word "majorly" all of the time.
It drove me crazy, but I didn’t want to sound like my mother, and say, “Don’t say that.” Or “Did you know that majorly is not a word?” Because, correcting an adult, particularly a friend, would have sounded self-righteous and mean. Besides, there is nothing wrong with saying a word you like…it is not as if it’s against the law or anything. Well, I guess you could say it causes mental anguish, but that's beside the point.
Anyway, I was surprised that she still used the same word…and she’s not the only one. We are all guilty of this malacy…you see, malacy is also not a word, or I do not think it is, well, it may be a synonym for malady, who knows.
My mother is still constantly correcting my words, but she is just as guilty of improper word usage as I am…although she would never admit it. I don’t know why she is still correcting my language, but I guess she’s trying to make up for lost time, or she’s afraid I may run into one of her friends, and say, “Hello, it’s so nice to see you after all these years. It’s been a majorly long time, hasn’t it? “
When I was a teenager, my siblings and I had certain after school responsibilities she demanded we complete by the time she came home from work, or shopping, or riding horses, etc…whatever she was doing. In any event, my after school duty was to keep our kitchen clean, and I thought it was unfair since I had two older brothers who were constantly in the kitchen dirtying dishes. I mean, come on, what teenage boy doesn’t spend much of his time staring into the refrigerator?
Well, my brothers were typical teenage boys, hence, everyday after school, my brothers had demolished my cleaning job by the time my mother’s 1966 Ford Galaxy zoomed up our driveway-(our driveway was on a hill, well actually, our house was on a hill. That is why the driveway was…oh, you know what I mean-).
Anyway, we had better have our chores finished by the time we heard my mother’s white monster car soar up the driveway. (The car’s name was Charger)
I wish I could tell you more about “Charger,” (The Ford Galaxy) the Pear Apple tree, and our house on the hill, but I’m going to have to write about them in another post…because I’m trying to break the habit of bouncing from one topic to another-
O.K. now, where was I?
Oh yes, back to my unfair chores…According to my sluggish hormonial (not a word) teenage brain, kitchen duty should have landed on my brothers strong shoulders, not mine. Besides, it was obvious that my mother just wanted to torture me, because she could have had me dust the living room or take the garbage out, but no,
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On the way home from Chicago, I took a few days to sleep, talk, listen, eat, cook, walk, and write, whenever the mood strikes, with good writer friends who've been retreating together for 14 years. Can you tell where we met? Do you know who the others are?
I received the "big" pencil as a gift when I was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year in '06. The smaller (regular scale) version with my name is an artifact of my childhood. My dear mother ordered a box of personalized pencils. The red specimen might be the last survivor from that box.
I'm not teaching a class on hunting monsters. Yet.