Monday, December 31, 2007

More of the Story

It's New Year's Eve--please be careful out there. Celebrate sensibly and make it home to see the new year!
I spent Friday afternoon alone in the house continuing the cleaning process. Dear Daughter went to a museum and IMAX film with JenMc, the Evil Bunny and Banana Girl. I got lots done and actually kind of enjoyed the quiet of being "home alone."

There's a great sense of accomplishment to be had in setting things up around a house in such a way that what was before merely a "house" becomes a "home." While we try not to set a great store on "things," there are objects--photographs, paintings and the like -- that truly create the environment that nurtures and stimulates us. We're not entirely there yet, but crucial items -- the Walter Anderson postcards my mother had framed for me in 1994, the Homer Winslow print of a girl reading that was my Christmas gift in 1995, the lost painting by my legendary great-grandfather that mysteriously resurfaced in the mail in 2004, the print from a Franklin street festival of a little girl on a front porch braiding her grandmother's hair--are in place. I think they, too, are glad to be home.
Dear Daughter has switched rooms and has some different furniture. I bought a daybed and trundle from an estate sale recently and swapped it for the giant maple futon she'd been sleeping on before. It looks rather girly and sweet, but in a 'tweenagery kind of way. She also has her purple mushroom chair in there, and the lovely table she made at Art Camp last summer. The top is a nightscape she designed and carved into a plate of linoleum and then printed on handmade paper. She cut the glass to fit the table top and welded the table together. It's a simple and happy piece, and quite a nice work of art, especially for a grade-schooler.

Later, as I was winding down, I thought to take advantage of the peace and play a little music. My piano looked so beautiful sitting in the sunlight pouring through window and it made me so happy. I opened the case to find this frightening sight:

Apparently, when the movers turned the instrument upside-down, three octaves of keys raised and locked and will not go down. I am absolutely heartsick. I'm waiting on both the moving company to send a claims adjustor and the piano company to send a technician to see IF it can even BE repaired. In the meantime, my poor lovely piano is nothing more than a beautiful piece of wood holding up some very nice candles. To paraphrase Augustine of Hippo, "...our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Fifth Day of Christmas

I'm not expecting any gold rings today, but the move continues to progress in wacky and wonderful ways. The sun is shining today, which makes up for the chilly temperature. There's all kinds of tasks left to be accomplished, so I'm certain we can get plenty done without suffering too much from the temperature.

Yesterday was eventful. Aided by the head of the Mathematics department of a prestigious local private academy (aka JenMc) and her two lovely children (who, for the purposes of this blog have asked to be referred to as Evil Bunny and Banana Girl) met us at the house to begin cleaning. My tenant, less than tidy, and we were faced with a good bit of work. The kids set about tackling windows, dusting ceiling fans and sweeping while Jen and I took over the kitchen. I opened the oven to this:After liberal application of caustic chemicals and a half hour of elbow grease, it was greatly improved. Jen worked on the laundry closet while Banana Girl made the picture window shiny and bright.

Meanwhile, Dear Daughter and Evil Bunny (who is actually quite a nice young man) tackled a repair job in the bathroom. The soap dish had come off of the tile wall, and we thought it would be simple to reattach using this handy-dandy product:

They gave it a good shot, and patiently sat with their feet in the tub for ten minutes, holding the dish to the wall while the glue cured. The soap dish actually stuck to the wall for about 20 minutes before crashing again into the tub. Distracted, I tossed the soap dish onto the nearest flat surface, thinking I'd deal with it later.

"Later" came when one of the kids discovered I'd made a fascinating alteration to a bathroom fixture and announced "the toilet seat now has a handle!" And by golly, it did!

More to come: a "tailor-made" mattress, breaded fried chicken parts, the joys of toluene, and a horrific discovery.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Fourth Day of Christmas

No sign yet of the Four Calling Birds, but I do have wonderful human help on the horizon. Today, we attack the house with cleaning supplies. I'm also installing the microwave oven (a dubious sign of impending civilisation), sewing the mattress on the trundle bed back together, cleaning that nasty oven and gluing the soap dish back to the tile wall. It's been more than 48 hours since I wore mascara (and yet the world continues to turn). Never fear, I am still exfoliating and moisturizing. My hands feel like .060 sandpaper, but this too, shall pass. We are going HOME!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Third Day of Christmas...

I got, not three French hens, but rather Two Men and a Truck. Actually, I lucked out and got two sets of two men and a truck each. I had the hired moving company PLUS a friend and a brother and a Big Red Truck (an actual vehicle, as opposed to a wine of questionable vintage, although by mid-day, even a self-consciously trendy wine who owes more to its clever label than actual quality would have been a good thing).

By 7:30 a.m., I had not only showered and got Dear Daughter underway, but had cooked breakfast, started hauling boxes from the attic and organized three boxes for Goodwill. At 9:30, the movers called to say they were done loading up my tenant, so we (the brother, the daughter, the co-worker and I) pointed our caravan (BRT and a mini-van) laden with boxes and bookcases north towards home.

All told, the move went remarkably well--way better than I could ever have imagined. By 3 p.m., we had all of my furniture and 90% of my packed boxes moved. I still have some packing to do (closet stuff), but the big stuff is out of the way. My favorite moment was when the amazing Arlando walked past me, single-handedly pushing my piano, which was turned UPSIDE-DOWN and strapped to a dolly. Of all the men the company could send me, they picked THE MAN.

My least favorite moment was discovering the condition in which my tenant left my house. Heavy sigh. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning around the furniture. I already scraped the top layer of grease off of the cooktop and tile backsplash, and made the bath tile clean enough I might actually use the shower in a day or two. We've vacuumed the entire house for the first time. Tomorrow, a crew consisting of my self, Dear Daughter, the head of the Mathematics department at a prestigious local private academy, and her two bond-servants (pronounced "children") will attack the house armed with Murphy's Oil Soap, oven cleaner and lemon Pledge. By day's end, I hope to have not only rendered the house habitable, but also have explained to my former tenant in exacting detail precisely why her deposit is forfeit.

Anyway, we're winding down here. A wonderful thing about hard physical work is how pleasant by contrast it makes rest and sleep. But first, I have one more task to complete...we realized that all of our clothes are at OUR house, but WE are still here, so I am washing and drying laundry so we'll have something clean to wear tomorrow. It never ends, but really, I'm not complaining. We're going home. We have wonderful, dear friends and family (Mom, Pat, Number One Brother, MCBA, Fineoldfamly, JennyMc, E) and things are gradually returning to normal. Life is good, and getting better by the day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bunny Waits for Santa

So, I'm minding my own business, filling the tank of the Nimble-mobile and watching wispy clouds scud across a brilliant blue sky. It's Christmas Eve day, and all things considered, all is pretty calm and bright.

I hear maniacal giggling from inside the car, and climb in to find Dear Daughter punching buttons on my cell phone and laughing. Turns out, her Inner Auteur took over while I was pumping gas. Here is the result.
Wishing you and yours a very Bunny Christmas, from our nut-house, to yours.

And so this is Christmas...

Looking back at what we've done, I'm amazed I am upright, much less able to write anything about it. Of course, I've only just started trying to write, so who knows, I may not get any distance at all.

It's Christmas tomorrow. Today is the last day of the Advent season. Dear Daughter and I have tried, through the chaos and sadness, to keep a reasonable and hopeful Advent. I just this moment realized that in the exhaustion and emotion of last night (as the Loved One prepared to leave for his holidays with his family and then on to Alaska), we completely forgot our Advent Sunday night ritual readings and candles. I knew something was missing from the evening...actually, there was a great deal missing from the evening...but I am sorry for overlooking that extremely important element.

About 7 p.m. last night we had a knock at the front door. People rarely come to the front, as we are definitely back-door folk. The wide parking apron, generous carport and elevated patio make a much nicer entrance, especially as it opens into a warm and fairly inviting den, instead of the cool, marble-paved foyer. The front of the house was dark, and I picked my way through the pile of packed boxes and the stack of boxes waiting to be built and filled. I switched on the lights and unlocked the doors to see who was there. Elijah, perhaps? Joseph and Mary, looking for shelter? Someone who mistook our dark and sad house for the holiday party they were missing?

No, it was Titus. He was thin and smiling, shivering in two layers of plaid, flannel shirt, fleece gloves and worn jeans. He had no coat, no hat; only a satchel filled with books and a massive, crackling walkie-talkie shoved in the bag. I knew in an instant I was about to be hit with a pitch to buy books I neither wanted nor needed. Still, I opened the door and this shy, thin boy began to talk.

He told me he and his sister were working the neighborhood, selling books to try and raise money for college. They were from Kentucky, he said; and he was home-schooled but hoped someday to get more formal education. His eyes darted around, and wouldn't meet mine. He was so thin and fragile looking, and his smile was bright and cheery, despite the 30 degree child. The skin on his face was translucent and shone as he talked of someday going to Heaven and meeting Jesus face to face, along with the loved ones he'd known on earth.

He was earnest and shy, and I knew he was no threat. I gave him the little cash I had with me for a book called Pathways to Health and Happiness. I offered him a coat, as we had a couple of extras hanging in a nearby closet. As moving day comes closer, we are getting rid of things we don't need. He declined and said he was fine in his shirt sleeves, smiled again, and turned to go.

As he walked down our steps, Titus turned back toward me and asked me to pray for him. Then he continued on into the dark night with his bag of books and the $7 I'd just given him.

I wondered the rest of the night and most of this morning how much of his story was true. I've found that the books he was selling are a product of a legitimate church, but still, I have to wonder, does the love of Christ really compel us to send our children out into the cold and dark on the eve of Christmas eve to knock on the doors of strangers, and to refuse help when you so obviously need it?

Yes, Titus, believe me, I will pray for you--that you are loved and warm and safe, and that the shyness in your eyes occasionally flames to love and joy. I hope that your story was true, and that the people who you are with are your family, and not some lunatic cult, deceiving you with heresy and depriving you not only of a warm home but keeping you from the love of your family. I hope that you go to sleep each night, assured not only of the love of God, but of your own mother and father, who are nearby, and who care tenderly for you. You brought me a gift, Titus, on a dark day in my own life. I know that I do not value enough the good people and things I have in my world--how could I ever possibly hold them dear enough?

Merry Christmas, friends. Please pray for Titus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All About Marcia

Today in the house we welcome marciamarciamarcia. She's one of my co-workers, another single mom and a great lady. She has a unique read on life, is deadly calm under fire (of all kinds) and is a fabulous cook. Navigate over to her page and give her a big redblur welcome to the blogosphere!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Because She Does

"Mary, she moves behind me
She leaves her fingerprints everywhere,
Every time the snow drifts, every time the sand shifts
Even when the night lifts, she's always there..."

from "Mary," by Patty Griffin

Winter Morning Drive in the Country

Frost-furred lumber stacked by the roadside
waiting for hands and hammers and nails;
a slow-moving river bearded with white fog
winds by the south gate headed for home.

Winter falls softly in this part of heaven.
It creeps in on shoes that are silent as sleep.
The sky fills with grey clouds as birds huddle together
On a lamppost arm stretched out
by the side of the road.

Red leaves lie sleeping on the the floor of the forest,
crunching beneath footfalls as a man passes by.
The land settles down with a sigh for the winter,
like the last sleepy breath
of a day that is done.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Help in Time of Trouble

Our Lady of Walsingham has been very gracious this week. Please visit here to learn more.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Praise of Rutabagas

Those who know me know that I eat my vegetables. They also know that I can’t abide the word “veggies” or any form of it. The word is “vegetable,” or, if you prefer, gemüse. The Germans have such lovely words for ordinary things.

But I digress. I eat my vegetables. They’re good and good for me. In the spring and summer we often make meals for days at a time out of whatever fresh and plentiful produce is available. It’s almost a game to figure out what is in season and what I can make of it that will be delicious and satisfying.

I’ve only met one vegetable I don’t like, and that is the rutabaga, also know at the swede, yellow turnip, or more precisely, Brassica napobrassica. Growing up somewhat middle-class in a large family, we ate plenty of things that our friends and classmates didn’t. I didn’t mind eating regular white or purple topped turnips (which are crisp and joyful) or the interminable crocks of dried beans, or even the beets, which tasted rather like dirt and stained the plate with a horrific magenta liquid. But I always drew the line at rutabagas. It seemed to be the ultimate in low-class, end of the line, no further humiliation than to have to peel a wax-covered rutabaga and boil it up for dinner. I recently described the taste to a friend as “a turnip, gone horribly wrong, having lain under the front porch for about three months, in the dirt, where the cats go to pee and the bugs can crawl on it with their dirty little feet.”

In the British Isles, prior to pumpkins being readily available (a relatively recent innovation), swedes/rutabagas were hollowed out and carved with faces to make lanterns for Halloween. Often called "jack o'lanterns", or "tumshie lanterns" in Scotland, they were the ancient symbol of a damned soul. This is the reason, I presume, why they taste so awful.

The only way I will really eat rutabagas without setting up a howl is in “Himmel und Erde.” This German dish, translated as “Heaven and Earth” is made up of root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, potato, carrots and rutabagas. The other vegetables and the butter and seasonings conspire nicely to cover up the taste of the nasty swede. It’s a recipe that can make something nice out of something fairly unpleasant.

Those who know me also know what a stinking mess my life currently is. I’m moving out and on, and it’s scary, difficult and painful, and not always in that order. I worried about Dear Daughter, my family, my house, my financial situation, even the One I’m leaving behind. My stuff is scattered all over the city in various safe places. I’m homeless with a mortgage. I’m tired and scrambling to keep work and life together.

But through it all, the past 36 hours have been filled with grace and light. I’ve received help—monetary, emotional, spiritual and physical – from all sorts of wonderful people who have shown me their love and kindness in abundance and without hesitation. I try not to be surprised when God answers prayers, but when the blessings start pouring in so quickly and in such torrents, it’s astounding. I truly am not worthy of such loving-good friends and family.

One of the dear folks who have thrown her not-inconsiderable influence onto my side lately also sent me a Christmas card. I love Christmas cards—both sending and receiving them. This one is beautiful, but what it contained inside (along with her sweet message) really made my day. She sent this recipe for rutabaga cookies, with the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that I bake a batch. It was a good laugh, but there is a great deal of wisdom in her idea. Despite all of the chaos and sadness in my world right now, I have so much that is good—so many wonderful people who are showing me love and helping me to show love. Even through the darkness, we are surrounded by light. And Pat’s little funny, tucked inside a glittery card, is a nice reminder of how to make something sweet and good out of something that outwardly appears to be homely and sad.

A Long Time Coming

Curiousity killed the cat
and it's not so good for me
and you.
So don't leave me a trail
you don't want me to follow.
Don't leave me clues
that I'm not meant to find.
Don't tell me lies, then
tell me I'm dreaming.
My eyes are wide open now.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

As Paralysis Sets In...

They say you can't go back again. I think the proper phrasing is more along the lines of "you SHOULDN'T go back again."

I've spent part of the evening re-reading old messages from the Loved One. Times were that we were happy and good to one another. I can't believe the people who wrote those things then are the people we are now.

What happened? Oh, whatever happened?

I've shoved some more things into some more boxes. My plans are still not completely defined. I keep telling myself and those around me that I'm really fine, but I doubt I'm being truthful. The coin has two sides, and I keep turning it over in my hands.

To justify my existence, I need to pack a couple more boxes.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When You Come to the Edge of Everything You Have Known...

Two years ago when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, a very wise and caring man, who also happens to be my priest, told me that when I come to the edge of everything I have known, one of two things will happen. I will either step out onto safe and solid ground or I will learn to fly.

Today, folks, I'm absolutely soaring.

I'm in early middle-age. I'm a single parent. My relationship that I thought would be the one I had for life is ending. My mom is still sick (but doing better, thanks). I'm overdrawn (how the hell did this happen? Actually, I know exactly how it happened, I just don't know how I'm going to fix it.) at the bank. Someone I know is about to get a very rude surprise about an unexpected baby (not me, folks). My tenant keeps bouncing checks on me. I'm about to move back into one tiny room at my mother's house for the foreseeable future. My car really needs tires.

Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, it's Christmas.

Still. I'm soaring. I have so many wonderful things in my world. My Dear Daughter is so very, very dear. She knows what is going on, and she's okay. We're okay. We've redefined home to mean not "that place where your stuff is" but rather the more accurate "that place where your heart is." Our hearts are together--therefore, wherever we are, we are home.

Even if our stuff is living in a mini-storage halfway across town.

My friends are simply amazing--MelBoe, FineOldFamly and Kimby-the-book-fairy are helping me sort, throw away and pack. These are three amazing women, and I would be saying that even if they weren't solidly in my corner in this time of fiery, blazing crisis.

My friends at work are great-- they recognize enough of the challenges going on in my life right now, and have given me the encouragement I need in the right doses. They also have given me a healthy sense of practicality and are definitely keeping me busy enough to not despair. They (pronounced Illy, Meerkat, e, marciamarciamarcia, MCBA, Optimus Wicked and Stanimal) make me laugh, which is keeping my internal organs well massaged and my head on as straight as it can be for now.

My family...well, I never appreciated them enough until now. They're the best.

The rest of the world--well, it's still turning. It's not going to stop for me and my hefty bundle of issues. Eventually my parachute will open (although maybe not until I pull the reserve), but until then, I'm passing through clouds both grey and silver. It's a beautiful view.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's also about giving up

I can't really expound on this right now. Big changes. Sad times. Gonna be okay.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Public Acknowledgement

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Thanks be to the Blessed Mother, ever Virgin Mary and to our patron Blessed St. Joseph, for prayers heard and answered, in so short a time and in such rich abundance.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From All Over the Map

It's multitasking night at Chez Redblur. As I sit typing, I've got a copy of last year's homemade Christmas CD burning, the gingerbread is baking, Dear Daughter is doing homework and making two stuffed rabbits and an otter dance and sing to the music. I'm probably overclocking my cute little speakers, but Rufus Wainwright singing Ramsey Lewis just makes me swoon.

Things that make me laugh in the grocery store:

and, inexplicably, this:

Something about the word "frank" just makes me giggle.

Okay. I'm done now.

I had help, you know, with the gingerbread. Every holiday kitchen needs a cute little elf like this:

An Autumn Prayer

For little grey squirrels,
paws clasped as in prayer across taut white bellies,
poised by the road, chewing contemplatively,
gazing toward winter,
good Lord,
are we thankful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What I'm Learning These Days

1. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are beautiful women of a certain age, and role models for how I want to grow older (actually, I already knew this, but it's worth including).
2. No matter how many friends I make, my best friends will always be my sisters.
3. My other best friends aren't intimidated or hurt by that statement, and know exactly who they are and why I love them.
4. I'm really stronger than I ever imagined, both physically and emotionally.
5. Occasionally I really do know what I'm talking about.
6. Two quarts of steaming turkey broth will absolutely not fit into a one-liter measuring cup, no matter how badly you need for it to at the moment.
7. It's good to just shut up and listen sometimes.
8. Love comes in a wonderful array of shapes, sizes, colors and seasons.
9. Relearning how to play Baroque music on the piano (with laughably tiny hands for an adult) is worth every moment of effort.
10. Homemade whipped cream tastes really good out of the bowl with a serving spoon.
11. Walking around the quad in the afternoon sunshine saying the Rosary out loud is a beautiful and peaceful way to spend 20 minutes.
12. Carolina bluebirds flitting about an oak tree on a brisk November afternoon lift my spirits.
13. A foolish consistency really is the hobgoblin of little minds.
14. It's okay to make mistakes, but it's preferable to learn from them.
15. Holding one's impetuous tongue when confronted with a derisive and selfish remark is an art form, and one I should practice more often.
16. Praying for someone else's hurt and need makes ME feel much better.
17. More to come...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Way Things Are

Happy post-Thanksgiving Sunday, all. It's raining here; the kind of soft, susserating rain that wakes a sleeper gently, and provides a perfect soundtrack to continued dreams. We're having a slow start here at the ranch. Dear Daughter returned, a bit unexpectedly, last night from her holiday trip to New Orleans. I was in my beloved midtown with two most excellent friends, listening to three brilliant singer-songwriters ply their craft. The venue, aptly named "Otherlands," is an independent coffee shop that's been around for about 15 years now. An oasis of peace and comfort in an already-warm and funky neighborhood, it's the perfect spot for gathering, listening and contemplating.

I ran into several people from my past last night. It was so good to see familiar faces and talk of good days from a while back. I don't want to live in the past, but it's often pleasant to pay it a little visit. While I wouldn't be 23 again for anything, I like remembering that who I was then wasn't such a bad person after all.

After picking up Dear Daughter, we went back and caught the last of the show. We were up too late, but the music and company were excellent, and it's a day for reflection. It was so good to have her with me--she regaled our table with a middle-schooler's observation of breakfast at Commander's Palace, hugged the necks of people she loved and was cheerily polite to new friends. She nestled in my arms (not an easy feat for someone only three inches shorter) and snuggled while the music played on.

Today is a day to wrap up Thanksgiving and look forward to Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. I'm sorting through laundry, books, turkey leftovers, assorted memories and burgeoning plans. I have a new book of Scarlatti arrangements. I'm making a CD for a co-worker. The sponge is set for the Swedish rye bread.

I have things to do. I have a place to be.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Our Lady of the Easy Bake Oven Rides Again

There's an old saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get baking. Well, maybe no one ever actually said that, but perhaps they should have. I guess I just did. Perhaps it's fall, perhaps it the stuff swirling around in my life, perhaps it's some primordial need to create, but ever since Flash the Food-Porn Mixer of Doom came into my life, I've been on a baking spree. My current medium is bread, although the girls did make two exceptional pumpkin pies on Saturday.

Since October, I've made olive bread, herb bread, cinnamon rolls (admittedly, these didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped) and pita bread. I've fed the family, the neighbors, our friends and a huge gathering at work. There's something very satisfying about the making and baking of bread, no matter what the occasion or the type.

Every culture, in every land, across history has had some form of bread. It's the most primordial of foods. A simple carbohydrate, it provides quick energy, along with a handy platform for all kinds of goodies such as butter, cheese or Parma ham.

But bread provides more than just nutrition--it's the most basic of comfort foods. Warm and yeasty, fresh-baked bread fills the house with an odor and a feeling. It says, "Come in, sit for a while. Warm up and visit. Tell me what's on your mind."

Sharing, or breaking bread with our fellow travelers on the planet is an ancient tradition. It's a sign of welcome, a message of hope, an acknowledgment that we should continue onward. In most Christian faiths, it's the ultimate symbol of love, in the Presence at the Eucharist. Tiny wafers of--you guessed it--bread, become the body of the risen Christ and feed not just the human body, but also the human soul, with a bit of gluten, a drop of water and a world of love.

I tried out my new baguette pans tonight. Too bad Blogger hasn't figured out Smell-o-Blog, because this, my friends, smells divine. I wish you all were here to try a bit of this--it's still hot and crusty from the oven. I'm dancing with joy over two simple loaves of bread. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Tonight, I have fresh bread.

Illuminated Tree

I'm being lazy. I researched these trees in hopes of finding some information on why exactly they make my heart sing. There's got to be something, but perhaps it's just the way they turn such a luminous and happy yellow in the fall. I can't get past the sight of a ginkgo (sic) tree in November. This photo was made on a not-quite-rainy day.
The world is so perfect--Nature saves the very best for last. Just as those sweet, delectable thoughts of the day come to us in the close of the day, just before sleep, Autumn closes with the last bright bang of color and surprise. This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Defining the Word

Main Entry:

Inflected Form(s):
plural in·ter·stic·es Etymology:
Middle English, from Latin interstitium, from inter- + -stit-, -stes standing (as in superstes standing over) — more at superstition
15th century
1 a: a space that intervenes between things; especially : one between closely spaced things b: a gap or break in something generally continuous 2: a short space of time between events

For those of you who have been paying attention, the 8-ball has spoken. I'm worried and scared and all those good things, but at least I see more clearly now.

For those of you who have not been paying attention, well, it will be revealed in due time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans' Day

Today is Veterans' Day, commemorating the signing of the Armistice in 1918 ending the Great War, now known as World War I. The conflict that in four brief years killed nine million soldiers, five million civilians and wounded at least 21 million soldiers and civilians officially ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It began in 1914 with two shots fired into the chest of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist who felt rather keenly the disenfranchisement of his country by Austria and Germany. Veterans' Day was created so that the world would never forget the suffering and loss caused by those two shots.

Today, we remember.

My dad served in the United States Army as part of the Allied Occupational Force in Germany following World War II. Given the year was 1952, technically he was called a Korean War era veteran, although he served only in Europe. He was drafted and answered the call. He served a little less than three years, not with any particular distinction, but with the honor and integrity a young man developed in the 1940s growing up in a small Midwestern town. He came home with a scrapbook full of photos, propaganda leaflets, train tickets and pressed leaves. We still have his dog tags somewhere.

Today we planted the flag of our nation and the flag of the United States Army on his grave. They looked nice in the autumn sun. A gentle breeze was waving. We talked to him and about him. We wished he would come back home.

I know there are millions of others just like us who wish their veteran was home, safe and sound. Growing up we knew so many men and women who had served in the armed forces. These were ordinary people who responded to an often extraordinary need. Some came home to parades and celebrations. Some came home to honors and fame. Others came home to derision and violence. Others came home shattered by wounds and trauma. Some didn't come home at all.

I don't have any poppies today, but I wish I did. Maybe I can find some VFW member tomorrow selling them outside a grocery store. Tonight I'm thinking about all of the veterans I've known and know, and sending them a wish for peace and a sincere thank you. Here are just a few names. Remember them. Remember your own. Just remember. Never, ever forget.

John Douglas
William S.
John R.
Rich J.
John L.
William A.
David C.
John Z.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to the Corps

Today is the "birthday" of the United States Marine Corps. I wanted to blog about this, but I'm running out of time to do so properly, so I'll have to be brief. I spent a good part of day enjoying the November warmth outdoors at Navy Lake with Dear Daughter and Grandbaby Riley. Fifteen years ago we wouldn't have been able to get a parking space. Today, there was no one there but us and three other children with a conspicuously absent parent.

Anyway, congratulations and a big "oo-rah" to a branch of the service that holds a special place in my heart. All of the Marines I've ever known have been persons of honour, courage and integrity--all three in the extreme. Our nation is fortunate indeed to be home to the Corps. Tim, Rich and Steve--best wishes to you all on your big day.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Niceness Really Does Matter

I'm remiss in writing a thank you note, so today is the day to catch up. On Halloween, the Headmistress of St. Daniel the Stylite Academy (aka Fine Old Famly) presented me with a Niceness Matters Award on her blog. And this is a very nice thing, not only because I'm humbled to be the recipient, but because it's just nice to hear that someone sees something good in amongst all the mayhem I commit on a daily basis. I want to be nice, but what I usually end up as is impetuous, rash, petulant, cranky and overstretched; all of which tend to feed off of one another until I feel like just about anything but nice. However, the daily example set by the members of FOF make me want to try harder, and perhaps on some small scale I'm succeeding gradually.

The nature of the Niceness Matters Award is that each recipient is to pass it on to someone else who exhibits qualities that are nice. My nominee for the next award is Redneck Mother, who lives and blogs in Texas about her two kids, Rocketboy and Hurricanehead; her husband Hombre (whom I gather is also a writer); homeschooling, organic gardening and raising chickens.

Now, I've never actually met Redneck Mother (I've never actually set foot in Texas, although I've logged about 48 hours in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport), and I can't even remember how I stumbled across her blog. It doesn't matter. She's a good writer, and by all appearances, a very good mother, teacher and home farmer. She does everything with a passion and fire that is consistent and powerful, and maintains a lively sense of humor, even when recounting issues that just aren't funny at all.

I always enjoy her blog, and often learn something new, including what happens when a child mistakes neosporin for hair gel, and how to build a solar oven. She loves her Hombre, her boys, her chickens and her place on the planet. And that, folks, is pretty darn nice.

A Poem I Wish I'd Written

"The Necessary Brevity of Pleasures" by Samuel Hazo, from A Flight to Elsewhere. © Autumn House Press, 2005.
The Necessary Brevity of Pleasures

Prolonged, they slacken into pain
or sadness in accordance with the law of apples.
One apple satisfies.Two apples cloy.
Three apples glut.
Call it a tug-of-war
between enough and more than enough, between sufficiency
and greed, between the stay-at-homers and globe-trotting see-the-worlders.Like lovers

seeking heaven in excess, the hopelessly insatiable forget how passion sharpens appetites that gross indulgence numbs.Result? The haves have not what all the have-nots have since much of having is the need to have. Even my dog knows that - and more than that.He slumbers in a moon of sunlight, scratches his twitches and itches in measure, savors every bite of grub with equal gratitude and stays determinedly in place unless what's suddenly exciting happens. Viewing mere change as threatening, he relishes a few undoubtable and proven pleasures to enjoy each day in sequence and with canine moderation.They're there for him in waiting, and he never wears them out.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl

Last night was Dear Daughter's birthday slumber party. As birthday slumber parties go, it went rather well. We had a small but select group of kids (totaling six, including the Birthday Girl) and rented a small cabin near the base where I work. These cabins used to be officer housing, so properly titled, they're really small houses, but they're remote enough to be exciting, but modern enough to be convenient.

We were right next door to the base stables, and in the late evening the herd of horses came over by the house. The kids were delighted to see them, and given that it was a lovely, brisk fall evening, the horses were frisky and enchanting.

Today, we were just tired. Even the best slumber party (and this one ranked pretty high up there) can leave you simply exhausted. Combine it with the end of Daylight Savings Time, and you have a recipe for a long, tiring day.

Dear Daughter and I took a nap in the early afternoon, and upon awakening, we headed for a local park to throw bread to the most ungrateful gaggle of Canada geese we've ever met, followed by a tramp amongst the trees. We walked and talked in the autumn afternoon sunshine and I realized there's really not much that beats a quiet walk in nature with someone you love, whether it's your dear child or your dear loved one or a dear friend. We looked at trees and talked about the differences between fruit and nut trees. We picked up some litter. We looked at birds.

We took turns using the camera, and twice while she was shooting, I whipped out the cell phone and caught her in full artistic action. I love watching her frame up shots and hearing what's important to her. Her mind works so beautifully and quickly when we're outdoors. I would give so much to be able to chuck my job and home school her, outdoors as much as possible.

Anyway, here are two shots from the day. What a great one it was.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another Milestone

Happy Halloween, ya'll. This one has been most interesting, for a lot of reasons, the best of which is Dear Daughter announced that this will be her last year trick or treating. Now this statement brings me joy for about a million reasons, the least of which is I WILL NEVER AGAIN HAVE TO SEW A COSTUME FROM SCRATCH AT THE LAST MINUTE.

Any of you out there who know me at all know two fundamental truths: 1. I am quite possibly the most disorganized human on this planet (this includes every musician, drummer, lawyer and person named Billy I know); and 2. I have never bought into the commercialized version of any holiday, preferring to whip myself and my household into a frenzy by creating holidays out of leftover remnants, hot glue, the occasional sequin and a glass or two of red wine. Past costumes for Dear Daughter have involved feathers, duct tape, florist wire, 36-inch long zippers and the same kind of fleece that usually goes into the creation of fast-food mascots.

This year was no exception. I added to my repertoire slipper satin, which looks great on brides, but is an absolute #@*%(#^% to measure, cut and sew. Throw in a little left-handed dyslexia, a grueling deadline and an already anxious child, and it's just a recipe for disaster. The short version of the story is that her costume (Athena, the goddess of wisdom, in case you couldn't actually TELL what she is supposed to be) turned out okay. I only ruined about a half yard of the $7 material. I didn't break any needles, hearts or federal laws in the creation of this year's costume. After all was said and done, she had a good time, and the costume stayed in place and in one piece until the night was over.

Yay me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Long, Long Time Ago...

On this day in 1886, one of the world's best-loved works of public art was dedicated. Standing in the harbor of New York City, Liberty Enlightening the World was intended to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American revolution. For millions of immigrants, however, what we now know as the Statue of Liberty became a literal beacon of hope for a new life in a new land. Emma Lazarus wrote The New Colossus. the poem inscribed at the base of the statue, welcoming newcomers to the United States.

It was also on this day in 1995 that my very favorite Emma was born. She shares a birthday with the likes of Bill Gates, Bruce Jenner, Joaquin Phoenix, Edith Head and Dame Joan Plowright. Every day of her life has been an adventure of some sort, and as John Hiatt put it, "there's no telling what she might do/before her doing days are through..." Me, I'm in total awe of the girl. Happy birthday, Miss Baby. I won't load the embarrassing photos of you doing the Chicken Dance to your musical birthday card, but it was a great day anyway.

A Few of my Favorite Things

My good friends over at Fine Old Famly had a new arrival this week. Already a lovely, larger-than-life family, they increased their carbon footprint (totally out of necessity, of course. These are hardly materialistic people, by any stretch of the imagination.) with the addition of Fine Old Famly-sized van, big enough to carry their entire horde, plus any and all of the part-timers and hangers-on (which on any given day, usually includes Dear Daughter) that may be with them at any given moment.

Heck, there's even space in there for a couple dozen flying squirrels, should they be inclined to tag along.

We're very happy for their acquisition, and wish them many happy miles in Lulubelle, and hope that fire hydrants everywhere will stay out of your way.

Dear Daughter and I were fortunate enough to be included in an outing in the new van, and joined FOF for a wonderful evening of ice cream and book-browsing at the used bookstore next door to the ice cream parlor. People, it just doesn't get much better than that.

I don't know what it is about Children of a Certain Age (of whom Helier and Crispina, pictured here, are) that makes bright colors that rarely appear in nature so appealing. Still, it was not so very surprising that the two youngest in our party gravitated immediately to the bluest of all blue ice creams in the freezer case. Now, as George Carlin famously pointed out, there really are no blue foods ("not even blueberries; they're really purple!"), but for Children of a Certain Age, the gaudier the color, the better it is sure to taste. It was a delight watching Helier and Crispina enjoy their treat, which apparently felt as good as it tasted; a multi-sense experience if there ever was one.

And lastly, I should note that today is the 12th birthday of Dear Daughter. Oh very dear are and always will be the very best of my favorite things. Oh, happy, happy day that you were born.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This Week's Photo

I snapped this moment yesterday while walking in the rain on the post where I work. It's been raining off and on for the past week, and I've truly enjoyed the final shift between Indian summer and autumn. Cool drizzly days and dark, chilly nights where the rainfall on the roof lulls you to sleep just bring out the nesty/nuture/happy in me.

This photo was made with my phone camera, so it's lacking something...maybe a little more color on the left side. It just seems a bit pale to me there. There is a stand of pine trees at the northeast corner of the building in which I work, and as I passed by them these cones caught my eye. Something about the way the droplets clung to them and the pine needles was so very precious.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

For David, in the rain this morning

The man in the rain that walked past the dumpster,
following the two dogs—one leashed and one not,
shuffled his feet as he trudged to the door
of the room that he rents
by the week
near the cloverleaf exit
where I commute every day.

He could have been anyone—
his blonde hair receding,
the height he once knew
is less than it was.
Weighed down by his years;
though not really so many,
each doubles or triples
with each drink he takes.

His shoulders are sodden
with rain and with anger.
His feet don’t remember
the days he would dance
through leaves with the careless
abandon of childhood,
or with a laughing blonde baby
atop of his shoes.

His pockets are empty
except for his fingers;
his dreams have all dried up,
his memories are gone.
Where have you gone to,
my blue-eyed brother?
And do you remember
the days we were young?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dark Night Alone

We don't talk about tomorrow anymore.
In fact, even when we're face to face, I wonder
what it is you're telling me.
I don't know how to read the lines anymore than the in-betweens
and all I have left these days are the spaces, empty spaces, the long, dark, wondering out-loud spaces.

Bless the Beasts and the Children

I woke up this morning to day six of the Headache That Will Not Die (Although I Might Soon). Hacking and coughing, I hobbled to the bathroom (hobbled, because as usual, I woke up with hamstrings so tight that my feet just won't function) and blew as much multi-coloured crud out of my head as I could. The hot shower beckoned and actually helped both my head and aching joints. I slept well, thanks to NyQuil and a nice long chat with the Loved One, who is currently in Vancouver. Still, it was a rough start.

The start got a little rougher when the phone rang and a tearful voice asked for Dear Daughter. Not sure who it was, I gave her to phone and hovered a little, pretty sure that whatever was going on was bad. Turns out the beloved bunny of Best Friend had passed away sometime this morning while Best Friend was home with one of her young siblings. Her mother was at a book fair with the other two children and their dad was out of town for a conference. Bearing a box and some clean, worn cloth diapers, we ran over to see what could be done.

Now the death of a four-pound bunny isn't exactly the end of the world, unless of course it's YOUR four-pound bunny, or the four-pound bunny of a very dear friend. And this particular four-pound bunny was a very great bunny, in his own bunny way. Charlie the bunny didn't much care for being held, but he loved company and to give bunny kisses. He had an endearing habit of sitting in the window of Best Friend's bedroom, watching the world go by and conversing with the cats and squirrels on the other side of the screen. There's something warm and dear about driving up to a house in the evening and seeing a little dark shape in a window, watching and waiting, and thinking his bunny thoughts.

Humans are so fortunate to have the companionship of pets. They love us like no one else does, and without strings attached. They love us because we are there, and even when we're not there. They are grateful for what we do for them. They bring peace and beauty into our lives. They share their warmth, their space, and sometimes their opinion that 2 a.m. might be a good time for a little walkie and perhaps a nice treat.

When God made the world and all that is in it, it was to humans that He gave dominion. Naturally, we don't always do such a bang-up job of wielding that power. It is in those times we would do well to look to our friends in the animal kingdom, and practice the gentleness, peace and humility that comes so easily to them.

We wrapped Charlie the bunny tenderly and gently laid him to rest in a corner of the yard near where Best Friend and her three siblings often play. It's cool and shady there, and squirrels and birds have been known to visit as well. Brother Bee carefully marked the spot with a piece of wood in his "favorite shape" so we'll always know where to look for the little quiet black bunny, dreaming his bunny dreams forever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Random Body Parts

On my way home from work today, I was zooming through the country past the orchard and the roadside stand where I buy produce. I looked up at the western sky where the storms that stomped Oklahoma yesterday were beginning to rumble across our state. Here is a photo I'm rather pleased with. It looks rather like my heart these days.

I love storms, but prefer them to be external.

Another photo I made recently is this one, of the Artist Not Formerly, Nor Is He Ever Likely To Be Known As Prince, But We Like Him Anyway. As I've often said, interesting portraits don't always have to be of someone's face. Suffice it to say he's a very good writer and a darn fine karaoke singer as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Weather Report

Oh my, is it ever thundering out there...I love it!

I think it's about...

Day three of the Headache That Will Not Die. I wonder how long this can go on before something vital, like my piano lessons, or how to ride a bicycle or where I live simply melts away.

I finished reading The Kite Runner tonight. Oh my. It's a beautiful tale, not in the conventional sense, of course. Nothing with that much horror in it could truly be called beautiful. Rather, it is beautiful in the sense that along with the very worst of human nature, this story also shows some of the best of human nature in the protagonist's quest for redemption, and ultimately forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a theme in our house these days. Dear Daughter was hurt recently by a friend in the careless, thoughtless way that good friends do hurt one another. I don't think the other child even realizes the slight that has been paid, but Dear Daughter feels it keenly nonetheless. We talked tonight about the power of true forgiveness, and how it can relieve the forgiver of the burden of the original hurt. She's promised to consider forgiving her friend, and I hope, for both their sakes, that she will be able to.

On our roadtrip this weekend, I revisited Don Henley's stunningly brilliant album The End of the Innocence. For all it's careful production and orchestrated background vocals, it really is a rare collection that offers an unflinching look into a man's soul. I've thought before it would make a good soundtrack for a musical, so long as the librettist took good care not to become maudlin with it. Henley visits a lot of themes in these ten songs--including guilt, depression, gluttony, despair, loss--all with lovingly crafted melodies and a voice that knows whereof he sings. Twenty years after it was first released, it's still a good listen now and again.

And that last song (which, if you're reading this and you care to, you will have to look up for yourself) is the one, that despite being played only a bazillion times on every FM station in the free world, really crowns the collection. It really is about forgiveness...even if you don't need me anymore.

Monday, October 15, 2007

List of Things I've Been Thinking About

Okay, so I've fallen off the radar for a while. There's a lot going on--inside and outside my head. I could have been blogging more often, but for reasons that are legion, I haven't. I will try to ease back into it. It's raining outside--a long, slow and noisy rain without thunder and lightning. It's the best nighttime kind of rain. I'd rather be listening to it than tapping away at the computer.

We saw this praying mantis tonight. She must have been seven inches long, and had crawled into a wrought-iron trash receptacle to hide from the rain. When we peeked at her and whipped out the cell phone camera to try and photograph her, she came out for a look at us. I don't think she was one bit scared of us. This is what I think aliens must look like.

I'm tired of being sad. I'm trying not to be anymore. It's going to take me a little while longer though. Bear with me, please.

Some people have disappointed me lately. Now, I know I'm not supposed to step up unreasonable expectations for others, but sometimes a let-down is justifiable. And yes, by the way, I'm on the top of this list too.

I really miss ice skating. I was never great at it, but I was adequate for someone who started in middle age. I feel young and nimble on the ice, even if I'm not quite either. I'm sure there are draft horses that dream of flying too.

Nothing smells better than fresh sliced ginger, with the possible exceptions of sesame oil warming slowly in a pan, or that spot beneath the ear of a sleeping loved one.

Isn't it funny how years later certain songs and moments can trigger a memory that has lain dormant? Startling, sometimes.

I dream in black and white these days, if even I dream at all...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Word to Yo Mother...

While I'm up here on my soapbox, surveying my domain like some free-wheeling, redheaded socialist Yertle the Turtle, read this blog. Gotta love a home-schoolin', cheese-makin', chicken-raising, compost-cooking mutha....

There is no Joy in Memphis

I love my hometown. It's a weird little place with all kinds of odd people, places and customs. We have a spotty history; decaying neighborhoods; startling areas of shiny, perky gentrification; appalling suburbs with mile after mile of identically dull and predictable strip malls. Still, this was a good place to grow up. I consider it a good place to raise my daughter. The cost of living is fairly reasonable, I earn a decent living (even if I manage it poorly), there are kind and generous souls living here. All in all, my slice of the city really does live up to its historical name: The City of Good Abode.

Tonight, I am grieving for my city. It is, or rather was, Election Day, and true to form, we have absolutely squandered the opportunity to rid ourselves of a homegrown despot, the self-annointed "king" of Memphis, W. W. Herenton. Hizzoner has been in office for since the 1990s now, and has just been re-elected for another four years. Roughly one-third of the eligible electorate in the city participated in the election. One-third? A mere three of every ten adults, who are citizens, have not committed a felony and who have actually made the effort to REGISTER to vote got up off the couch, drove or walked to the polls and touched an interactive computer screen and cast a ballot.

And the very best this three-of-ten could come up with was to re-elect Herenton...? Oh friends, it is a very dark day when this is the best we can do. This man has raped the city repeatedly, both literally and figuratively--first as a city school principal, then as city schools superintendent, and for the past 16 years as mayor.

Of the four major candidates who ran for mayor, two of them were actually decent people who care about this city. Neither of them won. We're stuck with the status quo, and I'm mad as hell about it. Three out of ten. Lessee, counting on my fingers (which, due to the amount of Mezzaluna I'm consuming is getting a little chancy), I can account for approximately 25 people I know personally who voted for a far better candidate than Dub-Dub. Gosh, if everyone who actually voted for her had pleaded, cajoled, wheedled and annoyed at least 25 people to get out and vote (and vote responsibly), things might be a little different.

And this isn't just about my candidate losing; this is about Memphis currently being number one on some pretty negative lists--such as the highest murder rate in the nation, the highest crime rate in the nation, the lowest public school test scores in the state, bankruptcy capital of the nation, home to more election felons than any other place in the U.S. I could go on.

I want my city back. I worked hard all spring and summer in hopes of getting it back. We lost tonight. I'm sad.

Congratulations, Memphis. You got exactly what you asked for. Four more years of graft, murder, arrogance, corruption, disdain for the public good, racial division, squandering of public resources and bickering amongst our duly elected "officials."

I love my hometown, but tonight, oh tonight, I'm in tears. We blew it, people. We f***ing blew it bigtime.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I'm blogging from my bedside because I just feel like 30 miles of bad road. I don't know if it's my upward-spiraling age, the weather or what, but I've noticed I'm spending more days hurting than not. Today was a stinker. The day dawned with clear skies and no rain in the immediate forecast, but I spent most of the night shifting and unable to find a position that didn't drag down my big joints or create new pressure on the little ones. The upshot was I woke up exhausted and burning in every bone. I don't like days like this.

Still turning the 8-ball, for those of you keeping up with this thread. No definite answers yet.

Kevan, the check really is in the mail (actually, you should have it today). A vote for Carol Chumney for city mayor is a considerate vote asking for rationality and impartiality in our city government. Yes, she blinks alot--it's because she's human, not a political automaton. Yes, she's made some blunders on the city council, but she doesn't take bribes, swear at news cameras, grant favors both public or private to friends and family, or pass out in local bars. She's a sensible woman with a passionate love for this crazy city that is often very difficult to love. She wants very much to make a difference in Memphis, and I think she will honestly try to work with the council, the school board, local business entities and regional governments to address issues plaguing the city.

Mom is still doing pretty well, despite chronic shortness of breath. She is in Alaska until this weekend and then goes to Park City, Utah. Yes, she really did carry pork barbecue in her suitcase on the trip up there. Only my mother... Radiation starts when she returns.

It's trying to turn to fall here and the leaves aren't as pretty as they could be because of the drought...still, my heart is warm and merry for the changing of the season.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I get a yes, no or maybe

from the magic eight-ball of my mind...Cory Branan is chock-full of words of wisdom today.

The Ouija board in my brain keeps pointing to "run away, run away!"

If you care to chime in with your vote on the matter, the comments board is activated for your convenience.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Plaid to the Bone

One of the things I like best about fall in Memphis is that it's festival season. As the humidity fades away and the daytime temperatures gradually slide downward from "deep fat fry" to tolerably warm, it's the perfect time of year to be outdoors, wandering through crowds of people celebrating pretty much whatever an organization with even the sparest of corporate and media sponsorship can dream up.

An annual favorite of mine is Clanjamfry, staged yearly by Evergreen Presbyterian Church in midtown, which, as we all know, is indeed God's own country. I miss midtown so much, with its old and funky houses, representing a cross-section of time, socio-economic status, cultures and levels of education. Evergreen, anchored by the venerable Rhodes College ("our ivy is in a league by itself") is an upper middle-class mixture of Craftsman bungalows and Tudor-esque mini-manors. Bordered on the south by our rather good zoo and on the east by a jumping part of Binghampton, it even looks like its name, with yard after yard full of stately, ancient trees, both deciduous and evergreen.

The festival naturally centers around Scots history and culture, seeing as how the hosts are Presbyterian, but once the music starts and the vendors set up their wares, the lines between Scots and Irish tend to blur a wee bit (something my own Scots forbears would have reportedly taken a dim view of) and it all becomes a whirl of Scots-Irish-Celtic jolly good fun.

Dear Daughter and Best Friend wandered around, teetering on the edge of teenage ennui. The games were all either geared for small children or involved tossing cabers or two-handed broadswords, so their choices were somewhat limited. We watched some bands, the Highland Dance competition, the Boniest Knees competition (more on this in a moment) and strolled through the vendors looking at home-spun wool, hand-crafted mountain dulcimers, silver jewelry and tartan bedspreads. The live sheep caught our eye, and a bit of our hearts as well. These woolly girls were lovely shades of cinnamon and steel and appreciated a good skritch between the eyes.

We ran into several friends, and made a few new ones. We thrilled to the Wolf River Pipe and Drum band, especially the "chick" drummers with their precisely twirling lambswool mallets. Not hungry for offal, we passed on the opportunity to try haggis. The girls made beady-things in the crafts booth and I made photos.

The Boniest Knees Contest was a good laugh. Three blindfolded women fondled the knees of brave contestants sporting Highland garb and selected the ones they liked best. It was hoot, and the winner seemed proud of his honor. Quite a few people strolled the grounds in an approximation of Scottish dress, and I must admit a specific fondness for the sight of a man in a kilt--not any specific man in particular, seeing as how the Loved One won't put one on, but just men in kilts in general. It's a good look. And I have a special shout-out to the gentleman with the exquisitely cabled and seed-stitched socks. Despite how insanely hot he must've been, those were some serious socks.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Let me sum up

I was outside for an extended period of time today in the glorious Indian summer sun. At a local festival I ran into several friends from my former workplace. It was good to stop and catch up and see how everyone is doing. I also had fun explaining what it is I do for money these days. While wandering over towards the direction of some fine live music, I ran into a guy whose t-shirt pretty much tells it all.
I wonder where I can get an application to join?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! Wait, It Really is a Plane!

These guys are outside practicing for Saturday's Midsouth Airshow. It's really wild to see multi-million dollar speed demons streaking over the skies of the base and the small town next door. It's a beautiful day for flying!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Day Poems Might be Borne

Widower means
someone was there,
someone who loved her
at least.
Widower means
someone knew
how her hair curled loosely against her neck
as she slumbered deep;
how her soul could be touched
by lapis lazuli,
and how the scent of ginger made her dance.
He knew and remembers
what songs made her weep
and why,
the books she loved,
where she came from
and why she couldn't stay.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Sunne in Splendour

It's beautiful here, despite the rain. In the past week, our drought has ended with several days of rainfall that has ranged from the torrential to the pattering, and all of it a wonderful balm on the our parched fields, as well as our souls. Living in the south we expect July and August to be hot, but this particular year has been worse than usual. Fortunately, the humidity was lower than usual, but still, any day with a temperature over 95 (and we had several consecutive WEEKS of days that hot) is a drain on the water table and on the psychological well-being of everyone.

I love fall. I love the gradual changes that sneak up on us. I'm always so impressed when I suddenly see a bank of trees bronzed and gilded with afternoon light and changing leaves. We're not there quite yet, and given the 17" deficit in our rainfall this year, I doubt if we'll have much autumnal color. Still, the season is definitely starting to turn and for that, dear reader, I am exceedingly glad.

Yesterday afternoon about 6:30 I was driving Dear Daughter and Best Friend of Dear Daughter from the home of The Friend-Boy when I chanced to look at the western sky at precisely the right moment. The sun was tangled in a skein of cirrus-y cloud with long tendrils stretching out to the north. At the curled tips of the wispy cloud hovered a sun dog, brilliant in hues of green and bronze and yellow. I'd never seen one before and it's intense and surprising beauty fairly took my breath away.

For those who, like me, are largely ignorant of such things, the proper name for a sun dog is parhelion, but they are also called mock suns. They appear at a precise 22 degree angle on either side of the sun and are caused by light refracting on ice crystals in the atmosphere. We were treated to a lengthy show of color that waxed and waned as, presumably, the crystals rotated in the air. The show was truly breath-taking.

Edward Plantagenet, who ruled 15th century England as Edward IV, took the sun dog as his personal emblem. Called "the sunne in splendour," he was inspired by the appearance of parhelia on the morning of February 2, 1461, just prior to the battle at Mortimer's Cross against the Lancastrians under the command of Margaret of Anjou, Queen to the sad and devout Henry VI of England. Edward won the battle, and shortly thereafter, the crown of England, briefly putting to an end to the Wars of the Roses. His youngest brother Richard, succeeded him in a short reign that has been one of the most researched, maligned and dramatized in world history. I'm currently reading Anthony Cheetham's excellent The Life and Times of Richard III, and hope to follow it up by watching this, which takes a rather dim view of the youngest sun of York, but is cinematic excellence, nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Neon Memphis

Louis is a much better photographer than I will ever be (and I would make that link work, except the toolbar isn't showing up just now and I don't feel up to attempting to write the link out the long way).

More later. My bones are on fire today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Eve of Everything

It's raining tonight--a soft gentle rain that not only heals the thirsty world, but is a balm on our frayed psyches. Dear Daughter finishes homework while I try and think of a way to put into words all of the emotions that are swirling around us.

Tomorrow is Mom's surgery. She's in a good place. We're as safe as we can be.

On the way home from dinner Dear Daughter started crying and telling me about how worried she is about her grandmother. She said she was sorry for crying, so we talked about how love for the people around us sometimes fills us up so much that it leaks out of our faces in the form of tears. We're both a little leaky tonight.

I doubt if I'll be able to blog much in the next couple of days. Check Mom's Caring Bridge website (, then enter her name) for updates on her condition. I'll work on that site as soon as I can.

Oh, a special shout-out to Fine Old Famly, the Produce Man, e, Ry-Guy, Kim the Book Fairy, the Lunch Bunch and Master Chief BA for knowing what to say and how to say it. Thanks ever so much.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mambocat on the Second Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

If you don't read anything else today, read this. The post is titled Knit 2, Post K. If it doesn't piss you off and make you want to get some people one the phone, you might want to check your pulse.

I know what it means to miss New Orleans.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Waltz for Riley (in G, for Bassoon and Wooden Spoon)

Last night Dear Daughter and I were both jonesing pretty bad for some baby-love, so we called up Smiley Riley's mom and asked if we could borrow her baby for a couple of hours. I'd scarcely hung up before they were knocking at the back door. Lucky me, I got to sit in the floor for almost two hours cuddling, singing and babbling with our dear little girly.

Due to all kinds of circumstances outside our control, it had been almost a month since we'd spent any real time with her, and in a child this young, that span of time makes such a difference. Not only does she now have pierced ears, but her personality has grown and developed along with her motor skills and appetite.

Riley can now pull herself up along the edge of a table and take a few tentative steps. She is eating all kinds of food and holding her own bottle (and, should the situation warrant, snatching it from the hand of a slow-poke grown-up who isn't coming across with the snackies quite fast enough).

She's also developed a real fascination with the world around her. As we sat and played in the den, Roselle Rabbit was making her rounds. The bunny goosed the baby. The baby lunged for the bunny. It was a hoot watching the two observe each other.

Dear Daughter had band homework that required her to compose a few lines of music using the three notes she's learned thus far. Fortunately, she already reads music fairly well and is familiar enough with time signatures for this assignment to be easy. She composed a nice little ditty in 3/4 time using F, E flat and D. While she played her music Riley and I waltzed around the room laughing. It was a sweet way to end an evening. All things considered, life is awfully good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Sign Your Country May Be Losing the "War" on Terror

The Loved One got a rather interesting piece of mail yesterday. In addition to his fabulous job as an exploration geologist in the wilds of Alaska, he is also a Ph.D. candidate here at the local university. This is actually his second crack at his Ph.D. He was ABD (all but dissertation) at the University of Arizona some 20-odd years ago, but walked away from it for the opportunity to work in the Last Frontier. It turned out to be a pretty good deal for him then. He's been very happy in his work there.

In the late 1990s, he moved to Memphis to get married (to someone else, not me). He resurrected his dissertation and started a new Ph.D. program in Economic Geology. He's once again ABD, and has submitted a first draft of his dissertation. With a little luck and hard work he might complete it before retirement. I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter to him whether or not he completes the degree. If it's okay with him, it's certainly okay with me.

Apparently, with the anticipated completion of his degree and presumably his graduation, he's attracting some interest from potential employers. This would ordinarily be a good thing, except this particular prospect doesn't seem to do much research on its leads. The Loved One is 12 years older than I am, which makes him...of a certain age. Let's just say a draft card would look pretty funny in his wallet next to his AARP card.

What I found particularly intriguing about the Army's pitch to my "graduate" is the enticing copy on the outside of the brochure: "FREE GIFT OFFER INSIDE." Wow. Imagine what kind of fabulous offer the government of the greatest nation in the world would be offering to induce young men and women to consider a military career and risk life and limb in foreign lands! Unable to stand the suspense, I opened the brochure to find that simply for filling out a postage-paid response card (complete with a line for the applicant's Social Security Number and an extra card to give a friend), we could receive, absolutely free of charge a "personalized U.S. Army dog tag."

Amazing. What an offer! I'm really tempted to fill out the card with the name and address of Our Dear Leader, or perhaps his daughters, or perhaps the name and address of any of several of the people at whose doorstep the travesty that has become the war in Iraq could be laid. I'm sure the consequences for such a prank would be dire, but it would be at least as funny as a branch of the armed forces trying to recruit a 50+ year old geologist.

Click here for a list of those who not only got the free personalized dog tag, but also a complimentary body bag to go with it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Postcards from the Edge of Reason

We're in between doctor appointments today. I met Mother at her oncologist's office yesterday, and tomorrow I will meet her and my brother at the neurosurgeon's. The tumor appears to be operable, and we will find out tomorrow if/how and when her surgery will be.

In the meantime, Dear Daughter and I just had a good walk. There are big, boomy clouds in the sky this evening and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees between coming home and going out after dinner. We walked a long block--maybe a half mile, and then spent some time whacking the badminton birdie around. She's got a ways to go on that, but it was fun. Then we played catch with a rubber ball and took turns batting it across the yard. I love doing things like this with her, and it doesn't seem like real exertion because we're laughing and talking and joking while we do it.

Right now, she's gone back outside with her guitar to try and figure it out a little. Last night we had a rather extended piano and bassoon session, so I think we're up to date on both of those. She's playing some simple Bach minuets on the piano pretty well, and getting more comfortable with the fingering on the bassoon every day.

The stresses of the "other" stuff in our life right now are bringing us so close, and it couldn't come at a better time. She's 11, almost 12, and in her first year of middle school. I feel new currents in our relationship, and they're somewhat foreign and will take some getting used to. I love watching her grow and try her wings, but I'm still longing for her to be my little girl.

And, I'm not sure if she noticed, but I noticed that the two teenage boys across the street noticed when she walked by. Hmmm... time to buy the taser.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Approximate Size of my Favorite Tumor

Sherman Alexie is my very favorite Native American writer. Actually, he's the only Native American writer with whom I have enough familiarity to even discuss. But still, he's good. Oh, he's so good. In the summer of 1994, I was overwhelmed with life changes and when I wasn't working at the studio, I spent a lot of time in the old main library in midtown on Peabody Avenue.

Growing up, our family lived within walking distance of a branch library. When I saw "walking distance," you must understand I mean 1968 walking distance, when families still left the house after dinner, together and on foot. We walked lots of places, but the almost-mile down the block, around the corner-left on Tutwiler and straight down the hill to the Randolph was one of our favorite destinations. We'd haul a Radio Flyer red metal wagon behind us, sometime with a few of us kids in it, sometimes not. We made the trip at least once a week and always brought the wagon home, stuffed to the rails with books.

I truly cannot remember a time in my life when I could not read. With two older sisters who were both early and natural readers, I take it for granted that I just started reading one day the same way I one started breathing or eating or walking. I remember getting my own library card, back when they were still hand-written on thin yellow cardboard by the lady librarian with the glasses held around her neck with a silver bead chain. Because I was only four at the time, she was reluctant to let me have the card. A stipulation was that the applicant had to be able to sign the card, and at the time I still wrote upside-down and backwards. One of our neighbors was a student library worker though, and, as he was also our babysitter, he had firsthand knowledge that I could indeed read well enough to have my own card.

I've always loved libraries, and in June of 1994, the main library was a place of great comfort for me. I would linger for hours, wandering through the aisles browsing. I had the leisure time to look and investigate books with interesting covers or titles. It was during this time I discovered Sherman Alexie and his collections of poetry and short stories.

Alexie is a Coeur d'Alene/Spokane Native, and writes the most painfully and powerfully beautiful prose. He writes mostly of the gritty realism of life on the rez, of the cultural divide that still exists between us and them, of social and educational inequities, of alcoholism, despair and poverty. Alexie takes these difficult themes and using his wry, spare humor crafts something wonderful and graceful out of them. In other, less loving hands, his stories would end up suitable for films by Quentin Tarantino or Ridley Scott. I would give a lot to write half as well as this man. Sherman Alexie writes better grocery lists than anything I'll ever dream up.

After reading Alexie's 1993 collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, I wrote him a card telling him how much I enjoyed the book. He was kind enough to write me a quick card back. In 2004, when he spoke at Rhodes College, I packed up Dear Daughter and dragged her along to the lecture. It wasn't exactly the very best atmosphere for a third grader, but if she's going to learn some of the more difficult truths about life, I'd much prefer she learn them in my company, and from the mouth of someone who actually cares about this world.

Anyway, we met the author after the lecture, and he said he remembered my letter. It was a nice thing for him to say. He signed our book. We talked awhile about things we like.

I borrowed the title for this post from the name of one of Alexie's very best short stories. It's the tale of a man, dying of cancer, whose wife leaves him because he refuses to take his illness seriously. In the end she returns because, as she puts it, "someone needs to help you die the right way. And we both know that dying ain't something you ever done before."

Mom came home from the hospital today. She'll go for a PET scan Monday, and another evaluation by her oncologist and the neurosurgeon later next week. After these appointments, she'll decide about further treatment. The approximate size of my favorite tumor is nearly four centimeters. That's the size of my thumb, or the cone of my computer speakers, or the screen on my cell phone, your average pluot. It's located in her frontal lobe, where it can't possibly be doing her any good. We don't know what's going to happen in the next few weeks. This ain't something we've ever done before.