Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Back home, I was unsatisfied. But then arrives the familiar feeling that explains clearly why I will never be a world famous photographer. When a great photo happens, I've overjoyed. But when a photo fails to ignite my passion, I'm not one to force myself back out into the trenches to try again. This will do for now, I think. And I move on to something else.
The same could be said for many of my more creative endeavors, or attempts at creative endeavors. I get ideas. But I don't complete most of them. I need a creative partner - or two. Right about now, for instance, I could use someone to finish this blog entry.
Monday, December 9, 2013
These last few days, however, have been very odd. Freeze warnings at night and sweater weather during the day. Last night I woke up and stumbled to the linen closet to drag out an extra quilt to throw on my bed. When I woke up this morning, before I opened my eyes, I questioned whether I had dreamed it. But no, there it was!
I've been bragging for years about eating Christmas dinner out by the pool the first winter I lived in Arizona. It was an amazing experience that convinced me that I really wanted to live here for the rest of my life. But it doesn't look like we'll be doing that this year!
What helps me to survive the brutal heat of an Arizona summer is imagining the winter months with my doors and windows open to let in the warm air. I've only had a few weeks of open window weather, so far, and I'm feeling cheated! I hope it gets warmer soon.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Friday, December 6, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013
My own relationship with alcohol is not so black or white. As a teenager, I smoked pot. Alcohol was just not interesting to me. I recall drinking some beer, but I favored Miller ponies (the shame!) because there was a small chance that I might actually finish one before it got hot. When I did get to the point where I might have a mixed drink, I liked a Pina Colada. Clearly, I wasn't in to alcohol!
So how did I end up married to an alcoholic, you might ask? He was abstaining from alcohol when I met him because he was living with an older cousin who was a recovering alcoholic. Never in a million years did it occur to me that he might have a problem. When I met his family, I cheerfully answered, "I'm a drug and alcohol counselor" when asked about my career. Only much later would I be able to make sense of the stunned silence that followed my response. My new husband's mother was an alcoholic who had been married five times - to five alcoholics. My husband's father, absent from his life for years at the time I met him, was one of those five alcoholic husbands. My husband's sisters were both drug addicts, addicted to crack cocaine. My husband's brothers were alcoholics, although the oldest had managed to completely distance himself from the family and was clean and sober. My husband was considered to be the only healthy member of the family. He had never mentioned any of this during our short courtship.
After our first son was born, I encouraged him to find an activity to do outside the house. He joined the office bowling league and promptly started coming home drunk on Wednesday nights. I'll spare you the ugly details. After an attempt at marriage counseling, thwarted by his mother who told him "there is NOTHING wrong with you!!!", the marriage was over.
But my relationship with alcohol pre-dated my fiasco marriage. My father's second wife was a raging alcoholic who was typically drunk by about 3 p.m. every day. My sister and I first visited the new couple when we were 9 and 10. The next summer, she became enraged at me and sicced her German Shepherd on me. I narrowly escaped mayhem by climbing an apple tree. My father came home from work, rescued me and took me to the airport to send me back home to my mother. My father and I were estranged for a few years after that and only reconciled after that marriage ended.
You could say that alcohol has not been kind to me. So why do I have alcohol in my cupboard? For one, I love to cook. The Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Glazed Carrots are amazing, so Jack Daniels is an absolute MUST have. My sweetheart likes a good screwdriver, so I keep Ketel One and orange juice in the house for him. The other bottles are the product of having people over for dinner and asking them what they like to drink. I also keep red and white wines on hand, just in case. But if left to my own devices, an open bottle of wine will eventually be poured down the drain. I just don't drink.
One of my favorite takes on alcohol is a song written by Sofie Livebrant & Svante Sjoblom and recorded by Brad Paisley:
I can make anybody pretty
I can make you believe any lie
I can make you pick a fight
with somebody twice
your size. . .
Well I've been known to cause a few breakups
and I've been known to cause a few births
I can make you new friends
Or get you fired from work.
And since the day I left Milwaukee,
Lynchburg, Bordeaux, France
Been makin the bars
Lots of big money
and helpin white people dance
I got you in trouble in high school
but college now that was a ball
you had some of the best times
you'll never remember with me
I got blamed at your wedding reception
for your best man's embarassing speech
and also for those naked pictures of you at the beach
I've influenced kings and world leaders
I helped Hemingway write like he did
and I`ll bet you a drink or two that I can make you
put that lampshade on your head . .
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Every day, when I got out of school, I walked about a half mile from the elementary school to my mother's job. My sister and I were supposed to walk together, but we were mortal enemies then and I walked really fast to keep ahead of her. As a result, I always arrived first and got lots of attention from Granny B before my sister finally walked in. I convinced myself that Granny B liked me best.
So when I got turtles, I rushed to tell her all about them. She asked me if I had named them. I hadn't. So I asked her what her real name was. She said Roberta. I asked her what her husband's name was. She said John. And that was that. My turtles died. My mother, with her typical mix of self-absorption and neglect-is-good-for-children, hadn't bothered to do any research on the care and feeding of turtles. They probably starved to death because they didn't get proper nutrition from whatever I was giving them.
Since then, though I continued to love turtles, I kept my collecting to the non-breathing brand of turtles. My mother, once again, was the source of my very first turtle. It was from Mexico and carved out of marble. I'm many decades and dozens of turtles down the road from that first one. I've had to cull the collection several times because people have given me some horribly ugly turtles over the years. But I've also had some wonderful ones. I even had a little padded turtle footstool until one of my pets destroyed it. Sigh. I really liked that footstool too.
Somebody asked me today, why turtles? Long after I started collecting them, I learned that the turtle is featured in lots of creation stories. That's pretty cool. The tortoise beat the hare in a race because he was slow and steady rather than rushed and careless. Yeah, yeah, yeah. The turtle is awesome. But why did I start collecting them? I honestly don't know. But I once came face to face with a green sea turtle at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. He was swimming around the tank and came to a stop just in front of me, seemingly ignoring all the other humans. He moved his flippers to maintain his position and mere inches apart, we gazed into each other's eyes. I felt like I was looking into the eyes of time. He seemed to be saying to me, "Hey, I know you. I've known you for a long, long, long time." My whole body relaxed and it felt like I was being called to swim out to sea. Or maybe he was just asking me to take him back out there. Who knows?
I've had similar encounters with turtles since then. Each one feels the same. I feel a kinship, which sounds really stupid. but it feels real. I am a turtle. How I got in this human body is not explainable.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I've never really had a strong and lasting desire for things. Every now and then I'll see something that I want and I'll really want it for a while. But it usually passes. I like silver more than I like gold, even though I know it isn't as valuable.
"Silver and gold, silver and gold, I'd rather have Jesus, than silver and gold. No fame or fortune, nor riches untold. I'd rather have Jesus, than silver and gold." (Kirk Franklin, Silver and Gold)
No, my lack of desire for things isn't borne of any religious belief, none that I can identify anyway. If I was forced to tie it, I would be more likely to tie it to Buddhism. Most people think that the Buddhist view of wealth is one in which it is renounced. But that's not really true. It's okay to have wealth, provided it is gained through right living. If one is exploiting others in order to gain riches, the wealth would be frowned upon. And once one has wealth, the expectation would be that one would freely dispense with it to help others. Getting too attached to material goods is the greatest obstacle to good living. So maybe that's what I've been after. I don't ever want to be so attached to something that I can't turn it loose.
"Silver is produced from lighter elements in the Universe through the r-process, a form of nuclear fusion believed to take place during certain types of supernova explosions. This produces many elements heavier than iron, of which silver is one." (Hansen, C. J.; Primas, F. (2010). "Silver Stars". Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union 5: 67.)
The silver rush in the 1800's was responsible for an increase in westward movement in the USA. The first big find was the Comstock Lode in Nevada, which led to lots of crazy people rushing to get to the location in hopes of striking it rich. And some did. Comstock was just lucky to be there at all. He was actually left there to be caretaker of the cabin belonging to the Grosh brothers, who had earlier found both silver and gold at the site. But this was just a decade after the gold rush in California and they were intent on getting there, so they left Comstock at their cabin and headed west. They both died, so Comstock claimed the cabin and the land around it. But the Grosh brothers didn't get credit for the find. Neither did Comstock. Such were the vagaries of the day. None of the original miners really made any money. No, the real money was made by the money handlers in San Francisco, who manipulated the value of silver in order to amass huge fortunes. Some things never change.
"Genius without education is like silver in the mine." (Benjamin Franklin)
My father's maternal grandparents were quite wealthy. My grandmother, the eldest of six children, was encouraged to get all the education she could. She was born in 1891, so going to college was rare for women of her generation. Only a few women's colleges existed and she went to three of them. Papa Joe (my great-grandfather) enrolled her at Winthrop College (of which he was one of the founders) and Converse College, both in South Carolina where the family lived. But after that he sent her to Smith College, because he also wanted her to have an education at a northern school. So she ended up with two bachelor degrees, one from Converse and one from Smith. Grandmother was a smart woman with knowledge about many things. She and Granddaddy then went on to send all five of their children to college. By the time we came along, it was just expected that we would all attend college. In my family, education is critical. Learning and a thirst for information is one of the main gifts we have as human beings. To deny it is to wither on the vine.
"For all the gold and silver stolen and shipped to Spain did not make the Spanish people richer. It gave their kings an edge in the balance of power for a time, a chance to hire more mercenary soldiers for their wars. They ended up losing those wars anyway, and all that was left was a deadly inflation, a starving population, the rich richer, the poor poorer, and a ruined peasant class." (Hans Konig)
Wow. That sounds familiar. Today we have the wealthiest of Americans getting richer, the poorest Americans getting poorer and a disappearing middle class. What's different about us is that the richest are using a new strategy of convincing the people with not much that the poor are trying to steal it from them. While the people with not much are focusing their angry eyes on the poor, the rich steal them blind. It's amazing that it works.
I dreamed last night of a giant escalator to heaven. The sides shone silver in the light of the sun. It had multiple stages where people would get off for examination. The one I noticed was for evangelicals. I got the sense that since they claimed to know God better than anyone, that their examination would be specifically detailed. But it seemed that it wasn't going well what with all that judging and excluding that goes on in those circles. Their faces looked shocked. Further up the escalator were some children. They were playing on the moving stairs. I wanted to tell them to stop because their feet might get caught. I even wondered if there was an emergency stop button at the bottom and the top, just in case.
That escalator looked almost inviting. But I'm not ready to get on just yet.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
The oldest sister had escaped and left the two youngest to fend for themselves. She managed to cross to the other end of the continent - safe - at least for a while. But even from a distance, the master of manipulation kept her vying for the prize.
Maybe individual talents had been developed in response. Maybe the youngest was gregarious and entertaining because she learned early on that this disarmed the master of manipulation. Maybe the oldest developed musical talent and an amazing way with fabrics in an effort to finally gain the elusive prize of permanent approval. Maybe the middle sister developed her brain and her ability to store massive amounts of information in order to impress the master of manipulation. Or maybe they would all three have been this way even if the master of manipulation had not been so. Maybe they would have been the same - only happier.
The master of manipulation still reigns supreme. But the sisters have figured it out. They lost years and years of support and love for one another. But they will claim what is left. They will love each other and care for each other from now until death. It is decided.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Big Mike strolled over to the side porch and peeked around the corner real quick. Yep, Aunt Maimie was working Daddy's shirt through the roller, getting the water out. At her feet was a big basket full of other just-washed things. If he stepped out now, the next 20 minutes would be wasted hanging out wash.
He eased backwards through the front door of the summer house and walked as quietly as he could down the shotgun hall to the back of the house. If he cut through the copse of pine trees, he could circle around that way and Aunt Maimie would never even know he'd been there. He had something to do that could not wait. The excitement propelled him forward.
Monday, November 25, 2013
I'm 55. But I can look back over my life and see a pattern of quirkiness. My earliest years (1959-1964) were spent in Japan as the daughter of missionaries. My hair was so blonde that is was almost white. I stood out!!! It was not uncommon for Japanese people to touch my hair and exclaim about how soft it was and what an interesting color. I'm quite sure that I absorbed the message that I did not belong! I was quirky.
My personality was beginning to form during this time. My parents tell me that I had an astonishing level of energy, unlike anything they had seen with their first three children. I would never stop moving all day long and would resist bedtime until finally I would simply collapse from exhaustion wherever I happened to be. I was also an entertainer. A recording of me telling the Goldenlocks story is now lost, but was a hilarious insight into my 4 year old personality. You can hear my oldest sister, 8 years my senior, attempting to guide me through the telling. I keep saying "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" in a very dramatic way, making it very clear that it is ME telling this story!!!
First grade found the family in Massachusetts, where my extremely poor English made me an easy target for the cruelties of children. I spoke Japanese fluently, but avoided saying anything because that only led to misery. There was no winning. I was the outsider and would be for all of our four years there.
But if I thought that was bad, I was totally unprepared for the next move to Georgia. My English was fine by then, but any Southern person can tell you that kids how move there from Massachusetts have a whole different set of challenges to face! The Boston accent! The lack of familial connection to anyone there! The inability to identify a hushpuppy! It was murder.
When you're on the outside looking in, the only people who embrace you are other people who are on the outside looking in. So it's no surprise that both in Massachusetts and in Georgia, my circle of friends included other misfits. We were ALL quirky! And together, we helped each other feel normal.
Georgia was my home from 5th grade through 9th grade. In 1973, we moved again to North Carolina. Again, I found myself on the outside looking in. But it was easier. I was learning to ignore people who didn't like me. Instead, I adopted an "I don't care" attitude and used my energy to identify people who DID like me! I graduated high school with a handful of high school friends and a wider circle of friends who were older.
College was easier. There were lots of quirky people there! We formed "The Family", with pseudo-marital and familial relationships that created a complex family tree. But we all loved each other, quirkiness and all!