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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Move… (Story Idea)


Dear Husband…

My suggestions worked best as letters, I’ve found. We, Greg and I, have taken to checking the mailbox out front every day, just in case the flag is up. It lets us know we were thought of. We have done this little method of honey-do’s, love letters, and just-because’s for a few years now. Complete with those fake stamps that come in the mail when you order a new set of checks. It’s a more complete look. I am well aware that email is an option, but really, who doesn’t love a handwritten letter addressed to them? Plus, it gives the new mail-lady, Merna, a reason to hang out for a moment, wondering why there is a letter from our address, going TO our address.

Which she does. Every time.

I make it a thing to be there at the front window at noon-ish, to watch. The envelopes are random enough that she scrunches up her eyes all crinkle-like and purses her lips for a minute. I can practically see the lightbulb pop over her head, over and over again. I chalk it up to her advancing years. Amusing.

Ahem…

Dear Husband,
I am writing to inform you that I have come to a brilliant conclusion. We should move back home. Home to our roots. We grew up together there, married there, and it has been a long time since we have been back. Enough time has passed that most of our co-conspirators will have grown mature (like us, heh heh), moved out of town, or still be serving time in prison. ūüôā Our original community, our family and neighbors, and the general feel of belonging may just be fun after our jaunts to The Great Outside, gaining our own habits and traditions.
What say you?
-Me

I mailed it, put the flag up, and looked at my list of things to do. House stuff, bills, and errands were at the top, of course. I chose to make another list, however. I flopped down in The Queen’s Chair, my big leather recliner, and enjoyed the quiet as the sun warmed the room through the big window. The King’s Chair had our cat, Move, in it. She was there in defiance of my husband’s proclamation: MOVE, CAT! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED IN MY CHAIR. She looked at me sleepily, and promptly closed her eyes. She makes LAZY a career. I turned to my phone. It had one of those notebook apps on it, and I used it way too much. It was a jumble of random thoughts, lists, and phone numbers.

I added to it.

I added all the things needed for the move to our hometown. I ignored immediately the reality of the list. Or the facts about things like… details. Nope, I just bounced around to the beginning of the end of our time here, in this house.

-Take a trip to hometown to look for just the right house. Preferably the beautiful one on Main Street with that wraparound porch. I want to watch the parades with ease.

As a former marching band member and parade participant, I wondered what it would look like from the sidelines. I remembered the practices throughout the summer, marching down various streets, lanes, roads, and avenues, carrying an enormous instrument and knowing I was part of the center of attention for those moments. The attention had made me a bit nervous and self-conscious, practicing on songs that I may or may not have flubbed, until I would notice various kids, out playing in their yards before the heat hit, waving and waving and waving for us to… what? Nod our head? Come over and see their stick art in the sand pile? Wave back? They would watch us play, perform our various maneuvers, and as we would march away, would go right on back to their stick play.

What is it that makes people wave at their live entertainment, anyway?

I remember me waving fanatically at a huge cartoon mouse at Disney World, a couple years ago. Couldn’t help it. Just a knee jerk reaction. I didn’t even have a little kid with me to use as camouflage. Other adults would be holding a little one, pulling up their kid’s chubby arm and make it flap in the air. This was the strategy to gain favor with the kid, while using their own grown-up enthusiasm to convince the child that seeing a giant mouse coming toward them for the first time was natural, normal, and pleasant. Worked like a charm. Kids all over the place would giggle and grin, heedless of the drool running down their chin. Older children would jump up and down, one hand on the pantleg of their adult and the other waving desperately to be seen. That grown-up would usually take pity on them and swish them up and over and onto their shoulders for a better view.

There was no one pulling up MY limb, urging me to gain favor with the mouse. That energy just burbled up, and before I knew it, I was just as happy as the 4 year old standing next to me picking his nose with the handle of a lollipop. I waved, the mouse waved back, probably to the 4 year old, and I felt special. End of story.

I would nod my head at those kids as I marched on, by the way. I’d nod my entire brass instrument to do it, and it made me feel gracious, doling out my special acknowledgement as I marched down the street. Hello to you, young one. And to you, flag-waver. Nod for you and your cabbage-patch kid, as well…. It would make up for the enormous, wet ring I would gain from that mouthpiece being attached to my lips for 2 hours. It would make up for the blisters from the ridiculous plasticky shoes I was forced to wear. They matched the Colonel Sanders get-up that someone, years ago, decided was a good idea for a uniform. Bright red WOOL suit? In July? What kind of monster were you, former Band President??

I believe the waving also made up for my face getting splotchy from the dehydration. Sickly white patches would contrast with hold-your-breath-for-as-long-as-you-can red spots around my face and neck when I would exert myself. Ask anyone that played tennis with me. I have heard, “OH YOUR POOR FACE…” way too many times for my own good. It was always accompanied by, “Can I get you something? A doctor?…” and it would bring on my canned answer, “I’m FINE, really. I’m alright. I get this way when I’m having fun. HaHaHa…” Not attractive, a’tall.

The looks I would get from marching were worth it, because as I became accustomed to the routines, the notes, and the stares, I’d enjoy the day. The flags. The floats and Mustangs filled with this county’s royalty or that little league championship team. The fire engines spraying water and throwing taffy simultaneously, daring the kids to come close enough to grab the treasure.

There were the elderly ladies holding court under the big elm trees, their grandkids and husbands opening coolers full of soda for them. They would wave benevolently at the parade participants, many of whom they had taught in church. Their wispy, fine hair, shaped in a perfect ball, would crown them in subtle hues of blues, grays, and silvers.

I would pass the extended family sections, cordoned off by folding camp chairs and die-hards, camping out for the prior 24 hours to get the coveted spot under the broom trees. Dozens of grown-ups and gaggles of kids, all with faces painted red, white, and blue to match the shirts, socks, and hair bows their moms had so joyously created from scratch. All would wave and clap as we went by, hoping we would stop and perform a simple routine for them. Just for them, it would seem.

And then there was the house I loved. Victorian, large, and grown seamlessly from the informal, yet tidy yard, a happy crew of twenty or so would be barbecuing and playing water balloon games on the big lawn. Yelling and laughing would follow my ears as we marched to the cadence of the drums. That house meant love. It meant Rest-From-The-Cares-Of-The-world. It meant a sigh of relief at the end of a full day.

I realized two things then, as I reminisced. 1. Move had moved from the King’s Chair to my lap, and 2. I had started snoring.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2015 in Life

 

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Snowballs, Slugs, and Cohorts…


A snowball whizzed inches from my head. It beaned Greg, the skinny kid with a huge nose and too much acne, on the side of the face. Greg fell back with a grunt.¬†That guy had the WORST luck.¬†I ducked down fast, and looked around. Jerry was inching his face around the side of the fort, low and slow, an expert in the art of snowball war.¬†Look at that form. He’s a natural! ¬†He had three snowballs at the ready, and his hand was groping for them, waiting for the right minute to… BAM! Quick as lightning, Jerry launched ONE!, TWO!, THREE!, snowballs and, as the enemy¬†was looking to dodge them, he shot his hidden fourth missile, smacking the leader. It creamed him right in the kisser, and boy¬†was he ticked!¬†I bellowed a triumphant “TAKE THAT, BROTHER!”, the tamest of my teasing, and¬†stood up to gloat. Looking back,¬†I probably should have kept those words¬†to myself because three big shapes bounded from the opposing snow wall. It looked like Jerry was in for a world of hurt.

Wait a minute… I WAS IN FOR A WORLD OF HURT!

And we were. Gone were the gentleman’s unspoken rules of snowball fighting. The part where opponents stay behind their own forts, except when TIME OUT is called. Or to scramble for mounds of snow when the current pile is used up. The rule where plans were made and carried out with whispered commands and nods of the heads. ¬†Those rules became moot with that last insult. It put my brother over the top, literally, as he leaped over the fort itself, and the older, grumpier boys barreled right on after him to pummel us.

Jerry received some punches, but they were doled out with respect. After all, he had a great arm and great aim, and in the snowball fighting world, that meant something. Greg was also spared the brunt of the attack, but mostly out of pity. I mean, the guy was not a threat. With his gangly limbs and enormous glasses, he had mostly been taking up space. But I… well… I was the real target. I was mouthy and talked big. It was time for them to put me in my place.

Richard, my older brother by about 2 minutes, is all,¬†took some real whacks at me. My nose got bloodied, and my right arm went numb with the knuckles of his fist. We had bruised his ego, my friends and I, and by unspoken rule, he had to let me have it. His cohorts backed him up loyally, if not quite as enthusiastically.¬†He wanted me to call uncle, but suddenly I rallied.¬†I’m not going down like this, no sir!

As unbecoming as it was, I yelled an obscenity. A full obscenity about mom, which surprised us both, seeing that 1. Swear words were not an option at our house. 2. I was willing cross the line about our respected and feared mother! It signaled to my gang that all bets were off. My team¬†scrambled backwards over the snow, getting a bit of space between our enemies, and then went back in. I kicked and slapped and bit. I pulled hair and tweaked any part of loose skin I ran into. My buddies lunged into their own particular forms of scrapping. In short, we fought like … like… well, we fought like girls. I was fine with that. After all, I WAS a girl, and my gang was firmly under my leadership.

Jerry switched up his moves from the dodge and weave, to the yell and kick. Screaming,Hi-Yaaa!”, at the top of one’s¬†lungs could be surprisingly effective.¬†Greg spit a loogie as he got close to his enemy’s hair, and I wondered if that wasn’t going too far, but the technique was flawless. Richard and his right hand man, Dan, skittered back as if it were venom. There was no holding back. And in that moment, something great happened.

I realized that being the younger, smaller twin didn’t mean I had to be the weaker twin. I had bowed to my brother for most of my life. He had my back when my mouth got us in trouble, but against him, he made sure I knew he was in charge.¬†Well, Not Today!!

I punched my brother as hard as I could in the stomach, pouring my new found confidence into my fist. ¬†I got ready to take the hit that should have come back. I even closed my eyes for a second, anticipating, and then…nothing. I opened my eyes and saw the surprised look on his face as he experienced my determination. Richard was hesitating, probably for the first time in his life. I saw him go from a husky, swaggering 10-year old, to a sullen pre-teen that didn’t know what to do next. I had stood up to him, and it threw him off.

I could see the gears turning in his head. My team was supposed to take the hits, and he would save face. Instead, our little gang found some backbone. Some grit. After all, my team was willing to SPIT to defend ourselves, and that was commitment. We didn’t care about his expectations, and that was new. And Richard did NOT do change well. His pack noticed his reluctance, and slowed up a bit. Then stopped altogether. We were at an impasse.

All of us gulped great breaths of air while looking at each other. I needed this win, so I was grinning as I was gulping. I knew I was winning simply because I gave as good as I got. I noticed a cut on Richard’s cheek, and remembered where my nails scratched his flesh. I had also given him a good kick to the behind, but knew he would never acknowledge that.¬†I had cheated unabashedly to gain my win, fighting all girl-like, but, I reasoned, he started it when he broke the rules of the snowball fight in the first place. Also… we were 10. Fairness was still a loose interpretation. Fluid, if you will. As long as Mom didn’t find out.

She didn’t.

Our gangs broke up, claiming the need to go home for chores/dinner/homework. Richard and I walked into the kitchen together, and mom asked immediately about our scrapes and cuts. She scolded us for our rough play as the marks¬†showed their brilliant reds and pinks. Mom demanded to know what had happened, and who’s mother needed calling, but we shrugged it off as no big deal. She huffed and puffed, shaking her stirring spoon and threatening to tell our father, but we knew she was reaching. Eventually, she went back to cooking dinner.

Richard and I never spoke about the broo-ha-ha after that, but we had established mutual respect, and that went a long way in the years to come.

“And that was the beginning of standing up for myself, Dot.”

I was sitting at the edge of her bed as Emily, my granddaughter, listened, occasionally hiccuping through tears of frustration and pain. I called her Dot, short for Granddaughter, when I wanted her to know I was in her corner, and this was one of those times. “Never confuse being strong with being mean. I know your mom would say you shouldn’t have fought back, but I think you were spot on.”

Emily had been banished to her room. After a humiliating event of being sent to the principal’s office, she had to watch the¬†manoffice%20of%20the%20principal make a phone call to her mother. It had been a long day all around, and she looked miserable. She now held on to her childhood blanket, only acknowledging it at all when she was distraught. (Emily¬†was way too old for it, she had claimed, but allowed it on her bed “for her mom’s sake”, who was all for sentimentality.) Emily now scrunched the tattered corner of the yellow blankie, wringing it back and forth in her hands.

That’s how I knew she was in anguish.

She had been part of an “altercation” involving 2 other girls in the hallway. Mr. Calloway, her principal, had scolded her soundly for fostering “an atmosphere of hostility”, letting her mom know there was no choice but to suspend her from school for 3 days. Emily’s mom had needed to take time off work to pick her up immediately.

“The ride home was awful, Nana. Mom yelled at me the WHOLE WAY!” Emily snuffled a bit as she started talking, and wiped her nose on her blanket unconsciously. Dot is adorable when she’s angry. She gets¬†that from me.¬†She was so vulnerable, but had started down her path to defiance. I felt honored to share this time with her. I looked attentive, keeping my musings to myself, and let her keep talking.

Apparently, Emily’s mom, Andrea, was outraged at the barrage from Mr. Calloway, and wouldn’t hear a word of explanation from her daughter. “Do you know what I had to interrupt to come pick you up?”, Emily mimed with exaggerated voice and motions. “A very important meeting with my BOSS!” She tapped her nails on an imaginary steering wheel and huffed a bit. “Now it looks like I’ve got family problems, and I already have to compensate for being the only woman on the team. UUUHHHH! I’m so disappointed in you!…” On and on Emily¬†ranted, not letting up until she finally felt done.

“Then your mom pointed her finger up the stairs, and off¬†you went to your room, right?” I concluded for her. “You promptly called your Nana, and here I am.¬†Nana will fix it. She’ll stand up to Mom. Plus, she spoils me!”¬† I did my own imitation of Emily, exaggerating my motions with my arms folded and a HARRUMPH at the end. “So you waited in your room, fostering your outrage by mentally conversing, first with the assumptive principal, and then your unfair mother. I know you, Dot. You do this, just like I used to do it.” Emily smiled, faintly, and I knew I was right.

“Let me guess what you said, okay? I bet I’m close.”¬†Ahem.¬†

“Oooooo… you have to pick on me JUST to make yourself important, you old geezer. You strut around making commands and don’t have a clue about whats REALLY going on!”¬†That’s what I should have said to him. I don’t even care. Hmmph!¬†What is with his hair anyway? That comb-over isn’t fooling anyone.¬†And that wrinkly old suit? He wears it every day! EWW! He is such a jerk!

Emily smiled a bit more, accompanying it with expressions of derision and a bit of eye rolling. It felt good.

“And you, MOM! Just stop! Let ME speak for once! It wasn’t even my fault!”¬† Emily was especially angry with her mom, as she wanted desperately to impress her own hero. Her smile lessened and her eyes went down to her blanket as I mimicked her frustration. “I hate that you just assume I was fighting for no reason. And saying you are DISAPPOINTED in me? Well… maybe I’m disappointed in YOU!…”¬†

Emily pounded a fist into her pillow. She was that angry.

“You were probably plotting your agenda to run away when I¬†came in, weren’t you? Well, I’m here now, so you tell me why it all happened.”¬†I hugged her, and then listened. Haltingly, she explained that she had been the brunt of gossip, and then jeers and insults by 2 girls in the school hallway. She had tried to ignore it calmly, but when they started in on her single mother being only able to afford second-hand clothes for her raggedy daughter, she exploded.

Emily hurled an insult or two, Also gotten from me, and the girls pounced on her. “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!” The crowd chanted, and was broken up, but not before there were slaps and gouges exchanged. She gave as good as she got.

“I tried so hard to let it go, Nana, but I just…couldn’t. Mom works her tail off so we can be ok, and I had to just… you know, do SOMETHING, and now Mom is mad at me. I HATE HER!” Emily shut her eyes and leaned back, sullen. I leaned back next to her. “Dot, give your mom some time. She didn’t stand up to her bully when she should have, and now she has to fight every day for her place at work. Let’s wait a bit, and then we will talk with her together. You scored a victory today. They won’t challenge you again, at least for a while. And the other students know not to mess with you. I’m proud of you.”

Emily’s hiccups eventually slowed, then stopped. We spoke of boys and … boys. Then it was time to take on my daughter, but Dot now knew she had a cohort, and that made her brave. It was a start.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Life

 

Pass The Forgiveness, Please…


imageSomeone gave me cause to use forgiveness in the last little while. Well, two someones. They used my compassion and kindness and trust and took full advantage of it. Poison infected our lives because of it. Uncertainty and heartache came from it, and I am Pissed!

There is a lot of implied power when the word forgiveness comes up. Like a spell from a wand used triumphantly, only after a great quest has been conquered. Or maybe as if it was stumbled upon when digging through an old abandoned chest, and then spoken as a knee-jerk reaction.

I know. I use it every once in a while.

The truth is that if I choose not to use forgiveness, I feel weak. Like I should wave it around to make someone else feel better, whether I feel it or not. “Honey?? Say you’re sorry to your brother.” Tap! You are forgiven. “I’m sure she didn’t mean it.” BRRIIINNNGGG! You are forgiven. “Don’t hold a grudge! ¬†It’s all water under the bridge.” WHACK! I forgive you as well.

A convenient wand for comfort.

The truth is, I hoard it. It is part of keeping my word to myself that I will be true to me. Still, somewhere in the back of my head, I feel selfish. And, I guess I am because I make it my choice how to dole it out.

I giveth and I taketh away…

Sometimes I just put forgiveness on my emotional shelf and wait for a bit. I take that spell of power down, every once in a while, and look at it. I feel it and think about using that power, and then I put it right back where it was, on the shelf of SOMEDAYS. It’s up there with a bottle of “boldness”. It hangs out with bunches of “risk” and bundles of “reckless abandon”. It lies in front of a very dusty packet of “trust”.

I’m using the power of “honesty” today. The honesty that says, “You piss me off. You betrayed my trust and my loyalty. You took advantage of me and you did it on purpose. You suck.” The problem is, it is not socially acceptable. The truth makes others uncomfortable. Like having a stranger talk to you about Jesus right off the bat. Or a neighbor complaining about the dirty homeless problem, and ending the rant with, “Am I right?”. Or having your friend call himself a fat cow when he is overweight. He’s not, but he is expecting to be comforted. They all are looking for justification. Thus, it’s just not polite to be honest.

“And how are you today?”

“Oooo, you look sad. What’s wrong?”

Hug Hug. Pat on the back. “You look like you need a hug…”

The proper response is I’m Fine in each one of those cases, but inside I seethe with, “What’s it to you?” And then comes the weakness. The lack of forgiveness. I could easily forgive them for being oblivious, or using the human form of “I see you and this is my response.” Well, sometimes I forgive, and sometimes I don’t.¬†Chalk it up to the phases of the moon.

That’s a thing. Seriously.

Now, JESUS is what my daughter thinks of when I use the word forgiveness with her. I asked her, and, BAM! simple as that, she knows what it is to unconditionally love and forgive. She is wise. They go together for her. But just so we clear this up, I’m no Jesus. Maybe forgiveness is a compassion of a sort. It is a balm that could give me courage. Which is another potion waaaayyy in the back of that shelf of SOMEDAYS, by the way.

imageAs she reads this, proofreading a bit, and brainstorming a bit, I notice the simplicity in her view. Then she asks, ‘What would happen if you just mixed them all together? Those spells that have a hold over you?” What, indeed… What would come of being bold, and risking with reckless abandon, trusting that forgiveness would give me the courage to become whole again?

It’s comforting in theory, but what about those Jay-Holes that crapped all over my space? They are gone, now, and the chaos is settling down, but still. It’s a choice. Do I stay hurt and wounded? Well, up to this point I had taken down Righteous Indignation from that emotional shelf and sprinkled it liberally from bedroom to kitchen, all the while chanting about their weaknesses and gossiping to whomever would listen. And rightfully so.

Right?

Now, the chanting is old. The words are old. The emotions are old. The story is old. And that’s how I know it is time to put that feeling away. So what do I choose now? I look and look and look over the possibilities. The combinations. The right thing, and you know what?

I think it’s time for a brew. A stew-ee brew.

imageI will throw into my cauldren of life some compassion and kindness for flavor, but use caution and logic as the basics. I’ll sprinkle positivity in for the luck in my life, and a liberal amount of gratitude for the “It could be worse-ness” view. The mix will need to be right, and I will watch it simmer, sometimes impatiently. The flavors¬†should marry. This stew will be the energizing option for me to get on with getting on. ¬†It isn’t chocolate, which is a quick fix as a distraction, but it is good for me.

And now for the power…

Forgiveness will be the bit of bread that I use to dip into the main course, and I’ll try it out. ¬†I’ll look it over to see if it is stale and needs to be replaced with love, or see if it is fresh and can stand on its own. It will be my choice as to how it compliments my need for emotional nourishment. And as long as it adds to the meal, I will look forward to that.

It may need butter to go down smoothly, but then again, what doesnt?

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Forgiveness, love

 

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“what must be endured, can be endured…”


“What must be endured, can be endured.”

Ever think about that saying? I think of survivors of POW, going through unspeakable pain, not knowing how long they will be able to take it. That is the worst thing I can think of. Lately, however, I have had the opportunity to share my home with people who have gone through their personal POW experience. Not knowing when it will end, they survived and, though traumatized severely, are still moving forward. I guess we all have times of being tested without knowing the end date.

This is life.

I was very nervous to bring people, that I haven’t given birth to, into my home/family/life. I mean, I have my own struggles, and I want to make sure my home is safe. I don’t know them very well, and even, would they steal from me? Plus… I like my own space and am getting used to being, almost, an empty nest-er. Lots of logical reasons to give some comfort, a few meals, some games, a room for a night or two, and then off they go.

I judged because I needed to.

Then, they opened their hearts to me. Scarred, scared, and hesitant, they shared a bit about their story. A little at a time, while cooking dinner, or sitting in the morning after their smoke out back, they would feel safe. I would listen and ask what I hoped were gentle questions, and inside I would recoil at their pain and strength. I would ache for them. I would bite back tears.

I saw that, in each case, a safe place to land for a bit was new to them. Completely foreign, actually. They would watch silently as, at dinner time, our family would eat in ease, laughing and occasionally poking fun at each other. They would barely eat. We would include them in our conversation, a bit, but it would be hard, and awkward. We all did the best we knew how.

Despite my best efforts, we have become involved. Invested.

There are groundrules, of course. A respect for each member of this household that includes personal space, cooking and cleaning and contributing, and making a plan to become independent. Some plans take longer than others. And, I am learning from them. We are learning from them. As trust starts to take place, so do smiles and laughter. Games happen. Opening up happens.

Our family expands.

“What must be endured, can be endured” stops being my dramatic motto in this situation, and “Love at home” becomes the norm. It isn’t a simple situation. Not … traditional, but then what is? FAMILY is…a choice. I see strength where I first encountered scars. I see hard workers and resourcefullness where there seemed to be desperation and hopelessness. I see… them.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Life

 
 
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