Friday, September 30, 2005


Her 42 year old head rested wearily on the kitchen table among a Hello Kitty notebook, pink and purple hair bows and head bands, McDonald kids meal toys, a comb, brush, unopened bills, dirty dishes, and assorted magazines. Mornings came early as she made her daughter ready for school. Her little curly headed girl, Rose, munched on Frosted Flakes as she circled the cereal bowl with her Breyer horse. “Mom, do I get 50 cents for icecream at lunch today? Mom. Mooommm.” Rose reached over and tugged her mother’s arm which fell limply from the table. “Mom! What is wrong with you?” she yelled. Toby slowly sauntered into the kitchen rubbing his temples, “Rose, don’t scream. I have a headache. Nadine, have you seen the key to the Jeep? Nadine, come on. Wake up.” He began to massaging Nadine’s back and quickly realized she was unresponsive, in fact, lifeless. He grabbed her shoulders, and she nearly plunged unconscious to the floor. “Rose, dial 911 NOW!”

I arrived at the hospital that evening. I was more than familiar with this sterile unhappy place. Its wall held nothing but countless sorrows and pain for me and many others in my family. Nadine’s oldest daughter had died here a few years before. How could a mosquito bite lead to meningeal encephalitis and the quick expiration of a gorgeous, firey, otherwise healthy 12 year old girl named Leigh? A dear red headed aunt of mine perished from cancer in this hospital. Just a few weeks before Nadine‘s collapse, I sat on nervously with a perfectly normal Nadine, Toby and sundry other relatives as her mother, my Aunt Willa, underwent brain surgery. The family divided the waiting room with tension and harsh judgment of one another, and in retrospect I wished I’d have spent more time with Nadine that day. I had no way of knowing this would be my last opportunity to chat side by side with my cousin. I’ve always loved the way her southern words slid from her lips and ended in surprising careful annunciation. I can hear the unusual dry lilt in her voice as I think of it just now. Her speech came out like a lovely dance with a sudden halt now and then to punctuate the movements. Her talk was steady and never contained much urgency even in tragedy. She’s a woman who kept unwelcome company with tragedy. Her father, a Pearl Harbor vet named Frank, drew his last breath a few short years before her oldest child passed away. Frank loved to tell knee slappin’ stories. His odd looks added humor to every tale; his ears stuck out further from his head than anyone else’s I’ve ever seen. Nadine inherited her sparkly eyes from this man. Nadine’s brother , my cousin Luke, died young mixing meds and alcohol perhaps. He was buried proudly in his blue jean overalls.

Nadine’s hair has always been a full mane of red curls, and her crystal green eyes could pierce a soul- she had the air of an Irish mountain woman Her mouth is perfectly shaped like one I’d practiced drawing in high school art class. She kept her nails perfectly though you could not say the same of her dwelling space. I remember being enchanted with her otherworldly beauty when I was a child. My favorite memory, perhaps not even real, is tightly gripping her body around her thin waist as we cantered on a bareback horse through the woods around her house, her curls lightly brushing my face in the gentle wind. She smelled of moss and ferns in a fresh forest.

Since that day at the kitchen table nearly a year ago, Nadine has not recovered. In fact, she remains in a constant and unexplained vegetative state in the same nursing home as Aunt Willa. Nadine can respond by blinking her eyes. Once for “Yes”, twice for “No”, but I don’t get the impression anyone visits much for her to respond to. The nursing home staff I spoke with say they rarely see anyone visit, me included. I am almost certain Rose and Toby go once a week or so, but I think of the endless hours in between Sundays which Nadine spends entirely alone unable to use her body or voice. What could a woman a few years older than myself do to fill unfathomable periods of time staring at the mobile Rose hung above her bed. Over the course of this year of imposed solitude for Nadine, I’ve been to China, read twenty books, grown a garden, made it through another year of swim team, blogged, painted my daughter’s room, taught my children, cooked a zillion suppers, laughed till my sides hurt, eaten till I wanted to throw up, cried so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. All the while Nadine breathes the same stale air and listens to the constant moans of an elderly and confused roommate day upon day, night upon night.

I am comforted that Nadine’s rest home room contains a recent photo of Nadine and Rose sitting together in a pose from Wal-mart. Another framed picture features some young girl riding a horse; I cannot tell if it’s Rose, Leigh, or Nadine. At least the staff can see Nadine was once, and not so very long ago, a person like themselves if they‘d simply take a moment to truly look into the photos and think such thoughts.

I’m irritated that the staff address her by her first name- a name I’d never heard before but must exist only on Nadine’s birth certificate. Our family must have tossed her first name out in favor of her middle name before I was born, but the nurse looks at me like I’m ridiculous when I correct him. “Don’t call her Millicent. Obviously, she hates that name. It’s Nadine.” I suddenly want to sob that Nadine can’t rise up and say so for herself. “Are you her sister? You look just like her.” the respiratory therapist asks. “Cousin, but thank you for the compliment. What awful thing have you done to her hair?” It’s shaved in odd spots, long in others, and I’m unpleasantly jarred by a memory of her in ICU the day this crazy thing plunged her into stillness. I cringed thinking of the horrid blood draining shunts spouting from the top of her head like the funnel on the tin man from Oz.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in a situation of visiting a person I love in a persistent vegetative state before. Therefore, I haven’t had practice, and no one has brought forth a manual I could read up on etiquette at such times. At the least, it’s awkward. At the most, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done before. Nadine’s sharp eyes followed me as I approached her beside. It seemed she dared not blink. I asked if she knew me and she blinked, “Yes”. I think. I spoke to Nadine about her mother down the hall who couldn’t visit for several weeks because of a bout with pneumonia. I hoped someone had explained why she hadn’t been coming to visit. I talked about the pictures and cards around the room from Toby and Rose. I held her hand for a few minutes. I found myself wishing I was an expert at Yes and No conversation, but I simply couldn’t think of anyway to keep that going for more than one second. I told myself to sit still and not talk for fifteen minutes, “Just BE with her.” Time crawled, but I held fast . What drop of water is 15 minutes in a sea of immobility and continual loneliness? She didn’t look away from me, but in my discomfort with staring I glanced around at objects around the room every now and then. After 15 minutes, I told her I was going to find something to put on her lips. Her mouth appeared horribly cracked and dry. A nurse gave me a pack of Vaseline, and I squeezed it carefully across her lips. “Next time I come, I will bring a book and read to you. Some story I think you and I both would like. Would that be okay?” She blinked, “Yes”. I think. I sat a while longer and told her I was going to visit with her mom a while. I kissed her forehead and I back one step away from the bed. “I’ve always loved you. I hope you know that. When we were little girls, I wanted to be like you. I’ll visit again. You are precious to me.” Only I don’t think the words actually came from me that clearly. I fumbled and stumbled in my delivery. I turned to leave, and then I looked back curious to see if I still held her gaze. A single tear streamed down Nadine’s cheek, and she looked directly at me. I held my hand up in a wave and exited. Empty. I felt utterly washed out and full of guilt leaving my cousin like that. I stood for a few minutes in the hallway holding back tears and composing myself to brief walk to Aunt Willa’s room. I whispered some prayers of healing for Nadine and thankfulness for my own richly blessed life, and asked God to help me use my remaining time on earth well.

Deliver me. Place my feet on a solid rock so I might stand up straight and tall again.
Deliver me. All this sadness overwhelms but will not overcome me.
Rescue me. I am crushed but not entirely broken.
Rescue me. Grab my hand, lift me, and I will follow.
Trade in these ashes, and in exchange, give me beauty.
For my mourning, joy.
I will fly.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The tribute to little girlhood.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Ruby Slippers

It may have started when I watched The Wizard of Oz as a young child. Dorothy's glittery ruby slippers may have made an indelible impression on my five year old heart. Or perhaps it's because I have a beautiful Aunt Artful, with incredible red hair and matching artful and passionate personality. Dorothy and Aunt Artful definitely had something I liked and still do. I like red. I like red hair and red shoes. Most all red hair, but not all red shoes. Over the years, I've procured many little girl red tennis shoes for my Pooh Bear. My four year old princess only dons her favorite sequined pink slip-ons these last summer days which prevent her from wearing the red Keds I always have at the ready in all sizes for her tiny feet. Back when she could not express her definite opinions, I'd gussy her up in one of her thousand gorgeous famous label hand-me-downs dresses, a matching pair of socks, and carefully tie on the appropriate sized red tennies. It never mattered to me if red seemed to clash with the colors and patterns of her dress. To me, she embodied my idea of complete babyhood perfection- ready for an adventure wherever her itty-bitty scarlet feet would take her. Now, I've lined Pooh Bear's room with a tribute down one strip of her bedroom wall with these sneakers from infancy to now. I've noticed other mother's keep a more conventional growth chart instead.

I personally believe the fairies, who live in my Peter Rabbit garden, wear red sneakers, but I have never been able to prove it.

I bought a pair of red Keds from ebay for myself when this obsession with Pooh Bear's footwear began. They offer no arch or other support and look rather like a boy's boat toy attached to my long feet. So, I began a search for the Holy Grail of shoes, comfortable red clogs. My husband and Helen even joined the hunt over the years to present me with the perfect Christmas present. But none of us could find the ruby slipper clogs of my dreams. That is until Helen and I visited Solvang, CA- the dutch clog and other things Dutch capital of the United States. While wine tasting and souvenir shopping, we happened upon a little shoe shop with a giant wooden red clog statue by the front door. I caught my breath at this beautiful sight. Perhaps this was my Oz. We scoured the hundreds of clogs- blue, green, flowered, suede, leather, rubber, sequined, wooden. I nixed nearly every red pair for lack of luster or comfort until Helen picked up a pair and stated, "I think I actually LIKE these red clogs." I think she may have meant "I could possibly tolerate this particular footwear on my dorky, obsessive compulsive friend's feet." Pretty? Check. Red? Check. Comfortable? Let's try 'em on.
"What do you mean you don't have a 9 Medium Modesto Red Softwalk clog? It's all I've ever wanted!" I growl at the saleslady. Helen wisely grabs me by the hands and says, "Take a deep breath. Perhaps we can order them." Yes, maybe the saleslady will be able to return home in the evening with her hair AND her eyeballs after all. Helen orders them for me and I count down the days UPS will deliver the blessed shoes to my doorstep. No such luck. The Softwalk company has discontinued the Modesto mule in red. You'll see in any old google search this shoe continues to come in a variety of gorgeous colors such as aruba, forest green nubuck, pacific blue, steel, amber, and aloe. However, red is OUT.
Buck and Helen endeavor to comfort the inconsolable me with complicated searches over the internet. "Wouldn't these Bass clogs work?" Helen timidly asks in attempts to ease my suffering. She and Buck find the mythical 9 M Softwalk Modesto Red Mule with egg crate soles, only to have the company confirm in email the shoes are discontinued a few days later. Saturday, I call the company who say they have one pair of my size in close-out stock in their Kentucky warehouse. "I'll believe it when they are on my feet" I mutter into the phone. "You will" she assures me.
THE sacred shoes arrived by free express shipping on Wednesday. It took all my self restraint not to kiss the UPS man (and Buck was watching). I put them on my feet as many times a day as I think of it, close my eyes tightly, and whisper, "There's not place like home."

Did you know the real Wizard of Oz ruby red slippers have been stolen and cannot appear at the Kansas festival this year? They will have the blue gingham dress and the witch's hat, and five of the original munchkins including the coroner, so you don't want to miss it. And a special note to the villainous thief who stole the ruby slippers, "Touch my new mules, and I'll get you my pretty. And your little dog too!"

Pooh Bear's first day of ballet class. She fixed her own hair, as usual. At least she didn't cut it AGAIN. And she chose her own jewelry. Though she is not open to my fashion ideas and it may not look like it, I got her to take out about five other hairbows and remove all but one necklace. She is a strong person with her own ideas. I admire her for that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wise One Speaks

Wise One, my eight year old son, innocently created smiles and giggles these last few days.

At the soccer field Saturday, this little guy inquired of Buck, "Dad, may I have a dollar to spend at the confession stand? I'd like some candy." Buck, quick witted man that he is, fired back, "Here you go, son. Here's a dollar, but you need to bring me back a couple of 'Hail Marys' and an 'Our Father' with the change." Wise One took the dollar with a big question mark expression on his face, "Uhhhh, thanks dad?"

And then last night, we shared dinner with our usual group of buddies. Alise, a sweet friend of ours, observed Wise One's plate and asked, "Wouldn't you like some meat on that bed of lettuce, cheese, and nachos for your taco salad?" In his dear and pleasant manner he replied, "No thank you. I don't care for any meat. Tonight I will be a veterinarian."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Dig

I've been waiting for the pathology results from my physician about the waxy small mole I had removed from the skin over my clavicle last week. Mostly, I didn't pine over it, but Sunday I had a long talk with myself about what I'd do differently if my days are suddenly shorter than I'd hoped. The talk contained my thoughts of how to love my family and friends much better than I have today; about the legacy I desire to leave behind. I already try to live closely to the ideal, but I blow it almost daily. Somehow, could terminal cancer mysteriously give me the self discipline I lack now? One conclusion I came to in my chat with myself is that I would spend some of my life insurance money doing things with my family and dear friends that we'd have to save and plan for now. Another conclusion is that I do already possess what I need to love better- I just need to practice it. More.

I called Helen to say I was making a list of ways she'd have to become the mother to my children if I kicked off early. She told me I'd just better stick around. When I talked to my dear husband about fears of melanoma, he mustered a large sigh in the form of a mildly cross (not cross with me, just the idea) "Hmmm." Later he mentioned, "I expressly forbid you from having a lethal form skin cancer." I do love the sense of humor surrounding me, warmly letting me know I am loved. I count for something.

What is it about the prospect of death that makes me take a closer look at life? Why do this digging in the dirt of my soul?

Today I got the call that the growth is NOT melanoma, but it is a mild cancer formation known as basal cell carcinoma. The edges of the removed portion do not contain cancer free cells, so I must go let the doc cut around till no more basal cells are left. Otherwise, I'd be putting myself at risk for the more harmful and invasive skin cancers. I'm ever so grateful my life is not threatened at this moment, but I don't look forward to more digging on the outside of my body. I'm still thinking through the digging I've done in this process on my insides.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pooh in her favorite part of the fair, The Discovery Center Posted by Picasa

Wise one near the sea lions, his favorite exhibit at the fair. Posted by Picasa

Boodle is the subject of this prize winning photo. Posted by Picasa

Buck by his second place prize winning photo of Boodle. Posted by Picasa

Peace and friend talk to the animals at the fair. Posted by Picasa

Truevyne's Purse Posted by Picasa

What's in Truevyne's Purse?

I could never win the game from Let's Make a Deal where ladies dig in their purse when Monte Hall asks for a mirror, or a comb, bobby pin, toenail clippers, etc., and I am PROUD.
I'm not a complicated woman, so I don't want to carry a big honkin' purse full of things I might need. In fact, I don't want all the hinderances of a purse at all. I tend to be easily distracted when I go out, and am very likely to loose something I don't need to start the car. Does this have to do with shrinking brain power or the four children who scatter like colorful marbles falling from a velvet bag? Who knows which direction or how far they may roll within seconds of the van door opening.
I got my first glimpse of independence from a purse with the birth of my first child. I began to carry an L.L. Bean diaper backpack, and quickly realized I could put anything my purse contained inside the folds and under the protection of the many pockets and zippers within. This system worked for the nine years I toted diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, rash ointment, syrup of epecac, drink cups, board books, an assortment of educational toys, and cat hair. Those days ended abruptly when my last child potty trained. I was left with a large backpack (neatly embroirdered with my first child's name though this was my fourth) containing only a driver's lisence, credit card and a nice earth red shaded lipstick. About this time a friend gifted me with a small hemp and grass woven purse back from her work in Indonesia. Perfect AND cool. However, I left it on top of my car once when loading the children near where college students live and drove off into the wild blue yonder. I went back a few hours later hoping to find it, but alas, it had disappeared. I still grieve the loss of that beauty.
Fortunately, my mother in law brought back a wallet sized kangaroo skin pouch with a cute little koala painted in the middle for me from a trip to Austrailia. All my belongings fit into this with the bonus of an attached keychain. Fancy! I literally wore the kangaroo skin out of that purse. When dimes started dropping through the holes in the bottom, I carefully sewed the holes. When the threads gave out, I reluctantly had to admit even quarters were falling through and give up the ghost and the pouch altogether. Where to find another treasure like this without hopping on a plane down under?
My desparate search lead me to this brightly colored Guatamalan coin purse. I kept the hardware from the koala contraption for my keys which I attached with a leather stip. And, do you notice I hang my sunglasses through the keyring's hole? Clever girl!
This contains:
1. Twp bank cards. I can cut one up, because I just now realized I still had the old one. My purse is lighter already. FREEDOM!
2. Tennessee driver's lisence. When asked for my identification, store clerks comment regularly, "Your hair is much longer now. You almost look like a different person." Don't worry, I'll get tired of long hair and get it cut to within an inch of my skull.
3. Three vehicle insurance cards. I'm tossing the card for my old red truck. It's like driving a haunted house- a little fun but scary.
4. Books A Million discount card. A must.
5. JC Penny Christmas gift card from my dad and his wife. I still have some credit on that baby.
6. AAA card.
7. Credit Card.
8. Health insurance card.
9. Library card.
10. My vet's card.
11. Last year's teacher ID card. That goes in the trash too. Wahoo.
12. Smoothie King Frequent Buyer card. Another personal indulgence revealed.
13. My daughter's new dance teacher's card. Gonna file that instead of carry it.
14. Another library card. Ditching that.
15. Voter's registration. Don't leave home without it.
16. Vonn's Card. A grocery discount card from my trip to Santa Barabara. Won't be needing that either.
17. Loreal Earth Rose lipstick.
18. $11. Much more than I normally carry.

I think a purse or wallet reveals much about what's inside the person. So as the commercial goes, what's in your wallet?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


This morning my husband came to me as I was getting ready for the day "How do you want the day to go?" This is what he actually meant, "It's my day off. What do we have planned on our calendar?" However, I pretended not to understand. I stopped putting goo in my hair for a moment and stood in silence allowing a big smile cross over my entire face. I wondered if he'd minded my growing silly expression and just standing at our bathroom sinks with me for just a moment while I gathered my thoughts. I squinted my blurry eyes to see if he was yawning at this long pause, because I hadn't found my glasses or contacts yet. I spoke dryly, "This is going to take quite some time. Will you stand there while I tell you *everything*?"
"What?" he asks puzzled. Why don't I just tell him our schedule like he asked? Instead I let collections of wishes fall from my tongue.
"First of all, today I'd love for our children not to argue. I'd like everyone to get along and speak kindly. I don't really want to hear anyone snap, 'Gimme that back! It's mine.' 'Get away from me. You ALWAYS...'
I'd like academics of our homeschool day to be finished by noon so everyone is free to move on to desire directed learning.
I'd like our house to be much cleaner and the clutter would suddenly disappear. Poof.
I'd like time to compose a very clever blog entry.
I'd like a terrific lunch. An elaborate salad and a tasty cheeseburger. Oh, and a chocolate milkshake.
When I go to the doctor this afternoon, they will remove the mole I'm worried about being melanoma immediately, and it won't hurt at all. The doc will simply tap my aching hip and VIOLA, my hip will feel better for the first time in a month. I could even put my running shoes on and go for a nice 5K, or work on some upcoming choreography.
Peace will say, 'Thanks for sewing my flag for scouts.'
Pooh will put sounds together like never before in her reading time.
Boodle will not make anyone fuss, including me or my husband.
We will write a date on the calendar to go to the Dinosaur exhibit for Wise One.
Our meetings tonight with other families will be a blessing for everyone involved.
My husband will sing to me.
Two friends I love dearly would reconcile after years of strife between them.
I'd like to hear a news report that every single person has been successfully reunited with loved ones lost in the hurricane.
Is peace on earth okay to wish for here?
How about just for Iraq to embrace democracy today and the soldiers could all come home tonight and hold their children in their arms and passionately kiss their wives? or husbands?

I don't feel finished yet, but perhaps we could begin our morning, and I can add to the list as more things come to me? Would that be alright? And, by the way, how would YOU like today to go?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Good Friends, Good Food, Good Stories

Svet, Helen, and I and our zillion children got together at Helen and Clay's Crab Fest 2005. One of the many things I like best about our get togethers are late night talks over a little too much wine and chocolate chip cookies. I am not a big drinker, so when Buck talked to Clay, Clay said he had my half a glass of wine all ready. Isn't that sad? Clay has quite the growing wine collection, and the most I could consume without falling into a coma is a measly half a glass. The last bottle of three bottles of wine I've bought in 2005 still sits unopened.
Anyway, Svet told two stories which I must blog.

The first is about Bary entering the women's rest room at a Barnes and Noble in NYC. Though utterly clueless, he was so convinced he had chosen the correct bathroom, he raised his voice to an unsuspecting woman who chanced meander in while he wisely inspected stalls for utmost cleanliness, "Get out of here. I WILL call security if you don't leave the men's room at once. Criminy!" She, fearing perhaps she'd met an angry postal worker or mentally unstable person off his meds, became visibly upset and rushed out. The flustered woman may have been heading to find security herself. While occupied inside his tidy stall, the clouds of his brain began to part as he heard other WOMEN'S voices just beyond his thin steel door. What on earth was he to do? In one second, entire tragic scenarios flashed like lightening through his mind. Bary had just applied for a new job, he was certain this incident would appear promptly on his police record. He envisioned the front page of the NY Times headlined with "Barnes and Noble Prosecutes Seemingly Mild Mannered Editor". He imagines interviews with his embarrassed mother on Dateline, "He's always been a GOOD boy. I just don't know what happened. We tried to raise him right." Bary stands, zips, and otherwise readies himself to quickly flee this horrid place which he had entered with such unswerving confidence. When the last female voice trails after a closing door, he bolts. In great haste, Bary grabs Svet's arm and drags her unwilling self to the door, "But Bary, I haven't made my purchases yet." She notices his severe red face, heaving breaths, the tightness of his death grip on her arm. She decides to buy her Russian Journals at another time.

The second story:
Svetlana's mother is one of a kind. I've never met a mother, Sonya, more vigilant (perhaps "hell bent" is a wee too strong of a description though I'm not certain) about proper nutrition for her daughters. Svet and her sister were, under no circumstances, permitted to ingest sugar. Perhaps this explains why Svet and I used all the grocery money my mother gave me on Cookies and Cream Icecream and Twinkies the week our senior year she stayed with me while my parents went on a vacation to Hawaii without me. I shared a little story I'd read with Svet and Helen about a child whose mother served bran muffins made with honey, no frosting of course, complete with a lit candle in stuck in the center at her school birthday party. In the snapshot of the blessed celebration, the child was crying.
Svet broke out into unbridled laughter at this little narrative. Once she recovered, she shared a story with Helen and I about her mother's (Sonya) visit with Svet in NYC. One morning of her mother's visit, Sonya desired nothing more than to come to Svet's university library and get to know each and every other librarian and clerk by name. Sonya is extremely gregarious, not to mention interested in the everyday details of Svetlana's ordinary life. Svet thought of a better of this and announced, "We can have lunch together outside in the fresh air instead." Sonya took the hint and thoughtfully replied, "Alright then. I'll bring you some lunch around noon." Svet hadn't had time for breakfast in her hurry to work that morning, and she was grateful for the kind offer. Sonya is an adventuresome type too, and Svet longingly thought of all the interesting shops from which her mother might select their cuisine. There are Indian places with curried chicken and veggies, authentic German bratwurst vendors, fine French delis with delicious cheese and meat sandwiches to choose from all along the streets of the Big Apple.
By noon, Svet felt famished, her mouth watering as she plunged down the library steps out the sliding glass doors, down the cement sidewalk to the stone tables under the trees. "I can't wait for you to taste this" her mother beams from a bench. Svet's face showed visible concern when her mother, otherwise empty handed, pushed a covered white Styrofoam cup with a straw standing like a soldier at attention on top toward Svet's hungry self. "Where's my lunch, Ma?"
"Why, this IS your lunch. It's a carrot smoothie! They've sweetened it with beet juice. Doesn't that sound simply MARVELOUS?"
Svet musters all the courage within her withered and sadly disappointed spirit to speak in a dead pan voice, "Great, Ma. Great." Svet is half sobbing and half knee-slappin' laughing telling the details of this moment. Suddenly, I feel secret unspoken gratitude for my own mother, who would rather die than drink carrots and beets.

Crab Fest 2005 ended with luscious Alaskan crab legs, Maryland Old Bay seasoned whole crabs,
corn on the cob, new potatoes, other homemade salads, and too many delectable desserts to mention. Thank you, Helen and Clay for setting the stage for such a grand weekend. That is, if you ever read my blog again.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Buzz

So far I haven't blogged my thoughts on Hurricane Katrina. I don't have any profound things to say about such tradgedy, heroism, survival, death, and destruction. I'm asking myself the question everyone else is asking, "What can I do to ease these burdens?" I've eavesdropped on a terribly uncomfortable conversation in the upscale nail salon (yes, I admit to the sin of vanity here) where one woman shouted to another over surreal and entirely too loud tango music, "Why are they (hurricane refugees) coming here to Knoxville? Why can't they just stay in Louisiana in another town till their's get fixed?" Translation: "I don't want a bunch of poor people scrounging in my neck of the woods." It seemed completely unreasonable for me to shout over their shouts and the bizarre music my thoughts on compassion and doing our part to relieve suffering.
The church where my children play soccer began hosting 250 refugees yesterday. Knoxville has no public transportation to speak of and the city is laid out in such a way that walkers are in grave danger, so these folks may be bored to tears. Children's soccer games may offer a break in the monotony of sharing living space with far too many families. My dear husband hopes the coaches will invite children to join us. My first response was not so charitable. As a mother who lets even her 4 year old wander freely around the outskirts of several fields, I thought of how I will need to keep a tight reign on four children who haven't been tethered in this familiar location before. Don't get me wrong, I welcome these people. I look at this as an opportunity to share homemade cookies and swap stories with new guests to our community. I'll just do so with Pooh Bear on my lap. Maybe the cookies will make her happy too.

Now I'll step up onto my soapbox for just a moment.

Through heresay, I heard about an NPR commentary which suggested evolution was demonstrated over intelligent design theory, because no intelligent designer would create such a horrible thing as a hurricane. I disagreed instantly, because it seemed to me the commentator had lost "the big picture"and was looking only through a humancentric lense. What does a hurricane stir up? A hurricane replenishes entire ecosystems. Though immediate life suffers, the soil and waters fill with rich nutrients and bring back balance to the earth after long periods of depletion. Who are we as humans to reroute the waters of the Delta to suit ourselves? Poorly designed flood walls were built to keep water out of a city where it was destined to flow at such times. The water and storms clearly have thunderously spoken that their purposes have been thwarted by us. I hope we listen more closely to intelligent design when the city of New Orleans is rebuilt. It seems humans had tuned out these voices and suffered for it.

Stepping down from my soap box now and avoiding lightning bolts that may strike me when I use paper plates for lunch today.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gentle Wind

It took us a few days to figure out that the blazing fury of summer has passed, and the cool breeze of fall has begun. I've been clueless to a change in the weather here in TN. I stepped outside in the evening and it felt cooler outside than in. So last night we opened windows around the house and turned off the air conditioning for the first time in a while. Now the homemade curtains made from antique fabric flap in a gentle wind into my bedroom. I haven't been crazy about parting the curtains in my room, since I've been home from Santa Barabara for weeks and my yard transformed into a jungle of gnarly weeds choking the remaining flowers in hardly discernable beds. I don't just have a simple yard, because I live on several acres. I "keep" about 2 1/2 acres of the land. The rest of the land gets an occasional haircut but is mostly wild. I used quotation marks for "keep", because up until this week, the "kept" part looked like the yard of the lawn of your worst neighbor. The one who has weeds growing up through the doghouse though the dog died 14 years before. The embarrassing neighbor everyone whispers should hire a lawn service, but is too cheap to have his broken down car towed out of the driveway.
I have to say I am not this kind of neighbor, because no one really knows there is in fact a house down the long country road beyond our black mailbox. Noone knows or cares about my neglected lawncare habits. I forbade my husband to plant flowers and pull the weeds around that mailbox last year, because I would rather remain uninviting from the road. I'd rather do the inviting myself than have a spiffy mailbox do so for me. In the two years we've lived here, only a few uninvited guests have mosied down our gravel path. The first were two very sweaty and beautiful Jehovah Witness girls looking for converts and putting Watchtower in people's hands. I was busy getting my four children all spruced up for a wedding, and I ran around with tights in one hand for my girl and rifling through boxes for dress shoes to fit three growing boys with the other when they rang the doorbell. The young women looked incredibly tired, and I asked if they didn't mind being somewhat unattended while I scrubbed faces, they could rest on my couch and have a cup of cold water. They expressed gratitude and accepted my offer. The ladies and I talked about one another's faith while I wrestled my daughter into the white sheaths of hose and buckled patent leather mary janes. I have a solid base of belief, and I never mind an interesting yet opposing theological discussion. As I simultaneously shuffled my children off to the van and the ladies to the door, I invited the girls to come chat again. However, I couldn't promise them it would ever be any less hectic. I've never seen them again. Maybe the girls made a secret JW mark on the door post which says, "We already tried. Move on to the next house."
The most unwelcome visitor we've had bang on our door was Mr. Ritchie. A piece of his land meets ours in a far off corner acre. Our first unpleasant encounter with him came when trying to return a dog to him the first month we moved here. The day he parked outside my window, Peace answered the door before I got there, and Mr. Ritchie was quizzing my son in an unkind tone, "Go get your cat!" Peace obediently passed by me to obtain Patches when I asked with a slightly annoyed tone because the way he had spoken to my son, "What is this about?" Peace returned with Patches quickly, and Mr. Ritchie gruffly spoke, "That ain't my cat. I thought you was hiding my cat in your house. It's gone missing and has a terrible bladder surgery that makes it pee all over the house." He turned on heel, climbed into his truck and drove off. I thought of yelling a sarcastic, "Great to see you too! Come again when you have time for some iced tea." I also thought of some select words to shout regarding his cat, but I wisely kept this all to myself. Can anyone explain why I would WANT to hide a cat who urinates all over the inside my house? I'd have to be completely insane to look for ways to bother this man. From that day on, he sometimes shoots his gun when my children play too close to his land in the woods which eventually connect to his property.
I don't mind parting my bedroom curtains today. I've lead a search and recovery team to seek out my yard. I have a blister on my finger to prove I've pulled one too many weeds lately, and the grass is mowed for the time being. Mowing took a few days because my dear husband couldn't locate the key. He had to pick one up at Sears, a 45 minute haul away from home. The next day, the mower wouldn't start and needed a battery charge. The following day, I mowed till my hands vibrated, rump was sore of the seat, and sunburn consumed the tops of my thighs. The cool and gentle breeze smells like a mix of coming fall and freshly cut grass. I finally threw away the offensive dead brown wave petunia which hung on the front porch which I saw at first glance with my head rested on my pillow. Things look like they are coming together...
Our giant fur ball of a dog came in today from the field having been sprayed by a skunk again. His baths take over an hour. Maybe everything isn't quite together.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

To be a child...

We met Svetlana (she chose her own name for my blog) and her husband Baryshnikov, one great dancer, and their daughter Anna at the lake yesterday. The family had to cancel vacation plans to the South Carolina due to the crazy gas shortage. The hotel clerk where they planned to stay advised them to stay home, because they might not be able to find gas after this weekend.
Svetlana, in her good humor, suggested we meet at the lake and tell her 4-year-old it was South Carolina. "She's not THAT clever yet. I think we can fool her." I suggested Anna would remember the lake from our previous trips there together, but Svetlana persuaded me otherwise. My sons asked as we got out of the van, "What is the name of the state we are supposed to be in now?" They were definitely in on the scheme. "Anna, was this a loonnnggg drive for you?"
After a swim at the beach and swinging on the playground, we headed to my house for a feast: pot roast, potatoes, gravy, homemade bread, corn on the cob. Svetlana brought liver pate' and a blue cheese crumble salad. Yum! Of course, the food is always good in South Carolina.
Towards the end of dinner, Svet and Bary surveyed Anna's plate which had quite a bit of food upon it. "Eat one bite of potato, salad, and bread, and you may be finished." Having four children and not being an especially good parent, I do not survey my children's plates at all. However, I decided to put on a good show and say to my four year old girl "Pooh Bear, you take one bite of salad and bread too." Pooh Bear thinks this is funny and decides to go along with my sherade by chomping down the remains of some of her dinner.
Svetlana mentions how she'd like to be a child again, "Please beg and plead with me to eat. Read books to me all day long, and let me nap!" She changes her voice a little and calls, "I'd like to turn a few cartwheels in the living room before I have to eat." Yes, I'd like to be a child again too. And I'd like Svet to live next door, because she has always made me laugh so hard my insides hurt. I've know her since seventh grade. She was my IPS lab partner.
After dinner, my boys, with about a thousand prompts, cleared the table. Baryshnikov and I washed up the dishes while Svetlana gave our girls a bath. Pooh Bear emerged scrubbed completely pink by my contientious friend. Me, I put soap on the top of Pooh's head, hand her a soap filled scrunchy, and hope for the best when it's bathtime. Last night, Pooh Bear appeared to sparkle after this particular bath. Isn't the best smell in the entire world a damp, gorgeous little girl with lingering baby soap on her skin and folded up in one's arms in a fresh towel? Pooh picked out some jammies from her stuffed drawer for Anna, whose jammies she brought were unsuitable. A wet towel from swimming had soaked them. I simply don't understand how girls are so flexible. When my boys were around four year old, I had to hog tie their legs and hands, wrestle them out of their favorite stained shark shirt and the only pants they would wear with a lego embroidered on the leg, and plunged them into the tub before they noticed I'd run the bath water. The girls change clothes by the hour and ask for baths.
The evening grew late with laughter, and I hated to see Svet, Anna, and Bary leave. It was 10 p.m., and they had an almost hour drive home ahead of them. Anna was none the wiser that she is really still in Tennessee. She surely conked out in the car before the family car made it out of my long driveway. She probably dreamed about her terrific day in make believe South Carolina.