Mom, Books, and ETV

It’s lovely outside with the fresh snow blanketing the yard and covering tree branches.  Our first snow on Christmas Day in many years according to the weather man. It was a busy, but wonderful Christmas filled with good food and much fun for everyone. Today has been quiet and peaceful after all the festivities. A good day for reflection and introspection, and a perfect time for recognizing and appreciating all the blessings in my life. It’s also a good time for general musings….

My Mom

My Mom’s birthday is tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Mom!) She’s getting pretty ancient now…oops, wait, sorry… 🙂 My mom and I have always had a difficult relationship. We’re both very headstrong, independent people and that makes for fiery exchanges at times. We do love each other even if we seldom agree on any one point. And, we do grow more in peaceful acceptance of each other as we grow older. We are not the average mom and daughter kind of people, but I think we’re both okay with that – neither of us are really “average” people anyway! We have found a relationship that works for us and we’re intimately a part of each others psyche and lives as we both mature and age. One thing we have always shared – and that she helped foster in me – is a love of books, writing, and learning.

My earliest memories of my Mom necessarily include books, journals, and letters because they are such a deep part of who she is. I was reading my Mom’s old books, magazines, and teen journals long before we really developed a relationship with one another. Mom was always an avid reader and writer. (You can read some of her work here and here.)

Reading and writing opened new educational and social avenues for me. I was brought up writing to pen-pals all over the country because Mom had pen-pals everywhere. I wanted to be like her and she allowed me that. It was a wonderful experience and helped broaden my view of the country and the people in it at a very young age. I also learned to read way above my grade level in school because she was willing to let me read books with censorship or restriction. I can still remember how happy I was when she signed the card for the town Librarian allowing me to check out “grown-up” books. I had just finished reading all the books they had for my age group (of course, it was a tiny library in a very small town!). For years, whenever I moved to a new town, the first thing I would do was find the local library and get a library card. I understood that books changed lives, opened the door to possibilities and growth, and provided wonderful entertainment…and the library meant anyone had this opportunity regardless of income or ability to purchase books. I remain an avid supporter of libraries and free books and reading programs for children to this day. That is due, in large part, to my Mom.

Mom also opened the doors to the joy of bookstores and the wonder of ETV/PBS to us. I still miss the local, private owned, “Pic-a-Book” store we frequented as a child. It was a wonderful maze of books on shelves, magazines and books stacked in piles on the floor – an absolute literary oasis! I still have happy, warm memories of our visits there! I miss Pic-a-Book, but I’m glad to see the new Hub City Bookstore filling in that sad absence for our community. ETV/PBS is another gift from Mom – I KNOW everyone in our family knows who Carl Sagan was and what he did! Old habits die hard, and I still watch PBS more often than all my other channels. Thanks, Mom.

My Mom helped me grow past the limitations of class and poverty that marked my childhood. She gave me a map for the road ahead, a way to transcend the limitations of circumstances and place…her love of reading, writing, and learning new things has been passed down through several generations now. The great-granddaughters are intelligent and precocious. Lauren, at age 6, reads everything in front of her – road signs, ad circulars, menus, building signs, the N-S-E-W of the compass on my rearview mirror (we’re going N grandma, we’re going North!). I just want to say Thanks for the gift Mom. I love you and I hope you have wonderful Birthday!

At Night the Wind Died

The summer day was spoiled with fitful storm;
At night the wind died and the soft rain dropped;
With lulling murmur, and the air was warm,
And all the tumult and the trouble stopped.

~~Celia Thaxter,The Nestling Swallows.

It is almost midnight and the house is quiet. Michael went to bed hours ago and left Boo-Boo the cat with his chair. Taz, my Cocker Spaniel, is sleeping on my feet while Lex, my Lab, claims the rug near the Christmas Tree. Even Mr. Jitters, the rabbit,  is sleeping silent in his cage.

This is an exquisitely beautiful moment to me.  I adore this quiet peace in the dark of night when all the noise of daily living settles hushed for a few hours. I can feel my heartbeat start to slow and my stress-level begin to ease. I am able to breathe in the calmer essence of true life in this time of whispered darkness. I am uncommonly whole and content as I think about Christmas and my family.

I am looking forward to Christmas Day after a month of chaos and fatigue. My children, their spouses, and all four grandchildren will be here. My siblings plan to come if possible. I’m the eldest of four and it is seldom that we all get together. We’ve each had our own spouses, children and work schedules to contend with for years now. I hope both my brothers are able to come – if so, that makes four, and it will be our first Christmas spent together in many, long years.

Time has a way of slipping past you while you’re busy with the act of living. I love my sister and brothers dearly, but have not been as good about showing it in recent years. Sadly, the lack of attentiveness toward them is due to my flighty nature and isolationist behavior. It isn’t due to lack of love or caring for them. I just tend to get lost in me and whatever mission or project has captured my passion – the next thing I know, five years, ten years have passed. It’s an odd quirk of my personality that I recognize without knowing how to mend. (I tend to think it’s just some strange artist thing!) All the while, time moves without mercy and we all grow older and more distant from one another.

I can still remember the first time I looked into the crib at my brother, David. In memory he is the little kid arguing with me and my sister over which cartoons to watch each day at four o’clock; and then the pre-teen who went with us on vacation to Florida; and then the teenager outrunning the cops in his newest hot-rod down the back dirt roads of town – laughing and bragging, and doing it just because he could! He suffered through endless hours of  “playing school” with me and my sister before he ever started kindergarten (but, he has always been extremely smart). He was a sweet, smart, good-natured kid that was kind to everyone around him. I can still see him riding around town with my aunt and uncle, especially during his fluffy–80’s hairdo period, laughing and joking. He is now a grown man in his 30’s, with three grown children, a wonderful wife, and his own trucking company. I am very proud of him, of how intelligent he is, and his determination to make his way in the world on his terms.

My Brothers & Sister: David, Mandi, and Chris

My baby brother, Chris, is even younger. I can still see him sleeping in his crib, covered in chicken-pox spots. Such a sweet baby, so sick, and yet dealing with the pain and “feel bad” without very much screaming and crying. I held him, changed diapers, played “little mama” to him  for a time before I got married.  I remember him as that cute baby, as the little bright-eyed child who wanted to hold my babies when they were born, as the teenager who hand-made me a writing desk, and as an older teen and young adult going through his rough patches like the rest of us. He’s had more than his share of hard times, and, like his oldest sister, is usually his own worst enemy. He’s doing great in his life now though – he has a wonderful fiance that truly loves him and a wonderful son. Chris has been strong and courageous, doggedly fighting his way through the dark days into the sunny ones.  I’m very proud of who he’s become and all that he’s accomplished.

My sister, Mandi, is definitely coming for Christmas dinner. We’re close in age and have a unique bond that can only be called sisterhood. We have fought and hated each other with a passion through the years, but that was just the negative, childish side of the great love we feel for one another. We are as opposite as night and day, but exist together as the moon and sun. We would be lost if the other one wasn’t there. I have been given a rare gift in my sister that I thank God for often – she is the one person on earth who I trust with all my heart. I know that she has always and will always be a person who will love me and help me no matter what happens. I hope she knows she has that same gift in me. We will always be those little girls playing dress up and wearing high-heels to school without permission, the person on the other end of the phone when one of us needs to celebrate or cry, the one holding onto the rope that binds us during terrible fears and periods of pain…never letting go.

It’s amazing how much your vision changes in 30 years. I used to get so fed-up with being the “oldest” when we were growing up. It always meant looking after the “younger ones”  and taking care of them while mom and dad were at work or busy.  And the answer to “why” was always because you’re the oldest – I thought it was a pretty unfair punishment back in the day! Yet, here we are, thirty years later and the “younger ones” are all grown up. I sit here in the quiet darkness, sift through the memories from all those years ago, consider the good people my siblings have turned out to be and I realize how blessed I have been. I am grateful now for those times: the fun and the fights, the aggravation and the sharing, the craziness and the sanity. I am very proud of the people they’ve all become and I feel privileged to have watched it and been a part of it from the beginning. Merry Christmas Mandi, David, and Chris. I love you!

The Witching Hour

So, we have come to this —

and I am writing love poems

(which is some of what poets do);

and you are clothed in silence

because it is safer, or because

(Truly, I do not know the why of it).

And, anyway, I ask myself

what do a few sentences matter,

a few words of sentiment uttered

on a cold December day — That

will not shatter the world to pieces

or knock the stars from the skies!

Surely, words cannot have that power!

Cataclysmic shifts do not begin in words

But —

in the silent deep darkness of the witching hour

when two souls accidentally pour forth as vapor

moving past the confines of body to touch…

No, Not words —

it is only when souls collide

that worlds shatter and stars fall.

Truly, dear one, we are safe from each other.

We are only talking now…

So, we have come to this

and I am writing love poems

(which is some of what poets do);

And you are clothed in silence…

Remember, cataclysmic shifts do not begin in words.

Coming to Be

Coming to Be

From infinite longings

finite deeds arise. . .

But in these dancing tears,

what is often withheld can be found:

our strength.

~~ Rainer Rilke, Book of Images

Ironically, I still return to Rainer Rilke during times of sadness. Maybe all poets do. His words always provide a healing balm of faith and comfort no matter the momentary pain or struggle. They come from a heart stronger, calmer, and more loving than mine. Thus, he has been my favorite poet and writer for over 20 years now.

It is winter and cold again. Those who know me realize it is my least favorite time of year. But, I do grasp the truth that Winter is necessary for renewal, both in the seasons of our natural world and the seasons of our deepest selves. It is necessary for things to die, to be reborn. That is such a continuous theme in nature and life. The dying still saddens me even though necessary and the cold is an enemy I’m unable to make peace with.

I am so much a sun and light person — I think it is that side of me, the childlike love of light and living, that makes me identify with children so well. I can understand that glorious happiness in being a child simply living, running through the room screaming and playing with crazy delight. I seem to lose a little more of that part of me as I grow older and mature into an “adult” (my rebellious side still hates that word!); but, no doubt, I still love just Being, Playing, Laughing so much! It’s the best part of life and I miss it as it ebbs away.

Life has been busy and full lately, but not bad.  Some stressful stuff here and there —

Health-Wise: I am having a difficult time with my back and am probably looking at back surgery within the next 6 weeks or so. It’s a truth I’ve been avoiding and trying to “will” my way past (we all know how stubborn I can be), but I’ve lost reflex and use in my legs to some degree now, and am having trouble walking – so, finally had to go see the doctor. I’ll have an MRI in 2 weeks and we’ll see what happens.

Truthfully, I’m more worried about the time out of work than anything. I have a vacation week to use and temporary disability, but that’s nowhere near the income I’m used to having…I figure I must have the operation and get back to work within 2 weeks! Sure, of course I can do that! How impossible could it be, right? And, of course, I’ve been bitching for months about being tired of the car business and wishing I could go back to writing full-time…I get nervous some moments about God’s sense of irony – don’t want Him to answer that request in a way I don’t want of course! Picky about how we want our prayers answered, are we not?

Work: Well, as unlikely as it seemed to me a few years ago, the move back to my home town has brought more career success than I expected. It’s actually been a good year for me at work. I’ve finally made it to Sales Manager for a store…a position I’ve wanted and felt best suited for all along after three years as a sales manager in the cemetery industry. I’m only the 2nd female Sales Manager this auto group has had in their 50+ years of business. I’m pleased with that, and very happy they’ve given me the opportunity they have. I enjoy the work and am having success in the position. My team has pulled together and grown stronger due to weekly training and interaction with them, we’ve moved 50% of the old-age units we had when I stated, and gross has been running double what it was last year. So, not really wanting to take too much sick-time and lose what ground I’ve gained.

Children: We’ve spent the last three weeks helping my daughter and son-in-law renovate the house they’re moving into this weekend. They had to move due to family drama, totally unexpected (the other mother-in-law died last year, and father-in-law decided to remarry and let the bank have the houses and land back! Out with the old… Yep, it’s been a true redneck nightmare for months!) Anyway, my ex-husband helped them find a nice place and I agreed to help with remodeling and getting them moved in.

My daughter, the Grandkids, and I picked out great paint colors and have been painting the 4 bedroom house, scraping off old wallpaper, pulling up old carpet to put down new, etc, etc.  All with the help of the two granddaughters, ages 6 and 3! We let Lauren, my oldest granddaughter, pick out her own paint colors…a bright, vivid pink and a cream (luckily, we talked her into one pink wall and three cream walls – it’s still bright though). She’s thrilled with her room and so excited! It’s been a project – grandma has rolled more walls and painted more trim…so much for re-painting my bedroom this year–think I can live with the current colors a while longer!

The house is looking really nice though. We hope to finish the trim work,  lay the remaining carpet and wood flooring, and finish painting the kitchen this Sunday – then they can start moving in. Of course, nothing can ever be that easy —

Brandi called me Tuesday morning to tell me she and the 3-year-old were stranded on the side of the road (another long two-day ordeal followed)…the engine block in her car cracked due to the cold. Geez, how am I gonna get that to fit under the Christmas tree!Thankfully, my son plans to help me out in that department ( getting the engine and putting it in the car, NOT putting it under the tree). He was even sweet enough to let her borrow his car until we can get hers repaired. So, we are pulling together and making it work, finding the solutions as we go – that’s the wonderful thing about family. I do so love my children and grandchildren, and I’m always happy that we have each other to hold onto when life gets tough.

Life:  And life does get tough, doesn’t it? It rips you to pieces and rebuilds you numerous times before you die. It’s the buffing stone that makes us shine, shows us who we really are, pushes us into who we can be. It’s the rock that sharpens us into a valiant, gleaming sword. I try to think of my journey that way – of myself as being in the process of learning to shine brighter, of being polished to gleaming beauty by all that is happening to me and within me.That view of my Being tends to take me to a place of understanding, acceptance, and great calm. Sometimes, I lose my way, can’t grasp that greater distant perspective and it all becomes too personal…the last few days have been like that. I realized today that it just means I’m standing too close to myself, that I’ve fallen into the abyss of my emotions and lost my focus. It happens…

An unexpected phone call, a new decision or crises to consider, a comment or thought, the voice of a loved one — then, Bam! I’m lost in the emotion or the confusion or the belief that it’s personal. In some ways life is the truly perfect oxymoron – it is at once both totally impersonal and intimately personal. I have to remind myself to take a step back and breathe sometimes. It WILL all be okay, or it will at least be what is my destiny, and I will come to the end of things polished and shinning like sunshine. What a great thought!

I am trying to follow Rilke’s advice to “live the questions themselves” because I’m not yet ready for the answers. Maybe the questions are all that truly ever exist, and the answers are just an illusion we dream toward.

“You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,

and over and over again you said be.

~~ Rilke, You Said “Live”, The Book of Hours, I9

For You

These crystalline tears are shed for you —
An offering of glistening light
on the altar of Memory.

They are a liquid mantra quietly sung —
A magic murmur of sorrow
echoing through Time.

These drops of salt and water warm —
Assigned to your name
at the eternal Beginning.

They have waited lovingly
within sacred spaces for long, silent years —
a treasure consecrated to what was Us.

These crystalline tears are shed for you —
The light that sparkles in their depths
are the gleaming pieces of my Heart.


– for D

I am that soft-furred gentle-eyed prey
that makes the predator move to running.

I am the breeze that drifts through quiet nights
to twine through tree limbs and shadows.

I am the river that rolls silent and steady
as its deeper self carves away the rocks.

I am the bright pink streak of sky
riding the deep clouds in the last rays of light.

I am the gypsy angel of your song
concealed in the mist and the answer is yes.

I am the soft roll of current pulling you
into a vortex of bright light and water.

I am a light-voiced bird singing melodies
at the twilight start of morning.

I am flesh and blood and bone and mind.
I am eternal vapor and presence and hope.

I am a woman who hurts and hates and loves.

I am a prophetess, a seer. I am a poetess
who will write the truth of our story
in each sad and beautiful line.