Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Today I realized how thankful I am for the written word.

Earlier in the week, when going over lesson plans for teaching descriptive writing, I was thinking about how miraculous the written word is. I can think of no other more direct way of connecting with another human being’s inner thoughts than through these little symbols of meaning.

Those of you who know me best know that my life has been drained by the emotional parasitism of at least one Malignant Narcissist. Their specialty is maintaining a superficially human exterior while, like the real-life vampires they are, feeding off all that is worthwhile in the human beings to whom they attach themselves. I would have starved if it weren’t for the bounty I’ve received in the connections provided by the written word. Amazing to me how words alone can feed the spirit.

All people who write graciously provide me with a rich cornucopia of experiences and ideas and memories. Their writing allows me to sit and sup, however briefly, in the nourishment of kindred souls.

By visiting here, you sit down at my little table and share something life-giving for me. And when I read your words, I am renewed.

Thank you. May your day and your life be richly blessed.

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. ~ Henry Miller

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bizarro World Easter

My daughter was looking through the pictures on my camera and asked, “Uh, Mom? What are these weird red Easter eggs?”

I am so UN-handy in the kitchen that when I thought up my very own kitchen hint, it was so unusual that I had to capture the moment. Then again, maybe someone has already thought of it, and I am so kitchenally-challenged that I didn’t know? Nevertheless, here it is:

I have a lot of recipes that call for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. I used to open a can and wonder what to do with the rest. THEN I discovered (don’t I sound like a commercial??!!) that most Easter egg holders measure exactly one tablespoon. Spray on cooking spray, smoosh it in, cover and freeze, then pop out and wrap in individual little tablespoons to store in the freezer. My last bag lasted almost a year.

Take that, Martha Stewart.

“People got to do something useful if they’re going to take up space in the world.” ~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Salute

Fortunately for me, my father did not die on a battlefield in the South Pacific when he served as a Marine in World War II. Unfortunately for me, I got a call on my 34th birthday that started, “Happy birthday, but…I’m sorry….”

For the rest of my life, my birth date would become carved into my heart as the same date that was carved into my father’s headstone.

Right around Veteran’s Day that year, as my black pumps sank into the soft lawn of the cemetery, several members of my father’s veteran’s group lined up to help honor the friend who had succumbed on another dreaded battlefield called cancer.

The guns swung into place. At the salute, they fired.

But these were not the highly polished, dead-on shots of rigorously drilled soldiers who fire as one. These were shakier, rustier shots that wavered just enough to make it clear in that split-second: it was individuals who were firing that day.

These men were not sleek young men who hadn’t yet lived. The guns had fired from arms that had lived over seventy years each, arms grown weary from age and toil and worry. These arms knew what it was to cradle the newly dead…and the newly born. These arms had fought for their country and for their lives, and so far, had won both.

Some men were bald, some were round. Some had arms that were driftwood thin. But all stood as tall as their tired backs would let them.

These men were not soldiers. They were so much more. They were soldiers, workers, sons, and brothers. They were friends, husbands, fathers, men. Real men who know that life itself is a series of battles that we win by struggling for and protecting what it is we hold dear.

Thank you all for fighting for what matters. Thank you, Daddy, for having been a father who matters…to many. To me.

I salute you. All of you. Happy Veteran’s Day.

The heart is unconquerable….~Dave Pelzer, A Child Called It

Sunday, November 8, 2009

"They" Were Wrong

When I was young, I used to be slightly haunted by a line in the John Cougar Mellencamp song that goes, “Oh yeah, they say life goes on/long after the thrill of living is gone.” I worried it might be true that the thrill of living leaves us as we age. How hard it would be to live life without that thrill, I thought.

And then during my divorce and the events that led up to it, I realized there was no thrill. Just relentless responsibilities, attacks, hassles, worries. And on top of it all, I worried about the loss of that thrill. Was it gone forever?

Today, on this November day, I look around. The ginger (above) is wafting the most lovely gardenia/papaya scent throughout the house. The passionflowers are still draping the French doors. Outside in the sunlight, a Bouncing Bet flower is still in bloom, and so is a rose. Sweet alyssum is everywhere. The dog is making me laugh, rolling in the grass and leaves, snorting, celebrating the luxuries of sun and earth and air. My daughter finally got over her flu and is playing classical music on the piano, the notes drifting out into the yard and into my soul. I recently heard from another loved one and couldn’t help but grin at the smile in his voice. Got the nicest letter—yes, letter!—from a friend I haven’t heard from in ages. Got a birthday card from another friend I haven’t heard from in even longer. Spent yesterday sipping wine and laughing with some great people at a winery, overlooking the hills of Augusta. When I look back over something sweet that happened at work last week, I can't help but smile. All of it gives me a thrill—all of it.

If someone had told me years ago that I would love this part of my life so much—divorced, and in the autumn of my years—would I have believed them? And yet not only is the thrill of living not gone, but I get it at the slightest, silliest things.

Oh, yeah, life goes on…and the thrill of living gets even more strong.

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy. ~Anne Frank

Friday, November 6, 2009

If Mohammed Can't Go to the Tropics

If you’ve ever seen a naked plumeria cutting, you would know why my little girl first dubbed this plant “The E.T. finger.” There is a vaguely alien quality to the bald little stick.

Rooting it wasn’t easy, either, since I got E.T. at the worst time of year for a plumeria that has the misfortune to live in the Midwest. I had to baby him throughout the winter on a heating pad, under lights, to get him to root. But root he did, and has been growing for at least six years now into quite a handsome little tree. Although plumerias only branch when they bloom, mine branched right away thanks to the inflorescence (flower thingy) that the cutting came with (but that dropped during the rooting process). Every year, I hoped that this would be the year it finally bloomed.

At first I thought it was a semi-bad thing that E.T. chose fall to bloom, since I would normally let him go dormant for winter storage this time of year. But I’ve been enjoying the blooms so much that it’s clear this was quite a blessing. I’m pretty sure it is Celadine, which I’ve read has a unique feature to the leaf edge. The scent is faint and less fruity than the plumeria products I’ve purchased in the past, but it’s still beachy and exotic—slightly coconutty and citrussy, like suntan lotion.

So maybe I can’t go to the tropics, but I’m feeling pretty pleased with having the tropics right here in Missouri. In November.

I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may—light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful. ~John Constable

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One Great Smelling Fishbone

This is epiphyllum anguliger, or Fishbone Cactus, that bloomed last week. The flowers were the size of a cup and saucer with a scent that was mild, but heavenly...sort of jasmine/fruity/citrus. Delicious. This flower (to me) smells more like some plumeria products I've bought than actual plumeria does.

Every day I discover how little I know; it's just that I also discover that other people don't know as much as I thought. ~Gloria Steinem