Ponder this:

Sunday, January 31, 2010


With a nod to Friko, who started this "miscellany" idea...

I worked with a young man who often referred to his niece Amanda Lynn. Every time he would speak of her her would say, "My niece, Amanda Lynn..." One day he mentioned that his niece, Amanda Lynn had a brother.
"What's his name?" I asked. "A Guitar?"

On January 25th, I had another three-quarter spin on the way to work. This time it was on a much smaller road and at a faster speed than the last thrill ride. Still, I achieved only two hundred seventy degrees of spin. Since there was no faintest disaster involved, it was pure fun.

While I was out fieldwalking one summer morning, a grasshopper landed on my hand. I was delighted to host him (her?) for a little while and peered at him closely while he chewed on my fingertip. It was the funniest little feeling, like one bristle of a soft hairbrush tickling there. When he left he took the smallest piece of the very top layer of skin with him...needed a magnifying glass to see the "damage," almost. I felt blessed by Mother Nature.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Remembering Joanne

A Joanne lookalike from Steve Oatway photography

Joanne Weaver was my favorite friend for as long a while as six or seven year old children have favorite friends.  At my sixth birthday party she gave me a brown suede-and-leather pouch with a drawstring. It was my favorite present that year; I loved the shape of it and the way it closed efficiently, in one movement. (That was the birthday year that my father arranged a treasure hunt, leaving written clues to the next location in the trail. "Well, well, well...," the only clue I remember, took us to the hand pump in the back yard where the next mysterious note waited.)
She lived on the second floor of a building that wasn't a house. The first floor was an unoccupied storefront with posts and a worn and saggy-slanting board-floor porch at the front. The second floor where the Weaver family lived had a porch at the back with the clothesline pulleyed from it across the back yard.  When I picture the place now my memory is of a crowd of identical freckled Weaver children with bowl-cut hair, all in motion in their dusty yard, all wildly laughing and yelling. 
Joanne fascinated me, not least because although she would often confide long exciting tales to me in her hurried breathless rusty-hoarse voice, through lips too busy to manage the saliva that accumulated in the corners of her mouth and was at intervals impatiently hissed up and caught by her teeth, I could barely understand her speech. She used words like "canny" and "nobbut" and "owt" and "nowt" and "ower" for "over." She contracted "the" to "t'" in every instance. "My ma tol' my brudder t'go t'bed," so the last three words sounded like "goatbed." She would finish her story and throw back her head and laugh, raucous, cueing me that it was time to acknowledge a punchline. 
I'm sure she was the first person to ever say "take a piss" to me. It wasn't a rude phrase in Joanne's world: it was her language. 
When she'd finished telling me a story, she would take a breath and huff it out, close her lips into a slant one-corner-pucker and concentrate on a point far in the distance with eyebrows raised, a  fatalistic expression. She was tiny and intensely focused, even in stillness.
Joanne was capable of a perfect adult-style disgust.  "Fool! Bah!" as she would turn about and stomp away, washerwoman style, sweeping one nail-bitten hand behind her in dismissal. 
Her face could instantly brighten into complete benevolence, too . . . chin tucked down, eyes looking up from under her straight brows, mouth still and crescent-curved.
Joanne evaporated from my world after a year or two. 
It's odd that I think of her so often; I knew her for so short a time.
I wonder what ever happened to her. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Yesterday, showered, shampooed and Shalimar'd, I sneakered up and took the kids for a walk in the glorious, glorious sunshine.  

Down the driveway we went, 
following the footprints of a crow who had preceded us.

Frost feathered sticks that poked through the snow,

 fletched driveway reflectors into archery targets...

and toothbrushes.

And changed the brush that last week was so dismal,  into delicate scepters of sparkling silver.

A breeze too faint for my face to feel set the oak leaves rocking like cradled babies.

The weeds that had been in the sun a little longer had dropped their icy flakes into 
dime- and nickel-sized plates for fairies of snow,

and in some places, entire banquet settings for winter celebrations...

Blue sky and sparkles everywhere!

Beautiful, beautiful!  

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My witty coworker

It was time to leave work yesterday afternoon. 
I put on my full length down coat. 
I'm kinda puffy, all by myself, and when I am wearing that coat, I am puffy, puffy, puffy.
Afternoon Boss and I were chewing over the latest workplace drama.  
I reached in my pocket and pulled out my keys. 
Out fell a penny. 

I bent over to get it and all the puff of my coat (added to all the underlying bulk) was in my way.
I straightened up sans penny and two more pennies flew from somewhere and bounced on the floor.
I stared at them for a second, wondering how they'd jumped out of my pocket all by themselves.
Then I looked at Afternoon Boss in perplexity.

"You're goin' through your change!" he cried.

00125-laughing-woman-portrait.jpg (311?425)

What a wit.

Friday, January 22, 2010


More gifties!  
To wit, a 7MSN cap and a 7MSN mug! 

Nobody appreciates a good coffee mug more than I! 

I'll have to work on wearing the cap. The hair I have, being short and layered, is subject to bad hat head. Once it's de-poofed, I look like a big wet mouse: nothin' but skull.
I am strongly drawn to the journal as well, as I am drawn to pads of lovely smooth unmarred paper in any form, particularly with cute burros on the cover. (Y'can't hardly ever find those anymore.)
And I could use a new mousepad at work...
If good luck, like bad luck, comes in threes, my string is finished. The elk antler pendant, the cap, the mug.  I'll have to start working on another round. 
Hmmm. Husband brought me some penuche fudge tonight. That's one. 
The state trooper who stopped me Thursday morning because my car's inspection sticker expired three weeks ago, and sent me on my way with a "Have a good day!"  That would be a strong number two.
Does today being Saturday count? 
Yes. I think I'll count this being the weekend as number three.
Yahoo! I can start all over again.
This good-luck-in-threes thing could go on forever! 

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I am defunkified.

The appreciative and loving comments you left, the passing of a few days, including being at work (I don't like realizing that my job is actually good for my psychological state, but there it is), an excessive intake of ice cream, going to bed at eight o'clock, knowing I would be up at this hour, and still have time for another nap before time to get ready for work...all of that was the cure.
Once again, I'm feeling grateful for having had the youth I had and having survived it to reach the life I have now.

Bad, sad things happen to people. The lucky ones...the ones who see  no options except to live through them...survive. 
The luckier ones triumph.   It took a long time for me to triumph over it, but I have.

If I hadn't had that life in those years, I would not have learned how strong I am.
There isn't much that can kill me.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


There is magic in long-distance friendships. 
They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes 
beyond being physically together and is often more profound.  
~ Diana Cortes 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Corduroy sneakers in the snow

I have just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  I think I should have read it during sunny months instead of during the winter doldrums, when I am too susceptible to the memories that such a story brings to my mind.  Or perhaps I should have taken a breather after reading Lit by Mary Karr before I read another memoir.  Fathers incapacitated by ill health or drink, dying, mothers oblivious to their children's physical and emotional care, cold, leaking winter houses, spoiled (if any) food...  It's too much for me.  

During much of my teens I lived alone, my father having died years before, my mother hospitalized, my sister away at college.  

I was given to believe that it was illegal for my mother to sign any legal documents because of her mental incapacity, so during my weekly hospital visit, in violation of whatever law that was (if there indeed was such a law), I would secret the monthly Social Security check to her for her endorsement so I could take it to the bank and cash it.  Once I had money, I would pay whatever bills there were.  And I would buy a package of sliced bacon and place it in the old GE lever-handled refrigerator's meat drawer.  The sealed package was less food than a talisman.  My best friend's family had big Sunday breakfasts of eggs and bacon that her father cooked.  Their house smelled of food and security.  Seeing that package of bacon in my refrigerator was a comfort.  After weeks of lying unopened in the refrigerator, the bacon would begin to grow spots of blue-green mold and even then I wouldn't throw it away until there was more mold than bacon visible.  With sad resignation I would dispose of it.  And buy a new package.  In those days I had a little touch of anorexia. Now as I type this, my stomach is growling and rumbling. I haven't eaten today and the urge to overlook hunger comes back with these memories.

Every cold weather day when I woke up in the morning and when I got home from school I needed to take the small tank from the back of the kerosene heater in the livingroom, carry it to the uninsulated back shed off the kitchen and balance it while I filled it from the big tank.  I almost never managed to get it done without spilling kerosene on myself, and even if I was successful with that, my hands always carried that scent. Kerosene, being oily, doesn't wash off easily, and I wondered every day when I got on the schoolbus if I smelled like the fat dirty people who sat in the kerosene dealer's office when I went there to pay the bill.  The office was messy and dirty and the windows were opaque with filth. And the whole place smelled like kerosene.

Sometimes the water heater would go out overnight and the apartment would fill with soot. I would wake up with black marks at my nostrils and the corners of my lips, and oddly, at my ears, having breathed that sooty air for hours.  Cold water and a washcloth full of Dial soap couldn't get those marks off my face and I'd have to go off to school with my dirty face, pretending I looked normal.

In the summer I washed the dirty clothes in an old wringer washer on wheels that somebody had given to us. I had a hose that I'd hook up to the kitchen faucet to fill it for the wash and rinse cycles, and it had a nifty attached hose with a hook at the end through which it drained.  The machine's tub leaked badly, so it drained onto the cracked linoleum floor as much as it drained into the sink.  When I had finished hanging the clothes on the line in the back yard I would mop the kitchen floor with the pool of water.  I felt adult and competent.

In the winter I would carry the dirty clothes the block or two to the laundromat. I might have owned boots, I don't remember. I usually wore the corduroy sneakers with holes in the toes that my sister had grown out of and left behind.  My toes only hurt until I stopped feeling them. Right now I'm reliving a solitary dark evening walk through a sparkling snowfall, carrying the broken plastic laundry basket to the laundromat, shuffling through half a foot of snow.  I composed a poem  for the next day's English class, repeating and revising it as I walked.  Our class had recently read Elinor Wylie's Velvet Shoes.  I have no memory of my poem but I know that it was well-received for its alliteration...lots of "s" and "sh" sounds.

I wore those same sneakers the night our church youth group went Christmas caroling.  When we had finished the round of the village and entered the leader's house to have popcorn in front of her fireplace, everybody took off their footwear inside her back door. She saw my holey sneakers encrusted with ice and snow and was shocked.  "Is that what you've been wearing? Your feet must be frozen! What would your mother think to know I let you walk around all night like that!" I'm sure I just smiled sheepishly and shrugged, simply an unruly child who had disobeyed her concerned mother's cautions about proper outerwear.

The friend who lent me both of those books felt I would identify with the authors' stories.  I do.  It is unfortunate perhaps, and perhaps not, that that identification and empathy takes me into my own memoir.

Click on the link to see others' contributions to Sunday Scribblings The Good Old Days.

Midwinter blahs: Dark, Dark...

For Sunday Stills: Moods and Emotions (Click on the link to see others' contributions.)

The natural world here is all gray and brown trees and white sky.

It all reminds me of the beginning of the Hell scene in the movie "What Dreams May Come." 
I'm feeling a little dark these days.  

Dark, Dark, is all I find for metaphor;
All else were contrast, --save that contrast's wall
Is down, and all opposed things flow together
Into a vast monotony, where night
And day, and frost and thaw, and death and life,
Are synonyms...
~from Interim by Edna St. Vincent Millay            

It will pass, I know.  It always has.
Some vitamin D, some outdoor activity, 
some infusion of oxygen into my blood.  
Eventually, spring will come. 
It always has.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Serenity Prayer

I often forget that there is more to the Serenity Prayer beyond the first four lines.  I say those first four lines often throughout my days.  I needed, today, to take the time to ponder the rest of it.  


God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Language! Language!

A few days ago somebody accused me of being a grammar snob. It wasn't the first time that's happened. I don't know if I'm insulted or proud. 
I don't like being seen as a snob, although if I were a snob about anything, language might well be my choice.  The subject arose because I thanked someone for writing "trouper" instead of "trooper" in praise of a person who persisted through troubles. 

I remember a Family Circus cartoon that I can't find to show you.  (This is why old people are valuable: we remember things that no one else can see.) In the cartoon, the very young son of the family, novice reader Billy, is reading from a storybook.  His younger sister, Dolly leans against him, looking off into the air, picturing the story as he reads.  Above Dolly's head there are billowing clouds of picture balloons with big Xs drawn over them and their replacements.  I can't remember the words in the cartoon but it was something like:
"The dog chased the bull."
Dolly pictures a dog chasing a huge black steam-snorting bull.
"...ball," Billy corrects.
Big black X over the bull picture and a new balloon with a happy cartoon doggy chasing a little red ball.
"The dog has fan," reads Billy, and Dolly pictures the dog, ears flapping backward as he sits in front of an electric fan.
"...fun," Billy says. The dog/fan balloon is crossed out and replaced by a  dog smiling around the red ball in his mouth.

I seem to know a number of people who speak in code.  

Husband often fails to organize his thoughts before words cartwheel from his lips. All the words are there; they're just in no particular sensible order.  Sometimes conversing with him is like solving a word jumble. 

The other evening the blasting cold temperature caused the water to stop flowing in the upstairs bathroom. We performed the marital song-and-dance routine of The Failure of Water or Electricity, yelling to each other up and down two floors:
"Is it on?"
A pause. "No."
...and on and on.

Husband joined me in the small upstairs room and contorted himself into a wildly uncomfortable-looking position to look silently, probingly, at pipes that he assumed were holding frozen water. Relieved of my duty, I returned to couch and book. A few minutes later, I thought I heard sloshing water and the sound of the jets in the bathtub, and shortly after that, I heard Husband speedily descending the stairs. I steeled myself for news of disaster, picturing the upstairs floor flooded, the walls crumbling. I began searching my brain for some of the calming phrases that I have learned in Wife School.

He appeared at the stair landing. 
"What's happening?" I asked. (Had the pipes exploded and he'd had to shuck his drenched clothing?)
"I left water in the tub," he said.
"Okay. Why are you naked?"
"Because I think it will keep the temperature up up there."
"But why are you naked?"
"I took a bath!" (A little snappish, that.)
"So the water's running?"
"Yes, but I'm going to turn off the valve downstairs."
The whole exchange reminded me of our long ago "fee" conversation. 

Husband came by this lingual dysfunction honestly. His mother used to frustrate me with her verbal dyslexia.  I think that difficulty was a big part of the reason that I so disliked speaking with her by telephone:  I needed visual clues to interpret what she was saying to me.
"I went shopping today at B & G's and got some great deals!" she'd exclaim.
I would picture commercial-size jars of bread-and-butter pickles and try to think of an appropriate response.
"What will you do with them?" I might have asked, thinking she had plans to freeze gallons of pickles for summer picnics.
"What do you think I'm gonna do with it?" she'd screech.
She meant she'd been to BJ's Wholesale Club, where she'd saved zillions of dollars on toilet paper and pretzels.

Afternoon Boss has the same trouble with language. Names, in particular. He's good about getting out his own files when he needs them, but he looks for the name on the file and he can't remember names. If the applicant's name is Beaulieu, he looks for "Below." I can't help by looking up the file number because I can't find, in my spreadsheet, applicant "Below."  To him I guess they look the same; he seems to find the files he needs. 
Afternoon Boss delivers verbal messages to me as, for example, "Bill Tinker called." 
The man's name is Rob Tranken. 

When I read, "She's been a real trooper through this whole ordeal," I picture a stern-faced woman in full law-enforcement uniform.  It takes me a nanosecond to figure out that that picture needs a big black X over it and one beside it with a brave dancer with bandaged foot and broad public smile.

My "grammar snob" accuser continued our conversation with, "I figure as long as I get my point across....who cares." 

I feel like Dolly. I'm not a snob. I'm just trying to follow the story.

That writer does the most, who gives his reader the most knowledge, and takes from him the least time. 
~Reverend Charles Caleb Colton

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Folk tale? Fairytale? Little Red Hen? What?!?!

I'm trying to find an old children's story about some industrious creature (I keep thinking Little Red Hen, but I can't find a LRH story like it) making a goody cake. 
It was a written story, not one that somebody made up and told me.  All the characters were animals who wanted to put in only "goody" things, and the protagonist told them that you can't make a cake with just goodies in it....there have to be eggs and flour too. The denouement was that they all ate the cake and realized to their surprise that it was delicious and were much educated.

Google never heard of it; various fairy- and folktale listings don't show me anything like it.

Did I dream this story?
If so, I'd better write it down and peddle it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I didn't want to get into this before the holidays were over.

There seems to be an uprising of angry folks who want to say and hear only "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" or any generic greeting.  Just as a reassurance to those who worry that the general decline of the country's moral fiber is due to that perceived change, I offer these images of vintage Christmas cards. 

Vintage, as in "1950s." 

When men were men, John Wayne was relaxing at the end of his workday by donning women's clothing, when a black man (Nat King Cole) having his own television show was cause for public clamor, when Jews were the them that Muslims are now.  The good old days.  Nobody was offended by "Happy Holidays" then.

Hey... (suspicious squint)...Wait a minute.
Maybe that's when it all started!

Memories of what I have not known

Perhaps because of the full moon and its weird effect on me, I have spent this, the first morning of 2010, looking at French real estate . . . tiny versions of the castles I was thinking about a few days ago. 
Why do I do this to myself? I'm back in my "Pilgrimage" mood.  The family genealogy gets us back to 15th century France, and the French family name persisted to my great-grandparents. The offspring from then on were all female, except, I imagine, for far-flung cousins unknown to me, and the heritage ran from then on to English/Irish and . . .   one German grandmother Wilhelmina, pictured here as I imagine her.


I look at these old wrecks of thick stone walls with the huge blackened hearths and the gigantic overhead beams and the oddly placed asymmetrical windows, and I want to be there. I want to smell them. I want to see that sunshine on old stone steps.  
Those thick stained planks charm me.

 - Lacapelle Segalar

If only I had a gazillion dollars to buy one of these old places and restore it. . . or even to live in it as is, with the damp and the mice, moldy rushes on the floor.
[Heavy sigh.]

The truth is, as Abe Lincoln pointed out in one of his responses to a fairly recent post, time is like away . . . there's no  such thing.