Christmas with Mom.

Having a gift to open made Mom as giddy as a teenager getting dressed for her first date.  She kept that childlike recipient-enthusiasm her whole life.  Imagine her excitement when her oldest child, my sister, showed up a couple of days before Christmas laden with packages for the whole family–two for Mom.

Christmas morning.   Mom opened her first package, a beautiful sweater.  Her reaction wasn’t quite what my sister expected.  Suspiciously, Sissy picked up the discarded wrap, examined it, gave Mom the evil eye and said, “You opened it early and taped it back up!  You opened both of them!”  Hehehe.

Write your Mom Memory.  Click here for details.


The angels are back.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~  Norman Vincent Peale

Around this time last year, I wrote a post showing a photograph of a snowflake against a cloudless azure sky.  I took this angel photo in the same park this year.  (Click on photo to see angel more clearly.) In fact, the street lamps alternately display angels and snowflakes.  In last year’s post I commented on the incongruity of the snowflake against an amazingly bright Duke-blue sky.  I went from incongruities to oxymorons (aka oxymora) and the race was on.  I’m feeling a bit less playful as I sit down to write today; in fact, I’m downright pensive.  We’ll see where this angel takes me.

angel, a definition:  a typical benevolent celestial being that acts as an intermediary between heaven and earth, especially in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Zoroastrianism.

Here you see the angel of my childhood.  She certainly looks benevolent and celestial, doesn’t she?  When I was a youngster, and even through my teens, this picture resided on the wall beside my bed.  Living in the mountains meant we had our share of rickety little foot bridges similar to the one in the picture.  I imagined this was my brother trying to make his way across the bridge and the girl was our older sister helping him along, which she would have done with great good nature.  Of course they couldn’t see her, but the guardian angel was there to help them both across.  Sweet story.  Reassuring to a little girl who lived in a less than adequate home with less than competent parents.  (They did love us, though, I’ll give them that.)

Alas, the sweet story went awry.  Not his sisters, not his momma, not even an ethereal being sent from above could save that little boy from himself and his demons.  He died of a drug and alcohol overdose at the age of sixty-one.  Like father, like son.  He spent his entire life wanting and trying to do something, anything better than our dad.  He finally succeeded.  He out-lived him by about a year.

Ahhh, but “hope springs eternal in the human breast.”  (Alexander Pope said that.)  And so we bring out the angels at Christmastime and we burden them with our hopes and wishes.  We charge them with keeping us safe.  We put one on the tiptop of the Christmas tree.  What’s she supposed to do up there anyway?  Guard the tree?  If we’re lucky, we have an image of one in a difficult childhood who helps us through all manner of hard times.  Who/What are these ubiquitous presences?  I have a theory but first I’d love to know what you think.  Care to comment?

Thanksgiving Day.

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness.  It will change your life mightily. ~ Gerald Good

Today was a very good day.  Good food.  Beautiful family.  Playful dogs.  Happy grandchildren.  A good photographer (daughter # 3).  Just enough chill in the air.  Warm fire on the patio.  Two young people in love.  Sunshine.  A cozy house to go home to.  And I finished my banner! 

This is a photo of it still lying on its back on my work table.  Tomorrow afternoon we will hang it in the church.  Now I can start to get serious about Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans.  I hope you’ve had a good one.  To everyone else–Happy day wherever you are.   I hope you’ve had a good one, too.

Fun at the grocery store.

Humor is something that thrives between man’s aspirations and his limitations.  There is more logic in humor than in anything else.  Because, you see, humor is truth. ~ Victor Borge

Yesterday was to be a routine trip to my local grocery store.  Thursday is Thanksgiving Day, of course, and I’m responsible for pecan pie and green beans with shallots.  Except for the haricot verts, everything can be purchased well ahead of time.  So off I went with my many-times-used canvas bags.  In short order, I found everything I needed and several items I didn’t really need and proceeded to the checkout line.  I had more than the fifteen items allowed for express checkout but the kind young man assured me it didn’t matter.

Ever the helpful one, I started to bag my groceries as the cashier scanned them.  I don’t know why but I couldn’t seem to hold on to the shallots.  I had quite a few of them and they didn’t seem to want to travel home in my bag.  Or my tired hands weren’t well-coordinated or something, but whatever it was, the shallots went slipping out of my hands and back on the checkout counter.  I finally said, “Well, crap, I’m losing all my shallots.”  Now, I have no idea why that was so funny, but it was–to the teen-aged cashier and to me.  He started to snigger and I started to giggle and no matter what either of us said after that, we just giggled louder.  At first I could see that he was trying not to laugh.  He was probably afraid of offending me.  I said, through my hiccups and tearing eyes, “I’m sure I’ve lost more important things than shallots.” (I was thinking things like money, eyesight, my husband; you know, important things.)  I have no idea what he was thinking but it certainly tickled him because he could hardly finish scanning my groceries.

The levity continued.  I bought a carton of eggs.  As is my habit, I had opened the package to check for breakage but I apparently didn’t close it carefully.  My cashier-child scanned the carton and started to place it in my cart.  As he did so, the carton opened and a dozen eggs went flying.  I told him it was probably my fault, that I had opened the carton to be sure there wasn’t a broken one in there.  He gave me an impish grin and told me, “Well, now they’re all broken.”  After retrieving more eggs, I bade him good-bye.  “You have a nice Thanksgiving, Ma’am,” he chortled as he cheerfully tackled the egg-slimed floor.

During the days, weeks, months of my divorce, I never completely lost my sense of humor.  Granted, there were times when I didn’t find much to laugh about but those times never lasted long.  Most days I can find humor all around me.  I laugh at myself often.  I remember those last months before D physically moved away, I would be rolling with laughter at something silly on TV and he would sit there stone-faced.  Sometimes I would ask him, “Don’t you think that’s funny?”  His response, “Yeah, I guess.”  My dearly beloved ex-husband, I wish you laughter–lots of it.

Soccer Mom.

Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare. ~ Ed Asner

There’s a great deal written about soccer moms.  They have their own car genre, a van of some sort that will seat at least half the team, each one securely strapped into her seat.  A soccer mom often has two or three children playing at the same time and she manages to attend all three games (or is it matches?) and supplies end-of-game snacks for all three.  She paces the sidelines talking or texting on her cell phone while shouting encouragement to the home team, “Way to TRY, Katy.”  Don’t you know Katy loves that word try.  Meanwhile Soccer Mom (SM) mutters under her breath and/or into her phone, “If they’d had my Angel in there where she belongs, we would have scored that point.  Poor Katy.  She’s a sweet kid but she’s never going to be a soccer player.  Bless her heart.”

I say– enough about Soccer Mom.  I’m a proud Soccer Grammy.  Grandma.  Granma.  Gramma.  Nana.  Ma.  G’ma.  They can call me what they like.  I’ll always answer if I’m able.  And I’ll try to go to the game.  Or the recital. Or the meet.  Or…you get the picture.  The difference between being  Grammy and being Mom is not the proverbial fine line.  It is instead a very broad and happy stroke.

When I arrived at the field on Saturday the game was underway.  One of the advantages of being the grandparent is that you don’t have to get there right on time. The other team had already scored.  I learned that my granddaughter Angelina was on the bench because she had an injury from basketball practice.  I’m very excited about b-ball season.  I understand it better than I do soccer.  I’m a devoted, focused fan in the gym.  Not quite so on the soccer field.  The field is really big and I have a hard time keeping up with the action, you know, the game.  But I settle into the seat my little angel’s father turns over to me and share my organic snack mix with the siblings of players and any other interested or hungry takers.  I try to strike up a conversation with the dad on my left.  “This is not exactly a level playing field, now is it?”  After a pregnant pause, he acknowledges that I’m speaking to him and says, “No ma’am, it isn’t.”  I wasn’t quite finished with this line of questioning,  “Shouldn’t we be able to see Coach Loudmouth on the other side?  I know he’s there, I can hear him.”  Silence.  Dad is watching the game and cheering for his Angelique.  He’s ignoring me.  The nerve.

When my Angelina isn’t playing the game oozes along like molasses on a cold day.  I allow my tiniest angel to entertain me as we eat a little more organic chocolate.  Can’t be too bad for us as long as it’s organic.  Suddenly there’s action on the field.  Then cheering.  We join in, littlest angel and I.  Woo hoo!  Great shot…by someone’s angel on the opposing team.  Silence in the immediate vicinity.  Someone mumbles something about the other team.  I have visions of a paddy wagon coming for me with a strait jacket as I say with great dignity and aplomb, “I know that.  But they are just children after all and a good shot is a good shot and the shooter deserves our admiration and encouragement.  I always cheer for a good play no matter which team it is.”  I hope I sounded appropriately authoritative and teacher-like.  Or wise old crone-ish.  Or something worth listening to because I really believe the message.

Something’s happening here…

There’s something happening here.  What it is ain’t exactly clear.
~ Stephen Stills

I admit this isn’t one of my more attractive photos.  I had to shoot it though.  I showed it to my grandson recently and asked him to tell me what he saw.  His response was, “Cookies?”  That’s not at all what I thought when I first saw it sitting on the drainage grate in front of a house in my neighborhood.  I recognize that my vision isn’t what it once was but I thought it looked more like dog poop than cookies.  I took a closer look and realized it was a Thomas’ English muffin with peanut butter.  There must be some irony here but I’m not sure what.  I say that because this is what D used to eat most mornings for breakfast.

When I realized what it was I said aloud (yes, I talk to myself) “A free writing prompt!”  Then my imagination took off for the rest of my walk as I tried to figure out what scenario might have led someone to leave breakfast on the grating.  There are so many possibilities.

Scenario #1–Ten-year-old Emma loves animals.  It would be just like her to leave her breakfast there for the neighbor’s dog to enjoy when he goes for his morning walk.  She knows his owner will bring him by at about 9:00 or so.  She sat on the front steps and waited for him during the summer.  Or maybe, because the weather was colder than usual, she wanted to feed the birds.  There are so many of them flitting about from tree to ground and back again.  Could be she’s noticed the yellow and white long-haired feral cat that scavenges the neighborhood looking for a bite.  It would be just like her to sacrifice her meal for that poor wanderer.  Everyone else fears him because he might be mad.

Scenario #2–Emma had a hard time getting out of bed this morning.  Mommy had to call her several times.  She wanted to get up the first time but she was so tired.  Mommy and Daddy fought again last night.  Emma has noticed that the fights are happening more often and getting louder.  She wishes Daddy wouldn’t hit Mommy.  She wishes Mommy wouldn’t make him mad.  This morning, because Emma couldn’t wake up, she didn’t have time to eat.  She had to catch the bus to school because her mom didn’t have a car to drive her.  Daddy wouldn’t allow Mom to have a car.  Mom, rushing to the bus stop to give her daughter breakfast, watched sadly as the bus pulled away from the curb.  She didn’t have the heart to take it back inside.

I have mentioned before that usually when I write my fingers go places and my brain tags along.  I think I wrote #2 because domestic violence was on my mind.  My blogger friend Kim writes passionately about and against such violence and its devastation to families and communities.  Her passion has led me to take up the cause in some small way.  Several years ago I volunteered for a time as a Guardian ad litem.  (1-866-341-1425)  My perspective is from the child’s point of view because, as a Guardian ad litem, I was a voice in the court system for children who were often victims of domestic violence.  Thank you, Kim, for reawakening my awareness.  It certainly has put my divorce in perspective.

National Domestic Violence Hotline–1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224

Imago therapy according to Pat.

So your rose garden needs a little work?  If you are aware that your relationship needs help and your partner is willing to work with you to achieve harmony, count yourself lucky.  I’m sad to say that my marriage had already gone south before I recognized how bad it was.  So bad, in fact, that D was telling me he wanted a divorce.  I knew right away that I would need some help whether or not we were willing to go together.  A friend of mine told me of a therapist she and her husband had worked with some years previous.  Dr. A was a certified Imago therapist for individuals and/or couples.  My friend had told me a great deal about the Imago approach and it made sense to me, so I called up and made an appointment.  What did I have to lose?

Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., developed the Imago method of counseling.  The following is a quote from Dr. Hendrix which describes briefly why he thinks we’re drawn to our partners:

Psychologists say that “chemistry” is really our unconscious attraction to someone who we imagine will meet our particular emotional needs.  What we unconsciously want is to get what we didn’t get in childhood from someone who is like the people who didn’t give us what we needed in the first place.

I had to read that paragraph several times to get the gist of it.  I’m accustomed to shorter sentences. 🙂  Seriously, I have read most, if not all, of Dr. Hendrix’s books and his logic rings true.  Here’s a summary of what I understand Imago therapy to be:

  • All of us are born whole and complete.
  • We become wounded in our early stages of development by caregivers.  (Most parents don’t do this on purpose.)
  • We have in our unconscious an image of all the positive and negative traits of our caregivers.  This is the Imago.  This image gives us the blueprint for whom we should marry in order to have our needs met.
  • We then marry someone who is an Imago match.  This is someone who matches the composite of our early caregivers.  Since our parents (caregivers) are the ones who wounded us, they are the ones who must heal us in the form of our primary love partner.
  • We choose our romantic partner using a selection process based on who will be able to heal us and help us grow.
  • At some point after the “honeymoon” is over a power struggle ensues.  Both partners are seeking healing and growth.
  • The conscious mind doesn’t choose this struggle.  It’s the unconscious mind seeking healing.
  • With conscious effort and dialogue, the Imago love mate is the one most compatible with us and the one most capable of helping us to resolve unfinished business with our caregivers.

You may be wondering why I’m writing about all this now.  I wonder a little myself but I think I know the answer.  Back before D and I physically separated and he was still living at home with me, and after I had seen Dr. A a few times, I asked him if he would consider going to a couples weekend of Imago Therapy.  I explained it to him as Dr. A had explained it to me.  It’s a good way to get to the heart of who you are and why you’re attracted to certain people.  Whether or not he and I decided to stay together, we both would have learned some important things about ourselves and our relationships.  I became very hopeful.  D had to go on a business trip and took a copy of “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix with him.  He came home and told me he had read the book and some woman on the plane asked him about it and he just gave it to her.  (Can’t help wondering who the woman was.)  This I learned from that experience:  Something in the reading touched a chord.  D had a meltdown.  He cried and cried.  I’m still not sure what all the crying should have told me.  I do know that he decided a few days later that he didn’t think he would be able to go for a weekend with me.  And he moved out and the rest is history.  I know now that his girlfriend had given him an ultimatum, he had promised her that he would leave me and he did.

“Thank God and Greyhound” he’s gone–a very funny song by Roy Clark.  I don’t mean that to be ugly.  I simply realize I’m better off and maybe he is, too.  And life is good.

“The tongue…kills without drawing blood.” ~ Buddha

I don’t deserve any credit for turning the other cheek as my tongue is always in it. ~ Flannery O’Connor

I try not to look back with too many regrets but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could ride a time machine into my past and take back some of my more poisonous words.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing a link between my brain and my mouth.  Back in elementary school I would usually bring home a near-perfect report card except for one small area which never seemed small to me.  I almost always got an X in a section that said “Refrains from speaking and acting hastily.”  I wondered for a long, long time what that meant. I remember asking my mom about it.  She told me she thought it meant I talked too much.  She’d had some experience with my incessant talking. 🙂 She didn’t know any education jargon so it’s reasonable she would have thought that.  I’ve learned since that neither speaking nor acting was the key word here; the important word was hastily.

When I was a child riding a school bus every day, our buses, supposedly for safety reasons, had a governor that kept them from going over a certain speed.  I’m thinking my tongue could use one of those.  I still blurt out whatever comes into my mind sometimes.  I’m glad for some of my blurt-outs but sorry for others.  If I’m to be honest here, some of them are probably not so accidental.  For me, now, it’s a matter of impulse control.  And as an adult I can have pretty good control when I want.  But I’m also known for speaking plainly and without sugar-coating my words.  I naturally avoid pretense.  I’ve always been that way.  I think there’s a fine line between being tactful and lying.  Always tell the truth! was hammered into my head as far back  as I can remember.  How does a child always tell the truth without insulting some well-meaning aunt or grandparent?  My role models didn’t always hit that target.  Their inadequacy further complicated the issue and would probably make for an interesting post at another time.

This post has taken a somewhat different direction than I originally thought it would.  (Just like when I’m talking.) I had intended to cite some of my more heinous breaches of polite language.  Instead I will close with a word-to-the-wise about my tongue–a reminder, if you will, that I can choose to wound or heal, soothe or agitate, make laugh or make cry.  I can choose.  That’s the important message.  If the pen is mightier than the sword, the tongue is mightier than either.

I will speak with a straight tongue. ~ Chief Joseph, Nez Perce   

I will try very hard to speak with a straight tongue. ~ Pat

Ya gotta love it…

I’m waiting for the rain to take a little break so I can walk.  It rained most of the night and everything is saturated.  I can see that today’s walk will be a different kind of wonderful than yesterday’s.  Yesterday was the perfect day for walking.  I took pictures of everything I saw.  Well, almost.  Like this leaf.  And ya gotta love it…when a single leaf on the ground is as awesome as its host, laden with thousands of fiery works of art.

…when the sky is this blue and you have a totally green tree alongside a changing one in the neighbor’s yard two doors down.  And you accidentally snap the leaf in your hand along with the trees and it kinda sorta looks like you might have done it on purpose. 🙂 

…when garbage collection is done in the name of the Holy Trinity.  This single collection bin is a fairly tasteful almost navy blue.  All the rest are an almost neon blue.  When I walk on Wednesday mornings I always look wistfully at this one and wish I could have one like it.  Now isn’t that a waste of a wish!

…when the neighbors leave their cute little ghosties in the tree until it’s time to put up Christmas lights.  I think that’s what I remember from last year.  It leaves me wondering if they’re procrastinators or early birds.  Not that it matters.  Even though the houses in the neighborhood have a boring similarity, the people who reside within are as dissimilar and interesting as their backgrounds and experiences allow them to be.  Wonderful diversity here. 

…when you live in an area where these beautiful little pansy faces will continue to bloom throughout the winter.  Sometimes when it snows (rarely) Persistent Pansy stands her ground and we humans are grateful for her persistence.  Hope in the cold.  Something we could all use on occasion.

…when half the leaves on the tree are golden and half are their original youthful green and you can see an aqua sky through the branches.  Eye candy for sure.  I keep bits of “eye candy” all over my house.  Some folks think it’s superfluous but for me it’s essential, as vital as feeding my body.

…when a picket fence casts sunshine and shadows in front of you as you walk.  I grew up in a time when a picket fence was one of those iconic symbols of the longed for American dream.  Upward mobility.  Anyone can make it if he/she works hard enough.  I’m proud of the many Americans who are Occupying Wall Street or wherever in an attempt to recapture that dream.  And yes, I do think that’s what it’s all about.

…when most of the county has pale yellow nondescript fire hydrants and you have newly painted fire-engine red ones.  We didn’t have hydrants in the country where I grew up but when I went to town, they had red ones.  They’re supposed to be red.  Makes me wish I had a dog.

And finally, ya gotta love it…when a flat hot southern neighborhood in the US can claim a name like Glenfinnan.  I’ve always loved the sound of it so I looked it up, of course.  Click the link if you want to know what the real Glenfinnan in Scotland looks like.  It’s stunningly beautiful.  Now when I think or say the word I will have a little mental glimpse of heaven.  And life is good!

Note to Lady E:  Here’s my take on nine things I love.