Summertime blues.

“…and there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”  ~ Eddie Cochran, 1938-1960

Back in 1959, young Eddie Cochran wrote and recorded “Summertime Blues.”  It has since been recorded by many other artists, including Roger Daltrey and The Who.  It continues to entertain me whenever I chance to hear it.  I included the link so that you might enjoy it, too, if you choose.  Music, as I have said before, soothes my soul and brings me great joy.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I have bouts of depression.  Some of the worst times come in the summer.  I am at my core an outdoor “girl.”  When we have days, sometimes even weeks on end, of ninety-five plus temperatures, it starts to wear on me.  Walking in the mall isn’t my idea of satisfying exercise.  Walking outside is out of the question–even dangerous.  Stubborn soul that I am, I try hard to outwit my depression and negative thoughts.  Tonight I’m looking back on my last twenty-four hours and remembering the things/people/events that brought a spot of happiness into my world.  For example, red flowers in a summer bouquet as seen in the photo above.  I bought these for myself at my local grocery.

Stella and her mom spent the night with me last night.  This is her Bananagrams message on our Winnie the Pooh rug in her favorite room.  You can see Pooh’s feet, lower right.  We rocked and I sang the songs I used to sing to her mom when she was little.  S sings with me on You Are My Sunshine.  We read books, ate chocolate cake, watched a bit of Sponge Bob Square Pants (a very funny show for adults), and lots of other fun stuff.  No time for depression with S around.  She’s a joyful little girl.

This is Stella’s t-shirt for the day.  She didn’t want to pose long enough for me to snap a picture but she finally relented so I would “just get it done” and leave her alone.  I’m proud of her parents for teaching this message to their children and for promoting it in the community via t-shirts and attitudes.  Title IX lives! and I’m glad for that.  In fact I can gratefully add that all three of my daughters encourage and support this message.  Thank you, Daughters, for your open minds and progressive thinking.

High on my list of hot-weather activities is visiting my nearest book shop, so I don’t need to tell you that I was delighted when Daughter #1 (numbers established by birth order) texted and asked if I wanted to meet her there.  Of course I did.  It’s a large store and it’s wonderfully cool.  I often spend a couple of hours browsing, and I admit it, I buy far too often for one who has an electronic reader.  It helps that there’s a Starbucks there.  This time of year it’s the coffee frappuccino that calls my name.  Yum!

I keep telling myself that I must start to spend more time at the nearest public library so I won’t buy books.  It would be just as cool.  Of course they don’t have a Starbucks and the library is farther away.  One of these days.  Maybe.  I’m considering it.  Really!

Do your best.  Give.  Eat good food and share.  Celebrate tradition.  Cherish family.  Look back.  Look ahead.  LIVE NOW.  Play games.  Dream.  Accept change.  ~~  These are the messages on a lovely, handcrafted Lazy Susan which sits on my kitchen table.  Today, I’m happy to say, I did most of these things.    It was a good day. 


A fun day at the Mint Museum.

A museum is a place where one should lose one’s head.                    ~ Renzo Piano

F (age 10) and I had an entertaining  day at the Mint Museum Uptown.  You can see him in silhouette here in front of the entrance to the Craft and Design wing of the building.  I wish I could explain to you what this colorful piece is, but I can’t.  In fact, even if you and I were standing in front of it, I still wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what it is or how it was designed and constructed.  F watched a good bit of the video about its construction; I was busy examining the piece and snapping photos.  I did hear the artist/craftsman say one thing that impressed me.  He said he would get it to a certain stage and then ask people what they thought, what they would add or take away, etc.  I may be wrong, but I don’t think artists typically do that.  It’s a beautiful, interesting, and eye-catching piece, whatever it is.

We enjoyed the hands-on room.  Above right F is picking up a pail to feed the chickens.  His action caused the rooster to rise up and announce the day.  There are several sections in this room and each section gets its inspiration from the work of a particular artist.  The daily life on a farm takes its inspiration from Romare Bearden’s paintings.  Bearden was born in Charlotte (We claim him!) but soon moved with his family to New York City.  His connection to his southern rural roots apparently never left him, as his early works show.  Many of his paintings are depictions of African-Americans as they lived their lives.  I am powerfully attracted to his use of vivid color.  Read more about Romare Bearden here.  Charlotte is fortunate to house the largest collection of his vast body of work here at the Mint Museum Uptown.

You may have guessed by now that the Mint Museum of Charlotte has more than one site.  The other, and original, site is the Mint Museum Randolph.  Randolph is simply the name of the street where that branch resides.   The oldest section of the Randolph building was the first branch of the United States Mint.  Many people don’t know that Charlotte had a mint right in downtown Charlotte in the 1800s.  There was actually a gold mine near here and the U.S. Mint operated here from 1836 until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.  You can learn more about the Museum’s history here.

This post is fast becoming too long.  Now that I’m retired I have time to become really excited about local attractions and history, and so I could go on and on.  I get even more excited about spending a day out with a ten-year-old boy.  If you should have the opportunity to accompany a child this age (or thereabout) on a trip to almost anywhere, do it.  The conversation is stimulating and fascinating.  We talked about racial prejudice, the class bully and how happy he will be when school is out for the summer.  I was thrilled to learn how he felt about these important topics.  Kudos to his parents for a job well done.

Birthdays are not for sissies.

I had a birthday recently.  I’ve also been a little sad of late.  Are the two connected?  I don’t really know.  Maybe.  My mom did not age gracefully.  She fought it like a tiger.  I asked her once if she had thought of having a “friend” or another husband.  Her answer was classic Mom:  “I’ve thought of it but the way I see it I’m too old to get a younger man and I don’t want an older one.  I DON’T LIKE OLD MEN!”  I decided to rib her a little and told her that she was, in fact, an old woman.  She stood her ground as she told me she knew that but “I STILL DON’T LIKE OLD MEN!”  I conceded and I don’t think I ever mentioned it again.

I’m not sure why I brought this up or where I’m going with it but I will tell you that I don’t dislike old men as long as they don’t act old.  I think that order gets taller the more birthdays I have.  Now I shall return to this most recent birthday celebration.

Through and throughout the malaise of depression sadness I never lose sight of the fact that I’m very fortunate to have family and friends who are kind and giving and supportive.  Witness the beautiful rose bouquet pictured above or the chocolate-covered strawberries (right) which were delivered to my front door.  Yum!  Equally important are the thoughts and wishes that aren’t or can’t be pictured here.  Lunch out AND dinner cooked in by my best buddy who loves me no matter what dumb thing I might say or do.  All-girl family dinner with two daughters and two granddaughters where we named the worst and best things about our day and some of us couldn’t think of a worst.  How great is that!  A Barnes and Noble gift card to cover my nook-book purchases for quite some time.  Hugs and kisses from my Latino friends and a loud “Happy Birthday to You” sung in Spanish.  The Face Book greetings, the phone calls and the snail mail printed cards.  The handmade cards made by the grandchildren.  My favorite birthday quote comes from a card my grandson F made:  “I hope you have a great birthday but I know that it will be great because you are with the people who love you.”  My second favorite comes from a card his little sister S made:  “On your birthday, can you take me to the toy store?”

Life is good.  As I wind down this little essay I leave you with what I consider to be my funniest card.

The Christmas marathon.

I really just want to be warm yellow light that pours over everyone I love.  ~ Conor Oberst

The marathon is completed for another year and I’m both happy and sad to be home in the quiet again.  I always start Christmas morning with Dtr. #3, then go a couple of miles up the street to #1 and after lunch there, I head up to Chapel Hill to the home of #2.  It is so much fun to see the children’s excitement and feel their energy and love.  I am extraordinarily well-fed on Christmas Day, a lovely meal at each daughter’s home.  It’s now 4:00 pm a day later and I’m still not hungry.  But I’m just tired enough to appreciate the opportunity to read and rest and even to take a nap.

This was a holiday of giving and receiving scarves and sweaters as if we all want to swathe each other in all the good things that will sustain us until next year.  I know that’s how I feel about my loved ones and I sense the same from them.  It’s not just physical warmth but love and kindness and support and a shoulder to lean on when needed.  It’s happiness and joy and freedom from strife.  It’s health and enough wealth to pay the bills.  It’s peace and sharing with the less fortunate.  It’s forgiving and accepting forgiveness.  It’s whatever we need to be happy.

I’m happy to be here, now, the person that I am, with all manner of possibilities stretching out on the road ahead of me.  And I’m happy to have you to help me along.

For boys only.

This is as close to R-Rated as I’ll ever get, I’m sure.  I was/am the proud mother of three daughters.  I don’t know a lot about little boys.  I have questions:  How old is this kid?  At what age do boys start thinking this way?  Has he been reading Dad’s Playboy?

This is another Recycled Paper Greetings card; Jim Benton is the artist.  Thanks, Jim, for making us chuckle, and ponder.

My holiday season so far…

Once again we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.   ~ Dave Barry

This holiday season gives new meaning to roller coaster, merry-go-round, and other rides that might come to mind.  I’m only about halfway through it and am starting to wonder if I’ll make it to the finish line.  What the hell is going on?!

Depression has revisited me with a vengeance.  I have a hard time understanding and dealing with it.  And I can never figure out if my various (but minor) physical woes are the result or the cause of the depression.  Today, for example, my body decided I should have a stomach upset accompanied by the usual symptoms that travel with the tummy bug.  Gross!  And I’ve been eating so well, so healthfully.  Enough of that, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I’ve certainly had enough of it.  Oh, but first–I must mention that I am already dealing with some kind of nasal and throat grunge.

I’m hoping (and trying) to learn something from my present difficulties.  I’ve shopped for fewer than half the gifts I want to buy.  My brain is screaming:  Simplify!  Simplify!  Simplify!  The question is:  Will I choose to listen once I start to feel better?  I am counting on feeling better one day. 🙂  I hope I will.  I’ve already roped and tied up the old decorating me and she’s not even struggling.  The tree is up, thanks to the children.  I made an executive decision not to display all the Santas and the silk holly and the music boxes, etc., as I have done in the past.  I’m trying to decide how much of it I’m willing to get rid of now rather than later.  I’m hoping my children and grandchildren will want some of it.  If not, do I still have (at my age!) the ovaries to sell it on eBay or at a consignment shop?

It is incredibly labor-intensive to unpack it, decorate, and then store it properly after the season ends.  Do I have any desire to do it another year?  I don’t think I do.  I don’t want to trash anything while I’m in a depressed state–or do I?  Maybe thinking about all the work is what caused the depression.

Meanwhile I keep posting silly greeting cards in the hope that you won’t give up on me or forget about me while I desperately seek to get my groove back.  If I were really optimistic, I would be hoping for mojo, but the realistic me will settle for the groove.

Thank you for reading.

The photo above is not another Christmas card, it’s my front door.

Lighting up Christmas.

Christmas gift suggestions:

To your enemy, forgiveness.             To an opponent, tolerance.              To a friend, your heart.                     To a customer, service.                    To all, charity.                                   To a child, a good example.              To yourself, respect.                           ~ Oren Arnold

To your neighbor, many lights. ~ Pat

Pictured here is the home of my across-the-street neighbors.  The best I can tell, they add a little something each year.  My decorating philosophy tends toward less is more when it comes to outdoors where the neighbors have to look at it whether they want to or not.  Well, that was my theory before we lived near a large family who had three houses in a row on the street we traveled to get up the mountain and home.  They would work most of Thanksgiving week and before, to wire the houses and yards.  On Thanksgiving night all lights were on and continued to light up the night for a month, ending with Christmas Day. December 26 they started to pack up all the lights and Santas and mangers until the next year.  These kindly neighbors, like my current ones, purchased a little something new to add to the display each year.

One year, in the summer, the elderly patriarch of the family learned he had cancer and so he took his own life; he hanged himself in the family’s barn.  That year his survivors, understandably, didn’t have much heart for decorating and word went out that there might be no lights in the three family yards.  I remember feeling a little ache of disappointment.  I wouldn’t be able to show the children when they came up for Thanksgiving.   The yards were visible from Interstate 40 and I thought about all the weary travelers who wouldn’t get to ooh and aah over the glorious display of lights and enthusiasm as they made their way home or to Grandma’s house or wherever they were going.  And the truckers.  I wondered how many truckers would miss them, having seen them for many years as they carried their cargo to points unknown.  A little something (okay, a big something) would feel all wrong about the holidays that year.

I learned later that there were quite a few neighbors who felt the same way I did.  Those angel-neighbors pitched in and helped to wire’em up.  I have always regretted that I missed out on that amazing venture.  I did make sure the neighbors knew how much their generosity meant to my family.  And to countless others who chanced to drive by or those who made a special trip from one of the nearby towns just to admire the remarkable work of art, given with love, to a rural community.

May we all give and receive that kind love and light this holiday season.

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.