Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Solace ~ Turn It Up

Attending a concert with my brother
There was something in the water works at the beginning of this season. I left my exhausting job temporarily in the dust and vowed to sweep the cobwebs clean. At least for a few months. Have you ever had an unction to do something, not knowing why you're even saying what you're saying, and it turn out to be the beginning of something truly special?
Let me explain.

I needed to rest. But I began to clean. Not just Lysol and broom kinda clean, but inside out clean. Two strong words reverberated in my heart and mind at the beginning of June: Clean and Open. 

So I raked. And tore brush out from under grandpa's bushes. Ripped weeds from under the potting shed, climbed a ladder to clean the roof with spraying soap and water. All the while thinking, "Clean it out. Open it up. Clean it out. Open it up."
 I slowly pressure washed 800 square feet of a wooden deck, board by board, rail by rail and underneath each nook and cranny, breaking not 1, not 2, but 3 machines. A leak would spout in the wrong place, the engine shut down..... but I was undeterred, and determined to finish the big clean. Watching the old melt away and the original new unveiled once again, was therapeutic. The result is beautiful. 

I finally put my downstairs back together. Reaching into packed up decor from the flood of 2011 (aka hot water heater disaster). I found lost artifacts and pictures, cleaned them and displayed them. 
Open. Clean.

The theme didn't stop there. Looking back, I see it everywhere. Not one to buy frivolous things for myself, I walked right into the store at the beginning of summer like a woman on a sacred mission and purchased the best stereo system I could find with speakers loud enough to scare every squirrel within miles. I set it up on top of my piano and opened the windows. McLachlan's "Building A Mystery" was first, then John Mayer's "Continuum" album (Bold Love and In Repair) plus all my old worship CDs from back in the day, especially the mega praise hit "Open The Eyes of My Heart, Lord."  I played them over and over. The lyrics sank deep in my heart.  I danced. I prayed. I sang. The rake took on a whole new rhythm.

I felt like a clean slate.

 I realized things were unraveling in a way I hadn't seen in years.  Whatever the Universe was trying to tell me, I was listening with all my heart. By the end of summer vacation, I'd mended a riff with my mother that I thought would never happen (initiated by her), sought out some aged relatives in a nursing home and made peace and new memories with them (including my delightful 101-year-old first grade teacher), watched my talented brother embark on a new journey of songwriting and service to his church as we deeply reconnected in ways I never imagined, more healing, and continue to be pleasantly surprised as others from my past have reached out to me recently with an honesty I appreciate but never expected. 

Did they call to me or did my willingness to be open draw me to them?

What does all this have to do with raking and pressure washing and dancing in the dark? I don't know. All I know for sure is that once I took the first step in the clearing out process, outside in my yard, I felt some chains fall off.  It was dirty, exhausting, exhilarating, scary work. Dipping into the past and ripping out weeds always is.  The thing is not to be afraid. They're just dead weeds. Jump right in. You can't be afraid of what you take control of. Truth. Clarity. Openness. The result can be a beautiful thing.

 Turn it up.


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Just Peachy

I'm making a peach and blueberry deep dish pie tonight. With Stevia instead of sugar (for the diabetics of the world). I twisted an old recipe of my grandmother's into something "healthier."
I should have eaten it BEFORE I baked it.

 Hush Homer
 It is a dump pie. You literally dump the ingredients into a bowl and bake without stirring.
1 cup sugar (or Stevia)
1 cup flour (mixed with the sugar to prevent lumps)
1 cup milk
1 stick margarine
2 cups frozen or fresh fruit
Sprinkle of cinnamon if desired
Do NOT stir.

The crust will rise to the top. Let me rephrase. The crust is supposed to rise to the top.

 Epic fail. 
I don't think anything is supposed to be pink.
I'm eating it with my eyes closed. 


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Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Mimisms ~ Life In The Red Lane

Once upon a short time ago I wore this groovy red fabric with a string of white pearls.  The sleeves were sixties style full and the tunic draped long and jagged over a pair of white bell-bottom pants.
With white patent-leather heels, gold hoop earrings and a bangle bracelet. 

It made me feel ageless.
Why I thought I needed to feel ageless, I don't know. I wasn't old at all.
It was only a short time ago.

Why do I miss that hippie shirt so much today? It was transparent and soft. Sheer brilliance on my skin. Fabric worn bravely close to my heart. Freedom.

 Sometimes I have fits of practicality and am prone to discard what keeps me strong.

I need to stop that insanity.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

I'd Like To Carry A River In My Pocket

When I stood by this water last November on Blog4Peace day, conjuring peace words and thinking on all the positive energy spinning throughout the world on our peace globes, I should have remembered to bring a few stones home with me for days like today..
 I wonder what magic I left on the riverbank. 
Where in my head does that come from? 

Why is it that when I set aside a day and deliberately seek out words believing with all my being that they will come, that they will matter, watch them appear, feel them inside me, and share them with you, why do they come so easily?  Is it simply because I expect them?  I wake up on November 4th each year and they are always there for my taking.
Today is any ole' ordinary day, full of the daunting pressures of life and I need the comfort and power of those words - even when I'm not standing on a shoreline.   
Did they fall in the stream?
I need to go back to the river today.

There's something I must find.
Wanna come?

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Mimisms ~ Whose Words Will Win?

There's a small piece of parchment paper that I keep on my writing desk. I'm holding it here.  Everyday I look at it as I sit down to read, gather my thoughts, and write. If I hold it up to the light just right, I can believe every word.

I found it at a rummage sale down the road from where I grew up in the country - barely a mile from home - in a box of old diaries, records and journals from the seventies. I took the whole box home with me. In it were treasures of a young girl's thoughts - her favorite quotes, her original poems, scrapbooks painstakingly written and typed on old typewriter font, love poems, secrets, and words such as these from the courageous Anne Frank. I felt privileged, and a bit guilty,to peer into the heart and mind of another seventies girl I never knew, but who could have easily been my soul-sister, had I known she lived just down the road.

Fast-forward forty-five years.
 And I am holding the same thin paper, so beautifully detailed. It is almost like new, and I begin to read... I still believe that people are really good at heart.... and I feel a giant, stubborn lump swell up in the throat of me, because I cannot continue, I cannot read on, I cannot absorb it - I cannot believe it.

But Anne, I say, there are lovely people being shot in places of worship. In Charleston, South Carolina. While they were praying. Didn't you hear? Atrocities done by the hand of 'people'... people called humans, like me and like you, the same species of which you speak, slaughtering and killing, hating and maiming without remorse. Where are these other people, Anne, of which you speak? Are we to be divided into those who have souls and those who don't? Or do you mean to say, really, surely, that all people aren't really good at heart?
What I see in my world is not good, Anne, it is evil.
And I want to stop with the Pollyanna platitudes if you don't mind.

Anne is not pleased with me. Neither is the seventies flower-power girl.
Neither am I.

There's a war going on inside of me you see.... You feel it too, don't you?
People are not just randomly killing each other, there is attention for my soul. The axe keeps falling on the root of my beliefs. With each new horrible news story, each new morality debate, I retreat a little further into cynicism, swimming in daily reality checks, and trying to fit words like bigotry, white supremacy, evil, terror, hate, murder into a jigsaw puzzle with hope, forgiveness, God, mercy, grace and love.
What has become my reality, Anne? Who has the loudest voice? What has become the standard on planet Earth? Which part of the puzzle will I become?  Whose words will win? Things didn't turn out so well for you.

"Look, Mimi", she whispered. "I said you had to look for it." 
And in my stubborn heart a question railed: Do you believe in the power of words or not?
Do you believe in God or not? Do you believe what you say you believe...or not?
Mother Emanuel

I remembered the woman who stood face-to-face with that fresh-faced killer in Charleston last week. You remember her, don't you? I will never, ever, forget her. In a courtroom of justice, swallowed and sick with grief, she looked into the face of the most heinous of people among us and said to the evil, "I forgive you." And once again another uttered, 
"We have no room for hate. We have to forgive."

The weight of those words broke the divide. 
The lump in my throat came pouring down my cheeks, because thank God, thank God, Anne was right. There are people like that. They do walk among us.
 More powerful than all the demons from hell, all the bullets, all the bombs, all the terrorists, all the tyrants, all the benders of civilization, all the bigots - are words of love.

Hold me to that standard.
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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Fishing For Sharks

Baby Beans and I walked on the river rocks yesterday. It was slightly blustery and beautifully quiet. Three people fishing, a few walkers on the nature trail, and one "Mimi" trying to shhhhhhhoosh a talkative three-year-old squirming river rock jumper.
 "You can't talk while people are fishing, Baby Beans. You'll scare the fish away. Shhhh!"
"I wanna fish too, Mimi!!"

"We don't have a fishing rod with us. Or worms (thank GOODNESS!) and anyway, it has been my experience that you might have a problem being q.u.i.e.t today." Before I could even turn around  I hear.....  
"Here's my fishing rod, Mimi."  
You see it too right?

"I'm gonna catch a shark. I see a shark in there."
 "I think I see it too, Baby Beans. We'd better catch it."
I'm not about to argue with a shark fisher. Would you?

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Recipe Box

Everything we do in life is about relationship. Our actions say little about what we're actually doing, and everything about why we are doing it. 
Take muffins, for example.

Muffins remind me of my mother. She used to make "mayonnaise muffins" when we were little. I loved them.
Over the years I learned to make them too, but they never turned out as well as hers.
Because my mother and I are as different as night and day, two mismatched peas in a non-pod, two sisters of the same mother it seems, it's important for me to occasionally cross the divide with a muffin day.  Why this gulf? As an infant and for a long while afterwards, I initially mother-bonded with my grandmother because mama was too sick with a heart condition to care for me.   I didn't realize until many years later how that necessary and unfortunate trajectory in my early, formative years shaped the way we eventually learned to communicate, or should I say, the way we don't communicate. 

I love my mother. I love her very much.
But sometimes I miss her in ways I can't explain.

Enter the muffins.

It is her recipe. But I made it my own. 
Typical of our journey.
Instead of white flour, I used whole wheat. Instead of lard, olive oil. Instead of whole milk, low fat. Instead of sugar, blueberries. And a touch of honey for dipping. It was easy to alter the ingredients to match my grown-up needs in my own grown-up kitchen. But it was, admittedly, a hollow effort to soothe a gaping hole of connection I wish I could fill as easily as the batter filled the muffin pan. 

 If I could make that magic happen, I would fill each mold to overflowing with all that is good about her, from her beautifully handwritten recipes to the cast iron pans I remember. They would ooze from honey laced crevices in smokey, sweet drops on a simple plate peppered with a pound of butter...and freckled remind me of my mother's freckled hands and the way they wiped the apron. Somewhere along the edge of a pristine butter plate would lay a silver butter knife with scalloped edges, cutting into the sweet smell of substance that only a mother's love can fill - the way it cuts into my heart on muffin days.

 I would only use her recipe. I would not try to change. I would not grow up. I would stay in her kitchen. I would learn to like lard and pretend it's good for my soul. I would watch her stir the bowl and try to memorize the steps. I would make a holy mess just to wipe my hands on her apron. Then I would eat every one of them gone 'til the very last drizzle hit the porcelain and the last morsel of flour hit the floor. She would smile in silence at my goodness and I would pretend I didn't miss the woman I might become. 
Her script

I never could pretend for long. 
My script

For just as surely as hot bread melts whatever the knife is carrying, I would wake up to the smell of sweetness and long to feel the touch of that honey on my skin - the one ingredient I could see in my mind's eye - and it would land somewhere soft and knowing that only a mother would know.  It was the one ingredient I would have added and the one she never used.
I longed for her to understand that while I share her handwriting and wrestle to this day with her boisterous spirit, I cannot be anyone but who I am.

Because the worst of her is brevity and the worst of me is length, I filled my spoons with words on paper while she wrote beautiful lyrics in pans of love.

There amidst the vanilla and chocolate lined bowls at her sink, I found a voice of my own, but it was not made of muffin pans and whisks. And while we are strikingly similar in feminine ways and she is in her own right glaringly independent, the tangled tale of my mother and me lies in the messy truth that I don't know where her handwriting ends and mine begins.  And that is a beautiful thing.


 Today there is the smell of bread baking from an old recipe box. 
 The spillage makes it sacred, the stain makes it new.

So it is with mothers and daughters.


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Will The Real Spring Please Show Up?

 I was worried. 
Temperatures dropped into the twenties last night and my baby camellias were just about ready to bloom. Would they survive the night? The bush is so big it towers over the edge of the building roof and shelters me when I visit. I scampered underneath in the early morning light to assess the damage.
Hmmmm.....They look a little droopy (don't they?) and there are a few brown spots around the edges, I'll admit, but I think they're going to be fine. They have to be!

 Because you see.....
 has taken up residence under the eaves of the leaves

monumental construction is going on.....

 Birds know. 
Mamas always know where to shelter their young.
This bush will make a fine castle for fledgling baby birds. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for real Spring to show up.  Judging by the sounds coming through the tangled blooms, it must be just around the corner. Nature is a beautiful dance.
My camellias never lie.

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