Saturday, August 31, 2013

Give Me Time

One-a-Day Redux 
Day Thirty-One:  You, Again

So. Here we are at the end of this month-long writing challenge, and the topic, as it was on the first day, is me. Again. Me, me, me. I get so tired of myself sometimes.

I was in a dark place at the beginning of the month. The storm cloud that hovered over my head then has lifted, lifted and drifted off far enough to let some sunshine in, but not so far away that a good, stiff wind couldn't blow it right back where it was. No longer nervous and edgy, I remain watchful, keeping an eye on that dark cloud, wishing the danger away.

I do feel hopeful again; never discount the medicinal value of hopefulness. Cheerfulness and optimism? Those are the rewards at the top of this little hill I'm climbing. I'm not there yet, but I'm well on my way. It just takes time.

"She broke down the other day...
Some things in life may change
But some things, they stay the same
Like time, 
There's always time on my mind,
So pass me by, I'll be fine,
Just give me time." * 


* The song is "Older Chests" by Damien Rice.
Thanks to frozencrystalss for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Karma and the Common Cold: What Goes Around Comes Around

One-a-Day Redux
Day Thirty:  Nature

Many times in these pages I've waxed poetic about Mother Nature, her trees and forests, her rivers and streams, and on and on and on. I have a vast appreciation of nature; therefore, it is only natural that I should write about it in glowing terms. Not this time. I'm currently experiencing the effects of a close encounter with one of nature's oldest, most pervasive predators: the common cold virus.

I know from whom I got this cold. I knew before she came that she had it, and she and I both were careful not to get too close to one another. We avoided the hugs and cheek kisses that are part of our normal greeting and parting rituals, and, after I touched the doorknob she had also touched, I washed my hands thoroughly. I'm not blaming her; I could have as easily picked up those germs at the grocery store or the post office. It just happens that I hadn't been anywhere else for five days before she came or three days between her visit and the onset of symptoms, so, this time, I know where I got it.

If I subscribed to the theory that everything happens for a reason--which I don't, by the way--I would be convinced that this cold is a punishment. You see, on the same day I was exposed to it, I'd made a last-minute decision to skip out on a birthday party. It was hot that day. I'd been to the hostess's house once before and remembered I'd have to parallel park against the curb halfway down the block. I would know only a few people there. Mostly, I knew that the two-year-old guest of honor wouldn't know or care whether I was there. So I didn't go.

Now I have a cold.

And this coming weekend there's a party I really, really look forward to. It's an (almost) annual outdoor cooking competition at my granddaughter's house, and I know the majority of the folks who will be there. I want to be there, to visit with family and friends while I sit in the shade in a canvas lawn chair purchased specifically for this event and sample the wares of some serious barbecuers. In good conscience, I can't go.

Still on the subject of nature, but switching now to human nature, even knowing that more than a handful of the people who will be there love me and will forgive me for many things, I can't believe that any of them would be delighted with my sniffy, snotty, coughing presence near their small children or their culinary creations. Even if my symptoms have abated by then, according to this article and several others I checked, I'll still be contagious.

So, I skipped one party and felt mildly guilty about it. Now I'll skip another and feel very, very, very sorry for myself.

That, I suppose, is the nature of karma. Bitch that she is.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chemicals

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Nine:  In Your Fridge

There isn't one single thing in my fridge today that's interesting. Unless you think this is:
CARBONATED WATER, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM CITRATE, SODIUM BENZOATE (PRESERVATIVE), ASPARTAME, MALIC ACID, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, NATURAL FLAVORS, CAFFEINE, ESTER GUM, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, YELLOW 6, RED 40. PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE
That's the ingredient list on a can of my favorite diet orange soda. I don't find that list interesting; I find it scary! Every time I drink one, I savor that last sip, then take a look at the can in my hand and say silently to it what Jack said to Ennis in Brokeback Mountain: "I wish I knew how to quit you!"

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lightweight Poetry

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Eight:  Light

In January's photo challenge I interpreted "light" as the opposite of dark. For today's exercise, let's go with a different definition. This time "light" means the opposite of heavy.

A List of Light Things

Clouds above a mountain stream,
high-peaked dollops of whipped cream,
postage stamps for letters written,
baby chicks, a newborn kitten,
puppy's paw held in my hand,
a butterfly, a rubber band,
autumn leaves adrift in air,
fancy, lacy underwear,
marshmallows afloat in cocoa,
my great-grandma's faded photo,
blue-gray feather on the ground,
Peeps when Easter rolls around,
the silky scarf I never wear,
a ribbon for a baby's hair,
Q-tips stored on bathroom shelves
near cotton balls, so light themselves,
ping-pong ball that bounces high,
red balloon in bright blue sky,
dandelions turned to seed,
a single page I've yet to read,
daisy petals plucked to see
does he, does he not love me?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chew, Swallow, Rinse, Repeat

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Seven:  Lunch

When I used this one-a-day list of prompts as a photo challenge in January, I posted a picture of my typical lunch. It hasn't changed since then. In fact, it hasn't changed much in nearly three years. I have a lifelong pattern of eating the same thing for lunch every day. It isn't an obsession--I don't get upset about eating something different (sometimes I'm delighted to)--but more of a comfortable routine. As much as I enjoy food, I don't like having to think about it too much.

Fortunately, I don't get bored easily, but the day will come when I decide I'm done with the cheese-and-crackers menu, and I'll switch to something else. Then I'll eat whatever that is for months on end.

I think this all goes back to my childhood, when I was an extremely picky eater. At the beginning of first grade I was sent to school with lunch money and tried the hot meal prepared by the cafeteria ladies. I gagged on it the first day, refused to try it the second day, and from then on carried a brown-bag lunch packed by my grandmother. She did try to introduce some variety into my diet, but gave up eventually and settled for packing only things she knew I'd eat.

One year it was baloney sandwiches (on white bread with mustard and dill pickle slices), Fritos, and a thermos of Kool-Aid (because I hated milk). Another year it was potted ham sandwiches (on white bread with mayonnaise), Fritos, and Kool-Aid. There were usually a few cookies in those brown bags, too. I never knew for sure what kind of cookies I'd get, so there was a little menu variety after all. Mammaw knew I'd never met a cookie I didn't like (except for the Fig Newtons that were my grandfather's favorite).

In junior high I thought it was uncool to show up with a brown bag from home, so I started buying lunch at school again. I skipped the hot-food line in the cafeteria and spent my lunch money on a vanilla ice cream cup and a bag of salted peanuts, which I stirred into the ice cream. Every day I ate that peanutty ice cream, and every night I washed my face and wondered why it was breaking out.

Most of my high school lunches were eaten off-campus. A few of us would pool our resources to come up with 25 cents to buy a gallon of gas for whoever had a car, then that person would drive us to the Dairy Queen, where I always had a chili dog and a root beer.

In the first paragraph of this post, I stated that I don't like thinking about food too much. Now, after several paragraphs of writing about it, I'm so hungry I can hardly stand it. That's exactly why I don't like to think about it too much. It's getting close to lunchtime,  so I'll stop writing and eat now. I know exactly what I'm having.

Monday, August 26, 2013

True Colors

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Six:  Color

One of the first things discussed in the painting class I took earlier this year is what a drastic difference there is between the color of a shady patch of grass and that same grass with the sun shining on it. One would think that would have been obvious, but I'd never given it a conscious thought. I wish it had been pointed out to me before I picked out paint colors for my house.

When I bought this house, most of its walls were covered with wood paneling. Replacing the paneling with drywall was beyond my budget, so painting the paneling seemed to be the next best option to brighten up the place. I knew from the outset that I wanted the walls to be the neutral gray-green color of Spanish moss, so I went from store to store collecting paint samples in that color range. All of them were close, but I couldn't decide which one was exactly right.

My daughter solved the problem for me when I was talking about paint colors while we were riding in the car. She abruptly pulled into someone's driveway, got out and yanked a big handful of moss from a nearby low-hanging branch. Now I had something real to compare the swatches to.

That afternoon I sat in my den, moss in one hand, swatches in the other, and chose the nearest color. The next day I took it to the home-improvement store and asked them to mix paint in that shade. Several gallons of it. That night we painted primer over the paneling, and the next day we applied the custom-color paint. Once the fresh paint dried, the room was still quite dark. Not as dark as the paneling had made it, but certainly not as light and airy as I'd expected.

The problem, I now understand, is that I'd sat indoors--in the shade--with the moss and the color swatches. I picked the color of shady moss. Compare the wall color to the shady parts of the moss in this composite photo, and you'll see what I'm talking about:


If I'd made the selection outside in the sunshine, I would have come much closer to the lighter color I'd expected. Lesson learned.

When it comes time to repaint, maybe I'll try again for the moss-in-sunshine color. In the meantime, I've learned to love and live with the darker shade. It still gives the house the outdoorsy feel I like; it just happens to be outdoors in the woods.

While I've been writing this, it's occurred to me that this light-and-shadows rule can apply to people as well as to paint colors. I think most of us put our bright, sunny sides out there so others see those first. Only people who know us well or observe us very closely ever get a glimpse of our darker, shadowy natures. Lord knows that would explain a few situations in which I've made worse decisions than wall paint color.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not My Area of Expertise

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Five:  Something You Made

If you're like I am, when you plan to put a lot of time and effort into something, you visualize the final product in its perfect form. As you get further along in the project you become more realistic, lower your expectations, and decide that as long as it's good enough to fulfill its function, it'll be fine. Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to step back, give it a hard look, and accept that it isn't at all what you had hoped it would be. You question whether you have the inclination to pour more time and effort into trying to salvage things, and you suspect you may not even have the necessary skills to do so.

I made a promise--twice--to love someone "till death do us part." Both times I meant it. Both times I worked at it. In the end, neither marriage was functioning even close to the way it should have been. Nor was I. I made promises and, ultimately, I broke them with the same finality as when an artist rips up an unsatisfactory sketch or takes a hammer to a poorly made clay sculpture.

Failures are learning experiences. What I learned from trying and trying again is to be extremely careful about making promises.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Once Is Never Enough

One-a-Day Redux 
Day Twenty-Four:  Guilty Pleasure

It's a coincidence that today's "guilty pleasure" prompt falls on a Saturday, but I can't think of anything better to represent the theme than one particular song I love, so I've chosen that one as this week's Saturday Song Selection. The song is so pleasurable that I can never listen to it only once; I always replay it at least two or three times when it comes up on my iTunes shuffle. The singer's voice is so soft and soothing that it makes even an old woman like me long for a man to talk to me in that same gentle tone, and it reminds me of a time when one did. And the music, ah, the music--some of the richest, sweetest notes I've ever heard.

But (here comes the guilty part) the lyrics, mostly a nonsensical jumble of old movie titles, include a word that is not only politically incorrect but also as offensive as the word that got Paula Deen in so much trouble. And the singer, who also wrote the song, may have had an exceptional musical talent, but he was evidently a sick, twisted individual, one whose true-life story gives me a good case of the creeps.

What makes the guilt worse is that I can't claim to have loved this song since it first came out in 1970, so that I could rationalize that my fondness for it has roots in nostalgia. I never heard it in my life until about a year ago. By then I'd already learned that that one word was offensive to a large group of people who don't deserve to be disrespected, and I'd already heard on Oprah that the singer, John Phillips, had engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Ick.

It makes me feel kind of dirty, but I listen. Over and over, I still listen. And it's so good.



The song is "April Anne" by John Phillips.
Thanks to Camiel Delclef for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Portrait of Grace and Elegance

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Three:  Something Old

The portrait sits on the hearth, propped against the wall in a narrow space between the fireplace and a bookshelf. I have no place to hang a portrait as large as this one, but it's too lovely to pack away. The antique wooden frame is oval shaped, embellished with beading and other elaborate flourishes, painted a copper color that has a nice sheen to it in spite of its age. The hand-tinted portrait itself was molded into a subtle dome shape, a process which eventually may have contributed to the crack across its surface.

It's a picture of a beautiful baby girl, her dark hair carefully, lovingly parted in the middle, her blue eyes open wide, the third and fourth fingers of her tiny right hand lifted delicately as they might be one day when she grows up to hold a cup of tea in the company of other elegant ladies. That baby was Hazel Belle Willis, who grew up to marry my great-uncle, Loren Elliott. She was born in September of 1906, dating this portrait at about 1907, one hundred six years ago.

Late in her life Hazel told my mother, who was admiring the portrait, that the dress she wore in it had been borrowed, that her family was too poor to buy a dress as fine as this one with its ruffles and lace, its petticoat peeking out from under the skirt. That may have been true at the time, but Hazel's lot in life improved after her parents divorced and her mother remarried a man who was a better provider. Hazel was an only child, and her mother, Sadie, doted on her all the days of her life. So did Uncle Loren, when he came along.

Hazel could have easily been spoiled, but she wasn't. Instead, she paid all that love and devotion forward, making every person she encountered feel special. She was as charming and comfortable in the company of the janitor of the apartment building where she and Loren lived in the early days of their marriage as she would later be in the presence of the dignified "ladies who lunched" in Washington, D. C., when Loren's job took them there.

Here's the beautiful old portrait, the earliest picture I have of Aunt Hazel:


And here's the last one, taken when she was almost ninety years old:


She was my favorite aunt, and she was beautiful, inside and out, from beginning to end.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Substantial Bits of Nothing

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Two:  Your Shoes

I hate shopping for clothes, so when I find an item I like that's a good fit and sells for a good price, I tend to buy two or more of the same thing in different colors. That explains why there's a new pair of black shoes in my closet exactly like the old pair of black shoes presently on my feet. There's a new brown pair in the closet as well.

I love these shoes. They feel like going barefoot felt when I was young, before age wore down the natural fat pads on the soles of my feet. They feel better than going barefoot does now. They're lightweight but supportive, nothing but straps and cushiony soles.

I bought the first pair online in 2011 just before my sister and I went on our Smoky Mountain vacation. This is my third summer to live in that pair, which I've also worn in the house for two winters. The tread on the soles is beginning to wear down, so this summer I bought the second pair of black ones to keep on standby, along with the brown ones for variety.

If this post reads like a commercial, that wasn't my intention. I could have written about other shoes in my closet, prettier, more fashionable shoes that I might have described with phrases such as "brushed suede" or "buttery soft leather" or "heavily beaded straps" to make the post more interesting. But, even though I own those other shoes, I hardly ever wear them. As for my go-to shoes, the ones I wear constantly, I'd probably describe them as "substantial bits of nothing."

Hm. It seems that my favorite shoes and most of my blog posts have that in common.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don't Hold Your Breath

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-One:  Reflection

I stand behind the wire fence and see a large white pelican that stands at the edge of the bank on the far side of the lake. I watch the pelican and also watch its inverted image in the water as the big bird spreads its wings, stretches, stretches again, wider and higher, then slowly folds them back against its sides. Every part of the pelican, every bush and tree behind it is repeated on the green-black surface of the water in a hazy, rippled version of the real world on the bank.

Some days I can't get enough of the world we live in, its vivid colors, its stark contrasts and clearly-defined edges. Other times, when I've watched the news and the world itself seems to have been flipped upside down, I'd prefer to ignore the reality and live in the soft serenity of a watery reflection until everything has been righted again.

Unfortunately, I can't hold my breath that long. Can't. Won't.

Unanswered Questions

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty (posted a day late):  Someone You Love

This is what I know about him: He's almost sixteen years younger than I am. He was born big and grew up to be several inches over six feet tall. His hair is brown, though he may have some gray in it by now. His eyes are not brown, and it makes me sad that I can't remember exactly what color they are. Hazel, maybe, like his mother's, or blue, but not a light, clear blue like his father's. I've looked at his photos just now, and still I can't tell. I do remember that his eyes have needed corrective lenses since his elementary school days. His mouth is definitely his father's, his smile extra-wide, and he has one of the best laughs I've ever heard. When he laughs out loud, everyone around him laughs, too.

He has a brilliant mind, a quick wit, and a great sense of humor. He's skilled in the field of technology. He's an avid cyclist, and he likes dogs. He's a strict but devoted father and, as far as I know, a loyal husband, married over thirty years now. I believe he's quite religious (which I am not), though I don't know that for sure. Because I believe he's religious, I also think he's politically conservative (which I most definitely am not). Again, I don't know for sure. What I do know is that he's someone I love. I wonder if he knows that for sure.

Every week I spend at least a couple of hours doing genealogy research, trying to learn all I can about people who have long since died. When were they born? Where did they live? What kind of work did they do? What was happening in the world during their lifetimes, and how did it affect them? While I'm digging out those details, it's always in the back of my mind that everything I know about my "baby" brother, the youngest in an assortment of full, half- and step-siblings, can be condensed into a few short paragraphs.

It's been almost six years since I've seen him. He lives only five hours away, but his days are laid out in a busy schedule, and mine are laid out in a carefully protected routine. I can't seem to manage a trip in his direction, nor he to find time to travel in mine. Our phone calls are delightful but infrequent, too brief to ask him all the things I really want to know.

I know I love him. I'd love to know him. Why am I letting so much time slip away from us?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Walking the Sweet Streets

One-a-Day Redux
Day Nineteen:  Sweet

When I was a child, I lived for candy. Well, for comic books and candy, but mostly it was candy that came to mind first when I found myself in possession of a nickel. There was a drugstore on the corner a block away from our house that had a good selection of candy bars, but for serious candy shopping, I had to walk farther: a block west of our house on Madison Street, then two blocks south on Dollison.

M. L. Hunter's 5¢ to $1 Store, on the corner of Dollison and Lombard in Springfield, Missouri, had candy bars, of course, but they also had a huge, U-shaped counter of glass-encased bins that held loose candy, the kind sold by weight. I'd like to know how many total hours of my childhood I spent walking the perimeter of that candy counter, trying to make a decision. Once I'd made my selection, I'd point to it and ask the clerk for "a nickel's worth," and she (it was always a she) would dip her shiny scoop into the candy, pour it into a small white bag, weigh the bag on the big scale on top of the counter, then pour a few pieces out or put a couple more pieces in and weigh it again until she got it right.

Most of the time, the candy didn't make it all the way home.

As sweet as that candy was, the memories of those walks are sweeter. Last night, mentally retracing my steps to the dime store, I had a clear picture in my mind of everything I passed along the way, but I could no longer remember the name of that particular store. It bugged me enough that I logged on to ancestry.com and took another walk, this time through the pages of a 1950s-era Springfield city directory, where I found Hunter's store fairly quickly. I remembered that there was another five-and-ten directly across the street from Hunter's, a store called Brown-something, and there, in the city directory, was Brownfield's (which was a nice store but did not have a good candy selection).

My grandmother usually bought groceries at the Monroe Street Market, on the block behind our house, but I remembered that she occasionally shopped at another small grocery store near Hunter's, about half a block farther south on Dollison. I looked at addresses in that block in the city directory and found Julian's Market. That's the store Mammaw was in when she discovered that my little sister had eaten all the grapes out of the grocery cart. Mammaw put the empty stems on the counter, apologized, and offered to let them weigh Judy.

Back at the corner of Lombard and Dollison, I turned east in the city directory and walked half a block to the Classic Shoe Shop, where I used to sit in my stocking feet at least once a year while my school shoes were being reheeled. If Mother thought the heels had worn down too quickly, beyond normal wear and tear, I'd show up at the shoe shop with instructions to have taps put on the new heels. I liked taps.

All those places are gone now, encompassed by the expanding university campus in the early 1960s. Madison Street still exists, but it isn't nearly as beautiful as it was back then. What used to be Dollison has been widened and renamed; it's the John Q. Hammons Parkway now. I think there's still a piece of Lombard Street in Springfield, but not the part of it that was in our neighborhood.

It's all changed so much, except in my mind and my heart. I feel so lucky that I can still see it the way it used to be. It kind of feels like a superpower.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Little Pick-Me-Up

One-a-Day Redux
Day Eighteen:  Something You Bought

One day in the Christmas shopping season a couple of years ago, I walked into Walmart to buy groceries and passed a big cardboard display box filled with these:


Until that moment I'd never even seen one of these in person and certainly hadn't known I needed one, but there they were, on sale for $9.97, and in that moment I knew I had to have one. Now I don't know how I ever got along without it.

It's a reacher, a grabber, a "pick-up gripper." A foldable, rotating one. Squeeze the trigger and the pincers on the end contract. It gets tennis balls out from behind bookshelves, from under beds and other heavy, hard-to-move furniture, and from the neighbor's yard when a dog has pushed one under the fence. When the garbage truck's mechanical lifting apparatus accidentally dumped the contents of a bag of trash--the bag containing about a hundred separate three-inch-square flash cards--onto the front lawn, this little jewel saved me a lot of bending and stooping. Coincidentally, it does a remarkable job of gently pinching dog butts, much to the delight of my granddog, Oliver, who kept backing up to me for more.

The one I bought is sort of a lightweight. I'm not sure I'd trust it to lift a soup can off a high shelf, and it's come apart a number of times. In fact, it's broken right now because I crammed it too hard under a piece of furniture last night, trying to find a ball I couldn't see, and one of the suction cups broke off. I can fix it (I've done it before) as soon as I find the screw that popped out of it. I've used the magnetic sweeper that was this year's must-have gadget to search for the screw, so far with no luck.

When the grabber thing isn't broken, it looks like this. I see that the price has dropped and the reviews aren't very good, but if I don't find that screw, I may have to invest in a new one.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wet

One-a-Day Redux
Day Seventeen:  Water

I am wet. My shorts are wet, my shirt's wet, even my bra is damp. Until I dried them off so I could come back in the house, my legs were dripping water and my feet were sloshing in my shoes. Levi and Gimpy are wet, too, but air drying as I write this. They've just had a bath, which explains how I got so wet.

It's so much easier to bathe them in the summer, when I can do it outside. Bathing them in the house involves luring or tricking them into the bathroom, then lifting them bodily into the tub while they stiffen and stretch their legs to foil my efforts. Indoor bathing also involves a lot of mopping that doesn't have to be done when they're bathed outdoors.

Today was a perfect day for this chore. At first the water coming straight out of the garden hose felt almost too hot, but after it ran awhile, it cooled off to a lukewarm, comfortable temperature for my dirty boys.

Our outside dog-wash setup consists of two wrought-iron chairs, one facing the other near the edge of the patio, with just enough space in between them to park a large dog. I sit in the chair closest to the house, the hose on the ground near my right hand. The chair across from me holds towels, no-tears baby shampoo and unscented, hypo-allergenic coat conditioner. Whichever dog is standing at my knees wears a leash, the other end of which is wrapped securely around the arm of the heavy chair in case he has a sudden, overwhelming urge to bolt.

They were good today, uneasy as always with the face-washing part, but patient overall. Levi wore a chagrined expression from the time I turned the water on until the towel-drying part at the end, then he was happy again. Gimpy licked my chin occasionally, showing that he still loved me in spite of my betrayal, then chose to sit through much of his bath. That made it more difficult to suds his rump, so I leaned across his body--which is how I got so wet--and eventually managed to get the job done.

If I can keep them from rolling in dried grass clippings or dead anythings for one day, I'll be happy. That's all I ask: just one day.

**********

For this week's Saturday Song Selection, I've chosen one I remember from 1959. I'll bet your mouth starts drying out by the end of the first chorus.


The song is "Cool Water," performed by Marty Robbins.
Thanks to fatjud1 for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Road Trip

One-a-Day Redux
Day Sixteen:  Morning

I'm not usually a big fan of mornings, only because they come too early in the day, but I have to acknowledge that the mornings I've spent on road trips have been some of the finest hours of my life. There's something enchanting about getting up while it's still dark, piling the kids into the car, and watching the sun rise in your rearview mirror. There's little or no traffic at that hour, so the road ahead of you lies open as you travel toward new sights to see, new adventures to unfold.

The kids, naturally, fall back asleep as soon as the car begins moving. It'll be a while before you'll need to mediate disputes about who's touching whom, who's intentionally putting one foot over the unmarked halfway line of the seat, or who won't stop looking at whom. For the time being, the silence is broken only by the sound of the tires singing on the pavement.

A couple of hours later the sun is above the tree line, and the workers of the world are arriving at their jobs. It's a good time to stop for breakfast; the kids are awake now and they're hungry. If you're passing through a town, you begin to salivate at the thought of a pecan waffle at the local Waffle House. If you're on the outskirts, you look for a truck stop, where you're pretty sure you'll find thick, fluffy biscuits served with peppery white gravy on the menu. Whatever you choose, there'll be bacon on the side and cold, fresh orange juice. You pull into the parking lot, brush the kids' hair, open the paper bag at your feet and pull out the Baggie containing the wet washcloth to wipe the sleep from their eyes, then you walk single file across the parking lot, following the smell of food.

Back in the car forty-five minutes later, on the road again, everyone is full, happy, and ready to ride. You'll all be tired and snippy by the end of the day's travels, but you don't think about that now. Now, in the full glory of morning, all your thoughts are on the bright, blue sky, the changing scenery you pass, the next curve in the road, and the miles and miles of possibilities that stretch out in front of you.

Mornings like that? Those, I like.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just for Licks and Giggles

One-a-Day Redux
Day Fifteen:  Happiness

Happiness? That's an easy one. How could I find anything better to represent what makes me happy than what I chose in January, when I did this exercise as a photo challenge? Nope. At the risk of being repetitious, I'll stick with that.

Not to go all Gary Busey on you, but here's my answer:


Having
A
Pair of
Pooches
I adore
Nearby
Every
Single
Second.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What I've Been Reading

One-a-Day Redux
Day Fourteen:  Something You're Reading

I'm overdue for a "What I've Been Reading" post, so today's prompt is a timely one. I'll save some of the books I've read recently for the next book post and focus today on what I've been reading over the last week: "The Bregdan Chronicles Historical Fiction Romance Series." I'm presently in the middle of the fourth of five books Ginny Dye has written (so far) in this Civil War-era series, and I'm wholly invested in them. I would estimate that these books are about ten percent romance and ninety percent history, but it's palatable history, presented in a way that makes it integral to the story. In fact, it's made me more interested in that time period than I've ever been, so I've alternated between reading the books and searching the Internet to flesh out the details. The combination has made for an especially enriching reading experience.

For example, when Rose, the slave/best friend of Carrie, the plantation owner's daughter (and main character) slipped out into the night and conducted a reading class for other slaves, I was interested in learning more about the education of slaves, so I visited this site, among other places.

When Rose learned that a "conductor" for the Underground Railroad was planning to visit the area, I read more about it here.

When Carrie moved with her father to Richmond and volunteered to assist at the Chimborazo Hospital, I wanted to know if such a place had really existed. Yes. It did.

I don't recall ever having heard about contraband camps before Rose and Moses, her husband, sought refuge there after they left the plantation. Dye's vivid descriptions of the camps are fascinating, and Internet sites taught me even more about them.

Carrie's beau, Robert, was seriously wounded at the Battle of Antietam. Now, I've heard of that battle, of course, but I never was as interested in it as I've been since reading about it in these books.

History has always seemed boring to me, a litany of names, dates and places, but each of Dye's historical references is woven so tightly into the story that it becomes real. She has given each event a human connection, showing readers how it affected the characters in the book and, by inference, real people who actually lived through those times. It was not only the characters, but also my ancestors (Yankee and Confederate both) who were on my mind when I wanted to learn more about the explosion in the Confederate States Munitions Laboratory, the draft riots in York City in 1863 that resulted in the burning of a colored orphan asylum, the poverty and food shortages suffered by so many on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Though each of these books stands alone, I highly recommend reading them in order. Here they are, in proper sequence:

Storm Clouds Rolling In
by Ginny Dye




On to Richmond
by Ginny Dye




Spring Will Come
by Ginny Dye



Dark Chaos
by Ginny Dye



The Last Long Night
by Ginny Dye



To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Excess Baggage

One-a-Day Redux
Day Thirteen:  In Your Bag

It's a small, black, spiral-bound book, a fraction of an inch wider and shorter than a 3x5-inch index card, with letters of the alphabet printed on the tabbed edges of its pages. Stuck between its pages are sticky notes, scraps of paper, corners of envelopes--oh, here's a videotape label--and business cards, all bearing addresses or phone numbers, not all placed in their proper alphabetical sections.

I don't remember when I bought this little book, but it's been in my purse for years and years. Hm. My mother's address is in here, but it's the address of her new house, not the one she lived in for 38 years. She moved into the new house at the end of '97 or the beginning of '98, I'm not sure, and lived there until she passed away at the end of '99. Looks like I got the book sometime in that period.

A lot of people's addresses have been scratched out and replaced by newer ones. A lot of other people in here have moved, too, but I haven't bothered to change their addresses. Their current ones are on my handy-dandy, computerized address list. Also, I see that more people in the book have died than I realized: aunts, uncles, a couple of Mother's cousins. Sad.

Here's the business card of the woman to whom I promised to give all my business-related books; glad I found it. I've been hauling two boxes of those books around in my trunk for over two years now, thinking I'd drop them off on my way to or from someplace. For some reason, when I think of dropping off the books, I always decide to wait and do it another day. I need to call her and see if she still wants them.

Ha! Here's an entry for "Linda Carr." That's a fake name. The address (on "Key Street"--also fake) is the code number to get a replacement key for my Toyota Camry. I never needed to replace that key, but I did eventually need to replace the car. That was in 2005, a week before Hurricane Katrina.

Here's an old shopping list:  speaker wire with male/female connections, blank videotapes, and bags for both the heavy-duty vacuum cleaner and the little, quick-job one. This list must have slipped between the pages by accident. I wonder if that happened before or after I needed the list.

I think it's time to retire this little book, to make sure I've transferred every still-relevant scrap of information to the list on my computer, then print that list, fold it so it fits neatly in my wallet, and leave the little book at home. In a drawer. It won't take up much space, and I'm too sentimental to throw away the reminders of all those people and places.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hands

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twelve:  Close-Up

Her age shows up in her hands more than anywhere. The bones on the backs of her hands stand out like narrow tree trunks sculpted in a rainforest frieze, with ropy, blue veins tangled over them like heavy jungle vines. And the creases! So many narrow creases time has laid at the base of her wrists like bands of loose-fitting bangle bracelets. There are age spots, too, but not many, and the abundance of wrinkles makes them hard to see unless her hand is fisted.

Her fingers tell individual stories, some still straight and lean, others beginning to twist out of alignment. Some of her knuckles are enlarged, swollen with arthritis, and two small Heberden's nodes sit atop the first knuckle of her left forefinger. When she stretches her hands out, palms downward, there's a hint of a tremor there.

These are hands that have always been busy, not with hard work like planting fields or scrubbing laundry with lye soap on a washboard, but steadily busy with schoolwork, then childcare, cooking, sewing, office work, arts and crafts, stroking her beloved dogs, and, most recently, writing about her life on the Internet.

Her hands, my hands, are the ones that typed this post.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catnap

One-a-Day Redux
Day Eleven:  Where You Sleep

I've been up since the crack of dawn, at the computer nearly as long, and my eyes are drooping. I'd like to go back to bed, but I dare not move. I'm dog-sitting this weekend, so four dogs are sleeping nearby. Lucky, lucky dogs. I know that if I so much as roll back in my chair, the sound will wake them, and they'll be ready to go outside and play again. I'm dying to sleep, but a real nap is out of the question at the moment, so I do the next best thing:

I pull out the keyboard shelf as far as it will go, push the keyboard to the back edge of it, and lean forward. The keyboard shelf supports my upper body while I place my folded arms on the front edge of the desk and lay my head on my crossed wrists. This will be a short nap: five minutes, ten if I'm lucky, but it might be enough time for my mind to shut down and reboot.

Sometimes we want more of something than we can get, but then a little bit turns out to be all we needed in the first place.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

When the Music Flows in You

One-a-Day Redux
Day Ten:  Childhood

It's no wonder I was a skinny child; I was a wanderer. On weekends and long, summer days, I'd put away my books and paper dolls and walk, alone, as far as I was allowed to go, for as long as I was allowed to be away.

The northwest corner of what was then Southwest Missouri State Teachers College sat catty-cornered across the street from our house. My earlier adventures on the college property had to be within sight of home, but the boundaries of both time and distance expanded with each passing year, and there came a time when I was given free rein to explore the entire campus.

One summer day, when I was about 10 or 11, I was walking along a dirt path, obviously a well-worn shortcut between two buildings, when I heard beautiful piano music. I left the path, followed the music, and discovered an open basement window in the music building. Shrubs grew next to the window. Two of them were spaced so that their branches touched, leaving a small, shady, cavelike area between their trunks. I crawled into that space, leaned against the cool, smooth surface of the building, and listened until the music finally stopped.

For the rest of the summer, that spot was my favorite destination. By the following summer I thought I was too old to be crawling around like a little kid, so I didn't go back.  In my mind, though, I've returned there many times, lured now as I was then by the kind of music that pacifies my soul.

Here's a modern piece that takes me right back under those bushes at the base of the music building. Press play, then pull yourself mentally into your own cool, shady place, close your eyes, and relax.


The song is "River Flows in You" by Yiruma.
Thanks to TPL Tan for posting the video on YouTube.

Friday, August 09, 2013

I Know: It's My Problem, Not Yours

One-a-Day Redux
Day Nine:  Daily Routine

As much as I hate to admit it, checking Facebook has become part of my daily routine. I like to log on and read posts from family members, good friends, the local online newspaper, and Levi and Gimpy's veterinarian's office. But access to those things comes at a cost. In order to read those posts, I have to slog through an assortment of other stuff that I'd rather not have inside my head. There are days when I feel so bombarded by Facebook that I wish I'd remembered to put on a helmet before I logged on.

They don't call Facebook a "social network" for nothing. I, being introverted by nature, am not at my best in social situations, though I'm better in small groups than in large ones. If I find half a dozen new status posts on Facebook, I'm fine, but if there are a dozen or more, I start squirming. How can I respond honestly and thoughtfully to so many posts? I can click the "like" button, but it seems inappropriate to "like" a post someone has written, for example, about being involved in an accident. That requires at least a short comment. And if I comment on that one, people whose posts I haven't yet acknowledged will know I've read them and thus far ignored them. I can no longer pretend I haven't seen them yet.

In most cases I haven't intended to ignore anyone's post, except for a few kinds I'll describe in a minute. Usually, I'm just reading posts quickly, giving myself time to figure out what I think about them, thinking I'll go back to the beginning and click or comment as the case may be. Unfortunately, if either the content or the quantity of posts seems overwhelming, I retreat into my shell without doing anything. That's how I get further and further behind.

I don't mind reading reposted witticisms or inspirational slogans. I like funny and sentimental animal pictures and videos. I like recipes the first time I see them, but I do screen captures of the ones I want to save instead of reposting them. I enjoy seeing your photos and scrolling through your albums. It makes me happy to see a picture of your baby, or even multiple pictures if they're posted in a batch, but as precious as that child is, if you post his or her pictures in a dozen different posts spread out over the course of a day, the posts that come late in the series feel to me like Chinese water torture.

If you post once or twice a day, it feels good, like smiling and waving at a neighbor across the fence. If you post many, many times a day, it feels like that friendly neighbor has stationed herself on my porch and I can't even open my front door without exchanging still more small talk.

I always like to read your good news. Because I care about you, I want updates on the bad news, too. I'd rather not read the details of your fight with someone I don't even know. Reading your side of the story makes me feel bad for you (yes, "bad"--"badly" is incorrect despite what Donald Trump once said.) But then, unless the action that upset you was particularly egregious, I find myself feeling sorry for the other person being discussed publicly behind his or her back. Regardless of who was right and who was wrong, I feel uncomfortable.

Positive political messages don't bother me at all, even if I'm of a different political persuasion. Negative political messages, on the other hand, disturb me. Especially reposts of partisan articles that are half-truths at best. I totally understand that it's your right to repost an article and that the choice to read it or not was mine. Nevertheless, if I read statements that are untrue or misleading, or if the tone of a post or an article is particularly hateful, snide, or patronizing, I will have to work hard to get over the feeling that you, personally and knowingly, just stood there right in front of me and pissed all over my good day. My problem, not yours.

I've probably written here before that I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and that's truer now than ever. Sometimes I have the energy to make my presence online known; other times I withdraw into a quiet corner and observe, the same thing I do at a party where there are too many people. (Give me that quiet corner instead of a chatroom any day).

Facebook is a habit I can't seem to kick, but it's stressful on days when I simply don't feel like talking. Perhaps I need to find an "unsocial network."




Thursday, August 08, 2013

Under the Same Sky that Hangs Over Me

One-a-Day Redux
Day Eight:  Your Sky

The sky above Southeast Louisiana isn't as big as the skies over some parts of the country. Here, hovering over ancient oaks and young pecan trees, the sky is a cloud-studded, pale-blue band, much like the one at at the top of a child's drawing. One difference between our sky and that of the beginner's art is that the sun in our sky isn't yellow with visible rays. Here, the mid-afternoon sun is a white-hot ball, bleaching out the blue around it and leaving its circumference ill defined.

From where I sit the horizon seems fairly close, but even the swath of sky that I can see stretches far enough to cover a wide variety of human conditions. At the same time it hangs over me, cool and comfortable in my little house, it covers a small child in a seedy, travel-trailer park not too far away, a child who's been hungry too long and can't wake his drugged-out mother. While my sky sails above middle-aged parents and their nearly grown sons splashing happily in the family's backyard pool, it hovers heavily over the tattered roof of a rundown house with its doors and windows opened wide. Inside, an old man sits fanning himself, hoping for some rain to cool things down, wishing he knew someone he could call who would take him someplace where there's air-conditioning.  Down the road in a different direction, clouds drift slowly over a mansion owned by a Baton Rouge doctor--a house so large and glassy it looks more like a Persian-rug showroom than a home--and also over the tiny, stained-wood cabin next door to the mansion. The man inside the cabin was once a sound technician for a famous musical group, but that was years ago, way back before he went blind.

There are hard-working people under my sky and other people who are unable to work or desperate to find it. There are rich people, poor ones, and everything in between. There are retired folks, like me, and young couples just beginning their lives together, some of whom think they'll be able to live on love. There are people of different ethnic backgrounds, different (or no) religions, different political views. Across that spectrum there are happy people and sad ones, kind, loving people and hate-filled, angry ones.

I don't even know most of these people, but I know they're nearby. I imagine there are people just like them under your sky, too.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Who Needs the Pressure?

One-a-Day Redux
Day Seven:  Favorite

Favorite? I have to write about a favorite something? And I'm supposed to write something new? That seems impossible. I've been writing this blog for seven and a half years, so you know I've already written about most of my favorite things. In fact, a keyword search for "favorite" turned up pages and pages of posts.

I've thought and thought about today's topic and have thus far drawn a blank. I've run through numerous categories in my mind, and every time I've tentatively chosen a favorite something or other, that idea has been followed immediately by a second thought: "Okay, but what about ... ?" Then I'm back to trying to decide between two or more things I like equally.

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I like too many things. It would be easier to write about least favorite things.

I'm reminding myself now that one of my favorite parts of getting older is that I feel freer to say no, freer to change my mind, and freer to break silly rules, especially silly, self-imposed rules. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm choosing not to post about today's topic.

So there!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

"What Can I Help You Find?"

One-a-Day Redux
Day Six:  Makes You Smile

Sometimes I get tickled at the inner workings of my own mind. It's as if a tiny librarian lives in there, one who's been on the job for a long, long time and has become somewhat officious, thinking she knows better than I do what specific piece of information I require at any given time. She won't give me access to anything without first looking it over herself.

My inner librarian has aged right along with me and takes frequent breaks these days. She was either on a break or otherwise too busy the other night to hand me the word "sunroof" when I needed it during a phone conversation. Left on my own, I had to fumble through the mental files and settle for "whaddayacallit, that window in the top of a car."

When she's on the job, though, she's a whirlwind of activity. I believe it is she who, upon receiving notice from my eyes that they've spotted a particular phrase on the side of a passing 18-wheeler, pops a record onto her little turntable and plays a song with a similar phrase in its lyrics. It is she who eagerly pulls random volumes off the shelf and tosses them onto the table so that my thoughts can't focus on Points A, B and C without considering the peripherally related Points Q, R, S and X, Y and Z. I'm pretty sure it's the meddling librarian who encourages my fascination with accents and, when she detects brain synapses firing in response to an interesting dialect, bombards me with every resource available to ensure that I fix that speech pattern in my mind, at least for a while. That would explain what happened this morning.


In bed last night I finished reading an e-book about plantation life in Virginia at the beginning of the Civil War, then downloaded and devoured the first three chapters of a sequel before turning out the light. Dialect is more than just a writing technique used in those two books; it's also a topic, as one character holds secret classes to teach reading, writing and proper grammar to slaves in order to better prepare them for a life of freedom. I read until well after midnight.

This morning, still half asleep as I put on my robe to take the dogs outside, I heard myself mumble these words, my first words of the day: "Levi, we don' be takin' no tennis balls out."

That. That kind of crazy stuff makes me smile. And roll my eyes and shake my head.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Party Dress Pitfall

One-a-Day Redux
Day Five:  Something You Wore

I remember the party but not who threw it. I know I was in high school, it was the Christmas holiday season, and it was unseasonably warm, even by Southeast Texas standards. Most of all, I remember the dress, though I don't recall where it came from.

It was too "little-girly" to suit me. I was somewhere between 15 and 17 that late-1950s winter, tall, lanky, and not about to go to a party in a dress that had a demure little collar and short, puffed sleeves. A dress-up party, even in someone's home, was a special occasion. I wanted to look good.

Mother altered the dress for me. She took off the collar and took out the sleeves, leaving a sleeveless bodice with a modestly scooped neckline. The bodice was made of black velvet--not velveteen, but soft, smooth, squishy velvet. Mother used the sleeves she'd removed to make facings for the neckline and the new armholes, which made them thicker than usual, but the extra padding didn't show.

The skirt was, um ... unusual. I used to think it was made of some kind of heavy-duty taffeta, but in hindsight the kind of nylon we see in windbreakers and backpacks nowadays seems closer. Whatever the fabric was, it was shiny, ivory-colored, shot through at random with gold metallic streaks and overlaid in a hexagonal pattern of black flocking that looked like nothing so much as chicken wire. It was a circle skirt, which meant the hem tended to sag ever so slightly in the bias-cut areas, but at least there were no gathers to bunch up under the wide, velvet-encased belt.

(With the help of a chicken-wire image I found on Google, I've tried to draw you a picture of the finished dress. You can enlarge it by clicking on it.)

The dress might not have been one I'd have chosen off the rack, but after Mother finished reworking it, it wasn't bad. It was appropriate to wear to the party, and I felt like I looked nice in it. I thought the velvet would be pleasing to the touch of a dance partner.

Depending on what year it was, I might or might not have had a date to that party; frankly, I don't remember. All I know is that I danced enough to perspire more than my heavily applied roll-on deodorant for ladies could handle. It was warm in that dimly lit den, and I was grateful that the bodice of my dress, being thick and black and all, wouldn't show how much I was sweating.

I danced awhile longer, then picked up the little party purse I'd borrowed from Mother and headed to the restroom. Comb in hand, I raised my arms to touch up my damp, stringy hair. What I saw in the mirror looked pretty much like this:




Much of the nap from the velvet had transferred itself to my moist armpits. I could wash it off, but I couldn't keep it off without holding my arms in the air for the rest of the night.

I don't recall a thing that happened after that embarrassing discovery. The fact that I remember the fuzzy armpits so clearly after all these years makes me pretty sure I didn't dance anymore and equally sure I couldn't wait to get out of there and go home. I cared a whole lot about what people thought of me when I was in my teens.

These days, at least if I were among friends, I might get a kick out of flashing those furry armpits.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

I Did It My Way

One-a-Day Redux
Day Four:  Letterbox

I've always had great enthusiasm for my own ideas, but sometimes I've implemented them without realizing that I didn't have as much information as I needed. Even though I'm aware of this trait, I can't seem to help it. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I'm an INTJ, and it's part of my personality.

I tweak things: blog posts, digital photos, recipes, you name it. Unless a book totally absorbs my attention, I will occasionally go back and reread a few sentences, restructuring them as I go to make them better. Please understand that I don't necessarily succeed in improving things, but that's always my intention when I start making a little change here, a little correction there.

I'm sure it wasn't the first time it happened, but one of the earliest times I remember deliberately deviating from specific instructions was in 1953, about a month before my 11th birthday. My great-grandmother, Dora, had just passed away. A couple of days after the funeral, my grandmother handed me a dollar bill and a stack of sealed, addressed envelopes containing thank-you notes and entrusted me with the responsibility of walking one block to the drugstore, where I was to buy stamps (which were three cents each in those days), place one on each envelope, then drop all the envelopes in the mailbox on the corner. Simple enough, right?

As I walked down the front steps, I casually flipped through the envelopes and noticed that more than half of them were addressed to neighbors. That's when I got a better idea. I quickly shuffled the enveopes into order according to my new, better plan. As I walked down to the corner, I knocked on doors and hand-delivered thank-you notes to the neighbors on our side of the street, then continued on to the drugstore, where I bought stamps, stuck them carefully on the envelopes addressed to non-neighbors, and dropped those in the mailbox. That done, I crossed the street and hand-delivered envelopes to neighbors on that side as I made my way home.

When I reached our house, Mammaw asked what took me so long. I handed her some change and the extra stamps and was quite proud to tell her what I'd done to cut at least one full day out of the post office's delivery time, not to mention saving her some money. She was embarrassed but not angry, thank goodness, and she took that opportunity to calmly explain to me the etiquette of mailing thank-you notes. Then I was embarrassed.

Still, if it weren't for that etiquette thing, you have to admit my idea was more efficient.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Tell Me a Story

One-a-Day Redux
Day Three:  Something You Adore

For as long as I can remember, I've loved a good story. It can come to me in the form of a book, a movie, a TV show, a letter, or in a simple conversation. However it's presented, the telling of it transports me right into the middle of it.

The story that's on my mind today is the love story of my Aunt Martha, who passed away earlier this week. If The Notebook tugs at your heartstrings, so would the story of Martha and Wayne and their love affair that spanned more than 70 years.

I also adore music, and a song that tells a story is one of my favorite things. One I particularly enjoy hearing over and over is this one, even though it doesn't end as well as the story of Martha and Wayne in real life or the story of Noah and Allie in the The Notebook:



The song is "The River" by Bruce Springsteen.
Thanks to dizcula for posting the song and the lyrics on YouTube.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Medicinal Qualities of Buttered Toast Sliced Vertically into Strips

One-a-Day Redux
Day Two:  Breakfast

The breakfast of choice in my childhood was toasted white bread in one form or another. Usually it was slathered in oleo, making it our version of "buttered" toast. Occasionally, if I was in the mood for something fancy, the toast was sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and sometimes it was topped with peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and syrup.

Cinnamon toast was sliced once vertically and once horizontally, into four little toast squares. Toast topped with peanut butter and jelly was cut the same way as cinnamon toast. Toast with peanut butter and syrup on it was cut many times in both directions, making a soggy pile of bite-sized pieces. Buttered toast was always cut in half, vertically if Mammaw made it, diagonally if Mother did.

Unless we were sick.

If my sister or I was running a fever or experiencing nausea or another type of gastric distress, the first thing that was put into our stomachs was hot tea. If that stayed down for a while, we were offered more hot tea and a piece of buttered toast, cut vertically into four finger-sized strips. The toast strips were placed on a saucer and then, along with the tea, on a tray, which was brought to us in bed. Toast cut into strips is not meant to be scarfed down by a hungry kid. It has to be nibbled delicately, one tiny bite at a time chewed carefully, then swallowed, followed by a brief pause before the next bite. It was akin to a fine dining experience.

Toast cut into vertical strips has healing powers. In my family we all knew that. It works for cuts and sprains as well as for stomach ailments. When my own daughters were ill, I cut their toast into strips. I'm pretty sure my one daughter who has children made strips of toast for her kids when they were ailing.

It's been three years since I switched to a low-carb diet, so these days I never have white bread in the house. Once in a while I'll eat a slice of whole-wheat bread, thawed from the loaf I keep in the freezer. It's that whole-wheat bread I toast and butter now on the rare occasions when I wake up feeling sick. It isn't the same as white-bread toast, but once it's been sliced vertically into four strips, it works almost as well.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Same List, Different Twist

In January of this year, inspired by my friend Alison, I participated in a One-a-Day Photo Challenge that helped lift me out of the blogging doldrums. Finding myself once again in a state of low spirits and inspiration-stagnation, determined to drag myself out of it even if the process entails some kicking and screaming, I've decided it's time for another challenge.

I looked online today for fresh challenge lists; however, feeling too listless (no pun intended) to choose one, I'm borrowing an idea from my friend Annette. In February Annette picked up the photo challenge that Alison and I used in January, took the photos out of it, and used the list of prompts as writing exercises. That's what I'm going to do, too. Here's the first one:

One-a-Day Redux
Day One:  You

So, today's subject is me. (Isn't it always?) I haven't been in a good place lately. The road I traveled to get to this place seemed smooth until a crisis in the life of a family member created a gaping sinkhole in it. As I tried to somehow bridge the sinkhole, the surrounding asphalt began to cave in, resulting in other, smaller hazards that impeded my travel. One pothole after another needed to be filled before I could move.

No single obstacle exceeded my ability to cope, but so many of them, coming all at once as they did, nearly stopped me in my tracks. It was important to me to "keep on keepin' on," to "take one day at a time," and to "let a smile be my umbrella," so I filled the damned potholes, one by one. The sinkhole is still there, though we've temporarily fenced it in and figured out how to navigate around it, at least for the short term.

Now is when I should be able to get back on the road again, yet here I am, gridlocked by emotions I haven't allowed myself to feel until now, mired in a jumble of old fears that have been rekindled by recent events. I'm exhausted, anxious, jumpy, insomnolent, prone to burst into tears, and not much fun to be around.

And I will be fine.

This is what I do. I'm an excellent person to have around in times of crisis, because I hold myself together and do what needs to be done. But after the crisis, when things calm down to the point where I can take a deep, relaxing breath, I fall apart.

Right now I'm still stuck on this metaphorical road. I won't be here long. I know that, because I've been on much worse roads than this one in the miles I've traveled during my lifetime. All I need now is a little time, a little uninterrupted peace, a little rest.

And, perhaps, a thirty-one day challenge to set me off on a less hazardous course.