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Ugh and dread

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Last firsts

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unload

Empty the mind.

Prom!
Chrome platform shoes eyebrow threading earrings hose mall
My brother has broke with reality. 
Try to get nursing home admin to return my call.
Pay daughter's traffic ticket
Why hasn't my son returned my call?
Clear the kitchen table of paper by doing paperwork.
Fucking breathe.
Your old man is dying.
Call locksmith
get low cal girly nibbles for prom day hair make up drama
lawnmower?
I wanna run away from home.  Really badly.
Am I getting things done?
Do I suck at all this?
How is it I am functioning?
I really don't wanna shop for prom shoes. Really don't.
Graduation.
Birthday party
Mother's Day gathering.
Funeral?
I can't pull this off.
BANK
my head hurts, make it stop, please.
church bells wind chimes nice
Dinner out tonight, yeah.  
I will feel 20% better if I clear the paper work.  That is a good thing.  So I should do that.
Shower.  Long hot shower.  Another 20% better.  40% total better, hey I ain't gonna get mo bettah than that....That will be a good thing.  So I should do that too.
Drink more water.
And for christ sake eat something...food's your thing eat it
I wish you were here God knows how much...
Dad is dying.
Mother doesn't know.
brother lost his mind
have to sell the family home.
can't call home no one lives there no one will answer....it's over.
Chrome Platform Prom Shoes, where on God's green acre do you find those?

Stages

I feel him. Is it his energy still strong inside me that propels these intense encounters or does he come to me from some unknown place? Will this always happen or is it just for a short time? Many times we talked about he kindly haunting me and I can't help but think that he is. I miss his physical presence with an agonizing desire that is unquenchable. I want him here, healthy and full of life. I want a do-over. If sheer will could make that happen... My heart aches, my body aches, every piece of my flesh aches in an ungodly, indescribable manner; I feel I shall go mad with this pain. I crave relief but have no idea where to seek such relief or if it even exists.

There are stages to this process. I have been in shock. The first week was a numbing, surreal shock. The days leading up to the memorial were lost to a shocked panic. The memorial itself was a blur of fuzzy shock laced with comfort and kindness, hospitality and a uncomfortable form of relief at it's end. Since, I seem to wander in and out of disbelieving and believing. Time still functions as an abstract concept. Hours are lost staring at black and white movies not knowing the plot, vast buckets of time are dumped away full of scattered thought, yet I do accomplish what needs to be done and I am continually surprised by that. I couldn't begin to explain how it is that I am functioning.

I walk the little dog each morning, the same route that he once took, I find comfort on that path. We talk, I cry a little, he reaches out to me. I find white feathers strew across my path and I thank him for the messages. I come home and make the coffee that he once made and play the 'dirty fish' game that he and the little dog once played. It all seems an act to me, a scene in a play, a scripted slice of pretending that I do to please the little dog and to please him, as he would not want me to neglect their games and rituals My days are full of attempts to honor his wishes as I feel his passing so unfair to him that I must continue his dreams. Despite the contention that very notion once caused I feel it my duty now. A duty, I too, realize is not healthy. I tell myself I will do this only for awhile and then I must move on to my own dreams yet for all the dreams I once had I can't seem to remember a damn one.

Another day looms ahead of me. Sitting here in front of the coffee table, typing this, sipping my morning coffee, the little dog resting his head on my shin, music softly playing...he should be there, sitting with his coffee, offering commentary to the days current events. He isn't there, he will never be there. I am here, alone, feeling him with only stages to go through.

one month

This Wednesday will mark the 12th anniversary of the Twin Tower attack and one month since my husband lost his battle with cancer. Did it happen twenty minutes ago or two million years ago? Grief warps time, it bends realities and changes everything, forever.

I spent the entire day writing out thank-you cards, each with a personal note, each with a piece of my heart. I have been dreading this dreadful task. I am filled with gratitude at the amazing kindness and comfort extended to my family and I yet each note I write is a crushing reminder of a reality I can not fully accept.

Every mundane act of living feels like a betrayal, a smudge to his memory, a slap to his long suffering, a flat out refusal to mourn his passing. It's hard to move when forward translate into leaving behind his unfilled wishes and dreams.

A month has passed. I have a vague notion of what has transpired these last thirty days but none of it can be real. Shock gives way to grief, grief lurks beside despair and despair unmasks a cold steely loneliness and the whole day revolves around this cycle of sorrow and suspended reality. I move through this sticky blackness with a remote sense of purpose but I really have none. I accomplish what needs to be done but I don't know how. I work my body with exercise and labor but it never grows weary enough for sleep. I cry a lot, my tears come unexpectedly in short intense bursts which I wipe away quickly as if to stop the reason for them.

Moments after he left, with his hand still in mine, I slipped his wedding band off and slid it underneath mine. Together they clink and ting and I receive a small scrap of contentment from the sound they make as I move through my day. While shoring up for his eventual passing, which we both knew was apparent but neither wanted to truly believe, I read dozens of articles regarding death and loss. One in particular, written by a Pastor who lost his wife to Parkinson's, sticks with me. Upon her death he removed his wedding band, never to wear it again. His reasoning was his wedding vows, which stated, "Until death do us part." as a Pastor and a man he felt her death left him, in the eyes of the church and to the world, unmarried, which is technically correct but emotionally not so simple; I found his act and his reasoning to be rather harsh and compassionless but understood his need to make sense of his place in the world. After reading his story, months ago, I wondered then, when I would remove my wedding band and consider myself unmarried. It is now, after this first month, that I find myself pondering that thought several times during the long days. Each time I think of it I become uncomfortable and irritated at the notion of making any big deal out of it, yet it is a big deal to me, it's a huge deal. For now, I will continue to wear them and take the morsel of comfort the clink and ting make as they slide together but I know the time will soon arrive that in order for me to move forward I will need to remove them and put them away. The thought of no longer wearing them makes me feel sad. I liked being a Sadie, a married lady. For me, the ring told the world that I was loved and that I was part of something.


grief

In this hot August heat I wear the memory of his illness like a heavy wool coat. From his initial diagnosis, to being told he might have a week, to his leaving; the last two years run a constant reel overlap to all the other memory flashes ping-ponging around my rattled mind.

My intellect battles my emotions. My emotions battle my intellect. Days dissolve into night and time has no meaning or purpose.

I long for a softening to this sharpness. I ache for answers. I am sick with sorrow.

EVERYWHERE I turn I am blindsided by memories, so brilliantly vivid they hurt to see and sting to feel.

Not all memories are good memories and regret runs like a rusty knife through my beleaguered heart. Why did we battle so often? Fear. But what were we afraid of? Why was he always so mad? Why couldn't he get past his past? Why wouldn't he try? Why didn't I work harder and better to guide him to a place of peace? Why did it anger me so that he couldn't get there? Fear. Fear? Why do we let fear take the wheel?

Why? So many questions left for one to answer. So many answers left for one to question. So much for just one heart and one mind to resolve.

My expectations have halted. I know not what to expect, from others, from myself, from the future or the past. I am standing still as a statue while the world whirls at break-neck speed.

I feel a loneliness too enormous to define, too vast to swallow, too profound to explore and so looming and consuming it refuses to be ignored. I feel the loneliness will devour me before I find a safe haven to shelter me.

All that I am quakes at the thought of my children's suffering. I reserve my love, strength and compassion for them. I suspend my own sorrow to burden theirs. I will move heaven and earth for their peace and comfort. I will do all that I have ever done and more because I remain their mother despite our loss. This family will remain this family; not as a tribute to their father but because of him and because of me and because we were once an us who created the we.
When I look for him I need go no further than their eyes to find a rag of comfort or a scrap of reason and each day that will grow and will eventually grow (grand-babies) into a soft quilt I can wrap myself in.


Anger. Sorrow. Tears. Loneliness. Heartache. Fear. Worry. Resentment. Panic. Ugliness and horror. Bitter and sweet. Change. Uncertainty. Hope. Courage. Strength. Faith. Belief.



August 14, 2013

At nine thirty this morning my husband died. He lost his two year battle with cancer. He fought the good fight like a champ. The last few days he has spent with one foot in this world and one foot in other. His last night was fretful. Around dinner time I called the Hospice nurse; she examined him and told me he could last in his condition for perhaps another week. I knew he was dying. I know he knew he was dying. The night was fretful. I worked diligently and gently to keep him dry and comfortable.
When the time came it came like I though death would come; fast, in your face and without mercy. I sat next to our bed with his hand in mine and our faces close together. He struggled violently for a few moments, I held him to me. I spoke to him gently. His breathing was choppy and then it ceased and he had left.

From the files of WTF!

I suck it up and make the call. Palliative care for my mother. It's time. I no longer can be there at the drop of a dime and my dad clearly has had enough whether he fully realizes it or not. I don't want to do this but I really have no choice. It is time. This breaks my heart and my vow to my mother but I know this is right time and the right thing to do.

I call the hospital back home and I am directed to a woman named Beth. I explain my parents situation, my situation and through it all I try not to cry. Beth is very kind. Very. She takes her time with me and she lets me vent. She asks me questions about my mother. This is difficult for me as I feel I am betraying my mother; she was/is an extremely private person, my mother, and the information I am imparting to Beth is terribly personal. I know this is Beth's profession and she has seen it all before....still, it is hard for me to 'rat out' my mom and I am being very cautious in what I say. My mom, with all her faculties in place is a hard, hard woman and no one to mess with. God, don't I know it?!! My mom use to be a real bitch on wheels and she didn't care much whose feelings she might roll over.
Beth didn't ask my name or my parents names right away and for that I was glad...I wanted to ease in to the betrayal.
HERE COMES THE WTF PART
In a small town it is not uncommon to know of people without really knowing them so the odds were fairly good that Beth would know of my parents. When I gave Beth their names she immediately asked for help in spelling my dad's name and then she paused, I assumed she didn't hear my mother's name so I said her name again and Beth replied using my mom's first name and her maiden name and then my mom's brother's name....to which I was like, yeah? Beth explained she was my Uncle's case worker. Beth then blathers on and on about how "difficult" he was and that once he threw a phone at her head but at the end she was with him and he became soft and gentle and to this day out off all her 'people' my uncle remains a soft spot in her heart. Dick was a whack job...a fucking whack job. Everyone in the family knew he was nuts. He did unspeakable things to me as a little girl and threatened me with his insanity which kept me from breathing a word of the horror to anyone. Beth talking about him so lovingly is literally making me sick. I tell Beth I think him an awful man and I always will. I don't want to hurt her feelings since she found a different side to him. I forgave him years ago. I told her despite my feelings I was genuinely happy he found peace at the end, that we all deserve that...and I meant what I said.
ALSO...she knows my mother first hand and it was easy to tell she didn't have a good experience with my mother, which doesn't surprise me in the least. (although as always when people don't care for my mom I feel badly) I have a clear memory of the "uncle dick on the county' fiasco. I was in my late twenties still 'hating' my mom and having her call and rag and bitch about the damn social worker. Which come to find out today is Beth, the woman I am hoping will eventually help me help my mother. Is this all not WTF?

I had to get this out. There is no one left to talk to so this is my release. And I feel better putting it down. I can make sense of out what seemed so random yet not random at all.

I was going to ask, why Beth, the uncle dick thing and her knowing my mom as a bitch....with all that is happening why is the universe dragging up old wounds when the new wounds are enough?

And here is my answer.
the uncle dick thing...i was ready to know he died at peace. his life wasn't easy...my grandpa, i think, beat him senseless. dick was insanely violent...for peace to come to him near his death is comforting to know.
the mom/bitch thing....well, she was who she was, she behaved the way she behaved...i can't change that nor can I continue to feel so sorry for people not liking her. She too had a tough life and she dealt with it by being hard and unpushable.

It is the struggle more than the slide that builds who we are...what happens is not for the choosing our reaction and response is the choice and everyday we make a choice...every moment is a choice. I could choose for this to all mean something deeply mystical but I choose to believe it is simply small town life with a slice of the divine offering me a needed message and a small pat upon the head.

And I shouldn't feel guilty taking the time to sort this out instead of mowing the lawn ....while my husband lays with a fever and low counts, my mother in dire need of a bath, my dad cracking another bud lite and all the other bullshit. Right? Right.

I will get the lawn mowed, it needed to dry out anyway...his counts will go up and the fever will go down, my mom will get her bath tomorrow instead and my dad, well it's cocktail hour somewhere:)



sleepless

I want answers to questions I don't know how to ask.


Again I can't sleep. It is raining. I open a window and wind blows the rain in. I lay a towel on the sill and keep it open. I want to hear the rain and feel the breeze. Tiny, random speckles of rain pelt the foot I have dangling from the side of the bed and the wind puffs the curtain like a plume as the eave gushes a torrent, such bluster for such an average spring shower. I appreciate the effort on natures part to attempt to produce for me a storm but I am more than grateful for the soft shower to keep me company on this, yet another, sleepless night.
And a good shower can keep you company. Since the little dog at the foot of this bed is apparently off duty it is the shower and I that shall converse and stew the woe at hand.
The woe is not new and the shower and I will not solve anything. I don't know of any solution. I don't have any clue how to make anything better. I have no understanding of why things happen, they just do. It all hurts more than I imagined. I know it will get far worst before it will get better...and that scares me. It all scares me, really.
I wish I could sleep like the little dog at the foot of the bed. He sleeps as he does because he feels that he is loved and he sees that he is cared for. He is a lucky little dog.

Do suppose one day this will all make sense to me? Will I understand why all this had to happen at once and why in the middle of it all the rug had to be pulled out from beneath me? Why the lesson now? What did that awful brand of hurt need to teach me? How does love stop and why don't I know how to stop it?
All I really know for sure is that I NEVER want to go through any of this again.

I can't help but think about the future. I feel guilty about doing it but I need a plan. I need that security of have some sort of plan in place. I have a fountain of ideas but each one brings with it sorrow and guilt. How can I plan?

I wonder about love and will it find me in time. So many hits and misses. Will I have a real chance at what I am looking for? And too I wonder if maybe for me the grand passion love was not the love I was intended for. To stand so close to something of such great value to you and then have the treasure robbed by the unlikely thief is an emotional game changer. I see with different eyes a place where beauty never was. You loose a little of yourself in those shadow places.

I question too much. I just have to accept what is. I am doing the best that I can. Even I know this is way too much for one person. I'm scared. I've never been this alone. I'll get through but I don't know how.

Damn it! I wish I could sleep.

Do you think the cure for Cancer and Alzheimer's was lost in the deforestation of the rain-forests?

What is out there beyond what we think we know?
How does on visualize nothing?

I wonder if I have herniated a disk or is that just stress that's killing my neck?

My puppy is so cutely huggable, I am grateful for his sleeping company.

The shower has passed. I should try to sleep. Tears will come before sleep as they lately always do.
Good night, me.



Yup

Driving home from a hospital stay my spouse told me he wishes it was me who had cancer. I was talking about what I could make for dinner....this was his answer.

I get it. I do. Cancer is wicked.

That hurt. A lot.

I know he didn't mean it the way it sounded but Christ, dad...have another.. .

I have to get this off my chest.

My father calls me at least six times a day; most of the time in some conjured panic fueled by several Bud Lites. This morning it was about their taxes. We have discussed this topic in length on several occasions since last Friday. My father has this whine/weepy voice he uses when he needs to convey his needs/demands. It is oppressively passive aggressive and drives me to the brink...so much so I had buried (the voice) deep in my sub-conscience only to have to re-face it now. With my adult eyes I see that voice for what it is. Still, my father sounding this way is ( I struggle to find exactly how I feel about his behavior) disappointing and that is hard to feel about your dad, but it is what it is. He is just a man. My dad is an alcoholic. He has been my whole life. I love my dad very much, he is a good man. I didn't recognize my father as an alcoholic until two years ago. My children knew but I wouldn't see it. I had always put my father on a pedestal because that is how I wanted him to be. I was his favorite because of that. I stood up for him and I still am standing up for him.

I care for my dad and mom. My mom suffers from Alzheimer's, she is nearing the end. They refuse, sometimes violently to leave their home. So for years I have been driving two hours once or twice a week to tend to their needs. I feel I am doing the best that I can for them. I know they should be in a home but I am respecting and honoring their wishes.

My father is a golfer. He likes the game and adores the clubhouse. Last year his long time golf partner died of a heart attack on the 18th hole, my father was unable to revive him. I was on my way to their house when it happened...I went with my father to tell his partners wife. These are people I have known all my life and my parents have known all of theirs. Dad's buddy passing left my father as literally the last man standing among his contemporaries. The whole incident was very sad and is still difficult for my dad. He drinks more because of it. I have been encouraging my dad to golf again. All winter he said he didn't think he would. The kindness of living your whole life in the wee little town in which you were born, allows you wonderful luxuries, one of which being that someone from the golf course has called my father inviting him to golf with several men that have volunteered to partner up with him. My dad is considering it.

This brings me to the meat of my vent. The phone call from my dad this morning came in while I was talking to my husband, who I took to the ER Saturday and still remains in the hospital. My husband has cancer...end stage...everything is being done...we pray and remain extremely hopeful. My dad knows I have Skippy on hold, my dad also knows I took Skippy to the hospital Saturday, still he continues with his whine...see he knows I will be there tomorrow and I will take care of everything...taxes are the pretense, the real reason, which requires him to carry on like a spoiled child is...he needs to know if he can say he will golf this summer...he needs to know RIGHT NOW! My dad wants me to commit right this minute to being able to be there every Thursday to care for my mom and to take him and pick him up from the course. I have told my dad that I am getting someone to come in for mom while he golfs and the course staff will see to it he gets there and home. THIS IS NOT WHAT MY FATHER WANTS!! He wants me to be there...I tell him with Skippy sick I just can't commit to any certain day. And then my dad, my father, says to me..."Are you lying to me? You told me Skippy was gonna die. By this summer he should be gone and you should be here with me and your mother, taking proper care of us.......

I said something...I'm not sure what...and I hung up. Fucker. Fucking shit. Damn.








Sleepless

Awake when I should be sleeping.

Light snow falls
Furnace, fridge, humidifier hum
Tired body paces,wanders,searches
Tender heart
hopes, wills and stays
Captive choked moans roll
sad little tears
Looking to the sky
asking for reason
hoping for rescue
Wishing for yesterday
where someday lived
Dark is the night
where sadness stews
Lonely is the dark
where love once grew

Talking to myself

It is my time to fall in love. A long, long over do romance with me. I have neglected myself for far too many seasons. I love me I just haven't been terribly thoughtful or tenderly kind to myself.

I like my time alone. Some days there is not enough of it and other days there is too much of it.
I fear my near future will have plenty months, perhaps seasons of alone. Like any impending drought I am savoring the moments of plenty to sustain me during the lean.

I wonder where me will take me?

Nice thoughts

I have not written here in a long while. It feels almost comforting to put words back here. It also feels lonely here but I think that is what I need...a wee spot of lonely where I can chew and digest the past year and fortify myself for what is yet to come.

I spent the entire summer purging stuff. Items I once deemed keepsakes found their way into the arms of other kindred gathers. It wasn't easy but it was easier than I thought it would be. When things come easier than you thought you find yourself more brazen, more courageous and change becomes the sought after keepsake.

Waiting for change is like standing out at that lonely four corners bus stop, staring down an empty highway waiting for the forever gone Greyhound to whisk you to freedom. Somehow that quick ticket to ride to the better place only takes you in one large life sucking roundabout of been there done that.

Knowing that change is all around you does not prepare you for how that change will move and vibrate the Source inside you. The best change comes when you have been still with your soul and allow yourself to really hear the message. The message is the Divine speaking directly from you to you. A most sacred event. This gift comes when we truly learn to stop racing ego forward and sit in peace with the Is inside.

I think this change is the change we search for. The connection we scurry to make is already there waiting for us to be still and to listen.


to be continued.....




Time guzzles life

     For over a dozen years, I have traveled the road from the Wee Village to the City and back again.  The homestretch is dotted with farms and fields.  Standing alone is a gray, crumbling, once clearly productive farmstead.  It remains today as a tobacco spit of jumbled, tumbled buildings, a barn, a silo and a declining yet admirable farmhouse that was once carefully built in front of scant, see-through woods.  This long ago thriving home and business is now tattered and worn existing as an island in a sea of tilled earth.  It has been sad to watch this dear piece of living ravaged by time. 
     This Monday morning as I drove past one could not help but notice the old place engulfed in angry orange flames with bight yellow earthmovers at the ready to bury any last trace of the life that was once was shiny and full of industry.
      The same dozen years has taken a similar insidious toll on my own Mother.  Yesterday, this admirable, once thriving woman lost who her daughter was, lost her as if she never was.  This tiny, frail, gray, woman, unknowingly adored exists as an island in a sea of forgotten memories.   It is sad watching her slowly leave.  My heart breaks for her.

Green and beige

           As these last few days of summer slip gracefully by, I have already welcomed, encouraged and shaken the hand of fall.  Thus far, the transition has been sublime.  The seemingly seamless baton pass of seasons leaves me with little remorse for beginnings or endings but instead fills me with a much-needed sense of calm and a wee bit of resolve.  
     September arrived to drink empty the oppressive ripeness of August and for a few remarkable weeks I watched what was lush and green become beige and crunchy.  There can be so much green in a season of such intense growing that you feel it may just swallow you up.  The lustful, passionate, reach for the sky growth became too heady and claustrophobic and as fall tenderly devours the robust green, the sky has begun to open, the passion subsides and I can once again see the horizon.
     With the beige comes the harvest, the time I reap what I have sown.  It is also my time for personal reflection and clarification.  A time for gathering what I need to nourish my body, mind and soul. It is my hope that for my mindful labors, I might be rewarded with wisdom, bounty, October’s brilliant wash of stain glassed color and pure contentment as my warm fire for winter hibernation.
     Time moves forward and like it or not I move right along with it.  Just as the free spirited hobo riding the rails, I catch only the rides I am supposed to take, there are no missed trains only long forgotten journeys.
                

Life's a beach.

 
The lobby for spending Sunday at the beach began on Monday.  My little pea-pod in her very clever way, introduced the beach idea as “Wouldn’t it be great if the weather on Sunday was perfect for going to the beach?”  By Tuesday the question was a statement and by Friday it was a fact.   Come Sunday I was awakened by an over anxious pea-pod asking if I would like her to make coffee.  (She’s good.)*wink*
 
The game plan was to hit the road by eight and head for the big lake to spend a fun filled day of sun and surf.   Since it was already after eight I had the excuse to rethink the direction of our excursion.  Don’t get me wrong the big lake would have been amazing, so much so that I held a wee fear that the big blue would take me too far away from the day.
With that thought I suggested a closer destination with breathtaking scenery…a place my soul knows very well. 
 
Not wanting to hit the beach as contractors we packed very little for the day.  We hit the road dressed in our suits and cover-ups.  Curled up on the front seat of the truck, legs tucked underneath me with a stout cup of hot coffee I felt like I was sitting on a BARCO lounger with the beauty of nature clipping by me as a grand parade.  The moment was perfect.
 
Upon approaching the state park we realized we were not the only family that had thought today would be a great day for the beach.  North beach was already full so we pressed on to South beach.  Having purchased a park sticker earlier in the year caused our line to creep faster than the lines of day passes and sticker buyers.  We were lucky to find a shady spot to park the truck that came with a very short jaunt to the beach.  The place was packed. Life bursting and bubbling as far as the eye could see.  We seized a good size patch of unoccupied sand and set up our base. 
 
 Not only is this park a locale favorite, it is a destination for people from all over the world.  The cultural diversity mingled with the amazing surroundings is why this is my favorite beach.  Laying there I heard four different conversations spoken in four different languages.  Everyone was cooking, eating or drinking and the smells that wafted through the trees were tantalizing and heady.  In this place I felt a million miles away from everything I know and at the same time so close to everything I hold dear.
 
My daughter and I filled a bucket of carefully collected rocks all of clearly remarkable standards.   We floated lazily on our backs and told each other what we saw in the clouds. As is pea-pod’s way she began asking me a million questions, not all of which I could answer.  In an effort to return to the mellow cloud gazing I suggested to her that too many answers will leave her with nothing to discover.
 
    Drying off on the beach, under the constant yellow orb we all silently observe man and nature in our own quiet ways.  With chatter and movement all around everything remains washed in a tranquil veneer.   Wet to dry, dry to hot, hot to lazy…a long day at the beach is like that.  It feels good to the skin and to the soul to reach a heated pitch and find resplendent refreshment mere footsteps away.  Simple, pure contentment often is so elusive in our daily lives yet so easy to come by when spending your day at the beach.
 
Upon reaching my heated pitch I announced to the family “That I was going in to swim as far out as I could.”  Having heard no objection I was off.  It had been a good twenty years since I'd swam across this part of the lake so half way was my mark.  Swimming for me has always felt so natural.  The movement is such a remembered movement…like something my body just switches on…before I knew it I was well pass the middle.  With steam to spare I headed for the opposite shore.  No rest upon that shore…it was home to a million deer flies.  Back in and headed to ‘home’ shore I felt my arms begin to cramp.  I switched to my back and floated for a spell.
 
There in the middle of that astounding lake, with the water lapping at my languid, bobbing body and my breathing echoing through me and out of me into the gentle liquid I found myself asking the big questions of heaven and earth.  The response I received through depths of the ancient lake and from the peaks of the jagged cliffs is the answer I gave.  “Too many answers will leave you with nothing left to discover.”
 
Letting that nugget soak into me like the lake into my hair I felt cleansed, resplendently refreshed and restored.
 
The swim back to shore was a breeze.
 
 
 
 

How to write nothing at all.

The worst annoyance of trying to push out words is when your word pusher becomes clogged.  Oddly enough my word pusher became clogged with thought, an abundant flooding gush of thought that seemingly was meant only to live within my head and out amongst the ether as a ghost but clearly unable to be captured in print.  Thus has been my angst and pleasure for these last few months.
 
Summer began in spring with an unrelenting heat and frequent furious storms.  Fearing a summer of idle I planted more than I should have, for just as I had finished the tender task of planting penance laced opportunities knocked
 
My mornings are spent with the sun and heat in a silent protest that I carry barely half a heart for.  Four long hours of honks, thumbs-up and unsavory comments that blend with my sweat, thoughts and tears which I pull together to weave into a reason why I remain there standing. 
 
The afternoon is spent in a much more desirable position…my fanny on an old tractor.  When the weather is right…hot, dry and sunny, I fire up an old Massey Ferguson and cut beautiful sugar hay into long, green ribbons.   I have four fields that I cut.  Timed perfectly, each field is ready about a day or two apart…that is when the rain minds.
 
The sun has left her mark upon me this summer.   I am branded brown and freckled, with certain parts peeling and some parts staying red.  My legs are bruised by tractor iron and seem unable to catch enough sun to keep up with the top of me.  My hair is a wild mess of curls, bleached and brittle and sporting some unholy shade of red.   
 
For the most part I am happy.  Penance and pleasure, each chore balances the other.  What I earn I am given.   It feels authentic to operate this way.  It is wonderful when less can really mean more or more to the point it is wonderful when you can allow less to really mean more.
















 
 
 
 
 

Dish to pass the test

For a great many years I have been told what dish to bring for family events.  It is never anything I want to make but I make/bake/cook what I am told.  There is a hierarchy among 'farm women' and having grown up in that environment I respect this tradition in my in-laws.  My mother-in-law has a passel of sisters who have a passel of daughters and daughter in laws, it is in this hierarchy that I am considered a mid-level newbie.  There are three major events each year that require me to bring a predetermined dish to pass.  It is within these three events that we are judged.  When I say judged I mean really judged and sometimes rather harshly...never to your face but I've heard comments after someone has left that were down right snappy for these hard-core church going women.

A few years ago I was told to bring a dessert to Easter dinner.  Not the main dessert...heavens no but a side dessert, a simple, little dessert.   Dessert is major in the farm woman world of dish passing.  This was a big test and I knew it.  At this point I should mention that I cook and bake and feel quite confident in the kitchen.  I don't host the huge family events because as I have mentioned I am still a mid-level newbie but I do host all the immediate family events and I have proven I can lay down a damn fine good meal.

  Back to the simple dessert...I scoured my collection of old cookbooks for something old school but nothing popped out at me.  At the time Paula Dean's cooking show was first being shown on the Food-Channel.  There is something about her that reminds me so much of a dear friend that passed on(I have my theories about Paula but that's a whole other story) that I watched and on that episode she made this easy cheesecaky thing that was an old timey recipe of her Me-maw. This was a recipe I had never ran across before, so I copied it and decided to make that.  Totally old school, super easy, economical and obsure...perfect...perhaps I'll move up the food toting chain. 

Using muffin tins, paper liners and a vanilla wafer as a crust you make a standard Philly cream cheese batter and bake.  I used lovely vintage patterned paper liners, added aromatic lemon zest and a wee bit of food coloring giving each batch a pastel hue.  That morning before leaving I made from fresh cream whip cream and to that I also added lemon zest and in small batches dyed the whip cream to match each little cake.  I plated these pretty little things atop paper lace on an antique milk-glass three tier serving dish with fresh crocus petals placed about.  I thought it looked beautiful.

Easter is always held at the cabin.  We are always late and that year was no different, everyone was already nibbling and milling about.   The aunts were clustered around the table as they always are, eating and eying up the newbies offerings.  My offering, which I humbly held almost behind my back got a flat "Isn't that pretty... Put it in the laundry room out of the way, dear"   The time comes for dessert and people are eating mine, the younger people, not the aunts.  I received a few compliments which spurred the queen aunt to sample my wares.   BIG LAUGH..."Girls, try one.  Remember these?  How many of these things have you made an eaten over the years?  (more giggles and nods)  Honey, we use to make these back in the sixties for every pot-luck that came down the pike."  "Does anyone want the rest of mine?"  My pretty little dessert was being waved by chubby farm worn fingers like a rain soaked donut.  I didn't pass muster that year.

I have never given up.  Each event I bring as told and do my @^@#$^# best to win the favor of the aunts and move up the food toting chain.  I have watched other newbies move up the chain but I have yet to have my break out dish. 

This Easter I wasn't asked, I wasn't told, no one said anything to me.  When the kids asked what I was bringing and I told them I didn't know yet, I sort of began to worry, as did my daughters...they too know their future, their playing field and the level of the bar.  Maybe I've been cut. (gasp!)  Some have been, you know.  My sister-in-law can only be trusted to bring store bought buns and there is a cousin that can only bring butter and if it isn't soft she gets her cage rattled.  Then there is the well told story (witnessed by me, my first year of competition, which was the year I was told to bring crackers) of a girlfriend of a cousin who brought fruit pies without asking and bragged about them to boot.   The aunts deemed the pies way too sour and the crust pre-made and the rest of what was said I won't repeat, but what was said was pretty rough and let me in on how cut-throat dish passin can be.   All I know is never brag about your dish and never go up against an old farm woman with pre-made pie crust...in fact never bring a pie. Always lie and say they make the best pies and offer up something else.  You can't beat em so don't even try.    I don't know if it is just a coincident but that girlfriend didn't last.  So you see this is pretty serious stuff.

Knowing the story you all tell me...

At the ninth hour I get the call.  It's my mother in law with queen aunt in the background...she asks me about my youngest's size in clothing and other random Easter stuff.  Freaking that I am not going to be asked I ask.  "What should I bring Sunday?  Long pause, hand held over the phone, then "How about making those rolls you make?"   ROLLS?  Shit!  Those rolls that I make require a day for the dough to rise and would take me all night to bake off enough for the Easter crowd.  I am honest and tell her respectfully "At this late date I don't think I can pull it off.  At their best is right out of the oven and Spunky sings at church Sunday... I just don't have the time to bake them after church and get up to the cabin before we are getting yelled at late.  Is there anything else I can bring?"  Another long pause, more hand over the phone, and then I get this "You're the chef make whatever you want, that will be just fine."  I am then told what everyone else is bringing so my dish, whatever I choose, will compliment the rest of the meal's offerings  

I don't think I have bumped from mid-level newbie to aunt status, which is you call it, you bring it.  That kind of ladder jumping is unheard of.   I think this may be my final test or I am being set up to fail.  The stakes are huge, the bar has been raised.  I feel I have been challenged.   

The main course is ham, naturally and since this a German bunch there will be sausage, lots of sausage.  I have decided with confidence to make beans and cornbread.  Navy, pinto and black beans slow cooked with smoked ham hocks from the butcher, beer instead water, onion, leeks, parsley, garlic, butter, Old Bay and a wee bit of hot sauce.  A lucky find of fresh milled cornmeal, rich cream and farm fresh eggs should give my cornbread a good chance.  I'll add a bit of meat from the hock, sour cream and nibblet corn, cook it in a hot oven in my old cast iron pan.  I'll soak the beans overnight and finish them off slowly while at church.  The cornbread I'll throw in while we are at home changing clothes.   Learning my lesson from the wee cakes my presentation shouldn't be too flashy.  The beans will be in a four quart Corning Ware casserole dish that fits perfectly in this wire basket and the cornbread will remain in the old cast iron pan which I'll wrap in a vintage dish towel. 

I am open to suggestions.  This is a test.  I wanna pass.  It's been fifteen years. 


Wednesday bullshit

I have a butter lady and sometimes my butter lady has cream.  Wednesday I took a drive over to see her and on my way I stopped to snag a few pictures of this wet land area.  There were geese in the field making nests and I was anxious to see how close I could get.  Sometimes I am pretty lucky and can get some really good shots.

  I pulled Steve almost into the ditch on this narrow back road just in case someone else would drive down.   I was in the brush when I first saw this white blob rolling slowly down the hill towards Steve.  As it got closer I realized it was a small truck hauling a trailer way too large for it's size.  It was a piece of rust white Ford Ranger, tailgate almost dragging from the weight of the trailer and the whole thing was swaying and swinging.  They passed by me at a snails pace.  I thought to myself  " Wherever they're going they ain't gonna get there."

After they passed and are out of my view I hopped in Steve and headed over the other hill to my butter lady.  She had butter and cream that day.  In fact she had extra cream and ask me to please just take it off her hands.  I  really didn't want all that cream but I took it because she insisted and because she is sweet.  She put the butter in a small box and the cream she put in a milk pail with a tipsy lid.  She told me if I'd wedge it just right it shouldn't spill.  Gads!  The last thing I wanted is cream spilling in Steve.  I don't want to smell sour milk (gag) every time I open the door this summer.  The whole butter and cream deal took twenty minutes to go down and I was out of there thinking maybe I should dump some of the cream on the road instead of risking a spill.

Spacing while I am driving found me coming up on the piece of rust ranger and the too big swaying trailer.  I didn't want to get too close so I kept my distance.  I could see a big ass cow moving around in that trailer which was making everything shake and shimmy.  From the way the cow was moving around it appeared it wasn't tethered.  I started to get the feeling that this might be trouble.  I lagged back a bit more.  I pondered why farmer Joe was moving his cow when it occurred to me that that's no heifer in the trailer, that's a bull and farmer Joe is doing a little pimping for his stud.  Damn a bull.  I lagged back a wee bit more.

We were traveling on a very narrow road with a long upward grade.  Flying over the top of the grade comes a squad car, lights a flashing and the officer is motioning us to pull off the road.  Right after the squad car, driving just as fast, is a car with a large sign saying over-sized load.  By now farmer and the bull are in the gravel and I am about 40 yards behind them in the gravel.  The oversize load barreled over the hill, it is a semi hauling some huge bridge piece.  This rumbles and shakes and makes a vibrating whoosh as it flies by.  Then another one flies over and this time the bull trailer ahead of me is just rattling, like a pan of popping corn.  Somethings gonna happen, I could feel it, the hair on the back of my neck was standing up, I grabbed the steering wheel with one hand and had my other hand was on the shift.  BAMM!!!   Like a crack of thunder this crazy ass, spring horny bull comes busting out, whipping is head around, shaking his ass and snorting and grunting.  He stopped, looked right at at me and then plowed towards me at a full bull charge.  I slammed Steve into reverse and tromped on the gas.  With one eye on the bull and the other in the rear-view mirror I go like a bat out of hell, kicking up dust and freaking that I'm going have bull guts all over front of Steve or I am going to start picking off mailboxes.  All the bells and whistles are going off in Steve, my backing alarm sounds like it is screaming at me.  I can't deny it, I felt a thrill.  :)

The big, dumb, horny bull side winded itself into a slip and rolled down the ditch in an extremely ungraceful display.    I stopped, threw Steve in park and opened my door.  Farmer Joe was running as best as he could and a piece of my past compelled me to do the same.  Farmer Joe and I looked down the ditch.  The bull is fine.  The tumble took the piss and vinegar out of him.  Actually the spring horny bull looked a little embarrassed.  Farmer Joe has a rope and tells me once he gets him tied the bull will walk right into the trailer, then he gave me a creepy little twinkle and told me his bull loves the ladies.  Which sort of creeped me out.

I drove home feeling pretty darn satisfied with my stellar Starsky moves and believe it or not I didn't spill a lick of cream. 

  


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