Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tears in My Cornbread

Dad was cruel to animals. He was consistently and constantly critical. He never praised anyone because we never measured up. He wasn't a faithful husband. He turned his back on his creator. His hard fist punched in soft faces. Guns were pointed. Animals and humans felt his hands or ropes choking their necks. Horses starved in order to teach them a lesson. Anger ran a cold current, surprising us each time. There are ways to prepare for hurricanes and earthquakes, but not rage.

But none of these things happened to me. I was only an unwilling witness, sometimes screaming hysterically, most times silently watching the anger sucking us all under. A little girl can feel guilty for being relieved to have such anger bypass her.

Late last night I couldn't sleep. The kitchen is where I found cold cornbread leftovers. Crumbling a piece in a bowl with sugar and warm milk, I slowly spooned it into my hungry heart through my lips. Tears started to leak, along with milk dribbling from my contorted mouth. Crying and eating aren't compatible.

I never did like soggy old cornbread mush, but dad did. He shared it willingly, without knowing that being with him was the only part I relished.

He was more than that first paragraph. Much more. Last night proves the good memories never go away.

I miss my daddy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cork and Apron Dining

Last night we dined at Anthony's on the Edmonds waterfront for Loverby's company Christmas Dinner. I had packed two simple gift bags for the other two wives. A candle, a little paper chain wreath, a box of Anna's ginger cookies.

Before we left, I kept having this niggling thought bubble bumping and prodding me. It came fully texted. "Give Christine one of those aprons you made today." Weird.......OK. At the last minute I wrapped one in tissue paper and dropped it in her bag, then had to mark it so I remembered which one was hers.

We had a wonderful view of the docks lined with boats all decked out for the holidays. The lights reflected and bounced merrily off the water. A sailboat with a tall mast lit up is a breath catching sight.

Our waitress was elegant. Experienced. Composed. She left us to discuss ordering a bottle of wine. My table companions remembered the story of my first embarrassing wine experience/fiasco when I was young. For a joke, the boss pointed to me when she brought the wine to the table. I almost had a stroke. She looked puzzled as everyone howled. I told her the short version of my infamous wine cork licking.

She compelled me to look her in the eye. She said she could heal me, redeem that wounded moment. With panache she took the dreaded white towel off her arm and laid it on the table, showed me how the cork was correctly moist, poured me a tiny bit and taught me the proper swirl (flat on the table) to release the bouquet. She said wine should be accessible and friendly. (I mused how opera used to be the same to the common people.) She then showed me the clear edge of the puddle against the white towel as she tipped the wine in the bowl of the glass. That is what the white towel is for! If it has a brickish/brackish edge, it is 'off'.

This was all done, not in a whisper. My lesson was for the whole room. More than our table was mesmerized with her poise. She signed the cork for me. Kit. I'm keeping it. Maybe framing it.

She told us her most embarrassing dining story. Her husband took her to a high end French restaurant in Canada for her birthday. The waiter asked her if she wanted to savour the champagne? She said yes. He then took a sword off the wall and laid it and the champagne ceremoniously on a table he pulled over for the occasion. By this time, she realized he had asked her if she wanted to saber the champagne. The restaurant was full, all heads turned as she severed the head off that bottle. Thankfully, it was the real deal. In spite of her hyperventilating performance, they didn't drink any glass particles. :)

During our lingering meal, Christine, the youngest wife and mother at the table, mentioned how for five years she has begged her husband to get her an apron for a Christmas present. He put his head in his hands, moaning at his failure at fulfilling this impossible task. Bev and I both love aprons and started holding hands in excitement under the table and slapping each other's knees. I knew she was thinking of making Christine an apron as soon as possible. I knew what was in the bag. Shivers went up my spine as I felt this supernatural love flow toward this young woman. I was so glad I hadn't dismissed that strange thought bubble by pushing it away.

I asked Christine to unwrap a certain package. She wiped tears of happiness away as she realized what it was. I told her the back story. It was one of those perfect moments. Divine. Thanks Maestro. I love how you orchestrate and make music of our lives. I love how you love us.

Our waitress happened by as Christine was holding her apron up. She said, "Looks like two miracles happened this night." We all agreed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Recap 2011

Because we don't live a Christmas Letter life, I can't write one. The pictures would be a little troubling also. Sorry. We can't laugh about it all yet, but maybe someday.

Here is a recap, though. Our year started with Brita getting rear ended, totaling her car and breaking her ribs. Christmas was not fun for her, nor were the many weeks after. Tess was sick four different times, each lasting for about seven weeks. Tests. Tests. And more tests with no answers. Craig was hit by an oncoming car turning in front of him as he was riding his motorcycle. He was in pain most of the summer and fall. Shoulder, ribs, neck, knees, and arm. The internal bruises have been slow to heal. He experienced depression for the first time in his life. I experienced him not being able or capable to bear the load he usually does. I concluded that I take his emotional and physical strength for granted. This, I purpose to rectify. I still have the piece of shattered glass from his windshield. It is in the shape of a heart. I'm grateful he wasn't taken from us that day.

We added two kitties to the estrogen laden air in our home. If I don't get them fixed soon, I'm afraid we will have two batches of kitties birthed in our closet. The kitties made us smile and laugh with their playfulness. They alone had the fortitude to lay curled up next to Tess for hours at a time bringing warmth and comfort. Brita cared for her sister in intimate and generous ways that most siblings never experience. She nursed and bathed and cleaned up after her. She found perfectly tempting food for Tess's wilted palate. Her tenacity was a welcomed character quality as it translated into a year's worth of never giving up. Love is an action verb to Brita. We all were the recipients of it many times over this year. Somehow she carried all of us at different times. She is a woman of substance. Beloved. Complex. Mysterious. Beautiful inside and out.

Tess was the most uncomplaining patient in history. I watched her be disappointed and lose heart each time she got sick, but I also saw her catch the tail of hope and rise with it. I witnessed her training her thoughts to comply, obey, and be disciplined instead of rule over her. This I admire in one so young. Her thought processes  are those of a mature woman. An old soul. I don't fear for her future. She taught me how to live this year. She has an ethereal loveliness that comes from experiencing great trouble. It's in her eyes. Forever.

We had some fun vacations and getaways this fall. Restorative days. At this moment in time our family is intact. Our love is thriving. We have our home and garden, heat and a full freezer, hot water and soft beds. Life is good. Life is sweet. And the bright spots and light places and good memories twist together with the hard parts making strong rope.

Loverby's mom always proclaimed after a bad harvest, "Well, maybe next year will be better."

I don't think it was a bad harvest after all is said and done, but I do hope next year will be better. :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

How a Paintshirt Becomes One

A needle 
threaded by help of 
new readers 
lays easy in my hand 
sliding stitches full of color 
in and out. Today I 
will only think
about sewing (I think), 
so an unstained shirt
is worn. In between
stitches, I see glue is
needed right now
to keep loose ends 
together. Before its 
stickiness has time to 
dry, I wonder if another
layer of paint should be 
put on that board waiting 
in the corner. Oh, and those 
strips need chalked along
the edges. Content, 
I wipe my hands before
getting back to my needle. 
Another paint shirt is born
hand printed with colors 
lifted from life. Don't 
suggest an apron, I 
was only going to sew. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tongue Tied Lashing

No warrior's armor guarded
or protected her from his plunging
organ angrily piercing violation
into her soul. She had left her
breastplate and shield and sword
at home. After all, this strange family
estrangement wasn't war was it?

Anger now spent, these days his
tongue lies silent, unaroused, and
flacid. Her friends said she deserved
it, even asked for it. He still says
it was needed discipline for someone
with mental issues and authority
problems.  On bad days, I want
their tongues cut out for saying this.

My tongue is no longer tied
because I faced my accuser
eye to eye last night.
Suddenly, I felt like Dorothy
pulling the curtain back
exposing a harmless, scared
little wizard who only wants to
get back home as much as me!

Next, I felt like Meg in
The Wind In The Door,
saving Mr. Jenkins from his fate
by Naming him. Part of her
task is to distinguish the
real Mr. Jenkins from his two evil
Echthroi doubles. In order
to do this she must look past
her personal grief and grudge,
finding the goodness in Mr.
Jenkins, and let herself love him.

All is well. Generously compensated,
I wait, wishing my own Mr. J/Wizard
well. Recompense happens.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Salty Grace

Wired for sound
he finds it is easy
to publicly sprinkle
benevolent grace
like rare finishing
salt over every plate
but mine. My tears turn
into twin waterfalls,
divinity's way of
providing a salty cure
for the incongruence
trying to flatten me.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hamon's Head

came to dinner twice
heady with plans
of power. No 
disastrous premonition
 warned him that it was
 his head
that would hang on 
the waiting gallows
he had built for
another. How long 
did it take for his
smirk to drop at the
corners? Did his eyes
reflect rage
when dispatched plans 
 planned destruction,
turning the table on
his legacy
 of hatred, 
and lies?

This land might
blossom now with 
grace. Flourish with 
love. Stretch 
its borders with 
 has a chance

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cultural Surprises

I found a unique thing today in the equivalent of a Japanese dollar store. When I saw the vast variety of a never before seen item on the shelf, it piqued my interest. Shellacked. Bamboo. Plastic. Disposable. Fancy. Simple. They all had tops to fit the style.

If the back of the package hadn't explained their usage, it would have been a lifelong mystery.

  • Use only for intended purpose
  • Never let children use alone and keep away from reach of children
  • Avoid picking too deep and giving too much stimulus or impact to an ear 
  • Should you feel any discomfort during use, please consult a doctor. 
I could not believe what I saw in tiny English. Un earpick. There were two in each package. Isn't un singular? Somehow it tickled my funny bone - I couldn't stop laughing. Very bad of me. When I could breathe and see again, I picked out two packages of two. Great stocking stuffers for $2.00....

They look like miniature back scratchers - only instead of a tiny claw it has a tiny spoonish end. Just google it, won't you? A picture IS worth a thousand words. :) 

Who needs to keep buying and wasting those trees and cotton in Q-tips anyways? I'm going green. Finally. 

Just think how it would take care of itchy ear syndrome? Or worse. Happy ear picking thoughts aren't coming as quickly as I thought they would. I think Jane's gorillas would be fascinated by this tool. They would probably eat the treasure they mined....even consider it a delicacy. 

I'd better stop now, it will only go downhill from here. As @katdish says, "I crack myself up".    

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ode to Twitter Bird

Two years ago my world expanded 
exponentially. Because of Twitter,
and you. Twitter seemed scary back
then-a different world speaking a 
new language. The learning curve 
at middle age gets fierce, but you
 all were patient. My eyes opened 
to new conversations and new ways
 of thinking. The cravings and
 tenderest desires of my heart found
 a path, easy to follow on my 
timeline page day after day. 
My curiosity was aroused, satisfied, 
and whetted again, only to be 
satiated once more. My favorite
 thing, the thing that has stimulated
 me more than anything else has 
been observing the 
 creative creative pursuits of
 people from all over the world. 
Being exposed to artist in all 
mediums, writers, and poets 
has lit my fire too. I'm compelled 
to try what others are brave 
enough to try. It gives me 
courage to face my own 
blank piece of white space. 
Following behind the @ were 
names of strangers who now have 
become friends. Someday, I wish 
we all could sit around a big table 
together. I could finally hug you, 
feed you, see your eyes sparkle 
or tears run. We aren't strangers 
any more. Thanks for not  following
 your mama's advice. I want you 
to know that your words, links,
 shares, mentions, RT's and @replies 
have held me up when life became 
to heavy to bear alone. This is my thanks.
 This is what community looks like from 
my point of view. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Our Moth Eaten World

Yesterday on Facebook,  Jeff Keuss posted this.
    •  From the C.S. Lewis's The Silver Chair chapter 12 - Puddlegum says:

      "One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a playworld which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."

      Our world's wintery, moth eaten darkness can smother us with hopelessness and despair.  Hearing Puddlegum's declaration prompted a flood of tears, an infusion of fresh courage, and new resolve. It also prompted a thought.

      I don't know for sure exactly what's true, but I can believe something is true. The truth is......I want to believe in an after life in a place where there aren't any moth's or rust to destroy Narnia's beauty, its eternal spring. 

      I want to believe that someday Aslan will breathe new life into me, making me fully alive forever. I like to think that I, like Steve Jobs will also will be saying with my last earthly breath, "Wow. Wow. Wow." 

      PS. Jeff has a new book out called Your Neighbor's Hymnal. Music lovers
      and those who practice thinking outside the box will love it. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Making Pretty

Collecting vintage ephemera, books, fabric, and lace has a problematic side. Finding space for it all and keeping it organized is a tremendous ordeal. When I go junking, possibility pieces attach themselves to me like steel shavings to a magnet. I keep the pile down by sharing the bounty and limiting how often I go foraging. The present messy disaster is a necessary part of the artistical inspiration later.

I have aprons, slips, hankies, hooked pieces, and quilts from the turn of the century. They were well used, washed often, and mended. Repeat. Linen and batiste fabrics become as fragile as onion skin ~ I am able to save only the lace.

Several plain white workaday aprons have tatted lace sewn laboriously not only around the hem, but also along the tie ends.

Even the plainest of the used hankies have a touch of delicate hand work in a corner. 

This silk pocket for storing delicacies has french knots arranged in a design on the inside.  

We go to artist retreats to find the serenity, space, and teachers who give us inspiration and license to create. I love these places and dream of going myself. I want to support them and encourage their vision, but it isn't the only way. It isn't only somewhere else that making pretty happens. It's right here with our own needles, box of crayons, or ball of yarn. Moments grabbed whenever it is now, in the muddle of every day, using what we have handy.

I want to be a brilliant entrepreneur, have the hottest Etsy space. I'm envious of the artists and bloggers featured in high quality creative living magazines like Somerset's, Kinfolk, and Uppercase. I want to print copious amounts of business cards and have people begging me for one. I long to hang a shingle which will make me real. When I get published, then I will be an author. It would be amazing for someone to not only want what I make, but pay to own it. 

The truth is I don't sign up for an Etsy account, nor do I take the risk of submitting an article. I haven't gone to the printer's with print ready graphics for a card. I haven't cut out that shingle. Why? Maybe because I'm terrified of both success and failure. Maybe I'm content, not wanting the bother? 

Motivated and rewarded extrinsically is one option, but in the cultural flurry outside, I don't want to miss the slow, warm glow growing inside of me. 

It could simply be putting a sweater on a candle, making a paper box for it to nestle in, then giving it away. 

These pieces of intricate work made by an unknown woman's hand, cause me to pause. I want her results. It feels like she was the lucky one, making pretty for pretty's sake alone. She used the resources at hand to satisfy her creative urges, bringing texture to her workaday life and pleasure to the ones who received these gifts. 

My favorite pieces are ones like this apron. Thankfully, it was tenderly mended instead of discarded. 

It seems like they made pretty for themselves ~ intrinsic motivation and reward. Often, the very tools they used are works of fine art in themselves, made with precious material like bone or exotic wood. It must have been a pleasure to use them. 

The lady who labored over these tiny stitches might have lived and died in obscurity, yet her artful life was the best kind, the everyday kind. The most useful kind. She did what she could with what she had to let beauty surround her, then drip on her family and friends. 

This is a tribute to my artistical girlfriends. You have hospitable homes, hearts, and art. You have quietly gifted those of us who walk through your door. You are the bravest of the brave girls who make pretty, finding great peace and satisfaction in doing so. You give me courage. You know who you are. Thank you.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ironing the Wrinkles Out

Advertising couldn't convince mom we needed a toy ironing board and iron that wouldn't work. We couldn't afford to waste money on an Easy Bake Oven. We used her real tools of the trade. I'm thankful for this.

Mom had a huge pile of unending ironing. It was before permanent press and wrinkles don't go away when clothes are hung on a line. When she got the courage to face that mound, I loved watching her sprinkle each piece by flicking water with her hand, then rolling them up to keep the moisture in until she was ready to iron it. If the budget allowed her the luxury, a can of spray starch was sparingly used.

The best part was when the last piece was hung up in the door frame and she put the ironing board down to its lowest notch just right for my height. Dad's white hankies were mine to finish. If there was spray starch left for me to crisp them it was heaven. It was serious work. Important work. Loving work. It seemed necessary and I was chosen and entrusted with it. I found great pleasure in it.

I don't remember any catastrophes. I do remember hours of playing house with the real stuff of life.

When I want to take it down a notch and let my mind have a complete rest, I plug in the iron and pull out the ironing board. It feels like recess, not a chore. I find a pile of clean vintage napkins, aprons, or hankies, a hot iron, and a $1.89 bottle of spray starch. The spray starch still feels like an extravagance....

The wrinkles in my head are smoothed with each finished piece. My brain becomes more orderly as the stack of folded pieces gets higher. It's like my mind becomes a kaleidoscope of new visions and colorful thoughts. When I do this peaceful activity, it feels like I have the freedom, authority, and permission to rename things ~ like I could be chosen next time to give paint and crayons their colorful names.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What a Ghost Town Says

Crumbling walls, gaping frames, and empty door frames are the only remains of the Lower Bankshead Lamphouse near Banff, Alberta. The ghost town has a crunchy coal pathway winding through what once was a thriving coal mining operation. A couple of coal cars sit frozen on a piece of track. Glimpses of foundation walls poke through prairie grass. History leaves her ugliest secrets silently buried here, but proudly flaunts the good that happened.  

Upper Bankshead was the village where the miner's families lived. Only the steps to the community church remain. The weathered sign says that these isolated families of several different ethnic and religious backgrounds sat and worshipped together in this place. Peacefully.

The lamp house is where I spent most of my time. It haunted me. The plaque read: 

I wish every community of any kind had a lamp house

Sometimes a person's light goes out, but there is no one to go searching for the missing owner of the lamp. No one knows. No one cares. The empty spot on the shelf goes unnoticed. Lord, forgive us. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Young Folks Do

One folds paper into flowers
One sets a table eclectic
One prepares simple food ~ 
tomato soup
hot crusty rolls
salad wedges  
roast with rustic veggies
 while peach crumble 
finishes the meal 
passed hand to hand
around the table 
touching hearts 
knitting us together 
 warming the night 
with music 
and light

Saturday, October 22, 2011


"He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." 

~ Eugene Peterson's The Message

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sucker or Succor?

Packaging, advertising, and the right color at the right time lures me. I easily believe and buy if these conditions intersect with impulse. This little plastic gizmo was $9.99. I know better, yet placed it willingly on the check out counter. It was bright green.

The other day I had a cooking disaster with the simple syrup for pear tarts. Recovered from the trauma, I started over the next day. The pears from our tree needed used immediately.

The tart gadget promised picture perfect miniature pies all the same size and uniform shape.

After the pears were peeled and sliced, spices and syrup added ~ I rolled out the pie crust. Opening the gadget I made two boring tarts that didn't look anything like the glossy picture. It took more time than usual and brought zero pleasure, so I stopped and went back to the way my sisters and I, my mom, her mom, and her mom's mom have been making them since forever ago.

It was satisfying to roll out uneven rounds of crust, put some filling in, fold them over and do the familiar pinch around the edge. The result was pleasing. Rustic. Natural. Honest.

Tarts are pockets of love.  They are able to deliver succor to the recipient who is given a batch.

The plastic didn't deliver anything. Turns out it was just a trickster making a sucker out of me. Why do we so easily believe the glossy is true?

I'd be glad to send a gadget your way, postage on me. Just ask. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Artistical Disaster

The pear tart called for some simple syrup. I forgot about it being on the burner until the smoke filled the house. It was close to bursting into flame when I grabbed the pan and ran outside to lay it on the rock patio. It looked like a puffy chef's hat, a smoking black one. It was fail/fail because it seemed like my favorite pan might have been wrecked. Brita came outside to see the damage. Her curiosity changed my perspective and the experience.

Hunkered down beside the mess, she poked and prodded. With a knife, she slit the top to explore what was inside. I bent over to watch tiny little beacon flames flicker out and turn into prisms. Burnt sugar looks like a lava flow, or black spun glass, but it is as ethereal and fragile as soap suds.

It made me think of the beauty that artists like Andy Goldsworthy notice and capture. Their curiosity is a gift ~ framed, displayed, or bound in a book for us to exclaim over.

Most days, I wake up and beg to see ~ really see. Today I forgot, but my daughter saw for me. Noticers refine worship with simple curiosity. Thanks my love.

This is the progression. Burnt Sugar Study. Beauty for ashes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blue Hospitality

Prairie sky
spills periwinkle
 vast and wide.
This favored
color poured
from on high
becomes a
generously spread
 welcome laid 
for pilgrims

The prompt is "Gathering Blue". Come over to 3 from here and there and join the fun with Claire, Kelly, and Sarah. Offer yours. 

Loverby and I just returned from a circuitous loop to North Dakota and back. "This Land is Your Land" played a loop in our heads the entire time. Harvest across the prairie is glorious. There was something in the air. It looked like hope - waving, piled, stacked, transported, waiting, and stored up.