I have an abnormally large...

Patio.

It didn’t start out this way. When I moved in to my apartment on April 1st, the patio was much more normal in size. It was long, but not wide. Fit for a chaise and table and a few plants, but not much else. But now?! I think I could host volleyball playoffs. Do they have volleyball playoffs? I played volleyball in high school for a minute before I switched teams to tennis and was asked to quit. After that, I pretty much stuck to babysitting. I was good at that.

Anyway, my adobe (apartment) (almost) at the end of my dirt road dream has come to fruition, I realize. I don’t have as much, if any, neighbor fodder this year. I could talk about the wackadoodle that was my last landlord in Indianapolis, but I honestly don’t want to think about him. I have an office now at work, so I don’t even have a cubicle neighbor to whine about. In a writing way, it’s all very disappointing, but in a contentment way, it’s overwhelming. Gratitude makes me cry. And for this opportunity to experience the desert, and for this room to breathe like I have never known, I am both grateful and weepy.

I write this from the Santa Rita Abbey in Gardner Canyon, at the edge of the Coronado Forest of the Santa Rita Mountains. Silence is the rule, there is no Internet nor phone service (I’ve already played eight games of backgammon and three of solitaire), I am the only retreater, and the thunder from a quick-passing monsoon rain is rolling through my screen doors that give me a view of the summer green mountains. When I arrived at the office to get my key from Sister Pam, two happy and orange dragonflies welcomed me. I don’t know if you know this, but I am obsessed with dragonflies, to the point of an appointment for a new wrist tattoo before month’s end. They need to be near water just like this Cancer, they enjoy a good reed (get it? I also enjoy a good read!), they are wise and strong enough to go with the flow and fly in any direction, and they follow their dreams. I made up that last one. I don’t know that dragonflies have dreams, but I think they do.

Anyway, again. Not that long ago, the apartment management company expanding my patio to five times its original size would have irked me. It’s absurd. Plus, they gave us no notice, and workers begin their days at 5am to avoid the midday sun and heat. And it’s just screaming for outside activity, which, around me, usually leads to bad behavior, as you know if you know me. But when I came home to the beginnings of the new brick wall in the distance, I was just in disbelief. Then, I was confused. And when the last brick was in its place, it was just so ridiculous looking, I had to laugh. It’s funny, my abnormally large patio. But, it’s not as funny as the new tree.

Cordelia By Day

Cordelia By Day

I sent a picture to Spawn who said, “That’ll be really nice in about 20 years.” I sent a picture to my friend, Pamela, who said, “Oh my God, it’s the Charlie Brown tree”. We pictured it with tiny Christmas presents around it. Tiny lights and tiny tinsel. Tiny candy canes and a tiny star on top. I recently bought a ring that came in the cutest and smallest box ever, and I can’t wait to put it underneath. I think I can make a decent tree skirt with a couple of Kleenexes.

Cordelia's Shadow

Cordelia's Shadow

Then, the sun moved, and my little tree cast a little shadow onto my abnormally large patio. But, looking at the picture, I’m sure you get the same feeling I do. She’s proud. She’s trying so hard to be big. She. She needed a name. So I pulled a Goddess card, asking the powers-that-be to help me name her.

Cordelia. Of course, Cordelia!

Cordelia, with her message to go outside, her nudge to get some fresh air, her independence, her fierceness, her shade, her holiday magic, her strength in these storms of late, and her ability to make me laugh until I cried. I couldn’t love her more.

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The sun has set on the Abbey while I've been writing this. I stopped between paragraphs to take some pictures and a video of the view from my porch. It may take me the rest of my life to figure out how to upload the video to this, but below are some of the pictures. That's newfangled enough for now. Not having seen much of one for 14 years in Indiana, I wasn’t sure at first, but I think that’s the moon in one or two of them! 

Tomorrow, I am fasting and writing. I am releasing, as they say we should, on this special lunar eclipse full moon. I still check his Facebook page almost every day from an anonymous account. I check hers too, hoping to witness the inevitable and dramatic end that must come when we chosen ones must walk away from the mental illness. I can’t see much, and yet, I check.* So, just like I did with my post-single motherhood angst, I would like to get this out of me. The gal who writes the Elephant Journal says, “When you tell your story, you heal your story”. I hope so. I could use the space in my head for all these new desert blessings.

*Disclaimer: It is from a place of curiosity, not pitifulness. Really.

Anyway, for the last time. Come to find out, my abnormally large patio is just the right size for me and lil’ Cordelia. I don’t expect that I’ll live much beyond her teenage years, and I’m sure I will move in the next year or two, but I am happy to be a part of her life. For now, I like to think of us as in this together. I throw more shade, but she is a strong and giant breath of fresh air.

Cordelia In the Evening

Cordelia In the Evening

Everything I Thought I Wanted

Ever since I moved to Indianapolis in 2002, I’ve wanted to eventually move to Maine. There, I thought I’d walk the Marginal Way each morning, listen and write to the ocean waves in the afternoons, and have lobster rolls and moxie with my Maine man by night.

Eleven years later, I’m pretty sure I want none of it. Except the lobster roll. I definitely still want the lobster roll. Just from Arnold’s in Eastham, Mass, not from Maine. Along with a side order of their onion rings built for a family of four. Oh, and a brownie to rouse me from the coma. Yes, just that. That’s all I want. Delivered and in the off-season to avoid the lines, of course. But just that. 

What has become of me? I think I got old is what. There’s a lot of aging between 40 and 50. People like to say 50 is middle-aged, but shoot me now if I have to be in this world at 100. God only knows what will be on TV by then. I always wondered why older people stayed home so much and now I know: I need a drink or a nap just from a trip to the store lately. It’s all work

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The Morning After Drunk-Dialing The One at the Library

Being a fan of Susan Kennedy, aka SARK, and her Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper book full of crazy fun writing and creativity exercises, I, of course, subscribe to her newsletter. Her loving mantra is that we are wondrous gifts to the Universe and that we would be selfish not to share ourselves with others. Her newsletters often include information about folks who complement her message and might be of interest to her readers. A recent one had an invitation to a free tele-class offered by Calling in The One duo, Claire Zammit and Katherine Thomas. I'm going to explain what this is in serious terms first. Or try, anyway.

Claire and Katherine have come up with a program that teaches women how to release all sorts of blocks and defeatist attitudes that prevent them from finding their ONE true love in this great big universe. The program options include a book, a tele-class, online courses, and what they call "transformational coaching".

Now, a little about me. I'm a strong proponent of and believer in the possibilities of romance and attraction and liking someone and even loving someone and, dare I say it, committing in some form to a boy in a neighboring town, perhaps, maybe, well, then again...no, maybe, it would be nice, yes, maybe. But this idea that I have this ONE magical Soulmate whom I need to "call in" like I would call in a dog from the yard or a kid for dinner? And that I'm missing out on this ONE special someone who just happens to be at the grocery store eyeing the same pickled okra, because I'm blocked or wounded? (Show me an adult who's not wounded, and I'll let you pet my unicorn.) What about tired? What about really just wanting to go home, not shaving my legs, and watching Jersey Shore (yes, I said it, I have no pride anymore) with a Dove bar (the chocolate kind, not the soap kind)?

This is when Claire and Katherine would squeak out (yes, they do squeak) a few of their 1,000 examples of success stories and how a simple attitude adjustment could free me from what they just know is my avoidance and manless misery. After all, according to the website, Sasha attracted her Soulmate in 6 weeks by making her "I'm not Safe" belief conscious or some such thing. Laura attracted her Soulmate in just 2 weeks by unblocking her inner source of something. It's like Name that Soulmate Tune.

All this fodder was just too good to pass up for a Post-Single Motherhood meetup topic. There just had to be an appletini-drinking or cheesecake-eating game around this.

Is this going on and on? Too long? And I haven't even gotten to the funny part. Am I protesting too much? Do I sound bitter? I'm really not. Did I mention that I absolutely do believe in The Law ofAttraction and that I really do like boys and do believe in nice romantical things? I do, really I do. Okay, I feel better.

Back to the story. I needed to research a little more if I was going to incorporate this in an upcoming meeting, so I reserved their book at my neighborhood library. When it arrived, I hunted for it in my usual spot on the shelf. But no book. My call in to The One was disconnected by not being able to even call in the Calling in The One book. I really am blocked.

At this point, I should've just gone home. But I had seen a sample online and the first chapter was about being vulnerable to a man if he offers assistance, say in the airport as you're accidentally *wink* *wink* dropping something near his carry-on, and this was information I could use. When would we drink or cheesecake-eat? Maybe every time they use the words "be open" or "heal" or "heart" or "block"? I needed these details!

So, I handed my card to the library lady and asked, "Hi. I reserved a book that's not on the hold shelf. I looked everywhere near my normal spot. Would you mind checking on it?"

"Oh, I'm sorry about that. Maybe it's on our cart. What's the name of the book?"

Oh jeez. If only I'd thought this through. Can't we just not speak while you take a minute to look it up on the computer? She stared at me for an answer. I leaned in to whisper in my most private and appropriate library voice, "Calling in The One".

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than it popped up on her screen. "Oh, yes, I see it here on your account. Calling in The One: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of Your Life." And she was not whispering. And she glared at me, I swear she did, which sent me into my let-me-explain-before-you-start-forming-opinions-about-me tizzy.

Trying my best to laugh, "Yes. Funny, right? It's research for a group I belong to. We're going to use it to make up games and funny, sort of like opposite stories. Because it just seems so ridiculous, this book..."

"Uh huh."

Of course, the book was not on the cart.

"JOANNE? Have you seen...um...what was the name again, honey? 7 Weeks to Finding the Love of Your Life? JOANNE???"

"WHAT?" Oh, Joanne, no.

"A BOOK. Calling in The One. SEVEN WEEKS TO FINDING THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE."

"Listen. It's no big deal. Can we just cancel the hold?"

"Oh nooo. It's here somewhere. We'll find it. Just hang on." She was so obviously thinking I was in desperate need. She couldn't send me home alone. It was just too sad. Any minute, she was going to talk to me about rescuing a puppy for the company, I could feel it. 

A line was forming behind me. Two more library ladies appeared from the back to offer assistance, if needed.

"This lady reserved a book that's not on the hold shelf and not on the cart. Have any of you seen it?" She reads the computer again. "It's called "Calling in The One: 7 Weeks to Finding the Love of Your Life"."

"Oh, I could use that book, too!!! Let me write that name down real quick." 

"Me, too! What's the name again?" I want you to know that not a damn one of 'em was using her library voice.

"Ladies, please. While I appreciate the effort very much, this was NOT that big of a deal. I'm not really signing up for the plan. It's fine. In fact, it was going to be used in an opposite sort of irreverant way for a local group. Really. Not a big deal at all. Let's just forget about it, okay? Please, God? I beg you."

There was no calling off these women. The book's name was shouted out a few more times and one other library lady showed up to participate in the hunt. Yes, that made five. And no, the book was never found.

I left a humiliated and misunderstood, yet wiser woman. I learned that the vulnerable, admitting you need help thing still doesn't work that well for me. I learned that I shouldn't be so sarcastic and judgmental about a couple of squeaky ladies trying to help women call in Their Ones.

Most importantly, I learned where the second most convenient library is and moved all my pending book requests to that location. I can't go back. They all think of me now as the woman who won't ever have The One because she doesn't have the book. And I know I was dinner conversation that night. I just know it. I mean, what else do library ladies talk about at dinner other than odd books and obviously pitiful customers?

I did leave with my new Dennis Lehane and Lewis Black books, though. And Jersey Shore Season 1, Disc 1 came in the mail a couple of days later. Wonder what THAT all means. As if I don't know. Maybe someday soon I'll heal from this newest of wounds and go okra shopping. With a smile and an open mind and heart. And my unicorn.

My October Mother of a Ghost

October 17th will be the 30th anniversary of my mother's death*. It took me many of those years to figure out that she was not only not the bad guy in our doomed little family, but, in fact, she was the only person to devotedly mend that thread by which it always hung. In my own defense, I was 17 when it happened and in my most rebellious, I-hate-you years. When a parent dies when you're a teen, you can often experience arrested development. I am fully aware that in a lot of ways, I'm forever mentally 17, and I don't need anyone to point this out to me (leave me alone, you're not the boss o' me, Foghat rules). I like to believe that my mom somehow knows this and waited patiently all those years from her vantage point in the Beyond for me to come around to see her side of things.

About five years ago, I started reflecting on some of my biggest life moments. You know how you do, after the thrill of turning 40 is gone and you're just left with time marching on. And, you may not believe this but stay with me anyway, I stumbled upon a definite and undeniable pattern to things. When moments of sometimes gentle and sometimes traumatic nudging towards life-altering change have happened in my life, they’ve consistently fallen on or right before or after October 17th, the first of these being the day I learned I was pregnant with my only son, Spawn, and last year's being the manifestation of my Post-Single Motherhood Website, a pretty big article being published in a trade magazine, and the Fall realization that I was living on the street of my dreams (not actually IN Ogunquit, but looking eerily similar to it). Call me crazy, but I think maybe my mother had been harboring hope for her sometimes emotionally lost and struggling daughter all this time.

I don't know what she has in store for me this year, but I'm busy readying for her visit. I'm thinking about her and talking to her, about our first five years together before everything started to go wrong, and I'm remembering and appreciating how hard she tried for every one of our 17 years together. Sometimes, that's the best part of a parent - knowing that he or she cared enough to try. For her unwavering, seemingly annual, help in my finally recognizing that, I will always be grateful. Sorry that it took me so long to see, but most grateful. October is my favorite month what with the cooler weather and the changing leaves and football and sweaters, but she's made it even more special for me. I don't mean because she died, but because she lives again, in me.  Thanks, Mom.

*The Death: She and my father were at a week-long business convention in Chicago. That night, at a big dinner, she started feeling ill. She and her best friend, Rita Rogers, whose husband worked for my father, went to the restroom together and when my mother got worse, Rita called 911. She died not long after at Northwestern University Hospital. Massive heart attack. Her last words to my father were, "I'm too young to die". She had just turned 50 the month before, but at her funeral, my father made sure that she was referred to as 49. They were both some kind of fucked up about things like age and appearances and the proverbial Joneses, but even I can't deny the love in that. I made a lot of the funeral arrangements and all of the phone calls to family and friends and took care of my screaming grandmother who had just lost her only child after losing her husband less than 5 years before, but I have never cried. I should have, but at the time, I didn't think she'd cry for me, so there (see arrested development/forever 17 above). I saw my father cry once, then get drunk a lot, and then never mention her or my brother's death (or his life, now that I think about it) 13 years later. For him, we all never existed that day. He moved on in every way. Ah, the Irish. No wonder I like to write stuff down. 

Middle Age is Being Mean to Me Again

My son stayed with me for a few days in December and I asked him to notice how hot it got upstairs at night. I mean, boiling hot. Not only did he not notice it he said that he got a little chilly. After several discussions, he asked me if this could be some symptom of menopause. I’m here to tell you that the shock of that never occurring to me in the first place was something, but to have it brought up by your fully-grown son, was quite another.

After some pains reminiscent of childbirth, I ordered a $28 Internal Cleanse program from Amazon. Two days after it arrived in the mail, I got the stomach flu. Now, I’m on the BRAT system. Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast. My stomach’s quieted down a lot, so we’re going to stick with this for a while. Start thinking like nursing home cafeteria menu makers.

I can’t keep enough lotion and hair conditioner in the house. I’m like the Sahara. There’s just never enough moisture.

Which brings me to peeing in cups. I recently had to do this and couldn’t perform. Come to my house in the middle of the night and we’ll have no issues, but during the day, that much productivity ain’t happenin’. Whose cruel joke was it to move the minimum requirement line anyway?

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In My Dreams

Last night, I took a Tylenol PM and here's what happened. I was on assignment to interview Craig Ferguson for some famous magazine. The article's angle was to reveal the everyday man, so it required spending lots of time getting to know him. Another day, another dollar. 

He had a home remodeling project going on and invited me to hang out while he and his friends (one of whom was Gerard Butler poor me) worked on the house. He had recently purchased this huge fixer-upper near his actual residence as a fun project. He hadn’t decided if he was going to move into it himself or just sell it. He said it depended on the market. Yes, it was discussed at this level of detail. I’m an idiot.

I hung out with him for what I think was a week or so. I’d ask him questions and watch him work, sometimes handing him things and answering questions he'd ask me about myself. Some days, we drove to get coffee in the morning and pick up deli for everyone for lunch. We also went to Home Depot, a hair salon, a lighthouse and the arcade at the mall. We barbecued in the empty swimming pool a couple of nights after grueling days of not a lot of working but a lot of mutual interviewing. 

He let me stay in the house at night. There was one bedroom magically and completely move-in ready, so that was dream-convenient. There were no lights yet, so I assume there also was no AC and no heat. The world was of the perfect temperature, I guess, because I was comfortable. There also was a light hazy gray misty color about the atmosphere so I could see around. Must have been some sort of romantical night vision dream machine. We talked about how complimentary it was. 

In other words, Craig and I really hit it off. For obvious reasons. ;) And, as you would expect after a few days of hanging out with me, the relationship crossed the line into animal attraction. Again, duh, for obvious reasons. 

Anyway, I was upstairs in the dream-convenient-ready-made room eating pizza (yet again, for obvious reasons) when the doorbell rang. It was he. In a t-shirt and jeans with his hands in his pockets sporting a puppy dog and 5 o’clock shadowed face all leaning up against the door jam. 

“I like you, ye know.”  Being creative even in my dreams, I came back with, “I like you, too.”

We stared at each other for a moment until I broke the silence with, “You have to go home now.” 

And, with that, I turned away Craig Ferguson. Why, you ask? Something about my knowing how much he loved his wife. And, because I cared about him and his happiness. But mostly because I can’t even do drug-induced dreams right. 

So, he sat in his car in the driveway, hoping that I’d change my mind and invite him back into his house. I watched him from the window while I ate some more pizza, but I didn’t go get him before the alarm went off.

Something Wicked (Good) This Way Comes

The best birthday in a while. Lovely dinner(s). Only people I like came near my work area. Wishes from people who mean an awful lot to me. Surprise wish from someone I haven't thought of in a while, but am so glad that she thought of me. A few cards including a pretty darn funny one about being old. My father's didn't, for which I am grateful because I really hope he's moved on. My son called and said, "Happy, Happy Birthday". Not only did he remember, but TWO Happies! I'm convinced he wants something, but I'll think about that another day. Nobody anywhere near me in Target and when I asked the checkout lady where the restroom was, she said, "Go ahead and go. You'll feel better, and I'll just save your place." That called for peanut M&Ms. Gas at $2.19. Nary a road riot. Brady Bunch (luvs) cards and a note from Austin. The return of thoughtfulness? UPS man delivered my new Rob Thomas CD, Once, and Quinn Cummings' first book. And then a second UPS man (the theme of two treats in one continues) came with new chair covers. Visa back to zero. Clean sheets. Clean dog. And just now, the little family of bunnies hopping and playing in the freshly cut grass. I guess they're as happy as I am about the 60-degree, breezy evening. I don't know what all this goodness means, but I'm diggin' it and figure it has to be the start of something really big.

When I Was 45, It Was A Very Good Year

I can’t start a birthday post, without a shout out to the woman who selflessly gave birth to me and passed me along. She just has to be the source of my tiny slivers of courage and conviction. I’m grateful for the life she gave me twice.

Anyway....

My coach (that felt funny), Cynthia Morris, sent out a birthday-related newsletter recently in which she highlighted her year in moments of what she calls JuJu and the ways in which each moment had started with intention and ended with the honoring of her values.

Then, during our last coaching session, we talked about a particular project I’m working on (well, I got pretty far and stopped working on, to be technical) which is definitely a highlight for me, and she asked me what personal values it honored while I was in the creative process of writing it.

I didn’t have an answer, so I got to thinking.

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A Fling and a Choice

I have two stepbrothers (not the Fling part of the title - ew). It’s weird to refer to them as that, though, because not only did my father remarry when I was in my early twenties – long past the “step” situation, but I haven’t seen the younger one in over 10 years nor the older in even more years.

The younger one, Allen, was eight years old when his parents divorced and a year younger when his mother snagged my father. They married by the time he was nine, I believe.

I was busy with my own life, so I barely knew him, but when we did see each other as adults, I thought he was hilarious. He could particularly tell the funniest stories about his mother (she was a little, how...do...we...say...this...delicately - COLD). I think about this one often:

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Employee of the Month

The original e-mail is actual correspondence. However, the names have been changed to protect the ignorant. The reply is, of course, completely made up.

-----Original Message-----

From: HR Manager
Sent: Friday, July 16th,  2:49 PM
To: Corporate Employees
Subject: Employee of the Month announcement

We are excited about our new Employee of the Month program. Recognition for our accomplishments is way overdue! The program will officially begin on August 1st. All employees (with the exception of our VPs) are eligible.

At the end of each month, Misty Puckett, our HR clerk, will randomly draw a name from the list of corporate employees. The lucky winner will be our Employee of the Month and have exclusive parking privileges to the best spot on the lot for the following month.

In an effort to “equalize” the chance to win, we will limit the opportunity to win to once per calendar year. Our first drawing will be Friday, July 30th in the cafeteria. See you there!!

------Reply Message-------

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Empty Offices

I love an empty office. After the cleaning crew has come and emptied all the wastebaskets and turned off all the lights. I love to sit at my (temporary) desk with just one light on. It feels like night. Windows are two rows away and it’s a snowy day. It’s so quiet; I can hear the printer hum. All I hear is my own typing. I like knowing that the people who are usually here aren’t. They’re in their homes, probably just getting up or having coffee. I like that nobody knows I’m here. 

I wonder if my love of empty offices comes from memories of my father taking me to his when I was a kid. He traveled a lot during the week and would often go to his office on weekends. I don’t remember who initiated my going, but I sure am glad it worked out. 

He had a corner office with huge floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking one of those man-made, office park lakes. He’d let me sit at his secretary’s desk and play with the phones, the intercoms, the rolodexes, the papers. The typewriter! How I loved the typewriter. I’d take that plastic canvas cover off, plug it in and neatly stack my paper next to it. I was an expert at using those little correction paper strips that were fancy-new-fangled at the time. I’d place a strip over the wrong letters and type them again and they’d disappear. It was magic. And the office supplies! Forget about it. Hours. I’m still like a kid in a candy shop at the mere mention of the office supply cabinet. 

I ran the halls, looking in everyone’s office, getting to know them. I touched their stuff, looked at their pictures, sat in their chairs, and imagined their lives. Knowing that they couldn't possibly have the wonderful life I did. 

And here I sit forty years later in an empty office. I still look in other people’s cubicles. I still open up the supply cabinet just to window shop. I still correct my typing, just in a very different way. It’s so quiet that I can hear the clock on the wall ticking with every second. I’m sure if I closed my eyes long enough, I could hear my father calling my name from his big, important office, telling me it’s time to go home. 

Favorite House

I have a new favorite house picture. The only thing I can find wrong is the house next to it. Well, that and I can’t make out the garage situation. And all those rock beds look like work. But really, the house next to it is the big fat no-no. People might live there. Ick. 

My house will have a little yard but be surrounded by trees and woods for acres. And I’m gonna let the fallen leaves just rest on the ground each year until my yard man comes to cut ‘em all up in the spring. And nothing will ever go wrong in this house. Nothing ever breaks. Nothing ever gets old or needs painting. No maintenance. No costs. No jumping taxes. Yup. That’s how it’s going to be. Soon. Someday soon. 

A Preferred Customer

For Miss Hazel Simmons, August 21, 1929 - January 3, 2009

From Oct 2006: Miss Hazel will be 76 this year. She has lived in or within 15 miles of Brownsville, Tennessee, all her life. When she turned 40 in 1969, she bought a brand new ranch-style house on a corner lot of a tiny subdivision on the outskirts of town. And she’s lived there ever since.

She commuted between Memphis and Brownsville several times in her life, but most importantly when she completed her Master’s degree in Education at age 45. She taught in the City of Brownsville and Shelby County schools the rest of her working life.

Even though the town of Brownsville is relatively small, with a population of around 10,000 people, it sure feels smaller to Miss Hazel. She either knows everyone or knows of everyone. And everyone knows her. I think it’s because of all those years teaching. She knew kids who grew into parents whose kids grew into parents.

For all those years of service to her community, Miss Hazel gets a few welcome perks. For example, since grocery shopping can add up to a long walk for someone in their seventies, management suggested that she park in the handicapped parking space at the E.W. James Supermarket until somebody in town had an unfortunate accident last winter and actually needed the space. But not long after, the store employees put up a big sign in front of the space next to it saying, “Preferred Customer Parking”, and designated it as Miss Hazel’s new spot.

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The Pep Rally

I have been off-track the last couple of months in a lot of ways - socially, personally, professionally, politically, and spiritually. I grapple with self-doubt and discipline anyway, but I’m having the most trouble lately remembering that I am loved by the Divine who only wants the best for me. And without this, my struggles forget to form single lines and erupt in loud playground chaos in my head. 

But I’m rallying. 

The life I have wanted and planned for years has felt exhausting, just entirely out of reach and too much trouble anyway. For over a decade, I have had a clear vision of how I want things to be: my perfect work day, my writing, my home, the perfect month sprinkled with the right amount of friends, love, and trips here, there and everywhere. Until recently when it has felt like it was dreamt by someone else.

But I’m rallying. 

I don’t know why I’m having such troubles now of all times, unless it’s related to my fairly solitary life. I know that solitude allows for more time with the divine, but sometimes a gal just needs to hear a voice. A little godly encouragement expressed by a human can go a long, long way. I have been exposed to new people lately - people I’m not accustomed to and who make me, through no fault of their own, feel more inadequate than ever. Positive, filled-with-love, traveling and doing, marching to their own drummers, creative, talented, expressive, open, fearless and happy people. I asked the Universe for this, and I am enjoying these people in my life, but the examples are unnerving and contributing to my paralysis. Exercises in maturity and growth and preparation are always so hard. Hmmph, deep breath, and sigh of exhaustion.

I get that I have choices and that my attitude and life are up to me. I do. I even understand that the time alone and times with new shining examples of how I want to be are good for me and divine intervention. So, I've decided to borrow the “Yes, we can” mantra and remember that “we” are my God and me. 

And we’re rallying. I guess now we'll have to head to the game.

Family still eludes me

My father’s sister had recently moved back home to Little Rock, Arkansas. I received the customary tour on my only visit. In her guest bedroom was a lovely little antique table with a Living Bible-sized, very old, white leather bound photo album resting on a round doily that hung, as it should, off the front of the table forming the perfect semi-circle between the table’s two front legs. It was flanked by a few standing pictures of her parents and siblings I recognized and some candles.

“Ooooo, what is this?”

“It’s a family photo album.”

“Can I look through it?”

“Sure!”

“Who’s this?”

”I don’t know.”

“Who’s that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are they Mahanays?”

“Yes, of course they are.”

“But you don’t know who they are?”

“No.”

“Are their names on the backs of the photos?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’ve never looked?”

“No.”

“Can I look?”

“I’d rather you didn’t. They could tear.”

“And that matters?”

“Of course that matters.”

“Does anyone in the family know who these people are?”

“I doubt it.”

"Well, where'd you get it?"

"Grandma and Pop's things."

"Who?"

"KAREN. Don't be ugly."

"So, you never saw it while they were alive?"

"No, it was in a box in a closet. It probably had been there for years."

"Perfect."

"Can we just go now? I'm hungry."

“Who could we ask?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to open a huge can of worms.”

"Worms?"

"It'd be a lot of work. I don't want to bother anyone."

"So, you're okay with a shrine to people you don’t know?”

“They’re family.”

"I assume you’re going to pass this album of unknown relatives to your kids?”

“Well, certainly. It’ll be nice for them to have.”

"But it's meaningless."

"You just don't understand family, Karen. You never did."

Christmas Eve 1997

Two weeks. She had been in the hospital for two weeks. Not unusual at 95. Every trip to the hospital was a long one.

I was two hours away, so I waited for the school holidays to visit. Then, I waited until Christmas afternoon, when I had to take Austin to his father’s family in Atlanta anyway.

Convenience.

Christmas Eve Day. Her only family visitor in two weeks.

“I’m scared.”

He patted her hand and stroked her hair. “There’s nothing to be scared of.”

The affirmation she needed.

The call came within the hour. He hadn’t even made it home.

I wasn’t there.

I enjoyed Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. He didn’t want to ruin Austin’s visit from Santa.

Convenience.

Signs of a Comeback

The late humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote about a recurring dream she had:

"[In it]...I am asked to give an accounting of my...life to a higher court, it [goes] like this: 'So, empty your pockets. What have you got left of your life? Any dreams that were unfulfilled? Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you still have left? Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven't spread around?

"And I will answer, 'I've nothing to return. I spent everything you gave me. I'm as naked as the day I was born.'"

From a 2003 entry in Mark Daniel's Better Living blog: "We find our purpose in life when we commit ourselves to giving ourselves, our time, our talent, and our treasures in service to God and neighbor."

I read an article this morning at http://www.wthr.com/Global/story.asp?S=7540715 about a group of people who distribute food specifically to the elderly (who could be more deserving of help, I ask). I think I may have found my New Year's Resolution.

Heartwarming Holiday Political Giving

I’m reading more and more heartwarming holiday giving stories online. I wish I had one to share. If you know me, you know I have always liked to volunteer and donate as much as I can. You also know all about my year-round freakish magnetism and my unfortunate experiences with the less fortunate over recent years (the girl at IndyReads who had been in their "system" for years, didn't bother to show up most of the time and only wanted to play cards when she did, the $100 worth of concert tickets I was told to buy as a Big Sister, the Salvation Army coat and toy store horror stories of liars and thieves, the highway ramp beggar who lived in the suburbs, the gift shop co-volunteer who yelled at me on Christmas Eve, I could go on and on).

My most recent jaw-dropping encounter: Our CFLC group meets monthly in a room adjoined to a tiny café known for welcoming the less fortunate (it has shower facilities, for example). A gal walked into the meeting room mid-meeting last month and whispered to someone who pointed her to our President.

The group was told that she was collecting money for bus fare. She needed $30 to get to a family member’s funeral that afternoon in Ohio. Our leader asked us if we would like to "pass the hat".

The CFLC fights for a living wage for the working poor, so somebody in the café must have told her we would probably be givers. We passed the hat (literally) and went back to our meeting.

This gal took the money from the hat and counted it – in front of us. Then, to the group and at the top of an entitled and accusatory voice, declared, “This isn’t enough” to which someone replied that she needed to move on.

She thanked us, not with a thank you but, with one of those offended hmmphs and stormed out. I wanted to go after her, grab my money out of her entitled little hands and hmmph her right back. But I didn’t. I was there to be charitable and helpful, after all.

So, this year, and until I’m over the last five years, I’ve decided to stick with political causes. This country’s populace (and specifically our collective middle class and working poor) is in dire straits and I think it’s where my time and money are best spent. I know I will still have to contend with certain ingratitude and entitlement, but hopefully in a much more impersonal way. This is best for me right now and best for others. Perimenopause and all.

Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.

What Will Be

When the one thing your chemistry has craved since its inception eludes you,
When the movie screen inside your forehead plays the same scenes each day and into each year,
When you know, with less years ahead than behind, that you are the same person you were on the playground,
The road ahead is perfectly clear.

The vision is a comfort, because you know yourself and your heart and soul and your mind
But it feels heavy with the burden of the still years of an unwavering need.
It will keep inviting itself and celebrating in otherwise happy moments
Reminding you of who you are and who you always will be.

You stand by your convictions and have recently become friends with your flaws.
You are proud of the good things you’ve done and you’ve learned from the bad.
You like your company and you like your dreams.
But, in the end, nothing matches the one thing you never had.

So, you’ll stand at the window looking out at your life’s last corner
Dreaming the dream that was never meant to be
Imagining how life would be different
If your reflection wasn't the only thing to see.