Thursday, July 31, 2008

a slow day for news

It's a slow day for news in Lexington as I peruse the Lexington Herald that lays untidy on the student center table.

It is a relief to someone, I am sure, that the smoking tomato, er, pepper, has been found. Not one but TWO peppers have been found with salmonella strain. And here I didn't eat tomatos for a month. Tsk tsk. All the more reason to go to the farmer's market on Saturday mornings.

And another from the Free Time section ... I guess that's a new fancy name for the local section. I don't read Dear Abby, but I noted the headline. "Dying Grandparents need kids around." Well I don't need dear Abby to tell me that. And can I say, living grandparents need kids around too. So tell that to your readers dear Abby!

That's the news in Lake Wobegon, er, Wilmore City, Tree City USA.
oh yah, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Israel) says he is going to resign in Sept.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

dedicated to Vincent

(by Mary Karr)

I have this son who assembled inside me
during Hurricane Gloria. In a flash, he appeared,
in a tiny blaze. Outside, pines toppled.

Phone lines snapped and hissed like cobras.
Inside, he was a raw pearl; microscopic, luminous.
Look at the muscled obelisk of him now

pawing through the icebox for more grapes,
Sixteen years and not a bone broken,
nor single stitch. By his age,

I was marked more ways, and small.
He's a slouching six-foot, three,
with implausible blue eyes, which settle

on the pages of Emerson's "Self-Reliance"
with profound belligerence.
A girl with a navel ring

could make his cell phone go buzz,
or an Afro'ed boy leaning on a mop at Taco Bell -
creatures strange to me as dragons or eels.

Balanced on a kitchen stool, each gives counsel
arcane as any oracle's. Rodney claims school
is harshing my mellow. Case longs to date

a tattooed girl, because he wants a woman
willing to do stuff she'll regret.
They've come to lead my son

into his broadening spiral.
Someday soon, the tether
will snap. I birthed my own mom

into oblivion. The night my son smashed
the fender then rode home
in the rain-streaked cop car, he asked, Did you

and Dad screw up so much?
He'd let me tuck him in,
my grandmother's wedding quilt

from 1912 drawn to his goateed chin. Don't
blame us, I said. You're your own
idiot now
. At which he grinned.

The cop said the girl in the crimped Chevy
took it hard. He'd found my son
awkwardly holding her in the canted headlights,

where he'd draped his own coat
over her shaking shoulders. My fault,
he'd confessed right off.

Nice kid, said the cop.

kid germs

Half way to work this morning as the fog cleared from my eyes, I noticed a rubber dinosaur with his head stuck under my windshield wipers. I laughed. A sign of life. A sign of kids. A sign of imagination.

This is not an isolated incident. I have had a live frog jump from a little hand onto my dining room carpet; witnessed ice cream dripping from a nostril after an uncontrolled fit of laughter; healed a 'gushing wound' with a cookie; and spent two hours in a public library.

Ah. This is living.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

random consciousness

Let me introduce my son Ben,and his family: Kari (marathon runner), Flora (tiny pontiff on the left) and Blaise (gentleman on the right.) This I presume is taken in the mountains of Alberta. Ben and Kari are great parents.

Family is pretty much everything. Not EVERYTHING, but everything.

Some other things are, like, food. Pizza and lemon pie with fluffy meringue, but not pizza and pie together. Those are something too. And left over Chinese if you weren't the one who ordered it and ate it yesterday. That can be something. Not everything. Just something.

And a good book. I just read the kind of book that makes you feel like you lost a good friend when it is finished. I tried to save the last five pages so it wouldn't be finished, but it seduced me. I got seduced into reading the last five pages of a book and then I felt like I'd lost a good friend.

Which is how seduction often works, don't you think? You get seduced and it is irresistible and then afterward, you feel lonely.

Friday, July 25, 2008

things I've experienced since i left work last night

1. My girl cat, Walter, has the softest belly fur in the world. There can be no more luxurious feeling than her downy rug.

2. The bed I lay down on is a gramma bed for sure. I have to kind of climb up into it, because it has this six inch soft/firm layer above the usual mattress. When the window is open and a soft breeze blowing in on my face, a bird or two singing nearby, and the weight of quilts on top of me - now that is a good feeling for my old bones.

3. Black coffee - even from McDonalds - you gotta love that bitter oil pouring down the throat ... and the smell that reminds me of the waiting room at the Toyota garage waiting room.

4. Girl skin. Soft and brown and wrapped around my neck. Attached to girl mouths that talk and talk and talk all those girl stories. And girl giggles that ride up and down the musical scale hitting every note perfectly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

update on the (very) new diet

Day two. Yesterday was exemplary. Today started well with a bowl of bran and then a small dish of cottage cheese.

At lunch, as I accidentally ate two pieces of very cheesy (read greasy) pizza with some friends a local sandwich was described to me.

Highbridge Steak Sandwich:
Large slab of bologna, fried
Large slab of Velveeta cheese, melted
Large dollop of gourmet Ketchup
all on white bread.

I think I'll make a salad for dinner tonight.

Monday, July 21, 2008

a time to dance

If you have been following my story the last l8 months you will know that it has been a roller coaster ride of emotion, recovery, gifts and transformation. I found this poem a year ago:

We weep
that we may have the strength to live.
We wail
that we may have the power to speak
of these things in the times to be.

Let not the days come when we will mourn
for having given life
for having birthed
for having hoped.
Let not the days come
when we bid the mountains fall
or the hills to cover us.

Bid them, rather, to dance
for having loved so well.
Bid them, rather, to fly
for having dreamed so long. (Jan Richardson)

Images of this odyssey stay with me. Heart stopping surprise and bursts of laughter through face wet tears. Laying on the back lawn, arms spread, face to the sun, breath robbing sobs and open souled grief. Sitting on the porch looking at new faces, wondering how to know these ones. A family meal with prime rib roast and vegetarian sides. Nights awake staring at the ceiling, my mind a jumble. Possibilities. Promises. A whole life's worth of weeping.

But this month, it seems, is the month to dance, to fly. A birth will happen, and the promise of life will be given to our family again. My daughter has kept a promise and born a woman's load, and will literally open her body to love.

The generations will assemble to witness hope. Little girls leaning in to see from a child's standpoint what life costs. Old ladies touching new skin and knowing the future is alive. A man and a woman holding the flesh that is of their flesh, for the first time.

Such a moment will not be without tears. But the tears are for having loved so well. For having dreamed so long.

As for my heart, I am trusting all will unfold as it should, and that a small place will be made for me. I am the one who surrendered my place in this story, long ago. I cannot steal it back. Somehow, in this great dance I will have to be invited back in. I wait to see how that will happen.

If this blog confuses you, be okay with that. I wrote it for myself. To remind myself that the time to weep and wail is past, and now is the time to dance.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the year of magical thinking

On August 19 we will add twins to our family. I dreamed about the birth last night. I still feel the emotion of that dream. I feel like something huge has happened but I don't remember what it is. Like I have great news to tell everyone but it escapes me for the moment.

Next week we will bring our oldest granddaughters to live with us for a month while their mom rests and survives the last weeks of pregnancy. I told Megan (8) yesterday that we need some NutMeg-germs in our house. No doubt I will have more to write about while they live with us. Like the joys of arranging child care, the fun of watching little girls chase fireflys, girl beetle battles over privileges etc. Can't wait.

JV has a new flame. She is Gaelic, fair, freckled, and feisty. It is not good for a Vincent to be alone I have discovered.

Ben is planning a monumental move across the globe to take a teaching post. Not sure how I feel about that, not that it has much to do with me. Just feeling the distance.

And Steve is still making me coffee in the morning. I'm grateful some things remain the same.

Does everyone have this much fun?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

serving tea to death

Yesterday I spent the morning making a potato and a fresh vegetable salad. Then I went to Bunny's funeral. In my world food and death are inextricably connected. (Maybe that is why when I get sad, I eat.)
His was the crying-est funeral I have ever been to. Not the tragic kind of crying, but the kind that you do when a baby is born, or a miracle happens, or a great moment comes to an end. Come to think of it, it was the laughing-est funeral too. Bunny had no pretentions, he was a common man with a beautiful life. He allowed us to be alive to our emotions. His funeral was filled with an "interesting pain."

A friend wrote this about it this way:
I stood there looking at the body of Bunny. He seemed so un-Bunny. He seemed so small.
Then I thought of some of the calling hours that I have attended throughout my life. I remember going to calling hours of people that were not larger than life persons. The type of person that hardly lives life at all. It seemed that [in death they were not much smaller than in life.]

For those who live life to the fullest, whose laughter and smile can fill a room, whose presence can make such a difference, when they die their death is felt in equal proportion to how they lived life. It was then that I realized that "a very large Bunny, leaves a very large hole."
I want to live my life that way, living large. I want there to be a noticeable difference when I die. I want people to say, "Wow, that doesn't look like Tammy at all." I don't want people to come in and say, "She looks good, no noticeable difference." I want there to be an inverse relationship between my life and death.

Let's admit it, everyone felt pain following Bunny's death, but it was an interesting pain. It was the pain that Tennyson wrote of: "I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all."

So yesterday I served tea to death. And I felt more acutely than ever that life is a miracle. All of life. And I didn't mind that death had to have it's time. Like Tammy, I want to live in such a way that my dead body is very 'un-bunny'.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


I love Fridays. Not the restaurant. The day. The day I only work til noon. The day no one knows where I am in the afternoon. The day I know I will go to bed and an alarm will not wake me up. The day I set the load down and become a chef or a dancer or a movie critic for the evening hours.

Steve walked into the house yesterday and said to me, "Last Friday I lost an election. This Friday I lost my best friend in Kentucky. Next Friday I am going to stay in bed all day." We laughed. I knew he would be okay because he was being silly with me. But he had a point. It had been, so far, a pretty bad, not really very fabulous, down right sad at times, July.

Let me list, though, the things that showed up in the light of two pretty grim Fridays. We saw how loyal and supportive our kids are. I saw again how kind and tender Steve's heart is. We have been saying, "I love you" a lot more to each other. Steve lost a little weight - of course, I did not, being a person who puts weight on during stressful times. ;-) We realized how much we love being right here in KY.

So it is Sunday now and I have a full week til I can TGIF. But I will. Even if Steve stays in bed all day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

missing persons

My work is about people. Helping people succeed. Seeing what is good in people and reminding them. Pointing to the paths that take
people out of a muddle. Singing the songs of life that people have forgotten. Waiting in the dark with people who are in mourning.

But in the summer my work is mostly moving paper around, organizing and building systems, solving riddles and constructing bridges.

I miss the people.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

on waiting for a storm

We have been promised a 60% chance of thunderstorms tonight by midnight. Nothing would please me more right now than sitting out on the porch, risking a lightening strike, watching the rain pelt down. A storm changes the world for a few minutes and creates a kind of immediacy that separates us from so much external stress.

Now, admittedly, if the storm takes off the roof, that is another kind of immediate focus that is unwanted. But barring that, a good thunder storm is good for my soul.

It is kind of like a washing that is forced into the inside of my brain. I love the smell, the wind, the noise, the flashes of light.

The only thing better than watching it from the porch might be listening to it in my bed. The rain pounding on the window, the branches brushing the side of the house, the cat mewing at the front door... smile.

Good night folks. May it rain on your parade.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

still at the airport

So I am in hour 21 at the Detroit aiport. Of course, that is not quite true. We were able to get a transport to a questionable hotel at 2:00 this morning. Most hotels were full, so we were delighted to hear the Howard Johnson had rooms. We traveled with grumpy companions. One couple, not much older than us but obviously self important came on with loud complaints that were, frankly valid. Then two oriental guys (not English speaking) came onto the van and in the process the back pack of one bumped the important man's glasses... and quite a tense moment ensued while the important man said, first, "Well excuse you!" and then loudly rebuked the meek oriental guy and then the important man's wife began ... their outburst silenced the previous comraderie in the van and we travelled through the rain to the HoJo's.

We were given the first room and Steve came to me where I sat and said, "We are in building four." Which said, meant that we had to go outside in the pounding rain and walk three long buildings back to a smelly bedroom. One could only hope the important man and his wife also had to walk to building four.

I crawled miserably into bed, unwashed and unclad, and first thing I put my big toe through the sheet beneath me. I told Steve I would be okay as long as I didn't find a condom between the sheets. It was not a good sleep - I kept trying to avoid the smells, but it was horizontal.

This morning I got up with a good 'cow lick' on the right hand side of my head and a four inch comb, compliments of the hotel, to fix it. We broke our fast on two boxes of Raisin Bran - the food of the complimenary breakfast, and headed back. To find that our flight was delayed. I think now that we might actually be starting to board.

Meanwhile, we, the great 'unwashed', still make our way toward Ottawa. Churchill (that would be Winston) once said, "If you find yourself in hell, keep going." We can't go back and will keep going forward. Solviture Ambulando.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2:00 in the morning

Well, I am sitting in the Detroit airport in stormy weather. It is about 8 hours since our flight was to leave. The promise is now that it will leave at 3:05 a.m. But the problem is that the Ottawa airport won't open it's Customs and Immigration office at this time of night. So "they" will probably make us wait til 4 and then we can go through customs at 6 when it opens. I am feeling sorry for myself.

So I thought I would tell you what I've seen this week on my small journeys. I walk in Mingo park - 5000 steps a day - on Saturday a group of older white men were working with all kind sof communication equipment in the park - turns out they are an 'amateur wireless' enthusiasts who were setting up two ham radio towers to practice in case of a crisis ... which they wouldn't quite define for me ...but said in such a case they could provide their own protection and communicate with anyone anywhere in the world. Can anyone spell M I L I T I A?

Just heard our flight is cancelled. Losing my victory here.

Okay (while Steve negotiates a flight for tomorrow) ... I have seen a full military funeral which is quite honoring and impressive. And I found a genuine goose egg which I brought home and Steve thought was wooden (we did once have wooden eggs) so he put it through the dishwasher and the result of that is a very clean goose egg. Apparently quite a thick shell. I saw a young man playing basketball (again in Mingo Park) and even though clutching at his pants which are ten or twelve sizes too big, they slide off his butt taking the shorts with them... making for an unplanned mooning which hasn't happened to me since I was first dating Steve and a car full of guys mooned us while we were kissing in the park. Nothing I haven't seen before.

Sitting here at the airport I saw two of the most interesting old women. They were using a magnifying glass to examine the weaving of a lovely Indian shawl one was wearing. They were determining if there were any threads of unidentified color. The examination started when they realized their flight was going to be late - and one said to the other, "we might as well have fun!" Turns out they are both master weavers and just returning to the upper peninsula of Michigan ... thin, long hair, laughing eyes, artistic ... very interesting and not at all worried about what any one thougth of them.

You can see how my week has been. Currently a lot of droopy eyes and saggy boobs here at the airport. Maybe all the women have been to the Women's Room to take of their bras. It is the only way to deal with a night like this.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

be very afraid

On the way to Niagara Falls will my ten year old Kyra, we had one very long day of travel. At noon we pulled off and I chose a Bob Evans restaurant - kind of a family restaurant, admittedly filled with grey heads. But it worked and we were off again.

In the middle of the afternoon we stopped at a rest stop in PA. As we parked a tour bus was unloading a hoard of elder on a trip to wherever, so I hustled Kyra into the bathroom knowing the line would quickly get long. When we emerged there were dozens of elderly women waiting to get into the bathroom. A small victory.

We got to Niagara Falls at 7, got our hotel, and went to find food. I chose a Swiss Chalet, which is a roasted chicken version of Smitties.
Suddenly Kyra's eyes got big and in a voice two octives higher than her
usual, and with undisguised concern, "Mimi! Those old people are
following us around!"
It was the best line of the trip.