06 December 2010

Christmas Lights via John's Technologies

Abbey said I didn't decorate enough for Christmas. So I called professionals.


Abbey practicing for her Christmas flute solo or playing with the Mac...

05 December 2010

Red Drum

Jeremy took Jake fishing. Jake wore his new snow hat (purchased for our ski trip later this month) for the chilly start around 9:00 a.m. They took the 14 foot Carolina Skiff instead of the kayak. Nervously I sent my little seven year old baby into the cold morning, thinking thoughts like what if he has an asthma attack or gets the fish hook stuck in his eye. Rational thoughts like these are my trademark. After helping load the boat with an extra blanket to keep them warm, after wrapping a scarf around baby Jake's face, after giving them an extra water bottle, I returned to my kitchen checked the clock, 9:15, and wondered, what time should I begin to worry about their safety?

Jeremy is family, distant family, actually just a friend who I'd like to call family. Jeremy and Jake have seven degrees of connection, beginning at its origins, North Charleston High School. Jeremy was a student in high school during my first few years as a twenty-something teacher there. I never actually taught him, but I knew him because I taught Sarah Nell, Lauren's cousin. Sarah Nell was Abbey's first baby sitter, then her cousin Lauren took over. Lauren's mother Fran was the successor ultimately becoming Jake's private nanny. Lauren is Jeremy's wife.

I hope I keep these people in our lives forever. Family, big family, is important to them. They believe in God and self discipline. They are on speed dial because when I need something the Cummings are the people I call.Fran loves Jake. As a baby two of his first words were mommy Fran. She held him, sang to him, read to him, taught him, fed him, rushed him to the doctor when he split his lip, shared him with Grandma Frances, and kept him safe while George and I worked.

One of the hardest things I ever had to say to anyone, was to Fran, telling her that I was bringing Jake to First Baptist School with me for child care, and she would no longer see him every day. While we certainly all expected this eventually, I did it rather early. George and I were going to live separately and moving Jake to school with me would make it easier. Fran talked with me about reconciling, told me of struggles from her early marriage, urged me to remember I loved George. She cried for the loss of time with Jake, and I assured her we would stay in their lives.I haven't really lived up to that promise, but from time to time we see each other, for a wedding, a birthday, a school play, to take some pictures, and even just an occasional visit, but not often enough.

My deepest connection to Fran is this: It was January 7, 2008. I remember too clearly pulling up to the JCC for Abbey's first basketball game.
The week already dumped a storm of confusion on my life; Tuesday I left school for the hospital in Summerville. George called, his assistant Wade rushed him to the medical center, thinking he had gall bladder problems. By the time I arrived at the medical center, the doctor established they wouldn't be able to help him, fluid on his heart needed more sophisticated treatment than they offered. An ambulance rushed him to Trident Hospital where they discussed this pericardial effusion, and the surgery, pericardiocentesis, that would release the fluid around his heart; they scheduled the procedure for the next morning. I visited the MayoClinic online and read everything I could about this condition. The possibility of metastatic lung cancer appeared, but George assured me that he knew he did not have cancer. He also spent an entire conversation explaining to me how he knew he was not going to die because he believed if a man was going to die, he knew it.

Fran of course came to the hospital and sat with me while we waited. She loved George very much. Without much drama, the surgery successfully relieved the pressure. Next we would wait again because it could return, fill back up, and then we would need to do something else. In the meantime they would test the fluid. Heart problems, that's what we were dealing with.

Thursday and waiting, the word that ultimately characterized the next four months.
Thursday and Abbey's first basketball game, a moment I will remember that I never saw. She was disappointed that her dad couldn't be at the game to cheer her on. For Christmas he bought her a basketball hoop and together they built it in the driveway, just two weeks earlier. He was tired, and didn't stay long on Christmas day, he hadn't been feeling well for a couple of months.

Just as I pulled into the JCC parking lot, George called, crying. "Melissa, sweetheart," he said, "it's stage four lung cancer. The doctor said there isn't much they can do."
"What does that mean? How many stages are there?" I'm yelling, trying to sound calm since my children are with me, and crying. Crazy spinning behind my eyes makes it hard to see.
"I don't know." he replies, "This isn't good. I need you."
"I'm on my way. Hang in there. I'm going to be there in a minute. We'll figure it out." I spew a list of half confident declaratives.

I rush Abbey into the gym. I leave Jake in the bleachers. I kiss her and tell her I must go to help take care of Daddy, which she is fine to have me do because he is her prince, and she'd rather nothing more than me to love and care for him and bring him home. She promises to shoot and score for him.In the parking lot, I can't collect my thoughts, but I'm running, racing, rushing. I dial Fran's number. I have spent a lot of time since that moment wondering why I dialed her number, impulse, instinct. Crying, sobbing, barely coherent, I say, "Fran help me. It's stage 4 cancer." Softly, nervously, she replies, "oh no, Melissa, oh no." I further explain my situation, I'm at the game, I've dropped the kids off, I need to be with him, he's scared, I'm scared. She replies, "Go. We will handle the kids." Moments later, I'm hysterical with fear, driving out of the parking lot in West Ashley, but lost, making turns and losing touch with where I actually am; the phone rings, Lauren is on her way to be with my children. "Help me. Oh my God help me." I plead. "I'm lost, I can't figure out where I am or where I'm going, I'm driving in circles, I need to be there, what does this all mean? Oh God help me." I continue to cry. She says her calming things, whatever they were, she helps me to navigate back to a familiar highway, she goes to my children, and handles so much more than a 25 year old should be able to.

I arrive at the hospital and George is angry. He's angry with how he was informed of his situation. He was alone and the doctor blurted out his chance of survival as none. Perhaps he's angry that he was informed of his situation. Certainly he has known for a long time and ignored it. I hold his hand. I hug him, being careful around the apparatus near his heart. I promise him I'll take care of him and that we will get through this. He tells me that he is scared. I lie to him and promise we will beat it. He lies back, assuring me it's true. Abbey calls, she made a shot for her dad. He smiles.

I didn't call my sister, my mom, or my best friend Hope. I called Fran, Jake's nanny. I knew she would show up. I knew she would handle the most important thing, our children. I called her because she loved George. She was the matriarch of the family that would help us through this tragedy.

Two weekends ago, at Sarah Nell's wedding, I told Jeremy and Lauren how badly Jake wanted to catch a fish. I told them about the dreaded eel catching experience. Jeremy jumped at the opportunity to bring Jake fishing. He sent me a message this week saying he'd come over Sunday morning if that was okay. I didn't tell Jake, just in case it didn't work out. Jeremy showed up. They caught two red fish, 15" & 18".

Jeremy taught Jake how to tie the shrimp up. They fished over by the shipwreck at Bowen's Island. Jake described the experience: reeling the fish in was hard, heavy; the fish felt bloody, sharp and rough; Jeremy had to help him with his scarf a few times to keep warm; Jeremy, according to Jake, is way better than awesome. This is Jake's family. I know why I called Fran.

25 November 2010

24 November 2010

Organic Thanksgiving

I started today with a 2 mile wake up walk/run with Abbey. We talked about eating right for energy and a positive attitude, ridding our lives of all things toxic. Mostly I talked; she tuned me out. The rest of the morning I began the pre cooking ritual, gathering ingredients, finding the right bowls, playing Pearl Jam on Pandora.

Tomorrow we celebrate my first 100% fresh and organic Thanksgiving dinner. The menu includes Mr. John's famous smoked turkey and ham. A citrus brine with pineapples, oranges and apples stuffed inside the bird while it smokes all night make this turkey remarkable.

I handled the squash casserole and macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole with pecans, mashed potatoes, dressing with sausage, sage, and apples, green beans with butter and almonds, sweet peas, broccoli casserole, cranberry relish, gravy and dinner rolls, and also two organic pumpkin pies and an oatmeal, pecan, apple crisp.

We doubled everything and flash froze a second meal so when we see John's parents this weekend we can recreate the experience.

John made an eating rule: We can only eat leftovers if we introduce a fresh dish to the menu.

So on Friday, we'll add collard greens and black eyed peas to the ham leftovers. And I'm going to make, partly for nostalgia and partly because its dangerously yummy, my grandmother's peanut butter, banana, graham cracker cake, organic of course.

I spent the whole day in the kitchen. I love it. Abbey joined me from time to time, snapping green beans, or melting butter. Alex shredded some sharp cheddar cheese. I told them both to add a lot of love while they helped with the food so that it tastes better. I think they did.

Not even disaster could stop this meal's fruition. While Abbey was searching the spice cabinet for the pepper grinder, a narrow bottle of hot sauce landed plumb on a glass cooking bowl, sending shards o' glass all over the kitchen, contaminating every uncovered dish. The broccoli casserole, ruined. The sausage, sage dressing, ruined. The chopped apples, the cheese, all thrown away. Another trip to the store, another $1o0, and at 2:30 in the afternoon, I'm starting all over.

John wisely mentioned: Look at it this way, something had to go wrong to compensate for some other thing that wasn't right; disaster was necessary, so everything could be perfect. By 7:30, with everything in the kitchen prepped, nutmeg and ginger jump from dish to dish, and the once abundant produce in baskets, now mingles with rice and cheese and mushrooms and broth, morphing into delicacies in tin foil covered baking dishes.

Tomorrow, I will mash the potatoes with some butter and steam some green vegetables.

10 November 2010

Kickin' it with Ms. Clark

Jake says these are the only two things you need for a show:
1) be good looking, and
2) be yourself

So, I'm going to have a show: a liberal, authentic, middle aged teacher with baggage, in a small, private, Christian, conservative school. [JG], a senior at the school, named the show. As I covered the office for the secretary because she had to pick up pizza uptown, six or seven students came in during lunch. The headmaster followed and said, what's going on in here, to which [JG] replied, "just kickin' it with Ms. Clark." Instantly I knew that we were on to something. I said yes, like a reality conversation show. [JG] said, I'm thinking Springer, but not. Too which I quickly assured him, "no - more like Howard Stern minus the vulgar inappropriate stuff, just good questions, interesting conversations, and when one bores me, I'll tell the truth."

These are the segments I would have captured today, had the show already existed.

Segment 1: A very physically ill mother berates me over the office telephone because her son ignored her in the parking lot and she needed to give him something. SCREAMING WITH A RASPY SCREECH, all she needed me to do was get him from English class and send him to the car; she just saw him walk by and he ignored her. I did exactly what she asked of me, returned to the office and rolled my eyes. Then she called again. This time, apologizing because she was so upset that she forgot to tell me why she really called. She wanted her other son to sign out because she needed to take him to the DMV since yesterday when they were there all of the machines were broken down and now they had to go back between 12 and 2 today. I calmly assured her that if she came in to sign him out I would send for him. She said the real secretary doesn't make her come in. I said, well, I do.
She came in, embarrassed her son a little, and left.

Segment 2: [DP], a high school student and I discuss how I will not discuss atheism or religion with him until he familiarizes him with a source other than Christopher Hitchens. I also advised him to stop seeking out the opposition argument with recommendations from Christopher Hitchens. At some point he made a comment about another English teacher and me not being like Christians, to which I immediately corrected him, "we are the Christians, it is the others who are not."
He spent a significant amount of time with me as he was sent to the office to photocopy chapters out of a book. I suggested that there might be a law against that.

Segment 3: [JF], a student enters my classroom and says, "how long would you go to jail if you were caught with 30 lbs. of pot?" I said, "I think a really long time that might be intent to distribute." He continues marveling at how much that would cost and what it would look like. I ask, "why are you so interested in this? Or, never mind don't tell me." He says, Wiz Khalifa. I google this character. 60 grams is the actual amount of marijuana he had, 2 ounces. Not at all like 30 lbs. [JF] says, that's still a lot. The bell rings. He leaves.

Segment 4: [LW] the struggling student comes for help. He, like all the others, wants to write about the topics we have discussed in class. I'm asking him to explore ideas analogous to what we study. At first, I tell him what to think, but eventually, he catches on. He writes an introduction with a quote, an in line citation, and a thesis. I'm impressed. He asks if he can come back tomorrow with his draft, and this is why I teach, to watch someone try. He draws conclusions, they are wrong, and I'm proud of him for showing up.

Segment 5: [RK] the antithesis of the struggling student, also struggling, comes to work on his paper. Listening to me as I admonish my daughter over the phone, he motions, should he leave? I shake my head no, so he stays to write. After I hang up, he explains to me that he gives his parents a hard time too, but he really doesn't want to. He told me that his brother grew up without his father actively in his life, quit school his junior year, and cooks in a local restaurant. He's 24 and still isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. He does like to cook though, and he's good at it. [RK] doesn't want to disappoint his parents and plans to attend college. Generally a good student, he admits to laziness.
He writes one sentence on his paper: The wild beast will always exist in humans. He shows it to me apologetically; "I'm not trying to be vague," he says. I'm pleased he has a thought. He tells me he doesn't wish it to be that way, but it is. He continues, slightly digressing, but connecting it all in his mind, that he finds the idea of predestination troubling. If I'm put here to go to hell, and that is predestined, is it designed so that my life will be a lesson of what not to do. Hitler, Mussolini, Charles Manson. And if my life is destined for heaven, then will others learn from my goodness, Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa?
I interrupt. I think predestination is a troubling argument, I admit. Most of us are in the middle, with the paradox of good and bad. So we live in the unknown, thinking we may never really be forgiven for the wrong we have done, but hoping we can be, the purpose I guess being to develop faith. I don't think we can see as clearly as the extreme examples of goodness and evil, we are a combination of the two, so what do we do?
He says, "yes, that is what I struggle with."
I said, write about it.

09 November 2010

Sassy from the collection titled George - the gift that keeps on giving

Sassy lives on my porch.  From time to time, when the front door is opened, she'll run through the house to the back door, a short cut.  This week she brought me a headless rat and dropped it in front of the sliding glass door to the back deck.
Sassy came into our lives when George and I decided to live apart.  George thought he needed a cat, so that Abbey and Jake would want to be with him.  He sent me to the SPCA and we picked the scrawny, feisty gray and black striped alley cat.  During Sassy's life at George's condo, she lived in the laundry closet.  When not confined to her cage, Jake tortured her, chasing her, holding her by her tail.  Sassy clawed her way to freedom and ran to her hiding place behind the drier.
When George moved back in with us, he needed to bring Sassy.  First we tried to keep her in Abbey's room.  My asthma suffocates me and turns my eyes into glassy razor blades.  She must live on the porch by the lake.  The dark, cold January air caused Sassy to take refuge elsewhere and for nearly 4 months we didn't see her.  With death hovering in our lives, the loss of the cat seemed symbolic.
Two months after George's death, a woman from Lake Frances Drive called my sister Kim in the upstate.
"Are you missing a scrawny, gray and black cat?"  the woman questioned?
"No, I don't have a cat."  Kim confidently replied.
"Well, I live on Lake Frances Drive and I've been caring for this stray cat." she continued.  "I took her to the vet, and she has a microchip with your information as the emergency contact."
"Hmmm," Kim wonders, "I think that's the street my sister Melissa lives on.  I'll call her," says she.
That George would put Kim's name, rather than mine, as the emergency contact on Sassy's tag makes sense only that if they called me, I might say, I don't know anything about a cat.
I feel a mixed sense of relief, confusion, and annoyance with the news of Sassy's resurrection.  Abbey and Jake celebrate the news, and I send them down to the neighbor to retrieve the seventh of Sassy's lives.
I wonder though; "how long will she stay?  We offer her nothing but an occasionally filled bowl of food and some water on the back porch."
She stays, having learned the neighborhood, she supplements her feedings with small rodents, birds and human sympathy.
We leave the lake and move to the island.  Life dramatically changes again for Sassy.  This time, she gets a balcony, fifteen feet from the ground.  She needs to use trees and propane tanks to get to her food bowls.  She spits up worms on the front porch, wages war on predators in the night, leaves hairballs filled with raw animal guts and blood by my patio furniture,  tortures lizards and dragonflies only until she kills them, whines if it rains until Abbey sneaks her in the garage or in her bedroom, and reminds me of George.
Sassy brought me the headless rat to show me she was doing her job keeping snakes, mice and lizards out of our home.  I didn't refill her bowls for two days.  John finally came and removed the rotting rodent.

27 October 2010

The iPad Manual

Standing in the midst of the technological tsunami that swallows entire networks of people with it's hypnotic digital clicks, I calculate precisely how I'm going to make my gadgets and devices work for me; (all of which are necessary for my valiant stand against the forces vying for control of the minds of the masses. Keenly aware that I too am a victim, I accept that the potential is only limited by the ability to think the thought, and the vast avenues of exploration overwhelm even the most ambitious thinkers.)

Productivity, greener living, entertaining, multidimensional existence (or is it?), reading, convenience, cool factor, cutting edge in a pop music kind of way, recipes in the kitchen, Apple,  - but mostly the books - paperless books,  I have my entire library with me at all times.  I can read whatever I'm in the mood for and I can buy books anywhere there is wi-fi.  All these confirm the iPad's necessity in my life, not a luxury, a must.

Will I miss the paper? Hell yes. I love paper.  I love to fold the edges, write in the margins.  I break the binding on paperbacks on purpose to help the paper flow as I scroll through it with my thumb.  I keep paper in my desk, on my counter, in my bookbag, the console of my car, my nightstand, and my purse.  I love graph paper the most, index cards too.  I rewrite notes and lists to myself because there is a pretty piece of yellow paper that needs to be written on.  I make lists of what lists I've made.  I write in cursive and print, all caps and cursive print mix, just because playing with how letters look is fun.  Now I keep all my lists on the Notes app in a comic sans style font (yellow lined digital paper with a running index of all my lists and notes, timed and dated.)  I will miss my paper, but my iPad makes me a little greener.

Then of course, the yoga podcasts and guided meditations, the photo slide shows, the music library, the newspapers and magazines, the calendar and the games for my babies - all this in one little flat, skinny, shiny, fingerprint smudged device.

When I got my ipad there was one screen, and it was blank.  Without much effort I filled seven screens with more than twenty apps on each screen.  I have Nook, Kindle, and iBooks, Craigslist, Ebay, Priceline, and Amazon, Ted, NASA, the City Paper, NPR, BBC, and The New Yorker.  I added Fandango, Flixster, Netflix, and Pandora, Marvel comics for Jake, Calvin & Hobbes for Abbey, FingerPpaint and Etch a Sketch for me.  I have WebMD so I never need a real doctor again, and yoga so I can make myself well.

Glimpses of who keeps company with me in possession of the tools for technological enlightment terrifies me at the least.  The first group is the people with money that buy it because they can, but have no idea what they will use it for or how.  The next group are the technologically wealthy who have it because they can, know how to use it and flaunt it.  Then of course are the people who get it because it's the newest, coolest thing, and they save or borrow for this one next cool new thing.  And then there's me.  I can't afford it, don't really need it, know exactly how to use it, and indulge because, well, I convinced John that he should buy it for me and he did because I always get what I want.

John's accountant Bob and his wife Janna purchased their iPads.  They fall into the group of buying it because they have enough money.  They will play solitaire on it while sitting in recliners in their living room.  Which is fine, you can do that with the iPad.  Bob called.  He needed John to come fix his printer because he wanted to print the iPad manual.

You can catch an eel with squid.

Saturday, October 16, 2010 ~ 7:30 am

Still woozy more than 30 minutes later.  I hesitate to recount the last two hours.  I write about it to sort it out.
The morning began two days ago, purchasing Guy Harvey T-Shirts for spirit day at school.   I ventured into a fishing store, left with a $25 fishing pole, some squid for bait,  a blue t-shirt with a fish on the back for Jake, and a pink one for Abbey.  She wanted yellow, but we bought the two they had.
The story actually begins two years ago. George said he wanted to take them fishing, a strangely delusional request, but probably one intended to linger in my life as a reminder of the lies we tell.  I don't know if he had ever been fishing in his life.  More likely, he anticipated Jake's need for such a thing.  With the Disney fishing rods they got for Easter, they fished in the little lake behind John's house just a month before George's death.  He sat in a wheelchair wrapped in a blanket with a hat to keep his warmth in.  The wind blew a March breeze through the branches of the live oak by the dock.  The bugs swarmed, patience demanded we do something different, and the fishing trip ended.
Since George's death, we live with a dock in our backyard, and Jake asks to fish regularly.  So with the new gear and some basic instructions on casting, one evening of practice catching a sting ray with John, Jake and I start our Saturday morning fishing from the dock.
As with all of my adventures, I don't think it through all the way.  I figure Jake can cast it and pull it in.  He knows how to bait the hook.  All I'll have to do is get the hook out and throw the sea life back using the pliers.  I saw it done with a sting ray and I didn't freak out.
With smiling anticipation, I find the pliers, the bug spray, a chair, my camera, phone, green tea and incense.  Confidence reminds me that Jake visions me a super hero, saving the day, using my powers to twist minds, travel between dimensions and conquer fear.  He'll grow up one day and say, my mom makes magic, casts spells, and defeats monsters.
The tidal marsh tempts us to cast half way down the dock.  Cutting the frozen squid doesn't make my stomach spin. This pleases Jake.  With great caution and attention, he slides the squid on both hooks.  A few failed casts cause  him to pause and think through the steps.  He remembers to let go.  He beautifully sends the line into the shallow middle.  Soon, too soon, he reels it in, repeat 3 or 4 times.  Then he settles and leaves it, leaning the pole on the railing.
After catching a stick and losing a hook, he recasts, landing in the deep reeds of the pluff mud.  The weight and hook are stuck.  At first we seriously consider Jake adventuring into the crab's domain to untangle the line from the grass. Healthy fear stops Jake.  I tug and wiggle the line from this mess.  Saving the day - check.
Jake, ready to abandon the bonding, suggests trying just once from the floating dock.  Patience and positive energy, I insist.  "Baby Jake," I tell him, "we are going to catch something."  The dolphins spout agreement as they swim by.  Perfection, I assure him.  Life doesn't get more pleasant than this. Twisting minds - check.
He casts it for me and invites me to hold the rod.  He shows me how to bring the line back a little.  He instructs me never to turn the reel the wrong way.  He sits on my lap and we wait.  Far too quickly, I feel a tug on the line.  Twice I reel it in, learning the weight of the line.  The third time though, the pull is different.  At times I feel the struggle a real contest.  Jake wants to try, I hand him the rod.  He struggles too, but pulls it in, a gross snake, a heavy, fat, slimy, grayish green sea snake's mouth stuck, bait still on the hook.  I feel the swell and drop in my brain as the nerves in my forehead flow and tingle.  I focus enough to seek my safe place.  I hold the line, trying to gauge the movements of the eel.  Jake brings the pliers.  I twist and tug, trying to release the hook from his mouth.  The dock floats with each passing boat's wake.  The eel flops and flails.
Jake calls John, very calmly describes the scene, maybe falsely, but with certainty, declares the eel electric.  My mom is holding the line.  We don't know what to do he says.  He hands me the phone.  Recalling my words is like remembering the first time I held a pencil.
Perhaps I said, "will it hurt me?  tell me what to do."
The obvious solution was to cut the line, but I didn't know what of the little metal pieces, round beads, a mini carabiner, could afford to be lost. I called John again.  This time I know I said, "please come save the day."  His frustration of being woken by this haphazard mini crisis traveled through the wire.  "Melissa, I never thought you would be good at this," he said.  "Put the eel back in the water so it doesn't die."  I wanted the eel to die.  But now I was sick.  I could feel the motion of the still air.  Steam formed around my hairline from the temperature drop in my face and neck and the reflection of my face in the water revealed the gray-green of the fish.  "I'm going to vomit.  I need you to not tell me I suck at this and come save the day."
Witnessing the moment, an arms length away, torn between interesting events, the eel flopping or mommy melting down, Jake quietly observed.
John urged, "If Jake wants to fish he'll have to learn how to get the eel off the hook.  It's not electric, it's just nasty."
Right, I think, could he learn about getting the nasty eel off the hook when someone else is teaching him because right now, I'm out here on the moving dock with the eel flopping on a sharp hook and I might pass out if that slimy eel touches my baby boy.
"Oh..., oh no,  I'm definitely going to vomit." I say.
Dimension travel - Fail.  Still in a three dimensional situation, unable to teleport to safety, I say, "Jake, you can do this."
Again I hang up.  Jake you can do this.  I search my words, which are jumbled and missing right now, as I describe how I want him to use the pliers to unlatch the carabiner, but my words come out sounding more like metal... bead... push... tug.
Jake cut the line, the eel sluggishly left the scene with the hook attached and we found my kryptonite.

07 September 2010

Biking Day 7 et al

I almost missed my 7th day of biking.  I needed achy, stuffy head, fever, chest cough, medicine today but didn't have any.  After school I came home, declared every man for himself night, and went to bed (5 pm). Occasionally tossing and turning, I thought about the bike ride I didn't take today.  At 9 pm, my sweet babies came in to kiss me goodnight; if I don't ride my bike now, the 30 day challenge ends I told myself. After Jake fell asleep, I drug myself down to the garage, jumped on my faithful cruiser and set out for my starlit spin.  First I noticed the smell of the marsh, fresh and cool, not the mucky odor of the hot day.  Then I noticed the sky, the reflection on water, and the light on in a lone dining room up the street.  The breeze was better than any cold medicine money could buy.  I shivered, either from fever or exhilaration.  Nevertheless, I rode my bike, watered my banana peppers and remain committed to the challenge.

Last night when we got home from the mountains, Abbey, Jake and I cruised the neighborhood.  It felt good to be home.  The mountain bike experience this weekend clarified one very important thing for me - I'm a beach cruiser kind of girl.  While I am certainly capable of an adventure on the Trek - I am not in shape for it.  The two bike rides in the mountains went like this:  I stayed in a cabin 2 hundred yards up a 90 degree hill from John's family cabin.  I rode my bike down the hill, past John's cabin and back up the other side (in a U shape), then back down and back up the 200 yards to my cabin.   My legs hurt, I struggled to breathe through my already belabored lungs (allergies) and I parked the bike next to the porch.

I hope the next 23 days of biking bring a little more distance for me.

03 September 2010

Biking Days 2 & 3

My Electra Amsterdam rewarded me again on day 2.  Yesterday, after lunch at the most delightful holistic soul food restaurant, Alluette's on Reid Street, the cafes namesake, Alluette, made lima bean soup with bits of spicy red pepper that infused me with a nutritious joy that made the tips of my fingers tingle.  The almond toast overflowed with crispy air.  The food alone would have been enough to make this place my home kitchen, but the company trumped the taste buds.  Alluette's smart, witty bantering conversation entranced me.  John and Aluette's brother witnessed a serious energy transfer, and I left, invigorated.

Not needing a reason to, but having one, I then rode my bike from school, up Queen Street, through Harleston Village, around Colonial Lake, across Colonial Avenue and down Tradd Street, cutting over to Gibbes, then back down the Lane to Meeting.  The slow leisurely cruise centered me.

Tonight the bike called, but allergies weighed my head down.  After eating pizza at Andolini's at the breezy outside table, I decided a spin around the island would have to do for day 3, and then I would rest my achy neck, but one spin is never enough.  I rode around a second time, weaving through the breezy stars, my light didn't work and a car was coming down the causeway or I think I would have made three loops.

I'll leave the cruiser behind and ride the mountain bike this weekend.  Whether a quick spin, or a little trail, the Trek is coming down off the wall.

01 September 2010


Today I began the 30 days of biking.  I biked from school to EarthFare to have lunch with John.  Going down Lockwood to the Ashley River Bridge was a little stressful with the ghost bike parked at the bend @ Mason Prep.  The only other tough spot was coming off the bridge where the lane splits.  I needed to cross 2 lanes, and ride with traffic to the light.  The way back was intense.  There is no bike lane on the 4 lane bridge going back into town and the center of the bridge is a metal grate.  Visions of the River Street Railroad Tracks in Savannah crash make me blue knuckle focus as I ride across.  The lane that goes under the bridge on Lockwood back to the Marina is pretty cool (it might be a sidewalk, but I think it's for bikes.)  The trip down Broad, over to Tradd, all the way to Meeting is a breeze, a hot and beautiful breeze.
The real challenge will be this weekend.  I'll need to take my bike to the mountains and squeeze in a few minutes.

28 August 2010

More Zen

you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer

26 August 2010

Reduced to Stuff

I noticed first the empty porch, devoid of welcoming furniture. I walked into the charming white country cottage to its hollow foyer, lacking furnishings and breath. I understood what he meant about watching their life being dismantled, watching their stuff being divided up and sold, as if they were dead. He said nobody should have to sit back and observe while the end of their life is being managed, estate sales, auction houses, calls from siblings far away staking claims on what they want. Anything with monetary value had already been taken, sold, or spoken for. Nearly everything else was dissolved.
The house could use a coat of paint.
In the kitchen we emptied a pantry closet, throwing spices and bags of sugar away. We gathered some glass to try to sell, worthless, all of it, but not to his mother; these were her things. We looked at the blue and white plates from Cracker Barrel, the tea cups, the saucers, a full eight piece set, on display in the china cabinet, never used, maybe one plate was missing, yes, only 7 small plates, but eight of everything else, and one gravy boat. "We could sell these" she says of her plates and cups carefully displayed in the curio cabinet. "I paid $12 a plate."
Nobody will want this I thought. Nobody will want the glass platters or vases either, but I will take it all. I will send her money and tell her I sold it. Is she measuring her value by other people's desire for her stuff?
I wanted to leave. My stomach felt uneasy. I wanted to say, none of this means anything. Lets get the hell out of here and go eat. Let's celebrate life. Let's set the damn place on fire. Instead I carefully wrapped each piece of worthless glass and stacked it in the tote. I excitedly asked for a little maple basket, maybe I can put some fruit in it. I suggested she give a little candle holder to her granddaughter for her birthday tomorrow. I reveled in the new blender she gave me. The large hand painted plate will never be of much use in my kitchen, but happily, I accepted it. I couldn't finish quickly enough.
I walked around the skeleton of living space and photographed the few remaining pieces of furniture.
She was sitting in the foyer, next to the old fireplace, in a shabby wooden chair, vacant. I asked about the cabinet in the corner.
"Yes, sell it." she said.
"And what about the stuff inside it? Is that also for sale?" I inquired.
"Well" she said, "that doesn't really belong to me. It was here when we moved in." My confusion was not masked. The cabinet was hers, but the stuff in it, carefully displayed, was not. A large old book with a dark hard cover appealed to my curiosity.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Oh, that has a story!" she exclaimed. "The Atkinson's lived here." She continued. "Their grandson Tom went to Clemson, and that's a yearbook that was sent to all the families of men who died in the second world war."
"Can I open it? Can I touch the book?" I eagerly moved my hand toward the handle of the curio cabinet.
"And this other stuff?" I mused as I was reaching for the book. "Is it theirs also?"
"Oh yes, and there's more. I just didn't have the heart to get rid of it. We took care of his sister Henrietta. I offered it to the family but they didn't want any of it. So all these years I kept it on display in this cabinet."
"This is the most valuable thing you have." I said as I leafed through the pages of the old book. Loosely taped in the front was a letter to Mr. & Mrs. Atkinson from the Dean of Clemson expressing their deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of Thomas when his plane crashed while serving his country. Furthermore the letter said, this yearbook is so we never forget the price of war and we always strive for peace.
I held this book, scrolled through its pages, and thought, this is so much more than a book. This cabinet is a real reminder of humanity, the need to matter, the need to remember people and history.
The shelves had pictures, newspaper articles, and a little crystal clock. Time.
I lifted the little pile of newspaper clippings, yellow and frail. Tom Bass's obituary included very specific details of his plane crash. It ended with the details of his body being laid to rest in the family home, the very foyer I was standing in.
When I finished reading this aloud to Abbey, Grammy continued saying the story gets worse. She proceeded to tell me how the other son, TW was killed as a small child, a car backed over him. Then her dear friend Henrietta fell and broke both her hips, crippling her. She finished by saying she and Grumpy handled the affairs for her funeral when she passed.
Mr. Atkinson's obituary was included in the clippings, and pictures of Henrietta from the paper, who incidentally was very beautiful.

Name: Sgt. Thomas G. Bass, Jr.
Parents: Thomas Joseph & Lois Atkinson Bass
Date of Birth: September 14, 1920
Place of Birth: Latta, Dillon Co.SC
Date of Death: December 3, 1943
Place of Death: Salt Flats, New Mexico (plane crash)
Place of Burial: Latta Cemetery
Source and date of issue: The Dillon Herald, Dillon, SC, Thursday, December 9, 1943, page1, col. 6 and December 16, 1943, page 2, col. 3 & 4

5 years later Thomas Bass' mother died.

Name: Lois Bass
Parents: W. B. and Hernietta Gaddy Atkinson
Spouse: Thomas J. Bass (married 1917)
Date of Death: April 20, 1948
Place of Burial: Magnolia Cemetery
Source & date of issue: The Dillon Herald, Dillon, SC, Thursday, April 29, 1948, page 5, col. 2

Dead to Myself

I surrender to the lies.  I will not buy into creating an image based me.  I am dead to myself and alive in service love.  In this new life, as I care less about beauty and accumulation of possessions,  I find more beauty, and my needs are met through peace, love and joy.  As I try to deny myself I find contentment.  I look in the mirror without complaint and with acceptance.  I pass by the shelves in the market place for the horizon of blue herons and egrets, palms and pluff mud.  I stop asking God to stay with me wherever I go and I start going wherever God wants me too.

I will not believe the lie that
...bigger is better.
...stuff means anything about me.
...beauty is what a supermodel achieves.
...God blesses America above others.
...power, corruption and greed are acceptable and necessary for success.
...God wants me to have all this stuff.
...I need to defy death, (truth: God did that for me.)
...convenient is good.
...more is necessary.


Part time employment suits me.  It also requires a great deal of lifestyle change.  Today my second pay check in only 1/2 the amount I used to receive was deposited.  And ironically, I have hardly noticed the difference.  Change, being inevitable, is so much easier when it is initiated by me.

This summer, I decided my house would move in the direction of zero waste.  While we still create plenty of trash, still receive junk mail, still use plastic baggies and more, we have cut a tremendous amount of junk from our lives.  Yesterday I sent Abbey and Jake into the grocery to get 4 things while I waited in the car (I had already washed my make up off).  I beamed with joy when they came out to the car carrying the four items (and one extra for Abbey - gingerale?) but the beautiful thing was the goods were not in a plastic or paper bag.  They carried them in their hands.   I said, "babies, I'm so proud of you not getting a plastic bag."  Abbey replied, "we said no thank you to the paper receipt too."

A few steps have made a huge difference in my budget and my life.

1.  I do not buy paper towels anymore.  I used to buy Bounty.  Savings = $10 a week / $520 year
2.  I do not buy bottled water anymore.  I used to buy Dasani.  Savings = $14 a week / $728 year

So I've saved $1250 a year so far.  now all I need to do is save the other $20,000 I used to make.

3.  I only shop on the outside of the grocery store.  I quit buying food in boxes and cans.  I stopped purchasing prepared foods of all kinds.  This savings cannot accurately be measured in dollars.  My liver might stand a chance of healing from the HFCS poison; my grocery bill is substantially different.

4.  I only buy organic.  I will not pay money for chemical poisons to be ingested by me or my children.  We have also switched to organic body soap, cleaning products (vinegar and water) and laundry soap.   I shop primarily at Earth Fare, occasionally Whole Foods, and never, ever Walmart.

Confession:  I still use Bath and Body Works hand soap in all 3 bathrooms and in the kitchen.  I also still use Pureology shampoo and I don't believe it is organic.  I tried organic shampoo, but I'm a little to vain not to have good hair (for now).

5.  Abbey's diet has improved immensely.  She enjoys eating food that actually tastes good now.  I haven't fixed the ice cream addiction, but we all have our vices.

A few weeks ago, we were traveling, we were making good time on a 12 hour journey, and I said, if you guys want, I'll take you to McDonald's.  Gleefully, they cheered.  When we pulled up to the window to order, Abbey said, "what are we going to get here?  This is going to make us sick."

6.  My favorite change so far is I took Abbey off her ADHD cocaine.  Her father absolutely hated the idea that I ever agreed to allow her to take medicine to make her socially acceptable in a formal classroom.  He was right and I was wrong.

7.  We meditate, as a family.  Of course this activity tends to meet with resistance.  Imagine being a 7 or 11 year old child and your mother saying (as part of her new living plan) everyone grab  a mat and sit on the living room floor and for the next 20 minutes we are going to sit silently, pray to the God of the Universe, focus on dumping the negative energy, and receiving peace.  Wooosh - yes you too would think it crazy as hell, but I think it's helping them, and more than that, when I am no longer here to guide them, they will remember the techniques I taught them.

Now with the dietary change and the meditation, I feel confident that Abbey is going to manage her impulsive behavior on her own.  And if she doesn't, she's my Ab5i (the 5 is silent) mess, and I want her just the way she is.

8.  I quit drinking coffee.  I only drink green tea and water.  While this means I have not given up caffeine, I drink tea more moderately than coffee.  I used to drink at least a pot of coffee a day - black.  Now I drink 3-4 cups of green tea a day, and I feel good.  In addition to it being the very most powerful antioxidant I can consume, it tastes good and soothes my soul.

Finding balance is absolutely the key to my wellness.  Combined with generosity with no expectation, and gratitude to the God of the Universe, I think I have found the alchemy of peace, love and joy.  I do not want to work more than I live.  I want my work to be meaningful, well planned, and carefully executed.
I want to be healthy which means I need exercise.  I now have four hours a day to accomplish that, and I have been.
I want to eat food that fuels my body.  This takes planning and preparation which takes time, which I now have.  I make a balanced breakfast for my children every morning instead of rushing into the gas station for a muffin or a pop tart.
I want to inspire others to live better, to reject the world's idea of what it looks like to be happy, healthy, and most important of all content.  Content with who I am, where I am, and what I am.


I'd like to move downtown so that I could stop driving to work.
I'd like to use my car less - in general (I don't really want to leave the beach, so this may be more than I can handle.  I will consider looking into a hybrid.)
I'd like to use all reusable glass containers with lids and no plastic.
I'd like to use more of my free time to serve others.
I would like to rid my life of any stuff that I do not use at least once a month (maybe once a season).
I'd like to open a corner grocery/lunch stop (like Queen St. Grocery).
I will write my book(s).

14 August 2010

Wes's 30th Birthday

Buff:  I'm pretty sure some people on this planet are aliens.
Wes:  I'm pretty sure your dad's one.

10 August 2010

Zen habits

I remind myself every morning that life is short and mine may be over by nightfall. That gives me the the desire to taste and enjoy each moment. It also adds a measure of calm urgency because I want to leave a mark upon the world.  

03 August 2010

Hopi Elders

...There is a river flowing now very fast
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
Take nothing personally,
least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.


Only while you are alive is there hope of finding Him...
It is a hopeless dream
To think that union will  come after the soul leaves the body.
What you get now
is what you get then...
"Only spiritual practice will get you across;
be addicted to this practice."

28 July 2010


The love that shines on our souls is called Grace.

When it strengthens us to do well, it is called Charity.

When it attains full perfection
it not only leads us to do well
but act
Then it is called Devotion.

Unity Prayer

Banish whatever may endanger my peace.
Break barriers that divide us.
Strengthen mutual love.
Learn to understand one another.
Pardon those who have done wrong.

Ephesians 2: 14-18

Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourself what is the will of God.  Romans 12: 1-2

I cannot possess God for myself; I can belong to him on in union with others, being loved, and loving others in return, charity, service, humility, love.

26 July 2010

Notes on St. Paul & Losing Myself # 3

Through feeling poor, being needy for love, feeling abused, and trying to heal my wounds, I've developed a perspective of charity.  Meeting one another's needs is essential to wellness for all people.  This unity in Christ is unity in service and in love.

Jesus demolishes the barriers between God & man, liberating us, freeing us from orthodoxy.

Love asks nothing more than to help others.  UNITY.

Finding Unconditional Love

The 4 states of mind known as the brahmaviharas.  Consciousness settles as these qualities are radiated.  This consciousness is a selflessness and a unity with God.

1)  friendliness or lovingkindness metta - gentle friend
2)  compassion karuna to lighten sorrow
3)  joy mudita simple pleasures
4)  equanimity - upekkha even mindedness of non attachment, no judgment, indifference

Pantanjali, an Indian Sage, from 2 BC compiled the Yoga Sutra

Quiet the mind.

Swami Satchidananda
By cultivating attitudes of 
friendliness toward the happy
compassion for the unhappy
delight in the virtuous
disregard toward the wicked
the mindstuff keeps calm.

Vikshepa - tendancy of the mind to be distracted and outwardly directed

Pantanjali - when we react haphazardly or callously to what people do around us, inner disturbance is the result.

Focus on indifference not judgment.

22 July 2010

A week earlier, the man across the street who I formerly referred to as the redneck from Columbia was staying in his condo.  I paid no attention to him, except that his dogs were unleashed and he annoys me.  However as I extended friendship toward the young happy people at the pool I learned that they were his children, and one month ago their mother, his wife, died, suddenly.  It was his daughter who told me.  I felt useful.  I gave her a place to talk about it, but even more, I suspect we were supposed to interact.  This loving kindness is necessary to create unity.  I will approach her father with kindness when he returns.  Here among my neighbors was a strong bearded man, with dogs and a fishing boat, in grief, and I was concerned with myself.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Notes on St. Paul & Losing Myself # 2

The Resurrection of the Spirit Cycle

My identity struggles with self make me more understanding of the struggles of others because at the core I realize how self-serving we all are.  As I move in and out of transformative states I find myself eager to serve because in it is the only real peace, love and joy.

Prayer - in the act of prayer man unites himself with God.  Prayer keeps God alive on Earth, and unifies people.  In prayer, I assume a humble posture.

We all carry the sentence of death, so that we are forced to trust not ourselves but God.  He will save us.

God lifts a person from despair, from the very gates of Hades.  When in despair, then restored, we complete the resurrection of the dead.

Notes on St. Paul & Losing Myself # 1

When madness makes my mind turbulent, I surrender.  By now I should know how and live it unfailingly, but indeed, I do not.  Self centeredness, worry, fear, they take over my soul.  In these moments I seek God.  Maybe it occurs  so I am reminded to never rely on myself, or maybe I simply haven't mastered selflessness.  In this whirling mania, I lose control of all that is good.

In this helplessness, I recognize that I am unaware of everything around me.  Everything I know is trivial. I have no choice but to surrender to something more.  Here, I find Hope.  I recall this feeling of complete peace in my memory of George's battle with cancer.  I was helpless, clueless, and totally dependent on God.  I didn't know what to do; I didn't know what was next; but I knew that it was in the God of the Universe's control.  As moments of days played out with precision and gentleness, as my needs were met and my fears were vanquished, my trust grew exponentially.  I found the peace that passes understanding. Not my will, but His.

I am reflecting on St. Paul & the Brahmviharas - to remember how to lose myself.

My primary concern is that of the apostle - to help the poor.  In accepting and releasing self, I use the many aspects of who I am to relate to those in need.

Join the highest (God) and the lowest by the bond of charity (service in pure love).

I will let the Spirit do the work, in loving kindness (the first state of mind in the Brahmvihara)

I am content to be weak.

I will transcend self in contemplation of God.

Inwardly I will consider the things of God.
Outwardly I will carry the burdens of others.
Creating pure joy from love, the source and the action.

When I am unsure what to do, I will go within to the soul, contemplating God.

10 July 2010

the tree of knowledge

When you are lost to yourself, angels pass through you.

These words were the nicest collection of letters ever sent to me, about me, a gift in grief.   I remember the moment, the words so close to the actual experience, epiphany.
The irony, the man who comforted me,  I've never met, in another hemisphere, on another continent.  Once I heard his voice in a cordial and broken greeting; I'm known vicariously, through her.  
She knows my vulnerability, maybe more than me.  She is my sculptor, and I reject her now and then, my stubbornness.  At times, she moves on to more beautiful things, but I know there is no such thing.  Together she and I have seen the mystery.  So clearly, that he is able to say it best.
More than this symbolic knowing, that moment.  I want that back.  I crave that omniscience; that garden of eden sin is mine.

06 July 2010

A conversation I did not hear today

After lunch:

she and her husband are going to Walmart to buy mini-marshmallows for the primate he is picking up at the airport.

04 July 2010

The F.Scott Fitzgerald of Beach Writing

A  fellow claiming to be a writer from Traveller's Rest, writing a book called Drip, Drip, Dump, a children's game like Duck, Duck, Goose interrupts Buff & Maggie, while they swoon on the red and white picnic blanket at Folly.  He said, "I'm about to submit it, and I need some pictures of kids on the beach.  Can I take some of your kids?"

the scene the man from Traveler's Rest intruded on

Buff and Maggie, stared with a Xanax glassy gaze at the gray haired man in a Loggerhead t-shirt.

"They're not my kids," says Buff.

"Okay, then do you mind if I take a picture of the strange kids that are not yours?" the man's voice sings in a drawl with a lilt.

"John?"  beckons Buff.

From a few feet in front of him, lounging in our red beach chairs with the surf at our feet, John and I turn to look.

the intent look of please don't interrupt my reading

The bizarre leathery man, while kneeling next to Buff and Maggie on the checkered blanket, speaks up,  "I know it sounds crazy as hell, but do you mind if I take some pictures of your kids for my book?"

Silence, even the waves stopped crashing.  For a full second, absolutely no one on the beach made a sound.

"Yes it does sound crazy as hell, and no, I don't think we are going to promote them that way."  I state with an annoyed definitiveness, like someone just interrupted me while I was reading Let the Great World Spin, or told  me a stupid joke, and I wasn't interested.

I turned and looked at John and said, "Does anyone on this beach really believe we are Buff & Maggie's parents?"  I continued, "Did Buff and Maggie need help answering that?  Would anyone really ever say yes to him? Did they need us to bail them out?"

After he walked away, we turned back to Buff and Maggie, confused.  Maggie explained the concept of the game to me.  It was only then that I realized he was asking about my children.

Later, John asked me if I googled the guys book.  Buff said, "how funny would it be if this guy ended up being the F. Scott Fitzgerald of beach writing?  The kids featured in his book get their own reality show and the game becomes the next corn hole.  And you are all like, we're not into that kind of self promotion."

He continued to warp my perception by saying, "The really funny thing is I had already told him yes."

I googled drip drip dump and the first hit was Sick and Twisted games.

Drip, Drip, Dump

The Goose created a blog


I could really use a wish right now

Last night after the fireworks, Jake claimed he saw a shooting star and made a wish.  I told him not to tell anybody his wish and maybe it would come true.

I instinctively knew he would wish for money.  Excited, he ran up the ramp of the dock and said, "should I tell you my wish?"

I said, "no, it won't come true."

Abbey said, "give us a hint."

Jake responded, "a really hard one, one of the letters is N."  He ran back down the ramp.

Abbey and I conferred.  I told her he wished for money.  I felt disappointed in his wish, yet I understood.  Last week he bought a wallet to keep his money in.  After he paid for the wallet, he didn't really have any money to put in it, so he's been doing chores, and making bets, trying to fill his pocket.

I said to the Goose, we could make his wish come true.  She said we needed to be sure that was really what he wished for.  We called him back.  He offered another hint.  "N is the 3rd letter," he said.  I assured Abbey we were right.  She, still not certain, asked him for another clue.  He said, "O is the second letter."  I explained to Abbey that we couldn't guess it or let him give it away, or then we couldn't grant it.

I guessed, "It's a pony; you wished for a pony."

He giggled, "No it has 5 letters."

Abbey and I gave up; we had the information we needed.  His wish would remain a secret.  We whispered our plan.  When he fell asleep we would put an envelope with $5 on his pillow.  Abbey colored it with the words, "Shooting Star, Your Wish Came True."

When Jake woke up, he found the fulfilled wish.  He couldn't believe it.  He said he wants to see another shooting star tonight.

Abbey made some magic, and I smiled.


The colors of my canvas

Red White and Blue

Independence day.  Individuals try to escape being alone,  and America celebrates winning a war  that separated us from tyranny, repression, and unsuitable taxation.  Individually, we seek out partners and have children, and we are still alone.  Sometimes we fight to separate ourselves from each other.   We celebrate liberation.

This idea of independence squirmed into my life as a stifled child; a child with latent words ready to spew lava and ash all over my town.  A child with a knowing, a bee that could find honey.  Even landlocked, I felt the magnetic pull drawing me to high tides and hammocks of full moons and peace.

Isn't that the basic human condition? I wanted my freedom.  I wanted to escape a dictatorship.  I wanted to rise above my condition.  The quest for more, better, something else.

When my  daughter was a toddler she would wobble up to the refrigerator and open it, stand there, the frigid swirl of air escaping, wasted energy.  I offered her a carrot or a cucumber, she'd study them, and then declare: "I need something else."

"Something else,  what do you need?"  I would say.

She would choose yogurt.  She smeared it in her hair, on her face, on the tray of her walker and all over the dog's back.  She'd roll over to the refrigerator again,

"I need something else."

As with all the paradoxical truths of the universe, more, what's next, the find is first what I sought.  Insatiability handcuffed me.  In all of my accumulation I found prison.

So I took out my paint brush, and I changed the images on my canvas.  I threw globs of green and blue, pink floated in.  Orange and yellow hid in shades.  I added the whole brown family, with white poodles and grey dew on lime wedges.  No form, no need.  When I finished, I noticed, smudged just like the pluff mud, my safe place.

"The Artist" by Abbey winner of  the MUSC Happy Halls Art Contest 2010  

I like to celebrate independence every day.  Realizing very young how alone we all are, not as a design flaw, but a simple condition, made declaring myself free an effortless step.  However, knowing nothing, being culturally starved, and listening to the messages society inundated me with, left me with credit debt and a bad habit.  Freedom was a bit of a mess.  With no boundaries, I was testing all the back alleys.  I stumbled over broken bottles, and wiped blood off my forehead.  I celebrated by flying with strangers in single engine airplanes over the mountains.  I shot fireworks out of the back of taxis.  I ate charred hot dogs off grills of silk spider webs.  Freedom was sloppy.  I slept through days and stayed awake for weeks.  I didn't wear a watch because it was worth more than time.

I need something else.

I freed myself over and over again, and every time my independence looked like an old railway, overgrown with rust.  The weeds twisting a note on the ties that they too are free, no longer useful.
Independence.  Freedom from people, the paradox of what I seek and what I resist.

My moment of real liberation came when I freed myself from the obligation of stuff.  I purged.  I vomited all the things I thought freedom meant.  Once emptied, I found the elusive freedom I was looking for.  And then I channeled everything I had into finding a place to just be.

I fled the dark alleys of freedom for a smaller safer place.  A place with stars in the sky, and fireworks in the crickets song.

I can take care of myself, educated, strong, unafraid of challenge and risk, but that isn't freedom.  I can give generously to others, but that isn't freedom.  I can need no one, and crave company, clearly, not freedom.  My freedom came when I looked out into this great black void of loss and failure, and saw not the emptiness but the stars.  I am content.  I am free.

Hipster Small Talk

She's a hipster. According to Urbandictionary.com 
Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter. The greatest concentrations of hipsters can be found living in the Williamsburg, Wicker Park, and Mission District neighborhoods of major cosmopolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco respectively.

While this is typically considered a state of mind, it also involves nouveau dress and living. She's got it. She's  young, and smart, loves literature and cooking.  She's the graceful southern version of a Greenwich village hipster.

Beth prays, and laughs.  She inspires passion for learning and living.  Cool things happen to her.  Her eucalyptic energy entices me.

Beth is always welcome to kayak at my house.  She and her husband Matthew clean the equipment and put it back neatly after they use it.  

Last night, John, Buff, Maggie and I rode over to Bowen's Island on our bicycles and watched the fireworks as we rode along.  We pedaled under a starry sky, watching the bombs burst in air, celebrating our independence on a beautiful, cool, 77 degree evening with a light breeze.  

Two glasses of Malbec into my dreamy buzz, I see Beth in the parking lot at Bowens after the fireworks show.  I suck at small talk, and I'm a little bit wobbly.  It never occurs to me to discuss the literature course we are taking together next week.  Instead, I say hello, something stupid about I wish every day could be the fourth of July (but it was only the 3rd of July), and then I realize except for the fireworks, everyday is like this for me, and I simply don't have any other words to say.  She politely and gracefully mentions she brought her parents.  And all this time, during the whole conversation, the only thing I can think about is damn, I was going to wear this outfit on Tuesday to that class we are taking.

27 June 2010


When I was in 2nd grade I went to school with a boy named Buddy.   I lived in a small railroad town, after railroad towns were no longer a way of life, in the Steel City, around the time that Steel was becoming an import. The seventies, middle class existed and the eighties, cash was king.  Madonna was going to be the material girl, and I was too.  Everyone was on their way up to the things money could buy.

My neighborhood was small, on the low end of middle class.  Only two or three families went to private school.  Everyone had a car and a television, and most of the people on my street had a VCR in the early eighties, except us.  Around the time families were purchasing second cars, we got one that had air and working doors.  Our Scout in the seventies had side benches in the back for seats and a web of bungee cords keeping the doors closed.

This wasn't actually our Scout, but it looked something like this w/more rust.  
Image: Barry's Project Flikr.com

Manor Bank.  Located at the bottom of the hill, across from Buster's Candy Store, and across the tracks from the Volunteer Fire Department and the big playground.

My family moved into a HUD house on a quiet cul de sac with lots of kids our age.  I was a baby then.  Our stability and income fluctuated, but only slightly and on the higher end of poor.  My father was a steel hauler, and the unions and picket lines were part of my upbringing.  My dad had to make tough decisions about being a scab, crossing the picket line to feed his family, or joining the union, fighting for steel hauler's rights.  I doubt my dad realized times would change with or without his help, but he always chose trying to find a way to feed his family.  He was involved in mafia related trucking and at one point in my childhood his truck was stolen and blown up.  The church brought groceries from the food pantry and the WIC program gave us processed cheese.  The late seventies, my little sister was born.

Only a few people in my community had less than us, and they really were on the wrong side of the tracks.  I actually remember pitying them.  Usually these poorer people came with other circumstances, broken homes, drinking, drugs, handicaps, mom's with boyfriends.  They lived at the bottom of the hill, across the tracks, near the Legion, the Volunteer Fire Hall, and Elsie's bar.  My mother would whisper their sin when we talked about their sad circumstances on the way to buy her cigarettes with rolled change at Buster's  newspaper/candy store in route to Wednesday night church.

In this picture, to the left is the right side of the tracks.  I lived at the top of Mt. Manor.

Buddy obviously came from the bottom of the hill.  He lived above the big playground in a house that sat on a dirt road that wasn't really a road.  Buddy was really smart, so was I.  He raised his hand a lot; so did I.  When Mrs. Parks called on him, I seethed with jealousy.  He was always in my advanced reading group, but Buddy had obstacles, his mother had boyfriends, he was poor.  Buddy was my mirror, and I didn't like what I saw.  If only one of us would get out of our circumstances through intellect it needed to be me.  His hands were dirty.  His face was dirty.  He was tan, with blonde hair, his clothes, his skin, just dirty.  I remember thinking when I grow up to be a teacher I'm never going to call on Buddy.

This weekend, eleven year old Tanner, from Ninety-Six, revelled in the beauty of kayaking with the dolphins in the marsh, strolled around downtown under a full moon, heard ghost stories about the city jail, climbed a tree, played marco polo in the pool, and ate fried fish under the building at Bowen's Island.  He visited with his step mother Bobby Jo from Ninety-Six, and her two children by his father.

Tanner has every reason to be angry with the world.  His real father is in Afghanistan and the kids at school make fun of him for it.  His mother married his father's brother, so the kids at school also tease him about his uncle/daddy.  He said he wished his parents were physical; they just lay around and drink and sleep all the time. He doesn't have a bike, but he would like one.  Instead of being hostile, violent or aggressive, he was grateful, hopeful, kind.  His manners weren't polished, but he was agreeable.  He knew about things like women's periods and made inappropriate comments about them.  His grandma made comments about buying darkies.   He said he didn't go to church, but he would like to.  He asked for grapes at the grocery store.  He didn't want to wear his life jacket in the river, but I insisted.  He doesn't wear a helmet on his dirt bike; I have no say, but John insisted he should.  He strangely at one point said Jake was racist.  Tanner reminded me to call on Buddy when he raises his hand.

Greenish Blue

Two weeks ago, I switched to reusable water bottles for good.  I will not purchase a bottle of water.  I've also vowed not to carry plastic bags out of any store; I bring my own.  I'm looking for greener living, and here is why.  These images of plastic in the Northern Pacific, plus the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and my enjoyment of kayaking have lead me to rid my life of the conveniences that are harmful to nature.  I'm just starting.

The below photos taken by Chris Jordan from http://www.webofentertainment.com/2009/10/ocean-of-plasticin-birds-guts.html

The Plastic Problem
Conservationists estimate that 40 percent of Laysan albatross chicks die because they have been fed plastic.

Everyone's Problem
Every year, 260 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, (not only from coastal regions) much of it carried from inland areas by rain runoff, streams, and rivers.

Eliminating the use of plastic disposables like water bottles and shopping bags, buying products made from recycled plastic with little or no packaging, ensuring non-recyclable plastic is disposed of in secure containers, and recycling all plastic than can be.

The problem of Oil:

photos taken from 

A sea turtle in oil

A brown pelican covered in oil

A brown pelican giving up

Hermit crabs

The dispersants worry me more than the oil:

taken from http://www.propublica.org/article/bp-gulf-oil-spill-dispersants-0430

"Dispersants are mixtures of solvents, surfactants and other additives that break up the surface tension of an oil slick and make oil more soluble in water, according to a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences. They are spread over or in the water in very low concentration – a single gallon may cover several acres."
"Once they are dispersed, the tiny droplets of oil are more likely to sink or remain suspended in deep water rather than floating to the surface and collecting in a continuous slick. Dispersed oil can spread quickly in three directions instead of two and is more easily dissipated by waves and turbulence that break it up further and help many of its most toxic hydrocarbons evaporate."

My goal:  A zero waste lifestyle.