"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Monday, March 19, 2018

What to do?

      Here's the thing: I have all these ideas about setting up small houses, cabins or cottages really, out in Maggie's wood, where writers and poets could come, be quiet and alone, and write. I sometimes think about building a very small writing room off the east side of my bedroom, a little nook with a small fireplace or the idea of a small fireplace in it. I imagine building a barracks where all the grand kids could sleep later on, when they are tired of sleeping on the floor of the music room and on the couches..sofas...divans...fold-aways...futons...love seats (there are so many names for the same things). I think of putting in an extension to the two central bedrooms and enlarging that bathroom, so the barracks is off to the east of the existing house. I imagine cleaning out the old building that was once a large chicken house and turning it into a quaint little cottage for Airbnb or a retreat in the country for some city folks.
       And then I huddle inside as TBW blasts everything with either hot or cold forty miles an hour wind. (My front door is now totally destroyed because of it. ) I realize that this space on the open prairie is not hospitable much of the time, really it isn't. Why would I throw money after money (when I don't have money upon money to throw anywhere) building places that no one in their right mind would come to on retreat.  I would be better off selling something and buying a place 1.) closer to OKC and my kids and grands, and 2.) east of I 35 where there are trees to stop the wind and the dust and shelter from some of the sun and heat.  Hell, I could just pack up and move back to Missouri, where they all started out, and begin reversing the path. We might end up in Ireland one of the these day. This is a mental loop I routinely get caught up in. I can't seem to find the exit ramp because I really don't know what is the best thing to do. I keep hearing the voices in my head screaming, "Never sell the land! Never sell the land!" Well, the only way I could buy some other land would be to sell some of the land I have. That would really just be 'trading the land' wouldn't it?
     I was reading through some genealogy the other week and noticed that all the families packed up and moved somewhere else every little whip-stitch or two, and then suddenly we stopped moving.
Why on God's green earth did they stop when they got here? They must have been too tired to pack up the wagon one more time, because this certainly wasn't paradise.
     I'm ready to move again, to somewhere that is less of a fight and that gives me more accessibility to the family. Some state that doesn't have a idiotic, frozen, heartless legislature that refuses to take care of its citizenry. Some state where the schools have enough money to provide a great education and many opportunities for its students (read: my grandkids!)
       I realize that most places have something that is not fantastic about them: bitter cold winters, rain all the time, no rain at all, no seasons to speak of, mildewy air from too much humidity, too rocky soil. But there has to be somewhere better than this. ( No, Christal, the desert is not better than this.) Any ideas? Encouragement or discouragement?  It usually takes me just shy of forever to make a decision. Even though I have poured years and years into these gardens and Maggie's Wood, I look out and see that they are all stunted from too little water and too much searing wind. I won't live long enough to see Maggie's Wood grown. I see that now. I beat myself to death every Spring and Summer, trying to keep everything alive and that is what I get done; just keeping them alive. They are not flourishing. Tap, tap, tap.....
       They say to write about what you know, or what is on your mind. This is what is on mine. That being said, my yard guy is coming out on Wednesday to do some hard work for me (thank god).  I used my new sump pump to pump out the fountain on Saturday and even without the hauling of buckets of water, I was still completely exhausted by evening. Oh, I did figure out why the fountain pump died so early last summer. I pulled it out and it was a tiny little thing; in no universe was it big enough for that pond. I probably thought I would go get a larger one the following week-end, and then promptly forgot to do so. I have a larger one now. All I need to do is get Cody to finish cleaning out the pond, fill it up, and plug the new pump in. I hope it works. Then I have to devise some sort of covering for the patio to offer some shade, because all the branches of the old Elm are gone. It's going to get powerfully hot out there come July.
    Sorry for the glum post. That's where I'm sitting at this moment. TTFN

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Poem: Let Be

A kind and steady gaze,

an easy smile without pretense

without challenge, without malice,

speaks peace backed with resolve

and acceptance of who and

how you choose to be in the world,

and asks only the same in kind.

Fayetteville and the Poetry Museum

      On Friday, Marsha and I loaded up and headed back to Fayetteville to sing with the Songstress women. What a good time! In January, when we last met, we had three guitarist to teach and four who were just learning to play and learning these songs, and twenty five singers to throw out ideas for songs and add harmonies.  This month we had four teachers and one beginning guitarist and four singers. That's all. The woman who was learning is really pretty good and could keep up on most songs. So we basically had a guitar fest and everyone had a ball playing the old songs together. I LOVED IT.
    Some people ask me why I drive all that way just to sing and play guitar with these women for two hours: it makes my heart sing and is healing in some way.  These are my people, we all know the same songs and we are all just chording along to folksy songs, not getting fancy. No one tries to show that they are better than anyone else and we all help the younger ones who are trying to get their hands and their minds around playing guitar for group singing.
         On our way back we stopped in Locust Grove to explore the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry.  We drove all over Giles County and back and took up lots of time getting there, only to discover we could have jumped off the turnpike right there in Grove if we had only known. *sigh* We did get to see how the other half lives, during that long drive through nowhere, and it wasn't pretty.

      I thought the museum (called ROMP) would be kind of like any other museum but it wasn't. This place is a little house off to the side of someone's regular home, separated by a line of trees. There was no one there, but the door was unlocked. There were also a couple of rooms off to the side that were available for poet retreats (or writers' retreats I guess), where you could stay.  There was a labyrinth that had seats in it where you could stop and write poems as they came to you while you were walking.  Apparently teachers bring bus loads of kids there as a field trip for the poetry section of class. There are pictures on the website if you doubt me.

      Inside the little museum there were poems everywhere: pinned to long hanging ribbons, pinned to tube socks that were hooked to the top half of a mannequin, written on the wall, taped to the door, written on old clothing patterns that hung and were draped over an antique sewing machine. There were shelves covered in little bottles of various sizes that were labeled with words like LOVE, WAR, MEMORIES, HOME, etc...and in the bottles were poems about those things. There was paper and pens sitting there and you could just sit and write and then put your poem in a jar with the others. I could totally see myself setting up something like that right here on the farm. I would love it and it would me a fun place for young poets and writers to come and become inspired.
    No one ever came and bothered us while we were there, although there were people working outside at the house next door. I would have gone over and visited with them but....I really had to pee and we had to leave sooner than we wanted to. I know, more information than you needed. Sorry.
 As we were driving out we noticed there was a place with several chairs set up around a fire pit, where you could sit in the evening for readings and sharing of ideas. What a fun idea. Whoever set it up loves poetry, that's for sure.
       Alice and her parents stopped by the farm today on their way back from the lake. We had a great visit and a good old farm-style lunch together (salmons patties, peas, pickled beets, and mashed potatoes) yum.  I love it when the kids come out to the farm, even for a little while. It brings the place to life. I'm hoping some of them can come out some during Spring Break next week. But for that to happen it needs to warm up a little bit. Today the wind is on a tear out of the north and is freezing!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Simple Gifts

 Look at this Lovely, one tiny yellow Crocus,
singing his sweet song to a perfect afternoon.
He isn't much, and yet he is everything to me;
He is the first flower of Springtime,
the bravest of the brave, the light after darkness,
a harbinger of hope, and the first of many.
I had used up all the birdseed money,
and, after all, the sharpest cold was past,
so I thought....
until the temps took a running jump
and tumbled down hill once more,
chased by a howling north wind,
dusted with snow and spread
with a glistening sheet of ice.
I bought more, of course, for these
are my little dears, who share
breakfast with me daily.
And look!..There in the driveway,
four plump Quail who have come for tea.
The wild cat has been chased away, again,
and once more these two are able to
sit peacefully in the sunlight, unafraid,
as I putter among the garden beds;
spraying, digging, checking for blooms,
inhaling the rich scent of warming earth.
I begin, as always, with slender green
onions pressed into soil and given a pat.

Daddy made bread!
Fresh, homemade bread,
and gave some to his favorite gals.
They sat themselves down,
with smiles all around,
and nibbled, and giggled, and
smiled at their man.
What a lucky bunch, all three!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Play by Play Repairs

       I have a list of things that need doing around here, and here's what I have discovered about the list:
If I never do any of the things, the list just gets longer and longer until it morphs into something terrifyingly overwhelming. It reached TO on Friday, so Marsha and I decided to begin. We were going to begin with the easy things, three easy things.
1.  Move the rod in the coat closet back an inch and a half, so the door wouldn't hit the coat sleeves and would shut properly. (Note: This should have been done correctly by the workmen a year ago.)
2.  Change the doorknob on my closet and replace it with a keypad lock (which we had already bought at Loews) so the guns would be under lock and key.....pad.
3.  Install the under-sink water purifier. (How hard could it be? We Googled it AND read the directions.)

We started with #3.
Got out the parts, read the directions, unhooked the water, added the new T, were putting together the plastic lines and discovered they had sent us the wrong sized plastic collar to go inside the nut, the ferril. I said I would go to the garage and look for one. This thing is the size of a premie's pinky ring so......
         A couple of hours later I came back in; dirty, sweating, and stinking of mouse.
Marsha: What in the world happened to you?
Me: I was taken prisoner by the 'garage cleaning monster'.  I have been organizing nuts and bolts, hinges, pulleys, spray paint cans, wrenches, screw drivers, washers, cotter pins, and paint rollers.  I fell hard into simplifying: throwing away mouse chewed tarps, broken tubs, the Squeezo machine, broken to bits birdhouse gourds, scratched up safety glasses, plastic tubes for protecting baby trees from winter weather, rusty drill bits, rusty ancient wrenches, cracked flower pots, useless debris (why was that still around?), and sweeping mouse poop off the work bench.  I also managed to hang two of the three bikes up on the wall with the new brackets.
M: Oh. Did you find the ferril?
Me: No. We don't have any....believe me, I looked into every bin, every little plastic drawer, every bucket holding all kinds of miscellaneous garage stuff, every pimiento jar, every pint jar full of screws, nails, tire stem caps, etc...We don't have any.
M:  Okay......Uh...what's the matter? You look sad.
Me: My dad gave me a cigar box from his garage, with some interesting garage stuff in it last year.  I love cigar boxes because they remind me of starting school when I was a kid.  We always got a new cigar box to keep our pencils and erasers in. He has probably had that cigar box for--ev--er. I broke it and had to throw it away.
M: Deb, you know you can get cigar boxes anywhere they sell cigars, right? New ones. Just get one and put the stuff from your dad's into it.
Me: He has had it for--ev--er, and I broke it after eight months. * sigh* .....I also went crazy cleaning the garage and now I have to drag all that stuff to the dumpster. But first I have to sit down and have a drink of water.
M: If he had had it forever, you didn't break it after eight months. You broke it after forever and eight months.
Me: Oh, yeah, I guess you're right. I also put washer fluid in your car.

#2  So we started in on the lock in the bathroom. (After dragging all the stuff to the dumpster.)
We read the directions and it sounded amazingly easy. I started in.
Aside:  I probably need to remind you that this is a modular home, meaning it was build somewhere in Texas (I know, right? What were we thinking? Sorry Amanda.) and driven up here on two trucks, and then spliced back together after being set onto the foundation and stem wall we had ready and waiting for it when it arrived. There are no wheels under it, for those of you thinking judgmental thoughts in my direction. Don't judge. Damn it, don't judge. Oklahoma doesn't pay their teachers anywhere near even the regional average and we NEVER got raises, no matter how awesome a job we did or what honors we were awarded. So don't judge.
     This was supposed to be cheaper than buying or building a new regular home.  It looked nice, which was good enough for us. And...most importantly....it didn't have any mice in it.
It doesn't have any mice in it now either. I consider that to be a major accomplishment. yes, there have been battles, but I have won them all.
     This is what I now know.  This house was cheaper to buy because every corner that could be cut in the making of it, was cut, except the floor joists, which are amazing. All the dimensions on everything are just a tad off the norm. That means that nothing you buy to repair anything with will fit...exactly. You have to wiggle, and finagle, and rout out everything. You have to always be improvising.  You can't hang curtains by the windows or new doors on the openings because the window and door openings are metal instead of wood, so it would remain steady and together while driving up I-35 from Dallas.  The curtains always have to be hung too high and therefore are too short. The guy putting in the new door will always get sooooo frustrated at you and the stupid steel door sill that he will literally lose his religion and have to make three trips back to town for more bits and a bigger something or other so pound them in with.  You will hear some first class cursing. I'm sure my name is on some list there and that if I ever try to buy a door again, I will be refused service and escorted to the door.
     The inside doors are toy doors, meaning a skin of pretend wood filled with Styrofoam and the holes cut for the door handles and the jam plates are just a little bit too small for standard knobs and locks. So I tried to get the lock to work on the door for about an hour and twenty minutes and then put it back into the box and put the old handle back on the door. Anyone need a key-pad lock for a door? Because I have one you are welcome to have.

We gave up, made supper and watched the figure skating Gala and some awesome four-man bobsled runs from the Olympics.  We also watched a great movie called "A Family Thing", starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones. It's not an action movie, just a really good movie.

    That was yesterday. Today we both went to church, at different churches. ( We needed church, believe me). M was the substitute minister at one church and I went back to sing with my buddies at New Hope. It's Lent, so ....if you know anything about Lent, and you know anything about my personal spiritual journey lately, you will know that this is not my favorite time to be in a traditional Christian church. Oh well. I like to sing and I missed seeing all my new warm and friendly friends, so I went and sang and got to tell my 'falling out of the attic' story and got lots of sympathy and lots of very gentle hugs.
       After church we went out to eat with a bunch of those friends and I happened to see Mr. Angle, who used to teach French and Art at Pi Hi, when my kids were there. We're good friends. He hadn't heard my 'falling out of the attic' story, so he gave me the traditional 'good friend hearty hug.'
Ouch. I tried not to scream out loud.  I may have screamed inside and maybe whimpered a teensy bit, but I'm okay now. Some hugs cost you something, but are worth it. He said to tell you kids Hi. He was wearing a nice suit and an Elephant tie, which I thought was perfect for him, considering his time in Africa.
      We went to Loews to get the part we needed....and I also bought a sump pump to do the pond work every year, and some more hanging brackets for the garage, and a part for the closet rod moving job.
      We came home and got started on the closet job. While trying to get the rod out, we managed to rip one of the side boards to smithereens. Typical. I headed to the garage to find a 1 X 4 board we could use to fix it.  Nothing. Nothing south of the garage in the wooden picket pile either. Nothing in the cattle trailer either. But in the old chicken house I hit pay dirt, big time.  There, beneath all the dust and rat droppings, the nesting boxes, the old pieces of siding, the oddly notched out sheets of left-over plywood, the random strips of galvanized tin siding, we found the broken Adirondack chair, made of 1 X 4 lumber and begging to be brought into the house and put to good use.  I thought of Danny, always wanting to make use of everything, and took two pieces to the garage, measured, sawed, and sanded them down and took one inside. We put it up, attached the new hanging brackets and VOILA! Closet fixed. Coats hung up. #1 accomplished.
      I also happened to find a 8 ft. piece of 1 X 12 that I am going to use to make a second shelf in the laundry, using those big brackets I found in some random bucket in the garage, along with 3 pulleys, some C clamps, a short piece of garden hose, a baby chicken quart jar feeder, one right hand glove, and a 1/2 " wrench.  Needless to say, there is still a lot of work to be done in the garage, but you should see the peg-board. It is looking super organized. I think it will take a few more trips to the dumpster, a lot of sweeping, and getting Cody to clean out the chicken house so we can move the gardening and chicken stuff in there before it really comes together.
    Tomorrow we take another stab at the water purifier under the sink. I have a good feeling about this.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Golden Cord of Connection

       Our family is....what's the phrase?...touchy-feely. Yep.
We do a lot of hugging. My mom was a great hugger (and a champion patter), my Danny was a world champion hugger, he wrapped everyone up in those strong arms and pulled you close. At one point in his teaching (high school sciences) the principal told him he needed to stop hugging his students because they might misinterpret his hugs. He asked the students about it and they marched right down to the Principal's office in protest and explained how important his hugs were to them. In many cases, they said, they were the only hugs they ever received. The principal relented but said Danny had to ask the student for permission, each time. He did. They never refused.

In pictures we almost always have arms slung around shoulders, hands resting on younger chests, arms, legs, or faces touching. Everyone touching someone, like a cord of connection between us. We like to do it, we almost need to do it; it captures on film the message that "we are family, we belong together, we take care of each other, these are my people".
        Had you heard that hugging/holding someone close for a mere twenty seconds is enough to trigger the release of endorphins, the 'happiness hormones'? 'Tis true, 20 short seconds. Several of the world's religions have strict rules against any type of skin on skin touching and you know there is a reason, right?
     Skin on skin makes you happy, calms your fears, eases tension. (Coincidentally, in those religions they seem to focus on making their adherents extremely conscious of how far they fall from the mark of perfection. You know: GUILT, UNWORTHINESS, SHAME! The triple axle of evil and soul crushing.)
    Yeah, yeah, that's bunk. Happiness is fantastic and we all know it. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something (usually their own personal power advantage).
       But, I digress into a rant about religion. This is not about that. Okay, I'm climbing down off the soapbox. I am being very careful so as not fall down these two short steps.
         Some families are not touchers.  When I see that happening, I am at first perplexed and then intrigued by the near total lack of human contact.  I understand that there are certain types of people who honestly don't like being touched.  Hmmm....okay, I'm sure there are reasons, more than a couple, probably.
         (Do I need to bring up those poor babies in the orphanages who received no holding, no rocking, no singing, no human touch at all and failed to thrive, failed to meet milestones and develop as they should? We all know the stories.)

       I have a friend whose mother refused to hold her for the entire first year of her life because she had lost one baby and couldn't bear to bond with another one and lose that one as well. This tiny little girl did have a father who came home from work every night and picked her up and loved her into wholeness and belonging, thank everything that is Holy. Blessings on his head.
        But here is what I started out thinking about on this particular blog:
What about holding hands? (As opposed to hugs and closeness.) Isn't this a great picture of Brent and his kiddos? I love it.
      When I was young, little girls and boys went around holding hands with each other all the time. We were friends, we held hands, we liked each other.  I have seen pictures of teenage women in the generation before mine, holding hands as well, but not today.
     By the time I was in middle school (aka Jr. High), we weren't holding hands with anyone anymore.  If you held hands with a boy, you were 'going out' with him, even if you weren't).  If a girl held hands with a girl you would be opening yourself up to taunts of being queer or a Fag. (And God help you if you actually were attracted to your same gender. In the sixties you kept your secrets.) We do not do what we wish to do, because someone, anyone, everyone might misinterpret a touch, a look, a hug, the holding of a hand.

      At this time in my life, I happen to be in that unfortunate social age group made up of women who have lost their husbands and are trying to pull up out of the abyss and walk on through their lives, rediscovering who they are as women alone, not as a couple with a man.  It isn't pretty.  We regularly reach out and take each other's hands, rest a hand across a forearm, pull each other into understanding hugs, give kisses on the cheek, reassure with pats and words. We are starved for human touch, because the only one who touched us, skin to skin, is now dead.

     Grasping is a reflex we are born with. It is important to the survival of the very young. You need to stay close to Mom. I love this picture (above) of tiny little baby Zane holding onto Danny's finger.
     I know, as a parent, the sweet intensity of love that pours through an adult when they hold their hand down, often without even looking, and a tiny little hand reaches up and takes hold. "I'm here, are you there?...Yes, I'm here."
           When walking beside a small child, the adult has to gear their pace way down, slow down to barely moving sometimes, which is fine with them most of the time, because they know that little one is counting on them for balance and support. It makes you feel needed, it reassures you that you are important to the life of this young one. That is a great honor and a great responsibility, which we gladly embrace.

    We teach our kids to do this all the time: stay with your buddy, hold their hand, pay attention, keep them safe, they need you, you are the big kid now.
     Children need to be needed. They need actual jobs and responsibilities. This is Ro, helping Alice walk to the house over rough ground; a real responsibility.
  And here is Zane, walking with baby Thatcher, learning how to gear down to the speed of a toddler, putting his own fast pace aside, for the sake of his little brother, who adores him.

     And here is Bailey, with a dimple in her chin, out for a walk in the morning air with her beautiful mother, both of them loving the feel of their hands clasped together.
      Why do we let this go? Oh sure, husbands and wives sometimes hold hands, lovers hold hands, we hold hands with people when they are in the hospital or are unsteady on their feet.
     When our extended family gets together to share a meal and a holiday, we hold hands in a circle and someone offers some words of thanks for the food and for family. All of us have our own personal spiritual beliefs and they are widely varied, but we take hands together, all of us thankful for each other and the love and history that connects us, regardless of our differences.
We hold on to those who have walked with us through the small victories, like learning to jump between hay bales, and through the large victories, like making it to the top of Half-Dome...together.


         We hold hands when we pray with strangers at meetings, or with friends at church, and even if we aren't praying with them, we are standing with them, touching palms, connecting hearts; we are WITH them in our caring. That is huge. That is enough.


We hold hands with the very old, when it finally dawns on us that we have a limited time left in which to touch them, when they so need our touch and our support through that last, long, painful leg of the journey. This is us taking our turn, holding the hands that held us when we were very small.
           I remember walking through my mother's gardens, the Spring before she died, holding hands and listening to her tell me about her Iris and Lilies. She knew her time was nearly gone, and told me she was dying. I didn't believe her, because she seemed so alive in that moment.
      But, as for knowing the time, we don't know how long we have left with anyone.  Accidents can happen, shootings can happen, cars can slide on the ice and snuff out a life in no time, people fall out of attics now and then and crash onto the cement. We are not assured a lifetime in which to enjoy our loved ones. We have this day, to fill with love.
   Off you go then. Shower the people you love, or like, or are fond of, or admire, with love.