Category: Life

Have You Met My Son, Black+Decker?

I am dirty. Like, literally. I am covered in dirt and leaves and twigs and sweat. My deodorant gave out about 30 minutes ago, and i just pulled a little spider out of my hair. All that, not including a couple minor injuries… And i feel wonderful.

The first warm day in ages. Granted, in a couple of months, this will be considered cold; but after weeks of hard freeze and some snow, my son and i are both in short sleeves and bare feet as we revel in the sunny outdoors. (Well, truthfully, i’ve been reveling for a few hours. My son only came out when i finished my part and gave him no choice but to do his.) Because it is almost time for the palmettos to come out of their winter hiding, i took the opportunity to get all their food – the aforementioned leaves and twigs – raked and blown to the curb. Of course, this is at least the 6th time i’ve done that this season. Hopefully it will be the last. I have far too many deciduous trees in my yard, including one hickory whose nuts are the bane of my existence, but i am loath to cut them down. Trees are so majestic and mistreated that i can’t bring myself to take them out just because i am too lazy to deal with the leaves (and nuts.)

The nuts… Good Lord… If there isn’t a chipmunk city in my yard, i can’t imagine why. That tree produces enough in a year to make nut condos for every small, furry mammal in the neighborhood. In the summer, i find them half buried in my planters where they are being squirreled away for winter. And stepping on them is almost as bad as a Lego. But this time of year…. Oy…. Strewn about the side yard, it’s a bit like a roller skating rink, except the wheels are on the ground instead of your footwear. Twice today i did the cartoon can-can when they caused me to lose my footing. Legs and arms in all different directions, once being “saved” by body-slamming the shed, and once by falling forward into what was meant to be a push-up, but became more of a belly flop.

Then there is the little matter of bushes and corners. These are, of course, the explanation for the dirt in my eyes, the twigs in my hair, and the leaf mold setting up like cement in my nostrils. I know my life would be easier if i’d just rake or pull the leaves out from the corners and that little strip between the bushes and the house… but that seems a step backward from the leaf blower. I keep telling myself that i am smart enough at math to find just the trajectory to aim the air stream where the leaves will shoot out from the corner in a perfect arc and land in a neat pile away from the house.

I am, apparently, not that smart.

Instead, about a quarter of the leaves blow away from the house, a quarter blow at me, and the other half ends up, inexplicably, back up against the wall behind me. It was one of these frustrating moments that gave me my first ego-blow of the day. Backed up against the drain, battling a whirlwind of yard flotsam,  i look up and see my neighbor laughing at me thru his window. I wanted to yell something snarky, but i couldn’t open my mouth without choking on flying ivy. Instead, i shot him a “Come on! Cut me some slack!” face, and he mouthed a chuckling apology before ducking out of sight.

At the last leg of my chore, i see the mail man drive up to the post box next door. This caught my attention because, as Vernon Dursley says, “There is no post on Sundays.” Now, in my head, i know being distracted while using yard tools is a no-no, but the sight of the mail truck didn’t distract me quite enough to make me stop and turn off the leaf blower. Instead, i kept on blowing and slowly moving backwards while my eyes stayed glued to the truck and my mind wandered.

Right about the time i figured it must be an overnight delivery, my heel caught on a wayward weedbush. As i went ass-over-teakettle, something in my wonky brain made me hang onto the leaf blower like it was a newborn baby. And when i landed with a thud in the damp earth, the damned thing was still cradled to my chest, with its hard plastic snuffle extension perfectly positioned between my face and the ground, motor whirring in my ear as if it were Peewee Herman screeching sweet nothings. I sat up just in time to see the mailman, having turned around in the cul-de-sac, staring at me from the road, a look of horror on his face.

At first i thought the look was because he was worried i was hurt. Then i realized my t-shirt was clear up to my armpit on one side, as if i were nursing my leaf blowing baby.

I turned the machine off, threw the postman a little salute, pulled my shirt down, and told my son it was his turn.

So now he is finishing the last quarter of the chore. I am on the porch, still barefoot, enjoying a cold drink and hoping against hope that i can move my arms tomorrow and wondering how long it will take to get all the dirt out of my nose. The polish i put on my fingernails yesterday is a little worse for wear. I can feel the layer of grime on my skin. My eyes and head are already aching because i didn’t take an allergy pill first. And i can feel that i have leaves in places i shouldn’t.

But the sun is still up. It is still warm. The yard is looking better. I just found out that i burned about 700 calories. All my other chores are done.  And, since i started my day making a wonderful vegan ragu, i have a great meal coming up in about an hour.  I feel accomplished and content.

So yes, i am dirty and sore and a little bit battered. I lost a bit of my dignity to the neighbor and the postman. And i will be looking for more spiders in my hair all night. But those things pale in comparison to all the good i get from working outdoors. There is no anti-depressant like a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter. There is no chore as fulfilling as ones that get dirt under your fingernails. And there is no sleep as deep as the kind you get after a day of yard work.

Tomorrow may be a bitch of a Monday, but today was glorious.



Distinctive Similarity

Sitting on the front porch, cup of Lapsang Souchong, messaging a Brit friend of mine, and watching the remnants of Nate pass thru… Siri had been at my side, but then she saw a chipmunk and took off. I messaged this to my Brit friend, and then i got to thinking. A few Google clicks later, i discover that there are no chipmunks in England. Seriously. Zero. But i’ll bet they still have rodents that dig up the bulbs in their garden. He bet that his cats, familiar with chipmunks or not, would chase and eat one.

They don’t have groundhogs in the U.K. either.  But i’m sure they have some other kind of cute-but-destructive whistle pig.

I have friends in Australia… If i went there and saw a Tasmanian Devil, i’d be awed, even tho we have our own version of the “Trash Panda”, the American Raccoon.

I suppose it is natural to assume that all places and people are both the same and different. Parents work, kids learn, and politicians make rules that they don’t follow. But not all parents work an eight hour day and come home for supper. Not all children get to go to school. Not all politicians are criminals. All cultures have music, but each has it’s own melodic sound. We all eat bread, but indigenous grains make it taste different in different cultures. And we all tolerate idiots, regardless of what language we speak. Same in principle, different in detail.

Let me tell you a story:

During the Gulf War, i spent time in the Middle East. Even having a full schedule with my Navy duties, i still occasionally had time to explore. For example, a friend and i had heard about this great hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant on the edge of the city where we were temporarily stationed, and ventured out one night to go there. Now, the city wasn’t a large place, but somehow we still got lost. We ended up in an outskirt neighborhood after dark, and one of the local kids came over to us.

“My mom says this isn’t a good place for you to be. Why are you here?”

“We were looking for a place to eat that we heard was very good, but we got lost.”

He runs to his mom and tells her. She motions us over. She is stirring a big pot over a fire in what could essentially be considered a dirt floor garage. There are other women around her, and a whole mess of kids running around playing. Thru her son, who is maybe 8 or 9, she tells us we were nowhere near where we were headed, will never get to the restaurant on time and were welcome to eat with them instead.

We take her up on her hospitality. Some of the kids stick close by to translate. I ask about her recipes, her husband, her family. She asks about our children and what it is like to be a woman in the military. Someone starts playing music… Unfamiliar to me, but upbeat and pop-ish. Periodically, a young weedling will come tug at skirts. I can’t understand the words per se, but i’m sure it is something like, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!” Sometimes, after this, i see Mom’s eyes roll, and then she looks at me and laughs. She knows i know what it’s like.

We shared a delicious, if humble, meal of lentils and flatbread. More talking and laughing and friendship afterwards because, tho of different backgrounds, the concepts of “Family” and “Meal” are universal. Tho literally on the other side of the globe, as women, as mothers, we are sisters.

As we got up to leave, we handed the woman money. She vehemently refused. Her son let us know that she would not take money from our children’s mouths. Hospitality was part of their culture, and the exchange of money wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t til we explained that we had been given this stipend by our government specifically for eating, and that it was not taking anything from our family, that she relented. We reasoned that our experience that evening was something every government should encourage. And then we laughed and hugged, and her son gave us directions back to our hotel.

I relay this story because even tho from two different worlds, the woman and i were the same. Different language, culture, lifestyle… Everything that, on first glance, would make you think we had nothing in common. And yet, we were both “Mom”, both curious, both building a bridge with a total stranger. Our children were dressed differently, would be educated in a completely different way, and certainly had different opportunities… But our kids were all loved, raised, and taught to be kind. She had likely never seen a chipmunk, and i have never seen a jerboa, but we both know a rodent when we see one.

Differently the same. Similarly different. All of us. Everywhere. We all have blessings. We all have problems. We all know friends and family and music. We all know bills and illness and assholes. We all seek the pleasure in little things. We all seek the occasional epic event. We all cope with politicians. We all deal with rodents.

But maybe those last two are the same thing.

Not Everyone Needs a Goatherd

When did dating cease to become a thing?

It seems like, nowadays, if you go on two dates with someone, you are expected to be linked as an item. Why aren’t people allowed to take their time and investigate their options anymore? It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a couple things off the menu, and then being expected to declare that it’s the best restaurant in the world and you only want to eat there from now on.

I don’t think so.

And i am speaking from experience.

I think that is part of why divorce has become so prevalent – We commit before we are truly certain that, out of all the people on the planet, this is the one we want forever. I always thought that Nantucket was the most beautiful island ever… Until i started traveling and seeing other islands. Nantucket is beautiful, but so are Sicily, St John, St George….

Which brings me to point two. As much as i’ve traveled, i still can’t tell you what the most beautiful island in the world is. There are too many i haven’t seen to authoritatively make that choice. And honestly, i don’t see why i have to make a choice at all.

To those of you who have found your soulmates and work hard to make and keep a good marriage, i applaud you. I know how hard it is. And i know the payoff when it works (Contrary to the jokes i make, i had some beautiful experiences as a married woman that i wouldn’t trade for anything.) I just don’t believe that all of us are destined for that same level of connectedness.

For some reason, we feel that we MUST get married. Why? What if you are a baker in Newark, and your soul mate is goat herder in Mongolia? Are you supposed to settle for the “next best” so you can fulfill the American expectation before you die, since the likelihood of you and the goatherd meeting is on par with Donald Trump being named Miss Mexico?

It has been many generations since our species was in need of propagation. There is no longer a reason to push for people to settle down and pop out babies for the good of their nation.

We no longer live in type of world where we need marriages between ruling families to bring nations together.

And, at least in our country, it is no longer impossible for a woman to support herself without the help of a husband.

This means that the selection of a permanent mate, the producing of progeny, the joining of houses… These are choices. And not bad ones. But also not required ones. When the time is right for you, go ahead and make it. I will be happy for you. I do, tho, hope that the choice isn’t made after date two. I hope the choice isn’t made out of false expectation. I hope the choice isn’t made before you meet your goatherd.

And to that end,  i hope that we will stop berating those who are still on the lookout. Stop shaming those who can’t choose between spaghetti, pad thai, or poutine. Stop patronizing those who haven’t found their soulmate. Not everyone has the same destiny. Not everyone has the same options. Hell, not everyone gets the same menu. So let them be.

Those of us with curious minds and curious, well, everything, could very likely leave this world unmarried. And most of us aren’t sad about it. Or, at least not most of the time. Those of us who value our solitude realize that we may never find someone who can accommodate that need full-time. And those of us who feel like the human equivalent of a ceramic chicken, with its beak chipped off, paint peeling, sitting on a battered shelf in a little-visited second-hand shop, understand that there might never be a day when someone lifts us up, looks underneath, and discovers that we are actually a signed Michelangelo. And even if they did, they still may not want to claim us as their own.

So let us be. Let us travel to more of the islands. Let us visit some new restaurants and order different things from the menu. You enjoy your goatherd with our congratulations. And be ok with us living our lives without one.

Southern Summers and Sky Raisins

I know there are people who love summer. I used to be one of them. But as i’ve gotten older, my tolerance for the unrelenting heat has reached as close to zero as it can get without me being forced to never leave the house.  It doesn’t help that i live someplace that routinely exceeds every record high i ever experienced where i grew up. As early as May Day, we are hitting weather here that would be a mid-summer beach day back home.

Granted, winters here are milder. We usually get one snow a year that exceeds a couple inches. Nothing remotely blizzard-like, and rarely does it last more than a few days. I haven’t needed a proper pair of snow boots in decades, and the crocus are popping up before the asters are even dead. But i’d gladly give that up to not have to worry about boob sweat on Easter.

The heat leaves me, and many others, rather lazy during the day. As beautiful as the sunshine is, most of us have no desire to do yard work, go out on the town, hike the hills, or even walk the dog when it’s 90-100 degrees. Instead, we sit on the couch, wishing it were cooler, and watching the pooch catch the one sky raisin that always manages to get in the house. You don’t have to get bored. There are always chores to do, crafts, books…. But it seems like such a waste during the time of year generally reserved for vacations and cook-outs.

Once the sun goes down, it is easier to venture out. Of course, we’ve had a particularly rainy season as of late, so before you go out, you must bathe in bug spray. The mosquitos are vicious, and they travel in gangs that are larger and more bloodthirsty than any in the movies. Forget the DEET or Off! and you could quite possibly need a transfusion. Or at least a Benadryl and a steel wool scratching post doused in Lidocaine. But don’t let that ruin your love life. Go on the date, walk our beautiful downtown, and remember that woody / citrus fragrances like Chanel No 19 are the best compliments to L’eau d’Insect Repellent.

Lest i sound like an unreasonably sour woman, there is one upside to southern summers – At night, i can crack my window and listen to the music of the night. In the winter, i have to pay for the symphony of cicadas, tree frogs, and owls that lulls me to sleep. This time of year, it pipes in my windows for free, along with the frequent sound of rain and thunder passing thru. Your whole soul is soothed by the sound of a southern summer night. No app of music stream comes close. It is unparalleled in its aural beauty and majesty. And it almost makes the heat worth it.

Anyway, it’s back to my puzzle for now. I might even start a new painting. And i’ve a book waiting by my chaise.  But first, i will open the door and poke my head out onto the steaming porch – If for no other reason than to let in another sky raisin for SiriDog.

Hey. she needs entertainment, too.


Let Us Eat Cake

I just took a cake out of the oven.  It smells like heaven (Assuming heaven is a bakery…. Which isn’t a bad assumption…) It’s a bit of an experiment, this cake – A plain vanilla cake mix, adulterated with mango and coconut water. I have plans for a coconut icing on the top. My mouth is watering at the scent of it. It smells like celebration. Like party. Like happy. And it begs the question, “What’s the occasion?”

I have a number of answers i can give to that question.

I’ve been on my back most of the week with a wonky neck. Today i managed to spend most of the day on my feet without a painkiller. That is worth celebrating.

I have young family members and important friends who have graduated this week. That is worth celebrating.

My son did great on his (Freshman year of high school) report card, and my oldest, the florist, pulled off the flowers for a wedding on a very limited budget – And still made them look rich and gorgeous. Those are both things worth celebrating.

It is Pride Month. Everyone who is gay (or just  “not straight”) is celebrating the gradual obliteration of closets.

It is Ramadan. My Muslim friends are celebrating their holiest of months.

I went to the store today with no makeup on. (That is HUGE for me – and worth at least a small “You go, Girl!”)

In spite of steroids, i only consumed one “normal” portion of ice cream today.

In spite of 5 days of steroids, and many obscene portions of ice cream, i have not ballooned.

It’s Robert Fulghum’s birthday.

My oldest is coming over to have dinner with me tonight.

On this day in 1919, congress passed the 19th amendment.

Betty White is still alive and kickin’.

I would like to say that i managed to make a bundt cake that came out of the pan totally in tact. That would truly be a monumental feat and worthy of celebration. But it has never happened. For anyone. Ever.

Regardless of the evil of bundt, give me some time and i could come up with lots of other things worth celebrating. But the truth is, sometimes the cake itself is the occasion. Sometimes you just have to celebrate living . The sounds of birds in the morning. The smell of roses after a rain. The perfect cup of coffee.  The joy of baby goats. Or puppies. Or kittens. The feeling of accomplishment when every towel in the house is clean and folded and in its proper place. It’s just life. Nothing special. And yet, special enough.

Special enough for cake.

Come, friends… Celebrate with me.


Looking Out On The Morning Rain

In my quest to eliminate extraneous chemicals from my life over the years, i have tried more than my share of “natural” products. I was less than thrilled with most of the results. Lately, tho, there have been a slew of advances in natural products, brought to us by advances in science. Go figure. As the scientific community bridges more and more of the gaps between the old arts and the newer needs and discoveries, natural products improve tenfold. Because of that, i have found some things that truly work, and still fulfill my quest to not unnecessarily poison myself, my children, or the environment.

To note: I phrase it that way because there are certain harmful chemicals, some strong medications, for example, that are sometimes necessary to correct problems. And i have yet to find a natural remedy that does indeed keep bugs out of the house – And i promise you, i have tried them all. (Please don’t bother to suggest that i learn to live with the bugs and share my space. Not gonna happen.) But other than that, i have been able to eliminate quite a few known culprits in the toxic wars.

First off, i do make some of my own stuff. I have a balm that i make of cocoa butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, evening primrose oil, glycerine, vegetable wax, and essential oils… And i use it on EVERYTHING – It goes on my skin, on my lips, in my hair (It makes a great pomade). I make sugar scrubs. And i make my own perfumes. But there are some things that i don’t make, for various reasons: Cost, time, availability of ingredients, etc. And i wanted to share some of the products i’ve found with you.

One of the easiest switches i have made is from liquid to solid shampoo and conditioner. I had tried many types over the years, but i had never been satisfied. Most are soap based, which leaves a bit of a film. You can wash it off with vinegar if you wish, but that’s kind of a pain in the bum to me. And because i have terribly coarse hair, leaving a coating on it just makes it even more wiry. So tho it left my hair clean and smelling good, it wasn’t an option for me. Then i did a little research and found a solid shampoo that is made with a mild, environmentally safe, synthetic detergent. No, it isn’t truly natural, but thru science, it gives me the low-residue clean i desire without harming the environment. (If you dye your hair, SYNDET is safe for color-treated hair.)  Most solid shampoos and conditioners also come with minimal and/or recycled packaging, which is a plus. And it is easy to use: Wet your hair, run the bar over your hair three times or so, and rinse. The conditioner goes on similar, except it doesn’t lather. It is just a mix of more soluble oils that leaves my hair soft. (Side note: The conditioner bar also doubles as a shaving bar in a pinch.) If you travel a lot, this will save you space in your allowed liquids for air travel, and no more worrying about bottles leaking in luggage. The ones i have found that work great for me are from Scenter Square. I’m in love with the Dragon’s Blood scent, but she has many that are less gypsy and more mainstream. Give it a shot.

Next on the list: Natural deodorant. First off, to attempt making this change means to accept the fact that humans sweat. (I admit, i’m still getting used to that concept.) This is because, tho there are some who still argue the research, it does appear that aluminum is a likely contributor to many diseases, including cancer, (Since my mother died of breast cancer when she was my age, this hits especially close to home for me,) and aluminum compounds are the active ingredient in antiperspirants. That being said, it doesn’t mean we have to stink. I had tried all kinds of different natural deodorants in the past: The crystal sticks, the baking soda sticks, the clay sticks, the witch hazel sprays… I even tried making my own at one point. All of them were a bust. I smelled like a 19th century bear trapper by noon. The one that finally worked for me, i’m a bit miffed to admit, came to my attention thru an ad on Facebook. I forget what it was about the ad that made me look, but i did. And the concept piqued my interest. It contains Acidophilus. Yup, yogurt culture. Good bacteria to eat the bad, stinky bacteria. Now, it advertises 24 hour protection. Not on me. But at least i’m not stinky, except up close, in the morning if i don’t reapply. Of course, everyone’s body chemistry is different, so i can’t guarantee that what works for me will work for you. But the one that is working for me is Native Deodorant .

Something that i did learn about transitioning to natural deodorant that might be helpful… Before your first use of a non-antiperspirant, use a sugar scrub on your pits. It helps unclog all the skin and glands and makes the transition go faster. It still takes a few days for your body to get used to sweating again, and then it kind of learns to deal with it, and you don’t sweat quite as much.  I have also noticed that when i don’t drink enough water, my sweat smells stronger and the deodorant is a bit less effective (Makes sense when you think about it.) An extra perk: Even tho i sweat, my clothes don’t stain. This is because the staining culprits aren’t actually your sweat, they are the chemicals in your pit stick. Anyway, if you are trying to reduce your absorption of aluminum, give it a shot.

Next: Makeup. Yes, we women should be comfortable without it. Yes, all artifice has its price. But i do enjoy coloring myself up a bit, even if it isn’t to the Cyndi Lauper / Boy George heights of my youth. And while it is true that there are a number of natural makeup companies out there now, there is one that i am partial to because they actually customize colors as well as having an extravagant choice of ready-mades.  Elea Blake is a cosmetics company that is truly unique and a whole lot of fun. If you enjoy color and color theory, this is heaven. That perfect shade of red lipstick that you have been searching for? I promise you, you will find it here. They even have these cool lip (and eye and cheek) drape kits where you can test different tones of the same color to see which spectrum you fall under.  But my favorite part of their products is the versatility. All of the powders (Which are talc free) are made to the same standards, so they can be used anywhere on your face. And you can mix them together to create your own colors. (You can tell a true EleaBlake fan by the fact that we all have small mirrors on our makeup tables that look disturbingly like something you’d find at a coke party, but are actually for blending bits of color for the distinctive look of the day.) I have even added some of the powders to my homemade balm to add sparkle to my hair or skin. And those of my sisters who have skin colors that rarely show up at the department store? I promise you, EleaBlake has your color. And if they don’t, they will make it. Just for you. And you will be surprised how affordable it is, especially considering that, because their powders are pure minerals, they never go bad. Oh, and one more thing about this brand…

If you ever didn’t believe that the beauty industry ignores us seasoned women, try finding an eyebrow color for someone with grey or white hair. You might as well look for a chicken that speaks Greek. But there is one company who has a color that matches. I don’t care if your hair is the color of chrome, or the pale strawberry of a baby Viking, they either have it or will happily make it. And it makes a huge difference.

Soaps, scrubs, lotions… I am a sucker for good bath products. There are lots of great local companies who make these things. And if you have one local that suits you, i urge you to bring them your business. If you don’t have one local, i will suggest my friends at Divine Purity . Cassandra makes some lavish products with care and love that are free from toxins. And she’s a wonderful and inspirational person to boot. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, small businesses like hers are important, politically, socially, and karmically. Purchase from them when you can.

Some final thoughts:  If you have ever tried to make your own toiletries, etc, you know that ingredients aren’t cheap, so very often, these natural products are more expensive than the mass-produced stuff you get at the superstore. And believe me, for budget reasons, i still buy a lot at “regular” stores. Ok, some of it is for vanity, too…. I mean, what if this really IS the miracle cream that will take all my wrinkles away??? And if that is the case with you as well, that is ok. No one is a perfect eco-consumer. At least no one with a normal income and/or the usual unreasonable beauty hopes. But do what you can. Every little bit makes a difference.

I have many more moves to make in my quest to find products that help me make peace with my own wellness and the wellness of my environment. (My next foray will be with Dropps , a company that makes eco-friendly laundry and dishwasher detergent pods. If you have tried them, please let me know what you thought!) But i feel like i am on my way, and every little bit helps. Reusing bottles, cleaning mostly with vinegar mixes, buying locals meats and produce… Each a step on the road towards clean living. And all these little steps, they make me feel…. They make me feel… They make me feel like a nat-u-ral wooomannnnnn…..

Going the Right Way for a Smart Bottom

I remember once, a long time ago, when i had made a colossal mistake and my family was worried that i had blown my future, my grandmother looked me beyond-angrily in the eye and said, “For a smart girl, you did a really stupid thing!” Then she took a few moments to compose herself and said, “Now, what are we going to do to make it right?”

It wasn’t the first time i had heard a riff on the “How can someone so smart do something so stupid??” bit. I was  a smart kid, but i didn’t always make the best choices. I’d get caught up in a moment or a thought, and next thing i knew, i’d be getting the “What were you thinking???” speech from family or friends. Or, most often, from myself. And i rarely had a good response. I could tell myself that i got goaded into it, that i didn’t really have a choice, that it wasn’t my fault… But most of the time, it was one of those “It seemed like a good idea at the time” kind of things. Yes, that would include the time i read an article about the acidity of strawberries being good for stains… And came up with the brilliant idea to brush my teeth with them.

They were pink for days. I looked like some kind of dental albino.

And there have been times when i made mistakes that, in all fairness, should have done me in.  Or at least sent me to a penalty box in the 8th circle of hell or something. These mistakes are ones i should have known better than to try. The things people warn you about, and you do anyway. And no, i’m not talking about my marriages. (Well, not most of them anyway.)  I’m talking about things that harm ourselves and others. Drugs and alcohol. Self neglect and abuse. Lies to loved ones. Those mistakes really hurt. And as much as i wished for a Zamboni to come along and smooth the surface,  the only way to right the wrong was to take my punishment and use it as a ladder to help me climb out of the self-made hell hole.

Mind you, i’ve dug many more of those holes than i care to admit. And i finally grew so tired of climbing ladders that i learned to stop digging holes. (Well, i try, anyway.) (I get points for trying, right?)


Life is a set of cabinets from Ikea. And it doesn’t come with an instruction book. So you do your best to put things together in the right order, facing the right direction, with the right screws. Sometimes, you make a little mistake, and you have to remove the shelf you just attached because it’s upside down. You get frustrated, you bang the screwdriver on the counter, and you curse all of Sweden… But you unscrew the board, fix it and move on.

Sometimes,  you think you’re doing a decent job until you’re halfway thru and you realize you have already used up all the “A” screws, and the “B” screws don’t fit. This takes longer to fix because now you have to search in the bottom of your toolbag, as if searching for the last french fry, to find a few more screws of the correct size. But you do it, even if it means going to the hardware store to buy more, because you’ve got so much time and money invested now. You might as well.

But the worst is when you are nearly finished and you realize that you built the whole damned thing backwards and upside down. It is easy to want to give up, throw it to the curb, and let the scavengers have it. But if you do, all the effort is wasted. So take a moment, shake off the anger and disappointment, refocus and begin again. It may take more screws, some duct tape, and a whole lot of wood putty; but you can fix it. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t give up. You put in the effort to make it right. It might always be a little wonky in that back left corner, but you did it. You finished it. You made it work.  And you’ve learned your lesson: From now on, no more cabinet kits from Ikea.

My point is, we all make mistakes. Silly little ones and big bad ones. We can’t help it. We humans, we are smart… But sometimes we do really stupid things. It’s part of life. In the end, all we can do is try our best to correct what we can and learn from the experience. Turn them into ladders. And forgive. Forgive both others and ourselves for screwing up.  For making mistakes. For being human.


I Wanna Be a Starfish

We learned it in some of our first science classes as kids… If a starfish loses a leg, it can regrow a new one. Lizards can grow new tails. Some worms and the often-spoken-about-but-rarely-seen sea cucumber, if you cut them into pieces, each piece becomes a new animal. Regeneration after amputation. Amazing stuff. Scientists have been studying forever in an attempt to put this information to medical use. There have been some successes, but there are still things that, once removed, never return. But not for lack of trying.

As humans, we regenerate constantly. Skin, hair, nails. blood… All constantly regrowing and replenishing themselves. The bigger body parts that we can’t regrow yet, those we can replace with transplants and prosthetics.  In one way or another, they heal. In a similar vein, the loss of face and erosion of confidence from the occasional foot-in-mouth, undone zipper, or escaped flatulence… That kind of wound to our metaphysical limbs will heal in short order. And usually with only the slightest scar.

But there are times in life where circumstances, events, or the words or actions of others cut the limb of our soul clean off. Our spirit legs taken clean out from under us, we lose propulsion and become stuck… dead in the water. Most of the time, if we wait it out, whatever aspect of our soul was cut, it will regrow. It is painful. It is difficult. But it is worth it. The regeneration process, for all its visceral discomfort, is quite simple: God/Goddess/Universe provides the first cells by surrounding us with opportunities for growth. The food of encouragement comes along and we are on our way to repair. Even if the push is small and we start out at a slow pace, we will move again. The post-amputation stumps of spirit, of confidence, of clarity… Even if the injury was near fatal at the start… Those things will eventually regrow given time.

Unless we fight it.

If we have a limb cut from us, be it the limb of trust, of motivation, of love; and we don’t want it back… Well, we will forever be crippled by the loss.

It’s not usually that we enjoy being bereft of whatever virtue was taken from us. Most of the time, the barrier is fear. Fear that if we got it back, it would only be taken again. Over and over. An endless cycle of loss and torment. And for many of us, when we think we have finally come to terms with it and are ready to move on, the phantom pains of the amputated spirit remind us of what could happen, and the little green bud drops off. We are tail-less once again.

Sometimes, that fear is a healthy thing. Sometimes, by delaying the regrowth, we strengthen the rest of our constitution. Helpful when, in fact, our fears come true, and our regrown hope is cut from us again… We are better able to handle the time without it. But if we delay the growing of the new optimism for too long, we grow accustomed to living without it. We forget how much we need it. Because unlike an actual arm or leg, as was said in Scent of a Woman, “… There is nothing like… an amputated spirit; there is no prosthetic for that.”

While it is true that we can live without an arm or a leg, or even a prosthetic for one; living without a part of your spirit is a different matter entirely.

So if you have found yourself, like i have, fighting the regrowth of something you lost, be it trust or faith or love… Try to give in. Try to give up the fear. It won’t be easy. We’ll probably lose a few tail buds in the process. And there is still a chance that, once regrown, it will get chopped again. And there will be pain. And we will have to face the fear again. And it will suck. But practice makes perfect, right? We will learn and grow and move on again. We have to. We can live without limbs. But a life without trust, or faith, or love, is really no life at all.




Girl Power

When i was a kid, if i had handed an alien my U.S. History book as an insight to our country, they would have thought nearly everyone of importance was a white male.  From Columbus and his male crew meeting the (male) chief of the local tribe, to Captain John Smith, to President George Washington (And every president up til this decade)…  3/4 of the book was white men. Yes, we learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Eleanor Roosevelt. We learned about George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King Jr. We learned about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. We learned about Pocahontas and Sacagawea. But that was about it. The only person i remember being called out as specifically Jewish was Einstein. And if there were people of any other ethnic persuasions, i don’t remember any time being spent on them. Sad, really.

Granted, some of it is due to the fact that, until fairly recently, generally speaking, white men held the seats of power. The status quo was a European Christian male as the leader of… well.. pretty much everything. But times, they are a’changing. Every day this country becomes more diverse. And as a result, more groups are getting a chance to partake in the type of history that gets documented in textbooks. I mean, we all have always been a part of history… Just not the part that gets into the popular public record. But even that is starting to come around.

I went to see Hidden Figures  yesterday. To my surprise and delight, my son was eager to see it as well. If you somehow haven’t seen the trailers, it is the story of the “human computers”, specifically, a group of black women, who were responsible for the calculations used to get men into space. Now, i have made it a point to study women’s history for nearly 30 years, but i can honestly say that i didn’t know anything about these women until a few years back when  my daughter and i had the pleasure of hearing Dr Mae Jemison speak, and she talked about some of the women who came before her at NASA. One of the things she said about those women, women like herself, has stuck with me – They were black, they were female, and they were “nerds”; so they had three strikes against them when it came to public impressions. Thankfully, Dr. Jemison’s parents never bought into that. They encouraged her, even knowing how difficult the path would be. Becoming an astonaut is hard for anyone. But at that time, for a black woman, even more so. She did it anyway. And now it is easily conceivable for a woman, of any ethnicity, to go to space.

We need to put women like these into the history books. Important, significant women of all types to help further the aspirations of our weedlings. Lets make it easier for them to spend less time reading about the Kardashians, and more time reading about  Madame C.J. Walker, Wilma Mankiller, Maya Lin, the Notorious RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to those not in-the-know). And lesser known, but still historically significant women like Deborah Samson, Ann E. Dunwoody, Dr Helen Rodríguez Trías,  and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler. By including women like these, we show that it is possible for ALL girls, and by extension, ALL children, to grow to become people of historical significance.

Lets face it, folks, it wasn’t that long ago when independent women were burned at the stake as witches. When black women were thought to be little more than oxen. When intelligent women were thought to be anomalies. When conventionally unattractive women were considered to be hopeless. And on and on. And heaven help you if you had more than one of those strikes against you.

Yes, i am fully aware that i am soap-boxing. But this is important to me.

Also of note, we need to make sure that we don’t go overboard and infringe upon those who take paths society deems “backwards”. The woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom is important, not because of some misogynistic fluff, but because she CHOSE to be that in the face of small-minded feminists who don’t see the value in it. The woman who becomes a Catholic nun or Buddhist monk is important not because she is sheltered from the world, but because she CHOSE to dedicate her life to something she cared deeply about in spite of others finding it old-fashioned. The young woman who attends an all-girls’ school, or an all-black school, or any separatist institution is doing so BY HER OWN CHOICE, and that makes it significant. Even if it is something that others might feel is a step back. In this context, a free choice is a step forward, even if the result is not one that seems progressive to the masses.

My daughters have never felt fettered by notions of what women are “supposed to do”. At least i don’t think they have. I hope they haven’t. I’ve tried to instill in them the belief that society’s notions are not a code that needs to be followed. I try to be the same with my son, as he, too, will find gates and fences that will try to block his path along the way. Teaching our weedlings that there are endless possibilities in life is most important… And should be followed closely by the teaching that “endless” does not mean “easy”. The norms we frequently have to buck against require effort to overcome. Swimming against the tide, literally or figuratively, is much more labor intensive than going with the flow. It is not for everyone.

And that’s ok. We don’t all have to be trailblazers. It takes all kinds of women, of people, to make the world the wonder that it is. Being a “regular Joe” (Or Josephine) is nothing shameful. The important thing is not the life you choose, but that YOU choose it. Yourself. Freely. Knowing that any choice was allowable. President or Preacher. Entertainer or Inventor. Mayor or Mother. Any choice you make freely with the conviction of your own heart is a good choice. But the only way we know that is to read and learn about those who came before us. The choices they made, the goals they set, and what it took to realize them.

These women, they were remarkable.

And so are we.


Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’

The first day of the new year. It always makes me contemplative, nostalgic, and, dare i say, hopeful.

It’s been a full year for me. A new career. A new house. A new half-century. Ok, maybe that isn’t really full… I mean, there’s no new love, no new children (Thank God!), no new all-encompassing issues… But it was plenty full enough. And i got thru it mostly unscathed. Even when including the loss of so many wonderful icons and the election of the anything-but-her-and-pray-for-the-best, i can’t really say that i have too many personal complaints. My health has remained mostly good. My weedlings are all doing well. I like the new job. And the new house. I have time to read again. My finances are improving. My therapist says i am most definitely mostly sane now. And my SiriDog still thinks i’m The Shit. Life is good.

This past week, i’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the year ahead. The responsibilities. The possibilities. I want to learn to play the bass guitar (Truthfully, i’ve wanted to learn it for more than 3 decades, but i’m only now in a place to do so.) I want to become more socially active – I will find one area that i care about and can help, and i will devote effort to it. And after a recent epiphany that showed me what hole i can help fill, i will finally publish a real paper-and-print book. (Granted, the book has been on my list every year for the last half dozen, but now i have an idea worth selling.) Only the Universe knows whether i’ll actually accomplish these things,   but i have hope. And not that shiny silver hope of the holiday, but the polished brass hope of longstanding vision.

Now, there are other things that i am not laying hopes on for the coming year. I have no hopes of becoming a hard body. I know what it would require, and that ain’t happening. I have a faint wisp of a hope of dropping the 5 pounds i gained with the new job, but it has the solidity of morning fog, so i certainly can’t count it. I am not putting any hope in Liam Neeson (Or my latest crush, Karl Urban) appearing at my doorstep to profess their love, or  even just to beg for a night of naked debauchery. Nor do i have any hopes of winning a lottery (Because that would require me playing it.)

See? I’m a realist. Sort of. So there’s a good chance that the things on my list for the next year will actually come to pass.

And to add to my hopes and determination, i have a renewed sense of being blessed. I spent my New Year’s eve watching the HUMAN movie. (If you are interested, here is volume 1 of 3… HUMAN ) I had seen a couple clips from it, but had never gotten around to watching the whole thing. Until last night. It changes you. All these people, of all ages, from all over the planet, from all walks of life… Many with issues that i’ve never had to face and lives far harder than i have ever had… Their eyes, boring into the camera,  holding sadness, hunger, frustration, joy, love, and hope. The same things we all hold. I could feel my hands reaching out to them as my eyes swam with tears, and my mouth spread in smile, right along with them. These people, complete strangers, with raw emotion and honesty, became part of my heart. Reminders of what it means to be human, and how advantaged i am, even in the worst of times. If the most accursed of them can have hope, then how can i not? And if i know that these damnable conditions exist for them, as they do for so many others, how can i not do something to help?

I hope the makers of this movie know what they have achieved, because i am sure i am not the only person so affected by its contents.

And with that, onward into this new year. Holding myself accountable to a short and reasonable “to do” list of accomplishments both great and small. I am not the woman i was a year ago. I have grown. And maybe because of that, my list is shorter and simpler. And, i think, more achievable than ever before. I will fulfill it all. I will learn. I will help. I will write. And i will hope. Always, i will hope.