Category Archives: Parenting

The Irish Good Bye

Recently, my family was at a party and some of the guests left without saying good bye.  My Things snorted and said, “Well, that was an Irish good bye.”  I had never heard the phrase.  While watching the TV series Schitt’s Creek yesterday, one of the characters mentioned  the  “French exit”.  It turns out they are the same thing.  Americans implicate the Irish and the Canadians and Brits finger the French.

Per Urban Dictionary, “the irish [sic] exit refers to the departure from any event without telling any friends, associates or acquaintances that one is leaving. It is almost always the result of being very inebriated/intoxicated.”  Here is a good article on this topic as well as the very millenial form of separation called “ghosting”.

In the case of the above noted party, intoxication was not the reason.
In other news, my DNA per Ancestry.com revealed that I am about 29% Irish,  27% British, 33% Scandinavian, and the rest is Western European, including 6% Iberian Peninsula.  There was no German, which was odd because I was always told I was also German.  This later Iberian dollop did not show up in my father’s DNA, so we have to surmise it came from The Radish (sadly, she did not spit in her tube before passing away).  My Aunt SuSu had no Iberian Peninsula in her DNA.  Raftbuddy sent me this interesting article explaining why siblings get such varied DNA.  So, sisters, order your kits and let’s see who is the most Irish and who’s the most Iberian!    The truth will out!
I trust that none of my readers pulled an Irish exit yesterday!  My father, Big Mike, made my mother’s corned beef recipe, key lime pie, and soda bread.  You cannot believe what a fantastic, nourishing feast that was.  The potatoes, sadly, never made it to the party.  The Truth be told, I forgot to bring them.  The cabbage, however, was not missed.
Question for you:  Have you ever pulled an Irish goodbye and if so, what were the circumstances?  TELL THE TRUTH.
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A Mother’s Truth (Sally’s)

One might say that I am a hoarder.  There is a slight truth to this.  I listened very carefully to my grandmother’s stories of deprivation during the Great Depression.  Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of scarcity also impacted my worldview, not to mention Apocalyptic fiction.

Readers may, however, recall that one of my memory verses for my pilgrimage in 2014 was to “travel lightly”.  I STILL have not achieved this but continue to work at it.  The garage cleaning in Arkansas, my home/not home, is underway and the pile for the Salvation Army is growing.  I am channeling my mother and taking no prisoners.  Out it goes!

Having said that, I have toted around the globe lots of old correspondence.   Whilst rifling through a box of letters, I came across these concluding paragraphs in a letter from my mother Sally, written July 29, 1992 to me and my sisters.   I am sharing it with you so you can share with your daughters too.  I am almost the age my mother was when she wrote this letter.  I don’t think I’ll be able to catch up to her on the wisdom front.

“I would like to say that I have found the secret of getting my act together.  But I have always found that just when I smell the sweet smell of success, splat the rules have changed.  LIfe is a quilt of patches and they all go into the whole.  I am not looking forward to the patches of elderly poor health or widowhood.  I guess you will have to help me with that.

My little piece of advice:

Cook dinner, pick up the living room, have a spiritual life (you girls are probably praying more than you think you are, have a sense of humor, don’t nag, forget trying to change your spouse, don’t let your spouse brow beat you.  Slovenliness is bad.  Talk [during] your dinner.  Do something creative.  Exercise.  If your spouse balances the check book, leave the house.  Shit will happen.  Big shit will happen.  If you feel too bad call a friend and ask  for help.  Call a sister and ask for help.  Know that the shit will more than likely make you stronger.  Remember you are special, but you are no better than anyone else. Also remember that getting through hard times together does strengthen your marital relationship.  Don’t forget the good things husbands do for you.  Find your own friends.  I think that Is it.  Oh yes, eat five vegetables and fruits daily.

I love you girls so much.

Good bye dear hearts,

Love,

Mother”

Now it that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is.

 

 

 

 

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Minus the Fig Leaf

Per Merriam-Webster, the definition of the naked truth:  “the complete truth”.

I envision Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, contemplating the new reality.

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40 Days of Speaking the Truth (Mine)

Dear Friends of the Blog,

I almost wasn’t sure how to sign on to the blog, it has been so long.  Several of you inquired in the past few weeks if I was going to blog again for Lent.  I was on the fence, I have to admit.  It is quite a discipline and my soul shrank at the thought, which was how I knew I should do it.  And then to come up with a theme!  With rusty writing!  That thought had to marinate for awhile.

Yesterday, when my father handed me an article to read, it was confirmation of this year’s  theme:  TRUTH –  broadly, specifically, and of course, religiously.   This subject may make some of my readers cringe.  I will most likely lose friends and gain foes.  But I will be speaking MY truth IN LOVE, one gleaned from spending a huge chunk of my adult life living in foreign countries and returning to a changed America.  (I will discuss the fear of speaking the truth in subsequent posts – it is dangerous in some countries and unfashionable in others.)

One of the most magnificent ways my parents blessed me was by speaking the truth.  Both parents are/were straight shooters.  They did not lie to me.  If they didn’t have an answer, they would not make one up.  “I don’t know” was/is an acceptable response.   Pollyanna did not make an appearance.  A light dusting of sugar did not sweeten the distasteful.   As grandparents, they were/are pretty tight lipped for the most part and did not opine unless called upon.   This  built TRUST.   Do you see that the first three letters of truth and trust are the same?

Some of my readers did not enjoy such a relationship with their parents and thus have a truth that is foundationally (fundamentally?) different than mine.   I honor and respect that truth; even though it is different than mine, it is equally relevant and especially formative.

This brings me to January 27, 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was the first evening home with my newborn eldest child.  We were sitting at our small kitchen table in the dining room, my parents, Mr. Understanding, and I.  My mother had fixed dinner, naturally.  I had bags of frozen peas strapped to my chest.  When the plates were cleared, my father cleared his throat and said, in relation to the baby’s long fingers, “Well, I hope she doesn’t have Marfan Syndrome.”   Marfan Syndrome, in case you did not know,  is a genetic syndrome, usually inherited, which affects every fiber of one’s being, all the connective tissue;  it can be fatal if not diagnosed early enough.

That flaming arrow of truth struck me in the heart and lodged there for years,  as I asked pediatrician after pediatrician if my daughter had Marfan and was told no, that I was just a crazy first-time mother.    (Thing 1 was inadvertently diagnosed three years later by an opthamologist in Mexico City,  Dr. Luis Washington, shortly after I’d asked her pediatrician again if he thought she had the disorder.)

This is where we get into the weeds, folks.  What if my father kept silent that one time and did not voice his concern?  What if my father was a habitual liar? What if I did not take my father seriously?  Big Mike/Papa Bear was speaking his truth and I had ears to hear.

Raising awareness for The Marfan Foundation used to be the focus of my annual valentine.  Most people who know me now know about it and no longer need to be reminded.   However, as today is Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, and The Marfan Foundation’s annual day of giving, I am reminding my Beautiful People to check out their website, re/educate themselves, and consider making a small gift.*   As we move into Lent, I am scraping off the calcified crap on my heart.  I removed the arrow a long time ago; a small scar remains as witness to the healing.

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*you can also donate via Thing 1’s Facebook page!

 

 

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Birthday Song

 

The Radish & Her Baby Princess

The Radish and Her Baby Princess

 

Many thanks to all of my family, friends, and internet companions for your well wishes on my birthday.  As many of you know, it was also my dearly beloved mother’s birthday as well.  I had nine months to prepare for the day and I used every one of them.  There has not been one day in which I have forgotten that she is no longer on this earthly plane.  Not one day.  But in the end, it had nothing to do with me, really.  It had everything to do with YOU, dear reader, and my mother.  Instead of a day of intense sorrow, there was peace and joy.

Let me explain for those of you interested enough to keep reading.  Warning:  Jesus will be involved.

As I wrote earlier in the year, my mother Sally’s word for 2017 was REJOICE.  She only had two weeks on earth to work on that word but apparently it was enough.  My words for 2017 were HOPE and RESTORE.  Honestly, though, I adopted and focused on my mother’s word and by so doing, hope and restoration followed.

Let me explain, for those of you interested enough to keep reading.

As I also wrote earlier in the year, my Reading Brain and my Prayer Brain were adversely affected by my mother’s untimely passing.  For the first time ever in my life, reading brought little solace.  The Bible (gasp!), bible studies, People magazine, House Beautiful, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, the news held no appeal.  A voracious reader, my appetite was gone.  GONE.  My Prayer Brain was even worse.  Meandering.  Directionless (at a time when Direction is most urgently needed!  We need a job!  Health!  Peace!  Stability! Focus!).  Distressing.  What to do???

Let me explain, for those interested.

On Friday night I attended a pipe organ concert at our church in St. Augustine with my father,  Big Mike.  The organist, Ken Cowan, play from memory eight complicated compositions.  You have no idea how amazing this musical contortionist was [an grammatical edit is needed here but see above paragraph].  One of the pieces had what Mr. Cowan described as a “fugue”.  After the concert, I asked my father what the musical term “fugue” meant.  Musically illiterate,  I could think only of the word “trance” .  Naturally, my father gave me the definition almost verbatim from Merriam-Webster:

1

  • a :a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts The organist played a four-voiced fugue.

b :something that resembles a fugue especially in interweaving repetitive elements

My interpretation was close to the secondary definition:

  • 2
  • :a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed

This is as approximate a description of the last nine months of my year, a “fugue”.  Between the moments of total functionality and quasi-normalcy, there have been many other moments of which I have zero recollection.  I have done some pretty random things, like become a certified yoga instructor.  (Say what?  Yep. I still can’t explain it to myself.)  Point, counterpoint, enter a voice or two, sing high, sing low sweet chariot.

Let me explain.

Yesterday after receiving my annual birthday blessing, I had an epiphany or three:

1) My mother came to church with me and even went so far as to engineer the liturgy for the day:  Phillippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord; and again, I say rejoice!” and Psalm 23, “He restores my soul …”.   While The Word in its totality has not fed me this year, the words REJOICE, HOPE, AND RESTORE have.

2) Jesus is the last person to care that I am not on my prayer game – there is no condemnation in Christ. [Romans 8:1].  Thanks, Jesus, for once again getting me off the hook.

3) Music, the language of angels, has soothed me.  To quote Eric Church, I have had “a record year.”  Mr. Church, Motown, and hippy dippy trippy yoga music have nourished my soul instead of books.

Finally, I took such great comfort in knowing that so many of you were hoping and praying I had a great day that I ACTUALLY DID!  YOU LIFTED ME UP FROM WHEREVER YOU WERE AND I THANK YOU.  I FELT THE LOVE!  THERE’S A PAIR OF WINGS WAITING FOR YOU IN HEAVEN.  Sunrise at the beach, a nap after, back to the beach for some vitamin Sea and D, a pitcher of beer with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Pride and Joy at Finn’s rooftop bar, and dinner with my extended Florida family = birthday bliss.  Kudos to Mr. Understanding for bringing me coffee every morning of Birthday Week.  And if, in my fugue,  I have forgotten to thank you for a kind note or act, please forgive me!  It was not my intention. For those who perhaps have been in a fugue of their own, don’t worry!  I get it now.

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Mother’s Day – Good Gifts #3

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The above painting is one I had commissioned by Charleston, SC artist Joyce Harvey as a gift to myself.  I was not expecting it to be finished in time for Mother’s Day!  (More on Joyce in a future post).  It represents me and my sisters.  It was inspired by a painting called “The Happy Tomato” done by my sister in law, Dr. Skin.

I know you are all thinking that today will be hard for me.  It will be.  Today is my first motherless Mother’s Day.  It is also the 4 month anniversary of my mother’s passing.

In spite of that, today I choose to REJOICE! that I had such a fine mother, who gave me, along with my father, two wonderful sisters.  They have sustained me mightily during this period.  It is a shared grief and that makes it more tolerable.  I also have a wonderful mother-in-law, Winnie, who gave me by ever-patient husband Mr. Understanding (he lives up to his name) and whose gentle presence has helped me heal.   When I go to church today with my father Big Mike, I will REJOICE in his excellent taste in women; without him, there would be no mother.   He too has been instrumental in my healing.

Finally, I give thanks today for the lumpy, bumpy, large and mugwumpy body that gave me three beautiful Things.  They are glorious.  Without a whole lot of loving Understanding, I would not be a mother.

The grieving for today was done earlier in the week and I am looking forward to homemade lemon blueberry buttermilk ricotta pancakes  and an afternoon reading on the beach.  It is a beautiful day and this is exactly what I want to do.  May yours be equally satisfying, joyful, and glorious.

 

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Lost and Found

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The day I was supposed to drive from Northern California to Washington to study for the bar exam, I lost my car keys.  It was the summer of 1991.  The 1977 Buick Skylark that was my wheels (and perforce humility) only had one set of car keys when I bought it 5 years earlier from the elderly neighbor lady.  One minute, I was loading my car and then the next I was searching frantically for the keys.  Which were not found that day.  By the time the locksmith came and cut me a new key, it was late in the afternoon.   My mother convinced me to start my journey the next morning, rather than drive at night through the redwoods and isolated parts of Oregon to Eugene.

“Never drive when you are upset,” Sally proclaimed, an admonition I have endeavored to pass on to my children.

“Maybe,” she opined, “this is God’s way of telling you to spend another night.”

For every time I listened to my mother, there were probably ten that I did not.  That time I did.

The keys were found almost a decade later, when my parents were moving from the house, my Cal Bear keychain a tad rusted, still grasping tightly to the keys of a car I no longer owned.  They had fallen through a crack in the deck.  How and why they were ever found remains a mystery.

A lot of things have fallen through the cracks of my life over that past two years.  When Sh*t Happens, this is to be expected.  There are peripheral casualties.  It is impossible to hold the center at all times, just impossible.    This is painful.  Between the illnesses, a heart surgery, the death of a parent and the loss of a job, Thing 3’s nascent college career slipped through the cracks.   This is partly her fault, partly her parents, and partly the natural order of things.  Even when you are getting straight A’s, life sometimes just falls apart.

“Maybe, ” I opined, “This is God’s way of telling you to spend another year at home.”

I do not know what might have met me on that road on a dark summer night.  I can only tell you that my mother was right.  Never drive when you are upset; take the extra time.

So, the prodigal daughter is home.  My arms are wide open, even if I don’t have a fancy dress and honking ring with which to welcome her but Big Mike is fixing her dinner.  Perhaps she will do me one better and listen to her mother two out of ten times.  Perhaps.

 

 

 

 

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