I am a Southerner

Most of you that know me are thinking “I know that”.

However, what you might not know is how many years I spent trying to hide it.

I was born in Virginia and lived there for the first 4 years of my life.  When my dad was diagnosed with the illness that eventually took his life, he decided to move us to Mississippi, to be closer to his family.

I didn’t have a southern accent at that point.  Kids called me a Yankee.  My parents told me to tell them that Virginia was the capital of the confederacy.  (Side note, as a kid I had no idea how shameful being proud of that was).  Eventually I assimilated and adopted a fairly heavy southern accent.

Fast forward to age 26 and I moved to Oregon.  Everywhere I went, people asked me where I was from.  I’d use phrases totally common and every day to me and would usually be met with either a blank stare or raucous laughter.

The stares I didn’t mind so much.  The laughter and constant ribbing was another matter.  It’s one thing to be teased every now and then.  But to be laughed at daily is wearing on a person’s soul.

So I consciously set out to de-Southern myself.  I paid attention to how people in Oregon spoke.  And by the way?  Y’all don’t speak in complete sentences up here.  The first time someone asked me if I wanted to go with? I stood there for a good 45 seconds waiting for that person to finish the sentence.  Go with who????

My Southern-ness, if you will, was just another part of myself I lost in the last 15 years.  Oh it would still come out from time to time.  A good friend of mine tells me when I get really upset she can barely understand me, it gets so thick.

As with many things in my life, having a child leads to realizations.  Ava is an Oregonian.  Born and raised.  And I want her to be proud of that.  To not be ever ashamed to admit where she comes from.  And I can’t raise her to have pride if I don’t walk the walk.  There are good things and bad things about every place.  The South is no exception.  We have dark, horrible history.  But we also have some of the friendliest people, the best food and the most laid back way of life.

So in that light I’ve decided to re-embrace being a Southerner.   But I believe some things are universal:  Love of family and country, being gracious, using your manners, treating elders with respect.   So even though I associate with Yankees, the ones I do have around me are damn fine ones.

However, I will be the first to admit we use some, shall we say, peculiar phrasing in the South.  So to help you out if you are around me, I offer you this handy dandy Southern to English dictionary.   I reckon I’m fixin to start getting a lot more questions about where I’m from again.

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You= 1 person

Y’all = 2 people

All ya’ll = 3+ people

Buggy = shopping cart

Dressing = stuffing

Fixin to = Getting ready to do something “I’m fixing to go to the grocery store” means I’m about to go to the grocery store.  No, I don’t know where it comes from, yes I know it sounds silly, and yes I will say it anyway.

Yonder = measurement of distance.  Not precise, not quite as far as “aways”.

Ugly = Being rude or unkind.

Reckon = to think or believe.  “I reckon y’all need to bring the dressing on Thanksgiving”

Coke = any carbonated beverage.  In the South if someone asks you for a coke, you better specify what kind.

Bless her/his heart = That person is a fucking moron, but we are too polite to say it out loud.

Honey = this one is tricky.  It could be a term of endearment…or it could be that shit is about to hit the fan.  Listen carefully to the tone of the speaker for clarification.

Fish or cut bait = make up your mind already!

Do what? = What did you just say?

Spell = measurement of time.  “Have a seat next to me and stay a spell”

Sugar = kiss-  Most commonly used by Southern grandmas. “Come over here and give me some sugar”.  This is usually followed by looks of horror from the grandchildren.

Isn’t that precious? = The most ridiculous thing we’ve heard to date, but again we are too polite to say that out loud.

All get-out = superlative (to the utmost degree)  Busier than all get-out = Busiest I’ve ever been.

Pitch = To have, usually related to fits

Hissy fit = Mild fit, can usually be weathered

Conniption fit = more severe, person who is the reason for said fit might want to run away and lie low for a spell.

Ain’t = am not, are not, is not, have not, has not

What in the Sam Hill? = What the Hell?

Get glad in the same britches you got mad in = Suck it up and get over it

Madder than a wet hen = seriously pissed off.  Conniption fit to soon follow.

Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise = If nothing catastrophic happens, usually said in response to someone saying “See you later”

A mess = unit of measurement, usually related to food; isn’t precise : I’m fixing to cook up a mess of fish.

 

 

 

Seven

My darling girl,

Today you are seven.

I looked at a side by side comparison today of the pictures I always take on your birthday of our two hands.  It took my breath away to see how much of my hand was covered by yours.

I look back on that first picture…the chubby baby fat wrists.  The teeny fingers.  The fact that I had to hold my other hand on your arm just to get you to be still long enough to take the picture.  My heart skips a little.

I know you don’t  understand why I sometimes have a hard time seeing you as the big girl you are.  What you don’t realize, and you won’t fully until you have one of your own, is this:  When you were placed in my arms that first time, that glorious June day when we finally met face to face, you were helpless.  You could not speak, you could not walk or crawl, you could not feed yourself, or even turn over in your bed.  It is often said that our minds freeze people in age as they were on the day we met.  So sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes I still see my helpless sweet baby.

I forget that you, at seven, can do so much.  You tie your own shoes, make your own bed, help with chores around the house and every so often, do something amazing, like make me breakfast in bed.  Just because.

There aren’t words to describe how I burst with joy and pride when I look at you.  This year has been something of a turning point for you and you have blossomed in such awesome ways.  I see more confidence in you than you have ever possessed and it makes me so happy for you.  Life is so much easier when you’re not the shy kid always afraid to speak out.

You took gymnastics this year and I don’t think you’ve ever been more excited about doing something.  I was so proud of you when you got up at that last meeting, and with all eyes on you, hopped on the uneven bars and showed off what you’d learned.  It took everything I had not to jump up out of my seat and cheer for you.

You got to go camping and spent a little over 3 days in the country, with no TV, no iPod, iPhone or anything else electronic.  You had such a great time, playing baseball, and riding your bike and even learning to fish!  The country girl in me was so happy to see you enjoying that life so much.

I love how you are equal parts girly girl and tomboy.  You love to paint your nails and get your hair all done up, but yet you love sports and are never afraid to go outside and get dirty.

You are hands down the funniest person I know.  Sometimes even intentionally.  🙂  You will make up jokes and laugh like a maniac at your own wit.

It amazes me daily how alike we are.  Which for us is definitely a double edged sword. It causes us to butt heads frequently but is also a blessing in many ways, since I can usually figure out what’s going on in that head of yours.

Your spirit is so sweet and beautiful.  I always say I take very little credit for you, because you just are who you are and you have been this way always. You can be a typical kid, but more often than not you think of others and hate to let anyone down.

The thing I most admire about you is how you rarely let anything get you down.  You rarely complain.  Even when you broke your arm on the 3rd day of first grade, your teacher was amazed at how positive your attitude was.

You are my greatest joy, my most blessed gift.  You make me want to be a better person every single day.  Being your mom is the best job in the world, and you make it so easy.

Happy birthday, Avacakes.

I love you to the moon and back.

 

Marilou

I wouldn’t say I have writer’s block, but I am not ready to write about what’s most on my mind.  So with that in mind, I’m recycling some old posts from the past.  With Mother’s Day being yesterday, this seemed appropriate, as my aunt was on my mind.  I miss her and I always will.

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When I saw it sitting on the shelf, my hand reached out for it automatically, almost as if that appendage had a mind of its own.

It reminded me of her, that bar of Ivory soap.  The scent that would linger on pillows and bedsheets and my shoulder after a hug.  The scent that enveloped her skin, bare, as she leaned over a basin while I rinsed her hair, her gnarled hands reaching up every so often to check my progress.  “Nope, I still feel some, right here”.

She lived with us, practically, for so much of my childhood.  I remember at first, it was only visits, back when she could still drive a car on her own.  I remember her big blue suitcase, and matching overnight case, full of curlers and make up and lotions.  Then as her disease took so much of her independence, the stays were more frequent.  They lasted longer and there were fewer days in between.

There were the surgeries.  Hands.  Wrists.  Knees.  Feet.  Each one performed in expectation of some kind of miracle, but in reality left her twisted and more broken than before.  She lived on her own longer than many people in her condition would have, or even should have.  She took Darvocet daily, those oblong orange pills…I can still see them.  I handed her so many of them, shaking them out of that brown pharmacy bottle.  A few hours relief from the pain, if she was lucky, on a good day.

I would watch her cry into her pillow when she thought no one was looking.  She never let anyone see how much pain she was in, really.  She was not a complainer.  She never railed at the doctors who accelerated her decline into complete disability.  She never once whined about how her children visited rarely, and pretty much seemed to consider her a burden.

I remember reaching out to her for comfort in the middle of the night when my dad was in surgery and mother was by his side.

Late nights, silly stories, funny faces and even goofier voices.  She had them all.  She had the patience my mother lacked.  I remember my mother refusing to let me help wash dishes because I didn’t do them “correctly”.  I went to my aunt in tears, and as usual she comforted me and distracted me with something.  I over heard her later talking to my mother, explaining to her how much it meant for me to be a part of something, and if I wasn’t rinsing the dishes to her satisfaction, perhaps she could sneak back in later when I wasn’t looking and rinse them again.  It didn’t work, but I loved her for sticking up for me.

She loved pineapple ice cream and soap operas.  She alone is responsible for me knowing who Roman, Marlena, and Stefano are.  So many summer afternoons, spent eating lunch by her bed as we watched the latest installment.  Was Stefano really dead this time?

She loved ceramics.  I have a tiny little ceramic slice of cheese.  It has a little mouse face peeking out the front of it, and a tiny little mouse bottom, complete with tail, poking out of the back.  It has my initials on it, and the date.  1987.  If there were a fire?  Other than my daughter, it is one of two things I would make sure got out.

Like my father, who was her brother, she had a love of cooking and recipes and cookbooks.  She contributed many recipes to the cookbook that her church put out every year.  I am fortunate enough to have inherited one of those books.  It is dog eared and I get a combination of teary eyed and warm hearted every time I open it up and see her name underneath a recipe.

Through her I learned of a lot of my father’s childhood escapades (she was 5 years his senior) and a lot of family history.  Some good, some horrible.  Through her eyes, I saw my grandfather, who I never really knew.  He died when I was just shy of 3.  I learned of the gentle, kind man he was, who must have a saint’s patience, considering all he put up with.  I learned of my grandmother’s way of parenting, which was to beat first, ask questions later, if at all.

When my father died, I think a lot of her did as well.  She was never the same afterward.  She was confined to a nursing home by that point, and was so deeply unhappy.  She was so brave for so many years, but that bravery faltered and she tried to take her own life.  She was unsuccessful.  Her spirit was broken however, and I don’t think I ever saw her smile again.

Some months later she developed pneumonia.  She was transferred to the ICU of the local hospital.  She never went back to the nursing home.  Instead she slipped away from us on New Year’s day.   The story surrounding that I really don’t have the right to tell.  The reasons why people were and weren’t around that day, and what they were doing as life left her body.

Once again, I stood in a cemetery and said goodbye to someone I loved so deeply, on a cold, January day.  Maybe that’s why I hate the cold and the rain so much. They remind me of such loss.

I was sad for so many reasons that day.  I was sad that I hadn’t done more.  That I hadn’t stepped up and taken more control and responsibility for her and not let her go to that home in the first place.  Had she been happy, I truly believe she would not have died that day.

She kicked ass as much as she could on that asshole of rheumatoid arthritis.  In the end it wasn’t that disease that beat her.

But I don’t want her story to end that way.  I don’t want to have you only remember the way she died.  I want you to know the way she lived.  She lived fully.  She loved with all her heart.  She was as much a mother to me as my own was, and in many ways more so.

Her voice, and it’s patient, calm tone is one that I carry in my head as I am dealing with my own daughter and her eleven millionth meltdown of the day.

When she’s older I will tell her all about her great aunt Marilou and how much she would have loved my sweet girl.

And how all of those emotions and love were brought forth today by a bar of Ivory soap.

 

 

Job Opening – Men with Superhero Complex Need Not Apply

Now before anyone goes telling me that there are tons of songs about strong women, I AM  aware of this.  It doesn’t stop me from getting irritated when I hear yet another man (I’m looking at you, Chris Daughtry with your irritating ear worm of a song)  sing about a woman sitting around waiting to be rescued.  As if a man in her life will suddenly solve all of her problems.

I am not waiting for a superhero.  I am an independent, strong willed woman who runs her own life, raises a child,  holds down a full time job, can cook a meal, fix a computer, patch a wall, paint a room,  and a million other things.

Now just because I don’t NEED a man, doesn’t mean I am anti man or that I don’t want one. However, I will not settle for anyone just to have someone.  Perhaps I should treat it as a job listing? Candidates can submit their resumes, I can do a few interviews and hopefully hire the right fit.

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Life Partner Wanted 

Forty-two year old female, mom of one precocious almost 7 year old daughter seeks male companion for laughing, watching sports together, taking road trips, helping with home improvement projects,  etc.

Ideal candidate will possess the following:

  • Expertise in kindness
  • Ability to understand value of people over money
  • Demonstrates a willingness to be spontaneous
  • Capable of spending lazy Sunday mornings in bed
  • Proficiency in sitting in silence in a backyard swing
  • Experience in letting partner spend time alone, or with her friends, without him present, and wanting the same
  • Ability to listen to partner’s problems without always trying to provide a solution
  • Knowledge of when to help and when to let partner handle own affairs
  • Good sense of humor is a must
  • Skilled in honesty
  • Enjoys backyard barbecues
  • Likes to attend sporting events such as baseball and football

Candidate should be between the ages of 45-60, have own residence and vehicle.  Employer is not looking to fully support another adult.

Height and weight are negotiable, as are eye and hair color.

Position would be long term, as employer does not wish to keep re-posting this listing.

Candidate will also go through a multi-step screening process with family and friends to insure quality control is maintained.

Candidates can apply by leaving their name, experience to date, and phone number in the comments section.

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I Am Broken, and That’s Ok

I read a quote many years ago that said “All the best people are broken”.

I believe that to be true.  I look around at me, and my close circle; there is not one among us that has not gone through hell and back and somehow survived.  It makes us not only stronger, but wiser,  and more compassionate.  We understand that we can’t know someone else’s journey, because we have not walked it.  We can sympathize, we can empathize but we do not judge.  Everyone has their own struggle, no matter how small it may seem to the outside world, to them it is tremendous.

I’ve been through a lot in my 42 years.  I’ve lost many people I cared about, including my dad when I was 17.  I lost the woman who helped raise me and care for me 2 years later.  I made poor (very poor) relationship choices in my youth.  I’ve been humiliated, abused, taken for granted, disrespected and beaten.  All of those things were done to me by people who should have loved me.

Every time I am broken I sweep up the pieces and reassemble them.  They don’t always fit back together the same way.  Sometimes the edges are jagged and have to be trimmed in order to work.  Sometimes parts are too damaged so they are discarded entirely.

I think in the end, what I’m left with, and what I see in others, is that over time, the defective and inferior parts disappear.  We are left with the pieces we choose because we see their value.

When I put myself back together, there may be holes in my patchwork, but I believe those are simply waiting for the right person to fill in the cracks.

I have been beaten down, broken, shattered, but never destroyed.  I bleed when the splinters are swept up.  I have scars and scabs.  I have new pieces that grew to take the place of ones lost.

I am broken, and that’s ok.  Broken made me who I am today.  Broken never erased me.

Don’t be afraid of broken people.  We really are ok.

500 Words About Absolutely Nothing

I sometimes wonder if my best writing days are behind me.

Last night I gave a friend something I wrote 3 years ago.  It was, basically, a manual on how to cope after divorce.  I wrote it as an open letter to a friend who, at the time was going through her own divorce.  I wrote down all the best advice I’d been given, and more importantly, all the best advice I *wasn’t* given.  I wrote down the honest stuff, the hard stuff.  The things that you don’t know, and can’t know until you’ve been there.

I read back on that, and many other things from that time period in my life and I see a lot of things.  I see an unhappy person, who was writing to get through the pain of her life and all the scary things happening.

Fast forward 4 years and that person is no longer unhappy.  Sure, I have bad days, days I struggle and want to cry.  I chalk most of those up to hormones and lack of sleep.  However, I have created a new life that is pretty damn awesome.  I have wonderful people in my life.  I have pushed myself far out of my comfort zone, and with few exceptions have been glad that I did.  I’ve taken a few huge leaps of faith and while I’m still waiting to see how some of them turn out, a  couple have paid off pretty well.   My daughter is my light and joy and watching her grow into the amazing little person she is fills me with happiness every single day.

But all that happiness doesn’t lend itself too well to writing.  Some of the best writing ever done by the greats (and I am certainly not among them) was borne of anguish, pain and suffering.  It is easier to pour forth words when you’re hurting.  Writing for me was cathartic.  It helped me process what I was feeling and put it into perspective.

But who wants to read about how I wake up with a smile on my face every morning now?  Who wants to hear that sometimes I giggle like a 16  year old at my desk?  And they aren’t handing out Pulitzers to any mommy blogger on the planet, no matter how special/super/awesome/first kid ever to do anything they think their child is.

Drama lends itself well to good writing.  So does humor, to be sure. However, even I don’t think I’m funny enough to write a humor blog.  So what’s left?  Fashion?  Umm..have you seen me?  It’s t-shirts and blue jeans on any given day I’m  not at work.   Money?  Yeah, you need to have some of that to write about it.  Sports?  I love my baseball and football but after 12 years of not paying attention, I’m basically learning the fields, as it were, all over again.  Love? That’s a subject best left between the two people in it.  The internet is forever, people.  Food?  I actually was a food blogger for a while.  Pardon the pun, but the experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

In short, or not so short, as I’m at 525 words already,  I don’t know what the hell to write about.

Doesn’t seem to be stopping me however, so merrily I plod along.  Thanks for keeping me company on the journey.

 

The Day I Ran Away From Home

If you read my last post, you’ll understand why my head’s been a mess lately.  If you didn’t, well, let’s just say it has not been a neat and tidy place for a lot of reasons.  Too much emotion, too many questions, not enough answers.

Yesterday I had errands to run and a ton of things to do around the house.  I set off early, wanting to get the errands out of the way so I could go home and stay there.  I was irritated and irritable.  As I was navigating the aisles, thoughts of the ocean kept popping in my head.  How nice it would be on a day like today, I thought to myself.  No, the good angel on the other shoulder said.  You have things to do, and besides it’ll be crowded and you are not a fan of crowds, remember?

I made my purchases and loaded them into my car.  I pointed that car toward Kings Valley Highway.  As I drove down the parking lot, the thoughts popped up again.  Go.  Just go. Don’t think about it, don’t analyze it.  For once in your life just do something just because.  Because you can.  Because it’s there.  So I turned on my right blinker and hit the gas.  The entire ride over, all 60 minutes of it was spent with me mumbling under my breath, punching buttons on the radio when a song I REALLY didn’t want to hear dared to play and feeling about as out of sorts as I have for a long time.

I hit Lincoln City right at lunchtime.  I stopped and got some sunscreen (No need to add to the lobster-like appearance I was already sporting) and some lunch and headed to Roads’ End.  I was able to snag a spot facing the ocean.  I leaned my seat back, opened all my windows and closed my eyes.  Those sounds, the waves crashing and the seagulls talking, they are simply magic to me.

I ate my lunch and got out to wander around for a bit.  Unfortunately for me, I left home without two pretty important things:  A jacket and my albuterol inhaler.  It being April and windy, venturing too far was, shall we say…ill advised.

So back into the car I went, where I could at least see and hear the powerful waves.  I spent two hours mindlessly watching it and the crazy windsurfers who were enjoying it in their own way.

Reluctantly I looked at my watch and saw that time was up – reality beckoned.

My ride home, however was a much different affair.  I was relaxed.  I was calm.  No more mumbling, no more taking my frustration out on the poor radio.  Whatever song played was ok with me.

I encourage all of you to go to your happy places when you can.  Don’t over think it, just do it. Take an afternoon and run away from home.  You’ll be a better person when you come back.

It always amazes me how calming and centering the coast is for me.  It has never once failed to put a bad mood right for me. When we were there on spring break, I had a night of not sleeping and at midnight I found myself on the balcony.  When I came back inside finally, I spent the next two hours just writing.  Below is an excerpt from that night.

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I have no idea what invisible force compelled me to get up and go to the balcony, but here I find myself, just past midnight. In between the rolling surf and the gossamer clouds are stars more bright and twinkly than any I have ever seen. These stars are not content to be mere window dressing; they are bold and commanding. These stars are hypnotic, like the sparkling lights on a Christmas tree.
There is something so magical about this place, where water meets land. The thundering waves at once deafening and soothing. The sand that appears so solid, yet can shift and sink beneath you in an instant. It is soul-filling, mind-calming and peace-making. It is the very essence of life, with its shifting tides, changing landscapes and unsteady paths. Here, anything seems possible. The horizon stretches out in boundless distance and reminds me that so much is not yet known and I still have so far to go.  Those bright, sparkly stars…they light the way and I shall never forget them.