Monthly Archives: June 2015

Not a competition

In the early 1970s, my mother pinned a picture cut from a magazine to the door of the basement room in which my older brothers had taken up residence.  The advertisement depicted eight teenagers standing or sitting against a concrete wall.  Above the photo appeared the words “Pick One to Die”.  The caption cautioned “one out of eight children die of drug overdose”.

Over the years, that photo has haunted me.  I did lose a brother to suicide [in 1997], and he did have a drug addiction.  But the picture took on a different significance for me.  The teens in the photo all looked unhappy, unclean, scruffy.  Care-worn.  I thought of those kids as my siblings and me, bandied about by life, surviving with various degrees of damage.  Pick one to die.  When the phone rang with the news of my brother’s death, I asked:  Which one — and named two of my siblings.  Funny — sad — ironic:  I felt no surprise.

I sit with friends in coffee shops; restaurants; my front porch with its cathedral ceiling and gorgeous blooming plants.  We share stories of triumphs and tribulations; frustrations and fantasies; bounties and burdens.  One shares advice from another and I think, I told you the same thing and you dismissed me.  One moans about a problem and I suppress the urge to mutter, you think you got it bad, I know six people with worse issues.

It’s not a competition.

I rise; I stumble; I fall.  I step through rubble.  I dip my gnarled feet in cool water.  I sit in an ice cream shop alone, surrounded by families, couples, children, teens.  Pick one to die.  It was not me.  I live.  I sometimes wonder why, but I’m not complaining.  I’m nearly sixty years old and I think I might be within a year or two of understanding how my journey took me here, of acceptance, of serenity.   I close my eyes and surrender to the day.


Launching in ten, nine, eight. . .

My whole force has been directed towards dragging my sorry butt into positive thinking and ditching negativity.  I envision a play that one of my classmates directed in high school.  My son found it online once; I cannot recall its name or author.  I do remember a line uttered by my friend Terry Lemkuhl as a washer woman in the round robin of dialogue.  The character before hers said, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to some — ” and Terry bellowed out, “Flies, flies, flies!”  The audience doubled over with laughter.  So that’s how it stands, at the end of the eighteenth month in My Year Without Complaining.

Jettison the negative!  Latch onto the positive!  Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!  No complaining, there, mateys!  Suck it up, buttercup!  Launching in ten, nine, eight. . . 

NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA/Joel Kowsky


Struggling to find the joy

The three viruses which rule my body all raged at once last week.  I found myself suppressing surliness, gravitating between tears of frustration and anger that I seemed to have exceeded a reasonable lifetime allotment of individual medical issues.  I kept muttering over and over:  Don’t complain, don’t complain, at least it’s not cancer; you know plenty of people with cancer who have it so much worse than you.  The HHV-6 has caused two new and very annoying conditions as it rages against the drug given to me at Stanford.  My body has become a battleground.  I tell myself each waking moment and even in my dreams:  But you’re alive; you awaken each morning; where life continues, hope can rise.

This morning my porch plants, which had begun to droop in the heat of the last few days, raised their heads again, replenished by the rain.  I drove through neighborhood with shattered trees and windswept gravel and I breathed the scent of rain hanging in the air.  I told myself, this is life, these trials; if you breathe deeply enough, you can breathe joy through every fiber of your being.  I’m struggling to let the joyfulness course through my veins.  I’m not complaining.  I close  my eyes:  I let tranquility claim me.  I carry on.



I plug my phone into its charger and the screen lights.  I see that it is just past midnight.  Technically, then, it’s no longer Wednesday , it’s tomorrow, it’s Thursday.  But wasn’t Wednesday grand?

I started the day bathed in a coolness that has eluded me for several weeks, sitting in my rocker outside right after rising, with a re-warmed cup of coffee beside me and the newspaper on my knee.  At nine, I pulled the Prius into the handicapped space at QuikTrip and nipped inside for my morning bowl of fruit and GF protein bars, on special, two for a dollar.   That set me off well for the hard  hours of work ahead.

Jessica texted at a few minutes after eleven, Want to meet, I can drink coffee while you have lunch.  So off to Westport Coffee House I went, for an hour of planning a writer’s workshop with the Lady Jessica.  A bit later, with the coachings of a baby shark, I acquired my son’s driving record (spotless) to fax to Macon County for a recommendation, and then sat for two hours listening to an impassioned father persuade me that he deserved more time with his children.

I couldn’t agree more but unless he’s got the means to pay me, I can’t do much for him.  He understands that.  I ushered him out, emailed a proposed contract for his review, then headed for Waldo.  En route, I realized that I could not possibly face the chartering ceremony for the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club  in clothes that hung from my frame.  So I detoured to my favorite shop, World’s Window, where the ladies have no trouble finding my sizes and soon had me suitably clad.

By six, I stood with my fellow officers to get inducted as the first board of the newly formed club.  I felt good standing between the and the Vice President’s two-year old, whom he held on his arm.  After the ceremony, I wandered the room, talking to colleagues, meeting visitors, spouses and children.  And then I read a text from Jessica  You coming to the show? Next stop, the Uptown.

I sat at the far right, row N, next to a woman clad in madras shorts.  Her date swayed to the beautiful music of Melissa Etheridge, hands on her pregnant belly, radiant smile lighting her face.  Three hours later, Jessica and I caravaned to the Holmes House, and then rode in the Prius to Charlie Hoopers, where we ate more potato skins, nachos and French fries than we should have and I drank two full glasses of water.

What a life!  I turned into a pumpkin twenty minutes ago, but I’m not complaining.  In fact, I’m still humming, still dancing, still picturing the couple next to me and the  astonished grin of the one nearest to me when I said, Is that your baby? and gestured to the dancing girl to her left.  And she gazed with love and wonder and then turned back to me  and said, Yes it is; and I shook her hand.  Congratulations! I told them both, and walked away, with an overwhelming feeling of happiness that I still haven’t lost.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Genzer.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Genzer.

Dinner at DISTRICT

Jenny Rosen and I had planned to organize her closets.

She has recently commenced Plaza living.  She works eight or nine jobs, so getting unpacked and organized has not been easy for her.  Others have helped: Her mom, Jessica, her friend Reed.  Me, I’m a closet girl.  I like folding, taking things off hangers and piling them in Goodwill bags, and sorting tops by color.  So I volunteered for Closet Duty.

But it turned out we both had worked too much yesterday to feel capable of eating salad bar from Sunfresh while sorting shirts.  So instead, we met at DISTRICT in Waldo.

After two tours of the parking lot, it finally dawned on me that the place had no designated handicapped parking.  I pulled into the curb-side spot by Louie’s Wine Dive and walked the length of the block to get to DISTRICT.  Jenny had not yet arrived.  I asked the hostess where the handicapped parking for the restaurant might be and she said, “I don’t actually know,” just as Jennifer Helene Rosen sashayed through the door.

A few minutes later, the owner came from the back to tell me that the handicapped parking was “down the street, by Louie’s Wine Dive”.  What?  I explained the ins-and-outs of the ADA’s parking requirement, to which he replied, “I have no control over that, I just lease this building.”  I smiled, explained again, asked his name which I could not hear (due to my hearing impairment) and suggested that he talk to the building owner while Ms. Rosen stood by, smiling and supportive as she always is.

We had a delicious dinner — fried polenta and kale salad for me; a Reuben with house-made slaw for her.  The waiter enticed us with talk of the infused Vodkas, which Jenny tried and pronounced lovely.  A couple of hours passed and we both realized that fatigue had begun to turn us into mush, so we left.  She walked me the block to my car and listened while I told her something that had been bugging me all evening, namely, that I had just had an epiphany about someone which hit me like a ton of bricks.

Jennifer waxed both philosophical and supportive, as she always does.  I drove her to the non-accessible parking lot at DISTRICT and then headed for home, thinking that all in all, it had been a reasonably enjoyable day, a normal day.  Not a Hollywood day; not a Hellish day.  Just a day — with highs that sailed above the horizon, lows that did not send me into a plummeting spiral.  A day in my life during which I survived, and maybe even got a little ahead.  So, no complaints.


Wouldn't this be lovely?

Wouldn’t this be lovely?


I posted this on my Facebook page for Father’s Day this year, and wanted to quote it here because it says so much of what I am learning during this quest.

I’m very blessed in this respect relative to my father: Before he died, I confronted him with his failures. I got downright ugly, castigating him for what he did and what he failed to do. I used mean, ugly words to describe the considerable pain that he inflicted on his wife and eight children. I condemned him, one on one, face to face. And then, with a quiet air, head bowed, he apologized. He said he was sorry. And I forgave him. That happened many years ago (he died in 1991) and it didn’t heal me much at the time. But in the past several years, when my heart was finally open to healing, that event became a part of the process by which I am slowly but surely coming to terms with all that has shaped me. So: For this reason, I feel that I am blessed. Did my Dad “mean it” when he apologized? Who knows. But I meant it when I forgave him. I know that now.

Such a journey this is!  And so much of it has been lit by lightening.  Today I am facing my failures and the stark fact that I have not forgiven myself for failing.  Flash! Crash!  I am reminded of the closing lines in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, spoken by a brother to his sister:

“Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest person; anything – anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura; and so, goodbye… (7.321, Tom).

I am more faithful to my broken self than I intended to be. . . I try to leave myself behind. . . And yet, I am always reminded.  A somewhat imperfect metaphor but it resonates for me.  Perhaps it is because Mr. Williams and I share a home town. . . who knows. . .Perhaps I identify with both Laura and Tom.

I ask myself:  If I can forgive my father all of his failures, how can I not forgive myself?

Nothing will come of my running; I must  make my peace with the self whom I have left behind in my quest to forget.   But to do that, I must turn back, stop running away, and confront my broken self.  I must hold her and say, I forgive you . . . Can you forgive me?

A difficult task, but unlike Tom, I am not complaining.  As painful as it might be, I expect the final result to be either an abysmal failure, or a wild unbridled success.  I am hoping for the latter.


Looking forward

I had never thought to have a second office this late in life but Patricia Reynolds persuaded me that doing so made sense.  About 20% of my practice involves Clay County cases, and I do enjoy my work north of the river.  Pat connected me with her landlady, and away I went.   Now my name graces two directories and I find myself with a regular 4-days-here, 1-day-there schedule.  It’s a bit late in life for this much change, but I’m not complaining.  I’m looking forward.

Forward.  That’s unusual for me.  I spend a lot of time contemplating the past.  But this move, more than anything else, has me considering the future.  Not necessarily a future as a full-time Liberty lawyer, but certainly a future as a happy woman.  My life  might be quirky; it might set some to shaking their heads and wondering.  I think my destiny has always been written with scattered crystals and leftover beads.

Jenny Joseph would be proud of me.


Sunday, sweet Sunday

The weekend started early, with a Friday morning breakfast at Ginger Sue’s in Liberty.  I count this activity as one of my most favorite, since it’s always in the company of my friend Pat.  That afternoon found me in a jury assembly room with a few dozen Clay County lawyers, learning a new way of looking at Guardian Ad Litem work.

I relaxed the rest of the evening, I must admit — code word for did precious little and went to bed early.

I had a “coaching session” courtesy of the Cleaver Family Y set for eleven o’clock on Saturday, which followed the world’s most expensive vet visit in which my dumb brown dog got a semi-clean bill of health and a new prescription.  Pampered, she is.  My son texted to check on her status and offered to contribute to the tab.  Just remember me when you’re rich and famous, I replied.  We traded goofy comments about awards he could win and I found out about a few of which I’d never heard.  He’s an LA sophisticate and more knowledgeable than I about the screen industry.

By five, I had discovered Thou Mayest Coffee shop, with its Steinbeck theme and fabulous sound track.  There, I started writing something that has no definition as of yet except perhaps to be the bricks on my path to real-writer-status.   Who knows.  Maybe someday.  I recently read a few pages of a published book that I found so poorly written that I could not believe anyone would buy it, so perhaps hope still exists for me.

I slipped into Gallery 504 a few minutes before The Accidentals took the stage at their CD release party.  Angela Garrett-Carmack and Jake Carmack make a convincing argument for harmony.  Her cello, his guitar and voice — melded with the light which shines between them.  A lead guitar, female vocalist, bass player and drummer eventually took the stage to reveal a new group, The Accidental Project.  I don’t usually stay out past sunset but the evening at Ruthie Becker’s Crossroads venue proved worth the slightly scary ride home.

But Saturday had not yet closed for me.  Jessica and I packed into the Prius to explore the District, Waldo’s newest eatery.  She nibbled delicately battered fried catfish while I explored mushroom street tacos.  Then we sat outside in the warm night, talking until I realized my eye had begun to do its fluttery thing so we headed home.

I answered an invitation to coffee on Sunday from my friend Vivian and have no regrets.  We started at Mud Pie, then moved to the City Market Coffee house where I learned how delicious gluten-free bread could be with rich scrambled eggs and lightly broiled cheese.  After breakfast, we strolled among the flea-market tables, where I found a lovely Gold-filled broach for $3 and an unblemished piece of Francoma for five bucks. Vivian got me a beautiful bouquet and I retaliated with a pound of cherries that I saw her eyeing.  Under a steely sky, Vivian walked me to my car, where I spied a little sign of good things to come on the pavement by the driver’s door.  I scooped it up, flashed a grin at my dear friend, and put the token on my dashboard where it will remind me of better days ahead.

And that, my friends, is a weekend about which I cannot complain, from fabulous Friday to Sunday, sweet Sunday.



I had not thought about Sharon Hawkins with any kind of seriousness for years.

She briefly crossed my mind in 2013 when I reached out to Jennings-ites in a quest to find my niece Amy.  One of the people who responded turned out to be Sharon’s brother’s widow or ex-wife, I can’t recall which.  Hearing from her got me thinking about my childhood years, when Jeff Hawkins and my little brother Steve stopped at nothing to annoy Sharon and me.

Their antics drove us crazy.  They were four or five years younger than us and willing to go to any lengths to make us mad.  They succeeded.  We would sit under the tree in my yard, and they would cavort in the driveway, sometimes throwing pebbles at us.  Stop it!  we would cry, and if the stones came close enough, we’d scamper inside to tell whichever big sister had been given baby-sitting duty that day.

My sister Adrienne finally told us that we should ignore them.  That summer had been long, hot and dry.  No one had air conditioning.  We got some relief by hooking the round, green sprinkler to the hose and running through the water.  Jeff, Steve, and my brother Frank would do this for a longer time than Sharon and I.  We had nearly reached the years when we disdained such antics and worked instead on looking chic and cool, and conspiring to get invited to swim in the Edicks’ pool.

The Edicks fascinated us.  Their father owned a night club and they had built a swimming pool on the strength of what our parents speculated were ill-gotten gains.  Gambling, maybe.  But nobody else in the neighborhood had the kind of luxury that the Edicks boasted.  Getting invited to their house became an obsession for us.

Most of the time, though, we sought solace under the oak tree and scolded the little boys.

When Adrienne told us to ignore them, her advice seemed sound.  But they retaliated by having more fun than we thought possible in the late days of July, when the grass had long since died and the yard grew too dusty for sprinkler activity.  We watched them organize a softball game in the Hawkins’ yard, with wild rules involving assorted sports equipment.  They made a tent of our old swing set, and drove the red wagon at breakneck speed down the driveway and through the back gate.  They didn’t seem to care that we had decided to ignore them.

Finally, we couldn’t stand it any more.  We stood at the top of the yard, hands on our hips, and shouted down at them, We’re ignoring you!!!  Sharon tossed back her blond hair and and stomped her foot.

The boys fell out laughing.

That image rose in my mind this morning as I discovered that I had been injured anew by a wrong someone has done to me.  I closed my eyes and thought about writing the person an e-mail.  You are so annoying! I would say.  How could you be so stupid??  So careless??  So mean —-

And then I realized that all of that would be complaining!!!  Oh krikes!  How inconvenient this blog can be sometimes!!!!  I stomped my foot and tossed my head in frustration.  I know what I’ll do, I finally thought.  I’ll write to this person and let them know that I am NOT GOING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS NEW INSULT!!!

Na-na-na-na-boo-boo!  I am ignoring you!

I’m still laughing.

girl sticking out tongue

So many words, so little time

Someone once read a blog entry of mine and asked me if I would write that way for the rest of my life.  The answer, of course, was “yes”.

Another person read a blog entry of mine and asked if I had ever thought of being a real writer.  The answer to that question, too, was “yes”.

I found neither question curious when each was asked, but both curious now.  I am a writer, perforce, I write.  I am real, therefore, I am a real writer.

But I do understand that each questioner intended to compliment me, and I took the questions as favorable remarks.

This evening, I attended the last “in-store” performance of the Mysteryscape Chamber Theatre Company at Mysteryscape Bookstore.  Alas, the store is closing after three wonderful years.  I lament  the demise of an independent bookstore, particularly this one.  But as to the theatre company:  After the performance, I spoke with the evening’s director, who had also written the adaptation of one of Agathie Christie’s short stories performed tonight.  He talked about the moment when he realized that he might actually be  a playwright and of course, I thought of my son — my son, the real writer, who has sold a piece and had more than one of his plays staged.

I, too, wanted to be a real writer.  I found myself lacking in courage to pursue my dream.  Now, five decades later, at not-quite-sixty, I regret my choice.  But I’m not complaining.  I did not write from 1980 to 2008, but I shall not again stop.  And every morning that I awaken with a brain still humming and fingers still capable of dancing across a keyboard is a day in which I can write.  So many words, so little time.  Perhaps what drives me is the desire to compensate for all those lost years.  If that is the case, then by rights I should actually live to be 103, as I promised many years ago.  That will be something to write home about!