Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010

It was a coolish and grey New Year's Eve when the barge nudged the bank at the boat landing near the house. We did not hear it arrive quietly in the morning hours. The big blue boat pushing the barge looked like a World War II landing ship with it prow that would open onto the bank. Large pilings were strapped to the sides of the barge, but all was quiet around it.

The dark water barely rippled under the ominous clouds that gathered. Rain would come. A stillness permeated the air and damp. No wind wiggled the tree limbs or leaves left on the myrtle. No fish jumped. No boats left their wake in the creek.

The house still held its Christmas decorations like failing spots of joy in the dismal day, but the tall pines stood starkly against the sky, silhouettes of summer days. And, deciduous trees poured upward like dark paint streaking toward the heavens. Birds kept to their nests in the dogwood trees.

The magnolias ignored the gloomy weather, the forthcoming rain and pushed their glossy leaves forward. The white camellia buds continued to ripen unharmed by the cold nights.

Inside, the Wii twinkled it upbeat tune. Cats dozed happily in chairs out of the swing of the controller. The phone was quiet. Knitting, reading, holding hands. A very good ending for the year. Happy New Year 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Being Sick at Christmas

UP HILL by Christina Rosetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.

Thanks to The Me That Is

Christmas stories

Growing up on a small farm in Mississippi in the 50s, we heated with wood stoves. The only time the living room was heated was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day...and maybe the day we put up the tree. Seems like it was colder back then, but, of course, my Dad built the house out of green (unseasoned) wood and it crackled and popped as it dried - for years. Anyway.

The tree always went in the front window. We did string popcorn for it and used the fragile glass balls inherited from my grandmother. We always added things like the little mouse candle by tying a string around its middle. The 5 and 10 cent store where Mom worked also provided some red and silver balls. And, tinsel. Some years we were allowed to just throw it up and see where it landed. Other years we hung each strand piece by piece. But, in the earliest years, I remember that getting the strands of tinsel apart was almost impossible; so small globs were the rule of the day.

My brother and I were sent to bed at a reasonable time on Christmas Eve - usually some time after 10 pm because Mom had to work until 9 pm. Since we did not have a mantle, our stockings were pinned to the back of the sofa, and Santa arrived during the night to fill the stockings and lay out our unwrapped Santa gifts. Sometimes, we could hear noises in the living room after we went to bed, but we never got up, never peeked - especially after we realized that Mom was Santa and that she had to work until 9 pm, drive out into the country where we lived, feed us second supper and then put out all the gifts. After David and I were much older, Mom made us stay in the kitchen while she put out gifts; then we could have them. We all slept late on Christmas mornings then.

Of course, finding where she had hidden the gifts was a real challenge. She usually left the larger gifts at the store, hidden in the back among all the stock. But, our stockings were not always full; sometimes Mom forgot where she had hidden our stuff. When I was 15, we moved away from the farm and, in moving, found some coloring books that had been destined for our stockings when we were much younger - also some blunt pointed scissors and a few other things. What a laugh we had!

My Mom loved fine china and silverware even though we were "dirt poor". I usually got a plastic set of dishes and plastic or aluminum silverware. My first set had fluted edges on the dishes with flowers in the middle. I don't know how many sets of silverware I got but I have remnants of at least four. Finally, when my Dad was stationed in Cuba, I got a set of real china toy dishes. They had a deep red border with flowers, and I loved them. I still have them in the original box with not a single piece broken. That was the year that Mom got her Bavarian Linen tablecloth and a set of silver plate flatware...with daffodils. Getting real china took much longer for her. If I felt like ironing, we'd use that tablecloth for Christmas dinner, but the embroidery on it is so detailed that we had to hire someone to iron it when I got married.

My Uncle Lester and his wife Aunt Clyde loved me dearly. Aunt Clyde sewed beautifully, and she made a lot of my clothes. But, Uncle Lester was a farmer. He learned something of the carpentry trade the year I was six, and he made me a wooden stove. Each detail was carefully painted on and the door opened to reveal a wooden rack inside the oven. That year I got aluminum pots and pans with the baking pans being actually usable...still have at least one of those, too. Uncle Lester was kind and gentle hearted. He also made one for Mother's step-niece.

Aunt Edith also cared about me - I was the only granddaughter in the family. She gave me silk pajamas and then - one year she gave me a large jewelry box - black with two small and one large drawer and a top that opened with a mirror. It was not a gift for a child, but I loved it. And, I suspect that it's in one of those tubs in the garage marked "MM childhood junk". I used that jewelry box for years and years - well into my 50s.

One year, David got a horse for christmas. The horse arrived early in the Fall and David had learned to ride passably well enough for both of us to ride the horse. After Christmas one year, we rode down to Grandma Woods' house so that I could show her my new tea set. I didn't repack the tea set well, and it rattled loudly on the way home. The horse was spooked; David was a relatively new rider, and the horse dumped us. Mom was so frightened that she sold the horse. I cried and cried and apologized to David for making him lose his horse.

me with David's guitar

David wanted a guitar, and his first one was from Sears - a big ole thing with clef note holes. Later, after he learned to play well, Mom went to Memphis to the pawn shops on Beale Street and bought him the sweetest little Martin guitar. I've forgotten who went with her, but he was so pleased with it...and such a great sound. He and his two buddies, Jimmie and Jack, played for hours on our front porch or in the kitchen in winter. The only songs I remember from their practice was "Maybelline" and "Thunder Road", but they tried all the country/western songs. And, they played at Jimmie's pentecostal church on Sunday nights; so I learned a lot of good gospel songs.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pain and death at Christmas

My lesbian friends are visiting parents this year - together. And, the pain is often great. One family insists that they sleep in separate rooms, another has twin beds for them, and one family says they aren't comfortable with their staying in the home. Most can't afford lodging elsewhere; so they sleep apart (and what are you going to do in your parents home except sleep, especially when you know the disapproving parents are next door or just down the hallway, or worse in the room underneath you?). Some don't go at all even though their parents are aging; some try to find room with accepting cousins or aunts. Some try to make the journey in one day. Those with children have it hardest. What do you say to a young child who wants to visit Grandma and Grandpa?

On Tuesday, a friend is burying her brother who died of colon cancer. She will be holding tight to her mother who says, "This isn't how it's supposed to be." He leaves two young children.

A memorial service will be held for one who took his own life - a choice he made because the pain of living became too great. We can speculate about causes: Vietnam, lack of family support, alcoholism, drug use, purposelessness.

So, as we prepare for the ritual birth of the Christ child, the baby who was God and human, life goes on with all of the pain, the deaths, the natural disasters as usual...except with a little more of all of it - the joy as well as the sad.

God came to earth to be with us - Immanuel - God with us - God did not come to take away the pain or the death or the joy or the desire. God came to teach us how to choose life. For life is breath and God's first act was to breathe upon the emptiness and chaos. Ruah in Hebrew.

I quote from a poem I learned long ago about friendship: "take what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away." May God with you be the breath of life that helps you sift the pain and the joy, keep what is worth keeping and with steadfast love and compassion blow the rest away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting Rid of Junk

(photo borrowed from USPS-my preferred method of shipping using Click n Ship)

In cleaning out my boxes of junk from the garage, I seem to have made many people happy. My cousin called with questions about some of the items - like "What's this black and white fuzzy long thing?" Answer: A scarf I knit for your wife. "Who's in this framed picture?" What picture, describe it to me. A man in a white shirt and a woman. Answer: That's you're grandmother and grandfather when they were younger 1944. "There's a coin purse here with stuff in it?" Coin purse was grandmother's. Necklace inside was great grandmother's. Piece of paper is grandfather's driver's license when they first began issuing them in Mississippi.

A friend: "What's this long black thing with a star shape on the bottom?" Answer: a handy-dandy meat masher to use in non-stick skillets from Pampered Chef. "You sent soap; do you think I'm dirty?" No, it made the box smell good.

Another friend: "Um, why are you sending me bottles?" Answer: so you can smash them up and use them in your glassworks. Where did you get these glass door knobs? Answer: From my great grandparents house in Mississippi before it was torn down.

And, the universal question "Why aren't you keeping all of this stuff?" Answer: I have way too much stuff and no children or grandchildren who might appreciate it.

So look out, buddies. You may be next on the list for a mystery box.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Long time, no write

My friend Lindy, who up and moved all the way from Texas to Wuxi, China, and surprised us all, has pointed out that I haven't blogged in a while. No matter what I write, it would be boring in comparison to her wonderful pictures and commentary about life there. She played with a band one day - a group of women who were wonderfully dressed and wore dashing red hats. They let her play the drums and then the cymbals and put one of the hats on her and took her picture. Well, +Clumber photoshopped the red hat onto several profile pictures on FaceBook. Two of us got different colored hats, though. One was black, and mine is you can see from the picture. I'm delighted to have the blue hat and have decided that I will be the flag waver since I don't "do" music well.

Speaking of that, I missed Lessons and Carols at church last week because I was getting ready for our annual Tree Trimming Party - our 10th. But, my first tree trimming party was in 1988. This year we had short pork ribs cooked in the oven slowly with Memphis dry rub (my version, very sweet), then slathered lightly with a more tart wet sauce and baked a bit more. Only four were left; so I guess everyone liked them. We also had some almost tasteless shrimp (a round frozen tray that I bought - won't do that again), my own spinach dip, Lisa's Tex-Mex 5 or 7 layer sort of dip, black bean hummus (again my creation with baked onion in it), sugared pecans, cupcakes from Miss Kitty's bakery, and all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks. That non-alcoholic is because some of us are allergic to alcohol. When we drink, we break out in handcuffs.

I've taken leave from my wonderful job at the yarn shop. No, I'm not sure how long, but not permanently. My mornings are not so good lately. I won't go into detail but simply say that fibromyalgia is worse some days than others, or some weeks. I've been reading about XMRV, a retro virus that is thought to "cause" chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of the symptoms fit me, although my partner disagrees slightly. I've thought of getting tested for the virus, which shows up in white blood cells, but no cure or real treatment is available. Giving a name to my pain and problems might help. And, XMRV might be more believable than fibromyalgia.

Here's my recipe for spinach dip:
1 or 2 boxes of frozen chopped spinach (I used 2 Green Giant - all I could find and they are small)
1 package Knorr's vegetable soup mix
1 16 oz carton of reduced fat sour cream
1 package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 cup of pecans
1/2 package of dry Ranch Dressing mix
Garlic Salt (about 1 teaspoon for me)
Cayenne Pepper (1/4 teaspoon for me)

Thaw and squeeze the water out of the spinach.
In food processor (mine is more than 20 years old) chop cream cheese into pieces, add pecans and sour cream. Blitz for a bit. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Blitz some more until the texture is grainy but not chunky. Place in refrigerator for some time to let the tastes mix well. Use finger to clean the food processor bowl, place finger in mouth and close lips around finger. Remove clean finger and savor the great taste. Don't chew the finger; that hurts.