Monday, April 27, 2009

Pass the tissues please....

I'm an embarrassment to the family generally but my current state of "quick to cry over everything" never helps. Chip pats my shoulder, resigned to the sniffling beside him. The girls "oh, mom" me. Happy crying, sentimental crying, fearful crying, sympathetic crying....feeling frustrated, unappreciated, wistful.....Kleenex commercials, very special episodes of ER, old songs, baptisms, weddings and orphans of any species. I've always been a crier and reveled in it. When I was very little I would watch a show called "The Littlest Hobo" about a dog on the move. Every week he'd have to press on after some heroic deed that was misinterpreted by the bad men...a homeless Lassie if you will....and I would cry for him each time. My parents would say maybe I shouldn't watch. But I love to happy cry. And Sunday was a treat...a new occasion to add to my collection of events that require tissues. Confirmation of our beloved Leanny.

She's been in our lives for about seven years and is my and Chip's M-F breakfast companion while our daughter gets ready. She has a second breakfast and we fight over the funnies. It's the third daughter we wanted without the college tuition. We don't know what we'd do without her. Her mom says I get all the good stuff. And that's true. No limit setting, no curfew sweating, no screaming, no money or tears shed....she costs me two boxes of granola bars a month and I get all the love I need. A bargain at twice the price. Well done to you, Leanne and to all your friends.

Any fourteen year old who has the ability to focus on two years of confirmation classes amidst daily critical hair and wardrobe decisions is already ahead in the game of life. It was a massive class of 30-35 kids and the pastor's lesson was simple. Foundations built on rock last longer than those built on sand. What I liked to tumble around in my head was his reference to the Leaning Tower of Pisa as an example of poor foundations as relates to faith. Having just visited Pisa and knowing they have done a lot of restoration to shore it up, it does remain standing after seven hundred years-ish. Even with a shallow foundation in marshy land and sitting "off plumb" (my new personal motto), what I got from that little talk was a little spiritual maintenance now and then can stabilize a substantial lean toward decadence. I'm almost positive that was not the message he was trying to convey, but I'm jaded and like to be rebellious. Being a bit of a Leaning Tower gives one freedom to make a choice to topple and rebuild or to restore before falling. A little dodgy philosophy but infinitely more interesting to me than the solid and square lighthouse on the rock. I want to waver and question and wonder and take stock of where my feet are planted and whether they need to move occasionally.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Today, daffodils are my favorite flower. Once they're up and blooming, I feel confident that the snows and persistent cold are gone for another season. I love my yellow friends. It's a breezy day and their scent is so gently carrying on the wind and they smell like spring.

Neither here nor there but I've been doing yoga for about a month now and I'm dramatically fatter than when I started. A kind friend suggested it's muscle. Sadly, I suspect the yin of the donut is at war with the yang of yoga and has yet to achieve harmony in my body. Which will prevail? Can they coexist?

My Aunt Polly has lots of sayings. She's often asked me in my lifetime when I tell her about my week, "Are ya goin' friendin'?" I could have exercised today but chose "friendin" instead. Breakfast with one and an afternoon of glorious deck sunshine and conversation with two others. My beloved magnolia next to the deck has not succumb to the trickery of the March lion this year, as it usually does. It will often bloom with confidence in the one warm spell in March, a false God if ever there was one, only to have its blooms literally shocked by the return of winter for three more weeks. I yell at the tree every year. "Don't bloom, my darling! It's not real spring. Don't be fooled. " The shocked blooms are heavy and juicy and they hit the ground with depressing thuds, never to open to their full glory. It's so depressing. It's not a smart tree. But I love it like I love a stupid dog.

Sorting pictures from Key West was not psychologically painful in the way I thought it would be. The sunshine and flowers were beautiful to look at today as it's an equally glorious day here in WI to those we spent last weekend. The painful reality was more that there are 270 bloody pictures. Nobody needs 270 pictures of anything. Not even a bride needs that many pictures. Digital photography is a dual edged sword.

Dinner's in the crockpot. Pulled chicken sandwiches for dinner with a beer maybe or a margarita even. Hurray for sun...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Key West

My cousin Bill got married this past weekend in Key West to a great gal named Michelle. We are a small but colorful cast of characters on this side of my family who traveled to the southernmost point in the U.S. A most beautiful weekend of sunny, warm and tropical breezy days. We returned to Milwaukee in forty degree rain and the pilot announced from the cockpit at wheels down,
"And you wanted to come here?"

So what if this weekend were a play....

A Wedding in Key West. A Play in Three Acts.

A Wedding in Key West was produced at the Ocean Key Resort, Key West, Florida, Friday April 16th, 2009 by Bill and Michelle and their parents. It opened to a packed house.

Act I
The rehearsal dinner. The scene begins in the evening in a large house rented for the month by Bill and Michelle where families and friends meet and enjoy spirits and food.

Playful brothers still

Act II
The scenes in this act take place between rehearsal and wedding at Captain Tony's (the original Sloppy Joes where Hemingway drank each afternoon after writing and fishing), poolside in the courtyard of a guesthouse, Duval Street Drag Races (that would be transvestites running races in heels), sunset at Mallory Square, the Hemingway House and morning island bike rides. Flowers bloom everywhere in every scene.

An original descendent of Hemingway's six toed cat
I highly recommend the Pirate Punch. It has lots of gin.
Jessica, Brittany and Ally
Drag Races of Duval Street

The Wedding. The scene is at sunset on a twinkling pier with dance floor and Caribbean music trio. Sunset sailboaters crisscross back and forth as the sun descends.

The Cast

In my next life, I want to be a Hemingway House cat
Third cousins, Hannah and Olivia

Old friend of the family, Bloody Mary

Nugget, Bride and groom's son out of wedlock

General Setting of all Scenes:
Warm winds gently ebb and flow day in and out, giving relief to the characters just as they become uncomfortably warm. Flowers bloom everywhere. Roosters crow at sunrise all over the island. Sunsets each night are quiet and orangey fanfare as the sun drops below the horizon except for the gentle clapping of the crowds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter funny

Thank goodness Easter is a joyful holiday because the little kids in our church are hilarious. Our church has children's time during the regular services. The kids are called to the front for a mercifully short lesson usually relating to the sermon. Most weeks, it's five minutes of excellent stand-up for the congregation's enjoyment and today did not disappoint.

A giant backpack was delivered to the front of church for the children to ponder its contents. It was eventually revealed to be a big rock, a symbolic representation of the rock moved aside at Jesus' tomb. And the lesson was a good one about letting your faith help you to move the rocks aside in your own life...yes, yes, good message, point taken. But between the children's time conversation below and the church bulletin notice about the upcoming summer children's musical, We Like Sheep, I was just happy to be alive.

Pastor: The backpack looks pretty full. What do you think is in it?

Kids: Eggs! A rabbit! A GPS!

Pastor: Well, no, it's not any of those things. It's really heavy! What do you think could be in this backpack?

Kids: JESUS!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The resurrection of my mood in late winter Wisconsin

My yoga teacher ended class this morning with a rather joyous mention of Easter. An unexpected and fearless reference to go along with my Saturday morning power flow. She acknowledged that whether Christian or not, we all had the opportunity to find a piece of joy associated with such a spiritual weekend for many and coast on its energy in this season of rebirth and renewal for all people.

I immediately thought about my neighbor's snowdrops, the first blooms of spring. They come up almost overnight, a white blanket easily mistaken for snow at this time of year and sometimes indeed covered by actual snow. I know cognitively that the flowers and plants come back each spring, but in my heart, winter takes its pound of flesh annually and there is some insecurity about whether winter will ever end. These blooms and the Ten Commandments--I live for their reappearance each year as true evidence of spring.

We raked away the recently thawed winter leaf cover today and the soil is already opening for the green shoots of my bleeding hearts. Please let them survive late frosts and hungry bunnies.

I have always loved Easter but only as an adult has it become spiritually meaningful for me. Growing up Quaker, Easter Sunday Meeting for Worship and corresponding outfits were just as quiet and Quaker as any other Sunday. Again, I was envious of Catholics during the whole Lenten season, starting with their ashy foreheads and their very public Lenten deprivations, always variations on cake, cookies, candy or cursing. School lunches literally catered to their meatless Fridays, and it all finally culminated in a giant destination wedding weekend of activities: , travel, Friday night services, visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, Easter hats and dresses and brunches after Easter Sunday mass. And every girl wore white ankle socks or pantyhose on Easter--it was a very special day.

Strangely, my mom always bought us new Easter outfits. I can see now that although my Catholic mother had abandoned the church, she hadn't abandoned the Catholic traditions. My sister and I would get dressed up every Easter and parade around the neighborhood waiting for kids to return home from church or relatives' houses so we all could compare outfits. My favorite outfit of all was a cream colored mini skirt with a pink flowered, Peter Pan collared top. I wore it with a white shawl and tan pantyhose with my platform white clogs. I was one of the original hot messes of fashion.

Today, we enjoyed our family Easter traditions of egg dying while watching five hours of Charlton Heston and cooking a ham.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Namaste.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A long strange wonderful trip it's been

Thirty years in, we still find time and pleasure in getting together to laugh and shop and play games and craft and read trashy magazines and drink froofy drinks, as we've always done. It's natural to us, like sisters or cousins who've spent uncounted hours just chillin'. It's definitely a Depends weekend. We crack each other up, laughing mostly at one another, but ultimately remembering to laugh at ourselves. Nothing more boring than a woman of a certain age who takes herself too seriously or tries to hide her insecurities or her violent fantasies about killing people in the grocery check out line. These thoughts must be aired! There's no hiding from one's true self in this group. We revert to our adolescence, but in a good way! Now I recognize that nobody else wants to be with us, and that spouses, male children and brothers-in-law flee in terror at the mere prospect of the coven coming together. We ARE the obnoxious table of women that annoy so in restaurants (as seen in commercials for products like Pol-i-dent and Depends) who cackle too loudly and try to order stuff not listed on the menu. But we can always be ourselves without fear of rejection and being one's authentic self twice a year with someone other than your mom or husband is invaluable to the psyche.

Someone once pointed out to me how unusual she thought it was to be friends with people from high school. Her reaction left me feeling I had strange priorities and unrealistic expectations for my children around having friends. I grew to hate her for that comment and set my phaser to I do...she was sneakily and vindictively excised from our life--vengeful and immature...-eh, I'll discuss it with my maker at some point if necessary. I think I feel almost patriotic about girlfriends as an the flag...and she was a traitorous voice. She had to go.

Over the years, we ladies wrote letters, we called, we visited, we were present at important times in each other's lives and just resisted the easy path of losing touch because "life is too busy". Life marches on, but from my perspective, it just doesn't take much effort to stay in touch unless one of the parties isn't pulling her weight. Then it falls on one set of shoulders and that becomes frustrating, then tedious and finally defeating. So the relationship dies a quiet death.

But these women have always pulled their share of the weight in keeping the friendship fires burning and the rewards are huge. I wish it for my daughters. It makes me a better person to have nurtured these relationships to maturity. There's nothing more comforting than knowing these women stand with me through all life has to offer up, good or bad. Here's to the next generation of girlfriends.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good golly, Miss Mollie

Ten years ago, she said, "If I'm celebrating my birthday with you again next year, I'm just going to kill myself." We laughed and laughed, but we wondered. From what emotional place did that joke come? A place of trust certainly and long, long friendship but also a place of restlessness and uncertainty about the directions our lives had taken at that point, divergent and disconnected both within and beyond our control. We were in our thirties, a difficult decade for any women worth knowing. The "angst-y years" where we watched our youth ship sail for the sunset as we stood on the shore crying and stamping our feet for it to come back.

Today. We've settled into our forties with humor, patience and purpose of heart. No more dilly dallying about what we want and not being afraid to ask for it, no more silly spats, no more hurt feelings. Lots of caretaking, lots of laughs, lots of shorthand, lots of emotional reliance on one another as we realize we're each other's past and future, even though we're not always each other's present.

The first time we met was the first time I ever tasted chocolate mousse. How could that NOT go splendidly forward? We had a 12 hour meet and greet, staying up until 5am talking and laughing as only kids can. I'm not sure she remembers it as well as I do, but that would be natural since she was my first and only friend at that point and I was just one of many for her. But her generosity of friendship and loyalty gave me the hope I needed to keep going through a very difficult transition in my life.

We share so many memories I consider worth recounting. Opening that overflowing drawer of memories would be tedious to all but about 10 people on Earth. We've never lived farther than a long car ride until the last six years and that's been a difficult adjustment for me and probably her, too. Tonight though, we get together with the other "gigglers" as my mom dubbed us almost thirty years ago, and we'll reminisce and laugh hysterically and pull obscure stuff out of that drawer at random. Never a script, it's always improvisational when we get together.

I'm lucky to have found another sister in the randomness and whims of life's journey. These deep and abiding relationships outside of marriage and family that are worth slogging it out for, well, they don't have a name; "friendship" doesn't pack enough oomph to describe it. More family than real family philosophically, because it's been her choice to be tied to me. It takes a lot of work to keep relationships going, whatever their definition, and she is a workhorse where friends are concerned. I'm just one of many friends who can claim thirty plus years with her.

Happy Birthday, Mol. I truly can't imagine chocolate mousse without you.