Aging · Maturity · Poetry

Holding it Together

Related imageI remember my youth,

Fast and uptight,

Resilient and taut,

Easy to excite.

 

Then I was a dish,

but now turning

Into a well-seasoned casserole;

As my physical knack to

hold it together slacks,

Goes lax.

 

I’m more flexible though.

Resting and relaxing,

Stretching and accommodating,

Binding and creating.

For the afternoon knows

What the morning never suspected.*

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/elastic/

* “The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected” is a quote by Robert Frost.

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Giving My Money to the Rich

piggybank

I don’t like to give my money to the rich.

Sitting at a mall, I watch people with their pretty shopping bags and hundreds of dollars worth of purchases and I cringe. I am certain that ultimately, those dollars are going to people that live in very big houses and drive pretty fancy cars on extravagant vacations. It’s akin to taking my wallet out of my back pocket, taking money out, flagging down one of those wealthy people, and saying, “Here, please take this!”

And I have a problem with that. That’s why I haven’t been to a mall in years.

I understand the mechanics of capitalism, kinda, so save me the lecture. I just don’t take it upon myself to single-handedly stimulate or grow the economy, which is what our consumer culture seems to be challenging us to do. I understand that those wealthy people are ultimately creating employment for the common citizen from production to sales.

What I like is to walk into Aimee’s or Tory’s shop and support their businesses. Or to shop at my local Bi-Mart and know that that means that Robin, and Sean, and Stacy, and Jennifer and the rest of the crew are getting a decent paycheck to pay off their home or their vehicles. I’ll pay extra, within reason, if I know that my money is staying in my community. Furthermore, I love that they remember my name when I walk into the store. They remember and inquire after what’s going on in my life. They’ve watched my boys grow up.

It means that I LOVE going junking and scoring on fabulous buys without the smell and burden of plastic packaging. I love giving gently loved things a second lease on life. I have a million dollar closet at the fraction of the price. The price to pay is sitting across friends at party and one of them saying, “Hey, I had a pair of pants just like those and I just donated them to the thrift store!” I sport embarrassment for a split second and then ask, “And why on earth didn’t you hand them down to me instead of me having to pay $5.99 for them?!”

It means I love Vivi’s Vietnamese food cart where I can text Finn my order in and have him text me back that it’ll be ready in ten minutes. I can’t drive fast enough for that banh mi addiction!

So I’m teaching my boys that we shouldn’t buy things that we can make ourselves – within reason. We certainly don’t have to buy everything we want or see (hear the “No Gimmies” lecture in the van before we enter a store.)  And that $8.00 that you’re about to spend on a fidget spinner to play with for a month (if that), I bet you can make it. I’m even willing to pay more for materials for you to make it.

So let’s go crazy creating, crafting, re-purposing, gardening, cooking, inventing, saving money. Let’s think about what we’re putting into and on our bodies and how we can simplify our lives. Let’s help out the billions of hurting people in the world. It sure is gratifying to give to someone less fortunate than I am. A lot more so than supporting the affluent.

That is food for thought…

(image from publicdomainpictures.com retrieved 10/6/17 5.40pm)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/genius/

 

Aging · Caregiving · culture · Death · Family · Humor · language · Money · Relationships · sad · Thanksgiving · Work

Burying the Cat II

JD darted from the church and into his car in record time. Drenched in sweat, he felt like he would pass out. After he’d got a grip on himself, he reached into his front pocket of his stiff new Bi-Mart jeans for the infamous phone.

He stilled his shaky hands and flipped the little gadget open, muttering at it the whole time. 6 missed calls in 2 minutes. It was his elderly client Lynn. He pushed call.

She answered immediately. “Halo JD.”

He could tell something was very wrong. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“It’s not good.” She said. He could tell she’d been crying. “Can you come?”

“I’ll be right there.” He started his car. He raced the familiar 25 miles there and let himself into the house, scared stiff. “Lynn!” he called gently.

She sat on a chair facing away from him and he hurried to her. When he got to her, he stepped back in utter dismay. She was cradling a very dead cat!

She started bawling when she saw him. “He was very sick this morning when I woke up. By the time I showered and called the vet, he was dead.” She sobbed helplessly.

He was aghast. He was tempted to say, “Is this why you called me?” but she couldn’t hear anything over the sobs anyhow. She reached out an arm for a hug. He leaned in and tried very hard not to touch the cat. “It’s okay, Lynn. I’m so sorry.”

She held him for a long time. So long his back started to cramp. Then his stomach started growling again. And that cat, he was certain he could feel it squirming, or winking at him. Or something.

Two hours later, he helped her out to a spot where they had decided Gumby would be buried. He set a chair up by the old magnolia and  scraped a perimeter for the hole. Once she approved it he got to work digging  a hole, 2 feet by 2 feet. He gritted his teeth at having to dig with his weekend clothes on, but he couldn’t very well go back home  to change at this point. The rhythmic strike of the shovel followed by the thud of the moist dirt landing was punctuated by Lynn’s soft sobs. Strike, thud, sob. Strike, thud, sob, sniffle.

He pulled his bandana from his pocket, wiped the sweat off his brow, threw the shovel off to the side and jumped out of the three foot deep hole. Lynn had wrapped Gumby in one of her towels and JD slowly reached out to receive it. He was met with a visceral wail and she clutched tightly at her stiff but beloved pet.

JD stood by trying not to the think of the tamales at his house that his friends were probably devouring without him. He didn’t want to deny her this precious moment with Gumby but he had spent all day yesterday preparing them and his cousin cooked them while he was at church.

He cleared his throat and placed his hand on her shoulder after she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pink polyester robe. “Honey,” she started, “I don’t that’s deep enough. I don’t want coyotes and racoons digging him up. Let’s make it a little deeper.”

He jumped back in and dug first one foot, then two feet deeper. Unfortunately this also meant he had to make it wider than two foot square. He put his foot down when he was chest deep and she mistook his tear for sympathy. “Gumby always loved you so very much,” she said wanly, rocking him back and forth.

_______________________________________________________________

“Donde estas?” yelled his cousin, Pablo trying to make himself heard over the loud music in the background.

“I’m coming from buying tulips and heading to Lynn’s house,” JD replied. “Hide me a bunch of tamales.”

“Tulips? What about the tamales? Estas loco? ” Pablo scratched his head, sure he’d heard wrong.

“Hide me 6 tamales. I’ll be home soon. I think,” and he hung up, exasperated. There was nothing like missing a tamale fiesta at your own house.

She’d decided she needed tulips on the grave so that she had something pretty to enjoy when she sat by the chair she’d had him cement under the magnolia tree. That had taken another hour and a half but she just had to have those tulips. They were Gumby’s favorites, she said. She had him lay them out, first one way then another before settling on  a third configuration. He buried them then set up some rockery that the tulips would adorn.

He pulled into his driveway at 6 p.m. to find folding chairs, dirty dishes, and beer bottles strewn across his front yard and no one in sight. He was the epitomy of mixed emotions as he stood there his eyes going from this mess to the wad of cash Lynn had stuck into his breast pocket “Please take this,” she said as she hugged him goodbye.  “You’re a better son to me than my own. He’d have told me and my cat to go to hell hours ago.”

JD counted it 5 times. Nine hundred and Forty dollars.

tulip2

https://wordpress.com/prompts/deny/

Christian · culture · Faith · Humor · language · Mishaps · We've All Done It

Burying the Cat I

JD is sitting on my porch at dusk and my husband and I are howling with laughter. I only catch half of what he is saying. I miss the second half of what he is saying because of his exaggerated Mexican accent, and the other half because he won’t pause for his audience to recover from laughing. Wait how many halves was that?

Anyway, he sets his Modelo down, which is his signature gesture for another good story; all before we even catch a breath and recover from the last one.

He’s been in the States for many years but loves nothing more than telling tales about growing up in Mexico or his experiences in the States. He’s an amazing landscapist with many clients who love him and have used his services for as long as he can remember.

About 5 years ago he was sitting in church trying to keep his stomach from growling. He folds over, bear-hugging his abdomen and trying to be inconspicuous. See, it’s a tenuous task finding the position that settles a sonorous gut. The louder it is, the longer it takes the priest to wrap things up. Just when you think you have it under control, you move a millimeter too far to the right which makes the entire intestinal tract trumpet like a dying elephant.

People beside you shift uncomfortably and clear their throats as though that’s any help. The teenagers in the pew behind him started snickering and couldn’t stop. The young mum in front of him turned around dramatically and, glared at him while smacking her gum. As though THAT was any help. “So sorry,” he mumbled, making the sign of the cross and trying to look anywhere but at her. Of course he was sitting in the middle of the pew and would have had to disrupt 30 people to get up. He closed his eyes tightly and prayed that the Living God would slay him. Or slay all these gringos around him. Something. Anything.

Presently the system settled down and he leaned back with tentative relief, grateful that no one was going to have to be slayed. He leaned back on the blue metal chair on my porch and took a swig of his Modelo. He set it back down on the concrete and lunged forward to continue his story.

“Then, I’m sitting there when the rosary starts and my phone begins to vibrate. Holy chit!” He muttered under his breath and instinctively grabbed his stomach then realized that was the wrong number. He went for his left front pocket, shooting his leg out like a viper, and swatted at his phone as if to kill it. The whole pew was vibrating and he noticed several people also going for their pockets. But his zipper was vibrating too so he knew he was the culprit. He finally smacked the right button and it stopped.

He stared forward, now cross-eyed, his heart racing. He could see a blurred priest gesturing, “In the name of the Padre, and the Madre,..” and the phone started to vibrate again. “Hijo de…” he started to mumble, his chest heaving and his hands now so shaky they couldn’t find his pocket.

Bubble Yum in front of him whirled around and said, “Oh my gosh!”

“So sorry.” He repeatedly automatically, beads of sweat and blood falling from his face as he stopped the phone. He grasped his rosary trying to keep up with everyone else. “Santa María, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores, ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.” Just before he said Amen, his stomach AND his phone went off at the same time and he didn’t know which one to go for first.

He would have launched his phone through the opened stained glass windows onto on-coming traffic if he could reach it for all his fumbling. Or at this irritating woman in front of him who was still glaring icily at him.

By the time he finishes this story he is writhing on the little blue chair that’s threatening to fold on him.  His right knee is on the floor and his left leg is jutted in front of him as he reenacts his desperate attempt to reach  his  phone. The husband and I are wiping tears from our eyes and trying to catch our breath as he reaches under the chair for his Modelo and drains its contents.

“That’s why I don’t go to church anymore, man.” He concludes as he pulls himself back onto the folding chair and grabs another beer.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/launch/

Customer Service

DISH TV & High Blood Pressure

That combination is no coincidence.

“2 of the TVs in my house have lost their signal.” I said woefully.

“Well ma’am, I can help you with that,” said Heather, the helpful customer service representative. Her voice had a nasal ring to it that grated slightly against my senses.

She asked a myriad of identification confirmation questions. Then she got to the page on diagnostic questions. “Are there any obstructions on your satellite dish? Leaves, branches, snow?” She asked.

I walked out and looked. “No obstructions.” I answered dutifully.

She asked several more questions.

“Well ma’am, I’ll have to look at the weather system in your area.” She said, almost despondent. “Yup it looks like there’s a storm coming in and that’s causing interference with your signal.”

“A storm?” I countered, “It’s supposed to clear up here and be close to 80 degrees for the next 2 days!”

“Is it cloudy?” She asked.

“Yes it’s cloudy.”

“That’s what’s blocking the signal. You won’t get reception till the clouds clear,” she informed regretfully.

“This is September in Oregon. The clouds won’t clear till June!” I said, incredulous.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” her pitch in voice was getting higher. “I can’t roll a truck to you. Even if I do, they’ll just cancel it because we have to go through several steps before a truck is sent out. Call back in the next day or so if it hasn’t changed.”

“I don’t even know what to do with that information right now. I am dumbfounded.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” She asked impatiently.

I hung up thinking that that implied she had so helped me with the first matter that she couldn’t wait to help me with another.

I pushed buttons on the remote for a few minutes my patience getting more frayed by the minute. I called back again. This time I got a dear Indian agent named Sam. We interacted for 45 minutes, the earlier ten of which I was certain I would get results. I could tell she was following the instruction manual very carefully. Between each section she said a determined “okay.” I could visualize her leaning into the manual resolutely.

Presently, she instructed, “unscrew the cable from the wall. Okay. Now unplug the cord from the box. Okay. Vait a couple of minutes. Okay. Now screw the cable back into the vall. Vhat signal is it giwing you?”

“Acquiring signal 535,” I said. “It says this may take up to 5 minutes. It’s been saying that since last night.”

“Okay, let’s give it 15 minutes.”

“15 minutes?” I balked, unbelieving. My first thought was, ‘are you going to call me back in 15 minutes or are we going to sit here for 15 minutes?’

“Or we can do 10 or 5 minutes.”

I choked.

“Okay. Let’s do the same thing on the other TV. Unscrew the cable from… Okay. Push the home button on the remote 2 times.”

She might as well have said now stand on your head and do the hokey pokey. It had been 45 minutes and we were still doing the same horse and pony nonsense. What’s that line about repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting different results? I was going to lose my mind.

“Sam, it’s not working.” I said flatly.

“Alright, I can send a technician out to you but that will be $95.” I could visualize her cowering as she said that.

“Wait, you are going to charge me $95 to send a technician out to fix your system that I’m paying for and getting nothing?”

“Yes. Because you don’t have insurance.”

“I have home insurance and health insurance. I’m supposed to have TV insurance too? Am I on camera?”

“No ma’am. I can sign you up for $6.99 a month but you have to keep it for at least 6 months.”

This, my friends, is why people commit acts of terror. So help me God.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/coincidence/

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Health · Relationships · sad · Teasing

Knock Your Ass to the Floor

I’m scraping my left overs into the kitchen-scrap bin for my chickens. I smile sadly as I think of Coach. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

As far as I can tell he has always commanded authority, even though he is the biggest kid on the planet.

I would watch his stooped form hobble into the front room, an iron-grip on his aluminum front wheeled walker. The caregiver has him firmly by the belt. She has finally learned to do it properly. When the caregivers first start, they inevitably pull his belt up as high as they can. Pretty soon his every step is higher and higher, driven by the abominable wedgy, until he is barely walking on tip-toe, then his legs are flailing about, trying to make up with the floor; and the caregiver, blood vessels pulsating on her temples, is about to strain bulging arm muscles from carrying a grown man by the waistline.

“Hi Trouble,” I tease.

He glances at me furtively,  and chuckles. Just a few months ago he would have said, “I’m going to knock your ass to the floor.” I love it! Walking has become arduous now. He keeps shuffling along, as though fearing that he won’t start again if he stops.  With every other step, the left Hush Puppies shoe rhythmically hits against the right one and his left knee buckles slightly.  I watch with bated breath, willing him on.

Sadly, his speech is also failing him lately. I can tell by the gleam in his eye he is trying to tease me back and can’t. My heart breaks. I’m certain it would have been a good one. When he finally sits, exhausted, I bend over to wipe a little rivulet of drool from his dignified chin and plant a playful kiss on his forehead.

“Wow! THIS is the BEST comb-over in the world!” I exclaim and  realign a stray hair. “I don’t care what anybody says.” He looks at me  through brilliant blue eyes and smiles again. He tries hard to say something and then abandons it. Instead, he shakes his head in mock dismay. So I raise my eyebrows and shake my head slowly as I say it for him. “… knock my ass to the floor.”  He smiles, trying to glare at me and settles for a fist.

We used to erupt in laughter at “the fist.” It was the formidable mechanism of knocking asses to the floor. One was liable to get it several times a day for one reason or another. A tear comes to my eye as I realize we are getting the fist less and less any more.

‘I’ll miss that someday,’ I think to myself as I clear his plate after breakfast. He did’t eat much, again. Nothing tastes good any more. I breathe deeply and stare absently out the kitchen window as I scrape the plate’s contents into the kitchen-scrap bin. Bacon, eggs, and rye toast. His favorite.

Today, I’m scraping my left overs… I wipe away another tear. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/planet/

Humor · Poetry · travel · We've All Done It

I’ve Had it!

I’m watching myself run away.

Down the dusty dirt road I go.

Stomping with vexed resolve,

I’ll never come back, oh, no!

 

That’s the last time they dismiss me…

I don’t have to put up with this…

They’ll miss and appreciate me now…

I left with nary a kiss.

 

I overstuffed my favorite backpack

With pain and my precious essentials.

I’ll never even think of them again.

O wait, I forgot my driver’s license!

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/planet/

 

Brothers · culture · Family · Humor · language · Nature · Relationships · Teasing

I’m Not a Fan of Yellow

My friend Shawn is a lovable, flavorful character. A mouthful sometimes. A potentially annoying mouthful.

He’d traveled to Namibia to visit his in-laws whom he only got to see every few years. Several women were in the kitchen wrapping up dinner – there’s nothing quite like a kitchen full of African women. Kwaito music was bumping rhythmically in the background and they occasionally paused their stirring to join in a catchy refrain or sway their hips in choreographed harmony, then burst into laughter, omwikos flailing boiling stew in the air.

Shawn sat in a small living room with 7 other guys at his brother-in-law’s new house. The overstuffed, extra firm couch was almost completely covered with colorful handmade doilies that kept falling to the floor and having to be retrieved. They were arguing loudly about politics, talking over each other, and laughing. Any tentative statements made were promptly challenged and severely scrutinized.

Shawn, a rather verbose character, was the only American in the room, surrounded by locals. Shawn talks. A lot. He has few verbal filters and is bold beyond belief. Admittedly, he had been on good behavior, afraid of being the ugly American. The men kept asking his opinions and he was careful, as his wife had tutored him,  not to take center stage and pontificate, which is his preferred mode. Topics flitted from one to the next and he presently got distracted. If he wasn’t the center of attention, he got distracted.

He was looking around the stark room in the house whose construction was almost complete. He could still smell the cement and the single coat of pale yellow paint on the wall, painted at the last minute to impress the guests.  He thought long and hard about this set up and didn’t notice the entourage of women walking into the room bearing food. He proclaimed absently, studying the walls, “I’m not a fan of yellow.”

His words fell like a giant catfish jumping out of murky waters and flopping onto a muddy beach with a splat. Everybody gasped and swallowed hard in unison. Eyes grew to the size of small plates, extremely embarrassed, and in utter disbelief. Hearts sank and no one dared to look at Mike, the heretofore proud home owner.

The strained, stunned silence in the room was pierced by Joe slamming his bottle onto the glass table as he choked over spewing beer. He had  warm beer coming out his nose and eyes. He didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He had argued for days with his brother Mike to not paint the room and just yesterday, Mike had spent what felt like hours at the local hardware store deliberating over what color of paint to buy. Never mind they only had 6 selections. Like a keDecember Boss, Mike had ridden his bike proudly toting 2 gallons of “Egg-yolk Yellow,” dodging muddy pot-holes, garbage, and mangy dogs on his 30 minute ride home.

Shawn’s wife Maureen narrowed her eyes and inhaled deeply and then her distressed, heavy chest sank in slow motion and just kept sinking. Her eyes told his that he had erred greatly and that he was a dead man sitting. If she wasn’t holding a tray of food she would have hurled her high heels at him and clocked him right on the bridge of his crooked nose. She shook her head slowly and narrowed those eyes further. Her lips began to furl tightly, controlled by an unseen drawstring, and to quiver with rage.

No one in that room will forget those moments till the day they die. There was no recovering from this one, even for my astute friend who can normally extricate himself from just about any situation with his oratory skills. It changed the mood of the entire rest of the vacation and the trajectory of Shawn’s life.

Fast forward 3 years and her family is bursting out of the vehicle after travelling across the world to visit Shawn and Maureen in the States. It was a glorious fall afternoon and the foliage was stunning to behold. Joe was the first guest to get out of the car. He yawned dramatically and inhaled the crisp air, then shivered in the cold breeze. “You guys said it wasn’t cold!  You mean it’ll get colder than this? Mxm!” He exclaimed. His brothers shuddered in agreement as they streamed out of the car and stretched their cramped legs. Along with the others, Joe hastily grabbed a random suitcase from the trunk, flicking a stray welcoming leaf from his shoulder. They all raced into the house, certain a blizzard would sweep through at any minute.

No sooner had they stampeded indoors and dropped the suitcases in a tall pile, than Mike blurted, “Etche muntu! I thought you are not a fan of yellow, man!”  He held his arms out defiantly circling the yellow room. Everyone else, rubbing their arms vigorously to warm themselves, burst into laughter.

“What are you talking about?” Shawn asked, cocking his head curiously.

“What is he talking about?”, choked Joe incredulously.

“What is he talking about?”, gawked Maureen.

That set the tone for the rest of this visit, and my poor friend Shawn spent a pouty fall feeling picked on; while Maureen juggled the fine line between letting him face the consequences of his often tactless speech and helping him preserve some semblance of dignity among his in-laws.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/leaf/

Death · Relationships

Grief

Reblogged & modified from 2/1/15. This one came to me as I was processing  being at the morgue for the third time for an immediate family member. There’s no place like it. I have several people grieving the passing of their loved ones right now. My heart goes out to you and feels, somewhat, the state of your mangled hearts..
There’s a bog
called the morgue
Whence I slog
blurred senses clog.
Grief is a smog,
A ravenous hound dog.
I trip on  logs
Get caught in cogs.
I think I’ll blog
To flee the fog
The brutal flog
Low, low,
Low on the hog
Aging · Caregiving · Death · Faith · Family · Health · Nature · Poetry · Relationships · sad · Spiritual

Ash Tuesday

This is a tribute to one of the most dignified people I have ever had the privilege of caring for. He and his family impacted my life deeply for almost 2 years. Some people grow deep roots into our hearts in no time…

Our beloved Gorge flares in a fury of flames and ash

Started by thoughtless fun and games

Fueled by bone dry underbrush,

By cowards who then skinked away and hid. No names.

Blazing,

Devouring,

Devastating.

 

On this Ash Tuesday

Another inferno has ran its course.

“I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”

His was a life lived deliberately

With honor, honesty, & humor. No remorse.

 

Simple and humble, hilarious, approachable.

A diligent, brilliant, outstanding human being

With  warmth blazing through bright blue eyes

Fed by a fire in his belly, seemingly all-seeing.

 

His was a no nonsense, kick your ass to the floor, tell-it-like-it-is kind of warmth.

It was fueled by Polish pride and delivered with New Jersey precision.

Fiery and feisty,

Then glowing,

Smoldering,

Simmering.

Spent…

 

Coach.

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

Forever in our hearts, till we meet again.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crescendo/