Yes, I Know, it’s Another Animal Rant

My dog just asked me for a chewy bone.  While she didn’t actually say this in English, there was no doubt I heard her, loudly and clearly.  We all do it.  I know my goofy Jack Russell, Finn, speaks in a grammatically challenged, raspy voice.  I know my other, more cultured Russell, Matilda, sounds a lot like the Dowager from Downton Abby.

Like every dog owner, I see the bright (in Matilda’s case at least – Finn might not be called exactly bright) intelligence, willingness to obey, desire to please and need to be accepted and loved  I can’t imagine my household without these non-human counterparts.  This is probably what has led to my, um, animal abundance.

Image(Matilda and Finn on the boat.  Although it might look like Finn is bright, due to the lightbulb over his head, he is not, but he is snuggly and pretty.  Sometimes, that’s enough.)

Yes, I have a barn full of oddballs, living together in what is, mostly, harmony.  There is a distinct hierarchy to my barnyard that I could sit and watch, silently, for hours.  My largest, Gracie, is a horse who is nearing 30.  Bought when my daughter was a 5th grader, she is known as “bomb-proof”.  The perfect horse for a girl.  But in looking back as to why she has this personality, it’s sad to remember that before she came to me she had several other homes, where she had friends and formed families but was separated, over and over, and came, originally, from a rent-a-horse ranch.  She was most likely whipped, beaten and berated into submission.  Now, she’s too old to ride and views me with distain.  I can’t blame her.  People probably haven’t been that nice to her.  At this elderly stage of her life she shares her stall with pigs, chickens, donkeys, sheep and an emu.  It’s not the retirement home of her dreams.  I try to make up for it by making her golden years as stress free as possible and giving her senior feed that costs $18,000,000 per bag.

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(And no, I do not know why, when allowed to graze outside the pasture, both Gracie and Bethlehem will choose to stand in the one place there is no lush grass, the porch.)

The undisputed queen of the barn is a sheep I bought from the classifieds.  She was a whim, 13 years ago, and the first of my oddballs.  When I got to the farm selling sheep, I was disturbed to find out that “them was eatin’ sheep”.  I wish I could have taken them all.  Clementine is the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known.  Smarter than dogs, smarter than many children, she rules the roost.  No one eats without her permission and Gracie and my donkey Bethlehem (Not that brilliant as for years he wouldn’t walk across my black driveway, afraid he’d fall in.) vie for her affection.  We have long called her “My Pretty Pony” because when we had more horses, each would court her to stand underneath them, and be their little sidecar.  When one orders lamb at a restaurant, it has caused the terror, pain, and death of a creature who is smarter than one of my children when they were in kindergarten. (I won’t say which one.)

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(Clockwise: Clarence as a baby, Clementine shocked to be found in the kitchen, Clementine getting lots of love from me during her annual haircut, a most humiliating adventure)

The pigs each have such engaging personalities and the interactions between the distinct families of chickens could fill a sun drenched day with entertainment. I really can’t fathom, when I’m in there with them, the fact that one day, a long long time ago, someone said “hmmm, I’d like to kill and eat that”.  Blows my mind.  I wonder if dogs tasted like bacon if people would be so quick to torture and kill them?  Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. My pigs are engaged in a constant battle over a certain blanket in the barn, whether due to its texture, its color or print is the object of their intense desire.  Mediating between them takes both me and Clementine.  We’ve decided on an odd day/even day schedule for sharing. No one is happy about this.

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The reason I’m saying all this is because knowing the thoughts and feelings of these guys has caused me to spend my life worrying over dogs I see from my car, trapped in tiny pens wondering what crime they committed to be kept in a cell, cats freezing behind grocery stores, birds in tiny cages.  There is a family near me that keeps two big birds in a minuscule cage hanging by their garage no matter what the temperature.  It’s killing me.

The other night, a friend of The Boy’s called and asked if we were missing a pig.  As if my pigs, Babette and Orson, are going to leave their Little Mermaid sleeping bags and snug barn on a cold night.  I called my neighbor and asked if he was missing either of his two.  We laughed because we were having such an absurd conversation.  Nope, not his.  So we went on about our lives.  That night, in the dark of the night waking that happens to middle aged women, I began worrying.  Whose pig was it?  Where was she sleeping?  Was she cold? (Well, duh, she was cold!)  Pigs have IQs that rival that of children 3 – 5 years old.  Can you just imagine the sad and confused thoughts of your preschooler, lost and alone?  Pigs don’t like the dark.  They sleep at night, just like us.  They’re scared of everything that’s unfamiliar.  It’s a shame someone just put her out because she was no longer a cute little piglet.

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Dogs are the same way. They fully believe us when we get them as puppies and tell them they’re our babies.  They don’t get it when we get tired of them one day and send them to the shelter.  I get so many entreaties to take dogs that people no longer want or “can no longer take care of”.  It happens with bunnies and chicks that are given as Easter pets too.  My heart can’t take what we as humans do to these little souls.

I’m not all that knowledgeable about birds.  Recently, a friend posted this story on Alex, an African Grey parrot.  I knew they were smart but had no idea they were thinking like this.  If you have time, this is a real eye opener. (http://youtu.be/SzPiTwDE0bE).  Yet, everyday, parrots die, imported or bred, insane because of their care.  Arrrgggh!

I’ve got no snappy, funny wrap up. I usually see things from a humorous angle but this has really been on my mind lately.  We’ve become a society that throws away our animals because they’re inconvenient.  We don’t take care of our elderly and our children are being raised by iPads and TV. I think we’ve stopped making connections altogether.

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My point is, take in a stray, spay and neuter, leave notes in the mailboxes of assholes who are keeping dogs in the cold, in tiny pens.  My dad once stole a dog that was being mistreated.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Do something for those that can’t help themselves. Give up meat for a day a week, then two days, then maybe everyday. Rail against circuses and Sea World for taking these intelligent species, with family units, separating mothers from their children and beating them into doing tricks.  Elephants don’t naturally wear hats and carry poodles on their backs. They are whipped until they cry.

We wonder why children are mistreated, our elderly are disrespected, and people can be gunned down in theaters?  It’s because, down deep, at our very evil human core, we’ve forgotten to respect anything and everything that was given to us, by God, to care for.  Maybe today, or tomorrow, we can all put ourselves second, just for a day or two, and do something for someone smaller than us, who needs our help. It’s not that hard to show love to another species.

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I’m sorry I continue to post animal rants every now and again instead of talking about shoes and wine  I have to do it or explode. It keeps me from committing crimes.

Divine Wine

ImageThe Goose said the other day that, truly, alcohol was the cause of most of the trouble in the world.  I was shocked that he would say that to me.  I felt personally offended.

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I sound like a bigger lush than I am.  I would say I am low to medium in the world of 45 – 55 year old women who love wine.  I feel like wine ranks in the top ten list of things necessary to a good life, but not in the top 5. I think most women my age feel wine is what KEEPS trouble from happening. I’m sure that during those scary mid-winter evenings, when my child announced he had a project due the next day, his father was working late and our printer was out of ink, a small tipple is what kept me from committing a harmful crime upon a child. I have no doubt the Wright Brothers mother, after watching her children take to the skies, turned to her best friend and said, “well, I think I need a little something”.  I feel certain the reason so many marriages stayed together in the 50s is surely because of that golden slice of time, “the cocktail hour”.  How many women would have made it through visits from mother-in-laws without a little help?

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That said, it HAS caused problems.

The Goose’s and my favorite thing is the crime blotter from the little paper from the town near our lake house.  Each and every one of these brilliant crimes is alcohol fueled and causes us no end of mirth.

Here is just a sampling of some police blotter incidents, not all from our town:

  1. Man said ex-girlfriend broke into home when he was not home and stole all the sheetrock from his house.
  2. Police responded to a report of a drunk man who had broken into a store.  Upon entering the store, the officer shouted out “Marco”, to which the suspect, who was hiding, responded “Polo”.
  3. Police responded to a man who claimed someone was in his bedroom, standing in the corner and looking at him.  When officers turned on the light, it was discovered that it was a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwartzenegger.
  4. Surveillance cameras showed a man weaving through the pet store and shoving a baby alligator down his shirt.

And my favorite of all time:

5.  A woman on 37th street called 911 and reported that her boyfriend refused to BRING HER A CASSEROLE.

Okay, we’ve all been hungry and number 5 might be understandable.  I once cried because The Goose would not leave work to bring me dumplings when I was pregnant. Clearly, though, each of these perps was out of his mind, most likely on MD 20/20, that low rent standby.

It’s true that alcohol does make some people fight more (not me, I love everyone and by that I mean, everyone) and it has caused countless mad bouts of slurring karaoke at office parties that has made millions call in sick to work to avoid embarrassment the next day. But, on the flip side, it has caused billions and billions of mothers, throughout history, to glance at the clock while toddlers drool on their pants leg, puppies poo on their floor and husbands call to say they’ll be late shudder with glee that 5:00 has come again and they can sit quietly and sip a glass while Mr. Rogers plays softly in the background.

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It prompts stories to be retold, year after year because someone does something stupid involving jello or shaving cream.  It allows us to know deep dark secrets because someone belts out their inner desires at a party.  Someone I know, but will not name, once went back into a bar, at closing time, went into the bathroom and fell asleep on the toilet not to awaken until she was found locked in the next morning.   That’s a good story, years later, that wouldn’t have happened if she’d been pounding diet Coke.  She grew up and became, guess what, a fabulous, stylish and respectable attorney.  See?  It all turned out just fine.

Yes, it does give false courage and cause self respecting women to pour dish soap into neighbor’s tacky fountains.  Okay, it pushes some women to call up ex-husbands while their good friends egg them on.  (I’m sorry.)  It whispers to some idiotic ladies, while lingering over a glass at dinner, to tell their children that one of them was conceived in their grandparents’ swimming pool.  Geez. It’s possible The Goose had something there.

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Like the saying goes, no good story ever started with “hey y’all, want a salad?”.  I’m not promoting booze, and I’m not talking to folks that truly have a problem.  I’m just musing about it and repeating the conversation I had with The Goose when he uttered his proclamation.  I agree, it’s not for everyone.  It causes beaucoup problems for many, but most of us keep it in its place and in perspective. I’m sharing with those women who call each other up right in the middle of helping with math homework and say “Hey, wanna come over for a quick glass?” and the response is “Oh, thank the Lord in Heaven!”.  Speaking to those of us who have sometimes wrapped a waiter in a snuggly hug when he arrives and announces that he has La Crema by the glass”.

In any tee-totaling argument I always pull out the trump card when I whip out this doozy:  The first miracle was water into…what’s that?  Oh, yeah, wine.

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The Giant Umbilical Cord

ImageJust a few weeks ago my son, The Boy, went away on a mission trip.  On this trip, they could not take their phones nor communicate back home in any way. They left on a Sunday morning and by Thursday, I was willing to fly, drive, swim or make smoke signals just to hear from him.  I picked up my phone to text him a hundred times and then sighed and put it back down.

ImageLet me digress by saying that The Boy and I are not in the best of places.  He’s been my sweet and snuggly child since birth.  Never any trouble, affable, effortless popular with his peers and a certified chick magnet.  My house has always been the place where his friends gather and I am close to them as well.  About the time he was fifteen and a half, he left for school and a demon came home wearing his body.  “Hi!  How was school?  I missed you!” I chirped when he came in the door, my arms flung wide for a hug, and something reptilian moved behind his eyes and he snarled and slunk to his room. A sullen, entitled changeling snuggled beneath the sheets on which I had used extra lavender scented fabric softener.  A demon sighed every time I asked it where it was going when it headed to its car (that I gave it). In its eyes, I ceased to be cool, which I know is not the case in reality, so I can only assume that The Boy had been possessed.

From that day forward, I’ve seen glimpses of my darling boy, sometimes weeks of sweetness, and then the monster gets control again.

I should have expected this.  Cricket went through the same thing, only her great rebellion was black eyeliner, screaming music and an attitude that caused her to be nicknamed “Black Heart”.  She popped right out of that at about 17 and has been the sweet dream she was most of her life since then.

I never thought it would happen to The Boy, though, the happiest child on Earth. No matter how much his monster is in control, we still do a fair amount of texting during the day and even that manages to convey a devilish snippiness.  A sampling of a recent conversation:

Me: Hey! Where are you?

Boy: In my room?

Me: Is that in question or are you confused about punctuation?

Boy: …

or

Me: Could you call me please?

Boy: I can’t, my phone is broken

Brilliant response, oh bright one.

Being out of contact made me realize just how much I communicate with my family.  Those experts who say that family communication is dead are just wrong.

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Cricket and I send approximately 2,000,000 text daily.  She texts me about what everyone is wearing in her class, whether it rained when she was walking to her building and what cute boys were at the gym.  Then, we discuss people we know.  I tell her I just used Soft Scrub on the sink and removed a troubling stain.  I tell her I’m at the carwash.  I tell her when I am mad at The Goose and why.  She backs me up.  Next, I tell her all is well and she agrees that he’s the best dad ever.  I tell her what her brother wore to school, what I think about the girl he’s dating, the fact that I had to stop for gas and my current calorie count for the day.  She texts me that her hair is frizzy and she’s not happy with her shoes.

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The Goose texts me his demands for the day.  Have I taken the trash to the street?  Are his shirts back from the cleaners? Did I call the gas company about a problem?  He tells me who he saw at Matthew’s Cafeteria at lunch.  He texts me links to news stories in which he knows I have no interest. He texts me to come upstairs to his office.  On the way up, I get a text that he needs a Mountain Dew and while going back downstairs to get it, another that he needs his glasses.  When he goes to the lake without me, he usually imbibes, out of loneliness from missing me I guess, and drunk texts me silly teenage type declarations of love that cause me to blush and giggle.

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The Goose talked with his mother daily.  I called it the “Giant Umbilical Cord”.  I kinda regret this now that my kids are almost grown because I can’t imagine how often I’ll contact them during the day once I don’t actually see them every day.

My point is, we communicate A LOT.

The Boy got a phone in the 5th grade.  Those of you without sin, just get over it.  He then proceeded to send 6 consecutive phones through the washing machine, in the pockets of his pants.  He would take his allowance and go right back out to Target and plunk down another $12.99 for a new one.  I kept waiting for the lesson to sink in.  Since then, he has continued to destroy phones, one after another, and our family’s DRAWER OF TECHNOLOGY SHAME is overflowing.  I confess that we have all contributed to this.  All just to stay connected.

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(I know, it’s embarrassing, our drawer of shame)

Here’s the thing.  Several days into the week, I had forgotten all the things about The Boy that have gotten on my nerves.  I remembered that he really is sweet most of the time, is a great kid, stays out of trouble, mostly, and chooses to bring his friends home instead of roaming the streets with hookers and drugs.  He actually does hug me often, even if it is the bone crunching, rib breaking kind.  He pokes me, punches my arm and stands next to me, commenting on my height, a teenage boy’s way of showing love. He was on a mission trip, not lying on a beach in PC wondering where his pants got to last night. He is a moral, funny, loyal young man who would be there for any of us in a minute.  Some of his friends stayed at my house, having chosen not to go home but to just wait out the week here, and I overheard them, lounging in their pajamas every morning, talking about how much they missed him and counting the days until he came home.  There is a FB page where they posted daily pictures of the trip and we scoured each one until we found him, looking cute in a straw hat.  At no point did I fume about the state of his closet or glower over the glasses and chip bags left in the basement.

Maybe there is something to “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because I arrived to pick him up an hour early, straining my ears for the sound of his bus and the sight of his tan, sleep deprived self almost brought me to tears. If a week can do this for a teenage boy,  maybe we’re all TOO connected?  Possibly this is why kids come home from college, husbands come home from business trips, even soldiers come home from oversees and seem all new and shiny, seemingly without their demons in tow. It is conceivable that we just communicate too much and should go back to a time when communication was just face to face?  Nah,   LOL.  TTYL. 🙂

A Peek at the Other Side

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I’m a reader.  Always have been.  I will read almost anything except fluffy romance or cold war stories.  Even the hyper-active wild child that I was when I was small would sneak away and hide under the coffee table in the living room and read for hours.  I had a notebook like Harriet the Spy and solved mysteries like Trixie Belden.

I like to read in waves. I love to find a subject and explore it thoroughly.  Early this summer, I went, again, through Pearl S. Buck.  This put me on a China track and I read book after book about pre-war China, the poverty, foot binding, the lifestyle.  China crept into my life and I found myself ordering vegetable moo shu almost daily from the restaurant up the street.

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After that, though, I got on a kick about NDEs.  Honestly, this has been life changing.

When I was 27, one of my best friends died.  She had been my cohort throughout high school.  She knew where the bodies were buried.  After school, our paths went completely different ways and while she traveled with bands, dated celebrities and partied, I got married.  When she was 24, in the late 80s, she came home sick.  Really sick.  We picked up our friendship and I watched as, over the next three years, she wasted away.

One of the sharpest people I’ve ever known, The Goose and I adored her.  She ate with us, lived part time in her room at our house, went to work with me.  We sat at the same booth at Houston’s in Buckhead so often that the hostess knew it was “our booth”.  We laughed continually and she was an everyday part of our household.  The Goose and I went to Paris that spring and when I came home, she was gone, having slipped away while we weren’t watching.

My grief was all encompassing.  I am a person who, when confronted with something scary or overwhelming, does not rent her clothing or wail.  I get very quiet and shut down. Sometimes I escape in a book.

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That was the year Embraced by the Light came out.  I picked it up out of desperation and I did find it comforting.  I have never had a crisis of faith.  God makes sense to me, even if some of the churchy details don’t.  I’m a prayer.  I bother God about lots of things.  I honestly yack his ears off all day long. I don’t question why bad things happen.  I understand completely about having free will and what mankind has done to ourselves.  I do question why animals suffer, being such pure spirits. But even with my faith, I certainly did mourn the loss of my friend.

Embraced by the Light, whether or not one believes her account, was fascinating, although certainly not my favorite.  I saw where recently, doctors have come out with new studies about NDEs, or near death experiences, and this sparked my interest in, again, reading the accounts of those who have been down this road .

Instead of shoving personal brands of religion down non-believer’s throats, I wonder why no one thinks to approach belief in God in this way?  Yes, God is faith, but some folks just aren’t accepting of anything that smacks of Earnest Angley (say baby) brands of God. Surely it is the hypocrisy of “religion” that makes everyone so crazy.  What a shame church has snuffed out so much that’s good and comforting about God. Maybe this would be great reading for someone searching for a little proof.

So, I’ve been swimming through these accounts. I just Googled NDEs and jumped in.  I read everything in my local library, received daily deliveries from Amazon and Half,  and waded through websites until my reading glasses made dents on my nose.  I’ve consumed book after book of documented stories folks tell upon being resuscitated. Giant towering stacks of books about children who have died and come back.  Kids just tell it like it is and their stories are great, comforting and funny.  There are blurbs from Hindus, Muslims, atheists, and old accounts from history, some centuries old.  The really awesome thing is that they all tell basically the same story.

Call it what you will, almost all end up calling it “God”.  Many call it “The One”.  I like that!  This is not gender specific.  It’s not contained to a certain faith, although a huge percentage, including those of other faiths, do see Jesus. I will definitely see Jesus. Not the Jaysus of the TV evangelist, but the loving and accepting personification of God.  There is always a light.  There are always loved ones who have gone before and, to my eternal delight, there are animals in some accounts as well. There will most definitely be animals waiting for me and my mother will be there, shooing them away from her lest their celestial animal fur get on her skirt.  There is total acceptance. There are usually life reviews wherein what’s important is not what one has done wrong, but the love one has shown to others.  Many accounts say that we have been together in spirit form before we’re born and make the decision to come to Earth, much like a life university, and learn from the hardships in the life we choose. I don’t know why this angers some.  God says he knows us even before we’re formed.

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Even in the stories, which are few, that are bad, or seem to be of Hell, there is a desire to go to the light, to be with the light, to make-up or get things right with the light.  Each and every person, without exception, whose story I read, came back with one desire.  To love more. To love God, to love others, to lift each other up and show kindness.  Possessions didn’t matter anymore, politics, hatred, the crap of the world all fell away.  They came back to help others and wait for the time that they’re called “home” again.  The thought that came through again and again is how we are all connected.

The story that blew me away was about a blind woman.  Blind from birth, she had never experienced color.  She had heard about it, but had no context for it.  When she died, she saw colors.  She exclaimed over and over that though she couldn’t put a name to each one, she had seen colors.  She had seen.  She had descriptions of things she had never touched that she could only have learned through sight.  When she came back, of course, she was blind again, with the memory of sight, but looked forward to a time when she was, again, “home”.

I am digging all this.  It has given me a decidedly hopeful feeling in my heart.  Although I never doubt where I will go when I die, and am in no hurry to get there, it’s always good to see the vacation slides of others who have been before.  In the midst of the storm and fury that goes on in the news, I feel a strange calm and perspective that probably won’t last, but is certainly enjoyable now because I am looking at things through this long range lens. It has caused me to feel a lot less disturbed about the things I can’t control and a desire to do some lasting good while I’m here.

This is reading thread I highly recommend to anyone who is down about the state of things, feeling alone or just sick of daily crap.

My son’s friend told me he didn’t believe I could become any more of a tree hugging hippie until he heard me spout off about this new interest of mine, and I do get how loony it sounds.  I can’t help but share it though, as I’ve been talking, ad nauseam, to my family about it since I started reading. If I’ve picked up anything through all these books and articles, it is how we are all so deeply interconnected and so I hope others will find this fascinating as well.

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To Quote Jim Morrison, Summers Almost Gone

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Never should such a pretty man say such ugly words, but in the words of the beautiful Jim Morrison, Summers Almost Gone.  The bugs might still be here, but the fun is certainly over.

During the summer I am AWOL.  By this I mean, Always Winesoaked Outside Lineforming.  In terms everyone can understand, I move to our house at the lake, in a tiny little town, outside the technology sphere, drink alarming amounts of white wine and lie in the sun until I grow yet one more set of fine lines and wrinkles.

Here, in this tiny house, I fail miserably to achieve any of the sun drenched fantasies I concoct all winter.  While I do run for about the first week I am there, I find that my running schedule interferes with either my desire to sleep past sunrise or cocktail hour, which starts approximately after 11:00 am.  The green juices and raw foods I consume during the year fall by the wayside as I become intimate with the chips and cookies which the kids that surround me demand. I never ride into town to the farmer’s market, on an antique bike with a handmade basket on the front, to collect fresh vegetables still dewy with organic goodness. The wind has yet to whip through my long gauzy skirt, my hair doesn’t flow in the breeze.  I do manage to swing by Bojangles for butter soaked biscuits occasionally, though, and can now distinguish between generic and Nestle’s raw cookie dough with a 70% scientific accuracy while wearing a blindfold.

ImageI wear my swimsuit coverups as high fashion. I think drawstring pants are the bomb-diggity. By the end of the summer, I find I closely resemble Orson Wells, in the later years.

 ImageMy brain atrophies.  I read smut and fluff.  While I began, in June, to read back through all books by Pearl S. Buck, by this time, the end of summer, I have just finished up the literary high of the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse.  I begin a blog in my head and then wander off in another direction because it is incomprehensible to me to remember how to power up my computer. (Hey, look!  A squirrel!)  My only accomplishment this entire summer has been to completely fold all the towels and swim suits on top of the dryer – one day.  Just one day I managed to complete that and it didn’t give me the mountain top high I expected.

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My diminutive little cottage has a sweet master bedroom, with a giant, fluffy bed for The Goose and me, that stays somewhat out of the maelstrom.  The rest of the house is chaos.  Downstairs, there are enormous “kids” piled three to a bed, in the three beds, other mattresses dragged out from closets, four more kids on the sofa, one in a chair and some, in enos, strung from trees.  I say kids, though they range from 16 to 21. They each possess two feet that are constantly muddy, 25 outfits thrown haplessly on the floor, and all manufacture crumbs wherever they sit.  They each drink only 1/4 of each soft drink can they open and leave the rest to stick on wooden surfaces.  They roam like weasels in the night, sneaking beers and baking whatever they can get their hands on while I’m sleeping.  They cook everything on broil.

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Friends and family come and go daily.  We never know who will be there from night to night.  Many mornings I awaken to find a whole new cast.  Family comes and we float until we’re prunes, going through Dora band-aids and margaritas like Imelda through shoes.  I issue the “be on good behavior” decree to all kids, they disregard it, and all goes on as usual and we find that we like it that way.  Sometimes there is dancing that causes my daughter to ask me the next morning to never dance again.  Some ladies, who are old enough to know better, participate in headstand contests after dinner and some Imageslink away in shame. Friends bring their pontoon over and we idle away hours sunning like seals. We draw endless sharpie tattoos on each other and everyone writes graffiti on the wooden outdoor shower walls.  We document the sayings that were funny at the time, like “I’m not above malt liquor” (courtesy of my new sister, the MILK), “twerk on Kirk”, which has something to do with my not dancing anymore and the lyrics to “Grey Goose”, the filthy worded theme song of the summer.  Elementary aged children should never be allowed to enter the outdoor shower.

ImageThere we have no internet.  No television.  To make or receive a call, one has to go out the front door, stand by the street and position one’s self just right.  Then, we yell and hope someone hears us.  If there were a convenient pole, like on Green Acres, we could possibly try climbing that.  For entertainment, we buy DVDs at the flea market, of current movies, complete with people coughing and walking in front of the camera.  Sometimes we get lucky and there are Japanese subtitles.  In this way, we feel we are expanding our linguistic education.  Cricket can write the dialogue from the first half of Hangover 3 in Japanese, from memory.

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All in all, despite the mess, the chaos, all my hollering and complaining, it’s a simpler, happier way of life. The big news in our little town this summer is that the fire men have TWICE run the firetruck into the firehouse.  No murders, no political theatrics.  None of the bad feeling that comes along with being plugged into CNN.  I am delighted to have missed most of the Zimmerman business.  My heart resounds with joy to be in the dark about Weiner.  (Now, see?  I just snickered to myself over that because I’ve been with teenagers all summer.  I’m going to need some time with educated adults to be able to act my age again.) I’ve enjoyed being out of the loop. I live in constant hope of a worldwide EMP that will let us all live small again.  (Except for the hair color problem.  This does worry me.  Being gray in a post apocalyptic world seems somehow less glamorous.)

In the end, I yell and scream, everyone cleans up. There is vacuuming, dusting, endless loads of washing, we clear off the dock, put covers on things, pull out the carpet cleaner and turn off the lights.  The little house gives a big sigh and it looks as if we were never there.

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Coming home, everything feels big.  I’m amazed that we need this much room in which to live. I can’t remember where things are.  My animals have shunned me, having fallen in love with their caretakers.  My old cat looks older and skinnier and glares at me from her place atop the microwave as if to say “Really?  Almost three months? Just pour me some milk, you naked, upright animal with thumbs.” I’m starting to feel that old pull inside me again to clean out some closets, find a calendar and organize us all.  I am going to put gas in my car for only the second time this summer.  It seems my hair has taken on a very “sun in” tinge and, jumpin’ jesophat, my dermatologist is going to need DMV tools to restore my face.  This morning, I caught myself yelling, for the first time all summer, to HURRY UP!  I watched the traffic report.  I regarded the giant pile of mail.  I got a text from the library that I was late.  And just like that, we are all forced back into the real world of school, schedules and shoes.

The real world sucks.

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How’m I doin?

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The Golden Goose and I just spent a week in beautiful Exuma, in the Bahamas.  I know, poor me.  All that spare time caused me to do three things, drink too much, get too much sun and think.  While I should have been enjoying brain dead time gazing at the florescent blue water, my mind whirled.

One night, I awoke at 3:00 am, the time when everything in the world is wrong.  Suddenly, I needed to know that my kids, who were free wheeling at home alone, were okay.  For years Cricket has been in charge of The Boy.  My friends who travel with me joke that I’ve been leaving The Boy home alone since the 7th grade.  This isn’t strictly true.  Cricket has always been in charge and has been fully able to run a small country since the age of 6.  I never worry that things will run smoothly when she’s in charge.  The Boy, however, tends to go AWOL, ignore texts, failing to email or check in.  Thus, I suddenly panicked at 3:00 that I was a terrible mother.

I prodded The Goose and asked him if he was awake.  I told him I couldn’t stop thinking.  This produced a sarcastic laugh and he told me he thought he smelled smoke.

“Am I a terrible mother?” I wailed.  “Have I gone wrong by being so trusting?  I mean, what could a 16 year old boy get into while home alone?”.

So The Goose and I got to talking about mothers.  The Goose was left to walk himself to school in Kindergarten.  He got himself ready and took himself to school.  I, on the other hand, was driven door to door in an armored car.  That’s the difference in a 4th child and an only child.  We have long exhausted the subject of my happiness with my own perfect mother as well as my delight at finding such a groovy wonderful birth mother.  This subject has been inspected, turned around, talked about and diagrammed.  I just have happy mother issues and am covered up with great mother feelings from all sides.

Things moms say make a big dent in who we become.  My mom never went to the grocery store without full make up and lipstick.  Because of her, I know what’s tacky, what’s acceptable and what’s “done right”.  I know children shouldn’t say “yeah” or “huh”, that legs really should be crossed at the ankles and that if an artificial nail comes off in the cotton candy at a school festival, one should look the other way and pretend it was someone else.  I know from her that the we are in a constant war with germs and should be ever vigilant with the Lysol, that there are peeping toms waiting around every corner and that women who color their hair bright red usually can’t be trusted.  Cricket recently had shoes that hurt and when she started to complain about it she held up a hand at me and sighed, “I know, one has to suffer for beauty.  You’ve been telling me since I was a toddler”.  I had no idea she even listened and my heart swelled because I’d passed that one right on from my mom.

The Goose’s mother was decidedly different.  Although she had many great qualities, she wasn’t a lovey-dovey mother or grandmother. “Did you feel properly mothered?” I asked him.  The Goose answered that he was perfectly happy with his mom.  Although she was not a very loving person, he always felt as if she would be there if he needed her.  Maybe this is what counts, having kids secure enough to know that there is someone there to be their safety net. The Goose’s mom had several important pieces of wisdom to impart.  Frequently, when he was a teenager, she would say to him “a penis has no conscience”.  When asked how she felt, she would often answer with “well, I feel like I do now better than I did when I first got here…but don’t tell anyone” or some convoluted version thereof.   She called having a bath a “Clara Barton” and named her end table “Abnot”.  These oddball sayings have become dear to us since she’s been gone and I find myself thinking about the quirks she had and how they helped to form the great Golden Goose that I have now.  Surely she was the perfect mother for him.

ImageThe other day I wrapped my arms around The Boy and asked him if he felt happy with me as a mother.  Did he feel he could always depend on me?  This caused him to laugh and say, “Well, Mom, you ARE a total pushover but you are a great mom.”

“What about all those Bible songs we listened to in the car when you were little? That was pretty darn respectable. Remember how much we read and how we played in the creek?”.

“I remember you read “Are You My Mother” over and over to me because you thought it was funny that it made me cry.”

“Okay, but I was strict enough with the rules that you are a good kid now”.

“I remember when you whacked the daylights out of my head with a giant sucker” he replied.

How long I’ll pay for that particular miscalculation, I don’t know.  They never forget.

“Well, what about when I was your room mom?”

“Sure, that’s back when you were allowed in the school.”  This referring to the fact that I am, mysteriously, not asked to sub anymore.

“Uh, huh, well, I gave you my great car.”

Finally, then I received a hug and some reassurance that he was, indeed, happy with me as a mom.

Both moms and dads shape who our kids will become.  Cricket never walks into the house without The Goose yelling “you da bomb, baby!”.  She, in turn, rolls her eyes.  Every single game of The Boy’s life, whether he does well or fails, I have told him, “you were definitely the cutest one out there.”  While there have been groundings and spankings, plenty of yelling, mainly over math, and several slammed doors and temper tantrums, my kids  never have to guess how much they are loved.

And so, I sought out The Boy, who had so recently called me “a pushover” (which I very well may be), looked him in the eye and told him that after much introspection, I feel that if all he has to complain about is being hit on the head with an all-week sucker, then I must have been an okay mother.

But really,  I have to thank my great kids.  No matter how “mommy” I might not have been, I still walk around in the world, connected to these strange two people about whom I know their quirks and fears.  Whose fat, wrinkled necks and Johnson’s baby shampooed bald heads I can still recall, who wrote on the back of my baby blue linen chair with a green marker, who brought a garden hose, turned on full blast, through my house while coming in to get a popsicle.  Those toddlers with deep husky voices who would climb out of their beds, come down the stairs, get as close to my face as possible and yell “MOM” to see if I was awake.  Two loonies, one of which recently put on a pair of size one jeans and called herself fat.  I know what they will eat, what they won’t, who threw up in a baseball hat and cried because I threw it away, who can sing and who shouldn’t.  I know both of them love school supplies, thrift stores and sour gummy candy.  These are the kids who changed all my passwords to Penis.  The idiots who have caused such disruptions in churches that we have a list to which we shouldn’t return. Almost grown children who hold true to their Christian, animal loving, chaotic hippie homed, vegetarian values. Two individuals who can catch my eye and burst into wild laughter at inappropriate moments.  These two humans whom The Goose and I whipped up, from scratch, who understand us, share our scary humor, love us and one who might take care of us when we’re old. These two oddballs, without whom I wouldn’t have the great and inexplicable joy of calling myself mother on Mother’s Day and everyday.   Happy Mother’s Day to every mom who finds her children to be the very best, no matter what weirdos they actually are.

My Long and Intense Blog in Which I Reveal My Fascinating Beginnings

Okay, so I’ve been AWOL for about a month.  What makes me happy is that I’ve gotten A LOT of messages, emails and calls about why I’m AWOL. I know it’s not natural for me to be quiet.  I’ve even been quiet inside my head, and I tell you, when my inside voice isn’t talking, it’s damn scary in there. It’s good to know someone reads my stuff and everyone isn’t sitting around hoping I’ll just shut up already. 

I answered each person who asked with “I’ve just had something going on” and then I got questions about what, exactly, I was talking about.  Was I sick?  Was I up on charges for something?  Was I on a bender?  My answer was no, but my “issue” has been of such a personal nature to me that I’ve been extremely quiet, for me. 

This is going to be a long one, so get comfortable.  

Anyone who reads my blogs knows about my great love for my mom, The True Southern Lady.  I’ve written of her manias, her rules and her ever abiding love for me.  I hear her voice in my head daily telling me my shirt needs another button buttoned, my earrings are a touch too much or just that she loves me.  Both of my parents gave me such great love and confidence and were so close to me that anyone who knew us probably never guessed that I was adopted.  

It was no big deal.  I was a baby, I always knew about it, and frankly, there were lots more interesting stories in my life.  My mother, in her typical way, told me about being adopted by telling me that yes, there were plenty of people who made dresses at home, bless their poor hearts, but she preferred to go to Lord and Taylor and choose the finest one they had.  She varied on this theme now and then and substituted homemade coconut cakes versus the ones made by the bakery at Rich’s, which everyone knew were the best.  For some reason I got the picture in my child’s mind that they picked me out from the low lying, horizontal freezer section in the A&P on the corner of Clairmont Rd. and Briarcliff Rd. in Atlanta, though I’m fairly certain she never mentioned that.

So my folks were my folks.  My mom, I swear, had a psychic link with me always.  She found me in more bad situations than I care to remember.  Many times I would be cruising as a teenager and look over and there would be her big blue eyes, glaring a hole in me.  She was my friend, my confidant and my mother.  My dad, too, was everything a dad should be.  Loving all of the time, but with a constant brewing disappointment at my inability to throw a ball. 

So, I never looked for my birth mother.  My only thoughts about her were vague, hippy filled fantasies wherein she morphed into Joni Mitchell.  My mother, being who she was, baked a pound cake for her friend, a judge, and had my records opened.  Of course it was illegal, but no one stood a chance when Frances asked for anything.  She told me as a teenager that she had more information for me, but I was too busy doing everything I could get away with and some things I couldn’t and just wasn’t that interested.  If it wasn’t a boy in a sports car, I really couldn’t have cared less.  We spoke of it occasionally over the years, but truly, I just had all the family I needed.  

When Mother died, she left a big file of stuff for me.  Suddenly I had my birth mother’s name and long letter, written to me from my mom, with other details.  Still numb with missing her, though, I just let it go.  

So, the years passed and meanwhile I signed up to be a bone marrow donor.  In early March I was notified that I was in a narrowed down group and was asked to provide more information.  Of course, I had none.  This is something I really feel led to do and it killed me that this would hold me back.  While it wouldn’t actually keep me from donating, it would keep me from matching the most lists.  

So, quietly, without telling anyone, I wrote to my birth mother, drove to the post office and mailed the letter.  

You know how, when you take Dayquil and drink a cup of coffee you feel like you’re not real?  That’s exactly what it was like.  I put more thought into mopping my floors than I did in that letter.  I know there’s a thing called automatic writing that happens during seances, and it was kind of like that. Some part of me wrote it and the rest of me looked the other way in abject horror.  Looking back, I feel someone, God maybe, who knows, just did this for me. 

Once done, I came home, had wine, went on with life.  

During the night, I awoke in a sweat filled panic, went to the downstairs bathroom and was desperately sick.  I thought about terroristic threats to the post office.  I plotted whether I could intercept the letter.  I prayed the mail man would be drunk.  

For two more days I walked around hoping I’d have a stroke.  I cried when I couldn’t find socks that matched.  I shouted at The Goose because he snored.  I called The Boy horrible names. It just so happened that Cricket was home all week for spring break and I’m sure she worried (more than usual) about my sanity.  I went to see a movie with her and had to leave the theater frequently to have panic attacks.  

On Cricket’s birthday, three days later, after two rockin’ margaritas, I sat in my living room watching her open her presents.  I casually opened my computer to check FB and email and opened one I didn’t recognize.  The first line was one of the sweetest lines I’ve ever read in my life and, sadly, caused me to run to the bathroom, once again, and be ill.  Without disclosing something that’s very private, it started out “I never knew I wasn’t breathing for 48 years…” and suddenly, it was very real and I realized that I was dealing with an actual human being, not the Joni Mitchell from my imagination.  

Cricket saw me run to my room and came after me to find me curled up on the floor, keening like a harpooned seal.  Looking back, it was another humorous moment in my family but, at the time, felt like unanesthetized dental surgery.  She ran and got The Goose, who began flapping around me asking what was wrong.  None of them knew I’d sent the letter and fully believed I’d gone around the bend, once and for all.  “Issomethingbrokenareyoudyingdoyouhaverabiesissomethingonfire”, the questions came at me, strung together and meaningless.  I just pointed to my computer and The Goose began to read.  Then he had to sit down.  He had to read with his lips moving because it was just too much.  He’s been begging me to contact her for years (because he believes he is always right about everything). 

“What is wrong with you?” he kept yelling.  “I don’t know what to do with you like this!  I’ve never seen you act like this!”.  There was a TON of confused shouting and I was crying, which is practically unheard of.  I believe at one point I tried to slither under my bed.  

What killed me is that, in my heart, I felt like a traitor to my parents.  No matter how many times The Goose told me how happy they would be for me, I ached for them and knew that I could never allow anything to diminish how much I loved them.  

Then a very wise (and stylish) friend said something to me that changed everything.  What she said was “you didn’t stop loving Cricket when you had The Boy.  Your love grew.  When you light a candle from another, the first doesn’t go out, silly, you just get more light.”  From that moment on, I put the guilt away and tried to find a place to put all this new.

I don’t remember what happened after that.  I know her letter was amazing.  My main fear in this whole thing was that her family would find out about me and she would be embarrassed.  I sent her the letter disguised in a card in hopes no one else would see it.  

Turns out, they all already knew.  

I made it to a first meeting, before which I discovered half a lint covered pain pill in a drawer and swallowed it with vodka to make sure I didn’t bolt from the car along the way.  

When she met me for the first time on the steps of her glorious antebellum home, I thought to myself, “Well, damn it, who is this woman?  Are there other people here?” because she looked to be about my age.  A truly beautiful woman with a sleek blond bob, tiny and wearing a green sweater that could have been plucked from my closet.  I could hardly bear to look at her, it was just that intense.  And so, I turned to her husband, a clone of The Goose.  Both 6’4”, wearing blue shirts, they looked to be the ones related.  Her lovely husband wrapped his arms around me and said something like “I was one of the first ones to hold you” because he was her friend at the time of my birth and I felt truly at ease.

Just like that, my fuzzy head started to clear up and I realized that these people were not afraid I’d intrude into their family and ruin things.  They really did want to meet me and, over the next few hours, I discovered just what incredible, loving people they really are.  Also, looking at her beautiful self, I am thanking the gene fairy.  Darn, she is one really cute woman. 

Throughout this month, I’ve met her daughters.  They are super intelligent, beautiful women, but that’s not the half of it.  What they are is cool chicks.  Girls I’d pick for friends.  Girls that wouldn’t hesitate to misbehave with me. Girls I wish lived next door.  I’ve met their pretty children.  My kids have met them all.  In fact, my kids have been so supportive of me that I absolutely do not care if The Boy fails Latin.  He has hugged me and told me he loves me more since this started than any other 16 year old around, and those of you with 16 year old boys know that’s saying something.  Cricket has been right there, talking me through everything.  The Goose, always a know it all, really has known it all during this.  While my brain has been on DEFCON 1, with sirens and flashing lights, he has talked me down off the ceiling, calmed my fears and debunked my guilt and lunacy.  Although I cannot allow him to know he’s been right, he really has been my rock, just like always, and gotten me through this great but scary time. 

I only told one or two friends, The Trophy Wife and Peaches, my running partner.  They kept a daily vigil with me, monitoring my feelings and allowing me to be alternately happy and crazy. God bless those two girls because I almost talked off their pretty ears.

On the way to take my kids to meet the entire family, my two swore repeatedly that they would hate their 16 year old cousin on sight.  Within 10 minutes, they’d all fallen hopelessly in love. They cannot wait to see him again. We had wine, played cards and there was lots of trash talk and laughter.  Kids ran amuck, men watched golf and naps were taken.  Cricket’s kid pheromone kicked in and she was, within an hour, being sat upon and stroked by a myriad of little girls, braiding her hair and playing with her earrings. Some played a tipsy game of badminton, but I don’t think I was one of them.  I can’t picture a more perfect day.

This has been a lot to wrap our heads around for all of us.  My family has no frame of reference for family.  I was an only child, I never knew brothers or sisters or even aunts, uncles or cousins. My kids adored my parents, who were omnipresent in our lives, living only three miles away, but grandparents can only fill in so much.  My kids did have extended family on The Goose’s side, but, sadly, they were not the kind of family anyone would want. They, except for one sweet, long distance aunt, were the stuff of nightmares.  The Goose is truly the Golden Goose to be so wonderful and come from that nest of vipers. So my kids didn’t understand the beauty of a real family, complete with cousins, aunts, uncles and filled with familial buffoonery.  On the way home from our incredible day, The Boy said, “Holy smoke, is that what a real family is like?  I love it!”.  

So, this is our new reality.  Every time I see her, my birth mother and I laugh and say, “Can you believe this?”  I look forward, every day, to seeing an email from her.  She is nothing short of a delight. The awkwardness is almost gone and, as Cricket says, I am hardly on good behavior with them anymore.  I love it that her girls have embraced me, not minding sharing a little bit of their mom with me.  I revel in the fact that one’s 16 year old son friended me on FB.  It makes me feel cool. 

I know most reunion stories don’t go like this.  I’ve heard that most of them don’t. I guess that’s one reason I never planned for one. In my wildest imaginings, I never thought we would meet, much less that I would meet her family.  It all still feels a bit unreal, like Christmas morning.  What we have here is like an arranged marriage.  It is now up to us to make our relationship.  But we have so much in common, likes and dislikes, love of antiques, hatred of the cold, that I can’t see that it will be difficult. 

There should be a better name than birth mother.  It sounds cold and clinical and doesn’t translate what I owe to her and what I feel.  What she did for me was to protect me, at great cost to herself, and provide a wonderful home for me.  She gave me a life and then allowed me to have a fabulous life. It is the most selfless, generous thing I can imagine.  All the while, I felt she was loving me from a distance, just as, on special days like my birthday or Mother’s Day, I would pray that her life was just as happy.  It seems as though it has been.  Maybe this is why we can come together now as something more than friends.  

I know that my parents can see me and, as usual, they are happy with anything that makes me happy.  Honestly, viewing us from Heaven, my mom is probably more worried about the fact that I am still wearing a bikini at the age of 48, shameless hussy that I am, and my Dad is most likely more focused on The Goose’s golf game. They are bragging on their grandchildren, playing celestial bridge and Mom is disgusted that my cat sometimes gets on my counter.  Their love is, as ever, unwavering and abundant.  There is never a day that I am not thankful for all the love and confidence they gave me and so happy that things went the way they did. 

And so it seems that love is the easiest thing to multiply, even for a math idiot like me.  As the Goose and I lay in bed the other night he turned to me and said, “How is it, that with all the horrible mothers out there, you ended up with two this great?”  I’d like to come back with a flippant answer like “well, I always recycle” or “because I don’t step on spiders” but I realize that I am beyond blessed with this and I feel almost guilty for the sheer happiness.  I know I don’t deserve all this but I’ll certainly take it. 

 

 

And now, that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, I can get back to writing about serious subjects like squirrels and pigs.  Thank you all, who wrote to me and cared when you thought I must dying, otherwise, how could I have been so quiet.  I might point out, though, at no time did ANYONE offer to bring me a casserole or bake me a cake.