Friday, December 20, 2013

war on Christmas?

If you listen to the media, there is a war going on. A war on Christmas.

The Fundies are on one side, rocking bumper stickers telling us "Keep Christ in Christmas" and "No Christ No Christmas", making a big point of saying "Merry CHRISTmas" instead of "Happy Holidays", and reinforcing that Santa is white like Jesus so just deal with it.

Friday, December 13, 2013

merry kiss-mas, baby

I love Friday the 13th. Especially when it's in December. Because that's the day my life changed forever.

In the summer of 1991, I was still very much single and very tired of dead-end relationships, of wondering what was wrong with me, of trying to find that one person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with.

I had a good life all on my own. I had good friends, a good occupation, and a great family. I didn't need a man to make my life complete. It was time to stop looking and get moving. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

a new elf in town

When I was growing up, elves were benevolent creatures. They baked delicious cookies in a hollow tree. They made shoes for the shoemaker when he was asleep, and toys at the North Pole for good girls and boys. 

Sometimes if you were really good, they would even clean your house.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


It's that time of year, the time when our minds turn to Thanksgiving and - hopefully - to thankfulness.

My family has always operated in a culture of thankfulness. WN   always have each others' backs. And when life hangs low in front of us, we just jump on and ride it together.

When things are going well, we remind each other from whom our blessings flow, and give thanks. 

When things are going bad, when things seem dark and hopeless, we remind each other that this is not the end of the story. 

We recite words of our faith, promises from God, things like "all things work together for good" (Romans 8:28) and "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you...plans to give you a hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

I am sad that our skirt! community is going away. When I shared in my blog and on my Facebook page that the skirt! community was closing up shop at the end of November, many people approached me in person and virtually to express they are sad, too. 

The funny thing is, until they told me they would miss my blog, I had no idea most of these people were even reading my articles. 

Which brings me to my thankfulness. 

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this community. 

I am thankful this community accepted me, gave me a forum, gave me an audience, gave me affirmation. 

I am thankful for the support and affirmation I received.

I am thankful for all my extended family members who read my articles regularly, "liked" them, and commented on them. Many times they were prompted to share their own memories with me, details about the history of my family I otherwise would not have known. 

I am thankful for all those articles I read by other skirt!setters who lifted me up, made me laugh, made me think, even the ones that made me a little mad.

I am thankful that I am a much better writer than I was when I started.

I am thankful that  I spent the last year being vulnerable and sharing my life and my writing with you.

I am even thankful that I am being kicked out of the nest. 

Because that's the thing about change. It forces your hand.

I've never liked change very much. It makes me nervous. Even good changes, like new cars or new family members or new opportunities, scare me and make my stomach churn with butterflies. Where I used to flow with the wind and make random decisions, I now avoid change whenever possible.

Which means sometimes I need change imposed on me.

Like now.

I have my own blog site up and running. It looks decent. I hope you will visit and sign up for the emails or RSS feed. 

I have my own Author page on Facebook. I hope you will visit and Like it. (But only if you really do like it. I don't need numbers to impress anyone.)

I have a few good mentors, people I look up to and respect.  I have an amazing husband who is my best critic and my best inspiration. I have four children, one daughter-in-law (and hopefully one to be), two grandsons, three foreign exchange daughters from Germany and Brasil, a passel of family near and extended, a huge church family, many amazing acquaintances, and a few really good friends. I have a rich community to draw from, a history to learn from, and a future to live for. 

I hope you will join me for the journey.


Friday, November 22, 2013

to great wearers of skirts

Skirts. I have a great affinity for them.

For various reasons, I grew up wearing skirts and dresses almost exclusively. At school I was the lone skirt in a sea of jeans. While everyone else wore Levis, Lees and an occasional Calvin Klein, I wore a variety of skirts. Short skirts, fitted skirts, gored skirts, skirts with shorts, kilts with gold clasps, full midi skirts made by my mother that would fly out dramatically when I twirled. Skirts made of wool, silk, cotton, Jersey, seersucker, denim, even velvet. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

(s)mashing pumpkins: why I am done with mammograms

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." - Ben Franklin
I plan never to have another routine mammogram. Ever.

I'm not a big risk taker. I don't take drugs or wear fur to PETA meetings or talk about politics on Facebook. I don't jump out of planes or snowboard down mountains or swim with sharks. I don't even like to swim in water over my head.

So why would I ignore convention and refuse to have an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer?

Artwork (ha!) property of Cindi Carver-Futch. Do not use without permission.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

one degree of separation: my night with david sedaris

I spent last night with David Sedaris. 

If David Sedaris was ever to read my blog - which is unlikely - he would probably be surprised to learn this. While our evening together in Charleston meant so much to me, apparently it meant little or nothing to him.

Typical man. 

David Sedaris - photo credit: Anne Fishbein

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

boobs in the news

It's October, the month when things get cold and scary. Who knew boobs would fall into that category.

I'm not talking about the Federal Government. I'm talking about breasts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

smoke on the water: historic Georgetown rolls on

My husband and I started our married life in a sleepy pre-Revolutionary hamlet perched on Winyah Bay. Georgetown SC is best known by some for the smell of the paper mill, the rust of the steel mill, or as a convenient stopping point south of Myrtle Beach. But this beautiful little town, with its oak-lined streets, plantations, antique shops, and restaurants, is brimming with history and charm. It was a good place to get a new life rolling. Only now the town is looking for some new life of its own. 
 (c)2009 Mike Covington

Monday, October 14, 2013

wonder-full: growing out of season

It's fall, the time of year when things start to slow down, retire and settle in for winter. But not everything - or everyone - takes this as gospel. Some things - or people - ignore convention and keep growing against the odds.

For example, green beans aren't supposed to grow in October, even in the South. But this lovely Kentucky Wonder bean plant is growing in my yard:

Friday, October 04, 2013

sinead, miley and grace unplugged: all I've ever needed is your love

It's not often that Sinead O'Connor and Focus on the Family (FOTF) agree on much. Maybe anything. But when it comes to Miley Cyrus and the chew-em-up-spit-em-out nature of the music industry, they have some common ground.

PluggedIn, the entertainment arm of FOTF, says in a review of Miley's latest release:
"(Miley) and her producers know...that emotional vulnerability doesn't smash records. Riding naked on a wrecking ball does."
In a recent open letter to Miley, Sinead O'Connor states it a little more bluntly:
"The music business doesn't give a sh*t about you."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

oh my achy breaky heart

"Remember who you are." – Mufasa (quoting Ray and Mary Carver)
My parents were saying this way before the Disney machine churned out The Lion King. These were the words they sent me off with on a regular basis. Whether I was going on a date, to a friend's house, or away on an extended trip, their exhortation was always the same: "Remember who you are."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"you played good for a girl" - goodbye, Marian McPartland

Nowadays it seems to me nobody takes trouble about anything, especially writing songs. - Marian McPartland 
Every once in a while, a person will come along and beat the odds. They'll combine their natural talent and passion with a lot of hard work and a boatload of perseverance to buck the stereotypes, stump the naysayers, and create something beautiful and new and uniquely theirs. The jazz world lost such a treasure on 20 August when jazz pianist and radio host Marian McPartland died at the age of 95.

Marian McPartland, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk (Photograph by Art Kane)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

a parent's worst nightmare, a parent's best hope

Last night I had every parent's nightmare: I dreamed my child was kidnapped.

It was just a dream. She is fine. But still, it was very disconcerting.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

my weird habits: being a human pincushion

Yesterday I allowed myself to be stuck with needles like a voodoo doll, and boy do I feel better!

I have chronic pain and stiffness in my right shoulder. I've had it for years and years. Only recently did I realize that it probably was the result of playing the tenor saxophone in band from middle school through college. Hanging a 7lb weight around your neck for hours at a time and carrying a 24 lb case to school and back could definitely have some repercussions. Talk about suffering for your art.

Regular visits to the chiropractor, occasional deep massage, and stretching regularly usually keep me in good health. But lately the pain has increased, and now my lower arm and elbow are acting up and my right hand goes to sleep if I don’t keep moving it. I rearranged my workstation. I shifted my pillows. I tried arnica gel and even resorted to ibuprofen, but I still couldn't get relief.

Finally I made an appointment to get stuck in Summerville. With needles. On purpose.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

power, sex and hope: the ageless story of Camelot

"...The winter is forbidden till DecemberAnd exits March the second on the dotBy order, summer lingers through September...There is simply nota more congenieal spotthan here in Camelot" -  King Arthur in Camelot by Alan Jay Lerner
Imagine an idyllic city. A holy city. A beautiful, hopeful city, warm and inviting and surrounded by sparkling water. A city bursting with the best life has to offer: Love. Power. Wealth. Gentility. Diligence. Charity. Elegance. 

But it seems wherever virtuous self-promotion commands the limelight, a seedier side lurks nearby in the shadows: Infidelity. Greed. Illegitimacy. Intrigue. Revenge. Desire. War. 

Even in Camelot. Or Charleston.

Friday, August 02, 2013

curiouser and curiouser: the good luck teacher

Rabbit. That is the first word I uttered aloud this morning, this Thursday the First day of August 2013. On purpose. In the dark in my bedroom all alone before getting out of bed I said "Rabbit."

This is an old habit, a superstition really. I have tried to say "rabbit" aloud before uttering another word on every First morning of every Month of my life for the past 38 years.

I haven't always been successful. Sometimes I don't think of it in time. Sometimes there is something more important that I need to say aloud first, something like "I love you" or "wait, I have to pee first." But then I remember that I should have said "rabbit" first. Only it's too late and I have to wait another whole month.

Why do I do this?

Because in 6th grade, my English teacher Mrs. Mowry told me to.

Friday, July 26, 2013

one is never enough: odd/ode to cousins (Part 2)

"We've had cloning in the South for years. It's called cousins." - Robin Williams
I have lots of cousins. I have tall cousins and short cousins, straight cousins and gay cousins, preacher cousins and skeptic cousins, musician cousins and cousins who can't carry a tune, white cousins and tan cousins and really dark cousins. I even have cousins who share my exact genetic code, because my mother and their father were siblings and my father and their mother were siblings. Not exactly clones, but close. Oddly, we look nothing alike. 
I love all my cousins. But there are four cousins who are more like siblings to my brother and me. We are the children of the Jackson Girls. And we are inseparable.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

one is never enough: odd/ode to cousins (Part 1)

Today, July 24this Cousins Day. It is also National Tequila Day & Amelia Earhart Day. Which is appropriate, since some cousins might drive you to drink, and others you may wish would get lost. Permanently.

I have a lot of cousins. Some are old enough to be my parents. Others are young enough to be my kids. Some I’ve known well all my life, some I am just now reconnecting with, all of them are important to me.

But there are six of us who are more like siblings than cousins. We grew up together, shared holidays together, went through joy and fire together, and sometimes lived under the same roof together. Cindi, Ray, Wayne, Dawn Brandon and Jason: We are the children of the Jackson Girls. And we are inseparable.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

beauty: in the eye(heart) of the beholder

"I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves."Salma Hayek
My husband called me out on my last blog post. The one that included the recent viral Dustin Hoffman video, how his comments resonate with so many women, and how I don’t always see myself in the best light. He asked me some questions that were revealing in a way I didn’t expect. He peeled back the curtain of the male psyche just a bit to reveal something I did not know.

Did you also know that – despite what we are fed by TV, movies, magazines, and in advertising - men like real women just the way we are?

Did you know that men notice how other men look?

And that they worry about how they look almost as much as women do?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

what is like to be a woman in Hollywood? ask Dustin Hoffman

"And in the category of “Strongest Female Character in Film”, the award goes to…"

Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey playing Dorothy Michaels in TOOTSIE?


Twice in the past two months I have read articles about Strong Women in Film, and in both lists Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of a man who pretends to be a woman has ranked either near or at the top of the list.

It's hard to believe that, in 2013, with all the talented female actresses past and present, and all the strong female characters in movies made over the past 100 years, a character played by a MAN pretending to be a woman the most admired female character.

Mind boggling. And I never even liked that movie.

Then today, I saw this video of Dustin Hoffman discussing his role in TOOTSIE:

Makes me want to watch the movie again with new eyes.

I almost lost it when he said, after going through the makeup test, “When I looked at (myself) on screen, I was shocked that I wasn’t more attractive.”

Raise your hand if you’ve said the same thing to yourself when you looked at vacation pictures, family movies, or the Facebook video from your friend’s wedding.

Dustin Hoffman said to the makeup artists and producers, “You have me looking like a woman. Now, make me a beautiful woman, because if I’m going to be a woman I want to be as beautiful as possible.”

Don’t we all. Culture tells us if we are going to be women – if we are going to be considered worthy of being called a woman – we must be as beautiful as possible.

Beautiful by cultural standards.

Beautiful as in physically proportionate, preferably thin.

Beautiful as in groomed and coiffed and waxed and made up.

Beautiful as in sexual. 

Because if we aren’t these things, we aren’t called “women.” We’re called cow or hag or whale or butter face or bimbo or skank or other insults that I’d probably rather never know.

When the amazing Dustin Hoffman asked the crew to make him more beautiful as a woman, they replied, “That’s as good as it gets. That’s as beautiful as we can get you.”

That’s enough to make any woman choke up.

That was enough to make Dustin Hoffman choke up, too. Dustin Hoffman, a man, successful in every other way, choking up at the humiliation of being told he will never be a beautiful woman. No matter what. Never.

Many of us know the feeling. Even those women the rest of us think are the high standard, the pretty ones, the talented ones, the skinny ones, even they feel this way.


Hoffman knew his character Dorothy Michaels was an interesting woman, but also knew that if he met her at a party he would never talk to her or take the time to get to know her, because she didn’t physically fit the idea of what men are taught to admire.

He tearfully admitted, “There are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed….(TOOTSIE) was never a comedy for me.”

Just like being a real woman is rarely the romantic comedy we're made to think it should be.

I’m glad this video is making its rounds on Facebook and UpWorthy and YouTube. I’m happy that I saw it first on a man’s Facebook page. I’m impressed that Dustin Hoffman was able to experience the same self-doubt many women feel every day of their lives. And that he was able to articulate it for the world to hear.

I still think there are hundreds of strong female characters in movies played by actual women that should trump a female character played by a man.

But I will hand it to Mr. Hoffman. Dorothy Michaels wasn’t just Dustin Hoffman in drag. He may have created her, but she gave him perspective, humility, and depth. She took what he had and made him richer by the virtue of being in his life.

Just like every other strong woman I know.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

As a writer, July 4th is one of my favorite holidays. It celebrates the final draft of a document, which is always a joyous occasion. But rarely in history does a final draft change the course of world history.

In a document dated July 4, 1776, the 2nd Continental Congress worked its way through the original text, comments and edits, yet maintained these fateful words penned by Thomas Jefferson at the opening of the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
We all know this sentence by heart. If we don't, we should. Because this simple sentence changed everything.  Every thing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

poetry and cheez-its: getting an edumacation in modern art

"Like many members of the uncultured Cheez-It consuming public, I am not good at grasping modern art." - Dave Barry

I have a confession: I really like Cheez-Its. I know they are bad for you and full of questionable ingredients, but every so often I eat them anyway.  

I have another confession: I really like poetry. And I'm not in college or psychotic or on drugs or a communist or any combination of those.
Emily Dickinson enjoying a Cheez-It


Friday, June 21, 2013

fat dumb and unhappy (or, so long Paula Deen and thanks for all the butter)

Poor ol' Paula Deen is in hot water up to her chubby little cheeks. First she is accused of being a racist. Then the government declares her cooking makes you sick.

Yep, that's right, there is a new disease in town. Last week the A.M.A classified obesity is an illness.

Now at least 1/3 of our country is officially sick. As if we didn't already know this. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Miss Utah, I feel your pain

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde
Quick, what’s the name of the new Miss America?

I have no idea. I don’t watch beauty pageants. But I do know the name of Marissa Powell.

I know Marissa Powell, aka Miss Utah, because the answer she gave to a question during the 2013 Miss America Pageant went viral. In a bad way. The only reason I watched it was because her bad answer supplanted the one given by poor little Lauren Caitlin Upton, Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007. Anytime my home state can catch a break, I’m all over it.
Photo by Georgina Vaughan

But truly, I feel bad for Marissa Powell. I can’t deny that her answer is a complete wreck. It meanders around in a pointless way like a county fair bumper car driven by a blind person (which I have witnessed, BTW).

But Miss Powell didn’t make it this far in the pageant circuit by being clueless. While some beauty contestants are intellectually brilliant, none of them are as stupid as they are portrayed. As much as I dislike it, the pageant world is highly competitive and you have to know your game pretty well to make it this far.

So what went wrong?

First of all, the first part of the question she is required to answer is itself a train wreck:

“A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”

There are at least three or four issues rolled into the first part of that question, and none of them are related or explained appropriately.
·       Why are 40 percent of American families with children supported primarily by women?
·       Are there men in these households who earn less than these women, are men totally missing from these households, or do men earn less in these households?
·       What about the other 60 percent of households with children?
·       What about the households without children?
·       Is the question addressing the overall inequality of pay for women vs men for the same job, or is it suggesting that the pay inequality is just for women with children or women supporting families alone?

These issues, while badly stated, are hotly debated by economic, social and political experts on a daily basis. Did we really expect a beautiful woman in an evening gown to crystallize these issues in an impromptu 30-second verbal thesis during a televised beauty pageant?

Secondly, the last part of the question – “What does this say about society?” – is a complete non sequitur, a device normally reserved for comedic purposes. Sort of like “Nene Leakes is a famous reality star who asks questions on the Miss America Pageant. She must be smart and important.”

Maybe better questions would be, what does the asinine nature of this question say about society? What does the choice of hosts – a man whose last music video equates a bunch of scantily dressed white women shaking their assets in the bleachers with a revival, and a woman who polices fashion and delivers entertainment news in the nude – say about society? What does the existence of this beauty pageant say about society?

Answer me that.

Thirdly, have you ever stood up to answer a question and found that your mind sat down? I have.

I can write about stuff all day long with no problem, because I can refine the text unobserved until it says exactly what I want it to say. I can perform a role on stage in front of thousands of people with no problem, because I’ve rehearsed my lines and my blocking and know how my character moves and thinks.

But when I have to stand up and speak extemporaneously, something goes screwy in my brain. My mouth fills up with cotton, my neck flushes, I develop temporary blindness, and my IQ plummets by about 100 points.

Granted, I don’t have years of pageant training in giving pat answers. There are times when I think that could be useful. But training women to give pat “I would wish for world peace” answers to heavy questions is debilitating. Miss Powell is probably much smarter than her answer would indicate, and was just hobbled by the bright lights, vapid hosts, bad training, and a poorly formed question asked by a woman who is famous for being a former stripper who married wealth and gets to talk loud on a reality show.

Fourthly, look at Marissa Powell. She is gorgeous. Does anyone really think she was up on that stage because of her intellectual prowess?  If she develops a cure for cancer or erases the national debt or solves world hunger, more power to her. But the way her assets stand up, I doubt anyone will fault her if she doesn’t.  Besides, I don’t look like her and I’m no closer to achieving world peace or equal pay than she is.

So Miss Utah, rise above the noise and ride the wave of notoriety. Accept the invitation to appear on Saturday Night Live when it comes. Make the most of your 15 minutes of fame. Because honestly? If I had long brown legs that could crack coconuts and all my assets stood up like yours, I probably wouldn’t care too much when my mind sits down.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

i used a mop and i liked it

Raise your hand if cleaning is something you're excellent at and love to do. Now lower your hands to your keyboard and leave me a comment with your rates and availability...

Cleaning is not my forte. It is not something I love. Oh, every once in awhile I get a wild hair and go on a rampage, purging and organizing and sterilizing some area of my house. Usually it's in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. Or when my mother is coming to visit. Or both.

Not the healthiest cleaning routine, would you say?

Monday, May 20, 2013

growing a daughter without losing your mind

My daughter thinks a lot of me right now.

She talks to me in the car, has a burning desire to tell me every little thing that happens in her life, asks my opinion about how to handle situations, and turns to me when she doesn’t know what to do.

Without knowing her age, you now know that my daughter is young...because she thinks her mother has a functioning brain.

In a few years, though, she will be older and I will in turn become much dumber. Even though I have a college degree, a professional career, and 50 years of life experience, her knowledge will soon inexplicably surpass mine. At least in her mind. At least for a little while.

But for now, I’m smart. And funny. And powerful.

I even control the weather.

On the way to school one day, I hoped out loud that it would rain. It hadn't rained in a while and we needed it badly.

My daughter piped up: “I don’t! I want to go outside for recess!”

I laughed, “Ok, then, I hope it rains in time for you to go to recess.”

She wasn’t satisfied. “That’s not specific enough. You didn’t say it should stop in time for us to go outside for recess. Change it.”

“Ok…I hope it rains at some point today, but either before it’s time for recess or after you have had recess. Is that specific enough for you?” I asked.

She harrumphed. “I guess it will do, but I still think it’s a little vague.” Then we went on to something else, and that was that.

When I picked her up from dance after school, she got into the van and said, “Well, I hope you’re happy! We didn’t get to have recess today, thanks to you.”

I had no idea what she was talking about.

She looked at me accusingly. “Mom, it rained! And it’s all your fault.”

I looked around and for the first time noticed the puddles on the road.  “So it did! rain” I replied. “I’m sorry you missed recess. But what does the fact that it rained have to do with me?”

She looked at me surprised. “Seriously? You hoped for rain this morning, remember?!”

I stopped and looked at her. “Wait a second – are you saying you think I made it rain?”

She folded her arms defiantly across her chest and looked away. “I told you that you weren’t specific enough!”

Wow, my daughter thinks I can control the weather!

I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or to silently grow drunk on my new-found power.
For a moment, I imagined myself in control of the weather, raising my arms to summon the clouds, calling down showers with a nod of my head, painting rainbows in the sky with my forefinger, and then sending the remaining clouds away with a flick of my wrists whenever it suited me.

But later, as I replayed this exchange in my mind, I didn’t laugh. Instead, I marveled that my daughter has such a sense of trust and reliance in me and my abilities right now.

That she sees me as not just her mother, but as someone who can move the heavens with a mere desire, who can bring down rain with a word, whose hope is a tangible thing with a power to impact the world.

That kind of trust is something worth living up to, and a legacy I want her to inherit. Like good seeds planted in fertile soil.

I want her to know that hope does matter. I want her to trust in something bigger than herself.

To hold her arms open wide and to soar into life knowing she is grounded in something meaningful.

To understand that everything we do, every word we speak, every thought we have, every prayer we utter – or don’t – makes a difference.

I can’t control the weather. I don’t want that kind of responsibility. But as my daughter matures, I hope she will continue to see me as a powerful woman, one who is capable of wielding that power… wisely.

Maybe I will even be powerful enough to survive the next ten years of her life with both my sanity and my IQ intact.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

mother’s day redux: the catharsis of writing

“Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.” - Twyla Tharp
I am happy another Mother’s Day is in the bag. That's probably no surprise since I wrote about how much I have disliked this holiday for most of my life. But I am not here to beat a dead horse. I am here to turn over a new leaf.

For the first time, my post-Mother’s Day happiness is not because it’s over and I won’t have to think about it for another year. I’m happy because I received so many gifts this year. I’m not talking about stuff, although I got that, too. I’m talking about timeless gifts that stay with you. And make a difference.

Gift #1 – Flexibility

To start with, we celebrated on Saturday. This is a huge departure for us. To my mother, holidays are sacrosanct, and celebrating on anything but the actual day is unthinkable. However, the choice was this: get together on Saturday for a long and leisurely day with nearly all the immediate family, OR have a stressful Sunday lunch with very few people rushing from here to there with little time to visit and no time to rest. Saturday won hands down. After Mom gave us her imprimatur, of course.

Gift #2 – Generosity

My sweet baby girl and her loving father went out early to shop, since he had been out of town on business. During a quick trip to the mall earlier in the week, she had asked me whether I liked this or that, and made mental notes of things I commented on. She is always thinking of what she can do for others, and then following through. Very much like her Grandmother and her father. And like my brother and sister-in-law, who coordinated the meal with me and brought half it from their home 1 ½ hours away. The meal was plentiful and delicious and totally from the heart with no drama. I am blessed to be around such generous, thoughtful people.

Gift #3 – Humility

Normally I insist that my mom not participate in the cooking for Mother’s Day, as the point is to give her a break. However, I finally realized that asking her to stop cooking for her family was like asking her to stop loving. To her cooking is part of loving, and keeping her out of the food preparation is not a kindness but a cut. So she added her touches to the menu, fresh collard greens here, a crudités platter there. A pineapple dish to complement the pork loin. Fresh spinach and strawberries from her garden to supplant the ones I brought for the salad. Once upon a time, I would have interpreted her suggestions and offerings as a judgment on my city-bought produce or ability to plan a meal. This year, I received it as the gracious and fortunate blessing it was. Which blessed her in return.

Gift # 4 – Family Memories

One of my gifts to Mom was a DVD of transferred family VHS movies. I have tons of video tapes and 8mm movies still to transfer, but the ones I brought just happened to include video from exactly 24 years before, on Mother’s Day 1989 and the celebration of my Dad’s 50th birthday.

We sat down as a family to watch snippets of the DVD. We watched Dad open gifts and cards, taking his time and making thankful or funny comments about each one. We watched as my twin cousins Jason and Brandon, now big hulking men but then adorable four-year-olds, helped their Uncle Ray and offered their own hilarious commentary. I must have been manning the video camera, because when Dad read my card, he looked at the camera, smiled and gave me an OK sign. I had almost forgotten the sound of his voice, but never that smile.

We watched my nephew Trey as an infant trying to army crawl across the carpet. My brother Ray was only 21 then and looked like a child. I couldn’t help but watch grown-up Trey as he watched himself as a baby, at a time when everyone around him treasured him and adored him. Those were not always the memories he has had. Sometimes the best memories are the ones hardest to keep. I turned away as his face began to glisten with tears for the lost years and for the Papa he misses so much. Now Trey is expecting a son of his own in a few months. It is good for him to remember that he has a legacy worth passing on.

We watched as Mom, Aunt Shirley, and Ray played Duck Duck Goose with Jason and Brandon in the backyard. As the boys went around the circle saying “Duck, duck, duck….” they smacked each person on the head, except for Aunt Mary (my mom), who got a gentle tap. It was fun to watch my aunt, still wearing her business clothes, jumping up spryly to chase one of the twins when she was “the gooser.” It was fun to see my mom, 46 at the time, running on both legs just like I remember, scampering around the yard like a teenager. And it was fun to watch my brother and the twins race to see who could roll down the hill the fastest or do the best flips. I’d pay good money to see any of them do that right now!

Gift #5 – Laughter

Laughter is an amazing gift. There was laughter in the video during celebrations and during ordinary times that just happened to be caught on film. There was laughter in the living room as we watched old times and shared new ones. And there was joyous laughter looking at the sonogram videos of our two newest family members who will be born later this year to two different nephews. A family who can laugh together has a much better chance of surviving all the times when laughter seems impossible. And sometimes, laughing even then.

Gift #6 – Perspective

In the video, after Dad blew out the candles on his cake someone asked him to make a speech. The camera slowly zoomed in on his face as he became thoughtful. “Well,” he said, “I’ve had a good life. If you have people you love and family around you that loves you back, I don’t know if you could ask any more than that.” Little did we know he would be gone from us in seven short years.

This Mother's Day, I chose to lay down the chip I have been carrying for so long. By writing about how I was feeling, I was able to identify a problem, confront it, and resolve it. I feel so much freer and lighter than before. And that was by far the greatest gift of all. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

the kitchen waltz

Chores are an important way for kids to participate in family life and learn important life lessons, but kids don't always see it that way. Sometimes how we handle their reluctance to do those chores teaches them more than do the chores themselves.

Friday, April 26, 2013

show your mettle (metal) : limb loss awareness

In the United States, we aren’t accustomed to seeing blown off body parts lying around the street.  Then we saw the coverage of the bombing in Boston.

While mercifully only three lives were lost – three too many – nearly 300 people were injured in the blasts. As 26 April, at least 14 of those injured – or 5% -  have had limb amputations as a result of their injuries. So far.

That’s almost the same percentage of total Americans who currently live with limb loss. In a country with nearly 314 million people, over 2 million people – roughly 6% - have had an amputation of some sort.

The Amputation Coalition is celebrating April as Limb Loss Awareness month, and have designated April 27th as Show Your Mettle Day. This is an occasion when all amputees are encouraged not to hide their prostheses, but to proudly reveal their courage to the world.
Amputees like war fighters, diabetes survivors, accident victims, my mom….

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"my" child or "ours"?

I believe we as members of a society have certain responsibilities to each other. I believe everyone should have access to the basics: nourishment, shelter, education, medical care.

I also believe everyone has an obligation to contribute to our society to make these basics available. Some of us bear more financial obligation than others – “to whom much is entrusted, much is required” – but everyone has a responsibility.

Our contributions aren’t just financial.  We all contribute to our society, either for good or for ill, through pretty much everything we do. This includes our chosen field of work, our attitude and level of courtesy in public, whether we pick up after our pets or flip the driver who cut us off, whether we engage in criminal activity, how we raise our kids….

Excuse me, did I say “our” kids?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

love and the paper(back) reader

“Dreams are like paper: they tear so easily”     Gilda Radner
 My daughter said the most amazing thing to me the other day, completely unsolicited:

“Mom, I love the smell of paper! I love the way it feels and sounds and smells. Especially old paper. There’s nothing like it.”

Amazing. Especially in this electronic age.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

back to the future: that's the power of love

In one of my previous posts, I shared a 'bad mommy moment' I had with my daughter, one that involved the term "BFF". I shared that, even though I've had some wonderful and close friendships, I wasn't sure I ever had one of those.

Truth is, I did. Until I changed the meaning of the acronym to "Blow Friendship Forever". 

A long time ago, while I was living in Columbia (SC), I met a girl who was a lot like me. Ok, other than the fact that she was a New York Jew and I was a WASP so Southern that I had an uncle named Stonewall Jackson, we were a lot alike. Smart, nerdy, sarcastic, pale, and red-headed, we both always felt a little like outsiders no matter where we were.

Monday, February 04, 2013

in the sweet by-and-by: remembering Helen

Today my blog is a love song for my family in honor and celebration of the birthday of my late Aunt Helen.
Helen was my father’s eldest sister. Although she was only 7 years older than my dad, she seemed to take a motherly role with him. Maybe it’s because he was the only boy born in the middle of a passel of sisters, or maybe it’s because she was the quintessential Big Sister. Or, maybe, it’s because that’s just how she rolled.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

learn to be still: reflecting on the 49th parallel

Last Friday I turned 49. That’s a big number. All around the world, there are monuments on or near the 49th parallel.  Including Paris. 49 is a big deal.

Although, to me, my birthday is always a big deal. 
I was groomed to be a complete Birthday Diva. Birthdays are the only time in my life when I consider myself high maintenance. I can remember years when my birthday ran not for one day, but for a week or more. As a child I always cried while my family sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Not sure why. If I ever decide to go back into therapy, maybe I’ll see what we can dig up on that one.

This year I wanted no tears, and no regrets. Since 49 is a big deal – like “one year from the Mid-Century mark” big - I wanted this year to be special in a deep sense. I wanted to do some planning.  Build some monuments of my own.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

honesty is such a lonely word: authentic living

We live in the Age of the Fraud. Look at just three recent headlines:
  • A lauded athlete who is admired by many and recognized for his athletic prowess, for successfully fighting cancer, and for creating an influential nonprofit that benefits millions, finally admits all his wins were due to his use of performance enhancing drugs.
  • Another athlete’s tear-inducing story of tenacious perseverance through the death of his grandmother and girlfriend loses respect when the public learns neither the grandmother’s death nor the existence of the girlfriend can be validated.
  • An author writes a best-selling memoir about her traumatic upbringing in a Los Angeles foster home and subsequent decline into the drug gang life, only to later admit she grew up in a privileged home with her biological parents, attended private parochial schools, and has never been in a gang.
This is a small sample of people in the recent news who have proven to be frauds.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"do you know where you're going to?" - making goals

I’m a little late making New Year’s resolutions. I had them in my head at the end of 2012, but figured if I made them too early they would suffer the typical premature death by now. I thought I’d just hold off until the rush had passed in hopes they’d have more staying power.
Am I the only one who waited?
This year I’m writing down my resolutions. AKA, “goals”.
Why does that word freak me out so much?
My daddy always told me to make goals. Goals for next month, 3 months, 6 months, a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc. 
But making them wasn’t enough. He said I needed to write them down.
“If you don’t set any goals, you won’t go anywhere. But you have to write ‘em down, set some sign posts. Otherwise you won’t remember where you started or whether you ended up where you wanted. Set ‘em, write ‘em down, change ‘em if you need to – but don’t spend your life going nowhere.”
Wise words.
Too bad I didn’t heed them.

Monday, January 07, 2013

happy (goo) year

I’m back.
Thanks to those of you who missed my blog and asked if I was ok. I am. Better than ok.
My Christmas was amazingly wonderful. As full of magic and family and home time as I had hoped.
However, the New Year came in not with a bang but with a sniffle.  Nothing life-threatening, just the hacking sneezing coughing achy sore throat junk everyone else I know has been dealing with that I had hoped to avoid.

Between the busyness of an amazingly wonderful holiday, traveling, keeping up with my real job, and hacking through the winter nasties, my time and energy have been at a premium. And that was enough to put me on writing hiatus.
You’d think lying a-bed like Camille (minus the TB) would have given me a lot of time to postulate and blog and journal.
You’d be wrong.