Friday, December 31, 2010

Torn Between Two Places

Tomorrow we sign on the dotted line, to buy the perfect property for my man and me. We'll eventually have a house with three hundred sixty degree views of water: the lake to the front, the marsh to the rear. I'm not sure what could be more perfect.

We're nervous, but also so excited to have found something in the same island subdivision that we enjoyed pre-Katrina. It wasn't our plan to build a house; all I wanted was a plot on which to park an RV. Richard, on the other hand, wants a neighborhood. Our lives never work out quite as we have planned; I never intended to own our present home. Que sera sera; whatever will be will be.

The reality is that our RV needs an engine before it can be moved anywhere, and the coastal area has really clamped down on where one can park a mobile home. RV parks charge several hundred dollars a month, so it wasn't going to be an inexpensive ordeal. In for a penny; in for a pound. We'll be in for several tons.

Richard is absolutely enthralled with his work on the PT boat for the World War II Museum. The Higgins Society project manager has asked him to be an integral part of the organization of the refurbishing of this water craft. With the Higgins PT boat measuring seventy-eight feet long, he'll now have bragging rights to the biggest boat of anyone in either of our neighborhoods. And how many of our friends' boats boast over four thousand horses of power? I'm also pretty sure none of their boats ever took a torpedo hit.

While Richard is working for "the war effort," I guess I'll be figuring out where we'll live. The house in Coker Creek, when it thaws, may become a vacation rental. Meanwhile, I'll be looking for a temporary house here in Louisiana, as most apartments don't allow dogs the size of small horses to reside in them. Our Great Pyrenees is ninety-six pounds of fur and drool. We don't know if she'll survive a summer as an outside dog, so we may need to include an air-conditioned dog house in our home design.

You may think that living on the water will keep our puppy cool, but eight inch fur isn't conducive to taking a dip in the lake. The one time Gypsy Woman tried following our daughter's dog into our pond, she became so heavy that our daughter had to drag her to shore. Esther Williams she ain't.

I'm still hoping that some miracle will allow us to live part time in two places, with or without two homes. Maybe we'll become summer vacation renters in the beautiful mountains of Tennessee.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Boonies and the Beach

Looking on the lake for a piece of property
To build a winter home for my man and me.
He loves snow, and I love the sun;
The compromise of two homes, for now, has won.

But as we age, we can plainly see
That our energies aren't what they used to be.
Even our children have aches and pains;
It's for certain we won't be young again.

When we purchased our home, we really thought
That our children would use what we bought.
But reality didn't cooperate;
By the time we knew this, it was too late.

The work on acreage is extensive,
And hiring workers very expensive.
So we're left questioning what to do,
If we can't keep up one, how will we do two?

Do we want to become vacation landlords,
And have our beds slept in by unknown hordes?
We could have small paradises in both places,
In both of which we enjoy friendly faces.

A beach house here, a mountain home there,
We'd be on vacation anywhere.
Granny camp could be such fun,
Both in the snow and in the sun.

I'd like advice on which way to go
From realtors and landlords in the know.
And from friends and family
Who may help us more clearly see.

Before we take the plunge, we hope to get
Information on how to sublet,
And who will visit each of our homes,
As through the country our people roam.

Make your reservations today,
If in the mountains you want to play.
You just never know how or when
Reality may intrude again.

The drive is long, but rewards are great,
Although many still hesitate,
To take the forested mountain roads
To our peaceful Appalachian abode.

A tour bus would be just the thing,
But there isn't one, our guests to bring.
Do you think we should install a heliport
For easy mountain guest transport?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Crazy Christmas

We woke up alone on Christmas day,
No children or grands with which to play.
All of them were sharing their time
In their own respective family climes.

So much family we could have seen,
But this holiday season has trying been.
Unexpected death and relationship strife
Have caused some stress in our current life.

Now, many of you may be saddened,
But our hearts were truly gladdened;
We slept in without a thought
Of any things that we ought.

We had no ham we had to bake,
No enthusiasms we had to fake.
Our gift was time with each other;
We could cuddle alone under the covers.

A buffet breakfast and a movie show
Were quiet places we could go.
Even on Christmas there are people alone;
These places substitute for their homes.

We weren't without any baby joys;
We shared supper with our niece and her boys
Her husband is one of those who work
While we celebraters enjoy the perks.

So to his place of cooking employment
We took our holiday feasting enjoyment.
The boys were thrilled to see their dad,
And what pride in their family the parents had.

And then to see our son we went;
With their new toys our time was spent.
They had finished their Christmas duties,
And were relaxing with all their holiday booty.

Snuggle time with a granddaughter
Before retiring to our hotel on the water.
Christmas is just beginning for us,
But we won't have to make a fuss.

I'm looking forward to days of shopping,
And also some theatre hopping
With our daughter and her girls
As we give Atlanta a celebration whirl.

Extending Christmas may become a habit,
No more scurrying about like rabbits,
From there to here and here to there,
All the joy in one day to share.

We did, though, miss our package caper:
Yards of ribbon and wrapping paper,
The goodies our kitchen elves had fixed,
And all those gifts specially picked.

What a surprise those things will be
Long after disposal of the Christmas tree.
What is time, after all,
But a trap into which working folk fall?

We're retired and we can decide
By what rules our clocks abide.
This goes for our calendars, too;
Any day may become Merry Christmas to you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Conscious of Christmas

I'm happy I know the ways of Jesus;
He certainly gave good examples to us.
This is as it is meant to be,
As we strive for eternal life to see.

Our forefathers were given a path to follow
But we continue not to be perfect, and so
We were given a brother who would not sin
To allow all the Spirit's light to shine in.

The Spirit of wholeness and pure delight
Is what gives humans our special might.
We must choose our path; we each need example.
The ways of most of families are not ample.

For seeking perfection is a process;
The tribes of Abraham have done their best.
The line of David produced a man
To be an example of the Eternal Plan.

We are still left to find our way:
Jews, Muslims, and Christians today,
All come from the same blessed line.
Hopefully we'll reunite, in time.

The Holy Spirit is how we succeed
In finding the peace for which we plead.
It isn't a contest for who is right;
It's a question of whether we want the Light.

I don't call myself Muslim, nor Christian, nor Jew
Because I haven't become one with those who do.
But I seek a common message of hope and love
In all I encounter as through this world I trudge.

So let us each be our best selves,
Sharing grateful hearts and the love that dwells
In all who seek a heavenly plane
In which humanity will be freed from pain.

It begins with each of us searching our hearts
For a peaceful place in which to restart
Our earthly relationships on a higher plane:
In our own little worlds, Paradise to regain.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Remaking Marriage

Is it true that marriage can be reset?
Vows reaffirmed and responsibilities met.
Injuries inflicted, can these we forget?

How many know when they are wed
The many challenges that lie ahead?
Who stands for them when their joy seems dead?

Our families seem not to care
In our commitments to do their share
When there seems no more love energy there.

Our people need to be the well
From which we draw the Spirit's spell;
Only this our trembling weakness will dispel.

Marriages don't thrive on one to another;
They take more than being lovers.
They thrive on families of sisters and brothers.

Isn't this the community to which we are called:
To form a fortress of sheltering walls
To protect our young when they threaten to fall?

Prayer without action won't calm the storm
When a baby won't quiet in her mother's arms;
Our commitments must be in active forms.

That midnight call of a man in pain
Wondering if his mate will ever hold him,
Who of us will hear his refrain?

Let us stop simply celebrating
When two sanctify their mating;
Let's commit to the family they're creating.

The rewards are many for being a part
Of helping to fill a family's hearts;
We help give our broken world a new start.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Treasure Time Together

Instead of hurrying on Christmas day,
I'm taking my children out to play.
My son and his boy met me at the mall;
Negotiations took only one phone call.
I smiled as they sparred with one another;
My son's no longer a little brother.
He's a dad, and he had the last word
On the raiment of his baby bird.
They argued and then pleaded with me:
Their arguments to oversee.
But I knew that my son would pass the test
Of wanting what, for his son, what was best.

My daughter-in-law, bless her heart,
In my Christmas shopping became a part.
She agreed to accompany my granddaughter
For what could have become a slaughter.
We began with a leisurely lunch buffet
At a coast hotel where gamblers play.
Then a drive watching whitecaps on the water
To shopping with limits we had to barter.
We succeeded in our purchasing adventure;
Now it's onto our next holiday venture.
My son had already bought himself
The gift I bought him, that unpredictable elf.

My sweetie and I will wake on the day
In a room of our own on the Biloxi Bay.
We'll spend time with only each other
Before we welcome the babies to smother,
With kisses and hugs and well wishes,
Over a table filled with holiday dishes,
Prepared by their daddy, a working man,
Who for Christmas, a day off was not the plan.
Gifts will have been given and unwrapped
The children will have, hopefully, already napped.
What a way to ease into the ending
Of a season that has been rather mind-bending.

In the new year, my daughter and her precious girls
Are going to give this gifting method a whirl.
In an Atlanta suburb, we'll have to see,
How easily we can complete a shopping spree.
The pace may be a bit more hurried,
But I promised myself I won't get worried.
It's about time spent with those I love,
And not about the push and shove
Of getting the most activity;
It's about the parts of each other we see.
This may turn out to be the best Christmas ever,
With memories of time together to treasure.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Home for a Hummingbird

The wheels of The Spirit turn so slowly at times
That I feel like I've been left behind.
When I wait and pray with patience
I find that this desertion is all in my mind.

I've always been in a hurry to know
What, why, where, when and how.
If something is worth having,
I've always wanted it now.

While it's true that some things
Don't get better with waiting,
Some things have to mature
Before they're ripe for celebrating.

Relationships, like fine wine,
Have many nuanced flavors;
Each area must be allowed to bloom
Before the full measure can be savored.

I've spent my life like a hummingbird,
Collecting nectar from many flowers.
My desire to find a permanent home
Grows more intense by the hour.

While I know that nothing on earth
Is actually here to stay;
Until it's time for me to become soil,
I need a place for my children to play.

In watching the fruits of our labor and love
I feel a oneness with my Creator.
I'm fortunate that my mission in life
Seems to be chief celebrator.

Come one and all, I want to say,
Let us sing and dance with delight.
This is how I show gratitude
For each day's holy light.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Passion and Impermanence

I rode along the Gulf Coast just before sunset, taking photographs of the art that rises from death. What a special mind it is that can look at the remnants of destruction and see new life!

Marlin Miller must have a heart of pure light that, where we all saw our beloved old oaks as dying amputees, he saw opportunities for wildlife art. Talk about random acts of kindness! This effort seems anything but random, yet it arose out of a disaster, and is by its very nature transient. Even though most of the eagles, turtles, dolphins, fish, and other coastal creatures depicted in these rooted carvings survived the storm and will survive other weather-related changes, wood is destined to rot, especially in the punishing sun, sand, wind, and water on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. One can't help but admire the man who puts such passion into something that he knows cannot be permanent.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Days of Delight

We fill our days with lots of gladness,
Which may look to others like pure madness.
First a tour of a true southern home,
Which welcomes all who into it roam.
A fireside chat with a prolific author,
While his cats beg for treats in their saucer.
His wife beaming, as well she should;
They've created a life that's very good.

Two hours of lunch with best friends,
Lots of bridges we seek to mend.
Then off to shop in a little boutique
For that "little something" so unique.
My man comes home from a day of labor;
Volunteering is what he tends to favor.
Supper and chatting with our hosts,
Before we hand our dreams over to the Holy Ghost.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Good Sisterhood

Looking forward to today
When my oldest friends come to play
Move over Ya-Ya Sisterhood;
What we have is just as good.

We're all grannies now,
And getting up a bit in age.
Laughter is the best medicine
When one reaches this life stage.

Beside the beach, we'll ride along;
We may share in a bit of song.
Our celebration will be intense
To balance our many life's laments.

The sun will dance upon the waves
As we lift our voices in grateful praise
For the pure joy of life and love
Raining down on us from up above.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Forget the Familiar

Forget the familiar;
It will only produce pain.
Our challenge as adults
Is to begin again.
The milk we drank was poisoned
By our parents' strain.

Oh, how easy it would be
To be like dad or mom.
But we must address the wrongs paths
That our parents' lives have formed,
Before our children's children
Accept this as the norm.

We understand how they became
So very lost and confused,
But we still cannot forget
How their children were abused,
Or how it turned a child's faith
Into feelings of being used.

Am I my brother's keeper
Or my sister's saving grace?
What is expected of those
Who have looked Satan in his face?
Are we to fight, flee, or stand firmly
In our Savior's place?

How I long for the answers
To these and other quests.
Until I hear a clear voice,
I can only do my best
To hold those who are crying
And pray for our souls' rests.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

He's Such a Handy Man

It's so easy to fold myself into the lives of young families without a thought about how it affects my marriage. There always seems to be so much need when there are children to be minded and minds to be molded. With the particular parents about whom I'm speaking, I know how carefully they choose with whom they entrust their children. The parents ask for me to help safeguard their young, and I am honored beyond belief. This leads to me often saying, "Yes" without thinking, leaving Richard in the lurch wanting for a wife to share a grown-up life.

I've never really enjoyed babies or babysitting, except when Richard was around to enforce order. He's a wonder to behold when a baby is upset, no matter the age of the baby. His center of calm seems to infuse whoever he's with. One of my favorite moves is to put a toddler in his care while I fix supper. He'll build a fort around the child, keeping the child so mesmerized that they forget to fuss. There's always a pay-off at the end, like busting down the tower, or frozen confections for all.

Screaming babies put in his lap are generally cooing in a matter of minutes. One of our infant nephews, as a breast-fed baby was inconsolable every time his mother left him. He used to comfort himself by sucking on Richard's thumb as they watched television together.

We have a whole new crop of kids coming up, most of the male persuasion. I hope I can convince Richard that he really wants to hang out with the boys after hanging out with the "boys." After a day of boat building, I hope he's ready for doing more than sitting on the sofa with the young men in training to be daddies. I hope he's up for enticing them to help with the baby boys.

I miss the days of cooking with kids playing in my line of sight. We even had a wall taken out of one of our houses to enable this experience. If only I'd asked Richard to bring his hand-hewn "chick sticks," I'm sure I'd succeed in seducing Richard to recreate those moments. I think I may hear some brand new Lincoln Logs calling out to me...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creating Crabs on Canvas

One of the high points of this adventure has been spending individual time with the various women in my life. These are women who are some of my most missed soul-sisters, both young and old. I'm so fortunate that one of these women is my daughter-in-law, Buffy, whose company I adore. She's so accomplished in all that she does, and I'm honored that she finds the time to share who she is with me.

One night last week, she took me along as she and several of her teaching colleagues were to attend a class on learning to paint a blue crab, one of the iconic symbols of Ocean Springs art. I, who have never been able to draw well enough to even get good grades in penmanship, knew this was a lesson in futility for me, but I gladly accepted Buffy's invitation, just for the pleasure of her company.

We walked into a basement studio on the banks of a lazy lake where a dozen women were uncorking their respective bottles of wine. The artist and her assistant were busily pouring paint into little cups that were placed on plastic plates to serve as our palettes. Each of us was handed a blank square gallery-wrapped canvas and asked to choose a spot with a canvas stand and a bucket of brushes. As we all took our places, the artist took the stage.

She began with a simple series of charcoal lines on a white canvas background. We then moved on to outlining with black paint. We were told to simply do what she did. My work wasn't looking promising, and the only comment I received from the circulating assistant was, "Those black lines are heavy." I was used to failing at art, so this didn't bother me. I kept reminding myself that the night was about time with Buffy, sort of like coloring was about time with my little sister and then my children and grandchildren. I decided to go with my natural wing-it flow. What did I have to lose?

Amazingly, as we followed the lead of the artist, each of our crabs-on-canvas began to develop its own shape and personality. The lesson began to feel like fun. As we layered and blended color-by-color, I began to become quite confident and felt rather creative. Each budding artist had something that could be readily identified as a crab, but nothing was wall-ready.

The artist told us to step back from our easels and carry the works-in-progress back to another table for application of "secret sauce." This was a series of squeeze bottles filled with various paint colors. The idea was that we could use the bottles to apply flourishes and details that make the paintings pop.

What fun it was to watch each of us create googly eyes and wild whiskers for our finishing touches! And what a difference the secret sauce made. Both Buffy and I were proud of our finished projects. Buffy's now hangs in her living room to greet all guests and can even be seen on her facebook page. Mine might eventually grace my beach house, wherever that may be.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

More Beautiful Than the Beaches

The beaches are more beautiful than we have ever seen;
The sand is more plentiful, and oh so very clean.
The least terns have nesting mounds of beach grass
The parent birds dive bomb all who dare to pass.

Most old oaks survived intact during the storm;
Sculptures were carved out of trees that were harmed.
There are eagles and egrets where oaks used to be,
A rooted sculpture garden for all passersby to see.

There are few buildings now allowed on the beach;
Most are moving beyond the next storm's reach.
The old south may be gone, but the new will arise;
What is yet to emerge is sure to surprise.

I have cast my eye longingly on a lot on the bay;
Across the highway is the beach where the little ones play.
But oh, I miss the marsh and the light on the lake;
Our memories there, I've been unable to forsake.

Our neighbors have moved; starting over we'd do
With friends close by that have always been true.
Our beloved New Orleans would be only minutes away,
With the Higgins Boat project and other places to play.

So many of "my" children would be in the next state,
When I got lonesome for them, I'd not have to wait.
In less than an hour, I could get a dose of The Spirit
Sharing with someone who wants to hear it.

Poor Richard would get a much-needed break
As I partied with my first husband's namesake.
I could visit grandchildren for an afternoon,
With promises to see them again really soon.

My nieces could call on us to babysit
Whenever their schedules were too tight a fit.
Grown friends are fine, but what I live for
Is the light of love shining through young family's doors.

Friday, December 10, 2010

White Christmases to Come

Most of the time my children were growing up, I was divorced from, and sharing custody of them with, their father. We took turns having them for holidays, so I taught them that Jesus wasn't actually born on December; therefore, we could choose any random day on which to celebrate Christmas together. Once, we ended up with Christmas, complete with a decorated tree and Christmas carols, in mid-March. This year, I'm putting our Christmas spirit to the test, once again.

My mother never even decorated our Christmas tree before Christmas Eve. She said that this was to commemorate the trees bursting into bloom when Jesus was born.
Tomorrow marks two weeks before Christmas. As usual, all of our gifts have long been bought and awaiting packaging into approximately fifty separate family surprise boxes. Jams have been made, but pecans have neither been bought nor roasted. Coconut macaroons aren't baked, and bourbon balls are still in the bottles and boxes of individual ingredients. And not one decoration has been hung by the chimney or anywhere else at our place.

Richard is alone at our home in the holler, and I have just been released from my duties as assistant to my sister, the executor of my mother's estate. I really don't have the energy to hurry home, bake, and box all those gifts for Richard to wrap and mail prior to the big day. For this, the package delivery people's families should be thankful. My children and their children have alternate holiday plans made because of the uncertainty about my availability, so I'm afraid that our version of Santa's sleigh will stay grounded this year.

Richard and I have never spent a Christmas together as a couple without outside obligations. This year, I think we can both stand a bit of comfort, joy, and blessed peace while we take a rest from family. We plan to check into a Gulf Coast Casino hotel and put a little jingle in the nickle slot machines, attend a few first-class Christmas shows, and eat rosy red crab legs dripping with butter from the bountiful buffets.

We'll spend lots of time driving around the Gulf Coast area from New Orleans to Ocean Springs looking for the perfect winter home. This way, we can guarantee that our next Christmas will be white, whether because of snow in Coker Creek, white caps on the waves of Lake Pontchartrain, or white sand on the Biloxi beaches. I'm dreaming of many wonderfully White Christmases to come; maybe a belated one in February or March. Would it be too tacky to celebrate Christmas during Mardi Gras?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A World of Wonder

Cuddling with cute kids,
Conversing with collegiates,
Spumoni shared with my niece.
Coffee in my son's kitchen,
Painting with his partner:
A world of wonder for me.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What a Way to Spend a Glorious Day!

Oh what a way to spend a glorious day!
It began with soul sister sharing
Of Christmas projects and words of wonder.
I followed this with a drive along
The endless edge of the earth.

Sun glistening on white sand,
And dancing on the ripples,
Gently teasing my cares out,
To be carried far away.

A vist to my son's home
To gather hugs and kisses
Then onto my "adopted" daughter
And her beautiful baby boys.

Children's books and silly songs,
Watching their mother soothe their souls,
As she watched over their final thoughts
Before thay drifted off to sleep.

The quiet moments of sharing
Our hearts and souls with each other,
The time for reaping adult rewards
For embracing another day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Grinning In Gratitude

Feeling joy drives some folks mad:
Those who think their suffering
Saves them from being bad.
Don't they know that The Creator
Made us to be glad?

Some people think that being nasty
To all those around them
Makes them mature or classy.
When I'm around them,
I feel quite trashy.

Joy is our show of gratitude;
All it requires is change
In our overall attitude.
It's a way of looking at life,
Not a function of mood.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pain Without Gain

My sisters and brothers are parts of my soul
Those born of my mother's flesh and
Those, too, who have chosen me.
There is no love without giving some of me,
A part never again to be fully my own.
There is no touch without the fusion
Of a part of you with a part of me.

I must build a shield before I go out,
Something to protect myself from pain.
I have slowly given away all of me;
And been infused with the poison of many.
I have depleted the wells of my loves;
They say to turn my face to heaven.
I fear that my plight on this earth is that:

I'll never be whole again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Simply Sadness

So many false things are said about family,
Especially after a loved one is dead.
Is it because we are compelled to portray
Only that for which we most fervently wished?
Or is it because we have truly convinced
Ourselves that certain people have no faults?

Only one of my heroes was a perfect person;
At least that's what I was taught to believe.
His only weapons were love and words,
His heart's desire: eternal unity.
This does not seem the way with people of faith
Who continue to hate in the name of One God.

Sadly, there are many who demand that we
Bond with them in their hatred and fear,
Defining their allies by common disdain for "other"
Rather than seeking for something the same in all.
What may look like lack of forgiveness for wrong done me
May be simply sadness for what could never be.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Wish I Could Miss My Mother

My mother has died at the age of eighty-four. I'll never know if her heart gave out from too many miles on her odometer or because it was so broken by her brazen brats, myself included.

My mother's religion was a religion of rules and rites; this was the most important thing in her life. All came second to that: her husband, her children, her happiness. It was her firm belief that her religion was God on earth, and that faithfulness to it was faithfulness to God. She could never celebrate the successes of herself, her children, or her marriage because this would have been prideful. She also seemed to feel firmly that suffering was necessary to salvation. She apparently felt joined with Jesus in her attempts to suffer for our sins in our stead. This left little space for loving us as we really are, much less liking us.

I suppose I could have tried to be more duplicitous in my relationship with my mother, but my face would have given away my falseness. My mother's religion required that she find fault with herself for poor mothering if she admitted to any approval of our doubts about the letters of her laws. It was an act of mercy to hide my faults from her, and the only way I could do this was to hide myself from her. We simply brought out the beast in each other.

My parents had a very troubled marriage. The sight of me brought back all of my mother's worst feelings about my father, both before and after his death. In my mother's eyes, the sins of the father were certainly carried by this daughter.

It is with great sadness that I admit that I will not miss my mother. There are many parts of me and of my siblings that come from her; these I can continue to celebrate or censure without mixed emotions. I feel liberated to finally get to know the men and women that my siblings have become.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Spend a Half Day

My niece, Marj and I are exploring;
Beginning with her hometown.
New Orleans is so interesting
Whether going up- or down-town.

We lunched in the Garden District,
Had coffee with my sister Michelle,
Drove out to the suburbs to supper
On Italian food and desserts, as well.

Tomorrow, we'll see plantation homes,
And perhaps a relation, or two
There's an almost endless array
Of local things to do.

Will Work for a Bed and Some Breakfast

Whenever I'm very afraid of something, I know that the only way to put my fears to rest is to understand that which I fear. This seems to be because I'm so afraid of being swallowed up by that which I don't comprehend.

If I can't see something, it increases my fear, hence my fear of living in the dark of the forest where I can hear all kinds of wild things, but have no way to see them. This also explains my general fear of all dark places. As long as something happens where I and others can see it, I believe I can conquer my fears with understanding a thing. Sometimes, I'm rather foolish in my willingness to place myself dead center in the middle of my fears to have a close-up vantage point from which to study them.

Richard, on the other hand, is very comfortable with the dark, and with wild four-legged animals that roam in the night. What he fears is the two-legged variety of wild thing, especially when they travel in loud packs. He and I have long had an unspoken agreement that he would protect me from things that go bump in the night, as long as I negotiated the crowds of fiery folks to make friends. He has now expressed an interest in my being more cautious about crowds of two-legged wild things.

I absolutely love the sights and sounds of the city, while he is partial to the peace of our place in the woods. What's a couple to do?

At this point, we're negotiating a compromise, driving back and forth from one home to the other. While it is expensive and rather frustrating, living from pillar to post, out of the back of our van, it beats living separate lives. While Richard wiles away his hours at the World War II Museum, helping refurbish a PT boat, I can "solve the problems of the world" with my soul mates, sisters, and various other family and friends. He also is the hero to the widows and orphans as he fixes minor household problems for them.

I always wanted us to spend our retirement years in a bus with cooking utensils and Richard's tool chest, with a sign on the side saying, "Will Work for Room and Board." (or "Will Work for a Bed and Some Breakfast") Maybe my dream is finally coming true. We may need to get our RV back on the road.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Paying Peace Forward

I am still pruning people off my family and friendship trees.
I don't need anyone else to bring me to my knees.
With shame or feelings of little self-worth.
I'm simplifying my path on this earth.

There are too many who are still wanting to grow
For me to waste resources on those that put on a show
Of valuing the gifts that we've been sharing,
But in paying it forward, they've been very sparing.

We wonder where family values went;
This is a common old folks' lament.
But they still lobby for all that they're owed;
No matter that the young folks are carrying our load.

There are few grandparents available today
To keep working families from beginning to fray.
Not one of us made it without the help of others.
Would it hurt us to reach out to young fathers and mothers?

Can you spare a few moments for a colicky baby
Before her parents simply go crazy?
What about mopping a young mother's floor
Before her depression sends her husband out the door?

Are we so afraid to face our past pain
That we can't stand to be vulnerable again
To the gut-wrenching hurt of a baby's cry
When the mother feels that she wants to die?

I wish there was a network of grannies,
Uncles, aunts, grandpas and nannies
Who would be on call at a moment's notice
To restore hurting families back to some peace.

Expanding Our Arena

No, we're not moving; we're expanding our arena.
My granddaughter says it's too long since I've seen her.
Making new friends while keeping the old
Is not as easy as we've always been told.
Richard variously volunteers at a number of places,
And I need to see more of my people's faces.

We have orphaned nieces to care for who are now raising babies,
And widowed women who like our help in both places.
The Higgins boats are still being built for show,
So to the World War II Museum, Richard must go.
He's enjoyed the quiet a bit too much for my tastes
I'm forcing him to re-enter the dreaded rat race.

So much hustle and bustle tires him out
And filling up all the quiet has caused me to shout:
"I need more energy coming from others,
And not only from other grandmothers.
The children I love so quickly change;
After so many months, to them I am strange."

I can hear all of you laughing that I'm never normal,
But my strangeness becomes known not to be harmful.
I take lots of getting used to before comfort sets in;
I need regular contact with my life-long friends.
We don't know where we'll live while down south;
Nor do I know what I'll put in my mouth.

All I care about is that it will all be spicy;
Richard's enthusiasm is a bit more dicey.
He's quite undone by the boat builders' request
That he move himself a bit further southwest.
But for me, the request is music to my ears
An answer to prayer and many of my fears.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Promise of a Wonderful Winter

While waiting for nature to take her course is an admirable way to live, it does take some training to gear down to that philosophy of life. I've worked on it for five years and I'm still operating my internal engine at high idle. Maybe one has to be born to the pace of peace to live happily in the lap of its luxury.

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi are centers of celebration. When one lives with so much uncertainty of seeing another day, one learns to grab for the gusto in every mortal moment. There's a saying for that, down here, "Laissez le bon ton roulette." ("Let the good times roll.") Another saying about people from these parts is that they work hard and they play hard. Any way you say it, laughing is a way of life for people of passion.

I'm too young to begin living the last of my life. We live in a perfectly peaceful community in the forest, but a tomb is also peaceful. At our edge of the forest, we're surrounded by family plots similar to the cities of the dead found in cemeteries all over New Orleans. The difference is that, in rural areas, the family acreage plots are occupied by the living instead of the dead. Grandpas left land to generation after generation of their family folks.

This is not to say that there aren't also family burial plots where we live; there are, where families come together for picnics near their dearly departed. I'm just not yet ready for the celebration of my afterlife; I still have so much life I want to live in this world.

We don't ever want to anticipate outliving our passions, so we're taking measures to secure our second home. A place where the water washes away all cares, where the sun and clouds dance duets across the ripples. Where even the dead of winter is dancing with delight, and includes no snowbound cabin fever.

What a wonderful winter this promises to be.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friends with Food Flair

What a feast of fish was fixed by our friend;
But not just any fish was this.
He made fresh catfish with almondine sauce
And side dishes that were most delish.

My man said it mostly took confidence,
And then he set his student free.
One lesson and Chuck's become a chef.
Who knew how easy it would be?

What many great meals await us,
Now that all four of us will cook?
We even share a preference for
The Ursuline Convent school cookbook.

One of the joys of being in New Orleans
Is the array of fine restaurant fare.
But we now can eat with so many friends
Who cook with equal flair.

My son specializes in barbecuing meat,
And boiling of things that swim.
His wife is a gumbo and bean queen;
We love to eat with them.

We ate Italian where the Saints hang out,
Redfish l'orange at a downtown hotel,
Beignets at Cafe du Monde for dessert
And their cafe au lait, as well.

I plan to eat many more delicacies
While I still have the time.
We'll be well-padded for our return
To the colder winter clime.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans and Volunteerism

Today is Veterans Day. We're with friends who have a son proudly serving as a career officer in our armed services. They are justifiably proud of their son, as I'm proud to be married to a man who volunteered as a medical officer during the Vietnam War. He still volunteers his services to all who ask for his help.

We're now in Mississippi, where Richard is giving Chuck cooking lessons. Our dear friend has decided that he will cook for his wife one day a week, now that he and she are both retired to their dream home on the coast. He sent us a request to teach him a few culinary tricks, stating that he has mastered boiling water, but not much else. This friend is a renowned scholar, educator, and author, so we didn't think that he'd much care for my "wing-it" approach to cooking. Always methodical Richard to the rescue!

Upon getting my van rearranged for my next avenues of adventure, I came upon the men busily perusing cookbooks and writing grocery lists. I let them know that I'm available for consultation, and retired to the guest bedroom. I'm happy to report that the guys are at the grocery without a word of wisdom from me.

Chuck's beautiful bride Gayle is off ministering to the community, so I'm awaiting her arrival with almost bated breath. Gayle is an avid gardener who bought this home partly because of its fabulous landscaping, only to have Hurricane Katrina flood her home and take out most of her trees. She works diligently almost daily to reclaim her haven, and has finally received her just desserts. Her yard now proudly displays a "yard of the month" sign. I can't wait to see her smile as she stands in her little patch of heaven.

The only sadness marring our reunion is the news that their super-hero son is being sent to Baghdad. They say he's going to be involved in planning for our armed forces' future in the Far East. I derive some comfort from the knowledge that he's a very compassionate and thoughtful person. I pray that he has influence toward peace, as I know his parents have handed on to him a close walk with the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Living a Loving Life

All of this marriage business has really gotten me on a roll about relationships. It has provided an opportunity to realign our priorities and recommit to our own marriage vows. Richard has made it clear that he's tired of me being blind to those that seek to sap our strength.

Every time I think my heart has expanded as far as it can, someone else pulls on my heartstrings so tenderly that I begin looking for another empty niche in which to place this person. I'm thinking it's time to purge a few people who have been rotting in place for some time. Just like a few bad apples can spoil the barrel, a few negative people can punch holes in one's heart, and all the love can leak out. This is no way to treat the people who are willing to be positive, so the nay-sayers have gotta go.

It's not that I don't still love them; it's just that the love I offer doesn't bear any fruit. Maybe that's because there are so many that want me without my man. This is not an option, as our marriage is one where "Woman draws her life from man, and gives it back again." We are partners in life and in love, and few respect that bond in any marriage. We're not just playing house; we are each other's home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Face Off With Fear

My optimism doesn't make me an idiot;
It only means that I have high hopes.
How can we ever have joy in this world
Without some tools to cope?

Common sense isn't the same as sadness,
Anger, pessimism, or greed;
It is an understanding that we must
Define and reach for what we need.

Don't tell me what I can't do;
Teach me how I can.
If I need a helping hand,
You are welcome to chip in.

I refuse to act like an adult
If fear is going to guide my life.
Laughter, love, work, and prayer
Are my tools to get through strife.

All my friends may join me
And follow this simple plan.
I will look fear squarely in the face,
And live fully, while I can.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Madness to Mañana

All the hustle, bustle and noise has quite done my quiet man in. He's been blasted by a motor biker rally in Galveston, and nailed by noise while we dined at an elegant, but boisterous Italian restaurant. Latin love songs weren't his forte; neither were the swirling conversations attempting to outdo the music. And the traffic in Houston really drove him to distraction, where he says the GPS had a nervous breakdown trying to navigate seven lanes of traffic on either side of the freeways. At this point, I'm sure he feels like Dorothy in Oz, but without ToTo. I won't be surprised if I hear him chanting in his sleep, "There's no place like home." I don't think it was the GPS having the breakdown.

On our first day here, Richard really wanted to see the sights, especially the International Funeral Museum. He was unable to talk any of our friends into joining us for this excursion, which is how we ended up in Galveston. On our way out of town, we detoured to see a couple of friends who moved to Houston from New Orleans. Even though they highly recommend seeing this unusual sight, they admitted to never having been and not wanting to go. Once we got down to the wire, Richard was more anxious to get out of Houston than to see the sights.

Having lived in Coker Creek for most of five years, Houston really has been like being on another planet, or maybe a space station. Everything whizzes by at warp speed. Talk about a wildly swinging pendulum, one extreme to the other. Coker Creek is a bit too slow for me in winter, but in Texas everything is a bit too super-sized for our comfort.

We're on to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to re-acclimate to a slower speed in life. There's a lot of Latin influence in that area, including the mañana variety. We'll reset our emotional thermostats with a series of siestas before heading back to the holler.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Godmother to Granny

The wedding is done; now comes the marriage. I was relieved to see that the bride has her own posse made up of family and friends, many of whom she cultivated as she became educated and successful in her career. She seems to be well-placed to form her own home.

Since this is a Biblical bride and groom, "The man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife". It is sort of sad for the mother of the groom, as she will have to remain friends with the bride or risk losing her son. In this union, it is fortunate for the groom's mother that she is good friends with the parents of the bride.

It's a huge burden for a young woman, to constantly consider what's most balanced for her society, not simply for the family that she has formed with her man. There are so many pressures to focus only on self and one's primary significant others that it is difficult to create a sacred bond seeking to make the world a better place. All these profound ponderings may lead one to believe that the wedding was a dud, but nothing could be further from the truth.

We had a wonderful time at the wedding; everything was perfectly planned and executed. I even had the opportunity to play fairy godmother to the mother of the bride. This was a Latin wedding, so "mi amiga" (my friend) wanted nothing more to dance at her daughter's wedding, but her shoes had grown or her feet had shrunken between the time she bought her shoes and the big day.

A visit to the powder room and good old Dr. Scholl's fixed her feet right up. She was able to kick up her heels without the risk of a posturing Prince Charming having to hunt her down to find the rightful owner of the wayward slipper. Cinderella's fairy godmother should have had such forethought and she may have become a great warrior for social justice instead of a pampered princess.

Once the five-hour reception supper was over, we were invited to an after-party at the hotel. Richard and I don't even want to try to keep up with the plethora of parties when two families decide to bond. While Richard repaired to our room for a bit of down time, I sat during the after-party at the hotel with the children of the sister of the bride so that the bride's mother, father, and sister could be part of the festivities. I was greatly relieved to have a good excuse to put on my pajamas.

It wasn't restful for me, as I ended up wrestling with the six-year-old junior groom. Next time I'll come with duct tape and a hog-tying rope, or at least a couple of soothing children's story books.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Planning Ahead vs Pessimism

Expressing concern can sometimes be seen as wishing bad things on others. Other times it is a way for people to feel like prophets and excuse themselves from the responsibility of any action that may be required should anything go wrong. "I told you this wouldn't work out, but you didn't listen, so you deserve any bad that befalls you." Sometimes, though, it is simply an effort to formulate a plan and form a team for taking emergency measures before the emergency occurs. The Bible even congratulates the wise woman who put something aside for the lean times. This is not pessimism; this is planning ahead.

This is how it is as we approach the marriage of the daughter of a dear friend. The crones know with certainty that there will be some rough times ahead as the two attempt to graft themselves and their lives one to the other. We're hopeful that their shared cultures will make this easier, but we also know that power struggles are a part of every partnership. With enough love, humor, hope, and support for the formation of the new family entity coming from both sides, all these issues can be openly addressed, and hopefully resolved. We must be on the side of the new union, not on the side of either partner. I don't often see this as the case.

It seems to me that people are more comfortable protecting their own team's sense of superiority, even at the expense of the society in which we live. Why do we continue to define who we are by defining who we reject? Aren't we stronger as we incorporate more hybridization into our genetics, thoughts, and ways of looking at the world? Do we really want all the world to be a safe square sandwich loaf of white bread, with each of us being flavorless slices?

Richard's eldest brother once told him that when a man marries, he marries a woman's whole family. Richard has certainly survived well, even with my huge malfunctioning mess of a clan. I think that is because we've continued to keep the roots of our relationship watered with a strong sense of what we want our home to be. We have also included so many into our extended family that the well never runs dry, no matter how many drink from the our family's faucet.

I hope that this couple, on their wedding day, will truly form a new family, and not become appendages to the families from which they came.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Laugh Again

There's a big difference between making people laugh and spontaneously laughing out loud in shared hilarity, as only long-time friends can do. It takes forever to cultivate a sense of shared mirth when one shares no history with another. But friends who knew you when you worried about zits and split ends, birthing babies and heart transplants, those are the people to turn to when one needs a sense of homecoming.

My best high school buddy was always here for me, even before my marriage, and the first time I had to face the death of someone who held a part of my soul, and before my children made my life whole. I've waited for this moment since we first laughed together in Sister Dominic Savio's honors English class when we were fourteen. She continued to collect honors and I continued to collect crises. I hope I'm finished collecting crisis, and she's finally got play time, as she's partially retired.

My grandma used to ask whether I wanted to laugh or to cry at the loops life put in my path. I've cried oceans; now it's time to guffaw with someone who has held on through the storms and continues to stand on the prow of the ship of life laughing into the wild winds that continue to buffet our boats.

We both seem to share the opinion that you can't avoid the pain, so you'd better grab for all the celebratory gusto you can muster in between the bad times. This makes us look a bit demented, or at least immature at times, but neither of us cares one wit. This doesn't necessarily sit well with our children and their children, but that's another source of silliness for us as we wander on toward sixty.

Our husbands grin and bear our behavior, sort of like they're watching puppies at play. We are lucky women indeed to share the little bit of heaven on earth that a good belly laugh can be.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Circle of Serenity

I heard from a few friends back in Tennessee;
They checked in to say that they miss me.
I'm humbled by their open shows of love,
A gift of emotional manna from above.

I was due to face one of my long-time foes
That I am bound to for as long as life goes.
I needed the support of those who checked in
To know that I'm coming home to new friends.

That way, I can face my long standing fears
With those who I used to hold so dear.
I was able to be cordial, without worry
That I would be provoked to fury.

I am blessed by the love of so many friends
That I'm able to continue finding fences to mend.
Whether broken by me, or broken by others;
I continue to seek healing with my sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Facing My Fears

I'm so tired of making amends and mending fences. I'm not even in a twelve-step program, so I have no idea why I feel compelled to continue this crusade. It matters not to me whether I'm angry with you or you're angry with me, I feel like I have to see if we can "fix" it. There are even people that I've never been friends with, but that are important to others in my life, that I somehow feel I need to find and friend, if possible.

I have, at least, learned to draw the line at recent random acquaintances that have a beef with me. One has to start somewhere, and I've decided to concentrate on the oldest relationships first and work forward. I may, one day, get to the folks that are recently mad at me, but I won't worry about them just yet. The peril of popularity is that we piss people off and they don't even tell us for fear of retribution by our posse. My problem is that it took me most of my almost sixty years to realize that I was popular and that therein lay the problem.

It would be so much easier to sit and sulk, but I can't reclaim my memories without making amends because something always stands between me and them. I once heard that attempting to block bad memories is like trying to play the piano with one's elbow. As you hit the keys you want to hit, your elbow will also strike the adjacent keys. Memories are like adjacent piano keys; I have to face the fear to find the fun.

I'm starting with the easy steps, my oldest and dearest friends, and the nieces and nephews (children of deceased siblings) who only remember the adult me. I'll practice on them before facing first-degree family. With luck, I won't live long enough to have to brave those beasts, but I am preparing myself for whatever jumps out at me.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I can face this wedding with the people from my past that will also be attending.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Families and Festivities

I so miss the ethnic diversity that only port cities seem to engender! Today's the day I move on down the road, to go to a wedding and party plenty. The couple in question is in their thirties, fully employed, and come from Columbian families. They were almost cradle mates. Even though the events aren't in New Orleans, I'm looking forward to a really hometown feel in the festivities.

The sense of celebration when two complete families are bonded in marriage is a wonderful thing to witness. It's always interesting observing the dance of diplomacy involved in creating these blended family bonds. It certainly helps to cement the union when the families share a culture and a history.

We've all waited for many years for Ginita to find a man and a family worthy of her, never knowing that he and his family were around the corner all along. Hurricane Katrina brought the families back into close proximity to each other, and the rest will soon be history.

This bride's dowry is her intellect, her education, her sense of humor, and her solid sense of faith and family. I don't know the groom, but I hope, for all of our sakes, that he's stong enough to partner with this wonderful woman with the makings of a mighty matriarch.

The "three amigas" from high school will be in attendence, giving our "blessings" to the bride and groom. Sleeping Beauty has finally awakened, and we couldn't miss watching her walk down the aisle to her prince charming, after which they will form their own small country.

I hope that we all are serious in saying that we'll be there for the bride and groom as they embark upon the stormy sea of matrimony. I also hope that the bride and groom will call upon us for sharing our experiences, so that they may be able to avoid some of our mistakes and fast-forward into some successes by learning the lessons of ours. Wouldn't it be nice if bachelor and bachelorette parties were still mini-retreats where the wisdom of the ages was handed on to the blushing bride and goofy groom?

I'm thinking a great deal about "Fiddler on the Roof" while imagining this event. I wish I knew how to dance; I'd love to forever be able to say that I danced for my friend's daughter's wedding.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Girl's gotta Do What a Girl's Gotta Do

It was girls and guys night last night at Mel's. Of course, one of the "girls" is almost sixty, and the "guys" are pint-sized superheroes, ages eighteen months and three and a half.But we had fun, never-the-less. I enjoy watching actual boys bounce around the room.

Melanie's little men even had a mopping bumper "car" contest with two Swiffers. They actually got the dried dribbles of their various victuals and libations off the tile floor. The three-yer-old was very careful to inform his aunt, upon her arrival, that the floor was clean. I like a person who reminds others to value their labors, even though I really don't think their Aunt Marjerrie planned to polute the patina of their fresh floor.

Aunt Marjerrie loves to play "dress-up" with her two tiny doll boys, so we did a lot of changing them and clicking photos. Richard used to tell me that I was going to give the grandkids, nieces, and nephews brain cancer with all the flash photography I was exposing them to. I guess family pride is the same generation-to-generation.

Mel and Marj both love sushi, so we told the boys we were taking them trick-or-treating at the sushi restaurant. Marj had come prepared with pre-filled trick-or-treat bags from her future mother-in-law, but we were still lucky that the restaurant provided treat bags in honor of it being Halloween. The eighteen-month-old ate so much junk that he capped our memorable meal with hurling his Halloween into a napkin. Thank goodness, his mama has quick reflexes.

I'm living like a homeless person, out of my van. It's just easier to remain flexible about where I lay my head each night. Richard likes a bit more reliable accomodations, but I love the adventure of gypsying around. When family dynamics begin to get too complicated, I can say, "See you later, Alligator," and head for my van. It was easier when we had an RV parked in the driveways of our friends and family members, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pursuing Playmates

Unbelievable things happen when we allow ourselves to follow the still quiet voice of our pure childhood faith. My very best friend that I lost in sixth grade just found me on Facebook. I've been looking for her for years, but when she was moved by her family to Houston, they left no forwarding address. What fun it will be to catch up with my tall, talented, red-headed BFF!

I'm busy lately taking many walks down memory lane. Maybe this is part of the aging process, but for me it seems more like reclaiming the less complicated, happier, more whole and wholesome parts of myself, when what I lived on was hope.

I'm firmly convinced that most of us have a sane self that was scared away by the control freak ways of others as we grew up. All we have to do is find that precious person again. This makes other "grown ups" absolutely nuts because they are all so busy trying appear to be in control. My opinion is that we're all faking it as adults, but we don't want anybody else to know it.

I always had plenty of playmates in my life, and I was a "good" but clumsy and too talkative kid. This drove adults to distraction, so they set out to "fix" me and try to make me a graceful, quiet "lady". If it hasn't worked by now, I don't think I'm ever going to get there. So, I surrender. I'm going into my second (or, more likely, returning to my first)childhood before faking adulthood kills me.

I never saw it in the Bible that women can't cuss, even though I know there are some words that are forbidden to be used in vain. I also know that women are the teachers because they are the mothers. I don't know who Paul was talking to when he said that women can't teach men, but it wasn't to the women I know.

My six-year-old self was doing just fine before my significant adults made My Maker into a monster. I'm going back home in myself and finding my faith. And I'll go back to hugging everybody on the playground who wants to play with me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Here's to My Baby Boy

Many people have problems with celebrating Halloween;
My baby boy was born then, making me feel like a queen.
He was a blond and blue-eyed angel with a million dollar smile;
All I could imagine was that he is a magical child.
He made my days a wonder; he made my days a joy;
He was my own precious and funny baby boy.

I'd speak to him for hours as he looked into my face
I knew that his life was a gift of My Creator's grace.
His sister always thought that he was her own special doll;
We came close to worshiping him, trying to protect him from a fall.
But every baby bird eventually outgrows the nest,
And he must prove his talents, or try his very best.

We've looked on in wonder as he's become a husband and a dad,
The most dear friend and protector any family ever had.
So, for any who believe that Halloween should be negated,
We, my son's family, think it must be celebrated.
Here's to Scott, our pride and joy and source of much mirth;
May we all be here to celebrate with you many more years on earth.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Running Myself Ragged

What a whirlwind this trip promises to be! After getting Nikki back to her home and family, her daughter and I made lasagna for their family and Nikki's dad and step mother. In addition to dropping off the lasagna and a "thank you" bouquet for her dad and step mom's help in her daughter's care during her absence, I stayed for a visit with my former brother-in-law, his niece, and his wife. It was a surreal experience sitting in the home where my niece and my sister used to live, visiting with my niece's cousin with whom I share so many early memories of Nikki and her dad, as well as those of my sister and her other three children.

I was invited to spend the night, but became overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and bolted for the door, suitcase in hand. Because I ran too late to arrive at a comfortable hour at my son's home in Mississippi, I woke in a motel close to the home of my son. He's having his Halloween birthday bash tonight, two nights before his birthday, because he "has to" go to the Saints game on Sunday. My son's parties are legendary on the coast, but they're a bit too bawdy even for me. So I come down to help in preparations and childcare. I'm just itching to get my mitts on my grandson and granddaughter.

My niece Melanie still doesn't know I'm in town, as I'm waiting to find out where I'll be tonight with the kids. Melanie's boys have been spirited away for the weekend by their Aunt Marjerrie, so I won't be getting any baby slobbers just yet. Maybe I'll just check us all into a motel with a heated pool, although I'm hoping to spend the evening making lasagna and carrot cake with Miya, Nicholas and their friends.

Tomorrow, I hope to spend some good "girl" time with my daughter-in-law and Melanie, and then I'll be off to New Orleans to see my sister, the Belle of the Bayou. I had hoped to hear her sing, but I don't think she has a gig for this weekend.Maybe on my trip back through...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nieces and Nephews

I know, I know; I should be very careful what I ask for. I moaned about missing mothering, and one of my nieces arrived giving me a good dose of my past. Nikki is the daughter of my deceased sister that I thought was my twin, separated from me before conception. We were always "other mother" to each other's children. Now, Nikki is going home, and I'm left with none of my babies to bother. There's no way that I could stay all alone with my man in the mountains with winter coming on. So, I'm off to get what Richard calls "baby slobbers."

It is true that my grandchildren are all of an age that old people kind of creep them out, especially if we touch them, but we have great nieces and nephews that I'm just itching for us to interact with. This afternoon, I'll be making my Easy Squeezy® lasagna with Nikki's ten-year-old little girl. I'm hoping to be doing the same and baking her daddy birthday cake with my nine-year-old granddaughter by Saturday.

Richard is the only man I've ever known that can keep a two-year-old quiet long enough for me to get supper on the table. He made these wonderful wooden sticks with which he builds forts around the toddlers. The pay-off for them sitting very still is that they get to bust out with great fanfare after the building is complete. My niece in Mississippi has two adorable toddler boys that are just the right age for Uncle Richard's version of childcare.

Another thing we love to do is cook for our friends. One of our most long-standing friends has emailed us with an SOS to come teach him how to cook for his wife. Let's see, can I handle spending the winter two blocks from the beach with best friends? I hope he has a lot he wants to learn.

Talk about starting off with a bang! Nkki has invited her father and step mother over for supper tonight. It's time to get on the road so we can get busy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Family Time in a Warmer Clime

On the road to someplace, but I don't quite know where;
I have so many people scattered here and there.
Some I want to laugh with; with some I need to cry.
There may even be some to whom I have to say good-bye.

Will I see my sister sing? I don't really know.
All I can say is that I hope to do so.
My Cajun aunt and uncle are getting rather old;
I'll spend time with them because they accept that I'm bold.

High school friends await our joyful reunion,
Where we revert to sharing our teenage girl fun.
Spiritual sisters to share our souls' delights,
And the wisdom we've gleaned from our various plights.

Be still my heart; you still have to get there.
Calm yourself with a centering prayer.
Get up; get packed; make last minute visits.
For all of this you must keep your wits.

I feel like a prisoner getting out of jail,
With the ending of fall making my bail.
I don't do winter in the higher climes;
I'm heading south for some family time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

When Women Go to War

When women go to war
Our men run for cover,
When we stop the crying
And focus on a plan.

This is the way Eve
Got Adam to change jobs
And is the scariest thing
To any mortal man.

Now, we know it's true of Eve
That she led Adam wrong.
She was not thinking
Of her future child.

She was feeling a bit jealous
Of God's power of creation.
She was tempted to change this,
And she went quite wild.

We've been trying to get back
To our roots ever since
But we are still have problems
With our married men.

It seems that they only hear us
After we've exploded.
The mess they have to face
Is much greater then.

Oh wouldn't it be nice
If our men would hear our whispers,
Instead of their waiting
To be hit with a two by four?

I have stomped the snake to shreds
And girded myself with Wisdom.
It's now time for my mother self
To permanently take the floor.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pickled Presents

While Jack sold books, I came home and painted the kitchen, not with a paint brush, but with pear butter blurps. My Godchild Gary has one Christmas request; he wants pear butter. There were no pears for pear butter or chutney last year, but this Christmas he will get his wish.

We are also now the owners of several pints of tiny pickled beets that look like jewels in jars. I can't wait to present these to some serious beet lovers; they're too cute for words. Today's tasks include another day of Turning Leaf Fest and a trip to Atlanta to lunch with my daughter and her first cousin. Richard is stepping in as Jack's chauffeur and big beet slicer. More produce processing projects are promised for tomorrow.

There are still carrots to peel and turn into carrot cakes, and with enough time I'll turn our frozen muscadine mash into jam. I'm also primed for creating pastaless lasagna out of the yellow zucchini that I bought from a local farmer at last week's Buzz Fest. Who knew that zucchini comes in two colors?

All this food frenzy is in preparation for my disappearance down south for several weeks. I just couldn't leave all these garden goodies to spoil in my absence; what would we give as Christmas gifts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Off We Go to Tellico

Off we go to Tellico;
The Leaf Turning Festival calls.
We'll read with the library,
And introduce Jack,
A favorite activity in the fall.

Ginny will be selling
Her inspirational wood burned plaques.
It will be interesting to see
What other crafters
That we met last year will be back.

Living near our Tennessee home,
There are so many talented artists.
Many have moved from far away
Were they this creative
Before moving to the forest?

I think it may be the quiet,
Or the dappled sun in the trees,
Or the mists in the mountains
Bringing our spirits out.
Prayer is not only done on one's knees.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Niece Nikki

It's so nice to go visiting with my niece Nikki. The people of Coker Creek really love her ready smile and her genuine interest in the things that are important to them. She's added her lilting laughter and talents to every endeavor I've introduced her to.

Her assistance at the queen contest was much appreciated, as was her judging of the chili cook-off. Harriett apparently shared a few wry comments as they waded their way through ten chili samples, much to my niece's amusement. And Nikki was especially sought after by our retired school administrator Wanda who had my niece helping put together the chili award certificates. A good principal has to know how to recognize and recruit good help.

Ninety-year-old Eda not only taught Nikki to purl in addition to her talent at knitting, she is now campaigning to have my niece's family move up here. And Coker Creek's other ninety-year-old Mamie absolutely glowed as she showed Nikki her vast array of quilts made by herself, her daughter, several friends and her deceased mom. As a school teacher, my niece also appreciated Mamie's treasured penmanship instruction books saved from when she attended third grade.

Jack was excited to have the opportunity show Nikki his new solar power set-up and have her try out his manual typewriter. The friend who came up to help Jack at the Autumn Gold Festival so enjoyed Nikki that she wrote us a thank you note regarding their time together. And the Quilts For Kids group so appreciates their photo collage that Nikki helped me create.

Nikki's deceased mama Denice and I spent a lot of time hauling our three little ones to one park to sit by the water and feed the ducks. Nikki and I have even sat by the lake at Kefauver Park, but we forgot to bring any bread. Another of my favorite activities with my sister was eating at casual dining places. We've been to Donna's at least three times, and Kats twice.

We've cleaned, created, coffeed, laughed and cried together. (I have to wait for Nikki's daughter, Corinne Denice, to have a partner for cooking.) What wonderful walks down memory lane, this time with the promise of many good times yet to come.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sick Situations

I swear our house is haunted, or maybe it’s a gris-gris on my van. Last summer, we had houseguests, and one ended up in the emergency room at University of Tennessee Hospital. This led to several days of in-patient diagnostic tests. Now, our current visitor has been run through their medical care ringer.

Richard insisted on driving her to the hospital when she had a bout of chest pain and shortness of breath. I was happy to believe that it was her nerves, but Richard wanted to make sure that she wasn’t having a bit of a blood clot “situation.” Two hours is a little far away from the hospital to take chances on midnight medical mishaps. I guess the fit I pitched about him waiting so long to decide he needed to go to the emergency room last winter when he was having a bit of a pneumonia “situation” is paying off. Maybe I should be more careful what I ask for.

I don’t think our cooking causes these events, but could it be our company? Are we really that high stress to live with? Maybe it’s the mountain air, or the accommodations. I guess I shouldn’t forget that Richard and I had more than our share of hospital adventures long before we lived in Tennessee. And even I can’t convince myself that I caused Richard’s hospital stay due to pneumonia.

I think I’ll simply stop asking Richard to play doctor with our guests. They report their symptoms to me, and I pass them on to my man. Next thing I know, we’re sitting in an ER waiting for test results and picking lint out of our navels as our company is poked, prodded, and asked the same set of questions over and over again. Is that any way to treat friends and family?

After only four hours in the ER, our guest got a clean bill of health, and we were in our own beds before dawn. Maybe we should ask UT for a commission on each insured person we deliver to their door. Or maybe not…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Need for Nit Pickers

I'm always amused by the different approaches that people have to solving everyday issues. I usually hate power tools because of all the noise they make, but for de-leafing the deck, it sure is easier to blow than sweep. Richard, who normally loves power simply sweeps, which I don't understand because our joke about Richard is that if he was an obstetrician he'd deliver babies with a router.

The single father that I knew may not even own a mop, as he slides along the floors with a wet towel under foot. (Of course, now that someone has invented a power mop, he may have changed his ways.) Every other cleaning task requires either a leaf blower, vacuum cleaner, or pressure washer, all with powerful motors that make lots of boy noises. And we wonder why our men can't hear anything we say?

Fred has confessed to vacuuming the leaves that invade his home and returning them to their natural habitat, while I without thinking dumped my swept-up fall treasures into the garbage can. I saved on power, but increased the landfill load. Who is more sensitive to our environment?

Now, I've heard of a dad that had a few novel ways to combat his child's head lice. While I'm pretty sure that my daughter's father would have shaved my daughter's head, this dad went all out to save his darling daughter's hair while exterminating the offending critters.

This didn't, however, happen as his first response to the crisis. As any good dad would do upon being alerted that his princess has creepy crawlies, he sprang into action on the internet. The result was a detailed list of instructions for what the mother of his child should do to solve the problem. Upon being informed that this was to be a joint effort, he did the next best thing: attempted to locate a service that one could hire to do the dirty deed. His wife is still laughing at the idea that one can open the phone book and find a service called "Nit Pickers."

The parents discussed wrapping the flowing locks of their precious princess in a garbage bag and setting off a bug bomb, but thought better of it, as it may exterminate more than the insects. When none of these ideas bore fruit, our hero bought an armload of weapons of nit destruction; one of the items being a taser comb. Who knew that their were power combs on the market that would electrocute head lice?

Problem solved, and one more business opportunity for an intrepid entrepreneur in the current job market: "Nit Pickers, Inc." anyone?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Queen of Clean

Jack says it's time to sweep
When we must wipe our feet to go outside.
We love fall leaves on our trees
But they walk into our home with pride.

They never want to walk back out,
So eventually we have to clean.
Along with the cobwebs they must go
Back to their outdoor scene.

I thought about telling people
That they were all fall decoration,
Waiting for all our mountain friends
To arrive for a celebration.

But the bathrooms still needed scrubbing;
There was laundry, both dirty and clean.
So I was finally forced to bite the bullet,
And don my cloak as a housework queen.

The house is a bit more tidy,
But we have a long way to go.
Maybe we'll get fall back outside
Before our first winter snow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cooperation Beats Competition

This is chili cook-off, football and festival season, all areas of intense competition. My niece has been recruited to judge a queen contest and a chili event, and we've observed other festival-related contests. I just don't get the competition thing.

I hate competition, even though it seems that everything in life, from beauty to parenting, to eternal salvation becomes a competition in the minds of many. The Almighty gave each of us only certain strengths, and in some of us, a great amount of limitation. I can't be more than I am, but I know I must work to be all I can be. How can I gauge whether I living up to my worth without comparing my contributions to those of others?

Life isn't a chili cook-off or beauty pageant, but sometimes it helps to have others assist us in discerning what's best for us and all those in our network, as well as who is best suited to lead in each lap of life. Sometimes it's difficult to see where discernment ends and competition begins.

I've done an extensive survey of people who profess to know and love me, and the consensus seems to be that my greatest strength is my appreciation of the gifts given to others. I go through life trying to glue people's gifts together, which makes many feel that I'm trying to take control. All I know is that my strength comes from the bonds I have with others, so maybe I try to push wildly diverse people together so they can see how happy it will make them. Maybe many people don't want to be in a pot of gumbo; they'd rather be in a bowl of something more familiar and soothing, like chili.

I know that I'm a cheerleader in life, not ever meant to be the captain of the team. But then again, maybe "captain of the team" is just an illusion created by power-hungry people. I prefer life to be like a relay race, passing the lead role off to others until the race is completed; then the whole team can take a bow.

Not being "captain of a team" material has been extremely problematic for me as a business manager and as a mother. I always felt that my children had not been given to me, but that they had been lent to me for safekeeping. I often questioned the wisdom of putting such a shaky parenthood driver as I am behind the wheel, but somehow there seemed to always be an engineer steering my children safely into adulthood. I am grateful and in awe.

There are many people who drive around with bumper stickers proclaiming, "God is my co-pilot." I wonder if they mean to say, "I'm God's co-pilot." Are we really ever in control? Don't we get ourselves in the most trouble when we allow other voices to compete with the one in our heads that tells us what's moral and prudent?

Whenever I think about the possibility of parenting again, as many grandparents of my generation are doing, I ask The Almighty, "Please don't give me that load to tote. I wasn't comfortable mothering when they were my children; do you really want to jeopardize the good jobs my children are doing with their children by putting me in charge? I certainly wouldn't win in a contest for who is the better parent for children not made by my marriage."

I've immensely enjoyed cooperating with my kids in nurturing their children, but as the teen years loom large on our grandchildren's horizons, our input seems to simply put us at odds. My grandchildren's parents are still alive, healthy, and very capable of continuing to protect and nurture their own progeny. I don't even want to compete for that responsibility. I can still maintain my on-call co-pilot status. What a relief that is! But I sure do miss mothering.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Slow Slice of Life

The day dawned as beautiful as any autumn day could be. I know this because we were up and at 'em before sunrise. We were going to Kefauver Park to participate in the Buzz Fest with Jack and the book that we built. Driving down the mountain, my niece couldn't help but repeatedly exclaim what gorgeous views met her sight no matter which way she turned.

It was a might chilly lakeside in the park at that hour, but we had brought enough layers of clothing to survive an arctic blizzard. Any further fear of freezing was addressed by a church group handing out free hot cocoa, which fixed us right up. I'm pretty sure Jesus would have approved of their methods of spreading their beliefs; each cup of cocoa came with a printed Bible verse. It wasn't turning wine into water, but it was what we wanted at the time.

Jack amused himself marveling at an early-morning jogger running laps around the lake, but lost count of how many times she went around. I pointed out to him the many miles he walks while exploring his surroundings, to which he replied that he walks; he can't do it trotting. I don't know what thrilled him more, the fact that this was a woman with such determination, or the energy she was expending on trotting instead of walking.

When the sun was high in the sky, the breeze was still cool enough coming off the lake that nothing felt better than to sit with the sun on our faces. I was as cozy as a cat on a sunny window sill watching the people of Monroe County walk by. Thank The Almighty, Jack has become quite a salesman; otherwise, I don't think we'd have sold any books at all.

We had to cut our attendance at the fest short because we had other duties to perform that evening. My niece was scheduled to judge Deborah and Charlie's chili cook-off. And what a wonderful night we had around the campfire at their Coker Creek Saloon. I felt like a Girl Scout again, except that there were men with us at the campfire, and we were missing the endless choruses of Kumbaya. But Don did play a bit of music as Adam went around handing out hugs.

We also cut this event a bit short because my niece needed to get back to our house in the holler to "tuck" her "baby" into bed with a goodnight call -- one of the small inconveniences of living so far back in the forest that there's no cell phone signal. I was happy to cuddle up under many layers of cover with the book that was on my nightstand, a hand-me-down read from my niece. Of course, with her Kindle these gifts may be coming to an end.

We sure are slow in our slice of Coker Creek; we still read books and have to be home to call across the country. Imagine that!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mountain Mama's Muscadines

Mountain Mama called about muscadines;
She said there's plenty left on her vines.
She hates to see anything go to waste,
Although we've lost lots of crops at her place.
With life happening as we make other plans,
Sometimes our best intentions get slammed.
We try our best to be good land stewards,
But our lives are complicated beyond any words.
With friends who are dying, and friends that are ill,
And the visitors who come to give us a thrill;
With so many events to record here and there,
We have to set priorities for that which we care.

Sometimes our people get in the way
Of picking, and plowing, and laying down hay.
So maybe we'll never be farmers in the dell,
But Mountain Mama thinks our efforts are swell.
The freezer is full of muscadine mash,
And the pantry is overflowing with our jam stash.
We had as much grapes as we could bear to lift,
And were glad when Charlie accepted them as a gift.
The circle of life is only a short drive;
Sharing our bounty helps all our friends thrive.
Several are happy about this arrangement;
So with a sigh of relief, back home we went

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pining For My People

Not only am I dependent on my computer network working, I also am so interconnected with the people in my life that I have trouble putting one foot in front of the other without checking in with my peeps. Richard is fond of saying, "Act proves potency." For most of my life, I've had to continually add to my circle because I love having people with a purpose, a plan, a positive attitude, and a good track record for success as my advisers. And these people have all been busy using their talents to improve their areas of the earth.

I like to brainstorm with potent people, and I've always been fortunate that so many busy people allow time in their schedules to share their areas of expertise with me. Most of my potent people are now retiring, and I'm not often enough with them to enjoy basking in their glow.

I'm now faced with a dilemma; I've expanded my network into Coker Creek, and many of my people from New Orleans are spread all over the country, a number of them because of being displaced, like we were, by Hurricane Katrina. I love sharing ideas and talents while sharing physical space, but this is no longer possible given the distances between me and many of my loved ones. When I'm at our Tennessee Mountain Home, I'm pining for my far-flung friends, and it keeps my soul from settling down.

It's hard to get the same feeling from "LOL" and "LMAO" as I get laughing until we cry (or wet our pants) with a good buddy who is laughing with me in the flesh. And about "WTF," there are lots of things in life about which we should be angry enough to attempt to change them. It takes a lot of energy to emote over the phone or into a keyboard, and sometimes it just doesn't seem to get the proper passion going. A hug can't be sent through cyberspace, snail mail, or satellite signals, and nobody will ever convince me that "xxxooo" is an acceptable substitute. I like to touch and be touched by those I love. I like to see in the eyes of my beloved ones what effect my words have while I'm speaking.

Is any amount of aspirin as good at relieving shoulder tension as a nice impromptu shoulder massage given by a good friend? It is impossible to infuse the same comfort into a troubled breast from across a thousand miles as we can impart by putting our arms around the body housing the troubled soul. Not only babies need cuddling; our souls are often only soothed by the physical sharing of our spirits.

I know The Almighty holds me, but I feel The Almighty in the embrace of someone who knows and loves me. And I'm pretty sure that nobody knows me like my family and my oldest friends.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Messy Memories

With my niece here, several people have suggested to her that we "should" be taking drives to see the changing leaves. Some of these people have never been to our Tennessee Mountain Home, so they don't know the joy of sitting in front of our fireplace, enjoying a cozy blaze while peering out the window as the light autumn rain carries the gold of black walnut leaves across our line of sight. Neither have they sat at our kitchen table watching the birds fight for a place at the sunflower seed feeder hanging from our brilliant red-leafed dogwood tree.

I am so pleased to have my niece to share these moments with me. It helps to take away my misgivings about what follows fall, so I can be more in the moment.

Living in the moment may seem obvious to some, but to those who have experienced a great deal of trauma in their lives, it can present quite a challenge. One never knows when a simple step in any direction will open up a Pandora's box of messy memories. Everyone else in the room my be celebrating, and the monsters of one person's past can pop out of the Pandora's box and turn that single person's joy to terror.

Such is my challenge with this fall in Coker Creek. We had a very rough winter last year, as we had several periods of being iced into our home for days at a time. I never learned to drive on snow, much less on ice, because New Orleans isn't prone to such events. Hurricanes, I can handle, but even a dusting of the white frozen stuff sends me into a panic.

As luck would have it, our worst ice storm since we moved into our mountains occurred when Richard was in the hospital last winter. It wasn't a pretty sight, the Wild Cajun Woman of Coker Creek, crawling along the iced over roads to get back and forth to the ICU. Oh, and did I mention that I don't drive the mountain roads at night, but Richard had to be brought in after dark? And I was in such a hurry to get him to help that I ran on fumes and ended up out of gas in an ice storm when I was ready to leave the hospital once they finally got Richard settled in ICU at three in the morning?

As I look out our window, with winter edging ever closer, I just keep reminding myself that this moment remains beautiful as long as I remember to breathe...and Richard keeps our firewood bin filled.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Here's To Our House In the Holler

Our niece is visiting us while on sabbatical from her Louisiana public school teaching position. I don't know how any teachers survive the insane asylums that the large district schools have become. I'm sort of surprised that my niece lasted six years before needing a break from the boneheaded system. It seems that neither parents nor children understand that anarchy isn't a good learning environment. Talk about the inmates running the asylums.

This niece and her family have visited on several occasions, and we're thrilled that she has chosen our Tennessee Mountain Home as her retreat center. What a beautiful time of year she has chosen! The fall colors seem to be peaking early this year; she's here to experience that and the Coker Creek Autumn Gold Festival. I'm not sure what better environment anyone could choose for clearing the cobwebs out of one's body and brain while renewing one's spirit.

Along with what occurs yearly around here, we're fortunate to have Richard lovingly making salads for our suppers, and Pastor Lynda on call to soothe our souls. How many people have a pastor working at the welcome center, available for the asking any time we need a third prayer partner? When Pastor Lynda prays, I feel it deep down in my soul.

Pastor Lynda recently organized a "see you at the pole" prayer event at the Coker Creek school. This was attended by many from the community, including two other local pastors. The success of that event led them to agree to jointly organize a prayer chain that will circle the school on the fifth Sunday of every month. Interestingly, this month, the fifth Sunday falls on October 31. I wonder what the Halloween naysayers will have to say about that.

I have a special place in my heart for Halloween, as I gave birth to my own precious pumpkin on that day. I celebrate him daily, but am always happy to have others to share in my joy over my baby boy.

Here's to our house in the holler and all the spiritual gifts it gives us and others that we cherish.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Wonderful Way to Live

One of the neatest things about living in such a small, slow moving community is that one learns to appreciate the little things in life, like the seemingly simple triumphs of the people around us.

Ruth has both legs in braces and walks with a walker, but she still manages to do her handiwork and set up at craft fairs. Denny had a stroke, can barely speak with only a limited vocabulary, and has limited use of half his body; yet he manages to fabricate beautiful decorative iron pieces that his family helps him sell. Ginny uses her faith to fuel her inspirational artwork, and has recently begun marketing, along with her artwork, her deceased husband's book on spiritual healing.

Greta gracefully handles all the grief of the folks who miss her husband, Junior, more this time of year than at any other time. He died while preparing for the Autumn Gold Festival one year ago, but she still managed to handle all the vendor bookkeeping and communications for this year's fest. Ralph, Junior's first cousin, best buddy, and blood brother, and the husband of Greta's sister, successfully chaired the festival as he has for decades, even without his faithful friend.

Elaine walks with two crutches, but her hands stay busy with some of the finest cotton crochet work in Coker Creek. Clarinda, dealing with the loss of the jobs of both she and her husband, cranked up her sewing machine the night between the two days of the festival to make sure she had enough merchandise to last until the final potential customer had passed through the exit gate. And, of course, there's Jack, who continues to plug along on his stories, with his manual typewriter, to the light of kerosene lamps.

The mountain folk honor those who overcome hardships by accepting all willing workers as fellow travelers. There's an expectation that we all do whatever we can do, no matter what curve-balls come our way. It's wonderful to see so many persevering, including the many Ruritans who are well past the prime of their bodies, but still stout of soul. They combine their strengths every year to raise funds to put back into the Coker Creek community. What a wonderful way to live!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Fun In Our Forest

What a fabulous festival we had this year! The weather was absolutely perfect with dewy mornings, cool enough for sitting and sipping hot cocoa and coffee around early morning bonfires. The afternoons were sunny and warm, with just enough breeze to keep us from overheating; although it was a bit capricious in blowing our posters around. But, not to worry, good mountain women always travel with duct tape.

Our over-the-hill neighbors were beneath a tree just behind me with their horseshoe and other iron art. They are the quintessential farm family with three generations all working toward keeping their house in order. There were four generations until the death of a grandmother last year. Lots of crafts, cooking, and canning go on in that house, and lots of wood cutting, gardening, and welding goes on outside and in their outbuildings. Their granddaughters are already in training, helping with everything from picking peas to helping at the sales tent.

The twelve-year-old Cassie is never still, volunteering at one booth and another, from selling raffle tickets benefiting Quilts For Kids to assisting with gold panning at the booth of her twin schoolmates. Even with all this, she managed to be voted the Autumn Gold Festival Queen, which is judged on Early American costume authenticity and poise, rather than beauty and popularity. Since her granny didn't even know about the festival until half an hour before sign-up ended, this miracle was assisted by Cassie's guardian angel Nancy and a vendor selling authentic costumes. Cinderella's fairy godmother never had better magic!

Crafty Dave, originally from Coker Creek, but now living in the same Atlanta suburb as my daughter, donates the most adorable white, flop-eared rabbits as prizes for the festival princesses. He takes special orders, so I'm hoping he'll make me some as grandchild Christmas gifts.

Jack's friend came up from Copperhill to help him hawk his book. We were delighted that he asked us to put her up for the weekend. This is how old-time mountain people put their friends up; they wouldn't ever ask someone that they didn't accept as their own family to welcome one of their friends. The added benefit of us housing his friend is that Jack finally made his way over to our house for supper. We've been inviting him for four years, but mountain folk don't like to impose. Now that he knows the way, there'll be no excuse for him not being a regular at our table.

Some of the coolest old equipment is actually working on the fairgrounds: a grist mill grinding grits and cornmeal; a free-standing power water pump on a wagon, powered by a tractor motor, with an old-fashioned well spout; an actual crank-powered sewing machine joining quilt fabric bits together. Another bit of equipment that's pure whimsy on the part of a loving Paw-Paw is the firetruck tricked out as an ice cream and root beer float production unit. How delightful is it to be a kid standing at the end of a conveyor belt coming off the rear of Paw-Paw's real firetruck, receiving you favorite frozen confection, made by Grandma and Paw-Paw?

I couldn't (or didn't) resist taking home a couple of adult bibs, made with colorful fabric on one side and terrycloth on the other. The Italians and Cajuns in New Orleans could make good use of these for eating spaghetti and barbecue shrimp. This is in addition to all the people we know with bed and wheelchair bound relatives and friends, and those who don't want jelly from their drive-thru biscuit breakfast to be worn on their ties or blouses to their important business meetings.

A booth of pure whimsy was run by a couple, she a painter and her husband an "imagineer." Many of Santa' sleigh stuffers came from this couple, from mice made out of rocks, to a piece of landscape stone transformed into a colorful Koi pond by the power of the painter. The husband's imaginings come to "life" made me laugh out loud, like the walking cane with a putter as its handle and the Harry Potter wands. His spears and arrows were so well-done that I dared not purchase them for the wild one's on our Christmas list. Talk about "putting an eye out!"

The Ruritans sold out of food each day. The barbecue is donated by a fellow in Knoxville, and is my favorite food at the fair. Trusty Richard stood and collected the cash for eight hours each day; I just don't know how he stays still so long. He says he occupies himself with people watching, and there were a lot of people to peruse.

This is fall festival season, so there will be other fairs in my and Jack's future, like the Buzz Fest next weekend at Kefauver Park and the Tellico Plains Leaf Turning Festival two weekends from now. We live in a great hub for fest hopping; along with the Buzz Fest we'll be attending Charlie and Deborah's chili cook-of next week-end with one of my high school buddies. And hopefully, Jack's friend will come back.

Fall is really great fun around here even without factoring in all the leaf-peeping and overnight guests.