I’ve Got The World On A Spring

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I’ve got the world on a spring…sittin’ on a rainbow, got that spring around my finger…what a world, what a life… Holy Crap! It’s stuck in my nostril!

Yep. That’s about how I recalled it – vividly, looking at this spring in Tractor Supply one day. My kids stopped behind me, being their father’s children and possessing a strong herding instinct when it came to walking me through a store.

“Do we need one of those?” One of them asked as I fingered one of the larger springs. We were there to look at fencing material, but they must have thought it was plausible.

“Nah.” I told them. Seeing it, though, brought back a memory of getting one stuck in my nostril once when I was a kid- about their ages, and definitely old enough to know better. I told them the story. They were suitably impressed, or horrified, I couldn’t tell which, as they looked from me to the hook and back again, trying to puzzle out how that could possibly have happened.

I really couldn’t tell them. It had all happened so fast.

I remember coming home from school, seeing this big old spring on the kitchen table, and of course, messing around with it. I turned on the TV and sat there on the floor in front of it twirling this spring around and around on my finger, impressively I thought, when all of a sudden, THWACK!  The end of that spring hooked my nostril.

I’ve since had time to ponder this whole event, and while I’d like to think I’m smarter than I was when I was a teenager…truth be told, I’m afraid I would react just the same today as I did back then…

And what I did was panic, and then madly yank at that spring, then ratchet up the panic level and the yanking when it wouldn’t come out. (As a side note, I have an aversion to fishing…I think it’s cruel. The nightmare fish must go through I was living!) Luckily, my mom came to see what all the ruckus was about and found me thrashing around the living room, frantically jerking at a spring that was attached to my nose. She stood there for a moment, aghast. “HOLD STILL AND STOP PULLING ON IT!” She finally commanded, shaking her head and muttering the all too familiar refrain, “How in the Sam Hell did you manage that?” as she unhooked the thing from my nose.

Now, whenever I hear Peggy Lee sing I’ve Got The World On A String, I automatically insert the word, spring instead of string and I can’t help but smile. It wasn’t, unfortunately, the first such incident in my life, nor would it be the last! I did a lot of silly, foolish and/or flat out dangerous things when I was a kid. I was what is known these days as a free range child. We all were back then, I think. But I knew I was lucky. I survived and I didn’t kill anyone. That’s possibly why I have tended to practice a more preemptive parenting style with my own kids. Over my dead body would they do a quarter of the things I did! There were a lot of hard “no’s” in our house, more nagging than rescuing, and more lectures than first aid…but to this day, I’m not sure that one way of parenting is necessarily better than another. You do the best you can. I just knew I didn’t like worrying myself sick or dealing with blood, so I tried to limit both. I’m not the least bit sorry about it, either.

I did worry a little sometimes that I was depriving my kids of their own good stories, but I needn’t have.  Now that they’re grown and don’t have to worry about being grounded, they take great pleasure in regaling me with tales of all their silly, foolish and/or flat out dangerous escapades. To think, there I was busy beating out wildfires, while they were gleefully jumping off cliffs. Go figure!

Snowbound

Snowbound by R.R. Colson

Back to back blizzards end one year, begin the next. Our efforts digging out – in vain. Erased, overnight. Can’t complain, shouldn’t complain. All this snow’s a blessing, albeit delayed. We’re warm, if not quite dry yet… Sharing a house with three bored, wet dogs… It’s been a challenge. A challenge… “puzzling” over tea cups while the snow falls.

The Trouble With Tribbles: Why I’m Not a Collector Anymore

Two years ago, I sold my rather extensive Snow White Collection – and made a pretty penny off of it. That’s what all collectors hope will happen…someday…after they’re dead, but it’s not like I woke up one day and just decided to dump the whole thing… Okay, it was pretty much like that, but it was a process several years in the making.

In my former life, I was a self-loathing, albeit expert holder-onto-er. I had my reasons, which  I don’t recall, however, I’m also fairly practical, and definitely lazy, and all those things everywhere started to become a problem for me, a problem that kept on growing (like the those darn tribbles on Star Trek). Eventually, the practical me beat down the me that was always bringing crap home and decided it was time to declutter and simplify.

I started with the stack of boxes of miscellaneous paper that I had collected through many moves and several years. No matter where we moved, that stack would reappear in a corner like a kind of crazy conceptual art installation. That’s what I’d tell people, anyway.

Paper is the bane of my existence – okay, maybe just the cause of my husband’s frustration and hence, the cause of much of my anxiety. That’s what happens when you marry a “touch it once” guy. (To clarify, that’s a guy trained in the fundamental principles of productivity and time management…He’s also a “Do what I say and not what I do” guy, so, take that for what it’s worth…) At any rate, it drove him nuts to watch me move papers from one pile to another, and possibly another. He’d be pulling his hair out and hissing at me, but loudly, to JUST TOUCH THE DAMN THING ONCE! (I always wanted to ask if “saying it once” was a thing, but I never did!) The problem was, I could never decide what I should do. Keep him, toss him. Likely as not, I’d probably need him one day and there I’d be thinking, “Damn. Should have kept him. He’d come in handy right about now.”

While the Snow White collection wasn’t the first collection to go, it was the first one I sold without regret. There was a period in our married life when money became very dear; dearer than my childhood Barbie collection and an old license plate collection my dad bequeathed to me before he passed. And while I was grateful for the money they brought, I was sad to see them go because they were things that had brought me endless hours of joy, and also held fond memories for me of time spent with my dad in his old, greasy shop.

Something began to change for me, though, as I began to get rid of the stuff. I began to see things in a different way. I began to understand why I was a holder-onto-er. I realized the state of my house was simply a mirror of the state of my mind. My mind was cluttered with feelings. My house was cluttered with things.  I realized I kept things for other people, not myself. I realized that I was overwhelmed by having too many things and it caused me stress. I realized that you don’t have to have things to have memories; and that there are other ways to love, honor and remember times and people in life that don’t have to take up physical space. I realized that I didn’t need to keep things in order to show my love for the people in my life.

One of the greatest realizations came the day it dawned on me that my most prized collection of Snow White memorabilia had not been curated for me so much as it had for my mother, whom I loved.

It all began with a little wooden box.  She gave me this treasured box that she’d made as a girl and had painted with the characters from the “new” to her Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I realized that Snow White reminded me of my mother and her life! I had never made that connection before. She was beautiful as a young woman, with dark wavy hair and big, brown eyes. She’d had an equally difficult and tragic life as the character, Snow White – until she married my father, who had provided a different and better life than she had known before. Prince Charming had saved her. Also like Snow White, my mother was a hard worker and spent her life taking care of other people, a sometimes thankless job at times. She took care of her alcoholic father, her mentally ill mother, her disabled sister, just to name a few. And while I’m not sure she would see in her story the same happily ever after ending, I did. In a weird way, collecting all those things was an important way to remember.

I was amazed that when I was emotionally ready to let go of my collection, someone magically appeared who wanted it. A friend of a friend, she is even more avid a Snow White collector than myself, and she, too, lives right here in New Mexico. As I got to know her, it became clear that she saw in her life something of the Snow White story, as well. Now really, what are the odds of that? Sue ended up buying almost everything I had. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to sell it all to someone who would love and care for it as much, or more, than I did.

When it was over, I thought I would regret it, but I didn’t. I felt free. Free from the burden of things. Free to make new, more meaningful ways of loving, honoring and remembering.

I kept my mom’s little box. It serves the practical purpose of holding all our keys! It makes me smile to think of my mom as a little girl, creating beautiful things in the midst of terrible hardship. Because that is the woman she was, the woman I knew. Being the practical person I am, I held out the best and smallest pieces of my Snow White collection, the watches, for my kids, hoping someday, if they find themselves in need, those watches will bring them a pretty penny, as well.

 

 

 

 

So, It’s Come At Last…At Last It’s Come

You can thank my grown, married son for this blog title. He and his wife went to see a production of Bye, Bye Birdie and he told me afterward that one of the songs, “A Mother Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, reminded him SO MUCH of me.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. You see, I’m finally coming down off a cortisol high – for which I blame my children. It’s the result of many stressful months planning an execution for my daughter’s wedding (er, um…I meant PLANNING AND EXECUTING my daughter’s wedding) and adjusting to life with a son home for the summer from his first year of college (insert eye-rolling emoji). But after a couple days of thinking it over, or over-thinking it – if you’re me, I’ve come to realize that “I” do relate to the lamenting mother in the show as she says, “You sacrifice your life…then, BANG! You get the knife! No, a mother doesn’t matter anymore!”

Sound overly dramatic? Let me tell you, it’s not. Regardless of whether or not our children mean to hurt us, that is exactly how this difficult child/parent transition is for mothers (I’m sure there are thousands of them out there who would back me up!). The angst we feel is great and very real, but deep down we know it’s not our kids’ faults. It’s a natural part of life, a rite of passage. We did it to our mothers! Painful? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Survivable? Yes, again.

Even as the knife plunges into our hearts, I think all of us – the mothers, instinctively know that it’s time: time to let go, time to adapt to and embrace a different way of parenting our children, time for us to move into a different season of our lives.

Despite what my grown kids might think (Ya, I don’t really want to know!), I’m there. I’m ready. My mind has not, to my surprise, been burdened long by the loss, or the feeling of guilt that I coulda, shoulda done more/better (there’s a topic for another post!), so much as it has been looking forward to new opportunities. Now that the lion’s share of my job as a mother is “done” (I got them to adulthood, didn’t I?), I can focus on other things, like myself, my husband and our life together. I’ve been thinking a lot about those new horizons.

I don’t know exactly what this future looks like. I might start walking again, as opposed to running marathons, but it’s all good! I can finally focus on myself, guilt-free, something I haven’t done in twenty plus years! I could, in reality, do any number of things, from accomplishing personal goals like getting in shape, to self-publishing my stories, to taking some classes, to going back to school full time, to starting a new career. In truth, this new phase in my life could be every bit as exciting and fulfilling as that of my grown children.

I think I knew all of this – knew what was going to happen, what had to happen, with my grown children, even as it was happening. In small ways I’ve been imagining it sometimes as I lay my head on my pillow at night, and thinking about what I will do with this new self. I’ve been making lots of lists, eyeing my project pile, and itching to blog again, which I wasn’t sure would ever happen. I can tell that my husband has been thinking about it, as well. We’ve started doing more things for ourselves, checking things off our personal lists and our couple list, and it’s been a lot of fun!

I will always cherish being a mother to my four kids, but the job description will surely change, as everything is bound to do in life; and, you know, that’s alright! My role in their lives, and their role in mine, will be different now, but like the lyrics in that Spinner’s song, whenever they call me, whenever they want me, whenever they need me, I’ll be there, I’ll be around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Normal Mormon

I don’t think about being a normal Mormon very often – mostly because I’m not one, but also because where I live, in Edgewood, New Mexico, I’m not burdened with that expectation. To most people out here where we live, all Mormons are a little strange. So following that logic, I live up to expectations just fine!

It’s not until I come in contact with things and people from home/Idaho/Zion that I’m even reminded that there is such a thing as a ‘normal Mormon’. Usually it’s when someone from home comes down here to visit and the first thing they notice is that people don’t have acres of well-manicured lawns, or tall, stately trees or large, lush gardens. We laugh at their shocked expressions and attempts at compliments, “Wow! It’s very… brown…and natural looking down here!”

There are a lot of things people from home take for granted, water being one of them; a relatively cheap cost of living is another. And basements. Having no need to lock their cars or houses, especially when they are in them, is another, as is the peace of mind of knowing that everyone driving around on the roads with them knows what they’re doing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about home lately, as the time to take Anne Marie up to BYU-Idaho nears. For all intents and purposes, we are taking her ‘home’ for the next most important leg of her education. Larry and I could not have hoped for a better place for her. Our experiences at Ricks, now BYU-Idaho, and working and living in Rexburg, were wonderful. We loved the school, community and the people. They are a good, hard working, honest, and valiant people. For the most part, they are what I think of as ‘normal Mormons’ and I really want Anne Marie to experience living and going to school in a community like that.

Having said that, I’m feeling some trepidation. I woke up this morning thinking about the consequences of exposing Anne Marie to not just the ‘normal Mormons’ but the ‘extraordinary Mormons’, of which there are so many concentrated up  ‘home’. The ones who have six or more kids, volunteer at all of the schools, are Relief Society Presidents, teach piano lessons, orchestrate a variety of extra-curricular activities for their children and themselves and still have an immaculately clean home and a menu of interesting, delectable meals called things like ‘Mexican Haystacks’ (which are similar to Hawaiian haystacks- just with a different sauce and toppings). These people, and I guess I’m thinking more of the women, are made even more extraordinary by their kind, gentle natures, patience and Christlike conduct.

What is my daughter going to think? That she was jipped, that’s what! And then will come the realization that these are people who have their acts together, unlike her family!

Normal Mormons don’t seem as troubled by drama in their lives. Not that they don’t have any, they just cope with it better. Although I used to think that normal Mormons didn’t have problems, I’m older and wiser now. Normal Mormons just comport themselves a little better than the rest of us and tend to do their falling apart in private. Unlike the rest of us, who wear our trials like its Crazy Hat Day- every day, they’re quite adept at keeping the ugly things under wraps and smiles on their faces. You’d never know anything was ever wrong.

How do you know you’re not a normal Mormon? If you’ve ever sat in a dark closet and cried your eyes out before or after church, you’re not a normal Mormon. If you’ve ever left your dirty dishes piled in the sink and on the counter for an extended period of time (longer than a day), you are not a normal Mormon. If you do not have at least a year’s supply of food storage and individual emergency 72 hour kits for everyone in your family, you are not a normal Mormon. If you’ve contemplated going on vacation and NOT stopping to visit family in the vicinity, you are not a normal Mormon. If your underwear is actually ‘holey’ and a dull gray color rather than a brilliant white, you are not a normal Mormon.

Yes, I’m worried that after four years in the land of ‘normal and extraordinary Mormons’ my daughter won’t want anything to do with us (that is, me). I’m afraid she will call home one day and say she’s getting married, but not to worry, her future mother-in-law will help her with everything, including my dress- we just need to show up for the ceremony. We will be like the Beverly Hillbillies pulling up in our old jalopy with me strapped into my rocker on top. She’ll scurry us away to make us presentable and pray we don’t start going on about gas- ours, not the car’s, our wonder at how ‘all these ladies manage to have the same hair-do’ and the grass– “Keep your shoes on, for heaven’s sake!” she’ll inevitably say.  HEAVY SIGH.

I didn’t intend to become an embarrassment, it just sort of happened. Out here, no one asks what you do for a living, they don’t care how you dress, they don’t put much stock in the car you drive or how your house is decorated. They’re glad to see you if you feel like being social, look you in the eye, ask you how you’re doing and really want to know. Living in what I call ‘the mission field’ has added a dimension to the gospel and my testimony that it never had  at home. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful my kids have had that experience. I can’t say that I’ve heard and seen everything, but there’s not much that shocks me anymore, except maybe snobbery. I’ve come to understand that the gospel and the church are not for perfect people, they’re for the imperfect who are trying to do better. It’s all about helping each other along.

I greatly admire the normal Mormons, though I don’t consider myself one of them, nor ever likely to be one of them. That’s okay with me. I feel like I’m where I belong, where I’m needed, where I can be of some use. If anyone understands what it feels like to stand imperfect against models of perfection, it’s me. I struggle with depression and self-doubt. I struggle with my weight. I struggle with negativity and an inclination to swear. I struggle with forgiving and forgetting. I struggle with housework and being a good mom. I empathize with others who struggle, whatever those struggles may be. But I believe in the power and love of Jesus Christ, in the power of his gospel to rescue us all. I believe there is strength in numbers, and that there is nothing we can’t do if we stick together and help one another. That’s really the basis of being Mormon.  The normal or abnormal part really doesn’t matter at all.

The View From My Desk

I’m sitting here at my desk, looking out the window (I’ve had a terrible case of writer’s block lately, so sitting and staring are about all I’ve accomplished at this desk). It’s a gorgeous, sunny, blue sky kind of day…until you walk out the door and freeze your butt off. It reminds me of the “Pull my finger.” joke. I’ve fallen for it so many times I should know better by now. Beware of Mother Nature and WEAR A COAT!!!

It explains why people from Edgewood, or ‘the other side of the mountains’- as people in town like to refer to us, come into Albuquerque conspicuously bundled up like they’re expecting a blizzard, and why our cars tend to be caked in dust, mud or sporting a foot of snow on the tops. The temperature and weather variations from one side of the mountains to the other are vastly different. Driving into Albuquerque is like entering a whole other world.

Recently, Larry’s parents came to watch Kate accompany the primary on the piano as they sang ‘Praise to the Man’ for the primary program. After church, my father in-law expressed his dismay at the announcements made in Priesthood meeting by one of the ‘old timers’ of the ward: “Brethren, don’t bring your firearms to church.” which caused quite a stir and no small amount of confusion, as there was a ‘Conceal and Carry’ class taking place that same week for the sisters.

Larry and I weren’t as alarmed as he was about it. I guess you get desensitized to all the ‘gun talk’ after a while when you live in the country. Nearly everyone out here has guns, which they use on a regular basis for leisure and…well, leisure. Many an Elder’s Quorum, Scouting and Young Men/Young Women activity takes place at the Shooting Range. The ward calendar is arranged around hunting season and jerky recipes are exchanged with more enthusiasm than ‘Better Than You Know What’ cake recipes. Okay, I might be exaggerating. The ward calendar is actually arranged around an annual ward motorcycle/four wheeling trip called ‘Hole in the Rock’.

I suppose that makes us rednecks. Guilt by association. Larry and I don’t own a gun or a motorcycle, but Larry has taken to wearing cowboy boots and buying his jeans at Boot Barn. It’s a slippery slope to building a chicken coop and picking up a goat- you know, just to keep down the weeds. There’s no telling how far it may go.  Next Christmas you could find yourself making sage scented bars of goat milk soap to give away as presents.

Speaking of presents, Kate handed me her Christmas list a couple of weeks ago. It was more advanced than any I had seen from my other kids. She’d included pictures of the items and price comparisons from different stores, along with special offers/incentives and cost estimates – stocking stuffers included. Yesterday I received a follow-up email, as a friendly reminder. I don’t know what Kate is going to be when she grows up, but whatever it is, I expect she’ll be good at it. Hopefully, she’ll make a ton of money, too, and take us on Hawaiian vacations when it gets cold. Of course, we’ll have to find someone to milk the goat…

Remind Me

I love this song and video!

There are only split seconds to hear the Spirit whisper to you when you are herding two year-olds in Nursery, but they are powerful seconds, none the less. Countless times I’ve asked Heavenly Father why I had to be in Nursery and countless times he’s tried to tell me – in those sweet split seconds. I think I finally got it, just in time to be released from that job.

Last night at the Halloween Trunk or Treat activity at the church, I watched these little nursery kids waddle around in their costumes: a bumble bee, Yoda, Winnie the Pooh, etc., dragging bags of candy that weighed as much as they did. They were excited and eager to communicate the secret code that would unleash the bounty of candy. “Twick or Tweet!” and “Fank you!” they offered with anticipation. They were so cute!

I couldn’t help but be excited for them. I could only imagine what must have been running through their heads. “Score! Not only is everybody giving us candy of our very own AND letting us eat as much of it as we want, but we’re getting to stay up late to boot! I don’t think they were as into the dressing up as the older kids, they just seemed to accept it as a necessary part of the candy-receiving ritual.

I had bittersweet feelings about being released from Nursery until last night. I’d come to love these kids. They made me laugh! And I’d finally gotten them to the point where they were no longer bawling the bludgeoning had ceased, and they were starting to talk to me in full sentences I actually understood. They were just getting to be fun. But as I watched them walking around like little drunks on an all night bender, I knew there were going to be consequences tomorrow at church. I smiled, knowing it would not be me who would have to deal with those dear little ones hung over on sugar and cross from not getting enough sleep!

Still, I will miss the many sweet spiritual experiences I had in Nursery. Because of their short attention spans, a couple of minutes was all I really had to teach a lesson. And while most of them couldn’t say Jesus’ name when they first came in, they knew it when they heard it, just as they know him when they see a picture of him. I’m always blown away by that. They become quiet, reverent even, and their eyes light up in recognition and love. You can’t tell me that they don’t remember ‘whose they are and from whence they came’.  Nor can you convince me that God is not near whenever children are present. I feel His love when I’m around them. It exudes from them. I can feel who he intends for them to be, even when they are playing. Play, after all, is the work of children.

One Sunday I had a nursery full of boys: rowdy, rambunctious boys. At some point one of them picked up a baby doll and soon they all wanted one. That’s the nature of two year-olds. Fortunately, for me, we had plenty of baby dolls to go around. After some drop-kicking and throwing them at each other, they each picked up one of their own. They packed those babies around like real daddies would: under the arm, football-style, by the back of the shirt, upside down by the feet. I was amazed,  and then I was moved by the gentleness which they exhibited as they loved their babies, gave them hugs and kisses and fed them imaginary ‘chocolate’. I saw them as the loving men and fathers that they would someday be.

These are the kinds of split-second spiritual experiences I had in my most recent year and a half stint in Nursery. I came away with a sure knowledge of God’s love, not just for these children, but for all of us. He is our Father. We are His children. Of course He loves us! The gospel of Jesus Christ is not complex, it is so simple that even a small child can understand it. He wants us to love one another as he has loved us.

I marvel that I would have to be reminded of these simple truths, but then again, I am silly and stubborn at times. I don’t know what the future holds for me now that I’m not in Nursery, or in what capacity I will be asked to serve next, but I’m grateful for the lessons I learned there. I’m grateful for the gentle, but powerful reminders of who we are, who I am, and what is intended for us. I suppose the trick will be whether or not I am able to apply it.

The Poisoned Pen

Well, that was fun. I just left my thirteen year old son’s student-led parent teacher conference. It was going so well, the kid has two A+’s (I’ve never had a kid get an A+ in gym before) and five A’s! And then he pulls out a descriptive essay entitled, The Kitchen.

“This isn’t about our kitchen, is it?” I asked.

I am not the most consistent housekeeper, and I have an aversion to doing dishes. There is a pile of dishes waiting for me right now. I was afraid to read it and with good reason, it turns out.

The first paragraph was endearing, with my son sharing his thoughts about the importance of our kitchen to him, personally. The second paragraph involved describing the layout of the kitchen. So exact were his descriptions as to enable anyone who has never been in it to picture it in their minds. I was impressed.

It was in the third paragraph that it all went horribly wrong, ‘usually dirty microwave stained with sloppy joe left over from two nights ago’  leapt out at me. I was horrified, but there was more. The next sentence was, ‘An enormous pile of dishes on the rest of the counter’. That’s a fragment, by the way, you little shit. I thought. (pardon the swearing- I have other flaws greater than not liking to do dishes). But it was the third sentence that was the worst of all, ‘The mountain of dishes is like a garbage dump of food covered plates.’

“Oh, Cameron, you didn’t!” I said, cringing.

I wanted to crawl under that table. His advisory teacher looked on, barely able to keep from laughing.  The fourth sentence, while still bad, was not as bad as the previous one, but damning none the less, ‘That area is where the thirty minutes of torture happens twice a week: washing dishes.’

He then went on to describe all of the pleasant things that happen in the kitchen, small comfort in light of his scandalous revelations. Then we were back in it, a brief foray into the ‘ginormous landfill of papers, which contain new mail on top of old mail in the middle and REALLY old mail on the the bottom.’

I gave my son a hard look meant to communicate that he should be afraid when I got him alone, very afraid.

“I got an A+, mom! My teacher really liked it!” He said with a  sly smile, trying to appear innocent in front of the advisory teacher.

I bet she did! I thought. I could see the language arts teacher’s comment on the top of the paper: ‘LOVE the voice! 🙂 and no less than six red smiley faces running down the length of the page.

His final blow came in the next paragraph, a description of the Disney themed decor in the kitchen, a result of, he said, ‘my mom’s fetish for dwarfs’.

“Did you have to use the word ‘fetish’?” I asked as we were walking out to the car.

“Well, it is.” He said sheepishly.

“And ‘mountain of garbage’?” I queried.

“She wanted us to use similes and metaphors…and I think I used ‘landfill’.”

“Oh! That’s so much better than ‘mountain of garbage’!” I countered.

“I’m sorry, Mom.” He said, but he was smiling.

There’s a reason this child’s nickname is Thumper! He has always been the ‘truth-teller’ in the family, and the cause of many an awkward and embarrassing moment.

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” I reminded him, pointedly.

It’s not so much that it’s not all the truth, on occasion, that bothers me most- though that does bother me, and he knows it! It’s that he would throw his own mother under the bus for a laugh, for an easy A+, for praise – when he knows darn good and well that it would humiliate me. What kind of a child have I raised?

A writer, just like me, I realized with grudging pride. I wouldn’t pass up a good story like that for anything. Why should I expect him to? I weaned him on the humor of Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Garrison Keillor, and more recently David Sedaris. What did I think was going to happen? A mother like that is almost asking to be the butt of a humorous essay!

So, now I know, everything’s fair game where this child’s poisoned pen is concerned, and I’ve been put on notice. I’m not too worried about it, though, I have thirteen years of good dirt on this kid – with the promise of more to come, and more than a few embarrassing photos I could share with the click of a button.

Dust in the Window Sill, Bats in the Belfry

I noticed recently that the fine dirt in the window sill where I put on my make-up is the exact shade of the pricey mineral foundation that I wear. Every day I wipe it out (okay, every other day, or so…) and the next day there is a new deposit of  silt in the window sill.  And the thought has occurred to me that maybe I should  ‘sample’ nature’s bounty and see how it compares. Should I be concerned that I have contemplated this? Should I be alarmed that my thought process is, “Well, how bad could it be? Isn’t that what mineral make-up is, finely processed dirt?” instead of, “Gee, maybe we need a new window.” ?

Somehow, in my mind, it sounds like a pretty darn good idea! Just think of the practical applications: if I didn’t really like the effect of  ‘full’ dirt on my face, I could mix in portions of it with my pricey foundation and thus extend the life of it. Which would mean I wouldn’t have to purchase it nearly as often. Which would mean that I would be saving money. Now, that would make my husband happy! Then again, I once had a friend who told her husband that the finances were in such dire straits that she wouldn’t be able to buy mascara. He promptly assured her that, no matter the sacrifice, there would always be money for mascara! She would tell that story about her husband with such pride, but frankly, it made me wonder about him. What was her husband really saying?

I know what my husband would say about my new-found unlimited supply of ‘mineral’ make-up. He would say, “Have you lost your mind?”

It’s something I worry about, honestly. My favorite aunt was a little round lady (like me), who having been a school teacher (like me) in her younger years, decided she would rather not live in poverty in her old age – and being the smart woman that she was, opted to work for the IRS for the rest of her working life instead. Now, it wasn’t until after she retired that I began to notice some odd things about Aunt Rhoda. While visiting, I noticed that she would offer you a drink but then use her own glass, a paper one, to serve it to you. I didn’t think too much about it, after all, we are family – until the morning. After breakfast, served on paper products (can’t say as I blame  her- I hate doing dishes), we were all instructed to place our dirty ‘dishes’, including our paper towel napkins next to the sink. Perplexed, I watched as she proceeded to wash them all, including the paper towels, and set them out to dry.

A year or so later I saw her again, but she didn’t recognize me at all. And I barely recognized her. Her naturally thick, wavy hair was still beautiful, but longer and completely white. She had a wide-eyed look of wonderment and a happy, pleasant smile. I told her who I was and she clasped me to her in a warm greeting, but I knew she still didn’t remember me. She reminded me a bit of the Old Hag from Snow White, or what the Old Hag would look like had she had gone through counseling, attended Anger Management classes, perhaps, and become a Born Again Christian. She had that ‘other worldly’ look on her face, like her mind had gone on ahead to a better place.

Aunt Rhoda is gone now. I think about her often. Will that be my fate, too – to lose my mind? Then again, if you’re not aware that you’ve lost it and everything seems pretty good to you, how bad can that be? Out of your mind and happy just might be the way to leave this life!

So, I guess I won’t sweat the small crazy stuff that crosses my mind anymore. What does it really matter? I won’t be able to stop crazy from finding me anymore than I seem to be able to stop the silt from coming in my windows (this is New Mexico, after all, I don’t think anyone here has silt-free windows). That said, I don’t think I will mention the silt to my husband, either. I’m sure he would just say, “We’ll always have money for make-up!”

Love At First Sight

It all started at Goodwill, a place I find I’m constantly falling in love with some thing or another. This time it was a large embroidery on a burlap-type of material, a prickly pear cactus with masses of variegated red blossoms. Sitting next to its’ tacky psychedelic mushroom relation, it could easily have been passed over. But there was a certain something about this framed thing that appealed to me. I picked it up. It was dusty and overpriced at $4.99. I put it back and tried to walk away. It’s texture and vibrant colors called out to me, “I’m yours, Senora!”  My family thought I had surely lost my mind (again) when I hung it prominently next to the fireplace. That was on Monday.

On Saturday, we took the family to Santa Fe to attend the Harvest Festival at the Spanish Colonial living history museum, El Rancho De Las Golondrinas. While there, my attention was drawn to two little old ladies working some charming embroidery patterns on a roughly woven fabric. It was called Colcha, they told me, which is Spanish for bedspread. It is a traditional embroidery popular mostly in Northern New Mexico, going back to the early 1700’s through to the late 1800’s, with a revival period in the 1930’s.  I loved it’s simple beauty and ‘earthiness’. Then it dawned on me that it was the same embroidery used in my prickly pear picture!

The volunteer embroiderers graciously answered my many questions, let me sit and watch them as they worked, posed for pictures and invited me to join them next spring at the museum when they would begin working on the rancho’s Colcha projects once again.  Anyone was welcome to come and learn! No kidding? This just might be the thing that gets an avowed hermit out of the house.

The volunteer embroiderers with Kate in between them and their beautiful work across their laps.

Painting My Old Desk Red

Painting my old desk red
I’m painting my old desk  red
I dare not stop
Or waste a drop
So let the paint be spread
I’m painting my old desk red
I’m painting my old desk red

In the tradition of the Queen of Hearts, the Disney villain who reminds me most of myself, I decreed my old desk painted red! Well, actually, I did it myself, not having anyone but my kids to order around- and who would trust a bunch of teenagers and a ten year old with a can of red spray paint?

Triumphantly, I carried my desk outside (I’ve made a solemn vow never to own a piece of furniture I cannot move myself, but that’s a story for another time) and proceeded to cover it, and myself, in a fine mist of red. Taking into account the direction of the wind, I then made the appropriate adjustments and soon my once gray writing desk was a shiny ‘sunrise red’. Fire Engine or Candied Apple Red would have been an equally apt description. I was slightly taken aback by the new look of my old friend, the sort of reaction one has to a very bad hair cut or sunburn. But isn’t that the way with rash decisions? An instantaneous shock followed by an internal “What were you thinking?”

I can’t honestly say that painting a piece of furniture bright red just came to me the other day because it didn’t. I’ve toyed with the idea for years, ever since I saw a kitchen table and chairs painted that color on the cover of a magazine. Knowing that my husband would never go along with that (painting a perfectly good piece of furniture, let alone red), I put the idea away in the back  of my mind.  Recently, however, while contemplating the stagnant state of my writing, I lit on the idea once again.

This favorite piece of furniture has had many color incarnations, always a practical neutral: black, white, and most recently a pale gray. ‘Practical’ being the operative word. I think about doing the ‘crazy’ thing all the time, but always go back to what’s practical. Perhaps that explained the state of my writing, as well. With so many other distractions, my writing has suffered. It’s  been as dull as the dove gray of my desk.

“Ah,ha!” I thought. What I need is a little color, a little excitement, a little energy. What I need is a red desk! And to my surprise, my husband was all for it. He even bought the paint!

I’ve stopped wincing at my shiny red desk in front of the window in my bedroom. In fact, it makes me smile. Sometimes it’s good to do the ‘crazy’ thing. It’s spurred me into doing other crazy things, like starting this blog. I’m sure there must be a blog joke that goes something like, “If  someone writes a blog and there’s no one out there reading it…”   I’ve worked through that possibility, however. This Is Your Real Mother Speaking was originally intended to be the title of a book of narratives for my children; a compilation of essays meant to shed a little light on their mother’s true identity.  As if they care! So see? My expectations have never been very high.  Someday in the far future my children may ask, “Who was that moody, fat woman who cooked (occasionally) and cleaned (not often enough) and chauffeured us everywhere?”

In the meantime, I think I will enjoy entertaining myself with my own words (that’s blogging in a nutshell, isn’t it?) and maybe improving my writing skills while I’m at it. If it entertains anyone else who stumbles aimlessly across it, so much the better!

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