Category Archives: holidays

strange times

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I gave up trying to go back to sleep at 4 am and made coffee. I usually only have these wide awake, wandering wee hours in the spring.

To say they are strange times seems kinda duh.

I opened a window in the living room to let in the cool fresh air. Then I wandered out onto the porch in my bare feet, in my summer nightie, and caught the moon backlighting the clouds.

About two miles away, in what used to be a highly desirable residential area, there is gunfire every few days. Yesterday someone on Nextdoor found half a dozen spent casings in their yard. But it’s quiet now.

I’m just about over my cold. But it wasn’t a cold. I don’t know what it was. Fever, chills, headache, yadda. I’m not concerned. I won’t be seeing any of you anytime soon so you shouldn’t be, either.

I can hear a train running alongside Poplar Avenue like I’ve heard a gazillion times. It sort of roots me to the moment, reminding me that some things are still the same. And the moon is still the same, though barefoot photography in December is rather new for me.

I think about some of my younger friends, who are fighting time the way the gangs in Yorkshire are fighting each other, desperately, with no apparent effect other than distress and grief.

Let me tell you, from the winter of my life, I would not trade these quiet moments of wonder and contentment to be 40 again.

Strange times indeed. And I’m glad for them.

Happy Tuesday, y’all ❤

booster

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maryoliver.wingsIn a rare moment of clarity I scheduled my booster shot for when I knew I’d be off the next day. My reaction is much milder than from my second shot but I’m going to stay in bed and drink hot tea until it passes.

The beautiful man in the blue scrubs at the Kroger pharmacy was clearly stressed but treated everyone with kindness and joked with staff and customers alike, even the ones who were maskless.

He cleaned the vial as if he was about to vaccinate his own child. I did what I usually do with people and asked him how he was doing.

He said he just wished it was over and things would go back to normal. I told him that, when I dream, no one is wearing masks. He found that really interesting and he seemed to brighten a little bit, reflecting on his own recent dreams.

I felt the bump of the syringe but not the sting of the needle and I complimented him on his technique. He said he had given about 10,000 injections so he had gotten pretty good at it. He probably meant it as hyperbole but I did the math and that’s about 14 a day so he’s probably not too far off.

I wasted a minute of his time by sending him on a search for my vaccination card when I had already pocketed it. I apologized for my mistake and thanked him for his service. I wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the response was what you might expect from people who are just plain worn out.

I see you, cashier with the pink braids. I see you, postal worker with the wire rimmed glasses. I see you, produce clerk, apologizing for the empty bins. I’m grateful for you and I hope your jobs eventually get easier. I think they will if the Kroger guy keeps on giving 14 shots a day. Thank you for your service and stay well.

Happy Friday, y’all ❤ #AngelsEverywhere

origami envelope for cash

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I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted online so I came up with this. You use the entire 9″ x 12″ sheet from a pad of tracing paper: no measuring or trimming except for the first fold.

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read the book

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I’ve been to his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford many times. But before last night I’d never read a William Faulkner novel.

I know, I know; I’m already ashamed.

Maybe it’s because I always tried to start out with “The Sound and the Fury.” By the second page I still hadn’t figured out what the heck was going on. So I always copped to rather more soothing reading.

But James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying” was on Netflix. As it was Christmas weekend and I had a scarf to knit, I figured, what the heck: another California actor trying to play a country boy. Let’s see how bad this is. “The Beverly Hillbillies” has persistently informed Hollywood’s iconic Southerner and we’re still trying to live it down.

As a director, Franco excelled. But it was Tim Blake Nelson who knocked my socks off. I have known people like Anse Bundren and am probably related to one or two. So my impressions of the film were visceral.

In the Delta, you go about your business in the rain. It’s not unusual to see someone on the street without a raincoat. But in Faulkner’s narrative, oldest son Cash works in a downpour, as both tribute and grief.

His sister, Dewey Dell, faces her dilemma with a naivete that speaks to a different time. Her situation, unfortunately, threatens today’s young woman under the yoke of regressive legislation.

An obsessive fatalism ruled the Bundren family. Burdened by such a mission, they tromped on the tender shoots of Providence. The message was not lost on me.

I located a PDF of the novel and downloaded it last night. I did not stop until I read the last page. Today my eyeballs feel blistered and my attention wanders from my work because I have downloaded “The Sound and the Fury.” Now that I have a feel for Faulkner’s cadence and convoluted narrative, I feel empowered to try it again. Also, I’m excited to see if I learn more new words. I had never experienced the term “pussel-gutted,” but I plan to use it in a comment soon.

Franco made “Sound/Fury” into a movie this year. I think this time I’ll read the book first.

elijah

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One of my best friends turned 13 today. He also happens to be my grandson.

I once said to him, “We have the best conversations.”

“We DO!” he agreed, grinning.

Yesterday we discussed the fine points of finding a clean restroom while on the road. I explained how I manage to avoid touching the seat and he told me about a retail chain where the facilities are always pristine.

“Do you realize,” he said, “that we just had a 30-minute conversation about toilets? And that we didn’t say anything disgusting or offensive?”

We marveled at that, as we frequently do when our queries and conjectures take us deep into the mysteries of the universe.

I called his phone this morning and sang “Happy Birthday” in a voicemail. He called me back to give me times and directions for the day.

The last thing he said to me was, “I can’t wait to see you.”

I feel like I’m the one having a birthday.

Happy day, beautiful boy.

Bill

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Bill

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. ~ I John 4:18.

In J school we were taught not to bury the lead. But this is my blog and I can do what I want to because I am a grownup.

I remember a sermon decades ago; the minister was saying that John was the Love Apostle and in his gospel account of Jesus’ life, John was just getting warmed up.

The intro in my Bible to I John says his gospel and three books were all written around the same time and that II John was written to a Chosen Lady, who may have been a person or who may have been the Church.

Times were tough and there was a lot of double-speak in the fellowship because, well, you could get killed just for knowing who Jesus was.

So when in I John 2:10 he says, “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light,” he was probably talking about the disciples, but for me this verse is about the other child of my parents, Bill.

He was named for my dad’s dad, William, and for my dad’s favorite ball player, Stan Musial. He showed up in our family a week before Christmas on December 17. His birthday was like the pre-party for Santa. I’m trying to remember if Bill ever had a gift that wasn’t wrapped in red or green.

I was not yet 2 when Bill was placed in the car seat (yes, we had them then) next to me in the back of our ’53 Plymouth. I wasn’t sure what he was or why he was there, and I promptly smacked him on the head.

What ensued was a lot of yelling and crying from the front seat of the car. I have been viewed with suspicion and alarm by my parents ever since, and rightly so.

Bill and I haven’t been a big part of each other’s life for the last 30+ years. We’ve made up for it over the past three weeks, I think.

What has been remarkable has been our ability to work in tandem. On July 21 and 22 when my dad and mom respectively went to the ER, we chose to trust each other, in spite of what we’d been repeatedly told was the truth about us.

For myself, I sent up a short prayer right about then to God, asking Him to please help me to keep my gnarly ego quiet. If I could play nice, that most certainly would attest to the power of prayer.

I tell folks (when I can remember to do so) that in every tragedy lies a blessing. We may not see where the blessing falls, but if you’re lucky you can get some on your shoes.

So my blessing today is that I know Bill has my back. I hope he knows that I have his. I love him. And I am in the Light.

Asparagus Casserole

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My daughter and I gave up everything with MSG — I mean, it’s hard enough to stay awake after Thanksgiving dinner — so no more Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. This takes a little longer but is so much better.

2 cans asparagus spears
1 recipe white sauce (2 T butter, 2 T flour, 1 cup milk, salt)
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup grated cheese — your favorite
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 cup crushed cracker crumbs
2 T melted butter

Drain the asparagus and spread evenly in a greased Pyrex dish. Make your white sauce and while still hot, stir in the mushrooms and cheese. When cheese has melted, pour sauce over asparagus. Top with chopped egg. Toss crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over asparagus. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until casserole bubbles.

You cannot mess this up unless you accidentally use sugar instead of salt or you set the thing on fire.

You can substitute the asparagus liquid for part of the milk, you can omit the cheese, the eggs and/or the cracker crumbs. It really is just about the asparagus and the sauce.

I think the original recipe had pimento, but all the stores in Memphis are out of pimento and have been for a while. There must have been a pimento workers strike somewhere….

scandalous aging

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Tuesday and Wednesday I crash-watched two seasons of “Scandal” and I am lit up like a horny teenager. I was awake until 6 am — unheard of in the last three years.

There are all sorts of lights coming on and bells sounding and I’m not entirely happy about it. Life is so much easier when you have no sex drive.

Yesterday was full of hell and I went out on my own last night, drove to Collierville to the Mellow Mushroom and had pizza all by myself. Got exactly what I wanted and ate as much as I wanted and stayed until I was ready to go home.

Wondered where sober seniors go to hit on people. Figured at that time of night they were all in their recliners in front of the TV.

God, getting old really SUCKS.

Sparklers ~ Will Stanton

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There’s an age that’s right for sparklers,
For igniting the dark of the lawn.
Then the afterglow grays on the wire,
And the sparkler time is gone.

I recall one evening grown smaller,
A neighbor from some distant land
Brought three dozen boxes; too many almost
For sparkler-hooked children to stand.

Like small demented blacksmiths
We forged white metal there.
In lances bright with glory
To slash the velvet air.

Glistening and breathless as lovers,
Lawless as swallows in flight,
Shrieking, careening, colliding,
Erasing our bedtime with light.

Except for a single small maiden,
inscribing in letters of fire,
Over and over and over,
The name of her small heart’s desire.

RONNIE, she wrote, and then RONNIE,
Arm weary but steadfast she stood,
RONNIE, new sparkler, and RONNIE
Till the fire was darkened for good.

Well, the age of sparklers is over,
And just as well I would say.
Dangerous, wasteful and surely
Too childish for children today.

Still–it might be nice to remember
When most nice memories are gone,
How your name–if it’s RONNIE–was written
One evening in stars on the lawn.

~ Will Stanton