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Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."

How many words are in a child’s goodbye?

In two days, we fly to Florida and say goodbye to my mom. I’ve known for a long while that there was no getting better for her. In my less selfish moments, I wish for her peace. There’s a little girl inside, though, who’s raging.

Both my parents will have entered life eternal without their full cognitive ability. This makes saying the words harder. I’ve decided to make a list of memories to read to her, because hospice says, though she may be resting in the drugs, she can hear. How many words will this little girl say?

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Mom, I remember coloring with you on the swing set. You always outlined your figures in black, which made them look professional to a four-year-old.

You wore a headscarf and tin foil when you laid out in the sun.

You bought me two pairs of Keds every summer; one for dress and one for everyday. There’s a couple of pair in my closet right now.

You made me take dance lessons, because I was tall and you thought I would have bad posture. You were probably right. I walk straight and tall, so thank you.

You planned our vacations with fun and learning. I never plan a trip without a museum visit.

You packed our pop-up camper like a pro. On the trip to Arizona, you used the mattresses as a clothes press for each of us. Brilliant.

You loved teaching. Me, too.

You have an eye for detail. Some would call it “perfectionistic.” Okay, many would. And do. You passed this on to me, for better or worse.

You made the most beautiful presents, when I was little. You said that you and dad would stay up late before Christmas to make the packages wondrous. This lives on every holiday.

You sang all the verses of Amazing Grace. I sat pressed up against you in the pew at church and grimaced at your voice. I also sang every verse to my first colicky baby, as I walked up and down the driveway.

You took care of your mother, after she was an invalid and couldn’t marshal a farm house any longer. You never really talked about it. I believe in acts of service and I don’t believe in talking about them.

You were an amazing seamstress. You made me join 4-H for Home Economics and Sewing. I can sew a straight seam. I rip out my mistakes.

You told me I had a genius IQ. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I believed you.

You let me read anything I wanted. I read The Exorcist, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and Love Story in fifth grade. I asked you what “sonovabitch” was and you told me. You gave me your childhood books, written in the vernacular from the 1930’s: Pollyanna, Heidi, and Girls of Silver Spur Ranch. This may be the greatest gift you gave me.

You were on the Altar Guild. When you are small and next to a shining, wooden communion table draped with starched lace, you are next to God.

You told me anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is your second greatest gift.

You played volleyball like a mad woman. Your pinky is crooked because of this.

You made dad paint the house on Woodlawn in three different color combinations, until you found the right one.

The only “dirty” joke you told made you laugh like a teenager. I was a teenager, at the time, and rolled my eyes. But I remember it: “Have you ever smelled moth balls?” (Yes.) “What did you do? Spread his little legs?”

We drove to Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor to do our most sophisticated shopping. And then we went to the Gandy Dancer, every time. I look at the Gandy Dancer now and think, “Wow. Why didn’t I realize this was so special?” Teenagers are a special brand of clueless.

You went all out on the holidays. We lived modestly, except for Christmas. Christmas was a wonderland. Dave and I have many differing memories of childhood, but we both remember the one with desks, bikes, a toboggan, and every toy we picked out at the Big Toy Box at Sears.

I knew something was wrong by the time I was in high school, but I thought it was fixable by a new location. Our moves to Cleveland and Jackson went okay. So I made you and dad look at different houses, because I thought it would change things. I talked to realtors on the phone. And you let me. It didn’t stop the divorce. You let me deal with it my own way. When the time came, I fought it less. I knew.

Shoe shopping with you was a free-for-all. If you found your size (at that store in Sandusky), you bought them all. I can still see gold brocade slippers on your feet, and four or five 11 AAA shoe boxes stacked up, ready to go home. Ah, shoes.

You made me weed in the garden.

You made sure I had a piano when we moved to Cleveland. It saved me. And again, when I moved to Jackson. I don’t play now, but I imagine it could save me, still.

You were about 35, I think, at the time I remember you visiting with all our elderly neighbors in Norwalk. My next door neighbor, Carol, who is 81, is on her way over this evening.

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Nabisco Saltines, and 7-Up: your cure for the common cold.

You went back to school to learn the computer, so that you would qualify for a better job later in life. I am finishing my MA.

You ironed every little thing in your wardrobe when you were getting a divorce. All my cloth napkins are ironed and ready for service, stored in vintage picnic baskets.

In the days when Beaver Cleaver was the norm, you were a pretty damned good cook. I have a vintage cookbook collection of recipes from this time. The dishes I know how to cook from memory are yours (or Bill’s mom’s). I remember you were in a ‘Dinners for Eight’ group in the 1970’s and you made – tres exotique! – pepper steak.  There are no words to express caramel bananas, only feels.

You were before your time: you signed us up for a food co-op, so that we could eat cheese without coloring and other “whole foods.” This was somewhere in my high school memories, but the current organic movement has nothing on you.

I can still feel the summer wind on my face as we drove back from Holiday Lakes, sun-burned, ready for a treatment of Sea-Breeze, and happy.

“Bright, and bold, and ten feet tall is how I feel today. A sunflower towers above every flower and brightens the fields as she plays.” Script from a Mother’s Day performance at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Norwalk…around 1968.

Bowling at Cedar Lanes in Sandusky was a guilty pleasure. You and dad bowled. Dave and I ran around with the other kids like banshees. Didn’t you notice? I think every single employee hated our Band of Brothers. We knocked down signs. We shrieked. We terrorized the hotel pool. And afterwards, we had Tin Roof Sundaes. Bliss.

You made us take swimming lessons at the city pool. Was this for self-preservation? Or your sanity? At any rate, I ended up getting my Red Cross Life Guard certificate.

You also signed me up for tennis lessons in Cleveland through the National Junior Tennis League. Another life saver. Keep your racket back and swing level.

At an Easter Egg Hunt at the Norwalk Reservoir, in one moment I had the most eggs in my basket then, after a trip, I had the least. Eggs spilled all over the grass, competitors swooped in and got them, and I was left with nothing. This was the last group egg hunt I recall. Thanks.

You helped my Girl Scout troop go to Washington DC, when I was just out of elementary school. What were you thinking? Today, the security arrangements would fell a horse. I recently saw the article I wrote for the Norwalk Reflector and smiled.

Perms. Oh, my god, mom. My straight hair has always been the bane of my existence. To this day, I have no idea what to do with it. But I am not getting a Toni.

If Dad was the “party” in my childhood, you were the rock. I can honestly say, I seem to have decided to be the rock, in honor of you. It’s fun to be around the party crowd, but at the end of the day…at the end of a life…the rock is where it’s at. “All men are like grass. And all their glory, like the flowers of the field, withers. And the flowers fall.” (I Peter 1:24)

My inner child knows this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been writing since elementary school, but…

2017-07-13 w mary 22017-07-13 w mary 12017-07-13 w mary 3

[Thanks to my friend, Mary, who shared in this conversation.]

An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

Source: An Open Letter to My Parents’ Pastor

Source: Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

Let’s put to bed “Thanks for all you do.”

It’s not just me. It’s happened to you, too.

Here’s a little opinion quiz. We’ll talk about it in a bit.

  1. Have you ever had someone encourage you to start a project and say they had your back…and then, they didn’t?
  2. Have you ever waited for someone to come through, giving them – to your mind – an almost risky amount of time to deliver…and then, they didn’t deliver?
  3. Have you ever had someone change the trajectory of a shared project…without telling you?
  4. Have you, in a group or shared project/event, had someone alter the time frame to suit their needs…without seeing if it suited yours?
  5. And, as a result, do you hesitate to get involved in group settings, because you’ve been burned in the past?

Let’s say, for easy grading, that each question is worth 20 points and a “perfect” score is 100%. What’s your score? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s higher than you want it to be.

Why does it seem that, these days, everyone’s talking the big talk, but very few are walking the walk? Oh, they love meaningless sayings, like “Thanks for all you do.” Or, “You’re awesome.” But they’re not standing with us at the finish line, because they lost interest, got distracted, or decided it was too much effort to be there.

There’s a lot of blame being thrown around: we rewarded a generation of people for doing nothing and now, they don’t do anything without a reward; we’re a group of wiki experts with no real expertise; we’re maniacally busy; we lack leaders who promise and deliver, so we have modeled ourselves accordingly.

There’s a lot of excuses being delivered. Some of the ones I resent the most?

  • My memory.
  • My internet.
  • My phone.
  • My schedule.
  • My life.

Why so resentful, you ask? Because, on most things, we decide.

  • We take the job. We had the job description. Can we deliver? We’d better…and to the best of our ability.
  • We are assigned group work. Whether everyone is equally yoked or not, we pull hard and we finish. When we try to avoid hard work, we all fail.
  • We offer support. That means we’re going to be there.
  • We sign up. Did you do it out of guilt? Do everyone a favor. Don’t.

Do you have a poor memory? Write yourself a list. Bad internet connection? Tons of places have free wifi. Phone funking out? Tell people to email you and, then, read your emails. Schedule too busy? Drop something. It’s not a race and no one appreciates volunteering or working with someone who’s over-committed. Life got you by the cojones? Tell somebody. Tell the team. Let us know. We don’t need the dirty details (if there are dirty details), but we need to know who’s unavailable.

Did you let someone down? Genuinely apologize.

I want to work with people who stop saying, “I don’t know how you do it,” and help me get it done. I don’t need a hollow “Thanks for all you do,” which sounds somehow resentful, as if I’ve done too much and now, the speaker wishes I hadn’t done so much.

I know quiet a few people who were raised with the phrase: “Everyone has the same number of hours in a day.” Fact.

My mom used to say, “Jeri Lynn, everybody finds the time to do the things they want to do.” True.

It’s going to take a concerted effort to move our families, our communities, and our country forward. We need everyone walking the walk together. Let’s get in step.

monkee walk.gif

The photo and the gif are from the TV show and band
The Monkees (www.monkees.com).
If you don’t know their music, you should YouTube them.
I liked the show as a kid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Title Credit: Act-III, Scene-I in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

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Here’s the dream:

I am driving like someone who’s going to miss the cruise ship, the plane, the loved one at the gate.

My GPS starts losing its dynamic features. It goes from a detailed visual map, to a cartoon scene, to a blue screen. I careen onto a highway exit. I can see a drawbridge in the distance. I have to make it before the connector goes up.

On the bridge, I see that the first of the two sides extends halfway across the river. Cars have to line up, then the second half will extend so that we can creep across. This does not seem like a good system to me. In dream-like fashion, I can see the way the mechanics work from below and it’s precarious, at best.

But it’s my only way over. By the time I decide to try it, the bridge is retracting. I have to jump my car without any sort of momentum, as I see the watery gap below.

At this point, I’m no longer driving. It seems like a ferry ride, where you leave your car in the hands of a porter. Next, I’m running along a sidewalk to pick up my car, which is not in sight.

There are people handling the embarkation on this side of the bridge, very official with vests and badges, and they are explaining to me that I have no paperwork. So sorry. You can’t have your car without the proper paperwork. I know! I can imagine the reasons, but I had no time. Why can’t I get my car?

They explain that there are excise people waiting on this side for cars without paperwork. They’re quick, efficient, and they took my car. I am frustrated, stymied. I wake up.

_____

There’s a lot going on right now.

There’s a divide. There’s a connection that I don’t want to miss. It might not be up to me. You know me, so you know that this goes against every control-freak, Type A, Virgo, oldest child ruler-of-the-world bone in my body.

So much of it’s out of my control. There are folks in official positions with whom I can’t argue. You take what you get.

I’ve recently seen a newly-coined phrase: post-traumatic election syndrome. So little is up to us, in the end, it seems.

But I hope, if I ever get a chance to pick up the dream, that I fight to reach my destination.

You’ll Never Have This Recipe, Again. [Or, Crumb Kuchen, While Women March on Washington DC]

Today’s coffee cake, Crumb Kuchen, is brought to you by the notion that you can’t go back. You will go forward, armed with the experience of kitchens past. This is a great little cake, but I can’t make it what it once was–a recipe from my mother’s college roommate, Lois Hampson, from a time when buttermilk was scarce and you’d sour milk with vinegar.

No. My cake must move forward. I take the basic ingredients and I make it my own. I like to think I’ve made it a bit better. (Truly, it’s a bit better batter.) But I’m not the only person who can make a coffee cake great. Lots of people have the same talent and wherewithal. When my family makes Crumb Kuchen, years from now, they’ll make their own version, even though they will make it because I made it before them.

You also can’t make this recipe quite the way it’s pictured because, first, I made two mistakes. When it says “a handful” of the “like pie crust” mixture, it means about 1/4 cup. I’d removed too much. Also, the original recipe assumes the baker knows you need an egg to provide structure and richness. The lowly egg creates a smoother batter (it has a magical reaction that stabilizes the air bubbles called emulsifying) and adds flavor.

I realized my omission when I couldn’t spread the batter in the baking dish. I’m that quick. So I dumped it back in the mixing bowl, added the egg, and wrote “1 egg” on my recipe card’s ingredient list. I’d lost the first round of crunchy topping, but I’d miraculously kept a precious bit, which ultimately made a better crumble.

People do that: make mistakes. No one’s perfect. Not one person. No matter how great they think they are, they are just lowly human beings. I repeat: no one can fix everyone’s mistakes. It’s called “delusions of grandeur.” Or narcissism.

I hope the younger crumb-kuchen-2people in my family realize that the only way to get a good coffee cake is (1) to actually push your sleeves up and try to make one, (2) to read a recipe that reflects the combined experience of the cooks who came before, and (3) there’s no god-like baker who will deliver to them the perfect cake. You can’t just yell, “Make coffee cake great, again!” They need to believe they can and make their own.

Cake one bakes oneself tastes better, anyways.

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Crumb Kuchen
~Original Recipe: Lois Hampson | Adapted by Jeri Preston
Ingredients in bold font below.

First:
>Preheat oven to 325º.
>Add 1 T. apple cider vinegar (or white) to 1 c. whole milk to curdle. Set aside.

Next:
In large bowl, add
2 c. unbleached flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)
3/4 c. chilled butter, cut in tablespoons
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
>Cut, as you would pie dough. (If you have no experience making your own pie, a pastry cutter run through your ingredients should cause them all to crumble together and form clumps the size of peas. You can also “cut” with a fork, if you’re kitchen accessory poor.)
>Set aside 1/4 – 1/3 c. of the crumbly mixture.
>Add
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Next:
>Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork until broken.
>Add egg and curdled milk to all dry ingredients. Beat 2-3 minutes on medium speed.

Bake:
>Butter or use baking spray on 9 x 13″ baking dish.
>Pour in batter. Spread w/ spatula if necessary.
>Sprinkle on previously saved crumble mixture.
>If desired, additional chopped nuts can be sprinkled on the top. (I used another 1/2 c. chopped pecans.)
>Bake @ 325º 30-35 minutes, until center is set. Glass pans may bake more quickly.

Topping:
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
>Stir until dry ingredients are incorporated.
>Drizzle over slightly warm cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving when nobody died.

You’ve been there before.

Something happens. It’s jarring. Shifts seismic plates. Your world turns over, even though it appears, against all reason, to still spin.

You’re bereft. Abandoned. Left alone.

They say there are stages of grief.

In You Can Heal Your Heart, by Hay and Kessler, the authors claim “the five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief.”

I must be strange. My grief swims around me like fish under frozen ice.

I wake up.

I’m trying to create plans for progress that will not see the light of day.

No one died and all my family is currently well. I suppose I am grieving a nation.

It’s not that I don’t think time and politics will go on. They will. And long after I’m gone.

It’s just that I grew up believing. My childhood was full of institutional trust. We had John F. Kennedy before I knew he was a womanizer (although, it appears there was consent), the moon walk, and the end of the Cold War. I was conveniently at the end of bomb shelters and just behind The Electric Koolaid Acid Test.

Farm land surrounded me. If I hurt, I walked. My brother walked. We dug in the dirt. We rode bikes. No one worried about our bumps and bruises, unless we were bleeding. And when we bled, the neighborhood came running.

The church was my home. I knew it as a space for community. You got together and you did things for other people. You did not question why you should want to help. People helped people.

I feel like someone drove me out to a far, far plain and left me. If you know me, you are aware I have no internal navigation system, even though I don’t always believe my GPS. This is me, right now.

Lost. I know this country from another time, but I have no compass inside to navigate these roads. I try and disbelieve, but I like to study. I read. I have always read, even if it was cereal boxes or Reader’s Digest crosswords. I seek facts and I grew up in a time when you learned how to validate. This place does not seem like mine. How can we be here? And yet, here we are.

It would be so convenient to blame the media. I am a media person, by trade, and I know you have to feed the beast. These articles, these stories, do not come from a dearth of news and a need to sensationalize. Slashings at OSU. Homophobic rantings online. Hillary rantings on an airplane. Friends unfriending friends. Families reading tools to navigate conversations surrounding the election over Thanksgiving dinner. A man coming into power who has suggested only property owners should vote. My brain finally explodes. What would that do to New York City? I can’t get a read on this. There’s no place to anchor.

But in the dark, when I worry and plan and pray, I think there is no need to fabricate. There’s just so much available. And so I’m grieving, even when I don’t know the dead.

 

What’s Wrong?

What’s wrong? This isn’t a rhetorical question. There’s just so much garbage. It’s getting harder and harder to tell, anymore, if anything is right. But here are some things I do believe about wrongness.

  1. It’s not okay to be untrustworthy. If you can’t trust me, we can’t have a decent relationship. You will always wonder if I’m going to screw with you. You’ll wonder if I’m going to cheat you or lie to you. I should not say one thing and do another.
  2. I should admit when I’m a jerk. When I’m alone in the dark, I hope I have the courage to say, “Wow, I was a jerk. The jerkiest jerk. I hope someone will forgive me.” If I’m really courageous, I’ll actually admit it out loud. Maybe ask for forgiveness.
  3. There’s a point at which I should shut up. I once heard someone pray, “Lord, don’t let me miss a chance to be quiet.” I’ll just let that one sit.
  4. If people are depending on me, I shouldn’t let them down. Did I make a commitment to you? I am honor-bound to see it through.
  5. There are more important things than being right. Did my righteousness come at the expense of someone else? Was I smiling when I ground their face into the dirt? Then my victory is cheap.
  6. If I am afraid, I should admit it. Fear corrodes.
  7. I am not in charge here. The best I can do is be a good mensch.
  8. I probably should be last in line. I’ve had a life of comfort, privilege, and blessing.
  9. I believe there’s a heaven, a hereafter, where all my friends – Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindi, Wiccan, without faith – can meet and be one.
  10. Love is the greatest commandment. I try really, really hard to get this one right.

I know a handful of people like this. You’re probably one of them. But where did the rest of us go?

I believe there’s an evil. It’s alive and at work. It wants us to believe we’re alone.

This is what’s wrong. That awful voice started, small and insistent: “This is terrifying. This will destroy us. This cannot work.” It gathered up fear in a dust bin and poofed the collected contaminated particles into the air. They continue to accumulate and swirl.

I heard someone say, just this week, why gather people and march? What will that accomplish?

freedommarch
Freedom March, Selma, AL | 3.21.65

I was stunned. It’s like saying, what can one person do, combined with another person, and another, until they all hold hands and link arms and build a community? It’s our only hope. We cannot do this thing, this life, alone.

Everything I see in the media right now insists you and I are alone. I am not. You are not. They’re lying. Certain people are out and out lying.

Evil wants us to give up. That’s what’s wrong.

[P.S. Since this is basically a message to my kids, you know I love you. Now, get to it. The world needs you right now.]

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Featured image: http://patshaughnessy.net/2012/3/23/why-you-should-be-excited-about-garbage-collection-in-ruby-2-0

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