Thursday, November 1, 2012

Capable Hands, Lazy Nails

For the last couple of months I have been taking the time to paint my nails and take better care of them than I am usually likely to.  The regular manicures, with filing and cuticle treatments and polish have been nice moments of relaxation in which I focus on myself, and enjoy the results of the rest of the week.  I have an ever expanding selection of nail polish, and am forever on the hunt for new and different.  I'll pain my nails anything from the candycorn-style I attempted for Halloween, to traditional pink, red, purple, green, blue, silver, lavender.  I like them all!

However, as this habit has reasserted itself after a few years of neglect, I find myself remembering something my mother used to yell at me when I was in high school and in my early 20s.  See, back in those days I spent a lot of time on myself, what girl that age doesn't??  I styled my hair, put on make up, painted my nails.  My mother ridiculed the make up as trashy, the hair as overdone and the wrong color, and the nails as lazy.

Yes, that's right.  I had lazy nails.  According to my mother, if you had the time to care for your nails, paint them, and not have them torn to shreds as you worked, you must not be working hard enough.  When I first got a job as a secretary, she swore the days of "lazy nails" had to be done.  No employer would take me seriously if I didn't take myself seriously and ditch the "lazy nails" for "capable hands."

That really hurt. I thought my hands were perfectly capable.  I wasn't one for the ultra long nails, just nicely painted and cared for. I worked as hard as the next person.  Still, the site of my nails, freshly painted was enough to set her off on a tirade.

My mother died when I was 25, so she never got to experience the years in which I indulged in artificial nails and regular pedicures.  Nor was she there to comment on  the months during my pregnancies when I went for twice a month mani pedis.  She also wasn't there to nod smugly when my nails spent years brutally trimmed and unadorned while Connor was a young child.

So now, as I have periodically over the last 5 years or so, I am on a kick of painting my nails.  Each time I do it, I hear my mother shrieking at the laziness of it all.  Yet, when I see my neatly painted nails encrusted with dirt from the garden, gloppy with the meatloaf I am forming for dinner, dripping with soapy water from the floor washing, I silently tell her to stuff it.

These days, I see that my "lazy nails" rest on the most capable of hands.  Those hands deserve to be cared for as they care for others.  Why shouldn't my strong and capable hands be pampered and decorated?  I paint my nails because my hands work so hard.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mean Girls

If you are a female of the human race you have been a mean girl or been a victim of one.  They are inevitable and unavoidable miseries that dot the landscape waiting to wound and main the unsuspecting.  You can tell yourself any number of little white lies to make them seem like the walking wounded, or something to be pitied, but that allows them to behave in hurtful ways with no responsibility for the damage they do.

I had hoped I had left mean girls long behind me when I left school.  For a few years it truly seemed that way.  It wasn't that I didn't have conflicts with women, of course I did. But a mean girl, that is a particular creature capable of so much damage.  How sad to find that some girls never outgrow being mean.

Grown women who are mean girls fall into a couple of categories.  There are those who were mean as children and never outgrew it.  Then there are those women who were victims of mean girl in their younger years and now they have found themselves an opportunity to claim perceived power and be mean girls themselves.

These days I am dealing with the later breed of mean girl.  A woman I have come in contact seems to so clearly have been one of those girls in school victimized by mean girls. I can picture her being teased, picked on, embarrassed, humiliated.  I can see it when I look at her because I was her once. I can see it in her eyes the same that I can see it in mine sometimes.  Unlike me, she wants to make others hurt the way she hurt.

This woman is toxic, to herself and all those around her.  I watch her belittle others, frighten others into being her "friends" and generally making any situation she is in all about her.  I have no patience for this crap, none at all.  I spent so much of my youth victimized and crying because of girls like her that I have no intention of fannying about with it now.

So, mean girl, you are on notice.  You aren't frightening me and I won't stand silently by as you tear others down.  The day will come when you will find that those you think are your friends are really just frightened of you.  When they realize that others feel like they do, they will join together and you will be powerless to stop them.  You will be alone in your meanness and we will be happier to be free of your nastiness.

Mean girls suck.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Phone Home

When I was younger and I went on a trip my mother always insisted that the first thing I do on arrival was call to let her know I was there safe and sound.

As a very young child, I didn't think anything of it and happily checked in on arrival, and sometimes once or twice while I was away depending on the length of the trip.  I even have a picture of me, freshly showered and in my nightgown in the Polynesian Hotel, phone to ear and my suntanned face glowing as I fill mom in on all the fun.

As I got older, it got a little more trying a promise to keep.  How embarrassing to be on a choir trip and have to walk in the hotel and pick up the phone.  Irksome and I felt unnecessary, after all I was FINE. Of course, I called anyway, I didn't dare not to.  Mom insisted and if I wanted to make any more trips, I'd better make that call.

Well, as time went by the habit became ingrained. I keenly felt the need to check in with someone on arrival at a vacation destination.  I would walk in to an number of hotel rooms, and walk to the phone to make my check in.  I shudder to admit it, but I did it on my honeymoon too.  It meant the world to my mother, just to hear that we arrived and were happy and safe.

Of course, now my mother has been gone for nearly 20 years.  Yet, the habit remains.  I walk in to a hotel room and I itch to pick up the phone and tell her we are fine.  Honestly, to tell someone we have arrived and are fine.  I have bewildered many a person with that call to say, "We're here!"

It happened yesterday as we walked in to our hotel room in Washington D.C.  I just wanted to touch base with home, to say we were here and all was well.  It still seemed crazy to not pick up the phone and dial my mother's number.  An empty feeling in my heart and my hand.

Maybe because with the passing of my mother some essential sense of home is lost forever.  My home, the place where they watched me grow up and made sure I was safe and sound (on occasion) is gone forever.  I have a wonderful and full home now, but it is different.

I can never arrive at a destination and phone home again.  Miss you mom.  By the way, we got here safe and sound, the hotel is lovely, and Connor is loving Washington D.C.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Like August

Here I am, at the end of July. ACRA is ended and August yawns before me, the last hurrah of Summer before the onset of Fall. The air is heavy with humidity, but tinged with the promise of cooler days to come.  August is the down slope of Summer, the relaxation of everything before the harvest to come.

This morning I stepped out on to my porch and the chorus of lazy crickets sang the song of late Summer.  Too tired to play individual parts in a square dance, they lazily droned a dirge in unison.  I could feel the moisture in the air,and yet just a hint of chill that wanted me to pull my robe closed.  It smelled of the tired green of the yard, the fading flowers of the garden.  We aren't quite to the reckless abandonment of Autumn, but past the blowsy fullness of Summer.

August is a month for the pool, the beach, day trips, and afternoons in the hammock.  It is the scent of chlorine and sunscreen, the sound of surf, and the grit of sand underfoot.  The trees sag under the weight of Summer dust, the flowers droop for want of water.  Nights are devoid of the magic of fireflies, and the crickets sound frantic in that late Summer way.

I feel the lazy, slow, dying in my bones.  I want nothing more than to dig my toes in the sand and meditate on the ceaseless waves, or to stretch out and listen to the sounds of the local pool.  Gardening holds little allure, cooking even less.  I want to relax, stretch out and soak in the last moments of Summer.

I feel like August.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Moonshine and Murder

I always knew that there was moonshine in my father's family background. I even got tricked into tasting some when I was younger. (Word to the wise, when a crowd of guys gathers in the backyard and passes a mason jar around, it is NOT spring water.) Stories of uncles, grandfathers, fast cars, product hidden in beehives, and thump barrels silenced in a creek were told and listened too over and over. One story I was told seemed too fantastic to be real.  It goes like this.....

According to family legend, as told by my father's mother (who was just over a year old when it happened), her father had a contract with the federal government to produce moonshine for the military and the government during WWI.  Now, Prohibition being the law of the land, this made local producers who didn't enjoy this protection jealous. They joined together, ambushed the cabin one night and shot her father, gravely wounding him.  They took off into the night and she was placed in the dying man's lap, where she remained all night long as he died.  Two men were eventually tried and convicted of murder and were executed for the murder.

So, what did this give me to go on?  A location, a time period, a potential individual, and a story that must have made local news.  I decided to start with the individual, trying to pin down a name for my grandmother's father. Not as easy as it would sound.  There is no father listed on her birth certificate, nor on that of her older sister.  Hmmmmm..... I kept plugging away and finally I had a name, John White.  The only name more mundane and difficult to confirm would have been John Smith, but still how many John Whites married to Delia Easters with daughters Bertie and Annie could there be?  Only the one as it turns out and he appears marrying Delia in 1914 and by 1920 she and her daughters are all shown in the census as "Whites" and living with her widowed mother, no John in sight.  This was promising, he disappears at the right time. I "googled" everything I could think of to track down the story from there and got nowhere, for years.  Then I had a flash of insight, maybe somebody else had another part of the story.

I was off to my account looking for someone else that had John White in their tree.  Lightening struck and I got in touch with a lovely lady living in North Carolina who's MIL is actually my relative, a cousin counted and removed (I haven't quite worked it out yet, but my great-grandmother Delia and her MILs mother were sisters).  This lady's MIL was actually friendly with my grandmother when she was a young woman!  From here the story resolved quickly.

Turns out, it wasn't my great-grandfather John White.  Nope, it was Delia Easter's father William Riley Easter who was the victim of the story told so many times.  My new friend/family in North Carolina sent me the newspaper articles and a couple of pictures and here is how the story really goes.....

William Riley Easter was a man who made stills, really good stills, and he repaired stills that law officers had attempted to destroy. He was also an exceptional producer of shine.  According to the newpapers his son (and maybe he) had a loose aggrerment with the sheriff in Mount Airy, NC (of Mayberry fame) in which he would turn in stills for bounty money.  In July 1918, William Riley Easter's son, Jim turned in a still to the local sheriff, Belton that belonged to the Cain brothers.  The sheriff confiscated the still, and the Cains took serious exception to this.  Threats were leveled about the return of the still or else violence would be done.  William Riley walked into town and further inflamed things by turning in the product of the still that had already been destroyed.  That sealed his fate.

On the night of July 22, 1918 he was hosting a family party at his "small mountain home" with children and grandchildren in attendance.  His wife, my great-great grandmother Margaret and her daughter, my great-grandmother Deelie Easter WHITE were in the front yard when a large group of men appeared in the moonlight.  William Riley Easter, thinking they were revenuers came to the door and asked them in, and then the shooting started.  Riley was struck in the stomach and was dragged into the home while fire was returned from inside the cabin.  A woman screamed that the men had killed "her pap and her baby" and the gunfire stopped, the men melting back into the night.

The law was fetched and a doctor brought to tend to the wounded and sort out the story.  The doctor, insisting that Riley would not die, was contradicted by Riley, who insisted otherwise. He gave testimony and identified those that had shot him.  Gut shot and in pain, he lingered 13 hours, with his granddaughter (my grandmother), Annie Easter White on his lap.

The Cain brothers were caught quickly, along with several others identified by Riley as he died and confirmed by other family members.  They were taken to jail, tried for the crime and the two Cain brothers became the first men electrocuted in Surry County, NC (hanging having been the method until then).

So there it is, a story that belongs in a book or a movie, but not my history. It is surreal to me that my grandmother was a baby in the middle of all of that, that my great-grandmother had to be a witness to the murder of her own father.  I have seen pictures of Delia, she seemed so stoic and grim, she had good reason to be. My Grandmother Annie Easter White Secrest Prazzo could have her moments of deep negativity, and who can blame her?

Moonshine can have such a romantic and daring aura about it, but this story shows the underbelly of it all. Rivals, cheats, anger, retribution, gunfire, and women and children screaming and cowering in the midst of it all.

I am still researching, still reading and still digesting, but I wanted to get this out on the blog to begin sharing it with others in my family who will want to know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Power of Memory

Last week I got to go to Disney World with my family.  It was literally a dream-come-true visit because we got to stay at the Grand Floridian, something I have been dreaming of since they announced they were building it.  I could write, a probably will, a ton about what we did and how much fun it was, but today I am going to focus on the power of memory and its effect on me every time I find myself at Disney.

Many years ago, when I was about 9, and Disney was a much younger park, I was surprised by my grandmother with a trip to Disney World with her.  I couldn't believe my good fortune.  As excited as I was to be going on a plane (my first), staying in a hotel (another first), and of course seeing Disney World, what really had me happy was the chance to spend four whole days alone with the person I loved best in the world.  The idea that for that entire vacation I would would be with my grandmother and that the shifting sands of my life would be solid was more than I could hope for.

It was an amazing trip.  This was before deregulation of the airlines and you dressed up for a flight and got fancy food during your flight (my first experience with honeydew melon).  Nobody frisked you or irradiated you prior to flying, and it all seemed so glamorous.  We visited Disney World when there were only two hotels and both were on the monorail, there was only the Magic Kingdom, and there were still e-ticket rides (and e-ticket had nothing to do with e-mail, electronics, or technology).  We stayed at the Polynesian long before Lilo and Stitch checked in and indulged in a luau with Polynesian dancers and entertainers.  I woke up early, swam in the pool in the afternoons, wandered the park in bliss, and was dazzled by the Main Street Electric Light Parade.  One night, we watched fireworks from the monorail as we returned to our hotel for the night.  It was bliss, the entire time.  What a glorious time we had, enjoying each others company and making each other laugh.

I knew then it was important to me, that I would remember it the rest of my life, and that it was an incredibly large gift from my adored grandmother to me.  What I had no way of knowing is that it would be so important to me that every time I go to Disney World I am left weeping tears of joy as I remember and relive that gift from so long ago.  Yes, even today, 35 years since I went with my grandmother I dissolve into happy tears when I arrive and do it regularly until I check out.  I cry when I see the Polynesian, the monorail, the Castle.  I cry when I ride the Haunted Mansion (my favorite), the Pirates of the Caribbean (grandma's favorite), the People Mover, or the Carousel of Progress.  Now that they have reinstated the classic Main Street Electric Light Parade, I watched that through a blurry haze of tears too.

Make no mistake, these are tears of pure and unadulterated joy and gratitude.  For me, the "happiest place on Earth," is just a little more happy, a little more full.  The power of my memories of how happy I was on that trip amplify the happiness I feel whenever I am there.  There are moments when I am sure I feel my grandmother's arm on mine, her hand on my shoulder, her smile on my face. 

I don't think she had any idea of the magnitude of her gift that summer.  To her, I am sure, it was a chance to see a place she really wanted to see and to share it with a beloved granddaughter.  She knew it meant a great deal to me, but neither of us could foresee how the gift would just continue on and one through the years.

This last trip proved no less powerful.  Here I was, staying at the most beautiful resort Disney has to offer, a dream come true and I was most enchanted by the view out our window.  If you haven't guessed, our window perfectly framed the Great Ceremonial House of the Polynesian, along with a view of the sandy beach I watched the water parade from with my grandmother.  Every night, I could hear the call and music of the luau drift across the lagoon.  It was as if the staff of the Grand Floridian knew just how to make my dream-come-true trip just a little dreamier.  In case you are wondering, I cried.  Soft, happy tears full of memory and love.

Thanks grandma and thanks to Disney....

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Light and Dark on April 5th.

Today was really good and really rough. Nine years ago today my first son died at 2 days old. He was born with brittle bone disease, we had no idea of it until he was born and I didn't get to even hold him until after he died. The worst thing a mother can go through, ever. As hard as it was, as hard as it still is, time has healed us and while it can still hollow us out and make us cry, we seem him as a great gift.

We have a beautiful, happy, healthy 7 1/2 year old son. The day he was born, everyone in the delivery room cried there eyes out, including our doctor. He is the light of my days, and the peace in my nights. I tell him all the time that I am simply the luckiest mommy, because I was born to be his mommy and it is true.

Today, we told him that we had Liam, that he has an older brother, and that he died. Now we start the journey with our son as he explores what that means to him and how he incorporates that into his life. We never meant it to be a secret, but the time was never right to talk about it until now. I think it was a good choice, he is already asking good questions and seems thoughtful but not devastated.

So tonight, we will pick some branches from the redbud tree we planted in Liam's memory on the first anniversary of his death and put them in the center of the table as we eat dinner.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I feel a blog post coming on, stay tuned. I am ruminating over it.....

Friday, January 27, 2012

Still Cleaning

Well, the week has worn on and I am still cleaning. Now I have progressed to the point where the floors of the house are ready for cleaning. Unfortunately for me, I am not a fan of mopping, it just seems to push dirt around on my nice wood floors. That means that at least twice a year I am left with two big buckets of boiling hot water (one for washing, with Pine Sol and one for rinsing), a couple of towels (for sitting the buckets on and drying the floor to prevent streaking), rubber gloves, and a long couple days of crawling around. Yep, that's right, I crawl on my hands and knees and wash the floor with sponges and towels. Exhausting, but really effective. By the time I am done I am sore from head to toe, but the floors of my house are clean enough to eat off of.

So, here I am, end of day one of floor cleaning and I am halfway done. As I went this time I tried to be really mindful of all the things that have gone on in my home since I was last able to do this. There has been my thyroid operation, physical recovery, mental slogging, mom's broken hip, so much drama and upheaval. As I cleaned I visualized sweeping all of that stuff up with the dust and dirt. It felt good to wipe it up with the steaming hot sponge, scented with Pine Sol, and squeeze it into the bucket. Better still to watch the dirt and bad memories splash into the yard.
I swear my bare feet are tingling when I walk in areas I am done cleaning!

Now, let me spend a moment on what Pine Sol means to me. Pine Sol is what my grandmother used to clean the floors in her house. I can remember running into her house after school and smells the resin-y sweet smell hanging in the air. It usually signaled that her brother, my beloved Uncle Roman was visiting and they had gone grocery shopping that day as well. That meant that behind the overwhelming smell of Pine Sol there would be the background of oven fried chicken, what was always served when Uncle Roman and Aunt Emily came to visit. Pine Sol represents safety, love, security, warmth, family, home, and hearth to me. Having my house reek of it feels like my grandmother is surrounding me with her love still.

As I continue my task I am trying to picture the happiness of those days with my grandmother. I am asking that happiness like that live in my home today. I hope that someday, my child will clean his floors (hopefully these floors) and have wonderful and comforting memories like mine.

Don't get me wrong, I will be glad when the floor cleaning is done and I can relax a little. Don't know what has possessed me for the last several weeks, but it feel really good to reclaim my home and rediscover the light inside it. May it always have the lingering scent of Pine Sol......

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cleaning Cobwebs

For the last several weeks, I have had this crazy cleaning energy. It has been a great change after 18 months of the miasma surrounding my thyroid "episode" and aftermath. The house never looked awful, but a ton of pent up bad mojo has accumulated in the corners and needed cleaning. I have been addressing this and I honestly can say that I feel the house getting lighter and brighter by the day.

There is a new energy in my life, and I am riding it for all it is. I am enjoying seeing a deeper purpose in those things that bring me joy and fulfillment. I am loving seeing my home as my cathedral, altars strewn about with abandon.

As the Winter continues on its splintering journey toward Spring I am reclaiming all the corners of my home. It is nice to see the progress, to feel the shift in energy, to ride the uplifting wave of it.

I am using my mental broom to clean the cobwebs from the corners left too long in the eddies of life. Can't wait until Spring, when the windows will be thrown open and the last staleness will be swept away.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Out there

Did you ever notice how some people can really put it "out there?" You know, the ones who proclaim their religious bent, personal values, or rules for living from the mountain top so to speak? Sometimes I can truly admire these folks, especially when the proclamation is from a position of tolerance for alternate views. Kind of like "hey, this is how I feel, what moves me and I want to share, even though it may not be your thing."

Recently, I have had something of a reawakening of a personal spirituality that I thought long gone. Many years ago, I was very intrigued and drawn to Wiccan practices, but as I grew older, I felt I grew away from them. In the depression and strife of the last 18 months, my interior dialogue about beliefs and soul was silent. Then, quite suddenly, in the course of a month it was revealed to me that I had been walking a path I thought long abandoned.

Since Thanksgiving of 2011, I have been exposed to the ideals of kitchen/hedge witchery. Here, I find that so many of the things I had been doing which gave me joy and inner peace are actually things others are practicing. Who knew that I had been spell casting, circle casting, and practicing? Who knew that my feet never left the path, my mind just got distracted from it. I suppose the Universe knew, the Goddess knew.

So, here I am. All hepped up with nobody to talk to. I am singularly alone in this journey. There are those I can reach out to online, by phone, by e-mail, however, my daily walk is a solitary one. Thus, my envy of those who can post it on Facebook, wear it on their sleeve, put it on a bumper sticker.

Maybe I just need more time to explore this new/old stuff. Guess it as good a place to begin as any.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fresh Process

I am trying very hard this year to rewire my brain and adjust my thinking. Been too long listening to the crazy voice in my head that rants and raves and breaks me down. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job and then today I said the wrong thing (unintentional and taken the wrong way) at the wrong time. I apologized and I am pretty sure we left things in a decent place, but I felt like damage had been done that was hard to undo. Of course that nasty voice in my head took advantage and I rehashed it in my head the rest of the day.

Tonight, for the first time, I sat and filled a page with all the things I want to let go of, all the things I wanted to affirm, and all the things I wanted to change. Sometimes it was sentences, sometimes scrawled words in random order. When I was done, I placed my hands on the page and thought of all I had written, the emotion on the page, and the pain in my heart. Then, I took the page, ripped it deliberately into very small pieces and threw it in the fireplace. Curiously, the last recognizable word to burn away was FEAR.

It was amazingly uplifting to do this. I felt empowered and more in control of this stuff than I have in a very long time. I think I'll be doing this more often. Let FEAR be banished to the fire. I don't need it any more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Odd Girl Out

Here is a long-simmering question I have. When you are the odd gender out in your family, does it make you identify more or less with your gender of birth? To be clear.....

I am the only girl in my little family. There are days when I realize I have toured a steam train repair yard, ridden on a train, dug for fossils, and generally dug in the dirt with my "boys." On these days I may be heard to wail "I see no pink!" I feel so un-feminine and yet so ultra-feminine at the same time.

My question..... If you are the gender of minority (the only "boy" surrounded by "girls" or the only "girl" surrounded by boys) do you feel the same conflict?

Discovering my Inner Kitchen Witch

My home is my cathedral, my kitchen and hearth are my altar. Here I am centered, here I am whole. Here I nurture life, creativity, peace, and energy. Here I am fed and I feed.

My insides are alive with this new discovery of a greater practice that aligns with my solitary journey. Let my footsteps be true.