Carbon Friendprint

 

_DSC8278“Your pineapple plant has survived too!” I said to my dear friend, “Mine has even sprouted a second one.”

She leaned down, faffed with the fronds and said, “Looks like I have another one too.”

I leaned down to see her baby, just far enough to accidentally tip my open water bottle out onto her porch. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry, can I clean that up before I go?”

My friend waved me off, assuring me that it was no big deal. This is her nature. Always. Without exception. Nothing is ever a problem. She puts others first.

Driving home I thought about the mess I’d made on her porch, and even though it had been nothing more than water, I was struck by the blessing of her grace; how the most precious people in my life extend this gift effortlessly. I thought about the ease of some friendships and the difficulty of others.

Then I thought about the scent we waft, the residue that remains, the mark we leave upon friends we’ve spent time with, the way our presence either raises or lowers their blood pressure: our carbon friendprint.

Not too long ago, likely inspired by being plucked out of a few lives, I went through a mental weeding of my own (not an angry one, mind you), a process of evaluation: a selfish bout in which I questioned the value of nearly every relationship I claimed to hold dear.

Eventually I gave myself permission to let some grow and to let others fall back into fallow ground—no hard feelings for the closeness we failed to nurture, no regret over the empty bounty. A realization dawned: letting them go meant they would find others skilled at giving them what they needed, others who could plant, water and fertilize a beautiful friendship. What I or they or both of us had let die could be reborn, experience having taught us what matters most.

Our friendships are much like Earth’s precious resources, their preservation requiring us to eat locally grown food, or even better, to plant our own…to limit our negative impact on our planet.

Reminded today by an accidental splash of water to celebrate the beauty of my amazing galaxy of friends, all of whom leave the smallest friendprint imaginable, I am inspired to also tread with lighter, gentler, more graceful steps.

 

 

 

 

Abrupt

stormI’m not sure which came first, his fear or mine.

We were standing there, his sweaty hand wrapped around my dry one, his head cocked slightly to the left as he began to lean in for our first kiss (to hell with his mother’s opinion of me).

Screams erupted behind us, just beyond the wooded path we had traveled moments before and we both jumped and screamed in response, the romantic moment totally wrecked of course.

These parts were known for creepy, unexplained happenings (like deaths and stuff), which is why we had chosen to come to this exact spot; we wanted to reenact one of the murders, minus the dying part of course, and it was all supposed to have started with a kiss.

Now we were totally freaked out and shaking; the only way back to the car blocked by the screaming—until a young naked, shrieking couple emerged, shivering and muddy; the sudden downpour having rudely interrupted their activities.

 

Five Sentence Fiction, of Lillie McFerrin fame, offered up “rain” as this week’s writing challenge. 

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Ellie’s Shoes

Ellie's Shoe CollectionFor years I had known of my sister’s shoe collection. Strangely, I had never asked to see it. When she died the collection came to me; a nondescript brown box taped up and labeled “Ellie’s Shoe Collection.” Sure, I was curious, but I couldn’t open it;  couldn’t risk opening myself up to the barrage of emotions that would surely overtake me if I did. I put it up on a high shelf in the garage where it sat safely until I moved, seven years later. By this time I was helping Mom get settled into an assisted living facility nearby and was again unable, unwilling, or just too busy to open the ever-mysterious box of shoes. I had even considered taking it — unopened — over to the local Goodwill facility. Surely someone else would enjoy this box of shoes more than I would. Heck, I thought, I’m not even a shoe person. But I couldn’t do it and the box stayed under the stairs for another two years before I discovered it again. This time I opened it and began to unwrap a few of the bundles, curiosity getting the better of me. Cramped in a small space and pressed for time, I reconsidered and quickly wrapped up what I had started, sealed up the box and placed it on another high shelf in my garage.

_DSC8186Last weekend while reorganising (my husband is English; hence the fun spelling) a new round of chaos, I came across the box again.  Ten years, I thought, I’ve had Ellie’s shoe collection for ten years. It’s time to see what’s inside. I cleared a space and began. The ceramic baby booties were the first to appear; the ones I had seen before. Then came a pair of shoes that shocked me: vintage black heels with white polka dots and flowers, possibly Japanese. My first thought, oddly enough, was that my friend, Deborah Batterman, author of Shoes Hair Nails, should be standing next to me. She loves shoes. She would love this unveiling of them, I told myself. I continued unwrapping, mesmerized by an eclectic display of delicates that seemed in direct opposition to my sister’s personality: envision a beautiful yet rugged, athletic, sensible-shoe-wearing lesbian. Heels? Seriously El? I laughed…the pile of wrapping growing as large as the unexpected joy I was feeling; my smile huge.

_DSC8191Boots came next — made of metal, glass and wood; large, small and tiny. These seemed more in keeping with sis – she would have connected boots to my brothers, father, and grandfather; all in the building industry, all wearers of boots. The moccasins fit as well – she loved them, and bought them for me too. She and I were practical when it came to our footwear. This I could get behind.

Ellie's Shoe Collection But each time I unwrapped another delicate pair of shoes; the kind Carrie Bradshaw would have coveted, my emotions swirled. Moved? By shoes? Ah, but these were my sister’s shoes; shoes she had collected over many years. Each time she purchased a miniature set of flowery heels or sexy lace-up boots had she wondered what it would have been like to wear a fancy dress and some pretty Manolo Blahniks?  Or did she imagine a lover, dressed to the nines to impress her?

_DSC8262

Emmie and Ellie, my older twin sisters

Perhaps these shoes spoke of a time in the past, a time when she and her twin had been carefree, shirtless little girls running around, blonde curls bobbing beneath matching white cowboy hats; a time before she had had to struggle through an identity unaccepted by the world, especially the teaching world of which she was a part.  Did this box of shoes represent more than a haphazard collection of miniatures? Did it represent all the facets of womanhood, versus the exact spot on the sexual spectrum where she had unwittingly landed?

_DSC8210When Mom’s actual baby shoes appeared, bronzed to last-forever-perfection, I choked up. Even though I had seen these before, displayed in my childhood homes, I hadn’t been expecting them to show up in El’s collection. Had this pair of shoes been the catalyst for all the rest?

_DSC8213

Once I had them all laid out I arranged them in sections: boots, asian shoes, baby shoes, high-heeled shoes, moccasins, clogs, ballet slippers, a single roller skate, and even a glass slipper. Who would have thought that a small box of replicas I had pointedly ignored and very nearly discarded could provide unexpected healing — the shoes a perfect vehicle for walking past the pain; a bit of panache and bling thrown in for good measure and much-needed humor. Brilliant, Ellie, just brilliant.

Shoe shopping anyone?

Signs of life: watering miracles

IMG_20140611_093829

Somehow my birthday flowers don’t get watered, only “vased” — in the mad scramble to pull off the surprise party, adding water to the vase falls low on the priority list. Days later I discover them, their parched petals mottled into a spotty disarray not unlike a child crumpled on the floor at the end of an exhausted tantrum; a tangled mess that doesn’t look anything like its original form. Still, I can’t part with them so I hang these Helianthus annuus from the shelf that holds the wine; they’ll be happy here I think. Weeks later I discover them again, note their dried perfection and start thinking about all the strange and wonderful ‘signs of life’ that have been turning up where I have been expecting atrophy instead.

IMG_20140611_095820

This orchid has been nearly dead more than once over the past eighteen months.  After my friend Sandra (my husband’s previous wife) passes away we eventually move this plant from it’s safety on their old kitchen ledge to the home we are merging together. En route it is dropped down a flight of stairs then pieced back together, barely. The second time, looking nearly dead already, it crashes to the floor of our garage before finally making it to the kitchen, where it sits safely for nearly a year. Miraculously, having at least been watered, it grows without us noticing and then blooms on Sandra’s birthday weekend. Now it’s having babies — note the “roots” in two places that will eventually be potted separately to form new orchid “mothers.”

IMG_20140611_101606

I’ve written about this African violet before. It’s my mother’s plant, one I hesitantly adopt in 2010 when she moves into a senior living facility.  It falls off the care radar and nearly perishes in 2013. In fact one day when Mom is on hospice care, taking the last of her 529,804,800 breaths, I am plucking the tired little clump that remains — have my fingers in its earth — when I see a bit of green. Shoving the sorry roots back into the dirt, I give it a quick water, relieved I won’t need to say goodbye to it as well, at least not just yet. You’d think that near misses would inspire me, yet all I can manage is keeping the pot filled with water (it’s the bottom-absorbing kind). Bloom food? Nope. Never. And then, a few months later, when I am forced to weed through the details of her estate, losing relationships with my brothers in the process, I see a purple flower, then another and another and another, until I realize the whole thing is covered in them; so many leaves filling the small pot that their corresponding flowers have to duke it out just to be seen. I stand in front of this striving thriving miracle, silent, reverent; tears form in the corners of my unbelieving eyes. Hi Mom, I say, grateful beyond words that she has orchestrated this brilliant mass of violet reassurance. It’s been blooming ever since, sans bloom food, and begins to bloom again today as I write this piece.

IMG_20140611_112627

Late last March I am in the side yard, my gloves covered in the kind of muck that happens when I leave things out in the rain; things rodents love to hide under but eventually get cleaned up, when I see some green peeking out of an abandoned blue pot of what used to be the incredible lilies my mother was proud of. The last time they bloomed it was because they lived in my daughter’s yard and were cared for. When I eventually bring them home, I promptly forget about them —oh, for about two years, until this very moment when I cannot believe my eyes. Rain water is the only moisture this dirt has seen, and we’ve been having a drought for the past couple of years. I am incredulous and then urgent. It can’t stay in the midst of this dirty chaos. Getting closer, I am stunned to see about fifteen thriving leaves and three lilies nearly ready to open. The pot is heavy, so I drag it around to the front, and up two stairs to place it where it remains today. Chinese lilies, I find out, are typically given to young women on their wedding day or birthday. I am not young, but I find it meaningful that these have chosen to bloom just days away from my fiftieth birthday.

IMG_20140611_095523My son, now eleven, planted this plumeria when he was four; the take-home from a planting class at our local community center he took with his little sister. Neglected (by me) and nearly ready for the trash a few years ago, my older daughter rescues it; researching, in her typical fashion, the best way to care for these gems. It isn’t long before leaves began to sprout and she gives it back to me for continued care, which I don’t do. Nope. I neglect it, again. Though it doesn’t die, our relationship does and the poor plant is left on its own — again; a sad reminder of the state of things. The circumstances of the end of this relationship are nebulous still, at least to me, but I accept the fact that I haven’t always given my children what they’ve needed and that sometimes things fall apart; things that are my fault. Still, I place the poor plumeria on the front porch and try to remember to water it now and again. I remind myself that this poignant stalk of “holy fuck I miss her” is an organism whose cells are protected by a thick rigid wall, much like my feelings. One afternoon I discover buds. I add water and try not to hope, but a couple of weeks later I see leaves, leaves that don’t die but keep growing. They’re growing still.

Miracle

I’ve successfully grown things before, but the past few years have been so busy with painful endings and intoxicating beginnings that to plant things requiring maintenance has been unthinkable. I’m ready now with a newfound confidence that surprises me; I’m not just waiting for miracles, I’m expecting them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veronica

Street Signs Freeway Morph

“It’s time. Everyone’s sleeping?”

“Yes. Put this blindfold on while I change. I’m driving. No peeking”

“I see the  chapel!  Do you have the rings?”

 

The marvelous and marvelously hilarious Jayne Martin tossed out a challenge: Hint Fiction. A beginning, middle and end in just 25 words or less. Join in the fun. Give it a whirl here. 

 

 

 

What Isn’t Sexy

body image
Sometimes I long for the days when my body was simply a vehicle for self-expressive fun: climbing trees, playing dodgeball, or my favorite–chasing boys. I didn’t worry about what it looked like or how it compared to other girls’ bodies. I certainly didn’t worry about what other boys thought of it. That burden came later.

Somewhere along my personal broken road, in between puberty and motherhood, I became aware of my imperfections and began trying to change them. I was already an athlete, so becoming a runner came easily. A quick diet, however, turned into nearly a decade of on-and-off Bulimia. My self-esteem sank lower and lower. Hell-bent on improving myself from the inside out, I adopted a mantra: I love my strong, healthy, beautiful body. I said it often, although it sounded silly and wasn’t true.

That affirmation slowly began to change how I felt about my body. I took care of myself; I looked good in my clothes. Getting naked was another issue entirely. Intimacy was something I merely endured. Taking off my clothes for someone, unless the lights were low (preferably off), made me feel self-conscious. Imperfect breasts, roadmaps of stretch marks, and various other parts I felt didn’t measure up made it difficult to just relax and enjoy my partner.

Where had I developed such a surety about what was required to turn a man on–what was required to enjoy sex? Sadly, the vast majority of sexual images of the magazines, movies and television of my youth featured insanely perfect women, women who had either been Photoshopped or genetically blessed. While I was comparing myself to these unrealistic images, my male friends were fantasizing to similar but less chaste images they hid in their closets or under their beds.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder how many women have been through similar battles with their bodies; battles heightened by unrealistic images of what men should find sexy. Sure, beautiful bodies are sexually alluring, but fantasy sex is not the same as the deep, fulfilling intimacy that real men have with real women who embrace their sensual selves, imperfections notwithstanding.

Sensuality is sexy. So is confidence. How many times do we derail our sex lives by worrying about how good our bodies look? How many times are we “not in the mood” because our skinny jeans didn’t fit that day? How much darned good lovin’ could we be enjoying if we just let ourselves go?

Men certainly find beauty in women of different shapes and sizes, but more than anything, I have learned, they are turned-on by how desirable we make them feel and by how desired we let ourselves be.

In the end, being perfect isn’t what makes us sexy.

Aftertaste


The cold didn’t bother me; the shivers wracking my body were well worth the price of the much needed darkness, the favor of a shrouded moon. I sat with my arms wrapped tightly around my scrunched up legs, my feet frozen and bare, kneading the moist earth beneath them. Tears weren’t an option for they would do nothing to ease the pain and they certainly wouldn’t change the ridiculous choices I had made, nor the ones she had forced me into. Without anyone attempting to reach me, she had died, been buried and properly mourned; her life celebrated for its passionate creativity and for the fierce hold she had had on those who loved her. Every shred of hope I had harbored that there would be at least a single moment to love her again (not that I had ever stopped, mind you) was gone, and the only way I knew to get through such a tragedy was to embrace the blessed darkness and endure the bitter cold just as I had endured the bitterness she had died tasting.

Aftertaste is my response to Lille McFerrin’s weekly Five Sentence Fiction challenge. This week’s word: moon

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Without

Malice - Snake

Ignoring the obvious veiled reference to sex, his words landed softly. Ignoring the lustful look, his eyes comforted her. Ignoring the bittersweet memories in her loins, his advances titillated her. Ignoring the knot that immediately rose up in her gut; a tugging she knew all too well, she smiled wantonly. What she couldn’t ignore were the tears streaming down her beautiful face; tears willing to comfort and caress a man who had certainly been through the kind of ordeal that comes not from malice, but from ignorance and a circle of pain that could only be broken by the kind of love that she was willing to give.

This entry is in response to Lillie McFerrin’s weekly challenge to take one word and caress five and only five sentences out of it. This week’s word: malice

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Tame

Mom's African Violets

It wasn’t that she didn’t have a green thumb, it was just that she was a “Jack of all Trades” and it was impossible to keep up with all the things that she could possibly be great at some day, given enough time and space to spread her wings. At least this is what she told herself over and over again, and especially any time that self-doubt did not have its way with her. Mastery was not her forte, and yet she craved it just like she craved a best-seller, a number one hit, and the perfect body.

So when her mother’s African Violet began to fade away (only one small bunch even slightly green) while an oxygen machine was the only thing sustaining eighty-four years of life, she chalked it up to one more thing that did not get her full attention, versus the failure that it should have been.

Imagine her surprise one day, a few months after her mother’s death, when that damned dying African Violet decided to be wild and bloom like nobody’s business, despite a lack of bloom food, despite a “green-thumb” caretaker, and despite the nagging mourning of the daughter who, as it turned out, needed those little purple flowers to bloom more than she could have possibly known.

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Tweet

Mama

Mom dancing

While her husband sat, mouth taut, fists clenched, jealousy raging, Mom danced. She and Chris whirled around the room with abandon.

I watched, camera in hand, from the middle of the massive glass doors which had just been pushed wide open upon my entrance into the grand retirement home where Mom lived. Click. Click. Click. The smile on her face said it all, and I had captured it.

Later, after pulling the photographs off my memory card, I smiled again upon remembering the sheer joy I had seen on her face.

Last March after Mom died I used one of the photos for her obituary; I wanted her friends to see her undeniable happiness; something that had eluded her for many years.

A few days ago I came across the photo unexpectedly while searching for something unrelated. Though I had seen the photo a handful of times already, this time I noticed something I hadn’t picked up on before: Mom was staring and smiling contentedly AT HER WEDDING RING.

Instantly I knew.

Instantly I was standing in her body, her powerful mind transporting us both to the ecstasy of true romantic love; she was dancing with my father, the love of her life.

I find it both fascinating and comforting that prior to me having found the love of my life, I hadn’t noticed the stunning significance of the photo. Despite forty-four years of being apart, my mother never stopped loving my father, and though she wore another man’s ring on her finger, what she saw was the ring my father had given her nearly sixty-six years prior. In that moment with Chris, the dance instructor, she was gloriously transported to a magical evening from the past.

Perhaps today Mom is smiling from Heaven at the timing of my unexpected revelation–how it coincides so nicely with the fact that I have finally found my own true love. It’s really all she ever wanted for me: to be truly happy. I am Mom, I am.

I think I’ll take some dance lessons…

Mom and Dad