My backyard sanctuary is home to two new families.
Being an amateur photographer and Birder I use words like cute or sweet to describe the new families that have inhabited our decorative birdhouses on the patio. I call them chickadees but I’m not positive they are, so maybe one of you will know for sure.
Every year these little birdies spend a week or two preparing a new nest for their springtime babies. It is hard work to fly back and forth, collecting leaves, string, feathers, and twigs to weave elaborate homes for their soon-to-be eggs. Below you see our bird taking in a rather large piece of white, paper-thin material.
When the nest is built, the mother-to-be will unceremoniously enter the nest, lay eggs, and begin to brood. Although, we saw the birds building their nest, we were surprised when we peaked in one day and saw the mother looking back at us. Even if the mother were to be scared away, she will come right back for the two-week incubation period.
We definitely saw the little brown bird building the nest in the bluebonnet house, but during Easter weekend our son-in-law peeked into the white house and saw babies. How, we wondered and when did this happen?
Shortly after Easter the babies hatched in the bluebonnet house. We do not hear their faint cries yet, but there is quite a commotion that ensues nearly all day long as the parent birds fly back and forth, looking for food and bringing food to the babies. I read that when the eggs first hatch, the female will brood the young and the male will bring food. After brooding both female and male will search for food. Right now, I’m assuming the male flies out to locate worms, seeds, insects and berries. When his beak is full, he flies to one of the patio chairs and surveys the area. Then he will fly to the roof or a plant near the birdhouse, and after looking around, he will land on the perch, glance around, then stick his beak into the birdhouse.
Boo, Emmy Cat, and I are mesmerized at their beauty and diligence. We spend way too much time watching from the window and sometimes from outside, as I sit at the table quietly observing. Usually after a few minutes the birds will resume their work after they’ve decided I am no threat. Even the other birds watch with anticipation.
We have stacked more plants on the rack to deter any neighborhood cats or other animals from disturbing the new family, while we wish we could do more to keep them safe, nature has its way.
I would love to know from you fellow backyard Birders if these are chickadees? And are the brown ones in the same family? The brown and black/white birdies are both going to both houses! What’s going on? Boo said this is like an episode of Sister Wives!
Boo, the cat and I were all looking up toward the ceiling in the den. We stood up and walked, almost in synchronized form, following the sound as it moved around overhead.
“Whoa,” Boo said. “Whatever is in our attic is huge!”
After the third night of sounds, Boo determined it must be a large squirrel. At first, he used the regular sized trap we had once caught a rat with. He shelled some old pecans and put some inside the trap with a line of pecans leading up to the door. We continued to hear sounds the next night, so he went up to the attic and the trap was still set, but the pecans were gone.
Gol darn it!
Once more we tried the same trap and got the same results. No pecans and no squirrel.
A few days later, Boo came back from Home Depot with the mac-daddy of all traps and declared, “This will get him!” Him or her, whatever it was, could not out smart this trap. It was 32” long and 13” wide, with a large metal handle and a spring trap that was sure to surprise.
“Why don’t we just call Critter Ridders?” I suggested.
“No, it’s personal now. It ate half a bag of pecans.”
Looking in the pantry I gasped, “You gave that ‘whatever it is’ the good pecans from my friend Cynthia? I was saving those for another pecan pie.”
“I can’t set my trap with just any ol’ pecans, now. This is serious.”
And so, Boo went back into the attic, set the mac-daddy trap, and put the good pecans leading up to and inside. “This will get him.”
The next night was silent, so Boo went up to check and the pecans were gone, and the trap was still set. “Damn it to hell!”
“That bastard has got to be thirsty now after so many pecans, so Boo put a plastic container of water inside the trap and more pecans. “There goes our pecan pie,” I sighed.
Fast forward to 3:00 a.m. and a loud Snap! Bang! and Thud! We both bolted from the bed and Boo said, “We got him!” The last thing I remember was Boo saying he was going up to the attic to check. I went back to sleep, but the cat, with an anxious look, jumped into bed with me. I admit that later I realized I should have spotted Boo as he went up those creaky attic stairs at 3:00 a.m. but, I didn’t. I vaguely remember him saying it was a raccoon when he got back in bed. But the next morning Rocky Raccoon was in our trap sitting in the garage.
“He looks so cute,” I said.
“Well, he’s not that cute. He chewed up the water bowl and hissed at me as I carried him down.”
Boo fed him a few more pecans and drove him to a park about a mile away from our house. We were so happy and both of us were proud of Boo’s courage and ingenuity. “It’s the water that got him!” he said, and we high-fived.
THREE separate people told us that one mile was not far enough away and that sometimes raccoons will come back to the same house. We laughed!
One week later, early one morning while the cat and I were sittin’ ugly, we heard something in the attic. Emmy cat jumped to the top of her kitty condo and sat looking straight up at the ceiling, then her wide green eyes looked at me like ‘what the heck?’
When Boo got up, he went straight to work preparing the trap, water, and pecans, and two nights later…Snap! Bang! Thud!
This time I spotted Boo as he ascended the treacherous steps to the attic. I heard the usual string of cuss words as he yelled down, “He’s back, and he broke off the handle of the trap.”
I don’t know if you are familiar with raccoons, but they have long, slender arms, with long, sharp nails. That’s how he was able to get the pecans without even going into the trap the first time.
Boo began the slow descent down the rickety attic steps, while both hands held the trap. One step at a time, slowly he tried to stay balanced while Rocky continued to move around. He had thrown an old towel over the cage to help protect his hands from Rocky’s clawing.
“Be careful, Babe!” I hollered, trying to be supportive while standing behind a large shovel, ready to defend myself if necessary.
Before I knew what happened, the trap, raccoon and all, tumbled down the last few steps and landed upright on the garage floor. “Boo!! You dropped him!” I yelled.
“What about me? That bastard tried to claw me while I was carrying him down. He might have rabies. I could have fallen too.”
Well, Boo had to go to work so Rocky spent the day and night in his cage with the rest of the pecans. Boo even rigged a water dispenser to the top of the trap so he could get water.
The next morning when I went out to check on Rocky, he didn’t move and didn’t open his eyes when I rattled the trash cans and made more noise.
“He’s dead!” I whispered to Boo, while he was still asleep. “I think the fall killed him.”
When Boo came outside, Rocky perked up and opened one eye. He was still alive!
Boo bungeed the trap to the inside of the truck bed and we took off for greener pastures, so to speak. As we drove, Rocky put his arm out of the cage and with the air in his face, seemed to be enjoying a leisurely ride in the sunshine. He looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and almost smiled. Approximately ten miles away, we found a lovely, wooded area and let Rocky out of the cage. He paused just for a split second, as if to say farewell, but instead he pooped in his cage which fell onto the truck bed then he sprinted out into the woods. Our raccoon days were over.
Lest you think we are foolish, or suckers for pecan-loving raccoons, we will somehow find the point of entry. For right now, Boo declares we do not need professional help, but I am asking for prayers that no accidents, hazards or other rodents befall us, and that Boo is able to repair the damage that no doubt is on the roof and in the attic. But for now, I will bid adieu.
There are days, we all have them, where it seems everyone and everything around us is sharp. Sharp tones or answers to our questions that feel snippy and harsh. I call these tender days, a day when tears are close by and thoughts are deep. On these days I feel alone in an alien world that thrives on being blunt or quick. “I need something sweet, Lord,” I whisper in a quiet prayer. “I need something sweet.”
As I get older the tears fall more readily. They often are on the brink, ready to fall and just as close is a smile open and ready to fill my face. Maybe it’s because I realize I have less time to waste on foolishness, or hurtful people or things that don’t serve a loving purpose. I appreciate more the answered prayers that are sent to me. I feel the more I ask for sweetness in my life, the more is sent to me.
On one such tender day, two years ago, I was volunteering with my elderly Hospice patient. She had wanted to go to the grocery store, just to look around. I pushed her wheelchair up and down the aisles as she looked at make-up, smelled the candles, and marveled at the various types of crackers. We perused the Hallmark cards and bought some candy. She just wanted to feel normal for a change and I wanted that for her too. We had spent an hour wandering the aisles, when we got in line to check out. The woman behind us kept staring and smiling at us and finally she said to me, “Is this your mother?”
I smiled at my patient and said, “Oh, how I wish she was. We’re just good friends.”
The woman replied, “Well, you look beautiful enough to be mother and daughter.”
And my patient said, “I wish we were. She is the sweetest girl in the world to me.”
I bent down to hug my little friend, and we both had tears in our eyes. That was something sweet.
I always find when I whisper my need for something sweet, God is waiting and willing to send it. A smile from a stranger. A love pat from my husband. A phone call from my daughter. A thank you from a friend. There’s goodness on its way in many different forms if I am open to see it.
My dear friend Mary, who has since passed away, always encouraged me in my photography. She would call and ask if I wanted to walk the trails at the Wildflower Center, “Be sure to bring your camera,” she would say. Then as we walked, she seemed happy for me as I found butterflies or dragonflies just begging to be photographed. “Look over here!” she would say. “This butterfly is just waiting for you.” She never failed to compliment me or brag to others about my talent. She was something so precious that I can live on the memory of her sweetness for years to come.
I feel the blessings when I encounter kind and generous souls inside my day. The friendly cashier, gracious friends or a loving card in the mail. I feel so lucky because my inner whisper, “I need something sweet,” seems to send my guardian angels into overdrive sending me all manner of beautiful expressions. Even now as I sit at my desk, there is a gorgeous red cardinal outside my window especially for me to enjoy.
I pray to be reminded that when I whisper, “I need something sweet,” there are others, too, who are whispering. Perhaps it is within my power to be that source for someone else. I want to be mindful of their whispers, too. Take note of the whisper in your heart and the hearts of others. Ask God to let you hear the whisper and give you the courage to answer the call.
I did it! It has been one long year of Pandemic, COVID-SNOVID, and sheltering in place and I finally did it. I tried on my jeans.
For one harrowing year I have worn workout clothes. Lyra, polyester, stretchy cotton, and spandex. Nothing else. Oh, a few times during the hot summer I wore moo-moo type sundresses, but by and large it’s been workout pants.
I’ve dressed them up and even worn them the few times we’ve gone out to eat. I have not gone anywhere that had a dress code. I think I have even begun to fool myself into thinking no one cares. Psychologically, I feel that when I’m wearing my mask, no one can see me anyway. I already don’t wear makeup below my nose.
Teleconference with my doctor? Zoom party with friends? Texting? Church online? Curbside pickup? Who sees me anyway? And the worst part is that I haven’t cared.
Boo and I have been lucky enough to get our vaccines and it looks as though we may take a trip to Colorado soon. The bad news began as I smugly got out my ski pants and tried to put them on.
“Whoa! What’s going on in here?” Boo asked. “What’s all the grunting and groaning?”
“I’m trying on my ski pants. DON’T COME IN!”
Perilously I laid on the bed, flat as Flat Stanley, and slowly began to zip, careful not to pinch the extra skin that was not there five years ago when I easily wore two layers underneath. I finally got them zipped and hooked the closure, which looked as if the threads were disintegrating right before my eyes. I stood up.
“I can breathe,” I said to myself, but then I couldn’t sit back down.
That was a wake-up call, because I instantly thought of my jeans. I ooched out of my ski pants and went to the closet flipping through hangers with jeans that said: Straight leg, skinny jeans, low rise. Good grief! Where are my jeggings? My high waisted, relaxed fit? This was not for the faint of heart. I had to find one pair that fit.
I spotted my all-time favorite pair draped unsuspectingly under the low-rise jeans. “Please fit.” I begged them as I headed for the bed to assume the position.
“You’ve always been my favorite,” I crooned to my jeans. “You’ve never let me down. I need you.”
It’s not only that I mind getting a larger size, but also the whole trauma involved in finding a pair of jeans that fit perfectly and always work. It takes a lot of effort and confidence and frankly, I’m fragile after my spandex wearing, no make-up, pony-tail swinging covid year.
Just then, the sun started to shine, I heard a birdie outside my window, and I zipped my jeans and cautiously snapped them at the waist. As I stood looking in the mirror, I knew they didn’t look exactly like they did a year ago, but they zipped, and I was oh so grateful.
I have come to believe that nothing will ever be the same after this year. We’ve all developed a new way of interacting and behaving during this traumatic time. But friends, keep your eye on the positive, keep your sense of humor and for goodness sake, keep your favorite jeans…they just might fit.
My closest friends know I have issues about water. I worry we won’t have enough. I always bring my own and I don’t drink bathroom faucet water unless it is at my own home. I know that the tap water from the kitchen sink is the same water from the bathroom sink, and it’s not that I think your bathroom isn’t clean…it’s just that, well I’m not sure why. There is something about it that makes me squeamish. I’m not proud of this, mind you. I am just being honest.
I cannot go to Costco without purchasing a case of water and I carry bottles of water in my car at all times. Until this third week of February, when I was completely discombobulated by our freezing weather, loss of power and depletion of water. We had twelve bottles of water in the garage and just a mere trickle of droplets coming from our faucets before it completely cut off. As a former Girl Scout, I was totally chagrined at my lack of preparedness and cavalier attitude. My years of lecturing family, friends, and coworkers on the importance of drinking enough water every day and planning ahead fell flat as we stood at the sink for hours at a time to get enough drops to half fill a small saucepan with enough bad water to boil. We also scooped snow and stored it in a cooler to use for flushing the commode. Oh, the horrors and indignities we suffered!
It used to be, if anyone complained of a headache, I asked, “When is the last time you drank some water?” Stomachache, sore throat, bad mood? “Here, drink this glass of water.” Water is the answer to all your ills. I firmly believe that, and the fact that this week Boo and I have been less than cordial to each other on a few occasions just proved the point that we needed water.
When we travel, you can be sure that I have packed water bottles in my suitcase and cuties in my purse. Once, on a cruise, I brought a case of water and checked it like luggage. They actually let me do it and even brought it to my room.
“You embarrass me sometimes,” Boo said.
“Do you know they charge $6 for a bottle of water on the ship? You should be proud of me.”
Once, we were on vacation in Philadelphia. I had drunk all my water and asked Boo to go across the street from our hotel and purchase two bottles of water from a rather shady McDonalds.
“If I go, I’m going to smoke first.”
“OK,” I said.
I stood at our fifteenth-floor window and watched as Boo came out of the hotel. He smoked and then walked across the busy street toward the McDonalds. Then I saw three rather unsavory-looking guys approach him and they stood in a circle talking. One of the guys must have been the ringleader because he talked the whole time and gestured with his hands. I watched as Boo gave each of them a cigarette, opened his wallet, and handed the man who was talking, some dollar bills. I was yelling and waving my arms, but of course he couldn’t see me from the fifteenth floor. Then the main guy put his arm around Boo, and they turned around and all four walked down some dim lit steps that led to who knows where. I stood frozen as I watched them walk out of sight.
I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I had a vision of Boo being mugged and left for dead. He would be lying crumpled at the bottom of those stairs, with his empty wallet nearby, and blood gushing from a knife wound. I thought I should call the police, but I stood frozen watching out the window for what seemed like hours. I envisioned the police report and how I would have to admit I sent him out at 10:30 p.m. for bottled water. Seven long minutes later, Boo emerged from the dingy steps with his new best friend’s arm around him. They said goodbye at the corner and Boo walked up to the hotel, holding a McDonalds bag.
“Boo!!!! I’m so sorry. I was so worried and thought I should call the police, but I froze! I saw that guy with his arm around you. What happened?” I cried.
“Oh, they wanted to bum cigarettes and then said they were hungry, so I bought them all burgers. Then, the one guy told me he would escort me into the McDonalds and keep me safe from the riff raff while I bought the water. He said we would be friends for life. It was quite the experience. We had to go down some scary stairs to the Mickey D’s. The things I do for you.”
I was appreciative of Boo’s heroics, and I knew I may have pushed things a little too far. So, I got my own water from then on out, and tried to plan ahead. Which brings me full circle to our Polar Vortex, the very same one I was not prepared for. As Boo and I lamented about the fact that our only baths had been with baby wipes and we had drunk all the beer and Gatorade, I remembered a cheery bit of information to pass on.
“According to the Mayo Clinic, men should drink 15.5 cups of water a day. That’s only 124 ounces,” I quoted.
“Are you trying to drown me?”
“I don’t care, the Mayo Clinic is never wrong,” I said.
“Good, I love mayo on my ham sandwiches.”
My quote of statistics does fall flat in the light of February’s disaster for so many. My gratitude has grown for all of the things I have taken for granted. Clean clothes, clean dishes, clean water to drink. Not to mention so many without electricity and a warm place to stay. My fellow Texans have had a very rough few weeks, and I sincerely hope and pray things are getting back to normal considering the Pandemic and all. As for me, I promise to be better prepared, more grateful, and less haughty about ‘bathroom’ water.
Occasionally, as a child I would spend the night with my grandma. She lived in a small, stucco duplex on Hayden Street in Amarillo, Texas. Modest is an accurate term to describe my grandma’s house, modest and comfortable. Grandma lived a simple life and was quiet by nature, and since she did not own a television, her house was very quiet, too. The rattle or clang of pots and pans in the kitchen or the on and off of her sewing machine was the only noticeable sound, except for a long sigh or wince as she lowered herself into the swivel armchair by the window, smoothing her apron and rubbing her knees.
On the mantle, proudly displayed in the center, right above the little gas heater was her black mantle clock. The ticking sound was steady and rhythmic and set the tone for Grandma’s house…methodical, never rushed.
My brother and I would ask to wind the clock when it wound down, and often she would let us, but only under her watchful eye and direction. She kept the key that wound the clock safely placed behind it. We understood that if the clock was wound too tightly, dropped or mistreated in any way, it would have to be taken to a clock repair shop and that would cost money. We instinctively knew she did not have the extra funds for that, and so we treated her clock with much respect.
At night as I lay on the lumpy pull-out sofa bed, under two or three handmade quilts, I would fall asleep to the ever present rhythm of the clock. My heart would begin to beat in time with the ticking and I would be lulled into a deep, peaceful sleep. During the day, the clock struck on the hour and half hour with a coil gong striking sound, but at night the gonging sound never made it into my dreams.
Now, in my den, on the mantle is a little French, battery operated clock that reminds me of Grandma’s mantle clock. In the mornings I find it peaceful yet strong as it regulates my heartbeat and sets the perfect tone to ‘sit ugly.’ Listening to the steady ticking reminds me to relax and slow down before the demands of the day take over. There is so much noise in our world, so many sounds that assault us from morning till night. Alarm clocks, blaring music, angry news, sirens or car alarms to warn us of various violations. Have you ever noticed that even commercials are louder than the television show itself?
The other day, I bolted out the door to get in my daily walk. I was halfway through my route when I noticed that I had been “thinking” or at least having mental chatter the whole time. I almost wasted my walk, my time to recharge. When I quiet my mind and listen to nature, my walk is restorative. When I worry, think too much or rush my walk, I waste the gift of today.
Birdies singing, squirrels scampering, the rustle of the wind through the trees; these are the sounds that heal. Nature heals us if we will let it, if we listen to the rhythmic beat of the earth. Everything and every living being falls into the pattern flow of the earth and if we purpose it, our footsteps are like the clock, peaceful yet strong, left-right, left-right. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist priest and author of Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, said, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” As you walk, you are aware. Aware of your being, your thoughts, your surroundings, and your blessings. The blessings given to you by nature.
Grandma’s mantel clock was one of her most prized possessions. It was the center of her home and the focus of her life, especially as she got older. I think the steady ticking and hourly gonging comforted her and reassured her she was not alone. That classic, black mantel clock stayed with Grandma even in the nursing home, and when Grandma left this world, my brother became the proud recipient. He has it, even to this day, on his mantel, front and center.
We all need to find our rhythm, something that centers us and regulates our insides so that the outside world doesn’t wear us down or threaten our peace. Whether it is the steady ticking of a clock, the rhythmic pace of a mindful walk or sitting quietly with your hand over your heart, this is the day we have been given. We must embrace it. The path to peace is always methodical, never rushed.
I returned home Sunday, from a three-day girl’s weekend. The four of us have been friends for many years and really treasure our time together to talk, laugh, eat good food and maybe drink a little wine. As is my custom I usually call or text Boo when I am on my way home. “Time to kick out the dancing girls and stack up the beer cans!” I joke.
But, when I walked into the house on Sunday, I was immediately hit with the smell of Fabuloso (think Pine Sol with a big dose of lavender) and charred red meat.
“Wow Babe, did you clean while I was gone?” I asked.
“Oh, you know…I like to have everything looking good for my baby when she gets home.”
Lest you think I am an ingrate; I know his little secrets. Fifteen minutes before I walk in the door, he will Swiffer the entry hall, swish Fabuloso in the hall bathroom commode, open the blinds, fold the accent blanket on the couch and for a bonus effect he will start the dishwasher or a load of towels. This is his “cleaning” routine for his ‘baby’. It smells Fabuloso, but don’t look too closo.
“Did you girls have a good time?”
“Always! We talked and laughed the whole time and made a charcuterie board with fresh shrimp on the side.
“What kind of board?”
“Cheese, crackers, olives..just snacky stuff,” I said.
“Enough about me, what did you eat while I was gone? Something meaty?”
“Just the usual. Meat Lovers Pizza Friday night then Saturday, I cooked Baby back ribs on the grill, sausage links, and a New York Strip. I made salad and a fresh blueberry pie.”
“Oh, and I opened a can of green beans.” (opened is the operative word.)
Boo’s idea of salad is either iceberg lettuce with croutons and lots of dressing or it is Suddenly Salad, which is not really salad. Suddenly Salad is a macaroni, mayonnaise and secret packet concoction that has preservatives listed as the number one ingredient.
“Wow!” I said.
“I know,” he said with pride.
While I’m gone, I know he eats pretzels and M&M’s in bed and sleeps all night with the T.V. on, which is the opposite of the dark, quiet room I like.
I know he lets the cat sleep with him, in fact she acts indignant when I get home. She tries to get in on my side of the bed before I can and puts her little head on my pillow.
I know that days before I go out of town, he is making a secret grocery list with all the essentials: meat, meat, and more meat.
I know he made a pie, but I also know there’s a new package of Twizzlers, Caramel de Lites Girl Scout cookies, and Tootsie Rolls open in the pantry.
He watches the news and sports and an action movie on Netflix all at the same time, clicking back and forth. Denzel Washington is probably killing someone or blowing something up in between Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity and all the while corn is popping in the microwave, with real melted butter.
Boo goes all out for his staycations. I don’t begrudge him any of his fun and relaxation because he always lets me go and do whatever I want. He encourages me to see my friends and he genuinely wants me to be happy, and if he happens to have a weekend to himself then it’s a win-win. I applaud his self-sufficiency and creativity.
Boo is a self-actualized man who knows how to take care of himself. I would never have to leave him casseroles in the freezer for fear he would starve, and while we don’t always see eye-to-eye on nutrition or cleanliness, he’s capable and likes to think out of the box. He’s the yin to my yang, the Snoop Dogg to my Martha Stewart.
I know Boo really likes his time alone at home, just to chill and do his thing and I’m glad it’s not with the dancing girls and cold beer! So, if a few ribs, a little candy and 24/7 TV makes him happy who am I to spoil his fun?
In 1986 I began my love affair with Oprah. I loved her. I mean L O V E D her. During the early years I would race home from teaching school, throw my kids a snack and turn on the television. Propping my feet up, I would zero in on Oprah’s newest topic, challenge or guest. If one of the kids dared to interrupt, I was indignant. “Can’t you see I’m watching Oprah?” I did not want to be bothered by the real world when Oprah was imparting some important life lesson, weight loss miracle or reuniting a fractured family.
As the years went on, work plus family life did not allow a 4:00 p.m. break. We finally got a DVR and could tape her show, so I at least had my fix before bedtime.
As a true believer, I would often quote Oprah and her mentor Maya Angelou. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I admit I learned this lesson the hard way, but none the less, Oprah was right. If one of the kids would complain about not getting something, I would spout, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.” If Oprah said it, it was gospel.
I relished Oprah’s Christmas Give Away shows, even entering a lottery to get a ticket for the show. I saw myself screaming, jumping up and down and smiling ear to ear as I won a TV, toaster oven and adorable mink lined slippers. One year Boo gave me a subscription to Oprah’s magazine, and this fueled my even bigger fantasy, that I was one of Oprah’s friends. Once, Oprah told us about one of her favorite snacks, which I took to be mine, as well. Wasa cracker, thin layer of light mayo and a slice of deli turkey. Delicious and low calorie. One spring I literally lived on Oprah’s favorite snack, ignoring the fact that Oprah obviously had many other favorite things as well as snacks.
I was there when she lost, then gained, then lost her weight. I watched as she discovered her half-sister. I was a member of her Book Club and I watched The Color Purple. I laughed when she laughed, cried when she cried, and I always believed Stedman was her soul mate. I was unsuspecting when the worst thing imaginable happened…The Oprah Show came to an end. May 25, 2011 was a dreadful day indeed. Who would I become without Oprah? I was depressed and despondent as I shuffled through the few hours between work and bed, and I resented her desire to do something else. “What about me?” I cried.
Soon, she started her OWN network, and I watched the Super Soul Sunday’s, and did my best to hang in there with O. It just wasn’t the same and soon, my attention dwindled. Boo became fed up with my moping around and declared my depression was all in my head.
“Get over it already,” he admonished. “Just let go and go on with Dr. Phil.”
“Easy for you to say,” I cried. “You don’t know Oprah like I do.”
It was hard, but I did recover. I’m just grateful that I had Oprah for as long as I did. I want her to be proud of me and know that I am doing just fine these days. I want her to know she was my inspiration and my role model. And if I close my eyes, I can still see her smiling and saying, “YOU get a car! And YOU get a car! And YOU get a car!!!” Her generous spirit lives on!
My little Auntie Sue always said she was going to give Eve a ‘talkin to’ when she got to Heaven. Never a complainer, she did want to tell Eve how miserable life with menstrual cycles, menopause and adult diapers was. She blamed Eve for all of this and wanted to give her the ‘what for.’ It’s been several years now since Auntie Sue got to Heaven so I’m sure by now they’ve had their talk. Being a reasonable soul, I’ll bet Sue got it out of her system and all is forgiven. She never was one to hold a grudge…for too long. Unless you continuously interrupted her sittin’ ugly time or messed with her family, then she could positively be ninety pounds of bulldog fury.
Every morning, at the crack of dawn, she would make her one and only cup of Sanka and sit down to read her Bible and her Alanon book. This was her sittin’ ugly time. Her quiet time to get her mind straight for the day. And then she was off like a bolt of lightning, hitting the trail for her morning mile with her sporty red walker. Down the hall, down the elevator, past the common room, across the solarium, outside, down the sidewalk and across to another part of the building then back up the elevator and down the hall to her apartment 215. She would do this twice a day, adjusting for rain or snow, as Oklahoma City was prone to have. “You have to walk or die,” she would say. And I believe her.
My little Auntie was over-the-top with enthusiasm. If I came for a visit, she would say it was the best visit ever! Every rent car I drove from the airport was the best car ever. It was always better than the last one. Every joke she heard, was the funniest thing ever told. Every meal was the most delicious. Every game of Skipbo was more fun than the last and everyone she met received a compliment. She was genius at complimenting even the hardest shell. She was thankful for every phone call, card, and hug. She was generous with her money and always tithed to the church, even on a fixed income. She was fiercely loyal to her family and loved her only child more than life itself.
If she was here and heard me going on and on…tooting her horn, she would argue that she was not perfect, she had faults. Maybe she did, but I never saw them. Her five-foot frame, ninety pounds soaking wet, shock of white, curly hair and easy smile was perfect to me. Her true grit, determination and positive attitude was perfection. Auntie Sue had it all and everyone wanted to be her friend, even her would-be foes.
Like her issue with Eve, there are many things in life we don’t understand now. There are loved ones who leave us too soon, and some things we know in part but won’t know the true reason until we’re in the by and by. That’s just the way it is.
January 19th would have been Auntie Sue’s ninety-ninth birthday. Those of us who knew her and loved her, still miss her every day. She was a loyal and loving wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend and there will always and forever be only one, Ysleta Davis Lane aka Auntie Sue, the original Sittin’ Ugly Sistah!
Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I had a white ‘My Diary’ journal in sixth through eighth grade. It had a tiny key so I could lock up my secrets safely from prying eyes. I’m positive I wrote about daily occurrences and boys I liked or who said what about something or other. I wish I could remember what happened to ‘My Diary’. Maybe it made it to a landfill somewhere, fully intact, secrets safely hidden. Maybe I dramatically ripped out each page and tore it into a million pieces to protect my thoughts… I don’t recall its demise.
Once, I came across some writings from high school where I had copied the words from songs. During one particular romance, it was that song by the Turtles: “Imagine me and you…I do. I think about you day and night, it’s only right…. So happy together!” The name of the boy is nowhere on the pages, and quite possibly he didn’t even make it to the end of the song, but I had pages of songs written out. I must have listened to my albums playing over and over to get the words, because there was certainly no google lyrics to look up.
In my early twenties, my then husband and I tragically experienced the stillbirth of our first daughter together. The months afterward were dark for me, and I have since found the poems I wrote during that time. The poetry of my grief was written in sprawling handwriting on sheets of stationary and somehow, I preserved them, guarding my grief like the protective mother I wanted to be. I still feel the sadness written onto those pages. It rises from each word like heat off a summer sidewalk.
I saved the hysterical letters I later got from my girls when they were at summer camp. I’m sure my letters to them were discarded long ago, but theirs are short and confessional.
Dear Mom, I’ve worn the sme cloths evryday, but they made us take showers and eat cantelope. Send stamps! Luv, Courtney
Sittin’ Ugly Sistahs, the antics of life that Ginger and I share with you, as well as the birth of my memoir, I Thought It Was You are recent projects that fill me with joy and at times, angst. I feel as though to write is to live. To breathe is to write. Words scrawl across my mind like an old-fashioned typewriter clicking away. The one thing that remains the same is my fear at being vulnerable and, in contrast, the exhilaration of facing my fear.
I’ve learned an awful lot about myself since beginning this writer’s path. I’ve seen boldness and shyness live on the same page.
I’ve pushed myself to see parts of my life I long ago buried.
I’ve resurrected bravery.
I’ve accepted that not everyone wants to read what I have written, and I’m learning not to take that personally because I have to write. It’s part of who I am. And whether trolls on the internet agree with me or not, I am a writer.
Whether an agent takes my book or not, I am a writer.
Whether my husband, children or grandchildren ever read a word I’ve written or not, I am a writer.
Whether somedays I don’t believe it myself, and my inner critic is screaming ‘You’re Not Good Enough!!’ I am a writer.
I am a writer with a writer’s soul.
I am a writer.
“I can shake off everything as I write, my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”