In the early morning hours, before anyone else is up, while the cat is still stretching languidly in her chair, I begin my day. In this quiet early hour, I can hear the thud of the newspaper being thrown on the sidewalks, the coffeemaker finishing the last few drops and I hear the solid, steady tick of our clock on the mantle. This is my selfish hour. This is my cherished solitude. I must have it!! This is my time to drink coffee and absolutely, unequivocally “sit ugly.”
Sittin’ Ugly is a family tradition passed on by my 88-year-old Auntie Sue. Her mother did it, she does it and now I do it. I’m sure lots of other people on earth are doing it, but to do it correctly is an art. The skill of sittin’ ugly is learned and perfected through years of practice. There are rules of course, and above all, one must respect another’s right to sit ugly. There should be no judgment, the fact is, one just simply does…..sit ugly.
Everyone has their own way to sit ugly. But there are guidelines that I find very comforting and helpful to follow. Anyone that is new to the art will surely want to comply. The rules are as follows:
1. There must be coffee. Preferably freshly brewed with everything extra that you need, (cream, sugar, etc.) and of course the favorite mug. I’ve never known a tea drinker to sit ugly, but I suppose it could be done.
2. No talking!! No one speaks to you-you speak to no one. Sometimes it may be necessary to point or grunt especially if you have small children and they absolutely must encroach on your time. But, the only talking truly allowed is to yourself.
3. You must sit. My favorite spot is an oversized chair by the window. Above all else, you must pick a comfortable, familiar place to sit. It is always good to be able to put up your feet and have a little table nearby. Your sittin’ area should be away from anyone else who might be awake.
4. You may be asking yourself, now what? I have the coffee. I’m sitting quietly. Now what? The “what” to do part is really up to you. Sometimes I just sit and stare while sipping my coffee. Staring is perfectly allowable and even encouraged. I also read my daily devotionals and have long conversations with God. I contemplate my day and my life. I think. I don’t think and then I may stare some more, all the while continuing to drink my coffee. This part may go on for as long as necessary. One hour is perfect for me.
5. Lastly, about this “ugly” part. Sittin ugly simply means that you come as you are, straight from bed. No primping allowed! One must be ones’ self. Tattered nighty? That’s ok! Acne medicine dotted on your face? Beautiful! Scruffy old favorite robe and slippers? The older the better! Sittin’ ugly is actually a super-natural phenomenon that makes you more good-looking. The longer you have time to sit, the better you will look and feel. Try it and see!
Sittin’ ugly is my personal time. It is my favorite time of the day. Sometimes I can hardly wait to get up in the morning just to sit ugly. I am always at my best while sittin’ ugly, mainly because no one is speaking to me or me to them. What a joyous, peaceful time! What a perfect way to start your day, in fact for me, it is a necessity.
Some mornings my little Auntie will call me and ask, “Honey, are you sittin’ ugly or can you talk?” It is always good manners to ask first, in case one is not ready for conversation. Attempting dialogue before ready may result in hurt feelings, premature agreements, or regret, so approach your morning chitchats with caution.
My friend, here’s to “Sittin’ Ugly”, to having this special time each and every day and to the millions of us who find it necessary for the sustainment of sanity. And, here’s to my precious Auntie Sue and all the beautiful ones who “sit ugly”.
My little Auntie Sue passed away after her 90th birthday. She always had a kind word to say about everyone; she always looked for humor in every situation; she was always grateful and she always sat ugly…every morning and claimed it was the reason for her good health and good fortune. I miss her every day. RIP Auntie Sue!
The day after Christmas, Gary and Evan drove from Austin, Texas to Mariposa, California to visit Evan’s fiancee Tashea and to spend time in Gary’s mecca – Yosemite Valley – where he had rented heated tent cabins in Curry Village. Ever since he spent time there when he was eighteen, the park has beckoned Gary back, and he dreams of buying property near the park. To quote John Muir: “Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.”
Three days later, a woman from Yosemite National Park called me.
“Gary?” she said.
“No, I’m his wife. Is everything ok?”
“I’ve been trying with no luck to reach Gary. A big snow storm is hitting the park tonight, so we have to cancel his tent cabin rentals.”
“Oh no! For all three nights? Gary will be devastated.”
“We’re canceling on a day-by-day basis. Might just be one night.”
I sighed. “I so hope so. Are y’all ok now?”
And this compassionate stranger and I chatted about how wonderful Yosemite is and I shared my husband’s love affair with the park. “Gary’s 76 years old,” I said. “Yosemite is his favorite place on earth. He worked there when he was eighteen, and we’ve visited several times, taking our three sons when they were little and just this June with their significant others. Last night he got to the Yosemite Bug with our youngest son and his fiancee.”
“He should stay at the Bug,” she said. And she gave me the number for Gary to call when I reached him.
I used Messenger to give Evan the number, but because of spotty cell phone reception, he didn’t receive the news until they were on a bus with their luggage headed to the park. Two hours later Gary called.
“They cancelled our tents?! Where are they gonna put us up?”
“It’s not like that,” I said. “The woman said you should stay at the Bug.”
I heard him huffing and puffing. “I’m walking to the office now. Gotta go.”
That evening Evan called. “What did you tell the lady in Yosemite? All the workers acted like they knew Dad when we walked in. They’re letting us stay at a cottage in Curry Village tonight and giving us an employee’s discount!” Talking with a stranger about my family had brought us unforeseen kindness. We had connected over our love of Yosemite and she showed empathy for an old guy and his son.
I enjoy talking with strangers because I’m curious about their lives. Like the cashier who works weekends at the 7-Day Food Store down my street who stays upbeat even after an attempted holdup. Or the young teacher who first exchanged waves with me and now gives me vegetables from her garden.
We rightly tell young children, “Don’t talk to strangers,” to protect them from sickos. But as adults, shouldn’t we feel free to talk with strangers? To make a connection, to commiserate, to say, “I see you. You’re not invisible or insignificant.”
Stranger talk starts with weather comments. I don’t try dangerous topics like politics, religion, or pandemic advice. But I smiled behind my mask when a very short woman who walks her very fat dachshund wanted to show me pictures of her grandkids on her phone. We always wave now, and I feel less alone on chilly morning walks because most strangers and I have more similarities than differences. Our encounters feed the fresh-faced optimist inside me and send my pimply pessimist with chronic indigestion and facial tics to her room for an indefinite time-out until she’s rediscovered her sense of humor.
The pandemic has separated us in a list of necessary ways, but aren’t we all still struggling to get on with life the best we can? If I ask a stranger, “What’s your dog’s name?” or tell a waiter, “Cool tattoo,” am I not making a connection? Not in the generic, robotic, “Have a nice day,” way. Specificity counts. This past fall, a school crossing guard and I bonded over both being from Louisiana, so right before Christmas, I gave her some boudin from Lafayette. We exchanged holiday greetings and our names that day.
Some friends give me a hard time about talking to strangers. They roll their eyes and take a few steps back as they maybe mutter, “There she goes again.” But I want to be like the protagonist on my favorite TV series Better Things. Writer, actor, and director Pamela Adlon ’s protagonist Sam Fox shares time with a quiet man on a film set or she gets to know the mother of her daughter’s Mormon friend. Her honesty creates powerful moments in her show. I’d say that a key rule when talking with strangers is “understanding, not judging.”
Talking with strangers has given me memories I treasure:
*taking a selfie with a scruffy guy at 7 a.m. outside Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans.
*getting a list of good places to eat in Montreal from a couple, nicknamed the Professor and Maryanne, who owned a tiny coffee shop and who got jazzed when I told them,”I’m Ginger!” So the three of us posed for a Gilligan’s Island tribute pic.
*meeting a groovy neighbor six years ago as we both walked our large dogs. She has become a close friend and the mother of my three amazing “practice grandchildren”!
Strangers have enriched my life, and even though every encounter is not hitting the jackpot, connecting with someone else may add serendipity to my life. I never know when a casual chat can lead to knowing three of the most wonderful children in the world!
No matter the species, I can strangle any root system or poison any shoot system in the modern botanical nomenclature.
I do enjoy plants, especially herbs like mint and basil and flowers such as magnolias and azaleas. I have tried for decades to keep small cacti and large-leafed friends alive, yet like a demented serial killer I can destroy what I admire.
Relatives and friends have tried over the years to break the curse of my plant murders. Just last year Cousin Claudia, who can work magic in any yard with her easy-going optimism, gave me a “condo warming” gift: an air plant. “You can’t kill it,” she said as she set it atop my great-grandma’s pie safe where it gasped its final breath thirteen days later.
I have a knack for overwatering or under-watering green things. In 2018 when we planned to sell our house, I needed indoor and outdoor plants to help give our place a welcoming vibe, so my Master Gardener friend Cynthia showed up to help. She is a modern day Artemis who is in tune with nature’s trees and flowers as well as the woodland creatures. She chose hearty plants from Home Depot for us and wrote detailed directions for their care before she left me alone with the blooming babies. Cynthia also got me a teen-aged ficus for staging the place for prospective buyers. She decluttered our home and had chrysanthemum “pops of color” for the front yard. My place was as neat and clean as a young private awaiting her first morning inspection from a hard-nosed drill sergeant.
Thankfully, our house sold in less than a week, and Cynthia swooped in to rescue the nervous yet brave plants from my clutches because she’s known me for many years and has witnessed my starving, drowning, or burning of healthy plants. Even if she believes the deaths were caused by neglect and not premeditated crimes, I wonder if she’d let me off with involuntary manslaughter if she were a juror at my trial for killing more plants than a low-grade natural disaster. Against her better judgement, Cynthia entrusted me with the ficus after she ran out of room in her Nissan Cube when she packed up the staging plants to offer them a safer home .
That spunky ficus managed to stay alive for eighteen months. When this year’s February snow surprised Texas, I brought the plant inside, hoping it had more life to live. Yet in days its leaves developed black spots as it shriveled in the corner of our guest bedroom/office and bid adieu to the cold, cruel world. I soon discovered I had horribly over-watered it when after the snow had melted, I hauled it outside and heard water sloshing around in the heavy planter it was set inside.
I used to feel guilty about dismembering, suffocating, maiming, and torturing innocent plants that came under my care. So many people love digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and tending their flowers and vegetables so that they later enjoy the beauty and bounty of their gardens.
In 1970 my favorite movie was Barbra Streisand’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Her Daisy Gamble character coaxed flowers from the soil by singing to them. The movie’s opening begins with “Hey, buds below! Up is where to grow!” as Barbra sings, skips, and swirls around an expansive rose garden while hundreds of flowers bloom with the help of the camera’s time-lapse magic. I loved that song (“Hurry, It’s Lovely Up Here”) almost as much as I loved the 66 groovy outfits that costume designer Cecil Beacon had Barbra changing into during the movie. Her flowered babydoll p.j.s matched her flowered sheets which matched the flowered wallpaper of her bedroom!
Drowning or starving plants is not the worst confession I could make. It’s not like I throw every curse word I have ever heard at my cat when she meows incessantly at three a.m. for food. Or I fear newborn babies because they look like fragile, unpredictable aliens. I’m not a monster!
And to be honest, I have not killed every plant I have ever owned. I still have a weak ivy Cynthia left behind when she staged my house. A perky good luck bamboo from Crystal lives on my kitchen window sill. Crystal follows the law of averages rule when it comes to plants. She once told me, “I plant so many plants, trees, and vegetables, something is bound to survive!”
So my murder rate is close to 87% if I consider all the plants I have ever known.
Does a lawn count? The front yard of the home we sold had more St. Augustine grass than bald, brown patches two years ago. Also, the backyard had winter rye grass whose soft green blades stayed alive long enough for us to close the deal on the house. However, my son Evan was responsible for readying the backyard and planting those grass seeds. He even called to remind me to water the yard regularly until the tiny green shoots poked out of the dirt as if Barbra Streisand’s voice beckoned them to a world of promise.
For twenty years my friend Crystal Fox has been a steadfast source of laughter and support. She lets me dump my food scraps in her city-issued compost bin; her granddaughter, Sunday Joy, is one of my remarkable “practice grandchildren,” and we share food. I drop off containers of lentil soup, and she gives me homemade loaves of bread. Crystal has more good qualities than a thirteen-year-old has sassy looks! For me her sense of humor is her magic power, and her explosive laugh cannot be topped by anyone, anywhere. It begins in her throat – a rich guttural sound that soon moves to her belly and takes control of her torso. She bends over and her laugh continues for at least 45 seconds as she pulls others along for the kind of laughter that leaves one breathless, with stomach cramps, and sometimes in dire need of finding a bathroom.
Crystal and I first met at Crockett High School while attempting to educate teenagers whose hormones were stronger than our computer skills. At work we struggled alongside our teacher peers to deal with the usual high school shenanigans: dreaded state-mandated tests, meandering eye-glazing meetings, countless committees (eye-glazing), unavoidable staff development (more eye-glazing), and classes with more students than we had desks for.
Outside of school we shared happy hours, movie nights, and pool parties. However, what we did best together was getting lost.
We are both blessed with a cockeyed sense of direction that makes all journeys unpredictable and any destination a crap shoot. The two of us get turned around on the streets of Austin and the highways of Texas.
Crystal told me that when her husband Ric used to ask her “Which way should we go?” (whether on a road trip or nature hike) and she gave her answer, he would go in the opposite direction.
Because of our off kilter inner compasses, we often feel like Lucy and Ethel from I Love Lucy any time we venture into new territories (or even to ones we’ve been to before). But like the black and white t.v. gal pals, we find humor in our mess-ups and camaraderie in our wanderings.
Though I’ve played Ethel to Crystal’s Lucy, and she’s been a stalwart Ethel to my Lucy for several years, one of our best episodes took place in 2017 when we planned a trip to New York City with the hope of seeing Bette Midler on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! I’m fortunate enough to have Gayle as my sister – a casting agent who is as generous and helpful as the Big Apple is big, and she had scored tickets to see the Divine Miss M portray Dolly Levi at the Shubert Theater.
Our anticipation to visit my sister, explore NYC, and see Bette in a Broadway show (Crystal’s first!) had us feeling like Charlie when he opened his last chocolate Wonka bar and discovered that magic golden ticket! We had also found budget-priced airline tickets and a friend of a friend’s Brooklyn apartment to stay in for free. A jackpot of a trip for two high school teachers!
Days before our adventure we coordinated packing, reviewed the subway maps of the City, and giggled like schoolgirls getting away with borrowing the family car and smoking Grandma’s cigarettes while we got lost driving around at midnight.
Then at the height of our unbridled joy, I got a text from United Airlines the night before our trip. Our 7 a.m. departure flight was cancelled due to bad weather! We had booked the early flight to give us time to get lost in JFK Airport, secure a cab, meet Gayle, get lost taking the subway to Brooklyn and maybe get turned around finding the apartment we’d be staying in, get gussied up for the theater, walk the wrong way toward the subway, take the wrong exit out of the underground before walking up instead down the avenue that took us to the Shubert to experience Bette’s Tony award-winning performance from our orchestra seats on the fifteenth row!
Pessimism teased its way into my head when I first read the American Airlines text at 8:30 p.m. Crystal had not received any messages from United, so I pushed aside negative vibes as I tried calling the airline over and over. Nothing but busy signals. By 9:10, my palms were sweaty and my stomach felt like I’d eaten a chicken and sausage gumbo appetizer followed by a Wendy’s Baconator. Gary had gone online to see that our flight was cancelled and the next flight from Austin to NYC would not land in the city that never slept until 7:45 p.m. Our curtain call was at 8!
I was about to call Crystal and share some tears when Gary said, “Let’s drive to the airport and talk to a human.”
At 9:20 p.m. we walked into the Austin airport’s empty check-in area, saw the dark counter for American, and headed downstairs to baggage claim. Someone pointed us to a quiet corner and a dim lost luggage window where a lone American employee waited. The urgency in our voices convinced Majorie that we had to get to New York as early as possible the next day. She looked energetic in her crisp navy uniform with the red accents that matched her lipstick, and she started tapping her computer keys and nodding her head of long jet black hair that was teased and styled to handle all airline emergencies. Gary gave her our cancelled flight details. He also explained about the Hello, Dolly! tickets and how my friend Crystal had never seen a show on Broadway.
“Oh, they have to see Bette,” said Majorie and she focused on her computer screen to work her magic. I stayed quiet because I knew I’d cry if I spoke about my greatest fear – missing seeing Bette live.
Majorie squinted at her screen, furrowed her brow, and allowed her red lips a brief pout before she typed faster. I let out a sigh and stared at the dirty floor while saying a quick Hail Mary. Gary drummed his fingers on the counter and said, “They’d fly into New Jersey if that would help.” Majorie typed even faster. My blood pressure rose as my hopes of sharing Hello, Dolly! with Crystal dwindled.
“That 7 a.m. flight was the only direct one to New York. All the others have connections in Houston or Dallas,” said Majorie. “Earliest I could get you there from here is 7:30 p.m.,” said Majorie. She gave me a sad slow smile.
Gary interrupted our brief connection of empathy. “What time is the first flight out of Houston?”
Majorie followed his thought process, raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows, and typed with hopeful fingers. Then she smiled at Gary. “I got seats on a 7:45 a.m. plane to LaGuardia!”
Gary looked at our heroine. “I’ll drive them to Houston!”
Majorie straightened her shoulders and clicked with confidence. I stared at my husband in disbelief. Houston was three hours away. “But we’d have to leave Austin at…” I struggled with the head math.
“Leave at 3 a.m. to be safe,” said Majorie as she finished her typing and Gary smiled at me.
“You’d take us?” I said. “And drive right back home?”
“It’s Bette!” was his answer.
Majorie gave us a glorious smile and handed me the new airline tickets. “You just got to see Bette!”
As we drove home, I called and woke up Crystal (it was now 10:40 p.m.).
“Gary offered to drive us to Houston to catch a flight that will get us to New York in time to get to the theater. You up for leaving in four hours?”
“Of course!” said the Ethel to my Lucy idea.
The drive down a very dark Hwy. 71 and a mostly empty Interstate 10 went quickly because our shared adrenaline kept us giddy with the refreshed joy of getting to see Bette on Broadway.
The brightness of the airport and the thought of seeing Bette made our first hour in Houston joyful. As we sat at our gate, even the initial flight delay of one hour did not squelch our excitement. We walked a couple of laps around our terminal and returned to our gate in time for the announcement: “Due to weather concerns, Flight 1313 to New York is delayed and will depart at 12:07.”
Crystal and I exchanged worried looks, but ever the optimist, she said, “We’ll get to New York around 3 and have time to meet Gayle and go to Brooklyn and get to the show.” She paused. “Right?”
“Sure, sure,” I said and imagined a taxi strike in the city (unlikely) or us getting lost in the airport as we tried to find the taxi stand (likely).
We now had two hours to kill so we decided to do more walking. When we passed an empty bar just opening up, I said, “Let’s have a drink.” We bellied up to the bar with our luggage beneath our stools. “Two Kir Royals,” I said.
Crystal smiled and told the bartender, “We’re seeing Bette on Broadway!”
The bartender put on a little show adding the creme de cassis to the champagne, and we toasted to Bette, to Gayle, to Gary, and to New York City.
“We’re doing this!” said Crystal.
The 10 a.m. cocktail revived our hopes and warmed our insides. The bartender took a picture of us smiling like Cajuns on a Mardi Gras morning with a cold beer in one hand a link of hot boudin in the other.
Forty minutes later we settled into blue plastic chairs near our gate and nibbled peanut butter sandwiches and cut up apple slices Crystal had brought along. We reviewed our plans to grab a cab, get to my sister’s place in Greenwich Village, hightail it to Brooklyn, and make it to Times Square and the Shubert before the stage curtain rose. We leaned back in our chairs confidently, and soon we were both fast asleep – probably dreaming of a dancing and singing Bette.
Two hours later, I awoke to an intercom voice: “Final boarding call for Flight 1313 to New York City. Final call!” I punched a snoring Crystal who jumped up, grabbed her suitcase, and led the charge to our departure gate.
We got settled into our seats and did not close our eyes for the duration of the flight. When we clicked on our seat belts and watched the stewardess make the final seat check and snap shut all the overhead bins, we truly believed we would see Bette on Broadway. Crystal and I clasped hands and took a selfie as the plane backed away from the gate and rolled its way forward for take-off.
Even while we isolate and avoid close contact, some people send messages in nontraditional ways. Whether it’s scratched on wet cement or drawn with colored chalk, people express themselves.
During my neighborhood walks, I started noticing the sidewalks. First, I saw the writing in the scratched initials or names that said, “I was here.”
Sometimes the message was angry.
I loved one section of a child’s footprints. Was this accidental or intentional? I imagined a mischievous kid being told by a harried mother, “Get up in your car seat.” The three-year-old makes a wild dash down the wet cement while his mom deals with her fussy eight-month-old. The kid gets in a two yard run before, “I said ‘Get in!’” pulls him back to the car.
During the spring of the pandemic, chalk artists shared their whimsical renditions of Disney characters, and they did not mind that a short rain would wash it all away.
Now more than ever we need to look for life’s artistic touches in unexpected places. It’s proof of the creativity and goodness among us. Sidewalk messages feel like hope to me. They communicate feelings and ideas even during a pandemic. I search for these symbols etched in concrete. I feel connected to others, even if I never see who sent the message.
Boo had skated around the fact that he was eating exactly what he wanted in spite of the doctor’s warning. “Your blood sugar is getting higher. You need to change your eating habits and get more exercise, and it would help if you lost a few pounds.” Still, he had his stash of candy and cookies semi-hidden on the third shelf of the pantry behind the flour, brown sugar, and the grandkids’ Capri Sun. I use the term ‘hidden’ loosely.
It took one more threat from the doctor for the message to click. “If you don’t change your ways, I’ll be putting you on insulin shots. Here’s the name of a dietitian to help get you started.” I heard all of this second hand, mind you, and it took him a few hours to disclose what was actually said because he had stopped off at Starbucks for a Caramel Macchiato and pound cake, just a little reward for after the doctor.
Boo reluctantly relayed the information, grudgingly called the dietitian, and went about his way saying, “I’m going to eat whatever I want until I see this nutrition person.”
“I’m going with you to the dietitian,” I said.
“You just want to make sure I tell the truth,” he countered.
“That’s right, “ I said. “I don’t trust you.”
One week later, we saw the dietitian who was a beautiful, thirty-something, tall, slender nurse. She was sweet on the outside, but it didn’t take her long to see through his antics. Yes, I helped him answer her questions honestly. Yes, I ratted him out on a few things, but I saw him really listening as she explained carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins. Almost overnight Boo began watching his carbs, forgoing desserts, using sugar-free creamer, and walking 10,000 steps. It was a miracle. As the pounds dropped off, he started to envision himself quite the stud. “I think I’m almost ready for skinny jeans, what do you think?”
“Maybe just five more pounds?” I offered.
We went from grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with a generous handful of chips at lunch, to baked fish and Charro beans. We had berries for dessert instead of double stuffed oreo cookies and ice cream. We even bought Fitbits. In fact, Boo became a zealot, watching every bite he put in his mouth.
When we walked together, I would come home angry. I envisioned us walking hand in hand down the road of love and health; sharing goals and encouraging each other on our fitness journey. His focus was to walk briskly and clock his miles, no time for idle chit chat, let alone hand-holding. So, we opted to walk separately, allowing him to go faster and me to stay sweeter.
Six months later he was down thirty pounds and looking svelte. I, on the other hand, was down three pounds and sneaking potato chips. How is it that men can just put their minds to it and make this losing weight look so easy? I think women just have slower metabolisms and don’t forget the whole hormone thing, we’re challenged at every turn.
This year at Christmas, Boo finally got his wish of skinny jeans! As he pulled the jeans gleefully from the wrapping paper, he grinned like a little kid and stood up to hold the jeans next to his legs. Even though he needed a little help to pull them on, once he zipped up they fit like a glove. (literally) Truthfully, I never thought of Boo as skinny jeans material, but I wanted him to live the dream, and he is.
“Enjoy your new-found hotness!” I teased.
“Oh, I will,” he smiled, as he turned around and checked out his rear end view. “GQ has nothing on me!”
I’m revisiting Barbra Streisand’s discography during these stay-at-home covid times. Getting back to what I loved when I was a teen. I first listened to her albums over & over on a small record player in my room while wearing cheap plastic head phones so I could crank up the volume on “The Nearness of You” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” In 1970 I was obsessed with records like Simply Streisand and My Name Is Barbra, full of old standards and Broadway show tunes. Barbra sang songs like they were three-minute plays with her one-of-a-kind enunciated phrasing and sustained belting. Her vocal bravado soothed my nervous, awkward, lonely thirteen-year-old soul. I hadn’t listened to these records in a long time and I’m now rediscovering the joy they still give me.
So if you have time to yourself (or not), find your joy in what you love. Read, watch t.v. or YouTube, cook, sing, meditate, talk with friends, write, juggle, draw or paint, play dominoes or cards, jog, shop online, do spring cleaning, look at old pictures, hone your video game skills, pamper your pets, take long walks, tickle your kids or grandkids, plant a garden, or learn to whistle. Do whatever makes you smile or fills you up with joy!
As the pandemic makes a lot of us slow down and stay put, we should be kind to ourselves and spend time every day doing something that makes us feel joyful.
These COVID19 days taunt me with uncertainty. When will it be safe: to visit a friend? to eat in a cafe? to schedule an appointment? to STOP WORRYING?
All this reminds me of walking my high-strung dog. Since mid-March my neighborhood is crowded with folks walking their dogs, kids playing on sidewalks, teens whizzing by on skateboards, and cats lounging in yards with “I dare you” stares.
Walking Millie (a 60-pound shepherd) is like traveling with a string of firecrackers that could pop at any moment. She sniffs and pulls as we walk. So Gary walks ahead doing recon – looking down the sidewalk for other dogs or strollers that make us cross the street to give them space. I watch the ground for a discarded fried chicken bone or a smashed reptile my pet might gobble up. Millie can smell a bite of rotting pizza at least half a block away! I carry treats for positive reinforcement when we avoid an explosion of barking and I hold the leash tightly. For we must venture outside for poops and “pee mail” and a bit of exercise.
Uncertain times call for diligence and distancing as we carry on through our nervousness and fear. Things will improve. Stay safe and sane, y’all!
Every morning while I “sit ugly” and drink my coffee, I meditate and pray. Part of my routine is reading my gratitude list. However, in these crazy coronavirus times I cannot enjoy all the things from my recent past: “Live Music” “Movie Theaters” “Dinner with Friends and Family.” So now I slow down for a new gratitude list.
Now in April, 2020 the coronavirus pandemic is keeping us from celebrating in the same ways with all of our loved ones this Easter. Here’s an essay I wrote awhile back about one of my favorite family traditions. Y’all be safe and sane!
Chubby fingers clutch a pale pink and green boiled egg.Concerned eyes flick back and forth from the egg to the bowed head of the chubby-fingered 4-year-old girl’s 8-year-old brother, a boy with destruction in his eyes.The boy firmly holds a bright blue egg, and as he quickly raises his egg a few inches above his sister’s egg, the girl muffles a scared squeak as the brother aims and delivers a decisive blow to his target. POCK! “Ah-ha!” the destructor declares as he witnesses the broken crown of his sister’s special Easter egg (the one that took her a full 6 minutes to dye because she patiently dyed the pink half before carefully turning her egg over and holding it in the green dye for several long minutes).The girl juts out a “boudin lip,” yet she dutifully hands her victor brother the cracked egg.“My egg’s the champion!” brags the boy as he tosses the pink and green egg into an overflowing basket of slightly cracked Easter eggs. He struts around the grassy backyard holding the blue egg over his head.Other kids in church clothes throw sideways glances his way, but his sister simply reaches for a Goldbrick egg in her Easter basket to ease the loss of her two-toned egg.MaMa Joe tells her cocky grandson, “Way to go, cha! You beat your cousins!” but PaPa Joe sulks in the kitchen with a cup of coffee and the purple guinea egg which he refused to give up to his grandson a few minutes earlier.
For now 8-year-old Claude Emile revels in his Pock-Pock Championship for an Easter in Ville Platte, Louisiana.
Such is the way in Cajun land on Easter morning.Friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandmas and competitive grandpas compete with their multi-colored boiled eggs to win the title of Pock-Pock Champion on a bright spring day.
Our family’s Pock-Pock Rules:
Two folks each choose an unbroken Easter egg.
One person holds his/her egg with the fat side up and faces the opponent.
The opponent holds his/her egg with the small end towards the other egg.
The egg-holder on top taps the other’s egg until one of the eggs cracks.(Most folks prefer a soft, slow tapping motion that makes a “pock-pock” sound and that keeps the game going longer. * Emile’s quick, hard hammer-like hit irks me).
After a few pocks, both folks will hear a deeper sort of cracking sound that signals the breaking of one egg. They pause at this point and examine their eggs’ ends; however, sometimes the crack is not visible and a few more pocks are needed to reveal the definitive cracks that label one of the egg-holders a loser.
The holder of the uncracked egg is that round’s winner and he/she gets to keep the broken egg. (Unless you’ve pocked-pocked with Papa Joe and his favorite egg)
My momma learned from her dad (Papa Joe) that guineaand duck eggs were harder than regular chicken eggs, but this was not always the case.Cajuns can be very competitive (even when the prize is a grubby boiled egg), and some have resorted to cheating.One Easter Emile made a plaster of Paris egg and painted it yellow.He managed to trick the younger cousins and the older relatives with poor eyesight, but when cousin Kenneth discovered the trick, the final pock-pock sounds came from Kenneth whacking Emile’s “tete dure.”
I have always enjoyed this Cajun tradition, and even though Emile’s grandkids don’t particularly like or even want to keep boiled Easter eggs (They prefer the plastic eggs filled with jellybeans or chocolates), the kids still enjoy the pock-pock competition.This Easter I look forward tospitfire Amos (age 5) going up against his calm cousin Evan (age 24) and may the best egg win!