Thursday, December 29, 2011

Resolutions and F-Bombs

res·o·lu·tion  (rz-lshn)
1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.

Being determined about something can be an exhilarating experience...people actually become high with the idea of potential and the possibility of upcoming greatness in the  year ahead.  We all engage in those grand thoughts, wanting to become this idealized version of ourselves, and for a few moments, we profoundly believe that we can become whomever we choose to be.  Can you feel the energy of all the promised potential this week? Millions upon millions of human beings right this very moment are contemplating how to become better, faster, stronger, sharper, smarter, happier, more loving, more generous, more centered people.  I like this week of planning resolutions, much more than the actual execution of the resolutions, because everything feels so positive. The things that can be are often more pleasing than the things that are.

Enacting the resolutions constitutes the difficult part of the process.  Most people usually last about a week with maintaining their motivation if they are lucky, and then slip back into their old habits and routines.  I am guilty of this myself.  Every year I make the same resolution and every year I fail.  Within three days, I have fallen off the wagon so badly, I refuse to get back on and just tell myself that I will try again next year.  I think I actually experience a little relief when I do truly blow it, because that means I can go back to doing what I enjoy without feeling too guilty about it.

My resolution regards my yearly vow to stop using curse words. I have this little secret, which isn't so little and not so secret.  Most people who have been around me for any length of time know I have a tendency to swear.  I love profanity.  It feels good.  When I am angry, I let a litany of highly-crafted invectives fly from my mouth like winged serpents hell-bent on destruction.  I love the way it feels when they slip out of my mouth on a tide of pure vented frustration, anger, or fury.  I also enjoy occasionally peppering my conversation with certain less-than-savory words to add emphasis or shock value.  I hate to say it, because my mother definitely did not raise me this way, but I adore swearing.  I like it almost as much I like smoking, and that says a whole hell of a lot.

Of course, I am going to try again this year to curb my language, and at the moment, I am hopeful about it being successful.  I am always hopeful because I couldn't live without the idea of things (and me) constantly moving toward something better than what currently exists. I also have other resolutions that I will attempt this year.  I believe those will see more success than the no-profanity resolution because truthfully, they concern deeper, more meaningful issues in my life and I am willing to expend more energy and effort upon them.  

At the end of each day, when I lay my head on the pillow and review what I have done, I will not care so much that I let an f-bomb fly if I can prove that I remained dedicated to the more important vows I make.this year.  I resolve to be more patient, be healthier both mentally and physically, be more generous with my time and be more aware of the world around me. I resolve to move from a place of love in all things I do, so giving up swearing kind of pales in comparison to those. Hell...I think I may resolve this year not to resolve that particular habit at all.  Sounds like a damn skippy plan to me!

The damn-skippy, penguin-hat-wearing, profanity-loving, mixed up me.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Junk Drawers: Controlled Chaos

I've been thinking lately about tidiness and how for being a person who loves it in certain areas, I have distinct aspects of my life in which it does not exist.  I am a Virgo, therefore detailed-oriented and somewhat of a thwarted perfectionist.   I say thwarted because as we all know, perfection does not exist, but I try my best to bring it into reality.  I like my details to be orderly, aligned, and perfectly positioned.  Nevertheless, parts of my life remain seriously messy.  I attribute that disorder or messiness to my innate creative streak; much like a teenager, it rebels on occasion and constantly needs to be fed with a bit of chaos.  Most of the time, my perfectionist and slob get along amicably inside my head as they have learned to give each other their much needed space.  Some days, however, they fight incessently and it can get pretty noisy in there.

Today is one of those days.  It's two days after Christmas and my house looks like elves had a kegger here.  The tree which has long since shed the majority of its needles and looks somewhat folorn and naked in the corner and needs to come down desperately. The children have strewn toys and candy wrappers from one room to another, and as much as it shames me to say it, I have dishes in my sink.  For two days now, the perfectionist has yelled at the slob to get this stuff done, and the slob seems to be completely deaf.  Maybe not so much deaf as indifferent.  I do believe I caught the slob flipping the bird to the perfectionist earlier today as well as muttering some creatively obscene comments under its breath as to what the perfectionist could go and do.

All of this internal yelling has caused some serious cognitive dissonance for me, and I am feeling it deeply this afternoon.  My logical, precise side knows what needs to be done, and my messy creative side doesn't want to do it.  Therefore, the whole me just reaps the effects of this argument by feeling less than adequate and somewhat upset.  I need to get my chaos under control in order to get my balance back, but I can't seem to find the motivation for that either.  If I could only indulge in being lazy or do-less without feeling guilty,  I would enjoy it more.  As it is, I have this constant underlying guilt about taking time for myself to do things that are solely meant for pleasure and enjoyment.  I have a litany of self-recriminations running through my mind the entire time I am not working. Generally the only way I can enjoy my down time comes from earning it through consistent hard work.  I know I worked hard over Christmas, cleaning and cooking and prepping, but that doesn't seem like enough to justify these past two days of doing absolutely nothing. I am, pretty much doing nothing and not feeling good about it.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a hopeless case here. I know what I need to do to get out of this do-less funk.  I need to just get busy on things and apply my balancing philosophy to my mental housekeeping as I do my real housekeeping.  The secret to my tidy house lies in having junk drawers.  I have three drawers in the kitchen that contain all sorts of items, up to and including socks, toys, game pieces, matches, earrings, receipts, and anything else that I find that I don't put back in the exact right spot at that exact moment.  These things collect and then one day, for several hours, I go through the drawers and put everything back precisely where it goes.  This system balances my tidiness and my chaos rather well in my house.  I keep things hidden and stored in a manageable space and then deal with them when I am ready.

I need the same thing for my mind....a mental junk drawer.  I never stop thinking.  My brain refuses to take a break and I constantly have thoughts coursing through my mind.  I should put the superfluous, negative, and unpleasant ones into a junk drawer, hide them safely and soundly, and deal with them when I have the time and inclination to do so.  I should take that guilt about being lazy and leave it in my drawer for a bit so that I can enjoy reading my books I got for Christmas, watching movies with the children, or even taking a nap!  That way, I can indulge in my messiness and truly embrace my laziness with a joyful heart and a quiet mind, while at the same time satisfying the perfectionist with the knowledge that all these undone tasks and excessive thoughts will eventually be resolved. 

And on that note, I think I might actually take my own good advice, make a sandwhich and watch Megamind with the kidlets.  I also sense a nap brewing in the near future as well, because I can faintly hear the perfectionist beginning to snore....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fingernail Moon

Fingernail Moon

The fingernail moon
slowly rises over twilight treetops
to scratch at both the sky
and my overwhelmed heart.

I wonder then,
if you see it too
feel, as well, the pricking
sensation deep beneath your skin.

What have I become?
A reflection like the moon--
a mirror to your sun,
shining because you make me so.

In the expansive night,
diamond-dotted and cold with stars,
you and I occupy this heat--
a small sliver of light,
this space infinite and intimate.

I Sent You My Love

I sent you the moon, to kiss you goodnight
and the sun to kiss you good day.
I sent my love on thoughts in flight,
you caught them and made them stay.

Now what should I do, with someone like you
who's truth is too hard to hold.
The passion I feel is nothing but real
and with you I want to grow old.

I have a wish, and it is but this
that you will always be in my heart.
And there you will stay, till we're wrinkled and gray
two souls that will never part.

November Wedding

When the whispers of autumn transform into the truth of early winter,
austerity will no longer be necessity and we will own time for a day.

The hours will bend and sway to our directions; we move  them with harbored magic
that only the lonely would know.

Today, we devote a life and a soul to one another and promise
to keep our secrets safely hidden beneath this well-spring of surprising love.

Birthday Ghazal

Your entrance to the world today, friend
brought a hidden hope to play, friend.

I never knew while I was young
how the years would rest and lay, friend.

Uncertain of love, not knowing
you''d speak to my heart this way, friend.

Coming to me with lonely magic
to steal my sweet breath away, friend.

I want for you the very best.
Just for you, I''ll always pray, friend.

Blow out the candles on your cake.
Your wish is for you to say, friend.

October ends, your year begins.
This love transcends, come what may, friend.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mo-Sassy-Lassy Cookies: Christmas Traditions

Traditional Christmas Treats

For my family, Christmas has always been a time for traditions, especially the culinary kind. My childhood memories of Christmas center around two things: being with family and cooking and baking. From the earliest age, I remember my mother in the kitchen baking goodies for an entire week, packing them beautifully, and then giving them as gifts to her friends and neighbors.  My sister and I helped her bake cookies, make candies, and create savory treats that we would later deliver throughout the neighborhood, as happy as Santa's elves to be part of the giving tradition.  

I can remember watching my mother with a sense of wonder and awe at her ability to create Christmas magic in the kitchen. She whipped up candies like melt-in-your-mouth pecan divinity, buttery peanut brittle, and rich chocolate fudge.  In the cookie department, she excelled at Russian Teacakes, sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and the most bomb-diggity chocolate chip cookies you have ever eaten.  Savories like sausage-cheese balls, meat pies, and breads would be baked later in the week to eat on Christmas Eve.  After opening presents, Christmas morning always ended with a breakfast of homemade quiche. I knew as a grown up, I wanted to be just like her.  Even though I couldn't articulate it at the time, I understood that all of these things she made came from a place of pure love and affection and a true appreciation for the meaning of the Christmas season.

As an adult, I do the same things in my kitchen during the Christmas season as my mother did.  My children and I spend the week before Christmas making candies and cookies, and they get the same thrill my sister and I did in delivering them to family and friends. I make some of the traditional specialties my mother perfected, such as Mexican Wedding cookies and sugar cookies, and some new treats have been added including chocolate covered pretzels and molasses cookies, (or as my son Jack calls them Mo-sassy-lassy cookies.) Even with the differences, the idea and intent remains the same--giving the gift of love and affection to those we care about and spreading the joy of the season and the warmth in our hearts.

The other thing I enjoy most about this particular tradition is the quality time I get to spend with my children and my nephews.  They all gather in the heart of my home...the kitchen...and we spend time together laughing, listening to carols, and just being together.  My sister and I talk about when we were children, telling stories of Christmases past, or when our children were little and did certain memorable things that will become a part of their own personal mythology they can then share with their kids.  It is a perfectly wonderful time that elicits feelings and emotions I wish would last the entire year through.  Everything is a little brighter, warmer, happier, and sweeter.

The past two days my children and I have inhabited the kitchen and dining room, making peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pretzels, mo-sassy-lassy cookies, Mexican Wedding cookies, and the like.  We've laughed, we've talked, we've created memories that will last a lifetime, yet one more time.  To me, this is the very heart of Christmas, the best part of the season--home and hearth.  I  just want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful season of celebrating their own traditions with their families and friends. Remember to celebrate the love, joy, and spirit of giving and have the very happiest of holidays.

Jack, Joshua, and Abby with Chocolate Pretzels and Peanut Butter Cups

Friday, December 16, 2011

Floating Away on Words Unsaid

Floating Away on Words Unsaid

From his armchair isolation and remote recliner
his condescension and contempt ravaged the softest parts of her.
Silenced by her severed tongue, bitten off from holding back her words
she stared into years when happiness was cheap.

All those early years ago easy love lingered with sweet talk
until she gorged on thoughts unsaid and filled her belly with despair.
Youth and confidence made her pretty
before she grew fat and full with stifled words and stunted dreams,
and so filled, her caring floated away with the last of her hope.

He doesn't see, his head bowed with unconscious and unclaimed shame.
He averts his eyes to the damage done, and resents her absence,
condemns her silence and hates her with indifference.
The quiet speaks volumes of violence.

First Friends

Sometimes a flash of bare legs
dipped in water and always romanticized
in youthful black and white memories
slip behind my eyes before nightly dreams
usurp conscious thought.

That day, the sun played over rivulets of lake
that smiled in curves down child-sized calves
to return to its home cooling at our feet.
We dreamt of where these legs would take us
and swore about forever things
with newly learned spelling-list words.
I liked the way loyalty tasted on my tongue
and how it fit with infinity so well.

When our mothers called, back on the beach
we ran full of the knowing of first friendship.
So certain were we that it would outlast us all.
Time,though, breaks and cracks 
so that hours tumble on days and crush the years
and weathers this moment to memory.


let words drop from your lips,
flow from collected memory
and weave us a tale from knowledge
born into your veins.

Culture keeper,
store the harvest of words, putting like with like
each basket full of years and ideas.
Carve up time and season to taste
with creation, myths, and tradition
to fill us on the past.

decipher the sound of forgotten tongues
speak to our apathy as an artisan of language
as a master of remembrance.
Whisper to us the flow and ebb of time,
and sing of what we should be pleased to know.


Let us each look our own way
and dream of directions to follow.
Our roads shall be perpendicular to one another
so that we will meet again when we are older
and more knowledgeable about love.

I envision us, these sisters,
as adults with disparate lives and lies,
cloaked in costumes of unshared memory
that reveal only a trace of maternal sameness
under all that is new.

Will we recognize each other,
when our paths come to crossroads distant?
Will the old familiaritities still linger
like the gentle scent
of our mother's perfumed neck?

Tchaikovsky Bliss

of cooling
maple syrup
glide through my veins
and I feel sticky with sound.
Notes dipped in honeyed beats
and caramelized tone engulf me.
A sugary sweetness
pours into my ears
and I crystallize
in this moment
of Tchaikovsky

washing dishes

the plates are simple
washing them smoothly
hot water burns my hands
reaching into suds
thinking things
as I mechanically sweep
the wet cloth back and forth
rinsing clean
drying and putting away
staring out the window
at nothing and everything
pulling at the knives and forks
hating every moment
the intricacy of silverware
it is too tedious for me
rinsing them off
drying and putting away
staring at my neighbor's light
and then my own 
above my spotless sink
I sigh
drying my hands and
put myself away too

In a Sparkle

Outside the cafe window,
life paces itself with people
ebbing and flowing so much
like stormy ocean tide.
She thinks the moon must be over taxed
and will surely fall from the sky.
Waiting for the celestial downpour,
she views the reflected movement
caught in the smooth pane of glass.
Held still in a moment,
her breath tightens and
time stops in a sparkle.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Amazing Mother

Certain events in our lives change the way we think, behave, and believe forever.  These moments in time come in all shapes and sizes, but the two events that changed me permanently and profoundly, were becoming a mother and losing my mother.  

When a woman gives birth for the first time, it is then that she fully and truly understands the depth of her own mother's love for her.  Usually a phone call to your mother with apologies for all the worry and stress you caused her soon follows the birth of your first child because it is then that you really get what it means to be a mom. I believe the bond between mother and daughter actually strengthen due to this shared knowledge of motherhood, and it makes it that much harder when you lose your mother. 

Children comfort you in times of grief by their mere presence, their joy, and their insatiable need for you.  I am grateful to have had my first child when my mother passed away seven years ago.  Abigail, more so than anyone or anything, helped me deal with my mother's death in a healthy, meaningful way and my daughter's needs refused to allow me to be consumed by sadness.  I will forever be grateful to her for that.

Today is the anniversary of my mother's passing and while I celebrate her life everyday by remembering her, doing things and saying things just the same way she did, sharing my love and affection the way she taught me to, and feeling her presence very close to me, I am missing her so much this year.  I wanted to honor my mother in this entry because she truly was the finest person I have ever known.  

My Amazing Mother
Myrum Mae Mayfield Whitaker

My mother, gifted in so many ways, entered the world on August 19, 1940.  Beautiful, intelligent, kind, generous, loving and wise just barely begin to describe her. She gave of herself freely and did not ask for much in return.  Her joy came from seeing other people happy and content.  Her happiest moments occurred when other people smiled because of something she said or did, and I cannot think of anyone else who could match her generosity of spirit.

I hold happy memories of my mother, even the ones where we fussed and argued.  I thumb through them like a photo album and hold them close to my heart.  My memories keep her near to me and my family and I feel her presence on a daily basis.  In trying to encapsulate in a few lines the meaning and impact of my mother's life, I am certain I will not be able to do her justice, but I am trying anyway.  She was so many things to so many people....a friend, a confidant, a source of tremendous love and acceptance, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  The one overriding theme to her life, however, was being a teacher in the purest sense of the word.  She taught our family to love unconditionally and to be unafraid of expressing our affection and admiration for one another.  She taught us how to be supportive, open-minded, generous and kind.  She daily lived the lessons of respecting life in all its forms and valuing ourselves for who we are.  My mother taught us to appreciate the history of things, both big and small, personal and shared.  She taught us to live fully and behave confidently even when we felt little inside.  Above all else, she taught us what it means to be well-loved and taught us how to love well.  These are her two greatest gifts to our family.

Professionally, my mother taught high school social studies.  She not only gave her students a tremendous education in content areas, but also in life as well.  She gifted them with lessons that fostered responsibility, self-discipline, self-respect, maturity and confidence.  She loved her students for who they were and for whom they would become, and saw in each of them a uniqueness and cherished them for it.  Her high standards and expectations helped them to grow and mature, and regardless of how they behaved, her students knew at the end of the day, someone genuinely cared for them as individuals.  

My mother died doing what she loved during a season she adored on December 15, 2004.  She loved all things Christmas...Santa Claus, gift-giving, family time, and the sense that for a few days each year that people became kinder and softer and more charitable.  She had a heart attack at school and passed away in her classroom in just a few minutes, but it is a comfort to me that she left this life living fully until the last moment.  She wouldn't have wanted it any other way. And in my house, my mother's way was usually THE WAY.  I still laugh at the saying, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  It reminds me of her, and I am blessed that she lived a happy, full, and loving life because I am able to do that too, and I credit her with giving me that ability and motivation to make this life the best that I can. I love you, Momma, and I always will.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Steal Little, Steal Big

I had an interesting conversation yesterday morning with someone online.  The discussion touched upon a variety of topics, but the one that stuck with me throughout the day and the one to which I've given the most thought centered on sinning, for lack of a better term. The question we tossed back and forth between us basically boiled down to, "When a person engages in sinful behavior, does the size of the sin matter in terms of moral and ethical consequences?"   Or to phrase it another way, "When a thief steals, does it matter if he steals little or steals big?"

It's interesting to ponder whether the consequences of a sin remain discrete and unchanging, regardless of whether a person made the lie, the cheat, the assault, or the theft on either a grand or small scale. Can certain circumstances mitigate or aggravate the ethical, moral, and psychological damage caused by the sin itself?  The person I spoke with seemed to think that size didn't matter. He believed that an act that violated societal, personal, or religious moral codes had the same effect regardless of the size of the violation. The act, in and of itself, comprised the sin. He granted no wiggle room for justification or mitigation.  For him, a person either sinned or didn't sin.  It didn't matter be it big or small. If you are going to violate your code of ethics, you might as well violate it in a big way because each violation has the same weight in terms of consequence.  If you are going to steal, you might as well steal big.

On one hand, I agree with him.  I think moral and ethical standards require a person to either follow them or not.  If you violate the code, the size of the violation doesn't matter. The violation exists, it resides out there in the universe, and a trust of sorts has been broken.  However, this way of thinking generally only works in an idealized setting or in a static environment.  And as most humans know, life is definitely not static.  Events and people constantly move and roll with the vagaries of life.  Dynamism characterizes our existence in this world, and rarely does anything ever stay the same for long.  People's behavior, if not their thoughts, adapts to the circumstances in which they exist, and sometimes that requires viewing a sin or a violation with a relative eye.

Most people think lying to be a sin, but I am certain we have all been in circumstances where lying has helped a situation or another person.  For example, if your child becomes ill and needs medication but refuses to take it, might you not tell your baby that the medicine tastes good, even if it doesn't?  That's a lie, but the effect of the lie, making your child better, mitigates and even in my opinion, erases the moral violation of the lie itself.  So, at some point, relativism has to take over because for certain instances, the ends do justify the means.

My other really good friend and I discussed this topic this morning, and he made me think even more deeply about the subject.  I've come to the conclusion after much thought and discussion that I think it is important for a person to be mindful at all times of his or her moral code, but that a violation of that code has to evaluated within the context of each individual circumstance.  It is very important to have the right thoughts and ideas regarding morality, but it is equally important to acknowledge that we fail all the time in meshing our thoughts with our actions and that sometimes our actions are justified. With this particular conclusion, I have yet again reinforced my knowledge that I am a pragmatist in thought, but an idealist in heart.  If I ever get to the point where I can live exactly as I think, I will let you know.  However, don't hold your breath as I think you will be in for quite a long wait.  And, if I ever decide to steal, I know I will only steal little and only for the right reasons.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Karaoke: Beer Goggles

I went to karaoke last night for the first time in about a month.  My sister's invitation to meet her there proved to be more of a rescue mission than an actual call for my company.  Recently divorced, she has started to go on casual dates for dinner, drinks, or coffee.  She went to dinner last night with a new friend and afterwards, he asked if she'd like to go to karaoke. My sister, who loves to sing, readily accepted even though she had deemed dinner conversation to be less than stellar. Already "not feeling" this particular date, she decided that she would have back up at the bar...namely, me.  After hasty arrangements with J.T. to put the kids to bed, I gussied up and went to the bar.

Part of me really wanted to go because I enjoy singing too.  The other part, the one that was solidly frozen by the time I arrived, wished I had stayed at home toasty warm by the fire.  When I entered the establishment and found only a handful of unfamiliar people as well as my sister and her date, it only reinforced my regret for leaving the house.  I made a beeline for my sister's table and politely introduced myself to her friend.  Almost immediately I realized why she had asked me to join them, this dude completely bored me by the time I finished shaking his hand.  I had expected some troglodyte to be seated next to my sibling, but even troglodytes exhibit more energy and verve than this guy.  I tried to engage him in conversation, but his lack of personality and interest made it impossible.  I looked at my sister, shrugged my shoulders as if to say "I tried rescuing you, but this particular ship is definitely going down."

So, with the limited and awkward conversation available at my sister's side, I decided to go stand in the atrium area to have a cigarette and wait my turn to sing.  The five or six people out there huddled around a space heater and chatted with each other.  I moved my way in and made my hellos, but primarily remained silent as I listened to them talk.  Their conversations amused me due to their youthfulness and their level of intoxication.  I sat back and just watched them, remembering what life had been like for me in my early twenties.  I inwardly laughed at hoping I didn't sound like them at that age, and knowing I so totally did.

This one young lady, obviously right around 21 years old kept making flirtatious advances with one guy on her left.  He obviously showed interest in her as well.  With clear skin, light brown hair and blue eyes enhanced with skillfully applied makeup, she had a pretty face and a decent figure.  She could have attracted the attention of almost anyone in the bar, and someone by far better looking and more interesting than the fellow she currently entertained.  This man had to have been at least a decade older than her, and not very well-preserved.  His top front teeth had somehow disappeared, he looked like he weighed all of 120 pounds soaking wet, and his pink pate could be seen through thinning, graying hair.  All of that would have been okay, however,  had his personality compensated somewhat for his appearance.  Unfortunately, this dude made arrogant, misogynistic remarks the entire time thinking that they made him charming and witty.  He seemed the type of blowhard that makes everything about himself grandiose and spectacular just to hide how inadequate he feels. In sum, he annoyed the hell out of me.  She just lapped it up though like mother's milk, and I wondered what she could possibly see in him.  When she took another sip of her drink, it came to me....this poor girl had on some seriously strong beer goggles.

I don't care who you are, if you've been drunk before at any point in your life, you have worn the beer goggles.  Everything is brighter, shinier, funnier, wittier, sexier, more beautiful, more exciting, and eminently sensible.  This poor girl, I could tell already, would find this man irresistible by the end of the evening and more than likely wake up in the morning asking herself, "What the hell was I thinking?"  I could see it methodically unfolding before me, like a paint-by-numbers picture of dogs playing poker.  It was just as tacky and gaudy as a velvet Elvis impulse buy soon regretted.

I thought about trying to save this poor girl from herself and almost interjected myself into their grope and tickle session.  I was just about to take her aside and say something when the DJ called my name to sing.  I stubbed out my cigarette, grabbed my beer and went inside giggling to myself. I laughed at the absurdity of it, the commonness of it, and how everyone has their beer goggle moments they would rather forget.  As I passed my sister's table, however, I definitely made sure to see what drink she had been indulging in, and I was definitely very happy to see it had been ice water the entire time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm A Dreamer Too


Sitting at my computer desk this evening I did what I normally do and began perusing youtube for some interesting music to entertain me.  Earlier in the day, someone in passing conversation mentioned the Beatles and that prompted me take a look into their songs again.  Back in high school, I came across the Beatles and immediately fell in love with their style, their harmonies, both the simplicity and intricacies of their melodies and lyrics.  I actually wore out the tape of their greatest hits on my Walkman my senior year.  

While going through the song suggestions, I came across Imagine by John Lennon.  He wrote this song after his departure from the Beatles.  I had heard it before many times, but failed to listen closely to the lyrics.  I listened closely tonight and the song moved me deeply.  The words amaze me. The ideas behind the words encompass much of what I think about how an ideal world would exist.  "Imagine all the people sharing all the world."  I love this.  A perfect world would consist of people treating each other kindly and with respect.  People would live in the moment, acknowledging the beauty in all things, and they most definitely would recognize and revere the connection between themselves and others.  

I might be a dreamer too.  No, scratch that....I am a dreamer.  I dream of world in which people embrace the best of themselves and their nature.  I dream of a world in which people get along with one another, both in interpersonal relationships as well as international relationships.  I want to live in a world where people focus their energies on eradicating poverty, hunger, disease, and ignorance.  We spend too much of our collective time on selfish pursuits and negativity.  We act and think and move from points of suspicion, distrust and dislike. Like John Lennon, I dream of world where people act and move from a place of love. " You may say that I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Someday I hope that you will join us, and the world will live as one."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Checks My Ass Can't Cover

My mother always said that my mouth would write checks my ass couldn't cover.  She had a real knack for turning phrases that caught your attention and stuck with you long after she uttered them.  This one entertained me every time she said it, although it took years for me to believe the validity of her statement.  People who know me now see me as a tactful, polite person who rarely says things in an intentionally rude or disrespectful manner.  It took many years of strenuous effort to become like this.  As a child and teenager, I had an amazingly obnoxious mouth and actually derived pleasure from hurting people with my words. 

From a very young age, my vocabulary exceeded the language of my peers and I would use my words to set myself apart from them, especially if they behaved cruelly towards me.  At first, words became a defense mechanism I used only when provoked.  If someone insulted me, hurt my feelings for no good reason, or struck out at me in any fashion, I would give them both barrels of my vebosity.  Creative combinations of words provided a shield of sorts and I could pretty much out-talk and out-insult anyone who came at me.  Later, as I grew into adolescence, I discovered that it hurt less to be the first one to strike out at a potential smart mouth, and I would often using cutting, sarcastic remarks to draw first blood and advertise to people to leave me alone.  Not only would I insult them, but I also had an uncanny ability to go for the jugular, find their weakest points, and take them out before they ever got started.  Low self-esteem? Gotcha on that one.  Parents divorcing and you're afraid they don't love you? Yep, you betcha.  Too tall, short, skinny, pimply, stupid? I went there and then some.  I used to make people cry.  I remember one time, picking on my sister's boyfriend so badly that he actually began throwing darts at me to chase me off the porch.  I was relentless in my desire to get under people's skin. And the sad thing about all of it,  is that I enjoyed this kind of verbal and psychological smackdown--at least enough to keep doing it for many, many years.

It's when I entered middle school that my mother kept repeating the check-covering phrase to me.  I suppose if I had gotten beaten up, it might have taken the wind out of my verbal sails sooner than later, but it never happened. I didn't get into a single physical fight due to my mouth the entire time I let it run rampant.  Lucky me, I guess.  Only until I began to mature and really listen to the conscience inside me that had always rebelled somewhat to my hurtful language, did I truly begin to curb my words.  At some point, I determined that no matter what someone said to me, no matter how insulting, rude or demeaning he or she could be, I shouldn't be that way myself.  I realized I could never control how other people behaved or how they tended their soul or conscience, but I could become the master of my own.  Fundamentally, I understood that I didn't want to be someone who intentionally hurt other people, regardless of the reason for doing so.  Engaging in self-defense is one thing, being a total bitch is a completely different beast.  I didn't want to be that bitch anymore. So somewhere along the line, I just stopped. 

I think it may have had something to do with becoming more comfortable in my own skin and gradually getting to the point where I just didn't care what other people thought or said anymore.  I wanted to be nice, kind, and generous of both time and spirit.  I wanted to feel connnected to other people and remove some of that verbal barrier I created and maintained for the majority of my life.  I am a much happier person now.  I enjoy when people are pleased or comfortable when they spend time with me.  I take pleasure in making others feel good, uplifted, hopeful, and connected.  It is a much more meaningful and fulfilling existence to be good-natured, optimistic and open than closed, angry and hurtful.

All of this thinking about how I used words and how I use them today stemmed from an interaction I had with my neighbor this morning.  I put my dog out to go to the bathroom a little before 8 a.m. and he barked for about five minutes before I let him back in.  When I went outside, I told Gus to hush, and my neighbor, standing in his backyard said, "It's about damn time you came out to control your dog."  For an instant, I thought about ripping into him and letting my verbal fists fly, but I calmly gathered up my dog, looked at my neighbor and said, "I hope you have a lovely day too."  My mother, I think, would have been proud.  I know my ass this morning didn't let that particular check bounce.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Last Year's Big Snow

I really LOVE snow.  I love the fat, frozen clouds stretching from one horizon to the next. I adore feeling the temperature continually drop throughout the day and knowing it will allow the snow to stick to the ground later on. I appreciate the hushed silence of snow as well as its noise. I enjoy hearing it crunch under my feet,  and the sound a snowball makes when it smacks its target dead center. I am amazed at how good snowflakes taste melting on my tongue.  In sum, snow totally rocks! 

I can understand how some people who live in an area where snow dominates the winter months may hold a different opinion, but living in a high mountain desert, snow occurs infrequently enough to be a cherished rarity.  Today the clouds hang low in the sky, quite heavy and gray, indicating a sincere possibility that the first snowfall of the season might occur sometime tonight.  I eagerly await the white flakes, floating softly in the air, gently laying themselves down on the frozen ground.  I especially love the accumulation of snow, the excited peeping out the windows to make sure that it still falls and gathers.  As a child growing up first in Arizona and later South Carolina, snow rarely ever happened, and when it did it consisted of the anemic, fast-melting kind.  You know what I am talking about...a weak 1 inch of snow that has more grass and dirt in it than actual ice holding it together.  

 At the age of fourteen, I moved to Capitan, New Mexico and experienced real snowfall for the first time--the kind of snow that comes to your knees and hides your little dogs.  The first snow of that first year blew me away...three entire feet of pure, white loveliness.  I can remember spending the entire day outside, building snowforts with my sister and good friend.  We froze completely and would only come in when forced to by my mother or lured by her homemade cocoa and buttered toast.  That day will live in my memory forever as one of the best days I've ever experienced, partly because of the snow, but mostly because I got to share it with the people I loved.

In the past twenty four years, there have been many snowfalls which I recall vividly.  I remember walking two miles in a snowstorm to a friend's place to go sledding down the huge hill behind her house and getting stuck there because it continued to accumulate.  I also remember a time when my brother-in-law got trapped my folks' house by four feet of snow and tried digging out his car by hand just to get away from my mother.  Sadly he failed and had to spend yet one more night under her disapproving glare.  Another snowfall occurred at Easter one year, when we were visiting my parents.  We had dressed for spring and had no winter clothes with us for ourselves or our children, so we made do with what we had and spent the day outside in an assortment of odd clothing, playing in the snow.  My sister's kids and my daughter ran inside to their grandma after a few minutes for cocoa and toast and she and I stayed outside for hours sledding.  I remember a little girl across the way saw us and hollered, "Go ask your momma if you can come and play."  That just tickled me something fierce.  It's a great memory to hold onto.

Last year we had one of the biggest and coldest snowfalls ever to hit Alamogordo.  Everything virtually came to a standstill.  The district closed the schools, people stayed home from work, and for a few days, silence engulfed the town.  At my own cozy abode, a roaring fire in the fireplace, homemade chicken soup, the cocoa and toast I now make for my own kids, ruled the week.  We bundled up, went outside and built snowmen, walked around the neighborhood until we couldn't feel our feet, and had some serious snow ball fights with each other.  I didn't care about the tracked in mud and snow, or the fact that we couldn't go anywhere for a few days.  I just loved being able to share an experience like that with my children and my husband ( a dyed-in-the-wool snow hater from Sweden). My sister and her boys came over and we had a blast that week.  

So, I am eagerly looking forward to having it snow tonight.  I am ready to have fun with it, to make more memories of it and family mixed together.  I want to put on my obnoxious Christmas music, get the decorations out, roast marshmallows by the fire and wait to go play in it tomorrow.  Here's to hoping it happens....

Grandpa's Backyard
Awakening to a brightness, unusual to this South Carolina girl,
I saw not the butter yellow of autumn sun,
but stark white.
Through the window,
where green nature had been
frosty flakes blanketed the world.

Sister and I, full of excitement
hastily grabbed socks, shoes, mittens and hats 
and wrapped in our robes, we went outside.
So afraid that if were didn't hurry
it would melt like an early morning dream.

We only abandoned the smiling snowmen and arctic forts
when Momma tempted us
with hot cocoa and buttered toast.
That night, I softly said a prayer
that tomorrow I could still enter
this new world, 
brilliant with prism crystals of color
brilliant with color's absence.

Tomorrow, a few hours out the window,
called me in a midnight creep to peep
and ensure that the treasure 
still lived
in Grandpa's backyard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Birthday Babies

Abby's 10th Birthday
Joshua's 4th Birthday

As my husband always jokes this time of year, "Forget the holidays, birthing season has arrived."  We have been blessed with three beautiful, healthy, intelligent children who have all been born within six weeks of one another.  My two book-end children, oldest Abby and youngest Josh have birthdays back to back.  Joshua was born on November 29, 2007 and Abby was born November 30, 2001.  My middle child, Jack made his entrance to the world on January 4, 2006.  Guess what major holiday comes in between all these?  Yep, that's right...Christmas!  It is one rocking season of celebration at the Hallbeck homestead. Even with all the ensuing craziness starting at Thanksgiving and not ending until after the New Year, this season is my favorite section of the calendar.  I am happy almost every day because of both the holiday season and the birthdays of my babies.

Abby's Ca
Joshua's Cake
I enjoy making my children happy
and it pleases me to please them. I like to bake their cakes and wrap their presents and show them how much their Daddy and I love them, by making their day as special as possible.  It's not made special solely because of how much money we spend on gifts, or how much the cake cost to make, but it is made special because we show our appreciation for their love, obedience, loyalty, and care.  They are good children.  They listen well, they behave themselves, they extend both to themselves and others respect and compassion.  Their Daddy and I are so lucky to have these children in our lives and I am amazed every day to see what they are going to do next.  I am just happy I get to do special things with and for them.  Their birthdays are days of celebration for themselves, but also for me as well, because they are the miracles that have made my life complete.  I wish nothing but the best for all my babies on their birthdays and when they blow out their candles I hope all their dreams come true.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Nonet of Nonets

Karaoke Goddess
Words hang thirsty on my tongue tonight,
waiting for the music soon played.
Milling crowds of people watch,
embarassed for those who 
sing all the old songs
forgetting the new.
I drink some more
to become

Breaking boundaries can be quite hard
implied force smacks of violence
but it is not always so.
Sometimes it is the soft
persuasive and cool
voices that move
your undone
heart and

Refuse to Fracture
I held it together for so long
that I've forgotten how to break.
A million tiny pieces
held by grit and hardness
cemented into 
stone, refuse to 
yield or give
for your

At the End
The children told her to say goodbye.
A word alien on her tongue,
it tasted like such sour milk
and turned her stomach cold.
Choking on thick tears,
she waved farewell
to a life
she once

A Bug's Life
Inhumanity breaks us apart
allowing life to seep from rents
torn into bodies and souls.
Empty shells shrivel dry.
crack into dust,

A hole in history fills slowly
repaired by days of birth and death,
of weeks that wrap like cocoons.
Years spin silk to fill space
with new memories
made from moments
born of this

The Pick-Up Line
"Loneliness has it's magic," he said.
Words drew me in, a moth to flame.
Dancing brightly 'round my head,
buzzing bees hard to tame.
Invite me to love
a soul like yours

The Ducks
All my ducks are in a row, and yet
symmetry is denied to me.
I can't get them evenly spaced
and this one's head turns left.
They ignore my voice
and do their thing.
I don't like 
these ducks

Dance-hall Pleasures
Bodies sway to Cole Porter, the smoke
hugging the dance-hall walls with lust
twines around young, smart couples.
It rubs against hot skin
fragrant with desire
making sin
so much