Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Place #2


We all know where our Happy Places reside. That refuge of solitude (maybe) when things are going astray and we need a moment to catch our breaths, calm down, breath deeply. Even just anticipating the trip to such a place brings about a peace. And a happy place can be more than just a physical place, it can be a state of mind with our imagination being the vehicle of transport. And it does not necessarily have to be a place but a tangible item to grasp in both hands. It can be as simple as just being with someone. Or day dreaming.

The best thing about happy places is that they are just that, places of escape that make us happy. Bring a smile and feeling of well being.

The second happy place that I have decided to commit to this blog is The Library. As long as I can remember, since my Mother is a librarian, I have felt an awe of libraries. The first one brings to memory the smell of musty books, dark tomes that were hidden in the upstairs dusty high ceilings ancient building of down town. This place would never do for my Mom, so she organized and championed a renovation (some people more than likely cursed my Mom due to a library tax increase) that resulted in a comfortable refuge, a learning center, a place of gatherings and children's hour, open later and I dare say revitalized a little bit of downtown.

I found myself standing in an aisle of another downtown branch.  The Big City, with eyes closed trying to remember the name of an author my brother mentioned as an excellent writer of Civil war fiction. Try as I may to empty my mind so that the elusive name would just POP, I could not reel it in. I read a trick once that one was to think of a place and concentrate. I found myself laying on the front yard lawn of the first house my parents purchased. I had my hands behind my head and was staring at the blue sky and the white billowing clouds as they crossed over head making out images of elephants and faces. I could feel the soft grass under my arms and the smell, oh the smell of clover. I was astonished that I dragged this memory out of ....nowhere! So astonished that I could not complete the exercise which consists of climbing and counting up 30 stairs and throwing open a door. What you are looking for (trying to remember) will be on the other side of the door.

It was too sweet a memory to let go of, so I began to browse the titles to the left of my head. I was in the "M" section and laid my hand on "At Play In the Fields of the Lord" by PeterMatthiessen. "I'll be damned" I though to myself, "He writes fiction too?". I added it to the small stack I was taking home.

I began to read the novel and halfway through it I realized this story, written in 1965, reminded me of the books that I would sneak (or so I thought) out of the library under the discriminating eye of my Mother. Actually, it was fairly easy, as she was confident that our Catholic upbringing and her unfaltering faith would lead us to the correct books for our young minds. This is how I was able to read Peyton Place, Joy in the Morning, Our Crowd etc. at a very tender age.

APITFOTL was much like those books. Well written, great story, characters that haunted your non-reading state, people you cared for and hoped that maybe you were a little bit like them. The prose was fabulous...."we were like butterflies pinned to the frames of our mortality...." (something like that) and there were missionaries and mercenaries, good and evil, nakedness and South American natives. How I would have loved this book at 12. Not quite understanding the human emotions, the driving hungers and searches for meaning and salvation, but I would look forward to the day when it would all make sense.

This is what I love about the library, always have and why I always carry a book around with me much to my husbands chagrin. I raise my eyes from the written page and respond to his criticisms of my inattentiveness of his channel surfacing!! I shake my head at him, for why would I ever compare re-runs of Combat and The Rifle Man with a masterpiece such as APITFOTL?

The library is my escape.

The library is a magic carpet.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If it's Tuesday, it's Hamburger Night!

This afternoon I had to go to the Post Office (return Netflix) and I thought I would swing by Walmart and pick up some sulphur for the dreaded black spot's on my roses. I approached Walmart from the west, I usually swoop in from the east, I zoomed right past the entrance! So, off to Miejer I went because not only will they have the sulphur (could not find it) but they continue to carry the Yoplait Whipped Chocolate Mousse I am addicted to. I curse Walmart for dropping it because Miejer charges $.21 more for it. Damn you Walmart!

Then to ALDI for the $5.99 bag of 3lb frozen chicken and $1.99 gallon of milk vrs. the $6.79 and $3.89.  (Walmart)

My shopping habits have begun to change due to the rapidly climbing grocery prices! I now read the newspaper and chase the sales when I'm able and or in the vicinity. I can hardly afford my Coconut Rum anymore! It too has gone up in price forcing me to purchase the economy size 1.75 liter which in some ways is very very bad.

I happened to catch a television program in Memphis addressing the growing problems of limited income families making ends meet in regard to grocery shopping. That was where I was hipped to ALDI. I was also informed about a program called ANGEL FOOD that operated in and around Memphis. On a lark, I looked it up and found they have many locations in Kentucky and Indiana close to my home. Alas, I have not been able to take advantage of the great program, where you receive a truck load of food for $30.

It would be no problem for me to eat whatever is in the "box" for the month because of my Mother and our menu's while I was growing up and a captive in her house.

My Mom is a very educated person. Long story cut short, my Mom is the youngest of her siblings and very smart. She was the scholar of the family and her sister Maura did all the cooking cleaning etc. while Mom studied and did all sorts of astounding stuff like graduating from high school at 16, College at 19 and then received her Masters from Columbia after her mother whisked her off to Ireland for a year.

In other words, my Mom never learned to cook.

Our menu's never deviated from week to week, except when she was feeling anemic then we got the dreaded liver and onions.

Monday was Hot dog night. Hot dogs boiled in a sauce pan on the stove and served with buns and mashed potatoes, green beans from a can. Chocolate milk with raw egg for the boys, milk for me and jello for dessert.

Tuesday, hamburgers and french fries. The hamburgers were the frozen kind that came in a box that you took a knife to and separate. French fries were also the frozen string variety served in a wooden bowl. Maybe a can of corn or celery and carrots boiled together.

Wednesday night was meat loaf night. Greasy and made with egg and crushed crackers. Green beans from a can and mashed potatoes.

Thursday was left over night.

Friday was spaghetti night! And maybe some fried shrimp, which she also made in a beat up sauce pan and sometimes turned black but was still a delicacy to me! If there was no smoking shrimp, there was tuna fish. No garlic bread, maybe some toast with butter. No mashed potatoes, though there was jello for desert.

Saturday she worked at the library and Nana made dinner when she lived across the street from maybe 1967 - 1972. Then we had chicken! Yea Nana! She made Waldorf salad with apple cut up in the lettuce. And mashed potatoes. She also made apple turnovers and sometimes cherry. The new fangled kind that you purchased in the dairy section and included was a small bag of icing. Oh I still remember how we looked forward to Nana!

Sunday was always special and we would have something different like a stew or a pot roast. Mashed potatoes and more veggies from a can. And maybe fruit cocktail from the can. And if it was Easter or someones birthday that week, a cake.

We were all skinny kids. We all had to eat what was on our plates because there were starving children in China. Sometimes my brother T. had to be restrained in his chair, as was his habit to slide down his chair and try to escape under the table. He was caught every time. Unfortunately I had to sit across the table from him and I will never forget the faces he made eating mashed potatoes. Like he was going to barf.

Every night except Friday.

We laugh about it now. It is still a good joke among us kids.

Back to my point, if I get liver in the Angel Food Box I can handle it. Just like the old days.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My Happy Place(s)

A thief in the night blog

I found this theme on a very famous blog, so I am stealing it. It  is not so unusual that it has not been done before, it is just that I discovered it there so it is not a bona fide original Mary thought. Oh well, what can I say....

Back in the past, when I was receiving a pay check, I received that check once a month! Talk about leaning (forced) to budget! Yet on that glorious day I would rush to my favorite stores and indulge myself. First would be Sam's Club, then Tuesday Morning and I would round out the day at Borders.

Alas, those days are gone and money is tight. At least the throwing away kind. The kind that is so much fun to spend on non essential materialistic crap that will eventually end up long forgotten and in a yard sale.

Deep inside of me is a need so forceful that when it is unleashed it brings me great joy and happiness.  The frivolous spending of money. When I find myself sad and blue, overwhelmed with things and circumstance I take myself to one of my Happy Places....

The Goodwill Store!

A cornucopia of discarded treasure that distracts me from the worries of living and coping. I indulge my love of books by digging through the large canvass hampers of books. So deep, that to get to the bottom your feet leave the ground. There is unbounded joy in me as I pull out Pride and Prejudice , The Diary of Anne Frank and a Field guide to recognizing birds.

How can anyone forget the box of doll hands and feet I found last year!

The games, Scrabble, Bingo, Monopoly. The Barbie dolls and toy dinosaurs and bags of slightly used crayons. Cookie tins and exquisite dishes and Bybee pottery. Hand painted Italian water pitchers. Picture frames and old magazines from the 1960's.

I take a $10 bill with me and always leave with a bag of goodies, some change and a huge smile on my face.

As I said, one of my Happy Places.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Hello! You're the Guest Editor and I'm Not!

Here are my pic's for the I'M NOT THE GUEST EDITOR this week....

Since I have been a member of the AOL-J-Land Happening (I think since the beginning 2003) I have been fascinated with the political musings, defiant opinions and sweet entries of this entrepreneur who never fails to amuse me with her stories about the Cafe...the one and only Lisa of Coming to Term with Middle Age.

Next is Jae who is as sweet as she is tenacious with dealing the hand life deals her and  beating the odds.Winning and prevailing is what she is all about. This is her newest  journal (since she closed her first some time ago) The Gag Order. I am especially giddy with happiness with all the fabulous photo's of her beautiful face since she remained a mystery for so long!

I adore Dan of Slapinions who never is at a loss for something to say or write about. I, for one, was rolling on the floor laughing (hahahah) several weeks ago when he wrote about a stop he made at a dollar store in a shopping center that was subsequently held up! He is the greatest Dad and the I look forward to reading each and every entry he makes.

The last is a non-AOL journal, one that I love because I love travelogues and is called Austin to Africa, Brazil to Bay. Ali is smart, witty, beautiful, talented and lives in Mozambique!

So, I'm not the Guest Editor and more than likely you are!

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Come On Baby Take A Ride With Me......"

"I'm up from Indiana , Down in Tennessee"   John Melencamp

That song made me laugh while listening to my MP3 player when I was walking around the track at the fabulous city park in the small city Joe has taken up residence. As a matter of fact, I really like this city.

I am in the library using the computer and naturally, as it has always been my experience, I am sitting next to a nut case. And I have a fly buzzing around my cubicle.

I finished the book "Year of Jubilo" and it was a real page turner at the end. I even spent a good 10 minutes retelling some of the story with great animation to Joe on Wednesday afternoon. I said that I hope someone makes a movie of it so that I can cry about how much better the book is! I never saw the end coming. Loved it. It was a Civil War book centered around two soldiers returning home after the end of the war and what awaits them in the fictictous town of Cumberland, MS.

Joe thinks that living around so much history and historic sites of the Civil War  has lit the fuse of my obsession with all things related.

Do not have much to say, if anything at all. I am just finding that if I write something, anything it is easier to stay connected.

Does anyone read Confessions of a Pioneer Woman? Recently she had a contest to give away some sort of new fandangled MP3 player if you were one of the three lucky chosen writers of "what songs take you back in time and why". I thought I was a shoo in for one of prizes until I see she had over 13,000 comments with entries.

That means even though my answer is the best (Black Water by the Doobie Bros and the best  summer of my life) I will never survive among the 13,000+ responses. I think she just randomly picked three. Or else I would have won.

No sour grapes, just fresh ones.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What's Not on Sunday Scribblings

Civil War Re-enactment Confederates at Perryville circa 1992

There is a  group participation website called Sunday Scribblings that throws out a word or phrase that you respond to by writing an essay then adding your link. It is a great site and I throw in my two cents every now and then. As of late I have not been moved to submit anything.

Oh, if only they would throw out "rain" and I could write about the drenching I took at 430am when the thunder and lightening awoke me and I thought, "My car windows" and sure enough, they were partially open.

Or "road trip", I could write a book on that one.

"Fragrance" would be another good one. The air is perfumed with the magnolia tree next door.  Memphis is so thick with Japanese Honeysuckle that the air should be tinted yellow.

What would really release me, unlease the beast of an essay I have boiling up inside of me would be "The Civil War".  I know, I is kind of unexpected and crazy but not if I explain.

I put my name on a waiting list at the library for the bestseller, "Rhett Butler's People". After about a two month wait I finally got my hands on it and read it in about two days (it was about 600 pages, don't you know). I think I began reading it thinking I was not going to like it because I was automatically going to compare it with "Gone with the Wind"....or the movie version because I read GWTW about 100 years ago. Anyway, I like it despite the fact he got several things wrong. Scarlett's waist was 17 inches, not 16 and he spelt Cynthiana incorrectly every time he mentioned it. Then, in the final chapters he called it Cynthiana Tennessee instead of Kentucky! I was outraged and could not find a website to contact him and alert him to his heinous mistakes!

When I returned the book I picked up "Jacob's Ladder".

Then I read "The Judas Field".

After that I picked up "The Killer Angels".

I'm now half way through "The Year of Jubilo".

I am becoming something of a Civil War buff. And I am astonished at how much I did not realize, how ignorant I actually am concerning the history of the war between the states. Did you know that over 600,000 soldiers lost their lives.  That is not counting civilians. The 600,000+  deaths are more than The Mexican-American War, WWI, WWII , the Korean War and Viet Nam added together. 

This piece is a WIP......I'm not quite sure where I am heading with this. Earlier this year I signed up to participate in a reading program that encouraged you to go outside your normal genres and comfort levels. I thought that history would be a good for me and it seemsI have immersed myself into the years of 1861 - 1865.

Like I said, a WIP.


Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Good Old Days

The week before this past one, Rebecca was our Guest Editor (a wonderful journal, the best writing in J-land) from In The Shadow of the Iris and she was mentioning how long she had been journaling and how things had changed from the beginning. She cited some differences between now and then. Several days later, my mind was a blank and thoughts drifting in and out like clouds across the blue summer sky, squeezing the remote areas of my brain for some small inspiration for a journal entry when I remembered that in the beginning we were limited to only 2500 words.

2500 small, measly, meager words. This entire entry thus far is close to half of that allotment. What fancy editing was demanded. A word here, an adjective there. Still, too long. Wipe out that entire sentence! Finally, it fits. But, it makes no sense!

How many of us are still left that survived those days and did not just throw up our hands and say, "Heck, this is crazy!" and move on to Blogger, or Moveable Type etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, I just think its funny.

Reading Rebecca's latest entry made me think realize that I am not alone. I could never ever so eloquently express the reasons why the entries are becoming harder and longer spaced. It is easy to write about interesting stuff. Each of us has a large bag full of inspiring and funny stories, histories that are pleasant in sharing. After spending years pounding them out, they begin to run thin. So thin that suddenly I feel the real person, the honest to goodness ME is beginning to appear on the pages. Not the person I want you all to see, but the real one. She manages to slip out and make her presence known.

And that scares me. I'm not sure why that is. After all these years there has never been a knock on the door and I am served with a "Cease and Desist" order. Or someone knocks and I open the door and they are waving a gun at me. I have not had a knock on the door and opened it and been embarrassed by the steady stare of someone I have written about on these pages. I try to keep most people shielded. Or I did in the beginning when it seemed so important. No one from my family knows, and if they do, they don't let me know they know. Several times a year I receive an e-mail from someone (someone I always know) asking "Who are you?" after reading my "web site" (that's what the latest called it.)

But I have fallen on hard times when it comes to writing material. I am stripped as thin as I have ever been and down to bare bone. My father has died, my Aunt has died, my husband hated his job that brought us close to family and subsequently took a job that takes him 400 miles away from me. This is not good. I feel I am in a life and death struggle with my daughter. I have gained weight and feel like I can not go out and find a job because I look so fat and middle aged. Invisible.

So, even though I have a rich, uncultivated steady stream of remarkable writing material, I can not bring myself to do it!

Yet, I just did.

And thank God I am not limited to 2500 words or this never would have been written.