And the seasons they go round and round

27 10 2013

LeavesLoss comes in many forms. I got a late night call from my daughter this week to tell me her long-time friend Michael had taken his life. I had an intense maternal need to wrap my arms around my baby girl to protect her from the tidal wave of grief that swept over us both. I could feel the emotional aftermath that was hitting all who knew this talented and brilliant young man.

As I tried to make sense of it all, I rewatched Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creative genius. She talks of the fear of being a creative person and being undone by those gifts. We know when we have seen the artist who is lit from within, when they give a performance that is transcendent. When we have this experience, we see a glimpse of the divine.

Those who knew Michael saw his transcendent gift as we watched his hands fly over the piano keys when he played.  Perhaps the burden of that gift was too difficult for him to bear.

The universe has been whispering to me of the seasons of life. While Gilbert’s TED Talk spoke to my intellect, it was listening to Joni Mitchell’s song, The Circle Game that unleashed the tears.

My daughter is looking at a spring college graduation, just as her friend Michael was. A year from now she will probably be living in a far off city. While I want to hold her close to me, it is my job to encourage her to fly.

We can’t stop the seasons from going round and round. Pain and tragedy are part of living a full life.  As a parent I hope I have given my daughter the tools she needs to enter her new adult life and the inner strength to sustain her in difficult times.

We leave our gifts with the world no matter how long we walk upon it. My week ended with a baby’s christening, a life just starting, full of promise and possibility, blessed by the universe.

The seasons they will continue.

The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell   

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like when you’re older must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him take your time it won’t be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game 

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My Sweet Ghostly Connection

20 10 2013

This ghostly image of my grandparents, my mom and her little brother recently appeared in my life. The double exposed photo from the 1930’s shows a smiling family posing for a camera and then walking away. My grandfather’s translucent image shows him tenderly reaching for his little boy. They are dressed up in their Sunday best. Perhaps this cake was the dessert my grandmother had baked and was waiting for them.

Ghost picture

I hear my grandmother‘s whisper to me across the decades. The first line of her yellowed, handwritten recipe says, “Here is a good cake recipe I want you to try,” and it concludes with “sure is a good moist cake.”

apple cake recipe

Maw Maw’s Fresh Apple Cake

apple cake

2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cinnamon*
½ cup shortening
1 ½ cup grated peeled apple
½ cup apple sauce*
2 tbsp. milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Optional: ½ cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)*

Sift the first 7 dry ingredients together. Add shortening, grated apples, applesauce and milk. Beat together for 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.  Fold in nuts. Pour batter in a greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

* Added to original recipe

combined photo

I treasure my grandmother’s handwritten recipes. I felt her spirit with me as I used her apple-coring tool, her apple-green Depression Glass plates and her silverware.  And Maw Maw was right, it sure is a good cake recipe and I’m glad I tried it.

Here are a few other of Maw Maw’s recipes I’m sure she’d love for you to try.
Maw Maw’s Hot Milk Cake
Maw Maw’s Cocoon Cookies

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

 





The Golden Rule

13 10 2013

I would not have been able to imagine a few years ago that I would have hundreds of “friends” that I don’t really know. Social media has changed and connected the world in unimaginable ways. But the same basics of friendship are the same whether you’re in real life or in the online world.

164754892

I’ve had lots of sharing between friends IRL and online this week. Two stories I’ve recently written have involved real-life friendships that go back decades and I’ve shared those stories with my virtual friends. My story of reinvention was my way of celebrating a dear friendship as it moves into a new chapter.  I hold this friendship and our story sacred and it was important for me to tell it. I’m grateful it has been life affirming for those who read it.

I wrote an open letter to another old friend this week. He is my congressman in Washington DC and we differ politically. I’ve known him for years and believe him to be a good man. I held that memory of the boy I’ve known since we were barely teens when I wrote the letter. I’ve stayed away from writing anything political because we all know that the conversation can get ugly fast and end friendships. I am not friends with people IRL or online who spew vitriol.

Not all agreed my position in my open letter, but the conversation stayed respectful and civil. Friends should be OK when they disagree with each other. We should know that differing opinions could be expressed, if spoken kindly. Friends don’t have to always agree with each other, but they do have to respect each other. I’m grateful that I have friends who have different opinions. How boring the world would be if we were all alike.

I have been part of a wonderful group of midlife women bloggers for most of this year. I call myself a writer these days because of the encouragement I’ve found in this online group. I traveled to Chicago for the BlogHer conference this summer because of the strong connection I felt to these fabulous women. I learned that odds were if you connected with someone online, a friendship IRL is easily formed. This week the three creators of that online group publically split.

We all have known a couple that looks like they have a rock-solid relationship, one admired or even envied. What a shock it is when this couple splits up. This splitting of this business partnership felt like that divorce.

I am saddened by this business split and fortunately I don’t have to take sides. Different people have different truths. Relationships shift and change over time. Friendships come and go, because we grow and evolve differently. I’m grateful for the old and the new friendships in my life. I’m even grateful for those I’m no longer friends with because I’ve learned something from everyone.

The timeless Golden Rule still applies IRL and in social media world, “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.“ Here’s my virtual toast to you all, “To my friends, be kind to each other.” Now I’ll have a glass of wine IRL.





Dear Billy Cassidy,

6 10 2013

I know you go by Bill these days, but I’ve known you since 7th grade and I’ve always called you Billy. How’s it going? I see you all over the news now that you’re my Congressman in Washington DC. It seems just a minute ago that we were in high school and you were playing football and I was in the pep squad painting the banner for the team to break through at the beginning of a game. Our school winning the State Football Championship will always be a fun memory.

Tara High School Senior Graduating Class

Tara High School Senior Graduating Class

Billy is on the top row (with the football players) and I'm on the bottom row (with the class officers)

Billy is on the top row (with the football players) and I’m on the bottom row (with the class officers)

My life is good. My family is still close and we’re all healthy though Mom is frail and lives in a nursing home. I’ve got a wonderful man in my life. We were just downtown for the great free outdoor concert that happens on Fall Fridays. We stopped in a gallery and saw a stunning exhibit while we were there. It’s great how the Arts have made our downtown a thriving, happening place to be. You and I both remember when it was a scary place and we would only go there if it were a school field trip to the State Capitol.

After the concert, my sweetie and I went and got a po boy at a tiny little place that has been there for decades and has survived the ups and downs of downtown. I’m sure you and your family have been there too.

There was a family band tucked away in the corner playing for tips. Grandpa, Mom and Dad and their two teen kids. They took turns playing instruments and singing. They were hilariously awful. I thought I was in a Candid Camera kind of skit, especially when the dad took the mike and started singing Afternoon Delight. Did they not know this song was about having sex? It was so wrong on every level that three generations were smiling and singing along about a bedroom romp.

My thought was that they had to just be clueless. Since the whole family was “musical” I’m sure they played before friends who must have encouraged them and told them they should take their show on the road. They could be like the Partridrige Family. We all surround ourselves with like-minded people and good friends encourage each other. Maybe these friends saw this family that all loved music and got caught up in a Karaoke moment and told them how great they were.

The marketplace will give a message to this family band. The restaurant was emptying fast and the tip jar was empty. I could not help but think of you and the friends in the House you’re now spending time with. You’ve surrounded yourself with people who are all singing a very bad song, yet you’ve convinced yourselves you sound good.

But Billy, this is a very bad song that you are all singing. Unlike the clueless family band, it is not funny. The song and dance you are part of is hurting innocent, hardworking people and it’s hurting the country and the sound of your voices are being heard around the globe. And not in a good way.

So you are my representative. It’s your job to listen to my voice. No one told that family band that a song about screwing in the afternoon was a really bad song choice. But I’m telling you and your friends that the song you are singing is screwing the country. Please stop. Don’t let pride and ego get in the way. You are better than that. I want to believe that you are still a good man. A man that became a doctor and moved back to Louisiana with your doctor-wife to help people.

I’ll still hug you at the class reunion and we won’t talk politics. We can show each other pictures of our kids and smile and then go visit someone else. Tell Laura hi.

Take Care,

Connie





My Own Little Shop of Horrors

6 10 2013

I hate the effin’ bamboo in my backyard. Yes, it makes me foul mouthed and foul tempered. If you’ve ever dealt with the monster, then you understand. Its firmly entrenched having been living there for two decades. I would have to literally take down the fence, destroy the deck, and bring in earth moving equipment to dig up my tiny yard, to get rid of it. It’s woven its evil tentacles under every square inch of this sliver of a garden space that is supposed to be my Zen garden.

So I have resigned myself to live with it. I just try to contain it. It’s growing season is usually 6 months. In the spring I can sit outside with a morning cup of coffee and come inside for a refill and by the time I return, there’s a stalk as tall as me growing between the deck boards.  It’s now Halloween season and it’s scaring me because it won’t stop growing. I think it’s somehow involved with global warming and is conspiring to take over the world with it’s cousin, kudzu.

It had been a few weeks since I had gotten out there to prune it as it continued it’s relentless attempt to take over the world. As I’m stooped over cutting it out from beneath the garden rocks, I thought what are the life lessons I can learn from bamboo.  As if on cue, I get back-to-back calls from my adult daughter and aging mother because they also need attending to.

Living with Bamboo

Deep roots help you survive adversity. My ex-husband planted the bamboo. He’s long gone, but what he planted is still here. Post divorce I stayed in the home we had built. My ex and I wanted our daughter to keep her home roots when her life was unsettled during this tumultuous time. My home has now been reinvented as my own creative oasis.  My daughter has moved out and the effin’ bamboo is still here.

Accept things for what they are. Like bamboo, my daughter may annoy me at times. She operates in her own time frame, which is rarely the same as mine. Because she knows I love her unconditionally, she feels free to call me in the middle of the night because she’s locked her keys in her car with the engine running. I am not going to change her and she will continue to grow into adulthood. I can only change my own reaction to the things that annoy me. I also know that she is a smart, talented, beautiful woman who has a bright future in front of her and I’m grateful for having her in my life.

Things that bend with the wind are usually stronger than things that are inflexible. My 85-year–old mom is stronger than she realizes. She has created a full and happy life in a nursing home, no small accomplishment. Her age and frailty may bend her down at times, but her inner strength has her bouncing back after the storm passes.  And calling me because she has broke the remote control again because she threw it at her 90-year-old boyfriend— that’s an easy problem to fix.

Find the gift in the problem. I have decided to live with this annoying weed that grows before my eyes. It is not worth the money and effort to get rid of it. My backyard fence travels along my neighbor’s driveway. They hate my effin’ bamboo which invades their yard too. Our homes are very close to each other. When I decided to embrace what I can’t get rid of, I allowed it to grow along the fence line. It helps diffuse visually how close my neighbors are. It also naturally filters the hot afternoon sun that would pour into my kitchen window.

Everything has it’s own beauty and grace. As much as I hate the effin’ bamboo, I must admit to the beauty of it when the sun streams through it’s leaves and it’s dappled light filters through. And the sound of the wind through its leaves along with the sound of the wind chimes, is soothing to my soul.

Some things thrive no matter where they’re planted. So while I still hate the effin’ bamboo, I know it‘s not a personal vendetta from God. Maybe there are lessons I am meant to learn.

Or maybe…I just need a panda bear.

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