Hello and welcome. I stopped blogging after a decade and four months because I believed I’d had my say. Closing down and moving on was the thing to do. I did. I chilled, I did new things, read a small stack of new books, drew a lot, read a slew of blogs, cooked up a storm and worked on being the best me possible. Here I am again in a knitting frame of mind, hoping we can hang out, share our stories, create together and learn from each other. And while we’re at it . . . bring on the yarn if you are so inclined.
Guilty. On all charges. I believe the charges should have been for first degree murder because George Floyd’s death was intentional. I will settle for guilty on all charges. I thought I would pass out from the overwhelming flood of emotions that swept through me the moment JC sent this text:
“GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY. I cried!”
I turned on the television for a few minutes, not imagining the verdict would come today. Distracted, I turned it off. Couldn’t turn it on fast enough after JC’s text. Was shaking too hard. Could not catch my breath. Almost passed out. The house is so quiet . . . I can hear my heart beating like a silent drum. The jury system finally works for African Americans.
It’s been a long time coming
but a change has finally come . . .
I have been on a quest for the perfect readers for such a long time, I forget when it began. Sunglasses were on the list too. It’s been years since I have had prescription sunglasses because the Honda and JC’s truck have tinted windows. I’m under the umbrella when on the patio so . . . Sounds lazy, huh? Or, my person is just overwhelmed by all the things that need updating and upgrading and taking care of, that finding safe and healthy eyeglasses always ends up on the bottom of my list of must-dos. Being overwhelmed is never fun. And an embarrassing truth is I’m often annoyed with sunglasses because they dim the view for me. Things are never as sharp as or as clear as I want them to be when my world is looked at through helpers. It’s like a camera that fails to capture what I really see but is a necessary failure. Am grateful for sunglasses and corrective lenses though.
The worst failing of all is the effects the chemicals that coat the glass that makes the lenses have on my body. The films/coatings give off gases that affect my eyes, sinuses, inner ear, lips . . . Hey, they simply make me sick; that cannot be good. Allergic reactions never are. I appreciate them for the red flags they are though but a body should not have to take an antihistamine because one’s eyes need glasses.
Now comes my rewards for being diligent and staying on track. Periodic searches for glasses made with actual glass resulted in nothing more than frustration. One such search earned me a response from the owner of a company that makes eyewear. He assured me no such thing existed; he informed me that the glasses on offer from places like bookstores were failures. Only his coated acrylic glasses would do. Never mind my reply that the pair I needed to replace was about five years old, having stood me in good stead until the left lens fell out. No amount of glue helped. They’re favorites. So my search continued. Then, hello world! Seek and you shall find still proves true. I found a pot of gold, and inside were. . .
. . . the readers of my quest. My Eye Q score increased exponentially the moment I put them on. I looked smarter, too . . .
. . . to be continued
Was channel surfing to see if the @create segment was on when something on Tamron Hall caught my ear. “Influencers” was the catch word but the images pulled me in hard enough to pay attention. Why do so many people want to influence others? Don’t they give up their privacy in their attempts to be the current “It?” If it’s true, then that’s scary. The idea of having lemmings following you 24/7 is even scarier. What gets fed by the false adulation? Is it adulation? Insecurity? Aren’t you enough as you are? Being like someone else, doing what they’re doing, wearing and eating what they’re into means you are not being your (heaven help me) “authentic self.” Isn’t that scary?
Sometimes I feel as old as sea salt and black pepper but guess what. I am still “becoming.” Unfolding even; still recognizing the silent partner parts of me. So how can I not find myself as interesting as anyone else? Even when being me is boring externally–internally, I am something else. All of us are! I’m not saying I don’t find others fascinating. I do. And those that do deserve my interest. Like the young student who invented surgical sutures made from beets. The sutures change color when infection is present post-op And there’s the newly discovered poet Seema Yasmin. And, you. Yes, you! Couldn’t be? Then who?
Growth and change and discovery are some of the best parts of waking up. Not Folgers in a cup. But then again, I don’t drink coffee. I drank so much of the stuff in college it made my stomach churn out acid in self-defense. I cannot stand the smell of it now. Being alive is THE best part of waking up, isn’t it? Knowing I have a choice of tea to match my mood, elevate it, got me thinking on what Tamron’s guests were spouting. I am not a daytime tv fan for purposeful reasons. Celebrities do not fascinate me except when the news tries to tell me they should be, and I cannot help but wonder why. All the incessant chatter from Kelly and What’s his name is as annoying as gnats. My neighbors are usually far more interesting. Dang. I hope all this does not seem self-righteous. This post is meant to be about influencers in my daily life. Not that you should even care, but still . . . I wanted to tell you how my choice of tea for the day is influenced by how I feel. So is my choice in clothing.
I’m still wearing my pajama bottoms. Having decided to stay in all day, how could I waste clean clothes just to mess around inside? I caved and pulled on a favorite top. Properly clothed, sans bra, I went down to make tea. Since there’s been no visible sunlight for two days in a row, I let the weather influence what would be the Folgers-in-my-cup. I chose tea with strong citrus flavors that fare well with lemon and honey. And here we have it. Drinking my sunlight substitute is, as Martha used to say, “A good thing.” ‘Tis a great way to start the day.
Waiting for the water to boil, I looked up and my bouquet that sits on the window sill above the kitchen sink demanded my attention. And guess what. The harebells are open! Yesterday it was a single of the three. Now the trio is bumping cups with each other like they were born to it. And allow me to confess that before this bouquet, I had never seen harebells except in photos or books, but most especially in English gardens. And on two blogs. The lovelies in both blogs are blue. Please humor me, and allow me to share some not-so-great photos of my harebells. Life is still a wonder. So I wonder why they aren’t called “hair bells” because they have are fine, sparse, erect white hairs sprouting on inside the cups in groups of three. Or did my eyes fail and memory improvised–telling me what it thinks I want to see? Never mind. I didn’t wear my glasses. As if that’s a convincing excuse. Oh, vanity, vanity vanity! You fickle whore.
There is compensation for my lack of photography skill these day though. Almost entirely absent is the swelling and pain from the damaged nerve this week. Who am I fooling? I am pain-managed. Can you tell? I’m even wearing a bra. New posts are sure signs that my body feels good. But the days of lying in the grass for a close-up are gone for good. I can live with that. Am no longer adept at managing a camera bag with at least two cameras, several lenses, and a tripod. Ah, youth! Is time for new glasses too, but improved vision can wait until the threat of infection abates. Am letting my driver’s license expire because I’m not ready to deal with sickness again. I can live with my lens not always capturing what I see but there are second, third and even fourth chances. Is perfection only in my mind’s eye? Perhaps. Still and all, I used the Canon the day before just to photograph the harebells. Cooked some more couscous, ate, did the dishes so JC wouldn’t have to. Yep, that’s how good these days are. Harebells and citrus flavored tea, six good books, and last night’s bath (not another shower!) are the frosting on my cake. Delightful influencers they are. Sitting on my sheepskin is too. So, bottoms up!
It’ll take me a little longer to write this post. It’ll take as long as I need to search iTunes for this Walter Jackson song, “I’ve Got It Bad Feeling Good,” buy it, download and listen as I write. ‘Cause I’ve got it bad, feeling this good on a still, humid, sunless day. A day so quiet birdsong sounds amped up; so loud I had to stop reading and search for some odd little bird with a mic, ’cause no way could such a small thing make such a loud sound without one.
Have you ever been sick and tired of feeling sick and tired? You have? Then you know how a string of sick and tired days can alter all of you and every inch of your day. Such days are times when you’ve got it good feeling bad. It’s like having more Good n Plenty than you could stand.
I’ve had my fair share of such days recently. Truth is though, they are so rare they stand out as if they’re newly arrived, armed with freshly cut switches to hunt bear, and I’m the bear. That’s just how bad-ass dim days are–dark days are a kazillion times worse. Sounds like I just described how depression used to feel. I pray that such memories will be permanently eradicated because remembering shakes me up. Such memories used to frighten me; made me think the demon had returned. The antidote: Reminding myself that all is well now, and give thanks that it is. Then I remind myself that sad only seems like depression, and sad is okay, in moderation.
“Joy and suffering dance together long into the night.” (Sherlock Holmes, “The Irregulars.”) I’ma keep the light on to shorten the night–keep it at bay for longer. A large dose of light came to me yesterday in the form of an early birthday gift. The sight of the big box it came in made me gasp. When’s the last time you gasped? I wonder why we gasp when we’re surprised, amazed, awed, pained? Why the sudden need for more air? Perhaps I should google “Why do we gasp?” I will! BRB.
Aha! For every question there is an answer. Here’s the number one given by Google:
“Probably to grab a little extra oxygen. Gasping is part of the flight/fight response in which adrenalin and other hormones are released to prepare the body for action. These dilate pupils, speed up heart rate, breathing and metabolic rate, and supply more fuel to the muscles.”
It works for me. I suppose my gasp really was my body’s way of preparing for action. The action of opening that big box with restraint. We know restraint requires energy.
So I gently opened one of the best wrapped boxes that came with my name written on it, and this is what I saw:
Turns out I had every reason to gasp. Never has anything felt as good as this. Not much has felt this perfect in far too long. It didn’t smell. There were no allergic reactions; just a sensory overload that made me want to pass out like those little fainting goats we saw every time we drove past the farm on our way to Jasper. I zoned out stroking that bit of bliss in a box before I gently lifted it up and out of the confines of butcher’s paper and cardboard. Am grateful for the care instructions on back since I save such things in places that are quickly forgotten. Oh! There’s a little brush/rake too.
Last night I sat on my little sheepskin. I stroked it while watching the news. It’s odd how it soothed me through the dark parts. After a while, I spread newspapers on the rug and put one foot atop the little sheep’s fur. Oh! Be still my heart! The memory makes me breathe faster. The sensation defies description. Both feet had to bask together. And so they did. The heel spur did not protest. It didn’t even cry out. I placed it on the hard desk chair. Lo! I cannot begin to tell you how good my elbows felt. Won’t even try. My bony butt still thanks me.
Last night I slept the sleep of the righteous. I slept through the night without ear plugs. I did not thrash. I sometimes do, even with the weighted cooling blanket, but not last night.
Yes, I felt guilty just long enough for it to feel like penance before accepting the reassurance that my birthday gift did not cause the death of a sheep. Their pelts can do good long after they have been killed for food. The pelts are from Australia and New Zealand. In my defense, I did give thanks for its life. Native Americans taught me that. I believe saying grace if I ate its flesh is the way to honor an animal’s life. I follow the sage advice to eat meat in moderation too. Leviticus 11 is my guide regarding nourishment, although I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life. Dang. I must still bear some discomfort over eating meat again, however sparingly, since I am trying to justify it here. So, yes, I’ve got it good feeling bad and I’ve got it bad feeling good. It does not change that truth of it. A little sheep eases my pain, even in death. And I am grateful.
This has to be one of the best Springs ever. The Deep Freeze made it possible. Lives were lost but there’s good in everything. I loved a song I heard a few years back, and remembered just this bit: “There’s a blessing in the storm.”
I just had to google that one snippet of lyrics to discover that yes, Kirk Franklin gave us the song. Here’s the poetry of it:
When I cannot hear the sparrow sing
And I cannot feel the melody
There’s a secret place that’s full of grace
There’s a blessing in the storm,
There’s a blessing in the storm.
When the sickness won’t leave my body
And the pain just won’t leave my soul
I get on my knees and say “Jesus please”
There’s a blessing in the storm,
There’s a blessing in the storm.
When I cannot seem to love again
And the raindrops won’t ever end
If you just hold on
Those clouds will soon be gone
There’s a blessing in the storm.
Sweet sweet, the storm, sweet . . .
(Kirk Franklin– “Blessing in the Storm”)
No, I am not a church-going-Bible-waver. However, I am spirit+body+soul, and all of me needs nurturing. I do what works for me and do my best to leave others to be and live as they see fit. I go to the well as often as I need–alone and thirsty. I leave quenched and sated, able to live another day with more grace and love, and peace. Joy is a given. Thirst quenchers are often prayer and prose, poetry and friendships . . . Life is full of oases. Sometimes flowers are one.
Once in a while I need a bouquet. Ranunculus are the best answers but they have been scarce the last handful of years. For a long time there were no substitutes. Except perfect daises.
Yesterday I asked JC to see what WFM had as a ranunculus substitute–the more color the better. He sent photos. In one I see a woman looking askance as he snapped away. I chose the jar with the daises. And here they are. Beauty from the outdoors brought inside. How could I not share them with you? Let us enjoy the beauty together.
The backyard is a gift shop filled with freebies. Things are so pretty and there’s every color in a rainbow to be had just for looking. I was out with the Canon instead of the iPhone today; resistance was futile. I’ll upload the goodies later tonight. Anticipation makes waiting hard but Patience is a virtue I am trying to cultivate. Besides, I have to wash dishes now. I spent a couple of hours making an eggplant casserole, roasted some pork, made gravy from the drippings, and it took an awful lot of hardware. The cook shouldn’t have to cook AND do the dishes but there’s no one else here though, so . . . Procrastination doesn’t wash, rinse, or dry either. Heaven forbid it tries to load the dishwasher.
After much consternation and consideration, I’m off.
I have a new honey to share with you. Used to be I ordered from Beesponsible and Beesponsible only. On days when I wanted to bake bread and lacked enough honey for a single loaf, I fell into despair. Okay, maybe not despair but bread didn’t get baked that day and I was regretful. So I decided to go with what was just as good and a few blocks away. Thank goodness for Homegoods. They sell a honey that is just as good, costs less, and is as close as a few blocks away.
Let me introduce to the best substitute that has become my go to honey. Meet “Breitsamer Honig, the Golden Selection” Um, isn’t all honey golden? Some is amber, I suppose, but isn’t amber simply gold amped up? I wonder why some honey tastes better than others. I wonder what brand Sandra Auto uses? Should I ask? All that business about organic honey is a lot of hooey. How can you herd bees to harvest only from organic sources? The have a mind of their own. Just like people. And seeing as how this honey is from Bavaria, who knows where they’ve been? Just like bees in America, they don’t wear trackers.
You should hear the bees in the forty foot willow out back. I like to sit on the patio with a book, or just close my eyes and be lulled into a twilight sleep. Their buzzing–I call it humming–but EC says, “Mom, bees buzz.” But, yes, they harvest the millions of nectar offerings on that tree, and they also hit the clover and all the little wildflowers, crepe myrtles blooms, and pretty much anything that flowers. I wonder why fig trees don’t have flowers. But you should see me trying to walk across the yard while avoiding bees underfoot and overhead. It’s a fine line I tread. And seeing as how I’m allergic to bee stings, I count myself fortunate that they allow me free passage.
I declare Breitsamer Honig to be worth the price, even discounted. The flavor is remarkable. It has a tang that makes you want to lick the honey spoon after each drizzle, but don’t. This honey is great drizzled on toast, cottage cheese, peanut butter on bread, in homemade salad dressing, atop toasted walnuts, and yes, even in your favorite bread recipe.
The new jar ain’t half bad either. I’m determined to believe that’s a hive there on the side. I like the honeycomb, too. Try it. Oh! It’s honeylicious in your tea! Yes, indeed. Honey and lemon in a drink is mmm, good.
Be well, my friends. Be well.
I like couscous. In all fairness, the only couscous I have ever eaten is my version of how it should be. My own recipe, if you will. My preference is Israeli couscous. Before I ordered Israeli couscous from nuts dot come I bought it at the local Phonecia Market in Houston. I tried to cook the smaller darlings but it was a disaster. The women cooking it in the documentary I watched last year made it look so easy. My attempt was disgusting. I need the larger “pearls” because they are easier to keep an eye on. I used a different recipe too, when I did my version yesterday. I boiled it for five minutes, covered and removed it from the burner per instructions; when I tried to fluff it . . . Let me just say this: It needed another three or four minutes; then I covered it and set it aside. It fluffed like a dream. Adding the oil and butter first was key. Every pearl was perfect and did not stick to the bottom of the pot.
So. I sautéed thinly sliced celery stalks with the leaves, diced red onions, green olives that I actually cut from the pit, chopped parsley and roasted red peppers in olive oil–beginning with the celery and onions and gradually added the other ingredients. I sautéed the shrimp after it had marinated in a bit of olive oil, pink Himalayan salt, fresh ground pepper and minced garlic. I returned the shrimp to the sautéed bits long enough for it to get acquainted. Oh, the aroma!
The lovely, shiny, slightly salty couscous went into my favorite bowl. I topped it with the shrimp and veg, loved it with some lemon juice, a bit more salt–because couscous is bland and needs salt like the ocean needs waves–and ate like a longshoreman. Yep. It was just that good.
Three bites in I realized I’d forgotten the baby corn! Not to worry. I didn’t even bother heating it. Simply added it to the bowl, folded it in and ate on.
Oops! I forgot again. Sorry. I sautéed some spinach too! Spinach is always a part of my recipe. All the flavors from the vegetables and herbs blend like alchemy, flavoring even the baby corn! (Corn fetuses, actually.) You can see it in the photos. I’m thinking of trying my little recipe with broccoli next time. Even broccolini! And pepper flakes. Oo! La!
There was just enough leftovers for lunch. And yes, it was better than I imagined. My one regret was not having doubled the recipe. Oh. And not having eaten slower.
Traditions are simply carried on with little to no thought, passed down through generations. We often wonder who began the holiday menu everyone still incorporates to this day. Which elder created the dressing recipe, the potato salad, sweet potato pie? How to cook greens–whether to use bacon, ham hocks, shank or fat back? Which long-dead ancestor seasoned those greens everyone still loves?
The old recipes are the ones we know by rote, adapting and tweaking just a bit down the decades, adjusting according to our palates or perhaps for a child or spouse who does not like an ingredient. When EC is home I make two dressings. Mamas have an inherent desire to please every palate, and no one misses a meal or goes without on a holiday. We will cook two proteins, two entrees if someone at table does not like mushrooms or green onions. Pleasing eaters is what we do. But the traditional dishes are always on table. It’s like having the ancestors there with us, enjoying the feast and the generations grouped around a groaning table. That’s just the way it is.
Easter traditions from both JC’s and my family’s are cultural. EC has adapted recipes to keep the African American flavors and menu, but there is no meat in her menu. Why? She became a vegetarian when I made us one and she sticks to it. That’s a whole other story but there’s no turkey up in our kitchen. No one ever liked it; ham returned this year but we stepped away from turkey and roasted chickens decades ago. I turned to salmon. Now there’s halibut too. This is the first time in decades that ham was the star. Again. JC loved the grilled pineapple slices . . .
My four siblings and I grew up with the traditional Easter baskets filled with fake straw, toys, chocolate eggs and rabbits . . dyed eggs added after the egg hunt. In the beginning those baskets were taller than my sister and me. Our dresses were something else all together. I hated mine; all that lace made me itch; the new patent leather shoes had slippery soles, and we won’t mention the giant bows that tickled my ears. I could never avoid making a mess down the front of my Easter frock. My poor mama despaired of ever making me look cute and refined. I hated those pony tails and bangs. All her efforts were wasted because I slept through the sermon and woke all mussed and sweaty, because once the choir finished singing, I was down for a nap and did not wake until after the preacher said Amen. For all I cared, I could have gone to church in my pajamas.
Our mama did it all for us though. We’re talking dyed eggs, at least until my sister and I were old enough to help. I can smell the vinegar even now. Getting to experiment with the spent cups of dye was as much fun as watching the white eggs slowly change color. It always ended up a tinted brown. Translation? Pure magic.
I taught my younger siblings how to dye and decorate eggs when it was my turn. They taught their children just as I taught my daughter. EC does not dye eggs though. There are no Easter egg hunts in her present or future. She prefers fine chocolates, brunch, Prosecco and coconut cake . . . and Easters in Paris.
Roasted chicken, cornbread dressing, potato salad, turnip, mustard or collard greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, deviled eggs, iced tea and coconut cake were the standard menu fare growing up. Easters were celebrated at our family church and dinner was always at Grandmother’s. Aunts loaded up the cars and unloaded at Grandmother’s for our after-church feasts. Aunts and uncles and cousins drove hundreds of miles to be there. That’s what families did. I still don’t know how we all fit into Grandmother’s house and kitchen; nor do I know where all the plates, flatware and glasses came from, but we all sat down and ate after church. How we children ever managed to eat all the chocolates and hard boiled eggs afterward is beyond my ken, but we did it.
Sunday school meant candy from Mama Lula. We stopped standing in line waiting for that treat only after we graduated from high school. I’ll tell you about Mama Lula another day, but she was a part every child’s life in the Armstrong Community. She taught the youngest members and was a vital part of Armstrong Memorial CME Church, a church founded by once enslaved people.
After Sunday school, Mama Lula passed out a single piece of candy to each child in her class of little ‘uns, and yes, the teens were included. It didn’t matter that we were embarrassed to be standing there since all she ever did was smile and place a piece of sweetness in our hands, but that candy was a tradition too. It did not matter that we might not have eaten it ourselves. It was Mama Lula’s love passed on in the giving that mattered.
Mama Lula was a darling, with skin was so dark she looked like a shadow with purple tints. She was beautiful. She always wore her white usher’s uniform; the white gloves brought out the white in her eyes, her smile, and the church shined brighter for it. Mama Lula Mitchell was the most loved sister of all. Everyone knew it and did not mind at all. There are irrefutable facts that stand on truth. That was one.
Another truth about Easter Sunday is the coconut cake. As I’ve said, ain’t Easter without it. So you’d better believe ovens across communities were filled with yellow or white batter destined to be covered with icing or frosting and crowned with sweet coconut. See above . . . It’s my daughter’s creation. So, see? The tradition lives on.
What’s your Easter tradition? Does it include ham? Ham baked with grilled pineapple slices, cherries and cloves? Roast chicken? Salmon? Potato salad? Dang. I’m getting hungry just writing about it. JC had grits and eggs and leftover ham for breakfast. The leftover bone and leavings will flavor a pot of pinto beans later in the week. Ham. A gift that keeps on giving.
Death seems to sneak up on a body when they’re not looking. Not the body left to mourn! Well, yeah, I suppose it does that too. It’s just that Death seems to take loved ones often unexpectedly. Since COVID signed on as Its personal assistant, it claims too many of my family members when I least expect it. Young and old alike it does. As recently as a month ago it claimed them in multiples. There were three in a single week. This week JC lost a cousin who’s a twin, and I lost a cousin who is younger by at least a decade, only a day apart. Cousin’s youngest brother died last month. Lupus is all up in my family tree. Lupus and sarcoidosis. Not cancer though. Thank God.
I’ve been too stunned and saddened to publish the posts I’d planned to share all these weeks. It all felt so pointless. Who cares? Right? Well . . . I suppose I do. I tell myself I’m okay if I can step outside me to talk about how I feel, what I’m doing. Reading blogs is easier by far because reading takes me outside the perimeter of sadness and grief that seems more real than anything else I have to deal with.
Concentration is practically impossible. Journals help when I least expect it. I can draw if I cannot write it, whatever it is, so there’s that. My cameras do so much more than I give them credit for. I forget to upload the images to my Mac so that when I do remember they often stun and surprise me.
JC ordered something from PA and it came cushioned in pages and pages of newspaper. Comics! Yes, comics. They were my favorite sources of humor when I was a girl. I drew silly comics for our school paper. So naturally, I smoothed those pages from Lancaster Online and read every single funny on offer. Caught off guard, I actually laughed once. Three favorites are earmarked to grace the pages of my new journal. Keepers. Relevant keepers. Who knew a few artists have finally given themselves permission to offer up COVID humor? Bravo! I’ll share with you after I’ve ironed them smooth enough to scan; they’re more wrinkled than a Shar-pei. I will book ’em first chance I get. Until then . . .
I hope you’re well, in a good place, able to cope, and filled with Hope.