Monday, June 30, 2008

The Family Dynamic

Since about ten o'clock yesterday morning, I have felt the need of a good cry. I have held off, hoping for some private moment to let it all hang out: loud sobbing sadness and frustration, hiccuping satisfaction. In the meantime, I've given a lot of thought to what this melancholy is all about.

I don't know about your family, but when mine gets together, whether it's my children, my husband, and I or my father and siblings, it seems to me that we revert to childhood roles. No matter what degree of mental health and happiness we've achieved in real life, we fall right back into the shyness, silliness, pestering, ugliness, stupidity, fill-in-the-blank-here-inadequacy we felt when we were young.

What I felt most this weekend was that I was annoying the hell out of a few key people. And what annoyed them, it seemed to me, was that I wanted to share things with them. Things I learned from blogs, things I was doing with my writing, random thoughts. And every time I got this signal that they didn't give a fizzy fug about anything I was saying, I felt sad. And boring. And yes, annoying.

What is this about for me? That when I was a child, my mother and father weren't good listeners, distracted with themselves, their work, their troubles? I don't know about all the psychological mumbo jumbo that adds up to how I've felt these past few days, but I do know that it has made me long to be with people who don't necessarily agree with me or share my interests, but are respectful enough to let me have my say, brag a little on what's going on in my life, share a story or two.

I don't usually get this personal in my blog, but you saw the pictures and it all looked great, didn't it? And there were some incredible moments, like at dinner when we each turned to the person beside us and told her what we loved about her. And when we faced off in pairs, jumped up and down and went WHOO WHOO WHOO until the room exploded into belly laughs. Or when I took each of my three daughters out separately and caught up on their comings and goings.

When I said good-bye to the sister whose birthday it was, I cried a little then. I laughed and told her that I'd read somewhere, "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened." Now that I'm home, where I feel pretty good about myself and my life, I think I'll work on that smile. I'm always grateful for the time I spend with my family, our health, and our memories, and I'm going to dwell on that now that I've had a chance to speak of how I felt. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Grand Finale

To end this monumental weekend, we gathered with my father to celebrate his 86th birthday. As you can see, he's doing great!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Traveling mercies

Today's the day we start converging on the mountains for the fiftieth birthday celebration. We have people coming from Jacksonville FL, Orlando FL, Huntingtown MD, New York, Wilmington, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Greensboro, Asheville, and Charlotte. I am picking up pennies with the face up (and turning over the ones that are face down for later gatherings), crossing fingers/toes/eyes, and just plain old praying that the weekend goes well.

One thing that has come up as we prepared is that a large number of those involved contend with sensory integration issues and NOBODY wants to sleep with anyone because they don't like to touch when they sleep. This means that with three bedrooms and thirteen of us, there are going to be a number of air beds strewn around. My family is large, and we're used to clustering up, but this is all women. No men to pooh pooh our issues and divert our attention.

Should be interesting. Good thing we're going to spend Saturday at the spa, each person getting two good relaxing treatments and able to use the rest of the day in the sauna, pool, hiking, or just resting. There's Blowing Rock for retail therapy, and if we get really bad, one sister is a therapist and can take us in the back room for a good listening-to.

Banner Elk, get ready.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scared ya?

My mother-in-law collects my photo cards, refusing to part with them to send them out for special occasions. She loves to rifle through them, looking at the pictures, saying that she just cannot let this one or that one go, in spite of the fact that I assure her I can get her another one just like it.

However, when she is going through a new batch to pick some out, she says she hates the reflection pictures like the ones in the last post. She feels afraid when she sees them.

I did not receive any comments yesterday. Scared?

Monday, June 23, 2008


I love to work with reflections when I take pictures. Can anyone guess what the last one is?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rainy weekend part 2 or 3

We took a trip to Beaufort and Cape Lookout this weekend. The weather did not cooperate at all. It rained huge amounts once we got to the Lookout bight. I took a couple of naps to kill the time but didn't get to read much because hubby was all het up reading Ron Paul's book "The Revolution, A Manifesto" and wanted to scare me, um I mean talk about it. We are selling everything, buying a solar powered generator, water and seeds, taking the cat, stamps and postcards, and moving to a remote island where no one uses money and there are no nuclear weapons aimed or aiming!! In between the rain and the rant, I did manage to get some (grayish) pictures though. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mourning the loss of the local news

I read in the paper yesterday that a good bit of our local newspaper is being combined with the Charlotte paper. The N&O laid off many people for this transition.

The loss of more of the local flavor of our paper is very distressing. I have written the book editor about the lack of highlighting local authors and reviewers in favor of nationally syndicated material. She wrote back that she did the best she could do with her budget. I have just today written the editor to complain about Peder Zane's column on Sunday where he says local bookstores are unable to get nationally known authors and are instead filling in with local writers. Here is my letter (if they don't publish it at least I'll have it out there for somebody to read):

"Peder Zane’s June 15 column was the work of a man who seems totally out of touch with the local literary scene. Our independent bookstores feature nationally known writers on a weekly basis, sent by the publishers. Not only that, but many of our local authors are nationally and internationally known themselves and hardly filler. In spite of the problems with the publishers mentioned in his article, our booksellers continue to recruit the best of the literary world to their doors and need recognition for it."

It seems to me that for local papers to survive they will have to stop competing on a national level. We can get all of our news online and on the television and radio. I don't need for my local paper to regurgitate that. I want the News and Observer to have articles on relevant topics for people in the Triangle. We have a wealth of universities doing amazing things with medicine, creative writing, agriculture, architecture, religion, young people. We have local businesses trying to stay alive in hard times. We have local politicians whose issues directly affect our day-to-day living. We have human interest stories about our neighbors, churches, non-profits. We have heroes who demonstrate courage every day by fighting crime and fires and medical emergencies. We have older people whose stories are dying with them every day. We have water woes, transportation troubles, development issues.

The News and Observer will not survive by going national or regional. It will survive by catering to the people who walk down their sidewalks each morning or stop by the fifty-cent box on the way to work. It will survive by showcasing local cultural events and recruiting local advertisers. It will survive by helping us to shop locally, think globally, be informed and care about what is going on in our community.

I'm sorry to see that the paper is moving more and more away from what I want to read. The local paper must go back to being a local paper if it is to survive. Otherwise, I have no need for it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cursive writing

Yesterday over Father's Day dinner we had an interesting conversation. Here is the progression:

1. My brother starts talking about the old World Book Encyclopedias, then goes on to tell about the off-brand set of encyclopedias we had at home that he could copy for reports because no one else had access to them. (A sure bet that my mom got them at the Sears Employee Store.)

2. I make a statement about how the internet has revolutionized research (no great observation, I know) and how I used to have to go to the library for a magazine article, look it up in tomes as big as an entire set of encyclopedias, then go to the microfilm, find it, copy it.

3. I move to typing and how we used to have to re-type a whole paper if we made a mistake (remember the round erasers with the brush on the other end?) and my husband says that his teachers would mark a big "F" on a paper if there was one spelling mistake. I mention the first time I worked for a company that had a typewriter with a memory - the writing moved across a one-inch screen above the keys so you could proof and then type to the page.

4. My daughter says that she was looking at an old schedule of classes that had "typing" as one of the courses and she laughed saying that nobody takes typing anymore. She and her friends learned to use a keyboard by using it, not taking a class where you typed "asdfghjkl;" or "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country" over and over.

5. Then she shocks us all by saying that nobody learns cursive writing anymore. That she decided on her own to write in cursive so she would know how. WHAT?????

Coincidentally, on the way home, I read an article in the Rhino Times, an independently published newspaper in my home town, on this same subject. A mother had taken her son to a class where he had to sign his name on a release and he couldn't sign in cursive. The article went on to say that some children cannot even READ cursive writing.

Talk about a lost art. I had no idea that children no longer tore holes in their red and blue lined paper writing words that would eventually move gracefully across a page. This has been a most unpleasant revelation to me. First we lose the art of writing notes, then the art of writing. Uh uh, civilization. We're moving in some very undesirable directions.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My sister

There are five children in my family; I'm the oldest. The youngest two are only eleven months apart. Think about that: having your fifth child before the youngest is a year old. So for one month of the year, the "babies" are the same age.

The oldest of the babies is turning fifty next week. She is a study in contrasts: She is the only one who never finished college, yet she has the most money. She is the hardest worker of us all, but knows how to be lazy. She loves shoes and jewelry but brings it all off with a completely casual look. She laughs easily, but her life has not been easy by any means. She has failed, and she has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.

I remember when she was a toddler. Over a few days it had snowed, melted some, snowed, and iced over until we had about a foot of snow topped by a sheet of ice. We took all the cookie sheets(most of which were partially black and rusty) and went outside and slid down our back yard. My mom bundled her up and sent her out to play with us. She could barely walk and would take a few steps, fall, get up and do it again. We thought it was hilarious. And she didn't cry, just continued that moon walking and falling and getting back up.

This really has been the story of her life. Take a few steps, fall, get back up. She is an amazing person, and I salute her. In a few weeks all of the women in my family--my sisters, sister-in-law, daughters, and nieces, thirteen of us--will gather in the mountains to celebrate her birthday. It will be a celebration of a life lived bravely with humor and stamina and an unwillingness to let life knock you down so far that you can't get up. Here's to you, Nonnie!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paul Tillich and Clay

This week we had our religion and ethics discussion at the book store. Clay, our leader, brought in an idea of Paul Tillich's that God can be found not "out there" but in our "depth" and used some Biblical quotes to affirm this. In other words, if I understand correctly, Tillich is saying God is inside of us. With this on the table, I said that if this is true, then meditation makes all the sense in the world as a way of practicing spirituality. Clay, who unequivocally rejects all things that relate to the practice of Eastern religions, went on to say that he sees no purpose whatsoever in meditation, and feels that the only way to experience spirituality is to be in deep conversation with people about it. He even said that he has four friends who meditate and that when they go to silent retreats, they can't even discuss how they feel when they meditate. How absurd, he insinuated, making a statement about how people come up with some delusional opinions about their religion when they practice alone.

Four years ago I might have wholeheartedly agreed with Clay. Talking, doing, reading, talking some more--this was the way to not only get to the Truth but also the way to conduct my life. Talk about books, children, spouses, the government, the death penalty, teachers' plights, the economy, movies, and on and on.

And then I began a very preliminary dabbling into meditation. Not deep meditation as I've heard about but sitting still for fifteen, thirty minutes, even an hour. And to tell you the truth, I really liked it. A lot of wonderful things have come up while I listened to my breathing and the birds and the traffic and planes and lawn mowers. And I've come to believe that there is something deep inside of me that can be accessed in a spiritual way if I will just be still and quiet.

So I challenged Clay to try it. I don't think Clay gets challenged very often because his voice rose as he told me some conditions for his trying it, but I hope he takes the dare. I would love to have him come in one Monday night at the book store and say, "Okay, everybody, for the next hour we will be closing our eyes and listening, counting, silently reciting a mantra." Now THAT would represent a conversion experience!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thomas (on piano) and the choir

Can I do it? Upload a video to my blog? This was taken by a friend today with a Flip video camera. It is our choir and the music director we are hoping to hire.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama and Clinton?

I have been thinking, as have most of us, about the possibility of an Obama/Clinton ticket. Although I feel that this would unite the Democrats in a significant way, I wonder what kind of VP Hillary would make and if she will take kindly to being the second in command. I would love to hear your ideas on this.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Name Tags

Yesterday I went to the bike store to buy a couple of screws for my bottle holder. The man gave them to me with a glance at my name tag, "Here, they're free because your name is Mamie."

I'm getting into this now. I made several beautiful tags last night and am wearing one today. It's square, Japanese paper with beautiful elaborate circles on it, and my name is in a cut circle. New trend: designer name tags? Photos later, I hope.