At Year’s End

New Years celebration

Tomorrow is my 57th birthday. I still have no wish to “grow up” because to me, the next thing would be “growing old” and I refuse that judgment upon my person. I still believe in love, I still believe in the magic of those Unseen to affect beauty all around me, and I still believe (somewhat) in the goodness of the human race. I believe in romance; the kind that leaves you teary-eyed and breathless after a tender kiss. I believe in long-lasting relationships because the nature of love is compromise, care, comfort and consideration for one another. Oh, to be sure we all mix it up now and again to keep things fresh, funny and delightful to our beloveds.

I believe in reincarnation because I am very much a work-in-progress. It would be absurd, with all the flaws inherent in my being, to expect me to conquer them all in a single mortal lifetime. Especially if your lifetime has been foreshortened in a flash, with an unexpected crash. I believe in Wonder; because if I have forgotten what it looks like, all I have to do is find a four-year old to remind me.

When all the Ugly of this world descends upon me, all I really have to do is reach out to another. This has been the hardest lesson of all, because for years, I only interacted with others thru a narrow window of a bubble – refusing more than the scant contact of a phone call, a brief meeting in a small cubicle, the direct dryness of an e-mailed message. I wrote my stories at home, safely tucked away from the rest of the world in a 9 X 6 office, 30 miles from the nearest hub of human commerce. I liked it that way because those that deliberately looked for folks like me to harass, annoy, tease, belittle or outright bully could not reach me here; and I could illumine their souls with my limited understanding in the vain attempt to discover why they felt so compelled.

When you least expect it, Serendipity waves her magic wand and you find yourself bed-rest bound with a scary prognosis and an interminable wait for a follow-up CT scan and MRI. However, because of the Common Thread of Mercy, you also end up entertained by a lovely series of urban fantasy books. This was to be only the outside of the nesting dolls of discovery, but so little did I know.

Then, I discovered what a wonder a blog could be, and my eyes were sure to be as big as that four-year-old upon seeing fireworks from the top of a hay bale in a moonlit sky. Oh, the Universe wasn’t through with me, because then I had the joy of a writer’s retreat. Not before a near-complete meltdown, however. This little country mouse was secretly terrified of leaving her safe nest under the huge ash tree in the middle of the prairie. It took a lot of hand-holding, some serious acceptance of limitations and a warning of a bruised ego should she turn around and run back to the safety of the sun-dappled shadows, but Country Mouse not only navigated the airport and the rental car kiosk, but Chicago traffic and her own limited knowledge of getting maps to work on a smartphone.

There were some disappointments along the way as well; Google Maps is never accurate, hindsight is always better than gut-level panic, and re-think what you really need to pack before you have to schlepp it all over Creation. Learning your new limits or finding a new normal have been watch phrases for me; and in the spirit of being honest, not exactly welcome. The trade-off, because we do live in a Universe of Balance, is that I made some friends that have felt like they will and have always been a part of my heart.

The next stage of my life is a complete unknown – it’s like standing behind the curtain at an improv. You have no clue what you’re going to do, but you have a gut level feeling that you can wing it if you can just get over the fear factor. Every muscle in your body is both relaxed and tensed at the same time, your mind is racing and your breathing skips a bit along with your heart. However, there is that still, small voice telling you that “You. Got. This. You’ve had it your whole life. Now. Is. The. Time.”

To be sure, there is a wonderful happy part of me that is simply aching to share some good news. (I’m going to be published!) Of course, there is the part of me that simply wants the mess out of the house so she can sit down and finish writing some of the stories that fizzled to a whisper because of the distractions of crap she simply cannot abide! (Obsessive/compulsive, much?)

Here I sit, at the end. A sudden realization tearing my eyes; I am the only one with this voice, this perspective. Should I be too shy to sound out, the whispers of what I see will dim and face into the emptiness of Chaos, with no one to note that I even sat here at all. The fear of silence being more than the shyness of sharing a beloved’s touch on my neck, shoulders and the tentative kiss of “good morning” on a still sleeping face.

Soundtracks of a hundred movies sit in my queue, background music to a chattering brain flexing verbiage and feathered synonyms to paint the mind pictures. The window frames the sere grass overgrown for lack of a sufficiently powered mower to tackle the front acre. Naked limbs of crepe myrtle, mimosa, ash and tallow give depth to the framing, and within a golden pool of illumination, the fingers move and then still; here creation moves one phrase at a time.

Tomorrow, my heart will still waltz to an unheard tune, my eyes still looking for the miraculous, and my hands will still reach to learn that next, more difficult crochet pattern. Getting the brain to engage will always be the new challenge that the new normal has become, but I refuse to ‘grow up.’ No one ever said it that it was mandatory anyway; I prefer to grow better.

Mays the Bells of the New Year bless you and yours with their soul stirring chimes.

Gentle Hugs,



Takin’ Tater home….



On the Eve of Christmas Eve…..

This has not been the usual week of borderline sanity at home. First, the college kid is home for the winter break. The larder needs re-stocking as I’ve adjusted to just the Dane and me for edibles in the pantry, fridge and freezer. This will later reflect itself in “The Shopping Trip from Dante’s Acid” later. It also means that the cats, particularly Phucktard Phred, will be overjoyed that she’s back. For Phred it means that he get to be Protectorate Cat in Chief for “Kitty Mama Number Two” in exchange for nighttime warm snoozes at the foot of her bed. To show his appreciation the first night she was home, he dropped a half-dead, partially consumed gecko into her nearly-asleep cleavage. Knowing she would stampede the parental units if she screamed, she instead stifled her scream and upon retrieving the critter, tossed him under the bed to seek refuge. The following night, said gecko, still having a death-wish, dropped from the ceiling onto her shoulder. Keep in mind that we live in the sticks, anything from a scorpion to a drunken bat could have fallen onto her shoulder, thence to climb into her hair. Of course, this is the child that KNOWS better than to stampede the parental units with nighttime drama unless the need is acute; rather than give into the bone-numbing fear whatever-it-was invoked, she chose to lift a trembling hand to discover that Mr. I-Have-No-Tail-Because-Of-The-Cat Gecko had returned. With bravado unheard of in my offspring heretofore, and knowing full well that scarcely three nights previous there was a rattlesnake out there, she takes the gecko outside to the back porch. It’s our expected protocol for most critters, this “catch and release.” It was protocol for the children during camping trips as well, but that’s a whole different post. The now-tailless gecko goes his merry way and Phred’s place as a foot-of-the-bed guardian Lion-Cat is assured.

Today is unusual as it’s the re-scheduled day for my weekly visit to the therapist. When I get to her office/home, she’s still half asleep and in a robe as she was up until 3 am filing the paperwork for my insurance claim. It seems that yet again, the paperwork process has changed and she now needs to re-submit 3 months’ worth of my visits on a new online system that is more difficult to navigate than the IRS website and just as glitchy. She has the patience of a saint, and I just move to a small settee for our weekly chat as she fixes herself coffee, toast and we just do our usual visit in unusual surroundings. In the end, it works out better because dealing with change has always been a bit of a sticking point with me, and I needed her as a sounding board to deal with the trauma of the precious day’s shopping nightmare. But the frustration of dealing with the new filing system is evident in our visit. I ask myself; are all my primary medical contacts going to have to deal with this, as well? Honestly. If this is your “new normal”, quit calling yourself “insurance” and adjoin the proper description of your function as “protection racket.”

However, it was back to dealing with the insanity of shopping this close to a major holiday and children being allowed to run rampant in a very, very busy retail setting. This was not apparent in in one store but in all three that we visit in order that acquire the makings for not one, but two costumes as both the Dane and Kat are doing costume play (cosplay) at IkkiCon this year. My agoraphobia kicked in hard and all I wanted to do was bend physical laws and reach light speed to return home. I was grateful to get home, but both Kat and I were not in doing well for mental stability. The noise, the frenetic activity and the hostility from other shoppers twisted our experience into a visit into Dante’s psyche.

Soon enough, our time is over and I am driving home; food for thought growling around in my brain as it always does after these sessions and as I make one of the final turns to come home, in the middle of the road is a black bloodhound. He looks totally lost and completely thrilled to be seeing a human being; his tail wagging so hard it affects his back legs in the thump, thump, thumping of a joyful dog. I put the car in park, and go to open my door and see if I can get close to him; close enough to see if the tags on his collar could give me an idea as to who he was and where he belonged. The back country road he was traversing was NOT a safe place for two-leggers, much less four-leggers. As I exit the car, the dog sees his opening and jumps right in! He then jumps into the rear seat and starts to nose the cold window glass, I roll down the window for him, and he sits down as if fully expecting to go on a road trip. He was so excited, that I couldn’t get a grip on his collar and I made the decision to take him to the house and engage the assistance of the college kid. As we near the top of the ridge, the animal decides to engage in what bloodhounds do best, bay and howl. What the Hell, I figure, I’ll just howl with him. He was startled into silence the first time I answered his howl with one of my own. Until that is, he did it again. We were making sweet mountain music all our own all the way to the homestead.

We drive down the long driveway onto the acreage and George decides to join in with his own unique ‘bark from the balls’ addition to our chorus. From the time that George put his nose up to greet the bloodhounds’, a friendship begins to bloom; and frankly it was inevitable. Both are big, black dogs, both have distinctive voices, and both are just damned goofy. Kat helps me dog-wrangle the bloodhound and I get the vet’s phone number from his tag. I place a call and discover that a.) His name is “Tater” and b.) He lives about 3 miles from us. I get his owner’s phone number and his ‘critter-mama’ answers the phone. ‘Tater’ has been a bad boy and dug out of his yard again to go ‘visitin’ the neighborhood. I’m watching Tater and George sniff and play with each other as I’m making arrangements to get Tater back to his owners when I hear a strange yelp and see the college kid suddenly fall over laughing. Apparently in his way of sayin’ “Howdy!” to Tater, George put his cold, cold nose on Tater’s warm boy dog parts; the resulting vertical 3 foot leap and startle howl/yelp being of particular hilarity. In the meantime, the Dane has been awakened from his slumbers by the howling and the happy cannonade of bark from George. “What th’ Hell is that gawd-awful noise?” he stagger bellows from the hallway. It was almost a sudden verbal blow that my beloved would find the sweet bay of a bloodhound a ‘gawd-awful noise’ – never has our disparate childhoods been a factor in our relationship. Upon hearing my answer once more, the Dane grumbles from the darkened hallway, “The answer is ‘Hell to the No!’” My heart quavered a little, but I also realized that feeding TWO of George would require a bit more income or the graduation of a child from an institution of higher education.

Kat and I pile into the car and open the back door of Jean-Luc d’Cube for Tater. He jumps in and no sooner than Aerosmith starts thumping from the stereo but he begins to happily howl again. I can just hear the Dane in the house begin the growl and grumble over the joyful noise. I’m starting to get an evil idea that begins with a dark chuckle. Up and over the ridge and we’re back down the long, long country road the leads out of the back of beyond where the home front is. Soon we pull up to the mailbox that denotes the address of Tater’s owners, and sure enough there’s a young man waiting in a pickup truck for our arrival. Tater jumps out and then can’t make up his mind which vehicle he wants to be a part of. The young man is desperately trying to get Tater’s attention aimed in the general direction of the open cab of the truck. It take a bit of effort to wrangle 90 pounds of excited bloodhound to jump into the truck, but it’s managed with only a little bit of frustration and a lot of ignoring the tail-wagging excited baying howls. Later, Tater….I think I feel the addition of “play-dates” for George.

However, in tiniest corner of my heart, I am planning the addition of a bloodhound to our homestead. I realized what I missed in not having the sweet music of a happy howling bay to greet me home and howl with. No, the Dane has no clue; then again, he’d probably find me an early entrance into an old folk’s home if he had a clue that the addition of my dreamt of “Boudreaux” will also include the addition of a mule, too.tater

Ghosts of Gustatory Gesso

Samhain 2

The seasonal Gods have decided to bless us with unseasonably cooler weather than most native Texans are used to. Yes, it’s a standing joke/sad fact that any weather that takes the temps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit sounds a statewide weather emergency, and ice of any form will shut down Texas completely. To me, it opens the memory vaults where family recipes are stored and comfort foods of every occasion come out begging to be reborn on the table and palate. As the cats of the farm know, when Mama starts building cold weather nooks and crannies, it’s time to look forward to the organ meat rich gravies added to the kitty kibble.

I finally got the time to view the movie “The 100-foot Journey” yesterday. My heart sang when, in the opening there was the reference to the ghosts created in the process. It’s a simple Truth; in order to eat/cook something must die. We honor the spirit of that sacrificed when we appreciate the meal. Let me taste your food, listen to your music and bathe in the laughter of your people. In this way, I will know your people. To those who can appreciate the wine or brewed spirits of an area are reserved the remains of sunnier days, sunshine in a bottle so to speak. If we wish to truly educate our children, we let them taste the happiness of a beloved relative’s home-cooked meal. We must expose them to a pot-luck supper created by close friends. We share the joys of a family reunion with all the legendary dishes and recipes that are guarded as closely as the hand stitched quilts and handmade furniture.

This morning, it was quite chilly and all the cats were gathered in the living room cuddled together on the sofa and the old blanket stretched out there just for their comfort. They sent a spokes cat, Luufy, to cry at the door in order to awaken the Giver of All Things Yummy. I wasn’t going to stir; the hubby was a wonderful radiator of body heat and the delicious luxuriousness of naked skin. Luufy’s insistent cries at the door became more and more plaintive and with a grumble I woke to slide toes into slippers and arms into a robe. The slight breeze carried the scent of woodsmoke, and my mind went instantly back to childhood when that scent was reminiscent of the bacon rashers and ham quarters being readied for the holiday table. The memories of buttermilk drop biscuits being pulled fresh and fluffy from the oven and the jeweled delights of muscadine grape jelly jars being released from the depths of the panty spring from my mind as fresh as the frigid morning they arrived on the breakfast table.

I have a mother’s instinct that tells me that not long from now, I will be hearing from my children. Their requests for Mama’s recipes for dishes that bring them comfort while far from home will make me both happy and sad because I know of the valuable memories created with the sacred ties of an apron’s strings. I remember the magic that begins with the crack of an egg, the careful measurement of ingredients, the steady hand on a whisk, spoon or fork. The sense of accomplishment that is created by the removal of the perfectly done creation just beyond an oven’s door or under the lid of the stew pot on the stove. The incense of love that wafts through the house because of the joy cooking in the kitchen.

It is only apt that the so-called “Holiday Season” is marked by the arrival of a day intended to honor our beloved dead. It is truly their memories we invoke when we recreate their recipes on the canvas of our family’s hearts and memory. Perhaps, in this very simple way we can school our very errant attentions to the importance of “Be ye mindful.”

Gentle hugs, everyone. From my hearth at Cat’s Paw Acres to yours – wherever your heart finds you; may the blessings of happy memories being made and joy-filled feasts grace your life and the lives of those you love.

Transitions into Winter

I wrote the following about 2 weeks before the world as I knew it exploded into a Chaos of ICU and cognitive therapy. I was in that stage of life that a mother reaches when her children are in far-flung places creating their own lives, and she is left with the leftovers; forgotten socks, discarded shoes, and well-read books in unexpected places.

In late October, the sun stretches shadows in the afternoon into shaded hues of mauve and purple that contract with the sere and faded grasses of summer. It could be a melancholy symphony, or a simple reminder that life as we know it goes on, and in each stage we have our part to play. However, some of us have forgotten to accept the role with dignity and grace; we want to dance with our darker selves in the shadow of another life.

This poem describes my transition into the acceptance from the sorrow of leaving what was, because it no longer exists. If you ever wonder what whispers in the heart of a woman walking into her later years, perhaps this will illumine you.

France Autumn

When the Sun is Long – a poem by Rhae Camdyn
My children dance all on their own
In sun gold fields long overgrown.
My beloved tarries in his mind
And thinks I care not for his time.
My hand wanders over ancient craft
The needles plied thru weave and waft;
The days stretch out in times’ sweet song
Like shadows when the sun is long.
The house is silent with memories full
Cobwebs hidden from duster’s pull,
The bookcase stands with sentient tomes
That summon comfort in our home.
The kitchen waits its’ daily rhymes
Of coffee, tea and toaster time;
The tumbled cares of forks and tongs
Like shadows when the sun is long.
Outside the garden grown is spent
Remembered color, shapes and scent.
The trees with whispered windy breath
Now speak of cold and icy death.
The lawn stretches toward a paler shade
A stem of grass, forgotten blade;
The rake now moves to right all wrong
Like shadows when the sun is long.
And now I turn to find the dawn
Beyond the shadows when the sun is long.

My Brother’s Keeper

Some time back I wrote this piece while ‘learning’ about blogging and the fact that the Evil Day Job was a soul-killer. There are so many other ways for us to ‘lose our way’ and I was awakened this morning with the inspiration that today, Veteran’s Day, of all days, was a perfect gateway to re-blog what I’d written earlier. The memory this brings forward still shakes/stuns my soul; never have I just suddenly been brought to tears by another’s plight so nakedly shown before me. The plight of America’s veterans (and I include myself in that category) is an ugly gaping, festering wound within our society. Not unlike the metaphor, if attended to properly that wound may leave a scar but the patient is still intact and functional. If allowed to fester without proper attention, it can become a deadly infection that can kill and or spread disease to another.  We were once admonished by those older and wiser than ourselves that we are “Our Brother’s Keeper.”  Let us not forget.


vet 1

He sat there on a milk crate, bundled up against the north wind on a street corner in the bright winter sunshine of a Texas February noon. At his feet was his obviously beloved Golden Retriever; the animal nestled as close to his master as he could sit, furry face turned up to watch every move, every breath.  In the hands of this man was a sign that went straight into my consciousness; a cannon blast of lettering that overwhelmed me and sank my gut with the wave of helpless compassion it generated.  “Homeless With Cancer – Anything Helps.”  One look at the gaunt, unshaven face and you knew that this was not a ruse; this was a summary judgment against our current society and the safety net that no longer exists after 40 years of political decimation. Four decades of pathetic ennui and lack of political will to rise up against the selfish self-centeredness that gained a foothold in the cocaine inflamed 80’s and continues today.

Look at the language we tolerate regarding the safety net against poverty in old age, Social Security. We allow the political language of the elitist rich who fling the term “entitlement” like it’s something as filthy as rotted flesh. We allow terminology to become watered down; made politically correct because we lack the backbone to define reality in naked terms that would expose our collective shame.  We allow the repression of Puritanical ethos to defame the natural sexuality of each person within our society such that young children are encouraged to become Lolita’s, but group shame descends upon the female that finds herself pregnant without the “blessing” of a life mate – male preferably.  There is no wholesale acceptance of the human condition in its beautiful and terrifying entirety in this country, save for the small pockets of free-thinkers who keep themselves anonymous for the sake of personal safety.  Those that made their forward-thinking and evolutionarily advanced beliefs public ages ago are being systematically decimated through government sponsored genocide.

The mentally ill in this country have had to learn to navigate the fierce jungle of intolerance to their many and varied conditions by adapting “societal masks” of acceptable terms. If your psyche is tormented by the roller coaster of a bi-polar disorder, you must swiftly amend your statement to include whatever treatment you’re trying so that you “fit in” to the landscape you find yourself traversing. If you or your body or your lifestyle doesn’t meet the expected norms, you are expected to provide a reasonable excuse as to why not. Further, if the gnawing beast of depression haunts you, rather than address the muted anger/rage that creates the problem, your employer would rather you pop a pill and get back to work.

Once upon a time, there was an uprising and a beautiful cry of “I’m not here to meet your expectations.”  There was an acceptance that what once was, was broken and needed to be replaced because it was too broken to fix.  Somewhere before the overhaul could get more than a foothold, an evil reptilian presence inserted itself and self-delusion replaced self-examination.  I’d like to think that it’s not too late. It’s not too late to take that young, very ill gentleman off the street corner – along with his dog and offer him treatment or at the least palliative care until his days upon this Earth are no more.  I’d like to think that we can re-open the mental institutions and half-way houses and encourage all who need the gentle touch of a listening soul, as well as those who need a structured oasis from the everyday Chaos the rest of us navigate, to walk through the gates.

I almost despair that we’ve forgotten how to care for our elderly, that we’ve adopted a learned indifference to the cries of the very young, and plaint that those from pre-teen to college graduate have no sense of responsibility or values. We’ve forgotten the rich values of community in favor of selfish ends. Young children crave the gentle attentions of family and elders who teach so much more than just behavioral bounds, but are isolated within artificial crèches of commercial daycare.  The length of marriages is rapidly dwindling because there are no committed couples willing to share the wisdom of compromise woven with tolerance and compassion that creates the reality of long-lasting relationships.  The elderly are expected to live out their waning days in the sad relative isolation of retirement communities.

A healthy neighborhood should be a layered structure of ages and backgrounds that weaves itself together in acceptable societal tension; young and old, married and single, teens and younger kids, all claiming with a sense of pride in belonging. Those that experience tragedy, illness, or misfortune would find a willing hand to help, wisdom to find their way out, many hands making light work of the heavy realities that Life can hand out. Education of the young and old happens best in an integrated community, because ignorance and fear are beasts best slain by truth and trust: the hands of wisdom crafting a vision of the future seen by younger eyes but guided by elder hearts.

We’ve forgotten it seems that we are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s handmaiden, our mother’s steady guide when her steps falter, our father’s eyes when the eyesight begins to dim. We are the gentle support of a toddler learning to walk, we are the ears of the deaf, and we are the listening heart of those who struggle emotionally.

Once pointed out, a problem should become the burden of the society it affects; a burden that can then transform into a solution that becomes second nature by those who adopt the change within their community.  This isn’t an impossible dream; this is a possible reality for those of us with the intestinal fortitude to say “Why not?” If change only occurs because the status quo is so painful that we cannot maintain it, then why haven’t we changed?

We are told by many different tales of ancient wisdom that our lives are Gifts of the Eternal, what we do with them is our gift back. Why are we so insistent on trashing this precious gift by not doing all we can to make another’s  life better? Why are we turning a deaf ear on our own? Further, will someone with a bit more resources that I, please reach out to my brother and his dog on that cold street corner? I’d be so appreciative to know that he was able to go Home in peace.

On The Road to Shambala


With a joyful heart and spicy, wicked grin for planting the earworm of the Three Dog Night classic in your mind, let me tell you where my body, mind and spirit wandered from four o’clock in the morning on Thursday to this Sunday afternoon. Let me help you get your bearings in the “Land Beyond your Imagination” – or where I live in my mind. I am a hopeless, shameless romantic that will occasionally ooze angst. I believe in the Power of Love to overcome all but the most Evil, and perhaps at that to have a fighting chance. I am also dealing with the aftereffects of a nasty cerebral vascular event which tends to make my life play out in vignettes of wonder strung along with tears and laughter.

Love is love is love and should be celebrated and held as Holy no matter how it manifests amongst consenting individuals of legal age. When I learned of the GRL Retreat being held this October, AND that not only would some of the individuals of like mind would be there but my favorite authors as well, it became like the Sacred Quest to attend. Fearlessly and courageously I cleared the mental chess board to ‘make this happen’ in spite of financial, physical and emotional limits. What I failed to consider, no toss that; what I denied even existed was the possibility of my short term memory loss manifesting adventure where I did not need it!

I was so proud that I’d made flight arrangements AND arranged for a rental car. I was going to do this like an adult! Did I LOOK at those reservations closely? Was I aware that I was shorting myself of re-coop time from travel? Did I know I was travelling before the chickens were awake BOTH ways and would miss the closing breakfast? Aww Hell, no!

Amy Lane is an author hiding her Goddess nature well, and as her birthday was close to the event, I packed a gift and card for her along with the books that literally saved my life for autographs. I packed clothes for cold weather, I packed clothes for hot weather. I packed shoes (which upon unpacking, I FORGOT I brought!) I packed all my electronic toys, and by the time I was done, I needed a wagon train with pack mules. Alas and alack, TSA doesn’t allow those on flights. Ok, time to reconsider and re-pack. Ummm, rethought and ended up packing even more. This wasn’t working. Finally, 8 hours before flight time I managed to get it together enough to have a reasonably bulky, but two item burden to schlep….and a purse….and a cane! Oh I was ‘Stylin’ – not!

packing list two

It was off the plane, onto a bus which took me to the rental agency and then into my chosen chariot for the weekend, a 2014 Kia Soul….but I did look lustfully and longingly at the Chrysler minivan as my evil heart had alternative plans flying around. I’d agreed to pick up another FB friend at Union Station whose train would arrive after my flight. This was not to happen simply because a.) The trains do not run on time and b.) Chicago depends on parking fees to pay its debts – simply outrageous! Looking at the maps on Google, my quest appeared to be quite easy. Allow me to interject here that while I have a snazzy Android style phone, the damned thing lost its mind AND it’s voice simultaneously at soon as I landed at O’Hare. Let us also interject that Chicago in its’ eternal wisdom of metropolitan angst decided to re-arrange ALL of the access roads, highways and byways with which one navigates any mass transportation area. I managed to get myself lost TWICE in the span of 4 hours despite having the latest in electronic navigation equipment via cellular device. Some would call it “creative ineptitude” – I prefer to term it as “The Tolkien Effect” – I was not lost, I was merely wandering with a purpose, because I eventually got to where I needed to go. Not without unnecessary drama, and I’m sure that there’s a certain member of Chicago’s finest who will NEVER forget the creative epithets that I have given him gratis for life in describing my cell-phone-that-doubles-as-a-flotation-device.

curse bubble

When I arrived, 4 hours AFTER I arrived, I was in no emotional state to do more than find a cool corner and quiver like nervous dessert (think jello) but I stowed the nervous breakdown for a later date and managed to get myself registered and responsibly present for book-stamping duty. Even though I missed the Swag Room and the Newbie Meeting, thus began the lovely adventure that ended all too soon but was marked by meeting Facebook friends and some new faces. Those I was in awe of: Shira Anthony, Rhys Ford, Amy Lane, Sara York, Ariel Tachna, Cherie Noel and Angel Martinez. Folks that I will share heartspace with forever: Dana Piazzi, Tame Anna, LE Franks, Kazy Reed, LM Somerton, Christy Duke, Kris Gray, JP Bowie, Tim Brehme and so many more that I simply cannot remember names. Allow me to take this moment to drop a deep curtsy of respect to the event organizers – you’ve earned a respite from incarnation as anything less than a pampered adored demi-deity for the next term of Eternity.angel-halo

The biggest development of sheer surprise to me? I sang karaoke without needing copious amounts of pharmacopeia to do so! That was ME – without Zoloft or Klonopin, (I’d brought them with in case I needed to return to the regimen I’d so carefully weaned off of…) and I remember just letting GO. Wow. Niki Massey and I did breakfast together….after schlepping the ¼ mile jaunt down the hallway that reminded me of the labyrinthine passages of a bad sci-fi movie. It was the only negative to a fantastic 4 day adventure that passed as a blur – the eternal jaunts back and forth and having to school the gnat brain into consideration of “things future needed”…(gnat brain barely speaks English on GOOD days. The cold weather and the fireplace gather pit was a welcome refuge that allowed me to enter into conversation as I was able to without an inner nervous breakdown/freak out.

Speaking of which, LM Somerton – honey, you were an angelic intervention when I was on the edge of implosion/panic attack. There simply not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for you being there when the press of the crowd was about to send me screaming off into the shadows. (Turns out that missing that particular highlight was a good thing….after the crush of the crowd, the temptation of alcohol would have been too great…Ya’ just never know when the Goddess will use you for emergency purposes!)

Lessons learned for the next gathering of my beloved, eternally adopted Tribe:

  • Bring your OWN pillows. Trusting others for your sleep comfort is foolhardy.
  • Pack simple basic outfits, not entire changes of wardrobe. Thou art not a clotheshorse.
  • Make room for every comfortable pair of shoes you usually schlep around in. Pack them.
  • Jammies trump t-shirts in cold weather.
  • Remember to send up good prayers for roomies with the patience of a saint – (LOVE YOU, Kris!)
  • There will simply never be enough time, hugs, smiles or tears when you spend time with the weirdos, misfits, and miscreants you call Tribe. That simple seed of Love will grow in my heart forever.
  • Find the courage to go outside your comfort zone – you’re amongst your people!
  •  HUGS. Give them, get them, seek them out. It’s how we stay sane.

Finally, I came home with a secret, glowing happy sheltered in my heart….Amy said my crochet was ‘Beautiful work’…..! I saw her fingerless gloves and was totally in AWE….Thank you, my new beloved adopted peoples, my Tribe!!!

PS: “Unicorn shifters? Ouch!”

unicorn funny

When You Wish Upon a Cloud

In the long lasting relationships there are always stories; these are the weavings of how we relate one to the other, of what we find precious and hold dear. It’s been more than 20 years since this particular incident occurred and I never considered what the impact of it would be for myself and my beloved. Today, I am glad to have this particular memory to look back on because it reflects on who we are as a couple and the tough decisions we’ve had to make.

It was October then, too. Six months after our wedding and I was VERY pregnant with our first baby together. I was also craving ice cream, but not just any ice cream. It had to be Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. (Still my all-time favorite!) The Dane and I had walked the ½ block down the road to the corner convenience store and on our way in, we heard kitten noises. We looked around, but couldn’t locate the source –and I was worried, this wasn’t just an “I want my momma” cry, this was something more. Unable to find where the noise was coming form, we went inside made our purchases and then returned to where we’d heard the sound.

It was twilight, and there wasn’t very good lighting behind the store, but we were able to identify an area of the source; the dumpster. I was still worried and when we returned home, we asked the babysitter and my oldest child to take a flashlight and go see if they could find the distressed animal. 20 minutes later, she and my daughter came home with a tiny mess of a kitten; he was still yowling, but purring simultaneously. To our horror and shock, someone had wrapped this furry baby in duct tape and then attempted to set fire to him. His whiskers were singed, the tip of one ear was scorched, blistered and hairless, and his paws were a mess from where he’d tried to escape from both the dumpster and the tape.

With baby oil and scissors, we managed to get the tape off of him, and with cotton swabs and baby shampoo, we were able to get all the crud off of his coat. He was a green-eyed beautiful long-haired tri-colored tabby patched male, with fur so long and fluffy that I named him “Cloud.” His purrs were tremendous and his appetite more so. He ate the mix of canned and dry kitten food with relish and abandon, and promptly fell asleep with one paw in the food dish. We tucked him into a basket with clean towels and newspaper; sure that the morning would bring us a better chance to know our newest adoptee. After the rush of getting everyone off to school and work, the housekeeper and I discovered that Cloud had made a mess in his basket. I couldn’t clean him up as I was home on bed rest from having earlier premature delivery symptoms, so the housekeeper scrubbed the poop mess off the kitten and we layered newspaper in the bathtub of the unused guest bathroom for him. We figured that he’d just had an upset tummy from eating garbage and a week or so of eating kitten chow would ‘put him to rights’ – either way, he was much too young for worming meds.



I decided that Cloud needed a toy and went looking for something suitable for our tiny furry baby. All I could find was an oversized marble, but when I put it in the bathtub with Cloud, he pounced in absolute joy and abandon. Chasing and batting the marble was the thrill of his life, that is until his bowels decided that the extra movement was a signal to let go and he pooped all over the tub again. I heard him protesting loudly, Cloud did not like ‘dirty’ and his tub was ‘dirty.’

Sensing we might have a bit of a time with his bowel problem, I came up with a solution. Line the tub with paper, give him a potty box with newspaper and then plug the drain so his marble toy had free rein. For the better part of two weeks this was Cloud’s world; until anyone came into the bathroom, that is. Cloud preferred to be held and loved. He was happiest cuddled up under a chin purring for all he was worth, kneading the chest of the lucky person holding him.

At the end of three weeks, Cloud’s stools were still runny and now beginning to show signs of blood. He wasn’t weak, but I was worried and my beloved husband made a vet appointment for him. I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I received later that day; it was my husband, and he could barely talk. “Honey?” I asked, “What’s up? What’s wrong?” I heard him try to catch his breath and then I heard a choked sob. “Babe,” he replied, “Are you in bed or sitting in the living room?” I was propped up in the bedroom crocheting a toy for Cloud, and I told him. “Honey, put it down for a moment. Cloud was terminal.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My beloved further explained, “Cloud’s mother must have been seriously infested with worms and she passed the infection on to her babies. The reason that Cloud didn’t get any better despite our care is that the infestation was so bad he had lost about 1/3rd of his intestines. The vet was surprised that he was so sweet natured as he had to be in serious pain. There was no saving him, honey. I asked for him to be put to sleep…and he passed in my arms.” There was a silence and then a sob.

I was crying, too. We’d tried to do right and take an abused animal from a nightmare existence, only to have an inevitable Death take him from us. It was also the first time that we would rescue an animal together. We’ve rescued animals and taken in plenty of strays since then, but no one and nothing compares to Cloud. People talk about the Rainbow Bridge and the afterlife. For me, I hope that on that big ol’ porch swing in the Hereafter waiting for me and my beloved, there’s a space between us – for Cloud.

My Angel

Alberta's hand

Ok, Ana… precious friend; I rise to your challenge and give you the following.

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s it was considered acceptable for middle class women to have black domestic help in the form of a nanny/housekeeper. Yes, my family had one, but there was a relationship there that went far, far beyond a ‘hired help’ status.

You see, my beloved great-grandfather made himself ‘persona non-grata’ in a neighboring state because of his habit of acquiring black persons either trapped in an indentured servitude contract or not allowed to be released into parole because no one would hire them. He’d release/acquire/buy out their contract, bring them across the State lines and free them to go on their own. A good many of them followed him to settle on his land, become sharecroppers or find employment that allowed them to buy their own piece of the American Dream. Because of this practice, we never went looking too hard to find help if we needed in home nursing care, housekeeping assistance, etc. There was always a community within gossip distance that was nearby.

When my middle brother was born in the middle of a June heat spell that withered cotton on the plant, Alvesta, our cook/housekeeper took one look at the squalling auburn haired baby and announced, “He’s gonna have trouble with his lungs. He was born too hot.” Sure enough, her words rang true and the smell of menthol and the wisps of the steam treatments infiltrated the small frame house I would come to visit twice a month. As he grew past babyhood, Alvesta told my momma, “It’s time you let little miss meet her baby brother. Or she’s gonna grow up a stranger to her own blood.” At nearly 4 ½ years of age, I came to stay with my momma and daddy; no longer in danger of my own lungs or kidneys collapsing, thanks to Alvesta’s cousin, Alberta taking care of me with my Nana and Papaw’s oversight.

Within a few months, momma and daddy bought a home of their own; it was halfway between being in town and being on the road to ‘the sticks’ as my momma would call it. The heat of that summer producing a hurricane that decided to make it into Central Texas to challenge the integrity of trees, roads and families – we lost the smaller house because of the storm damage….and Alvesta to a stroke.

I grieved in the only way a child knows, my little brother becoming a target of any item I had in my hand if I saw him. One morning, my backside sore from a spanking because yet again I waylaid into the boy child, a familiar voice called to me. “Fey child, you comin’ for your breakfast or you gonna sleep the night away?” It was the voice of Alberta, the calm and steady hands that had wiped away tears, the broad lap that held me while I learned to shell peas, the warmth that had rocked me to sleep when the pain from ear infections left me restless and unable to rest.

Baby brother was forgotten, and I even left my houseshoes and robe at the foot of my bed, forgotten in my rush to see if the voice I heard was a figment of dream. There she stood, one hand on her hip the other stirring the oatmeal made thick and spicy with clove and cinnamon; my personal angel with the dark caramel skin. I think I nearly knocked her over in the flying tackle hug I gave her, my nose almost at waist height. “Ok, baby girl. Slow down. Your mama called me and I needed the job to finish my schooling. Speaking of which, they been letting you grow wild. You’re gonna sit with me this morning and we’re gonna start learnin’ you to read. After all, isn’t that why you ran away?”

I blinked at her in near shock. How did she know that I ran away on the local school bus because I wanted to go to school? Did she also know that I refused to give my name to any one at the police station until my Nana came to claim me with a panicked mother?

A wise, sweet smile nearly split her face in two as she looked at me. “I knew you were gonna give these city folks grief untold, Fey baby. Smart little girls like you need love, and guidance and lots of learning to keep you from doing the Devil’s own mischief. Now here, sit down.” I did, and she served me a huge bowl of creamy spicy goodness in a crockery bowl with butter and sugar.

When I went to go put my bowl in the sink, Alberta quickly grabbed one of my hands to get my attention and announced, “You are going to go get yourself dressed. I need you right back in here after you’ve brushed your teeth, brushed your hair and put some shoes on those bare feet. No flip flops. Sneakers. We’re going to be doing schoolwork and you need to dress for the job.”

I remember being so serious about ‘getting it right’ – I brushed my teeth, I put on my favorite clean t-shirt (it had bunnies on it) and my corduroy pants that made whispering noises as I walked. I even remembered to put on socks before grabbing my sneakers. “Miss Alberta?” I called from the bedroom. “Yes, Fey baby?” “I don’t know how to tie my shoes.”

“Well, come on with yourself. We might as well start this right.”

We did start it right, because I still remember the stories of Jeremiah and the prophets, Joseph and his brothers (she picked that one out after a particularly bad fight with my little brother), and then Ruth. I learned to read sitting in her lap, out of her worn black Bible. I never knew that she was taking night classes for her Master’s degree in education. I never knew that she realized I had dysgraphia and taught me numerous tricks to overcome the problem. What I did know and have long realized is that Alberta was my own personal angel who taught me that education was a precious gift, shared best between kindred souls who understood each other beyond all the bounds that human ignorance can create.

I was in third grade when she matriculated with her Master’s degree. I was crushed when she told me she’d be leaving to go ‘up North’ to marry and to teach. After all these years, somewhere in my heart I know that she’s aware that but for her Grace and Goodness, I’d have been more than just a troubled child who needed her gift. Wherever you are Alberta, Thank you – and I love you.

Autumn’s Light


It’s late September – I’ve just noticed the calendar – I mean really looked at it in a way that says the year is almost gone. The crepe myrtle outside my office window are still confused and blooming when late July and all of August is their time for glory. The Chinese tallow trees are still green, but here and there some of their leaves are dipped in crimson contrast. There’s a bit of a subtle golden sheen to the grasses, and every now and then a chilly wind comes from nowhere. Just a few inches off the soil, this cold shallow breath of winter nags at me.

I am beginning to understand why they call this the “autumn” of Life; after the children are grown and gone, but all the noise and effects of their presence lie in shards of silence everywhere you look. Like unraked leaves soon to be shed by seasonally confused trees, it’s a time to pause. I’ve never cared for a “Hold” button, but now I’m beginning to see why they are so integral to a marriage, a career and a lifetime. We all need time to see in depth what really was, beyond all the pretense of being family, beyond the hurry of other people’s schedules, beyond our own insane expectations.

Time to “clear the closets” in all manner of speaking. I’ve also realized in many ways that I’m taking an inventory of my own personal feelings within human relationships as I prepare to make other changes in our later years. Words, phrases, the little things that we do for one another take on a deeper, richer meaning. He’s always been more than “husband” – he is my lifemate, he is my beloved, he is my companion through the roughest storms any couple can handle and still stay together. Promises that we made to one another on a foggy April morning almost a quarter century ago have become more, as have we. I realize that I am more than “wife” to him, and have been for a very long time. We had learned to complete one another’s sentences, I can buy him graphic t-shirts that he adores because I know and adore all his quirks. He reads what I write, often before I’ve completed the creation.

In all of this he holds me. He gathers me up into the shelter of his taller, wider self to remind me, “You know I love you, never forget this. You are not alone.” When I despair of the words that I need to complete the landscape of intent, he quiets my sobs by saying, “You are my beloved. What you need is right there, and right here, too. Go and do this. You know you can.”

Sometimes I think that we do ourselves a huge disservice by painting romance as all hearts and flowers and long contented sighs. It is so much more than the deep kisses and gentle caress of one lover’s hand on the other’s skin. We need to remind ourselves that there are shared spirits and emotions; that somewhere in the building of a relationship there is a compromise that occurs. We need to be reminded that even the best of us can go from asset to asshat in 2.3 seconds given the right coercion.

I miss the long friendships that I had with other women. Thanks to the economic upheaval of 2008, my last ‘bestie’ lost her home, her business and nearly her mind. This was the sort of relationship that women need – someone who knows where ‘all the bodies are buried’ because she helped you dig the hole. You know each other’s tastes, you have a history together, and when the worst comes you allow each other the grace, place and space to grieve. When the best comes around, you protect her back in case some jealous ass wants to steal her time in the spotlight.

Finally, the children begin to have lives and histories all their own that they weave in incredible color and texture and joy right in front of you. You see where they are going to make a colossal, intractable knot and despite warnings and the itch to take the threads from their hands, you let them. You also observe as they take threads and influences from their beloveds and friends and incorporate this into their lives as well. What was just a tapestry becomes a work of art all on its own with an inner light and a symphonic soundtrack that dances in the eyes of all around.

My inner landscape is beginning to echo the outer one now, standing on the verge of a seasonal change. The first storms that herald the turning of the Great Wheel have passed, and as I take the mental broom to the sidewalks and patios of my inner house, the outer home settles into Autumn’s Light. Let there be joy in the contentment of finding a place in lengthening shadows and deepening twilight.

So be it.