Search

postmodernfamilyblog

Multigenerational Mom Muses on Twin Toddlers & Twenty-Something Daughters

Category

Uncategorized

Snake Handling: wrestling with memoir

Growing up, I caught snakes in my backyard with kitchen tongs and fearless ignorance. All sorts of snakes, mostly random garden snakes — usually black racers.

My sisters and I would keep them a day or two in a laundry hamper on the screened porch, “tag” them (writing their names on their cold-blooded bodies in hot pink nail polish), and then release them back to the wild. We probably did irreparable damage — to their scales and psyche. I meant no harm. I thought I was Jack Hanna.

Once I came face to face with a cottonmouth. I was close enough to see the whites of his tonsils. To feel my heartbeat in my own set of tonsils. It was terrifying. And exhilerating. I was a fool, but also fairly fearless. And definitely naive.

And then there were the all the spiders. The black widows beneath the crawl space — red hourglass floating in the wide expanse of black belly, hypnotic with danger and beauty. The secretary spider in the window of the garden shed, weaving her Charlotte-style salutations and leaving me wide-eyed with wonder and respect. The wolf spiders in the pine straw, crab spiders in the peonies, tiny jumping spiders on the sidewalk.

Some creepy-crawlies were venomous. Others not. All were fascinating.

I’ll never forget a rat snake we found out in the gulley behind our backyard. I used Childcraft’s Magic of Words to name her Theodora Dean, meaning “Gift of God from the Valley.” I thought I was brilliant.

And I’m pretty sure that is the point in my life where my snake-infested early childhood and my love affair with words collided.

Besides that name dictionary inside the pages of that Childcraft yearbook, there was an abbreviated version of Beowulf — featuring a child-friendly translation of the battle with Grendel.

Grendel was a hideous creature who slithered and slunk. And killed. Beowulf was a long-haired hero who battled monsters with bare-hands. And won.

Which is kind of what I’m attempting to do with my writing. I’m crawling into the darkness and slime of my past — doing battle with all those snakes and spiders — some harmless, some deadly.

And like Beowulf, I plan on winning. With bare-handed skills.

Unlike Beowulf, I’m not trying to kill my past. I’m just trying to expose it and diminish its danger. Because it was definitely dangerous.

Good thing I was fairly fearless.

And ignorant.

I didn’t know at the time how dangerous those slippery-tongued serpents and flame-bellied spiders out to seize my soul from the hotel podium could be.

Or maybe I did.

Even today, rereading some of my journal entries, I can feel the fear of my sixteen-year-old self. I knew what those bearded elders were spewing and spinning wasn’t Christ’s love; it was paranoia and hate. It was exclusion and isolation. It was slick and poisonous and contagious as hell. Friends around me were dropping like flies.

But even back then, at the tender age of sixteen, with no one in my corner, I knew the only weapon I had against their wickedness was words.

So the lined paper of my journal absorbed what my heart poured into it. Torn, conflicted — knowing the danger of the poison inside me — I cloistered myself within its pages and allowed myself to feel the deep, insistent syphoning off of poison and emotion. It was the only place I could allow myself to purge it all.

The cool paper accepted me unconditionally. All the passion; all the poison. Recorded there. Preserved there. Honored there. Kept there to this day. A repository of life fluids. A hidden quiver. A womb of contention. An apple of discord.

As my hemorrhaging heart spilled into it, ripening more with each passing day, the pages performed their magic. They took each pounding pulse beat, each dangerous insubordination and drained it quietly into its depths. My secret embalming tool. My monument to life. A record of my heartbeat. To prove I once lived if I never made it out alive.

But I did. Those words kept me alive as the serpents and spiders coiled ever-tighter around me.

And those words give me strength today. To tackle my past. To record it. To tag it and release it into the wild. So others know and recognize the danger.

Faith isn’t dangerous. But fanaticism is.

Looking back, my anger is gone. Now, I turn an observant eye to the stains of my childhood spilled on the pages of a yellowed notebook. They are mere bruises now. Mellowed. But I can still feel the hectic red flush of their decades-old fever when I poke around.

So I poke and prod and prepare to record all the species of spiders and snakes from my past.

I may do damage — to their scales and their psyche. And this time, I do mean harm.

Because right now I see a similar, serpent-friendly climate out there in this world. I see a lot of people searching for something. And a whole lot of serpents ready to prey on their insecurities.

I see a whole lot of snake-handling going on. And that terrifies me.

Because on more than one instance, I came face to face with cottonmouths. I could see the whites of their tonsils, and I could feel my heartbeat in my own tonsils — and in theirs — when I recognized them. I wrote about it to save my life.

And I will write about it still to save someone else. Because the function of freedom is to free someone else.

Faith isn’t dangerous. But fanaticism is.

It’s time to make the pancakes: the flapjack physics of writing and life

The best pancakes are never the first off the griddle. I’ve learned that over the years.

So I’m learning to be patient.

The first pancakes are always slightly anemic. They never turn that golden brown of restaurant adds and Coppertone babies. The oil is too bubbly. Too prevalent. Too… much.

So it has to cook off a bit — get absorbed by those first flimsy efforts. Kind of like teenaged skin. It needs a lot of blotting — and some time.

Time and practice. That’s what I’m learning. It’s like that in pancakes. In writing. And In life. And I’m hoping all the practice is beginning to pay off.

I’ve been reading a lot of books on writing lately. Some are rereads — like Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Some are brand new, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Jen Pastiloff’s On Being Human.

They’re all teaching me some bits about writing, but lots more about myself. How I tend to strive for perfection when I really should just strive to get it all onto the skillet. Perfectionism isn’t possible. And anyway, as Annie Lamott says,

Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground — you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.

So I’ll make a mess while building my batter. I’ll add in. Mix up. Pour out. Spill a bit. Flip too early.

Some sentences are destined to collapse onto themselves — it’s inevitable a few will flounder and fold. Let ’em. Clean up the mess later.

And I know those initial pancakes will be a bit pale and doughy or haphazardly layered. That’s fodder for the second draft. The next go round always gets better.

My life has been like that too. My early years were on the whiter shade of pale. Limp and slightly unbaked. Potential, but nowhere close to perfection.

Now I’m living my best, well-burnished life.

My writing is slowly sizzling its way toward buttery golden goodness, too. It’s losing its doughy center; it’s crisping and finding its edges. All with a little help from some master chefs, a whole lotta help from a well-seasoned skillet, and lots and lots of doughy first drafts.

So today (and every day), I’m assembling ingredients, mixing the batter and getting on with it. Mistakes will be made.

Always.

But it’s time to make the pancakes.

Of Carols and Cookies and Christmastime Craziness

Christmas is my favorite. I love spending the hustle and bustle of the holidays with family. Even when it gets hectic and stressful (and with my crew, it’s guaranteed) there’s nothing that fills my soul more than copping a squat on the living room floor because every chair and sofa space is packed to the gills with girls (and the random trapped husband) and listening to the jabberwocky of a room full of relatives.

I come from a big family of women. A bodacious beehive of queen bees. So when we get together, we get loud. And we do goofy things.

Like gather up all the hats and scarves in the house and go caroling… whether the neighbors are amenable or not. And a good many may not have been. They either weren’t home or they hid from the colorfully clad mishmash of merrymakers on their front lawns. I know I would have — at least until I heard the first few notes of a christmas song. Then I would’ve thrown my doors open wide.

“Everybody loves Christmas carols. Santa, especially,” Tate says. And he’s right. Or at least everybody in my family, plus Santa. That’s why we go caroling and harass the neighbors.

And I’m thinking that must not be something normal people do because I can honestly say I’ve never had somebody ring my doorbell just so they can belt out “O Holy Night” in a light drizzle. But we do. And we did.

This past week, I was talking to family and friends about some of their favorite Christmas memories and traditions.

One friend made peanut butter balls with her mom every year, to pass out to all male relatives over 21. She didn’t know why they had to be 21 and male. It was just tradition.

But tradition’s like that. The method to the madness is often lost in the translation, but the joy translates, regardless. Bringing so much joy to the world.

My sister and her family whip up their annual joy with homemade five-star meals for Christmas dinner. Beef Wellington is her son’s favorite — and he himself is a mini master chef, baking up the most glorious, puff-pastried, steak-filled centerpiece of a Christmas feast you ever did see.

From five-star to the star of Bethlehem, my husband’s favorite tradition was attending midnight mass and singing “Silent Night,” the melody lifting the congregation in the most sacred of stillness.

Another friend of mine talked about how her family never had much growing up, but they always had Christmas. She remembers one year where her father sold his truck so they would have gifts under the tree. She wonders to this day how he made it to work the coming year.

My girls and I, we always made Christmas cookies. The boys and I have added gingerbread to the memory mix. This weekend was a cluttered cluster of memories in the making. Chilled dough. Dusted rolling pin. Cookie cutters and powdered sugar. Red, green, blue food coloring. Blue and green and white crystal sprinkles.

Cheeks and fingers were stained and there’s sanding sugar scattered clear to the floor joists, I’m sure. The kitchen is a wreck, but the cookies and houses are a wonder. They aren’t pretty, but they’re pretty delicious. And so are the memories.

And then there are my memories of Christmases past — my cousin at the pump organ, clomping out “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the rest of us singing along. My aunts and mother in the kitchen scraping a year’s worth of hamburger grease off the stovetop and cabinets so they could cook up the roast beast. (Grandma lived on fried patties 364 days out of the year.)

My uncles and father gathered ’round the coffee table sketching out physics problems, each bringing their gifts to the table, in a pedagogical parody of the three wise men.

And finally, there’s my grandmother in her recliner, beaming through her bifocals and bragging on her grandchildren to anybody and everybody she could capture in her thick-rimmed line of sight. The lights from the Christmas tree reflected brightly in her split lenses, turning her chocolate brown eyes into a kaleidoscope of green and amber and red and royal blue.

Somewhere behind me stands her Christmas tree, the beginning of my fascination with Christmas trees, its branches dripping in silver tinsel and Shiny Brite ornaments. I wish I knew where those ornaments were today.

My mother further fueled my passion for Christmas trees. She has eight. Yes. Eight. Most of them, themed. One is a nutcracker tree. Another is chockfull of Wizard of Oz ornaments. A third houses all the homemade ones we four kiddos created from decades of Christmases past. Then there’s the bird tree in the bathroom and the tabletop tree in the bedroom. It’s a habit. And it’s genetic.

But my habit is sort of under control. I only have two — one full of collectible blown glass; the second, full of felted ones, less fragile, more fun.

Yes, Christmas is my favorite.

I love the memories made and the memories in the making. I love the family, the fun, and the frenzy — every last fiber of frenzy. My husband — not so much. He prefers to maintain every last fiber of sanity. But then, he’s all”Silent Night,” Bing Crosby style, and I’m all Mannheim Steamroller “Carol of the Bells.”

But maybe he’ll keep me anyways. Because he was my absolute best Christmas gift of all time, thirteen years ago this past weekend.

Yep, Christmas is my favorite.

Layer Cakes and Legends: My Apocryphal Appalachian Roots

Today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted in roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it reminded me of my grandmother.

Not because she used to bake blackberry jam cake. (She didn’t.) Nor because she loved to bake at all. (She didn’t.) There was only one cake she ever made, and she made it every fall for Thanksgiving — a German Chocolate Layer Cake, triple-stacked to heaven and beyond. It defied natural laws.

Baking my own triple layer cake this morning somehow conjured up my grandmother’s spirit. Out of nowhere, a warm fragrant memory slipped in — a peppery whiff of Scotch snuff amid baking layers — and I was instantly transported back. Back into the warm half-circle spotlight of her bifocals, where she peered up at me with love and adoration… and then demanded I write down a select few of her stories.

Yup. Demanded. And Grandma always gets her way — even from beyond the grave. (Compromise was never her middle name.)

And she really was quite the storyteller — I like to think that’s where I get my passion for words — and her tales were always tall. As impossibly tall as her German Chocolate Layer Cake.  She told some doozies, but there was always truth in the pudding, er, batter… batter thick and sweet and loaded with flavor.

Her stories infused every room in her small house. They found you in every corner. You couldn’t escape them. Through the darkness of night, she was sitting on your mattress while you slept, telling you a story.  Through the closed bathroom door, you were sitting on the toilet while you shat, she was telling you a story. No exaggeration.

Her stories were a never-ending narrative. I’d heard them a thousand times. I thought I could recite them backwards. They were a constant. Like a beating heart. Always there. Always.

Until they weren’t.

I took them for granted. I tuned them out. I never wrote them down. I really wish I’d recorded them, old cassette ribbon winding like stretched caramel from one receptacle to another to help me transcribe her words from one era into another, today. Alas, I did not.

But this past summer, my family celebrated her oldest son — my Uncle Pal’s — 80th birthday. My two aunts and my father were there, too, rounding out her initial genetic contribution to this world.

The four sat atop a green, overstuffed sofa and held court, flipping through old pictures and regaling the second and third generations with Grandma’s tales of our Appalachian roots.

peters

Most of the stories I recalled immediately… their familiar cadence returning to me like skip rope chants learned in my childhood:

My grandma the buxom beauty — her breasts swelling so large when she contracted mumps at twelve that they never returned to what she considered a respectable size. She and her sister Margaret would mash them tightly in scarves, trying to achieve the ideal body image of her age — flat-chested flapper girl — to no avail.

grandma

My grandma the axe murderer — her one and only victim, a Harley Hog my dad bought knowing she hated them. Her brother had almost died on one; her son would not have the same opportunity. The Hog died instead, a quick, violent death from hatchet-strike to the fuel tank. Dad wept as his full-fendered baby girl bled out in front of him… the original chopped Harley.

My grandma, the exile — sent in her early twenties to country music legend Mama Maybelle Carter’s house, her childhood friend and neighbor. My great grandfather sent her away to keep the clambering boys away from the self-proclaimed prettiest girl in five Virginia counties. (Humility was also not her middle name.) Grandma spent an entire summer dancing the Charleston, little June Carter running between her flashing legs while Mama Maybelle scratched her guitar.

IMG_1149

Keeping Grandma away from the boys worked for a while, but she finally managed to run off and marry the love of her life at the ripe old age of 25 — an old maid by Appalachian standards. Grandpa was years younger than she was, also unheard of in that time period.  (I guess I get that from her, too.)

My aunts and uncle also told us a few tales I’d maybe heard, but had long since forgotten.

Like the seven-foot tall distant relative named Pleasant who was so small when he was born they could fit his head in a tea cup, and who slept in a Singer sewing machine drawer next to his parents’ bed. Pleasant grew up to be large and in charge, and was famous for once throwing a man out a second-story speak easy.

I also heard about an ancestor who, at 98-years young, could stand and do a somersault in the air. Backwards. That’s a back tuck, by the way. Cheerleaders drool for that kind of skill. He could do it at 98. Unfortunately, no one remembered his name.

But a whole lot of other names were remembered in my uncle’s living room this past July — names summoned from my grandmother’s looping cursive, scrawled in her black-papered memory book. Names like Viney and Velma, Tom and Tate, Willie and Chapman, and Emmy and Spencer, and Pleasant, of course. (I kind of wish I could have another kid, simply so I could name him or her Pleasant. No, scratch that. I’ll leave that up to my girls…)

Those names, written in Grandma’s looping penmanship, lassoed us all and pulled us back — back to our childhoods and beyond. Back to the crags and coal of the Virginia mountains. Back to the looping, sprawling deep-settled roots of our family tree.

The tree itself juts high and strong these days, with limbs spread far and wide. From London to Phoenix, her descendants are scattered like leaves in haphazard drifts of color and contrast in a beautiful, autumnal haze. We, indeed, have a glorious family tree. And her stories — our stories — deserve to be told.

* * *

Yes, today I baked up a blackberry jam cake — a triple layer one, coated in caramel, and dusted with roasted pecans. And for some nutty reason, it conjured my grandma, who channelled my fingers and hijacked my blog  — to write about an Appalachian beauty with a penchant for layer cake and a story or two thousand to tell.

My guess is, she isn’t quite done with me yet.

Where Did I Go?

Where did the mama go who laughed and sang and read stories and played with her children?

Where did the mama go who had patience and a smile and the ability to let all the demands of the world melt away and focus only on her precious pint-size people?

Where did the mama go who could create one-of-a-kind birthday parties and scavenger hunts and toilet-paper-cardboard-exoskeletons-with-pipe-cleaner-antennas?

Where did the mama go who volunteered as room mom and decorated cupcakes like coral reefs and had seventeen girls sleepover in the living room in a snowstorm?

Somewhere along the way, she got more than a little bit lost. She’s a quarter century older than she was with her girls. And her patience and reserves aren’t what they used to be.

She’s vanished, and I really need to find her again. I miss her.

Not only do I miss her readiness to drop it all and be present in the moment… I miss the fact that there aren’t so many moments left for her to squander. And squandering precious moments is one of my biggest worries. I have no time to waste. There’s so much that has to be done…

… between parenting and teaching and grading and gifted cert classes and football and laundry and trying to find time to write because it’s the only bit of something I actually do for myself…. it leaves very little time for fun and games. And I don’t like that about myself. I’m way too serious these days.

The Joker would not approve. And I don’t think my boys do either.

But all the things are pulling at all my moments. And the only common denominator besides parenting between when my girls were little and now my boys are little is the laundry. Everything else didn’t exist.

And neither did the Me who is Mama now.

I am the new version. And new versions aren’t always what people want. It’s not what I want.

Take the new and improved Butterfingers candy bar. Nobody wants them. Everybody loves the classic. Supposedly there’ll be more cocoa and milk and no more hydrogenated oils. It’s all about quality. But nobody is happy about it.

My new and not-so-improved motherhood — nobody wants t it either. There’s definitely more worry lines and deadlines and no more happy-go-lucky moods. It’s all about quantity. And nobody is happy about it.

I scramble to make everything fit. I cram and pack the moments full. Too full. Till everything bursts from the pressure. Me. The boys. Mike. All of us.

How can I fix this? How can I do better? Explode less, love more? Dear Lord, I wish I knew. I’m at a loss. I’m losing daily.

With the girls, I was a stay-at-home mama with time on my side. Neither is true now. What is still true is I love my kids — grown and growing — with all my heart, and I love being a mom, and I want to be a good one.

So how can I pack more into each moment without packing more into each moment? I’ve got to figure it out. How to do what I’ve been doing without doing what I’ve been doing. It is a paradox so simple and so hard. And I don’t have the answers.

Motherhood is my most important thing. Right now and always. Especially right now. The boys have hit a tough age. Somebody said the other day they love the five-year-old boy year, and I almost choked on my incredulity.

This Five-Year-Old Boy Year has been flipping HARD. A lot of it has to do with how there’s TWO of them and all. And there’s kindergarten. And homework. And they’re playing flag football. On weeknights. So they’re getting to bed late. Plus, they’re growing like gangbusters and burning through all their fuel and they’re HANGRY as H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

Have mercy! — which is what I need.

And what they need. And I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but they deserve it. So I’m going to find the solution to the paradox. I’m going to pack more moments full of my boys’ big brown eyes and wide open smiles and kind, generous hearts. Even if it means squandering the moments of all the other things.

Because motherhood demands sacrifice. And motherhood is my most important thing. Right now and always.

Nothing is more important than my children’s emotional and physical well-being. All four of them.

Autumn: the season of change and new beginnings

It is autumn! At least, that’s what the calendar tells us. My car thermometer, on the other hand, says it is 93 degrees at 6:30 pm. We’ve had more than eighty days of 90+ temperatures in North Georgia this year. Enough is enough already! But supposedly it’s autumn, and that means it’s officially my favorite season.

tateandpumpkin

I love fall for so many reasons. For pumpkin patches and apple orchards, for candy corn and nutmeg and cloves, for gemstone leaves and front porch scarecrows. Albert Camus proclaimed autumn “a second spring, when every leaf’s a flower.” And I tend to agree. I mostly love fall because it symbolizes new beginnings in all sorts of ways for my family: a new school year, a new football season.  Fall is my absolute favorite!

tateandcowboyhat

Fall is the season of new school years: new faces, new potential, new energy, new passion. And even though we’ve already been in school for over seven weeks (this is the South, after all – we go back before the sunburns have even had a chance to peel), we still call this fall semester, and we’re still feeling fresh (sort of) when the autumnal equinox officially strikes. I have one-hundred- eighty sophomore students sitting in my seats and eager to learn (sort of). And while the challenges are great and the resources are slim, I still have a tremendous reservoir of love for my students and passion for my subject. So fall is my favorite!

And fall is the season of football, the game that seasons our family with a long, strong, complicated marinade. It is flavored with dynamic combinations, unexpected ingredients, raw emotions and daring outcomes — all served up on a spiral slice to robust and critical crowds. It is the sport that leaves me absolutely spellbound and absolutely spent… a complete and utter glutton for the punishment and pain, the pleasure and pride that makes up the season. As a football family, we wouldn’t want it any other way. So fall is my favorite!

And fall is the season for late afternoon drives in the countryside. Living in the country gives the boys and me ample opportunity to witness the glory that is fall: golden soybean fields, corn crops with buzz cuts, and barnyard nurseries – the farm animals are having their fall babies!

We pass a menagerie of livestock on our way home from school every weekday, and I swear, almost any given pasture on almost any given day has a new baby to ogle. Parker and Tate providing me with a running commentary of each fascinating new discovery. We pass a horse farm, a multitude of cow pastures, and even a field full of mama sheep and their newborn lambs. I bet there’s a dozen in that pen — little, bleary clouds scattered sleepily across the grass and under the pines. My breath catches at the sight of them every single time.

And fall is the season for hay bales. I’m here to say that I never knew how compelling hay bales could be until I had twin boys with a hearty devotion to tractors. There’s been a steady harvest in recent weeks. From one field to the next, the same scene has run its course and the boys never tire of talking about them. I dread the day when all of the hay bales are gone. It will be a dark day, indeed.

Fall is the season of long and languid afternoon sun, a sun that leans low to blind drivers and irritate my twins on rides home, a sun that creeps deep inside living room floors to butter bare toes, a sun that catches dust and pollen dancing in its rays for an undeniable reminder of allergy season – as if we needed reminding. The boys’ noses have had snail trails from nostril to lip for weeks now.

Fall is the season of baking treats and making memories. I used to spend hours in the kitchen when the girls were little, crafting fall festival Cake Walk prizes and bake sale bounty.  Baking makes me dizzily, freakishly happy. It’s my mother’s fault. She baked a lot when I was a kid, her hair, frosted with highlights (and probably splatters of buttercream frosting, as well), pulled back from her beaming, beautiful face. The world felt warm and wonderful and safe and sound in the sanctity of her kitchen — and I guess somewhere along the way, happiness, beauty, warmth and womanhood all got tangled up with baking for me. So now when I bake, I feel like I’m Wonder Woman on a mission to cure what ails the world, one bundt cake at a time.

 

I made some banana bread last week, which went with Mike to the football war room, where the guys spend hours working on this week’s game plan. I hope it gave them a little lift in the midst of the Sunday grind. The process of making it and the comforting scent of it gave me one, for sure. 

Fall is the season of my grandson Bentley’s birth. The little acorn is a fall fledgling with gangly limbs and translucent skin, who shimmers like wheat fields in the sun when he smiles, and his eyes are brighter than crisp autumn skies. So thanks to Bentley Boo, fall is my favorite!

Finally, fall is the season of change. Colors change, temperatures change, grades and teachers and wardrobes and weather… they all change. And in this hate-filled political climate, I pray that Camus is right. That autumn is a second spring – a season of new beginnings – an opportunity for rebirth. May it baptize us all under the shower of leaves, washing us clean of this long, hot, angry summer of hate and intolerance.

Let clarity and love, humanity and grace shine on us all. May we all feel welcomed and valued, respected and protected in this rapidly unfurling season of change.

 

Seize the Sunsets: A Candy Corn Devotional

I have an extreme addiction to a colorful seasonal confection that is notoriously divisive in households and classrooms and office buildings the world over. And its name is candy corn.

As far as I’m concerned, it is manna from heaven. It is the food of the gods. It is a candy and a vegetable – and that makes it the perfect food!

And while I know it’s not technically produce, I do know that it has honey in it. And honey comes from plants – excreted through the saliva of bees, but still. If it comes from a plant, it’s a vegetable.

Plus honey is referenced in the bible  — 26 times to be exact – and in a good way (not like salt, which is a punishment for people who look backwards when they aren’t supposed to), but in a nourishment for the Israelites who kept looking forward in faith and physicality for forty years in the wilderness kind of way.

Plus, it’s TRI-colored for heaven’s sake — it is a THREE COLORS IN ONE confection (a holy trinity, folks).

And if you’re still not convinced… candy corn is fat free! What could possibly be more divine?

So yes, by golly, candy corn is godly. I am a true believer. And I faithfully try to convert others every year.  But some of you doubters still remain, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I think it’s the way you were raised…

Now me, I grew up an absolute devotee. My mom exposed me early and annually to its righteousness. She would place giant kaleidoscopic bowls of candy corn around the house every autumn, which I would kneel before the minute I walked in the door from school. I couldn’t get enough. My soul hungered for it. It was like eating fistfuls of sunsets. Sweet, sugary sunsets. I recall many an October afternoon basking in the warm glow of a candy corn devotional.

Being exposed so thoroughly and at such an early age has served me well. But it also made me a bit naive. Little did I know not everyone shares my passion. Not everyone worships on the shrine of those trinitarian sunsets.

Candy corn definitely has its detractors — and super vocal ones, at that.

I learned this the hard way my second year of teaching. I thought I’d proselytize to the masses during a review game. The reward would be righteous, I promised. So my students put everything they had into the review. They jostled for the lead with gusto, hungry for a taste of the grail. But when I pulled out the first single-serving cellophane bag for the winner and tossed it his way, all hell broke loose.

You would’ve thought I’d just thrown him a bagful of boogers. Or ear wax — which is what he said it tasted like as he slung it back at me in disgust.

Ungrateful infidel.

Apparently, he’s not the only one. I polled this year’s students and they were drastically divided. Half would kill for it, the other would rather die than eat it.

And I’m always amazed by the look — the look from nonbelievers when I offer up these kernels of truth and light. The wrinkled noses, the abject disgust, the ready dismissal.

They are blasphemers, the whole lot. Because even if you don’t believe candy corn is divine, it is pure sacrilege to turn down a communion so sacred and scarce and being offered up so selflessly. Because candy corn is hardly something I readily part withal.  It is a true personal sacrifice.

So don’t turn it down. That’s just rude.

My girls know better. They were raised right. And this fall season, my boys are being initiated into the faith. The ritual of edification is short, yet satisfying. Simply nibble one honeyed hue at a time: first the tip – just to see what it feels like (pure heaven) – then proceed to the sleek middle orange, and finally the wide yellow base. Repeat until satisfied.

And listen, I tell them. Listen real close and you can hear each kernel of truth whispering its legacy in a low incantation: “Carpe… Carpe Diem, boys. Seize the sunsets.” Because you never know when you won’t get another.

Well, you do. After Thanksgiving, they’re gone.

So carpe’ diem, boys. Carpe’ dem sunsets!

IMG_7265

Banana Pudding and Red Bull

Yesterday was my last day of summer vacation before teacher pre-planning began. My last day to relax and recharge. And I did just that.

I finally used the massage gift certificate Mike got me for a Valentine’s Day gift. (What? I’m only five months late…)

The massage was marvelous. I don’t know what took me so long. Yes I do… TWINS. Still, it was well worth the wait.

To be honest, I was more than a little anxious about this appointment, though. For the first time ever, I had a male massage therapist. And considering you’re kind of naked and vulnerable on that table — along with the fact I was raised in a cult where skin is akin to original sin — this was a giant step outside my comfort zone.

His name was Wesley, I reasoned, as I settled beneath the sheets, candles flickering lazily and zen music playing softly. Wesley is such a non-assuming, more-than-slightly-Methodist name, so what’s to worry? That, plus the splashing water sounds and chirping birdcalls helped set my mind at ease.

Turns out, there was no need to worry, whatsoever. Wesley was a perfect gentleman and a perfect massage therapist. I was always appropriately sheeted or toweled and completely at ease (mostly).

I presented quite the challenge to poor little Methodist Wesley’s protestant work ethic. I had more knots in my back than a macrame hammock, and today I kind of feel like I got stretched taut between trees until the hammock unravelled. It’s all good, though, I told him to get them out. And he did. The knots screamed; I screamed. Eventually, they succumbed and I survived.

After the trauma, I relaxed into an awesome foot massage. Now, my favorite part of any massage is always the foot part of a massage. I love it more than warm banana pudding, and that’s saying a lot. Now some of you like cold banana pudding, and that’s saying a lot, too. Like how wrong you are, and how you probably like chardonnay (and even sugar in your cornbread, too). But, whatever. You’re wrong and foot massages are all that is right in this world.

But the surprising part of yesterday’s massage — the part I loved the absolute most — was a really weird technique I’d never encountered before. I’ll call it Red Bull…

So I was lying on my back, the sheet smooth once again — its myriad of origami massage pleats deconstructed — and the session complete. Or so I thought.

It was then Wesley returned to the crown of my head, placed both his hands, palms up, under my shoulders and slid them all the way down to my kidneys. It was weird and uncomfortable. Number one — because it felt like my back was straddling train tracks, and number two — because Wesley’s chin was directly above my face. I could feel his breath. It was awkward as fundamentalism.

But then he pulled his arms backward, lifting my body with his hands as he went. It was like sails being unfurled from somewhere spiny and cramped in my center, like wings being unwound. I was in metamorphosis, and it was marvelous.

I emerged from the spa yesterday afternoon like a newborn moth, all limp and relaxed and blinking blindly in the sun, every tendon and blood vessel traceable beneath translucent skin.

Red Bull. It gives you wings.

Go see Wesley and get your wings.

My kind of Sexy

…is a summertime morning striptease. (It’s not what you think. Tell my husband not to get too excited.)

Summer mornings are my favorite. Especially ones like today. Do-nothing mornings — where I can sit and watch the fog drift in wisps on the silvery light — moth-wings light, lamb’s wool light, low-slung and easy.

I love to watch the sky unwind those ribbons of lambs-wool light, to slowly unwrap the earth — a long, sensual striptease revealing round, lush tree tops, and soft, dripping foliage.

The katydids swell with approval, the birds erupt in chorus, a woodpecker pulses the beat.

Somewhere amid the clover, a bee, slow from his overindulgence on nectar the night before, treads water in the liquid air. Not quite ready to start his day, not quite ready to get busy.

I get it. It’s so easy to overindulge in the potent nectar of these perfect summer days. The sun is long and tempting, and nature bursts free of her seams. She is hot and completely undone.

Gardens grow blousy with feverish growth and roadsides explode, keeping pace.

And we, as humans, we just want to imbibe. There is just so much fun to be had. Trails. Rivers. Beaches. Pools. Family. Friendship. Fireworks. Fun.

Like the wings of the hummingbirds at my feeder, summer is a blur of glittering seconds, so fast you can only see where it’s been, rarely standing still to see the up-close-and-perfect detail.

We cram action, hummingbird style, into layers and layers of summertime fun. Time is a frenzy most days.

But this morning I’m taking it slow. Because slow is my kind of sexy.

My boys — they get bored. All three of them. They like action. They like fun. And to them, sitting still and soaking it all in is a far cry from fun. So they’ve gathered up their things and taken off to the pool.

But me, I’m saddled up in this morning, eager to sit for a spell. Literally. Waiting for a spell. For creativity to light, to take up my fingers, to tickle my keyboard, and to unchain my mind.

And it takes awhile. The words appear slow, a tantalizing striptease.

Tendrils of misty promise, backlit by vision, fuzzy and opaque, flit about, flirting with my senses. Then, slivers of clarity — a single word, tweaked and pulled to a taut, perfect pearl. More coaxing ensues, until finally, big, rounded handfuls of glittering splendor are revealed. Eager and pliable. Hot and ready to couple and link.

It takes time to tease words into the light –to convince them to unveil their secrets and put themselves on full display.

And time is a frenzy most days.

But today, even the hummingbirds have slowed their windspeed. They defy their nature and perch at the feeder. Drinking deeply. Soaking in the sweet syrup of summertime.

It is — or was — a beautiful, do-nothing morning, succulent and ripe, and ready to open, to yield her secrets beneath my eager persistence.

But now. Now our time together is done. The show is over. Life demands my attention more than my words.

But as always, I’m left yearning for more. And that is my kind of sexy.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑