Tag Archives: family


Weekly photo challenge: Window — see the giants.

The Giant

The Giant

This poster print of “The Giant”  by artist N.C. Wyeth became part of a cross-country collaborative project between me and Mike’s niece and her two young children. Having the $10 print custom framed would have cost the equivalent of a one-way airfare, so I bought a frame and spray painted it white. I then shipped the frame cross country to my artistic partners, but not before I had to saw the  frame in half to get the price of shipping down from $100 to $50. My instructions were for the kids to have fun and hand print the frame. As you can see, they did.

While my co-artists were “handling” the frame, I spent many hours looking at the poster, coming to understand each child’s pose. The two smallest children in the center, fully facing The Giant, embody awe and unquestioning belief that it exists. The older girl standing in the rear sees, but will soon turn her head and nod absently and maternally when the two children explode with excitement about The Giant. The kneeling boy in red sees but his own energy will quickly outrun his belief and draw him back to his activity in the sand. The boy at far left sees and accepts, quietly. I find myself in the girl to the far right, apart from the others — just seeing, neither believing nor disbelieving. She will try, not always successfully, to remember The Giant. But she will keep trying.

I wrote this phrase on the crude homemade matting I inserted to fill the too-large opening:

See The Giant.

See The Giant.

What does all this have to do with this week’s photo challenge “Window”, you ask? Because this is where the poster hangs in our house:

Always look for giants.

Open your mind, and see the giants.

The Giant hangs between windows.



Weekly photo challenge: UP

My family visited over a recent Easter. We gathered a balloon bouquet, added our greetings, and sent them off the top of a mountain to our dear, though no longer near, loved ones.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

This gallery contains 21 photos.

“Weekly Photo Challenge: Green.” (Brought to you by your friendly blog host, WordPress) By my Royal Decree (and unofficial sanction of my loyal subjects) I bestow upon you: MAD QUEEN GREEN:

Comfort. Food.

This past President’s Day weekend found us in Savannah, Georgia, that storied Garden of Good & Evil.

Drink shown not actual size.

How can you not like a town where you can get a Bourbon Pecan Pie martini to go (a “traveler”), or, for that matter, any drink that way? Just pour those last few ounces into a paper cup and walk (no driving) away. So civilized. Savannah is lovely in other ways as well. The city is well endowed with shaded green parks accessorized with monuments, benches, walking tours, and blooming niceties, and most parks are looked upon by noble and sentimental antebellum homes. It is a place with one foot in the past and the other carrying forward the edgy generation attending the Savannah College of Art & Design. The three-day weekend refreshed my style sense (boots with everything, happily casual scarves, abundant shiny bling) and administered a rainbow shot in my visual arm as my color-starved eyes gobbled houses clad in teal and pink, a bicycling woman of a certain age all a-purple, and the art gallery in the City Market bulging with primary, secondary and every other color in between.

We bypassed the restaurant of the (in)famous diabetic cook, Paula Deen. My knowledge of celebrity cooks could be transcribed onto a 1″ x 1″ Post-it note, and we are as goats when it comes to eating. We did, however, partake of a local and tourist experience by eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House. Meals here are served family style, which means you are seated at table with an assortment of strangers, passing bowls and platters to each other, everyone eating what’s placed in front of them. For this privilege, I waited in line 3 hours with Karen from Minnesota, Paula from Kentucky, and 100 or so other folks. I’ve never waited that long to partake of any restaurant, and I probably won’t do it again. But I learned something while standing in line with and eating elbow to elbow with strangers.

I’ve been wondering about our national obsession with eating, and how in this era labeled “depression” or “recession,” restaurants are still going strong. The answer is not solely the food, though despite being a grateful omnivore I do understand that if the food is terrible the restaurant will likely fail. But how much better than the last great meal eaten can the next great meal be? Perhaps the answer to why we continue to eat at restaurants, why we stand in line 3 hours for a seat in one we’ve heard mentioned in passing, is the possibility of a special experience, and the chance to share that experience with someone. Dining out can provide so much more than a medium grilled pork chop served by polite waitstaff on a gleaming white plate flanked by a linen napkin. After 3 hours in line with Paula Kentucky and Karen Minnesota, I knew Paula was kind to her administrative assistant, mindful of her special-needs daughter at home, still called her own father “daddy” in Southern fashion, and wouldn’t get that autographed Paula Deen cookbook because she was hesitant about walking to the book-signing alone, and that Karen was close to her military brother, fascinated by seeing hair colors other than blonde, would be traveling soon to Germany instead of Ecuador, and would be single for some time to come because the force of her personality would allow no compromise and her tongue no mercy. After two hours, our camaraderie was well enough established that we warbled together the happy birthday song for Marla who was behind us in line (and we were not the least disturbed on learning her name was actually Darlene; we simply regaled her again.)

This was the experience of a fried chicken platter, bowls of rice, cabbage, mashed potatoes, gravy, rutabagas and a jumble of other traditional Southern foods handed swiftly among not-quite strangers , an iPad appearing briefly for a photo, the drift of conversation from the next table in a snug, slightly overheated dining room. This was the experience of seeing the disbelief on the server’s face at the fact that someone (I plead guilty, being held hostage by the cabbage) could have passed up banana pudding dessert. And this was the experience of the same server demanding the attention of all in the dining room to instruct us to carry our plates, boarding house style, to the kitchen when we were finished. This was the experience of being expected to interact like a family at a dinner table, right down to taking responsibility for helping clean up afterward. This is why, when people are scattered and running and rushed, we make time to eat together at a restaurant, that substitute for the family table in today’s world. I’ve had better food, but not more memorable food. I may not see or sing with Karen or Paula again, but for a few hours they were my family, and they will always be part of my memory family. This was indeed the experience of comfort food.

Not now, not ever

I will not wait till the last minute to go to the bathroom, especially if a slippery zipper is being anchored in the “up” position by a safety pin.

I will not complain about what’s free — Facebook, cloud servers, Pandora radio,  friends, family, or gifts.

I will not go viral or ballistic, nor will I jump on any bandwagons. The first seems germ-laden, the second downright dangerous, the third just an opportunity to be run over.

I will not pass up a chance to wear a conical hat. Look what it did for Harry Potter. December’s Saturnalia observation is already marked on my new calendar. Being a dunce and wearing the hat has its advantages, not the least of which is a seat near the front of the crowd.

I will not daily blog publicly. If I have nothing to say I will not burden my 25 subscribers with it. Every bit of writing advice promotes “honing the craft” by daily writing. That doesn’t mean I have to bore my long-suffering readers with every if, and, or but I can spell.

I will not hesitate to take the Magic Bus on adventures everywhere I can possibly go, with anyone who wants to come with.

I will not ignore the voices in my head. Shh, just a second. A retrospective of my life shows significant slapdowns could have been avoided if I hadn’t muzzled my own instincts. What were you saying?

I will not pass up an opportunity to toss a coin, accompanied by a wish, into a fountain. No shooting star will complete its arc without my thoughts clinging to its tail. Every dandelion will scatter before my breath and every wishbone will be accommodated.


I will never think twice about joining a celebratory parade or doing the happy dance. Not now, not ever.

Things I’ve heard this year, things I’ve said this year

Things I’ve heard this year:

God bless you.

So you’ve got a Baltimore map, right?

Pray more.


You’ll meet people.

Love you, sis.

What time are we leaving?

I’d hate to see you do that.

That might be what you do in the city, Linda, but we don’t do that here in the country.

Beer run!

We’re Christians, so we don’t worry about that.

If you need a church, I’ve got one.

Hay! Hay! Hay!

I’m sorry about your life.

You’ve got to understand, Linda. . .

Have you seen my shorts?

Do you miss Houston?

What’s wrong?

Do you need help?

You have to establish a presence.

You might not want to (or be able to) tell your story in, say, 1,100 words.

We shoot them and bury them off the property.

There’s a mouse in the garage.

It’s a rat in the garage.

You are too funny, I really do miss you.

You’re a good writer, and you have a nice eye for detail.


Why does everything have to be so difficult?

There’s a bear!

Did you know you have HD?

Hi, Aunt Linda.

Debit or credit?

Avert your eyes, boys, ‘cause the waters is mighty cold.

Are you finding it hard to meet people in this neighborhood?

We miss the diversity.

Things I’ve said this year:

Thanks very much.

So, I guess that’s it for now.

Can you make that with skim milk, please?

I just want to be happy, here, in this moment.

It’s complicated.

I don’t really Christmas shop.

I’ll get milk.

Can you cook meth?

That does look better.

No, that’s okay.

What do you do in the country?

I will not be drugged.

No, I’m not going back.

That seems harsh.

Do we have to pray?

Let’s not go there.



Love you.


It’s not about the weather.

It’s just a job.

Nobody’s going to look after you but you.

I don’t think of myself as a writer.

Can we stay with you?

There’s an exploded mouse in the garage.

Don’t run over the snake in the driveway.

It’s not about the money.

I love beer.

How cool is that?

I’m leaving. Bye.

They pay me way too much money.

I write a blog.

I spend 90% of my time alone.


A Baker’s Dozen

n    (Mathematics & Measurements/Units)   thirteen

[from the bakers’ former practice of giving thirteen rolls where twelve were requested, to protect themselves against accusations of giving light weight]

 The current trend seems to be toward publishing lists – 10 things women wish men knew ( toilet lids down, use napkins, no means no, never enough shoes, no empty jars in the fridge, yes I cry, no you can’t fix everything, finish what you start, 20 years is long enough to wear a free tee shirt, sometimes the box is better than what’s inside);   50 best places to retire this week (there’s so much more to it than cost of living, weather, and population count so laughably emphasized in those worthless articles) ; 7 deadly sins (as listed at www.deadlysins.com: anger, gluttony, sloth, envy, lust, pride, greed – how many evil badges have you earned? Collect all 7!).

 I’ve compiled my own baker’s dozen list of what I’ve come to appreciate much more over the past year, in completely random order. Here we go:

 TED.com – I have a link to this on my blog. Go there. Watch a lecture. Think about the presentations. Listen to the understated Ric Elias talk about a life-changing airplane trip, check out what Jill Bolte Taylor brings on stage, experience the wistfulness of wishing you’d known Ben Dunlap’s friend. Broaden a horizon, maybe your own.

 CSA – Community supported agriculture. In wide-eyed, city-dweller wonder and ignorance, I signed up to receive an assigned share of locally-grown produce. Every other week I show up at a parking lot with my bag and weigh potatoes, arugula, oyster mushrooms and many other foods I would never purchase in a grocery store because I don’t know what they are. It’s a very Dickensian experience, particularly when holding up my plastic container for the farm person to fill with apple cider from a blue 55 gallon drum. I am now addicted to lettuce and realize kale can actually be eaten; you can do more with rhubarb than make pie; watermelon contributes to a tasty chutney. And mushy cantaloupe blends well with Skyy Citrus Vodka.

 BEER – What a heady love affair I’m in. I want to sample every last brew from every micro and craft brewery in the United States (except maybe Clown Shoes, based on a near experience and general clown loathing). And I want to try them all by the end of the week, which I guess is a bit unrealistic (though still a noble goal).

 ROBERT EARL KEEN – Why did it take one of the most heart-breaking times of my life to wrap his music around myself like hot caramel around an apple? I know every word of “Merry Christmas from the Family.” If you haven’t heard his newest release “Ready for Confetti,” stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you listen to it.

 LEATHER – Somebody should have dope-slapped me years ago on this one. I still harbor an aversion to our leather couch, but I have no such problem with my new leather jacket, and those absolutely necessary black leather boots I had to have to wear with that (unnecessary though shivery-comforty) jacket. There’s a safe feeling, but a bold one, too, when wearing leather. Accept no imitations. Thank you, Ebay. Sorry, Elsie.

 YOU TUBE – I could not have survived the last year without YouTube. From 50 States of Confusion to Rodrigo y Gabriela to Nora the Cat to Steve Jobs to Felonius Monk to Eric Whitacre, I’m rounding out and enhancing my heretofore shockingly circumspect and limited education.  I’ve learned how to fold tee shirts and tents, seen that a smartphone might outsmart me, heard that more people answered “a joint” than “the church collection basket” when asked to name something that gets passed around, and discovered I can do a decent Bruce Springsteen imitation to Mike’s Neil Young. All these have been witnessed from my office chair. Free.

 BRAS THAT FIT – Not a pleasure, but less than a bed of nails. You can fill in whatever else at this point.

 LOW SLUNG BOOT-CUT JEANS – As with leather above, sometimes my learning curve is so steep I tip over backwards trying to climb up the slope. These gems take at least 10 years off my middle aged frame. They’re comfortable clothes that actually look good (no humility there, but I’m discarding that with everything else these days, except the bras that fit. For now, anyway.)

 THE BLUES – I’ve said it before but I’m sayin’ it again. Koko Taylor and Big Mama Thorton, if I could find a way, I’d inhale your essence and hold it in my lungs. No exhaling.

 HUMMUS – I’m going to have to put a time lock on the refrigerator. Beyond delicious, and there’s a rumor it might be healthy.

 NPR – Say what you want about government funding, biased news, etc. etc. NPR is about so much more than news. Never in a million years would I have otherwise discovered The Decemberists, The Bridge School Concerts, a Smoot, and more movies than I can name (including I Love You Philip Morris; Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room; and The Battle of Algiers). NPR has made me more thoughtful and open to other viewpoints, but it hasn’t helped me understand Lady Gaga or that New Jersey girl, Snookie or Nookie or whatever her name is. No matter where I am I can usually find an NPR station with familiar voices and worthwhile stories.

 MY BLOG – This year’s completely unexpected lifesaver. Some years back I wrote bad fiction. Sometimes the blog seems like bad fiction. The Magic Bus Stop is a deep, murky pothole swallowing everything I can pour into it. Somewhere in that big dark space, my missing identity lies covered by Solitude, Sadness, Emptiness, and Lost Dreams. The more I write into the blog, the closer to the surface my identity rises. Must write, must write, must write.

 FRIENDS & FAMILY – Some old, some new, some borrowed. . . Sisters of another mother; friends online and in town; family found as the scales fell from our eyes leaving us bloody and bowed and leaning on each other – whether you know it or not, each of you at some point has propped me up. You are all on the Bus with me, and I’m better for having you beside me.