overshare because I feel like it ;)

 

all around the sea, Agnes Cecile

There’s this belligerently ever-drunk 60 something woman from Michigan grilling some guy she’s never met about his alleged psychological disorder. I cringe because the very idea of grilling someone about his or her health, at all, gives me a rash and hot flashes. Seriously, is there no line anymore?

“Why should you get a check for PTSD? What? You’re a firefighter? Bullshit. If firefighting is so damaging, why do all the men I know who are firemen raise their sons to be firemen too? They love their job. It’s a good job. Blah, blah, blah, something about benefits. If PTSD is about trauma, don’t we all have PTSD? Why should you get a check for it? How does it make you disabled? Why don’t we all get a check for it? I don’t understand. I don’t get it. I mean…makes no sense. I know nothing about it.”

All the while four or five people are trying to explain, to educate her, but she isn’t listening. She’s…

“I don’t get it. Makes no sense. Sorry.”

I’m now growling at my shoes.

If you do not understand, and clearly lady, you DO NOT, please, by any means necessary, crack a book, ask somebody, stop blubbering on about what you do not know and take the chance to LEARN something. Please.

She is now ranting about psychiatrists and how they hate being challenged and if you challenge one, they become angry and refuse to treat you (which is, I can’t even blink…) and she knows because some guy who used to work for her went to a psychiatrist and he told her.

It doesn’t always look like one thing or the other, someone says. Like any illness or disorder, it looks different at different times with different people. Sometimes you don’t see it at all.

She is now ranting about handicapped decals, why ‘fat’ people get to park up front and she has to walk so far. This is an unfair punishment, she says, because she took care of herself, why should she have to park far away all because this lady let herself get too fat and now she has bad knees?!

I am presently speaking to Jesus–please forgive me for thinking this woman is a hateful cow & help me to love her even though…

Meanwhile…

You know what I see when I see someone with a handicapped sticker get out of a car and he looks like nothing is wrong with him? someone asks. I don’t think, hey no fair, he looks fine, why’s he get a sticker and I don’t?! I think, I’m glad it’s not me. 

Drunk Lady is now mad about her Medicare, if you’re 65 or older, you’re screwed.

I keep thinking about that thing ‘they’ say about a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing. Ignorance is bliss. Blah, blah, blah. Think twice, speak once. I can’t even come up with an appropriate take-home. I just keep shaking my head. Gees, Louise, people like this lady are walking the streets. I’m pretty sure I’m related to a half dozen of them.

preaching to the choir

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Sometimes I wonder how long the first humans existed before someone said, “This world’s gone crazy.” I am officially 30 and I’ve been hearing it ever since I can remember ever hearing anything. Sometimes I hear it in a line in a movie made decades before I was (made). So that’s something to think about.

I regret that I spent most of my childhood and teenage years feeling like the only sane adult in a world of lunatics. Lately, though, it’s becoming easier for me, for the first time ever, to sift through memories of my past and somehow extract the good memories from all the bad ones. I’m not sure how this could be considered anything other than a blessing. The only negative is, it’s all flooding back to me so quickly, I feel a bit overwhelmed upstairs. Maybe that’s why I’m writing so much more about true, real, personal things than I ever have.

When I was little I had this pastor at church. His last name was Monroe. He was tall and thin, in his 70’s, and for reasons which escape me now, he always reminded me of Ichabod Crane.

Brother Monroe. We didn’t call the pastor Pastor or Reverend. Just Brother and then their last name. Speaking of names, I remember when he first came to our church, I was really small and he was…different from the last pastor (as per usual when your beloved pastor of ages and ages passes away and is replaced). So there were some growing pains. My grandma, for one, didn’t like him. He was too direct, or in her opinion, bossy. She called him, in the privacy of her own car, on the way to the grocery store on Friday morning, a dictator. At my age, I didn’t yet know what a dictator was. As a matter of fact, for quite a while, I thought she was calling him a dick (like short for Richard) tater (like please pass the taters). That’s another story for another day, I’m sure. Eventually, my grandma learned to love Brother Monroe–not just a little but a lot, a whole lot. So did all of us, myself included.

I used to sit on the back bench, alone, back before we had any other children or young people close to my age. Sometimes, we didn’t have more than twenty people in attendance. So I think my point is, I got a lot of face time with the pastor, accidental or on purpose.

I’ve never been overly outspoken. I don’t dance. In public settings, I’m usually pretty quiet, especially with strangers or people I don’t know very well. Even as a kid, I used to just sit in church, follow along with the reading, silently pray when everyone else was praying, and read along with the songs while everyone else was singing.

Brother Monroe wasn’t a quiet man. He was loud–especially when he meant what he was saying or singing. He wasn’t the type to threaten or shake his finger. He was just joyful–happy, passionate. And he wanted to share what he knew. Now and then, when we were praying, I’d look up and catch him looking at me, big, happy smile on his face, tears in his eyes. I’d flinch and look away, probably because I was uncomfortable more than anything. He’d say something like, If you love the Lord, say amen. I just smiled. Most times he’d smile back at me. I’ll never forget one Sunday night service, this happened and he said something that stunned me because maybe it just felt a little too….hmm…real? He said something like, don’t be afraid to speak up. What he really did was scare the living daylights out of me because it was like someone took a pin to my comfort bubble. It’s almost impossible to sit uninvolved, removed from the rest of the humans like wallpaper or furniture if someone looks you directly in the face and speaks to you, isn’t it?!

My mind plays tricks on me sometimes. The years blew past so quickly, I’m not always sure how or where the lanky man with the silver hair and the big intimidating smile left me. I know, I’m not going to say this right, any of it, because I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ way to say what it is that needs to be said. Just…I wish I would have realized back then, what it would have meant to me, in hindsight–being looked in the face by someone so unwilling to (despite what I would have wished) look away (from me). It was huge. It was loving and kind…and a gentle push I didn’t know I dearly needed.

Presently, looking back, I wish I had found a moment back when it was possible, to look him in his face when he took my hand on the way out the door on Sunday mornings to thank me for coming, and thank him for what he did for me…or something.

I think for me, this memory serves as a reminder, stop focusing so much on the hurt and the sadness that you forget to remember that there’s so much more.

 

#nowplaying Wakey!Wakey! Light Outside

as the hourglass empties

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I’ve been walking around with this question in my head for years. When did it become so okay to say to another creature, I do not care about your pain? This is surely not a new development. It didn’t *just* happen. Did it?

Back when I used to teach Sunday school (the babies and very little ones), I was still pretty young myself. I had a book with the answers, folding table and chairs, crayons. 12×12 room. About a dozen kids, babies, ages 3 or 4 to 14. They showed up and I was the oldest of the youngest so I did what I could and we made it work.

I remember saying to the church secretary on more than one occasion, I’m not fit to teach them, I’m still learning all this as I go along, I’m learning it while they do. She smiled and gave me a hug and told me I was doing a great job.

We’d sit around the rectangular table, workbooks and coloring pages, sleepy faces, fidgety limbs. They’d take turns reading, around the room. It was fun. We didn’t read set paragraphs or lines. The first person would read until he or she decided to stop–even mid-sentence, and the next person would pick up exactly where the previous one stopped. Occasionally, someone was caught not paying attention. We’d all quietly giggle and someone would lean over and show him or her where to pick up. It was fun–for everybody. At the end of the lesson, there was a memory verse. Everyone who wanted to participate in reading it aloud at the start of church after class, would pool together and decided how to either divide it up or read the whole thing in unison. There was a puzzle or game at the end of the lesson, things for the small ones to color. We’d quietly talk and do our activities with broken crayons and trusty No.2’s. Then we’d practice a special song to sing before choir, sometimes, just the children, all together, if they wanted to participate. Those who wanted to sing, would sing. Those who wanted to read the memory verse out loud for the adults would read the memory verse out loud to the adults. The rest of us? Sat behind them and clapped proudly when they were finished.

If someone in the church had a birthday or a sickness in their family, they always got a card, if at all possible. Random construction paper color, folded in half, crayon letters arranged to form short but thoughtful words. We love you. Thank you for…God bless you. Nobody instructed the children to do this. They just did. Always. Always as in, if there was a child at church that morning, from no matter which family, they knew to use the tools they were given to try and show they cared–we cared.

I haven’t truly been back there in years. Most of the children I taught are in high school now. The oldest one just had her second baby. Every now and then, though, I find a little folded up piece of construction paper with crayon words, in the back of an old Bible or in a box of scrapbook papers, and it reminds me of what it was like to sit around that stuffy room with those sweet little humans who really didn’t want to be awake at 10 AM and studying of all things, on a Sunday morning, and feel like (at least) we were all on the same side.

 

#nowplaying Joey &Rory, in the time that you gave me

Pearl

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Lately, midnight fades to morning so quietly I don’t even notice the light beaming in through the gaps in the drapes. What day is it again? What year?

My great-grandmother (momma’s mother’s mother), was named Lula Pearl. Pearl. Pearl is my favorite name. I remember how when I was small and I said it out loud or saw it on paper, it was just an old lady name–like Myrtle, Ruby, Ethel, Esther, a lot of other names that mean more to me now than they did then.

Granny. At 10, that’s what I called her. She was Granny, not Lula, not Lula Pearl. Looking back, now, it’s funny, I realize, she never was a Lula Pearl to me, ever. I never imagined her as a little girl, maybe I wasn’t capable, yet. She was just an old woman. No, she was much more than that. She was old fashioned bonnets, apron dresses, strawberry patch and apple trees in the backyard. She was soap operas on TV at midday and Bible on the table by the bed. Gimme some sugar before you go. One time, on the way back from the grocery store, some man jumped out in front of the car, on a back street. He yelled waved his arms at us. She flipped him the bird and called him a peckerwood. I don’t think I was supposed to tell that, but it was funny! 😉

Her hair was white and she wore dresses with pockets on the front. She sat on her front porch facing the rural road we all lived on. Every single time a car drove by, she threw up her hand and asked whoever was sitting next to her, Reckon who that was?! Or she’d say There goes (fill in the blank) home.

She had one of those off-white (off-white in the way that it used to be white but wasn’t anymore) cordless phones with the retractable antenna. When one of her cousins would call, she’d look over at me and sigh. I kept swinging. When she gets me on this phone I like to never get off.

When she started to become frail, my grandmother (momma’s mom) used to make her supper and send one of us kids across the street with it in the evenings. We’d argue over who got to take it. In the summer when school was out, we got to get her mail for her and take it over. Several times throughout the day, my grandmother walked us over (all the grandkids and neighborhood kids she kept during the work day). We’d play out front while she helped Granny get a bath and such. Then we’d all kiss and hug her and go back down the dirt and gravel driveway, then the blacktop, then up another dirt and gravel driveway, past the gardens, up the hill, under the oak tree to play.

At Christmastime, the entire world would venture over, pack several dozen vehicles in the little yard, go in, say hello, hug and kiss, stand around telling stories and smiling, the itty bitty house at capacity four times over…

She died in a nursing home. We were not nursing home people, save for the fact that several family members worked in one. Family took care of family, even if it made them crazy and ran them ragged. You didn’t pay strangers to do what you could do–if you had a choice. But there wasn’t any choice. It was just that bad. Another very bad stroke, aftermath. She wasn’t her anymore. Her mind was gone. Her body? The same. I was at my aunt’s house when she got the call. I remember chocolate milk in my little cousins’ sippy cups, and Disney blankets, a little VHS TV in their bedroom, early morning sun, tall pine treetops on the horizon. I felt the Earth shake, like everyone else did, but it all came to an end after such a dark and sad struggle that maybe, even at my age, I knew it was just time.

I remember months after she passed, riding by her house on the way to town, seeing her rocking chair empty on the ground under the tree at the edge of the driveway. My sad little heart tried to imagine, like in the movies, if I stared hard enough, she’d appear, a little translucent like a Hollywood version of a spirit or an angel, throw up her arm and smile. Maybe I never actually saw her again sitting in the rocker under the tree, or on the front porch, picking strawberries in her backyard, or sitting in her chair sleeping in front of her soaps, but I can make out her face just perfectly most times, when I close my eyes, at night. I hear her voice…and it’s the sweetest sound.

As for this post, I can’t exactly explain why I’m writing it, right now.

I think about her (at least) once a day, going on twenty years later (it was 2001, so maybe the number of years should be closer to fifteen than twenty, but I’m terrible at math and am a notorious rounder-upper, and one final word in my defense? It’s felt like much, much longer). Maybe I haven’t seen her picture in too long. Maybe it’s the fact that I mostly only talk to my husband and he (sadly) never got to meet her. Whatever the reason, I felt, erm, feel, like I had, have, to do something actively, to keep her alive (eh, alive-er? More alive doesn’t seem to work). She was too fun, sweet, kind, loving, wonderful to forget about.

I think I’m going to start remembering her here, as often as possible, because here feels a little bit less whispery than doing so in my journal where no one will ever, under any circumstance, see (mostly because I don’t truly keep a journal) because it simply feels good to remember her–out loud (out loud ish?).

#nowplaying Ernest Tubb, Remember Me I’m the One Who Loves You

war is hell

“The true genius shudders at incompleteness — imperfection — and usually prefers silence to saying the something which is not everything that should be said.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia

I am beyond ill with being told to preform as instructed or else.

I am beyond ill with my silence being defined by people who happen to know nothing of me or my lack of a spitting, sputtering, clumsy reaction to the ridiculous excess of stimuli around me.

I am beyond ill with the experience of debilitating fear of exhaling incorrectly.

Give me a break. Give me a breath. Please? Your highness? Your grace? Can I be allowed, please, to speak when I’m ready to?

This mess is too much. I need a beat. And far be it from me to go out passing out prescriptions for anyone other than myself, but…I dare say, I think we all need a moment or two of silence.

so

amazing art by lois van baarle http://www.loish.net/ambrosial/

 

I have this dream about raining fire.

On all fours.

Crawling.

Hands and knees.

Elbows bent.

Open palms against dark, wet soil.

A little boy with oily brown hair, tiny gap between his baby teeth, button missing from his shirt…

A series of lightless tunnels, endless turns, splintery stumps sprouting up from below.

Never changing, except…

faster, faster, faster.

Sweat drips down my forehead, between my eyes, down my nose–salty, dirty, so I spit it out but…

I can’t see the place where it falls.

Rocks and roots.

The tunnel narrows.

There’s a door but…

pad locks and thick vines with thorns and rubbery caps.

 

I have this dream about raining fire.

Thick canopy of Spanish moss and ivy hangs down low…lower.

I swat at what’s in front of me, but I can’t see my attacker.

So I duck and dodge, bob and weave, grit my teeth, forge ahead.

There once lived a little girl.

Red and white stripes on her too-small T-shirt,

canvas sneakers with her church dress,

Bruises, nightlight, little paper books with crayon marks on the inside cover,

Ariel pillow, homemade but special,

Pocahontas ragdoll,

screaming.

I still sleep with my face buried in the pillow, blanket over my head.

Make it stop.

Make it stop.

Make it stop.

Make her stop.

Make them stop.

Make it stop.

Thunder and lightning, and sometimes, just lightning.

Thunder is kinder because at least there’s a certain sort of warning–you can hear it rumble in the distance.

Lightning hits out of nowhere, stopping ,stunning, shaking, rendering speechless, restless, humbled?!

You can’t help but be humbled.

You can’t help.

You can’t.

You.

 

I have this dream about raining fire.

Blisters.

Welts.

A little boy trapped in a burning vehicle he should have never been in, too far from home.

Haunts me.

Winne the Pooh and Elmo.

Quiet waves in passing.

Timid smile.

Little fingers.

There’s no room left for anger or hate.

My heart’s too full of something else…

Little.

Stifled.

Unimportant.

Unloved.

So much for love…

So much for…

So much.

So…

impromptu history lesson

So yesterday, I was in Roanoke, just randomly. I’ve been there before. But yesterday, I looked a little harder.

Wiki says :

  • Roanoke is a city in Randolph County, which is in the Piedmont region of eastern Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 6,074, down from 6,563 in 2000. This was an area of historic occupation by the Creek before treaties to persuade the Native Americans to cede their land, followed by forced migration under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The area was part of a broad part of upland developed as cotton plantations worked by enslaved African Americans. The area is still quite rural.
  • Initially called High Pine in the 1830s after a nearby creek, it was allegedly burned during an Indian uprising in 1836. Renamed Chulafinee in 1840, it was later renamed again for the hometown of one of the early settlers, Roanoke, Virginia. The city was officially incorporated in December 1890.
  • Roanoke is located at 33°8′56″N 85°22′11″W (33.148830, -85.369784

Also from wiki, Notable People from Roanoke:

  • Admiral Edward A. Burkhalter, Chief of Naval Intelligence; Director of Intelligence Community, CIA
  • Wilkie Clark, African-American entrepreneur and civil rights activist
  • Jake Daniel, former Major League Baseball player
  • Horace Gillom, former Cleveland Browns football player, who contributed to the evolution of punting by standing farther back from the center than was normal at the time
  • William Anderson Handley, former congressman
  • Fred Hyatt, former Auburn University and professional football wide receiver
  • Odell McLeod, country-gospel singer, radio entertainer, and songwriter
  • Stanley O’Neal, former chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch
  • Clare Purcell, former bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Church
  • Ella Gaunt Smith, doll manufacturer
  • David Vann, mayor of Birmingham, Alabama

Now, back to me and the day before today.

I’ve been through the area countless times. It’s about 45 minutes south east of where I live currently. But I hadn’t ever studied up on the town’s history, at all. So when I was driving around in the cemetery, I saw a plot of ‘Smiths’ and this one in particular (the one in the photo at the top), caught my attention. The plate reads, inventor, manufacturer of the Alabama Indestructible Doll 1899-1932. Since I hadn’t ever heard of Ella Smith or the Alabama Indestructible Doll, I decided to do some quick research, mostly because I wanted to see the doll. 😉

doll on display at the Randolph County Historical Museum (kkazek@al.com)

I found Ella Gauntt Smith has a Wiki page, here. It says:

  • Ella Gauntt Smith (née Gauntt, Ella Louise, April 12, 1868 – April 2, 1932 in Roanoke, Alabama) was an innovative American doll manufacturer.
  • After graduating from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, and marrying Samuel Swainswright Smith, Ella began working as a seamstress. She spent years repairing broken bisque dolls brought in by her neighbors and experimenting with ways to produce sturdier dolls. She eventually turned to doll manufacturing full-time, selling mostly to friends and neighbors. After experiencing early success, she exhibited her dolls at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, winning a Grand Prize for Innovation and helping establish a nationwide market for her product, and later displayed dolls at the Southeastern Fair in Atlanta, Ga. and at Jamestown Exposition. She received a patent for her design in 1905, in which she described her doll as follows:

“I made the body or trunk, the arms, legs and feet of stuffed fabric and apply over the feet and hands and as high up on the legs and arms as desirable one or more coats of flesh-coloured and preferably water-proof paint. The head, face, neck and bust are also fabric-covered, and the neck or bust is secured to the drunk by suitable stitching. The outer fabric of the face covers and conforms to the curvature of a backing moulded to conform to the contour of the human face. The fabric of the head is stitched up and stretched over a stuffed body, and as a means for making the head rigid a rod or stick may be inserted for making the head and passed down a suitable distance into the trunk or body…if desired, the doll may be provided with a wig. I prefer, however, to produce the appearance of hair by paint applied directly to the fabric of the head, since the paint acts both to stiffen the fabric, and … to render the head waterproof. The ears are preferably made of stuffed fabric and sewed to the side o the head, after which they are painted.”

  • From 1899 to 1932 her back-yard factory employed 12 women and produced 8,000-10,000 dolls per year. The dolls, known as Ella Smith dolls or Alabama Babies were also sometimes called “Roanoke Indestructible Dolls” or “Alabama Indestructible Dolls” because of their heavy cotton frame and stout plaster of Paris heads. It was often said that a truck could drive over one of these dolls without damaging it. The price at the time for an Ella Smith doll ranged from $1.15 to $12.15 depending on size, clothing and hair. A tenth of her dolls were painted black to resemble African American girls. She was likely the first manufacturer to market dolls based on people of African descent in the Southern United States.
  • Smith was known for working with a hymn-singing parrot perched on her shoulder. At a time when she was planning to expand her operation, a train wreck caused the disastrous loss of many orders. At the same time, a lawsuit arising from a bad business deal cost her a large settlement. Mrs. Smith, who suffered from diabetes and kidney disease, died in 1932 and is buried in Cedarwood Cemetery (Roanoke, AL).

Then, I found this post Tale of Alabama Indestructible Doll  which told me everything I wanted to know about Ella Smith’s doll (photos from The Randolph County historical Museum) and also led me to learn about the author of the post Kelly Kazek who has an amazing amazon author biography here.

Now, all because I took a Sunday drive, I’ve learned loads about the history of my corner of the state, AND I’ve got a new (new to me, at least) author to start collecting. Not bad for an unplanned Sunday afternoon adventure. Not bad at all.