Got Purple?

Our wooden front door is purple.  Not lavender or dark purple.  Real purple.  Sherwin Williams “African Violet.”

The retired man I live with has a goofy streak I love.  We picked the door color together.  It looks great.

Our young stay-at-home-mom next-door neighbor emailed us, said she loved the color and asked what kind of paint we used.  She wants to paint her door, too.  I wonder what her husband thinks of that idea.  They haven’t painted yet.  They’re still too young, I guess, for goofy.

The retired man who gets bored easily created a unique sculpture in the living room.  It started life as a wrought iron coat tree.  The arms stick out too far to be useful for coats and the iron arms are at an unsafe eye level for most people.  I move below them, but it’s still a bit scary.

He decided last December it could be our Christmas tree.  He draped little white lights around and up and down.  He hung some colored balls.  It was actually quite cool.  We did get a little bitty real tree for Adaline to decorate.

The iron tree now has an odd assortment of “ornaments”:  A pink and white doll-size baby bottle, an 18-inch plastic star with a painted-on face and green and red striped knee socks, a slightly rusted metal angel, a blowfish about 5 inches tall made from bright orange wire, an old Easter basket, and a set of wooden monkeys that hang on random branches.  He still adds to it every so often.  He could maybe sell it as folk art at some street festival, but we want to keep it for ourselves.

He started working on our front yard when he retired.  He had a big natural area dug out and planted bushes and flowers.  Our daughter and granddaughter planted pumpkins in the natural area a month or so ago. The retired man who relaxes poorly created a beautiful strip alongside our sloping driveway–rose bushes, shrubs, a Celtic cross, and one big sunflower that must have come from a seed dropped by a bird.

He added a full-size flag pole in the middle of the front yard and flies a changing set of flags.  We fly Pittsburgh Pirates, Guilford Courthouse (a Revolutionary War site down the road from us), United States, a Buddhist prayer flag, Ecology (it’s green), and the state flag for NC.  Adaline, 2 1/2 now,  points to the Pirates flag and growls “Aaaaaarrrgh!”

The retired man I live with and I laugh a lot.  Even when I’m really angry, he can sometimes get me to laugh.  Our marriage, like any couple, has bumped over a few rough spots.  We share an appreciation of life’s absurdities and a love of goofy things.  It helps.

PS:  A few months after I wrote this, the next door neighbors painted their front door a bright, almost-neon-y green.  Goofy may be catching.

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm  Comments (12)  
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Computer Down!

My laptop got sick.  I took it to the computer-fixers.  It lived with them for almost a week.  I missed my friend, my buddy.

I know now how much I look at Facebook (embarrassing) and how often I go to Google to look something up.  It’s kind of like forgetting your watch if you always wear a watch–you learn how many times you look at your wrist.

What a marvelous excuse for not writing anything for my blog or my writing group.  I couldn’t write on Mike’s laptop or iPad.  It felt wrong to my hands.  I needed my own computer.

I did read a lot.  The Greensboro News and Record, O Magazine, Time magazine, and a parenting book called Love and Logic.

I always read at least part of any childcare book I might give my daughters.  If I don’t like what it has to say why would I give it to them?

A young friend recommended Love and Logic along with The Happiest Toddler on the Block.  Love and Logic passed my tests.  I’ll let you know about the one with the dopey title.

The retired man I live with bought this laptop for me a few years ago.  Rheumatoid arthritis chewed up the joints in my hands and wrists enough that I can’t lift or hold much weight at all.  I love it.  It’s very thin and light, I can carry it around and it fits in the Vera Bradley backpack purse.  My hands and it know how to work together.

When it started to run slooowly, I took it to IT Worx. On Friday the 13th.

It needed a new hard drive.  We had an Apple Care warranty good until July 17.  The little dent on the side negated the warranty.  No kidding.  (I dropped it.  More than once.)

Now you know why I don’t pick up babies after about 10 pounds.  They dent. They have no warranty.

I’m sure I’d lose my Amma privileges if I dropped one of them.

Writer’s Block Is Real

Here’s how I got it:

1.  Joined a Writer’s Group of the Triad Memoir Group with real, published writers.

2.  Went to a 2-day writing retreat with some really good writers.  We wrote and then read out loud to the group of 15 writers.  Did I mention how well they wrote?

3.  Got a stomach virus that kept my family away on Mother’s Day.

4.  Got pneumonia right after the stomach virus.

(I may never see my grandchildren again!)

I’ve read the cure for writer’s block is to just write.

One of my early blog posts was titled “I’m Workin’ On It”–please click here to check it out.

I’m workin’ on it–writer’s block and good health.

My Friends, Anne Lamott and Bonnie Raitt

When I first heard that Anne Lamott (my favorite author) wrote a new book about being a grandmother (Some Assembly Required), I got excited like a five-year-old on sugar on December 23.

I bought the book, but waited a few days to read it.  It was dark chocolate with toffee bits waiting in the chair in my room.  I prolonged the anticipation.  I wanted to slowly and lovingly savor and devour it.

As I read, I underlined the good parts with a turquoise-ink pen.  (I think Anne would like that.)  There’s a lot of turquoise underlining in my book.

I know Anne and I are good friends because we think each other’s thoughts and then put them in words for others to read.

Bonnie Raitt has a new CD (Slipstream) out, her first in 7 years.  She is my other imaginary friend.

In my imagination we are buddies chatting at a sidewalk cafe on top of a hill near San Francisco with a view of the water.  Wine and coffee are not good for any of us anymore, so we drink tea.  We do eat, each of us, a decadent pastry.

All three of us–Anne and Bonnie and me–with our crazy hair, are having the best time laughing and telling stories.

Want to come with me?

link to Bonnie Raitt:  www.bonnieraitt.com

link to Anne Lamott:  CNN interview

Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 6:10 pm  Comments (14)  
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Lemon Zest

For the longest time I didn’t know what lemon zest was or that lemon juice didn’t have to come from a bottle in the refrigerator.

I didn’t grow up in a lemon zest world.  (Click here for what lemon zest is.  No one will know.)

My midwestern-born Mom made meat/potato/vegetable meals.  Bottled salad dressing and canned French cut green beans made into a casserole with cream of mushroom soup were fancy stuff at our table.

I’d like to be a lemon zest type of cook.

I don’t buy bottled lemon juice anymore.  (My favorite is the bright yellow plastic one with a green top that looks like a lemon.)

I have a grater and I’ve watched TV chefs zest and juice.  I’ve cut out recipes that require lemon zest.

I read one time that a squirt of lemon juice will brighten the taste of anything. I don’t know what that means.  Maybe my food needs some brightening.

I forget to buy lemons.  How will I add zest to my life?

Lemons I do buy sit around for days.  I feel them wondering, as they begin to shrink, what I will create with them.  I usually end up slicing them for iced tea or diet Coke.  I don’t want to waste the lemons.

I have 2 lemons downstairs.  Any suggestions?

Can I squeeze lemon juice on a baked sweet potato?

Published in: on March 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm  Comments (10)  
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Write To Soul (a workshop/retreat)

Nobody knew everybody.  Some didn’t know anybody.  One is 20.  One is soon to be 40.  A couple are almost 50.  Two will soon be 60.  There were two more: one who admits to being in her mid-70’s and her friend who never did share her age but looks cool even in velcro sneakers.  (They had great hats!)

We are complex, vibrant, funny, spiritual women.

We are writers.

And we came together for a weekend in the mountains.  We wrote about a time we felt free and alive and then used some of those words to create a poem.  We made a timeline of the “teachers” in our lives and then wrote about one we left out.  Sometimes we just wrote randomly whatever came to mind and sometimes we answered a question like “What mountain do you need to come down from?”

We shared our writing and learned how our words touched the others.  We were gentle and supportive and we listened.  Some words painted pictures, some phrases sang a song and some stories made us laugh.  We wrote about our pasts (how do you not?), our nows, our dreams and our fears.

We worked hard, we ate well, and we became friends.

We savored a weekend of writing in the mountains.

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm  Comments (8)  
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Supposed To Be About Pain

I sat down at my desk early this morning to write a blog post about pain.  Since then I have:

downloaded and subscribed to podcasts for This American Life and On Being with Krista Tippett (at least I didn’t actually listen to them),

reconstructed my iGoogle homepage that I somehow cancelled (it had a bunch of blog feeds so I had to look for and download each one I could remember I liked and read the ones I missed),

checked 3 different email accounts ( and wondered again whether to transfer the contact list from a very old Earthlink email account to my yahoo email that was hacked by someone who deleted my contact list, including email addresses that are nowhere else),

checked Facebook (which of course is the major time-sucker I always thought it would be) and watched a 2 minute you tube video about a law in Michigan protecting bullies who go after gay kids (click here to see it),

went back to yahoo email and looked at the link to my pregnant daughter’s “dream diaper bag“,

considered reading some of the blogs that appear enticingly when I open wordpress.com to get to Amma Ponders (but I didn’t),

and then finally started typing this list of all my ways to procrastinate.

Oh, and I gave you links to my wanderings so that you, too, can have a relaxing, non-challenging hour or so.  Just click on any of the words that are red.

You’re welcome.

Published in: on November 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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Gray is Gray

Remember burnt sienna?  That’s always the first color I think of when I see a tiered box of 64 Crayola Crayons.  I don’t know why.

The Crayola box of 64 is 50 years old.  If you click here you can go to an interactive quiz of all the color names.  It’s really fun.

An open box of 64 sits in front of me as I write.  I started to take it downstairs the other day for Adaline.  Then I remembered her mother’s warning:  “Buy washable crayons, Mom.”  She probably learned that lesson the hard way.

Does Crayola still include a burnt sienna crayon?  I pulled out all the brownish crayons to read the names–

sepia

brown (not kidding)

tan

chestnut

brick red

bittersweet (huh?)

raw sienna (?)

burnt sienna!

“Sienna is a natural earth containing ferrous oxide that is used as a yellowish-brown pigment when untreated (raw sienna) or a reddish-brown pigment when roasted (burnt sienna)”,  according to dictionary.com.  Didn’t you always wonder?

Do you find it sad that brown is “brown” and gray is “gray” in my box of 64?  Remember “magenta”?  It’s in the red family.  So are “wild strawberry” and “red”.  I found a “violet red” and a “red violet”.  They are not the same color.

The name on each crayon, not capitalized, is listed in English, Spanish, and French.  They didn’t have that when I was a kid.

On the other hand (it’s a pun–you’ll see)…

Suzi Weiss-Fischman, OPI [nail polish]Executive VP & Artistic Director explains that her recent cross country road trip inspired these destination shades. Colors feature clever names inspired by some of her favorite stops like A-taupe the Space Needle, a rich chocolately brown and French Quarter for your Thoughts, a soft grey hue.  Others reference what it feels like to be on the road like Get in the Espresso Lane with its dark brown color, and Are We There Yet?, a cheerful melon.

I love America.

I use crayons and markers and Model Magic (new-age clay) when I lead retreats.  For adults.

I always include at least an hour of silent free time.  Sometimes I use mandalas (a circular meditation/prayer tool) to make coloring a bit more sophisticated.  I have a book called Praying in Color.  It really makes coloring seem important.

Adults like to color.  Even men, I’ve learned.  I wonder if anyone ever colors on their own after the retreat.

Why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to play?

Published in: on October 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (6)  
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Where’d It Go?

My granddaughter is learning about “Where’d it go?”.  Yesterday she was on my husband’s lap and he showed her the cross he wears on a chain inside his shirt.  She, 10 months old and teething, wanted to put it in her mouth.  So he dropped it back inside his shirt.  She pulled the neck of the shirt and looked down inside.  There it was!

That’s how I feel about my week.  Where’d it go?

I had plans and goals for this week, mapped out on a nice chart given to me by Elaine, a spiritual coach.  It breaks each day into 3-hour blocks. You fill in one to-do for each block.  The hope is to get that one to-do completed in each 3-hour block.

None of my blocks got checked off.  We had snow and ice that I wouldn’t drive on.  My inner child had a “snow-day” mentality. We babysat Wednesday and Friday and I (choose to) get nothing done if Adaline is here.

I learned recently there are three possible responses to stress/anxiety.  I knew about “fight or flight.  The third response is “freeze”.

I need to plan for a class I start teaching on January 19.  I’m out of my comfort zone with this project, which I volunteered for.  I’m afraid of not doing well.

In my family of origin we dealt with distress or fear by shutting down emotionally and getting lost in something to read.  We are all good readers, but not very good with feelings.

I read a great book this week.  I didn’t work on my class.

Now I’m more anxious than before and writing this instead of working on my class!

Help me!

The True Story Of Rudolph

(I really hope this is a true story.  Thank you, Sam.)

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.  Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life. Life always had to be different for Bob.


Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.


Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined to make one – a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about? The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there.


The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print  Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.


In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there either.


Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.  “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”


The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.