Have Ya Missed Me?

Be Back SoonLife is calling!

It has been 42 days since I’ve posted anything to my blog. My guilt propels me to provide an explanation for my absence. In short, I have no excuse at all. I have just not been inspired. That could be because life—that is, LIFE in capital letters—has pulled my creative energy elsewhere. You ask, What in life could stifle one’s passion for the written word? Let me begin with illness.

Over the past 5 weeks every person in my family has suffered from one illness or another. Some have been chronic like especially bad seasonal allergies, and some acute like the common cold or Flu B that made it seem as if someone stole the batteries from my Energizer Bunny son. Then there’s been the random virus. You know the one. That one when you take your daughter to the pediatrician, all she can say is, “Yep. She’s sick.” No cure, no medicine, just a she’s-sick, and thanks for that $20 co-pay, the one you had to pay just in case your daughter had strep throat, which, as we now know, she doesn’t because she’s just sick. I knew she was sick before I paid my $20. That one.

Family has also led to my writing timeout. My father, my brother, his fiancé and his three kids visited Houston last week. I played hostess, chef, and tour guide. We went to the famed Houston Livestock and Rodeo, saw Kenny Chesney perform, went to an amusement park, toured some caverns, and slept in teepees. Fun, good times, great memories, but I was not home long enough to type a sentence.

Preparing for the family visit took up a great deal of time. I looked at my kitchen table and said, “Kitchen Table, you need a makeover.” So, I poured my creative spirit into refinishing the kitchen table, which led to refinishing the chairs, the dining room table, two bedside tables, and two end tables. I was a sanding and staining machine! There was something so soothing about sanding tabletops. This led to other projects like painting the front door, painting all the doors to the rooms upstairs, scrubbing carpet stains, washing curtains, and touching up the walls and kitchen island. As with most things I do, I became slightly addicted to this work.

Reading/listening to books has been a wonderful distraction. I’ve consumed what feels like a semester’s worth of reading for two literature classes. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, but I have just enjoyed the immersion into fictional worlds. I can confidently say that I would recommend the following books:

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School by Jeff Kinney
The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Traci Chevalier
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Full Dark No Stars by Stephen King
The Forgotten by David Baldacci
The Innocent by David Baldacci (Anything by David Baldacci)
What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman

I can say I enjoyed each book, and it was a good use of my sabbatical from writing.

I feel as if whatever muse I have has also returned from vacation so for better or worse my creative musings will flow once again.

Missing Mom

Ten years ago today September 17, 2005, my mother passed away after a year-long battle with cancer.  She was 71 and I was 38.  Although it may sound cliche, I really do think about her every day.  This personal essay is one way I can keep her memory alive.

When I was in about 6th grade, the age of my middle daughter is now, I went through a period of insomnia. Not every night, but quiet frequently, I would lie awake in my small daybed and just listen to the night sounds. In the summer, I would count as far as I could until the air conditioning kicked on. Periodically, I could hear the ching ching of YoYo’s collar as she shifted positions or shook her itchy Golden Retriever ears. In the fall, when we opened our windows to let in the Miami breezes—coolish and lacking humidity—I could hear all the outside noises—neighborhood cats fighting or opossums walking under my window, which sound just like a man’s gait. So, I would oscillate between terror and boredom, and just lie there and wish myself to sleep. When I could not take it anymore, I would tip toe into my parents’ room, avoiding the creaky spot next to their closet, and whisper in my mother’s ear. “Mom, I can’t sleep.” Her answer was the same every time, “Go back and say the Rosary.” When I said I already did that, she would say, “Well, do it again.” Never, not once in my memory, did my mom scoot over and let me lie with her. In our house that was just never done. Unlike the nightly bed hopping that happens in my grown up house.

Nope. My mother was too practical for such frivolity. It never bothered me because I was never knew anything different. Having my own children who keep invading my bed, I can’t help but feel she missed out on some sweet bonding time at the risk of setting rigid boundaries. Most mornings, however, I think she was a genius and I wish she were here to slap some sense into me.

My mom was good at that. It was in her genes. My mama was a no-nonsense girl from Frankfort, Kentucky who survived ten house floods from a swollen Kentucky River before she was even 18. She was a child born in the 30s from a broken home, and was raised the last of six hooligans single-handedly by her mother, Gram, in a one-bedroom house on Logan Street. Back in the 30’s it was unusual to have divorced parents, but it never seemed to affect my mom.

Scan09162015-3 copyAs the baby, my mama got the nickname Tootie, and it stuck until her dying day. Only state and federal government and the saintly nuns at Good Shepherd Catholic School called her by her birth name, Mary Margaret. As the baby of six in a one-bedroom house, she learned to sleep anywhere and pull her weight, without complaint or argument. Chores, homework, and mass on Sunday were the three mandatory elements in her life. My mama learned her Baltimore Catholic catechism, manners, and how to harmonize to the “Ave Maria” from the nuns at Good Shepherd Catholic School. But, she learned her culinary skills from her own fine Southern mama. Mama could fry chicken better that the Colonel himself and make a Caesar salad that even Brutus would eat.

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