"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Confession Friday - I Just Wannabe Cyndi Lauper

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "It is a happy talent to know how to play." These are wise words that I have adopted. So, for today's Confession Friday I confess -  I like having fun.  No, let me rephrase that - I LOVE having fun! Yes, terrible, isn't it?  I am a fun addict.  I want to have fun every single, solitary day of my life.

Fun comes in many forms and can vary from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.  Fun can be quiet and calm and I have that a lot.  But I prefer the type of fun that makes you squeal with delight, throw your head back and guffaw, laugh till you pee your pants, squirt Coke through your nose, and your stomach muscles ache.  And that, generally, comes from spending time with other women.  Women have a separate form of communication, a "sisterhood", if you will.  Actually, "gals" is a better word than "women".  "Women" denotes maturity, and even though I am all for maturity in its proper setting, "gals" just sounds more fun and relaxed.  Not that spending time with men isn't fun, but let's face it, men THINK they are in the loop, but any woman knows that men just don't have a clue about what makes us tick. 

These days when I look into the mirror I don't recognize the face that stares back at me.  What is crazy is that even though I am almost 58 years old, I don't feel that old.  I am a member of what I call the WOBBs - Women of the Baby Boomers.  We are truly the first generation that refuses to grow old.  We buy face creams to ward off wrinkles, we workout, we go white water rafting, we dress younger than our mothers and grandmothers did when they were our age. Case in point, I am buying myself knee high boots, leggings and an above-the-knee dress for one of my fall/winter outfits this year. My grandmother is probably rolling over in her grave as I write this!  I, for one, plan to be the old woman in the nursing home commons area that yells "LOUDER" when Hotel California by the Eagles comes on the radio.  Cyndi Lauper was right.  Girls just want to have fun and I am no exception.  Life is way too short.  If you have ever seen the video of Cyndi's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", just put my face over hers.  Just for fun, imagine it as you watch.  And, oh, by the way, dig the hairstyles!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hpbs3NlhpxE   The best line of the whole song is "I wanna be the one to walk in the sun."  Words to live by!

Which brings me to what is about to occur today - I am embarking on a 10 day adventure with no men.  Let me repeat that - NO MEN!  Only my daughter and granddaughter (the two grandsons are too young to count as men) and two of my sisters. Ten glorious days -count them - TEN - of doing first whatever my daughter and I want, and then later in the week doing the same with my sisters.  Whatever we want to eat, whenever we want to eat, going where and when we want.  Ten days of shopping to our hearts' content, scrapbooking, going to thrift stores and yardsales, watching movies, taking art classes, celebrating Christmas (yes, Christmas), talking and laughing, LOTS and LOTS of laughing.  I know all you "gals" out there are envious and all the guys are scratching their heads thinking, "I just don't get it."  But you know, guys, sometimes we gals just NEED it.

I love this quote:  "Unless each day can be looked back upon by an individual as one in which he had some fun, some joy, some real satisfaction, that day is a loss." ~ anonymous

But I think Cyndi Lauper said it best:  "Humor is a great vehicle for getting a message across.  If you get too serious, you could die of starch."  As for me, I plan to die laughing - just not anytime soon!

Now, go have some fun!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Piece of Velvet

" A razor can't be sharpened on a piece of velvet."  ~ Anonymous

When my elderly parents made the decision to downsize and move away from my childhood home, the "great clean-up" revealed in a dark corner of a storage shed an ancient whetting wheel.  According to my father, it belonged to my grandfather and great grandfather before and it had been passed on to him.  He told of how he would watch his father at the wheel, sparks flying as metal was applied to stone. I have a mental image of my dad as a young boy, barefoot, shirtless and wearing hand-me-down pants that are too short, standing in a farmyard somewhere in Tennessee or Alabama, as his father turns the handle, building speed and then placing the blade to the wheel.

  A whetting wheel was a necessity in an agricultural setting. It sat on a platform and was operated by a turn handle or by a foot pedal.  It played an integral part in the operation of farming in keeping farm tools sharpened.  Without sharpened tools, the work was harder and longer and more dangerous. A farming man took care of his tools that were so hard to come by and had to make them last, as they were not easily replaced.  He understood the principle of grinding metal on stone to hone an edge to its sharpness, to be able to best utilize the tool.

This particular whetting wheel sits on the hearth of my home - a primitive, archaic tool.  I would call it rustic, rough and utilitarian in nature; it certainly is not an object of beauty in that it is pleasing to the eye. In fact, it is a homely item. It has in its center a rusted axle which turned the wheel.  It is not a perfect circle.  A closer examination reveals one side flatter, less round than the rest, where axes, scythes, hoes and knives were put to the wheel. Its usefulness in our modern world has long passed  Yet, in all its unrefinement, it has an antiquated charm about it. But more than that, it serves as my connection to family of long past, some of whom I have never met.  In this age of "throw-away", I often think of the ones that came before, who endured hardships, heartache, hard work, economic hard times, World Wars, failed crops, and the ever present specter of death.  But even in adversity, there was joy and happiness, too.  I know this because I have the stories my father passed down to me of family jokes and holidays, as meager as they may seem to us, and everyday family life, and I see it in the eyes of the past generations of my family in aged black and white photos, so rare and precious, both stories and photos in my safekeeping.

 There have been times in my life, as I am sure there have been in yours, when I was tested, challenged, brought to my knees in grief and pain. Although I bargain that we have not been honed to the extent of our forefathers, life is our whetting wheel.  It can serve to sharpen us and to bring out qualities in us that we never knew we owned.  It is the act of putting our souls to the grinding wheel that makes us what we are. Some people recoil at the rough touch to the wheel, never receiving the full benefit of being sharpened, never knowing that what we experience in life can give us more joy and more satisfaction than never to be tested at all. But if we embrace it, we can learn to savor and appreciate all that is ours, to find bliss in the ordinary and delight in the unexpected.

"The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools."~ Confucius

I love the old stone that rests at my fireplace, its only use these days to serve as a reminder of long ago times.  I only hope that I can incorporate its symbolism into my life and embrace the honing that life renders.

Life is not a piece of velvet, nor would I want it to be.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession Friday - Me and Mustached Men

Today's confession:   I am fascinated by men with mustaches. Not the little bitty soul patch of hair just under the nostrils look, but full mustaches that go all the way across.  Some men look really good in mustaches; most men don't.   Mustached men, for the most part, usually have a funny sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously.  There are exceptions to this rule - the best example being Hitler.  If ever there was a man that didn't need to be sporting a mustache, he would be it.  That ugly little patch of hair on his upper lip should have told the German people all they needed to know about what was inside that brain of his.  Would he have almost taken over the world and killed 12 million people if, at some point in his life, some friend or girlfriend had pulled him aside and told him how ridiculous he looked and to lose the mustache?  I think not, but I digress. 

Groucho Marx is my favorite famous mustached man.  His odd-ball sense of humor was beyond comparison.  I offer this video clip from the movie Night at the Opera to prove my point:


I can remember as a young child watching You Bet Your Life on our grainy black and white television.  I recall my father laughing but I couldn't figure out what was so funny.  It wasn't until later in young adulthood that I found out how absolutely, fantastically bawdy Groucho was.  Even later, I introduced myself to the Marx Brothers movies.  What glorious mayhem and glib dialoque!  They could never stick to the script and ad-libbed lines and jokes, much to the hair-pulling frustration of their movies' directors.  If you have never watched a Marx Brothers movie, treat yourself some rainy Sunday afternoon.  The two best are Duck Soup and Night at the Opera.  The dialogue is quick, some of the scenes are slap-stick and you have to listen closely to Groucho's rapid-fire quips, but it is so totally worth it.

As for not so famous mustached men, I have one in particular in my life that makes me laugh almost daily and has for 38 years.  I have always heard that a sense of humor is the best key to a long relationship - more than money or anything else.  It is why I enjoy spending time with him and why he has my heart to this day.  Of course, it is my husband Ed that I am referring to and he reminds me of Groucho in more ways than one.  Just to clarify, he wasn't wearing a mustache when I met him at age 21.  I can't remember at what age he grew it, but I can't imagine his face without it. 
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  Recently, the boys of the Fab 5 surprised Ed when an afternoon of face painting at our house turned into this, thanks to Olivia, our artist.  My men and their mustaches!

And then there was the Christmas a few years ago when we surprised Ed with this:

The family that wears mustaches together must have a pretty good time together. 

All I can say is that the world looks a whole lot different when you're sporting a Groucho mustache and glasses.  Try some on sometime, just for fun, at a party, family reunion, out to dinner, most especially in public, and see what fun sporting a mustache can be!  Rest assured, there will be laughter and what more could a person want on any given day.

That's it for Confession Friday for today.  I am going to go and wax my upper lip.  I'm beginning to look too much like Groucho for comfort!  One mustache in a marriage is enough!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"...Like Swift Horses Through the Heavens..."

Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes--do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Summer nights can be enchanting, some more than others.  When night sets, the Earth cools, and the air is laden with the sounds of crickets and katy-dids, there comes a peaceful sensation as if life should always be this content. So, on the hopefully clear night of August 12th around 10 o'clock, I am heading out to my backyard armed with blankets, bug spray, flashlight for "just in case" and a comfortable lawn chair.  Just as I have in years past, I will find the darkest corner of the lawn and the best view to see the uninterrupted sky, a feat that is not easily obtainable given all the trees, street lights and security lights in our neighborhood, as well as all the lights from Peachtree City and Newnan.  However obscured is my view, I wouldn't miss this night for all its inconveniences.  It is the time of year for one of nature's gifts - probably the best single night of the whole year to catch a falling star.

Every year for the past 2000 years, the earth passes through the debris of a tail of a comet.  These particles of comet, known as the Perseids meteor shower, enter our atmosphere and light up the August night.  As many as 60 an hour can be seen.  I will settle for half that or even a third.  What is so amazing is that these spectacular streaks of light, which are so briefly beautiful and make you catch your breath in surprise, are just minute pieces of debris, some as small as a grain of sand but most  the size of a pebble, reaching speeds of 44 miles a second.  Their short and fiery journey into our world is intriguing and the stuff that myths are made of.

People of ancient times, without the knowledge of science, read both good and bad omens into shooting stars.  I found these examples:  If you see a shooting star in Chile, you will have good luck but only if you immediately find a rock to pick up.  In Catholic cultures, a falling star is a soul in Purgatory begging for prayers from those that see it.  By saying "rest in peace" three time before the light of the meteor fades away, the soul is released.  Shooting stars in the Philipines are the souls of drunkards reminding people not to drink.  Each day these poor souls attempt to reach the Heavens, but fall again each night.  In Japan, open up your shirt and reveal your chest to collect the good luck the shooting star emits.  There were times in Germanic cultures that the meteors were actually believed to be from fire-breathing dragons.

I think the funniest myth is from Poland where it is the belief that a falling star can deliver three things:  a gloop of gelatin yuck, a treasure or a cow patty.  The gloop is found in other countries' legends and is known as star-jelly which occurs after a falling star has been seen.  Eeeewww.....  But maybe that is better than cow manure.  I will certainly be on the look-out and guard against getting hit with that next week.

Think of me on the night of August 12th, the best night of the Perseids to see multiple falling stars.  The moon sets around 10 that evening, making it easier to view this phenomena of our universe, revealing how small we are in this vast world of wonder.  Come join me in spirit and marvel at the bountiful and exquisite mysteries that only a summer night can offer.  Give yourself a gift that money cannot buy; better yet, if you have kids or grandkids, give them the enchantment and magic that can only be found in the vast darkness of a summer sky, laced with wishes made on streaks of light.  And I hope ALL your wishes come true!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Confession Friday - Add a Little Steam to Get the Wrinkles Out

Once again, it is Confession Friday. Today's confession comes in two parts.

For the first part, I confess that I do not like ironing.  I LOATHE ironing.  I did way too much ironing for the first half of my marriage.  I search for things to wear that do NOT require ironing.  Is there any household chore that is more boring or mindless?  I can't remember the last time my ironing board was in an upright position and the iron was plugged in and heated. And this is where the irony sets in. (oh, gee, an unintended pun.)

The second part of my confession is this:  I love unusual activities - wild and whacky activities that people find to do to amuse themselves. It is a quirky personality trait that I have. Some of these activities I want to try - if I were younger and in better shape and not afraid to die!  (Bear with me... I will make the connection back to my first confession in a second.)  It is fascinating to me how people think of these off-the-wall things to do and then the word spreads and from it is born a new sport that catches on across the world, complete with competitions and awards, maybe not mainstream, but still fun to think about all the same.

Which brings me to EXTREME IRONING..... 

Extreme Ironing  is considered a "sport" involving taking an ironing board and iron to a remote location, then ironing items of clothing. It is a danger sport combining the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with a well-pressed shirt.

Extreme ironing has been performed in locations such as mountain tops after a difficult climb, in boats, forests, underwater, while biking or skiing or parachuting, in the middle of a street, underwater, in Arctic conditions and much more.

According to Wikipedia, Extreme Ironing was "...started in 1997 in Leicester, East Midlands, England by resident Phil Shaw in his back garden. Shaw came home from what he recalls as a hard day in a Leicester knitwear factory.[3] Preferring the idea of an evening out rock climbing, he decided to combine the two activities into a new extreme sport. In June 1999, Shaw, who uses the nickname "Steam", embarked on an international tour to promote the activity. The stops included the United States, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. An encounter with German tourists in New Zealand led to the formation of a group called "Extreme Ironing International"..."

There are now competitions across the world with teams representing their countries, just like the Olympics or other international sports.  I am not sure of what the rules are, how points are won or what the final prize is (other than bragging rights). Are there tryouts?  Rankings?  Handicaps?
Best out of three? Does it matter if the iron has a steam setting?
Okay, let's face it.  I will likely NEVER participate in Extreme Ironing.  In my world, the only way that the word "extreme" will ever occur in connection with me and ironing is if I would iron more than one item of clothing in a six month period.  But the next time I have to iron anything of any sort, I will imagine myself on a mountaintop, blissfully pressing French pleats.

I wonder how much a little used, like new ironing board and iron would sell for in a used sporting goods store?  If you feel like this is an activity you would like to take up, I will make you a good deal.  Happy ironing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Word of the Month (or Moment) - August 2010

For the month of August, I have chosen the word "martini".  Yes, that is pronounced "mar-ti-ni", as in "It is so hot I could use a martini as big as my leg."  Or "I have never met a martini I didn't like as long as it is shaken, not stirred."

The martini is "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet," as described by H.L. Menken and E. B. White called it "the elixir of quietude."

Martinis are all the rage right now.  No, not your vermouth and gin with an olive martiniMartinis now come in a wide range of combos and flavors:  apple, blueberry, spicy jalapeno, chocolate, lemon, cranberry, vanilla, basil, eggnog (nothing says the holidays like an eggnog martini!), watermelon, key lime, and basalmic vinegar (though for the life of me I can't think of why anyone would want one of these), to name a few.  I have a friend that makes a KILLER - as in "to die for" - pomegranate and orange martini that comes in very handy at a scrapbook crop. 

To drink a martini, one must have the proper glassware or somehow it just loses its sophistication and mystique.  There are many martini glasses to choose from these days. 
Somehow, the conical shape of the glass is a prerequisite to being a martini glass.  I once made the grave mistake of calling a margarita glass a martini glass while shopping with my daughter, upon which she enlightened me.  Consider this a lesson should you ever be at a cocktail party and be tempted to make the same faux pas as I!

 Last year there was an ad for a local catering company which highlighted that they served "turkey-nis".  I couldn't quite believe that someone would want a mixed drink that tasted like turkey.  It dawned on me one day that they were serving turkey and dressing in martini glasses as appetizers for the holidays, not meat flavored drinks.  It was such a relief!
So there you have the WOTM for August.  It is subject to change, but if the remainder of the month is this hot I may use it frequently!  Of course, I am up for changing it for a foreign word or phrase...say....pina colada...   Paige, get the glasses chilled...I will be there in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In the Presence of Giants

In the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, the giant trees come alive to play a significant part in defeating the evil power set on destroying all that is good in the world.  The Hobbits rode in their branches in the midst of battle - little beings, really big trees. I thought of those movie scenes on Sunday afternoon hiking with our daughter and son-in-law and four of the Fab 5. 

I had never been to Joyce Kilmer National Forest and had always wanted to.  It is a place of quiet and green, an old-growth forest.  Sometimes called virgin or ancient forests, old-growth forests have trees of great age and are hard to find in our country. Most of the forests in this area of North Carolina had been logged during the 1920's and 30's.  The National Forest Service bought this uncut cove of forest of 13,055 acres and paid $28 an acre in 1936 - a king's ransom in those days when land was selling at about $4 an acre.

It is the namesake of Joyce Kilmer, an American poet, writer and lecturer who was killed in World War I and died a hero's death.  You may recall his most famous poem, Trees, from your elementary school days:

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

What a gift this forest is!  Surely fairies and pixies are among its inhabitants.  Magical and awe-inspiring, the ancient trees are more than 400 years old, growing 100 years before George Washington was born.  Their gnarled roots are entwined steadfast into the forest floor declaring their permanency and endurance. So tall, it is hard to see their very tops.  I felt as though I was among revered elders of a tribe, as if there were particular wisdom and knowlege they were trying to impart.  Walking among them, knowing that my Cherokee ancestors had walked the same land before the Europeans had even imagined a New World, was richly satisfying and soul- nurturing. 

Everyone needs time to reconnect to earth and nature and see the legacy our forefathers and those that came behind had the insight and benevolence to protect.  What we think is important today - all our problems, all the "busy-ness", all the schedules we impose upon ourselves - will not matter one whit in a hundred years.  But, hopefully, these trees will still be standing, along with others, so that our children's children can show their children and stand in the presence of giants.