Saturday, April 30, 2005

Yeah, Right

What does it mean? Who knows? Who cares? I drew the chair, the other stuff is glued on. Wish I had some of those Lydia E. Pinkham tablets to banish the bad days. Wonder what was in them?

We've got a guy around here who does motivational speeches and his little motto is "no bad days". Everybody has bad days, buddy. The trick is, not to get swallowed up by them.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Here's another interesting site:

People send in anonymous post cards with their secret written on them. A few of the cards are funny, many are poignant, and you wish you could just give the person a hug and tell them that it will be all right. There are also a fair share of cards where you'd like to give the person a smack up side the head and ask them, "what were you thinking?"

Since I'm too lazy to make my own post card up and send it in, I thought I'd post a secret or two here.

No, it's not really true that I hired a lawyer, but I did swallow my pride and practically got down on my knees and begged the library lady to lower my fines. They cut them in half, and I still owed enough that I could have bought three, maybe four, of us, lunch at McDonalds. I do feel so much better now that I can check out library books again.

I am reading two books of poems, one by May Sarton and the other by Charles Bukowski. I also checked out Plant Dreaming Deep, by May Sarton, and another book on creativity by Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit. There was a novel I wanted to get too, but, alas, I could not remember the title. Anyway, the four books I got were over my limit as a reforming library patron.

Here is another secret, terrible, but true. I just hope and pray my readers (all three or four of you!) will chalk it up to bad taste and will think no less of me for it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

In My Mother's Garden

Or maybe, "I Think Spring is Here, Thank God"

When my grandfather died in December of 1985, something came over me, and the next spring, I felt compelled to plant a garden. It was a small space, based on the principles of square foot gardening. I planted cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers. If I had had a little more faith in the square foot gardening method, I probably would have planted pink-eyed purple hull peas. I don’t understand why my grandfather’s death drove me to dig in the dirt, nurturing vegetable plants that way, but doing so help me endure my loss, and I felt like I was honoring my grandfather’s memory.

That’s not me in the picture. I was probably the one who took the picture. That’s my sister, standing there barefoot with her hand on her hip. That was back in the repressive days when respectable little girls wore dresses everywhere, even to the country, but that is a whole ‘nother post! The peas are the bushy things to the left. The bare ground was probably where watermelons were going to be planted. The dog's name was Sport.

It seems my mother felt the same need when my brother died in December of 1994. Sometime in the spring of 1995, my mother planted a tree in his memory. Then she dug a small flower bed and filled it with flowers. Back then she had a lawn with a few trees and lush St. Augustine grass covering the ground. Today she has a garden filled with plants and “rooms”, a veritable sanctuary in her back yard.

In my mother’s garden, there are weird things. Bowling balls, squatty little frog statues and roosters made of beans. I think I remember my mother and a friend of hers gathering all these colored beans and corn and tediously gluing them to the burlap to form this lovely work of art. And it all comes down to this, the beloved work of art now residing in her garden, the beans slowly rotting off. (Is that a metaphor or what? How many things do we value and then cast off?)

In my mother’s garden, there are little statues of children scattered about, most often depicting two girls and a boy, as we once were. My sister and I entertain ourselves by choosing which image best represents each of us. She is always the angelic-looking one. One of us seems to have lost her head, probably me.

In my mother’s garden, there are flowers. Flowers like my brother that seem to smile and greet you with a friendly “Hi, there”,

flowers like my sister, beautiful and deceptively delicate

flowers like me, decidedly sturdy-looking, that seem a bit confused, who are not sure what they are supposed to be (orange? pink? yellow?). Flowers with weird names too. This one is called chicken-bush. I have always had a fondness for its confused nature.

In my mother’s garden, there are sentimental things too. This is the pulley that was in the water well at the house where she grew up.

In my mother’s garden, there are places of prayer. Places to wrestle with a mother’s grief over the loss of a son. Places to intercede on behalf of a grandson. Places to thank God the blessings of a new season.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I'm Still Here...

I owe several emails to visitors to my blog, and I will get to answering them soon. I have good excuses, really, but not much time to elaborate right now. We have been steadily "tightening my son's leash" and on top of that, I am also now gainfully employed.

Spooky Rach over at
Skewed View sent me this quote recently and I like it a lot. It is a timely reminder for me. But I think Ghandi is wrong in saying that if you do nothing, there will be no results. No, if you do nothing, things will likely decline to an even lower level. Of course, in some cases, actually doing something will also cause things to get worse, as in the case of setting boundaries on a teen-age son who thinks he is ready to go his own way. And so, I am reminding myself tonight, it is the action that is important and that sometimes, doing the right thing hurts.

For your entertainment, I am including a collage out of an altered book I did a while back. I like the praying hands picture. Now me, I like trying to draw my own hand, always open like that because it is easier to draw that way ( and I still can't get my proporitons right!) Look how the face of a little girl shows through on the pointer finger. It is what was underneath the painted layer of the book I altered. You can't see it in the actual book I made, Photoshop helped bring her out.

"The satisfaction comes from trying...the joy is in the journey"....sometimes I have my doubts!

I am so impatient for my son. I want results.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Mama Ain't Happy, Budzo

The sun revolves around the earth. That’s what he said in the course of the (dull) lecture, "he" being my seventy-something Environmental Science teacher. It caught my attention, and the marbles began to roll in my brain, and I thought he might be wrong, but it has been thirty years since I was in a science class, and I never really cared much for knowing the details of how the universe works. But he was the teacher, and had been teaching science for God-knows-how-many-years so I kind of looked around at my younger classmates to see how they were processing this information. I saw a few bemused smirks, as though he had had a senior moment, and I saw one or two students squirming in their seats, itching to interrupt his talking to correct his faux pas. It was about that moment that the teacher went on to say, “You know, most people will believe just about anything if you speak with enough authority”. There may not have been many who seemed to fall for his mistaken voice of authority, but there were a few who at least wondered about it long enough for him to make his point. Maybe we did not quite believe, but we were not exactly going to question him, either.

A few years ago, there was a category 5 or 6 hurricane supposedly bearing down on the coast of Southwest Louisiana and we were debating what to do to prepare for this disaster. Now, having lived under threats of hurricanes all my life, and having never experienced one in my hometown (had to move to Houston for that experience), I tend to take on a relaxed nature when it comes to hurricane warnings. Those things can turn on a dime. But this one was different. It was not just the Yankees who were packing up and leaving our town, the natives were also getting out. We had decided to stay, but at the last minute, we decided it would be prudent to get everything that could possibly blow off the patio into our storage building (where everything could blow away in one big grouping, instead of individually). The hubby and the kids were in charge of this operation. I don’t know what I was doing, but I am sure it was important. Well, to make a long story short, the hurricane did turn away and also lessened in intensity, and we were spared once again.

But one of the things from our patio that was put away was a glider. You know, a swing suspended from a frame by four short chains which allow you to swing in a short gliding motion (or should that be, “allows you to glide in a short swinging motion”?). Without those four shorts chains, the whole thing is useless. Well, my chains have been missing since the hurricane did not come. I have asked my husband three or four times where my chains are, and three or four times he has told me in a voice of authority, “They are out there in the corner of that Coke box”. Three or four times, I have gone out there and rooted around in that Coke box, braving creepy crawlie things and dead spider bodies, as though this time, he might be right. So far, no chains.

It is a pattern that has been with us for nearly thirty years. I ask him about something. He gives me an answer. I believe it. I come back to him and say something like “You know, I just found out that the chains to the glider are not in the corner of the Coke box” and he will answer with something like “Well, I didn’t know” or “Well, that’s where I thought they were”. My (mostly) unspoken question has been “Why do you say that as though you knew it to be true if you do not know?”

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. I am going to quit looking in that Coke box for those chains. The four chains are only a small thing. After all this time I have decided I can haul myself up to the home improvement store and buy four more chains. It is the bigger stuff that matters.

Of course, it may be that this is not really a terrible marital problem. It may simply be that my poor husband suffers from the often misunderstood problem known as Male Answer Syndrome (DSM-IV 666.66). You can read all about it here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Walking to Paradise Garden, One Day at a Time

Eugene Smith was a photographer who did several photographic essays for Life magazine. He did a photo essay on a black nurse-practitioner from Alabama, one on a place in Japan--Mina Mata-- where industry was dumping mercury into the water, and another one on demonstrations somewhere--I can't remember (I am such a lazy/sloppy writer….forgive me!). The man was on such a thin wire between genius and insanity. He also drank lots of hooch and sniffed a form of speed. I think it might have been something in one of his chemicals used for developing film. He spent a time in the insane asylum too.

He was greatly affected by his photographs of the war. He wanted to show the brutality of war, so that we might guard against it in the future. Part of what happened to him in the war was that he went from seeing the Japanese people as enemies to seeing their suffering and then their humanness. There was a section of the video that showed the Japanese people being forced out of the caves they had been hiding in to escape mortar fire, and there was a particular photo that he snapped of a soldier passing a dying baby up and out of the cave. It is said that was one of his strengths, the ability to capture the emotion of pain (with which we all can identify) in a photograph. He talked about how seeing the faces of the enemy changed him, how seeing their blood and pain made them human again, instead of a faceless and nameless "enemy".

He wanted to use his art to speak truth. He said he went to demonstrations to photograph truth. How hard it must be to have only a black and white photo with which to speak the truth. He talked about the "balance of shading", the contrast of black and white. He also said "the only intolerance you should have is against intolerance itself."

It has been several months since I first watched a video about Eugene Smith in my photography class. I found him to be a multi-faceted and fascinating individual. At the time, I checked him out on the web and I still would like to do some more reading about him, but as I often do, I got distracted.

What brings him back to my wayward mind now is that a copy of this photograph hangs outside the meeting room where my son attends group sessions related to his substance abuse problems, outside the room where we have just completed six weeks of family group sessions along with several other families whose children are also in this particular war (and that is what it is, a war, a war with far too many casualties).

I asked one of the (young!) counselors if he knew anything about Eugene Smith’s background, if he knew the guy drank and had a drug problem. “No, he did not know”, and the irony did not escape him. He said he would have to check that out. But I have been thinking about it, and I think it is so appropriate that the work of Eugene Smith would hang there.

Much of Smith’s work had spiritual implications, as does this photo. Does the darkness surround the children, and are they about to be swallowed up by it? Or are they escaping, and leaving the darkness behind? What better photo to represent the work that is done in these rooms? Good vs. evil, darkness vs. light. Some will get swallowed up, and others will escape. Some will stumble in and out of darkness all their lives, and maybe that is what life is all about. I don't know, but I would keep that photograph there. It is a visual reminder of what happens around there. It is also a study in the contrasts of living with an addict.

Smith must have held hope that the light would overcome the darkness, (and so do I). After all, he called the photo "The Walk to Paradise Garden".

Lots of people are made uncomfortable by the prospects of having to participate in group sessions like the ones we just came through. My own son has yet to embrace the healing that can come from participating in such a group. He can’t quite appreciate the safety that is there for him, and for all of us. But he had to go, by court order, and maybe there was some small thing that he heard and will be able to remember one day.

I think that might be the biggest hope for a family group, that the parents and the teens, by seeing and talking about some of the hurts and pains of addiction in a safe place, each from their own perspectives, might again see, not "the enemy" (the one who causes my pain, or the one who wants to bind me up with all these rules), but the humanness of each other.

I did this picture in Photoshop with one of my own photos of a place that is special to me. I think I had the quote on here once before. I love it so much. I hate it so much. Substitute the word “life” for the word “photographic” and you’ll see what I mean. It is such a hopeful quote. It seems we always do have potential, as long as we are alive, and I suppose there are always other horizons beckoning. But on the other hand, it also means, to me, that we never completely arrive, that there is always more we can do, more that we need to do, at least not here, on earth. And for me, personally, the part about always being on the threshold kind of annoys me, probably because I spend so much time on the threshold of indecision, but also because I often get stuck on the threshold, unable to go back from whence I came and yet, unable (or unwilling) to step out into the unknown either. That’s what I really love about the quote, about the photograph, about the man. It is all so paradoxical. Darkness? Or light? Hope or despair?

Some days, I just don’t know.