Other Mothers

Oh sure, I had a real mother. Wouldn’t be here otherwise, now would I?

But, I also had Other Mothers. No, I didn’t leave home, I didn’t move in with another family, I didn’t abandon the real one.

I didn’t seek out my Other Mothers.   They just appeared and I lapped them up. They’re as broad and varied as a quilt. They put the pieces together.

It’s the old Buddhist saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Those people….men and women….were exactly where they needed to be at exactly the time they were supposed to be. I’m guessing that we all have those people in our lives.

There was the one who taught me how to set a table; the one who suggested I was funny, the one who showed me generosity’s reward, the one who told me I was NOT sweet, the ones who lived next door, the one who told me he loved me.

Those, and many more, were my Other Mothers. I am so grateful. So lucky.

Many are gone, but to paraphrase the song, “their memories linger on.”

But I’m not cooked yet so I’m pretty sure there are Other Mothers in my future.

I don’t know when, where, who or how. But I’ll know them when I see them. That much I know for sure.

 

A Very Short Play on the May

(Click on picture for the full image)

Setting: A beautiful day on the May. Blue skies.  Serene river. Funeral in process at the church next door, bells pealing, once for every year of the deceased’s life. Always a sobering and thoughtful time.

Cast of characters: (in no particular order of importance.)

A. Yours truly.

B.  Next door neighbor.

C.  Husband of yours truly.

D. Husband of next door neighbor.

Five chickens.

One snake.

 

The curtain rises.

A and C are quietly counting the chimes from the funeral, hoping they’ll reveal a life lived long and well.

Phone rings in A and C’s house.

A:  “Hello.”

B: (screaming) “Snake! Big, great big snake in hen house.”

A: (screaming) “Call Critter Management or the Police!  Right Now!”

C: Having overheard the conversation: (how could he not?)  “I’ll be right over.”

A: “No, no, no.  We need to call Critter Management. Or the Police. That snake could be poisonous.”

C rushes to scene.

A follows.

B and C take a careful look at snake in coop. A peeks around edge.  Big snake…great big snake.   At least 20 feet long.

A: “I’ve never seen a snake that big. I really think we better call Critter Management. Or the Police.”

B and C assess situation. Discuss options.

A: “None of this is good. At all. Call Critter Management or the Police. Now.”

B gets a shovel.

C gets a shovel.

B and C trap snake with shovels. Snake continues to writhe.

A.  “This is very scary.  Can’t we just please call Critter Management?  Or the Police?”

D arrives.

A:  To D: “Thank goodness you’re home.  As you can see, we have an extremely dangerous situation on our hands. B and C are ignoring my advice to call Critter Management or the Police.   Perhaps you can get them to listen to reason.”

D gets a nasty, sharp-edged thingie from his tool shed.

B, C and D trap snake with their various tools.

A: “You people are going to get bitten. I just know it.  You are going to be very, very sorry  that you didn’t call Critter Management. Or the Police.  And I’ll be right here to tell you that I told you so.”

B, C and D suggest that A either go home or join the chickens who have been shooed out of the coop and are running around in circles.

B, C and D finally do in snake….big snake….great big snake.

Bells still pealing at church. Disconcerting but fitting as now there are two who are deceased.

D attempts to corral chickens back into coop. No go. They saw that snake, too.

A leaves.

B, C and D put snake to rest.

Anyone want to come by for sip of wine later on? The water’s lovely.

 

 

 

Tribes

Sebastian Junger has a new book, entitled “Tribe.” The focus is on soldiers returning from war and finding that they may not be fully accepted into the “tribe” of family and friends they left behind.   They return with the scars of war and carnage and are greeted with isolation. One is as devastating as the other.

I love Junger’s writing but I don’t think I’ll read this one. It sounds pretty rugged. I’m sure it’s an excellent book but perhaps not as uplifting as I need right now.

However, it did make me think about the “tribes” in my own life. Places of belonging, of comfort, of acceptance. The value I put on those tribes is incalculable.

I’ve decided that I’m no longer a member of a tribe. Now, I have “pods.”

The tribe model was at its strongest for me when the children were small. The tribe centered around them and their needs. It served many purposes: community, shared information, socialization, support.

At that point in our lives, tribes were almost pre-manufactured. So many of us were in the same places at the same time with our growing families. Commonality was common.

And then things changed. The children went away, and with them, the tribe.

Enter “pods.”

They’re not quite so easy. They’re unpredictable. You need to go on fishing trips to find your pods. You have to test the waters. Failure is always an option. But, so is success. And sometimes one pod works for a while and then, by necessity, or design, it goes away.

Happily, I have a number of pods.  Each one has its own flavor, uniqueness, composition, purpose. They provide comfort, pleasure and acceptance. They’re just not as singularly focused as that old tribe was.

Change happens.  It’s as predictable as the unpredictable.

And that’s good. Keeps me on my toes.

I’m not saying that I don’t miss my old tribe. I do. Every once in a while, we’re able to get together. And when we do, everything’s the same as it used to be.

How lovely.

Chicken Update

(Click on the picture above for a full image)

I’m beginning to feel like the Hedda Hopper of chickens.

I regret to report that the ceramic eggs were a bust. Belva laid claim to one all by herself and sat on it for a full week. The others hens were simply bothered and bewildered.

My middle son said that it’s no wonder these hens don’t lay.   They have everything they need right at their chicken-finger-tips. Where, he asks, is the motivation to produce? He’s obviously immersed in the corporate world. As opposed to the coop-erate world.

Another friend said he had chickens who laid eggs the size of quarters. It took a dozen to make a decent serving of scrambleds and the cost of the feed was driving him into bankruptcy.

I had not known that my old college roommate raised chickens professionally. (I find out the most interesting things through this little medium.) She had sound advice for my neighbors which I’ve shared with them.

Another friend posed that eternal philosophical question: Which came first? The chicken or the ceramic egg?

In the meantime, it has been determined that these particular chickens have hormonal issues. I share their angst.

The cure-du-jour is to put ice packs….yes, ice packs….in their coop. The psychology of this is confusing to me.

Apparently, in this scenario, the hens sit on the ice packs for a couple of hours which will, quite naturally, cool off their nether regions. This supposedly adjusts their hormonal balance. Then Voila! Egg production.

As an egg producer of sorts….and subsequently a mother…. this would have been anathema to me. But I don’t have feathers. That might have changed everything. There’s clearly a culture here that baffles me.

My Hedda Hopper days may have come to a close as I find that I am unable to get inside their chicken heads for insight. And I sure as heck am not going inside that coop to try to figure it out.

So. They’re on their own.   Not that I’ve been of any assistance anyway.

The good news is that their people….or their “peeps” in chicken-speak….love them anyway.

Raising chickens

(Please click on the picture  for a full image)

Apparently, the business of raising egg-laying chickens is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Hens can be stubborn, recalcitrant and retentive. Traits which can seriously get in the way of their egg production.

I know for a fact that the chickens I speak of were coddled, cuddled and loved as babies. Except for the fact that several in the original group were later determined to be roosters and were subsequently wrested from the flock, those chickens who live next door have never been traumatized by anything.

Yet they refuse to lay.

There would be those among you who might suggest that the roosters should have been allowed to stay. You would not be among those of us who lived next door to the roosters.

These chickens have everything they need. A coop with a view. Good feed. Daily care. They were even blessed by our neighborhood minister who donned his most serious garb to let them know he meant business.

Still nothing. Or at least, almost nothing.

Now comes a last resort. Ceramic Nest Eggs. Ostensibly designed to encourage egg production.

Who knew that no chicken likes to be the first to lay? Now we learn that the sight of a ceramic egg assures her that all is well. Gets her in the mood. She can lay with no fear of reproachment.   Chickie see, chickie do. These so-called “Happy Hen Treats” are apparently a time-honored strategy.

We’ll see.

If worse comes to worst….and it may well….these little ceramic eggs, according to the package, can be a “great addition to a country themed home décor and can provide hours and hours of arts and craft fun.”

Oh, my. So many options. My fingers are crossed for the ones that can be poached or scrambled.

Staycation

I don’t know who coined that word but it’s become our go-to definition of travel.

Recently, we steeled ourselves for two whole days away from home. We made it through the first. And a lovely day it was. We just couldn’t handle that whole second-day-away thing. So back we came. Home sweet home.

This last weekend was the Bluffton May Fest, conceived and organized many years ago by a friend and neighbor. It’s become wildly successful, bringing in unique vendors, great food, lively music and many, many people.

Parking is, of course, a problem. Since we’re near the center of action, we can support a few visitors, via water or land. But there’s a string attached to that.

We insist that those visitors spend some time with us, on the porch, sharing a little sweet tea or a glass of wine.

We started the porch-sit with friends fairly early on Saturday morning, discussing the wonders of being a curmudgeon. According to the in-depth research done that morning, women can be curmudgeons, too. We just have to be willing to go against the grain, focus on the greater good and have a sense of humor. That sounds good to me.

Next through our doors came a group of hard-core New Yorkers. Two live here now; the other two are still deeply imbedded in city life. They all agree that “Hamilton” is one of the very best things they’ve ever seen and recommended a new play that sounds wonderful in every way. It’s currently off-Broadway and called “Dear Evan Hanson.” The problem is we’d have to go to New York to see it. We may just have to suck it up and go….but only for one day.

Shortly after that a bevy of lovely teen-age girls (one a granddaughter) dropped in and talked (all at once) about their friendship, its value, their shared love of ballet.

Later in the afternoon, a young couple came over by boat and reaffirmed how unique they feel the Island is as a place to raise a family.

We are so incredibly lucky. We didn’t have to step out of the house to have so many engaging and thoughtful conversations. And we would go away because?

It was a wonderful, happy day for “Life on the May.”

 

Fact Checking

One of us carefully checks the Mastercard bill when it arrives in the mail. The other one doesn’t. It’s been thus for many years now.

There’s nearly always an issue. And it nearly always turns out not to be an issue because the Mastercard people are usually right. Still, questions often arise about one or more purchases. What does this mean? Where was that store? Did you really buy two e-books from Amazon on the same day?

Recently, the one-who-checks spotted a movie-rental charge that he was sure was incorrect. The one-who-doesn’t-check happened to overhear the one-who-does, on the telephone, trying to get a refund on the movie that had, in fact, been rented.  Just not remembered.

The one-who-doesn’t-check whispered in the ear of the one-who-does that we had, indeed, rented it. We just hadn’t watched it all the way through since it was about people in their early twenties doing things neither of us could even remotely understand.

Ten minutes later, the one-who-checks was still on the phone. I assumed he had ignored the one-who-doesn’t and was still making his case for a refund.

How wrong I was.

Turns out, as is so often the case, he had made friends with the Mastercard person.

Somewhere during the refund conversation, he learned that the Mastercard person lives in Indiana, is around our age, had visited Bluffton years ago, had been inside the church next to our house, had wandered into our yard, remembered the porch on the second floor of the house and had been curious about the cannon that sits in our backyard.

They weren’t talking about refunds. They were discussing cannons.

I guess if you let it, life can lead you down interesting paths. Or at least provide nice material for a blog.

 

Wrap Rage Redux

When I raised the question recently, first in my blog, lifeonthemay.com. and later in the April 20 edition of the Bluffton Sun, I wondered if I was the only one who thought that today’s packaging was problematic. I was not prepared for the voices and stories that came back to me.  Clearly, I am not alone.

I will share a few of the emails I received on the topic. The parentheses are mine.  The comments belong to readers.

First, both Bill and Gwyneth reminded me that all of this started with the Tylenol tampering. Since then, as Gwyneth says, the manufacturers have done everything but put their goods behind barbed wire and electric fences.

Vickie asked me if I heard her scream as the knife she was using to open a bottle of pain relievers sliced into her hand. When she finally got it open, it was only half full, most of it stuffed with cotton. (I can relate.)

Gwyneth remembered the time she was desperate for an anti-cramp, anti PMS-med and couldn’t conquer the bubble wrap.  (Cruel manufacturer. Obviously not a woman.)

Ann told me of a recent purchase for her grandchild which required two adults and a box cutter to open. (Good Grief.)

Sue asked me if I’d seen the fruits and vegetables which are triple-wrapped to protect them from air. And, as a result, from you and me. (Scurvy, anyone?)

Pam wondered if I’d forgotten all the bad words that get uttered before we dissolve into tears of submission. (Never!  That’s all part of this frustrating ritual.)

Sally related her desperation in attempting to open a bottle of water while traveling down I-95 and wondered if she’d have to stop to ask a stranger for help. (Stranger Danger.  Not a good idea.)

Lest you think that women should just turn stuff over to a man to do the job, Dave told me of his recent bout with a jar of peanut butter.  He removed the cap only to find a thick layer of foil which had to be tweezed off in teeny-tiny strips.  (I think the peanut butter people have since heard from him.)

Deej has asked that I set aside some time to hear her long story of opening a bottle of wine with her head.  (Hey, any Port in a storm.  Or Chardonnay,  Or Merlot.)

Lynne recalls the broken fingernails from trying to open the hermitically-sealed Mac and Cheese boxes.  She says she finally gave up and let her children deal with it. After all, they never had fingernails to begin with. (Smart woman.)

Bev warns us to be careful taking the trash out when the bags are full of mangled plastic which can, in turn, mangle our hands. (This just gets uglier and uglier.)

Nancy bought a special tool just for these occasions. Apparently it doesn’t work. (Are we surprised by that?).

She also brings up the nasty bit about the child-proof caps that apparently only children can open. (Something’s very wrong here.)

Finally, Diana wraps it all up for us.  She says, simply: “I now wear scissors around my neck as a fashion accessory.”

I rest my case.

Decisions. Decisions.

I don’t need to read all those best-selling books about the joys of throwing stuff out. I’m skilled at that. More than one item has been given a last minute reprieve from the jaws of dumpster. I’ve watched my husband weep as I harshly sort his clothes into stay-or-go piles.

I like empty drawers. I open them and admire their emptiness, their zen-ness.  I’ve been accused of running a motel with no customers.

I don’t store stuff under beds. That space is reserved for dust bunnies and scared cats.

But…and this is a big but…yesterday I went to my really nice closet that holds miscellaneous stuff.  As I was organizing my ribbons, I saw IT.

IT was a tiny box. It wasn’t labeled but it was, nevertheless, a box of “string too short to use.”

Over the years, I’ve heard friends talk about cleaning out their parent’s houses and finding boxes marked with those very words. We’d be horrified and would vow never to do anything like that. We’d laugh and say: “ What were they thinking?  Surely this is the stuff of myth.  We would never do that to our children!”

Well, it’s NOT. Myth, that is. It happened. To me. Those little bits and pieces of ribbon found their way into their very own box in my special closet.

My wise and somewhat frugal mother-in-law had a box in her kitchen pantry. It was marked “Light Bulbs….New in front, Old in rear.” I was confused and a bit worried about that until one day, when I was alone in her house, I decided to take a peek.

Turns out, there was a simple answer. The “old” light bulbs were three-way bulbs. Each  had one element that had burned out. But they didn’t need to be pitched. They still had life and value. Just not as much as they started with.

Simple. Frugal. Wise.

I’m not going that far but I’m not about to toss out those little pieces of ribbons. They, too, still have life and value. They’re just not as long as they used to be.

And the children will just have to deal with it when the time comes.

Cats.

Yes, again. Bear with me. It’s short.

I know what non-cat people say. They say, among other ugly things, that cats don’t come when they’re called. That they take a message and get back to you. If you’re lucky.

Well, that certainly may be true but it’s not the cat’s bad. No. This is all the cat owner’s fault and I know this to be true since I am one.

Yesterday, as we were looking for one of the two who live here, I realized that only once, during that hour-long search, did we actually use the cat’s name.

His given name is Basil.

But, we don’t call him Basil. We call him other things. Lots of other things.

Here are a few of the things we call him.

Basilicious

Little-licious.

Wee-tiny

Wee-tine(short for wee-tiny)

Piglet

Bigboy

Sweetheart

Honeylamb

Preciouseone

Babydoll

Lamblet

Svengalibengali (he has some Bengal tiger in him….somewhere)

Sweetness

Goodboy

Handsome

Yourhighness

Prettyone

Dammit

Quitthatrightthisminute

Ohboyyouareinsuchdeeptrouble

Nowyouvereallydoneitbusterbrown

And on and on.

So, all you non-cat-lovers who think cats’ misbehavior is their fault, that it’s in their genes to be disobedient and aloof. Think again. Please.

Imagine how you’d feel if you lived somewhere where no one knew your name.

And neither did you.

 

Thanks to the understandably confused cat and catwisdom101.com for the image

Peek-a-boo. I see you.

Or maybe not.

There was an essay in the Sunday New York Times recently, called The Eye to Eye Challenge. It naturally caught my attention, and, my eye.   It was by Bruce Feiler who writes beautifully about life and especially family life.

Among other things, he has written a book titled “The Secrets of Happy Families” in which he encourages all of us to write down our “family stories….the good, the bad and the ugly” so that our children, and theirs, will see how we managed our lives, through thick and thin.

He has much to say about the digital age, has statistics to back up his troubling conclusions, and grabbed my attention with one particular statement: “We can’t become fully human until we learn to look into each others’ eyes.”

At a restaurant recently, we were seated next to a couple, near our age, I would say. They each had their iPhones, and iPads and not a word was spoken between them, to say nothing of eye contact. The table was quite close to ours so it was hard to ignore. I wondered if they had any “family stories.” If they do, they must not find them as compelling  as whoever was texting them at the moment.

It saddened me even though it was none of my business.   They lost an opportunity  to exchange thoughts, make plans, laugh, look into one another’s eyes. And they didn’t even have to cook dinner or wash dishes.

If you can’t take advantage of that, what else gets lost?

 

 

Thanks to Pixabay.com for the image

A Murky Assignment

Well. I’ve just enrolled in an on-line writing course. Or I think I have. I’m still struggling to “navigate the course.”

It’s that “on-line” thing that has created the problem. The confusion and uncertainty.

In my mind, I imagined a real teacher, in a real classroom, standing behind a wooden desk, facing all her eager students. And I would be one of those.

I’d hear the soft scratch of the chalk as she wrote our assignments on the blackboard and later she’d let me clap the erasers together to clean them. A bully might pull on my pig-tail but the teacher would chastise him and take pity on me.

And so it would go.

Last week’s “enrollment” material quickly disabused me of that longed-for image.

I was “invited,” via email, to enroll at the Haiku Learning Center.

That was the first alert.

Or should I say e-lert?

I don’t do Haiku or any other type of poetry.   I assumed, that as is usually the case, I had overlooked the fine print.

Emailed the “in-charge” person who assured me that the Haiku Learning Center is much more than poetry. That’s just their name.

I proceeded.

In filling in my info, I discovered a space for “parent” signature/approval.

Second e-lert.

Wrote “in-charge” person again. Told him I have no parents; only grandchildren and great-grandchildren and, that it looked like, yet again, I was walking down the wrong side of the street.

He wrote back and told me all was well; that the Haiku Learning people have classes for elementary school children as well as people like me.

Third e-lert?

Continued processing. Pressed wrong button. Lost all info I had sent. And received. E-mailed tech person. Pretty sure I still have missing elements. Some of it may be important. Hard to know.

I’ve sent in two lessons. Been chewed out by on-line teacher twice. I’m batting two for two. Has she no mercy?

There’s clearly a learning curve here. I just wonder which one will get to the finish line first: the curve or the learn.

This is obviously a work in process. I know it’s all taking place in a “cloud.” But right now, at least for me, it’s definitely not “Cloud Nine.”

Bad Bunny/Good Bunny

You have to be so careful these days. You’d think that taking your kid to a mall to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny would be easy.

But such was not the case in Jersey City, N. J., as reported in our local newspaper on Tuesday of this week.

Apparently chaos erupted at a mall there when a little one-year-old slipped off the knee of the Easter Bunny, who was then physically attacked by the child’s father. The Easter Bunny saw fit to defend himself and subsequently both men were taken to the hospital.

Now, you’d think the Easter Bunny would have regained his composure and sweetness, his “bunniness” if you will, during his time in the ER but apparently that didn’t happen. No sooner did he leave the hospital than he ripped off his white bunny gloves and went after the distraught daddy. Again.

The whole incident is under investigation by the Jersey City police department. As well it should be.

Bad Bunnies are not acceptable role models. And so I found it comforting to learn that this particular bunny had been relieved of his costume and sent packing. The cynic in me, of course, wonders if he’ll reappear as Santa Claus next Christmas.

I’m happy to report that no such mischief took place at our neighborhood Easter Parade.

For one thing, our Bunny was the nephew of the lead Bunnette so he knew exactly how serious the consequences would be if he acted out. The assisting Bunnettes were equally cautious, well aware of their place in the pecking order and cheerfully handing out candy from their gaily painted bicycles.

Happily, a grand time was had by all.

And we all wish you a very Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 

A Postscript….

Dear Friends:

After I sent out today’s post, a friend asked me if I’d ever seen Carol Burnett’s skit/take on opening packages. I had not but I just googled it and laughed till I hurt.

May I recommend that you do the same. Here’s the link.  Click on it and you’ll laugh too.

Carol’s Skit

Enjoy the day….and Carol. And, thank you, Pam….best, sallie

Container Conspiracy

Am I the only one who thinks that the stuff we buy continues to get harder and harder to open? It seems everything is wrapped up, tight as the paper on the wall, and nearly impossible to access.

The products instruct us to: “Hold here and pull.” “Pinch there.” Press down and twist.” “Lift ‘n Peel.”   It all sounds so simple.  Sometimes there are even nice little diagrams to guide us.

But, I’ve come to believe that those directions are the stuff of contemporary myth.  The product designers seduce us into thinking we can actually do those things. And with our bare hands, no less.

I know I’ll be grabbing the scissors and knives to get the job done. Perhaps resorting to a wrench or a screwdriver. I may be wising up but I’m still losing the battle.

On a trip to the grocery store recently, I purchased some new blush on the cosmetics aisle. A little treat for oneself amongst the (hard to open) canned goods and kitty litter.

A few days later, a little birthday party invitation arrived. “Aha,” one said to oneself: “What better time for one’s cheek bones to look sparkly and fresh. And we have a new product. Let’s use it! What fun this will be.”

But first, one needed to open it.

I’m not going to take the time here to tell you how poorly that went. I will only tell you that when it was time to go to the party, I was not sparkly, I forgot the birthday card, and the blush…..well, the blush is no longer useable.  Neither are my favorite scissors whose sharp little pointy ends are gone. Worn to a nubbin in endless attempts to open the hermitically sealed package.

Not to get on a soap box here, but the damage we’re doing to our environment with all that wrapping and packaging is incalculable. I am assuming that it’s the product maker’s intention to protect us from tampering, disease, contamination. Those are noble goals but surely there’s a better way.