Everyday Musings

Playing Doctor.

When I was a little girl, and spending summers with my grandparents, the only kids I had to play with were the neighborhood boys. I didn’t mind not having other girls to play with, because I found boys to be far more adventurous and fun. Girls wanted to play things like “school” (I had enough of that August – May) and “shopkeeper” (boring).

Like a lot of my current girlfriends, I was a tomboy.

There was a park behind my grandparent’s house, and that’s where me and the boys would always meet up for a good round of cowboys and Indians (this was the 60’s, after all) or cops and robbers. Sometimes we would pretend the merry-go-round was a pirate ship. Sometimes we would dare each other to run through a red ant hill, barefoot, or play “skydivers” by jumping out of high-flying swings.

There was really only one problem that came up from time to time, and that was when the boys wanted me to be the damsel in distress during one of our games. That usually led to some pretty big arguments and a lot of pushing and shoving, and me finally calling it quits and stomping home while wiping angry tears off my cheeks.

You see, my grandparents didn’t raise me to enjoy playing with dolls (although they indulged me in Barbies and Liddle Kiddles if I wanted). I spent a lot of time on the farm with my grandad, and I was much more interested in non-girlish pursuits. I rode horses, swam in the creek, and helped grandad drive the tractor and feed the cattle. I had very little interest in being “the damsel” when playing with my friends.

34200315_591916811192664_4864344307202523136_nPretending to be a country-western singer with my Yogi Bear guitar.

My grandparents would buy me things like doctor’s and scientist’s kits, toy soldiers, Lincoln Logs and pirate gear. One time my grandad came home with a sheriff’s set, complete with a star-shaped badge and a six gun. I already had the cowboy hat.

These indulgences occasionally caused a dilemma for the boys. I always had the cool toys (and I was a bossy kid), so they often had to give in to my wishes to be the sheriff or Captain Hook, or Al Capone.

But sometimes they didn’t.

One day I showed up in my sheriff’s gear, and they told me to go home unless I was going to play “Victoria” from “The Big Valley”…the pretty blonde female character from the 1960s western. They were going to “rescue” me from the bad guys, they explained.

I wouldn’t comply, so once again I was dismissed. Sent packing, badge, gun, hat and all.

I was pretty glum when I got back to the house, and pouted away the rest of the afternoon, pretending to be a burnt and injured Smokey the Bear cub. The book about Smokey’s early years was one of my favorites. His little paws were burned in a forest fire and bandaged by a nice park ranger. My grandmother gave me socks to stick on my hands, and fed me sandwiches. She always had a way of distracting me when life wasn’t fair and I was mad about it.

Smokey the Bear as an injured cub.Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 4.15.47 PM
34395326_591916837859328_1161391712690503680_nMy grandmother, helping me be a monkey.

When my grandad got home that evening, I told him the boys wouldn’t play with me that day because I wouldn’t cooperate in fulfilling the role they wanted to give me.

“I wanted to be the sheriff, or at least Heath (one of Victoria’s brothers), and they told me I had to be Victoria,” I told him.

“You can be anyone you want to be,” he told me. “I’ll take you to the farm tomorrow, and you can be the sheriff all day, over me and all the farmhands.”

And that’s what happened. Whenever I told the young farmhands to “stick ’em up!” they immediately complied, swiftly raising their hands high above their heads. When the lunch break came, a couple of them even let me tie their hands behind their backs and stick them in my jail (the stables inside the barn).

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 5.13.52 PM.pngA very early photo of my grandad and I.

One summer day, a couple of years later, one of the boys came over to my grandparents house to help me build a tent out of sheets, lawn chairs and clothespins. Once it was finished, we sat inside in the sweltering heat, wondering what to do next.

“Do you want to play doctor?” he asked.

“Sure!” I answered. “I’ll go get my kit.”

I ran inside to fetch my plastic medical bag, which contained a pretend stethoscope, thermometer, bandages and other doctor-type paraphernalia. When I got back to the tent, he told me I needed to take off my shorts. I was appalled, and I asked him why he would want me to do something so naughty. “So you can be the patient, and I can be the doctor,” he said.

“But I’m the doctor, and you’re the patient,” I said. “This is my doctor kit. But I don’t want you to take your shorts off. That’s not nice.”

“But that’s the way you play doctor,” he explained.

I ordered him out of my tent. I remember feeling embarrassed about the whole thing., and I ran inside to tell my grandmother. She called the boy’s mom and had a few friendly words with her. I thought the matter was settled, but after that, the boys never wanted to play with me again. I was a “tattle-tale”, and I didn’t like playing the roles they had wanted me to play.

As I got older, and hormones started kicking in, I started seeing boys differently. It became important to me that they liked me, not as a playmate, but as a potential girlfriend. I stopped being bossy, and wore lip gloss and put vanilla extract in my hair so it would smell like cotton candy. I flirted.

My life had also changed. I wasn’t able to spend as much time with my grandparents, because summers were spent babysitting my little brother while my parents worked.

My parents were Southern Baptist and very strict. We attended churches that preached the importance of women and girls knowing their place…and that meant “submitting” to men (and boys) and whatever whims they may have.

You know…because…Eve.

That was a direct contradiction to the independent concepts about the feminine/masculine roles my grandparents taught me. This new concept confused me for awhile, especially since I wanted the boys to like me. I stopped doing or asking for the things I preferred, and instead went along with whatever boys wanted me to do.

Even if that meant letting them stick their tongue in my mouth, which, at the tender age of 10, made me want to gag.

Eventually I gave in to whatever boys wanted me to do, so that I would be liked and accepted, and would not be abandoned again for not playing my role. Besides, in God’s eyes, they were the ones that ALWAYS wore the badge.

It felt pretty shitty.

But somewhere inside me the lessons my grandparents taught me were still there, and when I left for college, I didn’t leave with the intent of finding a husband (as many of my girlfriends were doing). I left to become a journalist…an occupation that made my grandfather proud. I stopped going to churches that subscribed to the notion that woman were the downfall of mankind.

After a time, I began to remember the voice of my granddad telling me “You don’t have to do what the boys want you to do. You can be the sheriff, the pirate or the doctor”.

Or the woman with the pen and the words.

Regaining my self-esteem has been an uphill battle for most of my life, because the tentacles of patriarchy and misogyny run deep when you’ve spent most of your childhood under an evangelical roof. I have discovered there are still a lot of men who don’t like it unless you play the damsel. They don’t like it if you make more money than they do. They don’t like it when you don’t give in to your “role”, as dictated by society TO THIS DAY.

Hence, #MeToo.

Despite the fact that women are still not considered equal to men on a societal level, there are a lot of good men out there who have been raised by women like me. I taught my son to see women as equals – not the SAME as men, but NO LESS than men. I raised my daughter to believe she could be and do anything she wanted. My son is a successful electrician who respects women. My daughter is a warrior who delivers babies.

The word “obey” will not be part of the script during my daughter’s upcoming wedding to her fiancé. He is more than fine with that. His parents raised him well, too.

I’m happy my daughter will never experience what I experienced when I was young. Instead, she is confident, speaks her mind, and carries her medical bag with her wherever she goes.

Me? I spend my days writing, making perfumes and art, boxing (a passion I discovered late in life) and practicing yoga. I’ve turned in my Etch-A-Sketch for paintbrushes and my Lincoln Logs for board games, but I still like to build tents. I’ve hung up my hat and turned in my badge, but that doesn’t mean I’m not the sheriff of my own life.

And when I hang out with my guy friends, I never have to be the damsel. I like it that way.

Thank you, Grandad.

 

 

 

 

From the Laboratory

Ten Idioms

I just created a new solid perfume line called “10 Idioms”. Each one has a story. Here’s an example:

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“Hand me those binoculars,” Nancy said, impatiently. Her legs were beginning to ache from squatting behind a pile of wood about 50 yards from the dilapidated farmhouse.

The leaves from a quaking aspen rustled like the wings of a thousand moths above her head. The moon was full.

Ned handed Nancy the binoculars. “I can’t see him anymore. I think he must have gone to the bathroom or something.”

Nancy looked through the binoculars into the living room, which was lit by the flickering screen of a television. She shifted her weight from one leg to the other.

“But it’s a full moon,” she said, with frustration in her voice. “And it’s 16 minutes after midnight.”

“Maybe we were wrong,” Ned replied.

Nancy scanned the house. All the other rooms were dark, and the windows were covered with thick curtains. She pointed the binoculars back to the living room. Suddenly, the television seemed to turn itself off. The house went completely dark.

“What’s happening?” Ned asked. Nancy could sense a tinge of panic in his voice.

“I don’t know,” she answered. She began to scan the house again. Her heart stopped as the binoculars came to rest on a figure standing on the front porch. She gasped when she saw the yellow eyes, glowing in the dark. They were looking right into hers, and for a forever second she froze.

Then her survival instinct kicked in.

“Ned,” she said, “I think we’d better run.”

A Narrow Escape is an adventurous blend of patchouli, coconut and tangerine, concocted for those who like to live life on the edge. You can find it in my Etsy shop.

It’s been fun writing stories for things like “A Silver Lining”, “A Curious Affair”, “A Novel Idea”, “A Longing Glance”…plus six more.

And so it goes.

Create

Little Pods

It’s been a long winter here…snow is still on the ground and it’s making me a little cranky. I’m pretty much over it.

But every day I look at my brilliant collection of cut up toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and think of the seeds I’ll be planting in them in a week or two. The last frost in this region is April 15, and I’m planning for an end of the month outdoor moving party for all the new little flowers and herbs I’ll have.

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Everyday Musings

Hi, Dead People!

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When I was about five or six years old, my grandfather and I were driving out to one of the family farms…him at the wheel and me standing on the pickup seat next to him, so I could see what he could see. (This was, of course, at a time in history when seatbelts were annoying straps everyone tucked out of the way).

That day, as we passed the Weatherford cemetery on our way out of town, he smiled and waved and cheerily shouted “Hi, dead people!”

Then he turned to me and said, still smiling, “someday, you can wave and say ‘hi’ to your granny and I right there in that cemetery. You won’t see it, but we’ll be waving back.”

He didn’t seem a bit bothered by that notion, but I was very upset at the thought of the two people I loved most – laying underground in satin-lined coffins – waving at me as if it were no big thing.

I think he realized his words didn’t have the same humorous effect on me as they did for him, so he reassured me it would be a long time before that day came. He told me he wasn’t worried about it, and I shouldn’t worry about it either.

About 20 years later, as I watched my grandfather’s casket being lowered into the ground at that very cemetery, the memory of that day and his words “it will be a long time” came back. I remember whispering to him, “still too soon”.

But he was right. About 20 years after he was laid to rest (and about 10 years after my grandmother joined him), sure enough, I moved back to my home town and I would drive past the cemetery from time to time. And every time I drove by I would wave and say “Hi Grandad! Hi Granny!”. Sometimes I would stop to have a chat, or just sit and reminisce.

I always wondered if he was right when he said they would be waving back.

And that’s how I got into the habit of waving and greeting dead people while driving past cemeteries. Sometimes if I’m in the car with a new friend, they’ll be a little startled and stare at me as if I’ve grown two heads. Or they’ll laugh and ask me what the hell I’m doing. I’ll have to explain how and why the whole thing started, and how I figure, even though no one in any of the cemeteries knows me personally, a cheery greeting never hurt anyone, dead or alive. I know their souls are someplace else…but I don’t know that their souls can’t hear me. You just never know what’s going on over there.

Since I’ve moved, however, greeting the dead has become an entirely different thing.

My new town has an inordinate amount of cemeteries. Seriously, every time I need to run errands around town, I find myself shouting greetings about every other mile or so. I’ve said “hi, dead people!” more times in the last few months than I’ve said in the last decade, I think.

And yes, that probably makes me a little bit crazy, but it’s something I picked up from my grandfather (who was a very wise, compassionate and sane man…with a wickedly morbid sense of humor).

And I am, after all, very much my grandfather’s granddaughter.

 

 

 

La Vie Bohéme

A Revived Hobby.

Back when I was in college and had access to a darkroom, I was a photography junkie. A very avant-gard friend of mine, Claire, and I would load up our backpacks with PB&J sandwiches, a couple of beers, our Djarums, some props and our cameras and hit the city of Portland (Oregon) for a day of taking photographs.

The next day, we’d head to the darkroom to see how they turned out. It was enormous fun. My daughter actually keeps an old photo of me that Claire took in a heart-shaped frame sitting on her bookshelf, nestled among other artifacts she’s collected over the years.

It’s been eons since I’ve used anything other than a disposable camera or my cellphone to take photos, and now everything has turned digital and the days of darkroom alchemy are all but gone. Still, for the last year or so, I’ve been wanting to pick up photography as a hobby again.

In the summer of ’16, for my road trip up the west coast, I purchased one of those cute little cameras that takes mini polaroids…but somehow mini photos don’t do justice when photographing the vast Pacific or the majestic redwoods. Polaroids are great for photos of humans or vignettes – but not as satisfying as the kind of photos only a professional camera can provide when documenting breathtaking vistas. (Although my iPhone did take some pretty nice shots).

13335657_10153825840338198_7556117991597080915_nLooking south down the Pacific Coastal Highway via my iPhone.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take the plunge back into photography and began researching the best cameras for the novice who wants to take professional-grade photos, and I decided on the Canon T7i Rebel. It’s a little on the pricy side, especially if you buy the kit (two additional lenses, filters and a tripod), but hey. If you’re going to jump in, go all in with the best.

So my camera arrived a few days ago. I immediately ripped open the box, thinking I would just grab the camera and start shooting. Ummmm…not so much. Times have changed, and my new Rebel is VASTLY different from the Nikon film camera I used back in the day. Bells, whistles, video, special effects…and the instruction book is literally nearly 3 inches thick! It’s four days later and I’m still getting to know it.

But now, after my morning engagements, I’m going to make use of this beautiful, crisp fall day and do a photography walkabout, taking photos and getting to know my new camera. Hopefully I’ll be able to shoot some things worthy of the blogosphere and Pinterest.

We’ll see.

But there’s nothing more exciting than reviving a long lost hobby.

Bruja

Stingy Jack, and How to Keep the Devil at Bay.

Once upon a time, as creepy celtic legend has it, a drunk was at a bar with the devil and he made a wager which the devil lost (he wanted out of the beer tab, and he tricked the devil into paying).

Well, we all know when we make a deal with the devil, no good can come of it, and the drunk, known as Stingy Jack, was banned from both heaven and hell when his time came…doomed to wander in darkness with only a hollowed out turnip (used as a lantern) to light his way.

Screen shot 2017-10-14 at 3.07.33 PMPoor Stingy Jack.

And that, my dears, is why we all carve pumpkins at the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Making the Lanterns of Jack keeps the devil at bay, and gives Stingy Jack props for getting the best of ol’ Lucifer while drinking at the bar.

But you can also use your carved turnips, gourds and pumpkins to bring luck, prosperity and health throughout the year as well, by sprinkling the insides of your carved lanterns with herbs and oils before setting them out to welcome little ghosts and goblins to your door.

Liberally rubbing allspice throughout your lantern will bring luck and prosperity.

Throwing in some cardamom seeds will perk up your lust/love life, or draw a new lover to your door.

Nutmeg will aid your intuition…and bring peaceful (and sometimes prophetic) dreams.

Orange peel will bring happiness and a sense of well being. It will also bring more beauty into your life.

Cloves will dispatch troublesome neighbors, stalkers, old boyfriends/girlfriends, and keep gossips and other ugly people away from you. They will also help you conquer bothersome habits.

Ginger will bring all kinds of good stuff to your way, from love to health to happiness.

And after carving, dressing and lighting your pumpkins, here is a FABULOUS recipe for eating those super addictive and healthy roasted pumpkin seeds (if you have the patience to clean them thoroughly of the pumpkin guts before popping them in the oven).

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Clean the seeds thoroughly, throw them into a pot of salted, boiling water, then reduce the water to a simmer and let the seeds cook for about 10 minutes. Next, drain the water, pat them fairly dry with a paper towel, then toss them with olive oil and sea salt. Spread them in a pan (don’t overlap them) and pop them into a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Take them out, give them a stir and re-separate them…then pop them back into the oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the shells are JUST a golden color. When you remove them the first time to stir them, cool a seed and pop it open to make sure the insides aren’t getting too done, because the insides can burn even if the outsides look fine. When they’re finished roasting, just shake on a little more sea salt (or other flavorings) and enjoy!

As a side note, pumpkin seeds are packed with iron, magnesium, zinc, fiber, protein and that wonderful, natural drug tryptophan (the stuff in turkey meat that makes you sleepy)…so they’re great for a bedtime snack.

And that’s how to get the most from your Jack ‘o Lanterns this Samhain season!

 

 

Everyday Musings

A Dozen Reasons For Loving Yoga

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It relieves my GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder).

GAD is a bitch to live with…panic attacks, insomnia, worry…the list goes on. Yoga calms the demons and dramatically reduces my GAD symptoms. That, in and of itself, is enough for me.

I can turn my body into poetry.

When I was in my 20s, I participated in several semi-professional dance companies. But dancing was not my career, and it soon took a back-burner to the daily grind of earning a paycheck as a broadcast journalist. Then came the mortgage, the parent-teacher conferences, the soccer games, the divorce, the career change …and during all that I had no time to dwell on my weight, my posture, my breathing or whether or not I could do a perfect ‘brush’ or plié. My body lost it’s ‘poetry’…something that had always given me a great sense of joy and self esteem. Yoga has brought all that back. Now I’m aware, once more, of my posture, my alignment, my breathing…and the way my body moves – whether on the mat or pushing a cart down the grocery aisle.

The Happy Baby Asana

When was the last time you were in a room full of people, all of you laying on your backs, grabbing your feet and giggling?

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(Photograph from Pinterest)

NOT feeling terrified for an entire hour out of every day.

Face it, the world is a scary place right now. For the first time in a couple of decades, nuclear war is part of the geopolitical equation. Mass shootings have made going to concerts, the theater, to school and even to church risky business. We’re running out of resources, and natural disasters are headlining the news on a near-daily basis. When I’m in yoga class, however, there is no room for fear. In fact, sometimes in the middle of a particularly difficult asana, I will hear the universe whisper in my ear, “See, there is nothing to fear.”

My Yogis, and all their wonderful personalities.

One of my yogis is the very definition of serenity. Her voice is calm, her movements are fluid, and she has a nurturing quality that is incredibly soothing. Another of my yogis never goes anywhere without his scarf, he often chants or sings along to the music, is goofy funny, and he gently pushes everyone to their best limits. Another is athletic, enthusiastic and inspiring. Another exudes so much wisdom and compassion, I just want to stand next to him to bask in that glorious energy. Each one is a gift.

The sense of community.

When I walk into my yoga studio (or any yoga studio), I’m walking into a room full of friends, whether I know anyone or not. That’s just the way it works. I travel a lot, and I’ve been to dozens of different studios in different cities and towns – and they all feel like family when I unroll my mat on the floor.

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 8.24.31 PM.png(But this is where I usually practice).

The ritual.

Upon arriving, all the things needed for class are listed and provided by the studio: mats, bolsters, straps, blankets, et cetera. Some classes require only a mat, some require all the available equipment. The ritual of walking in, placing my shoes and belongings in a nook, grabbing my equipment, greeting my fellow yoga people and then rolling out my mat and waiting patiently and mindfully for class to begin is a daily ritual that I love.

My mind and body are working as a team, for the first time in three decades.

This is different than being able to create poetry…this is the very essence of being in touch with the vehicle that drives your soul around while you’re inhabiting this planet. I am so in tune with my body now that I can sometimes feel energy flowing through my meridians as distinctly as I can feel myself swallow a bite of food. In class, when we begin our asanas, I can feel what parts of my body are running at full capacity, and which parts aren’t…so I can adjust accordingly and give attention to whatever’s not working right.

I care a lot about what I eat, and I no longer crave unhealthy foods.

You are what you eat. Period.

Sometimes I cry.

Actually, I’d say I cry more often than not at the end of class when we are in Savasana. I’ll be staring up at the ceiling, looking at the twinkling lights or the raw wood, and I’ll feel a tear roll out of one or both eyes and run down the side of my cheek to my ear. Yoga is powerful, and sometimes a good session can connect you so deeply with your inner ‘divine’ that you cry. You are strong. You are loved. You are perfect in your imperfection. You are forgiven. You are the entire Universe, experiencing what it’s like to be a human. That’s big.

The power of OM.

Until you’ve made that beautiful, potent and sacred sound in unison with a dozen other voices, you haven’t truly lived, imho.

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(OM -artist unknown).

Namaste

At the end of every class we put our palms together in Sitting Prayer asana (hands level with our heart chakras, thumbs together and pointing toward the chest) and we bow to the divine in our instructor as he or she bows to the divine in us. There is something about the namaste that is so pure and good and grateful that it feels like a moment of sacred bliss. After that, you can roll up your mat, put on your shoes, and walk out into the world with the full knowledge that a). there is a divine plan, b). that you’re part of it, and c)…as a great poet once sang, “every little thing is going to be alright”.