Sunday, 28 June 2015

Just Briefly

Thank you to those of you who read my latest story and for the encouraging comments.  It's a bit scary to post something still so rough ( I know there are typos I did not catch )  and I only did one re-write, attempting to tighten and smooth out the story.  Sounds like I need to apply some expensive miracle cream to it.

Poem for the Week

This Morning

A million genius ideas
Profound connections-okay perhaps seven
Wash over me slick like soap
And down the drain
Riding on bubbles.
This one observation left,
My last amusing thought is
Nearly scraped away
By the shaving of my legs.

Sensible Simplicity

Minimalism is a trend currently, and by that I don’t mean I am dismissing it or saying it won't last.  In that case it would be a fad.  Minimalism is a trend that purports to improve your life, lighten your burden literally, free you up to be happy.  I would imagine there are some people out there with an ever expanding library of books on how to do minimalism right. I imagine this books might be shelved next to books on the previous trend, organisation.  Once we were told how to organise and store things, and sold assorted storage containers.  Millions of people parked their cars in the driveway because their garages were filled with carefully stored possessions in lidded plastic totes.  I know someone who can barely move around her home because of her possessions, and is arguably afflicted with a hoarding problem, but it's all organised carefully into containers and labelled.

Some, as I do, feel more comfortable surrounded by things which have meaning to us.  We might call ourselves maximalists.  The girls who come twice a month to clean call me The Lady With The Eclectic Home. They walk around exclaiming over this cool thing or that cool thing as though it were a museum of sorts. "Where did you get this?"  They ask.  I suppose my home is  a personal shrine of me-ness.  My home is an expression of who I am and nobody walks in the door and says, oh a minimalist lives here.

Five years ago I moved out of the home I had lived in for eighteen years, leaving a marriage of 23 years.  Among the many differences that had grown between my husband and myself was how much we accumulated, what types of things we accumulated and where we put it.  I believe that if a relationship is otherwise healthy and happy, there would be a greater tolerance for such differences, but for me this difference was becoming unbearable.  My husband could tolerate much more disarray than I could. So many of our things did not have a home, and if they did they often weren't kept there.  Storing things neatly and properly was not a priority for him so time and money could not be invested in making a closet or some shelving.  Things did not get thrown out if they were potentially useful or had sentimental value.  We had an overflowing crawl space and a home nearly impossible to keep tidy.  A brand new double garage was built in the last three years of our marriage and it was promptly filled up with stuff.  One side of it was filled with old wood siding that might be useful some day.  I  felt buried under material things just as I felt buried in the marriage.  Our ways were different, and yet I am not a minimalist.  I am also very fond of cupboards.

Moving out was a good way to purge, and I made careful decisions about what I took with me, deliberately not taking the 50% of our possessions I was entitled to, in part because I was moving to a home less than half the size.  Although I have a few regrets about that, I try not to be emotionally attached to material things.  As I set up my new home, I found that I needed a certain volume of material items around me to feel comfortable.  I like candles, plants and books and attractive textiles, decorative pieces or items that are both useful and decorative, and am not a fan of much bare wall space.  I am a seeker of cosiness more than space.   I only knew how to set up a home for a family, not for a single person.  I could not let go of the idea that I needed dinner service for ten, enough wine glasses in case I have a party.  I am equipped to serve Christmas dinner on a regular basis and to cook and bake for a family of four or more daily.  Perhaps I imagined a step family in my future, or I imagine grandchildren.  Either way it is a bit ridiculous but I have to admit I really like my dishes and like looking at them.  This is not a sin and it does not hold me back from living the life I want to live.  I do have more possessions than I need, but they are not in my way, spiritually, emotionally or physically.

Minimalism is sold to us as the mentally healthy way to live.  It is sold to us as the  ideal life, free and unencumbered. It is a spiral movement in many ways but more than one person has found a way to comodify it.  I believe minimalism, or simplicity should really be a very personal thing, very tailored to the individual and perhaps it needs a new name or needs to be separated from a sister movement that is more about living with what you need.  Need is something to be personally defined, but it is also relative to culture and wealth.  Unless you live below the poverty line or are homeless, you probably have more than you need to survive and there is no need to be shamed for that.  What I am interested in personally, is reducing mindless  consumption and accumulation.  What I wish to work on paring down is mostly invisible to anyone who comes into my home.  It is not my chosen lifestyle nor within my means to be a wanderer.  Given this, I am quite content with a home that anchors me.

Re-evaluating sometimes, reducing, unneeded and unwanted possessions and focusing on less consumption can all be goals without having to embrace minimalism, or they can be part of of how you define your own personal minimalism.  Less is a relative term.


Voluntary Simplicity...
It should be noted that voluntary simplicity does not, however, mean living in poverty, becoming an ascetic monk, or indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not involve regressing to a primitive state or becoming a self-righteous puritan. And it is not some escapist fad reserved for saints, hippies, or eccentric outsiders. Rather, advocates of simplicity suggest that by examining afresh our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, ‘the simple life’ of voluntary simplicity is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much consumption is truly ‘enough.’[11] Arguably, this is a theme that has something to say to everyone, especially those in consumer cultures today who are every day bombarded with thousands of cultural and institutional messages insisting that ‘more is always better.’ Voluntary simplicity is a philosophy of living that advocates a counter-cultural position based on notions of sufficiency and simplicity.[12]

 -quote found on the website The Simplicity Collective

Suggested Reading for a gentle and sensible approach:

Friday, 26 June 2015

A Story and Some Thoughts

                            A bouquet of roses from Mum's garden.

 I have a plethora of thoughts and so I have an abundance of writing because for me that's just how it works.  I'm thinking of clearing out my drafts file for this blog as there are many (154 when I last checked) unposted pieces just sitting there, forgotten.  Sometimes I am stimulated by an article I've read and other times it's just the life and culture going on around me that gets me going on a certain topic,  but what usually happens is that I find something on the same topic which I think is better written and then I sigh mentally and shove my own piece into a corner.  Everything has been said before, by someone who said it better.  I think this is why I like to write fiction.  It seems to me there is room for variation on the same theme.  I can explore cultural conditions, human nature, events and experiences in my own unique way and not feel as though I am just  parroting someone else.


This is one of my latest short stories, written in response to a prompt from Natalia's Writer's Link Up:  When Suddenly I Saw

I didn't use the prompt in a beginning sentence this time, but I believe I did imbed it somewhere near the end of the story in an attempt to play by the rules.  So here it is, a little rough and raw and a little longer than the last one.

I'm posting it a bit of ahead of schedule and will link up when I see that Natalia is ready.


And There Will Be Lesbians

“Are you going to the cafe again?” She asked from inside the  broom cupboard.  I gulped my tea which was getting cold, scooped up the last mouthful of scrambled egg and, still chewing, carried the dirty dishes to the sink.

“Yes, I’d like to” I answered, quickly attacking my dirty dishes with a soapy scrubber.  Gran emerged from the cupboard with a look of annoyance and empty hands.  She closed the door and sat down at the kitchen table, adding a few things to the shopping list she had begun earlier.  A day off work meant doing the shopping and cleaning and Friday had been the day for shopping as long as I could remember.  Saturday morning was for cleaning and Sunday was for advanced cooking and food preparation to see us through the busy week to come, washing, chopping, storing or cooking various things to make the weeknights easier.  Gran had systems and routines.  She preferred to keep busy, she said, and part of keeping busy meant four days a week as receptionist and legal assistant to a young lawyer who had taken over from the old lawyer Gran used to work for.   Glancing at the clock on the stove, I realised I’d better hurry. 

“I’ll be home for dinner and I’ve taken that macaroni and cheese out of the freezer,”   I called out from the hall, shoving my feet into the same pair of  boots I wore every day. “I really want you to come with me.  Will you think about  it?”

Ever since Gran had shown me the poems she’d written years ago, when she was young, I had been trying to convince her to write more and  I wanted her to come with me to the cafe and read some of her poems on We Love Words night, but it was going to take a lot of coaxing.  I was going to read some of mine for the first time that night;  I was nervous as hell and there was still a long day of classes to get through.  

“Since when have you ever wanted an audience?  Your first words were ‘don’t look at me’,” Gran said laughing, when I told her my plan to read some poems.  “I know you are trying to trick me into coming tonight and liking it because you think I will share my own poems next time.”

“I could never trick you,” I said, kissing her cheek and heading out the door.  I let her have the last words.

“That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t try.” She called after me.

I saw Gran’s poems on one of those endlessly rainy days that make up at least half the year.  Late winter, the promise of spring still distant but we had decided to embark on a closet cleaning  process, a sort of pre-spring-cleaning tidy.  I was helping Gran sort through her clothing, watching her trying things on and decreeing whether they went into the keep or the donate pile.  She hadn’t gotten rid of anything in twenty years and there were items older than I was.  “You could open up a vintage shop”, I joked but she didn’t laugh.  Not that this didn’t have some humour in it but all of her attention was on something she’d just found.  She pulled an old shoebox down from the far corner of the top shelf and placed it on the bed.

“I haven’t seen these in ages,” she said, lifting the lid.  Inside were several yellowing pages, some typed and some handwritten.  I recognized her handwriting which meant that these probably weren’t a bunch of letters from a past lover as I had immediately hoped they were, though my hopes weren’t completely dashed.  They were love poems. 

“Did you write them for Maurice?” I asked, curiously peering into the box. 

“, no these were from long before I was married to Maurice.  I was young.”  She took one out and glanced over it, then apparently deciding it was not going to reveal any secrets, she handed it to me.  I skimmed the words initially but then I re-read them.  This was good.  This was simple and elegant poetry, not the overblown and sentimental stuff you might expect from a very young woman, the kind of poetry I admit I was inclined to sneer at when my peers wrote it, not being a fan of love poetry.  Somehow this was more done with less.  There was nothing sexual, and if there had been she probably wouldn’t have handed it to me so readily.  I held my hand out for another one.  What she handed to me this time spoke of loss and loneliness, immediately conveying the emptiness she felt.  Who had this person been and where was he now?  Who was my Gran’s great love and why had she not told me she used to write such wonderful poetry?  She didn’t show me any more, but tucked the two I had seen back into the shoebox.  The elastic band that had been around it had broken as soon as she removed it and  lay on the bed like a thin red worm.   I don’t know where she put the box after that and she hadn’t spoken of the poems or the unknown inspiration for them since that day.  

Gran didn’t readily tell me stories about her life before I came along.  With the self-centredness of childhood I had not thought to ask very many questions but now, in my first year of college and pretty much an adult, I felt myself wanting to know things, asking cautiously, not sure where to find the line between appropriate interest and nosiness.  Nosiness was something Gran didn’t much appreciate in others and anyone who displayed it was held low in her esteem.   She probably wouldn’t think me nosy, it would be natural for me to have questions and of course she answered my questions about my mother.  Gran had Mum at eighteen, Mum had me at sixteen, and it had been Gran’s intention to make sure I did not continue this pattern.  I hadn’t been interested in boys until fairly recently, or rather, it seemed they had not been interested in me so I busied myself with other things.  I remember when Maurice was still alive, we sat in the shady back garden shelling peas before supper and talking about boys.  I guess I was twelve, something like that.  He told me that there was a secret to making boys interested in you.

“The thing to do with boys,” he said slowly, running his thumb along the seam of the pea pod, “is don’t flirt, be indifferent towards them, have other interests, just be yourself and do the things you want to do.”  That way you don’t waste any time mooning over the wrong ones and the right ones will find you very interesting.  The less you are interested in them the more they will be interested in you.”  Gran had come out to get a bowl of shelled peas from us and she snorted in disgust at this bit of advice.

“The best advice about boys, Crysta-Lynne, is that you should just wait until they are men before you pay any attention to them if at all.”

All these bits of advice just confused me and I wished they wouldn’t worry so much as though I was going to suddenly run off with a boy in the next couple of years.  Maurice’s words did stick though, filed somewhere in the back of my brain under the heading: use this someday.  There was a boy, or could I call him a man?- in my English class whom I could not stop staring at.  I sat in the back so he couldn’t see me staring.  I imagined that one of these days he was going to speak to me, since I was definitely busy not flirting with him. Maurice, if he’d still been alive, would have been proud of me.  I missed Maurice and I had to suppose Gran did too though we rarely talked of it. 

“He was a good man,” Gran said when she spoke of him.  Maurice came into our lives when I was around six years old and left, unwillingly, ten years later.  He and Gran married at home; I remember that day and my memories are supported by the photo that sits on one of the side tables in the living room.  In it, I am small and grinning, wearing a blue dress with a ribbon sash around the middle.  Gran wears a cream coloured suit, Maurice a grey one.  Maurice has his hand on my shoulder and his other arm around Gran’s slender waist.  Her waist is still slender now but her hair is  grey.  She doesn’t believe in dyeing it.  Gran worked for the lawyer even then, and she wore skirt suits at the office but at home she wore denim overalls.  At the office she wore her hair in a chignon but at home she often just tucked it behind her hears and let it hang loose.  Sometimes Gran is two different women; she keeps a strong separation between her public and private lives.  People think she is my mother because she is the right age for that but she never wanted to pass herself off as my mother.  She said that would not be accepting reality and Gran believes the best thing we can do in life is face reality.  When Maurice died, she faced the reality.  “It’s a good thing he didn’t suffer long,” she said, of Maurice.  “He’s gone and we just have to get on without him now.”

As the macaroni and cheese warmed in the oven, Gran and I made a spinach salad.  She asked me about my day and I asked about hers, as we always did, and she mentioned that she’d had an e-mail from Shirley who had come for a visit this past summer.  I’d only met Shirley once before, when I was very small and had no actual memory of that time.  Gran didn’t talk about her much because Gran didn’t talk about anybody much, which was both a frustrating and admirable quality.  Shirley was a mystery who fascinated me because I knew that something had happened early in her life that troubled Gran.

Before the summer visit, what I knew was that Shirley was Gran’s cousin, was several years older than Gran and she was beautiful.  “So naturally beautiful,” Gran said, that  everyone’s eyes followed Shirley, everyone’s hearts followed Shirley.” 

This was a bit startling.  Not that Shirely was so beautiful but the way Gran bothered to mention it.  She wasn’t generally given to poetic descriptions.  I’d seen pictures of Shirely, a few of them when she was young, teens or early twenties maybe.  She was certainly pretty, with long, loose hair and bell bottomed jeans.  She didn’t wear makeup or dresses.  She wore a black velvet ribbon around her throat.  Shirley, Gran said, had married the son of a family friend and moved away.  When Gran got a little older she began a correspondence with Shirley and I like to imagine they were close, poured their hearts out to each other, but I don’t know.  Gran has not told me, of course, what they wrote about.

I remember that night, making supper before the poetry reading at the cafe, like it was somehow connected to Shirley’s visit, though they happened about two months apart.  Shirley arrived in a blue rental car, a Toyota, and she dragged a canvas duffle bag out of the trunk.  Gran and I scurried out of the house to welcome her, both of us nervous, I think.  Gran and Shirley hugged each other and I awkwardly held out my hand.  “Hi, I’m Crysta-Lynne.”  I mentally cringed every time I said my name, the result of a very young mother’s sense of whimsy, but I didn’t care for any of the short alternatives either.  She held out a tanned and neatly groomed hand, shortish nails, two or three thin gold rings, and clasped my hand, not in a traditional handshake but just all of her fingers clasping all of my fingers.

“Laura you look just the same as you always have!” Shirley declared, looking Gran up and down, taking in the denim overalls, brown sandals and long, greying braid.  I can hardly believe all this time has passed since I last saw you and I also can’t believe I let it pass.”

“I am just as much to blame as you.”  If she had been nervous at first, Gran didn’t seem to be now.  She grabbed the duffle bag and linked her arm through Shirley’s.  “Do you want tea, coffee, or something cold to drink? Crysta will show you your room while I get us something.”

Our house had three bedrooms though we’d had to clean up the third one a bit before Shirley’s arrival.  It had become the defacto storage room but according to Gran expecting company was always a good way to force a bit of tidying and sorting.   With that done, the room was plain but cheerful, painted a soft butter yellow and with deep blue curtains and bedding.  Earlier in the day Gran had gathered a bouquet of cornflowers from the garden and I had made sure there were clothes hangers in the closet.  We’d never had a guest come to stay.  How long Shirley was staying was not yet known, but the dufflebag seemed heavy.  She asked me to help her put her clothes away, and pulled out some sundresses and some baggy drawstring pants with matching flowing tops.  She placed two small and slightly battered looking gift bags on the bed, what looked like a pair of pyjamas, a washbag, a cardigan and a novel.  I felt as though I should be making conversation but I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was mainly trying not to stare at her.  Gran had been right, she was beautiful in person, something about the way she moved and smiled had more to do with her beauty than her symmetrical features, blue eyes and straight teeth and there was something musical about her voice.

“How has your Gran been?”  She asked me as I hung her clothes on the hangers.  I’ve been so busy sorting out my own life, I just can’t believe how much time has gone by.  I’m so ashamed of neglecting her.  I said that Gran was fine, which as far as I knew was the truth. She smiled at me and gestured towards the doorway with her head.  “Shall we go and find her now?”

Gran had made coffee, which was what Shirley wanted, and a pitcher of lemonade was also on a tray with glasses.  I was the lemonade drinker but normally it was not presented to me so formally.  I helped carry a tray and we sat outside in the shade under the maple tree.  I suppose this all made a strong impression on me because it was so new and unusual and I was excited by Shirley’s visit.  It all seems so ordinary now, of course, but I was younger and less experienced then and had so little connection to any family.  Eventually I learned things, though it happened over the three weeks Shirley stayed.  In my mind what I learned and that first day with Shirley, the afternoon in the shade of the tree, those are all linked together as one event.

Shirley was a lesbian, she told us.  Always had been.  I looked at Gran to see her reaction and did not see shock as I’d expected.  She nodded solemnly.  “Iit can’t be easy for you.”

“Well, no, it has pretty much been a bit of a disaster and perhaps it’s obvious but I’ve left Raymond and I’ve lost some friends and this is really the beginning of a whole new life.  I didn’t want to make this big change without putting you in the picture.  I know you saw what happened with Jenny years ago, but I didn’t really know if you understood what had happened.  Jenny has come back into my life.  Actually to be honest she was never gone but..”

“Shirley you don’t have to tell me.  You don’t have to explain anything.”

“I know I don’t, Laura, it’s not that.  It’s that I love Jenny, we are in love and always have been and so many people are going to enjoy this scandal but I just need you to know that the real tragedy is we were separated, by convention and meddling parents and cultural circumstances and it should never have happened.  They should not have read my private letters in the first place.”

Gran nodded slowly, a funny look on her face as Shirley went on.

“And you’ve known all these years that I was living a lie and I thought I had to hide everything.  I’ve been writing to you for years about my sham of a life and you knew. I thought I was alone with my horrible secret and then as time went by and these things became more accepted I felt guilt about my shame.  I was supposed to be out and proud, not hiding and ashamed.  I never had children; Raymond couldn’t and he wanted to adopt but I didn’t.  I said I couldn’t raise a child that was not mine but that was a lie too, like everything else.  I didn’t want to bring a child into my mess.”

Through most of my childhood I mainly remember Gran trying to make me stronger, not wanting me to get so deeply hurt over things, worried that I didn’t have thick enough skin, like that time I came home from school crying because the girl who had been my best friend since kindergarten had just decided to be best friends with someone else. 

“Crysta-Lynne,” Gran said to me. “If something like this devastates you how are you going to survive in life?  How are you going to cope with all of the difficult things life is going to throw at you.”  When telling my troubles to Gran lead to this sort of comment too many times I started keeping a diary and I guess that means I have Gran to thank for my wanting to be a writer.  I began to write in my diary constantly.  I took it everywhere, writing my thoughts, feelings, observations.  Much of it is embarrassingly childish but it began a passion to express myself with written words.  Gran didn’t particularly seem to approve of this approach either. “Be careful about what you write,” she said to me one day.  “Never write anything down that you wouldn’t want someone else to see.”

I thought this overly dramatic and silly.  Who was going to find my diary or even care?

Shirley and Gran had so much to talk about, so much to catch up on and explain and share and talk over that I felt a bit like an intruder so I left them alone together most of the time though Shirley didn’t give me the impression she needed to keep her conversation private from me. 
A few days after she arrived, she even suggested that I might want to come stay with her and Jenny some time.  “If you would be comfortable with that,” she added.  I didn’t know if she meant comfortable despite their being lesbians or comfortable despite my barely knowing them.

About a month after Shirley had come and gone, I sat with Gran on her bed, looking again at her poems, romantic, passionate, full of longing, I was unable to connect these poems, these ideas and this language to the grandmother I had known all my life.  “Who are they about, Gran?” I blurted out the question before I had time to mentally talk myself out of asking it.  She folded up the paper she held in her hand and tucked it back into the box. 

“I was very young.  Too young to have a boyfriend,”  she began and I thought I was hearing the beginning of another family scandal.  “They are about Shirley.  Shirley doesn’t know, hasn’t ever seen them, but I worshipped her, so I watched everything she did.  When I overheard our mothers talking about what they had read, what had lead them to understand the nature of the relationship between Shirely and her friend Jenny, I thought they had read my poems.  I thought that somehow I had betrayed my beloved Shirley by writing about her secret.

Gran had tears in her eyes and I suddenly saw so much that I had never seen before, her guilt, her worry, her vulnerability.  I felt tremendous love for her and a desire to protect her.  I felt old and wise.  “Gran,”  I said, touching her arm, “it was not your fault and your writing did not cause Shirley’s troubles.  It’s okay for you to write again.  It’s okay for you to share those poems.  Gran you could read them at the next cafe poetry reading night.  You should come with me.”

“I’ll think about it,” she replied.  “I have to admit I have started to write again after all these years.” 

“You could come to the cafe for We Love Words and just observe and then decide, maybe you could read some that night or wait for another time.  You don’t have to make up your mind until the last minute.  The women are so nice, so many different, really cool people.  You will like them, Gran.  And there will be lesbians.”

Gran gave me a stern, sideways look.  And then she laughed.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Mein Lieblings

 There were some more so-so photos on my camera which I have decided to share, because the world does not have enough mediocre photos of an ordinary woman in non-fashionable clothing.  The top layer of this outfit is a nightgown. Actually the layer under that might be one too.  The floral layer has completely non-funtioning boob coverage so I only use it as a top layer.  I've cinched it up with one of my fabric scrap flowers.

I refuse to be bullied into not wearing capri pants  And I am determined to embrace my right to bare arms. Also my right to look pregnant.  I figure that at this point looking pregnant would make me look younger.  ;-)

I love this little green cardi so much. Here it is with my maxi-dress improvisation a few days ago.

 Well I managed a smile in two out of three photos.  I smile all the time, but not so much when I am taking pictures of myself.  I need people to smile at.

 I have been nominated twice this week for the Liebster award from two very lovely, stylish, colourful ladies I am honoured to have met through blogging. 
These questions come from Elsie of The Cooking Wardrobe

1. Are you a morning person?
2. What's your best form of exercise?
3. What's your favorite food?
4. Are you a dog or cat person?
5. What is an item you cannot live without?
6. What is the best advise you've been given?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. Do you plan to fight aging or age gracefully?
9. Why did you start blogging?
10. Introvert or Extrovert?
11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

And these questions come from Natalia of In The Writer's Closet

1. Favorite color of the rainbow.
2. Favorite time of day.
3. Three favorite things to do when you don't have to do anything.
4. Three favorite TV shows.
5. What was your biggest childhood dream?
6. What's more inspiring - being in the mountains or by the sea?
7. In a difficult situation, who is your hero? (Do you ever think "What would ... do?")
8. If you only had to choose one book to bring with you to a desert isle, what would it be? 
9. First thing you do in the morning is ... (OK, of non-embarrassing things :) ) 
10. Are you a ritual person or a spontaneous person?
11. If you had to describe the meaning of life in just one word, it would be ...

 My Answers to five semi-randomly selected questions:

*I am am morning person by nature, but my illness messes with this by messing my sleep patterns up regularly.  When in remission I awake naturally perky before coffee.  I tend to go to bed early.  To be  awake with the dawn, sipping a cup of tea, watching the sunrise, is one of my favourite things. 

*In trying to decided if I am more ritual or spontaneous, I come up with random.  I am spontaneous but do not like outwardly imposed non-routine.  I hated working on call.  Loathed it.  I have a general idea of what I may want to accomplish each day and then I may do those things or I may do something else.  In the end, I have limitations which mean I will probably spend most of my day reading and writing because I need to be sedentary, so that is a sort of routine.

*I love all animals but am instinctively a cat person.  Also a guinea pig person though that was not asked.

*Introversion and extroversion are on a sliding scale and I am on the introverted side of centre (ambivert).  I am in my own head so much I am one of those people you would say has her head in the clouds.  You would say this as you witness me inflict a bruise, a burn and a cut on myself all before noon, because I am not paying attention to what my body is doing.

*The meaning of life is what you make it (I am an existentialist), and for me it is connection.  Connection involves love and compassion, tolerance, empathy, kindness, understanding, care and concern. 

If I played this properly, I would have 22 question to answer and must nominate people for this award as well.  The intent is for the award to go to new or relatively new bloggers, helping to make us better known and gain a wider audience.  Great idea!  But I will end up nominating many of the same people, since there is undoubtedly a blogging clique here, or social circle, shall we say.
Liebster is a term of endearment based on the word liebe, German for love. If I am to offer an award of affection to any bloggers it is to all of you whose blogs I enjoy reading regularly, and with whom I try to maintain a connection and engage in some dialogue. Blogging is about connecting for most of us, and if I find anyone worth connecting with, I will develop some affection for her.  So there you are, you are all my liebsters.  I am going to nominate three people from my own blog roll who are relatively new (I still had to go back three years) because the rest of my nominee list would mimic Natalia's and Elsie's.

Here are three who are delightful women and fun bloggers.

Eleven questions that have not been asked before....?  I need food and coffee, neither of which I've had yet and it's past eleven am.  I have only come up with five questions so I say, mix and match, borrow from all of the question lists and answer any eleven you choose!

1. Do you prefer art to shock, be beautiful or both?

2.  What genre of music makes you want to pull your hair out?

3.  What is your favourite fragrance? (brand names or maybe you just like vanilla)

4.  What is your most frequently occurring dream?

5.  Green thumb or black?

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Fashion Lies, Tan Lines and Garden Tips

Fashion as an art form interests me and I can see the beauty in styled fashion shoots, despite the whole issue of altered photos and their relation to body image.  Fashion rules don't appeal to me though and these rules along with changes, trends, dos and don'ts, In/Out lists etc, are all just about marketing.

If you have watched fashion perform its acts for more than a decade you have seen the same items and ways of wearing them declared hopelessly unflattering one year and then perfectly flattering and classic several years later.   Something that becomes popular (ie. a big seller) even if it actually breaks some rule about horizontal lines and chopping your legs in half or highlighting the thicker parts, will be flaunted and praised and promoted and sold to us as long as possible. 

When the rise and waist band positioning of jeans dropped drastically in the late nineties and early naughties we were told that this was a good thing because it was universally flattering and nobody mentioned muffin tops or the fact that we are all have longer or shorter rises ourselves.  High waisted jeans were hideous, unflattering, outdated and bad for everyone, we were told. The tide is turning, as it does, and not only are there a few more options available now in the form of the so called mid-rise (which is still lowish on my body)  the high rise is back and considered daring and avant-garde.  Little details will change so that you can't just haul out of the back of the closet some jeans you wore twenty years ago, unless your whole personal look is to be provocatively 'wrong'.  Someone twenty years younger than you are can wear those jeans though and look like she is deliberately doing retro-chic. 

You can, of course, call all of that crap, as it is in many ways.

The lesson, if you are paying attention, is not that there are any particular rules you have to follow, styles you have to wear to suit your body or avoid mistakenly point out all your body's widest parts (except the wide parts that are socially acceptable and desirable)  but that you should just wear whatever the hell you want to because the rules don't matter.  Even when they are technically correct, they don't matter, they will change, it's all a scam.  If you like it, wear it.  Yes, there are probably proportions and shapes that look more pleasing to the eye, but who says you have to please everyone's eyes?

Our eyes adjust to silhouettes that once startled us.  I have found myself eventually liking trends I initially thought looked silly, because after awhile I have seen the look everywhere and it normalises.  If it is very trendy, the appeal of looking 'in' sometimes outweighs doing what actually suits your body shape.  We are approaching a time when there are more options and we aren't trapped in only being able to buy or wear what is the current popular look, and I feel very hopeful that this will last.  Strangely it has taken ages for designers to realise that the more options there are the more they can sell to more people.  I would have thought that a no-brainer but I guess I'm a genius.

So I leave you with a photo of myself, wearing whatever the hell I please, faux pas, no-nos, and not perfectly flattering or trendy be damned!  This happens to be my signature look - a skirt under a dress.  The dress is purple (purple and green are one of my favourite combinations) but in this photo looks almost black, and so does my hair!  This is a barefoot around home look, typical of me but when I go out later tonight with my most beloved and handsome son, I will actually wear sandals.

 I always chuckle when you can see a tan line on me and it just proves that I am naturally even paler than what you usually see. Vanity compels me to add that the roll under my bust is the dress and not me.  I care enough to mention that, but not enough to give up the dress.

I snapped this quick pic of dresses hanging up to dry as evidence of just how colourful my wardrobe can actually be, even though, as with the pic above, the photo is a bit dark and dim.  I seem to get a bit more colourful in summer when the light is more intense.  I used that same principle in my garden, paler, softer colours in spring when the light is more diffused and still cool, brighter and stronger colours mid-summer under the light that is so intense it can make a soft pink flower looked washed out.  Purple and red flowers were always a favourite then.

Thursday, 18 June 2015



I walked on eggshells, tiptoed around
You, arranged life so as to keep the
Equilibrium, keep myself safe.

I couldn’t articulate this even to myself
Because although you hurt me
You did not raise a hand and left no marks.

You would have claimed there was no intent
To hurt, and you would have cried, withdrawn
Been made miserable had I told you.

I know, because I did try it.  I know that
Any time I tried to find a way to
Say, please, can we sort this out-

Aything that had hurt me became all
About how hurt you were now
And I became the comforter.

When things went wrong it was my fault
Or if there was nobody to blame but yourself
Then you were gloomy, withdrawn

I learned try to keep you from having to
Blame yourself or ever feel flawed
I daily lifted off the dark clouds, carried them if I had to

And if I couldn’t, I held my breath
And waited, and watched for the sun to return,
That precious sun  which increasingly came less often.

I petted and praised you but could not give
All that you wanted and I did not know
That it was because I was no longer safe

From criticism, betrayal, lack of trust or loyalty
I was open and exposed in your storm and I clung
To the only rock I knew-our marriage.

In some ways really am to blame-
I accept that for I helped to create you
Co-dependent they call it.

It was how I survived because not
Staying married was unthinkable and
Beyond how I had ever imagined my life.

I could not fail at this,  and it WAS my job
To hold it all together and make it work
To take the blame, to be wrong, to be the one who can’t

So that you could always be right
Feel strong and capable and I told myself
He’s a good man, just high maintenance.

That’s what made it difficult, the fact that
You are not entirely bad, in fact probably not
Even mostly bad, and so I made excuses.

I thought, or at least I told myself
And everyone else around me that
You were worth it and I was lucky.

You were controlling but I saw it as caring
And your criticisms I took to be high standards
My self doubt was easily exploitable.

One day in the middle of chaos and difficulty
You told me that you no longer loved me
Which really was quite obvious but

I held on.  I said, no, that cannot happen
And I set out to prove that you did actually
Love me and we belonged together.

I managed to convince you just in time for me
To finally realise you were right and
You did not love me and in seeing that

I fell out of love with you suddenly
With a near-audible thump
And I acted on it, shocking everyone, including you.

I was not healed, not cured immediately.
Though I found the strength to leave you
I still took the blame on myself.

I couldn’t admit that you were flawed
And I had made a mistake in choosing you
Or that you had stopped loving me.

The old habit of protecting you,
and thus myself, Remained
But eventually, slowly, I began to tell my truth.

I no longer love you and there was a time
When I was angry but that is gone now
And I can even like you sometimes.

We share a child, a wonderful child
And we share a long history which
I do not regret.

There were good times and I learned much
And I would not be who I am today
Without taking the path I took.

It turned out that I was stronger than you knew
Stronger than even you are, I think
Sometimes strong people make the mistake 

Of staying too long, thinking they can fix
What is not their responsibility to fix.
You and I did not work out and we both

Are responsible for that.
I take the lessons learned
and I move forward.

Coasting on the West Coast

The temperature has dropped a bit, which I don't really mind, and brings cool fresh air scented heavily with the briny beach aroma that brings tears to my eyes because I am a sensitive emotional sort of person who writes poetry.

Today I am stumbling around Blog Land trying to visit friends and keep up with everyone's absolute awesomeness.  I am amazed and thrilled on a daily basis to have found such an outstanding community of women, who inspire, elevate, support and encourage each other and celebrate the gift of being ourselves.  I am certain I do not manage to visit, support, encourage and cheer you all on enough and definitely not as much as I wish to but I will let you in on a secret.
You are helping me to grow in a way you may not have imagined just by your existence, just by being who you are.

When I began blogging I only had vague ideas of what I was doing.  There were a few false starts as this is essentially my third blog since 2009.  I wanted to write, I wanted my writing to connect with people somehow, I wanted to challenge myself to be brave enough to write and make it public.  I didn't have a theme, and still don't, I have never figured out what my brand is or how to sell myself or even if I wanted to.  I have a strong need to think and express myself in writing and a strong need to connect with people.   


I remain an introvert, someone who cannot sustain a very large quantity of connecting actively and this has become a large source of guilt.  I hold a belief that I do not deserve and should not expect any blog visitors unless I visit and comment on other blogs.  Add to this, that there are many blogs and bloggers I have discovered who I truly wish to visit and it becomes quickly overwhelming.  I am also aware that there are many successful blogs out there whose authors do not visit or follow all of their own followers.  I have briefly envied this arrangement at times and then realised that it lacks the very connections with people I so value.  The unwavering believe that people would be interested in me simply because of who I am and what I do and not because of what I give them is not a belief I was raised to hold. A belief that I do need to further develop is that my way of being and doing is enough.  It is fine.  And if I live in a way that is true to it I will naturally fall into alignment with similar people.

In having been raised not to be a selfish person, not to put myself first, not to self promote, some of my efforts in a new direction have been a struggle and if you know anything about me, you know I tend to over-think, or as I like to say, think-over, pretty nearly everything.  Whether it was intended or not, the message I got when growing up was that what would make me likeable would be selflessness.  No ego, no self promotion, no putting myself first, service to others, this was the way of my grandmother and my mother.  I am often like this myself but anytime I deviate from it the guilt is enormous. Or perhaps it is fear.  Yes, I think more honestly it may be fear.  Fear that I will not be liked for who I am but only for what I do for others. In my limited social world offline-no limited is not the best word but at the moment I cannot find another-I do not have to worry about this too much.  I have fewer than ten friends and family members altogether whose company I genuinely enjoy and am willing to give up my alone time for.  I have created a world for myself where I can manage the balance of give and take, and I learned a great many lessons about this in a dysfunctional marriage as well.

I am still learning.  I am always learning how to make my way successfully through life.  I learn from my mistakes and I share what I've learned here.  If my blog has a theme, that's what it is:  One woman determinedly making her way through life, stumbling sometimes, but getting back up again.


I was going to apologise to those of you who read this blog looking for clothing and style inspiration but then I changed my mind.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Poems on Love and Love Ended


You replaced me very quickly,
Though at first you didn’t want me to go and insisted
You would take me back, lucky me, if I changed my mind.

You spent a few months devastated and then
Jumped into online mate searching.
After about a year of false starts you found someone.

I can’t help but notice how desperately you
Did not want to live alone and needed to
Quickly fix that state

And I wonder if it is because
when you are alone
There is no one else to blame for anything.

Because You Exist

Because you exist the sun shines brighter
The sky is bluer, the roses small sweeter
And it’s not that it all didn’t delight
My senses before,
In those days when you were not mine
And I was not yours.
It’s the way I appreciate them more
Because they are making the world a beautiful place
For you, just as you make it a beautiful place for me.

The Real Reason

I am not sexy but he thinks I am
And why would I argue?
I am not conventionally pretty
But he thinks I am beautiful so
I shall not complain.
But the real reason I am in love?
It is because he sees more,
Beyond that, above that,
And I display all my flaws,
Throw them in his face
And say-Look see!  Not lovable.
He laughs and says,
Try again.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Self Esteem, Confidence and Courage

     I have never been accused of having low self esteem, though it has occurred to me that because I share more of my inner world on this blog than people see in my daily life, I may seem to have lower self esteem than I actually do.  Not that it matters, because the reality is all that matters, but if it is my intention to be useful or helpful by sharing my own experiences then I don't want to give inaccurate or imbalanced impressions.  I wrote recently about my experiences accepting my body and I attempted to distill a lifetime (48 years) of experience, thoughts, strategies and conclusions into that one post. After, I wondered if what some people read there lead them to feel the need to tell me that my body is a good body and possibly even a better body than their own in some ways so I should not worry. 
       I can only say,  Thank you, for the kind intentions, but don't do that to yourself.  To some degree we could all do that.  In everything we will be able to find someone who we can perceive as better than we are.  And you know how that proverbial grass is always greener.  There was a time in my life when I actually wished for a bigger bust and fuller arms. I even wished for a thicker waist.   I thought I was skinny, unfeminine and badly proportioned.   I can only laugh at that insanity as I got what I wished for and have not found it to be any better.

     We may see others' features as perfect or flawless when of course they are not, or if they are close to it in one feature they will surely have one or two features they dislike.  I have never met a person, male or female who didn't have at least one feature (s)he saw as flawed or undesirable.  What matters is how much we focus on that.  The strategy I tried to present was what works for me to shut down the negative words by retraining my brain to have a different thought.  I don't try to convince myself I am beautiful or perfect but to replace "those arms are fat" with "I like those arms"

     The person who those arms belong to, the person inside this body, I like very much.  She is familiar and comfortable and I am at ease with her.  She has strengths and she has flaws and I am comfortable with all of them even if I set out to grow and improve in some way.  If asked to rate my self-esteem I would predict that it is average/adequate though not necessarily high.  I think this is just fine.  I am not convinced high self-esteem is a virtue and I know that my levels of self-esteem fluctuate in different areas.   I think I do often have an attitude of humility which gets mistaken for low confidence.  I personally think that I am pretty awesome, but I tend not to assume others think so.  This does not translate to low self esteem as much as to self sufficiency, though it also doesn't mean that I don't appreciate being appreciated.   If you are like this too, don't let others convince that you have to become some sort of cheerleader for yourself.  We all have different ways of being.

     I set the bar high in most things and am inclined to think that if I can reach the bar then it was set too low.  Again, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.  I don't beat myself up over it, I just keep trying to get better and as a writer and artist I want to strive to improve constantly, but I don't want to get discouraged.  That means I need a balance of satisfaction with my own work along with some dissatisfaction, some sort of desire to do it better next time.  It is quite typical of me to to go back and forth feeling satisfaction in my work and then thinking no, it is crap, and then perhaps altering it a little and liking it again.  If I didn't go through that process of thinking it is crap, I would not strive to improve it, and I would not really know if it could be made better or just different or if it works best as it is already.

Confidence vs Courage:  These two look similar but are different internally, largely in how much or what type of thought goes into them. When you act with courage you have said to yourself, okay I've done this before or had some experience with this before, I know what to expect, I have some sort of plan of attack, so I can take this on.  It will probably turn out okay and if not, I can survive that.  Confidence is a bit more vague, more connected to thoughts such as, I'm awesome so I can do that.  It is a belief in oneself, a faith, and the very definition of faith is belief without evidence.  It is not a bad thing, but it may actually be more difficult to sustain.  I am inclined to think that finding your courage is more long lasting.  If you know that you have survived something before, or even thrived, you can take it on again.

One of my own personal strategies for taking on difficult things is to find a way to relate it to an experience I have already had and then using that, imagine the worst that could happen.  I then figure out how I would cope with that worst thing.  Once I have a plan or strategy in mind I can tackle the task much more easily.

     We talk of body confidence but I wonder if what we really want is the courage to accept and like our bodies.  Given that we live in a culture that tells us what the ideals are and points out to us how we don't live up to that, there is a risk that if we like ourselves anyhow, if we dare not to hide our flaws, we might be ridiculed, scorned, or disapproved of.  Body confidence is the courage to cope with that.  To learn to care less and hopefully not care at all.  It is the courage to like yourself in an environment telling you that you are not likable.  It is knowing there is no such thing as perfection and that we are all good enough and having the courage to act accordingly.  I intend to aim for the courage to like my body as well as I like my non-corporeal self.  For me, that has always been a little bit harder but I've come a long way.

                         Gratuitous cat photos: Naughty and Nice

                                    Naughty carpet scratching

                  Strategic use of cuteness to cover up for the naughtiness.


Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Radical Self Love In Baby Steps

The term is somewhat new to me but of course the concept of loving myself isn't.  Perfection doesn't exist but being perfectly myself is a different matter.

It is very difficult to simplify, for the sake of easy reading, the journey I have been on in order to recover from the damage caused by falling into a hole.  My experience is not an uncommon one for women, as many of us are taught to value self sacrifice, to put others first, and from there it seemed that for me it was an easy fall from self denial to simply believing that I was wrong.  Wrong as I am, who I am, what I think, do, believe, perceive, all of it wrong.  Perhaps eventually  I will figure out how to tell this story in a way that may be useful to others.

For now I am going to deal with my physical body.  A body that does not match up with the cultural ideal of beauty or health.  A body which I had become very skilled at labelling with wrongness.  You may know the drill:  arms too fat/thin (or thighs or tummy or toes or any and all parts); this part too long, that part too short, this bit too wobbly, that part too (insert something unacceptable here).   And I despaired of not being able to fix these 'problems'.  We are taught to view our body as a collection of problems.  We are told how to dress for or exercise away 'problem areas'.  Fix them or at least hide them, and of course, be ashamed.  With the rise of the internet has come a rise in punishing images disguised as inspiration.  There was thinspo-the inspiration to lose weight coming from images of supposed thin perfection, thigh gap included, but some degree of backlash resulted and now thinspo is often disguised as fitspo-the inspiration to be physically fit, which is defined as lean, muscular and hopefully possessing six pack abs.  In response to these there is also the fat acceptance movement and health at every size movement which for some people is not inspiring because it presents yet another ideal they cannot live up to, which is unabashedly loving their body despite it not fitting the cultural ideal.

Sometimes fighting fire with fire really does work.  In wildfire situations, deliberate controlled burning of an area can stop the spread of an advancing fire because when it reaches the control-burned spot there is nothing left to feed it.  In order to fight fire with fire metaphorically with regards to my body, I decided that I had to change the words in my head.  How the words in my head got there is complicated but essentially they are a result of a lifetime of believing there are things 'wrong' with my body and that I must fix or change and if changing them is actually impossible then I must mentally berate myself about these 'flaws'.  Wow, that is not sane but the last thing I need to do is beat myself up over having fallen into that trap.  I am not exactly like, perhaps not even much like, the cultural ideal and even in the ways I am there is nothing in that which determines my value.  NOTHING.  There are many things that are the popular taste which I do not personally find appealing myself and I have never thought I was wrong because of this.  So why would I think I could be wrong to like my body the way it is even though messages abound telling me what I should admire and aspire to.

I am tall, white, relatively slender and have obviously female body parts, which is useful since I identify as female.  I have no deformities of feature.  These are my privileges.  This makes my life easier to navigate than what some people experience because these are features which put me that much closer to the cultural ideals for females.  If you asked me to I could create a much longer list of the strikes against me.  This list would not only involve all of the ways I do not meet the cultural standards of feminine beauty, it would also include the ways in which my ability to improve my appearance through physical fitness are impeded by my chronic illness.  How did I get to the point where I thought having such a mental list was acceptable? 

It became clear to me that in order to fight fire with fire, I had to change the way I talked to myself and about myself in order to overcome the damaging words I had allowed to be imposed on me.  This was not easy at first but frequently taking photos for the sake of this blog helped.  At first I looked at images of myself trying to figure out how to improve what I saw.  I looked at the flaws to be hidden or fixed or simply despaired.  In time my thoughts evolved to an understanding that my body is what it is.  There is only so much I can change or disguise and where is the value in constantly believing that I need to do those things?  Why live with a negative perception of myself when it serves no purpose?

The only purpose it serves, is to make me feel dissatisfied and a dissatisfied person seeks solutions, often in the form of something to purchase and THAT is why we are externally bombarded with messages that teach us to perceive our bodies negatively.  If someone wants to sell us something, convince us that we need something, whether that something is a product or a belief system, we must be convinced that we are in need of fixing somehow.  We must be told that we have flaws and continuously shamed for them.  This is also a successful form of gaining power and for this reason body shaming, body critiquing, the message that however you look it is just not right, not good enough, possibly even hideous, is pervasive in our culture.

I know, I am taking a long time to explain how I fight fire with fire.  Gradually, after seeing photos of myself constantly I began to grow tired of criticising myself.  I began to see that I was much more critical of myself than I was of other people.  That I might actually look at another body similar to my own and find it beautiful.  Why was I not applying the same view to myself?  I didn't know the answer to that but I did know that I could retrain my brain.  That I could, with practice change my thinking.  So I set out to do that and at first it was forced.  I won't mislead you about that.  At first it felt a bit silly and artificial.  I considered it rehab.  I looked at my reflection and I admired what I saw.  I used words to myself to describe what I saw positively.  After all, it is just as easy to say 'lovely plump arms' as it is to say 'ugly plump arms'.  Saying leads to believing.  It does.  Just look at any religion.

Yoga employs a practice of gratitude.  Gratitude towards your own body for what it can do.  I always had trouble with that because I was scornful of saying 'thank you arms, for lifting up that fork today, I was so pleased to be able to eat'  when what I wanted to say was 'thank you arms for being so strong you can do handstands and you look great in a sundress.'  But I started to do it anyway. "Thank you body, for sitting up today so that I could type my poems.  Thank you arms and hands for holding a paintbrush today.  Thank you feet, you are rather nicely shaped.  Thank you neck for holding up my head.  Hey, legs, you are rather pleasingly sturdy."  The more I say this the more it cancels out the negative thoughts.  I do not always believe what I am saying one hundred percent.  I have to apply a good kick in the pants to any countering negative thought that might try to pop up in response.  It takes time and practice.

Radical self love should not be named that.  It should not be considered radical but sometimes it feels as though it is to begin with.  I am not alone in struggling to accept the body that I have, to be kind to it, to actually like it.  Telling myself that it was vain and bad and wrong to even care was not getting me anywhere.  It was just more self abuse, more criticism, more 'shoulds'.  I did care, I do have a body, I am me and none of that is wrong.  In order to believe that, I need to chant the mantras.  It's just one method.  A method that is working for me.  If you are looking for a method, perhaps it will work for you too.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

On Ink Blots and Memoirs

It is inevitable that I will get black ink blotches on things.  Fabric things.  It's only a matter of time and really likely to be a very short time.  I am occupied today in trying to get a black ink blotch off the ratty old bedspread I use to cover my even rattier sofa.  What is the point?  I should get a new sofa but I keep saying I will get this ancient one refreshed and recovered and that never happens.  I have other things to do like writing and dropping my pens on it.

Apparently it is not my day, as something has gone wrong with my camera and I have no idea what.  My knowledge and skills with this camera are about equivalent to what I know about using my macbook.  Limited.  The camera is not saving any photos I take except the last one and no photos, including the last one will load from camera to computer.  It is possible I have inadvertently changed some sort of setting but I am clueless.  There were dozens of lovely pictures of Miss Mathilda in the sunshine, posing with her toys and generlly being gorgeous but they are gone so I have none to share here.

I am, however, a glass half full sort of person so  today I focus on the great phone chat I had with my far away brother, the beautiful sunny day, and the potential for me to go and get some ice cream this evening.  I have been craving ice cream for two days now so clearly something must be done and I am the woman to do it!

                                I leave you with a short memoir piece.


I had never seen Grandma in the water.  It was true that I had a vague understanding that on pleasant spring weekends, early in the morning, she and Grandpa went fishing, on some lake I had never seen, in an aluminum boat I could not really picture them sitting in.  She wore a skirt to go fishing, that I knew, because she wore a skirt to do everything.  Weeding the garden, french-slicing green beans with the largest knife I had ever seen, cooking, cleaning, walking the dogs, shopping for groceries or entertaining her two grandchildren, Grandma always wore a navy blue gaberdine skirt, navy blue low heeled pumps and a button up blouse, perhaps a cardigan if it were cold.  She had fluffy white hair which she compared to a dandelion seed, startling blue eyes and lots of wrinkles.  I thought she was beautiful and looked just as a Grandma should.   She was around seventy but if you’d asked me I might have said eighty.  Few seven year olds have a good grasp of adult ages, especially once grey hair is involved.  It was on a warm summer day, while having the care of her two grandchildren for two weeks, that Grandma, in a green shirtwaist dress that was a rare departure from the blue skirt, took my younger brother and me fishing at the wharf.

We had our own child-sized fishing rods and movement inhibiting life vests, the orange canvas type with a keyhole shape you popped your head through.  For some reason, perhaps because it was an easy way to transport them, my brother and I had to wear these life vests for the duration of the ten minute walk from Grandma’s house to the wharf.  I was mortified and hoped nobody from school would see me.  It was too much to ask that nobody at all witness what to me felt like the equivalent of the cone-collar of shame for a dog, but somehow we arrived at the wharf not having encountered anyone I knew.  Then came the horror of the worms.  Worms, apparently dug out of the garden earlier, were to be applied to the fishing hook.  They were to be impaled while wriggling in protest and their slimy writhing bodies had to be touched.  None of this appealed to me but this is where younger brothers can come in handy. 

It didn’t take too long for worse things to happen.  There was a tug on my fishing line, which meant something living, something with goggly eyes and slimy scales was at the other end.  I thought of picture book stories where disappointed fishermen caught old boots and wished that such stories could be true.   Somehow, despite my complete lack of desire to reel in whatever might be there, an excitedly hopping younger brother and a calm, capable grandmother combined their energies to land my fish.   It came flopping and protesting onto the wooden wharf, an eel-like fish, long and thin, an image that is forever printed in my memory.  We didn’t keep it.  Somehow this eel-fish was quick returned to its watery home and with a splash Grandma had joined it.

I knew, if ever I knew anything, that grandmothers did not belong in the ocean.  I knew that if they disappeared under the water completely, followed by a succession of  tissues escaping the various places in which they were previously tucked and floating across the surface of the water, that this would be the worst thing that had yet happened that day.  Or maybe ever.  Hours later, or perhaps seconds, Grandma’s head broke the surface of the water, wet, white and with her glasses still in place.  “Grandma,” I exclaimed. “You are in the water!”

“Have you still got your shoes?”  I asked.  She had.

She tread water calmly while I was frantically hatching plans, action must be taken, Grandma must be rescued and I, as the eldest grandchild, had to ensure it.  “I will run home and get Grandpa,”  I suggested.

“No!” She dismissed that idea quickly.

“There are people, I can hear them on a boat over there. I will go and get them.”

“Don’t you dare!” She said even more emphatically.

She continued to bob gently, arms waving gracefully in the water.  I could see about half of her and noted that her dress cooperatively stayed down.  Having spent much of my childhood thus far wearing dresses to school and to play in, I knew how uncooperative they could be and how in an instant they could be up around your neck from too much windy weather or too much hanging upside down on the monkeybars.  I understood the risks that were the issue here, to her modesty as well as to her life.  More unknown quantities of time passed and then a young man appeared in a row boat.  He had previously been at enough of a distance as to not quite register in our peripheral vision or our consciousness but suddenly he was there, climbing out of the rowboat and onto the wharf and then with few words, pulling our sodden grandmother out of the water.  There were a few more brief words and then he was gone, back into his rowboat and disappearing back into that periphery where the superheroes wait until next they are needed.