A Sunday freebie ..

Playing with old pictures while learning the basics of a new collage maker.  One of the perks of qualifying for Medicare is enjoying your own baby pics again and it makes me happy to see how happy this little girl was, whether reading, sitting in the chiggers, saying “Huh?” or plotting her escape from the farm, baby in tow.  Also my mom dressed me in a mini-skirt, a cool sweater, and a beret??  She clearly thought there was a future for me at one point.   

Judy2x4

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Helloooooo ???

A note to all of my Word Press friends:

I MISS you!!  My summer started in Stress mode and is ending in Omigosh, Life is So Good mode.  I’ve hardly written a thing all summer and my spirit is drying up on the inside of me.  Must get back to solitude and expression SOON.  Bottom line, friends … we are in the process of moving.  Not only moving but downscaling by 2,000 sq. ft.  It’s something we want with all our hearts … but a bit challenging.  As long as you’re having fun everything’s fine, right?

The move will be completed soon and I’ll be back to tell you all about it.  Can’t wait!

Finding out who you really are …

I read an article this morning by Anne Lamott that latched onto my molecules and won’t let go.  Anne is one of my most favorite writers anywhere, ever, in all the world, because she’s honest.  She’s so honest she makes me flinch sometimes.  And I love it.  The article is here if you want to read it.  http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-To-Find-Out-Who-You-Really-Are-by-Anne-Lamott .  I’m not usually a purveyor of O Magazine, but hey, Facebook.

Which segues directly into what Anne did for me this morning.  I’d been thinking for days … weeks, really … about tweaking my friends list to make it a little more honest.  Who has 350 actual friends, let alone wildly imaginative totals like 1,600?  Or 6,000?  I’ve seen those numbers and recognized them for exactly the popularity contest they represent, all the while knowing that there was no good reason for my own list of acquaintances to hold upwards of 400 names — at one time even topping 500.  As with everyone on social media, there were at least 400 explanations as to how all those names got there, some of them not valid enough to warrant their staying.  Anne’s ruthlessly straightforward article finally gave me the kick in the butt I needed to perform surgery.

Forty-seven excisions later, the list is starting to more closely line up with what my daily/weekly/monthly interactions on Facebook look like.  There will be further cuts, but my brain already feels freer, lighter … more honest.  It irks me when someone sends me a friend request and then never says hey.  There were a lot of those.  Of the people left, 58 of them are family.  They don’t have to like me, in fact it’s highly probable that some of them have hidden me due to my intermittent political yammering, but it’s unlikely that I’ll be deleting any of them.  Family is family.  The other 251 consist either of people I’ve shared a relationship with in this life, or beautiful souls I’ve met via Facebook, and it would be impossible to say which group I feel closer to, even though it’s unlikely I’ll ever have a face-to-face meeting with most of those in Group Two.  It was revealing to me that when I scrolled through the list to get a count of family members, I had to stop repeatedly and think “Is he/she a cousin?  No.  Hmm.”

Anne’s beautiful article is entitled “Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be,” and this quote is so liberating I may print it on a card and put it where my eyes will land on it every day.  ” … you are probably going to have to deal with whatever fugitive anger still needs to be examined—it may not look like anger; it may look like compulsive dieting or bingeing or exercising or shopping. But you must find a path and a person to help you deal with that anger. It will not be a Hallmark card. It is not the yellow brick road, with lovely trees on both sides, constant sunshine, birdsong, friends. It is going to be unbelievably hard some days—like the rawness of birth, all that blood and those fluids and shouting horrible terrible things—but then there will be that wonderful child right in the middle. And that wonderful child is you, with your exact mind and butt and thighs and goofy greatness.”

I realized some time ago that it makes me angry when other people tell me who I should be.  Spitting cursing angry.  So I don’t let people do that to me anymore.  By the same token, I found that having people lurking on my Facebook page who never talked to me, never shared anything with me, never gave me anything of themselves to hang onto, get to know, be interested in, made me the same kind of angry.  Fair or not, my antenna picked up judgment.  And I decided I didn’t need it.

Facebook, as pitiful as it may sound, is a huge part of my social life.  And now it feels a whole lot warmer and friendlier than it did when I got up this morning.  My page is just that — mine.  It’s good to be Queen.  Thank you, Anne Lamott for being an honest, vulnerable human being and for gifting me with the wisdom you’ve gained from your joyous take on life.

The Power of Memory

The sequel to my Raised in a Barn piece …

My son is an only child, so I asked him once how much he’d minded growing up “in solitary.”  He told me he’d liked having his own room and possessions without having to worry about siblings messing everything up, and he enjoyed all the attention and the regular proximity to adults and their world, but his one regret was that he had no one to share his memories.  There was no brother or sister involved in the events of his childhood, no one to corroborate or contradict now when the stories start, no contemporary to help keep the memories alive when Mom and Dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all gone.  And implicit in all of it was the fact that there was no one to share the blame when things went south.

I, on the other hand, am blessed with sisters — two of them.  And we had a younger brother whose memory is sweet beyond words.  When my sisters and I are together it’s all about the memories.  Even when we aren’t actively talking about the past it’s there, part and parcel of who we are.

We had no shortage of memory-making opportunities during our growing-up years.  We lived on a farm, across a gravel driveway from our grandparents, so we had plenty of space, including two good-sized houses, for inventing make-believe.  We built forts in the barn and tent cities in the house, decorated dollhouses upstairs and down, strung paper dolls, Baby Linda dolls, Barbie dolls and their wardrobes from one end of the house to the other, set up tea parties in Grandma’s garden, made mud pies in front of the playhouse.  Whatever fantasy world a child is capable of creating, we most likely did.  And possibly the most interesting, compelling, and fabulous fun to be had was playing dress-up in Grandma’s attic.

Getting there was a bit of a trek.  The stairway was hidden behind a wall in the kitchen and accessed by a door.  Once we stepped up onto the landing, the view was straight up the narrow staircase, with not much hint of what lay beyond.  It was always perfectly still up there and the air felt heavy.  We could hear wasps buzzing in the windows, but we knew from experience that if we left them alone they could probably be counted on to return the favor.  Every once in a while Grandma would go up there with a big pair of scissors and methodically cut off their heads, which we found deliciously cold and efficient on her part.  Of course it only added to her cred, and we already tended to obey her faster than we did our mom.  This is the same grandma who pinched the heads off the red and black box-elder bugs she found crawling across her floors and feared neither snake nor spider in her garden.

There was a shallow ledge parallel to the stairs which served as storage area for an intriguing assortment of items, both old and newer, but there wasn’t much time to take it all in as we had to concentrate on not tumbling back down to the bottom.  At the top was a bookcase holding musty old volumes, including my first acquaintance with Gone With the Wind.  It literally fell apart before I got to “Frankly, my dear …”.  Also sitting on the shelves were several of our dad’s iron toys from childhood.  Those heavy cars and trucks and cleverly-designed coin banks brought a nice sum years later when our parents held their retirement auction.

I don’t recall venturing up that staircase alone until about junior high.  It wasn’t so much creepy up there as heavy with history and the weight of lives lived, and it just seemed better experienced in the company of others.  Our dad’s model airplanes still hung silently from the ceiling of his former bedroom, and the pictures on the walls beckoned us back to an era we knew very little about.  There was an old feather mattress on the bed in the biggest room, and everything had a patina of dust that made it seem as though nothing had been touched since the original occupants, our dad and his brother, went off to take up lives of their own.

The space held enough mystery to provide the perfect setting for make-believe, so it naturally followed that we and our friends would spend hours on lazy summer days assembling just the right outfits and posing for Grandma and her old Brownie box camera.  We had a wealth of treasures to choose from, as the bedrooms included slant-ceilinged unfinished closets tucked under the eaves, full of a wondrous array of dresses, hats, gloves, jewelry, shoes, jackets and coats dating from the late 1800s forward.  Flowing crepe dresses, hats with veils, long gloves, moth-nibbled fur coats and stoles, all of which we set off with bright red lipstick and old-lady face powder.  Our grandparents’ house wasn’t air-conditioned so the upper story was stifling hot in the summer, but we didn’t mind.  We were having far too much fun to worry about it.

It’s a simple memory, this one.  No big drama happened, no momentous story.  Nothing to see here, folks, might as well move along.  Just ever-changing groups of young girls trying adulthood on for size.

Speaking of size, it strikes me that our feminine forebears must have been truly petite, delicate women.  Incredibly, I see my four-year-old self wearing a dress that looks only slightly too large for me, albeit too long, and other photographs tell the same story.

I can only wonder at the patience it took for our grandparents to listen to us clomping endlessly up and down the stairs, giggling and chattering nonstop.  And amazingly, I don’t remember any of us ending up in a heap at the bottom.  Or maybe since it didn’t happen to me my brain thinks it didn’t happen at all.  One thing we didn’t do at Grandma’s house was argue.  At the first sign of trouble all she had to do was remind us quietly, “If you quarrel, you’ll have to go home, remember?” and everything was suddenly copacetic again.

When we finally tired of the game, I’m sure it was left to her to restore order to those magical closets, even though it was part of the deal that we at least try.  I do know that we three sisters would give a lot to go back and thank our grandparents for all they contributed to our lives in countless ways.  They were a huge part of the rich, full childhood we enjoyed and took for granted, and there’s really no way to overestimate the value of that kind of heritage.

Katie and Judy dress_up

My cousin Katie and I.  She was eight or nine and I was four years old.

Me with my friends Karen and Jo.
Judy_Karen_Jo

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Best Moment Award

Best-Moment-Award

Awarding the people who live in the moment,

The noble who write and capture the best in life,

The bold who reminded us what really mattered –

Savoring the experience of quality time.

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Oh my goodness, I can’t believe this!  Wow.  I don’t even have a speech prepared, I just came to the banquet with a friend!

Well … gosh … think!  Um … well, first of all, thank you to the Academy, the Board, all my fellow bloggers, and especially to “Moment Matters!”  It means everything to me to receive this prestigious award — I didn’t even know I’d been nominated!

I also, of course, must thank my wonderful son, and my husband, the love of my life, for encouraging me to start blogging.  I have a lifetime of experiences, memories, losses, victories, pain, joy, the entire life spectrum, from which to draw.  Many people who mattered to me are gone … many who make life beautiful are still with me and bring me deep happiness every day.

Special recognition like a “Best Moment Award” would seem to imply some sort of niceness in a person, which comes as a surprise to me until I remember that people can’t see the thought bubbles that appear above my head as I blow through life.  Hahaha!

Oh dear, the music’s playing, I have to get off the stage, but thank you all SO MUCH!  I will never forget this …

http://www.momentmatters.com/best-moment-award-03082013a/

Out of the loop …

I’m baaaaa-ack — didja’ miss me?  Just one of those times when life piles on and full attention is required elsewhere.  Changes get made, exhaustion takes its toll, adjustments are required, and life moves on.  Had a wonderful two days away with my sweetie-pie, and a few other perfectly fine distractions were enjoyed, and now you get my smiling face once again.  Hope all’s well in your world!

 

brand new day

 

 

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Let’s talk about happiness …

Daily Prompt

“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?

Am I living happily ever after?  The short answer is yes.  The long-form answer can be found in my January 30 post entitled “Behind Every Good Woman is a Good Man!”   The TMI answer is tucked safely away in my heart.

A happy life seems, in the end, to be part luck, part result of cumulative choices, part magic … and to stem in large measure from a willingness to work hard and to know when you have it good.

Living happily ever after doesn’t necessarily hinge on having a fairytale “other” to share your life with … but in my world it has certainly helped!

Wedding

Snow day pursuits …

took a nap

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A little perspective …

Daily Prompt: Buffalo Nickel        February 24, 2013
Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find.  What were you doing that year?

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Since I’ve never been so lucky as to find money in a couch or on the floor of my car, I pulled a penny out of my billfold and checked the date — 1979.  Total recall would be handy … but what I know for sure is that my son was nine years old, we were living on our farm, and I was ten years into what was intended to be my first and only marriage.

The farm was miles from any town and there were no neighbors my age, so I remember perpetually wishing for girlfriends to spend time with.  I was lonely out there most of the time, but I stayed busy cooking, cleaning, doing laundry … school activities with John … feeding cattle … bottle-feeding baby calves … some part-time employment … and later on, driving tractors and combines.  And reading.  Always, always reading.

The years that preceded and followed 1979 helped to cement independence, self-sufficiency, patience, and a whole lot of other things into my nature, all of which I was able to tap into when my husband was killed in a harvest accident in 2003.  Looking back from that vantage point, 1979 seems like a very simple time with no problems whatsoever.  And little true loneliness.

blank penny

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/daily-prompt-this-year/

What I really want …

… is to write funny.  Funny ha-ha, not hieroglyphics.  Ever since I was a precocious child entertaining my aunts and uncles with my fancy vocabulary (and how many jaded adults did I completely annoy the bejeebers out of?), I’ve thrived on making people laugh.  I apparently told someone that my name was Agnes Opal from Constantinople (never underestimate the power of a mom who reads to you), and it stuck.  To at least one uncle I’ll always be Agnes Opal.

That episode is vaguely embarrassing to me now, but the joy of spitting out genuinely funny stuff embedded itself in my psyche early on.  I sit here every day and read the giggle and belly-laugh producing stuff my blogger friends post, and wish I’d thought of it.  That’s  me being honest, folks.

But life is life and truth is truth.  And what I’m apparently programmed to write about is memories.  I have a lot of them, and I now have the dubious distinction of being the eldest in my immediate family.  Both sets of grandparents are gone.  My parents are gone.  All of my in-laws are gone.  My brother is gone, and even though he was the youngest, he had the closest ties to the farm and would probably remember things I never knew.  My sisters moved away fairly early on, and are both younger than I, so by default I’ve become The Keeper of the Secrets.  For the most part, they’re secrets that need to be told for preservation’s sake … and the mission seems to have fallen to me.

The truth to which we’re all called to be faithful is this …

From your Soul

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Oh darn …

Forgot the Gym

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Just so you know …

Will Work

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Give me a reason, I dare you …

act my age

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Dear little me …

dear little me

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Yes!

cape and tiara

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