Bees 8 - Virginia 0

The bees, if they could talk, would’ve called it a home invasion. They’d dug their dwelling place in the ground, and for all I know, had hung a sign that said “Home Sweet Home.” They would’ve said they were going about their morning routines, just keeping body and soul together. They would’ve said, “Mine, mine, mine.”
The land belonged to us. We had bought and paid for it ten years earlier when we decided to make Hattiesburg our permanent home. Countless hours in the yard and copious quantities of sweat added to my feeling of possession and left me a bit overanxious about weeds making an appearance. I was trying to get them out of my flowerbed. I would have said, “Mine, mine, mine.”
As I yanked out that clump of weeds, the bees attacked. In the battle for ownership, I lost overwhelmingly. Nursing my wounds with outdated creams, meat tenderizer, and my husband’s cure for all things – hydrogen peroxide – I held a pity party for myself. I had been besieged at my own house in my own yard. And then – as it often does – my mother’s voice kicked in.
This time it was from the vantage point of my memory of two double beds where Mama read a favorite Psalm at the end of her bedtime reading to her four daughters. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1
Perhaps, the bees and I need to think of a way to share joint tenancy to what is really ours on a very temporary basis.



Claiming My Slippers

 “The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more.”  From Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I love finding a sentence or paragraph in a book that requires me to stop and relish the words. It’s even better if the phrase sends my mind down a rabbit path chasing an idea. This quote brought up one of my favorite subjects – shoes. There are some slippers I don’t own. There are no dancing shoes – not because of Mama’s Baptist ban on dancing but because I’ve discovered both my feet are lefts. There are no shoes for an art studio, nor any for singing arias at the opera. I find I hardly miss these shoes when I open the closet and see my own.

• My walkers take me for a couple of turns at the mall nearly every morning and up and down my steep hill twice daily. These aren’t my favorite shoes unless I concentrate on their benefit to my health and longevity.
• My Grasshoppers with holes where there used to be laces are just right for pruning shrubs that have grown too big for their spaces, digging holes for new plants, and raking pine straw to keep down weeds and border flower beds. They’re too worn for me to care about their filth or remember their original color.

• My white sandals reveal coral toenails that peek out beneath my swirling skirt. They match my mood as I serve as docent of the day for the Golden Kite Golden Dreams Exhibit featuring thirty-five years of award-winning children’s book illustrations at the local art gallery. What fun to answer the second and third graders’ eager questions about the art they’re seeing!

• The silver slippers go with my hot pink silver-threaded dress to celebrate a Golden Anniversary. In attendance were my extended family including all my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They joined friends new and old, from near and far, including Internationals who snapped pictures to send back to China.

• My Sunday red patent leathers take me to choir where we sing “Hear, me. Hear, me. Hear me, Redeemer. Send down your love to cleanse my soul.”

• The professional pumps go to meetings where I speak about teaching children, about writing, about life, about …

• And my new white Keds accompany my denim suit on a plane to visit grandchildren, to see the fifty states, to travel for business or just for fun.

Who knew I would wind up with a closet so full of shoes or that I would love wearing them? This life exceeds expectations for a shy pig-tailed girl who grew up in North Mississippi – waiting for warm weather so she could run barefoot – shoeless and free across newly mown grass, through shaded woods, and down slippery red clay banks. I think I shan’t die searching and bitter, feeling I was promised more.



Missing Normal? - Not Me

The theme of “not normal” extended through my recent birthday. It began with a card from my oldest son’s family. The outside said, “Ever noticed how in every family there’s one person who’s shockingly normal?” The inside said, “We should get ourselves one of those.” One abnormality may be that our family always eschews sentiment in favor of a good laugh for birthday cards.

In the late afternoon, my daughter’s birthday gift was delivered – Shel Silverstein’s new Everything On It. Now I’m pretty sure that normal people with college-aged grandchildren don’t expect the latest Shel Silverstein for a present. But Anna knew the spot on the bookcase where I kept my second grade teaching favorites Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. The spot was missing the end of the trilogy, and she likes completion.

The end of the theme came in a card from my sister Beth (the one who used to be a pest). The front said, “Return with us to that fateful day when the doctor who delivered you said to your mother…” The inside said, “Look, lady, I just deliver ‘em. I don’t explain ‘em.” Beth added her own comment, “And we are still looking for an explanation.” (I told you she was a pest.)

My conclusion is that I don’t miss normal one whit. Normal people with AARP cards aren’t chuckling over APPLE WITH ONE BITE MISSING and THE LOVETOBUTCANTS. Now if I can just locate a second grader to share the fun…


About This Blog Title

 What do you name a blog? The good names I know are catchy and define the writing in some way. “Editorial Anonymous,” by an unnamed book editor, gives delicious writing advice. Shadra Strickland’s “Living the Dream” hints at satisfaction in her work as an illustrator. Jane Yolen’s “Telling-the-True-a-Writers-Journal” includes the good, the bad, and the middling – even a count of her latest rejection letters.

When I began my life journey, the education talk was about the three “r’s” – readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic. I soon had my preferences. I could do the first fairly well before I started to school, thanks to a mother who couldn’t bear to have an illiterate five-year-old on her hands. Kindergarten, in rural North Mississippi, did not exist.

I could do the ‘rithmetic. I just found it boring. Consider that 7 + 6 = 13 on Monday. It will not change over the course of the next week – or next month – or next year. You get the picture. Same. Same. Same.

Words in the reading books, on the other hand, changed from cover to cover. Open a new book and it might begin:

  • “ ‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”
  • Or “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.”
  • Or my all time favorite book, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
  • Even today, the first sentence in a book excites me. My current favorite is Richard Peck’s, “If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad month for it,” from The Teacher’s Funeral.

Of course, my readin’ led to ‘ritin’. What a world for experimenting! I took quickly to ‘ritin’ and found it chock full of possibilities. Move those words around. Make a poem. A story. A riveting opinion piece. How I blessed the teachers who gave essay exams! If I knew even a tad about a topic, I could take words and spin an answer.

As for the ‘rithmetic, the numbers went higher and the problems became more complex, but once you learned how to set up an algebra equation and the order for working it, you were back to same, same, same. Like a spoonful of sugar, it did help if the set-up was a word problem. Still.

So there you have it. I continue to relish the first two and find the third a necessary evil. If you choose to read this blog, you’ll see there’s a lot about readin’, a lot about ‘ritin’, and not so much about ‘rithmetic.


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