Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crafting Towards Christmas

This Christmas season has been off to a slow start for me.  With only a mere two weeks until Santa comes, I hadn't even begun to shop.  This would normally start a panic inside my anxious brain, but the elves had taken over both hemispheres and were banging so loud I couldn't hear the clock ticking.

Youmustcraftyoumustcraftyoumustcraft.

I needed to make some crafts.

Easy crafts and in blog wonderland I stumbled upon this printed cuteness here.

Chalkboard printables?  Yes, the elves said.  Make that.  Who should I make them for?  Every person you ever met the elves said, and so I started printing faux chalkboard merriness faster than a drug cartel launders money.  As each one spitted out of the printer I would think of someone else that needed this cuteness.  MOREMOREMORE the elves screamed as I watched my ink levels plummet.  Who cares?  It's Christmas.  Of course you're supposed to go over budget.  Then I sat all afternoon at the dining room table cutting them out and not thinking about presents and the elves and I were happy and content.

But what about the frames I asked the elves when the cutting was over.  THEDOLLARSTOREYOUIDIOT they answered and so me and The Big Daddy headed off for a plate of wings and a beer and then to buy a pallet of frames.

*****Side story to the story:  We're in The Dollar Store where I always buy reading glasses by the dozen. I am sitting on the floor with my file folder of printables trying to decide on gold/silver/gold silver combo/mat gold/mat silver.  Ask The Big Daddy the elves say up inside my head and so I say to him, "Which of these do you like better?"

And he says, "I don't know.  How much are they?"

"They're a dollar."

"A DOLLAR," he yells back.

"Yeah.  We're at the Dollar Store."

"I know, but how much are they?"

"They're a dollar cuz we're at the Dollar Store."

"You mean everything here is only a dollar? Like this candle is a dollar," he says holding it up.  "And this vase.  This is a dollar?  What about this mirror?  I bet this isn't a dollar."

"Yeah, Forrest Gump, it's all a dollar."

"Holy shit," he says.  "I have to look around some more."

I. kid. you. not.*****


I'm in my house on Saturday when my neighbor, Marianne, comes in.   Breathless and excited because the elves have been banging in her head, too.  "The tree trunks," she says.  "I know what to do with them.  You drill a hole in the trunk and shove a Christmas branch in it.  So cute," she says.

And the elves up in my head that have been dormant for all of thirty minutes wake up and start running around like somebody just pulled the fire alarm.

*****Side story to the story:  We're at the hardware store buying our tree off the lot and I am chatting it up with the woman in front of me.  "See these little pieces of trunk they cut off and throw in here.  They make cute little candle holders.  Kind of woodsy looking.  And these extra branches?  They throw those out.  Do you know how many places you can use these?"

Marianne and her husband drive by.  Her husband says, "Hey, isn't that Kathy Fisher?"  Marianne says, "No!  That looks nothing like her.  Why would you think that?"

Her husband says, "Not that one.  The one with her head in the garbage can."

And Marianne says, "Stop the car I have to see what she's getting."

We both starting rummaging through the discarded branches and trunk shavings and put some in the back of our cars. The kid working at the lot looks at us like we're the batshit crazy hoarders that are on TLC with our roaches and maggots and smelly stuffed animals with the feces on them.*****

Hush now, Teenage Mutant Hardware Boyman with your hair paste and six-pack.  We are not hoarders.  We are women of a certain age  You can't shame us.

We're brilliant.

The elves up in our heads have been telling us so for years.

Now cut some more branches off for us.






Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dropping Jesus

Mallie Bee has always been a tiny one.  When I put her in Mother's Day Out she was with the one year olds even though she had already turned two.  This had been overlooked by the staff for months until one day when all the little ones were in their cribs for nap time.  Each time one of them would fuss, Mal would stand up, put her finger to her lips and say "shhhhhhh" until they laid back down.  Her teacher loved her and her advanced vocab skills.  When they figured out that she was with the wrong age group her teacher asked me if it would be okay if she stayed there until the end of the year.

"She's my little helper at nap time.  We don't want her to leave."  And so it was that at two years old, Mal was the room mom for a group of napping babies every Thursday.

A few years later she would be in the pre-school Annual Nativity Play.  Each child got a part and there was lots of practice before the event that was on the last day of school before Christmas break.

"Mallory has been chosen to play the part of the Virgin Mary," her teacher said and I glowed.  Glowed.  Our Mal got the lead role? We didn't have lead role kind of kids.  We Fishers are more the supporting actor types.  Sheep, if you will.  I wondered if it had anything to do with me.  Surely they had noticed my stellar mothering skills over the years. I polished my halo and got ready for the big day.

In the kids paraded.  The donkeys and wise men, the angels and Joseph.  Mary.  My Mary with the blue pillowcase bobby-pinned to her head.  While the teacher read the story of the Nativity, my Mary held the precious baby Jesus in her arms with all the tenderness she'd seen a million times from her own blessed mother.

But after a long ride on a donkey and no room at the inn, my Mary got overwhelmed and rolled Jesus out of her arms and into the manger with a thudding face plant.  There was a gasp.  I tried to make eye contact with her.

Mallory pick up the Jesus.  Pick him up and hold onto him for just a few minutes and then you can have a cookie and a juice box.  Please. Just. Pick. Him. Up.

The donkey and angel and wise men parents looked at me smugly as if to say, "Well, well, well.  You don't see our kids with their small insignificant roles dropping Jesus on his face, now do you Mother of Mary?"

Mal was unconcerned.

She'd had enough of mothering for one day.  She was tired and needed a nap, and so she stuck her thumb in her mouth and sat and waited for the whole thing to be over.

Many a day she might have seen her own mother do that.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Half & Half

We shook things up a bit this year and went home for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas.  This had more to due with juggling conflicting schedules of a very large family and trying to get the most bang for our visiting buck.

We have not been home for Thanksgiving in more than twenty years.  It was divine.  Without the stress of gifts, holiday exhaustion or snow, it was far more relaxed and filled filled with gratitude.  I would be a fan of skipping the December drive and doing this every year, but it was a hard sell within some of the tribe so we shall see about next time.

When we do go home, Mal and I stay with my mom while everyone else heads a couple of miles over to my sister's. Though I talk to my mom many times over the course of a week, when I go home I get an overload of her and her of me.  It doesn't take long for us to get on each other's nerves.

Our politics are as far apart as they can be, and thankfully she doesn't subject me to Fox News while I'm there.  The t.v. or radio, however, are on all the time.  Her house is nursing-home-hot.  Our conversations rarely scratch more than the surface.  I eat my feelings from her very stocked fridge.

She weighs just over a hundred pounds.  She doesn't eat her feelings or talk about them.

Ever.

My sister and I once joked that if Mom ever said "I love you" our first thought would be that we must have terminal cancer and nobody told us.

Both of my sisters and one of my brothers live close to Mom and help her with anything she needs. I owe my siblings a lot for that. While I went off for a lifetime, they stuck close by and do all the things for her that I am not there for.  As a result I think their relationship is different.  Close in proximity makes for close in heart?  Maybe.  I'm the one who shows up once or twice a year and tries to pick up where I left off and it doesn't always work out so well.  And if I'm thinking Mom will confide in me about her loneliness since Dad died or her worries about getting older, that just isn't going to happen.  Nor would it with any of her other kids, but I often wonder if that's the kid I wish I was.  The one who secretly knows her troubles and drives off with them for safekeeping.

Instead I call her often and tell her about things around here and listen when she tells me about her pain-in-the-ass neighbor who calls her for everything.  She is irreverent and sassy, even at 87 years old, and I am always amused by her.  We trade our stories over the phone and I try to keep my spot warm even though I'm the one that left it empty more than thirty years ago.

*****

"The coffee's made, Kath.  If you get up before me just plug it in."

"Okay, Mom, but you know you'll be up first," I answer back.

"Oh damn.  I forgot to get you half and half.  I meant to do that today when I was out."

"It's okay, Mom.  Really.  Milk is fine."

*****

I wake the next morning to the sound of the garage door closing and hear her come in.  It's early.  I put a sweater on over my tshirt and go out to the kitchen.

"I ran to Walgreens to get you some half and half.  I knew you'd rather have that than milk in your coffee,"

I love you too, Mom.  Even if neither one of us knows how to go about saying it.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Anne Said

On Wednesday I went with a friend to see Anne Lamott for the third time in about ten years.

There were thoughts of meeting other friends for drinks before we went to see her but it is November. It is the season of cold and dark and hibernation rather than random acts of frivolity.  One thing a night, Friend and I decided. Only one thing and then we can go home to our pajamas and warm bed.

All along I wondered if seeing the same writer three times was a good idea.  Even though she's my favorite author, was I tempting fate and maybe falling out of love with her if she, too, showed up with the same November apathy that I was wearing?

Thankfully she was not, and although she tends to look like she rolled out of bed and picked her outfit up off the floor, she brought her energy and love even if she had to dig deep on an exhausting book tour to find it.  In her rumpled, dreadlocked self she stood on stage and told her stories.  She is funny. Hilariously funny in the most self-deprecating way that makes her all the more endearing.  In between the funny is the profound, and if you know about her younger self you also know that her physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were hard fought for and never taken for granted.

She read a little from her latest book, skimming some stories and at one point going back and saying, "Oh wait.  I have to read this part.  I love this part."  I got teary-eyed when she said that.  Years of writing, millions of books sold and she sounded like so many of us sitting there who become charmed by the magic that happens when the sequence of words is just so.

That sealed my fate with Anne LaMott.  I will remain her groupie for a lifetime.

The next day at work I emailed a friend telling her about my night.  "There were so many good stories, Gee," I wrote, "but my favorite was about the bees."  She related the story her pastor tells of how easy it is to catch bees.  "All you do is put some nectar in a glass jar and you've got them.  They crawl around bumping into the sides over and over until they eventually die. They never look up and if they did they'd see the escape hatch is right above them.  We have to remember to look up.  That's where the stars are."

Gee wrote back.  "I love that....really love that."

"I know, Gee.  Right?  We have to stop running into the same walls doing the same thing.   We have to look up and find the stars."

And then Gee had the most brilliant plan.  Let's find her.  Let's find out where she lives, break into her house and hold her hostage.  We could break her legs so she can't go anywhere and then make her tell us story after story. Let's do it.  We should wear Depends for the road, don't you think? We want to get there as soon as we can and not worry about getting slowed down by pee stops at rest areas and gas stations where the creeps and felons hang out.

That Gee.  Not only do her emails save me from feeling like I work in a coal mine every day, but she always has the best ideas even though they sometimes involve the possibility of consecutive sentences at the Big House.

"I'll bring the Capri Sun and the beef jerky," I wrote back.

A dismal, cold November has been replaced by something much more exciting.  Two friends shedding the bees in their bonnets and looking up at the stars.

We owe it all to Anne.

We can't wait to tell her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some Enchanted Evenings

The purpose of my new writing space was to, ummmm, write more.

Peoples.  It is so cold.

This space is over the garage and has never been what you'd call toasty (except for June, July, August, and half of September) but these past few days it has been downright frigid in here.  I can think of an excuse every day not to write so it was a given that I would not be creating in long underwear and gloves. Add to that my work buddy had to go and leave me for a few days and so I was bored and depressed day and night.

She came back today and yelled from her office when I arrived, "Did you miss me?"  I wanted to jump in her lap and lick her face but she might have thought that was weird.  And maybe crossing some boundaries.

People who need people......

I cranked out the work during the day and brought a space heater into my writing room when I got home.  It was time to get back to business.

*****

On Friday I had a dentist appointment to get my teeth cleaned.  "Are you doing anything fun this weekend," my dentist asked.

We were.  We had a soup night with new friends and never-met-friends and a dinner party on Saturday.  The dentist, the hygienist and I talked about entertaining.  Why, oh why, we wondered is it such a big deal to have people over?

I told them about being a little girl and my mom and dad having couples over for dance parties on Saturday night. The women would wear dresses and Mom's lipstick blotted toilet paper would smile from the bowl before company came. She'd spritz some Avon on and Dad would say, "Well, don't you look like a million bucks?"  Then the other couples would arrive with their lipstick and dresses and go into the garage turned dance club while Dad poured the scotch. Mom once said, "The great thing about being friends with the chief-of-police and his wife is that you won't get in trouble if the neighbors call the cops because you're too loud."

Mom would let us sit on the stairs in our pajamas for a little while to watch and then shoosh us off to bed.  I remember falling asleep to the sound of talking and laughing and Frank Sinatra and I thought being an adult must be the best thing ever.

There have been plenty of parties since then but it seems that an abundance of social media these days has replaced real conversation with real people.  It's all so out there all the time that maybe it seems unnecessary to have people over when they've already seen your vacation photos on Facebook.

But this weekend we shared stories and food with people we knew a little or not at all. "Where did you go this summer because I want to come along next time?" Debra asked me before soup was served.  "Montana and it was perfect," I answered.  And her and I talked about being in nature and realizing how small you really are compared to your surroundings.  After the soup and dessert the Tarot cards came out and I was nervous because Mom might have implied way back when that a good Catholic wouldn't dabble in that sort of thing.  I'm a lousy Catholic these days and so I tapped the stack three times to remove the energy and picked three cards.  I am on the brink of something big.  Mark followed me and picked his three.  His cards said that something he's been working on for a long time is about to bear fruit and I was more excited for his predicted good fortune than my own.  We left with plans to make soup on Friday a standing date once a month and I felt grateful to be included in the maiden voyage.

At the following night's dinner party we knew only the host and hostess and broke bread with some people who had the most incredible stories of love and life and cancer and healing and art.  All day Sunday Mark and I looked at each other and said, "Who gets to meet these kinds of people?"

How very small we often feel to ourselves when we are surrounded by the barrage of Facebook feeds and breaking news, but such compelling stories we walk around with every day in our own back pockets.

They deserve time to be unfolded, smoothed out and lingered over.

They deserve to be invited in and served with soup or steak....and a side of Frank.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Room Of My Own

I had grand plans a few weeks ago to repaint and redecorate a neglected room in the house.  All started well enough but I got sidelined by a cold then some other annoying health thing and so things moved along slower than I thought they would.

Or maybe my age means I can't redo a room top to bottom in two days like in the olden times.  Alas, I pulled it together this weekend.

The room is connected to our bedroom (by that door on the left) and so it needed to work with what is going on in there.



It also had to cost me practically nothing.  We have spent plenty around here lately so I bought the white paint, and the gray on the window frame and dresser was a sample pint I bought to try out on the outside of the house. I spray-painted the knobs a couple of different colors and then wiped them with stain to get the bronze look I wanted.

I stole from every room in the house to fill it.  Thank goodness winter is coming and I could take many things that normally would be on the screened porch.

The top two levels over the dresser I bought a few years ago.  I love work tools and then last year my mom acquired my grandfather's toolbox.  The bottom level was his and his initials are on it.  The old pyrex bottle with the mini lights in it came from an estate sale.  I saw it and loved it and went back the next day when it was half off.  My niece's speckled trout artwork has a proper frame now.

The wallpaper hanging table that I am using as a desk I got about fifteen years ago at an estate sale.  I paid $65.00 for it and have used it in every way imaginable.  The legs fold down and then the table itself folds in half so it has been easy to store when I haven't needed it.

The cabinet on the desk I got on the last day at Good Company - a vintage shop where I used to have a booth.  It was marked down to $30.00.  I had no idea where I would put it but I loved it and brought it home.  I filled it with my nature stuff - turtle shells, rocks, bird's nest, antlers, feathers, driftwood.  I recently told a coworker how I like that kind of stuff inside my house and the look of horror on her face cracked me up.  I thought about painting it but Will yelled, "Everybody needs to stop painting stuff."  I'm glad I heeded his advice warning.

I need a few more things on the wall but other than that it is done.

Sheesh.

I'm inspired and content every time I look at it.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Conversation About Race

I got a new coworker many months ago.  We went through a dating period for awhile as we got to know each other and we were on our best behavior.  I don't know when the good manners slipped away and we started acting normal, but eventually we did and now we are work buddies.

She is smart.  So smart.  I couldn't even tell you how much I've learned from her.

I am in and out of her office all day.  She peeks over my cube wall.  We're snarky.  We're irreverent.  Every Thursday afternoon she says, "Please work tomorrow.  It's so boring when you're not here."

On Friday she texts me.

Wednesday morning I sat down dejectedly in her office.  My flaming liberal self was completely shot down by the election returns of Tuesday night.

"Can you even believe that last night," I said to M.  I mean, geez, we had a senator reelected that hasn't lived in this state for years.  How can that happen?  I never even knew he was married until his acceptance speech last night.  Shouldn't you know something like that about the guy who has been representing you for years?  What is wrong with people?  Why did they vote for all these idiots?"

I boo-hooed in my coffee.  "I never talk politics at work," she said, "but you are down-to-earth and I feel like I can say this to you.  I look at this president and think of all the possibilities and then I think back to those men standing there saying they would do anything to defeat him.  As soon as he started the job they said that.  We will defeat you. We will make sure that you are not successful at anything.  And in many ways he has been successful despite them.  But oh how things could have been if only they had changed their mission.  It all seems very racist to me and I hope you are not offended by me saying that."

"Well, that would be hard since I agree with everything you said," I told her.  "And now the most vocal one of those men is getting promoted to Boss of the Senate. It's not right, M."

We talked about the thing everybody avoids talking about.  Race.

She told me about going to Memphis and seeing a museum exhibit on the slave trade.  "So many of those men brought from Africa died on the ship because the conditions were so brutal.  They'd unchain the shackles and throw them overboard.  One after the other like they didn't even matter.  It changed me when we went down there.  It wasn't that long ago and you know what else happened when we were in the South?  Little white kids stopped and stared at me like they'd never seen a black woman in their life before."

I told her about going to the civil war battlefields.  "Not even the width of your office, M.  That's how close the North and South were when they were shooting each other.  And you know what, M,, I felt them.  The spirit of those Union soldiers fighting for the freedom of slaves seeped into every part of me and I have never forgotten it."

"Yes, I know what you mean.  That's exactly how it was when we were in Memphis.  I felt those slaves."

I told her about the time we were driving to my Grandma's house a few weeks after Martin Luther King died and the street was lined with protesters.  Mom's fear filled the car but Dad said, "Now, Ger, nobody's out to hurt us.  They're upset and they have every right to be.  We're all going to be just fine so relax."

"The Underground Railroad couldn't have happened without white people," M. said.  "Did you know that?  White people were instrumental in helping slaves escape.  I bet your Dad would have been that kind of white person.  An Underground Railroad kind of person."

I don't know.

I know that every single day when I feel overwhelmed M. comes along with a lantern to light the way.  I think she would say the same of me.

Two woman.

Two backgrounds.

One a descendant of slaves. The other a descendant of slave owners.

Each helping the other get to the railroad.