Fashion, Over-the-Knee Boots, and Stirrup Pants in the Attic

4 Jan

Entombed in our attic in several long boxes … like long-distance space travelers cocooned in cryounits & frozen in order to make the long voyage between planets, & more likely between galaxies, intact … are a couple dozen pairs of stirrup pants. Like those space travelers awaiting reanimation when they reach their destination, those stirrup pants have been peacefully & quietly resting, awaiting reanimation at the end of their journey when they re-emerge  in a time when stirrup pants have “come back in style.” They are occupying quality attic space because I use to love them & because my mother told me, almost since I popped out of the womb, “if you keep clothes long enough they will come back in style.”

What my mother failed to tell me & maybe even failed to realize herself were two very important rules:

  1. When those ancient garments DO come back in style, we may be too old to wear them, and
  2. Even if we’re not too old, the garments may have suffered unexpected “closet shrinkage” & we may not be able to squeeze our unexpectedly acquired bulk INTO them.

Knowing all that, however, didn’t stop me from carefully preserving those much-revered stirrup pants. (My husband calls my attention to them every year at Christmas when he stumbles over the boxes on his annual mission into the attic to retrieve our holiday decorations.)

My mom never had money to spend on a personal wardrobe. As a child of the aftermath of the Depression, she tended to buy a few quality pieces &, year-after-year, built her wardrobe around those several treasured things. When I came along, she had a reason & an excuse to enjoy fashion shopping; not for herself but for her baby girl child. Not realizing she was indulging herself, she dressed me fashionably from the days prior to my first baby steps until her death at age 84 when she STILL enjoyed purchasing & giving me the latest fashions at Christmas & birthdays. When I protested, she would answer, “Let me do this while I can. I may not always be able to.”

So the whole thing with me being highly attuned to fashion & loving clothes actually began when my mother dressed me as a small child, stood back a few steps, clapped her hands & said to me as we both looked in the mirror, “What will THEY say when THEY see you?”  It never occurred to my still-forming brain to ask who THEY were. If my mom said THEY would be ecstatic when they saw me all dressed up, then I assumed it must be true. Years later I told my husband this story & occasionally, when we’re dressed to go to an annual cocktail party or special event, he will look at me, smile a sly smile & say, “What will THEY say when they see you?” It always makes me laugh because I know he’s being very funny & complimentary at the same time but also because it reminds me of my mother & brings her closer to me in that moment.

So great was my mom’s fashion influence on me that, at age 5 when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would always be, “An archeologist or a model.”

 With that kind of background & “family history,” one would wonder why I chose a 38 year career as an Operating Room Registered Nurse. For all those years I wore exactly the same thing that all the other OR nurses wore, plus the doctors AND the orderlies. The “scrub fashions” went with the job & I was dedicated to the job, so perhaps I wasn’t too terribly damaged by those early years. One thing I know for sure is that NOBODY greeted any of us at 6:30 a.m. by saying, “What will they say when they see you?”

 After my early retirement & during the 6 years that I hosted a local cable television talk show, I did kind of make up for all those scrubs by using the show as an excuse to have a very healthy wardrobe. And there have been difficult times in my life when just going to my favorite store, trying on some special clothes & buying a few pieces made me temporarily forget my difficulties & rediscover myself. While I never felt obsessed with clothing, there have been those times when it gave me joy & shopping was cathartic.

A friend recently commented that I have quite an ability to put outfits together. So I told her the story about my mom & her fashion sense & also that, when I have time, I’m a use-to-be artist. Mixing colors always has come easy to me in my art & in my wardrobe. I always point out that I can’t add 2 and 2, & can’t sing a lick but I do take a bow in the areas where things just come easily for me.

So, like tracking the horse around the barn to get to the barn, here’s where this story is going ….

Way back in the late 80s, above–the-knee boots made an appearance on the fashion scene. They were there so briefly that I’m betting most fashion-conscious individuals were not even aware that they’d been & were gone like a flash in the pan. But I fell in love with them. For 30 years I’ve been thinking (lusting) about those above-the-knee boots. But just like my Mama predicted & told me, in 2017 they made a huge comeback into the fashion world & just about everybody was wearing them. I saw a pair of black ones but wouldn’t let myself try them on. I was remembering Rule #1 & decided my time for above-the-knee boots had sadly passed.

After slightly over a month I went back to the store & tried on the boots & I was in love. I bought the black over-the-knee boots, telling myself they were tasteful & that life is too short & too unpredictable  NOT to have a pair of black suede over-the-knee boots, even if I WAS older.

So comfortable & warm were those black boots that I decided I’d like to have a pair of burgundy ones. My husband suggested I look on because they usually have some of everything AND our club would receive a portion of the sale if I found something I liked through the AmazonSmile program.

I found the perfect burgundy boots & placed my order in mid-November. Arrival was to be December 29, which seemed like quite a while. As I was able to track the boots I realized they were coming from Shanghai.  I should have checked earlier because I prefer buying ‘Made in America’ products but the order had been placed, the picture of the boots showed them as beautiful burgundy & our club WAS receiving a portion of the sale, so what could go wrong, huh? Well ….

A month & a half later, after Christmas, my boots arrived from Shanghai in a slightly misshapen box. It’s a long way to Shanghai & they obviously had taken a slow boat from China. I tore into the box.

Opening the lid I was startled … & shocked … to find that the perfect burgundy boots were a shocking shade of red … later to be named “Hootchie Red” by me because that’s what they looked like … more on my feet / legs than simply folded in the box… & the fact that my husband laughed & offered me $20 to cook dinner in them.

I wrote the company telling them the boots, while extremely comfortable & stylish were NOT the burgundy they were advertised as being but were, instead, shockingly the brightest red ever known to man. They responded immediately, telling me they had “experienced that complaint before.”  They offered to refund me half the price of the boots & said I could keep them because, “returning them to China was troublesome” (remember that slow boat???)

 So I slept on the offer … & the boots, kinda. The first thing I did when I got up was to look at the boots. Unbelievably, they seemed even BRIGHTER red in natural daylight than they had the evening before in house light. I wrote back to the company. I thanked them for their generous offer but declined, asking for my money back & telling them I would return the boots. Although, with just regular calculating it occurred to me that I could cook dinner in those “Hootchie Red Boots” for Willy just 3 times & make back almost the full price of those “on sale” boots. But I thought better of it. I’d still have the boots that would remind me of China & hootchies on the corner & sometimes I might be asked to cook dinner in them when I’d only planned to fix hot dogs.  It all just seemed like too much.

The company wrote back telling me they would refund my money in full but since returning the boots to China remained, “troublesome,”  I could keep the boots in exchange for a good evaluation with for service, if not for product. I agreed but told the company that I still had no use for the blaze red boots & would donate them to our club’s annual charity auction where whatever money they made would go towards funding our local charities. It seemed like a win-win solution & the company agreed.

Although those bright red boots were very stylish & extremely comfortable, they are back in the box & have been added to the 2 auction donations we already have for our August 2018 Charity Auction. Someone younger will love those boots & be able to get away with the bright red color, where the more mature me could never pull it off so well.

I’m not sure even my fashion-forward mother would have stored those hootchie red boots away waiting for them to become stylish.  And even though I still have them, I am certain they will sell at the auction.

In the meantime, with apologies to my mama, I have given away all my size 12 clothes that I loved, to a friend who has lost a full clothing size on a diet. And if anything good has come out of my losing a clothes size myself this past year while I struggled with an illness, it’s been that … with THANKS to my mama … I’ve had a wonderful time replacing my wardrobe with a smaller size. My cholesterol is squatting at “normal,” & I certainly have enjoyed shopping.

Meanwhile, those stirrup pants are still in cryosleep in the attic, where they will probably remain for another 30 years. I DID buy a lovely pair of burgundy, over-the-knee boots that are easy to add to a tasteful outfit & I doubt they will ever find themselves in cryosleep in the attic. ….

And so in the attic, 2 dozen pairs of stirrup pants are awaiting reanimation in the year 2048.






The Best Gift …

14 Dec

Our minister stepped from the pulpit, walked down a few steps & stood before the congregation on a recent Sunday morning. He enjoys asking us thought-provoking questions & getting responses in his very interactive way. The impression I get is that most of us have come to enjoy his questions, the responses they bring about in us & that moment when we usually & unexpectedly share something personal & often profound.

Last Sunday his question was, “What is the best gift you’ve ever received?”

With Christmas just around the corner, most of those responding answered with a Christmas memory. No big surprise that EVERY response was based on a Christmas gift received as a child, because what is more memorable & innocent than a child at Christmas receiving that special present? My husband shared a memory of a bicycle he had desperately wanted but didn’t expect to get. When he got it on Christmas morning, that became his memory of his best-ever gift. He added that he rode it almost to the point of it totally falling apart. On the way home he told me how he had loved that bike.

I didn’t share a memory on Sunday. My mind was racing forward at a full gallop remembering “ghosts of Christmases past;” the special gifts, the memories of family & the “feelings” associated with those times & even the smells. It was a surreal moment that left me surrounded & alone all at the same time. It took me back to my childhood …

When I was a child, family would ALWAYS come for Christmas. They didn’t just come for the day the way people do now. On the contrary, they came with suitcases & gifts filled with holiday spirit & the intention to stay several days. My mom called them suitcase company & to this day, that’s how I think of people who come for a visit & “stay a little while.”

My Aunt Minnie, with her infectious sense of humor, crazy laugh & Boston accent would be at my grandmother’s house a day or two before Christmas if she had drawn the long straw at the hospital where she worked as an RN & had the holiday off. She’d take the train from Boston & we’d all meet her at the station with uncontained excitement & anticipation.

Followed closely behind Aunt Minnie was Aunt Katherine, who also arrived by train from Charlottesville. She had a lovely voice, was serious in her approach to Christmas & sang with several choral groups & her church back in Virginia. She arrived later because she was committed to a few Christmas cantatas & that commitment had to be fulfilled before making the trip south to North Carolina for the holiday. She was my FAVORITE aunt because she, like I loved cats & at one time had 27 that shared her home, her life & her love. On those rare occasions that we visited her, staying at her home was my very best experience.

My Aunt Robin & her husband, Ralph from Ohio came occasionally for Christmas & I remember on one of those occasions having to give up my bed & sleep in the living room on the sofa. I remember trying NOT to let my excitement show but I was ecstatic to sleep beside the Christmas tree & have a chance to catch Santa in the act of placing gifts under the tree right beside my bed. I never caught him but it was the anticipation & the POSSIBILITY that made that rare Christmas for me.

If everyone was able to get home there was a huge Christmas breakfast that had to be eaten BEFORE opening gifts. It was something I didn’t understand but lived through it & I DO remember with 100% clarity the smells of bacon & hash browns & eggs & coffee wafting from the kitchen into the living room where I sat under the tree looking at shiny gifts wondering what joys were wrapped inside. It’s a memory … & a smell that I wish I could visit just one more time … in REAL time.

Someone brought some brownies to a meeting recently & I immediately thought of the very first brownie I’d ever eaten … mana from heaven! Later in church those brownies would tie into our minister’s suggestion that we remember our Best Gift. It was one of those Christmas memories that had been lost in the recesses of my mind until that plate of brownies at a meeting unexpectedly ushered it rushing back to me.

It was one of those Christmases that Aunt Minnie couldn’t make it from Boston but in her stead sent several boxes of Christmas cookies, candy & brownies. My grandmother kept them in a built-in china cabinet in the dining room & doled them out to me a couple at a time. I remember my eager anticipation at having just one more of those chocolate delights. In my mind … & sitting in the pew in church on that recent Sunday morning, the smell of those brownies came rushing back to me, combined in my memory with the smells of that long ago dining room & the kitchen not far away.

While members of our congregation were sharing memories about the best gift they had ever received, I was stepping back into my past Christmases; reliving moments & smells that were lost to me except in my memory & in that moment in our church.

I remembered a Christmas night tucked in bed & assumed asleep when I saw my mom walking down the hall holding a life-size doll against her chest as one would carry an actual baby. The doll was wearing a pink hooded “onesie” & I’d last seen her behind a counter at the local S.H. Kress & Co. Department Store where I’d taken my mom to show her what I hoped Santa would bring me for Christmas. She later walked down that same hallway toward the Christmas tree in the living room carrying a pogo stick; also on my Christmas list. That was the year that I realized that Santa Claus was a myth & was really my mom. If I felt any great disappointment it was lost in my excitement at the prospect of receiving the doll & the pogo stick I’d wanted so badly. And I didn’t tell her about all that until a year later because I didn’t want her to know that I knew … & maybe make Santa Claus go away.

As I pulled myself back from thoughts of Christmases past & the joys associated with them for a small child, I realized that the congregation was standing & the minister was back behind the pulpit. We were getting ready to sing a hymn. I was too late to share the memory of My Best Gift …

As we were sitting down following the hymn I reached my hand to the empty place on the pew beside me & to my right; the place my mom always sat with us in church before her death in 2004. It is a move I often make when I feel her close to me & it gives me comfort. On that special Sunday morning I reached out to her place on the pew & realized that my Best Gift EVER was having been my mother’s daughter. She was the constant element in all my childhood Christmases, the joy that I remember when I saw her walking down the hallway towards the Christmas tree in the living room, holding a life-size doll against her chest & later a pogo stick. She was the love that filled each Christmas & each birthday & each day as our relationship changed from mother & daughter to very best friends.

I didn’t have the opportunity to share my Best Gift but I will be forever grateful to our minister for encouraging me to remember & for giving me that moment back in time while sitting in a pew in church a few weeks before Christmas.


25 Nov

Definition – Whoa: cease or slow a course of action or a line of thought: pause to consider or reconsider – often used to express a strong reaction (such as alarm or astonishment).

Sock in hand, my husband pointed down towards his little toe on his left foot … & not without reason. His toe wasn’t just bruised, it was swollen & a hateful shade of purple. He said he didn’t yell, “Whoa,” when he got up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work & wrapped his little toe around a chair leg in the dark with the force of a Jedi. The Whoa didn’t come until he did that the SECOND morning in a row in the dark (same time, same toe, same chair) & then he yelled it, along with several expletives that sent our cat quaking under the bed.  Not that I wasn’t concerned … the toe looked really painful (but didn’t seem to be broken) … but my second thought was about the word, Whoa; how often we use it & in such a multitude of ways.

My husband put his sock back on & limped towards the family room, muttering something under his breath that sounded like, “so much for being married to a nurse.”

Just like the definition, we use Whoa,” to mean stop or slow down or when we’re alarmed or astonished (all of those seemed to have been combined in my husband’s, “Whoa” early on Tuesday morning.)

Recently, we’ve mostly heard Whoa used in a table context, like, “Whoa … take that turkey away from me,” & “Whoa … no more pecan pie for this pilgrim.”  But it’s also been used when following Uncle Jack’s trip into the bathroom after one of his marathon “SITS” on the throne that involved a magazine & way too much time on his hands (or buttocks). “WHOA!”

If you are a cat lover & share your home & life with one or more of them, you’re probably all too familiar with stepping into a puddle of cat yak barefooted. I’m not talking about routine cat yak filled with partially digested Meow Mix. The cat yak I’m referring to is all clear, slimy & warm & has a disgusting fur ball in the middle. When you step into that barefooted (which is what my husband refers to as “ectoplasm”), it’s often a great time to yell, “Whoa!” He did & he has, which was probably just laying the groundwork for wrapping his little toe around that chair leg 2 mornings in a row.

We sometimes pray a parent will yell, “WHOA!” while visiting us in our home as their unruly child makes yet another lap around our coffee table in pursuit of our cat. In that context, Whoa is just good manners & swell “visiting etiquette” & saves, at the very least, one of the cat’s 9 lives … or at least we hope so.

Whoa is used in an attempt to stop horses & cars & run-away brides, & sometimes it’s effective. It’s used to deflect a second kiss from an amorous individual with whom we do not wish to share a second. It’s used, along with a hand hoovering over a coffee cup, to stop the flow of that hot, rich, brown liquid if we don’t wish to have any more. It can also be used to describe the extreme pain that follows if the person pouring more coffee into your cup does not understand the coffee-pouring context of, “Whoa!”

Whoa is a multipurpose word that can be used as a single word expression that sums up a moment, no matter what the context.

As we’re drifting into the Christmas season now that Thanksgiving is behind us, when we find ourselves using the word, “Whoa,” stop for just a moment & think about how many ways we use it, especially at Christmas.

When you hear a Christmas carol in church on Christmas Eve, your eyes suddenly fill with tears & you think, “Whoa!” … enjoy for a moment the feelings, lost & forgotten that suddenly surface … that have brought you to that word & how much emotion there is behind it.

When we wake up on Christmas morning & see the look of wonder in the eyes of a child or grandchild when they see the shimmering tree & the gifts & know the “magic” associated with being reassured that Santa has actually come … under our breath & with a catch in our throats, we may murmur to ourselves, “Whoa …”

When we volunteer to serve a meal to those in need on Christmas Day or donate food to the Food Pantry or gifts to people we don’t know whose names we found on trees in malls … children & seniors … that rush of emotion that wells up in our hearts, behind our eyes & prompts us to whisper, “Whoa!” is surely the very best use of the word because it comes from deep within our hearts & souls; a place still untouched by what’s wrong with the world today.

And now that I’ve gotten us all thinking about Whoa, I’m going to end this & go stitch tiny little LED lights on the toes of the new socks I’ve gotten my husband for Christmas. I got the idea from an LED light our son & daughter-in-law gave my husband for his birthday. It’s multicolored & fits in the rim of our toilet. When you raise the lid, the light comes on, guiding the user like a beacon & helping avoid accidents in the dark at night.  When he puts the new socks on the lights will automatically spring to life & will guide him around chair & table legs in the wee wee hours of the morning, unscathed. I’m hoping it will reduce his negative use of the word, “Whoa!” & reserve it for happy sights, good food & the occasional warm, slippery dance when stepping in ectoplasmic cat yak in the hallway.

May we all have the surrealistic pleasure of hearing, “Whoa, Dasher & Dancer & Prancer & VixenComet, Cupid, Donner & Blitzen” on our rooftops very soon.

(Have I got several pair of LED-lit socks for Rudolph …. )


The Obituary

17 Oct

I’ve been a cat lover almost from the moment I popped out of the womb. My very first word, according to my mom, wasn’t mommy or daddy, but CAT. A friend that use to occasionally travel with me commented that I could spot a cat a mile away, so when I was skimming through the Sunday paper & had reached the obituaries, the word CAT jumped out at me from the middle of the obituary of a woman I didn’t know. That peaked my interest & I decided to read the whole thing.

What caught my eye initially was the paragraph that said the deceased was preceded in death by a number of people (all were named) “and her not very friendly, but much loved 22-year-old cat, Jenny.” How delightful! I smiled & clapped my hands! And I began reading the obituary from the beginning.

It seems the deceased went into surgery at 8:03 a.m. & by noon she was, “at home with Jesus.” Apparently something very unexpected happened during her surgical procedure, ending her life. The author of the obituary, however, seemed to know the deceased very well, so much so that at the end of that paragraph the author added that she passed away unexpectedly, but peacefully. “She always did love her naps!”

The deceased had had a rewarding career from which she’d taken time out to raise her children. She had many hobbies including, “traipsing all over North Carolina & beyond for horse shows & motocross competitions, tag teaming with her children’s father. Hats off, Mom & Dad!”

There followed a detailed description of how the deceased spent the few days before her surgery; the people she interacted with, snippets  of conversations she’d had & little bits of phone conversations with friends & loved ones. She had “several puppy-petting sessions that she called, ‘puppy therapy’ with Buddy & put her bird feeders out daily for the birds & a few now obese squirrels.”

At the end of the delightful obituary, “friends, family & colleagues are invited to ‘Marti’s Party’ to celebrate her life.” It was also noted that she will be “deeply missed.”

The obituary ended with, “For God so loved the world He gave His one & only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I believe that ending was the author’s way of saying that this wonderful woman who gave so much would continue in heaven.  He or she found great comfort in that.

This obituary that touched me on so many levels contained all the stuff of obituaries; next of kin, the career of the deceased & things she enjoyed in life, where to send donations instead of flowers, & funeral & family arrangements. But it also said to the reader, Here was a special person. She had so much in her life and so much LIFE. Even the smallest things were important to her. She enjoyed animals & the company of one grumpy cat for 22 years that meant the world to her.

When I finish reading an obituary, mostly I know very little about the deceased unless I knew them beforehand. After reading this one I felt as though I’d actually KNOWN the woman. Through her obituary I had enjoyed her personality & felt, through her, a specific joy in life.

And isn’t that the way we’d all like to be remembered … with an obvious connection to the people who read our obituaries whether they know us or not? I think it’s so very important to be able to smile while reading & remembering.

My hat is off to the author of this particular obituary. Because of the charming way the obituary was written I will remember the deceased for a long time without ever having met her.

And being a cat lover of the highest order, I will also remember that “not very friendly, but much loved 22 year-old-cat, Jenny” & imagine her personality.



1 Oct

October 1 is World Communion Sunday; a day shared by many churches & denominations. The observation of the day attempts to promote Christian unity & cooperation. We had communion at our church this morning.

Whether you are a religious person or tend not to be, the simple act of sharing food & drink with people … friends & acquaintances … is most often a pleasant experience & one that brings us closer to our tablemates & encourages us to commune with them.

Taking a cue from World Communion Sunday & its many considerations, our pastor chose today to bring a sermon to his congregation about what it means to be “white” in this country & conversely, what it means to be “black.” It was one of those “out on a limb” topics that sometimes carries with it feelings of discomfort for some listeners, especially in today’s world filled with heightened racial tensions, Black Lives Matter, racial profiling & the rearing up of that ugly head of the  KKK.  While the sermon may have engendered a feeling of discomfiture in some, it was a timely sermon that resonated with me on many levels.

I’m not writing this blog entry to argue black & white. We all know the issues, we SEE the inequality that continues to exist today & we try to make a difference where & when we can for a cause we are passionate about. I have very strong feelings about those issues but would certainly over-use my allotted WordPress blog space if I allowed myself to debate those issues or attempt to make a ton of points here on this warm, beautiful, early fall Sunday afternoon. Instead, I’m simply writing this blog entry about Ruby.

Even before my dad died when I was 6, my mom had a close friend. Her name was Ruby. To this day I have no recollection of how Ruby & my mom ended up being friends & neither is alive today for me to check that point with.  At the end of the day, it probably isn’t so important to my story & if it is, I will never know. What’s important to me is simply Ruby & that today, many years after both she & my mom have died, I am remembering her because of a heartfelt sermon delivered on World Communion Sunday by our pastor.

I was born & lived the first 10 years of my life in the south; in Salisbury, NC. My mom, especially after the untimely death of my dad, was the central focus of my life. She worked at the local telephone company as an operator, she took me to movies on her days off, dressed up with me on Halloween, took me to feed stale bread to the ducks on the lake in the park & she had a black friend.

I really can’t remember when Ruby wasn’t a part of my life. She would sometimes baby sit for me when my mom had to work an evening shift & occasionally stayed overnight with me if my mom had to work the night shift. It all seemed very natural to me in an era where such things were considered MOST unnatural.

Ruby took me fishing for the very first time in my life & to lunch at her house where I sat beside a niece who was in a high chair. The baby kept touching my arm, then touching her own, apparently marveling at the color difference & even THAT didn’t seem unnatural to me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t “aware” or that I wasn’t a bright child.  It WAS that Ruby was a part of our lives & we hers, & that was what I considered natural in the days long before it was.

Ruby was a single mom & after my dad died she & my mother had even more in common. She had a job doing what she called “day work” but she was always available to help my mom when she needed someone to stay with me if she had to work a late shift. During those times Ruby became very much like a second mother to me. There are no words for how I loved her.

The very first time that I became aware of the racial difference between us was on a Saturday when my mom had to work & Ruby stayed with me during the afternoon. She decided we should go to a movie & I was excited about it. So we walked the several blocks to the old Capital Theater & Ruby bought our tickets.

In those days … days of segregation … Rosa Parks had not so long before defiantly refused to sit on the back of that bus & white people still sat in the main theater at a movie.  Black people sat exclusively in the balcony with “their kind.”  Because that rule was pretty solid on the day Ruby took me to the movie, & because she was the adult & I was pre-school, we headed to the balcony. I was excited because I’d never sat in the balcony & I was with Ruby.

Children see things so differently. As children we are not born with prejudice. It’s a LEARNED behavior. There is so much to be said for the title of the Star Trek episode, “And the Children Shall Lead.” While it was not one of the best Trek episodes, there is much to consider in the words of the title & so much we could learn from our children; perhaps now more than ever before.

So Ruby & I took our popcorn & found a seat in the balcony; a balcony filled with black people who had suddenly gone totally quiet while staring at me. Just a reminder: I was a VERY white little child with cottony white / blond hair & very blue eyes. I couldn’t have been more conspicuous had I been seated directly under a black light. People in the balcony said things. A couple pointed. Ruby glared at them & told me just to eat my popcorn & watch the movie. After the first little while everything settled down, the movie came on & I was no longer the center of attention in the balcony of the Capital Theater that particular Saturday afternoon.  Like a mother hen protecting her chick, Ruby, with her I dare you to say another word icy stare that she spread around the balcony, saved the movie & saved the day.

When my mom remarried & we moved, I cried from the moment we left NC until we crossed the state line into Virginia. I wept for leaving the only home I’d ever known & for leaving Ruby; a woman who loved me & became one of the most important central figures of my life.

My mom & I stayed in touch with Ruby until her death in the mid-1980s. Sometimes I would drive the 4 hours to Salisbury & visit with her. On the mantel in her living room was a child’s toy; a stage coach being pulled by 4 running horses driven by a cowboy wearing a vest with fringe. It was a toy I had loved as a child & when I outgrew it, Ruby made it a decorating reminder in her living room of a part of her life that she was all too aware was far ahead of its time.

I am forever grateful to my mother for being the loving, special, strong woman that she was. In many ways she was courageous. In her time & in Ruby’s it took courage to have a black friend, or in Ruby’s case, a white one. Together they taught me to love or dislike a person because of their “character” & not their color. They taught me to appreciate people for their “gifts” & not their race. They taught me to appreciate diversity.

Because my mother was the woman she was who possessed that amazing strength of character & her huge capacity to love, Ruby was a larger-than-life influence & positive part of my life. Without my mom’s direction I would never have known Ruby’s love & that would have been one of the great tragedies.

As our pastor spoke this morning, my mind took me for a quick travelogue experience back to NC & I thought of the beautiful experience that was Ruby. In the midst of current racial tensions we see each time we turn on the nightly news or in some cases, experience, I wish the world could suddenly be transported with me back to all those years ago when I was the only little white person sitting in a theater balcony with the warmth & protection that was Ruby.

Children are often smarter than we give them credit for.

Thank you, Pastor Josh for a lovely sermon & my personal trip down Memory Lane.

Night People and the Green-lipped Mussel

18 Sep

There’s a “maintenance medicine” that women who have gone through breast cancer treatments are prescribed if their breast tumors are “estrogen receptive,” which means encouraged by the presence of estrogen. The medication knocks out any remaining estrogen that happens to be in the body, hopefully eliminating the hormone that encourages that specific type of breast cancer to thrive.

There are several of these medicines on the market & patients are prescribed whichever one best suits their medical needs & breast cancer history. Originally, these medications were considered useful in the prevention of breast tumor recurrences when taken for 5 years following treatment, but the most recent studies show they continue to be useful when taken for a full 10 years following treatment.

These medications, called aromatase inhibitors are very effective but come with a list of side effects the length of a football field. I KNOW this because I’ve been taking one of these medicines for the past 8 years. On the one hand I am fortunate to only have 5 or 6 of those side effects. It seems like a small price to pay to ward off the possibility of breast cancer rearing its ugly head again. Unfortunately, one of the side effects that I confront daily … well, nightly, is insomnia.

I wrote a blog entry a while ago about being awake all night & searching out anything that will help me sleep or at the very least, entertain me. At 3 a.m., television is about the only resource available unless I want to get out of bed & eliminate ANY hope of falling asleep. So I’ve watched every infomercial that clogs up the TV airwaves in the wee wee hours of the night & early morning & can tell you which non-stick pan will give you the best roast in town on a Sunday afternoon. Plus, that roast will slide out of the pan, leaving nary a trace of onion, potato or grease from the meat. I can tell you what exercise equipment to purchase that will keep the fat off your arms & the rippled skin off your butt. I can tell you about every living bra, miracle bra & figure enhancing bra on the market & I can tell you how to avoid the heartbreak of belly bulge AND psoriasis. While I have all this unexpected knowledge & can’t say I haven’t been entertained, I STILL have insomnia.

Lately I’ve been running into the same, repeating infomercial night after night after night … after night. It comes on right after ABC’s Nightline, which I enjoy, & never wavers in the message, content or the enthusiasm of the infomercial’s host. I’m going to refrain from mentioning the name of the product. That’s not important & if it is to someone who is reading this, you can catch it night after night after night immediately following Nightline.

The product is a fish oil-type of supplement that is so different from similar products on the market that you will not get those annoying fishy-tasting after-burps that come along with regular fish oil products. And … here’s the amazing part … it eliminates arthritis, gout, general pain, heart disease, night sweats, unsightly warts & veins, & even cancer because it wipes out inflammation & inflammation is the number one cause of all the medical ills in this world … & then some. So I ask myself, if this one non-fishy fish oil product can do all that AND eliminate cancer, why isn’t that all over the media as the number one topic of BREAKING NEWS the world over? If I can find it on a repeating infomercial & it is truly a cure-all miracle supplement for nearly everything that afflicts us as humans, why haven’t I heard of it during prime time daytime???

Leaving you to ponder that question as I have, I’m moving on to tell you the source of this miracle drug. The source is the … are you ready? … green-lipped mussel. And this green-lipped sea creature is found in the far away waters of New Zeeland. This means we can’t snatch up the kids or grandkids & go for an afternoon of fishing for a green-lipped creature that can cure cancer. Instead we have to book a flight or cruise to that area half a planet away & obtain or update our passport looking for a sea creature that can cure nearly every ailment known to man from fleas to tumors but not known to the medical community OR the press. WOW!

So moving right along again, my sleep-deprived brain wants to know how is the green-lipped mussel identified … should I ever find myself scuba diving off the coast of New Zealand on a lazy Sunday afternoon? I assume those on the quest for the mussels know where to look & don’t go haphazardly fumbling around from body of water to body of water. So I’m also assuming there is a map or at least an urban legend for locating the mussel, but is it lying around on the ocean floor with other species or does it occupy it’s very own, specific space untouched in the delicate balance of nature by other creatures of the sea?

The mind boggles ………….

Now here is the big question that makes me crazy. Assuming that these mussels are actually harvested by divers instead of boats with nets, how do the divers KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that the mussels they harvest are the proper ones for making the miracle fish oil product without specifically checking the lips of each & every mussel to make sure they are green? And how on Earth do you go about checking (or even finding) mussel lips? My mind is reeling & now maybe yours is, too. And I wonder why their lips are green? Is it some kind of oxygen deprivation or is it just a bad make-up choice? Where is a cosmologist … or is that cosmetician … when you need one?????

This whole train of thought has worn me out (in combination with the insomnia) so please do me a favor. If David Muir comes on the ABC Nightly News at 6 O’clock with BREAKING NEWS that answers all my well thought out questions, please call me. I’m going to take a nap …

Green-lipped mussel, native to NZ



Remembering Martha…

25 Aug

When I met Martha in 2003 she was already well into her 70s. A dynamo of a little woman who could see no reason to retire long after she actually had, I met her when I was trying to find a location for an auction my science fiction club had planned. Just 3 weeks before the event, our venue had canceled & I was desperate to find another location. As a non-profit, our club was hoping to find an alternative venue that would charge us little or possibly nothing for a new location so I had called the county offices hoping for the best. Martha answered the phone. It was one of her days volunteering with the county.

Immediately Martha took up the challenge & attempted to find a venue for our auction; not because she felt particularly sorry about our circumstances but because she was drawn to the number of charities we supported with the proceeds.

After speaking with the county (Martha) to no avail, I moved on, checking local venues, hoping for the best as time became shorter until our event. But Martha, who never gave up in the face of a challenge, soldiered on, searching for some way to help me. Several days later she returned my call telling me she’d found a venue for the auction.

And so, in 2003 we held our Charity Auction in the large meeting room at a building owned by a local realtor. Martha saved the day … & the auction. The evening of the auction she showed up to see just what kind of an event we were having.

And the rest, as they say, is history. She not only showed up, she joined our club. Years later she would continue to say, “I don’t know diddly about Star Trek & science fiction but I like what you do in the community.” As she learned more about our club & became familiar with our personalities, she would add, “…and I just enjoy your entertaining members.”

And we enjoyed Martha.

After her first year with us, Martha’s husband, several years her senior, started coming to our meetings with her & after a while, he joined us, too. In some strange way, I believe we, our club members, were entertainment for them or maybe we reminded them of their youth or they simply enjoyed our determination to make a positive difference in our community. Whatever – we shared a unique relationship from which came nothing BUT positives.

They participated. They raised funds. They worked rings around some of our younger members & they worked their way into our hearts. They became “family.”

I remember so much about Martha & Millard. I remember his wit & the stories he shared & his jokes on Talent Night. I remember how much he enjoyed Ice Cream Sundae Night every June & the costumes they both wore at Halloween parties.

I remember Martha slipping me $15 frequently to pay the fee for using the Meeting Room at the local library for our monthly meetings & her calls to me with her concern when Millard, at age 90 continued to climb a ladder to clean out the gutters on their house. She stayed on the phone with us one Sunday afternoon when Millard didn’t come home from a hospital visit when she expected him to. As a retired minister he made frequent visits at the hospital on Sundays after church & was always home at the expected time. That particular Sunday when she began to worry, she called us & we talked to her until she felt better. When she became worried again she called us back. Finally, arriving back home close to 7 in the evening, Martha called to tell us he had “made an appearance.” She apologized for bothering us, and then added, “He is 90, you know.” She was 85 at the time.

On an occasion when our club needed plastic bags for a project, Millard said Martha had plenty & to come on over & get some. When we got there they led us to a closet filled almost to the top with plastic grocery bags & Millard laughingly explained that he was sure she had the first one she’d gotten right after they began using them in grocery stores.  She insisted she wasn’t a hoarder … just a keeper of things that someone might need later on.

I went with Martha to visit 2 doctors when she had an obvious medical problem. Each suggested she have further care but she refused. She said she’d been living with the condition for years & wasn’t going to have anything done at that late date. And she didn’t. She only wanted to stop the immediate part of it that was bothering her, so that’s what she did. There was never a more stubborn woman & I loved that about her, even while worrying that she wasn’t getting the attention she needed. In the end she was right. That wasn’t the condition that took her out of this life. She was wise beyond her years … no matter how many of those there were.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Martha was the first one of our friends I told. In my confusion & fear I so missed my mother who had died several years earlier. There was comfort in being able to tell Martha & have her hug me, much like my own mother would have done & tell me it was going to be alright.

Millard died at 90+ years old & Martha never was quite the same. She said how difficult it was not to have someone with her that had been for more than 60 years of her life. They were a team & a team divided never worked as well as it did when it was whole.

Martha died today … one day following her 91st. birthday. She had begun a steady decline in the 2 weeks beforehand. The members of our club will miss her, each for their own reasons.  I will miss her for mine.

If I close my eyes I can hear her laughter & see her smile. I can see her sitting across the table from me at our meetings. I remember her in her wheelchair on July 4th. this summer at a club party at the lake, hoping she wouldn’t accidentally roll into the lake in a run-away wheelchair. I have saved the notes she wrote to me between meetings.

Martha was a dynamo. She knew how to get things done & she did them. She was determined & stubborn & full of life until losing Millard. I hope they are together again sharing whatever it was that brought them such joy for over 60 years. I hope she is at peace.

If there is a heaven I’m guessing Martha is there organizing stuff for God & making sure Millard isn’t climbing on ladders & cleaning out heaven’s gutters.

Martha & Millard … together & individually inspired us. They taught us that age is just a number while inside they were both still 30 or 40 or whatever age they remained in their minds & hearts.

They weren’t just our family, they were a PART of us & we were truly blessed to have had them in our lives. Just like in Galaxy Quest, they inspired us to never give up …