my recipe for a Happy Birthday!


They say you’re only 74 once so make the most of it.

Pretty brought our granddaughter to visit for my birthday today!

Ella loves her Nanas

 Baby Ella brought her mother Pretty Too (holding cake)

and her aunt twin sister Pretty Also (holding Ella)

Pretty Too and Pretty Also made the most beautiful birthday cake EVER

(per my request angel food cake with pink icing – wow!)

Have a piece!

NanaSlo living the good life today

JOY!

My good friend Dick Hubbard also surprised me by leaving  his delicious fudge at my back door this morning but shhh…Curtis didn’t want him driving over to our house to deliver it…virtual hugs and love to Dick who never forgets to bring fudge over for special occasions. He’s the Best!

Many thanks to Caroline and Chloe for the fabulous cake and to Pretty for our family – it’s the light that pierces every darkness. I’m sending hope for better days to all of my friends in cyberspace this day – plus a virtual piece of cake and candy.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , | 16 Comments

the anchor holds


“The anchor holds, though the ship is battered. The anchor holds, though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.”

Lawrence Chewning wrote The Anchor Holds in 1992 during a period of deep depression in his life, but another musical friend Ray Boltz shortened the lyrics and gave the song a lyrical bridge in 1993. The piece, published in 1994 on a Ray Boltz album, was a signature song that was #1 on the national Inspiration charts for three weeks in 1995.

Chewning was born in 1949 and grew up in Lee County, South Carolina on a cotton farm according to his bio. He became a songwriter, singer, speaker and was the pastor of a non-denominational church in Clinton, Massachusetts for sixteen years. Chewning accepted a position as a social worker for the State of South Carolina in 1994 –  working in foster care, child protective services,  as an adoption specialist – until his retirement from the state in 2018. He and his wife live in Florence, South Carolina where he continues to travel with his songs and preaching. (Florence is coincidentally 85 miles northeast of Columbia where Pretty and I live.)

The Anchor Holds was unknown to me until recently when one of my Richards, Texas childhood friends, Tinabeth, sent me a link to the song covered by Shara McKee on what else but YouTube. The lyrics and melody have haunted me every day for weeks. That happens to me sometimes with songs Alexa plays for me in my private concerts when Pretty is out of the house on a mission.

“I’ve had visions, I’ve had dreams. I’ve even held them in my hand. But I never knew they would slip right through like they were only grains of sand…I have been young but I’m older now, and there has been beauty these eyes have seen. But it was in the night through the storms of my life, that’s where God proved His love for me.”

Like the song says I’ve had my share of visions and dreams slip through my hands to never be held again. Occasionally I can dimly remember young but I’m definitely older now – actually turning seventy-four tomorrow.  I have also seen so much beauty in my travels with Pretty who always prefers an adventurous trip to find beauties wherever they are. Sometimes they are closer to us, though, even close enough to touch.

But it has been in the night through the storms of my life that I have found an anchor, an ability to stay the course regardless of the cost or loss. For Lawrence Chewning and for my friend Tinabeth, their faith in God is their anchor. I suspect my faith is not the same as the songwriter’s, but I do believe in anchors for our lives. I am confident the covid-19 pandemic has caused each of us to search for our own anchors to survive the fears created by the uncertainties, the upheavals in our lives.

Maybe The Anchor Holds resonates with me because I am on the threshold of another birthday – maybe it’s coronavirus driven. Regardless of its pull on me, I believe it’s my song of hope for everyone across the oceans or across the street. My hope is for you to find your own anchor and let it hold you during these difficult days.

“The anchor holds, though the ship is battered. The anchor holds, though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I faced the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.”

Our grandaughter Ella today while Pretty babysat

(for sure one of the anchors of hope for Pretty and me)

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

forty days milestone


When Pretty, the gay boys basketball buddies and I were making the trip from Greenville home to Columbia after watching our Gamecock women’s basketball team win the SEC tournament on Sunday, March 8th. we all were happy, thrilled, excited, chatty, laughing – exhausted after making the trip three days in a row to watch every game our team played in the tournament – but totally jazzed for the NCAA post season play scheduled to start at our own Colonial Life Arena on the 20th. of March.

Daylight savings time had “sprung” ahead at 2:00 a.m. that Sunday morning which was always welcome at our house every year. Seven hours later the basketball boys picked us up at our house to drive back to Greenville where on the day before we met three other friends for brunch at the Lazy Goat, a restaurant close to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, the venue for the tournament. The seven of us had a delicious brunch that Saturday in a small bistro packed with people having fun, talking loudly about basketball or the gorgeous day, ordering cocktails, a typical festive atmosphere before a major sporting event in the Palmetto State.

Bon Secours has a seating capacity of 16,000 and while the final game wasn’t totally a full house, the crowd was huge and noisy. Our opponents,  the Mississippi State Bulldogs, brought a large following from Starksville but the Gamecocks were in home territory with thousands of fans to cheer them on since the University of South Carolina in Columbia was fewer than two hours from Greenville. Both schools brought bands, cheerleaders, mascots and tons of enthusiasm reserved for major college athletic championships in the south. We had a fabulous time – my mother would have called it a memory maker.

I had no way of knowing that was the last time I would leave my house for any social experience for 40 days, no way of knowing the NCAA post season play I was looking forward to would be cancelled, no way of knowing a pandemic called the coronavirus or Covid-19 was about to change not only my life but the lives of everyone I knew, indeed, the lives of everyone around the world. I almost added statistics here but they were edited out because I am too horrified to put them in. When the number of cases rises above 2 million in 210 countries, well, I’d rather not go there this early in the morning.

I vaguely recalled from my Bible School days in Miss Mary Foster’s class at the First Baptist Church of Richards, Texas a few stories that referenced the number 40: a great flood was caused by rain for 40 days and nights, the Hebrew  people wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before reaching the promised land, Jesus fasted 40 days and nights in the desert. Beyond the scope of my Bible class and through the omniscience of the great storyteller Wiki, I discovered the number 40 has significance in many traditions without any universal explanation. “In Jewish, Christian, Islamic and other Middle Eastern religious traditions it is taken to represent a large approximate number similar to ‘umpteen.'” Umpteen? Come on, man.

Wiki went on to remind me of other “40s” I’d forgotten. For example, the number 40 is important in tennis, also. I knew that. It’s the third point of a game – don’t get me started on tennis scoring – again, too early in the morning. Life begins at 40, right? Not exactly but that’s what at least one person believed. Forty is everywhere: The number of thieves running with Ali Baba, the number of acres (plus a mule) freed slaves were supposed to be given after the Civil War, the number of quarters of work required to qualify for Social Security benefits in the US. Across the pond forty-shilling freeholders was a nickname given to those who had the right to vote based on their interest in land or property with an annual rental of 40 shillings, or something like that. I’ll leave that to my friend Ellen to explain properly in her blog on facts about the U.K.

Regardless, I can tell you the past 40 days have both flown by and stood still. I have learned how to navigate my relatively new Brilliant TV between Netflix and Amazon Prime with a swiftness in my click which surprises Pretty who knows the TV is far smarter than I am. I take showers every day, well, almost every day. I have washed my hands more in the past 40 days than when I used to eat at my grandmother’s who was a stickler for washing hands before meals, after meals, and random times in between meals. I now think of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as my new BFF although I wouldn’t want to sit next to him at a dinner party for fear of nodding off.  My worst fears about Agent Orange and his administration have been realized. Remember in November.

Since Pretty’s antique empire is considered nonessential, she has been our hunter-gatherer for food and the inspiration for our fun. I’ve loved having Pretty here with me – yes, she’s been busy with projects around the house, but I can almost always persuade her to take a break to watch something onTV with me or to take a joint nap in the afternoon. We now have Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on speed dial at night. Antiques Road Show on PBS is a must.

I miss my friends and family, though. Pretty continues our babysitting duties alone for two days every week and sends me videos of our granddaughter’s ever-changing accomplishments. She brought her to our house for the first time ever in her baby life of six months this past Monday, and we had the best time sitting outside with her on the screened porch. But I miss Ella’s parents, her Aunt Chloe and her dogs, too. We haven’t been able to have lunch with them or Pretty’s father or sister for 40 days.

I miss going out to restaurants with friends, playing cards with friends, playing dominoes with friends, going to movies in real theaters with friends, going to basketball games with friends – things I had just started enjoying after my knee surgeries last year. Mostly I miss visiting with my friends. I love having a good visit with people who have something to say, and I can assure you all our friends have plenty to say. Texting or phone chats are poor substitutes for sharing a cocktail and meal together. I miss that.

I am consoled by my playlist on Alexa and my friends in cyberspace who, although we aren’t physically visiting on my screened porch, do visit regularly to share our reflections on the mad world we inhabit. I am grateful to my readers for allowing me to share my feelings, to express my angst, to add to our universal hope for better days. Bless your hearts.

Pretty and I send wishes for your strength to endure and courage to overcome this weekend and beyond.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now.  We’ve got some difficult days ahead.  But it doesn’t matter with me now.  Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.  And I don’t mind.  Like any man I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m not concerned about that now…God’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know today that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.  And I’m happy, today,  I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

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learning new tricks from old dogs


I first published this post in August, 2015 but I still love it. My dogs have always been my best teachers about what truly matters. I learned that from my daddy.

From the time I was five or six years old growing up in rural southeast Texas in the 1950s, my daddy used to take me with him to hunt quail during what I remember as a relatively short season in the late fall and winter months. Quail lived in coveys in fields in the countryside around us and were excellent at hiding from their enemies in the tall grasses that would become hay when baled. You could walk and walk and walk some more until you felt like your legs were going to fall off if you had to put one foot ahead of the other again, but the quail were always one step ahead of you unless you had help locating them.

Enter the hunter’s best friend: the German short-haired pointer a/k/a in Grimes County, Texas as the bird dog. A good bird dog could run through a field sniffing and sniffing, sometimes whining, until he caught a whiff of a covey of quail; then he would stop, raise his right front leg to a ninety-degree angle,  curl his medium-length tail over his back and point his nose exactly in the direction of the covey. He remained in this precise position until the hunter walked up beside the dog which would cause the quail to take flight with the sound of their fluttering wings making a whoosh noise as they left the ground.

Whoosh! Bam! It was over that quick. The covey rose from the ground cover, and my daddy would shoot his twelve-gauge shotgun. Occasionally a bird would fall, and I would run to retrieve it and put it in my jacket to take home to my grandmother who would be happy to fix it for our supper. We rarely got our  legal limit, but we would usually have enough for a meal.

The problem my daddy had was he never had a “good” bird dog.  He got the puppies from different people  in the area who always assured him their dogs were the best in the field, but invariably the pointer he got didn’t respond well to training. A common trait Daddy’s dogs had was rather than stopping to point and hold their position, they would  stop to point for a split second and then run as fast as they could to try to catch the birds by themselves. Of course, the quail would take flight when they heard the dogs and be long gone out of  shooting range by the time we caught up with the dogs. Daddy would halfheartedly fuss – but the dogs rarely improved.

As I think back on this now, I believe our dogs had an identity issue which caused their lackluster performance in the field. Whether they did well or not in the hunting arena, they were fed regularly with  delicious scraps from our table (dog food wasn’t on Daddy’s radar screen), petted and hugged on an equally regular basis. They came indoors for their pets and Daddy often scooped the big dogs up to hold them on his lap while he talked to them about their shortcomings. My daddy was a very diminutive man – about five feet six inches tall – and those dogs weighed almost as much as he did. They looked at him with adoring eyes and absolute trust…and seemed to be saying I promise I’ll do better next time…but they wouldn’t.

Daddy with what he loved most – his dog and his Bible

My daddy loved his bird dogs. We always had at least one dog in our family for as long as I can remember and at one time when I was in high school, we had three.  I know that for sure because I still have the original oil paintings he commissioned  at that time from an artist friend of his.

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Daddy’s Bird Dogs: Rex, Seth and Dab (circa 1966)

No wonder I love my dogs. I’ve never personally owned a bird dog, but I’ve been on the receiving end of the adoring eyes and plaintive expressions of more than a few dogs of my own throughout my adult life. I confess to holding them on my lap if I can scoop them up, but even if I can’t do that, I will give them lots of love and kisses whenever and wherever they will stand  or sit or lie down to be so smothered.

Loving dogs – or any animal for that matter – is the gift that keeps on giving to us mere humans, but the gift comes with a high price tag because their lives are relatively short. Indeed,  it seems the older we are, the faster we lose them.

Two of our three remaining dogs that have given us much more loyalty and adoration than we deserve over the past decade have now been diagnosed with cancers that will ultimately take them from us. What I have learned from them is that they both keep their pain to themselves without complaints. They are not troubled by wondering why they are in their particular situations, and I think this allows them to try to keep changes in their routines to a minimum. They like to roll the way they’ve always rolled if they possibly can.

I am a contemplative person – I can’t help myself. I find I can spend a great deal of time trying to figure out “why” this happened or that took place. Unfortunately, discovering “why” doesn’t necessarily lead to productive change. As a matter of fact, the opposite is likely to occur. So when I find myself in a position similar to the ones my dogs are facing today, I hope I have learned my lessons from the examples they have set for me and focus less on “why” and more on “so what.”

That’s the way I’d like to roll.

P.S. My daddy never asked anyone to make an oil painting of me.

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Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

your so-called social security


When I looked at our bank account last night for the umpteenth time before going to bed, I was ecstatic to see the Covid-19 recovery money had been deposited by the guvmint. Ecstatic for us – and for the guvmint as well. I told Pretty yesterday if we didn’t get the money by today, someone was going to hear from me. (As if the guvmint would be very afraid of a call from me.) Since her nonessential antique empire is shut down without any protest from us, we really are very thankful to have unexpected deposits. I remembered a post about other guvmint checks I published here in January, 2015.  

One of the most popular country singers and songwriters, Merle Haggard, wrote one of my favorite songs, Big City, with lyrics that are much more meaningful to me in 2015 than they were in 1981 when I first heard it. “Gimme all I’ve got coming to me…and keep your retirement and your so-called Social Security.  Big City, turn me loose and set me free.”

Yep, in 1981 I was thirty-five years old and the owner of a very small CPA firm that had a growing clientele with low overhead.  How small was very small? That would be one person: me. I had been working full-time since 1967, was in robust health – full of piss and vinegar – with visions of acquiring great wealth through hard work and perseverance in America, the land of equal opportunity.  Retirement?  Social Security?  Bah, humbug.  Irrelevant and unimportant, but I paid my Social Security taxes along with everyone else.

Fast forward to 2008, the year I turned sixty-two years old. My robust health became more of a pisser than vinegar, which forced me to retire much earlier than I had planned,  long before acquiring great wealth. I had worked for forty-one years in a variety of jobs with numbers as their primary common denominator; I had made both good and bad career moves in those years but was moderately successful in the good years while being financially challenged in the lean ones.

Regardless of the triumphs and tragedies in my working life, I continued to pay my income taxes plus Social Security taxes every year along with everyone else in America. When I became disabled at age sixty-two, I began to receive my retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration. Because my prospects for acquiring great wealth looked slimmer than my prospects for acquiring great weight, I’m afraid I couldn’t sing along with Merle who apparently didn’t want his Social Security.

I’m happy to have mine – happy to be on the receiving end of what I paid into for more than forty years. Thanks Merle, but gimme all I got coming to me including my so-called Social Security, and then Big City, turn me loose and set me free.

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Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned. Seriously, my friends. Please do.

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, sports, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

i is flawed, you is flawed, we is all flawed


When someone asks me what I write, I see a slight look of disappointment when I say nonfiction. Fiction writers must have all the fun, right? Well, I have a logical explanation for my shortcomings: I is flawed, you is flawed, we is all flawed.

Hello. My name is Sheila and I’m a name-a-holic. That’s right. For years I’ve been convinced the only reason I can’t write fiction is my inability to think of interesting names for my characters. So I collect names like some people collect stamps or coins or antiques.  If I think about my favorite novels or short stories, I always remember the names of the characters. For example, my favorite short story of all time, How I Came to Live at the P.O. by Eudora Welty, is chock full of great names. PapaDaddy. Uncle Rondo. Stella Rondo. Mama. I could’ve written that story if I’d had those names to work with.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Harper Lee’s Boo Radley and Scout.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March. Laurie the boy next door. Papa. Mama. Or, lest you fear I haven’t read a book in the last twenty years, Amir and his friend Hassan in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Then of course, the Texas names Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Llewellyn Moss, the evil Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy are equally terrific.

Well, somebody slap me….I see the problem. In order to think up great character names you have to be an author with a fabulous name yourself. Eudora Welty. Mark Twain.  Arthur Conan Doyle. Louisa May Alcott. Khaled Hosseini. Cormac McCarthy. Harper Lee.  Sheila Rae Morris. Aha, that explains it! My name is so blah my imagination follows suit.  My only hope is Margaret Mitchell.

Oh well.  If I ever do get my fiction in gear, here are a few of the names you can look for in my novel:  Colt, Chance, and Charlie Cantrell. (Three Texas brothers for sure.) My twins’ collection so far:  Leon and Lon Lane. Madell and Adell Tolliver. Winnie and Minnie McCune. If the novel includes horses, the mare’s name will be Nacho. Her foals will be Frito and Dorito. Possible shero names: Sequoia Potter. Ethel Lorraine Wilson. Maurice Sawyer. Carolyn Briggs. Willie Joe Boaz. Possible hero names:  Cotton Lyles, Harvey Wilson, Forest J. Hutchinson, Lester “Gene” Archer, Vannoy Stewart, Elvis.

As for plot to go along with this potpourri of  names, I plan to start with the fact that Whitney Houston’s mother Cissy Houston was once one of Elvis Presley’s backup singers.   Now, that’s a story just waiting to be made up. I’ll get right on it. I predict Mama will be one of the principal characters, but how will I ever come up with a title? Sigh.

On a more positive note, Pretty surprised me yesterday afternoon by bringing our grandbaby Ella to visit me outside in our backyard for an hour. Since yesterday was Day 36 of my self isolation due to Covid-19, Pretty figured I would be one of the safest people for our six month old granddaughter to see. I was overjoyed when Pretty opened our back gate and came walking up the brick path holding Ella plus her big travel bag. Pretty and I had the best time playing with her, watching her take in her new surroundings, telling each other how brilliant she is, wondering what she will be like when she’s older. And when that girl baby looks at me with her smiles, I feel like life is good again.

Image may contain: 1 person, baby

Ella and her mother Pretty Too on Easter Sunday

I is definitely flawed, you is flawed, we is almost all flawed. Ella is not flawed.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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between hell and hackeydam


As if the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough, apparently the weather has also turned against us. I hear the wind howling in the trees tonight outside my window – with the possibility of tornadoes on the way according to the weather forecasters. I feel like we are caught between hell and hackeydam, a place most undesirable. I first introduced the phrase and the man who shared it with me to my followers eight years ago, but the story will be new for some. Whether you remember him or not, Bubba Sage should give you a smile. 

Once upon a time not long ago and certainly not far away a great Texas storyteller held forth on a Sunday afternoon as his audience gathered around a small dining room table, and it  was my good luck to be there for the performance. He was the last guest to arrive for the barbecue luncheon but proved to be quite the addition to a little band of friends and family who gathered for a traditional birthday celebration for my cousin Martin at his brother Dennis’s home outside Navasota.

I should’ve known I was in for a treat when Carroll “Bubba” Sage announced his presence with an entrance worthy of royalty. This very large man with a closely trimmed grey beard moved into the kitchen as the screen door slammed behind him. He balanced a homemade German chocolate cake in a single layer aluminum cake  pan as he came in, and I felt the energy in the little house went up a notch. When he retrieved a package of coffee he’d also brought and declared he never went anywhere without his own Dunkin’ Donuts coffee because he couldn’t possibly drink anything else with his cake, my antenna was up and ready for the ride.

What a ride it was. Bubba grew up as the younger child of parents who owned and operated what was affectionately known by its patrons in the 1950s as a beer joint. He was born and raised in Navasota which was, and is sixty years later, a small town in Grimes County, Texas, a county that was dry back in those days so his folks opened their establishment across the Brazos River in Washington County which was wet. Dry county equals no adult beverages allowed. Wet county means go for it.

In addition to serving beer, the best barbecue and hamburgers in the state made the place standing room only for a long time, according to Bubba’s stories. I know barbecue like that from years of chasing brisket in Texas hole-in-the-wall restaurants and could visualize the scene as Bubba’s daddy cooked the barbecue outside behind the tavern on a long open pit built out of bricks with a crusty black grill to put the meat on. I swear I could smell the aroma, or maybe that was my cousin’s chickens and sausage cooking outside in a smoker for our lunch.

And my, oh my, talk about entertainment. The Sage Place had music on the weekends when Bubba’s daddy played the fiddle in the band. As Alabama sings, if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddler in the band. The women’s petticoats swirled to the fast music and then swayed to the slow tunes as they danced the Two-Step. The female patrons particularly liked the little boy who was always there and let him wear their costume jewelry sometimes when they saw him eyeing it with lust in his eyes. He was in heaven.

The young boy grew up to become one of the teenagers that puffed the magic dragon in the middle of the Brazos River at a place he and his friends appropriately dubbed Smokey Point. They also created a theater of sorts at Smokey Point where Bubba developed a reputation as the Star of the Brazos. I was mesmerized by this big man’s recitations at our dining table. He took me totally by surprise when he began quoting a section of Young Goodman Brown, an obscure short story by the nineteenth century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. I could picture him standing on the rocks at Smokey Point as the Brazos River flowed past the theatrics this young teenager performed.

As all good storytellers do, Bubba threw in a few words to grab his listeners’ attention and he grabbed mine when he said, “I’ve had  close calls – been caught between hell and hackeydam more times than I like to remember.” Excuse me I said as I interrupted him.  But what does that mean and how do you spell it? Bubba laughed and said it was like being between a rock and a hard place but for some reason his family used this phrase instead.  (He added he had no idea how to spell it so I’ve spelled it phonetically here and will now use it as if I created it.)

The lunch was delicious. Bubba’s German chocolate cake was the best I ever tasted which  includes both of my grandmothers’ efforts so that’s high praise. I stayed to play dominoes after we ate and then began to say my goodbyes when the game was over. As I cut a piece of cake to take with me, Bubba made one final rendition in the kitchen. He recited portions of “The Hill”  from Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology which ends with the line, “… all, all are sleeping on the hill…”

Honestly, does it get any better than that?

view from my cousins Dennis and Martin’s place 

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Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

hallelujah! revive us again


Aha. I see those hands, as the Southern Baptist revival preachers used to say from the pulpit during the altar call or “invitation” as we called it back then when we sat on the small wooden pews with the large ceiling fans moving too slowly to stir the air in the Texas summer heat – even in a church as tiny as ours was in the 1950s when I was a child. The revival preacher would be shouting loud enough to keep everyone awake when he was preaching about the fire and brimstone hell would bring to all sinners who refused to repent that very night – who knew if you would make it until the next night of the week-long revival.

“Bow your heads. Close your eyes, and pray,” he would say as he grabbed for the white handkerchief in his suit pocket to wipe the sweat dripping from his forehead to the tip of his nose.

“Sister Selma, let’s have some music while everyone prays, ” the preacher nodded to Mama who would rise from her seat on the front pew next to Daddy to play the invitation hymn softly in the background on the piano. Uh oh, here we go for the Big Squeeze tonight, I thought, from my seat in a pew toward the middle of the church between my grandparents who had obediently bowed their heads and closed their eyes.

“Now with every head bowed and every eye closed, just raise your hand if you know you are a sinner bound for hell unless you get right with God tonight. That’s it. Just slip that hand on up right where you are without anyone looking. Yes, I see that hand.”

And so did I.

Because of course, I had to look. My head was kinda sorta bowed, but my eyes were not closed. I confess I wanted to know who was going to hell. I wanted to make sure all the people I loved weren’t raising their hands and I was always particularly focused on one of my uncles who was suspect. Luckily, his hand wasn’t raised, but tomorrow would be another night.

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Pretty said to me last night she had enjoyed spending the year with me this week. We both laughed because the days don’t seem to fly by as fast for either of us as they usually do when she is out and about wheeling, dealing, surveying her antique empire. But then she redeemed herself by saying she thought the year had been one of our best in a long time. I agreed. I love having Pretty supervise my self isolation. We both consider our time together to be one of the few perks in the pandemic.

David asks God in his Old Testament hymn book (psalms 85, verse 6) to send a revival. “Will you not revive us again so that your people may rejoice in you?”

Bill and Gloria Gaither’s version is the one I remember in the revival services of my youth. “Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above…hallelujah, thine the glory. Hallelujah, amen. Hallelujah, thine the glory. Revive us again.”

Today, Easter Sunday, I’m thinking about a revival of our hope for tomorrow for each of us, a resurrection of our faith in a future we can recognize, celebrate and rejoice in together across the entire world. Revive us again.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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sally and chance – an unusual love story


This is an excerpt from a post first published here in September, 2011 and later included in the 2013 Texas Folklore Society Anthology titled Cowboys, Cops, Killers and Ghosts. A little longer than my usual posts, but I hope you’ll take time to read and enjoy.

The frame shop was empty except for Sally and her husband Bill. The first thing I noticed about this woman was her hair. She had big hair, as we used to say when we described my Aunt Thelma’s signature beehive hairdo. Sally’s suspiciously colored reddish blonde white hair was swept up and back and appeared to be longer than it probably was. Regardless, it was big and suited the woman who greeted us with a smile the same size as her hair. I tried to figure out Sally’s age and guessed her to be in her early seventies.

My friend Carol who drove me to Tomball from Montgomery told me to go first with my items before she slipped away to browse through the shop. I put a few pictures on the counter top in front of Sally who sat down and reached for her measuring tape. But then, she seemed to lose interest in the job ahead of her and launched into a monologue about the heat this summer. Sally interspersed her stories with getting down to the framing business at hand, periodically producing a frame for me to consider along with mats of various colors and textures.

I glanced around the shop while she worked and remarked that I thought the pictures in her shop were great; I loved Texana.  She stopped measuring and her eyes lit up with the excitement of discovering a kindred spirit. She asked me if I had noticed the pictures at the front near the cash register. I hadn’t.

“Well, I want you to go take a look at them right now,” Sally said. “They’re pictures of me and Chance, the love of my life. Go on. Have a look.”

I obediently followed her instructions and walked over to see two 8 x 10 glossy photos hanging on the wall next to the check-out counter. One was a black-and-white photo of a younger Sally in a western outfit with three not unattractive cowboys posing with her.   They stood next to a large Brahman bull. I tried to pick out which cowboy was Chance.   The other photo was in color. Again, it was a younger version of Sally in a rodeo outfit with her arm around the same bull. I walked back to Sally and told her I thought the pictures were great but wondered which one was Chance.

“Chance is the Brahman bull,” she said and pronounced it bray-man. I had always called it brah-man.

“Wasn’t he beautiful?” Sally asked in a reverent tone. I must have looked surprised because she chuckled as if she and I now shared a wonderful secret: Chance the bull was the love of her life. I waited for the whole story.

“I got him at an auction when he was ten years old,” she said. “My husband at the time, not Bill, said I ought not to take a chance on him but I looked right into that bull’s eyes and we had a connection. A real connection. It was love at first sight. So we got him, and I named him Chance. I had him for more than eleven years. That bull was the sweetest and gentlest animal I ever knew; I’ve had dogs meaner than him. I used to ride him in rodeos and the parades for the rodeos since he never minded the noise and fuss people made over him as long as I was with him. He was oblivious to everyone but me. It was love at first sight all right, and he loved me as much as I loved him for as long as he lived. I’ve never felt the pure love I felt from that bull from any person in my life including my husbands, children and grandchildren.”

She took a breath and continued.   I didn’t dare interrupt her.

“He got to be so popular in Texas that Letterman’s people called and asked us to come to New York to be on The Late Night Show. So we put Chance in his trailer and off we went to New York City to be on television. The deal was supposed to be David Letterman was going to climb up and sit on Chance in front of his live audience. Of course I would be standing right there with him. Well, honey, you should’ve seen those New York City folks’ faces when I walked Chance through the TV studio. I was never prouder of my big guy because he didn’t pay them any mind at all.”

“Really?” I exclaimed.  “Did David Letterman climb up on your bull?

“I’m just getting to that,” Sally replied as she warmed to the storytelling.  “I was waiting in the little room before we were to go on, watching the commercials at the break when I felt someone standing behind me. You know how you can tell when somebody’s behind you.”  I nodded, and she went on.

“Well, it was David Letterman in the flesh,” Sally said.  “I must have looked kinda funny at him because he said, ‘Listen, lady, are you going to make sure nothing happens to me with that bull of yours?’  So I said, ‘Mr. Letterman, as long as I’m with Chance, you’re as safe as if you were in your own mother’s arms.’ He smiled and said that was good enough for him.   But the funniest thing was when we went on the air, he chickened out at the last minute and wouldn’t get close to Chance. But, then, the audience took over and made such a production that he ended up getting on him for about a second. He couldn’t believe how gentle my Chance was but he wasn’t interested in pushing his luck, let me tell you.” Sally laughed and stopped talking. She began to fidget with the mats for my pictures.

“Wow,” I said. “That was some story. You and Chance were TV stars. Amazing. Whatever happened to him?”

“Oh, he died an old man’s death,” Sally said. “Peaceful as he could be, but it nearly broke my heart. I cried for days when I lost that bull. But, I’ll tell you something about Chance.   Some of those professors over at Texas A&M took skin cells from my big fellow –  they cloned him. Yessiree, they cloned him and called him Chance II. First successful cloning of a Brahman anywhere.”

“You’re kidding,” I exclaimed. “Did you ever go see him?  Was he just like your Chance?”

“I didn’t go for a long time,” Sally said. “But my husband at the time finally convinced me to go and yes, he looked exactly like my beloved Chance. Exactly like him. But you know what was different? The eyes. They were the same color as my Chance’s eyes but we had no bond. No connection. He let me pet him but I wouldn’t trust much more than that. He didn’t have Chance’s soul.” She took off her glasses and wiped a few tears from her eyes. I was mesmerized by the story and pictured her trying in vain to recapture her lost love in an experimental lab at A & M. So close – and yet so far away.

Sally told me other stories that afternoon while I made my selections for frames and mats from her suggestions. She had started riding wild bulls in rodeos when she was forty-one years old and had ridden for a year but retired when the broken bones and bruises became too much for her battered body.  She finished with my items and gave me a total that was reasonable for the work she and Bill were going to do. And a bargain when you consider the storytelling was free. I looked at the clock and realized we’d fiddled with my pictures for forty-five minutes. Carol must be ready to kill me, I thought.

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Stay safe, stay well and stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

thank God for unanswered prayer


If I were straight and young, I would be a Garth Brooks groupie. Seriously. Alas, I am neither so I will be content with listening to him via Alexa along with his other gazillion fans. One of my favorite country western songs he wrote and performed has the catchy title Thank God for Unanswered Prayer. In this particular hit tune the singer and his wife have a random encounter at a high school football game with an old flame of his that stirs a memory of the intensity of the passion he felt for this ex along with the fervent prayers he uttered to God for things to work out with her back in the day. As you might imagine from the title of the song, he concludes his life is much better without her and that some of “God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

My theology is suspect. Because I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist environment in the 1950s and 60s, I developed serious misgivings about my place in the hereafter; but I’m not wrestling that old demon today. Instead, I was reminded of a few of my own unanswered prayers when I heard Garth’s song.

A funny flashback came to me of a deep-sea fishing trip off the Oregon coast when I was in my early twenties. A couple of the older women I supervised at Brodie Hotel Supply in Seattle invited me to go with them and their husbands on a salmon fishing adventure early one cloudy Saturday morning. To make a very long fishing tale short, I have a vivid memory of praying to God from the boat’s only bathroom where I spent most of the day as grown men pounded on the bathroom door – begging me to please get out. The captain’s apologies to me  for the roughest seas he’d sailed in years from the other side of the bathroom door mattered not. I begged him to contact the Coast Guard to send a helicopter to rescue me from the wretched or retched boat and I promised God if She would just get me off that boat I would never bother her again with prayer from the open seas. The prayer went unanswered until the eight-hour fishing expedition was complete. Too little, too late.  I counted it unanswered, and I was not thankful.

Regardless of my faith and its well-documented decline in my later years, I confess to again praying for specific outcomes in situations that were desperate at moments during the vicissitudes of life. On one particular occasion I believed I wouldn’t survive the loss of an eighteen-year relationship that ended when I was fifty-four years old.  I was undone, drowning in a different kind of sea with very rough waters. I fervently prayed my relationship would survive, although my psychiatrist at the time wasn’t encouraging during our sessions. She did, however, prescribe fabulous drugs

But just like Garth Brooks in his song, I thank God for that unanswered prayer twenty years ago. Pretty became my personal Coast Guard that rescued me from the depths of my despair with her laughter and love as she breezed passionately into the core of my existence. Pretty  is the spicy salsa for the rather tortilla chip person I’ve always been, and her rescue gave me hope for happiness. We have had that happiness – and then some. We are not strangers to struggles nor immune to heartbreak in the years we’ve been together, but the joys comfort us when we are called upon to share the sorrows.

As the world around us tilts on its Covid-19 axis today, I confess my fears for all of our futures. I spoke to an old friend from Texas last night who reminded me we had been through and survived many health crises during our lives including polio, HIV-AIDS, smallpox, the bluebonnet plague – to name a few. Pretty and I laughed so hard about the bluebonnet plague when I got off the phone that I called my cousin Melissa who lives in Texas. She was equally entertained and added that the bluebonnet plague was definitely seasonal which caused Pretty and me to laugh uproariously all over again.

Share a laugh, stay sane and safe wherever you struggle today.

Stay tuned.

 

Posted in Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Random, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments