Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Green Treasures

I've been trying to write a poem about my Farmor's (Swedish Grandmother, father's mother) green plates for two days now. And it's all just crap. Sewage. Compost. Bleck. There is no way I can capture what they mean to me in that form. You get a rambling post instead.

Farmor had one child who lived, my Dad. She had five miscarriages, two stillborn boys, and one precious daughter who didn't live long enough to come home from the hospital. I'm crying as I write this, the mother of two living miracles, and three waiting for me in heaven. She was a totally amazing person. I've given you some glimpses of her in The Curse of the Chicken Pox,  Baking with Farmor, and Oranges Like a Boy , but they barely scratch the surface. She was a generous, loving force in my life, and her entire focus was on her child and grandchildren.

Visiting her home was always special. She made us feel like we were making her day oh so much more exciting by coming over. She had a very positive outlook on life, despite fibromyalgia. Not that she got that diagnosis until she'd suffered for over ten years...but that's another story. One of my fond memories is of her china. She really, really loved entertaining. And setting a perfect table. (If she'd been a blogger, she would be one of you amazing folks who show us how wonderfully you've combined vintage, new, whimsical, and treasured all in one very inviting table.) I don't think we have an exact count of how many sets of china she owned, but from an early age we all knew which of them were meant for us eventually. She was very specific about this, and would collect things and tell us about them and who she had in mind when choosing them. It makes me smile to think of how many items she bought in triplicate for this purpose...

Ok, I may finally be getting to the point. We belatedly celebrated my birthday this past Sunday. When I served dessert, I used this set.

I remember The Swede telling me about how Farmor would have ladies over, and these were the plates specifically for cheese and fruit.  But sometimes, she would serve him a snack using these plates. He told me how special that made him feel. And that's such a good picture of who she was. She didn't save things for someday. She used her treasures, taught us about them, letting us touch them and wash them and help her set the table with them. Yes, they were valuable, most of them. But when inevitably one of us broke a piece (we were 2, 6, and 9 when we moved to the US so this is not surprising) she would just shrug it away. “Don't worry about it. It's only a plate. As long as YOU didn't hurt yourself, it's all going to be fine.

So it was with a melancholy heart that I served my birthday cake on the green plates. Green plates that used to serve ladies at coffee, but were also used to make a child feel special. And that now live in my house far from Sweden, making me recall precious moments from my childhood, and treasure them all the more for the heart that gave them to me.

P.S Here's what's on the bottom. If any of you tablescape bloggers out there know anything about them, I'd love to hear about it. All I know is that they're European...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Magpie 29 Forest-Silence

In her dreams
she sees the place,
peering through the branches
as silent senior sentinels
quietly keep watch
over the cottage

A stone face
and shake shingle hair
the eyes of the windows
in the waning light

It calls to her,
Sit quietly
and patiently
then you'll know
forest-silence peace"

But as she hurries towards it,
it disappears
if only
she could get there
instead of here
restless sleep,
aching heart
and forest-silence peace

This is a magpie tale.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saturday Centus Revisited: Flying Solo, Part 2

The small Cessna 172 picked up speed as it roared down the runway, Sara at the controls, the flight instructor beside her, but for the last time. One lesson to complete, and she'd be soloing! The anticipation was leaving her almost breath less with anticipation, and the butterflies in her stomach felt more like pterodactyls. But one aspect to this adventure was making her melancholy. She was going to miss Ted. Without the lessons to bring them together, how was she going to see him again? She knew her love for him was probably not returned, but she could dream. Sara smiled and turned to him,
I don't think I'm ready to solo. I think I need more lessons.”

Well yes, ma'am, if that's how you feel.”
I do. So next Saturday, same time then?”
Why sure, that'll be fine, ma'am.
“And Ted, would you please stop calling me ma'am? I'd rather you called me Sara.”
Yes, ma'am.” He winked. “Sara.”
She grinned back.
He cleared his throat.
There is one thing though. It's going to be really hard for me to give you more lessons. I was really looking forward to being done as your teacher.”
Her smile faded.
His grin widened, “So that I could instead ask you out.”

It's Saturday Centus again, with Jenny Matlock at off on my tangent.  She likes to keep us guessing, that's for sure.  This week the assignment was to take ANY of the previous lessons' work (anybody's, not just our own) and add another 100 words.  So I went back to one of the couples I'd written about and let them tell a bit more of their story.  Head on over there for the full rules and to join this link party.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flash Friday 55: Mini Road Trip

We're heading
to the hills
For a day
of play
leaving kiddos
(better to unwind)
leisurely lunch
shopping stroll
scenery, admired
perhaps a souvenir
to be acquired
Let real life wait
(I have too much on my plate)
Away we will go,
But the car isn't full
Join us if you want,
Promise it won't be dull!

Ok, totally cheesy, I know.  But since I had to tell you I wouldn't be around today...and I had no time to write a real 55...you get this.  It's a 58 :-)  If you wrote a real 55, go tell g-man, Mr. Know-it-all and put your link in his comments.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feeling Blue

Oh take me away
to a white sandy beach
turquoise fairy-tale water
gently at its shores

Oh take me away
to a quiet forest glen
azure skies
through the canopy

Oh take me away
anywhere but here
with stress and angst
everything grey

Oh take me away
on a wing
or a prayer
or maybe
I'll just slip
to there.

This is Alphabe-Thursday Summer Rainbow School.  Today is Blue.  Head on over to Jenny to join the fun!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Character Sketches

Chrystal Bane-Howard's name fit her well. One of those over-polished, over-made-up types whose stringent diet and fanatical exercise has left her more of a shell than a person, that brittle and carefully constructed exterior about to break at the slightest pressure. Her skin is sagging in places, and the wrinkles won't stop appearing. She's spent thousands of dollars on the very best cosmetics and salon treatments, but can longer hide the fact that she'll be 50 in a few years. Her hair color has no resemblance to anything natural, with its five different foiled tones of golds and blonds. Maybe it's really grey, but she won't allow herself to admit it, getting her touch ups every three weeks. She's 5'5” and 120 pounds, but she'd look much more real with another 10-15 pounds. She's just a stick-figure, with no curves.
All of her life she's tried to please Daddy. Whether it was good grades, or tennis championships, she didn't do any of it for herself, because nothing pleased her more than when Harold Bane would pat her on the head and say, “Now, that's my girl!”
Actually quite smart, she could have had a career in law or climbed the corporate ladder quite successfully. But Banes don't work. They volunteer. And get written about in newspapers with their names in bold print, under pictures that show plastic smiles and black-tie champagne affairs.

Her husband Dan Howard is in a pickle. His boyish good looks are fading, his latest “career” is in a jam, with rumors of shady dealings just outside the law. A large man who used to play football, he still works out hard to maintain the illusion that he could get back on the field if he just wanted to. Ten years younger than Chrystal, he's fast approaching a mid-life crisis, getting sloppy with his mistresses, barely avoiding getting caught, and careless with his gambling. The money which he enjoys spending so freely is actually hers. And though she's always agreed whenever he's asked for a larger allowance, it really grates him that she holds the purse strings. He'd thought that life would be easy. Marry the older woman so flattered by his attention, then live life high on the hog. But Chrystal wasn't as easily pushed around as he'd first thought, and insisted on a pre-nuptial leaving him nothing should they divorce. He'd gone along with it, thinking he'd just sweet talk her out of it in a few years. He had a lot of power over her when it came to the bedroom. She craved his attention, and withholding it for a while usually got him his way. All it took was a couple of weeks of, “I'm so stressed out about __________,   I can't sleep with you tonight.” Pretty soon Chrystal would be there with the increase in his allowance, or the money for that new car, and he'd make sure that he immediately thanked her with a marathon of attention. She was very hard to please, but his skills were legendary. He'd leave her exhausted and quivering, and head for the shower, planning his next campaign. Because she wasn't really a challenge. He had her figured out now, and she'd never said no to him. What he really wanted was someone out of his reach, whom he'd have to woo. That always made him feel like the man. Countless meaningless affairs later, even that no longer had its appeal, so he'd set his sights on Chrystal's sister. The added danger, and the complete challenge of seducing a woman who barely tolerates his presence, was looking immensely appealing.
I'm thinking you might be wondering what's up. Who are these people? What's going on? Where are the personal stories, the poetry I usually find here? Well, I'm stepping out of my comfort zone and working on fiction. So I've sketched some characters, and I'd love to have your feedback. Can you see them? Are they believable? Would you want to read about them?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Escape (Magpie 28)

Carefully staged
xanax, kicking in
(thirty ought to do it)
starting to drift...slip...
she clutched the bottle of gin, taking slow
even sips

she saw her toes poking out of the bubbles
She didn't remember painting them
It made her giggle to think
They'd find her
with painted toes

Her eyes closed
she didn't notice
when she went under

This is a magpie tale.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Counting my summer blessings. One by one.
Sleeping in. Every day.
Sunflowers in my garden, in the fields, and in the bouquet on my table.
A road trip, with family that included Maryland blue crabs, lots of sailing, and chances for memory making.
Reading. For pleasure.
Writing, for practice (and pleasure) and becoming part of the supportive community that is blogland. Love this new-to-me place, which has brought
new friends. Though “only” in cyberspace, friends nonetheless. Real people whose lives are now intwined with mine.
All this, AND a lovely cruise to a spectacular place.
I am truly blessed.

It's Saturday Centus again, only this week the challenge was EXACTLY 100 words, and the title was given, not a prompt.  Come join us at Jenny's place and link up.  

Friday, August 20, 2010

Flash Friday 55 - Contrast

Perched on my regular stool
martini in hand, the familiar
potent, icy
I sip
the tang, the bite,
the liquid pine tree

Through the windows
the verdant world
passes by
fog, low clouds
shroud mountains

This majestic land
makes me almost forget
This isn't my life,
it's a treat
Yes...I'll have another...

This is Flash Friday 55.  Go tell g-man over at mr.know-it-all that you've joined us by leaving your link in his comments.  It's great fun!

On the cruise, we'd meet at The Ocean Bar for happy hour each evening.  1/2 price drinks and lovely, intricate hors d'oeuvres (that we watched them prepare on the kitchen tour).  The view was unbelievable.  The bartenders friendly.  (Is it a problem that three bartenders know you by name and drink of choice on the second day of the journey??  Don't answer that...)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Green Alaska

There are many things to enjoy on a cruise, fabulous food, exotic drinks, lazing by the pool, going to classes or movies or demos or tours or shows. You could exhaust yourself pretty quickly trying to do it ALL. I took advantage of some of these events, and enjoyed them very much. But I also enjoyed our stops, getting off the boat and exploring Alaska. We stopped at Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria B.C. Each of these towns had it's own personality, but what they all had in common was GREEN. Alaska is lush, almost rainforest like. Here are some of my tourist shots to celebrate that color.  

This is in Juneau, our first stop.  In the background of this shot is the Mendenhall Glacier.  We took a van tour and since our group was so big, we had the whole van just to ourselves.  Our tour guide, Annie, was just a stitch.  Cracking jokes, driving us around, telling tales of the old days.  She's lived in Juneau 35 of her ?? years and knows it well.  What I appreciated most were the little slices of life that seeped through her story telling.  No script, just her own bubbly personality, and tailored to our questions.  "Well if you want to know about that, let me just take us here for a few minutes," and off the main tourist-infested track we'd go.  

Here's most of our group; we're minus my mother-in-law aka The Boss, and my aunt and uncle The World Travelers who opted for a purchased through Holland America tour.  (By the way, we were on the MS Rotterdam.)  Just for the record, from left to right are my brother-in-law Trouble, The Engineer, me (yes, actually brave enough to finally show my face) hugging YellowBoy, my nephew Mr. Independent, my fabulous sister-in-law Patience, her daughter Engineer In Training, then you probably recognize Jake and behind him is The Engineer's cousin Mr. Casino, next is Language Man, my other nephew, and last but not least my father-in-law, The Advocate.  Annie took this picture.

Two days later we were in Sitka.  Wonderful town of friendly people.  We saw the Russian Orthodox Church which has been there since (gotta check the brochure, brain rot), and then headed to the "totem park" aka Sitka National Historical Park.   

 A leisurely hike through the lush forest 

led us to many totem poles, 

The Boss was able to come on this one

a bridge where we could watch the salmon run, 

and a chance to hike pretty far out into the bay during low tide.

A day later, more green was found in Ketchikan, as well as more salmon running.
Our last stop before returning to Seattle was Victoria, B.C.  Our wandering around town took us to this (appropriate for summer color school green) buoy. 

 I was by no means ready to return, but alas, all good things come to an end.  I know I cheated and made you watch my vacation pictures, but all is fair in alphabe-Thursday.  Check out the other great posts related to the color green, and feel free to join us.  Jenny Matlock is our fab hostess over at off on my tangent.

Will You Just Relax Already?

I highly recommend cruising as a fabulous way to vacation. If you're not an engineer. My Engineer had a really hard time relaxing. I know, right? What's so hard about being waited on hand and foot, having your messy room cleaned TWICE a day, and all while passing by absolutely gorgeous scenery?

But let's start at the beginning. It was a stressful week of preparation. I don't much like packing, much less for four people, and add to that the fact that these people don't have the required clothes. There's not a dress code for going camping, or road tripping, and that's what we normally do for vacation around here.

Where are those black dress pants you wore at the last school program?”

Mom, that was two years ago, I wore a costume last year, and I have no idea where they are. And besides, I don't like them. I hate dressing up. Do we have to wear airplane shoes?”

(When you fly on buddy passes on United, which we've had the privilege to do many times thanks to my generous brother-in-law, there's a strict dress code which includes dress shoes. You sometimes end up in first class (yeah!) and you can't be looking like a ragamuffin and offend those fancy first class people. So the boys each had a pair of (probably plastic) fancy looking black shoes. That really didn't bend. They hated them.)

Yes, you need airplane shoes.”

So I start digging in their closets. We've been blessed with LOTS of hand-me-downs from a friend with a boy two years older than Jake. But we don't always use everything, because, well, we're casual people. Guess what I found? A suit. That fits Jake perfectly! And two pairs of comfortable dress shoes, each in the exact size of my two boys. Creepily amazing. I still had to take both of them shopping (separately, I'm not totally insane) but now the list was shorter.
Eventually, we were packed. Best drove us to the airport. First stop, Seattle. 

As you can see, YellowBoy was a bit tired. He can sleep anywhere.  

That evening we enjoyed an amazing dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the space needle. YellowBoy was especially impressed with the whole moving thing, and kept reporting what percent back around we were. You can't really feel the restaurant moving, but when you look out the window, then you can tell. It takes 45 minutes to go all the way around. The view was spectacular.

In the morning we were off to the pier. The boarding process reminded me of the song Alice's Restaurant, where Arlo Guthrie describes his adventure of the army inspection, “We got inspected, detected, injected, infected, rejected, and they left no part of us untouched.” (Or something like that...) But we finally got all fourteen of us through to the waiting area, and pretty soon we were off!

And know I realize that it took me two pages to just get us on the boat...so this story will be told in pieces. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tracks on My Soul

Life, long lived,
shows it's journey
on the outside
(but you can't see my inside)
my body, decaying
my nerves, fraying


I crawl
Try to reach
As if...

And then I'm still here
And you're still there
And the tracks of your words
Are rust on my soul

This is a magpie tale.

Hello Friends,
I'm back from vacation and having a hard time swimming in the pool of real life  as opposed to the surreal reality which is a cruise.  Will blog about that later.  Meanwhile, didn't want to miss a Magpie.  So many great, inspirational writers on this meme.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Magpie #26 His Water

There's a ledge I sit upon
Ambition shattered,
Job is gone
Perched to fall
Here I dangle.

To chance
to write
to dream
Am I able?

Perhaps with time
And space
And prayers
His living water
Will lead me there.

This is a magpie tale.

P.S Dear Bloggie Friends,
We're leaving Friday morning for a special treat. The Engineer's parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and are taking all their kids and grands on an Alaskan cruise! Yeah, I know. Rough life :-) I won't be posting from the ship (internet fees are outrageous), but will be home and posting again on 8/15. Hope to see you then!

Oranges Like a Boy

My Swedish grandmother, Farmor, spoiled us kids oh so generously. You didn't have to clean your plate, you could eat cookies before dinner if you'd been baking, and she'd let each of us have our own orange. This was so not how my mother did things. As a charter member of the clean plate club, there was no way she was going to let us go from the table until every bite was gone. Then she'd take your plate, scrape the residue of the meal into “just one more bite.” And make you eat that, too. Absolutely nothing to eat before a meal, and snacks had to be meticulously spaced to maximize our dinner appetites. And we never got a whole piece of fruit to ourselves. I think because it was so hard to get us to finish the whole thing to her “done” satisfaction. Fruit was always cut up and shared. But at Farmor's, we got the whole fruit to ourselves, and could decide on our own when we were done. Such a luxury.

I loved eating oranges at Farmor's. She prepared them “like a boy”. The story, as she told it, and she was a fabulous story teller, was that her seven year-old son (that would The Swede, my dad) came inside asking for an orange. She peeled it and handed it to him. “No! Like a boy! I want my orange like a boy!” It apparently took several oranges to figure this one out, with increasing agitation from The Swede and befuddlement on Farmor's part as she tried to make it the right way. In the end, it was determined that a boy about The Swede's age had been walking down the street across from their house, eating an orange. His had only the northern hemisphere peeled, so you could hold it by the side that still had peel, and suck on it and bite it, rather like an ice cream cone. Finally communicating, Farmor did as instructed. “And you put two sugar cubes down in the middle.” Now, how he knew this from across the street is yet to be determined, but this was Farmor, so of course he got the sugar cubes.

So when she let us have the whole orange, it was prepared “like a boy.” We never named it anything else. She even let us cram those sugar cubes down the center of our orange, and more than two if we could make them fit.  And now when I prepare oranges like a boy for my kids, it's with a smile as I recall her love and devotion to making each visit with her a delight.

P.S Mom - you know I love you.

This has been an Alphabe-Thursday summer school post.  Check out the other great takes on the color orange!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Birthday Thoughts

Do you know exactly how old you are? I mean, can you answer that question instantly? Because I can't. Don't quite know when it happened, but I no longer seem to keep track of my years. And have to do some quick math if I'm asked the question. Today is my birthday. I'm 45. An age I used to think was old. But I don't feel old. I feel like I'm just starting to figure some things out, and I also know that there are some lessons I've already learned. And not all of them the hard way.

I've learned that I'm not always right. Seriously.

I've learned that a true friend is much more valuable than a bunch of acquaintances.

I've learned that it's okay to say no. I can't take on every project, be on every committee, or help everybody. If I say no, it means someone else will have the opportunity to serve.

I've learned that though I'm a teacher, I'm no good with little kids. (Just ask the kids in Children's Church...)

I've learned that I need time by myself. Frequently.

I've learned that although I'm very allergic to bees, I won't die. I'll just feel like it.

I've learned that cooking is fun.

I've learned that I'll never be fashionable. I'm always going to be a jeans-and-a-t-shirt girl. And that's ok.

I've learned that I actually can garden, and growing flowers is pretty fun.

I've learned that I'm not safe with a credit card. Over and over again I've learned this.

I've learned that it won't kill me to ask for help. I can't do everything by myself, and some things I can't do at all.

I've learned that putting down what I'm doing to just really listen to my child is the most important thing I can do in a day.

...and I've learned that tall stools, a concrete floor, and klutziness are a really, really bad combination.

Monday, August 2, 2010


I want the key
But can't reach it
Want to know it all
But you're closed
Childhood left you paralyzed

Maybe, if I
clean debris
I'd find the lock
and I could try
the key
that I found in the dust
that dark corner, did you know?
I actually found it

But I'm so mired
So stuck in convention
So tired
And scared, because

What if I used the key and got inside and then
you didn't want me there?

This is a magpie tale. Please check it out. Amazing writers out there.


I still see her around town now and then, even though it's been seventeen years since she used to come into my store every day. I nick-named her Heidi-Marie.

I used to work at the Heidi-Marie Restaurant on Main Street I was their very best dishwasher he wouldn't fix the automatic dishwasher it leaked water all over the floor every time I'd have to mop it all by myself they always made me mop it all up there was lots of water all over the floor can't have that someone will slip so they make me mop it up..."

It was hard to listen to her. She talked in one long ramble of a rant about the injustices done her. Her words peppering you like BBs, not enough to make an impact, but incessant and continuous. Gnarled, arthritic hands wrapped around the handle of the well-used baby stroller in a grip of white-knuckling possession.  A leathered face showed the years of hard living, her long, grey hair mostly hidden by a faded, flowered scarf tied carefully under her chin. She'd shuffle in, dragging her bad leg, and limping.  Those tired feet clad in ripped hose, the edema of her pain making her flesh seem to ooze out between the straps of her sandals.

I hurt my leg when the car tried to run over me he didn't stop he just kept driving and now it hurts and they won't let me go to the doctors because they don't like me and I just want some medicine because I hurt my leg when they tried to run over me and he didn't...”

Stop. I just want her to stop. I've heard her stories every day. I can't convince her that we don't sell bread at this liquor store.

I used to come in here every day and Mr. Joe would give me a loaf of bread every day he'd give it to me I'd eat it and then I'd come back tomorrow and he'd give me bread every day where is Mr. Joe and where is my bread? I used to come in here...”

Business at a liquor store is mostly done in the afternoon and evenings. During the day you stock, straighten the bottles on the shelves, vacuum and bag ice. Or you're stuck at the register talking to Heidi-Marie. Since not many customers come in, it's hard to say, “I'm sorry. I'm busy here. I don't have time to talk to you right now."

I dreaded her coming in. She'd arrive still spouting her staccato at someone who had already left and gone their way, still explaining to them about how no one cares about her. Her baby stroller was filled to overflowing with cans, faded newspapers, ragged, dirty clothes and mate-less shoes. I tried to get her to leave her stroller outside, “You can't bring that in here ma'am. And we don't have any bread. Try next door at the convenience store.”

I'm just coming in for my bread Mr. Joe gives me bread and I can't leave my treasure outside they'll come take it again they always take my treasure when I'm asleep I can't leave it outside Mr. Joe gives me bread...”

And in she'd come. Sometimes I would try to keep working, but she'd follow me around, her gait ragged, that bad leg lagging behind, and still clutching her precious stroller just to keep telling me about the restaurant, her leg, her son who was going to come pick her up one day, and about the people following her to steal her treasure. I felt bad for her - lonely, homeless, and obviously in pain.  Most of the time I stayed at the register, half-listening and just waiting for her to decide that maybe Mr. Joe would be here tomorrow and she'd be coming back then for her bread.

She'd shuffle out, still talking to me, and continue her daily rounds. Broken, lonely, sad, and hungry. And I'd feel guilty for being irritated with her.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Saturday Centus #13 Good Riddance

It was hard to drag herself there. Sighing, she got in the car. At least she had a ride.

Dee hated funerals. Sure, no one really likes them, but for Dee, they're especially hard. Having lost most of her family to either illness, old age, or alcoholism, she'd had more than her share of them in her thirty-odd years.

I hate funerals. I hate phony people. And I hate having to go to a funeral and face phony people!” She told her best friend Andrea.

I know that. That's why it meant so much that you came.”

I wouldn't miss burying that bastard.”

This is Saturday Centus, and once again I'm trying to contain my verbosity to 100 words past the prompt.  If you'd like more info, please visit  Ms. Jenny Matlock at “off on my tangent”
for the full rules and more great takes on this prompt, which was in bold italics above. (Not to be confused with plain italics for emphasis.)