Category Archives: Where I live

If its about things on the home front, you’ll find it here.

Until Then, I will Sit

stadium-seatsI did it. I sat through the presentation of colors, the invocation and the national anthem at a local high school game. I sat, because I love the country I live in. As much as I love it, I am bothered by so much of what I see. I am also bothered by what I see as a near compulsory demand for an adherence to ritual while failing to truly understand, that for many Americans, such rituals ring hollow. It is for them, after much contemplation that I sat.

I sat for the people of Flint, for whom profit mattered more than safe drinking water, for the residents Standing Rock for similar reasons. I sat for those serving long term sentences for minor drug charges while those who commit violent crimes go free. The injustice, often along color lines is an ongoing injustice. Even worse, profit comes into play, when we as a people care more about the bottom line more than our neighbors, I find silent and complacent is something I cannot be. So for those who suffer at the hands of corporate interests,  I sat.

I sat for the victims of war…the men and women sent to fight for ideology and control of resources than ignored and abandoned when they got home, damaged, broken, hurting. For all the rhetoric about support for our troops, I find there is less substance than we are led to believe. We spend so much for the tools of war, yet the most important ones, the people we send into harms way, our nation invests so little. We’ve been in some kind of conflict for so long, that a time of true peace, is an unknown.

We send our sons and daughters, expecting them to set everything aside, celebrating what we believe is their patriotic duty to be cogs in the mechanics of war, and we rarely question why.. I am reminded of  Walt Whitman’s Drum Taps. The poem talks about the festive celebratory air that often occurs when we prepare for war. There is a line that says: 

The tearful parting—the mother kisses her son—the son kisses his mother;  
(Loth is the mother to part—yet not a word does she speak to detain him;)

Whitman proved to be quite prophetic in the lines of his poem as we prepared to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. How many mothers and sons never got to tell each other hello again since?  It is for this poignant reasons, that I hate the dark arts of war. We celebrate war through our patriotic rituals, yet rarely stop to count the cost. It is because I feel that the price is too high, that I sat.

I sat for every homeless child, every person working three jobs to make enough to feed their families, for everyone who is a victim of violence, for every person who has been subjected to the hatred of bigotry and racism, and every person who must decide which to pay, rent or medical bills. I sat for every person who came here for a chance for their future and for that of their children, fearful that they will be denied it for lack of a piece of paper. I sat for those denied that chance to even try to come here because they are from the “wrong country” or of the the “right religious persuasion. 

I, a white, middle aged grandmother, made a simple patriotic choice and went against the crowd.  I am of the mind that we can truly be a country that understands what freedom means, that it is a responsibility, an honor, a purpose, and that we are only free when all of us can be equally so. Until then I will sit.

Close Up

My dad is a fantastic amateur photographer. He’s got a knack for capturing images of people or of scenery in a way that is very appealing. My oldest brother Alan, also has wonderful skill with a camera. I have a few photos that he took of my granddaughter Helene’ a few years ago, and they are stunning.

I’ve always wanted to take good photos, but have never really mastered the art. Partially, its because I’ve not really had that great a camera to work with. I’ve either had very basic models that did little in functionality, and much in blur. Cell phones have advanced their camera options significantly over the years, but their shutter speeds suck. I’ve missed so many great opportunities. Actually i’ve taken lots of photos, of average to poor quality, with a few good ones scattered therein.

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to the mountains for a family gathering. My dad noticed me trying to take  cell phone photos of a favorite local waterfall, and of an unusual mushroom I saw along the trail. He asked if I had a decent camera. I didn’t, of course A few weeks later, I was sent a wonderful entry level digital he’d had lying around. Its far and above what I’ve ever used before.

So far, I’ve taken a few  photos of some of the grandkids, three of Gary trying to cook dinner on his grill, and photos of some flowers in my back yard. Its the flower photos I’m the most pleased with.

I love nature, and trying to capture its beauty can be a challenge. Prose and poetry is a medium I’m familiar with, and I’m not giving it up anytime soon. I just want to expand my creative horizons a bit.  I am looking forward to getting photos of animals, leaves, and flowers,  I see around me. like this one.

Backyard Clover

Backyard Clover

Yes, its clover. Isn’t that cool? You can see the details of a tiny patch of yard, and its beautiful.  The bee of course was faster than I. She was about 18 inches off camera by the time I snapped the photo.

The very first photo I took with my new camera had to be of a cat. Miko gladly posed for this. That she is sitting on me determined that.

Miko's close up.

Of course I’m gorgeous, as you can plainly see.

I will enjoy my new toy, and the opportunities to capture, life, family and nature. With the camera digital, I can quickly delete all the blurry shots.


Bon Apetite’

            I have a curious memory from when I was very small. My brother Alan and I are sitting at the kitchen bar at our house and are staring at the bowls sitting in front of us. Inside the bowls is a curious green liquid that my mother tells us is leek soup. The leeks, grown in our backyard garden, were something not commonly grown in the foothills of North East Tennessee, at least not in the mid-60’s, but somehow my mother had found some seeds and grown them for the purpose of bringing just a little bit more of her French culture to us. The color of the soup was just odd enough that I was not quite sure that it was actually edible. I would have preferred a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but soup was what was on the menu. My mother urged us to eat, telling us how delicious leek soup was, demonstrating the deliciousness of the concoction by eating from her bowl placed on her side of the bar as she stood in our small kitchen.

            My mother was originally from France and had come to the US with the company she had been working for. Within a year she had met my father and nine months later I was born. One of my brothers followed 15 months later. She threw herself into trying to be the best wife and mother she could for us. She also tried to educate us in French culture, even though we were firmly on American soil. She taught my brother and me French until my Dad complained that he couldn’t understand what his own children were saying. Another one of the ways she tried to instill French culture was through food. I don’t remember too many foods that she actually served us other then the leek soup and the Quiche Lorraine that she made almost every weekend, but according to my father, she often introduced things to the evening meal that were new and exotic, especially to my Dad, who was born and bred in Jacksonville, Florida.

He tells of the time that she served him mussels, and snails. To this day he is not quite certain where she found those French delicacies in a small southern town hours from the nearest ocean or edible snail habitat. Somehow she did so that she could introduce my dad to something she happened to be fond of. My dad, being willing to try anything once, ate what was served him, but never requested a repeat of shellfish cuisine. Shellfish and rabbit stew were about the only things that my father mentions that he didn’t like about her cooking. Once, while at work, my father noticed a group of secretaries staring at him. It was something that he had noticed off and on for several weeks. His ego and his curiosity getting the better of him, he asked the women why they kept staring at him during lunch.

“Oh we’re not staring at you.” one of them replied. “We were staring at your lunch and were wondering if we could tackle you so we could steal it.”

Smiling at my dad, she added, “Every day you bring the most wonderful looking lunches.” My dad, his ego slightly deflated as he realized that he was not the source of the secretaries’ admiration, explained that his wife made lunch for him every day, and thanked the women for the compliments to the cook.

My mother was also an organic cook, long before it became in vogue here in the U.S. My parents grew their own vegetables, and my dad made his own compost for fertilizing the vegetables. They got eggs and unpasteurized milk from a local farmer, from which my mother would make butter and a soft cheese from the cream and the whey she skimmed off the milk. She also made all our bread, nutty, brown and absolutely delicious. The only time I had store bought bread was when I found myself at someone else’s house. I didn’t really like the store bought bread. I found the flavor and texture far inferior then the sliced goodness my mother produced on a weekly basis.

I am not exactly sure why she went through all the trouble she did to prepare our food herself, or make most of her own clothes as well as mine and my two brothers, but she did. Maybe it was because of her own childhood, growing up in occupied France during World War II. She lived in a time of hardship and uncertainty during the occupation, made worse by the German soldiers keeping people from moving about freely as well as the Allied bombing of nearby factories and rail lines in hopes of keeping those facilities out of German hands. Her family, like most of the families in her town, often ate their suppers in bomb shelters while airplanes dropped munitions from several thousand feet above them. Even in the years following the end of the war, things must have been difficult while communities began to rebuild what had been lost because of the war. It is quite possible that skills learned by my mother ended up serving her well when she moved to the states and a completely different culture.

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The fall of the yard goddess.

Once upon a time I could do just about anything I wanted. I’ve never been exactly physically fit or athletic, but I had stamina and the willingness to at least attempt the task set before me. Even when chronic and often quite painful back issues started to become an issue, I often muscled right through getting done what had to be done. I’ve long enjoyed working in the yard, keeping flower beds neat and blooming, and shrubs contained in the spaces I wanted them to remain. I’ve mowed lawns and used weed eaters, but never liked that chore. But I’ve done it, when I had to

Saturday, I decided to do what I’ve always done, trim my bushes using a trusty set of old school, hedge trimmers. I have six boxwoods, a light leafed monstrosity, two smaller boxwood type shrubs in the front, and two more boxwoods and a gardenia on the side of our house. The last time they were done, Gary did them. He admittedly doesn’t like trimming shrubs, but wanted to help me.  Although I appreciated his efforts, I prefer how they turned out when I did them better.

I should have stopped at the first three. My neck had been twinging off and on for weeks. I’d gotten some adjustments at our  chiropractor, including one that morning. But the others looked so bedraggled in comparison to my neatly squared bushes. I went on.

By the time I’d gotten to the sixth bush, I was getting pretty tired. Gary stepped in helped with the two small bushes and the back of the last boxwood in the row. Then I turned my attention to the behemoth. I don’t know what it is, other than it grows a good two to three feet every six months doesn’t bloom and has large silvery, slightly waxy leaves and woody branches. I wish it would get aphids and die, but its likely to outlive me. As tired as I was feeling, plus a bit sore, I just couldn’t wait and tackle that shrub another day. It had to be done, and done that instant.

Tackle I did, with a vengeance. I took three feet off its height, (still taller than me) and reduced its girth so it wasn’t crowding out it’s neighbors. I reached up to pull some cut branches from the top, and my hedge trimmers just magically appeared where my right middle finger happened to be. You’d think such a small cut wouldn’t bleed so much. I went inside washed it thoroughly then wrapped it up in a paper napkin, fastening it to my finger with tape. I sent a picture of proof of my clumsiness to Facebook, then went back outside to finish up. I didn’t need to. Gary had finished up what little was left and had swept all the clippings up under the bushes where they would eventually make home grown mulch.

We cleaned everything up, had supper and realized that we’d overdone things a bit. I didn’t know how much I had till the next morning. I was miserable all day Sunday. There was literally no position that was comfortable. My neck hurt and more so my shoulder with the pain radiating down my left arm. Lying down was impossible, sitting up only really painful, so I spent a somewhat uncomfortable night on the recliner, sleeping only with the aid of an Ambian. This morning I lasted till just before lunch, before I could stand the pain no longer.

So, back to the chiropractor I went. I’ve definitely injured my neck. The jury is still out on the severity, but hopefully its nothing like a disc ruptured and only a severe strain. I was told, quite bluntly to never pick up hedge trimmers again, not even the nifty electric ones. I got adjusted and am now at home, on the recliner doing the thirty minutes on, thirty minutes off routine with ice packs. I’m having to come to terms with the fact that I’m no longer young, and vibrant, but older, and with a different, less physical form of vibrancy. My days of standing on ladders, wrestling shrubs, lugging bags of potting soil and lime are coming to a close. I can still dig in the dirt, planting bedding plants, watering patio tomatoes or pulling a few weeds, but the heavy work is going to have to be passed on.  This yard goddess, wants to live to see more gardens  and yards grow, and bloom and thrive, while still be able to do so under my own power for awhile yet. So I am retiring the heavy tools…or so I tell myself.

My Holiday Love/hate List.

In a week, millions of people around the world will be celebrating Christmas. The traditions will be unique and diverse as each person, each family partakes in this seasonal event. Some will carry on traditions handed down from generation to generation, some will embark on a new way of celebrating the holiday. For some Christmas is a secular event, for others a most holy one, yet most agree that Christmas represents something special.

I grew up not celebrating Christmas. The religion I grew up in, didn’t recognize it as an acceptable Christian holiday. I was an adult with children before I put up my first Christmas tree, a tiny fake one that would have fit well in a retelling of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It was difficult rethinking all I’d been taught about what was horrible and unholy about Christmas, but over time, this time meant more and more to me. It is now my favorite time of year, as it is for so many others.

There is so much I love about Christmas, and so much I hate. I love carols, listening to children singing, the opening strains of O Holy Night and trying to hit the high notes as I sing along. I hate hearing “Holly Jolly Christmas” before the Halloween candy goes on sale at the local Walmart. I love deciding on what gifts to buy my family. I put a lot of thought into what to get everyone. I hate the annoying ads, the clamoring cry to buy this and that, and while you are at it, that stuff over there, that’s 15% off. Which is why I am so glad I no longer work in an occupation that has any hint of the word “retail” attached. Besides most of my shopping is done by November 1.

I love the liturgy of my church’s worship service, seeing the poinsettias gracing our alter, the time of taking even more time to consider the less fortunate in our community, the time of sharing and reflecting. I hate the stupid fights over manger scenes, whether to call it a holiday or a Christmas tree, the silly discussions over “keep Christ in Christmas”. Just let people keep Christmas, or not, their own way, and stop being so damned pushy about it. K?

I love time with family. To get together with siblings, cousins, children, grandchildren, gathered around a table overladen with food that ruins your diet just looking at the jello…it to me is special, and doesn’t get to happen near enough.  what I hate? So many of us have gone through separations in our families. We’ve moved away, we’ve been deployed,  we’ve had divorces we’ve had deaths. Families experience rifts of all kinds, some of them impossible to repair. Some however, myself and my family included, are fortunate to build anew, to experience the joy of companionship, and home with new members. Others make family from neighbors and friends to help fill in the gaps for those who cannot be there.

I love the spirit of generosity and compassion that surrounds this time of year. So many agencies that help those in need depend on donations from this season to make their budgets for the next year. I hate that the generous spirit doesn’t last. We need to consider the needy, the helpless, the ailing, the forgotten every day of every single year. Their needs do not end on December 26.

I love the message of hope, of peace, of transition, of promise, found in the remarkable story of a young woman granted an amazing task, and the child who grew up to be a revolutionary, standing for the liberation of our hearts, our attitudes our actions and our souls. I hate that people spend what should be a time of joy and celebration in mourning the loss of one dearly loved, or spending the time alone because no one cares about them,  or  in a nursing home wondering if anyone will stop by to see them, or having to spend the holiday in, a battered woman’s shelter, a homeless shelter, a prison or in the streets. My heart breaks for them all, wishing I could do something to ease their pain.

The sage in the book of Proverbs discusses that there’s always a time for those activities which make up life, and constructs it in a poetic contrast. In that list, we can easily find that all those in the list can show up now.  The question is how do we help more find the positives in that list and eliminate the negatives? The possibilities are endless, and the needs are great.

My hope is that Christmas for all of us is a time of joy, of peace, of healing, of family, of renewal. My hope is that each of us looks beyond our little circle and sees others who need some of what we take for granted. My hope is that we extend our efforts, our love, our friendship to more and more members of our community, discovering the neighbor to love. My hope is that such activities don’t cease after the ham is consumed, the tissue paper crumbled and the empty boxes set to the curb, but that we decide to discover that what Christmas can represent is ongoing, that we help close rifts, heal wounds, dry tears, warm hearts, all year long.

Stupidity and the dolly

What is going on when you combine pillows, blankets, an ice pack? Well for me it is an enforced period of rest. I managed to sprain my back. Yes, I sprained it. I didn’t even know you could do that.

So how did I manage to sprain a major muscle group? Stupidity of course. I so know better then to do what I did yesterday. But I always ignore that little inner voice that yells “Sylvie, No! Bad girl, bad!!!” instead listening to the Indestructible Me inner voice that whispers sadistically “You are invincible.”

So lets back up to yesterday, to see what left me prone and pained.

Yesterday a box came into the office. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were parts intended for a different department. I did quickly realize that the box was way heavier than any acceptable lifting limit for a woman with a ruptured disc and frequent pain issues. I did listen to the good little voice on that. But then stupidity kicked in prompting me to find a dolly, wrestle that box onto it and then wrangle the whole shebang into the office area. Meanwhile Indestructible Me voice was humming “Gotta Fly Now” from the movie Rocky.

The back had been acting twingy off and on for a few days, but it hadn’t been that big a deal. I’m very used to that. Aleve usually helps when things get a bit uncomfortable. I actually felt great yesterday, decent energy, good mobility, so the whole dolly episode didn’t even cause a blip on my danger radar.

Gary and I got a bite of dinner after work, because of a brief power outage and decided to pick up a few groceries at Walmart afterward. My back was twinging a bit, but I figured a walk would help. It didn’t. It took longer than usual to get out of the store, because walking became increasingly painful with each step. In fact by the time we left the store, walking was actually a difficult task to perform. I had a very miserable night. Its no fun when there are zero pain free positions available. Meanwhile Indestructible Voice is singing the Doom song from Invader Zim and Sensible Voice is in a full tilt rant.

“See dummy? I told you. But do you ever listen. Of course not, you never do. Now look at you.” Sensible Voice does like to rub it in.

Thankfully some rest, ice, chiropractic adjustments, a bit of walking and time will have me back up to speed in a few days. Now, if only I could manage to permanently turn off Indestructible Voice.

How to create the perfect Clusterf…

I know that I am a person of slightly more then average intelligence. I know that I can be highly competent and savvy.  I can handle life situations with aplomb, (well most of the time) and try to look at life as the glass half full. I also can watch a tiny error turn into a big freaking disaster.

Being somewhat self-deprecating in nature, despite all my positive attributes, I tend to share  the incompetent side of my persona with all of you. Why? Maybe because I know that humor is a great stress reliever, so if you laugh, maybe your day is brighter. Maybe I hope you learn something, if nothing else how not to do something, as my shared attempts at home improvement can attest. Maybe, because in hindsight, the situation is rather amusing, but not so at the time. Plus its the cheapest form of therapy I know.

My latest voyage into quasi-calamity began innocently enough, and with a panic. As I just wrote, I came home early from work the other day with an intestinal virus. What I didn’t mention was that on my doorknob was a little placard. That placard mentioned that as I hadn’t paid my water bill, that utility would be shut off in 48 hours.  I know that my memory has never been my best attribute, but KNOW I had paid that bill. So straight to my bank’s website I went.

Sure enough I could see where the funds had left my bank, and when, thanks to the bill pay service we use. So I called the water company. “No, Mrs. Parris. We haven’t recieved payment on your account.” The Customer Service Representative informed me.

“But, it shows on my account that you should have gotten payment on the 14th!” I declared, while my body wondered why I wasn’t in bed, my stomach cramping in agreement. It took another 90 minutes between calls to the bank and the water company, before I realized that things would be on hold till the next day. Why? Because no one was quite sure exactly where that original payment went.  I had to table it till later. I spent the rest of the day huddled under covers, listlessly changing channels.

The next day resulted in a holding pattern in regards to that water bill. I was assured I’d been given an extra 24 hours to figure out what had happened. But along the way, I learned one probable cause…my own data entry skills had failed me. I had transposed two numbers when I input the Water bill account. Research proved that it wasn’t the real issue, as no funds had gone to the account I had actually entered either. The status of  just where the money was, had yet to be made clear, only that a check had been issued to the Water Company. The mystery deepened.

So this morning, I had yet to see any resolution. I made a trip to the Water company a mandatory party of my “day off” errands agenda. Before I wrote the check, I asked if any updates had been received on their end as to the status of my account. Being given a negative, I wrote out the amount, plus a late fee. Then drove  to the nearest branch of my bank.

In about ten minutes, I finally got an answer to the missing funds. Apparently banks often contract with third party entities who manage the transactions for bill pay. As is often the case, the first time a new bill pay is enacted, a paper check is issued to the payer. That was the case with my water bill. It was a recent addition to our bill pay list. What had happened was that someone in that office had also suffered a data entry failure. In this case, they had written down the wrong Post Office box number. As happy as I was to learn that I was not the only person in the world to suffer from input reversal issues, I was not thrilled to be double whammied by a complete stranger. I can muck up digits all by myself thank you!

My banker informed me that they’d already issued a check to the correct address. GOODY! Now my account is being paid twice. I called the Water Company. They had posted my check already, and since I had no idea when check #2 would show up, I would simply have to wait for it to show, then I could get a refund. I could have taken a chance that check #2 would arrive before the dude with the big “shut off her water” wrench did his worst, but I didn’t dare. Now I would have to wait till likely next week before having my account refunded. At least I got the late charges reversed.

By this time my frustration was in the red zone. I needed stress relief. Happily a Zaxby was nearby. I could solace my soul with a few chicken tenders and some Zax sauce. Life would begin to find balance and harmony again!  I pulled up to the little drive thru kiosk to order, only to discover they wouldn’t open for another 20 minutes. NO!!!!!!!!

I gave up and went to my last errand of the day, the grocery store. There I bought a mini pizza to substitute for the soul solacing nibbles, which I toasted and consumed immediately after getting home.

And that boys in girls is just one way to create the perfect Clusterf…well you know what I mean.