Lyric-ese

languages

I love languages, I have since I was in 6th Grade where I had my first brush with Spanish. Took a little German in college, and over the years have learned salutations in over a dozen languages. The Filipina caregivers are very impressed with my ten words of Tagalog as was my Egyptian coworker when I wrote my name in Arabic.

Unfortunately, my children are monolingual, and I’m not too sure its English they speak. The words are English, the grammar and syntax appear to be English, but, for the life of me, there are times I’m not fully understanding them, or they’re pulling the wool over my eyes. I texted my Author Talk flyer to all the kids, I got a few responses: cool, do I have to go? and finally, it’s gonna be lit! Huh? I know I’ve heard these phrases somewhere before, and then I had an epiphany. During one of our many “drive-bys” by the ocean, I heard their language, it’s their music, the lyrics from the songs they play…over and over and over again. They speak lyric-ese, some kind of new slang.

Since most attempts at conversation with my young people result in “huh?”, this is how I imagine they’d go if they did respond:

”Eva, what  time you gonna be home? And don’t get in a car with a driver whose  been drinking AND don’t take a drink from anyone.”

…Like why you so obsessed with me.  What’s that suppose to mean? I’m your mother.

”Ellie, where are my clothes? Weren’t you gonna put them away?”

To the left, to the left, everything you own in the box to the left. Don’t sass me!

“Eloisa, what do you think you’ll do after you get out of school?”

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow, if I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe. That’s, uhm, good. Relax, a little, we’re just talking about 8th grade.

‘’’Beasto, you’re so quiet, what are you thinking about?”

I got money on my mind, and my mind on my money. Good.

Espi, you’re almost done with school. How exciting! How does that make you feel?

Young, dumb, broke high school kid. Okaaay.

”Hey, quiet it down in there.”

Let’s get it started…hah! Let’s get it started in here. (They are bad kids.)

Well, two (or eleven) can play at that game. When I’m done raising these kids, I’m gonna take this job and shove it because I’ll be ready to take a chance again. I’ve looked at life from both sides now from win and lose and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all so if you miss the train I’m on, you will know that I am gone, you will hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

I may never pass this way again so don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy, lighten up while you still can, don’t even try to understand, just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu, adieu, to you and you and you (+ 7). I’m glad to go I cannot tell a lie, I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly. And kiss today goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You My Identity?

AreYouMyIdentity

Below is an excerpt from the my self-published book, The Plight of the Hare & Other Stories From the Shoe. This blog was first written in 2009.

Here I am on the cusp of 50, and I am having an identity crisis like one of my 15 year olds. It is rather humorous and pathetically sad, and slightly terrifying.

I am newly divorced and for the past two decades, I pretty much conformed myself to my husband, his business (a business I liked), his wishes for our family and “subjugated” anything that was purely me to these pursuits. I don’t regret this time of my life, and we did have many things and thoughts in common. Nevertheless, as I face a single life, I am mystified as to who I really am. I am like the baby bird that went from one thing to another asking the profound and longing question, “Are you my mother?”

As I look for direction in my new life, I look back to the days before love and marriage, and try to remember the passions that were truly my own. As a perpetual people-pleaser, it’s hard to distinguish what I really like from what was either popular at the time, popular with the folks I was hanging out with or limited what things my overly active conscience deemed permissible. You see, I looked to those around me for existence confirmation, validation and acceptance. But as those influences diminished, I learned there were certain things I knew for sure that were from me, just me.

I remember my love for languages and cultures which was born in my heart in the sixth grade. After I got saved in 1979, my whole life soon revolved around my church, and that love was reinvigorated by the scores of missionary stories I read. When I got my English degree back in the ’80’s, I intended to go overseas to teach English. Maybe I should pursue that again. I had even started the certificate at Cal, but couldn’t finish because of the demands at home were very high. There were still at least nine under the same roof. They needed a little supervision, and I remembered my first and foremost responsibility. In an old (1991) journal, I copied a little poem:

This is my mission field; the kitchen sink, where countless plates and glasses clink.

While mundane tasks involve my hands, I pray for those in distant lands.

This is my mission field; a child’s heart where endless thoughts and actions start,

For in that heart through word and deed I plant and water sacred seed.

Marcia Baldon

I remember my job as a construction secretary in 1979. I worked on a job site in Redwood City. The radio was set to a local country western station – KLOK – by decree of the cigar-smoking, Andy Devine-cloned superintendent named Andy, and there I fell in love with Willie and Waylon, and Merle and Marty. I got myself some cowboy boots and I was set. “I was country when country wasn’t cool…” well, really, I was going country when it was getting popular. So this city-born country girl started gazing at plans and dreamed of building a home of her own. I taught myself how to read blueprints, and I also crudely drew a floor plan for an off the grid house on Mt. Rose in Nevada. I don’t know where the Mt. Rose idea came from, but the seeds of working in the construction industry were germinated in that little job site trailer. Over the years, I would add to my knowledge of the construction business. Maybe I’ll go get my construction management certificate and stay in this industry.

Finally, I remember I liked to write. I began writing back in elementary school for fun, I even bound my own book titled “Suzanne and the Pig”. Don’t know what became of it, never hit any best seller lists. I wrote poetry in high school; however, I was easily discouraged as you can see from this poem:

Tired of the same old words,

Tired of the same old verbs,

Wishin’ for the capacity beyond my control

To create poems true and bold.

Dreaming does no good,

Nor hoping that I could,

The energy does not exist

To dedicate my heart to this.

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My godfather was an author, and he encouraged my writing, but I don’t think I seriously thought of doing it until I read a book my ex bought for me “Maybe You Should Write a Book”. Maybe I should, I could stay home with the kids and generate an income. I did pray a Gideon prayer in 2006 that if I was to write, I’d need to get published within the year. And I did…twice. But I’ve yet to receive a book contract…I can’t even get an agent to email me back a rejection notice.

So I look back at the expanse of my past life and ask “Will the real Donna please stand up?” Is she the country music loving pseudo-architect, the internationally traveling English teacher or the best-selling “best thing since Bombeck” writer? Actually, each and every one of these parts is a facet of who I truly am: the identities of the past, the present and the future: best-selling writer, mother of ten great kids, and future wife of knight in shining armor, and builder of dreams.

Put A Little Vaseline On It

rx

As I embark into my sixth decade, I am realizing that there are certain things I really need. I prided myself for many years in being able to thread a sewing machine needle without my Dollar Tree cheaters. Evidently from the text I sent my daughter last night – “I unlicked doir” –  I need my glasses all the time for reading, writing and arithmetic (especially since I’m in accounting). Last week, a friend of the family sent up a distress Facebook post needing prayer for the final weeks of her MA program. It was late, but I wanted to chip in my support, which I did with this message: “Im peaying, habg in ghere. So olose.” I checked the comment in the morning – oh snap – she’s gonna think I’m drunk, that’s not what I wanted to communicate. I added a comment which translated the above sentiment and assured her I was not intoxicated in any way, just forgot my glasses. She responded with a hearty laugh emoji. Without my glasses, miscommunication events will likely happen again, especially when I’m depositing money into offspring accounts, so I better keep them close.

Now the above comment was ridiculous, but miscommunication can have other outcomes, other effects. My sister and I were at my parents’ house one day. Standing at the kitchen counter, we were engaged in a serious and riveting conversation about what we all discuss in the kitchen: hemorrhoids. Who knows who the afflicted one was, but our conversation covered causes, symptoms, side effects and various and sundry methods of treatment. My mother entered the kitchen while we discussed the burning, itching and pain. She listened for a bit. And, in a humph, she pronounced her expert therapeutic remedy: “Just put a little Vaseline on it; and, for Pete’s sake, stop licking it!” Yes, miscommunication at its most humorous. No, Mom, we’re not talking about cold sores.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when miscommunication is rampant. Fake news, fake polls, fake people assail us on a daily basis. It takes a real serious effort to find out the veracity of a story, if we can at all. One has to examine multiple points of view, multiple forms of media and multiple sources to even glean or hope for a true understanding of an issue. It can be a real pain in the, um, backside, like our favorite kitchen conversation topic. But to be as informed as we can, we need to persevere in understanding what is going on. Whether that makes a difference in the long run, I don’t know; but, for me, I need to try to get the best and most objective understanding of a subject, I try to consider all points of view.

Putting a little Vaseline on it may work for cold sores and even may work for hemorrhoids – I know it works for diaper rash – and I suppose (hah!), metaphorically, it may work for us adults who are trying to soothe the painful troubles of our times. If we realize what we see and hear on the TV, the Internet, the paper and even what we hear from our friends is not necessarily the whole story or even the true story THAT can be the first course of treatment in getting to a higher place of understanding. And maybe from there, we can assuage the burning issues with the balm of compassion and commitment which will lead to respect, respect for each other and for our different points of view. And from that place of respect, I am confident, we can begin to heal our country’s ailments. Fifty years after MLK, RFK, Vietnam and Watergate, we should be there by now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Cup Runneth Over…

abundance--my-cup-runneth-over-sandy-tracey

Abundance – My Cup Runneth Over by Sandy Tracey

https://fineartamerica.com/featured/abundance–my-cup-runneth-over-sandy-tracey.html

Well, today is my birthday. Here I am on the cusp of 60. One of my first columns the Pacifica Tribune ran was titled “You’ll Never Be This Young Again”. It was a little reflection upon my imminent fifties. Like that column, this blog is a reflection as I now approach the big 6-0. I woke up early this morning, had a weird dream and couldn’t go back to sleep. Maybe I was excited like when one gets on the night before the first day of school or Christmas Eve or one’s birthday, if you will. 🙂 So with some extra time this morning, I remembered the story of the children of Israel creating a mound of stones as a remembrance of crossing the Jordan River, and I thought I would spend this time remembering and thanking God for the many, many blessings I’ve received these past six decades. Before long, my cup was running over….

The first thing to come to mind was thanking God for my friend, Mary, who invited me to the church where I came to a personal, living knowledge of Jesus Christ.  My whole life’s trajectory changed with that decision. I thanked Him for our church’s drama team, my excursion to Belgium in 1983, my short time at St. Mary’s and my graduation which was a present to my father. I thanked Him for Erma Bombeck whose writing I try to emulate, and my godfather, Phil O’Connor, who inspired and encouraged me to do so. I thanked Him for my ex-husband, and the kids we had together.

I thanked Him for them, and how their lives have enriched, energized and established me. Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:15 that women are saved through childbearing – really, Paul, how medieval – but for me, child rearing has indeed saved me. Saved me from myself and taught me to REALLY love someone else. They have taught me perseverance. I have had to keep at it. And for this dyed-in-the-fur hare, it has been my “salvation” and the means of transforming me into a semi-tortoise, and enabling me to begin to produce something meaningful in my life.

I thanked Him for my job. I’ve never held a job this long. I am amazed. I’ve learned so much, and have had the pleasure to work with some great people.

I thanked Him for my family. For my sister, Linda, who with Mike, got up in the middle of the night many years ago to bring Ricky to the hospital after he and James were jumped. Linda who helped extract me from the dangerous living conditions we were in, and who also listened endlessly as I vented about my problems. I thanked Him for my parents who have always helped me when I needed it. They housed me and my kids for almost ten years. I thanked Him for the sweet Christian school that miraculously took in my six shy little kids and prepared them for a traditional classroom environment, sowing the seeds of their academic success, and for the family member who namelessly, quietly, and generously paid for their first year there.

These are a few of the wonderful things God has done for me. I also thanked Him for the hard times. All the things above have shadows to them. My church was not perfect. My marriage ended. My children are human. My family has its own dynamic. There’s been work drama. There have been many bad times, many hard times. David said in one of his psalms, “It is good that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes…”. And I agree with him. I’ve learned much from my dark times.

But, God causes all things to work for the good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose: the tough times, the tender, the trivial, the triumphant and, yes, even, the tragic times. Death, in all its forms, can give birth to sobriety which gives birth to hope which gives birth to faith which gives birth to…..the impossible.

So, as I look upon another decade, Lord willing, I am excited to finish my extended course in motherhood – (legally, of course, because we all know it NEVER ends) – and to see what new things God has in store for me. And I thank Him for all of you who read my blogs and continue to encourage me in my writing.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”    – John 10:10

 

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At Least There was Milk in the Fridge

milk

Often, I would have one of those excruciatingly painful conversations with one of my offspring when they highlight my failures as a parent. I never cared. I never listened. I never did anything for them. Well, I respond with, “at least there was milk in the fridge.”

Yeah, we had some tough times. Yeah, the kids went without a lot of things. Yeah, we had our share of drama. But I did what I could. I am certainly not perfect, evidently short-sighted and obviously not too good with money or birth control.

It’s funny what my kids remember. Some remember raising all the kids. Some remember never getting attention, some remember getting too much attention, some remember things I would like to forget. Some, though, remember a happy childhood, things weren’t so bad. Any painful memory my kids tell me makes me feel like crap, of course. We try so hard to shield our kids from the reality of pain and hurt in this world, but it’s futile. And it’s worse when that stuff comes from someone who’s supposed to be one of your biggest cheerleaders. And I feel bad when my kids say I wasn’t there for them. I tried, I don’t know where else I was, besides maybe in a nearby corner with a book.  At least there was milk in the fridge.

It wasn’t all bad. There were times when we had more than enough. More than enough room, clothes and food. We don’t remember those days so much. It is easier to remember what hurt because it still hurts. Yes, there were bad days, and the worst, only a few, when there was no milk. If I didn’t have milk, there were no bottles, no pancakes, no cereal, no homemade bread. Just beans and tortillas. We always had beans. And Ricky did make delectable butter tortillas. LOL. But I know for a fact there were only about five days when there was no milk, what I mean was there was no money for milk. No milk money. During this hard, hard time, God providentially supplied our milk needs. The pastor’s wife worked for OUSD, and would often bring crates of surplus little milk containers, she kindly gave them to me. That held us over for a while.

Five days in 30 years, not too bad. I also tried to provide a different kind of milk. I tried to be kind. I tried to teach kindness. The milk of human kindness has all sorts of nutrients. I hope they got some of that nourishment.

I’m loving those “humankindness” commercials, the one with the pony and the other with the little fella trying to blow out his first year’s candle. That’s what I wanted to provide in addition to all the things the kids needed physically. Kindness is a quality that only compounds with its usage. Once it is firmly rooted in one’s heart, it only needs exercise to grow.

Kindness is balm for the soul. “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It is powerful. William Wordsworth said, “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” I guess we don’t remember those times. I need to do better.

I am going to try to underscore those things, the kindnesses given to me. I will always remember the sweet texts my sons have sent me off the cuff. I’ll remember when my girls cleaned up without asking. I’ll remember when my friend gave me and my kids boxes of things we needed. I’ll remember when family paid for my kids’ schooling, housed us, helped in emergencies, all without complaint. When I remember these kindnesses, my heart is soothed. I guess it takes awhile to not only practice kindness, but also to remember those gifts we’ve received.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
~William Shakespeare,
Merchant of Venice (Willie Wonka)

 

 

 

I Will Go…

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I’ve had the great pleasure these past few days of enjoying the splendid music by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. How I overlooked these guys is beyond me. Come most Januarys, when the hills in Pacifica are at their greenest, I begin listening to my favorite Irish songs. Leading up to March 17, most days are sprinkled with various renditions of “Only Our Rivers are Free”, “The Town I Loved So Well”, “Danny Boy”, of course, and many other musical nuggets I’ve extracted and cherished over the years.

This year, I’ve been listening to songs of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. What led me here was a cover of “Red is the Rose” by Anthony Kearns (one of the Irish Tenors) that serendipitously appeared on my Pandora autoplay. I youtubed it and found a stirring cover by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem which, of course, led me to other songs. My new favorite song is “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” sung sweetly by Tommy and the brothers.

The tune and the tempo remind me of that lovely, traditional Scottish melody “Loch Lomond”, a song me and my river mates would sing while making our way back to my cabin which sits on the bonnie braes of the Russian River in Guerneville, CA; we could take the high road off Leasowe Lane (up to Drake Road) or stay on the low gravelled road to the cabin. Maybe it’s that tune that stirs this deep feeling in me.

However, it’s the song’s sweet, innocent lyrics that capture this old, romantic’s soul especially as it’s sung to the hauntingly, beautiful air:

lassie

Now, granted, I’m a tad old to be pining for a laddie to lure me to the mountains; yet, the lyrics remind me of another old, older love song. One that can be translated into a spiritual hope, a future journey. In Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman tells us:

“My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away!”      – Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Will this lassie go? I will go, someday. Someday, He will call me home…where maybe there’ll be blooming heather growing near the wild mountain thyme. Who knows what eternity will be like? Solomon said, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts…”. We are made for eternity, and I believe eternity will be beautiful too. Music like this song is eternal.

That is our hope in Jesus Christ. He said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” He is the Resurrection and the Life. This Lenten season, this St. Patrick’s Day, let us remember who calls us beloved, who calls us to come and follow Him, and who went to prepare a bower (place) for us.

In this life, we only skip along the outskirts of eternity.  I hope we don’t get distracted by all the things of this world, the things that will pass away. Songs like “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” remind us how powerful music is and how some songs transcend time. They skirt the mountains of eternity and call us to come. Will ye go, Lassie, Laddie, will ye go?

    “Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the mountain of spices.” 

Song of Solomon 8:14

 

 

Why I Hate Drugs

David's Sunrise

I’m writing this blog in a lot of pain and anguish. Last week my daughter got word that a close friend of hers OD’ed. A good friend of mine lost her son last year to the same thing. Three bodies were found last week in San Francisco, their deaths attributed to suspected drug overdoses. At anytime in the past few years, I could have gotten – and can still get – that dreaded phone call about one of my kids. But I am not writhing in pain today, but this fella’s mother and father are as well as his siblings, cousins and the numerous friends who are shell-shocked by this catastrophic phenomenon known as death. A “really sweet” life gone much too soon.

Death is one of the reasons why I hate drugs, and that includes the abuse of alcohol. All my children, my siblings, and, I am sure, most adults I know are intimately acquainted with the pain associated with drugs and alcohol abuse. How many of us know people who died from alcohol related accidents or drug overdoses? Yeah, most of us. And death is a permanent robber. There is no re-do, no restart. It is GAME OVER for good. Not forever, because as a Christian, I know the good-bye is not eternal, just GAME OVER for here. But still the pain left in the wake of a loved one’s death is unimaginable, heartbreaking. No one is the same, no one recovers.

Another reason I hate drugs is drug use is living a lie. The high we get is a lie. I know many folks use all kinds of drugs to help cope with issues and other difficulties in life, but let me tell you, it’s a lie. Life is freaking hard, and drug use does not make it easier, it makes it harder. God has given us resources to help us in difficulty that can help us grow and not be dependent on drugs or alcohol or anything except Himself. Drugs rob us of those opportunities to grow, even though it’s hard. Sorry, I am really mad and really sad.

Another reason why I hate drugs is if they don’t KILL you, you STILL rob the world, your family, your friends of your life. All your gifts lie dormant, your talents subdued and your great potential squandered. All your parents see in you gets lost to this demon. Your laughter becomes hollow and your eyes dim, your dreams diminish and eventually disappear. All what a parent hopes for their child is lost. A different kind of death. And what is there….a never ending war because while there is life, a parent is gonna fight.

And finally, the last reason why I hate drugs is the pain. Everybody hurts….like the REM song. Granted, I know many who use are in pain, many who drink excessively have pain, I understand and sympathize, but medicating the pain through drug use and alcohol only perpetuates it; it doesn’t resolve it. So the drug user is in pain, I get it, but does the drug user know that their habit causes pain. We’re all in pain. A pain we who watch cannot stop because we love the user.

There’s got to be another way. I hate drugs, I hate what they’ve done to my kids, I hate what alcohol has done to my brother and ex-husband. Their dad’s choices have caused pain that my kids had to deal with at a very young age. I hope that pain can be converted to some good for themselves and their eventual families.

And now, I think about this young man’s mom and dad, and the devastating pain they are in now, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Someday I might have to walk in those shoes. My daughter has said flippantly, “You won’t care if I die.” I told her I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to know that pain. I am in pain for these people I don’t know just like I am in pain for my friend who buried her 37-year-old son last year. I hope these deaths will steer many away from these drugs. There are tons of resources out there to assist.

Life is hard just the way it is, no need to add to that hardship. Our children are our greatest blessings and most of us parents only want our kids to grow up and embrace life, life with its hardships, yes, but life also with its wonders and goodness. Faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to this life, its joys and its sorrows. With Him by our side, we can face life. Although life is filled with death and its associated pain; hallelujah, we have a distant hope, one that can somehow – eventually – assuage the desperate, despairing depth of pain a loved one feels. Thank God for that.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.    – Revelation 21:4

 

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.smchealth.org/bhrs/aod/recovery