marching saints

marching saints

i read the newspaper every morning. sit in bed next to my dog bitsey & sip hot coffee. the crazy stuff in there blows my mind. did you know there was this man who lived with his mom in this teeny-tiny town, came home to find her dead of natural causes, then went around town with a rifle & killed 6 of his cousins?

like the bates hotel meets american sniper or something…

i also saw an article about the “brisket bandit ” who loads his grocery basket full of beef in the HEB meat department while his old lady waits out front in a yellow, souped-up buick le sabre. there was also one about someone’s jumbo meat-smoker being ripped-off. wonder if anyone made the connection but me.

i read the obits every morning, too. some of them tear your heart out, & maybe it sounds backwards, but some of them make me feel happy — like the ones where a woman lived to be 100 & her photo is of her at age 19. i really love those —  whether they chose the photo themselves, or someone else chose it for them, either way, it’s how they’ll be remembered & i think that’s nice.

maybe that’s why i tuck them away inside my bedside drawer. when i look at them someday, let’s just say that i look forward to remembering them when i do.

you know those obits that are 9 miles long & take up 3 columns that include a huge list of the person’s career & education accomplishments? this might  be strange to mention, but it always goes through my mind how difficult & time-consuming they must’ve been to write. the ones that list the prominent social clubs & country clubs a person belonged to always make me cringe.

hey, maybe it’s just me, but do you think it’s weird when people put happy birthday messages to their deceased loved ones in the obits? as if that’s where the person’s going to be looking, or something?

lots of people write their own obits. i bet you’ve known someone like that. completely obsessed with it — & i’m not saying that’s a bad thing. they just want to leave a precise record of the important things they did while they were on earth.

i wonder if right before they took their last breath, they’d scratch it all out & start over. to tell the things that were really important.

i remember when my father died. i drove down the highway as fast as i could. found my mother & my dad’s sister sitting at the kitchen table working on his piece for the newspaper.

i gave it a look. very short. i remember thinking, that’s all my dad’s worth — a short couple of paragraphs, when there’s so much more to say about this man i worshipped?  i spoke up, & said, don’t you want to put something in there about him that’s personal? who answered, my mom or my aunt, i really can’t recall, but, “people who really knew him already know those things,” is what i heard.

i didn’t like that answer much, but maybe when it’s my time to bury my husband or my brother, God forbid, i’ll have a different perspective than i did that day, i don’t know, but i remember telling my mother something really important. something my dad had told me years & years before.

“what do you want your funeral to be like, daddy?” strange question, i guess, but i really wanted to know.

there was a friend of his who had one of those big, beautiful baritone voices. mike sargent, was his name. my dad said he wanted the man to sing, “when the saints go marching in.”

i think that’s really beautiful, don’t you?

mr. sargent predeceased my dad, so, to close the service, the whole congregation belted it out  instead.

Oh when the Saints go marching in
When the Saints go marching in
O Lord, I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in

the organist was really getting into it — cranking it up & adlibbing some jazzy riffs.

what an incredible send-off for my dad. zippy & upbeat. the tears became tears of joy.

if i know my dad, & i do, he was smiling. & laughing, too, i’ll bet.

how in the world did i get off on all of that? i’m writing about the brisket bandit, & next thing you know, i’m writing about a funeral.

doesn’t matter, i guess. but, if you want to steal my dad’s idea, go right ahead.

me, i’ve already put in my order — it’s what i want my friends & family to be singing at mine.

TTFN    ta-ta for now.

gratitude

gratitude

with the exception of the years i gave birth to my children, 2014 has been the most wonderful year of my life.

come to think of it, i gave birth again, this year.

i gave birth to my novel, painting juliana.

it actually happened – my lifetime dream.

i am grateful.

to God, my spirit guides & angels, ancestors, & everyone who’s helped me, whether i’ve actually met them or not.

& i say thank you.

thank you for helping me.

my heart is filled with joy.

procrastination & prayer

procrastination & prayer

forgive me, oh blog followers. this is my 1st blog post in 3 weeks & i apologize. i really do.

it’s just that procrastination is my nemesis. i find myself putting off new blog posts because they take so damn much time.

but, i learned something important today that i need to tell you about. it’s about control, i guess you could say.

control as it relates to prayer.

there’s a heartbreaking tragedy going on in someone’s life who’s close to me right now. a dear friend – her brother was in a crazy freak accident, bitten by a rattlesnake of all things after finishing a 5-mile run on the exercise trail behind the hospital where he works. venom went straight into his vein & pumped through his body at an astronomical speed. none of it makes sense. it’s all just so bizarre.

the man is a father, a husband, a brother, a son. a surgeon. in fact, it was between surgeries when he took his run. he’s been on life support & a respirator for coming on a week now. they found a second set of bite marks – not just on his ankle, but his wrist, too. & now, pneumonia has set in. just where it’s all going — well, who knows really? God does, i suppose.

of course, He does.

i’ve been overcome with sadness – so sad for my friend his sister, his dad, his wife & kids. his patients, present & future. a tremendous sadness like one i’ve never felt. so many tears. it’s been all i think about.

the prayers i’ve said – what i’ve said… please God, save his life. his work here on earth isn’t finished. Jesus, raise him up like Lazarus — i know you can. he’s got so much more to do.

struggling, i called another friend this morning. my special phone-friend who helps me talk through difficult things. he’s the kind of person who’s a real truth meter, who i feel safe telling anything to.

SPOILER ALERT — i’m one those “woo-woo” people. i guess you could say i have an open-minded approach to things i don’t understand, & if that’s a turn-off to some people — sorry. but, writing this blog, i’ve got to keep it real. know what i mean?

so, i told him everything i’ve just told you. plus, that with how i’m so consumed with it, it’s like i’m involved on such a personal level. my friend’s brother & i knew each other in college. not well — she was my roommate & he would come to visit, but i was always super-crazy about him. he was her younger brother, for heavens sake, so don’t get the wrong idea. but there was something there. i’m not sure what, but it was something.

these overwhelming feelings of mine have to do with a past-life experience between us. i know it sounds weird, i can’t explain it & i can’t prove it, but it came over me with such sudden intensity, i knew it sure as chocolate when the words spilled out of my mouth to my friend on the phone.

i also felt like this past-life thing between my roommate’s brother & me, my overwhelming feelings have to do with the fact that i was unable to save him before. unable to get there on time. like i said — something. something deeper. it was personal.

praying – more like demanding that God save his life, my trying to impose my will on roommate’s brother, how do i know what his will is for himself? And, what God’s will is for him?

i don’t. it’s none of my business, really. it’s their business. together.

& as soon as my phone-friend helped me understand this, i was able to give up my wanting to control. it wasn’t immediate. it took a little while because i really want him to live. & i’m pretty stubborn.

but, a feeling of peace & calm came over me. it’s what i’ve felt ever since.

control. i have none. over anyone but myself.

in case you think i’m giving up on prayer — not a chance. those things i don’t understand, i’m not always going to. faith. trust. it’s what i have for now.

His will be done.

love letter

love letter

here’s what an old friend said when i asked if they’d be attending our 25-year class reunion.

“if I wanted to see any of those people, i’d be doing it already, so why spoil it now?”

what a snotty comment to make, i thought to myself. well, okay – it’s not like i’m exactly going to be nominated for the dali lama award either, because with regard to a few choice people, i understood completely what this friend was talking about…

but, may i also mention that this friend is also a “facebook holdout?”

so, what’s THAT about?

part of the reason… well, let’s be honest — i wasn’t especially clamoring for a seat on the facebook bandwagon myself.

i remember the 1st time i heard about it.

“so, it’s this awesome connectivity website.” someone told me with breathless excitement, “where you put pictures & stuff on there about yourself!!!!”

“are you crazy?” i said. “i don’t want people knowing all my personal crap, & i SURE don’t want them looking @ my picture!”

& i wasn’t just talking about sexual deviants & serial killers — the whole “peeping tom” aspect in general bugged me. what i looked like, what i was up to, & what my personal views were on any given subject, not to mention my DOB was frankly, nobody’s stinking business. when people kept nudging me, i’d smile pleasantly & say, “yeah, yeah, i’ll get around to it.”

like never.

then, someone said one day, “hey, i saw your facebook page.”

“whatttttt??? that’s impossible. i didn’t put anything on there!”

“well, i guess someone did it for you,” they said.

& the picture looked nothing like me at all….

mystery man

a disgruntled member of this new facebook club, i’d shake my head at the people who’d post every time they went to the bathroom. are these people that bored, i thought, or what? seemed like every photo was either someone’s stupid cat, a unicorn or a rainbow. assorted inspirational drivel & the occasional rant about obama or quote from ann richards. took me about a year to give my 1st

like thumb

i’ve never exactly been a wallflower, so i finally decided to be a sport & shifted from voyeur to actual comment-er. messaged with cool people i hadn’t talked to in forever, but my “presence” wasn’t especially heavy-duty.

then, something strange happened.

a sweet old friend from high school who was kind of one of those bathroom-posters, well, her little grandson came early – super early. a very preemie-preemie in a life-or-death situation. everyone was riveted, watching picture after picture of the tiny little guy with an oxygen tube & IV’s sticking out of him. every one of her updates had over a hundred likes & comments. she asked for prayers & she got them. from all of us. even when i wasn’t online, i would think about them; i really came to adore him, & her, too.

& i realized something. this tiny little guy was a connector. he brought all of these people together toward a common goal. it was phenomenal, really. it truly was. & you know what? he got better. photo-by-photo, day-by-day, but he did, & now my friend’s posts are of him playing with a huge, belly-laugh-smile on his face. & he’s just so damn cute. had all of these people’s prayers worked?

yes.

& as he got better, i felt like i did, too. everybody did.

the power of facebook

& the power of love.

so, that’s why I’m writing this LOVE LETTER.

it’s a love letter to facebook, definitely, but it’s also a love letter to all of my old & dear friends who’ve welcomed me back into their lives.

i’m just so grateful for all the love & support you’ve given me.

in case you’re reading this, thank you. really & truly, thank you.

see you tomorrow on facebook, i hope.

i wouldn’t miss it.

TTFN

the makeup artist

the makeup artist

a good friend of mine is one – a makeup artist. she’s got a resume long as your arm – movies, mini-series, politicians on tv, all of that cool stuff, & she knows dishy gossip galore … celebs tell you a lot while you’re an inch from their face, knowing that you’re in charge of whether they look hellish or heavenly in front of the camera & they better not piss you off.

anyway, maybe i’m weird, but it’s just that another meaning for the term “makeup artist” popped into my head when my friend & i were @ dinner last week.

wait a minute — you’re wanting to know if she’s done johnny depp, right? dunno. i’ll ask her & get back with you.

his makeup. get your mind out of the gutter.

so, anyway — i was thinking that, couldn’t a makeup artist be someone who’s realllly good at making up after a fight?

like, within my dysfunctional family of origin, here’s how it works. the only way you know someone’s mad at you is when you get the silent treatment. the quiet game. whatever you want to call it, the phone doesn’t ring.

until, one day…

hello?
that’s me.

how are you?
pretend that’s my sister.
chipper tone.
it’s been 3 months since we’ve spoken —
highly unusual because we talk all the time.

i’m good
me again.
neutral tone.
notice how I didn’t say something snarky like,
“oh, so we’re talking now?”
that would be poor form.

well, that’s good.
my sister again.
see how she doesn’t say, “i’ve been being a shit-turd,”
or, heaven forbid, “i was wrong?”

guess what?
still her.

you’re absolutely NOT gonna believe it.
it’s her breathless, secret-confidential-gossipy, voice.
the one i just love.

tell me.
hear the smile in my voice?
— it’s as if we simply set the phone down for a minute
& we’re picking up the same conversation we’ve had a million times before.
& my sister & i are buds again.

she’s the makeup artist.

& it’s kind of messed-up, don’t you think? but, that’s how it’s always been done. especially the part where there’s no, “i’m sorry.” but, maybe that’s okay. i mean, we were taught to never tell a lie. if george washington would’ve chopped down the cherry tree in our front yard, you wouldn’t want to be on the premises, trust me.

but, how about addressing the problem, talking things out — you know, like a constructive, grown-up conversation? oh, hell no! nowadays, parents say, “use your words,” which i find totally annoying & i want to pinch their ninny little heads off… but, you see, no one in my family is confrontational. what we had was more like a hit & run protocol. probably sounds strange, but then, maybe it doesn’t — you decide.

&, something else — in all these years, it’s always my sister who initiates these makeup calls. she’s kind of a hot-head, & i’m what you’d call the roll-over type, but you probably figured that out already, but here’s the thing — when we’re finally talking again, neither of us wants to spoil it. bringing up the reason we haven’t been talking opens the possibility of another 3-month silent period, so where’s the sense in that? besides, saying ugly words to each other is off limits — it’s our sister-code. ugly words, we reserve those for our mother. not the really bad ones we’d whisper to each other in our bathroom when we were growing up — i mean, come on — it’s kind of lousy to say things like that about a white-haired, 5-foot-tall octogenarian.

anyway, i’d like to say my sister calls when it finally gets to the point where she misses me more than she’s mad at me, which sounds all warm & fuzzy, but deep down, i know the true reason.

without me around, it’d be just her & our mom.

god, i love my sister.

you’re wondering something, aren’t you? who’s older? it might surprise you.

let’s see if you guess right in the comments below.

he makes me better

he makes me better

i met him in our very first class on our very first day of high school.

kind of a genius. he’d be the first one to tell you that. also, kind of goofball. he’d be the first one to tell you that, too. in fact, he pretty much reveled in it.

tall, hilarious & outrageous, it didn’t take long till we were like jenny & forest.

what would we have thought back then if we’d seen this historic picture? i know i’d have been surprised. him, i don’t think so.

his name is mark, & he was going to be the president of the sophomore class.

that’s what he said. i had my doubts.

especially when he got on stage dressed as uncle sam for his campaign skit.

blue & white striped, high-water pants, red bow-tie with matching suspenders, plus a ridiculous, foot-tall abe-lincolnesque top hat — pasted all over with white stars. not exactly what you’d call cool.

but, that’s what high school is supposed to be all about, right?

not really. not if you’re mark.

he had something far better. confidence. it’s one of the main things that drew me to him. i mean, opposites attract, right?

but, did he win? that’s what you really want to know.

not even close. but, let’s not focus on that, or the fact that he lost junior year, too — there’s more important parts of the story.

senior year came along.

“we’ll be running-mates, martha,” he said. “me, president, you, vice-president. it’ll be great — you’ll see.”

i wasn’t so sure. besides, me running for class officer?

my opponent, the ever-smiling, everybody’s buddy & champion gymnast, gerald martin did flip-flips across the stage to thunderous applause. all my skit amounted to was someone throwing a whipped-cream pie in my face.

oh, the head-shaking irony…. yes, i know.

but, mark? it was hello, mr. president.

now, please don’t think for a second that i was bitter. are you kidding? nobody was happier than me. i was grateful mark was my friend & thankful, because i knew that because of him — well, he made me better.

here we are, all these years later, & nothing’s changed. he’s been mr. president for years now. his own huge company, enough accolades to fill that foot-tall, abe-lincolnesque top hat many times over, not to mention richer than God.

& me? this past week, i achieved a lifetime goal. maybe you noticed that the count-down date for “The Most Exciting News on the Planet Earth,” on the sidebar has expired.

that’s right — my 1st published novel, painting juliana is finally out, glory hallelujah!

who do you think threw me a book launch celebration? who was standing there to introduce me, propping me up with pride & adoration? well, it wasn’t gerald martin.

& in case you’re reading this, mark, my cherished, loyal friend, thank you.

even in four-inch heels, i’m still looking up to you.

you make me better.

00smiling

TTFN

larger than life

larger than life

a dear friend of mine was having a special birthday — you know one of the dreadful birthdays with a zero at the end?

i was lucky enough to be invited to the party.

the hostess asked everyone to bring a story of their favorite memory of the birthday boy, because it’s a shame that people usually only do that at funerals. totally rotten timing for the corpse, not to mention a being a tad anti-climatic.

& this story — you weren’t just supposed to jot something down on a napkin — you were supposed to like think about it & actually print it out. then @ the party, everyone took turns reading the stories while the birthday boy tried guessing whose was whose.

this took a while — I hang out with a bunch of writer-ly types, some of whom are rather VERBOSE, and you know who you are…

anyway — my friend is a super cool-cat. one of those guys all the women want & all the men want to BE? you know the type — they kind of make you vomit a little bit because they’re so damn awesome, but not this guy. several people, myself included, mentioned the fact that not only is he tall, dark & handsome with perfect hair, no less – but he was also his high school valedictorian, lead singer & guitarist in a punk rock band — I mean a groundbreaking performer, used to play at raul’s on the drag & even LA (how rockin’ is THAT?), an accomplished, best-selling novelist & historian, oh – & a kick-ass lyricist, bass player & showman. plus, he’s funny as hell & that humor comes out in everything he does. & i probably left half-a-dozen things out.

& he’s a loving & devoted husband & father. couldn’t leave that part out, because that’s the most important thing of all.

so, anyway — one day, he up & decides he wants to become an artist. like a month later, & i’m seriously not kidding, he’s showing in a gallery on south congress avenue. not too shabby. next thing, he becomes a blues-man. changes his whole musical schtick, pulls out the standing bass — you know one of those huge things, like a 10-foot-tall guitar – & starts composing & yowling like muddy waters or something. if muddy waters was like somebody you could actually stand listening to. you know what I mean.

many of the stories said my friend is a master of reinventing himself.

yeah, that’s right, everybody nodded & said.

then, another story said something profound. or, at least it was to me.

that my friend wasn’t reinventing himself, he was simply calling upon parts of himself that were there inside him all along.

it makes it sound sort of easy, doesn’t it?

easy enough for anyone to do it, right?

i guess in the back of my mind i was thinking…. hmmm. i’ve always wanted to be a potter. not a stoner. i mean like throwing pots. ceramics, okay? i seriously imagine myself doing it. sounds like fun, you know? wouldn’t have to get all artistic — lopsided pots can look kinda cool, in an avant garde sort of way….

you’ve got something like that in mind for yourself, i’ll bet.

come on, yes you do.

i don’t mean self-improvement especially. more like self-enhancement. making yourself larger than life.

or, how about larger inside your life?

just a little something to think about.

because i sure am.

TTFN

pennies

pennies

a friend of mine picks them up every time she sees one & she sees them a lot.

she was going through a hard time many years ago. she moved back to her hometown from los angeles. her family needed her.

this was the 80’s. you remember the 80’s, right?

the decade from hell, according to my friend, & not just because of the unfortunate fashions. jobs were scarce & she couldn’t find one.

so, she did what most of us seem to do when we’re in trouble. she talked to God.

I mean really talked to him while she’d be out taking a walk.

that’s when she started seeing pennies. lots of pennies.

she’d bend down & pick them up off the sidewalk & slip them in her pocket.

soon, she noticed it wasn’t only on the sidewalk she’d see them. it seemed like they were everywhere.

sitting on a windowsill.

on top of the morning paper outside her door.

pennies.

a flicker in the grass would catch her eye. she could see it from a mile away.

beautiful, copper pennies.

sparkling in the sun. like they were following her.

she got some spotty temp jobs, a demeaning stint peddling yellow-page ads. she had to sell some of her things, but somehow, she always made rent. & she knew she had a lot to be grateful for.

she pulled up to a traffic light. there on the pavement next to her car.

a penny.

she opened the door.

hello there, she said. you’re so pretty & shiny, & i know you’ve been working hard all of your life & you’ve got to be tired. why don’t you let me give you a lift?

as she picked it up and looked down at it in her palm, she remembered something.

she’d sucked her thumb when she was little. it’s how she comforted herself, always wrapped up in the same soft, satin-edged blanket.

& like kids do, she gave her blanket a name.

penny.

that’s when she knew what they all meant.

the pennies were God’s way of comforting her now. letting her know everything wasn’t going to just be okay, it already was okay.

now, if you’re thinking i’m making this up, or that I swiped it off the back of readers digest, or that my friend’s a wackadoodle, which she’s not, just work with me & listen to the rest of the story. okay?

do you always pick them up, i asked her.

the 1st penny was over 30 years ago & even now, she finds one almost every single day.

absolutely, she said. of course.

what do you do with them? i imagined them spilling over her flowerbeds at home.

lots of them are in piggy banks, & regular banks, too, she said, because she’s traded lots of them in. but, she also has books & books of them under her bed. she’ll tape them to the pages and write a little something alongside. like where she found them.

& how she was feeling that day, before she found them & after.

she’s been seeing the same penny on her drive to work. right in the middle of a busy street & she sees it again on her way home, too. twinkling on the pavement, it seems to wink at her.

it’s been several weeks now, in the middle of all those cars whizzing by & the penny hasn’t moved.

freaky, huh?

all right, remember that line from grease? somebody’s got to say it, so i guess it’s got to be me.

“see a penny, pick it up. all day long you’ll have good luck.”

i think it sounds like a spectacular idea. don’t you?

TTFN

The Final Curtain

MUSINGS: Author - Books - The World

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