Zola Cole Glaze

05/29/2013

 
Death is an interesting thing.  It’s the ultimate unavoidable act that none of us can escape.  
It’s going to happen. 

Of this life we have, we can choose many things.  We can somewhat choose who we love, who we bond with and what course our lives are going to take.  Even in the not choosing, we choose.  But death?  We don’t choose that.  Death meets us, some earlier than others and some later than what one might hope for or expect.  And it’s the latter I’m faced with now.

My grandmother is dying.  Like the dying dead kind of dying.  She’s old.  She’s old and she’s still beautiful and I love her.  I love her today the way I loved her when I was six years old standing on her 70’s linoleum kitchen floor making cartoon faces with maraschino cherries in oatmeal cookies, getting ready to go watch my grandfather play golf.  It’s the life that happened between us that oddly enough makes me long for her end to come quickly.  She’s tired.  And I’m tired for her.

She misses my grandfather.  She misses her body as it was 40 years ago.  But more than that she feels the gnawing ache of “please let my life be over”.  So in that I find solace.  She’s ready to go.

Can you blame her?  You look back on your life and see years of laughter…  I see her belly laughing and posing for some photographer, poised and proper yet spunky for her day.  I see old photos of her… I see the contemplative look in her eyes, analyzing more than she revealed with words.  She was always thinking.  She was always beautiful.  She was always intelligent and she was always amazingly strong and godly.  She had the kind of wisdom that didn’t have to tell you she was wise; she just was.  And on whatever matter at hand, she didn’t have a need to express her rightness to you.  And in that, she oozed love.

This is the woman that looked challenges in the face and chose over and over again to do the right thing.  She chose life.  And because she chose life, I have the very same life, the very same understanding of God’s unending love and unending provision.  I owe my life to this woman.  I owe my blood and I owe my genes to her.  Because of her, not just my physical body exists, but my view of the world.

She’s not perfect.  No one is and no one will ever be.  But she’s loved me.  She’s loved me with an unending love that no bad decisions could ever compromise.  This is the woman that held me on her lap, at an age far beyond my youth, and let me cry in repentance for the mess I’d made.  She held me and tangibly exhibited the grace and mercy of God in a manner that could have only been understood in that moment.  My, what some might consider, uptight southern Baptist Minister of Music grandmother, held me.  She showed me the love and grace that only one who’s tasted it can share.  And because she shared it with me, I now share it with others.

So yes, I’m sad for myself to lose the best canasta player I’ve ever encountered.  I’m sad to lose my singing partner and Wheel of Fortune competitor.  But more than that I’m grateful she gets to go out this way.  That her life, through her incessant prayers and work to grow within herself, has made it to the end.  She gets to go out knowing her life was a success. 

Oh to see the look on her face when she sees my grandfather again...  So long to be together, the exponential agony of being apart.  That meeting, they get to meet again.  They get to do it all over again but this time in a place where there is no suffering.  There is no emotional lack or need.  She gets to taste Eden.  But this time, she never has to say goodbye.

 
 
I set my entire oven on fire.

Oh no.  I didn’t just kinda set my oven on fire.  I mean the whole inside, contents and all went up in a blaze of glory.  And I did it.  All by myself.

Let me rewind.  I’m in full-blown Martha Stewart mode.  I have just put the last of the onion and rosemary in the crockpot with my roast.  My plan?  To slow cook it and my vegetables all night and through the next day.  I sure am proud of myself at this point because I love my roasts and making them makes me feel very, well I don’t know, domestic.  And since I obviously won’t be eating that tonight, I also decided to bake some brussels sprouts with a side of butternut squash.  I think to myself, what a fine little lady I am to make all this goodness for myself.  Oh and the turkey.  I forgot the roasted turkey.  Anyway, everything was going fine.  Just. Like. Normal. 

While I’m tying up some loose ends around the kitchen my phone rings.
It’s Leon wanting to chat me up about something.  So we talk and gab and everything is fine and dandy.  That is until black smoke begins to pour out of my oven.  I don’t mean gray smoke, I mean BLACK smoke.  I’ll spare you the language that flew out of these dainty lips, but it wasn’t pretty.

I, of course, rushed off the phone with Leon and threw open the kitchen window.
And from there, it’s all a blur.

I’d like to tell you that I was the hero, remaining calm and collected as I methodically thought out the next appropriate course of action.  But since I can’t even remember what the hell I did, something tells me that there was nothing methodical about those next three minutes of my life.

You see, in hunting for a fire extinguisher, I discover I do not own one.  And by “own one” I mean, I thought every apartment comes stocked with one.  Like the little firebird-prevention-fairy swoops in prior to every tenant arriving to ensure that all extinguishers are in place and ready to prevent serious catastrophe.   But nope, I think someone must have killed my firebird-prevention-fairy cause I was left with nothing but vague memories of what not to do in case of an oven fire and NONE of what to do.

In a fury I almost dialed 911.
Now, you can sit there, safely behind your pious computer screens and think to yourself, “of course it would have been totally reasonable to call the fire department, Laura Katherine.  Even if it was a false alarm.  They see this thing all the time.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

But no.  I’ve called the fire department before.  I opted to be that type of hero and I was left with (5) fire trucks, building evacuations and 20 firemen scaling walls.  All for a little elevator smoke.  So forgive me if I don’t want to face those very same firemen again and this time, with a brussel sprout fire. 

So who do I call?  My landlord.   He lives down the hall from me.  And here is where my pride is totally and utterly compromised.  My landlord’s name is Mark.  I store his number in my phone under the A’s.  “A” for “apartment manager”.  I know this.  I know exactly where his name is positioned in with the other A’s; I use it frequently.  But tonight?  When my oven is breathing wild amounts of flames in every direction and my cats are panicking because of course, I’m panicking?  I have no idea where he is in my phone.

I finally find him and recall me yelling into the phone, 
“Mark! Mark!  Help!!  My oven is on FIRE!  It’s BY-YED!!”

Now.
I’m southern. 
That is no secret.
And of my southern drawl, I am quite proud.  But this?  In this moment?  In this way?  To be the southern damsel in distress, the opposite of cool, calm and collected like I prefer to picture myself to be?  Screaming “BY-YED!” instead of “bad” into a telephone?  Oh no.  Certainly you must have me confused for a different Laura Katherine.

Because you see, this Laura Katherine is amazing during times of crisis.  This Laura Katherine has made many a living staying calm and fixing crises for others while they freak out from the stress.  But oh no, not me.  In times of stress, my adrenals do marvelous things with my norepinephrine production.  Things that I’m sure doctors would love to study.  I. Stay. Calm.  Even when I find myself in full-blown fight or flight mode, I stay calm.  I have been this way for as long as I can remember.

But tonight?  When the mood is right and the fire is in full flame? What do I do?  I scream “by-yed” and plead for someone to help me.

And I get it, we all need help from time to time.  But when my help comes rushing in with a water bottle and cozy pajamas, I have to wonder if I haven’t made a grave mistake. 

Fortunately at this point, the fire has died way down due me smothering it out.  I mean, I did reach in there, braving the whipping flames to rescue my new casserole dish and what’s left of my brussels sprouts.  I mean it was bad.  And my voice was even doing the “I have too much adrenaline flowing through my body so my voice is wobbling all over the place” thing.

So Mark puts out, what is at this point, a minor fire with his water bottle and then bear hugs me to his chest.  There I am.  Almost 31 years old, resting my head on the oversized breasts of my dear, sweet landlord.  I love this man.  Gosh I do.  But man.

As he went to exit my apartment, he turns back to me with a grim face and says “well you really are getting that new stove now aren’t you?”

Yes, yes I suppose I am.  But really, it wasn’t that serious.  Though you absolutely would not be able to tell it by the state of my kitchen right now.  My oven is black and my cats are hiding.

But hey, guess who still has a roast cooking…

 

The Plant Charmer

02/08/2013

 
I talk to plants.  I don’t have a problem with the fact that I talk to plants.  The problem that I have with me talking to plants is that most people don’t talk to plants.  Thus when I decide to chat up a plant or two, I’ve noticed that my choice of communication partners is sometimes frowned upon by those not in the botanical loop. 

Let me explain.

I have a plant at work.
Okay, that’s not entirely true.  My office has a plant.  We share him.  But the problem with my office having a pet plant is that they don’t take care of it.  So after the fiasco with our last plant -- I’ll spare you the details.  All you need to know is that I was in full steam ahead rescue mode, intensely trying to prevent the plant’s demise, when a well-meaning colleague took it upon herself to throw him away.  Needless to say that didn’t go well. -- So after that, I made a public announcement that no one was to feed, groom or generally care for the plant; it was now my responsibility.  So for the sake of uniform feeding schedules, please just leave him alone.

So we got a new plant.  

He is now happy and gay and loving life and loving me.
And why does he love me?  Oh that might have to do with the fact that I actually care for his well-being.  Now before I continue, let’s be clear: this is a plant – not a human and not even a domesticated animal.  It’s a plant.  I get that 100%.  However, what I think people don’t seem to get is that, like all living creatures, plants respond to kindness.  They respond to kind speech.  They respond to kind touch.  And I have it on good authority that they respond to kind kisses.  This is absolutely not weird to me.  Science has proven this so long ago that it’s almost shocking that people still disregard the validity of it.  Now granted, they likely don’t disregard the validity of it as much as they fail to see the value in it.

So in that, I ask you:  when choosing who or what to be kind to, what should be factored in?  Maybe folks might be more inclined to talk to plants and treat them less like furniture and more like living creatures that are trying their damnedest to purify the very air we require for survival, if say, they were to hop out of their pots, run up to us with their tails wagging and lick us in order to bring us joy after a hard day.  Oh wait, if that’s the case are we being kind for the sake of being kind or are we being kind because this thing is going to make us feel good about ourselves when we do? 

It’s really quite simple.  Yes, it’s a plant.  And yes, the lifespan of the average houseplant is somewhat shorter than ours but so what.  And yeah, when I talk to the plant it doesn't talk back.  Hell, truth be told, because Plant doesn’t direct and guide my tender touch through patient instruction, I actually can only assume it appreciates my tenderness based purely upon scientific evidence.  But I’m okay with that.  I’ve seen the circle-of-life-writing-on-the-wall and ya know what, it feels good being sweet to things.  It feels good being sweet to people too, often even when they aren’t sweet in return.  And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, sincere kindness is in rather short supply with us human folk.  So the way I see it is if some little southern blonde girl wants to take her, excuse me, our plant on its weekly outside time hangouts then really, what’s the big deal?

And it’s not that anyone in my office minds this or has spoken to me about my odd plant fixation.  And believe me, I’ve polled for feedback.  Well not technical polling, but I’ve been told by many that my plantly activities are not only endearing but cute too.  So that’s not the issue.  The issue comes in the few times when those not working on my floor, spot me on the deck living up the good life with my plant.  At first when asked what I was doing, I’d answer honestly: “ya know, I just bring him outside cause he likes and needs it.  I mean it’s like his little playtime.  He gets some fun in the sun.  I talk to him, increasing his nutrient absorption rate and thus we have an all-around healthier office-plant experience.”  I say all this only for them to not speak negatively but rather look at me like “how the hell did this kook get past HR?”

Okay, number one, I’m not a kook.  I’m likely a lot smarter than you are.  Number two, physiologically good and sound things happen for me, the plant and the rest of the office when this Plant thrives in our presence.  So how about this, how about you go back to crunching numbers and you let me handle the complicated workings of maintaining and sustaining life in all that I come in contact with.  How about that?  Cause really, that’s all I want to do.  And truth be told, every bit of my life goals are centered around doing that very thing.  Well…. Minus a few boat rides and seashell currency-using island hideouts.  But even that could be viewed through the filter of me replenishing my reserves in order to go back out into the world and more effectively love and guide people back to reality.  But that’s a total sidebar.  The point of all this is just because people might not see the value in me treating this plant as a living, breathing creature capable of experiencing pain and fear, doesn’t mean that because I do I’m somehow all the more hard to interpret.  Cause really, if and when one has this knowledge and opts to not be kind to other living things, knowing that they are affected by either our kindness or the lack thereof, then really, if you ask me I’m not the one with the issues. 


Some people might not ever get how and why I am the way that I am.  And in this case, why I choose to expend the ever so minute amount of energy it takes to be kind to a plant.  But really, since when do I need an excuse to be kind?    The world is bubbling with needs and reasons and my pockets are overflowing with love.  So how about you just let me do what I do best.  
And that is quite simply, being sweet.  It's really not that complicated.  Even when this time it's a plant that I'm loving.  

 
 
Oh to be my neighbors.  No really it’s fine.  I mean, sure, as soon as I walk in my apartment building I begin singing and don’t stop until I finally fall asleep every night.  But I mean, come on.  It could be worse right?

So once upon a time I thought no one could hear me.  I would sing and sing my little heart out.  Life was great.  That is until I ran into one of my neighbors in the hallway, right about this time last year come to think about it.  Christmas had just passed.  And for anyone who knows me well, you know that Handel’s Messiah is my family’s Christmas anthem.  Okay, one of our Christmas anthems.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that my little rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus was so…. How shall we say… robust, that my neighbor felt compelled to offer feedback on my little performance.

I’d like to tell you that I stood, ready and open to receive such glowing feedback (it wasn’t necessarily glowing) and that I paused my day to fill up on all the wonderful listener comments.  But I didn’t.  Truthfully I didn’t quite believe him at first.  Sure, I had the volume up as high as it could go but it’s the dang Hallelujah Chorus.  So yeah, it may have been a little loud.  But that being the case, all the more reason for him to not be able to hear me attempting to sing every single part of harmony… simultaneously.  But he had heard me.  I learned this not so much by the words that were coming out of his mouth but rather by the gigantic grin on his face. 

Understand, upon discovering that the privacy of my extra-special-private-LauraKatherine-time had been compromised, I completely stopped listening to whatever words were coming out of his mouth.  I mean shit, people can hear all the bizarre (yet fascinatingly epic) adventures I have in my apartment?  This is not good.  Apparently he really does hear me.  Excuse me, they hear me…. like, all the time. 

Before I scurried off to ponder what other confidences might have been breached, I discovered that come to find out, he finds my singing comforting and didn’t mind if I continued. 
Isn’t that special.

At first I was not only hot pink and mortified but kinda… I don’t know, stunned really.  I mean I sing… a lot… and about a lot of things.  And people had been hearing me unleash my inner goodness.  And of this, I had been completely unaware.  This called for a major regrouping within the extra-special-private-LauraKatherine-time confines of my home.  I would have called a committee meeting but really, I’d be the only one invited so I didn’t see the point.  So as I pondered all my little spastic goodness I realized something.  A couple of somethings actually... 

You have to understand, I came into the world singing and performing something and by something what I really mean is anything.  My mother gains great satisfaction from telling anyone who will listen any number of stories (and believe me, she has punchlist) of how I came into the world making up songs, dance routines, anything and then forced family, friends and unsuspecting neighbors to sit and watch me perform my set lists.  I’ll spare you the meaty goodness of what all that entailed.  Let’s just say I’ve been living the “one and a two and a three!” lifestyle for quite some time.  That being the case, why stop now?  I mean really, so what my neighbors can hear me.  And yeah, I may not be able to sing with quite as much pizazz as Adele but I’m a lot cuter.  And by cuter I mean, well I’m cute.  So there’s that. 

So that’s the first reason I decided to keep up with my little nightly performances throughout this past year.  Another reason was that quite simply, I don’t think I could stop if I tried.  The reason I sing so much is not due to an inability to entertain myself otherwise.  Oh no.  Thing is, I find myself wildly entertaining just about all of the time.  I like my performances.  I like closing my eyes and singing to the point that everything else goes away.  I sing the way I paint.  And when I paint, no one else in the world crosses my mind.  Okay, that’s not entirely true... Actually it’s more of a lie than a truth.  But either way, I love singing.  So much so that one of my least favorite parts of having a cold is that my singing is compromised.  So yeah, you can fight the cold and flu season all you want.  Really, all I care about is not losing a couple of days singing time.

And it’s not like, I walk into my apartment everyday excited that neighbor #1 and neighbor #2 can hear me.  Truthfully at this point their presence is so common place that I often forget they’re there.  That is, until I pop my earbuds in and one of my special Pandora stations comes on.  Oh I have a lot of special Pandora stations.  But there are a couple that make happy things happen in my apartment.  They usually start out with a little bass… and a little bit of beat and then my feet start moving.  Actually, my feet don’t start moving first, my hips typically take the lead.  Well hips and upper body.  I have this little jiggle thing I like to do.  And apparently I do the white girl lip bite ever so slightly.  But that’s something I should probably backspace and delete.  But hey, you know what, this is our little confession time.   A little LK-share-all, so to speak.  So let’s just be real.  I spare no sass for the masses and by masses I mean for the nobody in my apartment.  It’s okay, at this point I’m no longer embarrassed by my greatness.  You see, I have a secret.  Technically, I kinda get a backstage pass to all this.  And I’ll tell you, from backstage the show is much better.  You see, I have something that those with only audio don’t have.  I have the pleasure of watching myself dance in the mirror.  And by dance I mean, I even impress myself.  It’s fine.  You don’t have to see me to believe me.  Just take my word for it.  Where my singing leaves off, my dancing can carry the show.  And that, my neighbors can’t see. 

So I think I’ll just keep up my performances.  And yes, when intoxicated the shows do get a bit more interesting.  But I think I’ll keep going for the gold.  I mean what is it hurting?… And I say “what is it hurting” because there’s a loophole to all this.  And it’s the loophole that has me writing this today.  You see, I’m kinda not alone in my apartment.  I mean, I am alone.  But the thing is I have windows…large windows.  I like to pretend they are one-way but they actually aren’t.  People can see me.  And I can see them.  And if all this time my neighbors have been hearing me sing, well there are people out there who have gotten a lot more than audio.  But to top it off, bless their hearts, they get zero audio.  And it’s here where I’ve actually had to stop and ponder the message I’m sending to the world. 

Cause I can talk up my little performances all I want.  Sure, I think they are fun and great but if I’m totally honest, if there is no audio to all this, then really, we might have a bit of a problem.  Because what my neighbors to the south see is a half-naked blonde girl, with incredibly expressive hand motions and a keen sense of rhythmic genius flailing around in my living room (and yes, rhythmic genius does not have to be heard.  Seeing is believing.)  But yeah, when I stop to picture what in the world I must look like during my little musical odysseys, I realize that it’s a wonder people in white coats haven’t shown up to my doorstep offering to take me on a little trip.  But even that, when viewed through the eyes of art… well, art doesn’t hinder, okay?  Art offers ample room to elaborate on any given need for expression. 

So it’s with that, I offer a bit of miming action to my voyeuristic window neighbors and say “you know what? I bet you wished you had moves like me.”  But the thing is, they can’t hear me.  They merely see that the strange little blonde-girl appears to be home from work…. and what is this?  For some reason she is pulling her pants down and placing her bare bum on the window.
I wonder what she’s trying to tell us.

 
 
I feel things.  I feel many things.  I feel things as I walk the streets.  Seeing the people hungry.  I feel things.  These things aren’t easy to put to words.  Feelings like this often are.  

Did you hear that?  It sounded like thunder.  No.  It’s not thunder.  It’s the sound of the car drum bass stereo outside my window.  It sings to me.  Like a little rotten bird, perched crooked-legged and backwards.  That’s that stereo or that car alarm.  That car alarm that barks at me to please come, please come make it stop. 

I went swimming today.  Right between your amygdala and your hippocampus.  I took a little trip you see.  I swam and I swam.  I swam to remember.  Further through the everglades I saw it.  Like a beacon in… the same way it should have been.  I saw it.  It saw me.  We saw it.  There was yellow and red and pink.  I saw it.  And it saw me.  I don’t always swim that far but I did today.  And I’m glad I did because it’s been a long time.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you in this light. 

If I had told you about the curtain it’s doubtful you would have believed me.  I’m faint for thinking of it otherwise but surely you must have seen this coming.  This warmth this exclusion you must have sensed it before.  I’ve mentioned it to you while you were sleeping.  I told you.  I closed my eyes and I saw it too.  I saw the way it held us.  That space where everything and nothing lives.  We dangled there for a minute.  I remember it.  I remember what it felt like.  I remember what it looked like.  I remember the weight of your words.  I remember you.  I’ve never forgotten.  You spoke to me once that nothing is ever lost if it ever really was at all.  And I’ve been thinking.  I’ve been thinking about that dream you had.  It was me.  It was you.  There was something about trees and something about an ocean.  And I remember the air and how it felt.  I was there.  You were there.  Not much day, not much night.  We were dangling there.  Suspended above your bed.  Nothing stopped us.  And I heard it.  I heard your breath and I heard your soul and I knew your soul was my soul.   Some part of it was mine.  You were mine.  I had never felt you.  I had never seen you.  But in that dream I finally tasted you.  In that dream that foretold of your face.  It spoke to me.  When I saw you it spoke to me.  And I’ve been hearing you ever since.   

There’s a point to all this, pal and I think you’re missing it.  I heard you the first time.  The point isn’t that there’s a right or a wrong.  The point is that the time always comes for the this or for the that.  And it’s that that that I’ve been thinking about.  You liked that?  No.  That’s okay I’m not sure I did either.  But I know this.  I like the way you look on me tonight buttercup floral top.  And I think I’ll wear you tomorrow.  To work.  With a small greyblack mini skirt.

How come the street always looks windier til you walk down it?  The sideways isn’t ever so sideaways and the backwards seems like it’s miles away.  I see forward.  I don’t see backwards.  Look at this son and look pretty tonight.  Tell the road what to do.  Tell the road where to go.  Nothing holds its hand but you.  So whisper if you have to but tell it right.  Tell it all the places you want to go and all the people you want to see when you get there.  Tell about the dozens of dimes it took and the thousands of thoughts of you but tell them and tell them truthful.  You never expected to see me standing here.  At the base of your bones to the core of all you’ve known.  You never expected it.  
But here I am.  Here I am.  So tell me, from this angle, does this dress make my butt look big?

 

Chickenheads.

10/25/2012

 


I got frustrated last night.  I was watching a TV show and one of the main female characters was having quite the hard time with the other male characters on the show.  Bless her heart.  She started to tear up, bite her lip and then the show proceeded to portray her as the sensitive woman she truly is.  The woman that can’t seem to hold back the tears at work when a man is inappropriate or hurts her feelings.  A woman that though she went to law school and works for a very (fictitious yet) powerful law firm can’t manage to keep her emotions in check. 

This annoys me.  And I get it, I’m not your average female.  I get that.  I like maps, numbers and quantum physics.  Yet miraculously I manage to do all this while securely carrying ovaries inside my body on a day-to-day basis.  I nurture my ovaries; I love my ovaries.  And yet even in the presence of all this estrogen I manage to keep a straight face while those around me are freaking out.  I think before I blurt out something utterly irrational.  And I do not make important decisions based off of emotions.  I’ve even strongly considered the fact that it very well might be impossible for me to have a feeling without first mulling it over.  Meaning, when faced with something that exerts my emotional energy, my fallback is to head straight towards what would be considered rational thought and reason.  And yes let’s be clear, all that I include within the realm of rational thought and reason might be more inclusive than the next person and vice versa.  However, let it also be clear the point I’m making: I do not live from a place of emotion, being tugged from tide to tide.  Yet I’m incredibly sensitive.  I nurture and I love to a depth that at one time, I doubted was ever possible.

So I resent when women are consistently portrayed as mouthy balls of emotion.  Granted, I know many, and I mean many women are utterly emotional, nagging and complaining and pleading for this or that.  But we aren’t all like that.  Nor do we fall into the seemingly only other female archetype alternative: the power hungry bitch.   So why oh why must I continually see displays of females being characterized as ones that can’t seem to control their emotions.

Don’t get me wrong, emotions are beautiful and absolutely vital for a healthy life.  And alongside that, the average man and woman would be far better off if we did shed tears more often than we do - In comparison to bottling everything inside desperately trying to convince ourselves that “we’re fine, no really we’re fine.” 

We aren’t fine.  Often times we’re stressed and possibly sad and really need a hug.  And to deny that is to stunt our own growth, thus really only hurting ourselves further.  Tears can be an extremely healthy reaction to life’s circumstances.  That said, I just wish all the ladies on TV could manage to hold it together long enough to clock out of work, maybe make small talk with coworkers, and then head home.   And then maybe when they get home and the time is right, they ponder a bit and then cry if they need to. 

But where’s the fun in that?  Don’t all women enjoy yelling at their significant others about “why don’t you this?” “why don’t you that?”  “you don’t ever do such and such”.   I mean from the looks of it that’s all we do.  We spend our time bitching about needing babies and not being loved enough.  And I take great issue with that presentation of the female being.   Both genders have far too much to offer to limit one into being solely ______ or solely _______.  To say that the woman is the most tender and the man most unruly is ridiculous.  And maybe some are but not all.  And it’s the part about “all” that I take offense to.  Well shit, let’s be truthful, I just take offense to it in general.

And I realize, with concern, that my tone might come across as gruff or bitter.  And I’m neither.  I think that’s the whole point to all of this.  A woman does not have to fall within one of two categories: the biological time bomb or the mega-bitch I’m-gonna-beat-a-man.  Because really, for me I’ve found the place of strength is somewhere in the middle.  To the core of my being, I love.  I see people, and I love people.  And when and if I love you, I will love you with a love that contains a loyalty that startles even me sometimes.  I love.  And on the flip side of that I’m strong.  I’m fond of most of my thoughts and I’m intentionally conscious about the thoughts that I do think.  I don’t take shit from people unless I’ve made a conscious decision to do so.  And usually even then it comes from a place of wanting to be a person that loves people even when it’s messy. 

So all this makes me want to write to the powers that be and explain to them that yes, some women have entirely too much estrogen and something should really be done about that.  I get it and totally agree.  Maybe if we didn’t pump four-breasted chickens with so many hormones that they begin to manifest unfertilized eggs from their eyeballs, this might not be as much of a problem.  But here we sit, with rabid chickens and people who watch The Bachelorette.  And I’m left to sift through the channels hoping that at some point it will all evolve.  People will start crying when it’s important to cry and emotions will be used as tools and not devices. 

This could all be far more beautiful than it is.  And I guess I know that too.  With each display of a degraded man or an objectified female, I can’t help but cringe in my gut to think, really?  

This is the life we’ve created?  With what we’ve been given, this is it?   
This is what we’ve done?

 
 

Laura Katherine was cleaning house one day, and in the process gave an
old brass lamp a particularly vigorous polishing.

>>Poof!<< Almost as if it were a formulaic joke, out of the lamp a genie appeared!

Laura Katherine said, “Heavens to Betsy, what are you doing here?  I
haven't done a thing to my hair!”

The genie replied, “Well Laura Katherine, since you finally cleaned my
lamp and have lived a reasonably good if not entirely wholesome life,
I have decided to grant you two wishes. Is there anything for which
your heart yearns?”

"Two!?" Laura Katherine asked, suspiciously,  This was not following
the narrative she was expecting.

"Two.  Let's not get into why you're not getting a third."  The genie
seemed unamused.

Laura Katherine considered the possibilities. “I wish I was extremely
wealthy”, she said. Instantly, her couch turned into solid gold.

Phitty, her cat, jumped off her lap and ran off, quivering with fear.
“Oh thank you Genie” said Laura Katherine.

“One more to go:  Is there anything else you might wish for”, asked the genie.

Laura Katherine considered this at length.  What was her one true wish?

She looked at poor Phitty in the corner and said, “I wish you to turn
Phitty into a handsome young man.” Magically, Phitty underwent a
change and then before them stood a young man with the looks and body
that no other man could match. The genie again spoke “Congratulations
Laura Katherine. Enjoy your new life,” and with that was gone.

For a few eerie moments, Laura Katherine and Phitty looked into each
other’s eyes.

Laura Katherine sat breathless, gazing at the most stunning, perfect
man she had ever seen.  Then Phitty walked over to Laura Katherine and
held her close in his muscular arms.

He leaned in close to her ear and whispered in a warm breath……………….
“Bet you regret having me neutered now, don’t you?”

 
 

The older I get the more I begin to see what really matters.  Because really, some things just are not important.  Though you’d never be able to tell it by popular culture.  Seems like the further we evolve as people the more bizarre our body dysmorphic tendencies become.  Who am I kidding – we have been mutilating our bodies for the sake of “beauty” throughout the ages.  If it wasn’t tribal neck rings it’s been extreme corseting.  What am I saying – corsets in general sound pretty painful to me.  But that’s just it, to cause pain in order to gain beauty.  How much, if any of it is okay?  And by “okay” I mean partaking in an action that alters the self all the while actively loving oneself. 

I’m not innocent here.  I look in the mirror and I see things I would like to be different.  Unfortunate as it may be, it’s widely considered to be a human condition to see oneself and wish to have it be or not be a certain way.  I dye my hair, or rather highlight it.  I pick clothes that will hopefully flatter my frame.  My eyelashes are pale blonde so I wake up basically reaching for my mascara.  I get it.  We all make alterations and decisions to present ourselves in a light we find flattering or desirable.  And that in and of itself is not a bad thing.  Even with those individuals who opt to wear decidedly unflattering clothes and hideous make up are still choosing to wear something based upon the statement it makes or doesn’t make to others.  But again really, taking the initiative to care about your appearance isn’t a bad thing.  On the contrary, many could argue that it is something that separates those who achieve greatness from those merely succumbing to the hands they have been dealt.  But at what point does altering one’s body become an issue? 

Let me spare you the suspense you’re [likely not] experiencing as you read this.  I have no intent on answering that question.  What I do intend on expounding upon is that fact that I have to believe that at the root of all this is a gaping hole where love should be.  Sure, sure, people hugging trees and sipping kombucha have been holding hands in dance circles talking about loving themselves for ages.  But I’m kinda thinking they might be onto something. 

And before everybody starts jumping to conclusions I still shave my legs.  I’m going to keep shaving my legs.  I’m from the south.  And well, I like shaved legs.  So no, I’m not making the hippie plunge.  But I am making the I’m fine just the way I am plunge. 

I’ve noticed over the last few months when I look at myself in the mirror I’m seeing myself differently.  I’m wearing less make up of all varieties.  I’ve even caught myself pairing jeans with a top that really doesn’t accentuate all that could be accentuated.  I know, perish the thought.  But that’s just it.  I’m beautiful.  I’m not beautiful because of what I look like.  I’m beautiful because of who I am and how I treat people.  Someone else may have another definition of beauty and that’s fine.  This is mine.  I want to glow with love for people - not because I applied an extra layer of dewy finish makeup before I left the house.  I want to radiate warmth - not because of the copper bronzer applied to my cheeks but because my heart is full of love for people.

So lately I’ve started doing that.  I’ve started spending less time critiquing how I think I should look and have spent more time being the person I want to be.  Because don’t mistake, the person I want to be is beautiful.  I want to feel beautiful and I want to be seen as beautiful.  But the type of beauty I’m tapping into can not be bought in a bottle nor can it be purchased with the intent of going under the knife.  For those, whether good or bad, will never satisfy the underlying need of love and acceptance we are all born with.  But it’s up to us to begin the process of putting what truly matters at the forefront.  We aren’t on this planet very long.  In truth, there’s not much time. 

So while I have the opportunity to be here.  To live this life.  To encounter all the people I encounter on a day-to-day basis.  What is it I want to be known for? 
Do I want to be known for my immaculate complexion? 
Or maybe for the way my hair looks or doesn’t look? 
Or better yet do I want to be seen as the picture of ultimate beauty? 
Well maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. 
But before and beyond that there are many things that truly matter.  They matter to me and they matter to the people around me. 
I matter.   Me being here matters. 
And because of the beauty that’s inside of me I can make a real difference in the lives of those around me.  And that’s the very thing I intend on doing. 

And when viewing through that mirror, it really doesn’t matter what color my eyelashes are.

 
 

I listened to “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers the other day.  And though its royalties alone likely keep the Withers clan laid up in mansions eating shrimp, it’s as if I was hearing the song for the first time.  Oddly enough, just the intro of the song took me back to a childhood summer vacation spent with my family in Florida.  Growing up, we’d rent a house on the beach every summer.  My grandparents would come, along with my aunts and uncles, sisters and cousins.  It was always a fine time.  This year in particular was a weird one though.  My sister was extra kooky and needy.  She of course had some sort of drama cooking.  But I just remember seeing my little Nannie’s eyes close and her head start to keep time with the music.  She was listening to the words of “Lean on Me”.  I remember her asking me to replay it several times, stopping me and asking if I’d ever heard this song before.  Being a teenager, I rushed by her quickly saying, “Yes, yes of course Nannie.  Everyone knows this song.  There’s even a little dance to it.  Here let me show you!”  I then proceeded to perform my dance interpretation of “Lean on Me” over and over and over again.  I could tell she liked my little dance but she wasn’t nearly as interested in it as she was in the meaning behind “Lean on Me”. 

Though it wasn’t until just this week that I finally understood what moved her about it all those years ago.  I know it sounds cheesy.  I know it does but frankly I don’t really care cause this is just how the realization occurred in my heart and mind.  It was night time, probably Tuesday night.  I was brushing my teeth for bed and “Lean on Me” came on my Pandora station.  And it was as if little angel babies swooped in from heaven, circled my head in fairy clouds and chimed in unison about the beauty that is my family.  Cause that’s exactly what it felt like.  It’s as if the fog of my childhood memories lifted and I was suddenly able to see the wealth I was born into. 

I’ve been known to complain about my childhood.  I mean who doesn’t have things to complain about.  Humans raising mini-humans will invariably educate their offsprings with some sort of false precept, varying social insecurities and simply put, well meaning oopsies.  Not the end of the world - though definitely not the goal we’re going for, but it happens.  Basically, along with all the good stuff, the not so good stuff happens too.  Well mine always seemed to be a bit more topsy-turvy than one might have hoped.  That being the case, instead of seeing my childhood through rose-colored glasses, I managed to somehow only focus on the moments in which I was left holding the bag of responsibility.  I got quite good at keeping my emotions in check all the while cleaning up after other people’s emotional messes.  But overall that was definitely not the supporting role I was going for.

Well in all my years of glamorizing my heroic inputs into my family’s life, I managed to skim over all that was right and good and graciously given to me by my family.  However, in the last four months I’ve begun to see my family in a totally different light.  I’d say this new perspective started back in May, when I almost lost sight in my right eye.  Up until that point, in my mind, I was all alone.  I mean I have family and I have friends and true, I depend on some of them at a heart level that is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.  But ultimately I’ve always been alone.  But not to worry, cause in my mind I’ve got it.  No worries.  You handle you, I’m more than glad to help if you so desire, but me?  I got this, please don’t be troubled.  Well in May, I didn’t have it.  I was scared as shit and I don’t do fear well.  I wear bravery much more comfortably.  I was terrified and in mass amounts of pain.  But even though they were on the other side of the country, with seemingly no real way to help me, my family stepped in.  My sweet mother began alerting something akin to a phone-tree soliciting prayers for me.  I heard from family members I hadn’t heard from in years, all letting me know they were praying for me and also sharing their own similar experiences.  I typically didn’t feel like talking to any of them as my eye felt like it was going to pop out of my head.  But that’s not the point.  The point is through all the outreach of support, I began to truly see the sincerity and love that my family easily has in spades.  I was born into a group of the most generous, fiercely loyal and compassionate people I’ve ever known.  And dare I say I’m embarrassed to have not seen it so clearly until now.

Sure, there are things about my childhood that I’ll decidedly never replicate within my own family.  Of this I’m certain.  But I’m finding that there are far more things that I am determined to replicate no matter the cost.  Sure my young life was rocky, but even in the worst of times I always knew my mother loved me.  And I don’t mean my mother just loved me.  I mean in my mother’s eyes I really am one of the greatest people to have ever walked this planet.  She doesn’t say it in so many words but she doesn’t have to.  I hear it in her voice whenever we speak and I’ve heard it through her attitude towards me throughout my whole life.  My mother adores me and since I came into the world she has yet to stop speaking those very affirmations into me.  I am her “precious”, her “honey” and even her “muffin” and I can do no wrong.  Even when I am in fact very wrong, or I’ve done something entirely stupid, she may lightly point it out, sometimes crossing the line of my temper but will undoubtedly settle back into her place of thinking the sun and moon sets in my eyes.  So many people never have that kind of love and affection. 

When I was a child, on Saturday mornings she and I would hop into her little white Honda, roll down all the windows and open the sunroof.  Saturdays were our “pick flower days”.  Being in Mississippi during the spring time means wildflowers everywhere.  Well at least on the back roads.  And the back roads is where we’d go.  Everyone in my family is musical.  Though I may have been one of only a handful to grab at the visual arts, I am but one of many who have spent their lives obsessed with music.  Needless to say our “pick flower days” were filled with music.  Who am I kidding, everyday was filled with music in our household.  My mother had a rule, good music had to be listened to loudly; there was really no exception to this rule.  Her taste in music ranged from The Beatles to Tchaikovsky and from Tchaikovsky to Bonnie Raitt and from Bonnie Raitt to Pearl Jam. 

She’d always quiz us “For 500 points who wrote this song?”, “For 800 points, what year did this album come out?”… “For 10,000 points what was the name of the woman this song was written for?  They had a wild fling that lasted until she tragically died of cancer in 1971.  What was her name?  Come on Laura Katherine, you know this!”  And my favorite part, “When and where do the key changes in this song occur?”  We’d flap our arms wildly around the car, expressing the risings and fallings of the song with our dancing hand motions.  I loved these games with her. 

My mom had an answer for everything.   As a child, if I told  her that I had spent the afternoon with a troop of aliens, sipping coca-cola and coloring in coloring books she would have invited me to sit down on her bed and tell her all about it.  Sure should would have her doubts about the authenticity of my tale but she would have never shown it without first hearing me out.  Even as a young child my mother didn’t talk at us.  She always treated me and my sisters like we were people too… Albeit miniature people.  But we were people.  And from this upbringing here I am.

So sure, I bitch and gripe about certain aspects of my childhood.  Many things were very, very painful.  But in the midst of all of it, I have this amazing family.  A 90 year old grandmother who is so sharp that she owns an iPhone of which she uses to text various members of the family and is now teaching herself how to send emails.  For goodness sake, I received a YouTube video from her the other day.  I mean are you kidding me? 

And this is my life.  This is my family.  This is the stock I come from.  I don’t know how I missed it before.  I think I must have been taking the whole “Lean on Me” thing a bit too seriously.  As sure, yeah I became exhausted from the perpetual bearing of weight on my shoulders.  But at the same time, my Nannie was insightful in pegging “Lean on Me” to be our mantra.  Cause really, no matter what I do, no matter how much I screw up, or how much of a disaster my life could ever be, my family loves me and I love them.  There’s nothing I can do that will ever change that.  I would do everything in my power to stop time for them, or fast-forward through the pain and get them to the other side safely.  And I have frequently seen the same look of intention in their eyes towards me.  And that’s what love does.  Love, simply put, loves.  With no strings to be yanked or manipulated.  Sure just as I wish for them, they wish for me that I wouldn’t do certain things.  But love doesn’t dictate.  And even when you do something you know you probably shouldn’t do for the 15,000th time, love is there to stand with you no matter the outcome.  And I consider myself fortunate to have a love like that only a phone call away, even if it does require a bit of leaning.

 

 
 
I’m reading a book that was written back in the mid 1960’s.  Due to the context in which it was written it’s gotten me thinking about the evolution of gender roles in the United States.  So much has changed since it was written.  This is an odd one for me, I’ll tell you right off the bat.  Maybe it shouldn’t be but it is.  And I know no matter how eloquently I illustrate my views on the matter, I will undoubtedly be misinterpreted as saying and meaning something I’m not.  But I suppose when has that ever stopped me before. 

Seeing the stark contrast of how women were viewed in the 60’s as compared to how they’re viewed today is really quite remarkable.  And maybe I should be all “Go women go!  Burn that bra bitch!” but I’m not. 

Reading about how things were causes me to feel torn in several directions.  Part of me makes note of the way the men in the book shush women from speaking their mind and it enrages me to the point of an elevated heart rate.  Then again I read further and see the way the same man goes on to treat her later and I find it nothing shy of inspiring.  Women were revered back then.  The lines of how to treat a lady were clear.  Sure she may have been seen as incapable of fending for herself – not only not true but decidedly not good.  However, there was something intentional about the way men looked after women.  You didn’t just hold the door for her.  You humbled yourself to see to any of her other needs while you were at it.  And this wasn’t just a one way street.  Women did the same for men but came at it from a different direction.  Both made it a point to see to each other’s needs without having to be asked to do so.  And this is not because they couldn’t do it themselves.  But speaking as a female, there are certain things that I just never want to have to do.  This is where things get murky and I don’t quite know where I stand, especially without pissing people off or being gravely misunderstood.  But I know that there are parts of this attitude that I do agree with.  And frankly I adhere strongly to them.  Namely, I do not think a woman should have to take out trash.  Ever.  Can I take out trash?  Of course I can.  And do I?  All the time.  But I shouldn’t have to.  A man should do that as my hands should not have to get near that because I’m a lady and trash smells like a Petri dish.

I was raised by a very strong yet very lady-like woman.  She taught me and my sisters that there is absolutely nothing we cannot learn and/or accomplish if we so desire.  Growing up I watched her take apart VCR’s to repair them, purchase power tools to install window treatments and get dirty in her garden.  And at no point in time did she stop behaving like a lady.  Maybe it’s because she’s a southern woman, I dunno.  But I remember this clearly.  She was both strong and gentle, simultaneously.    And I watched her male suitors be incredibly persistent in their pursuit of her, though she remained aloof and seemingly unaware of how intent they were.  Maybe she noticed, maybe she just didn’t care.  It was probably a good bit of both.  But this is who raised me - by herself.  So I grew up seeing and hearing nothing but the unending capabilities of females.  We really can do anything a man can do.  But frankly I don’t want to.  And they don’t want to squeeze a child out of their birth canal either, so it all works out. 

And true, today the lines of gender responsibilities are blurred.  Women work while men stay home to raise the children.  Daddy and daddy adopt kids and play picnic with their lesbian cousins.  It all works out.  And as long as everyone is happy and the weight of responsibility is dispersed evenly then I say so be it. 

But with all this 21st century gender equality, I feel we as both males and females have lost something fundamental to who we are as people and what makes us a wonderful species.  You don’t have to agree with me.  You don’t have to even read this.  And really, this isn’t banter.  So, if you disagree, go write about it on your own blog.  This is the way I see it.  It does not have to be how you see it.  That said, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t feel the twinge of both pain and disgust by how we’ve evolved as a people.  All it takes is a couple of rides on public transportation.  It never fails.  I find myself standing in a herd of females, all of us trying to keep our poise while balancing in the aisles of the bus while the driver takes corners like Mario Andretti.  This in and of itself would be nothing to make note of.  What I find issue with is when everyone that is standing is female while men occupy seat after seat.  Each one fiddling with their electronic gadgets, as if to pretend they didn’t notice us standing in front of them, doing all we can to precariously hold onto a bar that was made for people at least a foot taller than us, someone more, say, the height of a man. 

But this is the society we live in.  We burned our bras and this is what we got.  Well frankly I don’t want it.  Let me be clear: I don’t want your pity nor do I want your misogynistic attitude.  What I do want is for you to get up off that seat and put all that testosterone you have coursing through your body to good use.  And no, it’s not because I want your seat.  I actually don’t want to take your seat from you.  You’re likely no less tired than I am.  But I want you to be a gentleman and offer it to us as females because you are a man that has excess strength to spare.  You see when you do this men, the non-verbal speaks volumes. 

Sometimes I just want to tell men, “You were made with balls for a reason.  Stop asking for permission and just be a man about it.”  And no I don’t mean in mere romantic sentiment.  I’m referring to day in day out encounters.  You’re a man.  It’s okay to act like one.  And I don’t want to see you flinch and pause as we decide which of us will be the one to do some undesirable task or carry a heavy load.  As the longer you contemplate whether or not you’re going to man up, the more I question your masculinity.  Let me let you in on a little secret, heterosexual females love strong men.  It’s a fact.  Sure you’ve got the women that had some sort of traumatic home life and now they have a need to dominate all men forever.  They exist, I know they do.  But I’m not talking to or about them.  And yes, I know I’m making broad sweeping over generalizations here.  Need I remind you this is my blog and I can do that. 

But I have to say that men are not entirely to blame for their emotional castration.  We as females had a huge part to play in it.  We basically walked up to them and in one fail swoop tried to correct all that’s been wrong with gender inequality for thousands and thousands of years.  Because do not misunderstand me, a lot was wrong and still is.  The movement of feminism accomplished a lot of things both good and bad.  And ultimately I’m very grateful for it.  But I’ve found that it’s given women the platform to publically emasculate men, which should never, ever happen.  Did I say ever?  I meant it.  We can’t expect men to be men then rip their pride from them.  It doesn’t work that way.  That being said, it’s also given men the excuse to be lazy and apathetic claiming they merely want to give us “strong women” equal opportunity to exercise our strength.  How noble of you.  Why don’t you roll up your skinny jeans, go hop on your fixed gear and see if you can find some modern girl to swap instagram photos with while you sip lattes at a cafe.  Now, wouldn’t that be lovely.

There has got to be a balance between what was and what I see.  I picture my mother in the book I’m reading.  A man reaches over and puts a finger over her lips to silence her ideas.  I smile when I picture this because I can only imagine my mother’s articulate, pointed reaction.  She’d never stand for it.  Though don’t doubt she’d not lose her cool or behave unladylike.  She’d simply make her point and then be about her business.  Then I picture all the ways the book illustrates the men in the 60’s with their chivalry and intentionality towards women and I think ya know, “I want that too.”  I want the freedom to speak my mind as what I have to say matters.  All the while I want you to hold the door for me and ask me if I need anything.  And I promise you I will return the favor and then some.  As that’s how this works.  One side gives and the other receives only to give it right back.  But as long as we’re screaming balls to the wall and boasting about the power of estrogen, I fear none of this will occur as it should.  And that would be such a sad evolution for us all.