It has been a while since our readers have heard anything from us! Sorry! We hope to do better in 2016. First -time grandmotherhood for Jane and a job change for Annice made things a little crazy!I But, here we go again! Welcome back to Oops50, which should really be called Oops60 at this point, but we are fond of the original name! Here’s Jane’s first post for the new year. And, please, send us your posts!
I talked to my mother the other day. The only reason that is worth mentioning is that my mother is dead. Here is how it happened. I was driving by myself on a fairly long road trip—the perfect circumstance for me to think too much about things that are worrying me—and I realized that I was feeling overwhelmingly sad. I just had one of those awful, down-to-your-toes sadnesses, and the first thought that came in my head was “I wish I could talk to Mama right now.” That thought made me even sadder because one thing I miss more than anything since her death is the ability to pick up the phone and talk to her about things—bad and good—that happen in my life. But then, I had this thought: ‘why not just talk to her now?’ And then I entered this very strange place where I imagined myself dialing her number (since most of my conversations with her happened over our land line and not by cell phone!), and then I had a conversation with her.
First, I apologized for not calling in so long, and then I launched right in to telling her about everything that was on my mind. And, the next thing you know, I was crying—just like the old days. I talked and talked and cried and cried, about every last little thing that was bothering me, and as I talked and cried, I felt the muscles around my heart start to loosen up, and I could feel myself start to breathe a little easier, and I realized how much tension and worry I had been holding in. And then—and this is the really remarkable thing about it—I felt that tremendous sense of release and relief that I used to feel when Mama would say something as basic as “I hate for you to be feeling this way, darling” or, her standard, “Get some rest, and I know you will feel better.” It was as if Mama, from across the miles and years and clouds or whatever is between us had said, “Everything is going to be all right,” and, wonder of wonders, I believed her. And, for the rest of the day—and even now, a few days later, I’m still feeling the effect.
I have to say: I’m glad I was on a road trip when this happened and not driving down a street of my town. No one could see me or overhear me, so they couldn’t accuse me of losing my mind and hanging out with ghosts. But I had this urge to share this experience on the blog because I highly recommend it to those of you have a mother who has moved on to her reward: give her a call sometime!
What a treat for oops50 to have Glenis Redmond (poet – teaching artist – imagination activist) write a post for us. We’ve been secretly waiting for Glenis to turn 50, and before we knew it, she turned 51.
Who’s counting? Obviously the world is and everyday it speaks with many mouths and many television and internet eyes that reflect the many ways that I will never measure up.
When I am out of sync with myself and not aligned to my own stars, I take this projection personally. I listen to the critique and the opinions of the vapid. I down the chatter like greasy fast food. The poison enters my bloodstream and spreads so I don’t know where I begin and the toxicity ends.
This is when I fall prey to counting the ways that I don’t measure up: the number of crow’s feet around my eyes, the pounds on the scale, the dollars I have or do not have in the bank and my lovers or lack thereof.
I know better than to succumb to this useless counting of what is wrong, but I always adopt a myopic vision that is destructive to my spiritual and creative being. When I am in my holistic mindset I only count what’s right. So here is my list of what I know to be true on turning fifty-one.
Drinking tea makes me a better woman. The power is in the sipping of: Egyptian Mint, Ginger or Green Tea. The healing is in the slowing down to savor the moment. When I take time to drink a cup of tea at home or in my hotel room before I start my day of work. This mark indicates that I am on my mark. This ritual fills my gauge to full.
Fortunately and unfortunately I am not always on my mark. I don’t always stop to drink tea. I rush and get ahead of myself, because I am both a Dreamer & a Doer
The doer sometimes dominates the dreamer-poet.
The pros? I get things done.
Check the map and my odometer that teeters close to 350,000-miles.
I have performed and facilitated poetry workshops in every state except Alaska, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Idaho.
Travel does not always allow for my roots to sink deep.
I yearn for deepness:
South Carolina, my birthplace
I am from South Carolina, but not totally of South Carolina.
My family’s military trek made sure of that.
This makes me a seeker. I cross over man-made boundaries on the regular. Traveling is part of my vibration. I am served and fed well by crossing regional and cultural boundaries.
Collecting both rocks and stories ground me.
I always come back to my roots: South Carolina
The cons of my traveling? My mind races too. I rarely slow down.
My body is having its say by forcing me to slow down.
I have Adrenal Fatigue bordering on Adrenal Failure.
I do not sleep. I do not rest.
I often feel like a stranger.
North Carolina is where I gained my poetic wings.
There’s no Tiger or Tarheel in me. Ironically, orange and Carolina blue are my two favorite colors.
I wish I cared who was in the playoffs. I just don’t.
I was a cheerleader in high school and I did not care then about the sport on the field or court, I just loved being with the crowd: dancing and cutting flips feeling the high vibrations of people’s spirits.
I’m still a cheerleader. I’m an imagination activist. I help people to unlock their imaginations. We talk of what matters. Then, I tell them to write.
I found that when I was twelve what mattered to me:
I find solace and comradeship in good books – stories of overcoming. People who have traveled to their inner space and written about it: Zora Neal Hurston, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Wangari Maathai and many more — generally stories of women. I study on how they have traveled this rugged terrain.
There’s struggle to being a woman.
I overcome those obstacles daily. What woman doesn’t?
I was born a feminist – womanist, yet I’m a lover of men unapologetically. I do not see the two as mutually exclusive. I love being a woman.
My mom is my best friend. Politically and religiously we are of two different ilks, but we have similar cores: Love! She is my touchstone.
My mama bought me an orange bike with turquoise rims for my 51st She gets me if not left of centered views. She says, “ride Glenis.”
The color orange in all its incarnations gives me life.
I’m a pacifist at all cost, yet I do not suffer fools lightly. I get this from my dad: Johnny C. Redmond
I am a weeper, but a warrior.
I was born into poverty.
I stand for the underdog. I was the underdog.
I still sometimes have an impoverished mindset.
Therefore, but by the grace of God go I.
I am not defined by my challenges.
My spirit radiates all colors.
I’m a traveler
Places I want to travel: Cameroon, Nigeria, Bahia, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English countryside.
I’m Afro-Carolinian. I love to dance: tribal, interpretative and funk.
It is my prayer – the way I talk with God.
I love to walk. I work out my worries with each step.
I don’t consider myself old, just an old soul.
YOLO rolls off the tongue (You Only Live Once) not mine, because I have been here before many times. I recognize lands and people from other eras.
I was an old soul when I was born, therefore turning fifty-one does not faze me. Yes, getting older has its challenges, but also being a person diagnosed with fibromyalgia at twenty-nine years does, too. Everyday I get out of bed is a challenge, yet it is also a victory.
My daughters, Amber and Celeste, are the most precious metal of my inner circle. They make the bright ring in my life glow with pride and joy. Now my grandson has joined this golden lineage. Oh yeah, I write poems. Here is my latest poem for my grandson. Julian teaches me everyday how to meditate on goodness and not on the standards by which the world measures me and finds me lacking. He has been here before and he is wise. I listen. Like tea, love makes me a better woman. Here is the poem I wrote for my grandson.
Grandma Waterfall for Julian Josiah Priester
My status has been upgraded
from mom to grandma–
who knew the heart morphed
I should have known the moment,
when my heart shape shifted,
when I gave birth to twins
two decades and five years ago:
from stream into raging river,
from the weakest trickle into a force of nature.
There’s no parent handbook
that foretold of the more I would become.
I looked into my inner pond
and I could see I had become more alive with giving.
I wanted to stay on earth
with the territory of my heart expanded –
pushing west with poetry and purpose:
the frontier of becoming mama
packing lunches and endless carpools
to school and soccer,
tucking babies into bed
and growing girls into beautiful women –
artists people with pen and brush
ready to right the world.
Now, to you the first son of our family
you have made me grand
the only royalty I will ever know:
a grand waterfall unable to contain what I hold.
A treasure : Julian Josiah
10 fingers: starlit
10 two toes: eager squiggles
cheeks: squishy pockets
earned you the nickname: The chipmunk gnome.
Your eyes: lit with the deepest shine, déjà vu remembrance.
Your birth weight: 9 lbs. 3 oz.
You’ll carry what’s been passed on: the walk of the ancestors.
This legacy also a burden,
but your legs will be sturdy
and worthy of the task
like Yusef Komunyakaa writes:
You were born
to wear out at least
one hundred angels.
Like Maya Angelou penned
You come as one but stand as ten thousand.
You will carry this load with wisdom
and an undeterred stride.
Julian, all is possible with you.
Unflinchingly I will sing
of the more I want to give you
what John Lennon dreamed
imagine there’s not countries
it is not hard to do
nothing to kill or die for…
Imagine all the people living life as one.
Julian I am a dreamer
it is all that have: the gift of my imagination.
Pour into these waters little boy
brother, son and grandson of the Universe
flow into this world
with dreams better
than the one I/WE are
handing to you.
I am here as Grandma Waterfall
also an eagle watching over you
with the lesson of water ever ready
gently guiding you to find your own flow
from black boy to black man
like Langston Hughes wrote,
I hope you’ll dream a world
where love will bless the earth,
because you are part of that blessing
lighting the world with the brilliance
of what you came to do.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing Glenis in person, catch her at TEDxGreenville or visit her blog.
Let me introduce you to, Casey Curry, wife, mother, and educator who has just published her first novel, Promises. Curry is a master at weaving together fragile family alliances and with four aspiring African American daughters growing up in a military family all over the world, Curry has tons of material to not disappoint her readers. Like her protagonist, Pamela Sloan, Curry is a woman over 50, and the wife of a naval officer who takes us on a thirty year journey full of family secrets and promises.
I mention that the daughters are African American because it was that one fact alone that piqued my interest enough to read the book. It made me realize how little I knew about Black families in our military. Truth is, I had not read much about military families in general, and must confess, had only seen films about families coping with war and death as a young adult – starting with WWII, Viet-Nam, and now Iraq. Films or TV series that stand out are: Coming Home (1978); MASH (the 70’s); even Hogan’s Heroes from the 60’s and all those had an all white cast – or at least that’s how I remember it. It wasn’t really until Glory (1989) and Red Tails in 2012 that Hollywood portrayed African American families in the military.
So, Curry’s book allowed me to enter a world I knew very little about. What did I find? Having grown up with two sisters, I found the relationship between the siblings to be not all that different from my own EXCEPT mine didn’t involve military espionage, family sacrifices, or vacationing on the Vineyard. Interwoven between the daughters’ stories is Pamela’s story, their mother whose past is nothing like her daughters. Raised by a father because her mother was either absent or should’ve been, Pam managed to marry well while her half-sister struggled as a poor single mother with an ungrateful and selfish daughter. The contrast between Pamela’s tight knit family and her sister’s rather sad existence with her spoiled daughter is significant and what stories are made of.
I think Casey’s story will resonate not only with readers who have struggled with an empty nest or who are military wives but with women of all ages who have struggled to protect their family. The whole time I was reading Promises, I kept thinking this would make the perfect Lifetime channel movie – one of my guilty late night pleasures.
Casey Curry is the Director of Creative Writing at a fine arts magnet school in Tampa, Florida where she teaches poetry and fiction to high school students. She holds a B.A. from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and M.Ed. from Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a 2012-2013 National Arts Teachers Fellowship (NATF) winner. The novel, Promises is her second book, and was born out of the NATF project, formerly funded by The Surdna Foundation. Ms. Curry is married to a retired Naval Officer and is the mother of three adult daughters. Her youngest daughter, Tori Rose, was the inspiration for her first book, I Remember You Today, and died of a brainstem tumor at the age of three.
So I showed up for my massage appointment with Giuseppe, he took one look at me and said with a twinkle, “How are you?”
I replied, “I’m fine.”
And then the l-a-a-a-a-a-u-g-h-i-n-g began!
It really can be fun to tell a lie, knowing it’s a lie, and knowing that the other person can feel it coming — that whatever is about to come out of your mouth at that moment will have not a shred of truth in it! It’s fall down funny, or at least that’s how it struck the two of us.
This was after I left the house and my partner Eric remarked, “Sweetheart, you seem pretty uptight… is there anything I can do for you?”
Alas. Apparently, it was clear to everyone around me that I had my underwear in a bundle about something or other.
So Giuseppe said, “Whatever it is, you ought to just breathe about it.”
(Less thinking. More breathing. Hey, this could be good.)
And then Giuseppe got out his big giant rolling pin arms and rolled the stress right on out of me.
Since then, I’ve been practicing “just breathe about it.” Meaning don’t think about it — breathe about it. It so happens that you can’t think and breathe (consciously breathe) at the same time.
It’s a great phrase, really. Easy to remember. And do-able.
If you decide to give this “just breathe about it” idea a whirl this week, please let me know how it goes. Maybe we’ll all sleep more soundly and wake up ready for the world.
Aaaahhh! Now that’s better!
I live in Hendersonville, NC in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Eric, my partner of 14 years, two cats and a dog, and as many flowers and vegetables as I can plant.
I am in favor of wandering time in the morning with a steaming cup of coffee in my hands as birds call to each other in the woods all around me. Making fresh food is one of life’s big yummy pleasures, along with singing – especially creating heavenly, improvisational, prayerful, meditational sound. It is my experience that children are born to teach (remind) parents, not the other way around. I believe that Poet Mary Oliver writes the best bedtime stories available on Earth.
Day two of my writer’s retreat. Well, that’s what I’m calling it even though it’s not exactly what I planned. I was supposed to go to Bowers House, a Writers Retreat and Literary Center in Georgia, but given that my husband is still recovering from major back surgery, I felt uncomfortable being so far away – just in case. So, feeling deprived and sorry for myself, I decided to take the week off anyway and just write at home.
It’s not that I can’t write at home, I do it all the time, but I also do the laundry, organize drawers, clean the closets, clip my dog’s nails – you get the drift. Did I say I also check my kitchen cupboards to see if all my exotic spices are still in the house just in case I get inspired to make an amazing Indian dish?
While I was gearing up for my make-do “retreat,” my writing mentor and dear friend, Peggy, was going out of town to visit her children the exact week I had to cancel Bowers House. I know Peggy’s place because my writer’s group meets there every other Tuesday. It’s only ten minutes from my house but it feels like miles and miles away. It’s quiet, serene, with cream colored furniture, and best of all there is Gracie, her pure white cat who thinks she’s a dog.
Wouldn’t Gracie need someone to take care of her? Yes she would. What an amazing swap. I get to write at Peggy’s place all day and leave when I’m ready. So far, I’ve been going around 10:00 and returning around 7:00. Gracie is happy and I’m ecstatic. In two days, I’ve revised 12 chapters, and hopefully, I can finish all 25 of them by the end of the week.
In addition, I have given up all household chores, including cooking, so we’re either eating out or bringing in, and the only thing I do in the morning before I leave is walk Terra, our dog.
Oh yeah, look at this little jewel I see in the morning. A dove has decided to build a nest in a planter near Peggy’s front door. I’ve watched it grow in just two days. What a perfect metaphor for my writer’s retreat!