Musings of a Southern Life

Life, writing, photography

Leaving in a jet plane … oh no, I mean leaving in a Blazer

14 June, 2011

The day has finally arrived – we close today and should be on our way back to New York by week’s end.


CreekSometimes, it takes a river to change the landscape. To help it evolve from one pragmatic and boring flow and course it into another, perhaps more dramatic and purposeful direction; or one steady and direct and head on pushing past all obstacles into the future. I want to be that river in the landscape of life: steady, constant, and persistent until the hard surface of rock called life gives way, ever so gently and slowly, changing course, going the way I want to go until the landscape I leave behind is forever changed into something the people stare at and are in awe of its beauty, character, and purpose.

Day Two

Vase at SunriseSticking to this writing routine is becoming increasingly difficult. Day One was interrupted when my husband, who had left to visit a friend, abruptly returned because his friend was not at home. Husbands require attention, like children.

After lying in bed this morning trying to fall back to sleep for almost three hours, I decided to get up instead. I usually prefer this quiet morning time to check my email and social media, but I am unusually hungry, so I stop what I am doing and put some bacon on the woodstove to cook. When it is ready, I make a BLT for breakfast.

I am one of those who actually make my living as a writer, so I find that when I try to write for creative pleasure, it is very difficult for me. I don’t want the pain that is often associated with journaling. I should know, I have journals spanning close to 40 years. I have a diary I started when I was only 12 and dozens of more notebooks crammed with my writing.

It was the last ten years or so that I actually found I could not journal—the years of my son’s heroin addiction and all that entailed—somehow stopped me from writing my daily musings—there were too many downs, too many sorrows, too many shames. My dark days. With my articles—I write for newspapers and magazines and even have won a first place award from the New York Press Association for a three-part feature article—I do not need to be emotionally attached. I am merely the vehicle for someone else’s story. I write the words and bring emotions into those stories without lying my own soul bare for the world.

I recently started the book I always said I wanted to write when I learned my brothers do not know my story. I thought everyone knew what I had lived through especially my brothers, after all, they grew up in the same household I had. I thought they realized what powerful forces shaped and molded the path of my journey—but they really do not know. My oldest brother recently noted that he did not know our mother had once ripped me from every family picture and mailed them to me with a note that said I was no longer her daughter—my sin? I had phoned to tell her that her first grandchild was on the way. Then, in an email, my youngest brother, trying to soothe over an earlier email, admitted he did not know me at all. What is sad for me with that confession from him is that of all my siblings, he is the one who should know me best and he doesn’t.

Wasn’t he paying attention?

It is also difficult for me to write while the world is still dark outside. Winter has a way of closing in on me like a snowfall covers the earth, hiding all the glories beneath. As I sit at the table, I can see just beyond the panels of glass on the door, the grey-blue light of a February morning. Winter just won’t give up because it is already the third day in March, but the morning light bears the bitter cold of a mid-winter day. In this early morning light, I try not to move around the house too much—my old donkey can see me from his pasture and he will bellow for his morning hay once he spots me.

As I sit here writing, I think back to when I was a lying in bed trying to go back to sleep. I was going over an earlier dream I had had—I often dream now of having a baby or being pregnant—truly a joyous time in my life—and how sad it makes me feel when I realize I was only dreaming. How can it be, I will rationalize with myself—I know dreams from real life, but something in me wants that happiness again; that joy. I have a difficult time when I finally awaken and realize it was only a dream. I am almost sixty and there is no way I could even become pregnant—after all, I have had a total hysterectomy, but in my dream state, I am once again happy and content.

As I was rationalizing reality from dream, I heard a helicopter pass over, the whomp, whomp, whomping of its blades beating the frigid air. The only helicopters that fly over my home are the ones on a Medevac mission. I stop my dream rationalizing and wonder whose life is hanging in balance that requires the Medevac at three in the morning.

My youngest son was Medevac’d several years ago. He was a heroin addict at the time. But that incident where he was almost killed in a car accident was not the worst thing I experienced during those drug days, but it does rank high up there as the most surreal. (Thank god no one else was in his car with him when he nodded off and ran off the road, taking out fences, small trees and mailboxes before smashing head on into an oak tree, four foot on the stump; nor that he hit another vehicle or a pedestrian in his heroin-induced nod.)

That is what I call that period of time—the drug years. The middle-of-the-night phone calls, the endless court dates, the lawyers, the eventual stint in prison; the constant companion called fear—a fear so deep it is a part of your soul and you cannot separate it from real life because it is life; the shame; the covering up, the lies you have to tell just to be a part of society. The inability to even breathe. Those years are so jumbled together that I wonder how I even survived them.

Surviving them was hard enough, but to try and put it down on paper was impossible. Each day I felt I had made progress if I got up, survived and went back to bed. On the outside, I lead a normal life to even the closest observer, but life was anything but normal.

The 30-day writing challenge rules state we must try and write for three hours every morning, but I can’t without intermittent breaks. I have a husband who requires attention or else he sulks. Yesterday was our anniversary and we have been married for 23 years. Combine my two marriages and I have been married for nearly four decades. I have learned to choose my battles wisely and that is one I no longer care to fight. Now that I hear him stirring, I will have to stop and make his coffee (I no longer drink coffee,) and I will have to roll his cigarettes (I do not smoke either,) or else he will complain when he is not viewing me favorably of not taking care of him.

He is up now and has made his presence known as I continue to try and write. He knows I am a writer and he knows I am accepting this challenge, but he can’t help himself. I blame his mother. He yawns loudly and turns on some more lights and yawns some more, so I will stop my writing and get him a cup of coffee.

Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas

By Patricia Older

With Christmas days away, and in these difficult economic times, the perfect gift for a friend or loved one does not have to break the bank. In fact, using the following ideas and expanding on them, you can put together a gift that is not only relatively inexpensive, but
also be personal and unique.


I found this Victoria Secret Stand-Alone Mirror at a local
thrift shop for $15. Originally with a satin finish of light oak, the mirror
was an ideal candidate for a make-over. While you may not be able to find a
stand-alone mirror, a huge wooden frame can substitute. You can have a mirror
cut at a local glass shop for approximately $10-$15 to fit into the frame.

Materials: Two or three-inch paint
brush, left-over gloss bright white paint (or what ever color you have or
prefer,) one sheet of 120 sandpaper, a soft, cotton rag, small paint brush,
assorted small paints, and, of course, the mirror.

First, lightly sand the finish.

Dampen the rag and wipe the entire surface removing dust

Paint the stand or frame.

Let it dry, then lightly sand the finish.

Paint a second coat.

Again, sand lightly.

Paint a finish coat.

Decorate the tree with flowers, an ivy vine, or a motif of
your choice.

Pine Cone Fire Starters

A great little gift for the person with a fireplace or wood
stove are pine cone fire starters.

Materials: Ten to 15 medium to large
pine cones; candle wax; small basket; a piece of ribbon.

Gather a few pine cones from your yard or nearby park. Pick
ones that are not damaged.  Light a
candle and allow some of the wax to melt. While the wax is melting, spread some
newspapers out on the table, take a small painter’s brush, and clean the cones.
Blow out the wick on the candle and working over the newspapers, dip the tip of
the pine cones into the wax. Let it drip off before placing them on the
newspaper to dry. Melt the wax again and re-dip the tips of the cones.

Once dry, arrange them in a basket and top it off with a
brightly colored ribbon, holiday decorations, or string of gaily-colored beads.

Note, be sure to warn the recipient of their fire hazard and
to not store next to the fire.

Wooden Holiday

I found these four wooden drink coasters at a thrift shop
for 50 cents, but inexpensive wooden blocks can be purchased from a hobby or
craft shop.

Materials: Four wooden blocks, 120
sandpaper, small cans of paint, paint brush, ribbon.

Paint the blocks any holiday color you want or white if you want
to match the recipient’s home décor. Let dry, paint a second coat. Paint
holiday scenes or scenes the recipient might enjoy on the coasters.

Photographic Christmas Ornaments

A whimsical and fun idea that everyone will love are
photographic Christmas ornaments. Gather photos from Christmases past,
holidays, or just everyday life of people in your life – children, parents,
friends, grandparents, and turn the images into hanging ornaments for the
Christmas tree, mantle, or as small gifts.

Materials: Photographs or digital
images, card stock, laminate pages, paper punch,  and ribbon.

Scan the images you like most from Holidays past – include
Thanksgiving, Fourth of Julys, family reunions. Print them on card stock or
photographic paper in 3 ½ inch by 5 ½ inch images. Cut them apart and write a
special message on the back. Laminate it and then punch a hole at the top of
the photo, tie a ribbon through the hole with enough slack to hang it from the

Musings of a Southern Life

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