What A Woman Needs: It Starts with Damn . . .

[On November 30, 2014, I wrote the following blogpost about how I grew up in a sheltered, no-cussing household, but found that, as I got older, I needed a few choice words to illustrate my life. Four years later I find this post is more relevant than ever since we now live in an alternative universe where up is down and a former reality TV celebrity is now President of the world’s only remaining superpower. If you don’t count China, that is. So I hope you enjoy this reposting of one of my favorite blogposts!]

When my sister and I were growing up, Mama told us under NO circumstances were we to use bad words such as phooey, silly, stupid, fudge, gosh, or heck. At our house, the Disney movie “That Darn Cat” became “That Blank Cat”. There was an unknown abyss of nastier words hanging around big-boy playgrounds and other foreign places outside, but as ancient maps noted the areas of the world uncharted before the age of exploration, beyond our trusted shores thar be dragons!

No matter how many four-letter words I saw scrawled on bathroom stalls at my school, I did not use what Mama would call foul language. So closely did I follow her line of thinking that when I played a kid’s game of switching the beginnings of my friends names around and Kitty Shronce became Shitty Kronce, no one was more surprised at what came out of my mouth than me. Well, Kitty was none too pleased. And I was quite sure I was going straight to hell.

Evangelical Christian writer Maribel Morgan holding her bestselling book (circa mid 1970's). Get a load of that hair.

Evangelical Christian writer Maribel Morgan holding her bestselling book (circa mid 1970’s). Get a load of that hair.

In my late teen years, I attended a Southern Baptist church which was full of Total Woman handbook study groups.

Written by an Evangelical Christian woman named Maribel Morgan, The Total Woman taught that the husband is the king of his household, and if the properly Christian wife worships and obeys him in all things–and occasionally meets his sexual fantasies by greeting him at the front door wrapped in nothing but Saran wrap–a happy marriage and all good things will come. I kid you not. Here’s her Wikipedia page, read it, and weep:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marabel_Morgan

Okay, I was raised in a sheltered home. I was young and ignorant of the ways of the world. Guilty, guilty, guilty. But I compounded my quite shocking naiveté by marrying a man I had only known for three months when I was two weeks shy of my 19th birthday. Yeah. Breathtakingly stupid.

When he took off his nice-guy facade on the honeymoon, I was amazed at this man I did not know. He was, as it says in the dictionary, “marked by egocentric and antisocial behavior”. He did not want me to have friends or spend time with my family, wouldn’t speak to me for days if I lost one of his socks at the apartment’s laundry room, and said he would not drive me back to work until I ate food I didn’t want at McDonald’s. My crime: he wasn’t able to find a parking place at the McDonald’s near my office, and he had drive to the one two miles away.

As you can well imagine, The Total Woman handbook was NO help with this king of his household. After five years of living hell, not only did I leave him, but I found that I really needed to let loose with an occasional damn from time to time. And so I did.

As a single parent in my mid 20’s, working for a pittance on a secretary’s salary while I worked on my degree at the University of Tennessee, I continually bumped up against the rules and life ways of the good ole Southern boy culture. It may have been the 1980s when “we” were supposed to be liberated, yet we of the female persuasion were instructed to refer to our male co-workers as Mr. Jones or Dr. Smith, while we were called by our first names, Cindy or Kathy or Connie or Sue.

One morning I arrived at work earlier than anyone else at work, and the management assessment director who I knew only to say hello to and not much more, walked up to me and kissed me on the lips. No “good morning”, no “how ya perkin’, pardna”, just a good long kiss right in the smackeroo.

I had no context for this behavior, couldn’t really myself believe what had happened,  so I told no one and kept my head down. Not too long after that he left his wife, married his secretary, and I was left to ponder the sexual harassment that guys in my workplace took for granted.

About this time, I found that I needed a more colorful vocabulary, and my son heard me say shit more than once when my ex didn’t send the child support, and I still had to pay bills and put food on the table. Shit a brick.

don't mess with texasAfter I finished my bachelor’s degree, I married a young engineering graduate, and we moved to (Don’t Mess With) Texas for him to accept his first post-graduation job for a defense contractor in Ft. (Beginning of the West) Worth.

We found a place to live that we could afford that had a school within walking distance, and I began cross-stitching Christmas presents for my family back home in Tennessee. Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day, and hel-lo I am pregnant.

We had one car without air conditioning, in the sizzling miasma of the holy terror tumbleweed of Southwest Ft. Worth where the fire ants were most surely a-jumpin’, and I was hauling my hugely pregnant self around Ft. Worth with the car windows open, and praying we would not have to stop at a red light.

foat wuthAbout the time I was carrying my second baby boy in the vaporous humidity of Foat Wuth (how it was pronounced by the natives, y’all), Jim Wright, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives–who brought home all kinds of lovely defense contracts to his home district of Ft. Worth–came under scrutiny by Newt Gingrich and his Republican minions.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright of Ft. Worth, Texas.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright of Ft. Worth, Texas.

According to his enemies across the aisle, Wright’s wrongs apparently were to write a book called Reflections of a Public Man (I will admit it is a weak title), devise a scheme to keep more proceeds from the profits of the book than he was allowed as a member of the House, and give his wife Betty a job. Interesting aside: Some observers say the Jim Wright ethics investigation by the GOP, and the resulting scandal and recriminations ending in Wright’s resignation as speaker of the House, was the opening salvo of the legislative stalemate that has paralyzed our nation for the last 25 years. Yep, the beginning of our ends, so to speak.

Anyway, the seemingly endless drip, drip, drip of bad news for our once powerful representative was even worse for Ft. Worth as half or so of the defense contractor jobs evaporated. Boarded up, repossessed homes were up and down our neighborhood–bad timing, we had just bought a home–and no one knew how long anyone would have a job at my husband’s employer.

Soooo, as I struggled womanfully to make ends meet, raise two children, and scrounge to find a job in the wake of cataclysmic political disaster, I found there was only one word that described my situation.

The word I speak of is a magical word that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, and maybe a few other parts of speech that I have forgotten since Mrs. Decker’s seventh-grade English class. It is also the word that best illustrates what continues to go on in Washington as stalemate reigns year after year in our houses of Congress. We poor Ft. Worth residents were fucked, my dear citizens. And so apparently are we by our national houses of legislative non-cooperation and strife.

Women have not only achieved the vote, but they can find their voice as well.

Women have not only achieved the vote, but they can find their voice as well.

However, I say to you boldly, women who find yourself in similarly dire straits as I have during my own lifetime. You are not without recompense and remedy in your hours of need. You may have been reared as a lady, and you do not want to let lose with a torrent of loose verbiage.

But I say to you, ladies and women of all ages, if you find yourself rear-ended at the red-light of life as I have oh so many times, you can have at your disposal an arsenal of words that have quickened the pulse and braved the heart of many a weary female traveler. You have damn, shit, and fuck–with an occasional hell, if you like. Go forth, ladies, and use these words wisely, yea discriminately, and they will serve you well.

A timely reflection before the holiday shopping season.

~ Anna – 11/30/2014

 

Posted in Autobiographical, Family, Knoxville, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Finding Darcus

My grandmother and her siblings around 1911: Stephen age 5, Darcus age 11, Regina age 9, Luva age 6.

Since at least 1992, I have been searching for my grandmother, Darcus Montgomery. She gave birth to my father in April 1935, and only four months later–in early August–she died. Naturally I assumed Daddy’s mother died from childbirth complications, and perhaps in a particular sense that was the case, but the more I have learned about my dear grandmother, I found that her death was not as clearcut as I had imagined.

Daddy’s maternal grandparents, John and Cordelia Montgomery in Carroll County, Virginia.

I probably would not have discovered much about my grandmother, who was born in Carroll County, Virginia, in 1903, if her mother, Cordelia, had not heard the call of Mormon missionaries and converted three years before Darcus’s birth. It so happens that Mormons, who prefer to be called Latter-Day Saints, revere family ancestry. Through their online ancestry esources, I found my grandmother’s death certificate and my husband was able to contact two of my cousins who now live in Utah.

My grandmother’s death certificate said she died of insanity from Pellagra psychosis. I had never heard of pellagra psychosis, but it is a severe nutritional deficiency that plagued many American Southerners in the wake of the Civil War. Apparently their diet relied too heavily on corn that had not been enriched with lime as the Native Americans had done to fortify it with niacin. According to Wikipedia, 100,000 Southerners suffered with pellagra in 1916, which was characterized by the four D’s: diarrhea, dermatitis, dementia, and death.

The photo we mistakenly thought was Daddy’s parents, Hodge and Darcus. It actually is a photo of my grandfather Hodge with his second wife Eulenia Brown, presumably on their wedding day, probably in the mid-1940s.

The death certificate notes that my grandmother died in the George Maloney Home. After research in the East Tennessee Historical Center, we discovered the Maloney Home was Knoxville’s version of the poor house where the souls consigned there worked in the fields under conditions so notorious that the state of Tennessee closed the place in the early 1950s. What my grandmother was doing in the poor house while her husband lived on Jones Street in South Knoxville, as stated on her death certificate, is a mystery we have not been able to solve.

Daddy had never seen a photo of his mother. However when he 80 years old, he and Mama visited a relative from Daddy’s father’s family and Mama noticed a photo of Daddy’s father, Hodge, with a woman they assumed was my grandmother.

Only last week did I learn the woman pictured with Hodge was actually his second wife Eulenia, and not my grandmother. My dear cousin Linda, whose father Stephen was Darcus’s younger brother, gave me the original photo of my grandparents which appears to be on their wedding day in 1934.

Finally the original photo of my dear grandmother, Darcus Montgomery, with my grandfather Hodge Allen, on their wedding day in 1934.

Even though my dear grandmother would be dead just a year and a half after her wedding and I never met her, I feel my life is whole now that I actually see her and know where I came from. I never felt that I exactly fit in my mother’s family. Although I loved them dearly, I felt as if I was a tiny alien. I loved to read and no one in my mother’s family read books. Daddy’s father, Hodge, was actually illiterate. It was a homecoming of sorts to learn that my great-grandmother Cordelia (Darcus’s mother) was an avid reader and named her children for characters in the novels she read.

Finding my grandmother, after all these years of searching for her, has made me feel at peace with myself in a way I have not known before.

Seeing Darcus’s dear face, and learning more about her from her family, has helped me understand there is a reason I am my own quirky, sensitive self–I am following in the footsteps of my dear, singular, beloved grandmother.

My paternal grandmother, Darcus Nickaline Montgomery Allen.

If she had not risked getting pregnant with Daddy– despite her sensitive physical and mental nature–my father, my sister, and I (along with our children and their children) would never have been born. Because she lived–even for just 31 years–she gave us life. As the amazing inspirational Fred Rogers of Public Television’s Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood said:

Who we are in the present includes who we were in the past.

Thanks to Darcus’s family, I now have seen her lovely face and I am home.

~~ Anna – 10/31/2018

 

 

Posted in Autobiographical, Childhood, Courage, Dementia, Family, Happiness, Home, Knoxville, Love, Uncategorized, Women, Wonder | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fearful Things

The last week has been excruciating. With tears in my eyes, I watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, an outstanding professor and psychology researcher, testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee of her gut-wrenching story of being sexually assaulted when she was 15 years old by President Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  When she was asked what aspect of the assault she recalled most clearly, she said it was the laughter between Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge who was in the room watching.  Yes, her memory returns time and again to the uproarious laughter of the two inebriated, 17-year-old boys of privilege shared as the would-be Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh lay on top of her trying to remove her clothes.

Dr. Blasey Ford explained how she escaped Kavanaugh when his pal Mark jumped on top of them and Kavanaugh fell off of her.  She was terrified that day, the trauma has never left her, and she was terrified again on Thursday as she had to tell her story to the Judiciary Committee and, through the broadcast media, to the world. She and her family have been forced to move several times and hire bodyguards due to death threats against her life.

For Kavanaugh and Judge, that day when they were 17 years old was just another day of drunken revelry on their way to bigger things. Of course, it would not be too surprising if they can’t remember all the details of their drunken escapades. Drinking to excess was the kind of behavior that was encouraged among their prep-school, alpha-male peers who were being groomed for the top echelons of American society and governance. Mark Judge went on to write several books about his alcoholic life, and Kavanaugh became a federal judge on one of the most powerful courts in our country: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. circuit.

Interestingly the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals is Merrick Garland, the prestigious judge with unblemished credentials who was lauded by conservatives until President Barack Obama’s chose him as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, refused to hold a hearing on Garland’s nomination, the court seat remained empty for over a year. If the Republican leader of the Senate had done his job and allowed his peers to seat Merrick Garland, Kavanaugh might never have been considered for the Court.

For me and so many other women who have been sexually, physically, and mentally abused, this unfolding national tragedy had caused us to relive our own traumatic experiences of being American girls and women.

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Our house with the big old trees in the front yard.

I have a hard time figuring out how to characterize what happened to me when I was 5 years old. It was fall of the year and my parents were raking leaves and preparing the house for winter. How Daddy hated raking leaves and the trees that made gathering them necessary. I have always loved them. The leaves smelled wonderfully pungent and my sister Lisa and I loved to jump into a pile of them.

Although I was only 5 years old, I had just begun first grade because I would turn 6 before January 1st of the next year, which was the cut-off rule. I was the smallest in my class, as well as the youngest, and I was very shy.

Here I am, a tiny 5-year-old, when I started first grade.

My memory is of being in the basement of the house next door with a neighbor boy who was a little older than me. We were alone in the basement. He said he was the doctor and I was his patient. I was lying on a work table made of wood when he stuck a stick inside me and asked if it hurt. I do not know why I said the stick did not hurt, because it did. Perhaps it was because I was brought up not to be unpleasant with anyone, but to always seek approval from others.

Although I had no context for what had happened, I knew it was a shameful thing. I felt guilty that I had allowed this ugly thing to happen to me, and I instinctively knew my parents would have blamed me as well–so I told no one. I could not understand the experience and buried it deep inside. I am sure, however, that it affected how I felt and acted toward boys, and how I felt about sex.

The photo on my UT identification card in 1975.

I was in my 30s when I remembered what happened and sought therapy to talk about it. At that time and since then I have thought about how the event affected me as I developed from a young girl to a teenager. Most especially I wonder if it had anything to do with my decision to marry at the age of 18 to a man I had only known for three months.

No one in my family had ever attended college and I was only able to do so due to my freshmen-year-only scholarships and the federal Basic Education Opportunity Grant (BEOG) that was given to poor students who wanted to go to college, but had no means to do so. I lived at home with my parents while going to the University of Tennessee so naturally I met no one during my freshman year.

For my wedding day in December 1976, I had borrowed my Aunt Helen’s wedding dress and my cousin’s veil.

After my first year of college, my one-year scholarships ended and I only had the funds from my federal grant. Growing tired of never having enough money, I got a job at a financial services company checking credit. A couple of the bill collectors asked me out, but one was quite insistent that we should date seriously. Being sheltered, lonely, poor, and, yes, a virgin–I took his solicitous attentions at face value and thought he was a good man. I desperately wanted to get on with my life and stop living in my parents’ house. Daddy, who never finished high school and grew up without a mother, was constantly losing jobs. The uncertainty and helplessness in the household was an awful load to bear, so two weeks before my 19th birthday, I married this man who was divorced and five years older than me.

On our honeymoon I met an altogether different man. He was brusque, brittle, angry, demanding, and stiflingly possessive. He did not want me to have friends or spend time with my family. Most especially he wanted me not to have a relationship with my sister who I was very close to.

His cruelties were so numerous that I have blocked most of them out of my memory. The ones I do recall include the time he attempted to teach me how to drive a manual-transmission car. When I couldn’t immediately get the hang of the clutch, he told me to get out of the car and walk home.

When I ran out of gas on the way to work early in our marriage, he refused to come help me so I walked to a gas station and the attendant drove me back to my car with a gas can.

When he couldn’t find a parking place at McDonald’s, he blamed me and drove to another McDonald’s a few miles away. He ordered food he knew I did not want to eat, and said if I didn’t eat the food, he would not take me back to work.

Here’s my son Justin in our rap-trap, bought-for-$300 Vega in 1981. Of course, my ex-husband drove the good car.

Then there was the time when my son Justin was a baby and my ex-husband started a fist fight with a gay couple who shared our duplex. Understandably the men who lived downstairs from us called the police and more might have come of that horrible altercation if the policeman who answered the call had not been a boy I went to high school with. When I finally left my first husband–with our 2-and-1/2-year-old son–he broke into my apartment, followed me on dates, and stalked and terrorized me for 8 years–even after I had married a second time and moved from Tennessee to Texas.

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When I worked as a secretary in the vice president’s office at the University of Tennessee, an administrator who had an office on our floor came into work early one morning when I was only one in our office. Saying nothing before or after, he came right up to me and kissed me on the mouth. Again I had no context for his behavior, we had only said hello and made small talk in the past, so I had no idea why he would think I would welcome such an action. I was a single parent, full-time employee, going to school part-time, and if I had told anyone about this unfathomable kiss, I knew I would not have been believed and might have been fired for causing trouble. A little later this married man had an affair with his secretary, left his wife, and married his secretary.

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My graduation day from the University of Tennessee in 1987 with my sweet Mamaw and my dear son Justin.

After I earned my degree and worked my way up to a director-level position at the university, the UT president hired a new vice president for our department. He came with excellent credentials, and we assumed he would have high expectations. When he visited our office, he met my co-workers and me, and sized us up for the plans he had in mind. He asked me to consider applying for a promotion to lead a new communications team to provide material for our next fund-raising campaign. I applied, and won the position. However, he had decided that my two co-workers–both men–would not be a part of this new communications team. I fought to keep them in our department, making a good case that we needed them, but my boss was adamant and sent them to work in another department. The two men were, understandably, upset. And, I’m sure, they blamed me.

I put together a great team of three, we worked together seamlessly, but our communications team was placed on the organizational chart under an unrelated administrator’s command so he could receive a large salary boost by having more people report to him.

Worse was to come as our vice president came up behind me in the office and hugged me in front of mid-level male administrators in our department. I would be talking with my colleagues and my boss repeatedly undermined my credibility by hugging me in public. He hugged me in private too, but that was more measured. Still I knew I was being placed in a situation where my co-workers could construe that we were having an affair, which was not true, but perception is often stronger than reality.

During this unfortunate time in the university’s history, we had a string of ineffectual presidents who were forced out of their positions due to scandals. When the latest president was set aside, his vice presidential choice–my boss–was endangered as well and left the university for a position at an academic institution in the Southwest.

After the vice president who promoted me left the university, the interim team of male administrators decided to take revenge and force me out of my job. I have never completely understood their motivations, and they certainly did not explain them to me. However, from their actions, I came to the conclusion they must have thought I had slept with my former boss in order to get a promotion. Further they must have erroneously decided I engineered moving my two co-workers to another department. In any event, they wrote me up on trumped-up charges two weeks before Christmas–and nine months before I was to reach 30 years at the university and full retirement. They hounded me incessantly during my final months at UT and nearly ruined my health.

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I’ll admit it: I have been angry about the cost of being a girl child and a woman in America. Most of the time I can do nothing about my anger except push it down inside where it grows into depression. Why try, why fight the forces of injustice? That’s what the powerless feeling brings to mind: soul-crushing sadness.

When the winter of my soul takes over with wave after wave of desperation, I fight for the surface to breathe again because people need me. My husband, my sister, my mother, my son, my friends, and most especially my 11-month-old grandson and his baby sister who is due to join this world in February of next year. I cannot give up being my joyful self and wallow with the forces of evil, no matter how strong they are.

Last week I rewatched the award-winning Netflix mini-series Godless which tells the story of a 1880’s town in the American West full of women who have been widowed by a mining explosion. The women in this story are strong and resourceful as they battle a murderous outlaw gang of 30 men and the gang’s mercurial leader bent on revenge after the town sheltered his adopted son who abandoned him. This is one of the best series I have ever seen about the power of women working together to save their lives and the lives of their children.

After the climactic showdown, the remaining townspeople mourn and begin burying their dead. As they stand around the grave of the teenage boy who was their deputy, the town’s new preacher arrives in time to say a few words about the risk of living and loving in the face of evil and death.

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing to love, to hope, to dream, to be.
To be, and, oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this.
And a holy thing.
A holy thing to love.
For your life is lived in me.
Your laugh once lifted me.
Your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love.
A holy thing to love what death has touched.

~ Scott Frank in Godless

To live beyond the dark veil of sexual assault and to somehow find a way to forgive ourselves, for being human and vulnerable, is a hard life’s journey. To witness injustice and be dragged back to the physical and emotional pain of the past is real and can be debilitating. To risk loving again is indeed a painful joy.

Please may our country find a way to heal itself enough to allow its women to rise to their full height and live full lives without fear. We won the right to vote some 100 years ago, but we have not come far enough, not by a long shot.

~ Anna – 9/30/2018

Posted in Autobiographical, Childhood, Courage, Ideas, Op/Ed Thoughts, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ruining Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Anna hands on tree at Berea College 9-2017

My hands on an old tree located in Berea, Kentucky. I love old-growth tree. Can they teach me something now?

It all started with a discolored toenail and ended with losing most of my sense of taste. Yes, I went to my internal medicine doctor, who I have seen for years through my many episodes of gastro adventures. My first mistake was not researching the medication my doctor prescribed for me. My second mistake was continuing to take it when my stomach bothered me immediately after I took the first pill.

In early June, I visited my doctor with a list of little issues that needed to be addressed, including my discolored left big toe. She said it might be a fungal infection and prescribed the generic version of Lamisil which is sold under the name Terbinafine. My insurance company did not want to pay for the drug, but eventually, after my doctor made an appeal, they decided to pay their part of the drug’s price.

I took the first pill and did not like the way my stomach hurt, so I stopped taking the pills. However, as time went on, I thought maybe the dosage was too high, so I halfed the pills and took one in the morning. My stomach did not bother me, so I continued taking half a pill for a few weeks.

Then I contracted the highly contagious norovirus, which is said to be the most common cause of gastroenteritis. I had nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, malaise, abdominal pain, and the general feeling that I would never feel strong enough to ever do much again. I stopped taking Terbinafine during my illness and convalescence as I sipped broth, ate dry toast, and tried to feel like myself again.

When I finally got over my flu-like symptoms, I got the bright idea to take half a tablet of Terbinafine in the morning and another half at night. What a clever notion I thought, so I began my new regimen.

Within a week or two, I noticed that my cornbread no longer tasted heavenly. Neither did my oatmeal or the gluten-free chocolate muffins with hazelnuts and coconut flakes I bake for myself. My favorite Indian restaurant’s food tasted like cardboard, so I did not take the leftovers with me that evening.

My husband Kurt had been out of town for my round of norovirus and the first stages of my mysterious loss of taste. We were having dinner the night he got back when I mentioned that I had not enjoyed my food last time I had been at our favorite Indian restaurant, nor my usual breakfast fare. He said he had researched Lamisil when it was suggested for his discolored toenail and thought he remembered that loss of taste was one of the possible side effects.

Knock me up the side of the head! I should have known. I should have protected myself. Am I not the responsible-for-herself patient who questions and questions and does research before entering on a new medical path? No, apparently I was not taking care of myself as I usually do, and had fallen into . . . devastation.

To give myself a bit of credit, my mother had a stroke in June, and I have been working with my sister to navigate Mama’s care and treatment. My husband Kurt has been out-of-town repeatedly over the past 8 months. We moved to a new home in March and have had one thing after another to fix on our “new” built-in-1910 house. And I have been keeping my grandson (joy of my life!!!!!) once a week. And I had been sick with the norovirus. But still, I should have been more careful.

Anyway, I searched the web and found that many people have indeed taken Lamisil for even a short time and suffered loss of taste. Sometimes their sense of taste returned in a few months, sometimes it took years, and for others, the loss of taste was permanent.

IMG_8089

The precautions listed on my Terbinafine HCL 250 mg. prescription.

How is this possible? Yes, how is it possible, and why have I not heard about it? Why is this possibility not listed on the pill container’s warnings? My Terbinafine container says (1) “avoid prolonged exposure to direct or artificial sunlight”, (2) “breastfeeding is not recommended while using this drug”, and (3) “if pregnant or becoming so discuss use of drug with your doctor”.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, the incidence of people who suffer a change of taste or loss of taste from Lamisil is unknown. Here is the list of side effects they note:

More common

  1. Fever

Less common

  1. Body aches or pain
  2. chills
  3. cough
  4. diarrhea
  5. difficulty with breathing
  6. ear congestion
  7. general feeling of discomfort or illness
  8. headache
  9. joint pain
  10. loss of appetite
  11. loss of voice
  12. nasal congestion
  13. nausea
  14. runny nose
  15. shivering
  16. skin rash or itching
  17. sneezing
  18. sore throat
  19. sweating
  20. trouble with sleeping
  21. unusual tiredness or weakness
  22. upper abdominal or stomach pain
  23. vomiting

Rare

  1. Dark urine
  2. difficulty with swallowing
  3. pale skin
  4. pale stools
  5. redness, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  6. stomach pain
  7. unusual bleeding or bruising
  8. yellow skin or eyes

Incidence not known

  1. Black, tarry stools
  2. bleeding gums
  3. bloating
  4. blood in the urine or stools
  5. chest pain
  6. constipation
  7. cough or hoarseness
  8. dizziness
  9. fast heartbeat
  10. feeling of discomfort
  11. flu-like symptoms
  12. general feeling of tiredness or weakness
  13. hair loss
  14. high fever
  15. hives
  16. indigestion
  17. inflammation of the joints
  18. large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
  19. light-colored stools
  20. lower back or side pain
  21. muscle aches
  22. painful or difficult urination
  23. pains in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back
  24. persistent loss of appetite
  25. pinpoint red spots on the skin
  26. puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  27. red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  28. red, irritated eyes
  29. red, scaling, or crusted skin
  30. sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
  31. sores, welting, or blisters
  32. stomach pain, continuing
  33. swollen glands
  34. swollen lymph glands
  35. tightness in the chest
  36. troubled breathing with exertion
  37. ulcers, sores, or white spots in the mouth
  38. unexplained bleeding or bruising

Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

  1. Stomach pain (mild)

Less common

  1. Acid or sour stomach
  2. bad, unusual, or unpleasant (after) taste
  3. belching
  4. change of taste or loss of taste
  5. heartburn
  6. toothache

Incidence not known

  1. Decreased vision
  2. difficulty with moving
  3. discouragement
  4. feeling sad or empty
  5. irritability
  6. lack of appetite
  7. loss of interest or pleasure
  8. loss of sense of smell
  9. muscle cramps or spasms
  10. muscle stiffness
  11. tiredness
  12. trouble concentrating

Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.

In the wake of my few weeks of Lamisil treatment, I have experienced:

  • A bad, unusual, or unpleasant (after) taste
  • A persistent metallic taste in my mouth
  • Lack of appetite
  • Change of taste and loss of taste
  • Headaches
  • Discouragement
  • Runny nose
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tiredness
  • Body aches and pains

But the ring-dingerm disaster-of-all-disasters for me has been the almost complete loss of my sense of taste. I have to force myself to eat. Nothing tastes good. I can barely taste anything. The only foods and beverages I have found that I can taste a little are honey, popcorn, and jasmine green tea. Watermelon and salmon are pleasant enough, although I cannot taste them much.

Utah sky 4-14-2017

The sky over Utah: one of the things I focus on to replace the simple of joy of eating.

Three times a day I hope I can taste something, anything. And three times a day I am reminded I cannot. I force down food, but more often than not, I give up halfway through because it is just too much of a slog to keep eating. I have learned the tongue senses five distinctive taste categories: sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami (meaning pleasant or savory). Now I have a metallic taste in my mouth, and can only taste a little sweetness. Saltiness, sourness, and savory have definitely gone with the wind.

Knowing that I may be living like this for months is seriously hard to live with. If I knew I would not be able to taste food normally again, I am not sure I would want to live. It is just too disappointing, since so much of our ability to eat is tied to our appetite, which is tied to the simple pleasure of tasting our food.

And please don’t tell me the bright side is that I will lose weight. I have indeed read that people who lose their sense of taste even temporarily usually lose 10-15 pounds in a few weeks or months. Not only do I not need to lose weight, I already have the eating restrictions and palate changes of celiac disease. Already I can no longer eat spicy food that I used to love because my mouth burns when I do. Due to my celiac disease, I cannot use any regular toothpastes, not even baking soda. They all burn my mouth. I buy an expensive ($9 a tube) toothpaste on the web which is the only one I can tolerate.

During my research about my malady, I learned that older women who are thinner have a greater possibility of being adversely affected by taking Terbinafine (Lamisil). The term for loss of taste is ageusia. Accent on the “age” I suppose.

Anna silhouette with jellyfish Vancouver

My silhouette in Vancouver in 2016.

So I am writing this blogpost to warn others who may be considering taking Lamisil to do so with great caution. And indeed there are a host of other medications that can cause loss of taste as well, so ask questions of your doctor and pharmacist, then do your own research, before agreeing to take a medication you have not taken before.

And if anyone who has suffered loss of taste or diminished sense of taste has tips for me about what I can eat or drink to keep healthy during the time I spend in my tasteless wilderness, please do not hesitate to reply to me through my blog or my foundobjectscreative.com Facebook page.

Postscript: Earlier today I wrote and published a blogpost about ice cream stores in Knoxville. Yes, the irony is not lost on me! I still eat ice cream occasionally these days, I just can’t taste it.

~ Anna – 8/12/2018

 

 

 

Posted in Autobiographical, Courage, Food, Gluten free, Home, Knoxville, Op/Ed Thoughts, Women | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We All Scream for Ice Cream

If all you were going by is the number of local places to share a beer or to have ice cream downtown, you would decide Knoxville, Tennessee, is obsessed with ice cream and beer. Maybe not at the same time, at the same location . . . yet.

This weekend, the fourth ice cream store opened on Knoxville’s main downtown thoroughfare, Gay Street. Cruze Farm, our area’s signature local dairy (with the motto Home of Jersey Cows and Farm Girls), has opened a soft-serve ice cream store at 445 S. Gay Street. Located across the street The Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain sells in-store-made ice cream, sundaes, shakes, and floats at 418 S. Gay. Phoenix recreates an old-fashioned soda fountain/drug store including vintage decor as well as friendly, down-home personal attention.

cruzedowntown_029

Here are nine of the Cruze Farm girls with Colleen Cruze Bhatti in the driver’s seat of her shiny red pickup truck.

The locally owned franchise of Kilwins Knoxville sells ice cream and chocolate treats two doors down from the Phoenix Fountain at 408 S. Gay Street. And the oldest ice cream shop of the four, Coolato Gelato, sells Italian ice cream (gelato), as well as smoothies, salads, and paninis at 524 S. Gay.

You may ask which purveyor has the most delicious ice cream. Well, the line was too long at Cruze Farm when we came out from our movie yesterday, so I cannot personally vouch for the yumminess of their offerings. Perhaps the long line speaks for itself.

Similarly I have not sampled Coolato Gelato’s wares either. After my celiac-disease diagnosis years ago, I tried to have Coolato’s gelato, but the woman behind the counter made it clear they do not have gluten-free gelato, so gelatoless I remain.

As for the Phoenix, I love their peppermint stick ice cream which they make and sell for the holidays and the winter season! Kilwins has a delicious chocolate-mint ice cream that is very rich, so I can only handle one dip.

At this point, with the jury out on Cruze Farm’s new soft-serve offering, the Phoenix wins for homemade ice cream deliciousness, friendly staff, local ownership, and homey, soda-fountain decor.

And, by the way, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Friday, that Knoxville’s eponymous Kay’s Ice Cream, reopened on Wednesday, August 8. With its giant ice cream cone outside, the shop reopened at its longtime location of 6200 Chapman Highway, across the river and 4 miles into South Knoxville. The new co-owner, Susan Saah, worked at Kay’s for five years while she was in high school, so she understands the nostalgia Knoxvillians feel for enjoying a cold treat on a hot day.

‘Tis the season for ice cream in Tennessee. So my fellow city dwellers, August is a good time to decide for yourself which of the four Gay Street ice cream stores–or the Kay’s Ice Cream store in South Knoxville–sells the best tasty, dairy treat!

~ Anna – 8/12/2018

Posted in Food, Gluten free, Knoxville | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Under the Influence

Here in East Tennessee it has been raining more than usual for July. My parched yard and I are most grateful. Last week it was raining cats and dogs, as we say around here, and we had the biggest rainbow arch–completely across the sky–that I have ever seen. It looked to me as if we were experiencing a miraculous gift in a time and place in need of homegrown magic.

Coming from hardworking people who never really got ahead, I have always known I would need to make my own way in life. However, despite weathering divorces (plural), rearing children (mostly alone), and working in an ulcer-inducing job for 19 years, my life has nevertheless been full of laughter, books, music, travel, and the most welcome sound in the world: a throw-back-his-head laugh from my 9-month-old grandson.

But having kicked around this planet for more than a few decades, I admit that I agree with the Australian comedienne Hannah Gadsby I watched the other night on Netflix who said she identifies as tired. Right there with ya, sister. It is a disconcerting time to make sense of our country and world. I want to give up, throw my hands up, go the manager’s desk and say I am taking a much-needed breather. Yet there are people who are counting on me, and I cannot give in to the despair of what we have been living through for the past year and a half of the Trumpian dynasty.

Everyday the national news ranges from mildly upsetting to earth-shatteringly sad and troubling: babies and small children taken from their immigrant parents; dictators are applauded, our Cold War allies are called our enemies; black is white, good is bad, and shades of gray are nowhere in sight.

I have given much thought about what we can do to keep up our spirits, move forward, and bring joy to the lives of people we care about. What continues to inspire me to find a way to be me–in addition, of course, to my delightful grandson, Lincoln? Music, books, movies, and, most especially, people who have shared their experiences and told their stories through music, books, movies, and documentaries.

One of the people who inspires me the most is Fred McFeely Rogers, also called Mr. Rogers once featured weekly on PBS children’s television. A few weeks ago I saw two documentary films about him: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Mr. Rogers and Me”. Both movies feature the work and thoughts of Fred Rogers who had a long-running weekday PBS television series, called Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from the late 1968-2001. Mr. Rogers was also an ordained Presbyterian minister and his mission was to help children know they are loved just the way they are and therefore capable of loving. I watched Mr. Rogers’ show with my sons in the 1980s and ’90s, and I think I loved watching it more than my children did.

In the film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”, the interviewer asked people from Fred Rogers’ life to do something Mr. Rogers often asked people to do: take a minute to remember the person who loved them unconditionally and made them feel capable of loving and being loved. “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being,” he said. I immediately thought of my father, and how, under the influence of his love, I was loved into being me.

Adventure

Adventure: an exciting or remarkable experience; to proceed despite risk.
[From the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition]

When I was born, Daddy was 22 years old and unemployed. To pay our small family’s bills, Mama returned to her job working at Great Atlantic Shoe Co., on Western Avenue in Knoxville, while Daddy cared for me. Of course, he had no experience caring for an infant since he had been an only child and virtually an orphan. I can only imagine his befuddlement as he tried to figure out how to keep me happy, fed, diapered (with cloth diapers!), clean, and alive until Mama came home from work.

Anna Baby & Roy

Daddy giving me a bath when I was a baby, January 1958.

Fifty-eight years later, my father passed away on December 2, 2016. Daddy had slipped and broken his hip, successfully survived surgery to replace it, but had suffered a heart attack while sitting on an exercise bike during one of his physical therapy sessions at a rehabilitation center.

Before his accident, I helped Mama care for him at the senior living facility where he lived. After his evening meal Daddy would tell me, “You better get home before dark.” Even with his dementia, he never stopped being my Daddy, never stopped loving me, and never stopped looking out for me.

Daddy’s mother died with pellagra psychosis just 4 months after he was born. Her extended family told us that she was never able to even hold her infant son. Daddy was reared by his paternal grandmother who died when he was 5 years old. His father remarried twice, and his second stepmother threw him out of his home when he was a teenager. For a time he lived at the Downtown Knoxville YMCA.

Despite his abusive and neglectful childhood, Daddy taught me the things that really matter in life: simple, little things mean a great deal, people are more important than things, rich people without good values are not to be envied, and we should embrace life with open arms. Daddy taught me to live life as an adventure–not because he always was able to do that, but because he somehow found a way to live his life as much as possible with a child-like exuberance that was infectious and impossible to deny.

JustinScan-160107-0021

Daddy with his beloved grandson Justin in 1996.

He never completed high school or earned much money. He lost every job he ever had–except the last one which allowed him to work in a family business who allowed him to be his quirky, perfectionistic, take-your-time-and-do-it self. Daddy’s father could not read or write and never owned a car, but my parents traveled around the world with their beloved Lady Volunteers basketball team. Mama and Daddy successfully reared two girls who could make their own way in the world, and Daddy was an adoring surrogate father to my son Justin after I divorced Justin’s father when he was only 2 years old. Daddy ceaselessly encouraged me to be me. When he loved someone, it was a full-time job with no slacking.

On his television show Mr. Rogers told children, “I like you just the way you are.” He said it is essential for a child to have someone in their lives who treats them as if they are loved without reservations, with no need for renovations and a new paint job.

Daddy did that for me.

Balance

Balance: flexibility, stability, the ability to stand in the center of competing forces and not fall down. [My own definition]

Under the influence of my nephew Zach I have learned to be more understanding of others and yet to pursue my own course–at the same time. Zach is the foremost Zen practitioner I have ever known. Being a pleaser and lover of harmony, I will go out of my way to accommodate everyone around me to the detriment of my own well being. It is not a healthy trait, but one that exhausts me.

Zach Trolley December 2014 copy

My much-adored nephew Zach who has taught me sooooo much. He is one of my best friends. Photo: Kurt Weiss Photography

Sitting at a coffeehouse, patiently reading a book. Waiting, just being at home with himself. That’s Zach. Currently he is working on a master’s degree at the University of Kentucky, teaching graduate-level classes as a graduate student, doing his research, and still finding time for reflection as he bicycles around Lexington and cares for his partner in life–warm, loving, beautiful Paige–and their two dogs. He knows how to set limits with others in a beautiful, honest way, and yet is one of the most caring and attentive friends I have ever had.

As Mr. Rogers said, “The best thing you can offer anybody is your honest self.” Thank you, Zach, for teaching me how to do that.

Curiosity

Curiosity: a sign of intelligence, a compelling desire to know for yourself and to experience for yourself. [My own definition]

Living life with wide-eyed wonder is what I practice in the presence of my 9-month-old grandson Lincoln. He intently studies the birds flying by our front porch, and watches the cars and trucks and listens carefully to the sounds they make. While holding to the side of his playpen, he bobs up and down to the ’80s music I play for him. He is transfixed by the wreath on the front door, is delighted by my green spatula with the wooden handle, and is fascinated by the metal HVAC vent cover on the floor.

Little Man's foot during Stanley's adventure - 7-26-2018

Where this sweet foot will go we don’t know, but I hope to be there beside him.

When he was born last year, Lincoln had big hands and feet for such a small body, so I began to call him Little Man. He is indeed an old soul who studies carefully the people around him. He wants to understand everything he sees, hears, and tastes and is thirsty for knowledge and experience.

Little Man and I are content to simply look together in the same direction and observe the trees swaying in the breeze. We cannot see the force that makes the trees move, but we can hear the noise as it moves the leaves and branches. Lincoln teaches me to see with new eyes, to look with wonder and delight at everyday things, and to find solace in the silence together.

As Fred Rogers said:

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about the part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch.

Dreams

Dreams: imaginative manifestations of deep desire; to dream: the ability to imagine what could be instead of what is. [My definition]
Dreams: visionary creations of the imagination. [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition]

Sometimes when you want to imagine a way forward, it is best to consider where you have been. A few years ago gifted singer/songwriter John Mellencamp did just that as he decided to record an album in the same manner (in mono, not stereo tracks), on the same equipment, and at some of the same locations as classic musicians of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. In those decades before overdubbing and multiple tracks, musicians and singers would gather around a single microphone with only one or two takes to capture the sound.

John Mellencamp signature

John Mellencamp’s handwritten encouragement from his song “Save Some Time to Dream”. Download from forum.mellencamp.com

According to Wikipedia, Mellencamp wrote 30 songs and chose 13 of them for the album he called No Better Than This. He debuted my favorite song from the album Save Some Time to Dream in 2009 at an event for President Barack Obama saying, “It’s about individual freedom and thought—and controlling our own lives”.

When I was growing up in a family buffeted by a succession of employers who found Daddy’s work abilities wanting, I yearned more than anything to grow up and have control over my life. I dreamed of living a better life than the one my family lived.

Anna & Lisa

My sister Lisa (right) and me (left) at a Mother’s Day picnic, May 14, 1961. My dress is a too little and so are my bangs!

Save Some Time to Dream – by John Mellencamp

Save some time to dream
Save some time for yourself
Don’t let your time slip away
Or be stolen by somebody else
Save some time for those you love
For they’ll remember what you gave
Save some time for the songs you sing
And the music that you’ve made
Could it be that this is all there is?
Could it be there’s nothing more at all?
Save some time to dream
‘Cause your dream could save us all

Save some time for sorrow
Cause it will surely come your way
Prepare yourself for failure
It will give you strength some day
Try to keep your mind open
And accept your mistakes
Save some time for living
And always question your faith

Could it be that this is all there is?
Could it be there’s nothing more at all?
Save some time to dream
‘Cause your dream might save us all

Cast your eyes up to heaven
Oh what does that mean to you
Try not to be too judgmental
So others will not judge you
Save some time to think
Oh before you speak your mind
Many will not understand
And to them you must to be kind

Could it be that this is all there is?
Could it be there’s nothing more at all?
Save some time to dream
‘Cause your dream might save us all

Oh yeah
Your dream might save us all

Copyright – John Mellencamp

I have been under the influence of John Mellencamp’s music since he burst on the music scene in 1980 with the song Ain’t Even Done With the Night which I watched him perform on TV. Channel his musicianship if you are looking for the finest Americana music written and sung by a consummate musician who has never forgotten where he came from. His music and words continue to encourage me to imagine a future where the past informs and illuminates.

Education

Education: to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically, especially by instruction. [Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition
Education: to formally or informally learn from the experiences of others as well as from one’s own. [My own definition]

Seeking to be an educated person was certainly not a popular notion when I was in high school, but I decided early on that I wanted very much to be one of those individuals who reads and hears the experiences of others, studies the alternatives, and decides for myself what is truth for me. Knowledge was my goal, and education would be my transport to a better life. I wanted to find a better way.
One way to be educated is to be able to discern what is important and what is not. As the author Jeanette Winterston write, “Why are the real things, the important things, so easily mislaid underneath the things that hardly matter at all?” It seems to me that to be truly educated is to know the difference between what is essential, what is nice to have, and what is trivial and not worth the effort at all.
Found
Found: to discover that one is well at home with oneself. [My definition]
Found - 028

The under side of a flavored water bottle as photographed by my husband, Kurt Weiss.

When I started writing this blog five years ago, I decided to call my efforts Found Objects Creative. Why? Because I am fascinated with the process of taking something rather ordinary and repurposing it–reimaginating it, creatively–into something altogether new. I submit to you that we can do that with our lives.
Taken together then, the foundation building blocks of moving forward with joy despite the odds include: adventure, balance, curiosity, dreams, education, and the alchemy of mixing them together to find your own way. You may swim against the current, sometimes alone, but keeping your head above water by recalling the stories of others who have come this way before and shared their thoughts, signposts, and experiences.
There is a process called annealing where a metal or other material (such as glass or steel) is heated or set on fire. It is then allowed to cool causing it to be stronger, tougher, and less brittle. Perhaps this is the time of our annealing, and we must travel this road to become more fully what we can be as a community. I pray it is so.
However, I’m no Pollyanna, and I must admit the forces of evil, disunion, ignorance, and superstition are often stronger than I can my forces of imagination can fight. But I am not alone, the example of others urges me onward. I am eternally grateful for the people who inspire me and go with me on my adventure.
May we be found, together.
~ Anna 7/31/2018
Posted in Autobiographical, Books, Childhood, Courage, Education, Family, Friends, Happiness, Ideas, Knoxville, Music, Op/Ed Thoughts, Tribute, Uncategorized, Wonder, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Backyard Excavation

Our new Victorian home, originally built in 1910, in April 2018.

After 15 years in a house we loved but that had grown too large for us, we decided to downsize and drag fewer possessions through life. We wanted to move to an area (1) we could afford, (2) in a neighborhood with sidewalks and businesses within easy walking distance, (3) in the central area of town. Fat chance!

Properties in the downtown area proper were seriously overpriced, so after many blind-date visits to houses that were not us we were looking at lots to buy. Walking with our real estate agent in the Old North Knox neighborhood, we passed a Victorian, two-story home with a For Sale sign in the yard. We learned the home was in the final stages of renovation by a local house flipper. After winning the bidding war over two other bidders, we moved March 3 to this old-growth, tree-lined neighborhood called the Old North Knoxville Historic District that was originally incorporated in 1889.

Our Southern front porch.

We are not the only people seeking to live in an updated Victorian or Craftsman house or bungalow  built during the early part of the 20th Century. Our built-in-1910 house suits us in many ways, though it would have suited us even better at a lower price! But houses in established neighborhoods such as Old North Knox, the nearby Fourth and Gill area, and South Knoxville’s Island Home community are hot, pay-over-the-appraised value commodities–and we did.

Compensating for their inconvenient lack of an attached garage or carport, these older houses dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s feature the livability factors–sidewalks, bike lanes, community, biiiiiggggggg trees, a grocery store–that younger and middle-age home buyers want. We have a well-kept children’s park nearly across the street from our home, a Southern front porch, and a true neighborhood, none of which we had in our former home.

The park across the street from our house.

Of course alongside these pluses, we discovered more than a few downsides to our older home: standing water in the crawlspace; a muddy, nothing-but-straw backyard; not-enough cabinet space in the kitchen or closet space in general; no handrails for the front steps; paint already coming off that Southern front porch; water pouring into the master bathroom from a leaky room; and the cheapest toilets money could buy. Yowza.

Two glass bottle fragments found in the crawlspace under our house which was built in 1910 as well as dice from a Dungeons and Dragons game.

Between hosting various workmen, I have had quite an adventure uncovering treasures in our backyard and under our house. One of the members of the crack team who fixed our standing-water problem found vintage bottle fragments in the mud under our house. He presented me with a tiny glass bottle with a broken neck featuring Larkin Co. Buffalo embossed across its front and the neck of what could have been an early Coke bottle.

A quick search of the web told me the Larkin Co. was founded in 1875 in Buffalo, New York.

A page from the Larkin Company’s 1910 product catalog showing toiletries similar to the bottle found under our house.

The company was quite successful in its heyday when it was profitable enough to have the influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright design their headquarters building in 1903. At that time the company was a booming mail-order company–second only to Sears Roebuck & Company–with a national reach.

Larkin began as a soap company that cut out the middle man by selling directly to the consumer via door-to-door sales. Later they recruited women to market their products in the manner of Avon representatives. When they were known for the Larkin Look, the company sold everything for the home and family from furniture to toys.

The Larkin bottle found under our house was probably bought between 1910 and 1920 and contained a toiletry product such as a liquid tooth cleaner.

Each time I dig in our yard to add a tree, shrub, or plant, I never know what I will find: a windshield wiper blade, Dungeon and Dragons dice, bricks, cinderblocks, candy wrappers, plastic bag pieces, nails, screws, roofing material, and all manner of construction debris. By far my most unexpected find was just lying on top of the ground near our fence line: the head from a small statue of a woman.

A month or two after we moved in to our home, I found the head from a small statue of a woman in our backyard.

Despite her condition, I call my backyard treasure “My Lady” because she inspires me with her grace and serene beauty.

My Lady, as I call her, might have been originally made of terracotta. Although much diminished from whatever form she had when she was first made, My Lady has a singularly kind, regal, and peaceful quality. From different angles, she appears to show varying nuances of her personality. She is fragile, but she endures. She is broken, but she still has the strength of spirit to inspire.

The painting “I Am Half Sick of Shadows” [said the Lady of Shalott], by John Williams Waterhouse, 1915, in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada.

Much as the ancient statues left from Greek and Roman culture that are missing arms, legs, or heads, my backyard find is not complete. Yet her proud carriage has weight and presence nonetheless. However, I have not yet found an appropriate way to exhibit her since, after all, she does not have a body to stand on.

She puts me in the mind of a few lines from the poem, The Lady of Shalott, written by the much-loved Victorian (yes, just like our house!) poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), and performed as a song by my favorite musician and songwriter Loreena McKennitt.

But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, ‘She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.

We are all broken somehow and in some way–although many would argue aggressively to the contrary: No problem here; nothing to look at; move along.

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, 1894, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, UK.

Grace is the quality I aspire to. To be gracious is to embody kindness, compassion, empathy, caring, and love whether in thought, word, or deed. But perhaps grace is beauty in action. Grace is love in action.

In Tennyson’s poem, the Lady of Shalott says, “I am half sick of shadows” which is a reference to a curse placed upon her in which she cannot see the world directly but must look at it through a mirror–and one would imagine, with distortions and darkly. However, the Lady of Shalott looks directly at Lancelot (of the Arthurian legends) as he rides to Camelot which breaks the mirror and allows her to see him clearly with her own eyes. And then she dies. Yes, seeing clearly can be dangerous.

These days in the second year of the reign of our country’s new sheriff in town, I find it hard to look directly at the world with its crying immigrant children separated from their parents and a tweeting reality TV personality as our leader offending the allies we fought beside in two catastropic world wars.

I find no grace in our leader’s swaggering ego and his unending appetite for power. It is truly sad that our country swerves like an alcoholic veering wildly from left to right. For eight years, we had a President whose mother was a white American from Kansas and whose father was a black African. President Obama was elected not once, but twice. So in the following election, an Electoral College majority (not the majority of the Americans who voted, mind you, but 3 million voters less) decided we needed a man who makes white men feel they are still in full control. When were they ever not? Even with a black President, the pale-faced men in Congress made sure he could only do so much.

The skies over the gorgeous state of Utah where we visited my cousin last year.

Me? I am a moderate. A practical, yet romantic dreamer of a moderate. Meaning, of course, that both extremes can take pot shots at you if you raise your head and say what you believe. But if I had to take an alcoholic swig and get in the proverbial car of state, I’d definitely come down on the side of liberty–with a strong dose of health care for all. As the French national motto says: liberte, egalite, fraternite. Personal freedom, equality, and fraternity. And I would add a profound tonic of protecting our environment and breathtaking natural resources for my grandson’s generation and the generations to come.

Last Monday my 82-year-old mother was hospitalized with a stroke that we think happened a few weeks before that. Her primary-care doctor sent us from his office directly to testing at the hospital, ordering an MRI, to be followed by an ultrasound. Yet, after the MRI that confirmed that Mama indeed had a stroke, the radiologist asked us to take her directly to the emergency room for further evaluation and possible admission to the hospital. After spending the entire afternoon and evening in the overcrowded and cacophonous ER, Mama was admitted to the “stable” stroke floor.

A tiny insect on the glass of our front door.

The next morning she was evaluated by a neurologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, and the house doctor. They all agreed her stroke was “stable”, and we could take her home that day. She will need speech therapy because her ability to communicate in complete sentences was diminished considerably by the stroke.

A few days later my mother got a four-page letter from her medical provider, Humana, saying they were not going to pay for her hospital stay because, in their view, it was not medically necessary. Who is to pay for Mama’s hospital bill remains an open question.

My precious grandson.

In these strange times, I take refuge in the intricate beauty of small things such as the ethereally winged insect that landed on our front door. And most especially I take refuge in the smiling ear-to-ear joy of my (looking for a superlative-enough adjective to add here) grandson who defies my ability to find words for how special he is.

His eyes are open, his heart is sweet, he is innocent of the larger meanings, and I love looking in the same direction as him and considering the wonders of the world.

Through his eyes.

 

~ Anna – 6/26/2018

 

 

 

Posted in Autobiographical, Backyard Nature, Beauty, Family, Freedom, Happiness, Home, Ideas, Knoxville, Love, Music | 8 Comments