647: Marriage of Berries

We woke early, and my husband asked if I wanted breakfast, and if so, what I might like: eggs, bacon, grits? This is his gift to me, the preparing of the food, and I understand that. I do not want food, because he will prepare it, we will sit and consume it, and he will rise from the table, content in his gift, and leave the room with its littered table, soiled counters and sink filled with the dirty dishes for me to attend to. The food sours in my stomach as I clean the dishes, the counters and the table.

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After the kitchen is clean again, so it will not attract nasty bugs in the heat and humidity that is Georgia, I gather my baskets and leave my house in the township. I drive several miles to the dirt road where my family, and the family of my family that was before my own family, used to live. This is the place I identify as the place where I grew up (even though I didn’t), and I know that this place is where the wild blueberries and the succulent blackberries grow thickly on the raised shoulders alongside the deeply carved and smoothed red dirt road.  Every summer when school was freshly let out for the heat and humidity, my family would come from the place where were living this time, and join with the family that always lived here on the red dirt road. I would take a pail or a pan and I would leave the house and trek to the dusty shoulders of the dirt road to harvest the bounty that only the birds appreciated when I was not there to claim my share.

Today, in my sixtieth decade, I harvest my share of the bird’s bounty while the day is yet cool, filling my baskets before the sun can sink its claws into the back of my neck. I am careful where I put my feet, my dad’s called warning from fifty years ago ringing in my ears, “Watch out for snakes.” The snakes come to these berry bushes, seeking their own bounty from the birds that also feast there. I must also watch for the ruffled, raised heaps of sand that signal the nest of the imported fire ants, aliens long established here, and also familiar from my youth.

I carefully pick only the ripest berries for my baskets, indiscriminately co-mingling the firm shiny round blue-black orbs of the blueberries, and the misshapen black purple softness of the blackberries, staining my fingers with their red-purple juice. When the baskets are nearly full and the sun has bitten my neck, I return to my home and show my offering to my husband, asking if I should freeze them for later or make a cobbler now. He chooses now.

I empty the berries into a large basin and run the cold water over them, watching the bits of chaff rise with the water. I fetch the large baking dish and use my fingers to oil the bottom and sides with Moroccan olive oil, and then I dust it with sugar, so the berries don’t stick. In handfuls, I sieve the succulent berries from their rinse and fill the dish with gleaming purple richness. I have more berries than the dish will hold. I select a plastic, zip-lock bag for the berries I will save for later. And then I sigh with annoyance, put the bag away, and pull out two shallow bowls to use all of the berries today, as instructed.

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I arrange pats of soft butter atop the gleaming berries, add brown sugar, dustings of ginger and cinnamon. In a bowl I whip with a wire whisk the thin sweet batter than will sink down between the berries and rise up between them with the heat of baking, binding them together, even though they are of two different breeds, two different kinds. A marriage of berries, bound together.

When the cobblers are done, I take them from the hot oven to cool, and the cooling batter pulls away from the marriage of berries, leaving visible cracks between them. These are spaces for the freezing cold ice cream to fill, a coldness that will be served with the still-warm cobbler, a temporary patch in the marriage that will keep them together a little longer, until they are completely consumed, leaving nothing but the dirty bowls for me to wash and put into the dish drainer to dry, and then to put away.

I say I will go again tomorrow to pick more berries for later, but we both know that I won’t.

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630: Last regards

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Perhaps caring about others is the problem.

Taking care of me is often quite enough to be concerned with, and can at times be more than I can cope with, so….seeking the solo existence as I age into nothingness (exaltedness?) could be the correct path to choose.

It wasn’t my life’s goal to have a full church for my funeral. I’d rather skip the funeral altogether, thanks.  Hubs is donating his remains to science. After they harvest whatever useful bits of me that may remain, the un-useful bits that remain can be tidily disposed of, no fuss, no muss. AOK with me.

I have been present when others have spoken of their family and friends who have ‘gone on before,’ and been astounded at what paltry bits they remember about those people. And what untold grandeur they don’t. Frankly, if my entire existence on this planet can be summed up in a sentence or two from the people who should have mattered most to me – well, just never mind.

I was during this lifetime, like all those other people, working on doing the best that I  could do, for me certainly, but also for all those others for whom I was responsible or felt responsible towards (regardless of their views on the matter). I know I didn’t do that perfectly – nobody does. But I did it well or badly at the expense of all those other endeavors I could have been about.

If I had not cared about others, my exit from this world (and probably my entire journey through it), could be much less significant, and could have been a great deal more. Responsibility for others takes up a great deal of time, energy/effort, and resources that probably could/should have been better spent on other endeavors. But no, I did what I felt was the responsible thing.

I only wish I could be more satisfied with that use of my life. Having done it, it can’t be taken back and re-done. And those I did it for attach their own value to what I did for them, on their behalf. Our views on those years are not seen from the same promontory, and certainly aren’t seen with the same cognizance of the cost.

So, when it is my time to depart this mortal coil, let it pass with no fanfare, and no further regard. If it wasn’t worth attending to during the living hours, it certainly isn’t worth attending to once those are over.

Namaste.

625: Not Perfect

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I am not perfect. That is why I am Christian. I know full well I am not perfect, and that I need my God and a church family to help me be a better person than I would probably be left to my own devices. I need encouragement, I like being useful to others, I like helping out with activities and outreach. I need Christian accountability in the same way an alcoholic needs AA – when I am out of fellowship, I slide into sometimes destructive behaviors and ways of thinking that are not always uplifting and wholesome. I don’t want to focus on the problems, but instead – the possibilities. That’s not who I want to be, that negative person – so I attend, where I am in community with others who want to be reminded of all the good things we can do in love, and who we can be following the greatest example I can find. Church goers aren’t attending a saint’s club, but instead, a hospital for sinners who are looking for and wanting a better way. That’s a good church.

If I was a perfect person, I would not need a church family, or God, for that matter. I could be out enjoying my Sundays with all the other perfect people who don’t feel the need to attend. Why do perfect people need anybody or anything else?

What I am is trying to be better today than I was yesterday. I am not perfect, and don’t pretend to be.

607: Independence and Subsidies

 

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It used to be that Americans were independent and took care of their own.

Why is it now the responsibility of other citizens/taxpayers if I fail to adequately plan, provide for, and save for my own retirement (what used to be called my ‘declining years’)? When did that personal failure become a subsidized ‘right’?

Was it when the US government established the Social Security program in an effort to ameliorate the fallout from those grasshoppers who foolishly played and spent their lives away, while the ants prudently saved and stockpiled against an uncertain future?

Now that social security is firmly entrenched (even if the last generations of lawmakers have plundered the fund to help offset their own grasshopper profligate spending) Americans save even less than they ever did – and our performance as a nation never was too good on that score in the first place.

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Yeah, I’d LOVE to have spent my productive years engaged in pursuing my own interests (financially supporting or not) instead of reporting to work – but having proved myself stupid enough to be willing to work, I don’t qualify for any benefits for sitting on my fat behind.

The idea is that people work to support themselves. Each one responsible for him/herself – unless you have turned over your financial future to someone else who agrees to be responsible for both themselves AND you (this is what many women believe marriage is for – absolving them from all responsibility). If you put your care into the hands of another person and they fail to make adequate provisions for themselves and for you in the event something happens to them, well, they failed you.

My first husband did that – he let more than a half million life insurance policy lapse a few months before he unexpectedly died. Thank God I was already a working wife, and didn’t have all my eggs in his little basket, so I had something else to fall back on besides Uncle Sam. Plus, in the past, families cared for each other. When a family member became disabled or elderly and needed care, they were cared for within the family unit – not handed off for the government (really, other citizens/taxpayers) to care for.

It isn’t the fault of the citizens that you failed to provide for yourself – it isn’t even the fault of the citizens that you are disabled, and need assistance. Neither is it their fault if accident or illness befalls you that you didn’t plan for. Yup – it’s a tough break when that happens. Thankfully, assistance is available for those who are unable (legitimately unable, not having simply purchased their disability from an unethical physician) to provide for themselves, but it still isn’t the fault of others that they are disabled, such that others are then required to pay their way.

THAT is what used to be called charity, before charity became a dirty word, and it used to be the province of faith-based people who took up the slack and provided that assistance locally. They knew their neighbors, and they knew who really needed the help, and who needed the harsh life lessons earned by making very poor decisions.

You know, like the grasshopper.

578:Random sh…..stuff.

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The government has married many, many women. These women marry the government when they choose to stay at home and have children to support themselves on the government dole. Many actually refuse to marry their children’s father(s), and raise those children in a nuclear family, because they are unwilling to give up the free government money. When they can obtain benefits that are sometimes more than they can earn working a no-skills job at minimum wage (all many are remotely qualified for, if that), where is any incentive to work? There isn’t any.

Our government is enabling addictive behaviors among many, dis-encouraging them to get jobs and support themselves. The trouble is, cutting them off also disenfranchises the innocent children they have spawned to earn their living upon. How do you provide benefits to children while not encouraging their deadbeat parent to spawn more children to get an even bigger government handout support check?

Is it just me, or does anyone else absolutely despair at the fact that either Clinton or Trump will win this upcoming election? They are both awful candidates – how did we sink this low, that these two are our choices? Boggles the mind, for those who have one – which means not many Americans, evidently.

IS anyone actually campaigning to do away with police? Seriously? That isn’t a country I want to live in. Yes, I understand that not every single police officer is ethical. Guess what? Neither is every single practitioner of any other profession: medical doctors, politicians (duh), lawyers, judges, presidents, preachers/priests, scientists/researchers, sports athletes, you name it. We are routinely and frequently advised by the news (if you can trust journalists (:-() that people of all professions fall short of the glory of God, or even of basic honesty. Still – I think we are far, far better off WITH a police force than without one.

Learning to live with another human being is hard work.

I have discovered that getting thin takes hard work and dedication that I do not possess on a continuing, daily basis – and THAT is why I continue to be fat, despite intermittant and dedicated short-term willpower. One slip undoes DAYS of good behavior – sometimes weeks. 😦

Whether someone is gay (which lifestyle I personally disagree with) or chooses to abort their offspring (which choice I disagree with) ultimately does not affect me in any way whatsoever. What those persons do affects them and their lives – and you know what? People have the choice to throw away their lives in various ways, including suicide (which I also disagree with) and their decisions are their own. Their decisions are between themselves and their God (or lack thereof) and YES, they may be ill or mentally unfit when they make those decisions. It isn’t always apparent that they are unfit when they choose to do themselves harm with drugs, food, alcohol, gambling, sex, or any number of other life-destroying choices. YES, we should do what we CAN do to encourage people to do better things and make better choices. NO, it isn’t my fault when they make those choices anyway, when there are programs and options they can take, and don’t. For the love of God, I have enough to do trying to live my own life in an ethical and caring manner. Enough, already.

I dislike out present cradle-to-grave government. I do not believe this is what government was supposed to be doing. I want OUT. Repudiating my American citizenship is an option, but I also don’t know another country to go to and at present there is no such thing as “citizen of the world.”

Our government pushed native American Indians onto the worst land possible as their “reservations.” Now that they are discovering those lands have resources and are not as barren as was originally thought, Americans should PAY them for the use of those resources. Plus, we need to GO AROUND their reservation lands when we have some project for the nation, like the pipeline. We stuffed them onto those lands – now, BACK OFF. Respect what we made them accept in the first place!

A teacher has a huge influence on their students. But nobody can save every kid. It has to be a two-way street. I can choose to reject every overture you make. I can refuse to learn, and some students do choose exactly that. Maybe later they will gain some interest and motivation. Maybe another teacher will try again and reach them next year. Maybe school isn’t for everybody – imagine that. Not everything is a teacher’s fault, like not every cop or politician is a bad one. Heck, there are even a few competent and ethical used car salesmen out there.

Enough, already.

572: Family

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Family can be your greatest treasure and resource, the source of unending strength and encouragement.

Family can be your greatest disappointment, the source of incredible angst and unmitigated pain.

Some family members are the most stalwart, loyal, got-your-back, genuine humans on Earth

and some can’t be trusted as far as you could throw Mount Everest on a clear day.

Some show you a genuine and honest face of acceptance and unending love

others show a mask of genuineness and honesty that is as pretty and as false as a cubic zirconia – and is worth even less.

As you grow older and wiser, you learn to appreciate and honor those who return your love, and to avoid those who don’t.

Even if you gave birth to them.

527: I’m Toast

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I am embarking on a new phase of life. At age fifty-mumble, mumble, I have determined that I will marry. A man I met online. Whom I have yet to meet face-to-face. Stop screaming. Yes, I know. I really, really do know. I do hear what my friends and family have had to say and their concerns are valid. They are valid. I am taking my time, and being careful – as is he.

I have learned in a year and a half of living alone for the first time since I ….for the first time ever, that I do just fine living alone. I have hobbies. I go to the gym, I cook decent meals. I read books and see movies. I chat with friends, and socialize with them, too, on occasion. I have discovered I rather like myself, and we have become such good friends that I like being with just me rather a lot. So, why marry at all?

Toast is the metaphor for me to help explain this choice (to you and to my friends and family). I like toasted bread. I prefer toast that is like my single life: dry whole wheat. Nutritious, healthful, low-calorie, calm, plain. Not boring plain, tasty plain. When it is plain, I can add jam, honey, or syrup, peanut butter or Nutella now and then, if I choose – just like my single life and its occasional, special treats. Otherwise, I prefer the plain, dry whole wheat toast. I like it.  Often, while I am reading, I will toast a slice and consume it without even hardly noticing it, except for the satisfying crunch.

Toast with butter, however, is different. It is rich, complex, full of flavor. Buttered toast is unable to be consumed absently while otherwise engaged in reading my latest fiction selection. It demands my whole attention, that toast, because if you don’t pay close attention to it, it will drip melted butter down your fingers all the way to your elbow, sometimes messily dripping off to stain my tidy slacks or my nice, clean dress. Toast with butter is married life. It can be messy and untidy, but the experience of having it makes dry whole wheat pale in comparison. Yes, it demands your attention and effort in ways that single living does not. But the richness of married life, with an honest, loyal, and committed partner, is what I’d rather have, thanks just the same. And I can still add the occasional toppings when I like to buttered toast – it isn’t just butter only forever and ever. Occasionally, just for fun (for a day) or when necessary, I can even have it plain again. 

The process of creating a secure, stable married relationship begins with communication, and that can and does happen online in many of the identical ways that it happens face-to-face. Yes, there are people who misrepresent themselves online (which admittedly facilitates that deception somewhat), but the same thing happens all too often in the face-to-face situation as well. We have had months of conversation, and will have months more, before we meet. In a public place. 🙂 After all, he does not know 100% if I have represented myself honestly and accurately, either.

I have also given much thought lately to the centuries-old tradition, still extant today, of arranged marriages, where the families decide and often bride and groom meet face-to-face only after the vows are spoken and the papers are signed. Many of those marriages actually do work. There isn’t necessarily a lot of evidence that our modern notions of how things are supposed to be done is the better way. Commitment is commitment.

Either way, I’m toast.