Archive: Mar 2011

The nagging of uncertainty

Happy St. Patty’s!

Though I’m wearing green, I’m not quite in the green yet as my latest ING blog explains.

The prompt: Is there a single event that turned retirement from a far-off to-do into a real, stark reality? We asked our Customer Bloggers to weigh in. Here’s what Alicia, a 27-year old Mississippian, had to say.

Ever get about halfway down the road and suddenly can’t remember if you locked the door?

That feeling of uncertainty.

The feeling of if I didn’t lock it, what are the chances that of today of all days someone will break in, and hey if they’re coming today, they’ll just break in whether my door is locked or unlocked, and maybe since my door might be unlocked, they’ll just walk in instead of breaking a window I’ll have to replace.

Yet before I can take that right turn to work, I turn around because regardless of the chances of someone actually getting in, I don’t want to think about my door being unlocked all day, making it easier to get robbed.

That nagging moment between the uncertainty of wondering if I locked my door and the decision to turn around: that’s my current relationship with retirement. Yes, it’s important. Yes, I know I should be actively contributing. Yes, I know it’s for my safety and ease of mind, but really I just want keep driving down the road and worry about it later.

You can read the rest at http://wethesavers.ingdirect.com/customer-bloggers/customer-blog/alicia-the-nagging-of-uncertainty/.

Shopping beyond Piggly Wiggly and Kroger: Cajun Grain

“[I]t got to where you could plow 100 acres and you wouldn’t find one earthworm.” – Kurt Unkel of Cajun Grain, NY Times

The photos of the piglets romping through the buttercups make the site worth visiting alone, but there’s a whole lot more going on at Cajun Grain worth checking out.

After my friend Bobby shared an article the NY Times did about the farm, I added the rice to my shopping list for better eating, and by better I mean better tasting, better quality, better for my health, better for farmers, better for animals, and better for the environment.

Last night we tried out Cajun Grain, which is grown about 388 miles away in Louisiana. What first appealed to me was knowing where it comes from and that it’s not being driven, or flown, or boated across the world to get to me. I also enjoy knowing what the farmers practice and why.  The quote up top about the disappearance of the earthworms in soil farmed with conventional methods particularly struck me. They describe their farming as “a little sustainable, a little biodynamic, not quite organic” which sounds a lot like what I do in my garden and with my chickens. This type of work is not easy as the owner explains:

“It’s a constant fight, every day,” Unkel said, speaking of the demands of his farming methods. “But to be out there with this and the animals are happy, the plants are happy. . . . At sunrise you have these feelings that you cannot buy.”

All the good sustainable, local intentions in the world don’t necessarily make tasty food, but whatever they’re doing in Kinder is working. I love this rice. We did a cup in the rice cooker. The texture was fabulous. It was not as aromatic as I expected, but I was also cooking lamb chops at the same time, so the lamb may have overpowered the rice smell.

No salt, pepper, or butter. The mixture of the natural wild red rice added a variety of texture and flavor of its own. Definitely a little nutty. Definitely rice.

For lunches this week, I used it in a casserole where again the texture and colors shined. I’ve never had rice that maintained consistency so well in the oven, then to the fridge, and then warmed up later in the microwave. I’m excited to try some family favorites and new recipes with this. Cajun Grain has found a welcome spot in my pantry.

Cajun Grain brown jasmine rice available at Amazon for $18.75 or direct from the farm for $34.95.

Good intentions, terrible execution

I saw this on fb this morning:

´¯`·.´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸PRAYER WAVE¸.·´¯`·.´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸ Going out to all those affected in the Pacific and everywhere else affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Keep this going!

Wildly inappropriate.

Days like these it really does feel like we’re living in end times.

Ode to a Glass Slipper

Step softly in the grass, light one.
The pebbles and dips in the sidewalk could scuff your heels
and cloud the transparent shine of your stride.

Deliberate and moderate, the best choice when you can’t stay where you are,
a little cinder girl, sweeping up someone else’s messes and claiming them for your own.

* Appeared in Edgz 17. (2010): 66.

Comments Off on Ode to a Glass Slipper

Self portrait at 22

Self Portrait at 22

Because someone had a dream, I am standing here
watching large blue, green, and light brown eyes ask
what I know, who I am, if I’m related to Mrs. Mae,
and where from the Delta I come,
or not. Those are my questions, not theirs,
they ask me if they can start sentences with because
because someone once told them it was improper
like drinking on Sunday, wearing a hat indoors, and saying no and yes without the ma’am.

They ma’am me, call me Mrs.
though I wear no ring,
still have my father’s name
which they say they haven’t heard before
at least not spelled the way I do.

They imagine that when they’re my age, four or five years from now,
they’ll know more than me and the people that sent them here.
They’ll already have children
who won’t be as spoiled as my dog.
They think they won’t be lonely,
won’t regret, won’t remember 18, drunk and pretty,
carried around, grinning as people sneak up and touch their hair.

Today, for the first time, I looked in the mirror and saw myself
looking twenty-something. Black moles cropping up and dimples deepening.
Eyes yellowing. Teeth need bleaching. I pulled my skin tight, but it didn’t move.
I felt the roughness of my cheeks, saw skin flaking on my chin and brow.
I’ve got to start wearing sunscreen, and maybe a bra, and yes, bug spray.
I’ve got to start meaning something,
having something to report,
doing more than watch the sun pass and the moon rise.

Four years ago, I knew everything important—
dances, beauty pageants, newspaper, choir, drama,
and everyone knew me when we actually knew nothing
that couldn’t be fixed with a rumor or a new shirt
that’s now resting at the Salvation Army
since I’ve lost weight it seems but gained it too or something.
It’s all too tight or too short to be caught wearing now,
though I could if I wanted, hold on.
I’m still skinny, still carded, still saying ma’am and sir.

Still got some ways to go, some say,
maybe backwards while I go ahead.
I could cut my hair again, buy a ponytail,
paint my nails black, shave everything,
and wear shoes with cutting straps that raise me above this podium.
I can carry Band-Aids for blisters,
take pills for everything else,
but I know too much to try
or do more than sigh closed-mouth, air escaping
and puffing my lips.

I think about braces or veneers,
dream about dresses, wondering if I’m too young to get rid of these glasses.
Changing is so easy now, Lasik, just a beam of light, and it’s all fixed.

Then I could read the paper and see clearly, recognize the names
of former classmates, friends, enemies,
either jailed, shot, dead, married, mothered, divorced, drowned, bombed,
moved, or divided, and me
standing straight, trying to write
in a straight line across the board.

* Appeared in Bayou 53. (2010): 52-53.

It’s not a habit. It’s cool.

While I thought I had finished blogging for ING in December, they’re carrying us through until March, so here is the third to last blog. I hope you enjoy it.

We asked our Customer Bloggers to weigh in on their financial inconsistencies—instances in which they’ve been penny wise and pound foolish.

Frozen Treat in L.A.

Sugar-coated confessions from a dessert enthusiast

Times come and go that I have to get a running start to leap off my bed and jump into a pair of my jeans my husband holds open for me. During these times, my pants button only by the grace of gravity.

The binges that lead to such capers can go on for weeks, only ending when my wallet is as empty as a scoopless waffle cone.

When I went to Europe to study Spanish, I ate ice cream every day. The first phrase I conquered was, “One scoop of vanilla, please.”

After six weeks in Spain with a long weekend in Rome, my fondest memories are not from witnessing great works of art like the Sistine Chapel.

No, the best times are not from sampling various European wines in cozy neighborhood bars.

Even though I was awed by ruins being excavated less than a foot from me and even though I dipped my toes in the Mediterranean Sea, it was not any architecture or geography that left the strongest impact upon me.

The memories that creep into my dreams are always the same: me standing in line in the plaza mayor deciding what flavor. Ice cream, my European lover, was sweet, sinful, and in whatever size I wanted.

Even stateside, my obsession with frozen goodness knows few limits. I love sundae cones, frozen fruit bars, frozen smoothee bars, fresh-churned specialty ice cream, frozen custard, gelato, and my latest obsession: frozen yogurt or simply froyo.

Froyo is not the bland vanilla and chocolate swirled together stuff from my childhood. No, this beast is tart, tangy, kiwi, cheesecake, red velvet, coconut, mango flavored goodness that you pump yourself, select from over 40 toppings to heap on yourself, and pay by the ounce unfortunately yourself…

Read the rest and vote and comment at http://wethesavers.ingdirect.com/customer-bloggers/customer-blog/sugar-coated-confessions-from-a-dessert-enthusiast/.

* K’s Choice – Not an Addict

Ahhn, great music

Last Thursday, the Anh Trio stopped in Starkville. I missed their first visit but made sure not to miss them this time around. The variety of music was a nice surprise. They also played living composers who incorporated new to me uses of the instruments like putting a phone book in the piano wires or playing the cello like a guitar. My favorite song from the evening was “Yu Ryung” which means “ghost.” This article explains that the compose Metheny, “[w]hile visiting Seoul, Metheny was helped one night by a part-time driver – someone who makes a living by driving your car if you’ve had too much to drink. These proxy drivers are almost unique to Korea, emerging from the nation’s campaigns against the drink-driving culture here. Metheny was so impressed by the existence of these workers that he was compelled to write a piece of music to describe the inspiration he drew from this everyday occurrence in Korea. “The title seems to suit the piece so well as proxy drivers bear some resemblance to ghosts as they silently wander here and there in the dead of night and vanish after sending people home,” Angella said smiling, flanked by her two sisters.

They played two pieces from when they went on tour with Parsons Dance who I saw last year. I wish I could have seen them together.

Landfall

So what I thought was a used book I had ordered through Amazon, turned out to be my two copies of Chautauqua (http://writers.ciweb.org/literary-journal/) that featured my poem Landfall, otherwise known as one of my Katrina poems.

 

It was a pleasant surprise after a long week of work to remember I am more than just this current time in my life.

 

Landfall

 

 

I.

Too small to know myself,
I skipped over imaginary hopscotch lines
drawn with my fingertips across Old Mama’s floor.

 

I tried to sing “Miss Mary Mack” to the click of the peas dropping in the silver pan,
but she shelled faster than my tongue could spit the rhymes
till the bolt jumped from the field to the sky and froze my leg up in an L.

 

“Hush up quick, chile.
Ain’t nothing but a summer storm.
Move on under the table now. God don’t give us no more than we can handle.”

 

I sat church-still listening to her hum “Sweet Hour of Prayer”
as the peas echoed the rain on the roof.

 

II.

I knew the Coast once—
the smell of the fish,
the summer sea warming till the clouds swelled
and lightning jumped from water to sky.
I believed that’s how the Coast would always be,
sculpted, illuminated, grainy, familiar through the seasons.
I thought of strapping myself to a tree, becoming immortal through weathering,
a new legend like Walter Anderson in that skiff
sheltering his canvas under his shirt.

 

I wrote a song once
about a storm where a girl died
or lived always thinking of death and thought life was a floating mattress.
And I sang this song to the ocean until she answered back,
bade me to understand her and what’s lost
among the soft, gritty deep that seeped between my toes,
as I waded in, calf deep.
The waves played percussion against my knees,
and I learned her song, wrote it in the sand with a shell,
tossed the shell back, watched it skip once, twice.

 

III.

I heard East Beach is gone.
They say those houses are open coffins.
Highway 90 is the new yacht club.
I heard that Nawlins ain’t nothing more than a bowl of saline and sewage.
And I heard Cowan imploded, all those businesses raw open…
But that’s not as bad as Debuys, where only a wall of Anniston Elementary still stands.
They had those people crowded up in there on cots, thinking they were safe
and had to move them out while Katrina was still pushing in.

 

The stories that keep coming by phone are worse than I want to believe.
My childhood garden now a playground for seaweed,
hanging upside down from the monkey bars,
daring me to do better.

 

IV.

It didn’t rain when Old Mama died,
and I didn’t cry or think to grieve.
I knew what waited for me—
a life linked together by storms and songs.

 

And I want to remember this:
It can’t all be gone.
Winn Dixie is opening tomorrow.
Mr. B’s got lights, got internet, got everything but clean water.
And water is coming, bottled, clean, and salt free.
And I didn’t have to swim.
And I didn’t go under.

 

And I wait for the ring of the phone
to hear what’s gone, what’s there,
what moved across the street
so I can get ready to never see it again.

 

You heard anything about the Bay?

 

Anything about Pass Christian?

 

Ain’t that where the eye landed, fell,
Shut, winked, blew,
and laid down in our bedrooms?

 

V.

Hush now, it’s time to stop that noise.
Girl, you know, the business of business is business,
And the business of people is dying.
We’re all nothing but bodies,
floating or walking,
singing or hopping,
humming or hoping.
It ain’t nothing but a summer story told by the whining pines,
bowing to pass the secret.
Light a candle. Put down that phone. It’s getting dark now.
Let me tell you about that time when there was still a beach over there,
and the ocean had a song worth singing.

Sociology

Sociology

 

“I know what every colored woman in this country is doing…Dying. Just like me.”
Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973

 

For Sheena Gardner

Odds say that because she knew her father
and since he gave his name to her mother,
and they lived in a house they owned
and drove separate cars with paid notes
before she was born, and he was there holding her hand,
and she weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces,
was not born early, and they dressed her in new clothes,
fed her Enfamil, then Gerber mashed and strained
before they made her eat whole carrots and peas,
drove her to piano lessons every Thursday at 4:00,
read her 20 pages of Beverly Cleary every night at 7:30
until she was eight, and then she read Judy Blume to herself
falling asleep with the light on,

 

and because she did her homework without prompting,
had permed her hair straight every six weeks in a shop,
got braces tightened, sang in the choir, played in the band,
tested well, went to college where she spent weekends
watching TV and prepping for the next round,
learned un peu francais, saw some of the world,
Québec, Dublin, Calais, Munich, Glasgow,
went to school again, longer this time—six years,
lived alone, was glad for the comps because they gave her purpose,
passed, taught, wrote, walked across that stage,
weighed down in regalia, shook hands,
and because of all these things the odds say
she should learn that she doesn’t need a husband or a father for her children
who could never know a childhood like she did
because she learned too much and left the men behind
with their football dreams and blue collared jobs,
so she shouldn’t have children or even bother dating
because no black man wants to be kept,
and with all she has, she can’t help but condescend,
flashing her degrees, her proper speech, her knowledge, her fault,

 

and they say she should spend holidays with the girlfriends
who she once sipped cheap cappuccinos with
on springtime Saturday nights
dressed up for each other in low-cut blouses,

 

as they would walk, arms linked into dark theatres,
pretending loneliness didn’t burrow like trichina,
and now, only older, they should meet and warm by the fire,
a brown, educated cluster sitting among the flashing lights of red and green
and metallic wrapped boxes and store-bought shortbread cookies,
admiring how well they all can wear yellow and pink
woven into cashmere sweaters and not be washed out,
and how they can spend this money on themselves without men or children
to drain them, and  how they should make plans for next Christmas, New Years, and Easter,
while showing each other the necklaces and bracelets they bought
for their sacred necks and their thin wrists, and afterward
she should drive herself to church to share the pews with other women,
wearing white hats, talking about the lack of good black men
who, want nothing of their bitter, growing sorority,
and led by the preacher, they should ask Jesus for strength
as they recite “This is my body which is broken for you.”



** Appeared in Issue #156: Summer 2006 of the Cimarron Review (http://cimarronreview.okstate.edu/Issue156.html)


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