The Tao of Grama: a belated eulogy


My grandmother had more common sense than anyone I've ever known or will ever know. Pragmatis in extremis, you might say. And was she proud of it. As well she should be. I'm only just beginning to realize how much she has influenced me and how positive was that influence. 

It didn't always seem so. She used to say "I speak my mind" To a lot of people that translated to judgemental, unfeeling, harsh, critical. She's been referred to as an old bat or similar appellative beginning with b. Folks would say, "oh Marilisa, your grandpa's so wonderful, nice, giving, caring and your grandma... (cricket cricket as they hunted for words). 

She acknowledged all that with a laugh and a shrug. I think she actually liked her mouthy, badass reputation. She never defended herself or why she said what she said and she never backed down. And she never willingly hurt anyone.

She didn't candy-coat, was never fake-sweet but also not self-righteous, smug nor hypocritical. She never shot her mouth off just to hear herself talk. And she had precious little time for those who did. She was never gratuitously cruel. Just matter of fact. And I have learned over the years that she was usually right. 

We used to butt heads regularly. She, the "dyed in the wool" (her words) "trust no one" Republican and me the liberal, "feel sorry for everyone" Democrat. But we loved the heck out of each other. I like to think she even respected me. I know I sure as hell did her. It just took me awhile to realize how much. 

Being polar opposites, you would think that I would be the first to fault grandma when she criticized this or that. And sometimes I did if I thought she was being unfair. But the funny thing is she rarely ever was. As I look back I cannot recall a single bigoted, prejudiced or even generalized statement. She simply spoke what she observed and she usually said what everyone else was thinking but didn't have the balls to say.

Grandpa used to chide her for lack of tolerance. I don't think it was intolerance so much as impenetrable practicality. She just didn't suffer foolish behavior gladly. Where Grandpa and I would give second, third, 26th (too many) chances, she would say "leopards don't change their spots." And invariably she would be right. 

When she predicted that so and so would repeat the same error, he usually did. When she said my little brother would never stay the night at their house, because he always cried to go home once he got there, the family behaved as if she was the bad guy. Ultimately, he never did stay the night and fussed until Grampa took him home... every time. He saw a way to drive a rift between the adults and being a kid he seized on it. But God forbid Gram call him out or suggest maybe they NOT cater to him. 

So what we saw as nihilistic negativity, I now see was just realism. She did not set herself up for disappointment and did not want me to either. Actually, I now realize,  it sets the other person up for failure, expecting them to do things they are uncapable of or unwilling to do. And it gives them weird, unhealthy power over others  (see, Grandma, I finally get it).

Funnily enough, her pragmatism is hailed by 12-step groups as being very mentally healthy. Grandpa's and my rabid optimism and waiting for spot change, not so much. It's called acceptance of what is and St Francis is thumbs-upping you, Grandma

It's not that people can't change and she'd be the first to admit this. It's that they aren't going to simply by you clicking your heels together and waiting to go back to Kansas. Actually you have nothing to do with them changing. You can't be living your life around the hope that they will.

I'll even go so far as to say (listen up, Grandma you're going to love this) that you really shouldn't worry or care if people change. Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed. Spending too much time obsessively trying to control it, is self-defeating and not good for you or the other person. Doing things to produce a desired result in others is kind of passive aggressive and sick.  Better to let go and live your life as is best for you. Can Grama get an amen? 

So Grandma you've been gone 15 years. And virtually no one remembers you. You didn't do anything of note. But in a way you did everything for me. You inspired me to stand for things so I wouldn't fall for anything. You empowered me to trust my instincts and have faith that I could do things I needed and wanted to do. 

Maybe time has gilded my memory. You probably weren't as perfect as I remember. You did upset me so sometimes.  But then I upset me a lot more and I'm KNOW I upset you.  But you definitely weren't the Gorgon you pretended to be either.

You weren't given to raving praise but you were honestly proud of my meager achievements and did not hesitate to show it. I remember when I gave the valediction at the Honor society banquet, how you came running over to place a gold necklace around my neck. Right in front of everybody like you wanted to make a big splash of me. That felt really good. 

I don't think I said thank you as much as I should have. I hope and think you know that I loved you and love you still. I am proud to have been one of the few people who really knew you. Miss you. 😘 Marilisa


Sandlot Sundials


Sunday at the grama grampa house

Was not complete without a walk

To the beach via Whitey's Wood

And a sandlot sundial


What is a sandlot sundial?

It is a not so fancy timekeeping piece

That we made with two sticks

To mark our time in the woods


Grandpa and I would walk to the Big Lake

(Lake Michigan) every week

In summer we would swim 

in Winter just walk


Grandma never joined us

When I invited her she said didn't swim

I said she could just walk. 

Grandpa said "your grandmother doesn't walk."


Then they laughed together

A big shared joke 

That I never got but it was nice to hear them laugh

And she never minded us going


We would cut through the neighbors' yard

To the vacant lot before the big hill

Before the back dune before the dune stairs

Before our beach trek to Mona Lake channel


Grampa would draw a circle in the sand

put a stick in the middle

And another on the edge of the circle 

Where the center stick's shadow fell


When we came back from the lake

We would check the sand dial

To see how much the shadow had moved

The shadows matched the clock's big hand


And then we would know if we were late

And if Grandma would be mad

She was never mad just petting the dog

Who had gotten sick of walking and gone home


But she would always complain 

How we'd been gone forever 

And how even the dog had given up

just to keep us on our toes i think


I would explain about the sundial

And how we really weren't late

And she would humph in her Grama way

And tell me to go wash my feet


Then she would make us sandwiches

Because it was Sunday

And they were Dutch reformed

And did not work on Sundays


And then we would sit on the porch

Or by the basement fire in winter

And I would chatter myself to sleep

Dreaming of sand and sundials and such



Postcards from the Plague

I was going to make this into a Facebook post but then I thought, "hell, why waste it on them??" So I will share it there later (laugh, ironically). I'm thinking today about how un-funny I am. I'm pragmatic, helpful, exhortative (preachy?), occasionally erudite, often verbose, but not funny and rarely genuine.

Oh yes, I mean what I say. But I write mostly to educate and improve (Yeouch, that sounds sententious). The intent is not to censure or lecture. But it is presumptuous to think that, at any time, one can sanctimoniously instruct another. During the Covid pandemic, it's ludicrous. Have you noticed that I think too much? (Matchbox 20 nod)

I was reading a post (Yes, on Facebook, don't judge) that was truly hilarious, and real, and genuine and genuinely funny. The author penned from the gut the "real" of quarantine. She spoke of boredom and motherhood (synonymous) and Legos (Is it all capitalized? LEGO?) And are they from Sweden or England, I've read conflicting stories. Because I research these things, thank you for asking. Someone has to. You're welcome.

Same FB friend also spoke of the mind-bending ennui of watching other people play Minecraft on Youtube (that was fucking hilarious in many ways.) I didn't quite get why you would watch someone play Minecraft...I believe the petite bebe (little kid) invited? Evidently it's a quarantine thing. Like jigsaw puzzles and dried bean hoarding. And 'peakin 'a which (speaking of which, to quote/paraphrase my youngest son when he was 4, for the uninitiated) DOES anyone eat dried beans, ever?

I was given some from a food pantry distribution in which no one wanted them. They have been preciously guarded (ignored) in my spare room for months. Now they are the Holy Grail? Was some missive sent down from on high...thou shalt procure for thyself the dried legumes, and then having done so, thou shalt, storest them in thy barns until moth and mold doth corrupt). If YOU'RE not seeing Monty Python in that, well, I'm sorry for you.

And why is yeast sold out? YEAST, I ask you?? I'm a Shipt shopper  (for my sins)  I can speak ex cathedra on people's buying habits. NOBODY, not no WAY, NOT no how ,buys yeast in good times. So, Quo Vadis?? Where ya goin' with dat yeast, pilgrim? Is everyone one suddenly Suzie Homemaker makin bread for some journey? My dark mind doubts. And so does my skeptic bestie Rose. She believes that after coronavirus, there will be shit tons of flour, oil, YEAST, rice, DRIED BEANS,  still on folks. shelves, gathering dust. And I agree. We are not THAT desperate yet.

Back to Minecraft. I wouldn't watch anyone play anything. Quarantine be damned. But my husband has long been a student of the University of Youtube (his words) (I like parenthesis, can you tell?) (Shut up). He has been watching truck repair videos. I cannot expound further because the terms might as well be the ancient tongue of Ireland.

Whilst I lack Goidelic (Irish), I know a crap video when I hear one. There's one guy who has a speech impediment and still curtheths (curses, SORRY). He manages to impart some helpful truck lore. There are others who  are not as helpful. A father and heir (presumptive) from nether American regions who swear and place alcoholic beverages on fenders of cars and allow small ones to roam about unattended. It boggles.

So I can't speak Minecraft or Ford Ranger cadre, but I talk fluent travelog . Cuz THAT IS where I was supposed to be in March. Oberammergau 2020 or Italy or Greece. Making a pilgrimage. How funny would it have been ((not very, I'm told) to be trapped in the Eternal City? Or along the Cinque Terra? I still would have loved to go. Husband assures me it's better stateside. So back to my original bitch. Why am I not funny? (You weren't paying attention?? 10 points off!!)

Because I don't just let it out. I feel the need to pontificate. The post which spurred this was real. And funny. (Was it copied? I'm that hag who wonders). All she did was share her quarantine log (Captain's log). It should have said Star date thus and such.  Any true Trekkian would have known. And yet, here I sit trying to outwit. I'm such a poser, failure, sycophant. I don't share anything new. I just respond to others. Yegads, woman, have another glass of wine.

I think I could be funny. If I would just let go the need to, I don't know, be essential. That's what it's all about. So here I go on my own (Whitesnake). Just talk? God, is this done? God, how I envy the libertine! Where do I go from here? (You were expecting a satisfying conclusion? More fool you. )

Parenthood.. is it all really worth it?

Image result for mary cassatt Don't judge this poem by it's title--it's a work in progress. Also, don't expect this to be poetry in the iambic pentameter sense. It's more stream of consciousness, or more accurately conscience. I want to talk about parenthood.

It starts, not when you hatch that lifeform but when you first start thinking about doing so. And let me tell you right now that whatever you heard, read, were told or thought it will be different than anything you thought you were prepared for. I almost think it would be better to go in completely ignorant because then at least there are no preconceived (pun, lol) notions.

So this little critter starts to grow and very quickly you begin to realize that this is pressure like you have never had. You might, if you're normal, wonder "oh what have I done?' Because you did it alright. You can say that the divine being or God or whatever you call Him or Her blessed you and created life, but you did the leg work to make it happen.

Yet regardless of who's to blame, you very quickly feel an  insane, intense attachment to this being, that borders on self-destructive. You worry about every breath you take. You guilt yourself for things beyond your control. You are sure that the one sip of alcohol or secondhand smoke you accidentally breathed is going to cause permanent, crippling disability, even though you know that crack-addicted babies survive to become brain surgeons and perfect pregnancies sometimes end in death.

And then when lil 'un is born the terrors are compounded. You know you're going to screw it all up. So let me just reassure you right now...you are. Parenthood is a series of missed boats, baseball games and opportunities. Our hearts split at the seams with love,  yet we say and do the stupidest things. We misunderstand and get it wrong more often than not.

Now if any of you haven't gone the the bathroom to slit your wrists, hang on, there's a caveat. You aren't supposed to do it right. Parenting is essentially shooting from the hip, in the dark, drunk, with one broke leg. You couldn't hit that target for all the Dr. Spock on the shelf. And please, run, screaming, away from anyone who proclaims to HAVE gotten it right.

So we're still in a pretty depressing place. But here's where God/your higher power comes in. When that beautiful cake called life goes crashing to the floor, guess what? The divine baker can magically fix it. He doesn't just frost over...he makes it better than it was. He takes your humble efforts and bippity-boppity-boos them into wonderfulness. It's a gestalt thing....the whole really is greater than the sum of our poor pathetic parts. And boy does He owe us, tricking us into this parenting thing!

And let's talk about those 8-lb meatloaves and their part this mess. The minute the red, lumpy thing pops out (by agonizing, Herculean effort on mom's part) she takes up all the oxygen in the room and the space in your heart (home, bed, car...) You are no longer a person with a name and a life. You're that little so-and-so's dad.

You absolutely adore them with every cell in your body. You hover, you wake up imagining they are crying and you check for breathing at least 20 times a night. Even when they do sleep you can't fretting and worrying. And here's another magical part. She feels the same way. She can't stand to be separated from you. You must be no more than nanoinches from her. She worships you.

Oh, and while we're on that subject, permit me a mini-rant. When the parenting Nazis tell you she's spoiled, too clingy, you should let her cry it out, tell them to go bugger themselves. So many wonderful parents let these fools scare them into thinking they can't trust themselves or their children. I mean seriously, who are you going to listen to? Some bitter know nothing, know-it-all or someone who just recently dwelt int the arms of the angels, huh? That Dr Ferber should be boiled in his own Enfamil.

Oh, and if you've done your part, they will continue to be needy of you as they grow. AS THEY SHOULD BE. The reason you feel such soul-deep responsibility and craving affection for them is that you are their lifeline. Mama and Papa are the only thing between child and unspeakable horror. I'm sorry to sound so drastic but it pretty much is. The child has not the capability to survive alone.

But, and this is a biggee, it's a short time of needing you and suddenly, they can make it on their own. Hear me when I say, that the terrible twos, troublesome tweens, terrifying teens, these too shall pass and all too quickly. That is a threat, not a promise. For all the intensity with which they need you, it's over (here's where a lot of that aforementioned missing out occurs). Just when you think you can't take one more minute of this kid, they've flown and you miss them with shocking almost suicidal pain. That's how it's supposed to be too.

I'm going to have to pause this for a bit. But I'll continue soon. I recognize that a lot of what I'm saying, the Prophet Kahlil Gibran has said so much better but I would like to amplify some of his thoughts. And I think that you will, find as I have, comfort  in them.





                                     


Creative writing prompts for teens: Japanese wabi-sabi and nature poems

You may have  noticed that the past posts have deviated from the original intention of this blog which was to showcase my poetry and creative writing and to offer tips for aspiring writers. So, um, yeah, in an effort to make money from writing, I shared articles I'd written. Because poetry doesn't always pay the bills like NF.

So with that said, I'm planning to turn my focus back to the fine arts. I'm still poor and still need to make money so feel free to send large amounts. I jest. But I do promise not to cheapen the craft with the trade-writing. Sorry, to wax verbose but the moon is full and I felt a disclaimer was needed. So here's are helps for teen writers on Japanese poems using the art of wabi-sabi, just in time for April.

Why April? It's National Poetry Month. Some writers celebrate NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writer Month (an online poetry slam lollapalooza) . And what better month to celebrate poems than April with spring awakening, nature busting out all over and Earth Day nestled in? Want to join the poem-penning but don't know where to begin? Here are poetry writing prompts, story starters and word games I invented, to call forth your inner bard! Perfect for homeschooler parents, English and creative writing teachers.

Verse-adventure: Hands-down, there's no better poetry muse than mama
nature. Get outside and start your poem quest. Pack a bag with pen, paper, thesaurus and blanket. You could write on laptop or phone, but old school pen and paper are more conducive to getting poetry juices flowing. Quill and parchment would be best) Station yourself in a garden. Walk in the woods. Sit on the beach. Observe the elements: wind, sun, water. Notice the flora and fauna: trees, flowers, animals, land formations. Jot down sensory details--colors, sounds, smells, shapes. Check your thesaurus for new, fresh words to express ideas.

Japanese still life poem: In Japan, artists look for wabi-sabi or beauty in simplicity and imperfection. Artists focus on simple subjects: bonsai tree, a vase with a single flower, cherry blossom sprig or pussy willow frond. The artist uses pen or brush strokes to evoke the essence of the subject. Japanese poetry is similarly simple--haiku has 17 syllables in lines of 5, 7 and 5. Create a Japanese still life display. Explore all aspects. Using a few words, describe the item. Write a wabi-sabi haiku, tanka or cinquain. Here are printable directions from St. Jean Elementary). Or create a formless verse in your own style.

For more writing prompts, story starters and poetry templates, visit my blog www.freeprintablelessonplans.com. 

Jill Duggar, Derick Dillard nix mission trip: 'Counting On' reality TV ministry?

As per a Facebook post Jill Duggar [VIDEO] Dillard and her husband Derick Dillard are quitting mission work and moving "Dillard Family Ministries" stateside. As noble as that sounds, the real story may be less altruistic and more mercenary. Has the big money made on "19 Kids and Counting" and "Counting On" kill the missionary zeal? Did the fact that the Dillards lack qualifications and sponsorship finally sink in?   Jill Duggar, Derick Dillard nix mission trip: 'Counting On' reality TV ministry?

Josh Duggar claims media and cops violated him, but won't join 'Counting On' girls' lawsuit

There's more hypocrisy from the family of "19 Kids and Counting." Pedophile Josh Duggar sued police and a media source for violating him after they reported his incestuous violation of his sisters. "Counting On" stars Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Duggar Vuolo and Joy-Anna Duggar Forsyth filed a lawsuit local authorities and InTouch magazine and their sex addict brother wanted a piece of the damages. Talk about double dipping!   Josh Duggar violated by media, cops, but won't join 'Counting On' girls' lawsuit

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