Tag Archives: Family

Eucalyptus on the Wind

The scent of eucalyptus calms me, brings me a sense of peace and tranquility. Essential oils enthusiasts say it’s supposed to be energizing, but it doesn’t have that effect on me.

Growing up in Southern California, I lived one block off the main drag into Ramona and that main drag was lined with towering eucalyptus trees. I don’t recall actually smelling the trees then and I’m sure the fact that they gave off such a wonderful odor didn’t register in my childish brain. But now the scent brings me back to that idyllic time in my life.

It was a time of bicycle rides on dusty dirt roads to the library or to a friends, mud pies and Easy Bake oven cakes, and swimming in the above-ground pool in the back yard. Those were the days of hamsters and sunshine and warm Santa Ana winds, of forgetting my jacket at school because it was so warm by the end of the day that I didn’t need it, even in the middle of winter. They were the days of arranging all my stuffed animals into jump-rope pens like I was a zookeeper.

To be sure, all was not perfect then. There was the kid down the street who teased me relentlessly. There was my sister who yelled at me a lot, and hated purple simply because it was my favorite color.

My sister was a big part of my life then. I always refer to her as “my sister,” as if I only have one. I have three sisters, but Berta was closest to me in age, just three years older, and the only one I remember living in the same house with. I have a brother, too, who is 17 years older than me. I usually refer to him as “my brother Tom.” I’m not sure why he and my sister Peggy and my sister Suz always get their names added, and Berta is just “my sister,” but that’s the way it is.

Objectively speaking, life was good.

But I did learn some things during those early years that stuck with me through much of my adult life.

I learned that cancer sucks. Twice my mom went into the hospital with cancer, once with breast cancer (which her sister had died of) and once with uterine cancer.

The first time, I was allowed into her room and ate her Jello so she could come home sooner. The second time, they put her in the maternity ward because the cancer ward was full. Kids weren’t allowed in the maternity ward, so I had to stay alone in the waiting room. And I worried. But she survived both bouts with the dreaded disease, which did get her in the end, but that’s a story for another chapter.

Another thing I learned was that books are the best things ever. Every other week I would ride my banana-seat bike to the library, fill my handle-bar basket with books, and head back home past the eucalyptus trees to hole-up in my room and read. I spent a lot of time in my room reading even when the sun was out (which, frankly, was most of the time). When my two-week check-out was up, I’d head back to the library. To this day I am dangerous in a bookstore because I can’t seem to walk out empty-handed. (I gave up on libraries several years ago because I would forget to return the books and have to pay fines for overdue books. It killed me to pay the library for a book I couldn’t keep.)

I learned that saving money is a crock. One year my parents gave my sister and me $10 a week allowance. We would drive down to the Savings and Loan every week with our personal passbooks and deposit half our money in the bank. I thought I was saving for whatever I might want some day—some big ticket item that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get or maybe just a bunch of books. Then one day my dad drove us to the Savings and Loan and had us withdraw all our money for the family vacation. I didn’t even want to go on vacation and have to ride in the back with my sister. It was a long time before I learned the value of saving money or felt in control of the money I saved.

I learned that fresh vegetable are delicious and canned ones are disgusting. But that growing fresh vegetables is hard work. We had a garden that spanned the whole width of our half-acre lot. We grew green beans, carrots, radishes, cucumbers (and dill), tomatoes, and more. We ate canned vegetables sometimes when the fresh ones were gone, but to this day I can’t eat canned peas or green beans.

But most important to my story is that I learned no one wanted to hear me cry. When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.

But the temper tantrum didn’t end there. You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors. Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”

The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or to witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I’ve always interpreted that statement is that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true.

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Almond Jam Thumbprints

Back in 2011 I took the WordPress Post-a-day challenge. To accomplish my goal of posting every day for a full year I developed several theme days, one of which was Recipe Friday. Since then I’ve posted a few recipes, but it’s been quite a while.

Last year I had to change my diet to a gluten-free, dairy-free diet, something I should have done a long time ago. That has required me to find or develop recipes that I like, but that my family can and will also eat. At first it was very difficult, but over the past year I’ve embraced the gluten-free, dairy-free eating habit.

I decided I wanted to share some of the recipes I’ve found, developed, or modified from one of my old recipes. To kick it off, I’m sharing a recipe I found online for Almond Horns, but that I’ve rewritten to include the important directions that the recipe I found left out and I had to figure out on my own. I’ve decided I’m entitled to take credit for this one even though I started with someone else’s recipe. These have been a big hit everywhere I’ve taken them, even with people who happily eat both gluten and dairy.

Almond Jam Thumbprints

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
1 8-oz can almond paste (I use Solo brand)
1/3 cup finely ground almonds or hazelnuts
1 cup sugar
1-1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/3 cup jam (any flavor)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Beat egg whites to almost soft peaks. Slice almond paste into thin slices. Add almond paste, ground almonds or hazelnuts, and sugar. Beat until well blended with a hand mixer. (I suppose you could make this in a food processor, but I don’t have one so I used the awesome hand mixer my husband got me for Christmas). The dough will be sticky. Drop by teaspoonfuls into bowl of sliced almonds and coat with slices. Place cookies an inch apart on a parchment paper or Silpat lined cookie sheet and press down slightly.

Bake for 20 minutes. Then using the tip of a teaspoon, press a small depression in the middle of each cookie and fill with a dollop of jam. Continue baking for another 5–7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Resist the urge to eat one before cooling because the jam will be very hot! Trust me, I’ve tried it.)

These are also delicious without the jam. Just bake for 25 minutes. I’ve also made these with melted German chocolate bakers chocolate drizzled on top.

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My Clerihew for NaPoWriMo

The prompt Day 25 of NaPoWriMo is to write a Clerihew, which I had never heard of before. But I thought I’d try it. Even though they are apparently usually written about famous people, the prompt gave permission to write about someone not famous. So I decided to write it about someone I believe will be famous someday as an animator.

Benton
My favorite son
He replies wryly
“But I’m your only”

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She Hates Purple

She hates purple
simply because
it was
my favorite color

or maybe it’s because
I stole
her coveted role
as baby of the family

Who knows why
I only know
it’s hard to be resented
for something you can’t control

Yet I must let it go
forgive
love her more than
I love purple

(Which, incidentally,
isn’t my favorite anymore)

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I Remember Eucalyptus

I remember the scent of eucalyptus wafting on the wind.

I remember the scent of summer rain on the hot, dry dirt road.

I remember dust devils swirling down that same dirt road before the rain came.

I remember the hot, arid Santa Ana winds in the California sun, pushing wildfires in their path.

I remember carrots and green beans and radishes and cucumbers (and dill) and ripe red tomatoes in the garden.

I remember riding my bike to the Elliots’ house and barely making it up their steep paved driveway off the dirt road below.

But mostly, I remember the scent of eucalyptus.

 

This poem was inspired by the April 5 prompt from The Daily Poet by Kelli Russell Agodon & Martha Silano.

4/28/15 Update: Decided to share this today at dVerse Poets Pub where Mary asks us to write about where we are from. I’d already written a poem today for the NaPoWriMo prompt, and when I read Mary’s post I thought of this poem.

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Childhood Dreams

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday was to write a poem about our calling, or the calling of someone else. One of the suggestions was to write about what you wanted to be when you were a child. So I went to Facebook and asked my Facebook friends to tell me what they wanted to be when they were a kid and whether their actual job was close to that dream. I didn’t get a ton of responses (only three—maybe I picked a bad time of day or I made the mistake of saying the commenters would end up in a poem), but I got enough to write this poem.

Childhood Dreams

Diminutive Donna dreamed of writing
Stories weaved that were exciting
Getting published to boot would be great
And published author became her fate

Little Leanne dreamed of being a novelist
Or perhaps a world-renowned columnist
Now inspiring young minds with famous prose
Means her life is like a beautiful rose

Petite Patty dreamed of being an actress
Or hamming it up in front of school classes
Now preaching and teaching the Word of God
Is a calling we all can certainly laud

Then there is me who wanted to be
A dance choreographer fit and carefree
But since words and reasoning are my expertise
A career in law and publishing I did seize

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Impossible Madness

Why does it feel like I’ve lost you
when you aren’t even dead?

Why am I the only one
who wants to make amends?

Why does it have to be so hard
after all these years?

Maybe it’s the tears
mine and yours, and theirs,
that makes breathing and living
loving and forgiving so impossible

I guess sometimes families and madness
can’t survive one another

Because that’s what you are, you know,
mad, or crazy, or mentally ill
whatever you want to call it

It’s torn us apart
because you don’t understand
why they can’t begin to comprehend
what’s going on inside your head

It’s torn us—you and me—apart
because you’ve convinced yourself
that I don’t at all understand
what’s going on inside your head

You forget I’ve been there
that those crazy, mad thoughts
have been inside my head, too

But then you’ve forgotten a lot of things
all the times I was there for you
just to listen
and the times you were there for me

My greatest desire is to forgive
and to be forgiven
to live and laugh and love again
to mend what has been torn asunder
to heal the thoughts inside your head

But right now, in this moment
it feels like you might as well be dead
at least that would be easier to live with

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My Son Shine – Reduction

Son Shine

His smile
a thousand rays of sunshine

His laugh
a hundred birds singing

His dancing
a silly smile and laugh

His curiosity
a hundred cats

His temper
a howling hurricane

Sweet, silly, stubborn, bold
is he

The Meeting the Bar prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today offered choices. My initial thought was that the Oulipo option was perfect for the Terza Rima / Hebrew Acrostic I’m working on because I enjoy working with forms and combining them. And I may finish that in time to post to Mr. Linky for this prompt, but I may not. So I decided to take one of my older poems and respond to the Reduction option. The original poem titled “My Son Shine” is here if you want to compare.

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My Schedule

I wrote this poem last Saturday during a poetry workshop at the Oregon Christian Writers’ 1-day winter conference. The assignment, if you will, was to write a poem similar to one titled “Holiday Concert” by Maryann Corbett. This is what I came up with. And when I read it to the group, it made me cry.

My Schedule

He needs my help; I don’t have time
I’m too busy with Bible study lessons,
calling all my ladies, leaving voicemails
They don’t want to talk
But he does, he needs me

He needs my help, my love, my advice
But there’s laundry to do, poems to write
Groceries to buy—milk, eggs, more canned goods
just like the ones already in the pantry
I’m just too busy, it never ends

He needs my help; I promise “tomorrow”
or the next day, but there’s a conference
I simply must attend, and a poem to write
and a funeral to drive to in another state,
and then work. Still he waits, patiently

But I wonder, does he know how much
I love him so, I want to help him
to listen to his woes, to encourage him
Once I’m done paying the bills and
doing the taxes and sorting the mail

One day I’ll look back and wonder why
he wasn’t a bigger part of the endless
schedule of less important things

3/10/15 Update: Linked this today for the Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub where Anthony is calling for confessions. This seemed to fit.

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Worth the Wait!

Book coverWaiting is a part of life. It seems like I’ve been experiencing a lot of it lately, and been learning patience in the process.

Some things are worth the wait. Cookies baking in the oven are worth the wait, especially if they are made with love and good ingredients. A visit from a good friend or family member is worth the wait, especially when the time together is precious. A trip to a warm and sunny destination is worth the wait, especially when one is tired of the cold.

The Israelites learned that waiting for the tabernacle to be finished was worth the wait. And it was a long wait. It took a year for all of the work to be completed. But when the tabernacle was completed, the Lord came to dwell with them and His Glory filled the tabernacle. See Exodus 40.

The birth of Jesus was also worth the wait. Hundreds of years before His birth, the prophets foretold of His coming and that He would be a ransom for the sins of many. The Israelites had waited a long time for His birth; some are still waiting. But for those who know the Lord Jesus, the wait was worth it.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve been experiencing a lot of waiting lately. In my last two posts—here and here— I mentioned some of this waiting. But now the waiting is over! (Well, sort of. I’m still waiting for my author copies to come in the mail).

My poetry book, Light in My Darkness: Poems of Hope for the Brokenhearted, is now available on Amazon.com! I just approved the proof this morning and it’s already available for sale. It took over a year, longer than it took the Israelites to build the tabernacle, but the work God set out for me to do is finally completed. And one of my favorite parts is that my son designed the cover, drawing the original cover art in Photoshop.

My hope and prayer is that the Lord will dwell in the hearts of those who read it and be blessed by the Light in my darkness.

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