Back to the Grind


A week of vacation.  For ten days, I didn’t walk through the door of my office.  It wasn’t difficult, and I was still connected.  Through the wonders of the Droid, I was able to keep my finger on the pulse of the most important issues.  Yes, I checked my emails and returned a few calls while I was on vacation.  It didn’t take that much time, and it certainly eased my mind not being in the dark about what is going on.  As in other areas of my life, the NOT knowing is much worse than actually dealing swiftly with issues as they arise.  Even though I had been in touch with work, I still felt uneasy all day yesterday as I imagined a “shit storm” upon my return.  My mind tossed and turned all sorts of scenarios over in preparation for the worst when I walked back through the doors this morning.  Thankfully, all of the worry was unfounded.  Everything was fine.  Yes, I am behind in my work, and it will take a few days to catch up, but all in all, it appears that the world can still continue to turn without me seated behind my desk.  Lesson learned.  I need MORE vacations!

One week was not enough.  It took most of that one week to simply begin to relax.  I had it down pat by the end of the week, though.  Ponytails and no makeup.  Wake up and throw on something loose and comfortable.  I loved that.  This morning, as I dressed for work, I longing eyed my gauzy beach dress hanging sadly in my closet.  I knew we would miss each other today.  That gauzy $12 dress and I had a good thing going.  Add a pair of squishy flip flops, and I would have been set for the day.

I’m also proud to say that I missed reading today!  I may bring a book to work tomorrow.  I can quickly wolf down my food and read during my lunch hour.  I’ll close my door and prop my feet up on my desk.  (Once again, I am wishing for a giant dog bed under my desk!  How perfect would that be???  Although, I might need to use a flashlight to read under there.)  Currently, I am reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.  Those of you who read my OTHER blog may remember my fascination with Henry and Anais Nin.  The fascination has continued, but it is quickly going downhill the more I learn about these two characters.  I have begun a blog post about Henry and Anais, but it’s not ready yet.  It’s one of those subjects that I need to worry and ponder over a bit.  I’ll just say this.  Henry, while he may have been a passionate, talented man, was a DOG.  Anais, well, I do believe she loved him deeply, but that love destroyed her decency.  She lost herself in a love that was so very wrong for her.  She cared more for Henry than herself.  As I said, Henry was a DOG, so he took and took all that she offered.  If she destroyed her character in the process of loving him, well….not HIS fault.

Tropic of Cancer is purely ugly.  It’s a train wreck.  I wish I could stop reading it, but I can’t.  I will chug along through the ugliness until the bitter (most likely!) end.  I despise the word cunt.  HATE IT.  It is the worst word in the world, and I’m not sure that I have ever actually uttered it more than once or twice in  my life.  Henry uses the word liberally.  He would just as soon use that horrible word than the word woman.  He used it interchangeably.  Think of a sentence using the word woman.  Now, substitute the horrible “C” word, and you’re Henry Miller!  Ugh and YUCK.  Maybe I should think of such a horrible word and use it to describe men!  🙂  Anyway….I will finish the damn book and soon, because next in line is an Alice Hoffman book.

As if the first day back to work wasn’t enough of a shock to my system, it was also Lola’s birthday today.  She is EIGHT years old!  I had planned a quiet night of pizza and pie.  No cake for my Lola.  She doesn’t like sweets.  Instead of the quiet night I had envisioned, we ended up with a houseful for dinner and dessert.  Lola invited half of the family today while I was at work.  That’s OK.  I ordered a bunch of pizza, and stopped by the bakery for a cake for those of us who DO LIKE SWEETS.  Lola had a great night with all of her little girl cousins.  It was good to see her being the BIG GIRL for a change.  She may be the baby of our family, but she is the oldest of the second crop of cousins, as we call them.

Lola blowing out birthday pie candles!



So, yes, I am “Back in the Grind” today.  Nothing at work has changed, including the stress.  It was right there waiting for me.  Something did change, though.  Me.  I am changing.  Finally, I am changing.  Maybe I am…something felt different.  There has been some kind of internal shift inside of me.

Or, maybe I am not changing at all.  Maybe I am just learning to allow life to sweep me along in the daily tide of living.  Maybe I am learning to stop kicking and screaming about the things I can’t change.  It is what it is.  



Oxford and Faulkner


The next stop on our trip was Oxford, Mississippi.  Oxford is/was home to so many literary greats.  William Faulkner and Larry Brown both called Oxford home.  The world’s best bookstore is located in Oxford.  If you are a lover of Southern fiction, then Square Books is a little slice of heaven on earth.  Not only is it an independent bookstore, which I love, but it is so well respected and recognized in the literary world.  The weekly book signings in this little bookstore are an amazing who’s who of literary talent.

Square Books ~ Oxford, Mississippi

This isn’t the first time my family has humored me as I made my pilgrimage to Oxford and Square Books.  I have been enamored by Oxford for well over a decade now.  I have been a member of their Signed First Editions Book Club for years.  Each month, a new selection arrives at my home.  Years ago, I couldn’t wait for each new delivery.  I practically devoured each new arrival.  For the past couple of years, though, I have unwrapped the books and placed them on the shelf.  I couldn’t even tell you the title of last month’s selection.  I was ashamed as I walked through the doors of Square Books.  I felt ashamed and dishonorable.

All morning, I had been reading Sketches of New Orleans as we drove to Oxford.   I could feel something old begin to stir in me again, and I was ashamed that I had somehow lost sight of that (whatever it is!)  Ah, Square Books, the smells, so many covers to look at, so many things to pick up, so much possibility.  I wandered from shelf to shelf, table to table.  I knew I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.

I saw my Dad in Oxford.  Last time I visited Oxford, he was with me.  He didn’t understand my love for the place.  Like T, he simply humored me and tolerated the time spent in this place.  My thoughts are jumbled, and I am finding it difficult to explain the budding feelings of myself that I felt as I revisited this place.  It is simply a bookstore, but to me, it signified so much more on this particular visit.  I suppose the best way to explain it is to say that it was deeply evident to me all that I have lost of myself over the course of these past few years.  These places I have visited, these memories that have been stirred, have reminded me that I once was a different, happier woman.  Perhaps, I have seen possibility and potential.

Thankfully, the girls loved Oxford.  This was not Em’s first visit.  As an avid reader, she was thrilled to be back among her own Southern favorites.

Lola and Emily petting a friendly cat in Oxford

After our time at Square Books, we headed over to the local favorite, Ajax Diner.  Larry Brown wrote often of Ajax in his stories.  Legend has it that it you toss a toothpick up and it sticks in the ceiling tiles, then your dinner is free.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but there are plenty of toothpicks in the ceiling.  Oh, and they serve fabulous southern soul food.

Ceiling tiles full of toothpicks at the Ajax

One last stop in Oxford, and we were on the road for home.  We headed over to the courthouse square.  Like any good southern town, Oxford has a Confederate soldier standing proudly as a memorial.  Oxford has something else. too.  Sitting quietly on a bench smoking his pipe, Mr. Faulkner observes the world around him.  Faulkner’s Oxford.  Faulkner’s world continues on and on.  What words would he use to describe the slightly troubled Midwestern woman who visits from time to time to kiss him on the cheek?

Faulkner's Kiss

New Orleans and Faulkner

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We left the Gulf Coast, and our three days of relaxation and sun, to continue our trip.  Like most of my life this past year, this trip has been (unknowingly) about revisiting the past and happier memories, but first we headed to a new place to make a few new memories.  We left Biloxi and headed through the bayou toward New Orleans.  It was an amazing drive.  I was awed by the evidence of hurricane damage.  Lot after lot was left with only driveway and foundation remaining.  Wooden platforms stood alone where they once supported homes.  We loved the wildness of the bayou drive.  Oh, how I wished to have a canoe or kayak to explore the waterways.  I understood why the locals refused to uproot to safer, higher ground.  This was certainly a place that would get into your heart, your blood, and your soul.  The bayou has a wild beauty that I have never experienced.  It was quiet and haunting.  I admired those who knew this beautiful land as their own.

We spent the day in New Orleans in the French Quarter, and I know it is a place where I will return to again and again.  One day wasn’t nearly enough time.  There was something to see at every turn.  The architecture was delicately beautiful.  The stench was overpowering on a hot day and reminded me of plagues of yellow fever with black swags on doors announcing death.  It was the oldest, most beautiful untamed city I could ever imagine in this country.

We had our destinations in New Orleans mapped out.  We parked our car and headed for Cafe Du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets. Delicious!  A hot beverage wasn’t really what any of us wanted in the heat, but it was delicious nonetheless.

At Cafe Du Monde

After our snack, we headed through Jackson Square.  It was a beautiful park with an incredible mix of musicians, artists, tourists, locals, homeless and crazy people, and performers.  I could have planted myself on a bench in the shade for the rest of the day to simply watch the people passing by, but we had a destination.  We were heading to Pirates Alley and William Faulkner’s New Orleans home.  The home is now operating as a tiny book store.

Faulkner House Books ~ New Orleans

Faulkner House is where my journey began to take on different meaning for me.  I LOVE, LOVE William Faulkner.  This certainly isn’t my first Faulkner pilgrimage.  For years, I have considered myself to be a student of Faulkner and Southern fiction.  That is to say, I DID.  At one time, I was knowledgeable about the latest offerings in Southern Fiction.  Larry Brown, Eudora Welty, Rick Bass, John Dufresne….on and on, I could endlessly list my favorite Southern authors.  At one time, I could tell you the exact release dates for upcoming Southern literature.  Back in 2003,  I was so afraid of missing the release of Larry Brown’s Rabbit Factory.  I was pregnant with Lola, and I feared that if I died in childbirth, I would never get to read his latest.  I emailed the publishing house, and they sent an unedited copy of the book which I was asked to review.  It is/was one of my most treasured possessions.  Larry Brown died shortly after the release of Rabbit Factory at the young age of 54.

I keep a picture of Faulkner on my desk at all times.  I’m not sure exactly what the draw is, but his writing and the style of Southern fiction speaks to me.  In Faulkner’s former home, I felt ashamed.  Where had my passion and love for Southern fiction gone?  When was the last time I read a REAL book?  I stood there in Faulkner House and let his spirit berate me for my neglect.  I gently touched the wooden door frame.  I placed my hand on the banister.  I let the spirit of Faulkner nourish my soul once again.  I bought a book written by William Faulkner at Faulkner House Books, New Orleans Sketches.  It was written in that very house.  It practically vibrated in my hands as I carried it out of the building.

As much as I wanted to sit down in Jackson Square and read the book from cover to cover, there was not time.  T and the girls had exhausted their patience with me and wanted to be on out way.  We moved down the street exclaiming over and over as we went.  There was so much to see!  Em dragged me into Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and I bought a voodoo doll.  It is made and blessed by a “local voodoo practioner.”  This voodoo doll is supposed to be made specifically for “Conquering Obstacles.”  Well, hey!  It could not have found a better home!

Voodoo Doll

I was sad to leave New Orleans, but I knew it was a place already dear to my heart.  I would be back, and my next visit would not be so brief.

The voodoo doll is now hanging in my room in Illinois.  Pepper the Wondercat is suspicious of the new presence in our space.  I caught him sitting on the dresser (which he never does!) and glaring at Voodoo Queen from across the room.  Maybe that’s a good sign.  She is already making her presence felt.  I am ready to begin conquering the obstacles in my path.  I’m ready to find that engaged and passionate woman I once was, and I can use all the help she can offer to me as I continue on this path.

Good Old Memories

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I’ve spent a great deal of time these past few weeks and months revisiting the places that hold special memories for me.  Sometimes those visits have been deliberate.  Other times, I have revisited those old memories quite by accident.  Today  we took an unplanned trip to a place near and dear to our hearts.

It is a tremendous feeling to roll out of bed when I wake up on my own  instead of to the trill of our three alarms back home.  The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was the gentle Gulf of Mexico shimmering beyond the three giant windows in the bedroom.  I threw my legs over the side of the bed and went to grab a cup of coffee.  I joined T on the balcony to drink my coffee and look out at the water.  We sat for a while and then decided to throw on our suits and head down to the water.  We spent a lovely morning on the beach.  The weather here was perfect today.  While it is 100 degrees in the shade back home, we have traveled south to 85 degrees and a soft, cooling breeze coming off of the water.

As we relaxed in the sun, Emily asked if we could drive to Dauphin Island later in the afternoon.  Dauphin Island.  It has been years since we have been to Dauphin Island, before Katrina, and we all knew that the island had suffered tremendous damage.  But yes, we agreed.  We all wanted to go back to that special place.  We were so close, and Grandpa loved Dauphin Island.

At Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island 2004

We all enjoyed the drive, and cheered when we crossed the border into Alabama.  Almost instantly, the memories flooded back.  We remembered so many things.  We remembered places we had shopped and eaten.  We remember the boat rides, the walks, the funny things that had happened on past trips.  We all remembered Grandpa.  So many times today, I wanted to pick up the phone and call him!  I wanted to tell him that certain things had remained after the hurricane.  I wanted to tell him what had changed.

The changes were astonishing.  Third row beach houses were now beachfront.  The homes on the bay no longer had bay access.  Their docks and piers were sitting on sand.  The entire west end of the island had shifted.  We drove as far west as the road allowed.  Several times, we had to drive through standing water.  The island had been cut in several places.  Gulf and bay were now only separated by the narrowest strip of land.

We looked for places we remembered.  Que Sera, the weathered beachfront house we loved, was gone.  We stopped where the home had once stood and looked at the vacant stretch of beach.  Posts remained.  That’s it.  She was gone.  I could see the house super-imposed in that spot.  I could see my little kids playing happily.  I could see Dad, too.  Yes, the memories were still there.  The memories were so real.  I had forgotten so very much, but it all came rushing back.

We were happy all afternoon.  We found a spot on the beach and walked across the sand as smooth as sugar.  We floated in the Gulf and remembered happy times.  Emily and I walked down the beach.  We explored a tidal pool and waded into the warm water with the birds.  Em is grown up now.  Dad is gone.  The boys no longer travel with us.  This afternoon, though, I had them all right back with me for a few hours.  They were all in my heart.

As Em and I walked back to where T and Lola were playing in the waves, I thought of all I have forgotten.  It seems that I have forgotten years of my life.  I have forgotten so many good things.  I have been caught up and preoccupied.  I have been focused on all of the wrong things in life.  So much is right in front of me, and I have lost sight of it all.  Why?  How does that happen?  How have I allowed that to happen?  I have wasted time.  I have wasted years and missed chances on nothing worth my time, energy, or efforts.  Pure Waste.

We were all worn out by the time we decided to pack it in.  We laughed as we changed into dry clothes in the car and attempted to make ourselves look presentable.  We had one more thing we needed to do.  We had one more memory to revisit.  We headed down the road to the best part of the day.  We were on our way to a little place, not too clean, and nothing fancy, but with the best delicacy in the world…in our opinion.  We were on our way to deep fried crab claws.

We ate them piping hot, and licked our fingers after each bite.  We smiled from ear to ear as we enjoyed something we hadn’t even known we were missing until today.  When we returned, T smiled at me and said it was the best day he has had in years.  Me, too.

Dauphin Island today ~ 2011




We are here.  We’re on vacation.  It’s funny how all of the things you want to get away from follow you wherever you go.  I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned from that.  Deal with things.  Fix things.  You can run, but you can never hide.  They will seek you out.  Those troubles are boogers.

Our trip has been fairly uneventful.  The condo is nice.  The view is fabulous.  The drive was exhausting.  I’m reaching for words here, aren’t I?

We have been on the road since early Saturday morning.  I read a book while we drove.  That’s something I haven’t done in a long, long time.  The book was an interesting concept, but it turned out to be a piece of pretentious drivel.  The entire thing was written in question form.  One question after another.  Some of them made me think, but it was just too overdone and too cute for my taste.  I imaged the author thinking he was really rather clever.  I would give you the author and title here if I wasn’t too lazy to get up and walk across the room.  So, yes, for the first time in about three years, I read a book.  I once used to read well over a hundred books each year.  Maybe this is some small step in the right direction.

What else?  I rode in the car for a long, long time, and I have read a book.  That’s about it.  I wish I could slap myself and bring myself back into the world of the living.  I’m not crabby.  I’m not happy.  I am.  Just am.  That’s it.  You might as well prop a corpse up in a corner and call her Pam.

Tonight after dinner T, Emily, and I sat on the balcony looking at the moon over the ocean.  (Doesn’t that sound normal?  Anyone looking in would think so!)  Below us we could see people walking along the beach with flashlights, and I remembered.  I suddenly missed the boys with all my heart.  I missed my little boys.  Yes, I knew my big grown-up sons had no interest in traveling on a vacation with Mom and Dad.  They are happy to be home with a fridge full of food and no one watching the clock.  I missed my little boys from past years on the beach.  I could so vividly see their white shirts and bright blue eyes as they headed down the moonlit path with flashlights in hand and Grandpa following happily behind.

My dad loved the beach.  He called himself a “bronzed god” as he soaked up the sun.  I could feel his peace as he stared out across the expanse of water.  It was he who introduced me to my love of the beach, and he shared that love with my children.  Now he is gone, and it is here, at a place he loved,  that I am feeling that loss once again.  He is missing so much!  Life is too short, and we waste so much of it on senseless, mindless activity.

Tonight, I sat looking across the water as the tears streamed down my face.  It made me even sadder to cry here.  I felt like I was dishonoring something that always brought me joy.  The sea, the moon, the constancy of the waves coming back over and over to the shore, and I allowed myself to cry amidst all that beauty.  It made me angry to think that my life has come to this.  Nothing brings me peace.  Nothing brings me joy.

There is nothing worse that recovering from mistakes that are your own fault.  There is nothing worse than cleaning up a mess that you were stupid enough to make.  BLAME.  I should know.  I have been on both sides.  I have had terrible things happen in my life, but none of them compare to this mess I have created by my own actions.  BLAME.  It is difficult to help yourself heal when you’re so damn busy beating yourself up.  Bereft.  Destitute.  Barren.  Lacking.  Worthless.  Deficient.  Nothing.

I sat and watched the people with the flashlights.  They were not afraid of what was out there.  They were not alone.  They had their lights to guide their way.  They darted about joyously.  I could hear their voices float up to where I sat, though their words were lost on the breeze.  They shouted to their companions as they made discoveries on the beach.

I felt alone and isolated as I watched from the dark of  the dark balcony.  Tears fell steadily down my face, but I made no sound at all.