June 13, 2009
Written and read by:
- Millie Carman
- Joy Chipping
- Kathy Hardin
- Joan Jones
- Irene Ratner
- Jan Robinson
Why Do I Write
Why do I breathe?
Why do I eat?
That, too, is why I write.
To have an outlet for my thoughts so that I don’t burst.
Writing captures my moods.
There are many and this is a way to wort them out.
I can say what I want to say and
Surprise myself by what has surfaced.
Sometimes, it amazes me.
Once in a while, it shocks me.
Writing captures my introspections and reflections of the worlds
Both the big one and my small one.
It has proven to be a soul mate on my life journey.
My Writers’ Group allows me to share with kindred spirits.
It keeps after me so that my inertia is pushed aside.
Although it would be okay, I dare not show up empty-handed.
My friends in the group make it safe and best of all they listen.
It is an exercise in grandeur, while at the same time teaching me humility.
NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME WRITER
Many years ago I made my one and only stab at trying to get a writing published in a professional medical magazine. I chose to write about the potential pitfalls of working excessive overtime. For example, in my paper I included risks such as potential medical errors and potential personal family problems.
I went to a medical school library and looked for articles about my topic. At that time there were few publications regarding high weekly work hours, so I thought my submission might fill a need for more discussion. Okay, I thought I was moving right along!
Next I worked very hard gathering relevant information and writing many drafts. Then I asked a few fellow medical professionals to review my work. Their feedback was positive, and they suggested only a few revisions. Okay, I thought I was on a roll!
I carefully wrote the recommended changes and mailed my paper to the editor. Unfortunately, I received a short and blunt rejection letter from the editor! In the letter the editor wrote that articles were selected based upon reader interest and yearly plans for topics, and the editor wrote that there was NO current interest in my subject. Uh, oh!
Unfortunately, I had failed to call or write the editor to ask for a list of selected themes for that year! So my writing adventure ended without publication of my submission. However, I did learn more about writing. I also learned a lesson in humility that I was NOT a ready for prime time writer.
What artist made this tiny flower,
Almost hidden in grass and leaf,
The crocus courageously
Emerging from the snow?
Who formed with delicacy the clouds
Floating in patterns across the sky?
Who made the rainbow brightly hued
To bless the earth once rain is done?
What architect designed this tree
So firmly rooted in the earth,
Spreading its arms to grasp
The sunshine and the rain?
Who shaped the golden stone
Which frames our church
Allowing windows to show
Nature’s bounteous beauty?
Who spattered paint so bright and pink
To cover leaves before they’re born
To celebrate the season’s change
With the promise of a new spring?
What brush was it that painted
The birds green, red, yellow or blue,
The parrot and the peacock
All colors of the spectrum?
What sculptor molded clay
Into the newborn babies
With open eyes to watch and learn
And open minds and innocence?
II. The Seasons
WINTER’S CRYSTAL PARADISE
Millie Jenny Carman
Six foot and climbing of snow in Oswego the other day.
And the memories flood back.
All the glistening white snowflakes falling…
Memory pieces accumulating in snowbanks
Snow castles and realms built up creating white crystal paradises.
No thought of driving
Just making “snow angels”, forts, and warring with snow balls.
Looking around carefully for the next bombardment
From across the street or the drive.
So much magic as a kid…
And with a Northern “snow emergency” we all had to stay home.
Then we’d always steal outside.
Then when we got cold, or Mom worried about us
We’d trudge inside, mittens and boots laden with snow,
Brush the excess off of them
Hanging them on the furnace or radiator to dry.
Holding cups of cocoa to warm up.
Stamping and rubbing cold toes.
Then after the mittens and coats dried
Suiting up again and making the trek outdoors.
Trying to hide from Mom to avoid the “asthma check” routine.
Sliding down the hill behind the house or tobogganing down the hill at the Parkway.
Skating on the oval skating pond in front of
That beautiful circular drive at the old rectory…now a parking lot.
Sharing or trying to avoid the chore of shoveling the driveway with all of the family.
Remembering fishing boots out of snow banks…
And still climbing them to become Snow King or Queen.
But…I could have done without the snowballs to challenge those kingdoms.
Walking a mile or more with Mom to the store.
To stock a few more staples even though our shelves were rarely bare.
High snow banks surrounding us
Keeping as close to the side of the road and dodging the snow plows.
Slipping and sliding
And cherishing the memories
Of winter’s crystal white paradise.
The cat scratches at the door, begging for release from her “prison.” The door opened, she slips out, pauses on the deck, sniffs the air, and comes back inside. It looks like spring, but it still feels like winter.
I awake to the sounds of birds chirping each morning. The robins and grackles are congregating in the back yard. They too think it’s spring. The cool wet ground is no deterrent to them, but teases with the promise of delectable goodies coming to the surface.
In the front garden the hyacinths have burst forth in their purple glory, and the forsythia are shyly peeking their buds out to test the air. In the back yard one lone pink bud has stepped out proudly on an old worn out peach tree.
The cool, bright air brings my sandals out of the closet. It entices me to pick up the litter of limbs fallen from trees in the winter rains and winds, to dig my hands into the earth, to rake the mulch of leaves from the gardens, and to plant the seeds of new growth.
At church on Sunday I sit in the middle of the center section. I look to my right and feast my eyes on the Japanese Magnolia, full to overflowing with large pink blossoms. At its base, a carpet of pink. To my left the trees are still barr–dark silhouettes against the blue spring sky. Within the silhouettes are memories of nests for birds and squirrels, and buds with the promise of new leaves–new life.
It was the first thing I saw on the menu.
Please order at the beginning of the meal
The menu said,
To allow 45 minutes for baking.
All through the meal my mouth watered
At the thought of warm chocolate
Running over my tongue.
I could almost see the souffle rising in the oven.
When finally a white plate graced our table,
I could see that a cool sweet cream adorned it.
The shape was of an upside down cupcake.
Before beginning to dive into this luscious dessert,
I asked myself,
“How can life get any better than this?”
MOM’S CASSEROLE COOKING
Mom always made yummy huge casseroles for us kids.
Chicken Divan, Hamburger Pie, 4 Layer Lasagna, Chicken Noodle Casserole,
Just to name a few.
Food with several layers and scrumptious thick sauces.
There were three children, but Mom always made enough for an army.
I’m sure they were loaded with tons of calories.
I would call them comfort food, so warm in the tummy and filling.
I still make these casseroles from time to time.
Usually for a potluck dinner or a small dinner party in my home.
The recipe cards are torn and splattered with food.
Mom sure did know how to cook.
When I got married I even received a file card box full of her recipes.
But there are several dishes I can remember without a card.
And I find I miss these special foods of delight…
Mom has been gone for three years now.
But I can still taste and even smell her cooking…in my mind.
In a shiny gold box with a lid
Lay creme-laden nut-filled
Waiting to be plucked
From their round plastic homes.
I bought them for my mother
Because she hides chocolates
In her bathroom closet.
WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?
It’s the Fourth of July.
I don’t have to go to work.
I choose not to get up early to go to the gym,
but to sleep in today.
At 5 a.m. there is a rat-a-tat knocking on the door.
I try to ignore it.
At 6 a.m. my bedroom door is thrown open
With a force that slams it against the wall.
Next comes a nagging complaint at my bedside.
The complainant turns to the door, stops,
and waits for me to obey and follow.
A six-pound calico cat rules this house,
And Callie will brook no change in her daily routines.
Millie Jenny Carman
Looking into your eyes
In the night…
Like a cat’s glow
EYES FULL OF LOVE.
Looking into your face.
In the daylight…
Light…a cat prancing…
Looking at your walk…
In the evening times…
Lithe and free…
Heart full of love.
Looking deep into your heart…
Longing to capture
Each mood that cascades
Across your face…
Dances in your eyes…
Entices me to
Join in the celebration…
Of love and laughter…
CHAT WITH THE CAT
Our cat is sitting on his special shelf in the front window making curious bird-like tweeting noises, so I go there, cup in hand and join him as he watches our two local squirrels doing their accustomed aerobatics on the pin-oak trees. They finally disappear out of sight, swinging to the top of the trees and as I lay my arm on his shelf, the cat skillfully turns and lays down, resting his head on my hand, and begins to purr. The thought occurs that he and I have other things in common besides mutual affection and respect. Each of us have more or less come to terms with our current place in the world in spite of increased confinement. I glance down at the last remaining dregs of the re-heated left-over coffee in my cup. Why do I even drink that sort of stuff? Most of my fellow citizens would think of me as a dyed-in-the-wool cheapskate for such behavior. But this is the way I was raised. The saying was “Waste not, want not”–a directive that became truly consolidated in those six years of World War II. I have many memories of this era but there is one in particular that comes to the top, and I am never quite sure why. Perhaps you can draw your own conclusions. Here is the story.
It is a beautiful English autumn day in 1940. One of those days when the whole world seems to be suffused in golden light, smoothing off all the hard edges with a soft delicate sheen. It was also the anniversary of the birthday of my long dead grandmother. My two aunts, Rosalie and Mary, her daughters, and sisters to my mother, decided that they would make their annual pilgrimage to their mother’s grave. They would tidy up the ground cover and introduce more plants if necessary. The weather being so delightful, they decided to walk to the cemetery instead of taking the bus. They filled a small bag with some hand tools and a couple of plants and set out on their way, admiring the flowers blooming in the front gardens of the houses they passed. That summer had been especially good for roses. It was in the beginning of August that year that daylight air raids began in earnest. London and any target selected by the Luftwaffe on the way there was in danger. Citizens grew used to moaning warning signals to ‘take cover’ and went about their normal lives as much as possible. So when the ladies heard the siren sounding way off in the distance as they were halfway to their destination, they decided it was just another distant dogfight between opponents and ignored it.
Arriving at the cemetery they walked down its only too familiar paths. Other members of our family were buried there also. They found the grave in reasonable order and did their work in silence, holding hands for a minute or two when the work was done, each one with her own memories of her mother. Rosalie and Mary left the graveside. As it was such a pleasant day they decided to take the long way out of the cemetery which meant a walk through the oldest part of it where many elaborate Victorian and even older monuments existed. Along the way they laughed at various shared memories of their life together at home with their mother and agreed that she was alive in memory an would do so as long as they both lived.
Suddenly Rosalie (who was the one not wearing glasses) stopped in her tracks and said “What is that over there? I see something hanging on that statue”. As they weaved in and out between the graves they could see that a stone angel decorating one of the tomb-like graves had some sort of white stuff draped over an extended arm. They rounded a large ornamented tomb and there was what had caught their eyes, but this time in full view. For a few seconds they stood there in stunned silence, after all that chatter unable o say a word. The white drapery was part of a torn parachute. The remainder of it partly shredded and stretched was attached to a body in Luftwaffe uniform. It was laying there in a jumbled heap, limbs spreadeagled and mangled like a pupper loose from its strings. The head was laying sideways at an impossible angle and a few stray fair hairs were showing where the helmet was pushed up. Finally Mary went closer to investigate. She looked on the face of the airman and said “Dear God, he was only a boy, just a baby, he looks about sixteen years old.” Rosalie was in tears and the two sisters just stood there motionless. Rosalie said “Do you remember that after the last war we called it “The war to end all wars”? Just then there was the sound of police cars coming down the main drive and an officer appeared accompanied by the local air raid warden and an ambulance crew. One o f the officials took one look at the aunts’ teary faces and said “Why are you crying for him? He was just another German enemy.”
Mary and Rosalie said nothing but they accepted the ride back home offered by the warden. It being wartime when military events were shrouded in secrecy, the details of the incident were never revealed but I know that there were many time when my aunts thought about that boy and were filled with sympathy for his mother and family.
The incident is engraved in my memory also and I am never quite sure of its significance compared to many other remembered wartime experiences. I have always been a confirmed pacifist but that explanation does not satisfy. There is some other message that as yet I cannot fathom. Just another of life’s unanswered questions.
WAR OF THE ROSES
You were properly warned.
Last spring I swore that if you did not produce this year
you would be gone.
I would not waste time, money, and energy
on your maintenance.
Your existence alone does not justify
The space you occupy here.
I will not keep you for sentimental reasons.
Your presence in my life for all these years is not enough.
So now it is time for you to go.
You resist with all your might.
Your roots have gone deep.
You spread your arms wide and grasp at me.
And I feel pain as you reach out.
But my mind is made up.
Unlike you, I keep my word.
The void you leave is harsh,
But will soon be filled with others
Expected to keep their promises.
In the spring I’ll start again.
Another will be here to replace you.
I fully expect to have better results this time.
I expect many bouquets for my table.
Sailing alone on Crystal Lake,
In a little blue Sunfish sailboat,
On a clear see-through surface.
The bottom of the boat glides
Like butter across the water’s top.
Looking at the familiar shoreline,
Searching to locate my beach cottage landmark.
I have my bearings…
So now I can cut loose…
Feel the freedom…
Allow the sail to pick up the strong wind
Pull in the sail’s rope…
Go faster, faster…
Yes, that’s the way…
Sail on and on…
Out further and further…
Away from it all…
LABOR DAY ADVENTURE
For some time I have been saying that I wanted to start walking, and that I would like to go for walks in Radnor Lake Park with my camera. I asked some friends from the YMCA to walk with me, and two of them agreed. There would be no exercise classes at the Y on the morning o Labor Day, so Mary Lou, Susan and I agreed to meet early Monday morning and drive out together. Susan was also bringing along her dog, Indy, an Australian sheepdog. Susan’s dog hadn’t yet been to “school”, so she has not learned to control her excitement, and it was often a tug-of-war between Susan and the dog.
It was a nice morning, still cool and pleasant. The walk was probably a total of about three miles. We saw lots of others walking wit one or more dogs. We saw a couple of deer walking through the woods, and one just climbing out of the lake. There were interesting birds to see and try to photograph, and two turtles floating on logs in the lake, sunning themselves.
When we got to the end of the paved road, we turned around and started the trek back to the parking lot. The dog continued to romp ahead, pulling Susan along with her. Then the cable on the leash broke. Uh-oh! For a while Susan tried to control the dog by holding on to her collar, but that wasn’t easy. We checked around for something to serve as a leash, but none of us were wearing belts. What to do? Then Susan came up with a solution. She remembered she was wearing an undergarment that, although shorter than the leash, would possibly serve for the remainder of the walk.
Have you ever removed your bra without first removing your shirt? In public? With Mary Lou’s help, Susan removed it, wrapped it through the dog’s collar, and we went merrily on our way. We passed dozens of people, men and women, and in all the way back, only one man noticed the peculiar appearing leash.
We arrived safely back to the car, loaded up, and returned home, a little tired and hot, with two of us still fully clothed.
JUST NOT ENOUGH TIME
Millie Jenny Carman
There is just not enough time to do what needs to be done.
Not enough hours in the days that seem to pass by…
Faster and faster
Year after year.
What was it, in childhood, that made the days…
J U S T D R A G B Y.
Perhaps it is just me, then again, I have heard this same sentiment
Expressed by many of my colleagues and friends.
Is it just that there are so many more options now?
So many more paths to choose?
Or is it, as I grow older…I become more scattered…
Spread myself too thin.
To accomplish all the tasks that I schedule.
I know sometimes I place obstacles RIGHT THERE in front of me.
Yet sometimes…they just APPEAR THERE…Blocking // MY PATH ONWARD
Where they appear from I couldn’t tell you.
All I know is…one second there is a clear path…
And the next thing I know…I almost fall FLAT on m face…
Because there is a BOULDER in my way.
Other times, it’s more SNEAKY…like Black Ice…Invisible…
All I know is…
THERE IS JUST… NOT ENOUGH TIME!
Youth, look at me. What do you see? I wonder if you see as I when I look in the mirror.
Or do you count the lines on my face and think it looks like crepe paper?
Do the creases and mottled skin make you want to look elsewhere?
Does aging skin scare you and make you worry?
Do you squirm or want to shy away because it could be contagious?
Do the saggy jowls and folded neck skin minimize my importance?
I wonder after looking at me are you motivated to rush out to buy more face creams
or a miracle moisturizer.
Maybe you secretly wonder why I don’t try a face life or go the Botox route.
But, to you youth, au contraire.
My face is a road map of every place I’ve ever been.
Of everything I’ve ever done.
It is like the pages of a book.
If you take the time to look carefully, you will see my historical markers
reflecting joy, sorrow, smiles, tears, losses and gains.
I have earned this face by living life. I deserve it.
My wish for you is that someday you, too, can proudly display
All of a sudden…
A BOILING THAT SEEMS TO RISE AND RISE.
HERE I GO “OVERHEATING AGAIN…”
Waking in the middle of the night…
Throwing off the covers.
Starting to cool off again.
Slip serenely off to sleep.
Then I’m startled awake
Try to find the discarded covers
Without totally waking myself up again.
Now I’m Cold…
Enough of this.
I was with a friend over the weekend,
All of a sudden, I saw her picking up a menu to fan herself.
You too, huh?
Her tale was of night sweats
That soaked her bed…
And I noticed beads of sweat the next time
The makeshift fan came out.
Maybe it’s not so bad with me.
I feel flushed, but the sweat doesn’t pour off me.
I guess I should be glad…
But then again at 3 AM…
I’m not quite as patient…
Time to STOP!
I wanted to share something with you today
A force of habit–I was caught completely off guard
It was one of those insane seconds
It took me a long, sad moment to realize
That you are no longer here and never will be again
You are gone
The struggle within me keeps asking when will I get to tell you
There is no one else that will appreciate as fully as you the cute, clever thing
The dog did today.
Deep down I know there will be no more laughing together, sharing or even
fighting and hurt
Reality brings tears to my eyes
The heaviness in my limbs makes it hard to write
When will I see you again
The answer is never, which is a long, long time
I have memories and flashbacks
Such as now
They catch me off guard and seep in
But I know that death will eventually drain these away, too.
LAUGHING AT DINOSAURS
When one of my friends and I discuss our aging experiences we sometimes have big laughs at the funny aspects of what we call our “dinosaur experiences”. We refer to dinosaur experiences as situations which were common when we were younger and now are absent or extinct in our lives.
One example is the time my friend discussed his effort to explain to his grown son how years ago he had to use the party line phone system. My friend said his son was ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED at the idea of SHARING any phone line with any other customer! In disbelief his son shouted “You did WHAT? You mean you had to waid for other customers to be off the phone before you could use your OWN phone?” We had a big laugh because we both had experienced having only the party line phone system when we were kids. Then, we agreed that the party line phone system was another one of our dinosaur experiences because now, in this era of cell phones and land line phones, all customers in this country have single line telephone plans.
The idea of looking at the humorous side of outdated experiences is probably nothing new to many fellow senior citizens. What seems to make these chats of reminiscence unique for my friend and me is that we have created our own “Dinosaur” label for some of our long lost routines. Our personal “dinosaur” name for these lost times seems to help us cope with loss of familiar people and rituals as we get older. In Spanish the words are: nos reimos de nuestros dinosauros! In English, the translation is: we laugh at our dinosaurs!
I am a Liberal
Don’t want war
Against the death penalty
Scared of home schooling based on Christian reasons
Support alternative life styles
And want gun control.
You espouse the other side.
Even believing that the Peace and Justice Center is a communist front
I wonder what is wrong with you.
Why can’t you see the light?
I know you’re not stupid
As a matter of fact intelligent and well read.
Are you so brain washed?
Honestly, I am tired of your lame brained thinking
I resent your conservative outlook
No longer do I want to put up with it.
I just don’t understand why you can’t be as liberal too.
I wish you’d go away.
And take Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilley and the Fox channel with you.
Do you not understand how you irritate me when you don’t think as I
The great liberal that I am.
SHE FORGOT HER DRESS
My dear ex-husband always makes me laugh when he tells me the story of the day his mother forgot her dress. His mom was a caring and very busy working parent who at the time had five school aged children. His parents experienced the daily challenge of preparing their many children and themselves for morning departures to school and to work. Each week day morning she left teir home at the same time to catch a city bus to travel to her job.
One morning she was running late in her daily routines of helping all five children with breakfast and clothes for the day. She hurried around the house helping all of the children with final dress for school, quickly put on her shoes, put her purse on her shoulder, and practically ran to the front door to leave for work. Then suddenly the children and their father realized that she, in her hurry, had on only a slip and had somehow forgotten to put on her dress! In great alarm the children shouted: “Wait Momma!” Then the whole family realized that Mom heading for work in only her slip was a very funny sight, and all began to have a huge laugh together!
So that is the story of the day my mother-in-law forgot to put on her dress. Years later we experienced great sadness when Emma passed away from cancer. We all still think warmly of her when we laugh about the day she forgot her dress.