Thursday, November 1, 2007

A short trip to Shangri-la.

Last week Steve and I took a flight across the country to California. We went to the golden state to visit Steve's people in San Francisco. The time we spend there was great. It was Steve's birthday so there was a party and "so good to see you's" all day. We visited the city and various places that brought back memories to Steve. We visited people I didn't know, and shopped in Half Moon Bay and walked on the beach.

I noticed it's true what you hear about life there, so laid back. I know that the air is fresh and the weather is beautiful, the plant life plentiful and glorious. There doesn't seem to be any mosquitoes or flies and they leave their doors open without screen doors. No need for screen!

But how could they be so laid back with everything, especially real estate, being so very expensive? Stressful? You'd think. But I didn't really notice that anything except homes were more expensive than here. Target prices looked the same to me. The only time I "had a fit" so my sister-in-law said, was when she tried to convince me that the price of $7.00 for a plain hot dog is normal. I have to tell you I didn't throw a fit but I know that $7.00 is not normal. I checked. This particular hot dog was in a museum restaurant and my so-called fit worked. My sister-in-law bought us a cheeseburger ($9.00) and a hot dog and made us share her Caesar salad. (I am my father's daughter!)

It seems that the corporate world dominates over most everything in the city by the bay. I know that it was the dawning of the computer age that boosted the high prices of real estate. Just driving the interstate will give you a glimpse of the opulence of the big guys, Google, Oracle, etc. And aren't these guys considered young on the silicone highway?
I come from a long line of carpenters, blue collar workers, proud farmers and office assistants.
Steve left California for Oregon right after the rise began. So we really only know what we see and hear. I have to assume that there are many that are under the stress of their corporate jobs. I didn't see it myself. All my sisters have high priority jobs in well known companies but they don't seem to show too much stress. My sister-in-laws Pitt bull is more nervous than she is.

I guess what I am saying is that I think it is true that California is a peaceful, laid back place.

Am I buying into shangri-la? Okay, maybe I was overwhelmed by the beauty and warm hospitality, or because the weather was about 72 degrees the whole time and not a single drop of rain. Or it could be that I had no responsibilities the whole time I was there, yes, the whole "5" days.

Because I dislike travel by air, I was hesitant to go. The ride was what I expected, boring, tight and all day long. This is where we spent most of our money. No, really, the airports.

I never liked take off or landing and now there's the extra security. Of course I must have packed wrong or something, they went through my luggage. I know they probably have to do these things, but it is one more reason that I don't enjoy flying. I thought about this as I was going out that I'd have to think about the long trip back. But I didn't think of it once. I was thinking on my way home, when can we do this again?

I think California and my in-laws worked the magic. I came back ready to move. But reality is back. My girls are here. My home is here. My overloaded back yard and garden are here. How in the world would I get 3 dogs and 5 cats to California?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bug's birthday

Yesterday was the big day for little Bug, the pretty princess in our lives. She was four and feeling every bit of it. It's always a great day when family can get together, and even though ours is small, we make it seem like a hundred people. I, of course decorated my living room like a cinderella ball with balloons strewn from the ceiling. Bug walked into the room as we all sang happy birthday. Her eyes were wide and twinkling and a huge smile. She had mushroom pizza, her favorite, and then happy to get to the presents. She got many fun toys and some neat clothes. She got a little electric keyboard, several dolls, tea sets, and mom also gave her a big bags of assorted things such as candy poprocks. We all had to laugh when Bug tried the pop rocks. She ducked her head and put her hand over her mouth. She just wanted to get rid of it, same thing with the big red rose blob from the top of her cake.
It took about 20 minutes to tear through the gifts. Afterward I suggested taking the pups for a walk while Bug rode her bike that pawpaw found for her.
What an ordeal. The big girls had brought their two dogs so all together we had 5 dogs and a child on a bike. None of the dogs know how to behave except Pootie so it was chaotic. It sounded like a big disruptive party at first. Then we calmed down to a stroll,sort of. Bug rode her bike all the way to the end of street and back. She was so proud and did so well. She told her mom, "I need you because I love you." Which almost brought us to tears. Then she took a little tumble to the ground. She cried a little then brushed off her tears and got back on that bike. What a trooper.

This little story will bore the life out of most. I just wanted to make note of a wonderful afternoon on an important birthday for bug. I hope that we have many more just like this one.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three significant men

A tired mother of ten tried to make her home warm and cozy, but an overwhelming tension hung in the air.
After chores were done in the early morning hours , this family gathers in the warm kitchen for breakfast. If father is absent on that morning the feeling of joviality and love rises in the room. Otherwise the room is quiet and the only sound heard might be the dropping of a spoon from a nervous hand.

Pap ruled that family with the infamous iron fist. Add alcohol, there was no question that the man was dangerous to anyone that might cross his path and with ten children, sometimes they did. Many times one of the children had to lie there until the chance of a knotted fist or a rough boot was gone. Mother would also freeze knowing full well that rescue came in the form of standing back because rushing to the injured made Pap all the more furious.

Pap must have come from a hateful family. At least that is what we have to think of him.
I was speaking to a friend that was concerned that her son wanted to reach out to a dad that had not been there for him for many years. While I would never give advice on an issue so personal, I have formed a few opinions myself about men and their fathers. Her fear of him becoming like his dad might be unfounded.

The psychology of men and their fathers is not something that I studied in school. But it is something that I have had the opportunity to observe. I have had three significant men in my life. Out of those three men not a one of them had a decent father figure. All of these men showed their resentment throughout adulthood in one form or another.

Even though their lives were different there are some notable similarities.
None of them attended their fathers funeral.
In each case the mother was also abused and when the children were adults, took her out of the home and set her up somewhere else.
One tried to reach out to his dad when he was older and was rebuffed.
Two had fathers that tried to reach out and were rebuffed.
Alcohol was key in the violence that surrounded them but it only played a part.

None of the issues were resolved in this life.

It was believed that he would not live past his 18Th birthday. A toxic diagnosis came which would cause him to worry about dying most of his young life. The old doctor had made a diagnosis based on ignorance rather that knowledge. This question of health caused strife where there should have been none. Of course he did live and is still living.

His father contributed to his strife by letting the little guy be the one that was safe from the beatings that he inflicted on his four siblings because he did’t want to be responsible for the boy’s death. But striking him was the only thing he held back. He had no problem sweeping the table clean with his arms if it wasn’t perfectly placed so the man of the house could have his dinner, or screaming and shouting while everyone scattered. Late afternoons, the children would have that deep feeling of dread. Upon arrival he usually lived up to their worst expectations.
Their beloved mother was not immune from his cruelty, and several times after being thrown out of the house into the cold, she ran to the church for shelter.
This is how they lived their lives

And so it would seem that fathers that abuse would have grown children that would abuse. I have these three men with which to form an opinion and I find that this, in my case at least, has not happened at all. These men found, somewhere in themselves, that well of kindness and wealth of knowledge to be good fathers. Oh, I am sure that the abuse and unholy tension that they were exposed to had much to do with some wanton reactions in their lives. But of the three not one has ever lifted a hand toward children or women in anger.
Since one of them is the father of my children, I can say that he has passed that test where I have failed. I have not been able to hold back the hand when the cheek deserved the slap. And I came from one of those abused men that hardly ever gave me a hard look and never a strike of any kind.

It was a tiny sidewalk, grown over with grass and weeds and an occasional wild guinea pig running through. The boy had a ball. The rule was to be followed and that was to make sure the ball did not roll off that sidewalk into the prize weeds. Of course this was a rule set up to fail. A fourteen year old could not keep that ball on the sidewalk, this boy is four. It probably didn’t take very long. The first bounce of the ball. Out of the house came the one man that should have been the defender, the protector. The kick was swift. The cries went on and on, until it was decided something must be done. A taxi trip to the hospital revealed that this boy had a ruptured kidney. This was the beginning of a long life of abuse, a little boy sitting at the school desk, after the bell, not wanting to go home.

This man battled the strong army of alcoholism and drug abuse for years. Despite this being a family inheritance he left it behind and became a strong and dependable man. A gentle man that saw abuse as something he would never be a part of. He has knocked out the teeth of an opponent in the ring, but he can’t stand to see a child and parent in confrontation. He is a shelter in the storm to me and to his step children. He has physical problems but can be as strong as a warrior.

Obviously, these men are, well… real men. We talk of real men in a joking way and I feel and fear that this is because maybe it isn‘t easy to find a “real man.” One that has walked through the fire. One that stood up against all the odds, in spite of what his young life was like, regardless of what he could have been.
I am grateful that I knew them. All three had a part in making me who I am. Ironically, all three of these men had only daughters, and we know what good they could have done their sons. But it will have to be that it’s enough to know, those daughters just couldn’t possibly love their fathers more.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The little girl on the street just grew up.

Having four dogs, it is my responsibility to take them for a walk. Because it is so hot and humid here, I wait until it gets cool outside before I venture away from the house. Tonight was one of those nights. As I was walking Heidi, I had time to reflect on the neighbor across the street from our house.

The homeowner is a neighbor that has made it pretty clear that he is not crazy about us. It could be the fact that I yelled at them one night plenty years ago because it was about 3AM and I couldn't stand to hear one more blast of their fireworks.

But, living in that house with her dad is a very nice young lady that holds no such grudge against us. I met her the first week that we moved into our house because she came over and said hi. She was the only neighbor that welcomed us.

I noticed over the years that she was a pied piper of children and would be outside with a group of kids of all ages around her. She would swing them around, carry them, chase them and come to their rescue when they were hurt or insulted. She loved animals and would pet and walk your dog happily. She would come around with her box of candy bars for us to buy for her school fundraisers.

As time moved on I would see her walking to her friends house or have a crowd of teens in her yard listening and dancing to music on the front porch. She never failed to wave and say hi when we passed. I would see her mowing the grass, taking out the trash and helping her dad. Once I heard a young girlfriend running from her parent's car excitedly screaming "We're going to see Brittany!, We're going to see Brittany!"

My little neighbor was always happy it seemed. She came and borrowed some peroxide once and said she wanted to try something on her hair. I was worried but whatever she did spurred her to plan to go to hair school because she proudly told us so.

I remember seeing her out in the front yard twirling a big flag. I guess she was in band. It didn't last long. I would see her outside less and less but she could still be seen walking around the corner of her house heading off to a friends house.

One day when I was outside I saw her driving. I was stunned. Driving! She could not be old enough. I did the math. I have lived here eight years this January. That makes her 16!!! I would see her in different cars driving around and thought .. another milestone for her. Not long afterward, I saw her in a beautiful bright red dress. I shouted across the street. "How beautiful! What's the occasion?" "My prom", she said beaming! Once again I added it up. Yup, possible.

A few months later seeing her outside, she excitedly told me "look, dad bought me a car for graduation, a Mustang!" I mumbled something like, that is so great, congratulations." but I was thinking, Where does time go, and why a mustang!!!

So tonight, as I am walking Heidi, I am suddenly feeling sad. I really can't say I know this girl that well. Really, not at all. But as I look in her driveway and notice her car is not at home and there is no high spirited chatter on her front porch, I realize that I miss her. I don't see her walking with her friends anymore. and she has moved on to adult things. A rite of passage that I also went through. Once the car appeared, my bike Flighty went to the basement.

I have planted a little tree and watched it grow big. I have taken many holiday decorations up and down. But what is the most unsettling surprise to me is that I would feel so bittersweet about the growing up of a little neighborhood girl from across the street. She was just eight. Now she is an adult. Good luck to you, my grown-up friend.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hard rain welcomed.

Out of the many good things about Florida living is the nice hard tropical rains that we get. Today was one of those days. It began as a dark cloud and then developed into a loud thunder and flashy light show. The best part about it is you don't have to put up with overcast all day to get a storm in the afternoon. Earlier today was a beautiful day.

I lived 7 years of my life in Beaverton, Oregon. This is a beautiful town just outside of Portland. I should say gorgeous because there are so many things that stand out. Mount Hood is one hundred miles away. When I first learned this I was stunned because when you are moving down Sunset highway it looks like it is right there. One hundred miles! I loved seeing that gorgeous hunk! Also the folks in Oregon are very enviromentally conscious. This means that things shine and they realize the importance of having trees and letting nature do it's thing. I am happy for them that they love the color green brought on by all that drizzle. Because the one issue that I personally had with that area is rain! Not a nice solid blanket of water falling to moisten the Earth. No. Just a constant dripping in a weepy atmosphere destined to last for days and days. The last spring that I spent there I swore to leave. Even the beauty of the summer that followed did nothing to shake my decision.

I would look at the stunning rainbows that occur there and say "These, I will miss.", but I knew my Oregon days were numbered. I could not bear the drizzle and overcast days anymore.

Other things ended up being the determining factor for leaving Oregon. And I was sad. I did love the friendliness of the people. I knew I would miss their smart ideas about the environment. Familarity breeds contentment and I was happy with the places that I knew. My girls did alot of growing up there and I was leaving behind memories. But I was happy to be returning to a sunny place.

I never really thought about rain. Being from Kentucky we do have those heavy half a day or half an hour downpours, complete with the loudest and scariest thunder and lighting .

But one day after I had returned to my moms in Kentucky and we were all standing on my cousin Garlands farmhouse porch, looking at the coming rain, Steve said. "Man, I have only seen rains like this one other time in my life.' He thought it was incredible. When I saw it that way I thought Yeah, it really is. It is rare to see this type of storm in Beaverton.

I have to say that I do love the storms here in Florida. I do not want to see the toronado warning on my television screen though.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another great day...

Each weekend Steve and I decide to take action on some part of our home for improvement. Actually, I guess it's really me that makes that decison, but he usually agrees, sometimes enthusiastically but mostly grudgingly. I know that he only gets 2 days off and he works in the heat but dammit I NEED HELP! Anyway, this is how it usually goes. We wake up. (He always brings me coffee, every morning, without fail) We get into some depressing discussion usually about our kids about some stupid thing that they have done lately. (I am only being honest here, girls)
Then we realize that we are going over the same crap so we say, " Lets go eat." This is where the projects go up in smoke. It never fails that once we leave the house there is no telling when we will come back. Our dogs know this. When we get ready to leave, they are trying to block our way. They have tears in their eyes. They are saying , "Hey, when are you going to spend some quality time here with us, your children?"
Anyway, we could end up anywhere. But today we got some really good stuff just because we decided to take a little drive and ended up in one of our favorite areas here, Riverside. This area to those of you not familiar to Jacksonville neighborhoods is full of beautiful old renovated homes that are just gorgeous and make your eyes water just to look at them. It is an area rich in history and it's easy to imagine how it was when people owned these huge homes years ago. Check out this link if your interested. http:/ When we go we sometimes visit the the Cummer museum, sometimes we go to see the River, or to visit the different little shops. But today .... tada we just found treasure. As we were driving down a tiny little interesting alley, we spotted (how should I put this) a load of good castoffs. Defination, other peoples trash. I found a great old vintage outdoor metal chair. I mean it is great. It is alittle bit rusted but that is NO problem. I can't wait to have it painted in one of those dreamy parfait colors from the fifties. We also found some huge concrete planters with rocks and glass embedded in them. Lovely. Some nifty little bamboo nets that Ayla will love. And a beautiful huge gas grill in great shape. Jeeze, good thing we brought the truck. And good thing Steve has muscles!
We are very happy with our little treasures. All we need is a barn. Yes, someday.
Unfortunately, our projects must wait til next weekend. Yes, we'll make a list!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hi, I know you're thinking that I am about to brag on the fact that I live in Florida and that is why I am writing this blog. But nay. That is not the reason. I just thought the title sounded good and of course a lot of people do think this is paradise. Especially those that don't live here and come for a few days or weeks out of the year. I will agree there are times when it is very paradisesque. As when my husband and i walk the beach together being silly and enjoying the beautiful beaches. When we are hunting for shark teeth under the most beautiful blue sky and find treasures of full shells, bottle glass or yes, teeth. Just sitting at the beach seeing where sky meets ocean is like taking a deep cleansing breath. Those little seagulls are always present with the little sea-sea song that is so familiar. And sometime the dolphins will be playing out there.I will go on about the beach I am sure many times as I continue with this blog because it is so much part of the reason I am here.But, to be fair there are some things that are almost unbearable here. Let me start with the immensely hot hot weather. It is so miserably hot that it almost takes the fun out of summer. Even being near the water on those very hot days is not pleasant.I love to grow flowers. I hesitate to call it gardening because I am not so organized. My back yard is an assortment of things that I have bought, found and dragged from the last place that I lived. Both Steve and I are pack rats so I seem to always be cleaning up the yard. Sometimes I just stack everything and then I might pass the pile that's going to the trash and say huuummm, maybe I could use that. Believe me if you could see some of the junk that I have. But I do try to maintain a few flowers and vines among the yard art.Anyway, back to the hot weather. Forget about having a nice garden unless you have help. A partner that wants to have a garden too. Because that sun is so darned hot that unless you have two people that really want this and can share the load...well trust me, it's really hard. The humidity turns you into something like a hot dog just off the grill, all greasy and hot and panting to draw some oxygen into your lungs. The only time I was gung-ho about working in the yard on a hot day was when I accidentally overdosed on 2 diet pills and was buzzing around like I was an ant on acid. So the heat has to be a big negative feature of Florida living. Oh, I know that it has been hotter than hell all across America these days. But we have this every summer! Another thing is the mosquitoes. Poor Steve cannot even enjoy the outside. This California born and raised man has attracted more mosquitoes than the man that deliberately puts his hand in that mosquito box. I swear he should be tested for that mosquito disease . What is it? Malaria?When we go outside in the yard to maybe get a break from the four walls, we actually bring a box fan out there and turn it on full blast and aim it right at us. This works for two reasons, cools us a little and blows away those pesky mosquitoes, a little.Now, with all that said I will add one more thing tonight. Jacksonville people are totally nuts when it comes to cutting down trees. You would think that they would know that trees are good, right? You would think that they would know that trees clean the air and shade our homes and bodies. Not only that, they are beautiful. They are living things. Some folks here park under their beautiful trees. They cut the wrong limbs, tie wire around the trunk and leave it forever which damages the trees. And sometimes after all that, the tree lives to be beautiful. But don't be too admiring, because chances are some tree butcher will be swinging up the street knocking on doors to help you get rid of that dangerous tree. Hopefully one will visit me soon. I would love to accidentally open my door a little too wide and let my dogs slip out for a teeth baring greeting. oh, sorry!
by Janet Ledesma
9:15:00 PM
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