This morning I went walking on the rails to trails in Cheatham County. I discovered that Turkey Junction comfort station is open for business. Last time I was there this was not the case. The big sign said - CLOSED FOR WINTER. But today - Open! This means yes, no matter that the forecast has us dipping below freezing this week - It's Springtime. What an odd, late winter we've had.
As most of you know Momma has been gone down in Florida staying with Cousin Deb and visiting. Which meant I was going to get the new novel finished. Did I? No. I did not. But man oh man - I'm getting there. Every Saturday at High Noon I share some inside stories on writing the novel and new developments and what it's like to be a writer in process with the Undercover Reader Posse. And it's absolutely fabulous! So much so that friends have asked me to please start a page on Patreon so that more people can participate and discover which is ON MY LIST to do. I've promised. BUT FIRST -
Going to get Mama and rounding the corner on 50,000 plus words with the next 40,000 already in my head but they must get the page! I've been like the character who is a writer in Romancing the Stone. She is finishing her novel, has no food, the cat has no food, the house is a mess - - - I so get this. My sister gets it too and I'm so fortunate to have a sister who happens to also be a reader and who loves my novels and cheers me on to the finish line. She called me the other day and said, "Do you have food?" And I said, sure, sure, sure as I vaguely recalled a can of beans and maybe some noodles. There are cans of something in there, I said - and went back to writing. She showed up at my door after church with real food.
So that night I made a burger and ate it on loaf bread with ketchup and mayo seeping through and I thought - Wow! This is like the best thing I've ever eaten in my life! Which made me think about -
The fact that one of our family meals that made us so happy was what you might call Hamburger Helper before there was such a thing. It was macaroni noodles with hamburger and a kinda homemade spaghetti sauce and we ate this with Saltine crackers on the side and I just can't tell you what a great family evening it was EVERY TIME WE HAD THIS MEAL. Why? I don't know. I tried to make it a few months ago but it didn't come out right. It just didn't taste exactly the same. And maybe it was because we needed to all be together, to be in that happy something is coming on TV we all like and we are going to watch it together and eat this homemade something or other. Simple times. No cell phones. No laptops. No screens but the precious blue light of the tv and maybe some western on Daddy wanted to see. And this said meal would be consumed in the Den which was the really only room in the house that mattered. If it had become unmoored from the rest of the house and we had just stayed in that one, big room with the fireplace we would have sailed away happy.
This morning it was all blue skies when I took off for my walk. And I would not have been walking if it had not been for running an errand for Mom at 8am to prepare for going to pick her up this week. But there I was at the head of the trail practically and I thought - well, it's silly not to just jump on it. Then I hit the trail and listened to the birds and the water and the wind in the leaves for awhile before I stuck my headphones in and listened to Johnny Nash singing "I can see clearly now," which is a great little 'let's all start our day in a happy way' song. And suddenly -
I'm fifteen again working on the beach at my Mom's restaurant. It was our second home. Long, busy shifts from Memorial Day to Labor day when the beach used to shut down for the Winter. Right on the Gulf of Mexico so that I could wait on tables and watch the waves crash on the shore at the same time. Let me just say right now there are some facts about my history are absolutely charmed. Growing up in this restaurant on the beach is one of them.
When I turned fifteen my Mom let me move to the 'night shift'. Glory, glory. I was able to then hang out and work with the college students and the teachers who picked up extra dollars waiting on tables for the summer. That summer of 15 I remember so clearly - this song, one teacher, us cleaning the bar before we opened and the waitresses putting in quarters to play the juke box and this young woman playing this song over and over and looking out past the sand dunes, the breaking waves, across all that water to the horizon and after a thoughtful moment saying, "This is my theme song this year." And me asking, "Why?" just as innocent as you please. She thought for a moment and maybe thought about trying to explain a whole lot of things but then she just smiled and said - 'It just is," because I was fifteen and no matter what things I'd been through by then, what maybe I'd seen - I was still fifteen. I wasn't old enough to understand, I can see all obstacles in my way. . . I think I can make it now the pain is gone . . .
Cheesy song from the perspective of years later when I'd be in the middle of a concert waiting for the Allman brothers to come on stage and Wet Willie would open for them and take the stage as the stars came out singing, Keep on Smiling. And that's one of those moments you realize you are in the perfect place at the perfect time no matter what happens after this night. (That's right Andy - Wet Willie.) And it would be Little Feat singing Dixie Chicken years and years later when I was living in South Florida and starting yet another life. Or even years folded into years when I was living in Kansas City watching Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Turn the Page like nobody's business with the saxophone being everything a saxophone is meant to be.
That was then. And then was good.
Just like now is now. And now is good, too.
The skies have turned all Nashville grey again on me, the temps have dropped, the wind is blowing once again up on this hill. The chimes are getting crazy and I've got a fire blazing in the fireplace. And while I want to turn on the tv, pour a glass of wine and put my feet up - I have these characters that are as full of life as I feel at this moment. And, they have something to say and the funny thing is - I'm the only one that hears them so I have to go write it down.
Peace to you and all you love From the Hill on this High and Holy week.
Today is St. Joseph's Day. I would not know this but my friend tagged me with a memory on Facebook. This is one of the days where Facebook feels like the best, good friend ever because of those fun memories which involved a hit and run accident in New Orleans.
St. Josephs is the day that Mary's husband Joseph is recognized and paid honor. In some places more than others.
Sicily, it is also believed that if a woman manages to sneak a lemon off of St. Joseph’s Table on this day, then she have better luck finding a husband. It is also customary for people to wear red on this day and to indulge themselves with doughnuts and crème puffs. In Italy, Spain and Portugal, St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day. (Obviously, Sicily is a really good place to be on St. Joseph's Day)
Since New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States was a major port of entry for Sicilian immigrants during the late 1800s and has a large Sicilian population, this holiday is celebrated by the whole city. On St. Joseph’s Day. St. Joseph’s Tables are built both for the public and by private individuals. These altars are then filled with a variety of different food – just like the celebrations in Sicily – however, these foods usually have somewhat of a Cajun twist to them. Afterward, all of the food is then usually donated to the poor. New Orleans also has a variety of parades and marching bands performing on the streets during this day. (Obviously, New Orleans is the best city to be in if you are in the US on St. Joseph's Day! Furthermore - this information was totally lifted and pasted from the St. Josephs Day site on the internet)
So - OUR St. Josephs Day memory all started like this.
I have known Virginia Dixon all my life which means since Middle School formerly known as Jr. High. My first memory of her is when I was forced to teach Algebra because for some reason we all had to teach for a day or maybe we got extra credit for that and I needed extra credit because I have never understood Algebra a day in my life (never mind that I think I can understand theoretical physics and quantum mechanics or at least lets say TRYING to is a hobby of mine) but this day trying to teach 7th grade Algebra Virginia kept saying she didn't understand as I wrote on the overhead projector. She wasn't being mean - she really didn't understand. What I wanted to say is LOOK, I don't understand EITHER but I'm trying to wing it for extra credit and sit down. In spite of this we somehow passed 7th grade and went on to High School where we were friendly if not neighborhood friends and we were friends with the same people. Got it? Okay.
So flash forward a few busy years and we both end up married with children (literally) in Pensacola and renew our friendship. And we are both writing in one capacity of another and we learn of a Screenwriting Seminar in the Big Easy and we decide this is one of the greatest reasons to get out of town ever. So we load up and head to New Orleans minus husbands and children. We planned to stay with our darling high school friend's Sue Finlaw's mother who was one of those mothers every kid wanted. She was mother to a tribe of kids that basically moved in her house for the summer and never left. Me being primary said kid. She had moved to NO so we had the perfect place to stay. We went to the Screenwriting conference which used The Body by Stephen King as it's working example which went on to be the movie Stand by Me - which is a great movie.
I remember we had a great dinner one night in the French Quarter and we went to Preservation Hall and Virginia says we went to a Voodoo palace but since we are and we were both Christian voodoo really wouldn't have been our thing so I don't know how that happened unless we just wandered into a whodooyouvoodoo nest without knowing it. This kind of thing can easily happen in New Orleans.
What I do remember is that night in the French Quarter where the moon was hanging just over the buildings and a parade broke out down the street and we were sitting like queens on the balcony looking out over the city. Totally in the right place at the right time. Here came the marching bands, the floats, the happiness extreme and the kid playing the saxophone who may have grown up to be Tina Turner's sax player for that infamous TV concert and there is a magic that is a New Orleans night that belongs to no other place in the world.
The next morning, coffee in hand, driving in the car on our way to the 2nd day of the conference we were hit and hit hard by a car from the rear. Totally in the wrong place at the wrong time. The driver jumped out and fled on foot, abandoning the car and was never found. We were fine until Sue's Mom showed up and said, Oh, honey's and hugged us and we both started crying being the grown women we were but suddenly feeling fifteen again. We were taken to the hospital for whiplash and so forth, both given neck braces and heavy duty motrin and sent on our way. We made it to the conference late and walked in the big auditorium after the guy had started teaching and he just stopped mid sentence when he saw us and said - OK, I have to ask - WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU GUYS? At which point Virginia and I tried to turn and look at each other but we couldn't do it without turning out entire bodies because we couldn't turn our heads. Then someone said, My God! There's blood all over you we realized, No, that's coffee from the accident that has somehow turned to the color of dried blood.
I assure you - a good time was had by all. We made it to Cafe Du Monde which is one of the most important things in the world. And we ate that sweet concoction known as New Orleans beignets (which don't count if they are not from Cafe Du Monde) And we talked about the power of story and then Virginia told me the entire saga of her three book trilogy for the ride back to Pensacola which was many hours but it made the trip go by quickly.
Memories. It's what friendships were born for. I hope you have warm ones from adventures gone by or that you are planning a new road trip in your near future.
Wishing you blessings on all the ordinary and high, holy days of your life.
wDisclaimer: This is a tired, free-for-all disjointed update from the hill.
IT SNOWED! In the beautiful, you have to be kidding me, is this for real? Is this my view? Am I one of the luckiest people on the planet or what! Kind of ways! I woke up, looked out my window and went - WOW! Just, wow! (This is what me and cousin Deb say a lot now. It's our go-to for every situation. Many of them that fall into the realms of really? really? Wow. - see previous blog on being a super ZAZA.)
I have such a headache today in spite of this beautiful view that I broke down and bought Goodie powers which I have sworn off for a week. Goody powders are a magical southern remedy for headaches of all sizes. The last time I was in New York City they did not sell Goody powders. The last time I was in Phoenix, AZ I was pulled out of line for having what looked to be an explosive substance on my palms. Then taken to a little room. Then frisked. Then the bomb squad guys were called in. White powder residue found. "Goody powders," I said. "This southern writer on the road's best friend." It was the first time I'd ever been an hour early for a flight in my life. I thought I'd be sitting for an hour working on a new book on the laptop. Hahahah. NO! I just made the flight. I took a Goody. Ordered a beer. If you had been there and had to be frisked in a little room and have your luggage attacked by the bomb squad you would have done the same.
Today. I realize that I really, really, really don't cut myself enough slack. Seriously. I wrote 1500 words on the new novel. Did some additional research that was just like rocket fuel for the story. Planned to write 1500 more words mid-morning and another 1500 words late afternoon. This was the perfect plan. I was on it. And all about it. And into it. In spite of taking a few breaks to post pics of the snow on facebook and instagram (I've been locked out of my Twitter acct for over a year because I can't verify the right password and just as soon as I have TIME I will fix this) so - in spite of those little breaks I had my writing plan down to a fine art. But then I had to take care of some other things that involved the real world.
Like food. And shopping. And paying bills and doing laundry and - trust me - these things have to get down to critical mass before I do anything about them while in novel writing mode. So - while I was getting laundry together I decided to shovel out some clothes that needed to be donated. Two bags full. Too small, too small, too small (gee when is the last time I wore these pants?!!! )Looks great but has bad memories, gotta go, gotta go, too small - and so forth. Don't judge me. It had to be done. It's overdue. I'm not finished but I bagged two bags full of gotta go and loaded them in the car. I suspect they will stay there until Saturday but they are THERE. They made it that far. And I did some other important stuff and worked on class for tomorrow morning for the Phone Booth Writing Series that I'm still over the moon about teaching - and yes, you can still sign up for classes.
BUT - I have been so - Well, River - what happened to those other words today? Where are they? Why aren't they done? 1500 words is a good, normal day. Shoveling clothes is a good normal day. Doing laundry and washing your face good, normal day. Slack. We all need some. Because in the middle of that I watched the news for a few minutes which can derail the most determined of any of us. Because there is scary stuff happening in Austin, Tx and scary stuff around the world. This may have been when my headache set in. Because I am affected by this. Thank God. I am still affected by this.
I am behind in half my life. I am long overdue updating my Psychology Today blog. I'm overdue writing about the women of history and the amazing women who surround me in my present life. These two things shall be done. Maybe not as soon as I like but they are on the horizon.
So is the finishing of this amazing, new novel. And I say that about the story because I love the characters, the setting, the story. And it keeps surprising me every time I return to the page. I hope that it surprises you as well. I have loved telling little inside stories to the Undercover Reader Posse every Saturday at Noon. (Which you can also still sign up for)
Which reminds me that I'm also overdue blogging about all the great books I've been reading or the wonderful new releases of my author friends - but I'll get there.
Tonight - I went to the store so tired. Thinking of my friends who are walking through the healing battle of cancer like Goddess Warriors and how can I worry about deadlines or being weary about anything. But still - I. am. human. So, very human. So I'm trying to check out at the little self check thingy but I run into a problem and a cashier woman I've never seen comes over and pats me on the shoulder - and I could have broken down in a puddle of tears! There is nothing like the momentary kindness of a stranger out of the unexpected blue to turn me into mushy me. That and those insurance commercials where people are singing - I'll stand by you.
So, I'm saying special prayers tonight for that woman. Don't know her name but I know her face and her touch. As if she could see through my soul to the burdens I carried there.
Then I came home and talked baby talk and passed out treats to Rescue Kevin who always greets my car like I've been gone a month. And poured a glass of cheap, red wine and stuck a pot pie of the cheap variety in the oven that is the kind my sister and I always flipped upside down and ate, the kind (and my friend Rachel C. agrees with me) is the perfect comfort food. And I built a fire and sent out a reminder for our phone conference Phone Booth class in the am and read Facebook friend Will Maguire's post - "Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind is bearing me across the sky. ~ Ojibway Indian Proverb
And I thought - Yes, and Amen, Will.
Today - with all my to-dos and behinds and loves and worries - a great wind is bearing me across the sky. And I am so very, very thankful.
Peace to you and all you love tonight from my small corner of the world.
I'm a sucker for two things. Grandchildren. Everyones. Mine included. And free trips to Paris.If someone pops up with a free ticket to Paris and says only glitch is you have to be on that jet by midnight and sleep in a bookstore the entire week your there. Check, got it, gone!
So, when a sleepover night popped up for the Charmings (the girls are the Adorables) I said yes, get in the car. Off to the store for snacks because Zaza has been in finish her novel mode. This means having a pantry that looks like. Coffee, can of tuna. a can of beans. Red Wine.
100,00000 dollars later with cereal and sausages and eggs and bread and milk and strawberries and yogurt and ginger ale and grapes the size of grapefruit and . . . . a box of Cereal.
Shopping for the cereal produced a negotiation with a five year old that should have been something used during the cold war.
I'm gonna have to say No, kid to the crack coco and I'll highly suggest you think Raisin Bran. I'll have to pass on the Raisin Bran, Zaza and suggest we strongly consider classic frosted flakes.
(Cousin Deb and I would sit down after a rough day in high school and eat an entire box with the gallon of milk sitting on the table between us. My little sister had to start hiding them to get any.)
Let's pass up on those delicious sugar coated bombs and go more traditional with classic Cheerios.
I'm not going with the Cheerios, Zaza but how do you feel about Apple Cinnamon Cheerios?
I think we can work with this, I say.
Regardless of the sugar content, I'm out of time. I'm appreciative that I had a witness to this conversation. A stranger, a woman in the aisle that looked at me with a smile fully appreciating the calm and intelligent way this negotiation was handled. No name calling. No screaming. No power plays. The only cereal I can't actually bring into the house is LIFE because I will walk around the house with my arm in the box up to my elbow and eat it until it is gone. Life is a weakness for me. It has just the right amount sweet to crunch ratio. Wish I had some right now. When Momma has been particularly ornery she will buy me Life Cereal and Red wine as a peace offering. (I do not consume them together but both can be satisfying in their own right.)
When we unloaded groceries the eating train began immediately with all aboard and me the conductor of constant feed. I do not understand how they can eat two yogurts a piece and a bowl of strawberries and chicken noodle soup with crackers and then lasagne within 70 minutes. But they CAN! Then HAVE A BEDTIME SNACK. The 3 year old is a cross between Winnie the Pooh and Baby Groot and I hate to break it to him but he has inherited my genes which means he has a metabolism that burns at the rate of a bear in hibernation. The Five year old is a cross between a cheetah and a chimpanzee and he must eat fifty,000 times his body weight each day to survive. This is the luck of the genetic draw.
I don't know why in my special little mind I thought I would have them and they would be snuggly and quiet while I worked on my novel. Or that I'd write quietly while they continued sleeping like angels. No, it did not work this way. They had bubble baths and then the five year old kept saying he thought he could still fit into his mickey mouse pajamas and I said no, you need to wear star wars. He put on mickey mouse. Baby groot had his Mickey's on already with his pooh stomach rocking that shirt. Five minutes later the five year old says his Mickey's are itching him. They're too tight I say - put on star wars. Those are too big he tells me. I'll find Spongebob and so he did. Thank God for Zaza's who have a wardrobe of wolf pack bedtime costume changes when I can't find two socks that match for myself if my life depended on it.
BEDTIME - hahahaha. The five year old is getting over MONO. (What five year old gets MONO?????) and the Three year old has the flu. Diagnosed last week. Has been on meds. Do I put the one with mono or the one with the flu on the cute little sleeping sofa I designed in my room just for a reading/napping/sleep over for a wolf pack member and which one do I put in bed with ME?. Innie minnie miney. OK, kid with flu, hit the sleeper a whole twelve inches farther from me and kid getting over mono who hopefully doesn't now have his brothers flu in bed with me. I built a barricade of pillows between us, handed him a bear and said here. Love you guys. Lay me down to sleep, Night, night.
The feeding began again at 6:30. with first breakfast. Cheerios. Yogurt. But a strange smell surfaced like a blue smoke. Could that be? Could that be? No, surely not. The three year old is Potty trained. The smell doesn't go away. Hey kid, did you poop? Nope. Are you sure? Nope. Let me inspect something. Wow! Really? Really? This unfortunately explains the sticky, wet spot I stepped in earlier in bare feet.
We need to go to the bathroom he tells me. Wow, really? Now you tell me.
40,0002 wet wipes, two bath cloths, three towels, a bar of soap and a new costume later I'm taking the trash outside when I realize the three year old is running to wake up his brother when I run back going no, no, no he has mono. You have to let him sleep and sleep and sleep late.
2nd Breakfast - Eggs, toast, maple flavor sausage. The five year old comes down the stairs looking really rough. Zaza? Good morning precious what is it? I think I wet the bed. Wow, really? Yeah. Ok, back upstairs. Soap, washcloths, towels, costume change. How about those Starwars pajamas now? Looking good now aren't they? Kinda warm and soft aren't they?
Back to the kitchen to make another plate of breakfast but no, he's still in first breakfast mode. Apple Cinamon Cherrios in order. I'm making cereal and in my mind working out a scene in my head for the novel that involves physics, an old woman, a secret, another secret, and a surprise.
Here kid. Daddy calls. Lot going on over there. Wondered when I was bringing kids home. Asks the sugar bear 3 year old if he is ready to come home. NO, he says. We're staying with Zaza.
Ok guys. You've got a few more hours. Maybe a nap. Which means I need to take out the trash and wash the sheets. Pull out some books, pencils, trucks for you to fight over.
I'm a great Zaza. Absolutely, positively great. But then - I'm a better Zaza then I was a Mom simply because I'm older. I was a young vivacious mother, writing plays and going to rehearsals and strapping the kids on my back wherever I went. And, we went a lot of places. Someone asked me the other day if I had taught my sons to cook. I looked at him and said flat out - I taught my sons to order from a menu and behave in a restaurant. (Now, that I think about it, I consider these critical life skills. Maybe I wasn't such a bad mom after all.)
It Seems I've found my place - Being Zaza. Staying in one place. It was one of the very things I ran from all my life. Simply staying put. But here I am doing it and stepping into the shoes that have been worn for so long by my mother, my daddy, my Aunt Kate, my grandmother and Memaw. Those people who always left the light on for us. Where showing up in the backwoods of Georgia at two am didn't mean you needed to get a hotel room so as not to disturb. It meant my Aunt Kate got up and started cooking. It meant within just a few minutes our tired minds and bodies would be sitting at the kitchen table eating biscuits and sausage and eggs and sharing stories. It meant we broke into Mom and Dad's house so many times climbing through the kitchen window that Mom said she needed to just make dozen keys and lay them right out by the door to make it easy on people. We broke in because it was home. Because even though we 'grew up' and made a show of going off in the world, it was still 'home'. My sons did the same thing. Even if they showed up unexpectedly and there was no one there to welcome them or open the door - they climbed through Nana's window, then opened the cabinets and started looking for something to eat. It meant my Grandmother spoiled me with homemade chocolate cakes and my Memaw would step out on the back porch with a big grin and say, "What do ya'll think you're doin?" As if she was surprised when she had a seven layer peanut butter cake waiting on the kitchen table.
It meant that when we walked into the house, pulled up in the yard, crossed that bridge, no matter what time, day or year - someone smiled to see our faces just because it was us and that brought them joy. They let us know it. They showed it. We were loved. We were welcome.
So I understand what it means to plant myself on this hill. It means Being a taproot the kids can come back to, anytime day or night, any year. Somewhere they will always know that they can open the door and yell, Zaza, I'm home! And, I'm hungry.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.