Tag Archives: once upon a time


Obviously I haven’t been writing much lately. We lost Simba the big fat Kitty in November, and I kept putting off writing about that. Now I just don’t have the energy to do it. I miss my cat. I’ve had a fat, male orange tabby cat since 1986. First Chester, then Simba. And for a little while we had both of them. We still have an orange tabby, but she’s a she, and she has issues…definitely a different personality type from the boy orange kitties. I want another male orange tabby cat, please. I know it’s stupid. We already have two cats, two dogs and a horse, and I keep saying “no more animals”. But I miss him terribly and I want him back, or another one like him. At the very least, I wish I’d had the chance to say goodbye to him before he left.

Speaking of stupid things, I did one recently. Sent a friend request to someone on FB that I haven’t talked to in, oh, thirty-five years maybe? It wasn’t stupid because of the number of years that have passed since we communicated last; there are other people from that time in my life that I’ve reconnected with recently and it’s fun to catch up on how our lives turned out, finding out how we’ve changed, how we’ve remained the same, how much we still have in common, or not.

But this one was different. This person really mattered to me during a time in my life when the number of people I could count as true friends was extremely small, and I was in the process of moving away and losing those friends. At the time I thought I was losing them forever. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with a couple of them (you know who you are.) The night before we moved there was an end-of-the-year party at school, and I spent that evening with him. So, sort of on a dare, I gathered up my courage, what little of it there was, wrote a nice little note, and hit the ‘send’ button.

And nothing happened.

“Is it too much to hope that somewhere inside she knows she matters?”

I guess it depends on who she matters to, doesn’t it?


the deli

Yesterday we went to lunch at a local deli. When we first moved here over 20 years ago, there were several locations of the local deli, including one downtown where I worked. Over the years the owners have sold first one location, then another, until now there are only two (I think) original delis left.

I was surprised to see that the menu hadn’t really changed at all. You still order by number, and number 5 is probably the perenniel favorite. It’s something like a battered, deep-fried chicken breast served on a bun with bacon, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo or mustard. Basically it’s a coronary. Then there’s a super version of it, although I can’t remember what makes it ‘super’, that’s, well, quadruple bypass.

Hubby ordered the usual Reuben. I had a chili taco salad.

This particular location has seen better days as far as its decor is concerned. It’s dark, a bit seedy. The space was probably a shoe store when the shopping center was first built. Remember Thom McAn Shoes? Had those great big display windows on either side of the entrance. My dad bought me a pair of black and white saddle oxfords from good ‘ol Thom, in ’75 I think. I was in the eighth grade. All the cool girls wore b&w saddles. I used to love to look in the shoe store windows.

Well, at the deli the windows on one side are for dining, sort of a raised platform dining experience. The opposite window has a hand-painted board with Tom and Jerry extolling the praises of the soup, salad and sammiches.

It’s been years since I’ve had a taco salad from the deli. When I worked downtown our whole team would troop down the block to the deli, and my best friend and I would always order taco salads. There was interesting elevated platform dining in that restaurant too. We’d always try to get a big table in the upper level so we could be loud and goofy and not disturb the peace. Sometimes there were 10-12 of us piled up there, munching and complaining about management and stupid project requirements and unreachable goals and deadlines designed to be missed. It was kinda fun.

Of the mob of us, only 1 still works for the company and his job is to be the go-between for the system users on one side and the foreign, off-shore contractors (that used to be us) on the other side. Some of us were able to transition into web and internet development, or network administration. The rest of us filled in where we could until we quit or were advised to seek employment elsewhere. A few have moved away, including my friend.

So I sat there, eating my taco salad, the sights and smells of the deli bringing to the forefront of my mind all those people, all those lunches, ups and downs in our careers and our personal lives, Several of us had children the same year; now those babies are college freshmen. There were separations, divorces, remarriages, more babies, life and death itself, all celebrated around the tables at the deli.

The taco salad I had yesterday was just as good as it always was.

The memories were oh so much better.

Taylor and Maria

See that guy in the video up there? His name is Taylor Cameron Carpenter.

If you Google him you find out he’s a “rock star organist”.

When he was about 14, he was our church organist while he attended Arts high school in the area. When I think about those years now it blows my mind to realize he was only 14. His technical skills at the organ, or piano, harpsichord, whatever, are exceptional. But what always amazed me was his ability to improvise. I’m not talking about a typical improv an organist would do to get from a hymn in one key and meter to another hymn in other key and/or meter.

In December 1995 a dear friend of ours died from a rare form of cancer. She and her family were ardent supporters of the arts. Her memorial service was not only a tribute to her life, but also a musical celebration of her life offered by Taylor. It was mentioned that our friend had a flair for the dramatic when it came to her artistic talent. She was a painter, sculptor, singer, decorator. Everything she did was uniquely her own, and sometimes got her into a teensy bit of trouble. Like the year she decorated the fellowship hall for Christmas by hanging the Christmas tree upside-down from the ceiling. It was a fad for a year or two, as I recall. But she embraced it! There was the tree, hanging down in all its glory, and people were talking! You would have thought she’d desecrated a sacred icon, instead of twisting an adapted pagan symbol into something completely different, as Monty Python would say.

So, in her memorial service our pastor compared her to “Maria” from “The Sound of Music”, and referred to the song “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” when speaking of her.

Once the memorial part of the service was complete, it was time for Taylor’s musical offering. I remember him playing “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”, which had been one of her favorite carols. There were a couple of other pieces that I can’t recall specifically. One was probably a hymn.

But THIS, I remember: As Taylor played, a simple melody was forming above the frenzy of notes flying from his hands and feet. It was familiar, but not quite above the threshold of recognizability. At first the notes were elongated, making it harder to pull them out of the mire. But as the tempo increased, and the melody rose from the bass line to the upper registers, there it was: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Of course, my friend’s name wasn’t Maria. And now Taylor is world-famous and goes by Cameron.

But for that one moment in time, on a cold December afternoon, Taylor and Maria danced.

And it was magic.


As Garrison Kieler would say, “It’s been a tough week in Lake Woebegon.” Everything about this week has been difficult. Not all bad, just difficult.

The election: Will the next president actually bring about wealth-redistribution? I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have any! Maybe I’ll get some. My nephew found this somewhere on YouTube and posted it on Facebook:

The Redistribution of Wealth Isn’t Appreciated For What It Is Until It’s Practiced!

“Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read “Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08″ tie, again, I laughed–just imagine the coincidence…

….When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful….

…At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient deserved money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application…..”

As Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”

Facebook: Dang, but I’m becoming an addict. I’m keeping up w/ family, the kids I hang out with at church, friends, including Alecto and a friend I made back in ’77 at the Virginia Governor’s School at Mary Washington College. It was amazing how much we remembered about our month-long stay in Fredericksburg, and how similar we are in interests, philosophy, etc after all these years.

I’m also learning new names and new faces that belong to my new soon-to-be step-siblings, and their children, and their children’s children. Lots of new names to remember.

The movers are coming Saturday to pick up the furniture from mom’s that’s going to her new digs. I remember when I met movers who brought furniture from mom and dad’s house to here. Seems like only yesterday.

It’s officially November 7. My dad died on November 7, 2004, at around daybreak. His stroke occurred on November 3, Wednesday after Election day. I remember so many tiny details about that week, and at the same time there are hours that have totally escaped the confines of my mind. Probably a good thing.

The past month has been one of the worst fibro flares I’ve had in ages. And then there are the allergies. I need to find some local honey. It’s supposed to help with allergies. Anyway, we have funky weather here in North Carolina. it’s supposed to be 76 degrees tomorrow, 46 degrees on Saturday. I don’t do drastic weather changes.

So, here I am at 12:56 am on Friday, November 7, 2008, wondering if I’ll get any sleep tonight or if the memories are gonna keep rattling around in my head, making noises and begging for attention, thus keeping me awake.

On a lighter note, the tale of the pink hippopotamus is about to enter a new phase as she gets acquainted with the other hippopotamusses and they all gather to cross the grassland in search of a new home. Pinkie has lots of hippo-siblings to meet, as I operate a stuffed hippo refuge wherever I go.

Sometimes I think hubby wishes I would forget about the hippo comment. I’ve been love-struck for hippos since way back when he teased me by making reference to the similarities between a hippo’s backside and, well, you get the idea. That one little comment was enough to launch me on a career of searching and collecting all things hippopotami.

And ya know, the holidays are fast approaching so of course it’s time for me to start singing my favorite holiday ditty:

I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will do,

Don’t wanna doll, no dinky tinker-toys, I wanna hippopotamus to play with and enjoy….


Feel free to sing along if you know the words.

Of course, I remember every one of them.

tale of the pink hippopotamus

Long ago (last weekend) in a strange and foreign land (the mall) there lived a pink hippopotamus. Actually ‘lived’ isn’t quite right….

Long ago in a strange and foreign land, a pink hippopotamus was being held hostage in a glass prison by an evil claw. Many brave villagers attempted to free the poor hippo from the prison where the evil claw held her captive along with many other exotic animals. Alas, none was able to vanquish the evil claw in battle, and the pink hippo sufferred in silence until, one magical day (last Saturday) a brave warrior and his family came to the strange land in search of sturdy footwear (running shoes) for the brave warrior.

The search was long and fruitless, so the entire family stopped at the local tavern (the food court) in search of food, drink and a respite from the throngs of other villagers also searching for trinkets and tasty bits. Upon aquiring grog and meat pies (Sonic and some Japanese stuff) the weary troupe settled down for a brief repast. As they enjoyed their meal (yeah, right….mall food) and observed the antics of some of the younger villagers, the matriarch of the family (that would be, um, me) was taken aback at the sight of the imprisoned pink hippopotamus.

It should be noted here that the family matriarch holds a special affinity in her heart for the noble hippopotamus, having been summarily equated to the beast many years ago by her young suitor, now her soulmate and patriarch of the family. It should also be noted that the comparison between beast and maiden was made in jest and endearment, whereas now the similarities are a bit more, um, veritable.

In a brave attempt to free the pink hippo from its glass prison, the brave warrior offerred to challenge the evil claw to a duel. (Actually, I dared the Wubby to try and get the hippo from the claw game and gave him 4 quarters.) The battle ensued. Both sides fought heartily, and although the young warrior was indeed brave in his quest against the evil claw, he was defeated. He returned to the family to regain his strength (finish eating the Japanese stuff) and possibly prepare for one final bout with the enemy (if anyone had any more quarters.)

After fashioning one more weapon to use against the evil claw (yep, I had 2 more quarters mixed in with the Dominican pesos in my wallet) the young warrior went back into battle, his sister the princess attending to him as he fought. The elders could not bear to face the carnage, so they looked away and prayed for the safety of the warrior, princess and humble hippo.

Moments passed. Tension mounted. Would the warrior vanquish the claw and free the hippo? Or would the evil claw again best the warrior and take his weapons?? (Would we ever get out of the mall????)

An eerie silence settled over the tavern, until, suddenly a cry of victory arose from the warrior as he snatched the hippo from the jaws of death and delivered it to his matriarch.

(Actually, after grabbing the hippo with the claw, dropping it into the drawer-thingy and pulling it out of the whatever-you-call-it, he tossed it across the food court to me and, as I reached out to catch it, I managed to hit hubby in the head with it.)

Having rescued the pink hippo, the family continued the quest for appropriate footwear and also aquired some recent broadsheets for perusal at a later date. As matriarch and princess wandered from one merchant stall to another, villagers looked on in amazement at the happy hippo. The princess, though, was somewhat subdued by the presence of the hippo among the clan. (You know it’s embarrassing for a 14-year-old girl to be seen walking in the mall, with her mom who is carrying a stuffed animal.)

Gathering their parcels, everyone left for home, where the pink hippopotamus now lives in freedom from the claw and has been befriended by the large family feline who, upon seeing the lovely fluffiness of the hippo’s pink coat, became immediately enchanted by it and now likes to cuddle up with it as he settles in for a long after-dinner nap.

And so, patriarch, matriarch, warrior, princess, feline and hippo now live in harmony in the ancestral cottage.

Until sometime soon, when we pack up all our stuff and move down the road.

Poor hippopotamus might wish she was back in the mall before it’s all over.


We’ve lived in this house for 19 years. When we bought it there were 3 trees in the front yard: a miscellaneous pine that had been a Christmas tree but was dying fast, a Bradford pear, and a maple tree.

The dying pine was the first to go.

When our son was about three we decorated the maple tree for Easter. I picked him up so he could hang a plastic egg from the top branch.

The Bradford got bigger and bigger over the years. Hurricane Fran took part of it. Later another portion split away. Then an ice storm finished it off.

The maple tree is beautiful now. It’s leaves are tinged with orange and red, almost like God took a dry paintbrush and dabbed tiny bits of color on the edges of the leaves. Every day the color grows brighter and the green fades a little more. The robins and the hummingbirds have moved out for now, but will most certainly return in the spring.

I look at the tree, see how much it’s grown over the years, and compare notes. My son has grown from a chubby baby to the young man he is now, learning to find his way in college while still managing to find his way home on a fairly regular basis. My little preemie girl has grown into the beautiful, tender-hearted young woman she is now. Hubby has picked up a pound or two, his hair greying in that way that looks distinguished in men and frumpy in women, still the high school freshman I met in Mrs. Calloway’s English class, got to know better in Miss Watkins’ physics class the next year, fell head-over-heels for the year after that. It watched him struggle to find his way, to a career and to God.

The maple tree has witnessed our grief as, one by one, grandparents and then parents left us until my mom was the only one remaining. It has witnessed our joy at the births of our children, their various birthday parties held in the yard or the driveway. It stood as a silent witness as I left each morning for work, hoping for a better day than the one before, and as I came home each evening disappointed. Now it gives its shade for me to sit under to read. It’s branches are high enough that I can mow the grass under it without having to duck to avoid being swiped in the face. My husband, son and daughter have grown so much over the years into the people who bless my life now. I look at myself and wonder if I’ve grown any, in any way that really matters.

But the maple continues to grow and change with the years and seasons.

We’ll be moving soon, just a mile or so down the road. It’s exciting to think of how this has all come about, with my mom finding someone to love, someone to love her in return. It’s also a bit overwhelming to think of moving after so many years, of the logistics of combining and rearranging not just two households, but three, as she moves into a new (to her, anyway) home, we move from this house to her house, and this house gets more sprucing up for someone new to move in. We’re planning to lease this house since the market is so bad, maybe selling it when things improve.

There are some things in the yard that I’ll transplant at least parts of: some iris I got from my sister-in-law, primroses from my aunt, stuff like that. And the monster wedding bell plant.

I can’t take the maple tree with me. It will stay here and watch over the house, observing the new people who will be living here just as it has watched over us. it will tell them about us, and maybe offer them comfort in their daily trials. Comfort it learned as it took care of us and our trials.

I’ll miss the maple tree.

I hope it misses me too, just a little.

the E string

(I’m headed to the mountains tomorrow morning to help chaperone 40 teenagers at camp for a week. Pray for all of us. We do this every year; it’s always a hard week, physically as well as spiritually and emotionally. But the end result is that we all come away better for having been there.)

A funny thing happened Friday evening. I was vegged out, trying out a new sock pattern and watching Turner Classic Movies. Operation Petticoat had just finished and Father Goose was about to start. TCM has this musical ditty that they always play before a movie comes on, when they are showing the rating for said new movie. So I’m sitting there, knitting away, and the little musical ditty comes on, and out of nowhere my brain says “That note is an E. Furthermore, it’s the low E string on a guitar.” Oh, really?

I’m guitar-impaired. I get it in my head, but my fingers aren’t really interested in learning patterns. They wanna know exactly what notes they’re playing. A handicap of growing up as piano-playing fingers. Lately though, the fingers have been branching out some on the keyboard and learning to play by pattern recognition rather by printed note. This makes the ears start paying more attention to what they’re hearing, listening for those patterns and translating them into chords on a keyboard. So maybe that has something to do with why my brain said what it did about the E. Of course I had to put the brain to the test, and yes indeed, the note was the low E.

In college I had to take “Physics of Music and Acoustics”, which was basically a class on how to purchase a killer stereo system. My professor was of the opinion that “perfect pitch” was instinct as opposed to a learned response to stimuli. I disagreed, wholeheartedly, and we had some lively discussions on the topic. I didn’t give the concept much thought after that. I just knew it was something I didn’t have, mainly because I wasn’t a singer.

Well, so what?

Maybe this: I think the professor and I were both right. I was right in that perfect pitch is a learned response to stimuli. He was right in that it’s more than just an learned response to stimuli.

As my kids like to say, “What that even mean?”

When I heard that note and my brain said “that’s the E string”, I first noticed a feeling in my chest, a specific sort of vibration that touched me in a very visceral, emotional way. Then I noticed that the pitch sounded like the low E string, and because I do at least know how to tune a guitar, I knew to call the pitch “the E string.” Even if I didn’t know what to call the pitch, I recognized it as the low string on a guitar because I enjoy listening to someone playing the guitar.

Another thing I’ve noticed about myself recently is that I can hear a piece of music and immediately know that it’s in the same key as some other piece of music. And I’m not necessarily talking about music I’ve studied in the past. I hear it in my head, and in my heart if you will, and I know immediately how to identify what I’m hearing in relationship to something else I’ve heard before. How? Don’t know for sure, other than my knowing that music affects me in a very profound, emotional way. It’s something primitive, visceral, instinctive…

I haven’t always been able to do this. Maybe it’s a product of maturity?

And why am I even thinking about this anyway?

Sometimes, when something is true, you know it is so because that truth touches you in both an intellectual and an emotional, or spiritual, way. You hear something, or see something, or maybe even touch or smell something, and a universal truth makes itself known to you. Every time I smell slightly scorched scrambled eggs, I am taken back to my first baby sitter’s house, Mrs. Easter. Her house always smelled like scrambled eggs in the mornings. The truth of what scrambled eggs smell like transcends time and space, taking me from almost-50 back to almost-5, across the state line to the house that, back then, seemed a mansion to me. We drove past that house last week on our trip up the mountain to the funeral home. While it is still standing, the house suffers from serious neglect. There are posted No Trespassing signs. The playroom that used to house a pool table and a ping-pong table is falling down and looks barely large enough to hold one of those itty-bitty smart cars.

There are lots of people who say that what is true for one person may not be true for another. That truth is relative. That all truth is relative. Those folks may or may not be able to identify the E string when they hear it, but if they can then they know that the pitch of the E string doesn’t change.

I wonder, whose house does their mind travel to when they smell scrambled eggs? I’ll bet there is one.