Posted in Uncategorized

Neal’s Post from the Past: “The Viewing & The Circle of Life”

Here’s a post from a decade ago dealing with the death of my father-in-law and my young grandson Daniel’s struggle to understand.

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My father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel growing heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

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With Daniel back in 2012
And now. (Seriously?)
Posted in Five Friday Happy Bringers

Five Friday Happy Bringers 4/1/22

1. Yummy breakfast, “Spinach and Bacon Skillet,” with over-easy eggs and blue cheese crumbles, at J. Christopher’s, a favorite and nearby breakfast hangout here near us in Savannah.

2. Bright green.

3. HR’s wedding ring, reflecting light.

4. Air. To breathe.

5. More and more symbols of solidarity with Ukraine in my Savannah neighborhood.

Peace. Peace. Peaceful Weekend.

Posted in Hello, Anxiety.

Hello, Anxiety: “A Christening — Introducing Anxiety’s Brand New Name!”

This blog category is the journaling and journey-ing of my quest to say (with cautious sincerity) “Hello, Anxiety” and to take a look at the condition from my “me-andering” views.

You’re invited to a …

Recently, my therapist “Rubi” suggested that I come up with an alternative name for my anxiety, a nickname of sorts. Why? Well, I’m working through this big, heavy workbook about anxiety …

Here it is, completely taking over my comfy study chair.

TIB (Truth in Blogging, remember?): I have a Love/Hate relationship with the book. Our latest spat centered on the book (it’s not even a hardback) somewhat arrogantly insisting that I begin to recognize and address my anxiety AS A FRIEND!

Seriously? Is poison ivy my friend? Is wet bread? Are the Kardashians my friends? No. And neither is anxiety. It’s my enemy. And it has that hateful “x” in the middle of its name, for goodness sake.

But homework is homework, and I’m a good student, so I dismissed the Kardashians and got to work.

First, some synonyms for anxiety: “worry, concern, apprehension, consternation, disquiet, jitters and agitation.” (Whew.)

And a few words related to anxiety: “alarm, stress, tension, anguish, discomfort, franticness and panic.” (Whew II.)

Both lists anxious-ed me!

And some antonyms for anxiety: “calmness, contentment, tranquility, ease, peace and serenity.” (Much better.)

Okay, that’s all just procrastinating. I gotta name this baby.

My first idea was “Frenemy”— you know, the joining of friend and enemy. But it felt too forced. Too trendy. Too bipolar. Like putting together Friends and CSI.

Next, I considered “Okra.” Wait, there’s a reason why! It’s so frustrating to harvest. I had to do it as a kid. Wearing a long sleeved shirt and wielding a sharp little paring knife, I walked the surprisingly tall rows of okra, slicing off the ripe pods. The sun! The heat! The itchiness! The danger of the blade! But I love okra. It’s actually my very favorite summer vegetable. I love it slimy, fried or gumbo-ed. But I like it too much to give its name to anxiety.

Prune”? It comes close to working. It’s pretty disgusting to look at, all wrinkled and dry. (“Prune” just rudely interrupted me and asked if I had looked in the mirror lately.) But, as with okra, I love prunes! What? You don’t?! They’re so sweet and just loaded with regularity-inducing fiber. Delicious. Nutritious. Okay, maybe they’re slippery. And too yesteryear. So, no, “Prune” won’t work.

So I’m also reading this other book in my study chair …

about fungi …

I know, I know, I need to get a life. But it’s actually fascinating.

And primarily because of this book, I’ve decided to nickname my anxiety … “Truffles.”

Do you know about truffles? Not the candy—which, by the way and coincidentally, I gave to HR for Valentine’s Day …

But, no, I’m talking about the disgusting-looking mushroom which grows underground. Let me properly introduce you.

Truffle—a strong-smelling underground fungus that resembles an irregular, rough-skinned potato, growing chiefly in broadleaved woodland on calcareous soils. It is considered a culinary delicacy and found, especially in France, with the aid of trained dogs or pigs.” Oxford Languages {You can train pigs?! Seriously?}

Truffles are not pretty.

And Oxford Languages was just being polite in their definition. My book Entagled Life: “The word for truffle in many languages translates to ‘testicle,’ as in the old Castilian turmas de tierra, or Earth’s testicles.”

Oh my word! (Literally)

“Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies of several types of mycorrhizal fungi … Truffles are spore-producing organs, analogous to the seed-producing fruit of a plant. Species evolved to allow fungi to disperse themselves, but underground their spores can’t be caught by the air currents and are invisible to the eyes of animals. Their solution is to smell.”

(Please bear with me for a couple more quotes. Think about my truffle candies I gave to Robert if it helps.)

“Truffles must be pungent enough for their scent to penetrate the layers of soil and enter the air, distinctive enough for an animal to take note amid the ambient smellscape, and delicious enough for that animal to seek it out, dig it up, and eat it … Once eaten, a truffle’s job is done. An animal has been lured into exploring the soil and recruited to carry the fungus’s spores off to a new place and deposit them in its feces.”

I had to put the book down and go outside for some fresh air for a bit after that revelation. It was simply TMI. One of the world’s most luxurious and expensive delicacies …

… begins as spores in dog or pig poop?

!

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if naked mole-rats, warthogs and aardvarks also carry it around in their poop.

Naked mole-rat

Let’s pause and …

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But oh my gosh. The similarities I see here between truffles and my anxiety!

1. Anxiety, like truffles, is simply not pretty. And I like pretty. Who doesn’t? It’s not pretty to contemplate or experience.

2. Anxiety seems to hover “underground” much of the time. Part of my issue with anxiety is that I never know when it might pop up, dug up somehow by a trained pig, and make itself known. To be honest, I know (“fear” is a much more honest word) that anxiety for me is usually unpredictable. And that’s frightening.

3. The true power of truffles is in their aroma. When I begin to be anxious, it seems to draw me almost aromatically into its web. As you may know (if you have read any of my “Hello, Anxiety” posts), I have a protocol to help me deal with anxiety. But sometimes, I confess, I simply forget to consider and utilize it. The sour smell is just too strong.

4. Anxiety grows. “There are two key moves by which fungal hyphae become a mycelial network. First they branch. Second they fuse. Truffles’ affairs quickly unspool into entire ecosystems.” And that’s another of my problems with anxiety. It can grow. And grow. It can overwhelm. Like untended weeds in a garden.

5. “Truffle” sounds a bit like “trouble.”

6. Truffles are costly. So is anxiety. It costs me time, energy, happiness, etc.

7. But on the other hand, the word “truffle” sounds a little silly too, don’t you think? Not 100% serious. Almost playful. Much “lighter” than “anxiety” (as long as you don’t think too much about the poop connection).

(Please note that I’m Trying with a Capital T to see some leaning-toward-positive attributes of truffle-like anxiety.

8. Truffles smell good to some people. I admit that I like the earthy aroma of truffle salt. Likewise, anxiety … (Okay, I haven’t evolved enough to complete this comparison. Maybe you can help me.)

9. Truffles taste good to some people. Again, I like the earthy taste of truffle salt. Similarly, anxiety … (Same parenthetical sentence as above.)

10. And even if you don’t like truffles, you don’t have to HATE them, do you? They don’t have to be Your Deadly Enemy Food. (I’m talking to myself here.) “Anxiety does not have to be my mortal enemy.”

So, after all that rigamarole, I hereby christen my anxiety “Truffles.”

My anxiety workbook posits that WAF’s (worries, anxieties and fears) are birthed out of an attempt to protect us (think “fight or flight”), but they have just gone too far, like that “friend” you somewhat accept but don’t want around all the time.

I’m not ready to call anxiety a friend, but like with my NPA—Neal’s Protocol for Anxiety—I do desire to find ways to lessen its destructive impact on my life. To be kinder to myself. And yes, to recognize that my anxiety is a part of ME, not a virus that comes from outside of me.

So, “Hello, Truffles.”

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P. S. I believe all of the above, of course I do, I wrote it. But it’s so much easier to write about renaming anxiety when I’m not experiencing it. And to say, “Hello, Truffles!” when anxiety’s scent is nowhere to be found, deeply underground. But I know that the naked mole-rat is probably around somewhere, just waiting to provide anxiety’s spores welcome transportation. And later, the trained pig starts to dig.

Posted in Holiday Joy, Savannah Joy

Neal’s Post from the Past: ”A Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration”

A post from about a decade ago. What was I thinking with my outfit for the day?!

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Anyone who has been to Savannah on or around March 17 knows that Saint Patrick’s Day is a pretty …

Big Deal

… in this city! From the Greening of the Fountain and Tara Feis onward, Savannah embraces its Irishness, shamrocks growing and showing up everywhere, an already diverse and fesitval-driven city photosynthetically converting excited energy into green Gaelic joy. And since 2013 St. Paddy Day was Sunday, Savannah opted to hold its primary celebration on Saturday with the parade (the nation’s second largest), River Street revelry and other merrymaking events.

Since Yours Truly lives DIRECTLY on the parade route along Abercorn Street, and since some green Irish blood flows through my veins (Saye =”one who lives by the sea”), I decided to host a little parade-viewing party.

Party Prep Notes For some reason I will never fully grasp, I decided to make Cabbage and Ham in the Crock Pot (or as I call it, Beverly Hillbilly-ishly, “the Slow-Cooking Pot”).   

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Now cabbage sounds fine, and even a bit Irish, until you understand that my place is a little under 800 square feet, positioned at the front of a beautiful old building completed in the 1800’s.  Well, the slow-cooking cabbage produced a Rather Strong Aroma (try not to imagine it), first in my apartment, then wafting across the hall to my next door neighbor and fellow party hostess Audrey’s place, then throughout the entire old building, and probably up and down the parade route and on to the South Carolina border across the river.  People were so nice and pretended that the smell made the party more “Irish authentic.”  But a bunch of folks had drinks in their hands, so I’m not at all certain their sensory perception was on target.  AND I noticed they would get a bowlful of steaming, fragrant cabbage and then quickly run out the door to see the next band or float they “had been waiting on.”

Here’s me helping to set up the area for guests to sit and watch the parade outside my building (my windows have the St. Patty tacky shamrock cutouts and green garlands).

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Before the parade started, I made a quick tour of the squares close to me.  A few sights:

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I met some cool green-clad new friends:

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I found this pretty lady pirouetting in front of my apt, so of course I had to get my pic with her:

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Here’s across-the-hall stylish neighbor Audrey:

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And here’s party guest/good buddy Ellie and her brother encouraging the crowd:

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I wish I was brave enough to dance in the street!

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Hip green-haired son/father duo Ethan and Kevin:

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Former Everyday Creative Writing Student Jaymes stopped by for a while.  (He knows what’s rocking in Savannah.)

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Buddies Rich and Edward (who brought party-hit basil lemonade):

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Cool St. Patty Baby:

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Made great new friends with some folks visiting from Maryland and staying in the vacation rentals in my building (so of course they were party guests too)–Kathy and Karen with their husbands.  And don’t they look SO Saint Patricky?

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Preparing to kiss the parade marching men:

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(Public Service Announcement:  I think I will rent out my place next year for St. Paddy Day.  Is $2000 for the holiday too much?  I plan to include a HUGE bowl of frozen-but-on-the-table-in-a-jiffy Authentic Irish Cabbage and Ham.)

New kayaking friend Tom with Edward, Rich and me:

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Church buddy Diane with Rich, Edward, Robert, Jaymes and me:

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Good friend Zach and brother Josh marching in the parade (marching, that is, before I ran out into the street and made them stop).  Their Irish family has been in the parade for something like 1000 years.

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What a wonderfully fun Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Celebration!

But sitting here after the parade, I started to worry:  “What if my Crock Pot Cabbage Smell keeps those hundreds of thousands of visitors from coming back to Savannah next year?  Can they trace it all back to me?”

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Balloons
St Pat pic
Posted in Robert and …

“Robert and …” #13

A blog category of pics I’ve taken of Hubby Robert and … well, just about anything.

Robert and … his beautiful Fresh Herbs and Asparagus Quiche.

Before the oven.

The Leading Role Herbs: Dill, Cilantro, Curly Parsley and Chives.

And after the oven.

With our pretty, shiny pie server (Is that what you call it?), which I placed photogenically, approximately next to the quiche.

But, No!, Robert would have none of that. He pulled out a Murder Weapon to cut the delicate dish!

Always looking for the bright side, even when EMS might need to be called, I noticed HR’s watch band, mimosa and quiche matched prettily.

Oh my goodness! The quiche was beyond delicious!

P.S. …