The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

The Camino – continued

AND… I may post several articles about the Camino!

And…I learned something about focus; about letting the extraneous distractions go.  I so often hear myself saying, “I am on an ADHD retirement program.”  Yes, I do have lots of interests and a great deal of curiosity.  I like being busy.  And I don’t sit still well.  Maybe my explorer lifetime was cut short or limited in some way.  I probably did something stupid or was ill prepared and got dead really early!

So, how do I juggle lots of interests and involvements without feeling driven and frustrated?  Maybe I drive myself because of my age and the ever-present knowledge I am on the downhill of this lifetime.  Or maybe I feel the physical limitations of aging slowly creeping up on me.

I do know that returning to my previous life from three weeks in Europe (1 week on the Camino following 10 days in France with my granddaughter’s school tour) has been impossible!  I have only a certain amount of energy to give daily and I am in a chair for an hour or so and in bed early!  Jet lag?  Walking a hundred or so miles in 3 weeks in the heat while schlepping luggage, sleeping in different beds and all the other travel factors definitely play their role in my fatigue.  The downtime has given me great insight into picking what is important for today and what I can leave until the next day… or leave altogether.

My choices are weighed.  Not all options are mandatory.  Yet, my love of moving, of doing is such a part of me…I have this journal that I make my ongoing list in.  Checking a completed task is ridiculously rewarding for me.  That part is not in any danger of being eliminated from my lifestyle!

So, I am thinking more naps and more awareness of the ramifications of my decisions and involvements.  Less multitasking.

On the France tour we went from one event to the next.  I followed the schedule.  I made few decisions.  On the Camino I put one foot in front of the other.

The measure of success is that deep breath on the pillow at the end of the day.  Am I satisfied?  Am I comfortable with what my day presented?  And if it’s a yes, I win!

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The Camino

I walked 5 days of the Santiago de Compostela, commonly known as the Camino.  It’s been a dream of mine for 10 ? –  12 years.   Since maybe my 10th Artist’s Way class when dreams are floating in the air to be recognized, when I want to are being identified.  I was having dinner with a neighbor from my teenage years who just returned from her second Camino walk,  this time with her granddaughter.

I was captivated.  I read books.  I watched, The Way. I included it in my wish list every subsequent time I hosted the Artist’s Way.

The Camino door opened a crack when I signed up to go with my granddaughter and daughter on the school trip to France.  I was so close to the Camino.  Already across the Atlantic.  The countries right next door.  I pushed that door open.  I figured it out.  I arranged plane transportation.   I got my cousins to sign on to walk with me.  I made it happen.

I walked my Camino. Five days. 50 miles.  Planes, trains, buses, taxis and feet! And a great deal of determination.

From the plane flying from Nice to Madrid, above the clouds the terrain looked like I could be anywhere.  Irregular forests, angular fields.  Roads.  Rivers.  Hills and prairies.  No language barriers.  Few differences.  From above all looks equal, similar and peaceful and I stare out the little window wonder why we humans can’t figure out how to get along with each other.  And I was so stressed about going to a foreign country alone (meeting my cousins later that day at a prearranged hotel for the night).  And I found them.  And I overcame all the waterfall of fears the scenery did not reflect!

I met my companions and we had dinner in old Madrid surrounded by a huge Gay Pride celebration.  Rainbow flags and clothing and fountains.  A solid initiation.

The next morning we took a taxi and a 5 hour bus and another taxi to Portomarin where we joined the peregrinos/pilgrims the next morning.

First Camino lesson I learned was that backpacking is way more advanced than walking.  I am a walker, an occasional hiker NOT a backpacker.

I learned that an experienced backpacker can carry extra items for the unprepared.  Brenda and Kevin helped carry my load.  I had worked and worked to get small in my baggage ans still, my backpack not one for a hiker was not doable.

We began our walk across a bridge and up a hill.  And the hills never stopped!  And neither did the scenery.  We walked an incredible path, often feeling I had been transported back centuries to a much simpler time when one was much closer to the earth.

Be in the present moment. Love the present moment. Carry your burdens courageously. Keep walking. Discard what you can. Be in the moment. Listen.

I learned to keep searching for what you want and if the hills get too tough – rest.  Include rest in the journey.
Several times the music called me in. The owls. the journey song. The bagpipes.
Bless the trees for providing shade,
the farmers for providing food,
the cooks for sumptuously preparing it,
the housekeepers for clean rooms,
the baristas for cafe con leche,
the centuries of peregrinos for paving the way.

For those who walked before me and those to follow, dedicated to the Spirit of the human condition.

I heard no news, no political discord, no my side or your side.  Only the focus of the walk.  Where are we right now?  Santiago the goal.

Buen Camino to those resting, to those pacing ahead, to those in service to peregrinos.  The kinship of the shared journey, breaking barriers of language, age, gender, race.  it’s all bout the journey.

We shared the wide path with those who were driven and fast paced.  We shared the wide path with those who were meandering; with those  who were limping and those peddling, cruising or pumping.

Each vista was new, waiting to be unfurled upon searching eyes.  Each hill presented and conquered.  Each downhill achieved.  The straight stretches – a gift.  Remembering to look out and up, not just down.  Finding a comfortable pace.  Passing and being passed.  One foot in front of the other.  Buen Camino to each pilgrim on their own walk.

Groups of every size and individuals.  Irish.  South African.  German.  French.  Asian.  Spanish.  Oh, the strong legs.  Each focused on the goal, Santiago.

Sticks and hats.  Back pack packs and water bottles. Clicking, pacing across path worn footsteps from centuries of seekers.

I witnessed a culture that is strongly attached to food.  Every homestead in the villages and hamlets and many in the cities grew gardens.  Not just flowers but food gardens.  Beautiful gardens.  All through the villages and hamlets were chickens, lots of chickens, cows – the smell so natural there was no offense.  There were goats and sheep.  Cats and dogs.  Seldom did we share a path with motorized vehicles.

Evidenced by the structures, people lived close to the land and used what nature provided.  Stone roofs.  Tree branches for fence posts.  What I loved were bed springs for trellising!  Laundry was dried outside in the sun in the country and in the cities.

No matter how rustic or empty of human habitation our basic needs were absolutely provided for.  Crystal clear spring water ran from  fountains all along the way.  Cold and refreshing and clearly delicious. Rooms were sparse and clean.  Cafes offered plentiful and fabulously fresh and full of life food and cafe con leche.  Ham and cheese.  Eggs and veggies.  Bread.

We saw stone houses with the barns attached.  Bridges made of huge rocks.  Roman bridges.  Crosses and religious symbolism  stood to mark “the way” like sentries, guides or guardians.  The little churches offering shade, beautiful art work and holy water in dabbed on my heart and head – yes, and on my knees!

Many of the columnar directional markers with the shell and arrow were adorned with rocks, pieces of memorabilia, worn out shoes, notes and encouraging graffiti.  One section bore the words, line by line, of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Through the rain, the sun, the exhaustion there was no place to quit.  No choice but to continue on.  Forward towards the goal.  And that goal was sometimes the next cafe!  Quit, however, not an option.

Yes, there were moments of WTF Camino? and not Buen Camino.  Is my lesson here that around each corner life brings another big hill, another difficult section to struggle across?  Pounding heart?  Tired legs?  Why did I want to do this?  Who am I fooling?  I’m definitely too old to do this.  I can’t.  Rest and look around and reassess.  Water from the fountain down my neck.

One foot ahead of the other.  Being the present moment.    I am in the present moment.  All I have is the present moment.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

Yes, I can.

And while I walked “only” 5 days/50 miles, I can not compare my journey with those walking 100 miles in 8 days, or walking 500 miles for the third time.  Or finishing the walk after doing sections every summer for the last 10 years.  My Camino is mine.  Just like theirs is theirs!

We taxied to the city limits of Santiago from Arua because we wanted to make the noon mass celebrated each day for all walkers.  I am not Catholic and it was awesome to share space and sing with a thousand other people from all over the world in an ancient structure with it’s ancient ritual.  Sacred in a community way, unlike the sacredness of the small, quiet places of worship and community we had passed through

Even the camaraderie of the Camino didn’t last far into Santiago, past the noon mass.  Few Buen Camino’s.

As we mingle with tourists and locals the focus is blurred, the goals now to varied except to share a common space, entranced by a common marvel of ancient engineering, worship and geography.  We are here and the so are the tour groups.  Some  dazed looking walkers still hefting backpacks, sticks and blisters.  Many tired pilgrims refreshed and bathed, now shopping and eating and celebrating. Resting in the city.    The bikers mingle with police who carry automatic weapons  The beggars and the souvenir sellers. The tourist and those who live by the tourist’s visit.  Movement but peaceful still, a hushed chatter not a still quiet, as sacred as in the forest but hushed sounds of sacred space interspersed with street musicians, laughter and traffic.  Delivery trucks.  Commuters.  Street cafe’s and relaxed eating, rest and proceed to the next stop.

Home? or onward to Finesterre?

I am home.  And grateful.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago

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Does fear stop you from creating?

YES!!

Dare boldly

Work in Progress. No. 44
#ShePersisted Series

Over at Live and Learn yesterday, David Kanigan shares an expert from a Robert Ito article in the NY Times about funny-man Ray Romano.

“It’s just doubt, that’s the biggest thing.”

Doubt, uncertainty, insecurity can keep me from doing things I love.

Like painting.

I have begun working on No. 44 of my #ShePersisted series.

No. 44.

It’s taken me awhile to get to No. 44. With every piece I complete, I worry the next one won’t appear. Or won’t be any good. Or won’t ring true.

I worry I can’t paint. I’m not creative enough. I don’t have any talent.

And in my worry, I hesitate. I avoid. I ‘take a break’, convincing myself it’s what I need, even though I know, that’s the lie.

Deep within me, to the farthest reaches of every cell in my body, I feel the compelling…

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Why I March

I will march with women as long as my feet will carry me. In my 67 years I have worked my way through many a gender equality issue.
I married young because I believed it “the thing to do”.

After 10 years, I became a single mother and discovered that in spite of having complete control of the finances, I was without any credit rating. After my second divorce, and while, indisputably, not the primary bread winner in either marriage, yet being again in charge of the finances, I was AGAIN without any individual credit rating.  Yes, even with the 7 years of living single between marriages. Credit ratings were attached only to the male and because my single days were previous to the 2nd  marriage they disappeared.

I worked as a banquet waitress (my second job) carrying heavy trays wearing high heels because it was the dress! Why haven’t males been expected to wear high heels to be sexy?

I lost a job once because my commissions paid me more than the boss made for a quarter of that year.

I was any number of times sexually harassed in my job. I was in sales and I certainly encountered sex for business offers. One, in particular, from a  man who was a friend of my father’s, albeit, my father was deceased.

I’ve bought make up, had my nails polished -many women color their hair (I don’t. My hair is still red!) -to step correctly, ie young and perfect, into the cultural acceptance of beauty. Has a man?

So, we, across the board, earn less and we spend on looking culturally acceptable.. (I LOVE YOU, PAULA ANN, my dear friend who does nails and throws in the loving counseling because that is the kind generous soul she is). And, I really do like to have my toenails polished in the summer!

And whose is benefiting from the sale of all that make up and cream and beauty enhancer that we are force fed by our culture? A marketing plan that tells us to be who we are and shine through our God given faces?

Why isn’t there a male word with the same connotation as  misogyny?
mi·sog·y·ny — (dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
“she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny”)

Why is hysterical and hysterectomy from the same root word?

Why is is history and not her-story? Because I think they would write differently.

How many years has it been since women were chattel? Not so many.

Why isn’t there male genital mutilation?

Why is there still a sex trade using young girls as bartering tools?

Why were the girl children killed in China?

Why was there foot binding?

Need I go on?

Yes, I sill go on and I will march for the freedom/equality path I have and will continue to pave for my daughters and my granddaughters and your daughters and your granddaughters.

Take nothing for granted. The freedoms we have now, someone has protested to provide.

Why is this permitted?

Did you know that in 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent? While the number has gone up one percentage point from 2014, the change isn’t statistically significant — because the increase is so small, mere tenths of a percent, it doesn’t amount to perceptible change. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the earnings ratio hasn’t had significant annual change since 2007. The gap has narrowed since the 1970s, due largely to women’s progress in education and workforce participation and to men’s wages rising at a slower rate. Still, the pay gap does not appear likely to go away on its own. At the rate of change between 1960 and 2015, women are expected to reach pay equity with men in 2059. But even that slow progress has stalled in recent years. If change continues at the slower rate seen since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.

http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

 

 

Thank you Donald Trump for bringing our issues to the open and letting us examine our values in front of the world, our neighbors, ourselves.  I am certainly more and more convinced of my beliefs – the truths I hold to be self-evident.

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My winter project – 2017

To go through, sort and organize a box of letters collected from the home office of my Uncle John, retired newspaper editor.

Uncle John died in 2007. In our disassembly of Uncle John’s favorite area’s of the house, the basement and his office/library we discovered…well, we discovered Uncle John was rather a pack rat. Not a hoarder. He had discriminating preferences!

Very notably, Uncle John collected books. Lots of reference books and biographies and books about Kentucky. Books whose information is now readily, immediately available online- at the push of a button or the statement of a command.  Articles that he cross referenced to other articles and books he had read. A newspaper man’s legacy.  (Ah, what will happen to the love and connection of the turning of a page.)

Uncle John also collected oddball stuff like swizzle sticks, matches, parts of clocks. He had one glass jar labeled “the tiniest nails on earth.”
He saved stacks of paper’s from Hazel’s, his mother, who taught him everything he knew about saving stuff. “Save it, it might be worth something someday,” I can hear her say, as plain as if she were right here beside me.

Also, we found a box of ephemera from his first wife, Janet, who passed in 1975. Her baby books, high school yearbook. On my.

After Uncle John’s passing, my sister and I spent many months visiting Carolyn, his widow. On “Tuesday nights with Carolyn” after dinner, we organized the paper and personal belongings, pilfering, plowing, crying, grieving, laughing with wonder and curiosity at our findings. I came home with 9 Rubbermaid tubs, full. Many of these items were returned to the Cincinnati Enquire for their archives. Two winters following I sorted from the late 1800’s to digital. Ten+  3-ring binders later – it is archived!

Except for this small box of personal correspondence gathered from drawers and files. Some of the letters are written to Uncle John. Many are copies of letters he wrote to others, particularly Aunt Mary. He retold many family stories and reported on his life in general.
This winter I will open the box and sort and organize. I will cry and laugh as I read and experience the calm, curious, humor and opinions of my Uncle.

I had hoped to share these moments with Carolyn and rehear the storied through her voice, but I waited a winter too long. Carolyn died at the grand age of 97, having only retired her high heels for 5 years!

My procrastination to dive into this project (which is much smaller than the first one) has found it’s way to the kitchen table for completion this is the winter.  I approach my project with fresh grief and one of the first pieces of paper to fall out of the box is Carolyn’s acceptance speech and the newsletter from the Cincinnati Junior League announcing her designation as Carrie Nowland Sustainer Award!  She notes in the speech that she, Carolyn, is the same age as the Junior League.  so, wish I could share that with her.

So, Carolyn and John, as I review a few of our years together in letters, I am so incredibly grateful for for the lessons, the memories, the meals, the stories, the books, the editing, the Grater’s, the blueberries, the impatiens (restarted from reseeding from 1956 to 2007), the blooming of the Cereus  and…and…and…

Your written memories will soon be in linear order. I promise!

 

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Joseph’s Journey

Joseph’s Journey is a novel I have worked on for a long, long time.  Because of the generosity of my Uncle John I was able to take a year’s sabbatical and write.

This novel was given to me through a storyteller who spoke to me every day at the same time.  I got up, got my coffee, sat in my chair (another blue chair) and translated what went through my head. Channeling.  What I discovered was an incredibly beautiful story of a man, an everyday carpenter given a huge God-task.  Going against all the dictates of his society and way out of his comfort zone he said yes. And what he finds is that through divine synronicity he is not alone, the “world” begins to work with him. He gets money and a wagon for Mary to ride in.  All along the route the needs of Mary and Joseph are met by total strangers – grassroots, kind, and generous people.  Just like who we, mostly,  are today – although the news doesn’t cover the millions of stories of daily kindnesses or the “miracles” of divine syncronicity.

I did lots of fascinating research into this story.  I make huge mistakes in self-publishing and I still have little knowledge of marketing.  I just know that the first publications weren’t as perfect as I would have liked yet, I hit the button to Publish.  Knowing the imperfections maybe kept me from much marketing.  Whatever.  Now, Christmas season 2016, I have been through the text with the help of a fellow blogger and friend, Jerri and I think it is done.  Jerri blogs at:  athursdayschild.wordpress.com.  Thank you, Jerri.

Well,  Joseph’s Journey where it is in this moment!  And I am proud of the new cover that Jerri designed, and the type style and the new size AND I love this story.

I hope you will read it and let me know what you think.

Kindle version:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M7U6EYM/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk

Hardback at: CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/6672305

 

Enjoy the song and know that Joseph didn’t get much press!!  And yet, his service was great.  In gratitude for the storyteller who whispered this story into my ear.

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A most Subversive Act

A sweat bead drips off her nose as she prays for wholeness and health for the peach eaters and providers while canning peaches which are so perfectly formed – 36 each without a single bug – she knows they are perverted with pesticides.  Still they are juicy and sweet and sensuous to the taste buds.  There is an ummm in every bite.

As she dips and peels she considers the mega production of food to bring 100 cans of peaches to every Kroger store every week.  Just how many peaches is that?  She averages 2 per pint jar.  The perfect amount to heat with a little nutmeg and heavy whipping cream in the dead of winter when a peach she had prayed over tastes like hope.

She wonders at the fears circulating among her most respected friends and colleagues that the grid will go down, the system must break in order to be fixed.  So she will eat peaches while the world struggles in chaos.  She won’t say I told you so because she doesn’t want the scenario to play out, but she does preserve  food, has water purification tablets, candles and kerosene, matches and gas for the grill and wood for the stove.

She reflects on the law of attraction and knows that attracting Mason jars and seeds is easier  for her than attracting cash.

She remembers her mother and the ladies at Florence Christian Church gathering in the kitchen basement of the Disciples Church each bringing their harvest to preserve food together.  Lightening their load in a kitchen big enough accommodate the process with a play ground big enough to entertain the kids.  Coffee in the big pot, sandwiches, peanut butter crackers to feed in the present moment.  Corn, beans, tomatoes and networking in loving fellowship to feed in the winter.

She ponders the pioneer woman isolated on the prairie.  Hungry children and no amenities.  Not even a fan, much less air conditioning and running water.  Carrying water to boil from seed to jar to the table.  What if Pioneer woman hated cooking? Or had a headache?

She angers at the thought of big corporations refusing to label honestly and big agriculture putting poison in foods.  And she wonders if, as a progressive society, we have gotten too lazy to even feed ourselves?

Are we lazy?  Spoiled?  A new lifestyle in this progressing world where someone else does it cheaper and more effectively and we aren’t chained to the daily feeding of ourselves.  Yet do the producers have the consumer’s interest as a priority? Or their bottom line?

Canning is no longer a necessity but a choice and, somehow, it’s one of my favorite “chores.”  No matter how much I sweat.  And, I could turn on the air conditioner, but the smell of the rain and hearing the pattering on my roof makes me happy.  Plus, the food growing in my back yard is being fed.

A most subversive act, organic veggies from my own yard.

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Where Susan Rea Caldwell is from

Hello everyone who reads my blog!  It’s been a long time~a long time~ since my last post.  This poem keeps telling me it wants recognition not only for myself but because it will encourage you, the reader, to create your own poem about your self.

My poem is modeled after George Ella Lyons’ poem Where I am from.  George Ella is homegrown and her works, her voice certainly makes Kentucky Proud.  She is the Poet Laureate of Kentucky this year.  http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

If you read the article you will see that this poem is a favorite among her students and has been a call to writers/poets in Kentucky to honor her position this year.

I challenge you to write the poem about yourself and your past.  It’s enlightening and fun and really interesting.

I find I could write a poem about each decade and really measure the changes.

So here goes.  I am not a poet!

Where Susan Rea Caldwell is from –

I am long awaited
Kentucky Proud
Since before statehood was declared.

I am a Baby Boomer – Class of ‘67

I am from many names so reissued
The tree becomes brambles
William – John – Mary
Directly I am from
Glen Gordon and Lorel Kelly
William and Hazel Gertrude – Betty Rea and Asbury

I am marriages with unique stories
Surnames grafting to twist the branches.

I am red curls from the X and Y
Hazel and Philadelphia.
I am Scotch Irish freckles and sunburns
Forbidden to wear pink, orange or red.

I am 2nd generation from leaving the farm to become
entrepreneurs, cooks, seamstresses, bankers, beauticians,
bookkeepers, salesmen, writers,
homemakers bringing the farm habits to the suburbs.
while keeping the family rooted at regular gatherings and reunions.

I am 5th generation Disciple of Christ.
from Sunday School, choir, Brownies, Girl Scouts and Wa-Kon-Da-Ho.

I am from National Clean-up Your Plate Day,
Patience is the Prince,
God is Great,
Peace, and
Save it, it might be worth something someday.

I am from safety
nurtured and supported in a loving tribe,
running streets with no fears.

I am from a yard full of adventure and
and neighborhood housing mystery and playmates
duck funerals, pink chickens, kick-the-can, tag,
dancing with garage poles, forts, Jacks and Barbies,
the practical green bike, not the shiny pink one
A younger brother and sister (She really is not adopted).

I am from a well storied and often shared oral history

laughter and card playing
cocktails and cigarettes

I am from widowed grandmothers –
the grassroots independents
who produced we bra burners.

I am from Kanebrak and Town and Country
fried chicken from cold oil served in baskets
to fine upscale dining.

I am from practical jokers — and cancer, which is NOT –
I traded a parent for a daughter
5 years apart.

I am from being married to my step-brother and my children being my nieces.  (Figure that one out!)

I am from 3 last names
2 college degrees
I am from learning how to make ends meet when no end was in sight and
death that came too early too many times in waves of 3’s.

Yet, the shrinking tree now expands with names and faces I know only on Facebook.

I take my place as an archivist of my ancestral history from unidentifiable tin types to digital where the paper trail ends and void where the fire destroyed.

From 1-11 my history is recorded in 3-ring binders – linear – to prove that
I AM and how I got to right here!

 

Thank you for reading.

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My Christmas gift to you

I am offering you a rest.  Get yourself a cup of coffee, a cup of tea, a nice beverage of some kind and take a few minuted to snuggle into your favorite chair and enjoy my Christmas short story – Rondo and the Purple Play Mobile.

The story is a result of my granddaughter’s Santa being broken.  A child who is happy, very easy going, easy to please and a joy to be around!  Here’s to you, girl.

The story says that even Santa can get too caught up in preparations for the big season!

So have a “time out” on me this year.  As I attempt to be the Peace I seek for the world in this crazy time of year.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  And may the blessings of all this is king, compassionate and brings joy come to your world.

Enjoy the show!

RONDO AND THE PURPLE PLAY MOBILE

By Susan Rea Caldwell

 

Rondo came zooming into Santaland one August day on the snappiest purple moving vehicle ever seen by any of the Elves gainfully employed by S. Clause Industries, which by all opinion far and wide was the very jolliest place to work in the whole of the North Pole. The boss was reputed to be a “right jolly old Elf” himself although his clothing and size did not exactly fit the genetic dispensation.

Rondo went straight to Human Resources, knocked loudly on the door and presented himself boldly.

He said to Carla, the clerk, a cute, dark-haired, red-cheeked Elf, “I am here to revolutionize the world of children’s outdoor wheeled vehicles. Stop the toy makers until you have seen my plan. Please look outside at my Purple Play Mobile and see what you think.”

Carla walked to the window, looked out, “Sir, you can’t just come buzzing in here all souped-up about your Purple whatever and expect the Santa Industrial Machine to come to a screeching halt.”

“But, I have the newest innovation ever to hit the South Pole.”

“This is the North Pole, sir.  Maybe your Purple what’s it needs a newfangled thing called GPS.  The Get Places Safely system.”

“My dear, little clerk Elf, I’d like to speak to your manager. I’d really like to speak to Mr. Santa Claus, CEO, CFO, Owner-Operator Himself.”

“I bet you do, hot shot.  What is your name?”

“Rondo.”

“Please take a number and have a seat.  Someone will be right with you, just after all these others ahead of you are seen.”

Rondo looked around to at least ten others waiting very quietly on red and green benches.  Each carried cases or boxes holding their presentation.

Rondo sat next to one very eccentric looking gentle elf who spoke in whispers about the toy camel he was presenting.  The camel had a bendy straw out of its mouth.  The hump raised up to hold water.  He told of his plans to create a variety of animal water bottles beginning with African animals and, depending on the success, perhaps going from country to country.  “They can learn geography while collecting!”

Seriously, thought Rondo, hoping he had not said that out loud.  “Seriously?” he burst out.  “Kids today want to ride.  They have places to go.  Kids today move fast and they are smart and they want to crank a lot into this life.”

“Then they will need to know where they are going and they will need a drink of water,” the man said dryly.

The door opened suddenly, blowing in sun kissed snow crystals.  “Rondo, I thought I would find you here.”  A bedraggled Elf, shoulders stooped, grey hair uncombed, stood before him.

“MOMMMM???”

“Rondo, you know your purple riding toy concept has not been fully tested.  Why just today, trying to follow you, I had a flat tire in mine and the fuel fill up meters didn’t have the equipment to fix it. I had to go back to Bob’s Basics.  I had to get the tires completely unscrambled and then rescrambled back into working order by a very confused tube inflater Elf.  He says the verbonic valve vibration will not withstand the Starlight Shrinking process required by Santa Industries specific guidelines.”

Rondo’s face got redder and his cheeks got puffier and his ears turned greener as she talked.  “Mother, I told you I have fixed all that. The Purple Play Mobile you are riding hasn’t been upgraded.”

“Well, thanks for doing good things for your mother,” she said in that aggravating Mother tone.  “Your mother always did the best for you and what does she get in return?  The old, inferior version of Purple Machine.”

“Mom, Mom, can’t you see I am busy here in a crowd of people ready to present my latest and greatest to Mr. Santa Clause, himself?  Do you have to do this now?”

“Son, I have watched you invent many a thing that has worked, shall I say politely, less than perfectly.  I want to make sure you have considered every single-bingle thing that could possibly go awry.  You are dealing with Christmas here and Santa and you know that I know that you know how AWFUL it is to be a disappointed kid.”

“I did, Mom.  I fixed all the problems.”

“It doesn’t seem like testing time has been adequate to have worked through any problems.  You just dreamed this up four weeks ago when the snow apples were ripe and you claimed to be too busy to help me pick them. Being brilliant is your greatest gift.  Being patient is not.”

“I did test it.  I did. I want Santa to have the Purple Play Mobile for this year.  Then I will be rich and I can get my own factory and live in my own house and hire someone to pick snow apples and cook them and clean up after me.”

“I am your warning system, Rondo.  I always have been, whether you like it or not.  Don’t fool yourself.  No creation is finished before its prefect time.  Think it out. Think it perfect.”

“This is all I have been thinking about for four weeks, Mom.  All.  Nothing else.  I am ready to be famous and successful.”

This conversation went on while the others in the waiting room were called back, leaving only Rondo and his mother, Matilde alone.  Rondo’s rage was subsiding as his mother blathered on and on listing the projects he had started and did not complete or that didn’t work properly.  Like the glow in the dark flashlight that was too hot to hold for a flashlight. Or the snow apple picker that broke the branches off the tree.

“Rondo, I am begging you to be sure you are prepared. This is your big Santa moment.  Is your Purple Playtoy ready?  Let’s not disappoint the big guy.”

“Mother, go home.  I am 143 Elf years old.  Most Elves leave home at 144 or 145.  I can make my own decisions.”

“Then I am going home.  I have snow apple compote baking for dinner.  You are on your own.”

“Rondo, you are next,” the Carla clerk called out.  She looked at him, “This is about responsibility, Elf.  This is creating Christmas for others, not just for the glory of yourself.  I hope you are being honest.”

“Why is everyone challenging me?”  Rondo said under his breath.  “Is the world full of mothers?”  Yet, Rondo knew full well why.  He did have many failed projects and he wasn’t completely sure about the capability of the verbonic valve to withstand the vibrational pressure of the Starlight Shrinking process necessary for all the toys to go through in order to fit into Santa’s sleigh.  And, of course, then expand back to original upon delivery.  Santa-shrink is what the Elves called it!  It is what makes the magic possible in one night around the globe.

Rondo followed the Elf clerk down a hallway lined with pictures of toys from the past and present.  Lincoln Logs. Train sets.  Davy Crocket hats and toy rifles.  Red wagons.  Gerber babies.  Cabbage Patch kids.  The first Barbie and Ken.

“I know mine works.  I know that when the tests come back from the famous and expensive ‘You-build-it-we-test-it’ Shrink laboratories over in Flake City they will prove me right.  The tests were due back day before yesterday and did not arrive. I couldn’t wait another day without telling Santa.  So…here I am,” he whispered walking down the hallway.  “My mother is right,” that voice in his head kept repeating.

And he walked into a glorious room filled with toys moving about, twirling from the ceiling.  Ticking.  Jumping.  Rolling across the floor.  All colors.  Lights and sound.  Toy heaven.  And at a huge wooden desk with papers all around him was a giant bearded Elf dressed in green and blue flannel with black fuzzy boots.

Rondo made his presentation to Santa, invited him outside for a ride.  They drove around the factory of Santa Clause Industries passing his Mother whose  Purple Pain Mobile (she was now calling it) was being pushed by a handful of Elves.  Rondo and Santa even drove through the peppermint milk shake plant for a tall drink with a blinking straw.

Santa was thrilled.  He asked to drive and drove so fast through the fields he scared the reindeer.  Blitzen shook his head, “Santa is the biggest kid of all, heh, Vixen?”

“The biggest!”

They got back to the office and Mrs. Clause had a contract ready for Rondo to sign.  In it Rondo agreed that all the appropriate tests had been passed and all was in perfect work as a Santa approved toy.  Rondo closed his eyes as he signed and his mother’s voice inside his head was screaming, “Don’t do it.”

“You seem a bright fellow and if this Purple Play Mobile becomes a favorite with the kids, well maybe we will have a place for you to work next year at Santaland.”

Rondo was so excited he barely remembered doing cartwheels to the Purple  Play Mobile.  He passed his Mother about half way and waved at her gleefully.  She was at the fuel fill up meter again.  Probably just for a fill up, he thought.

He got home in time to hear the timer go off for snow apple compote.  He saved as much as he thought his Mother should eat.  She had been talking about losing some weight.

Meanwhile, back in Santaland . . .

Christmas Eve and the builder Elves became Starlight Shrinker experts.  Taking the toys and putting them on the Shrinker conveyer in alphabetical order so that when Santa called the name of the child requesting the toy it could eject through the modified Starlight Shiner reverse module attached to the special magic expand-a-Santa bag.

But…when the Elves switched from manufacturing to Shrink loading toys, Clyde the Controller Elf got injured.  His toe got smashed when Sammy Psycho was bouncing all over on a pogo stick instead of concentrating.  Sammy was sent to tend the reindeer and Clyde was asked to go to the kitchen and chop greens.  (Elves must have their daily portion of greens to keep that lovely green complexion, you know.  If not they fade to pale white and they disappear in the snow.)  Clyde could sit with his foot propped up and chop and then be back to work in a couple of days.

That day the Shrinking Machine made very unusual popping noises.  Frank the Freekizoid Elf heard them, stopped the machine twice to examine things which backed up the entire two mile assembly line and caused cosmic confusion and complaints.  He checked inside the Expand-a-Santa bag.  He checked the gears and conveyer of the Shrinker.  He found no problems and ordered packing to be continued.

The Santa sendoff was spectacular.  Red and green fireworks lit up the snow brighter than glitter on aluminum foil.  The fireworks banged louder than all the Elf bells put together.

And so Santa called to the reindeer and the sleigh and carrying the Santa-Expans-o-matic bag lifted off and up they flew.  Santa circled back twice to wave and cheer with the Elves, proud of another successful toy making season.

Rondo and his mother joined the crowd to celebrate.

Santa flew first to New Zealand and went about his work with ease and a tough determination.  All the toy drops worked well except at a few houses he noticed some strange hissing and popping sounds as the toys came through the Expando-matic mechanism on the toy bag.  But each time he checked the toys before moving on and they checked out.

By the end of the night somewhere over the Hawaiian Islands where he was offered coconut milk and macadamia nut cookies he realized the noise was coming from the Purple Play Mobile.

And just then the first sun ray popped over the horizon and Donner, the reindeer in charge of directions, and Vixen, in charge of velocity, brayed to Santa that the magic night was over.  They had to move, and move now.  The other reindeer pawed and pranced and Santa had no choice but to proceed swiftly back to the North Pole before being spotted by kids getting up early.

Meanwhile, back in the North Pole, the Kid Satisfaction Machine was blaring red, recording disturbed, sad, mad, unhappy children.  It glowed so brightly not one Elf could sleep.  They were waiting for Santa in the send-off yard.  When he heard, Santa was appalled.  Santa didn’t know the meter was capable of recording such a level of frustration.  But he did know the toy that had malfunctioned and before he even settled down into a long winter’s nap he called for Rondo and the manager Elves to come his office, immediately.

“This is what happens when we do not pay attention to the details.” He pointed to the button that was glowing nuclear.  “These are kids we have disappointed.  Kids!  It’s an abomination.  Have you ever seen a child cry over their Santa present?  Have you ever shared the heartbreak and disappointment of a child?”

“Well, let’s have it, Rondo.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

Rondo began to hurt so badly in his heart he had to hold onto his chest to keep it from breaking.

“I did this, didn’t I, Santa?  Because I. . .”

“Now don’t go on with that ‘feel sorry for me’ just now, Rondo.  What is done is done and we need to know how to fix it.  How are you going to fix this?”  Santa asked very loudly.  For now he was getting very sleepy and he knew that across the globe children were sad and mad at Santa and having someone sad and mad at you never makes for a very good night’s sleep.

So Rondo paced and paced.  He thought and thought.  He drew a plan and handed it to Santa.

“This doesn’t help now, Rondo.  The night of magic has passed and Santa failed some of the children.  We have to leave it into the hands of the Daddy’s now.  The dads and the stores.  We have to trust that the children are patient and understanding and forgiving.  The Dads of the world will step up to make it right for their sad children and the Purple Play Mobile will become one of those Christmas stories families tell and retell every year.  And the sad/mad at Santa will lessen with each telling.”

“And for you Rondo, to make retribution…  Well you will come up with three plans and I will come up with three plans and I will talk to you as soon as I have an extra-long winter’s nap.”

“So, take this macadamia nut cookie to your Mother and have as happy a day as you can.”

“Macadamia nut is my favorite,” claimed Rondo.

“This cookie is for your Mother, not you.  Think of someone besides yourself, Rondo. And if you eat even one crumb of this cookie.  Even one crumb. . .”

 

AND SO I SAY “JOY TO THE WORLD!”

 

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A female response to “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

I just finished Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book “The Invention of Wings.”
AMAZING book. AMAZING.

http://www.amazon.com/Invention-Wings-Notes-Oprahs-Book-ebook/dp/B00H58VGIA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434981799&sr=1-1&keywords=the+invention+of+wings+sue+monk+kidd

The slavery issue is a deplorable time in our culture. And so is the continued effects of racism and equality. Kidd’s tale describes this time period in conjunction with the gender aspect to weave the two issues that created upheaval and much needed social change in America. The book is amazing. I think I already said that! The power of the book is the cord of inequality it strikes within me.

My issue: Why wasn’t I introduced to Sarah and Angelina Grimke’ in my history classes? Why was the history of women only slightly dealt with and so obviously left out? Why weren’t these women as important as Betsy Ross?  She did her part. She created a flag we continue to honor and respect.  Yet, the brave women Kidd brings to us are, in large part, responsible for bringing about change that gives African Americans and Women the right to vote and to have status as human beings. (Can you imagine that is even an issue?) Are their stories brushed over because of the shame in a race and the gender that brings with creation/birth/continuation of the species being designated as chattel? Or because we accept the narrow minded belief system which continues to control the history writers?

We can’t change the past. What we can do is learn from it.  Honor it and decide if we want to continue that behavior or change it. We learn. We change.

The Grimke’ women fought through a system that offered them NO protection, few options and NO voice. The women were slaves to their own aristocratic culture. Yet these brave sisters stood their convictions and created freedoms through which we all (no matter is black or white or male or female) define and live our interests and truths.

http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/slavery-and-anti-slavery/essays/angelina-and-sarah-grimke-abolitionist-sisters

Is there equality in pay and opportunity? Is there equality in freedom?

Only a hundred or so years later do we women take our hard fought recognition and freedom for granted?While no longer legally property or chattel the female remains a blatant sex symbol all over advertising and music…Is this the progress we want or is this continued slavery? Do you, young woman, want to grow up to be a sportscaster and have the bare minimum clothing on while your male counterpart sits beside you covered to the neck in layers of clothing? Or have a basketball player looks down your exposed chest when doing an interview.

Are we not aware of how powerful a gender we are and what we can achieve for social change together? Demand equality. Stand in your equality. Insist on what is right for you. Be who YOU are and if you don’t know – keep searching. It’s your right. You don’t have to march and protest and go to jail. Just be equal in your home and your job and your church and your schools.

Another book I learned a lot from is “Cane River” by Lalita Tademy. A fascinating story about individual rights combining women and racial rights.

Our rights were not easily attained by our ancestors. Salute our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters for the hard fought road they paved for us by honoring and growing yourself from any cultural slavery into FREEDOM

http://www.amazon.com/Cane-River-Oprahs-Book-Club/dp/0446615889

Sing it to me, Aretha!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0 RESPECT!!

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