TWO BULBS SHORT OF A FLOWER BED

This spring has been different for many reasons, not the least of which I’m working through the grief of being newly widowed and suffering withdrawals from all my family and friends who make up so much of my life’s memories.  It’s a dual roller coaster, and when the widow is up, the woman in shelter is down because she no longer has a companion to share laughter or the freedom to extend a bit of hospitality to a neighbor or friend.

I’m giving myself permission to be human and mourn for however long it may take.  I lost the love of my life…for this very traditional lady, when reality hit, I was unprepared to lose him as quickly as I did.

The most difficult time of my day is cocktail time; where once my Rogue and I sat and discussed everything from art to politics on the front porch, that porch is no longer ours… that house is across town. Now, I sit alone, listening to the radio or cooking with a glass at my right alongside the stove.  This is a kitchen that we never really had a chance to share except for the pot of rice that he alone cooked to perfection! He’d sold real estate and successfully charmed his Filipino clients into teaching him how to measure the water (two fingers at the higher knuckle) for a perfect pot of rice.  No amount of my measuring ever came close.

Easter and Mother’s Day passed without the ability to visit with adopted family or share my familiar traditions, so I determined to spend the days keeping busy, my mind racing and my joints trying to keep up.  I moved furniture, I cleaned  drawers,  I emptied boxes, I rearranged my frogs…(don’t ask), I watered and repotted herbs and plants; in short, I was all over the map, leaving a trail of every task I’d begun from one end of the house to the other.  In between, I cooked chili, roast, homemade soup, steak, seafood, pasta, and other holiday favorites of mine, all in my attempt to reset a celebratory charm.  Oh yes, I drank my wine or cocktail with the appropriate food groups: salami, bread, cheese…and lots of butter.

Feeling overwhelmed is not unfamiliar.  A lifetime of depressive bouts occur regularly and these somber times are familiar, so I know they will subside.  A good night’s sleep and the next day will dawn with new optimism. I CAN DO THIS.

When I shift into reverse and lose sight of my goal, I take a break.  Music helps clear the cobwebs and oil the gears so that I can once again move forward. Back on course, I manage to wave off the distractions and finish the task at hand.

The weather has been unusual; here at my new little freeze-dried Frog Haven I am watching the utility bill and honing yet another budget from my years of managing a household…I think this one is number 392 but I may have lost count. I’ve only lived in ten different addresses my entire life, so when I contemplate how many hours of tweaking the numbers under all circumstances that these spreadsheets covered, I find this estimate acceptable.  My gears are still shifting and, as my Rogue would have said when I momentarily pause, “You’re thinking again and that’s dangerous.”  Yes, it has been and might yet be, as I’m now the pathfinder seeking unexplored territory in what is a very strange solitude.

I’ve a freedom to seek out my own diversions and, for the first time in my life, I don’t have to perform to anyone else’s standards but my own.  I am no longer a daughter, a wife, or a mother with a young child.  I can just be.  Yes, this solitude is very strange for me.

I have everything I need, so I’m forced to delve into several boxes of sentimental stuff, furnishing my own little patch of warm earth.  I’m rediscovering precious keepsakes and experimenting with old possessions to cozy up this place and still shout “hospitality” to my future visitors.

I have tasks and projects and dreams yet to complete, and other goals I want to achieve; but my mind swirls and slows my pace to a great degree.  I feel like an unfinished garden bed waiting for the flowers to bloom and forgetting that I didn’t buy enough seedling six packs to fill in the holes; yep, this lady is missing at least two bulbs – some moments, a few more!

Now a widow and accustoming myself to doing things when I want to, not because I have to, I once again remind myself to accept any initial progress, knowing more will come slowly and with consistent effort.    Because I have always worked like the tortoise, I’m moving onward, still believing that old axiom, “Slow and steady will win the race”.

Yep, there are days I feel that I’m two bulbs short of a flower bed; but I’ve experienced tougher challenges.  Besides, I take supplements and kill germs with wine, so in the current environment I’m ready to tackle each day’s events with His Guidance and Silent Messages steering me.

Annette Brochier Johnson, 2020

When Life’s Dreams Are Interrupted

 

Dear Readers:

Like many others, I’m watching my fellow countrymen fall prey to a divisiveness that will not go away with medical technology alone.    The 2020 census will reflect a composite of peoples and creeds; as before, this diversity offers a myriad of possibilities for national renewal.  We came together September 12th; and while today’s challenges may seem more fierceful, they are not insurmountable.

Actions still speak louder than words; we are all role models for the generations that follow, so let them taste of America’s Promise by mentoring with compassion, sharing our common experiences, respecting our differences, and lovingly serving one another in times of need.  Only by coming together can we successfully maintain the freedoms, opportunities, hopes, dreams and sanctity of human life in every American neighborhood.

May Our Creator  continue to guide and protect us all in this endeavor.

Annette Brochier Johnson/postscript 9-11-2020

 

 

 

There was no doubt in my mind; the effect must have been the same…

I’ll bet you never thought you’d live through anything like this again.

No, I never imagined…thought we’d seen it all….

That was the conversation between my ex mother-in-law and me on Wednesday morning, September 12, 2001, the day after the World Trade Towers fell.

For her, 9-11 was the second time she’d witnessed infamy on American shores; she and others her age remembered the radio address that alerted a sleeping giant about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then President Roosevelt had called December 7th, 1941, a day of infamy.  That description would sear itself into History’s future chronicles.

Like many young-marrieds of that decade, her husband would later leave to serve in the Pacific.  She would stay behind, living close to family, raising their first born, the son who had arrived in ’43.  True to character, she worked at the army base located in the local airport of the small, Northern Californian town.

And like most military wives (then and now), she relied on help; often from a favorite cousin, who made sure that she and the little guy had enough to eat.  With rationing and a family of his own to feed, this cousin often hunted as did his friends to bring home extra meat.  She admitted to me that had it not been for him, she and her son would have made do with much less. When I first met them, the mutual devotion was apparent, even after thirty years.

Wartime and necessity had changed her.  She’d always been rather spunky, but she became a real fighter if need be on behalf of her baby son’s needs. When her little boy needed new shoes (he was fast outgrowing the only pair he had), she’d tried all the normal avenues to no avail; a toddler’s shoe wasn’t necessarily regarded as priority in a very limited, wartime marketplace; sizes and specific items were difficult to come by.

Neither the doctor nor the local authorities were any match for this young tigress. She personally presented her son’s curled little toes inside his only shoes to whatever authority would listen, and did so until she’d obtained a correctly fitted, newer pair of shoes for her son.

The Greatest Generation?  Likely true.  History does repeat itself, however, and that should not preclude us from supporting our own greatest:  the volunteer sons and daughters who currently serve under our flag.  Those of us born after World War II would view September 11 as the closest we had come to living with war on our country’s shores.

More than ten years later, it thankfully remains the closest experience for Americans in our homeland.  We are still safe to plan and dream here. Much credit goes to the many servants in and out of uniform who are diligently fighting the undeclared war against our Judeo- Christian heritage.

 

To All the Cars I Drove Before

(With apologies to Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias)

(Verses 1 and 2)

To all the cars I drove before

The ones I sat within their doors

I’m glad they came along

Enough to sing this song

To all the cars I drove before

To all the cars that shared my life

The ones before and after “wife”

Muffler warranties unused

My back and neck abused

From all the cars that shared my life

(Bridge)

Though my intentions were sincere, and

Whether hit front, side, or rear

Another tow truck I would see

It’s tow chain dragging me

And the car that shared my strife

(Final Verse)

To all the cars that met their fate

And passed beyond Big Blue Book’s Gate

I pray such times stay few

Hope they ended then with you

And not this Delta Eighty-Eight!

 

 

 

Yes, now even the car has become a classic!

1990/abj

If It Started with the Letter F…

On a regular basis, Brat eagerly climbed the fence two doors away to spend time with the neighbor and poodles.  While I had many choices around the block, most of the time I simply crossed the driveway to the next door neighbors’ back door.

I completely absorbed the family culture and influences.  In some ways, my neighbor had a more direct impact on my early identity than my own family.  Certainly, I identified with her Italian heritage, so much so, that for my first eight years I believed I was Italian also.

Only upon sharing that our next school project was to write about our nationalities did my mother correct me (and rather harshly) that we – including moi – were not of Italian lineage.   We were French descent.

“What’s French?” I asked.

Normally an innocent question might not have evoked a ballistic response; but that one did.  I didn’t remember seeing my mother THIS upset since the time I’d returned home after a day at school.  By that term, I was reading really well and was good at phonics. So in perfect diction I repeated the sentiment that was carved into one of the portable’s wooden sides; then I asked Mom what one certain word meant.

That was the first time I’d ever pronounced the particular word beginning with the letter F.  Believe me when I tell you: it was also the last time.  I learned that asking certain questions could get me into trouble at eight years of age.

 

Heaven Will Never Be The Same

It is The Fourth of July, 2019, and our country is celebrating the 243rd Independence Day.  Other anniversaries thus far this year will have included the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6th and the coming 50th Anniversary of Man Landing on the Moon on July 20th.

As with every morning, our radio is on and I’ve awakened to a plethora of patriotic music.  I still recognize the military anthems of each branch; unlike most of my generation, I actually played a couple of them on my accordion.  Such were the expectations of my childhood home; in retrospect, apparently God and Daddy knew what was best for me; the music lessons proved to be character-building.  As a Baby Boomer, however, guitar lessons would have been the preferred choice to “fit in” among peers in The Sixties.  After forty years, I have since recovered from adolescent embarrassment…kinda.

 Today on this July 4th, I am mourning the loss of two men whom I admired greatly and who admittedly influenced this writer’s belief in the American Dream and my religious perspective.  Both were independent thinkers and not afraid to take risks that challenged traditional practices in their very different professional fields.

One I never had the pleasure of meeting, but he once gained national interest when he challenged the American public: “If you can find a better car, buy it!” 

The other was a preacher whose intellect and service to His Savior engaged and befriended this soon-to-be-divorced mother of one; he and his wife welcomed us into their church family.

With his wife at his side and five little critters to tend to, this pastor challenged the traditional practices and availed himself to the greater community.  He didn’t wait for the spiritually hungry to enter the church. He walked out among the neighborhoods and met people where he found them. He joined community service organizations and learned about each town’s dynamics. 

He was a student always, an articulate speaker who found God’s truths and built future sermons from his library which included vintage Catholic writings as well as from some of Sunday’s comic strips.  A voracious reader, he once admitted he couldn’t spell well and depended heavily on spell check.   Once this admission was voiced, I wasted no time in secretly presenting him with a Scrabble game for his next birthday.  Eventually I was forced to confess (an old Catholic habit) and the chuckles and much detested board game remained in his household even after several moves to other pastoral assignments!

I had the pleasure of his friendship for more than thirty years.  He proofed my first published book and, in his signature dry humor, admitted that he would allow it in his church library, with the caveat, “But what do I know, I’m just a heretic” (wink, wink).

Other memories remain, not the least was our final get together here in our Washington, Missouri home.  It had been fifteen years since we’d seen each other but always, always, the occasional email picked up where we left off. And I was allowed to once again banter back and forth, trading barbs and dry wit, enjoying the fellowship with our spouses’ smiling approval. 

Health issues presented themselves, spine deterioration and hearing loss which forced him to retire after thirty-three years of ministry.  But he pursued and, with the successful medical technology of cochlear implants, regained “his life again” (his words) and continued to mentor young pastors and former students, in addition to teaching high school math and history; in some cases developing the curriculum for on-line courses.

He was my first “adopted minister” and, as he was quick to point out to me, certainly the MOST entertaining! His passing has left me heartbroken but comforted and grateful that God’s plan allowed us one final fellowship.  In true dry wit form, I’m smiling at his arrival in Heaven on the same day as that CEO…  

May the angels never run out of vitamins…

Seasonal American Pie

Having the additional ability to reason and therefore, expected to ably discern differences, man should routinely ask questions.  There is AS YET no harm in being inquisitive; despite what the current, myopic main media might imply, one should freely share and explore all variables of a topic.   While I wouldn’t attempt to read the intent of all the journalists behind the microphones, I would ask that we consider the source.

The US media have been fashioned from liberal arts and collegiate think tanks, many of which are anti-free market.  While there is no immediate harm in being compassionate and relegating a certain amount of the free market net earnings to community needs, the decision makers have grown power-hungry, therefore, less than honest with their philanthropic agendas.  And the main media have been quick to disguise underlying facts to oblige them.

The fiscally aware, i.e. the entrepreneurs and wage earners, are mindful that there are only SO MANY PIECES of the same American Pie…and more than twelve slices are needed in this 21st Century.  Twelve slices of tax payer money are rather thin and finite.  Not nearly enough to accomplish the compassionate missions of the most well-intended; the unscrupulous have yet to be fully vetted or, at the very least, have their microphones taken and discarded.

The competition continually competes for our dollars and rapt attention.    As some of the most benevolent people in the world, perhaps it is better for Americans to test the waters at the local watering hole.  Time to restudy that marketing travelogue…and make sure we are on board and our economic journey correctly remains in a free and open sea.

God Bless America —- and the ones who defend it at home and abroad.

Nurturing Garden Blues

Estaban Gardens book cover

Mom would have loved my back yard garden once it had developed after the first few seasons.  She would have enjoyed the maturity of the trees and the scattered perennial shrubs.  Blue was her favorite color, so the lobelia that I’d dappled here and there to offset the varied pinks and orange hues would have pleased her very much, as it well should since I’d planted it especially with her in mind.

So, too, the Star of Israel blooms that appeared just in time for the Fourth of July every year.  It was no coincidence that all of my plants yielded blue flowers.  Agapanthus plants, the correct name for the Star of Israel, were indeed survivors; the blossomed “star” bursts of white or blue were used frequently in California as commercial landscaping flora and in highway dividers.  They were my kind of plant; nearly indestructible!

I can’t tell you how often over the years I had read “easy to grow” and believed it!  Perhaps it was because Mom could always keep things growing, no matter how delicate the plant; she could revive any greenery in her keeping.  She had houseplants that were older than some of her grandchildren!  Each plant had a story and held a memory of someone or someplace.

On the other hand, delicate looking vines didn’t grow very well under my care. An “easy to grow” clematis struggled for its survival and, much to my chagrin, the vine very soon after planting looked like it needed a transfusion.  I decided after a few months’ efforts that it was really begging for mercy, so I dug it up and disposed of it.

One of my favorite sayings among garden prose is the one that reads,

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

than anywhere else on earth

Nurturing an appreciation for flowers and gardens was one of the pleasures Mom and I shared.  Refilling our vessels as we did our favorite vases, His grace seemed to quell our anxious souls on many occasions, allowing us just to be.  Within the presence of God’s mixed bouquets, my mother remains joyfully alongside me.