Foxtale, my favorite bookstore

Some people might scoff at how far I drive (45 minutes in reasonable traffic) for a good book when there are big box bookstores closer and the internet at my fingertips for goodness sakes. But I am here to tell you that people come all the way from Paris, France, to Foxtale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA https://www.facebook.com/FoxTaleBookShoppe. I know this for a fact and here is how.

It was a Friday evening book-signing by Edward Kelsey Moore for his very first novel, The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat http://www.edwardkelseymoore.com/supremes-at-earls.html. I had read the book because one of the three owners of Foxtale recommended it. You should listen to these ladies when they tell you to read a good book, because they know of which they speak. What I didn’t know was that everybody else was aware of this already, so when my hubby and I showed up, it was obvious I should have made reservations. Not to worry, the owners came to our rescue and gave us the two seats that were vacated by unfortunate no-shows.

Fate is what stepped in, apparently, because there were two ladies—sisters—at our table and one of them lived in France. We immediately bonded over books and art. The sister from France had an Etsy shop and I wanted to start one. While we sipped our wine and nibbled our hors d’oeuvres, before Mr. Moore began his presentation and the Supremes began to sing (yes, the three owners morphed into, I swear, it was the Supremes), we bonded. We traded e-mail addresses and have been pals ever since!

A year and some change later, the sisters reunited for their annual visit and we all met again in Woodstock. Over lunch we shared family stories, compared notes on education and youth sports in our different countries, and laughed about the wonderful time we had that night at Foxtale.

Now, who wouldn’t drive a few miles for an experience like that?!

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The Taste of Sunshine

Prompt from Writer’s Write: Write about the taste of sunshine
Here is my response.

I was up early that morning. Couldn’t sleep. I slipped on my robe and tiptoed to the porch. The screens were damp with the remainder of the rain dropped in buckets from the midnight sky. Trees creaked in the wind and I tugged my robe tighter around me. Where had I left that sash, I wondered. They need to invent robes with belts attached.

I sat, snug in the rocker, and sipped at my coffee. The chip on the handle reminded me I needed to get back to my potter’s wheel. But this was my favorite mug—fit my hands, didn’t burn my knuckles when the coffee was fresh from the pot, and didn’t cool off before I got to the bottom.

I breathed in the morning and let it out just as the first fingers of sunrays poked themselves through the oak branches. The edges of their leaves lit up as the mist rose off them. In the distance a rooster crowed and up close a hummingbird zipped to the feeder for breakfast.

I sipped again. Hot black coffee, muted with whipping cream and sweetened with chocolate and caramel. This is the taste of early morning sunshine, I thought. And isn’t it the best!

Amnesia, Alzheimer’s, or the FB Fairy?

Who are these friends of mine?

I don’t know their names. I don’t recognize their faces. Their hometowns don’t correspond with anywhere I have ever lived. They didn’t graduate with me from any of my alma maters or marry anyone I remember, go to my church, eat at my favorite restaurants, or teach at any of the schools where I spent a great deal of my life. I must have Alzheimer’s!

Do you have friends like these, too? Please tell me you do. Please say I’m not losing it. They just showed up on my Facebook and I am certain I didn’t request friendships or confirm friendships with these total strangers. Or if I did and have forgotten it, OH MY! What else could it be but some form of early onset dementia.

Okay, early onset might be pushing it. Maybe on-time onset would be more accurate. I know I’m getting old, but still, surely I would recognize these friends. I hope they are not family. I still know my husband, my daughter, my son, my daughter-in-law, my grandson, my sister-in-law, and my nieces and nephews. These folks could be cousins, I suppose. I have cousins I haven’t even met. Those Edwards cousins that moved off to Texas and married and had kids—I’ve never even met their wives, let alone their kids. They could be these people, maybe, but why didn’t they declare themselves as long-lost cousins in their FB profiles so I wouldn’t think I am on such a quick downward spiral into the abyss? Inconsiderate, that’s for sure!

But wait! Did FB do this to me? Throw me into a panic about my mental capacity? I do my crossword puzzles every day or at least some form of mental exercise. I can sometimes figure out cryptograms and I get several of the Syl”la-Crost’tics in my PennyPress Variety Puzzles and Games workbook. I admit I have given up on any of the circular Flower Power puzzles that read backwards and forwards and upside down. That is just too much flipping around! And okay, full disclosure here, I also leave all the logic problems to my son, the philosophy major, in case he wants a little fun when he is visiting.

So I don’t know if it is me, or if it is a trick of FB, or not. I certainly don’t want to accuse FB of anything devious and I sure don’t want to be kicked out of FB forever because I love seeing other people’s puppies and children, going on their vacations, being inspired by their thoughts, and most of all laughing at their (personal or internet-discovered) jokes! So I hope the FB police aren’t reading this post. But I also hope that the FB Fairy just came in while I was sleeping and friended a bunch of new people to entertain me if I ever get bored! You know, like the Tooth Fairy. Maybe that’s it.

13.9 degrees Celsius–Happy or Sad?

Old, cold people are happier. That is what research says. Well, not exactly like that. This research (http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier) says that as you get older, you find ways to be happier. And it further states that people are at their maximum happiness at 13.9 degrees Celsius. Not knowing what Fahrenheit temperature that is, I thought, okay, maybe so. I know if I’m too hot or too cold, I’m grumpy, so the opposite must be true. But just in case, I looked it up.

I love how you can just Google anything and Google will find a website that will do the math for you, don’t you? There is a conversion table for any measurement you want—inches to centimeters or centimeters to inches, feet to yards, teaspoons to tablespoons, I could go on forever. So I went to Google and I asked for Celsius to Fahrenheit and sure enough, all I had to do was plug in the 13.9 and presto, there was my answer—57.02!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am cold at 57.02 F. I am cold at 58.02, 59.02. 60.02……all the way til about 70.02 and then I start to get comfortable, and yes, happy. That lasts until about 74.02 when I start to get a little warm here in Georgia, maybe it’s the humidity, but whatever, by 75.02 I am thinking about whether it is time to turn on the AC.

That means either enough old people where they did this study like it cold or my internal thermometer is on the fritz. Perhaps they did the study in Chicago. I was there once on Spring Break to see my daughter. It had apparently been warm enough for daffodils to bloom a few days before, but the day I arrived it was way below 13.9 C or 57.02 F either. (Chicago is kind of foreign territory to me so I’m not sure how they measure their heat or lack thereof.) Anyway, it was snowing when I got out of the taxi and not just the flurry kind, it was piling up on the sidewalks and freezing the daffodils. Days later, it got to about 50 F (10 C) and people were out in their shorts running up and down those same sidewalks and lunching alfresco!

So no offense to the researchers who wrote this study and certainly no offense to those brave old Chicagoans who love the cold, but I am not sure 13.9 C is my kind of old lady happiness. I think another study needs to be done farther south.

 

In the Now

Live in the moment, they say. Who is they, anyway, I have been wondering so I went in search of the they that are trying to help us all exist with less stress and more Zen. (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200810/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment) And that is how I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Now how can I trust a man who added the name Zinn to his own name Kabat, I thought. So I searched some more. Because if this is just a hook to trick me into believing I should buy yet another self-help book like that book that should have been called Hey Sucker Who Wants a Shortcut To Getting Skinny Without Diet or Exercise, I am not buying it. I did buy HSWWASTGSWDOE because if someone can do that I’ll sure pay the price of a hardback…plus shipping! But HSWWASTGSWDOE didn’t do a thing to make me thin, probably the opposite because I followed its advice and didn’t weigh for a while…a really, really bad idea.

But back to Zen Kabat-Zinn. He has written many books and been on many TV shows and has a Ph. D and is the real thing. He’s a professor at the University of Massachusetts and the founder of their Stress Management Clinic. Here is a really interesting radio interview he did on public radio (http://www.onbeing.org/program/opening-our-lives/138). I listened to the entire 51 minutes and I really enjoyed what he said. But he never said how come he added Zinn to his name. Being the suspicious, distrusting woman I am, I continued to look for evidence. I tried staying in the moment like he recommended on the radio, but my mind kept going back to his name. It was very distracting.

I learned he was born Jewish but was raised scientist/artist. I learned his upbringing forced him to try to find the commonalities between his father’s beliefs (the scientist) and his mother’s (the artist). That is what brought him to Zen back in his days as a student at MIT (http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2012/kabat-zinn-addresses-mit-medical-clinicians). So the Buddhists were the ones who really set him on his quest for mindfulness.

Now those Buddhist monks weren’t out to trick me into buying a self-help book and I really have been thinking about how to enjoy my retirement to the fullest and so I read and listened and learned. I learned to be still (theoretically, anyway) and pay attention to my senses, all of which are pretty good, except for my sense of smell. My nose has long been a source of worry for me because it mostly just holds up my glasses, but on occasion it has stepped up to the plate and smelled things like freshly cut oranges or cinnamon. (You see a problem and the need I had for HSWWASTGSWDOE, right?) I also learned to feel my emotions, good or bad, for that is a moment of acceptance. And I learned to breathe –to be aware of how that act alone loosens knots in my shoulders and tension in my stomach.

I was on the way, thanks to the monks and Kabat-Zinn to a more present, mindful retirement. But still his name nagged at me. Finally I found it hidden halfway down an article about his books, hidden in a parenthesis as though it was an afterthought, hidden as though no one but doubtful Marie had ever wondered or suspected or questioned his sincerity. There is was: (www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20041206/27421-mindful-writing.html?subject=http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20041206/27421-mindful-writing.html ) the reason he added Zinn to Kabat. He married a Zinn. That was her last name. He married Myla Zinn and this enlightened man, a man of the modern era, took his wife’s last name, too. It wasn’t a ploy. It wasn’t a trick. It was an act of love and commitment.

Now that’s a man I can trust!

And why all this interests so late in life (67 and counting) in living in the moment, you ask?

ImageWell, at 67 it is what I remember best.

 While wondering what good poison ivy does, I ran across this website: mailto:http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Poison%2520Ivy.html which did say that if you’re crazy and eat it, it could kill you, but didn’t say the only thing I thought maybe poison ivy was good for—making oxygen for us to breathe—and that confused me. Doesn’t every green plant make oxygen? Now Wildman Steve has a phone number I could call, but from the looks of his resume I doubt I would get to talk to the Wild one himself. He has done everything in every possible field of endeavor from science to art to chess tournaments. He doesn’t look that old in the photos on his website. I guess his youthful appearance comes from all the outdoor activities, what with searching for free edible wild food in the woods and Central Park to taking kids on birthday hikes and stuff. Walking and eating healthy they say are the way to keep fit. It appears to be working for Wildman. It is too bad I didn’t pay more attention when I was a kid about things like that.

 Oh, I knew about some wild things both good and bad. I definitely knew not to touch poison ivy. I am one of the 4 out of 5 people that are allergic to it. I knew early on what it looked like and not to touch its leaves or its vines any time of the year. I lived in the woods. It was everywhere. Apparently our woods were not old growth woods where according to the Man it doesn’t grow. And apparently our woods had lots of carbon dioxide where it grows more abundantly according to a Duke University study quoted by the Wild guy. I don’t guess he or the researchers ever got to our 10 acres of woods on Tooles Bend Road, but I could have shown them some major poison ivy vines. Most of the kids in my neighborhood were just as cautious of the stuff as I was, but there was this one girl who said she wasn’t allergic to it. None of us believed her. We didn’t know there was one in 5 who were somehow immune. She bragged and bragged about being able to touch it and we scoffed until one day she said, “I’ll show you!” and she picked it and ate it right there in front of us.

It is too bad for her that Wildman Steve Brill hadn’t grown up to be the Wildman he is today because if she could have read his article, she would have known that if you push it too far, you can get un-allergic! That is right. That girl ended up in the hospital. Her insides were allergic like crazy! Fortunately, she didn’t die like some of the people the Wildman told about in his book. You should really read that part I linked up there. Poison ivy is nothing to play around with.

But there are some really good things in the wild, if you know what they are. My daddy knew a lot about them and I should have paid better attention. There were blackberries, wild strawberries, black walnuts, muscadines, persimmons, and poke. Those were the easy ones, the ones we could eat and I did because they were delicious. You did have to get them at their peak and not before or after. Before, the persimmons would pucker your mouth closed shut for days. After, some parts of the pokeweed would poison you. You had to be careful with wild stuff. But there were other things I didn’t take notice to when Daddy took me for walks—at least not the close kind of notice you ought to if you’re going to remember what to eat or drink that’s wild and not poison. There were rat’s vein and sassafras for example. Wish I had listened more about them. It was something about teas to make for ailments of some sort, but I wasn’t sick and didn’t expect to need to know that, I guess. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could take another walk in the woods with my Daddy. Today I’d know to pay better attention.

Since I can’t, I am really glad the Wildman has written his book. Maybe there’s hope for me after all. And what about the oxygen I thought all green stuff makes for us—even poison ivy? I’m going back and read that link again. Could be I wasn’t paying as close attention as I thought I was!Image

What A Beauty!

What a beauty? The shiner, I mean. I’ve never had one before, but I think I’ve got a pretty good one now. Best of all, it doesn’t hurt at all. If you’ve been following my blog, you may have read the post titled If someone says your face looks like a prune, please don’t take offense. If so, you know about my macular hole in my right eye, the one I got by means of aging, a risk I was not aware of when I kept having those birthdays. I still would have had them so a warning would have just worried me. I like birthdays and want to continue them for quite some time. Coca cola cake from Cracker Barrel is my favorite, in case you’re interested.

Back to my story, I am here to update you on what happens after the macular hole surgery. I had the cataract surgery so I wouldn’t have to be face down for a week or several weeks. Really my toes aren’t that interesting to look at. I don’t even paint them. Why not? Well, they just can’t breathe when I paint them. Neither can my fingernails. They suffocate. Really! I know you probably agree with my daughter that finger/toenails don’t breathe, that is the job of the lungs or so say disbelievers. But I am the owner of these particular toes and fingers and I know that my lungs begin to protest as though I am going to die slowly from the far extremities inward and upward until no oxygen can reach even one vital organ and then kaput, I’m a goner. So I refuse to decorate them in poison. Even though I love art and taught it for many years. Even though now days toes and fingers are being decorated with beautiful miniature masterpieces that would be very entertaining if even one of your eyes worked well. Just NO, I can’t do it.

So anyway, after the cataract surgery, which only brightened the colors of things I can’t see as well with my right eye, I waited 4 weeks dutifully putting the drops in my eyes several times a day so that would heal. Then I went for the macular hole surgery. First, though, I visited my brother who is having some health issues of his own. I had to travel to a higher elevation to see him and now after the bubble of gas/air replaced the vitreous fluid in my eye, I can’t go up. Or down. At least not up and down enough that my ears will pop. Ears have a way to relieve themselves when the pressure gets to bothering them. They pop when you swallow letting the pressure go, kind of like an ear burp. But eyes can’t swallow, so no eye burp occurs. Instead, pop goes the optic nerve. You don’t want that to happen.

Finally, last Wednesday I had my macular hole surgery. It went fine. I am hanging out here at home and I have plenty to entertain me. I got books on tape, thinking I might not see well enough to read, but really I see fine with my left eye so I can read. I have acrylic paint and canvases, watercolor paper and watercolors, clay and glazes. I shopped and bought all the nonperishable items I thought I would need that would be hard for my husband to find when he shops. So I’m set.

First I had this little cage that covered my eye for a day. It was hard to get my glasses on and I had to prop them catty-cornered so my left eye could do the job of both eyes for a day. But the next day I went back to the doctor and they removed the cage and that is when my lovely shiner was uncovered. The doctor said it was because of the low dose aspirin I take on account of my being a mutant. I told you about that, right? Not a teenage ninja turtle, but a blood clotting mutant. Just a little apparently. Enough for me to take baby aspirin, but not rat poison (otherwise known as wafarin or Coumadin) anymore. So any of you friends of mine who are watching me be the guinea pig for this macular hole surgery, don’t worry. You probably won’t get a beauty like mine. I hope you’re not a little sad about that. It is quite a beaut, I admit.

And in addition, here is a really cool part. Last night I was sitting out on the screened-in porch with the Christmas lights on it. I know you are supposed to take your lights down after Christmas or you will be considered redneck and especially if you are from the South where redneck originated and is revered in certain circles. I know, but they are so pretty and they lend such an atmosphere of festivity when I see them that, several years ago, we hung them and just couldn’t bring ourselves to remove them. We have replaced some of the strands when they’ve burned out—blank spaces might really say redneck, don’t you think? Anyway, redneck or not, I was sitting there playing scrabble with my hubby when I looked up with my right eye and I what I saw was amazing.

I already knew from looking through that eye that I see the same way Tom of the Tom and Jerry cartoons sees when his eyes fill up with ocean water and the fish swim through them. I even have a little bubble that looks like a jellyfish floating in the water. And I can see the top of the water, just like when I swim underwater and look up. There is light but the objects are blurry and out of focus. This is normal after this surgery and as the gas bubble dissipates, the water level will lower, they tell me, like the swimming pool slowly draining back into the river and out into the ocean.

I had been warned about the blurriness and the water level, so this didn’t surprise me. I don’t know if the doctor knows about what happens to Christmas lights when viewed through macular hole surgery. It is dazzling. I wish I could take a picture through my eye and post it here. But I can’t so I will try to describe it as I am not a good enough painter to paint it for you. The closest artwork I can think of is this street light by Giacomo Balla http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O%3AAD%3AE%3A311&page_number=3&template_id=1&sort_order=1 which you can find in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. But that is only one light. My Christmas lights have hundreds of tiny bulbs and so they sparkle and send flower-like blooms out each one of them. It is almost like I imagine snorkeling in an iridescent coral reef where round creatures live in colonies and grown brighter and more intense at their edges. It is just beautiful.

So friends, I’ll keep you posted as to whether I really can see better in about 10 weeks when the bubble of gas escapes and the pool drains into the ocean, but until then, you’ll find me on the screened in porch watching the lights.