Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mom to Me

Bob Frysinger, my wife's brother, spoke eloquently at his father's memorial. Some of what he said comes to mind in these first days after my mother's death.
"I thought I knew him. He was one of two people that I had the most intimate of relationships with as I was growing up. But when you look at the arc of a life, especially one that spans nearly a century, I realized that my memories start at perhaps 5 and by the time I was 16 I was going off to Westtown to board, then I went to college, then I got married and moved away. There was perhaps 10 years of really paying attention and knowing him and that constitutes perhaps a little bit more than 10% of his life."

1983 - with crossword puzzle
Born Carol Elizabeth in 1918, my mother was the daughter of David Richie, a Quaker from New Jersey, and Edith Russell, a Quaker from Ohio. What was it like to be the daughter of these two loving but fairly stern parents? A childhood in the midst of the Great Depression, frugality was hammered into a guiding principle.  I'm certain there was joy in this childhood but I heard more about what one didn't do, didn't say, couldn't afford.

She was a younger sister to a brother and a sister. How was it to follow in the footsteps of two attractive, bright, successful siblings? She loved them dearly but I think she always felt she didn't do as well.

She was a student at Westtown Boarding School, most likely a conscientious but average student. There she formed friendships that lasted her lifetime. She maintained a "round robin" letter chain with these friends for decades, for as long as they were able. I know she was a valued friend to some.

In 1945 she married Russell Tuttle. He was fatherless from the age of nine, raised by his widowed mother, prep school and college educated, a conscientious objector to the war. They met at a Civilian Public Service camp where he served his country during the war. I think they were genuinely happily married for 67 years. I never saw them fight, almost never heard them raise their voices to each other. I always thought he held a few more cards, that she was somewhat subservient, but such were the times. I will never know just how it felt to be his wife.

In 1947 she had her first of four children and became a parent. I know she did the best she could to raise us "right" using the primary model she was given, the way she was raised. She took the role of disciplinarian, scolding and spanking us when she thought needed,  all the while hearing her mother's voice saying she was far too lenient.

She worked for the American Friends Service Committee in her twenties and later in life. I think she was a competent, reliable employee and a convivial workmate. She enjoyed her work life but I just know about small fragments.

And so to others she was a daughter, a sister, a student, a wife, a friend, an employee, a workmate and combinations of these things. But she was Mom to me.

I was a stay-at-home dad and tried my best to nurture despite roles cast by our culture. But when my children were hurt, when they were sick, when they needed comfort I understood it was Mom they wanted. It was Mom they needed. I understood because there is something about moms.

I remember being carried into a doctor's office or sitting together in a waiting room. I remember being held in a lap and hugs and kisses to make it all better. I remember a cool wash cloth wiped across a fevered brow; light fingers rubbing my back; a lullaby singing me to sleep. I remember hot soup brought on a tray to my bed, stories read aloud, and soothing words in the middle of the night. I remember the softness of Mom.

This is the loss I feel; a loving soul who cared for me. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Inner Voice Extraction Kit

Inner Voice Extraction Kit $89.99
Before I get into my business plan let's first talk about the problem I'm trying to address with this product. Being a typical fellow I'll use myself as a case study. And it is my own search for relief that brought forth the idea; that necessity/mother of invention thing.

I have a voice in my head that talks constantly. If I'm awake, he's talking. Round-the-clock, twenty-four seven, incessant, never ending blathering. Wake in the morning and he starts before my feet hit the ground. Can't even get my coffee first. Step out on a fine summer's eve and he says "Wow! Beautiful sunset!". Well, yeah, duh. Doesn't he know I'm standing right here looking at it? As a matter of fact I saw it first. So there it is, I have my very own play-by-play announcer. Walking about the world is like I'm in kindergarten where the teacher has written labels on things to help me learn to read. "Big bus." "Pink shoes." "Cold wind." We do this because it makes us feel safer. Labeling things allows us to place what we perceive into all the little compartments we have created, validating our personal reality, reassuring us.  But it means we experience our lives through the play by play guy, missing out on all he chooses to ignore, the things he thinks don't fit. I'm tired of this.

My guy thinks he's a real problem solver. Yes, sir, he is all over the "Problem du Jour" even though his batting average is so bad he'd be warming the bench in Double A. Worse yet, if he doesn't have a good problem to work on, he dreams one up and makes it mine. Thanks. I need that.

He is incessant and redundant. Did I already say that? He thinks if he says something enough times, no matter if it's true or not, I'll believe him. I hate to admit he's probably right on that one.

He is so judgmental he carries a gavel with him at all times. Good. Bad. Smart. Dumb. Like. Don't like. I've tried to tell him this is very uncool but he thinks it's his job. I don't think it is unreasonable in a relationship as intimate as ours for me to expect a little encouragement, a little praise now and then, you know, a little love. But there is no pleasing this guy. I can't start something without him tearing into it from the get go.  Can't I at least get a rough sketch on paper first?

And he's so insecure if he was on his own he'd be committed. "Did I say the right thing? Oh no! I did the wrong thing! They might not like me! They might think I'm incompetent! Quick, do something! Fix it!" Holy cow, buddy, calm down, give it a rest. I don't get it. Was this guy's childhood so much worse than mine?

I do have to say his saving grace is he's funny sometimes. I might miss that.

But anyway you get the idea. This guy is bad company and it's time for him to leave. Sometimes intimate relationships don't work out. Shit happens.

Well, it turns out ending this relationship, getting this voice to be quiet, is quite difficult. My research shows there are some very old school methods available but they are arduous to say the least, results vary widely, and there is certainly no guarantee. I was hoping for something quick and dirty.

I looked in the Yellow Pages. Zip. I did find Voice Training but I'm sure that was for the regular voice. If it was for the inner voice I would have pursued it. My Mom could do this job. Don't interrupt. If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all. A few basics would help a lot.

I checked YouTube and got nada. Unbelievable. Not even on YouTube. So that's when the wheels started turning…. I can't be the only one who wants to know how to do this.

We have over 7 billion people on the planet and almost everyone of them has this incessant, nagging, irritating voice talking to them. It's costing them a pretty penny in sleep, anxiety, and depression meds. I bet some people have more than one voice, maybe they have that good cop/bad cop thing going, and would pay dearly to get rid of the bad one. And, as far as I know, no one is offering this service.

We'll have to make it clear in the sales pitch that we're talking about the mind voice not the heart one. I wouldn't mess with the heart one. And we'll have to do some reassuring to those people who think they might be signing up for euthanasia. Some before and after videos like those late night weight loss ones might help.

Now I have to admit I don't actually have a working product to offer yet. But while R & D works on that little snag in the plan I thought it would be wise to do some market testing with a do-it-yourself kit. This 16 piece ensemble comes complete with undecipherable Chinese instructions for an introductory price of $89.99. This should give a measurable indication of people's desperation and some good data to take to the venture capitalists.

Meanwhile, my personal solution to this problem is to stop listening. That Stephen guy, or whatever his name is, can say whatever he wants, talk until he's blue in the face, yammer till the cows come home. I'm not listening.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

This Path

drawn to openings
     an open door, a window in the wall
           a garden gate, some entry to beyond
                the tunnel, the bridge, the winding road
                      this woodland path, this barefoot path
                             this mossy path, the middle path

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Old World Bread

 I have been wanting to try this for a long time. It must have been a year ago, I  attended a fellowship weekend at a home near Towanda, Pa. There was a pot luck feast on the patio around a large smoking fire and the host served this great crusty bread he had made earlier in the day. I left with the recipe and an eye out for an old cast iron dutch oven.

So every now and then I would stop at antique shops for a look but it turned out to be something that was not an easy find as I had thought it would be. And so months go by with the recipe and technique untried.

My son knew I was looking and so one day, a little before my birthday, he and his lady friend, went looking in antique places near her home but to no avail. Back to her Grandmother's house for a meal and they mention the search. Her mother says, "I think there is one in the basement that hasn't been used in 30 years".

And so I was gifted with this perfect kettle. A little wire brushing and seasoning and the show is on. This is a "no knead, slow rise" method using just a 1/4 t. of yeast. I'm pleased with the result. A good crust. I substituted 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour. With this size pan I think I will double the recipe next time as this smallish loaf will be gone in no time.


The recipe I was given: