Happy Birthday to My First Love

birthday cakeImage by freakgirl via Flickr
Today is a special day in our house.  Seventy-one years ago, my mother, C., was born to Curry and Inez in New Orleans, Louisiana.  For all intents and purposes, she was raised by her grandmother, Irma, and spent time with her father. She was a happy child with numerous cousins to play and hang around with.

When she was a mere 18 years of age, she married. I was the first born child to C. and J., five days before Christmas in New Orleans. I was their first born of three girls.  My mother is an amazing woman who single-handedly raised me and my 3 siblings, when my dad made the poor choice to leave our family–on my 5th birthday.  Although I didn’t realize it for decades, this incident had a huge influence on my life and the person that I was to become.

After my father left our family, we had to move in with my great-grandmother. My mother, a very beautiful woman, who married young and never had the opportunity to attend college, had few job prospects. She had three children to care for so she soon accepted a job as a cook for the New Orleans Catholic Archdiocese, where she remained for over 40 years. Although we were poor, my mom always worked 2-3 jobs to make sure that we had food on the table and clean clothes to wear. Although she could have easily qualified, she steadfastly refused to apply for or receive any type of government aid. (The exception was the free lunch program that we had to apply for through the schools and were automatically accepted.) She is a proud woman and remains so to this day.

Her life has not been easy. She has seen a sister taken from her by violent means, her mother by a drunk driver, her beloved grandmother by cancer, her son by congestive heart failure following an earlier diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 23, and numerous other losses that she has handled with grace. Most recently, Hurricane Katrina, as well as health issues, made it impossible for my mom to return to the only home that she has ever known, the only one that she ever cared to know–New Orleans. Yet, in spite of all of this, she has never lost hope or faith.

My mother came to live with my husband and me because of serious health issues, but I think that I have gained much more from her presence. It is the first time that we have lived under the same roof since I left home the Summer after I graduated high school. I can’t say that I left on great terms, and I certainly did not understand her and what it meant to be a parent; especially, a single parent of four. The passage of time and parenthood have mellowed me and I think that I can say, made me wiser. With that, our relationship has been transformed. It has matured into something that I never thought possible, a friendship, and a close one at that. My mom is my confidant, (okay, there are limits.) friend, and at times, just my mother. For the first time ever, I think that I can say with certainty that, I get my mom and she gets me. Even ten years ago, I never thought that I’d utter those words. I know that I am blessed to still have my mother with me and that is why I couldn’t let this day go by without saying “HAPPY 71st BIRTHDAY” to the very first love of my life, my Mom. 

Blessings to you,

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The Book Fiend

a pile of booksImage by pteittinen via Flickr

When I was growing up as a youngster in New Orleans, drug addicts were referred to as “dope fiends.” Now, as a child, I really had no idea what a “dope fiend” was, but I knew what it wasn’t–a term of endearment. The reason that I am bringing this up, is because I have a confession to make. I. Am. A. Book. Fiend. There, I’ve said it, I am a book fiend.

Anyone who knows me long enough, will quickly notice one thing about me. It’s the books–they are everywhere. I blame my mother for my love of reading and curiosity. As a young girl, I remember seeing her, in a rare moment of quiet or non doing, with a paperback book in hand. Although I have absolutely no proof, I imagine her enjoying some tawdry, romance novel, as a means of escaping the gripping stress and drudgery of raising four children by her self. I suppose the paperback was her ‘calgon take me away’ moment.
For the most part, I prefer hardbacks, but of course, my ‘library’ contains a liberal numbers of paperbacks as well. The books are here, there, everywhere. Months ago, my amazing friend K. came over to help me get the disorganized organized. Knowing her as I do, I am certain that she wanted nothing more than to single-handedly haul every book that I owned to Goodwill, but good friend that she is, she choose to ignore them. 
Good luck to the person who decides to ‘figure me out’ by the books in my ‘library.’ I have books ranging from How God Changes Your Brain, to the Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism,  The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbs, The Poetry of Robert Frost, Mindfulness Yoga, Blink, The Book of Stones, The Artist’s Way, The Lives of Saints, The Tibetan Book of Death and Dying, Symbols of Catholicism, Web Design for Dummies, The Right to Write, The Color of Water, Living Deeply, Essence and Alchemy, The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy and everything in between. I love them and can’t bring myself to get rid of them–unless they are truly awful. I do pass on current fiction one-time reads so that others can enjoy them (the women in my doctor’s office loves me!).  I also donate more than a few tragic mistakes to Goodwill. With that said, it should surprise you to learn that I still have scores of books. Seriously. At this point, I can’t begin to estimate the number of books that I own, but because of a brilliant online cataloguing system, I know that it is 256 and counting. So, a while back, I began a campaign to get the books under control.  
When I first heard about the Kindle, and given my love for the good old tree guzzling book back in my youth, I thought “blasphemy.” I insisted that I’d never own one. Like a gunslinger, I am always quick to sling the word “never” and just as quick to categorize its utterance as a momentary lack in judgment. Anyway, as I was picking myself out of the avalanche of books that littered my bedroom floor, realism and idealism had a face to face, and the evil Kindle was welcomed into our home–overnight, as I recall. Gasp!
Yet,  as my mother always said, “you have to give the devil his due,” I have seen the light! I love my Kindle. I have had one for at least a year and currently, I have about 45 books on it. Its light weight, easy to use and perfect for an avid reader and chronic pain suffer–unfortunately, there are still some books that for me the digital method will not suffice. Some books hold such a place in my heart that I want that old-school book to put on my shelf (or stack on the floor somewhere) and later pass on to my children or grandchildren for them to do the same. I just can’t see doing that with a digital book. I guess that until a digital book finds a way into my heart like that, it will remain just that, an e-book, but not a treasured possession that one can truly pass on to family and friends. 
I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will always be a book fiend. There are more worrisome “fiends” as my childhood showed. Yes, I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend, I am a book fiend. I AM a book fiend. 
P.S. I ordered a book yesterday. I needed it–really!
Blessings, Peace and Love, 
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A River Comes Home

Mississippi River - New OrleansImage by Ray Devlin via Flickr

“You know they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact, it is not flooding, it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is like that: remembering where it was.” ~Toni Morrison

I am a child of New Orleans. One may leave New Orleans, but the city never leaves you. It is in my heart forever. Since Hurricane Katrina, I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with the mighty Mississippi. I discovered and found some solace in the above quote. As Ms. Morrison  opines that a river “remembers,” instead as we commonly think “floods.” I find this ‘remembering’ akin to a universal human theme, understood by each and every one of us–the desire, in fact, the need, to come home. Although, this does little to mollify unwitting flood victims everywhere, it may provide an explanation of sorts with which to identify.  Blessings. 

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