Casey's and Sloane's Blog
A week ago, my husband and I puttered around one of my favorite places, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. There were several things I was itching to see, and the current show on Roman luxury was one of three inside the museum walls that was calling to me.
Near the end of our meanderings through the outstanding Luxury: Treasures of the Roman Empire exhibit, there was a great spot where the curators and museum staff provided little cards, pencils, and a spot to write what we thought luxury was in our lives. Now. Currently.
I wrote nothing down, because I wasn’t wanting to think that hard on that particular day. However, I read every piece on the large board. Handwritten tomes were held delicately to the fabric with satin ribbon. You just slid your thought in with the others and moved on with your life.
The musings of others ran from serious to humorous, insightful to flippant. I loved reading every word. These were my people on my planet in this epoch. This was important, as the Romans had proved in rooms right behind me.
The next morning, early, I realized exactly what I would have written: “freedom from alarm clocks”.
I was serious about it and found it very insightful.
p.s. Photo credits for the top three photos must go to Harl Van Deursen, who cracked up quietly at quite a few. The final photo belongs to me. I love the rays of daylight hitting the dusty bedside table.
p.p.s. I strongly recommend seeing the show at The Nelson. In addition, pop in and see the photo collections of Peter J. Cohen in Anonymous Art. Heck, while you’re at it, you can cry like I did at the new acquisition of Nick Cave’s Property. Wow.
In the past week, mediation has come up three times in casual conversation. Among women my age, with a new male friend much younger than me, with a customer at STUFF. We’ve consumed many minutes discussing apps with good “voices”, best time of day, and length of dedicated time. All of this and much more.
I have tried traditional meditation on and off. It’s neither that I don’t like the “voice” on the apps I’ve chosen nor that I can’t find my quiet. It’s that I don’t want to be led. So, I improvise and sit in the deep quiet of the room I dress in – which is also my home office – most mornings and listen. Eyes closed, I have been known to work down a list of people I keep taped to the inside of my eyelids. This list changes and is filled with people that I want to benefit from focused energy.
But my favorite mediation comes in the summer. In water where I can barely touch bottom, I lie on my back and float in deep pools of silence. And, again, I listen.
My heart speaks to me, and stress evaporates.
p.s. Three or four summers ago, I became transfixed with the form of my son under water. I possibly took several hundred photos of him in the ocean and in the Fairway Pool. The quote is mine, from a time in my life that was more challenging than others. A long time ago, water healed and protected me. It still does. A friend put the two pieces together, seen above, as a gift to me.
This is my new handbag. I love it. Very much.
Where the flak is launched from is Harl and Dakota, my husband and my son. They hear me kvetch about how much I hate the one I am hoping to replace, and they listen to me rave about the new one.
The last bag I carried was not my favorite. Ever. It was just holding a place for what I was really looking for. I have entered a phase of my life where a bag you just dump everything into is not going to work. As a grown woman, I look crazy when I am up to my elbows in my bag digging for a pen or my phone. I speak solely from experience and do not speak about other women; that would be poor form.
This bag is hand-crafted from reclaimed pieces of Afghani fabrics. A single comfortable leather handle. It hangs perfectly. It’s all wonderful and good. Currently perfect.
What’s the absolute best, however, is that it has two amazing pockets on the outside – one for the blasted phone and one for the lauded reading glasses. If that wasn’t enough to send me into convulsions of excitement, there are two more inside – one for my car keys and one for my Sharpie pens. Right at the top. Right where I need them to be. The rest of my existence can fall to the bottom.
I have caught many comments from the peanut gallery the past few days as I’ve entered into my new love affair. Dakota gives the bag “three months” before it becomes a loathed item. Harl, wisely, has tried to keep his mouth shut – “tried” being the key word.
p.s. The photo of the peanut gallery was taken a few nights ago on an outing. The photo of my new, fantastic bag was taken this morning while it rested easily in air-conditioned comfort in the front seat of my new, used car. To read more about that sweet ride, click here.
I am a Girl Scout. I will always be a Girl Scout. I am not a Troop Leader and am not in charge of a pack of young women.
Just this past weekend, I returned to the Girl Scout camp of my childhood and ran smack-dab into fantastic memories that were laced with the amazing women who were troop leaders and were in charge of packs of young women.
Girl Scouts is more than cookies. Girl Scouts is leadership training at its core. It is subtle and covert in its training, so as to not cause bucking from those who aren’t ready to be “trained”.
If you tell a ten year old they are being “trained”, they will most likely tell you “so long”. But if you cloak the training in figuring it out for yourself, for accounting for your actions, for calculating progress, for tracking efforts, and for showing others the ins and outs, you will end up with a young woman – and a grown woman – who can hold her own and has the ability to troubleshoot and succeed. And, most importantly, one who will find the lessons in a failure or set-back.
I was raised to believe that women and girls can do anything. I still believe that and pass it on to women far younger than me. If you say you can’t, then you’ve set yourself up for failure. If you say you will give it your best, you’re more than halfway there.
The young women who were my counselors at camp were most likely only five to ten years older than me. I talked to one a few days ago in the wilds of Missouri, and I vividly remember her. If I could find my Juniors book, her handwriting and counselor name (Snickers) would be in there.
I can only imagine it was written with a firm hand and in ink. Much like a yearbook, at the end of camp every summer you had your counselors sign your book. I thought these women hung the moon, and in two I can easily recall desiring to be just like them. Strong. Sure-footed. Fearless. A leader.
At ten, when I first went to camp, I was none of those four things. Well, OK, I was strong but tried to hide it. That comes with being taller than all your friends and therefore “bigger”.
I spent way too much time trying to blend in, look shorter, and be seen as weak. Crazy concepts to me now, but crystal clear in my mind.
I went to summer camp for only four summers. They have blended into one long summer in my memories, but the distinct differences in the four summers came screaming back to me when I stood under the very old oak trees a few days ago. Water Wonderful was one. Outback Adventures another. Two more that held my focus then but whose names escape me.
I have never shied away from saying I am a Girl Scout, and I never will. I was able to walk the hills and trails of the camp of my youth for her last day of seeing campers, having walked those same paths thirty-five years ago.
The camp I remember – Camp Oakledge – has changed hands, and the land will now be the responsibility of others. I can only hope that the new ownership has a few Girl Scouts in their midst who will know exactly how to leave the land better than they found it, a basic tenet of Girl Scouting.
p.s. Those boxes of Girl Scout cookies do change the lives of young women all over your city. They make strong, sure-footed, fearless young leaders and help fund all they wish to accomplish. You don’t have to eat the cookies, but I always recommend buying them.
There was a time, not long ago, when my 6′ 3″ son had to stand on tippy toes to see anything counter height. Food as I prepared it. Paperwork being looked at by my husband and me.
When he was five years old, and “knee high to a grasshopper” as my grandfather used to say, I stopped in to my second favorite store at the time, my own store being my first favorite. It was a clothing store that had been in Westport when we grew our business there, but it had moved to the Prairie Village shops not long after STUFF left Westport.
We were driving back from lunch with my father, and I thought we would just “bop in” for a quick look. My son was always delightful in shops and not a terror. I made a quick decision on a shirt and moved to the counter to pay. Nap time was approaching, and the clock was ticking to get home.
I will never forget him standing there mesmerized at the glass of a fully-lit vintage jewelry case. Quiet. Arms by his sides. Eyes bright. I took a moment to really watch him. He looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “Mom. I want to buy that for you,” in a voice that still burns me to remember.
On the bottom shelf was a double-strand turquoise, silver, and crystal necklace with a turquoise bead pendant. It was on the other side of a perfectly placed thread of red embroidery floss that delineated the items on sale from those that had yet to make the cut. This piece had made the cut.
The woman checking me out knew me and shopped at my store occasionally. She said, “What did he say?”
“He said he is going to buy that necklace for me.”
“Ahhhhhh…..How sweet.He obviously knows you like blue!”
We proceeded with the “how much” – with her asking him how much money he had, and with me buying it, and with her handing the gift-wrapped bag to him.
He beamed and glowed and gave me the greatest gift of waiting to fall asleep until we got home. Two hours in his own bed, not the car seat. Well, and that amazing necklace.
I loved that necklace to pieces. Two pieces, in fact. One day, earlier this year, it just gave out at the toggle. I was visited by this terrific memory and put the pieces in a Ziploc until I could deal with it without crying.
Near spring, I met with the artists at Hoop Dog Studio with my baggie in hand. I asked that the pieces be used to make a new piece. I wanted them to re-design it and use the beads any way they saw fit.
And now I have this. Gorgeous.
I am not the same woman I was when I was a young mother, and this new style fits me perfectly. One long strand and no symmetry.
I miss the little boy at the glass counter every day. Most mothers would give their left arms for little pieces of their children’s childhoods back. The day they reached for your hand and the sky was so blue and they didn’t let go. The night the sky was clear and they didn’t fuss once all the way through the midway at the State Fair. The day they stood up for themselves against odds. The high dive. The double dip that dripped on everything clutched in pudgy fingers.
Happy Mother’s Day.
p.s. No real, official research was done on which arm a mother would give for her children. I assumed left because the right arm is so useful.
Last weekend I attended a fantastic charity party for a local health clinic that I adore. Serving the uninsured and under-insured is the full-on mission of the Kansas City CARE Clinic. What I believe sets this event apart from many other great parties in this town is the intense creativity of the event and that filters from the intense creativity of the volunteer committee that steers it. The name of the event is “Bloom”, and it is themed each year. This year it was “Bloom Fleet Week”, and all of us stalwart sailors and patriotic participants where waiting at port when it docked.
I was thrilled to turn to one of the local artists my store represents with three pewter anchors in hand to ask her to make fleet week magic. She asked a few questions – what the neckline of my shirt was, what color I was wearing, what my preference in beads was – and told me she would call me when it was done.
A few weeks later, this piece of magic blew me away. It was perfect. Red coral, pewter, and pearls make a dynamic friendship. Paired with my navy blue tee, I was ready to set sail.
Hoop Dog Studio, the home of the artist who made this necklace, would accept no payment for this piece of art. She thanked me for my service on the CARE Clinic board. With her generosity, I told her I insisted that the piece come back to her so that she could use the beads again in other jewelry.
So, like me, this necklace will have enjoyed a one night life. As much as I have wanted to this week, I can’t go back to Bloom. The magical experience in a warehouse in the East Bottoms is long gone.
It was a wonderful night. It was packed with my friends and caring people I don’t even know who want to make sure Kansas Citians have access to quality health care, no matter their ability to pay.
I like this one night lifestyle. Magic happens.
Yesterday, like most days since our son left for college, I did not want to go to the grocery store. We needed very little, and truly I believed they were all things we could do without for the rest of our lives. The list was maybe seven items long. So I came to my senses and began negotiations with my husband.
“Do we really, really need mushrooms?” I demanded.
“Yes, if you want me to make this egg thing you love with the kale,” Mr. Wonderful answered.
“Can the rest wait?”
“Sure. For a few days,” he wisely stated. “Just drive me by the store, and I’ll run in while you wait.”
Done. I didn’t even wince or make a pucker face.
The routine when we get to the grocery store near our home – not the one near my business, which has another routine of its own – is that I drop him at the door and then circle the car to the west of the lot and watch for him to come out. Then, lazily, because I am off going to the grocery store right now, I pull up and pick him up and speed off. I am ‘fessing up right now to the fact that this has happened a great deal and not just yesterday. I am owning it.
But yesterday, when I pulled the car to the west of the lot and got out of the car, I bathed myself in the beauty of the two gorgeous, huge crab apple trees that grow along the embankment. I forget about them every year until I see them. The smell was of my favorite childhood home and the magnificent old crab apple tree that grew there.
Every spring that tree exploded with blooms that were massive. My sisters and I danced underneath it, shook its branches to be showered in petals, and pretended the petals were pink snow on the day every year when it gave up its finery for leaves. I remember my sister Casey being a “bride” underneath it, and the petals that cascaded down her dress were being “thrown” by the flower girl – not the older sister shaking the thickest branch.
If I had gone into the store – grumbling all the way while grasping my cotton grocery bags – I believe I would have missed this grandeur. Pure justification, I believe, for never entering a grocery store again.
What if I miss something? Something very important?
On an afternoon where I had a host of other priorities and jobs to accomplish, I decided to put all that off until the evening and focus on moving into my new used car today.
One of the upsides to getting a new used car is the act of cleaning out the old car and deciding who you are going to be in the new car. I usually take a full week to open up the box into which I crammed all the “old” things while dropping the old car at the dealership. I like just one week of feeling like it’s a brand new top-of-the-line race car on loan for me to test drive. You know, to help the manufacturer realize its potential. A true fully-functional prototype. One I won’t have long, so why bother sullying it with all the baggage of my real life?
And then real life steps in, and I remember this is my car to keep on a two-year lease. The charity notebooks, the trash can, the lint roller, the glass heart from my maternal grandmother, my stash of mint gum, Sharpies, small notepads, a tub of hand wipes, and the phone charger all made their way into the main cabin of the car today. Much was tossed – my 2015 and 2014 Fringe Festival buttons, a crammed full notepad of what seems like unimportant notes now – and much more.
A week ago, I called my father and asked him how to spell his father’s middle name. I knew how to spell the beginning part and was pretty sure of the whole thing, but I really couldn’t remember if there was an E at the end.
“There’s an E. Why do you want to know?” the smile in his tone apparent.
“Well, I am finally ordering a Roscoe bag. For my car.”
“What do you mean, a Roscoe bag? Who makes it?”
So I reminded him of my small love of L.L. Bean tote bags. What made him laugh out loud was my story of the inheritance of one and the purchasing and monogramming of two more.
When my Mom’s mom died, I asked for the L.L. Bean tote bag that had Grandma’s name, Gladys, in red script. I had seen her bring it to my home many times for Thanksgiving. Always in full use, it held the fixings for stuffing, spices for the turkey, and food and utensils I might not have on hand.
She had told me that she had finally purchased one with her name on it for “going to church.” She took this bag to church when she was part of the “meal brigade.” “It’s just perfect for casseroles, which you can stack with cardboard between them in the bag. Just ask your grandfather.” I didn’t need to ask him. She never lied, but she had a hand in teaching me the art of dancing around truths that could cause harm to others.
The part of the story I remember best is how she admits that the first one she had made by L.L. Bean carried her initials: GAP. Gladys Amanda Price. They were in block letters, and she liked them in that order and in that font. “But at the time that store, The Gap, was very popular, and someone did the very un-Christian thing and swiped it from me. I guess because they thought it was from there.”
Not to be deterred from her deliveries of food to the widows, widowers, mourners, wedding parties, and celebrants, she ordered another one. Same red-and-cream bag, same handle structure, but this time with her name in cursive. “Very different and definitely mine,” she concluded.
When L.L. Bean came out with the offering of longer handles – much easier to get up on your shoulder for pack-horse style carrying, my stock in trade – I was transfixed and knew I must have one. Not one to purchase things out of silly desire, I made a plan. I explained to my husband that, with all the road trips we were taking with our young son, we needed a bag to carry the food into and out of the car with ease. The food that wasn’t in the small travel cooler. The apples, the paring knife, the tablecloth, the crackers, cookies, and chips. We stopped often at roadside parks and Interstate rest areas to stretch legs and eat, so this bag would “be perfect!”
My dad’s mom had just recently passed away, and I knew exactly what I would emblazon the smaller, long-handled red-and-cream bag with: Virginia. In cursive. I would have both of my grandmother’s working with me again. It was dreamy when it arrived, and its use has been frequent.
With my new used car, I wanted a bag for all of my road supplies. Moving blankets for work, jumper cables, ice scraper, cotton grocery bags, first aid kit, and more. I wanted it to zip closed and have a terrific monogram. Not something that stated something boring like “car things”. I had been wanting a blue L.L. Bean tote for a few years but really had no apparent use for it. But this: this was clearly an apparent use. A true necessity.
Five days after laughing my way through the story with my dad and hanging up, the bag arrived. The biggest bag they make and with short handles, Roscoe will start riding with me tomorrow. I’ve stashed all the unsightly but necessary things away and zipped the top shut.
I probably should have named it “Cal” or “Madison” after my mom’s father. He was the highway patrolman who taught me car safety and the need to have on hand the things that will be riding in the Roscoe bag in the first place.
But I needed Hubert Roscoe Simmons to help me organize the remotest section of my car. He was a terribly tidy farmer who worked very hard, as all my grandparents did. But his cabinet-making workshop was a place to behold when I was a child. We three girls were always welcome and were taught the virtues of having every tool and piece of wood in its place at all times.
That’s who’s riding with me in my fully outfitted car starting tomorrow. Roscoe.
p.s. I wrote about my grandfather Cal here. I miss all my grandparents every single day.
p.p.s. Previous musings about the color blue and L.L. Bean totes can be found here and here.
Today, much like a day months before that, I sat by myself while a family member stood alone to protect all that she holds dear.
My sister has just finished a ten month ordeal that ended in a court order. She has shown fortitude, strength, love, and anger. Today, she most likely dug deep and stood on the firm conviction that love always wins and the truth would light the way. Leaving a court room triumphant can be bittersweet, with the emphasis on sweet this time around.
Several months ago, I sat holding my father’s jacket and his wallet in my lap, leaving my handbag on the floor of the surgery suite. He never took off his street clothes as the surgeon took a brief look and an even quicker biopsy. The bottoms of his shoes were my only sight line on him as they raised his form to horizontal on the padded table. He was there alone with his thoughts, while my mind raced. A large Band-Aid in place, we were swiftly off to the safety of the car.
Both events ended well for my family, and for that I count my lucky stars. However, I am trying to absorb and learn from the power these two people voicelessly reminded me that I also harbor. It has been over 20 years since I stood in a courtroom alone; the last time I was alone in a hospital bed, they handed me a baby of my own.