Barbie Doll


This poem praises my mother.  It is page 17 of my memoir in poems, “On the Rim of Wonder”.  It seems appropriate to republish it here for Mother’s Day.

 

Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed, and blond, my mother,

one fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mom’s death, Dad said,

“Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.”  They married

late:  34 and 38.  He adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life

with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides, books, ambition.  Whatever

she felt she had missed, I was going to possess:  books, piano lessons, a

college education.  Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy,

fast horses.  So did she.  During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my

hysterical night coughing with stories of run away horses pulling her

in a wagon.  With less than 100 pounds and lots of determination, she

stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom,

strong, willful, free.

Jesus and Easter


Yesterday, I learned several new aspects of the religious debates surrounding the teachings of Jesus, Christianity, Mormonism., and how Easter is viewed.  Mostly, it followed a discussion on a post about Jesus, Good Friday, and Christian politics.  Whether most modern Christians want to believe it, Jesus’ teachings were radical, revolutionary.  However, most modern Christians pay much more attention to the teachings of the misogynist Greek, Paul.  The debate centered on comments after this particular post about the politics of Christianity.

It centered on Mormon beliefs about Easter.  According to the comments, Mormons do not use crosses because they focus on the teachings of Jesus and his life.  They use these teachings and his life as a guide.  I thought to myself:  what a good idea.  If the whole world followed his teachings, the world would be a much better place full of peace, equality for all, not just the powerful few, tolerance, understanding–the list is long.

The contention of many of the so-called Christians commenting is that true Christianity focuses on the death of Jesus and his subsequent rising from the dead, that what matters is that he died for their sins, and rose on the third day, that Mormons are not Christians because they focus on his life.  Really??  Not only did I find this information new–and perhaps this is what many Christians believe–but astonishing.  Although my family celebrated Easter in a big way, I was always taught that Jesus’ teachings held the center of belief.

I will admit that although I grew up in a mainstream Protestant, Christian denomination, I no longer consider myself a Christian.  I firmly think (notice I did not use the word believe) the world would be a much better place if everyone followed the teachings of Jesus!!!!  Religion, as most practice it, is ruining the world.  Perhaps if everyone focused on Jesus’ teachings instead of arguing over who is right, we could attain some sort of mutual respect and peace.  As Jesus taught:

-respect one another

-love one another

-share

-treat others as you hope to be treated

May your day be filled with joy and peace!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Barns and Blogging 101


Previously I mentioned that I decided to try WordPress’ class to see if I could discover something new, broaden my horizons, play, explore.  In completing assignment for day eight, I found a blog with a photo of an old barn.  Old buildings fascinate me, lead to daydreaming.  Who lived or worked there, how old is it, why did they abandon, move on?  Several miles down the road from where I live stands an unusually large, faded, red brick barn.  On the edge an even taller, circular silo stands.  Part of the roof is falling in, a few trees shade the east side.  I used to drive by this barn every day, twice a day.  Still when I drive by, I think what a unique restaurant or house it would make.  Meanwhile, slowly it deteriorates; I feel sad.

While writing this and looking at the photo mentioned above, I remembered the old carriage house where I grew up.  It stands, the only building remaining where my father was born and lived until he reached the age of ten.  I still own the farm; the young man who farms it cannot bear to tear the building down.  When I was there 2 1/2 years ago, it housed a piece of farm equipment.  I remember large elm trees and the hollyhocks growing next to it, making hollyhock dolls as a child. Who will remember when it is gone?

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Mother, Barbara Lewis Duke


Mom was tiny, tough, and pretty.  She acquired the name Lewis because my grandparents had hoped for a boy and, for reasons I do not know, wanted a child named Lewis.  My grandparents named her younger brother Louis.  The following poem about my mother is one of the prose poems in my new book of poetry, On the Rim of Wonder, published last month by Uno Mundo Press.  Currently you can purchase it from Amazon or if you are in Amarillo, at Hastings on Georgia.  Shortly, it will be available on Kindle and signed copies can be ordered from me.

 

Barbie Doll

 

Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one

fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mom’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was

afraid of absolutely no one and nothing”.  They married late:  34 and 38.  He

adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love,

cornfields, hayrides, books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed,

my sister and I were going to possess:  books, piano lessons, a college education.

Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses.  So did she.

During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing

with stories of run away horses pulling her in a wagon.  With less than one hundred

pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying

across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

 

 

 

 

The Story Circle Network Conference and My Commitment: This Is What I Know


ad_scnconfWhen I first started blogging more than two years ago, I committed to blogging once a week.  That I managed for a year or so and then since that time, it became more sporadic.  Full time job, writing poems for my book, visitors, mini vacations, all sorts of stuff got in the way.  Really, I let it lapse, but refused to give up.  Last Thursday, I drove to Austin with my daughter and grandson for the biannual Story Circle Network Conference.  The plan:  while I conferred, they played.  The Story Circle Network is an organization for women which encourages women to write, to tell their stories, to share these stories, and when possible and desired, publish those stories in various forms from memoir to poetry.  This was my second time to attend and my first time to attend as a new board member.  A former mentor/teacher of mine, Len Leatherwood, facilitated  a workshop entitled “Transforming Your Writing Life in Just 20 Minutes a Day”, the last workshop I attended.  She blogs everyday.  I follow her blog.  No matter what, she sits down and writes 20 minutes minimum a day separate from the writing she does with her students–she teaches writing privately in southern CA.  One of her recent blogs has been accepted for publication–a piece of flash fiction.  She nearly begged us to commit to this kind of writing practice.  Previously, I had refused, flat out refused, partly thinking that if I tried it, more than half the resulting writing would be crap.  Nevertheless, she and her workshop convinced me that at least for one month I must try this.  Now all of you following my blog will be inundated with daily blog posts.  I am filled with curiosity as to how people will respond.  Maybe it will be like my Facebook posts–yes, I am an almost addict–the posts I consider most meaningful for the universe at large are the ones people ignore and the ones I consider personal trivia receive the most response.  Maybe I will track what appeals to my readers.  Some I won’t know because with blogging I share to Facebook and to a couple of professional networks, I have no clue who read what.  Once I received an email regarding a poem I posted. Although it never showed up as a like, the lady actually told me she read my poem in church!  Who would have guessed. I forgot to time myself so have no idea how long I have been here writing.

Here I am writing about why I am writing.  On the stove I smell Jasmine rice cooking.  I love Jasmine rice from Thailand.  I am a very picky rice eater and prefer to mix equally white Jasmine rice with black and red.  For one thing, it looks lovely when done–a sort of dark reddish purple.  Since I sautéd chopped garlic in olive oil, then added the rice and sautéd for about 15 more seconds, then added water and some broth just before I started writing this, the smell of Jasmine rice fills the house.  I piled a bunch of paper towels on the top before I put on the lid or you can use some cloth towel–a habit I picked up from my Iranian ex-husband.  Iranians really know how to cook rice.  I am also drinking a glass of Cupcake Shiraz which I bought on the way home from work.  And yes, Shiraz is also the name of a city in Iran where they actually grow grapes or at least used to. But of course, drinking wine is no longer acceptable in Iran or at least not publicly.  Good Muslims do not drink at all.

I did write something worthwhile while in this workshop and will share–doing this last because it won’t count as my daily writing since I wrote it yesterday.

 

This Is What I Know

 

My parents loved me, really loved me.

My mom was proud of my accomplishments.

Dad gave me a love of books, intellectual curiosity, and a

sense of wonder.

Mom gave me a love of music, beauty, and cooking.

Happiness is a choice.

I do not believe in luck.  You make your own luck.

Life is an exciting adventure.

Horses give me joy.

Singing gives me joy.

Dancing gives me joy even if I rarely have the opportunity.

Family relationships can be distressingly complicated.

I am proud of my children and their accomplishments.

Religion matters much less to me than 99 per cent of the people I know.

Ethnic and religious prejudice distress me and I do not

understand those kinds of attitudes.

I am a good writer.

I want to make a real difference in the world.

I am happy 99 percent of the time.

Blessings flood my life.

My close friends and children and grandson are more

important to me than they know.

Writing has enriched my life.

I have few regrets:

One I have rectified;

the other I cannot–

my dad is dead.

Fun, Food, and Community with Vegetarian Enchiladas


A couple of weeks ago, one of the blogs I follow, getsetandgo, created a post about “community” with photos of an Indian festival where all sorts of people come together to celebrate–a community.  She requested others post photos of their community events.  After reading her blog post,  I decided to tell about my attempt to start a monthly “community” :

Several months ago, I reached way out of my comfort zone and started a monthly potluck.  When and where I grew up, inviting people over for a potluck was socially unacceptable.  If you invited people over, you cooked everything yourself.  If people wanted to bring something, insisted, well, ok, but otherwise, no, no, no.  Because of work, writing, and singing, I invited a number of friends over only every few months.  In September, I decided it would be far nicer to see people  more often and invited some friends over for potluck.  They asked if we could do this regularly so a monthly ritual began.  More and more friends keep asking to join.  It remains a type of hit and miss thing.  Sometimes 16 people show up, sometimes only five.  My most recent event was a week ago.  Because some of these friends are vegetarian, I invented a recipe, vegetarian enchiladas, just for them.  I also made pork roast and chicken enchiladas.  The vegetarian enchiladas disappeared quickly and everyone wanted the recipe.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Six tortillas (I used whole wheat)

1/2 purple onion, chopped finely

1 large poblano pepper, chopped finely

1/2 medium sized red bell pepper chopped finely

1 package cream cheese

Olive oil

1 tsp Mexican spice mix

1/2 tsp chipotle pepper, ground (I used Spice Appeal-adjust to hotness desired)

Shredded monterey jack cheese

Red enchilada sauce–I used canned because my cooktop is awaiting repair

Saute onions and pepper in just enough olive oil so they will not stick or become too dry.  Mix in cream cheese and spices until thoroughly blended.  Fill the tortillas, roll up, and place in an 8 inch casserole dish.  Cover with a light layer of enchilada sauce.  Sprinkle enough shredded cheese on top to cover.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

In the spirit of the getsetandgo blog, I took photos of my friends as we talked and ate.  The enchiladas were all gone before it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a photo.

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Additionally, I regretted not taking a photo of three of my women friends with long hair.  Another friend who has spectacular, very dark grey, long hair and just turned 70 recently told me a story about how a mutual acquaintance came up to her and told her no woman over 60 should have long hair.  It annoyed me so much in an odd sort of way that I now wear my hair longer than usual.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie Recipe


Today, Thanksgiving Day, I will make Barbara Duke Lightle’s (my mother)  pumpkin pie, using a recipe and blender she gave me decades ago.  The recipe includes a small hand written note about her preferred way of combining the ingredients.  My grandson loves this pie and the idea that what he is eating is a recipe from his great grandmother, a woman he will never know.  He tries other pumpkin pies but likes only this one.  Dad loved this pie, too.  After Mom died and he discovered he was gluten intolerant, he taught himself to cook.  He made this for himself sans the crust–pumpkin pudding.

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin

1 1/2 cups milk or milk combined with cream or evaporated milk

3 eggs

3/4 cup brown or white sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground ginger

(or use 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp ginger for a more spicy flavor)

Place all ingredients in a blender.  Place your hand over the blender cover before starting the motor.  Blend just  a few seconds, until smooth, and pour into pastry lined pie shell.  Bake at 450 for ten minutes, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes longer or until firm in the center.  A piece of outer peel of orange can be blender grated into the pie mixture–if you do this, place in blender with 1/2 cup milk and blend fine before adding other ingredients.

You may use squash instead of pumpkin.

The hand written note says, “Juliana, if you use half evaporated milk it gives wonderful flavor and I like white sugar best”.

I use evaporated milk totally and white sugar like Mom recommended.  I have never used orange peel.  The cinnamon I am using today comes from a tree at my friend’s mother’s house in Ethiopia.

This seems a great day to also thank my mother for all she taught me:  cooking, singing and playing the piano, a love of beauty–flowers, wildlife, good food, the list is endless.  She taught me think positively, to believe in myself, to make the most of what life brings, to never give up.  Thank you, Mom!!!

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Day Trip to Marvin Lake and Canadian, Texas–Part One


Two weeks ago, I joined the local Native Plant Society group for a trip to Lake Marvin east of Canadian, Texas, near the Oklahoma border.  Lake Marvin is located in the Black  Kettle National Grassland  which includes land in both Texas and Oklahoma. This national grassland’s name comes from the Southern Cheyenne Chief by the same name.  An aging chief, he had attempted to make peace with whites and had been guaranteed protection by the head officer at a nearby US Army Fort.  He, along with old men, children, and women was massacred by Lt. Colonel Armstrong Custer and his troops in Custer’s first great “success” as an Indian fighter.  It was an easy battle; the Indians had been assured their safety at this encampment.  They were totally unprepared.  Black Kettle attempted to meet the soldiers and flew a white peace flag as well as a US flag over his teepee. He and his wife were mowed down in a barrage of bullets.  The massacre is called the Battle of the Washita because the Indian encampment was on the Washita River which flows through the grassland.

Those of us who live in the Panhandle of Texas become accustomed to the lack of trees and semi arid climate.  It is always a huge surprise to find those rare spots with numerous trees, water, and thick vegetation. Lake Marvin and much of the area near Canadian provide a total contrast to what we usually see.  JR  Bell, an expert on native grasses and plants, lead the hike around Lake Marvin, a manmade lake constructed for conservation purposes in the 1930’s on Boggy Creek.   Regretfully, I failed to carry a pen and pad to write down the name of all the grasses, some of which exist in the area where I live and others I had never seen before.  Perhaps some of you who read this will be able to identify the various grasses which include blue grama, side oats grama–the state grass of Texas, little blue stem, and two other species of blue stem, switch grass, buffalo grass, and wheat grass.  Unfortunately, Johnson grass, a non-native,  invasive species, also grows near the edges of the lake.

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The hike began near what was once the water’s edge before silt and drought made the lake half its original size.  Johnson grass, the outsider, is not too difficult to identify because of the bright maroony red on the leaves.  This enables an non-expert like me to differentiate among Johnson grass and a few other similar looking species.  While I tried to listen and watch grass identification, rather quickly I realized that without pen and paper remembering all of them would be impossible so I focused on photographing the natural beauty surrounding me.

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No one told me the origin or purpose of the abandoned buildings up the hill from the lake.  The change in flora one sees by facing the hill rather than toward the lake is amazing.  One could almost draw an imaginary line with certain grasses and shrubs on one side and totally different ones on the other.  The magic key, as always, is water.  Where I live, two hours away, no sage brush grows.  Here on the hillside, it grows everywhere with various grasses, some rather small and semi hidden, interspersed.

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I learned several keys to identifying grasses:  seed heads, texture of leaves and stems–some rough and others smooth, size of leaves and stems, some variations in color.  Height helps but does not necessarily determine differences because the same grass species can vary depending on amount of water and type of soil.  The amount and size of the trees continually astonished me, like this tunnel through the trees, something I never expected to see in the Panhandle.

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Where I grew up in northwestern Missouri, huge black walnut trees grow everywhere.  I recall exploring the walnut grove on the farm repeatedly as a child.  I certainly never expected to see them on this little trip.  Suddenly, astonished me stood there surrounded.

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While these trees never reach the size of the ones where I grew up and the nuts remain considerably smaller, here they stood, their distinctive leaves giving them away.  Before I went away to college, every autumn, we picked up the nuts, cleaned them–while the outside is a lovely lime green, the area between the seed and outside, is a sticky, dark brown mess which makes excellent natural dark brown dye, and cracked them to retrieve the meat inside.  Black walnut nuts are much harder than English walnuts and cracking them requires a hammer and something really hard on which to place the nut. After I left home, every year Mom spent hours working on these nuts and brought me at least a pound at Christmas, a true labor of love.  They are especially tasty with in recipes with chocolate or bananas.

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The hike provided continual surprises, a boggy pool, persimmon trees, a plant whose leaves resembled miniature spectacles, a grass so fine and thick in a glade between the trees that it looked like a tiny patch of fog on the ground, and poison ivy.

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Persimmons.

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This particular tree was loaded with persimmons.

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Cattails in the background.

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When I first walked up to this spot, the fine grass toward the back of the photo looked exactly like a tiny patch of fog nestled in a miniature glade among the trees.

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We took off from the main trail especially to come to this cottonwood tree, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the Panhandle. Over a hundred years ago this tree stood as the sentinel for the overland trail that went through this area.  The military, ranchers, and Native Americans all used the trail across this area of the plains.  The tree’s height enabled it to be seen for miles and helped travelers keep on their way with accuracy.  Once we reached the end of the main trail, some of the group took off in their vehicles while a few went on around the lake.  It saddened me to see so much of it dried up and old tires sticking out of the dried mud.  However, along the way, we saw numerous trees I could not identify.  The bark of this tree is particularly distinctive.

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This field trip coincided with the fall festival held annually in the small town of Canadian which gets its name from the Canadian River which flows beside the town.  The town is unique in the number of large, elaborate Victorian houses there.  Several of us ended the trip at the local elementary school with a big craft fair and a barbecue lunch.

The Girl and The Woman


The Girl

She stands alone by the train tracks.

Watching and waiting and dreaming.

Hobos no longer exist.

She remembers reading stories of life

when her great grandmother lived:

hobos begging for food, gypsies stealing

children and telling fortunes, long days

working in the corn fields, chopping weeds.

Her own family praises:

tractors, riding lawn mowers, herbicides, pesticides,

electricity, TVs, dishwashers, muscle cars, MacDonalds,

diet Coke, cell phones, computers, DVDs, iPADs.

Now the only excitement lays in Grand Theft Auto,

guns, and sex.  She watches and waits and dreams.

Canyon photo 1 anabel

The Woman

She stands alone on the rim,

watching the moon rise,

wondering.

Life flies by on wings

outstretched.

She remembers rich years

filled with long joys, living,

loving,

and temporary sadness, divorces,

moving here and there,

Narrangansett Bay, Utah mountains,

Veracruz,

babies held to breast,  blond

and chubby, cafe con leche.

She remembers girlhood longings

for far horizons, traveling

around the world, lovers,

husbands, shades of brown

beauty.

She’s learned to make

her own excitement,

singing Goddess songs,

dancing on the rim of wonder.

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Photograph by Anabel McMillen and Painting by Lahib Jaddo

Barbie Doll


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one

fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mom’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was

afraid of absolutely no one and nothing!”  They married late:  34 & 38.  He

adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love,

cornfields, hay rides, books, and ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed,

my sister and I were going to possess:  books, piano lessons, a college

education.  Her father, who died long before I was born, loved, fancy,

fast horses.  So did she.  During my preschool, croupy years she quieted my

hysterical night coughing with stories of run away horses pulling her in a

wagon.  With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination, she

stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom,

strong, willful, and free.