Thursday, May 27, 2010

Every Thoughtful Stitch

Steph at Adventures in Babywearing wrote a beautiful, thoughtful piece today about her "blogging closet." I started to comment there because her words touched something very strong in me that I wanted to share, but found myself writing so much it seemed like it belonged here, instead.

You know, blogging seems to have changed so, so much even since I started just 3 years ago. Maybe only in my own head, though I have a feeling it's more than just my own perception and waxing/waning ambitions that makes the landscape here in Mom-blogger land a little more complicated and harder to navigate without feeling alternately like Big Fish and then Insignificant Fish, sometimes in the span of just a few days. I started Just Writing for Me, but I have gone through several phases of Writing for Everything and Everyone Else But. Luckily I seem to always come back to my original charter, but I'll admit to many ultimately disheartening and disenchanting attempted forays into the glittery world of bloggy fame and fortune.

It's possible I may even once have fancied myself a {Very Small} Flash in the {Great Big} Pan.

Or sumpm like that.

That's as far as it ever gets though.

(And it's kinda stupid.)

(Except for while it's going on, and then, of course, it is Painfully Important and Not at All Stupid.)

As a result, I have a little unfortunate baggage hiding in my blogging closet - which stands to reason since I'm a very sensitive person and I take EVERYTHING to heart, especially perceived rejection or just plain feeling left-out. But more importantly, my on-line-life closet, much like my REAL closet, which is mostly full of pretty standard easy-care, good-enough stuff, holds some truly special, beautiful, treasured things: One-of-a-kind, priceless moments hang proudly among the Mom-blog-togs like a handful of gorgeous, flowing ball-gowns or one pair of crazy-fabulous shoes.

I've saved emails from real, caring, loving women who read FriedOkra but rarely comment, telling me exactly where and how I've touched them, very specifically, and encouraging me to keep writing and sharing because what I say or how I say it has been a blessing in their lives. I go back to the short, simple emails from my Dad that hit my in-box nearly every single day that I post, to let me know he's read me and he approves of my life and my writing or just that he thinks his grandchildren are mighty cute. And oh, those perfect moments shared at the end of the day when Al and I snuggle side by side in bed and he pulls up and reads my latest rambling on his iPhone and laughs or sighs and tells me I should write a book. (Which makes ME laugh.)

These are the closet-goodies I dress myself up in and stand in front of the mirror wearing for a minute just to feel PRETTY when I'm convinced I no longer have anything bloggy left to wear. Style-wise my blog closet lacks much flair and it's certainly not designer-label sought-after, but amid the tattered jeans and faded t-shirts and seasons-old flip-flops and muddy boots are the heart-liftingly unique things that I adore and that I will keep forever because they've been hand-made just for me, and they are sheer perfection every time I stop to admire them. They fit like a glove and momentarily cover my own imperfections because they're made so well and so flawlessly.

These are the pieces in my closet that define FriedOkra for me, when I take the time that I should to put them on and pull from them the love and meaning their makers sewed in with every thoughtful stitch.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Depth of Field

Thanks to Beth's You Capture: Depth of Field challenge this week, I actually practiced taking my camera off of AUTO mode and fiddling with all the buttons and knobs to see how completely confused I could make myself and still have my trusty Canon Rebel XT compensate for the moron behind it and take gorgeous pictures. Turns out I have an ENORMOUS capacity for confusion, and Canon has an equally-matched capability to overcome my befuddledness and turn out great work in spite of it.

Kinda like Al does, only real difference being that Al refuses to allow me to wear him on a strap around my neck.

Anyway, I spent the majority of one afternoon last week outside with Not-My-Husband dangling from around my neck, teaching myself some nifty new tricks. Out of about 3467 practice shots, I got a goodly handful that I think came out pretty nicely. More importantly I LEARNED stuff, and despite all the confusion gained some confidence in handling the manual focus and adjusting my camera's aperture.


I like how blurring the leaves and petal in the foreground of this shot and narrowing the focus made me feel like I was peering in on something clandestine goin' on in the center of this Gerbera daisy that Al and the kids surprised me with on Mother's Day.


Oh, daisies do INNOCENCE very well, don't they?


What struck me most about this capture of creeping phlox blossoms, while it probably isn't THAT great an example of depth of field, is how when I looked at the plant with my naked eye they were all just purple flowers, no one more special than the other. But then when I trained the camera on that same bunch and narrowed my focus, I could really see the specialness of ONE flower, and appreciate and revel in its uniqueness. I feel that way about my kids, too. When life is too busy and there are a million things to do and think about and coordinate, my kids become just two more responsibilities. But when I slow down and really devote my full attention to one child, even for a minute or two, I can so readily get lost in the child's SELF, and feel my love for that child in an almost overwhelming way. This week, after taking these pictures, I slowed down and took even more moments than I normally do to direct a very narrow focus on Bean and on Peabody individually so to take in their sheer beauty, inside and out.

They are each so spectacular to me in their own amazing ways.

Did I mention that I learned a lot from this assignment?


Crazy beautiful, isn't it? This is a locust tree. They grow all over our little town and edge the parkway of my street. As a tree it's only so-so in my opinion until it gets old and huge and then it mimics the sweeping graceful shadiness of a big Savannah oak cloaked in Spanish moss, which my aching Southern heart embraces with the sweet relief of a homecoming. This young specimen doesn't cast much shade at all, but a closer study (again, I feel like I'm seeing something through the crack in a door, all secretive and lurky) shows me the intricacy of growth patterns and the textures and shapes and colours the eye misses taking in the entire tree.

I found it hard to love, until I got much, much closer to it.


There's something else to contemplate.


Last week I posted a very similar portrait of a bloom on my new violas. This one lacks the raindrop, but I was taken by the very faint softness of a shadow cast against the blossom in contrast to the striking sharpness of the edges of each petal. It struck me again as metaphorical to see a the sweet blur of gentleness and subtlety at one with such crisp and absolute precision. Like motherhood, a complex marriage of rock-solid structure, boundary and dependability to organic, loving adaptiveness and growth. Someday I hope I can bear those virtuous traits with the humble elegance of a viola, who is, not surprisingly, also one of the heartiest plants in my garden, bravely withstanding heat, drought and extreme cold and coming back with simple, non-chalant glory each time.

Yes. Lots of learning to be done behind this little camera of mine.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Didn't Make the Cut

In our search for all the yellow shots I posted yesterday, Bean and I found this pretty little viola hiding some buttery, creamy yellow in her center. We couldn't the right spot for her yesterday, but who could deny a beauty like this her moment of fame and glory? She's so pretty she deserves her own post, don't you think?

Hope you have a beautiful weekend!


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Capture: YELLOW

More fitting, perhaps, for You Capture: BLUE. We've had rain all week long and chilly temperatures, which has made for a melancholy Bean. I had to take this with an old, old point-and-shoot, low-pixel camera so it didn't capture much detail like the rain running down the glass door, but I think it captured the MOOD pretty well. I like that the flowers look ALMOST INSULTINGLY HAPPY juxtaposed against Bean's morose pose.

Speaking of flowers, on Mothers Day I asked for breakfast in bed followed by a trip to the local nursery to buy flowers to plant in our yard. And that's what I got. So Sunday evening I found myself out in the yard diggin' about a hundred holes all-by-myself (Al was on kid-duty) and got everything in the ground just as the sun set and those plants have LOVED all this rain. I can almost hear them out there goin' Aaaaaaaah.

There was hail overnight last night, and I lay alert and listening to every sound like I did when each of my babies were tiny, worrying over my new plants in the night. Sure enough, Bean opened the blinds and looked out to my garden in the early light this morning and said, Mama, you're not gonna like this. Your bleeding heart is ... And I cut that child right off. I don't wanna know, Bean. Don't tell me, okay? Maybe it'll perk back up when the rain stops.

I am all about modeling appropriate coping skills for my kids, and denial? My absolute favorite coping skill. Avoidance being a close second.

Hmm. And now that I think about it, I guess that particular confession sorta fits in a post about YELLOW, doesn't it?


Now when I read that this week's assignment was YELLOW, I ho-ed and I hummed and thought I'd end up with some very boring stuff because while I don't really have anything against yellow, I couldn't immediately think of anything YELLOW that inspired me, photo-wise. But as it turned out, the search for YELLOW resulted in a bright, fun activity for Bean and me one rainy morning. Even cooped up in the house, she quickly found yellow EVERYWHERE and then we had fun "posing" our YELLOW finds for their close-ups.

After we'd taken and uploaded our pictures, she and I worked together with all of my favorite photo editing programs to bring out the best in the YELLOW we found. All in all, YELLOW has really taken me by surprise.

It's actually quite delightful!


This post linked to Beth at I Should Be Folding Laundry's weekly photo challenge, You Capture: Yellow.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bonus: Another Picture of Me with Eye-Boogers Still Intact

And y'all know you love you some eye-boogers!

I posted yesterday at 5 Minutes for Parenting about the girl who (first) made me Mama.

(Although technically I guess it was her father who (FIRST) made me a Mama.)

(But we won't go there.)

(Just go here, instead, m'kay?)

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Woke Up This Morning and Al Grinned At Me and Barked, "Have a great day, you MUTHA!"


He's been gone all week so having him back home is the best gift of all. Nobody makes me laugh like that crazy man does!

Happy Mothers Day, ladies, with hugs and kisses (from too far away) to our beloved Moms, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, sisters-in-law, and nieces. We love and miss y'all!


The FriedOkras

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Friday, May 7, 2010

The Blessing of a Tribe

I have a lot of little newsy odds and ends to share with y'all regarding my team's efforts to raise funds and train for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in August. The past month has been busy and fun and full of joy and celebration and work and sweat and, delightfully, shoe shopping!

But before I go into all of that (next week, Lord willin' and the crick don't rise, with apologies to my Nashvillian friends! By the way I'm thinking of y'all!) though, I wanted to share something very special with you. Two weeks ago, my 3-Day team, Team Cure or Bust, comprised of a group of my closest friends (and neighbors), including Meagan, hosted our largest fundraising event of the year, Rollin' for a Cure, which was a ladies' day out featuring lunch, bunco, a jewelry raffle, a silent auction, and best of all, who's kiddin' who, A CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN.

After the event ended and all was said and done - after all of the decision-making, planning, re-deciding and re-planning, the labor, the love, the determination, the extreme excitement and fun - I compiled a photo montage of many of the pictures and video I took at the event. I carefully selected music and a chose a few words to summarize each "chapter" of the video (I know. Me? Few words? But I did it!) and I want to share this little gem with you.

What I see when I look at it is, above all, love and dedication. Love for ourselves and one another, our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, sisters-and-mothers-in-law, our friends and our daughters. Dedication to the women we've lost to breast cancer, to the women we know who have battled and beaten it, and to the women in our lives we never want to see face breast cancer if we can possibly prevent it. I see the immense and complex joy of friendship.

Finally, poignantly, I see the blessing of a "tribe."

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

You Capture: SPRING




We've had a slew of gorgeous days lately, one after the other, and Mama is gettin' SPOILED. Tomorrow we're due for rain and the daily high temperature's supposed to drop back down in the 50s.

If y'all hear weeping and gnashing of teeth, that'll be me.


I remember my Mom always insisting on Jackie and me keepin' our shoes (usually white leather sandals from Buster Brown or Stride Rite) on at all times in the spring and summer.


If you hear cringing, that'll be Nana as she looks at that picture.


This one makes me hungry for watermelon. But then again, pretty much everything makes me hungry for watermelon.

All we have right now in the way of watermelon up here is those little Personal Pan Watermelons that are about the size of a grape.

Two-Bite Brownies? Sheer culinary brilliance.

Two-Bite Watermelons? Biggest waste of horticultural effort since the hydroponic tomato.


Spring just wouldn't be spring without a bad case of the fallin'-down-in-the-grass-'cause-I'm-dizzy-from-Daddy-swingin'-me-around giggles, now would it?

Y'all go see more creative expressions of spring at I Should Be Folding Laundry's You Capture: SPRING link-up today.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mmmmm. Tastes Just Like Irony!

All these trips to the South Carolina and Florida coast we've taken our Georgia-born girl on over the course of five years, and where does the kid finally learn to love shrimp?

The buffet line at the Golden Corral.

In Prairietown, Illinois.

Of course!

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(And please have that nice young man who brings me my Meals on Wheels stop by and pick up some prunes and Fixodent.)


Another busy week here - training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure has swung into high gear this month. I've walked 22 miles since Saturday and my feet are okay but my hips are killin' me.

My HIPS, people! Three words: EL. DER. LY.


I posted yesterday at 5 Minutes for Parenting. I'm over there pondering what Peabody's gonna be when he grows up and I'm pretty sure I've got a big part of it figured out.

Hope y'all are havin' a GREAT week so far!

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Monday, May 3, 2010

A Summer House

I've written today to celebrate my family's fourth anniversary in our home here in Illinois. It amazes me it's been so long, yet this home is so much a part of who we've become together that it's hard to imagine we've ever been a family anywhere else.


Years ago, in my twenties, another lifetime, another me almost, I spent a late-summer weekend house-sitting for the family of a professor in Milwaukee. An original Craftsman house, the home reached out to my heart the moment I lay eyes on it. A home with the welcoming big-breasted hug of a deep front porch does that to me, a girl with two grandmothers who had considerable front porches of their own, take that however you want to.

I stayed all weekend in a hazy golden dream, borne out of my own young, stranded, strange-land existence and into this family's clean, scrubbed-worn-and-warm life. I don't know, even now, exactly where I was or how I got there, but when I left that heart-place I knew one day I had to go back there and own that life, that warmth, that August sunlight, just right, for myself.

I needed the free-spirited kids that slept in those quilt-covered beds, needed the golden retriever named Annie whose thick leather leash felt like another hand in my own as we walked. I needed the vibrantly-dull hardwood floors with window-squares of spilled sunlight and the old humming fridge in the kitchen with pictures of a wedding and blue-painted handprints and crayon rainbows and I heart Mommy taped and magneted on the front and both sides. I needed half a loaf of raisin bread from the bakery on the corner and fresh cucumbers and basil from the little plot out back. I needed the master bedroom with shades pulled halfway down and sheers lifted by the breeze and stacks of books on each nightstand, his, hers, theirs. A pair of reading glasses poised on her side. An old alarm clock on his - practical, sturdy, ticking out loud his ready, intelligent strength and protection.

I needed the peace of the quiet family room, wrapped in the sleepy shadow of afternoon, the fireplace of bricks and stone, the rocking chair in a corner with threadbare wool cushions and arms shiny with the patina of grandmothers' palms and babies' feet. I needed the stillness of the streetlights in the evening, their halos in the warm night air blinking coziness down over the neighbors' front lawns as the scent of peonies quietly meandered through the screen door. I needed the history and permanence of a tiled bathroom and clawfooted tub and even the good-natured underperformance of the old water heater that made a steaming hot bath impossible, but cheerfully offered up copious amounts of warm-enough.

I needed, even then, the husband who knew the wife's strengths and weaknesses and respected her, even admired her (as my mind gleaned somehow from the house) but oh, he could see her struggles, he recognized her joy and sorrow and covered her heart like one of those quilts on the kids' bed just at the moment she needed him to. And to be the wife who tucked her children into those beds and turned out the dim hall light, then went to her husband and laughed with him, looked deep into his eyes and saw who he was inside, trusted and believed in him, and steadfastly carried his dreams in her own soul.

This is what I needed.

Fifteen years later, I am home. And I have nothing at all that was in that house, except everything.

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