Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Homecoming on the grounds….

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Too bad you couldn’t hear me working on the mouth-watering, deeply poetic account below. I was laughing my head off–even though the menu is pretty much a killer! One of my favorite memories from the 1950s….

Homecoming this Sunday on the grounds
of the Montgomery Presbyterian Church
Come One, Come All!
Sunday, 12:30 to 5:00 pm
All Ages Welcome!

Beneath aging water oaks
Long wooden tables covered with oilcloth
and butcher paper groan with food
Children race shrieking with joy

Ladies arrange and surreptitiously rearrange
table settings to favor their own delicacies
properly positioned for easy access
and maximum compliments

Piles of coated, crispy southern fried chicken
Bowls of homegrown boiled corn on the cob cut in 2-inch portions
Mounds of southern white potato salad swimming
in mayo, relish, cut-up hard-boiled eggs, salt and pepper

Molded bright green and orange jello ‘salads’
defy description
laced with canned mixed fruit, grated carrots and raisins,
small-curd cottage cheese and pineapple bits or
My Mom’s strawberry jello salad
with real strawberries and rhubarb!

Platters of thick-sliced juicy homegrown tomatoes
Hunks of sugary-sweet southern-style cornbread
Pots of honey-bee honey and real butter

Obligatory cut green beans drowning
in canned cream-of-something soup topped
with crispy brown onion fries

Boiled collards and turnip greens swimming
in chunks of fatty ham and Tobasco laced broth

Plates of beguiling, deviled eggs dusted with red paprika
Baskets of buttery white rolls and salty potato chips
Nary a boiled carrot to be seen

Lemon chiffon pie, sweet potato pie
and banana pudding with soggy vanilla wafer edges
Cheesecake in graham-cracker crusts
topped with canned cherries
smothered in red glop

Pecan pies and German chocolate cakes
Chocolate chip cookies, decorated sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies
Moon Pies and Tootsie Rolls

Hot coffee with caffeine and real cream
Sweetened iced tea with lemon slices
Water and funeral home fans for the faint of heart

Yet more glorious still—
Pit-cooked, falling-apart whole barbecued pork
prepared and reverently tended overnight by real men
on the grounds of hog heaven

***

I was 8 years old when we moved to the Deep South. I loved nothing as much as potluck dinners. This annual event, however, outdid all the others.

I never could get enough of that sweet-potato pie. What about you? What’s your favorite potluck dish?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 January 2016, reposted 22 May 2022
Luscious image of classic deviled eggs from vintagecooking.com

Falling in love with today

How soft and easy
the pillow of yesterday
when heart, mind and body
were young and strong
filled with adventure

When did the lie creep in?
The lie that weak isn’t strong
or even beautiful in its
softening and yearning for
more time on this precious earth

Peering into the rear-view mirror
of life as I’ve known it has become
a daily gift to myself and to those
I loved and let go along the way
while holding them in my heart

I’m painfully aware that my energy for blogging has plummeted in the past several months. Not because I don’t want to show up, but because I’m still coming to terms with the ups and downs of nondiabetic peripheral neuropathy.

At the top of my daily list have been painful feet plus awkwardness when walking. A close second has been keeping pots of soup or stew ready to eat, along with cut-up veggies ready to eat raw or steamed. In addition, the weather is warming up nicely, the birds fight daily at our two birdfeeders, Smudge loves my lap, and I’m learning to walk outside with my handy-dandy hiking pole.

Bottom line: I’m learning to treat my feet as part of me—not as my enemies. They aren’t going away, and even if I live to be 100 years old, I can’t thank them enough for taking me places I never dreamed I would go. So yes, we’re on the same side now. No more glowering looks or worse. Instead, I’m learning to listen to them, thank them for letting me know enough is enough, and give them and myself the break we deserve.

I pray your day includes giving yourself the breaks you need and deserve.
Cheers from Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2022
Photo from eventbrite.jpg

Farewell, Scotland! | Dear Readers 2

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Edinburgh Castle, high above the city

This week D and I have been looking at photos/slides taken in 2015 during our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Scotland.  It was fabulous! We flew out of Philadelphia on September 1 and spent nearly 2 ½ weeks in Scotland. Here’s one of my Scotland posts. A tiny peek into a stunning trip. Don’t miss the panorama below, taken from Edinburgh Castle. Click to enlarge (2 times if needed). 

For the record,

  • D drove us safely over 650 miles on the ‘wrong’ side of the road without any scrapes or bruises. Every now and then he had just a bit of what he called ‘terror on the road.’ Especially on the narrow, winding back roads we enjoyed for most the trip.
  • We have over 2000 photos to help us remember this fabulous trip.
  • We left our pedometers (Fitbits) at home, which is most unfortunate since we climbed up and down the equivalent of at least one mountain each, and walked over 100 miles each in cities, towns and forests.
  • We ate breakfast most days like royalty (thanks to our Bed & Breakfast master chefs!), learned to depend on TESCO and The Cooperative Stores found all over Scotland, and enjoyed more versions of yummy carrot-red lentil soup than I knew existed in this world. Usually served with an enormous, thick slice of heavenly bread.

We spent time in Edinburgh, North Berwick, Stirling, Glasgow, Oban (Isle of Mull and Iona), Grantown-on-Spey (Cairngorms National Park), Huntly (George MacDonald’s home), and Aberdeenshire (Castle Fraser).

Most amazing and somewhat strange was being together and doing only what we chose to do on any given day. The weather was mild, sometimes chilly damp and windy, but overall stunningly beautiful.

Here are several more photos from the first day of our trip. Enjoy!

First, a panorama looking down from the Edinburgh Castle to the City. Click on the photo to get a closer look. Can you see the ferris wheel?

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Here’s a flag of Scotland whipping around in the wind above the Castle. Note the wind-worn edge.

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Now we’re down on the street, walking away from the Castle.

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This colorful window garden caught my eye–one of several in a small, quiet courtyard just off the busy street.

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This magnificent organ was in the church where John Knox once preached. No, I didn’t get to hear it being played–one reason I have to go back some day!

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Finally, here’s a little street beauty from a residential area just below the Castle.

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I hope you all had at least one or two happy adventures during the last few weeks. If not, here’s hoping you survived whatever other adventures came your way.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 September 2015, lightly edited and reposted 11 May 2022
Photo credit: DAFraser, September 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland

Snooteville, Tennessee 1981

So make that Nashville, Tennessee, 1981. I’m not sure what inspired us to pose in this magnificent manner. That’s daughter Sherry on the left, son Scott in the middle, and I wish I didn’t know who that woman is on the right! By this time, I’d finished my course work at Vanderbilt, and was probably getting ready for comprehensive exams.

In any case, this photo cracks me up every time I see it!

The lovely framed temple rubbing on the wall was a gift from D’s mother. She brought it back from a tour of duty (as military librarian) during the VietNam War. The empty shell on the fireplace shelf was one of our great finds while visiting beaches on the East Coast.

I wonder what look D had on his face when he snapped this one! I don’t think it was planned. We were probably worn out from having to pose with smiles on our faces….or something like that! In any case, I love this photo.

Hoping this day brings moments of happiness in your life, no matter how they happen to find you!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 May 2022
Photo taken by DAFraser, Nashville, Tennessee, 1981 

Falling in love with yesterday

Peering into a deep well
I inch closer to the edge
One evening after another
In the moment, but not quite,
Old memories stir feelings
Captured in forgotten photos

Who am I now? What did I leave behind? Is there any logic to this madness of yesterday’s joy and today’s old-age awkwardness?

I want to hang onto today and yesterday. Not content with one or the other. I want to see, remember, smell, taste and breathe in the beauty and pain of this world, captured in fleeting moments of wonder, distress, and despair.

The last several weeks have been rough. Marked by several dark nights filled with raging winds, pounding rain, and unpredictable bolts of lightning.

They’ve also been filled with beauty: songbirds waking each day with their dawn songs, a red-breasted male grossbeak sitting on our porch rail, a large bushy red-tailed fox trotting nonchalantly through our back yard, and the full moon casting a nighttime spotlight on our neighbor’s front yard.

Thank you for your visit. Especially during these unpredictable days and nights of uncertainty, fear and unexpected losses.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 May 2022
Photo of our children taken by DAFraser, 1972 at the San Diego Zoo

Gratitude and Weariness

Going nowhere fast
Drifting from one possibility
to the next
Weary with long lists of
thou shalt nots

I want to go back to bed
and listen yet again
to early bird dawn songs
full of life, energy and gratitude
for making it through another night
without marauders or being
captured by wind whipping trees,
sending shock waves through
this war-weary world

Though my body wants to move
I’m not sure where to take it
The phone is out of order and
I’m out of steam

I think I’ll go cook something up–
maybe a huge serving of music
plus madness on this sunny day
that fogs my eyesight with tears
of gratitude and weariness

How long can this world live in crisis mode? Together or apart, it doesn’t matter who I am or where you are. We’re part of a fabric woven with intent, now unraveling with shocks of truth. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? In the meantime, I still want to go back to bed and listen to the birds’ dawn songs. Full of life, energy and gratitude.

Praying this finds you more together than apart, no matter where you live or who you voted for or against in the last election.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2022
Photo found at countrygardener.co.uk

The Gardener | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s poem has been getting under my skin (in a good way) for several months. This is for me, and for anyone out there addicted to being super-diligent about life. My comments follow.

The Gardener

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I
come to any conclusions?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,
is tending his children, the roses.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings, p. 7
© 2012 by NW Orchard, LLC
First published by Penguin Press 2012

My mind and body are addicted to being super-reliable. Productive. Organized. Diligent. Prepared. These days, however, my body has rebelled. It loves to have its own agenda for each day. It really doesn’t matter what I think I ‘ought’ to do.

If I take Mary Oliver’s gardener (“a simple man”) seriously, I’ll tend the roses. Things like playing the piano, listening to music I love, reading what I want to read, staring out the window with no agenda except watching the birds engage in social antics and bravado around the birdfeeders. Or finding ways to be engaged without being overwhelmed.

This is NOT the way I was brought up. So now I’m learning to be my own wonderfully understanding parent, helping myself let go of things that stress body and spirit. Taking deep breaths. Listening to music from earth and heaven. Basking in the warmth of early spring. Taking on projects that bring me joy rather than trying to make things happen or go away.

A simple life? Not really, but today I can pretend. Or at least practice a bit. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get it.

Thanks for your visit!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 April 2022
Photo found at pinterest.com

Unsorted revisited

I first posted this in July 2018. Now, nearly four years later, life has taken a turn that can’t be undone. I’m unsorted, off balance, uncertain. That and more have become daily companions. This post captures some of the most poignant moments in my life four years ago, a small window into what moves me even now. Thanks for visiting and reading.

Unsorted

The feeling I get
Standing before an audience
Knowing all I must do is
Read the words on the page
With grace and clarity

The feeling I got
Sitting in church yesterday
Listening to a young woman
Fill the air with a Brahms Intermezzo
Evoking unexpected grief

Friday’s open mic night was great. I read 5 short poems, saving my favorite two (of the five) for the end. So why did I feel unsorted, out of control and uncertain I was on solid ground? Because of the last two poems. Though different in tone, each was about aging.

One was Life flew south last winter; the second was Feeling pretty. I admire the way George MacDonald writes poems about being an ‘old soul.’ Sometimes I think I’ve been just that all my life.

I’m used to hearing people my age and older describe unexpected aches, pain and grief. Usually health issues, but also loss of friends and family members.

I’m not, however, accustomed to hearing older women and men describing in poetic form their feelings of living with loss and unexpected health issues. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

At any rate, I find writing about this time in my life is comforting and rewarding. Especially when it’s in poetic form. Reading a few of my poems Friday evening was icing on the cake. A vulnerable, somewhat scripted way of sharing pieces of my life with a mixed audience of children, young people and adults.

Then, on Sunday morning the offertory was Brahms Intermezzo in A Major Opus 118. A young woman (Avery Gagliano) performed it on the piano, from her heart and memory. She’s a member of our church and studies at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

I know this piece. I’ve played it many times, though not in the last few years. Her performance was magnificent, and I burst into sobs as others around me applauded. It wasn’t just the beauty of her playing. It was knowing that I’ll likely never again play the piano with that kind of freedom and confidence.

I’ve gained much in the last few years. Still, the losses sometimes undo me. Especially when they arrive unexpectedly in beautiful packages such as poems and music that evoke tears of grief and gratitude.

Happy Monday! I pray you’ll be surprised this week by gifts that undo you in a good way.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 July 2018, reposted on 15 April 2022
Photo found at dancearchives.net

Gaping Holes

With apologies to
Chinua Achebe—
So quickly
Thing fall apart

Not once
Or twice but
Like broken records
No one wants to hear

Past promises
And dreams teeter
On the brink of
Desolation

Hearts bleed daily
Racing from one scenario
To the next Big Thing
Basking in false glory

Only to fall apart
Helpless to recreate
What can never be
repaired

Nothing but truth
Can fill gaping holes
Born yesterday
Buried today

I highly recommend Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It’s a slow-paced examination of what happened to a community in Nigeria, Africa. It’s still happening today–the takeover of people and systems in order to assuage the insatiable hunger of those at the top.

Easter is also on my mind. Mary Oliver’s poem about The Donkey reminds me that choosing to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth was and still is no picnic. Apart from the donkey, there weren’t many heroes in the crowds—whether they shouted Hosanna, took delight in seeing this man tortured and lynched, or ran away in fear.

If I were asked about today’s scenario in the USA and the nations of this world, I would admit to very little hope for the world as it is today. Except for this: Every day, somewhere, I know there are people doing what needs to be done. Not for themselves, but for others. It’s a sign that we haven’t been abandoned—if only we can keep our eyes on what’s close at hand. Without running away or giving up hope.

Thank you for your visits! My life has been a bit unsettled recently. I’ve missed posting as often as I would have liked. I have not, however, given up, thanks to the joy I have when I’m able to post something from my heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 April 2022
Photo of book cover found at en.wikipedia.org

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